How to Prosper in a Salvage Economy

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A salvage economy
is a post-production economy. The economy is based on salvage and
then reuse or remanufacture of salvaged materials. The current modern
equivalent of this are those individuals who sort through trash
heaps and dumps for recyclable materials. The historical equivalent
of this are the stone masons in Egypt who tore down ancient monuments
for building material. For example, the lost Pyramid of Djedefre
was thought to have not been built until its foundations were found,
including a mortuary temple and queens’ pyramids. Where did
it go? Must of it was used to build buildings in Cairo from 1300
through the 1700s. It was easier and cheaper to take apart an existing
pyramid near the city than find, mine and transport new limestone
blocks from now-distant quarries.

Salvage occurs
when the manufactured product is unavailable in a new state, has
become too expensive for anyone to purchase, or has a supply chain
that has fallen apart to the degree that the product is often unavailable
most of the time.

For all of
the discussion on survival, why focus on long term survival on a
salvage economy? First of all, many people will not set up a refuge
in the wilderness. Their best survival opportunity seems to be within
the city. While difficult, it is not impossible, especially for
those who prepare. Secondly, if we do slide to a post-technical
or “eco-technic” society, we should not expect to return
to “Little House on the Prairie”. More than half of the
world’s population lives in the cities. Those cities will still
be there even if some catastrophe, be it nuclear, chemical, biological,
or EMP,
manages to kill most of its inhabitants. And we should not expect
all cities to be lost, even if several major ones are destroyed
in terrorist strikes or war. If those untouched but partially depopulated
or damaged but re-buildable cities can be utilized to rebuild civilization,
which should be part of a larger goal. This rebuilding will then
requires a salvage economy. And last but not least, if we have a
multi-generational decline, we will fall into a salvage economy
as manufacturing capacity fades. Even if we retain the capacity
for a high-tech manufacturing capacity and find it crippled by environmental
regulation and economic depression, we will find a salvage economy
as has exploded in California.

If faced with
a salvage economy, the question then rises: how do you survive long
term in such an economy? More importantly, how can you prosper in
a salvage economy?

1. Use creative
recycling within your own household. If opportunities present themselves
that can be ethically utilized, do so, but avoid scavenging for
a living. (Hunting and gathering of food are excluded from this
discussion. Here we are only discussing physical materials.)

2. Do not be
a scavenger or salvager of materials yourself. This is to literally
be at the bottom of the economic food chain. Be the collector
or buyer that buys goods from the salvagers
and then sells it
at a profit to the recycler or craftspeople. This level of the supply
chain is safer than doing the manual labor of salvaging, and your
supply is both more diverse and continuous than those who do the
actual salvaging. There is also less personal risk of injury or
illness than salvaging. By becoming a collection point or “depot”,
your own time is still mostly spent on survival related activities
instead of searching for materials one only hopes to trade for items
and resources needed for survival.

3. Have close
and direct ties to multiple smelters or material re-processors.
This provides more stability in sale price than if there is only
one customer. A single purchaser can set their purchase price based
on their ability to refuse to buy until you are hungry enough to
sell at their desired price.

4. Invest in
the replacement materials and goods that will replace salvaged product.
After all, salvaged goods will eventually run out. This may be smelting
equipment that can melt down the newly recycled metal into yet another
material, compared to smelting equipment that melts down old steel
beams into new steel goods. It may be plastic grinders and pellet
makers that can turn new plastic materials into another form. It
may be the act of investing in green energy projects as Peak
Oil
runs out and salvaging wood and plastic to burn winds down.

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the rest of the article

February
19, 2010

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