“Your Porch Roof Is Collapsing”

House collapsing into a hole in the ground

Image via Wikipedia

Back to doom, this week, my friends.

December 31, 2011

Living in a 112-year-old house, no matter how well built, is a series of financial adventures.  Late fall, over a year ago, after the leaves had fallen from the trees, a leak in the bathroom ceiling meant that part of the roof over it needed replacing.  We hired a roofer and, as he went around the house inspecting the rest of the roof, he stepped back toward the street in front of the house, cocked his head and said, “Your porch roof is collapsing.”

Sure enough, stepping back beside him at the edge of the yard, I could see, through the bare trees, where the long, hipped roof that coved the front porch had begun to separate from the house and was flattening between the hips.  Why hadn’t I seen it before?  Probably because I was simply to close to the problem to see the overall picture.

Had it been the neighbor’s porch roof, which I can see clearly from our yard, I would have seen immediately if their roof were collapsing.  But, walking out of our front door and looking up at our porch “ceiling”, I could see nothing amiss.  Looking down on the porch from my upstairs front windows, I couldn’t tell that the flat surface below me had begun to sink.  Walking around the porch, as I often do while checking the flower beds, I lacked the long range perspective it took to see the sinking roof.  Even my son, mowing the summer lawn, could not see it looking back through the summer trees from the easement along the street. So, the roof went unattended, probably for several years, because we didn’t see what was happening.

It seems to me, as we end this year and look to 2012, the collapsing porch roof is a metaphor for what is happening here in the United States.  It’s easy to look across the ocean and see that Europe’s porch roof is collapsing, but I am stunned at how easily we Americans have ignored our own sagging roof.

Many on the internet, and occasionally the mainstream media, have pointed it out.  Bill Hicks Is Dead, over at the Downward Spiral.  has spent over a year documenting daily – and sometimes several times a day – the popping of nails, splitting of framed wood and slipping of shingles in the national porch roof.  Sites like the Oil Drum, ASPO and others (see all links in the right hand column) have meticulously documented the decline in fossil fuels worldwide, including our newly touted “100 years of natural gas” and the quandary we are facing as a result.  As have our own and other militaries – recognizing that both “peak oil” and climate change represent security threats of serious proportions.

Agencies such as the IPPC, the IEA and our own EIA have documented the effects of increasing CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels on the global climate.

And even the IMF is warning that, unless we in the developed world get our financial houses in order, the world could face economic collapse.

So why, in the face of all this data, all these warnings, do we continue to ignore our sagging roof?  Short term, there is simply too much money to be made by those who have the power to actually fix the roof by kicking the can down the road a bit.  And, the average American, constantly bombarded with conflicting messages, hasn’t put the big picture together and assumes things will get back to normal eventually as they always have.

I suspect they are a lot like my son and I when the roofer finally pointed out the obvious state of our porch roof.  The recession and rising food and energy prices had taken its toll on our finances.  We had barely scraped together the money to do the back roof and bathroom ceiling after what little the insurance would pay.  Now, we were being told that the situation was even grimmer and costlier than we had anticipated.

With winter coming on, I suppose we could have had the roofer prop up the roof with two by fours and put the rebuilding off until spring, hoping the snow would be light, the ice storms few and traffic onto the porch minimal.  We even had him put up some reinforcement while we tried to get an equity loan from our regional bank so we could rebuild the roof and restore it to its former glory.  Alas, the loan fell through.  With the first, light snow upon us, we finally decided to have him remove the porch roof and posts down to the brick post supports and patch the siding on the house where the roof had been removed.

It seems strange, that empty space where the roof had been, though there has been one advantage.  In the winter, a lot more warming, afternoon sun comes through the downstairs windows. And in the summer, the trees still block most of that sun.  The “purity of style” of the old house has no doubt been reduced, but in this economy, I’m not sure that makes any difference since the value has dropped so much anyway.

I bring all this up because, as we move on into 2012, we, as a nation, are going to have to address our own sagging roof.  We’ve been told it’s in grave danger of collapsing and, right now, the nation seems to face the same choices about the national porch roof that my son and I did with ours.

We can keep propping it up and kicking repairs down the road until spring in hopes that it won’t collapse and catch some unlucky bastard in the debris.  We can keep borrowing money in the hopes of restoring it to some semblance of its supposed former glory.  We can do what my son and I did – and what many Americans are having to do as individuals.  We can swallow our pride and take it down, repairing the hole it left in the siding and doing what we can to maintain the porch’s functionality at a price that, with a lot of sacrifice, we can live with.

What we cannot do any longer is ignore the warnings we have been given until the whole shebang collapses and takes the house down with it.

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36 Responses to “Your Porch Roof Is Collapsing”

  1. Funny, I had almost the exact problem with my 116 yo house porch roof. I live in Portland where it rains much and (lucky for the porch roof) snows little. We tarped it over for the winter last year and did the repair this spring.

    I know it seems like a great metaphor for our country, but frankly, the nation’s problems are more like a roof collapsing over the entire house, not just the porch. Going further, we have 2 sides arguing, not about about how to fix it but about whether or not to fix it.

    • theozarker says:

      LOL, well lucky for me my metaphor only extended to the porch roof. I’m afraid you’re right about the argument. Sadly, whether they finally decide to try and “fix” it, or finally realize it’s unfixable at that point, guess who’ll bear the brunt of their choice.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. pattybelle says:

    So very well said, Linda! Thank you.

  3. xraymike79 says:

    ACTUALLY, it’s not the porch cover or the entire house roof that’s collapsing. It’s the foundation that’s cracking, crumbling, and ripping apart. When it’s the very bedrock of your belief system and your way of life that’s giving way, the problem becomes even more impossible to see and understand. That’s why it’s such a difficult scenario to wrap one’s head around and come to terms with.

    T. Murphy has a great essay on this:
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/12/the-future-needs-an-attitude-adjustment/

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Mike, nice to see you again. LOL, this conversation is beginning to sound a little like a parody of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant – it’s like a rope; no, it’s like a tree trunk; no, it’s like a snake … I think we can all agree that important parts of the house are in serious disrepair and threatening the integrity of the entire structure?

      Thanks for the link to Murphy’s piece. I’ve really enjoyed his do-the-math articles. I think a lot of our “gotta have” attitude has to do with the sudden switch from the arduous making of “things” pretty much by hand to mass production, mass communication (with the advertising barrage that accompanied it) and mass transporting of goods that the oil era allowed. And, yeah, we’re gonna need an attitude adjustment, big time, as fossil energy becomes less available and more expensive.

  4. pamela says:

    Bravo LInda! what a great analogy for our current situation!
    that was really a good article, as always. 😀

  5. pamela says:

    hey, maybe it’s a metaphor.
    😀

  6. renee pearman says:

    NEVERTHELESS, we may also be on the brink of some fantastic new energy invention that will not only pull Timmy out of the well but the rest of the world too! Shoot, for 5 yrs. now I’ve been waiting for somebody to invent such a receptor/convertor of sunlight that we’ll be able to build buildings with glass that converts enough sunlight to power & heat the whole building….windshields to power the cars, trucks, buses!!! Have a little baby, Faith!! We may throw out the jackasses in Washington and have a government, of the people, by the people and actually, FOR the people!! It’s happened before!!

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Renee, welcome. LOL, those people that are going to save us better get it in gear pretty soon. It’s been six years since conventional oil peaked and six years since the first Hirsch report said we would need 20 years before the peaking of world oil to address the problems without severe repercussions for society. Time’s a’wasting, folks.

      As for government of, by and for the people, Obama just signed the NDAA into law. Looks like we may be a little late in the “of, by and for” department, too.

      I guess we can always hope, but I’m putting my money on we, the people, just doing our thing at the local and personal levels without waiting on the big guys anymore

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to see you here.

      • renee pearman says:

        Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis: Obama Signs Legislation Killing Bill of Rights; Ron Paul, Ran
        globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
        I received this on my facebook, if you can get to it, there’s a good report by Rachael Maddox (I think that’s her last name) calling out the President for ‘ad hoc preventative detention’. One comment says that’s not to be interpreted as pertaining to US citizens. Yeeeaahhhhhh. Until when? The next admin. sees fit to expand this just a little based on the same arguements?? Reminds me of two things: George Orwell’s 1984 and the Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Those people were US citizens BUT considered a threat to national security, based not on what they’d done, but what they might do.
        I’ll bet Glenn Beck has blood shooting out of his eyeballs as he tends to say.
        It’s all fine and dandy until we find ourselves on the wrong side of ‘mother country’ and are no longer called comrade.

    • witsendnj says:

      A fantastic new invention that could replace the energy equivalent of fossil fuels, even if it materialized, solves only one part of the converging catastrophes we have brought upon ourselves, and not even the most life-threatening.

      The coral reefs are doomed from acidification, and so are the forests, from air pollution. These are the foundations of ecosystems, and without them, mass extinctions are the inevitable result.

      Not to mention, we have a terminal overpopulation problem, which no one on earth even wants to acknowledge let alone address, with the exception of the Chinese. So Mother Nature is going to take care of that for us.

      This is a great blog post, by the way.

      • theozarker says:

        Hi witsend and welcome. Looking pretty grim for planet earth, isn’t it? At my age, I probably won’t see the worst of it, but I cringe at what may be in store for my sons and grandkids – especially the younger ones. There are times I just shake my head and wonder what on earth people – especially those in power – are thinking.

        Thanks for your comments.

      • renee pearman says:

        So are you saying that even if mankind knew what to do, he either would not or even if he would, could not save this planet from a biological doom because we’ve reached the point of no return??? That is certainly possible; since we can’t see 3 sec. into the future we can only bounce around probabilities…..I think Dr. Suess wrote a book about the Lorax running out of something….and many believe the civilization of Easter Island used up their trees and thus it was impossible to build boats to get off the island….
        Do you, yourself believe in any of the religions on this planet?? Do you believe there is a spiritual existence after this life??
        Jefferson Starship (first cld. Jefferson Airplane) wrote a song called ‘Hijack the Starship.’ LOL I have always thought that mankind would end up living in cities beneath huge domes because people would never cooperate enough to halt the destruction of this planet. One or two science fiction stories have been written around that idea.

      • renee pearman says:

        AND….two items I’ve seen recently, one good, one…not so much:
        the coral reef (s) off Cuba are pristine. They show just how sick the others are. Why are they so healthy? No fishing is allowed within ? so many miles , no factory run-off touches them and it’s against the law to even visit them without strict (rare) supervision.
        The other item is a report from Russia that as the permafrost is melting, trapped methane gas is being released. Is there no use for methane gas????
        I wish I could remember the name of a program I’ve seen on Public Televsion twice: someone has put together a computer generated scenario of what would happen to our planet if every human disappeared all at once. Fascinating! After 1000 yrs. nothing we have ever built would remain standing unless it was something like the pyrimids of natural stone and no morter. It’s a fun speculation if you’re stuck in traffic. Bridges require maintanence….glass would fall out of their frames, vines are the first plants to aggressivly move in as dirt and dust is blown over the works of our hands…..like the ‘tells’ in Israel. Just think about your own house/apt. Or have you ever climbed around on an old foudation of a farm that’s no longer there?

      • witsendnj says:

        My daughters went to hike Machu Pichu. I couldn’t really understand the appeal until they came home with pictures. The stone work is absolutely astonishingly beautiful. I’m actually working on a post about methane, has some cool graphs, hope to finish it today:

        (here is 2002: ftp://asl.umbc.edu/pub/yurganov/methane/MAPS/NH/ARCTpolar2002.11._AIRS_CH4_400.jpg and 2011: ftp://asl.umbc.edu/pub/yurganov/methane/MAPS/NH/ARCTpolar2011.11._AIRS_CH4_400.jpg

        and this video, which is pretty good except, typically, it ends with a ridiculous hopeful non-solution (ad first): http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/45829669#45829669

        and here’s an article in the Guardian about research saying Arctic emissions of methane have increased by a third in the past 5 years:

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/14/arctic-permafrost-methane

        Very scary stuff. You can burn methane for fuel – that is the “natural gas” they are fracking for – but how to collect it when it is boiling out of the sea?

      • renee pearman says:

        Wow, thank you for the links…..have to go take down the Christmas tree today before it gets so dry that even the twinkly lights set it on fire. I HATE taking down the Christmas tree.

  7. graveday says:

    Well, LInda, it’s pretty clear the mirror in the bathroom has been broken for some time. And if it hasn’t, by some slim chance, then, no one is looking. GD.

    • theozarker says:

      Renee
      “It’s all fine and dandy until we find ourselves on the wrong side of ‘mother country’ and are no longer called comrade.”

      Well said, Renee. Was reading the comments section on an article about Iran and was saddened to see the number of people calling those who didn’t think war with Iran was a good idea traitors and un-American again. Sound familiar? Sigh.

      Graveday
      Yep. Easier to see your neighbor’s flaw through the window than to see your own in the mirror. Hope you had an enjoyable holiday season.

  8. Bill Hicks says:

    Hey, Linda — Excellent metaphor. It’s one that ought to make it simple for people to understand what’s coming. Sadly, many will still not get it even so as it is too far beyond how they have been conditioned to think.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Bill, yeah that conditioning is what worries me. I still don’t see how spending all that money to confuse people on the issues – just to make a little extra profit – is a good business decision. Do they not think that when the house collapses they are in just as much danger as the rest of us?

      Enjoyed your article on the wolves, although it broke my heart. There used to be gray wolves here in Missouri until they killed them all off by early 20th century. You still see an occasional red wolf, but even they are pretty rare. Yet people worry about the deer and rabbit populations getting their gardens and crops. Go figure.

      • renee pearman says:

        Saw your comment about conditioned thinking and it reminded me of something I read: “Just because somethign has become COMMON, that does not make it normal.” or right.
        I’ll bet your state used to be covered in buffalo and Indians once upon a time, too. One of the most amazing and sad pieces of history I’ve read was all about the ‘dust bowl’. The thinking that led to the plowing up of all the prairie grass.

  9. witsendnj says:

    Hi Renee, Yes sadly I do think industrial civilization is doomed, and perhaps we have already put enough amplifying feedbacks into motion that there will be a runaway Venus effect and Earth will become, eventually, largely uninhabitable. And that’s just from climate change. There seems to be no serious efforts to deal with the overpopulation/overshoot problems.

    Humans are really no better than bacteria in a petri dish, consuming all the available food until it’s gone, just like the Easter Islanders only this time it’s on a global scale. It’s not that hard to figure out – exponential growth can’t last on a finite planet. Dealing with the guilt, fear and instinctive, reflexive denial of that is quite a challenge for most people I know that are aware of it.

    Some people say God wouldn’t let us destroy his creation but then I wonder, if that’s the case, how come God is okay with genocide, incest, rape, slavery, cannibalism and all the other horrible things humans are capable of.

    So, no, I don’t believe in any Gods or spirits. Atoms I’m okay with. Somewhere, in this vast universe, there is other life, so it goes on.

  10. renee pearman says:

    In the movie The Matrix, Mr. Jones says exactly that: “I’ve finally figured out what you humans are, you’re a virus.”
    When I was 11 I concluded there must be a God by admiring a blade of grass and noticing that it isn’t simply green but in the sunlight you can see rainbows of colors which led to thinking about the precise interaction of soil and how miraculous THAT is, and water, ditto, and sunlight, whoa! now we’re really getting out there and all of these miracles (in and of themselves) concern plain old grass that we SO take for granted, walk around on, cut down to make pretty lawns and complain about that. It just seemed all too amazing to come about by laws of evolutionary ‘nature’ with no intelligent being as the designer and creator. I spent the next 20 yrs. looking at the religions of the world and rejecting each as an attempt of man to reach a god we were pretty sure was there: mostly what caused me to move on and keep looking was their explanation of the beginning of us and also, an end of us (physically anyway) or the lack of an explanation. So as a sort of cosmic joke on me, I found Him where I looked last, in the Judeo Christian faith and no one was more surprized than I. My comment was, “What??!! You mean ‘they’ were right all along??” I started to look at it because of two things: one, I admitted that altho I’d thrown stones at ‘them’ most of my life, I really knew oh so very little about what ‘they’ believed and two, I realized: ” Wait a minute! Just exactly WHO decides what IS right and what is wrong?” Who has the authority?” then…”Oh I see! It doesn’t matter if the year is 19 or 119 or 1119; it doesn’t matter if we’re wearing togas and sandels or Armani suits…it doesn’t matter what MY generation SAYS is right or wrong (mankind has a pretty bad track record in that area) there IS a god who knows, who has SAID what is supossed to be. Now this God is not o.k. with rapes, incest, murders etc., etc., etc., but each human has a built-in conscience and a choice. Evil is the absence of good like darkness is the absence of light. The book of these wa-hoo believers is the Bible so He has said, “You will find Me if you search for Me…” “I’ve given you the words of life and death…” Or as I read in a novel last week, “It’s not the knowin’ what’s right or wrong that’s hard…it’s the doin’.” Yep.

    • theozarker says:

      Interesting, Renee. I took that same journey, but wound up an atheist. I suppose that this article I wrote, shortly after starting the blog, is the closest I will ever come to a “statement of faith.” https://conflicteddoomer.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/tell-me-a-story/

      I think we are bits of that universal consciousness wrapped in mortal flesh and, as such are still evolving physically and morally. If we don’t learn the lessons of nature, too bad, so sad. Nature moves on without us and we hit an evolutionary dead end. But I do hold out some slim hope that enough of us learn those lessons we will survive as a (much chastened) species

      • witsendnj says:

        A good essay, Ozarker. I think there will certainly be people who will rise above disasters and operate with their moral compass intact but the problem is, they are almost certainly going to be overrun by those who are more ruthless. That’s probably why, overall, the human race has the top predator behavior hard-wired into us via evolution, because those are the ones that survive, especially in times of scarcity.

        In the meanwhile those of us conflicted and reluctant doomers have got the ringside seats!

      • renee pearman says:

        I dunno. Seems to me that if the belly gets empty enough, any one of us is liable to pick up a machete and whack the shi@ out of anyone that gets between us and the rice.
        Which is why I can’t get into the whole survivalist mentality of stocking up my basement with a yrs. worth of food. Wouldn’t I have to start shooting neighbors who wanted to break down the door? Kinda like the zombie show that’s on??

      • witsendnj says:

        Well, I think some people prefer to starve to death or commit suicide than kill for food. I am personally prepared for the first two possibilities. I would, however, kill anyone who tries to hurt my children. So I am also prepared to do that. I’ve done a little stockpiling, because it’s possible there will be a series of short-term disruptions. It’s impossible of course to stockpile a lifetime of food, even if I had the money, and as you say, over any long period it would have to be defended. Especially because I live within a long walk of millions and millions of city dwellers. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d convince my kids to relocate to a marginally safer place. But they won’t budge.

        I just read this great comment on another blog, and I have to admit I am coming around to this way of thinking…that the time for protest and education has passed:

        YouTube regularly suggests clips to me based on past viewings. This morning they offered up a clip of the tsunami in Japan. Old news. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW7vENdDu1o&feature=related I watched it anyway. It struck me that at that moment as the tsunami moves up the river and then overtakes the flood walls, there is nothing more to do. This is not the time to encourage higher flood walls, better protected nuclear plants, longer backup for loss of electricity. This is not the time to write letters to congressmen. At this time there is but one thing to do – try to get to higher ground.

        I would suggest that as far as peak oil and global warming we are at such a moment. This is the time to get to high ground – ie work on any plans for extending your survival post collapse. It is not the time to put energy into convincing bought out senators and representatives to do something about climate change and CO2. It is not the time to change our finance system. It is not the time to make our country more resilient and sustainable. The time for that was 40 years ago when Limits to Growth came out. The tsunami is coming and will leave devastation in its wake. It will also hopefully leave a bit of salvation in its wake – if the economy collapses soon enough.

      • renee pearman says:

        I think you’re right.
        We watched a small documentary about the tsunami a couple months ago; it wasn’t widely noted but in Japan about a mile inland from the ocean are stone markers which are something like 600-800 yrs. old and inscribed on them are warnings not to build beyond that point because of the danger of a tsunami. Well, if you’ve never seen one in your own back yard and your great-great-great grandfather never saw one, and the real estate closer to the water is so appealing………..

  11. renee pearman says:

    Our daughter is a nurse, she’s pretty sure the over population of our planet will be slowed considerably by new plagues….there’s already some very healthy, antibiotic resistant strains of virus popping up. They’re worried about TB especially since it is so air bourne. Ever read Steven King’s The Stand? They called it ‘Captain Trips.’

  12. theozarker says:

    Renee and Witsend, great conversation going on. Personally, I’m of a mind that we have already entered a slow collapse. As for preps, at one time I had a year’s worth between my freezer and my pantry. The roof fiasco took care of much of that since it became a matter of eat into my preps or go hungry – LOL. I keep a garden and provide a lot of my own vegetables, which I advise anyone to do, even if it’s just container gardening on the balcony. And I try to keep my pantry fairly well stocked (enough to carry me through a winter and early spring). I’m also trying to decrease my dependence on fossil fuels which I’ve written about over the life of the blog. But I think in the slow collapse we seem to be in, the most useful preps we can make are mental/emotional (or moral, if you prefer).

    This was the final essay of my Doom and the Working Poor series and sort of sums up where I’m at on things. https://conflicteddoomer.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/doom-and-the-working-poor-%e2%80%93-hanging-together/

    I do think we have choices to make as collapse accelerates, so these are my own choices. Thank you both for the ongoing conversation.

    • witsendnj says:

      You bring up an interesting point, that in some ways those who start off less well off will do better…or course it depends on how the downward spiral progresses, which is unpredictable, to say the least.

      But I live in an area were just about everyone (present company excepted!) is quite well-to-to and so the denizens aren’t the least inclined to “hang together” as you say, or to admit there is any need to be self-sufficient. They are used to buying whatever they want and so for them, it may come as an even greater shock when there is no way to obtain stuff to buy, their money is worthless, and they have no survival skills, or mental resolve.

      It will be interesting!

      • theozarker says:

        Wit, I was surprised during the ice storm – which took out the electricity for about half of Springfield (mostly in the northern and central parts of the city, which are also the poorer and middle classed areas) – that a lot of the calls offering help came from people in the southern areas (what passes for suburbia around here) where people were saying, I’ve got an extra room and we just put on a big pot of chili, we can take in a couple of folks. I can’t speak for the very wealthy (mainly because I don’t know any), but it didn’t seem to matter about whether you were upper middle class, etc. People just seemed to recognize that we were all in this together. It really was quite an amazing experience for this old cynic – LOL.
        I don’t know how this will play out in a slow collapse, but around here most people who still have are willing to help out those who don’t have anymore. I can only hope thaat we continue on that path.

  13. renee pearman says:

    I see a future in black market coffee and toilet paper, surely the indication of civilization, collapsing or not.

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