Are We Headed For The "Brown Tech" Future?

David Trammel's picture

I came back around to this website, "Future Scenarios. Org", from a link on a group I'm reading. There was a mention of "brown tech" in a post.

Brown tech as opposed to green tech, assumes that we will use as much of our existing technology and resources to cushion and/or stave off the coming collapse of civilization. Its the scenario I most believe will happen (or is happening). As much as I'd like to see us embrace more greener technologies, the entrenched corporate and governmental marriage focused on profit above all, makes that unlikely.

Their "4 Scenarios" is worth the read.

Ken's picture

Thank you, David, for the link to Future Scenarios; I just spent a couple hours reading it all. I don't always agree with Holmgren but I always find him worth reading, and especially this overview!

I see certain aspects of all 4 scenarios as being likely, but I have to say that the Lifeboats scenario seems by far the most plausible to me, at least here in the western United States. More specifically, I think that collapse will be unevenly distributed; but generally fall along the lines of wealth, at least at first.

Collapse came in the 1980's for many small towns on the prairies; in the fall of 1990 while passing through Nebraska, I pulled off the interstate a few miles to a classic, farm country small town, looking for an ATM and fuel. Neither of which was available. There was a beautiful town square with the county courthouse in the middle of it, tree lined streets and modest, but originally well-built Victorian style houses and yet EVERY store front but two was boarded up; a take-out pizza place with no cars in front and an XXX video rental.

For Sale signs were everywhere, one of the houses was offered for $12,000. My wife tried to convince me to buy it and dismantle it just for the beautiful chestnut woodwork, doors and cast iron steam radiators! We, only half-jokingly, talked about getting a group of friends together and buying the whole town... But we had two young daughters and no desire to live anywhere with weather that terrible, no matter how cheap the houses. And honestly, what would we have done for work? I was a carpenter at the time and while there was a lifetime's work for a crew of carpenters to fix this town back up, there was clearly no money to pay for it. The entire town and county had been sucked dry by corporate/industrial ag companies and a Walmart 35 miles away. A few crummy single-wide trailers parked next to crumbling old farmhouses, still shaded by the now mature trees planted in another, more hopeful century, housed a few equipment operators who worked by the hour for their corporate overlords. On land that their grandfathers had homesteaded. Of course, step back for a little longer perspective, and the entire country was stolen from the Lakota and Cheyenne - so it's hard for me to be that sympathetic to those grandchildren of sodbusters. But it was still sad to see the final stages of what had once been a thriving little town.

I see similar trajectories now happening all over the country and not just in small farming towns on the prairie. And just as in 1990, I can see opportunities for people who wish to start over at a more sane and sustainable scale. I often wonder what might have happened if we'd actually gotten friends together and 'taken over' one of those nascent ghost towns... Wes Jackson, author of 'Becoming Native to This Place', did exactly that in Kansas, but last I heard, it didn't really 'take off' like you might have hoped. In the years and decades to come, I wonder if some of those van-life nomads might not just settle down in some of those little dying towns? And they will undoubtedly need as many Green Wizards as they can get! My back gets tired working a full day anymore, but I still KNOW how to do things...