The short answer is “Not very sustainable, at all.”

Worse?  We lie to ourselves about this whole “sustainability” notion day-in, and day-out.  Don’t even blink an eye about it.  Corporation X-Y-Z says “Yup, we’re “sustainable” and surprise!  No questions asked.

That’s because A) most people lie to themselves about how “normal” things are and B) even if they are preppers, they don’t think through every step of their day.

Today we fix that with a simple visit to (pardon my directness) the throne room where it’s very relaxing to have many months of toilet paper on hand.

Here’s the view, by the way.  Not many bathrooms have as nice a view (and now need for window shades) as we do around here:

Not the finest photography in the world, but who takes pictures from the throne except crazy people…er...

Point is, while sitting there, realizing that not many people likely have “staged toilet paper”.  In other words, nice mega rolls that provide for a soft-start to the EOTW.  After that, a little less fluffy and therefore longer storage times, and finally ending up with the kind of “basic paper” that you find in cheap joints south of the border.  (Well, what used to be a border…)

If you travel by car around the country, the topology of toilet tissue is really interesting.  First noticed it going from Seattle (ah…soft tissue) to San Francisco (a bit firmer, but still working fine) to L.A.  (definitely a land of smaller tissue budgets) until finally, walking over to Mexico via San Ysidro, I was confronted with what was more like lightweight tracing paper.

But(t) this, you see, sneaks up on this morning’s point.

Paper-making is not particularly sustainable.

What occurred to me (in mid-flush) was that when Weyerhaeuser, or whoever you happen to be talking with about “sustainable forestry” is looking at the world, their definition of “sustainable” is way off base.

If you “farm trees” (remember Ure owns his own USDA numbered tree farm of big oaks and Southern Pines because Texas is not what Wylie Coyote was running through) “sustainable” means you can keep on producing “TREES.”

And sure, after many PR department aerial tours of the PNW, no question about it, there will be trees around long after we get through the human bloom we’re in from an historical perspective.  When the humans get through their die-off, it’s nice to know that we will still be able to fire up a cook stove and have enough trees around for T1-11 siding and 2-by-4’s.

Here’s How “Sustainable Blows Up”

Inspired by the view, and not longer worried about siding, the questions expanded and the inquiry became more wide-ranging.

“OK, we have trees.  But(t) what does it really take to make toilet player?  How sustainable is all that other shit?

Er….now that I was listing things…no very sustainable at all.

Here’s some of the problem:

  1. Trees require gasoline and diesel for harvest.  Therefore, in order to be “sustainable” we need to ensure that we don’t run out of US-based energy sources.  Why, just bringing down a few bridges along the Mississippi River could halt energy shipments up and down stream.  Point being?  No diesel, no gasoline means no tree harvesting.
  2. But now, let’s suppose we come up with a few barrels per acre of energy for the harvesting.  How “sustainable” is the Caterpillar Company, John Deere, and whoever else makes the big tree-ranching equipment needed for harvest?  And what about how sustainable is Kenworth truck production?  I haven’t researched, but because they are metalworking, computers, rubber and so on, the supply chain while presently robust, seem a little on the weak side to be called “sustainable.”
  3. OK, let’s skip all these risks and get on ,to the main question because it’s a “gimme” that documented tree cutters (whose I-9’s match-up, a tanker each of diesel and gas, but an armload of “sustainably produced Husqvarna commercial chainsaws with Rapco Industries carbide chains all show up on command….  Where’s our  next “sustainability” issue? I figure it’s the Highway system, the Rail system, or the Internet.
  4. Are the highway systems sustainable?  Hell no.  Right here in Texas our State Department of Transportation has an annual budget over $1-billion dollars, or so I’ve been told.  Put another way, highways are NOT sustainable without taxpayer’s pouring on layers of money.
  5. Same think with the railroads.  By the way, if you think you are are prepper, do you have maps of all the abandon railroad rights-of-way in your state and region?  Great ways to get around with a dirt bike because they grades are modest and…well, you save this for a future throne room musing, right?
  6. And if the Internet goes down, everything goes down.  Because without the web up and robust, there’s no banking and with no banking who is going to go to work?  Of course Bitcoins will bounce!  You faith in the Internet is remarkable (and misplaced).  Until it happens, I admit to being wrong in advance, but when it fails, I expect a mailbox full of apologies…except that may not be running, either, since ATC and all the air traffic system depends on data moving around and everyone being able to land and taxi and…
  7. Whew!  Let’s suppose even all this stuff works – without being ultimately “sustainable” – do we still get to a place where there is a 6-month recovery to self-sufficiency for Americans of such things as sanitary napkins, toilet paper, and how long before paper towels come back?
  8. If you visit the American Forest and Paper Association website, you will see a lot of talk about “Sustainability” but(t) as I’ve been pointing out, little discussion of “time to recovery” in the event of a real serious problem.  Massive earthquakes, energy shortages, internet collapse, or economic collapse in general.

That that’s my point:  We know that nuclear power plants (generally) have enough diesel fuel on hand to run generators to do a “cold shutdown” and a “restart.”  Name another industry, however, that has such a regulatory requirement.

A simple one – pulp and paper (toilet paper, medical paper products and such)  What’s the plan?  What are the “worst case” and how does the product get made, distributed, and recycled.

As I sat there looking at a dogwood from my tree farm throne (throne #3, if you must know), there was a moment of amazing clarity.

Like so many things in America (as in politics, climate, gender, and on goes the list) the national narrative has been focused on a single word (like “sustainability” here.

In fact, we need another word or concept.  One that encompasses 50% of its meaning in baseline sustainability locally, but which incorporates the integrated supply chain’s operational readiness on the other.

As a small-fry investor,  what became clear was that corporations focused on sustainability was only a good start.  “Robustness” in a wider concept.  It applies to companies that will be around even after taking some pretty good “hits” and still bouncing back.

In most industries, “sustainability” is still subject to a couple of “master switches” than can be thrown any time.  And it’s my ongoing complaint about system “Anti-fragility” treatises.

As a prepper, if you believe PR nonsense about “sustainability” you’d do well to study Marine Lietenant-General Paul K. Van Riper’s tactics in a wargame called Millennial Challenge 2000.

Sometimes in war (and in scaling how to prep and how to adjust your thinking) all you need to do is think about where the power switches are.  We’re confident someone among all those people sneaking into our country during compromised borders already has a plan of action against us.

Semper fi, Lieutenant General, sir!  Best warning ever.  And no, I don’t know why people can’t understand the obvious that’s in their faces every day.  Maybe it’s a two-way street.

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Renting Your Life, II
The Blue Ox and the Dying Sun Problem