One mile north of the Mason-Dixon line in Southeastern Pennsylvania, nearly 200 people from the US and beyond, gathered this weekend on the land of Four Quarters Inter-Faith Sanctuary to consider Peak Oil, climate change, and economic meltdown—and the collapse of industrial civilization. On this Memorial Day weekend, we not only “remembered” how we got to this watershed in our planet’s journey through the time and space, but concluded almost unanimously that this event must become an annual occurrence.


From John Michael Greer we heard the extraordinary, novel slogan: “Collapse now, avoid the rush,” as he imparted both scientific and esoteric realities regarding the collapse of empires, sprinkled with inimitable Greer wit and wizardry. Gail Tverberg, or “Gail The Actuary,” shared her technical and financial expertise by connecting the dots between Peak Oil and global economic meltdown. Brilliantly, former CIA analyst and Peak Oil author, Tom Whipple, dispelled mainstream media’s fantasies of the “wonders” of hydraulic fracturing andUSoil “independence.” Dmitry Orlov who lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union and has written extensively about parallels between that collapse and the one which theUSis now experiencing, once again revealed uncanny similarities between the demise of both empires. In addition, he shared his experience of living on a sailboat as preparation for collapse and stepped into new territory by offering an atypical Orlov workshop on “Sustainable Living As A Religious Experience.”


I was invited with great skepticism by conference director and Four Quarters founder, Oren Whiddon, to present two workshops on emotional and spiritual preparation for collapse. Despite my attempts to reassure him of my disdain for “New Age nausea,” he remained cautious until he heard my presentations and the overwhelmingly receptive response to them which once again revealed the insatiable hunger that I have been witnessing all over the nation and the world for support in finding meaning and purpose in the experience of industrial civilization’s demise.


Throughout the weekend we were superbly fed on every level by a gracious, tirelessly hard-working Four Quarters staff as we confronted heat, humidity, pests, and ferocious late-spring rain storms. Meanwhile, all presentations took place in outdoor pavilions where each group was “embraced” by immense groves of trees and melodious song birds. In my opinion, we could not have chosen a venue more harmonious with the spirit of this conference.


It is now clear that collapse-aware individuals from myriad locations are eager to have an Age of Limits conference available to them annually, and to this end, Oren and Four Quarters are already planning the 2013 event. What is equally clear is that two days are not sufficient for offering all that the collapse-conscious community is calling for—thus, next year’s conference will probably be extended to three.


I am buoyed beyond words by the enthusiasm I witnessed this weekend and the awareness that has erupted in the five short years I have been writing about collapse. Moreover, I am particularly gratified by the hunger I see among people preparing for collapse for extensive training in spiritual and emotional preparation.


Ironically, some 150 years ago, before and during the Civil War, this swath of Pennsylvania land provided former slaves with a unique moment of “free at last” as they crossed the invisible marker drawn by those historical surveyors named Mason and Dixon. This past weekend, a sentiment of “free at last” palpably permeated the Age of Limits conference as we came together and spoke of things which for many, are impossible to discuss in other venues. But freedom does not constitute completion of all that collapse imposes on us. What it does do is inspire us to dig deeper and work harder. Fortunately, this is not the end, but just the beginning, and as I have so often said, you can have all the infinite growth you want—on the inside.