Past Conferences in Perspective
     Orren in Texas2SMLI have been organizing events in one form or another for the past 21 years, and while I like to think I have gained some experience at this point, I still very much look forward to the surprises that I know will come my way.
    Events are like children, you birth, feed and nurture them, all the while stepping back to provide the room in which they can grow. Events grow their own culture, attract people for whom the themes resonate strongly and will surprise the principle organizer by showing that those things one thought were very important are not so important at all, while the real substance will arise where one least looked for it.

Questionnaires from attendees in 2012 confirmed our expectation that face to face conversations between attendees were more important than merely arraigning for a series of presentations. Our experiments in small group social engineering designed to encourage these kinds of conversations were well received. And to some surprise, we learned that processing the pycho-emotive side of our understanding of Collapse was of great importance to many people. Based on this feed back we decided to expand the 2013 conference to 3 full days, provide more time in the schedule for attendee conversations and to bring in more spiritual content.

In 2013, questionnaires from attendees emphasized... The Cold. We had daytime temps in the low 30's for most of the event, which completely bollixed our schedule for attendee conversations in our open spaces. Without our new tent pavilion it would have been much worse. Staff liberated every spare coat and blanket from our homes to help people with the cold and we made the best of it.
    People broadly complemented the 3 day format with more space between the presentations. And continued voicing their support for the spectrum of content. Again folks asked for more "hands on" workshops and we have responded with this years "Practicum."  Six days of hands on work in Collapse mitigation directly following The Age of Limits

Comments from Attendees
2013 Age of Limits Conference

"The content and presenters were very well selected and the conversations were intelligent and timely. The social atmosphere was very friendly, congenial."

The spiritual aspect is very important. Can you find more and different Earth-Centered voices for spiritual reflection, politics and leadership?"

"The pace and schedule were very good. It allowed me time to unplug and process, which I had to do a number of times. A couple of the interesting scheduled conversations never materialized, it might have been the weather - too damned cold! And everyone huddled around the fire instead! :)"

"Three days is a better length, given the density of the subject. Long blocks -1:30- with no choice of competing sessions is just right."

"More process oriented in-between-session opportunities would be helpful to deal with the emotions. Another grief ritual please."

"I found presentations helpful, though the question-and-answer components were the most valuable to me.I do appreciate and want more focused small group discussions, but it did not always work out that way, what with the cold. And people need transition time in between the major presentations."

"I was pleased with the evening social times, especially how Thursday evening warmed people up for the conversations to follow."

"I have to say - I go to a lot of social gatherings ranging the spectrum - But I have never felt at such ease in just walking up to a group of people and interjecting myself.into the conversation. Very well done."

"The conference length is perfect. I enjoyed the insight and information from all the presenters. I particularly liked when presenters shared what had and had not worked for them ie: Orren on Four Quarters, Bates on The Farm."

"I enjoy the more practical workshops. And folk dancing is a very important post-collapse community building tool - please keep it on the program."

"Maintain the deeper thinking of Collapse. This is a journey of people who have weighty information and a unique opportunity to speak to our fears and share ways in which we cope."

"Orren's introduction on Friday was very helpful in understanding the realities and some adaptations of Collapse. You see people "living" it and "doing" it and it hit me that this is dead - serious - stuff!"

"It's an excellent venue for Age of Limits , because the founding ideas of Four Quarters match the conference. Staff and facilities were very accommodating given the very cold weather. Food and entertainment were great, including the vegetarian items."

"The venue was fabulous and much more than I expected. Hot showers, flush toilets! Perfect! The food was simply fantastic. My compliments to the Chef and the staff was lovely."

"Amazing staff with beautiful, compassionate response to the challenges of the cold!"

 Comments from Attendees
2012 Age of Limits Conference

"The Friday evening social was definitely a great way to start. Relaxed schedule is good. Small group discussions would be a good improvement, people have so much on their minds that they need to say."

"I felt and feel grateful for the communication skills exhibited here, meeting my needs to be heard, understood and respected."

"Yes, I think the format was excellent. Talks interspersed throughout the day with time off in between. I found the question/answer periods as rewarding as the lectures themselves."

"Excellent Social Engineering !!"

"I did enjoy the big discussion session with the "Popcorn." I'd also enjoy an opening welcome talk from Orren to set the tone and intention for the weekend, maybe an opening prayer or invocation."

"Yes, well done. By far much more interactive participation than at any type of "Conference" I have previously attended. Just keep doing it."

"I think you've achieved a good balance. The social time was enjoyable and the information time was relaxed and encouraged participation. All in all a great time."

"There was lots of time for informal discussion which was good, the presentations could be even more interactive. The Saturday night: Discussion in the Round" format was good, I would like to see smaller group workshop/discussions around topics that attendees could suggest."


"I would enjoy more workshops around spirituality and emotional content."

All good - we probably need grief work around this but can't say I want to go there just yet, the interactive spiritual stuff surprised me at how much it helped.

"I would have liked a "Primer." Peak Oil 101 / Collapse for Dummies to help ease me into the big picture."

I would like to see more practical what-to-do workshops. That said you had some big thinkers that really gave perspective to our shared problems."

"The space and time given to facilitate connections was ample and essential. Perhaps having "focus groups" areas designated at the breakfast/dinner tables would help organize more specific networking and conversation."

"Add "Preparation" from a rural and urban aspect, more spiritual and add in more of the practical. Speakers were great with a broad range of topics. It was a great start."

"More recognition that climate change won't go away by hiding in a city. More content on the ethical conundrums, living in community and generally staying sane."

"I think the attendees of this conference are already on-board about the collapse. Expansion to more specific individual and group mitigation strategies are a natural next step."

"The focus on talking about collapse was unnecessary to me, I think we are all pretty well informed around the issues, that's why we came to the conference. I wish that the focus was more about the solution than the problem."

"There were many newbies to Peak Oil at this event, perhaps some introductory sessions around collapse would be helpful? The spiritual and emotional content was much appreciated."

I"I would like to hear alternative living situations explore more deeply. Transition community people, other intentional communities?"

"Workshops? How about what attendees are doing in their own lives to transition... Sharing Circles."

"All staff members seemed delightfully competent and kind to me. I'm very grateful for the delicious meals and accommodation to my vegan preferences. I would recommend both 4QF and this conference without reservation.

" A lovely setting, the staff were excellent and the meals were wonderful. Since I don't own a car it was an effort to get here. I would recommend it and will return next year."

"Meals were wonderful and delicious!!!!!!!! Four Quarters is a beautiful place that is clearly tended with love and I would recommend it to others. I'd recommend the conference to others too. The real plates and silverware (not disposables) and the wash stations were a big plus for the event. I think it should be a longer conference: 3 full days. I plan to return next year."

""Yes, Yes! End of May is a tough time to leave the garden or farm, but it was worth it."

"Great venue. Only complaint is that those wonderful benches got hard, but I'll bring a cushion next time!"

"Four Quarters is a beautiful venue and is ideal for this kind of conference. The facilities and meals are excellent. I will recommend Four Quarters to others and return next year if at all possible.

"Food and staff were excellent. No complaints. Hospitality fabulous. Would recommend to friends. The closing party was a great way to conclude and celebrate our coming together."

Updated 2014-2-7

A RetroProgressive Practicum

Tuesday May 27th thru Sunday June 1st, 2014
a hands-on continuation of The Age of Limits

  “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin.

    When thinking about Collapse, and what adaptations we may make in our lives to mitigate its effects, Darwin’s quote provides an excellent point of view. Collapse Mitigation is local and individual. It’s about acquiring the human and technical skills that allow a quick pivot in response to new situations. It is about maximizing one’s ability to adapt. It’s about starting now.
    Last year we offered, with the capable help of Patricia Alison, a short course in the principles of Permaculture, as a way to hold the dates in our schedule and “get our feet wet” in offering a week-long intensive focused on collapse mitigation. This year we have arranged for the intensive to follow The Age of Limits, and with the help of Albert Bates, provide a way of tapering those deep discussions into a follow-on week of practical tactics for collapse mitigation.
    What do we propose? That’s a good question! Adaptability is about playing to one’s strengths, and over the course of this winter we, the permanent residents of Four Quarters, took inventory of what we think we are particularly good at; and of those things, the ones that are worth your time to share. It’s a short list.

First, we have been at it a while.
    Since our founding in 1994 we have lived close to the Land and in conscious simplicity, to the degree we are able. In 2003, our Board of Directors was presented with a formal plan for implementing Collapse Mitigation as a core value. Since that time every decision we made has been through that lens. We feel we have come a long way and would like to share with you the dirty, doin’ it, down in the trenches experiences of the past twenty years.
We are really good at building things. Really. Good.
    Living at a level of tech that we can design, build and repair is a core value. From our small machine shop and meadery businesses to building and repairing our heavy agricultural equipment, we would like to show you our dirty hands, and get your hands dirty too.
Sourcing food is not an abstraction.
    The fraction of our food that we raise and preserve ourselves, source locally or buy in bulk from the factory system is an exercise in applied ethics and practical compromises. And it is serious business for us, feeding a household that can seasonally vary from six to  twentyfour people, and feeding hundreds of guests for days at a time.
Most important of all, Community.
    We believe we can provide real, practical insight into that most important and misunderstood mitigation of collapse. As a community we function on many levels, from the intimacy of a small group of communitarians practicing income sharing, to a membership organization of 300+ people, to the larger world that we invite to our home for The Age of Limits Conference. We have developed a toolkit of pragmatic group skills that works for us and we are pretty sure some of those tools will work for you.

ABatesWe propose to invite you into an immersive experience of our world for six days.
• Share our living spaces, share our meals, share our morning meeting and share our work for the week.
• Late May is a busy time for us, and you will have a chance to see and do the “chop wood, carry water” everyday of a functioning rural community.
• Albert Bates will launch our practicum Tuesday with a one day seminar focusing on the pragmatic applications of biochar.
• We have scheduled a major spring project in finishing the construction of a bio-char kiln during the practicum and conducting our first test runs. If you want an introduction to metal working, small machine shop operations, and bio-char, this is your chance.
• We will be making an all-day field trip to our friends at Goodness Grows, a working collapse-aware farm family that pays the bills and raises their children by working the soil. Not to be missed.
• Another visit is planned to our good city friends who drank the KoolAid, moved to the country and began development of their permaculture inspired doomstead. What happens when you dig in and do it on a small budget.
• After our evening meal in the Farm House, a circle of conversation. What is Community and what are practical skills in maintaining it? What are the likely metrics and timeline of Collapse? How do you rebuild a 1976 dump truck from scratch? How much food do we raise, how much do we buy, and why? What has our history as a community been, and how do we see our next twenty years unfolding within the context of collapse?

That’s the plan, and no, we will not be giving you a certificate.
We will be giving you a week of our lives, face-to-face conversation,
dirt under your fingernails, and some exceptionally good food.
Oh, Albert’s book* too!


A RetroProgressive Practicum

Tuesday May 27th thru Sunday June 1st,  2014

··· Register Online or by calling our office at 814-784-3080

Preregistration by May 17th - $300

Please call our office with your questions,
814-784-3080, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Includes all meals, accomodations and materials .

For more information call or write our offices at
814-784-3080, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or visit us at and

The RetroProgressive Practicum is organized by Four Quarters InterFaith, the Mid-Atlantics’ nonprofit center supporting nature based spirituality and sustainable living techniques. Located just 100 miles from the DC metro area, our center is off-grid and we provide our campers with advanced flush toilet, hot shower and drinking water systems.

Your registration includes attendance at all presentations and social events, camping, swimming, hot showers, toilet and potable water. Fire Ring and Car Camping passes are available.

We have a limited number of bunkbed berths in our dormitory.
Private rooms in nearby B+B’s are available. Call us for suggestions.




We Could Use your Help

Indeed, I'm counting on it. You see, I've been organizing events of one kind or another for over 18 years now, and it has been my experience that events succeed or fail based upon that small group of people who care deeply about it's core message, and are willing to do the work to create the culture and context of small, weekend community.

I believe this is important work, an effort to start "The Conversation We Need to Have," as John Michael Greer has so succinctly put it. Decline. Collapse. The Elephant in the Parlor. To begin the process of grappling with some very hard and difficult truths. Not a possible future, but our unfolding here and now.

Perhaps you would like to be a part of the process, and help develop this much needed conversation? There are many ways to help.

* Long term, the core planning team is forming. If you like to organize, work with people and build from the foundations on out, drop me a line. We are forming a small chat list and you can be part of it.
* We are always looking for contacts, presentations and workshops to add to the content of the event. Do you have a suggestion?
* Publicity, publicity, publicity! First year events are always behind schedule and this is no exception. We would really appreciate what you can do to share Age of Limits. Suggest a website where we can post an announcement. Print out a flyer. Tell your friends.
* We support other organizations working on issues of adaptations to the decline, and ask for their support. If you are a member of an organization we should know about, drop me a line.
* There are many needs on site in creating an event. Could you help staff registration, manage sound systems or help in the kitchen? And we have need for reliable transportation of our presenters from regional airports.

Go to our Meetup page, create an account
and join the Volunteers conversation.

I'm pretty accessible, the telephone works too, and I enjoy the calls. That's 814-784-3080.
Ask for Orren and mention The Age of Limits. I look forward to it!

I first read the original "Limits to Growth" (Meadows et al) as a high school senior in 1974, and it changed my life. Or rather confirmed my youthful suspicions regarding the fundamental contradictions of industrial culture. That was back during the tail end of the Vietnam era, there was an active "Back to the Land Movement" and articles on self-sufficient living and alternative energy were common place in the mainstream press. The first and second oil crisis were a defining experience, it was an exciting time to grow up in. I pursued an engineering career, while trying to keep my investment in consumer culture at a comfortable arms-length. No TV, living in a mountainside log cabin, fetching cooking water from a spring while commuting an hour each way to my desk job in the big city. It was the eighties, times were rich and I was making easy money riding the computer boom. We all make our Faustian bargains and that was mine.

By the early nineties that bargain was growing irksome as I watched the farmland that surrounded my home swallowed up by the yeast-culture of suburban growth, and I came to question my own complicity in that larger process. Afflicted as I am by terminal idealism, in 1995 I quit my comfortable job to move my family to the deep Alleghany foothills and founded Four Quarters InterFaith as a non-profit center supporting all forms of Earth based spirituality. We organized our first events and began the never ending process of reclaiming a long abandoned farmstead. Look before you leap is very good advice.

In 1999 unrestricted internet access arrived and I well remember a fateful search string, "Global Oil Production." And after three weeks of nonstop reading the conclusion was clear; my dog-eared copy of the original Limits to Growth Report was still right on track. In the years that followed we focused on food and shelter, local business enterprises and evolved into a small income-sharing community. With our gardens and orchards, woodpiles and workshops, limits awareness has informed our long-term planning and has become an official focus of our non-profit. And the conversations began. Around the dinner table, in letters and emails, websites and blogs. Authors and conferences, workshops at our own events and impromptu fireside chats. And that's what I want to speak to you about.

I want to have a conversation with you around a common fire. Here in my home, as my guest on the Land. And I do have a vested self-interest. I want to see a person, not a computer screen, when I speak the words that trouble me deeply. Ecological Overshoot. Population Maximum. Decline, Collapse, Dieoff. And I want to hear you speak the words that you need to have heard, and hear them with compassion. I want to know what's worked for you and share a few of my own successes and failures. And we can bounce a few ideas off our friend in the next chair over, perhaps they'll spark something for his next book. So consider this an invitation to join me at my home for my idea of a really worthwhile way to spend the Memorial Day weekend. A circle of new friends. Solid Science, great minds, face to face conversation and never ending coffee.

Feel free to call with your questions, ask for Orren.

The Age of Limits

Conversations on The Collapse of the Global Industrial Model
May 23 thru 27, 2013

Visit for full particulars.

Conversations With
Our Presenters for The Age of Limits, 2014
Confirmed as of 2014 02 7


D Meadows
Dr. Dennis L. Meadows: is an American scientist, Emeritus Professor of Systems Management and former director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research at the University of New Hampshire. He is President of the Laboratory for Interactive Learning and widely known as the co-author of "The Limits to Growth."

Dennis Meadows received a BA from Carleton College, a Ph.D. in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and holds four honorary doctorates. He joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where from 1970 to 1972 he was director of the "Club of Rome Project on the Predicament of Mankind". Later Meadows was a tenured professor in faculties of management, engineering, and social sciences. For many years he was the director of a graduate program based in business and engineering. He has facilitated workshops and developed innovative and complex strategic games all over the world for decades.

He has been the Director of three university research institutes: at MIT, Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire. He is the Past President of the International System Dynamics Society and the International Simulation and Games Association. He has been a corporate board member and a consultant for government, industry and non-profit groups in the U.S. and many countries abroad. He co-founded the Balaton Group, an international network of over 300 professionals in over 30 nations involved in systems science, public policy and sustainable development. In the year 2008 he supported the project GPSO. He has received numerous international awards for his work, including the Japan Prize in April 2009.

"The Limits to Growth"
The Limits to Growth is a 1972 book modeling the consequences of a rapidly growing world population and finite resource supplies, commissioned by the Club of Rome. Meadows coauthored the book with Donella H. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III. The book used the World3 model to simulate the consequence of interactions between the Earth's and human systems. The purpose of The Limits to Growth was not to make specific predictions, but to explore how exponential growth interacts with finite resources. Because the size of resources is not known, only the general behavior can be explored.

"In 1972 it was inconceivable to most people that the physical impact of humanity's activities could ever grow large enough to alter basic natural processes of the globe. But now we routinely observe, acknowledge, and discuss the ozone hole, destruction of marine fisheries, climate change and other global problems."

"Now we must tell people how to manage an orderly reduction of their activities back down below the limits of the earth's resources.."

John Michael Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and the author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects, including The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World, and the forthcoming The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered.

A scholar of ecological history, an award-winning author and an internationally renowned Peak Oil theorist whose blog, “The Archdruid Report”, has become one of the most widely cited online resources dealing with the future of industrial society. He is a certified Master Conserver, an organic gardener, and has been active in the alternative spirituality movement for more than 25 years. John lives in Cumberland, MD, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

John posts every Thursday at The Archdruid Report, a highly regarded blog examining nature, culture and the future of industrial society.

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and writer on subjects related to the "potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States," something he has called “the permanent crisis”. Orlov believes collapse will be the result of huge military budgets, government deficits, an unresponsive political system and declining oil production.

Orlov was born in Saint Petersburg and moved to the United States at the age of 12, earning a BS in Computer Engineering and an MA in Applied Linguistics. Over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late 1980s and mid-1990s he was an eyewitness to the collapse of the Soviet Union which he  chronicled in a series of essays. His most recent book is Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects.

"When faced with a collapsing economy, one should stop thinking of wealth in terms of money." ·He continues to write regularly on his blog “Club Orlov”.

Gail Tverberg is a professional actuary and Mathematician, global limits analyst and writer. A a clear and numerate voice discussing a complex subject.She has an M. S. from the University of Illinois, Chicago in Mathematics, and is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries. Her earlier professional work showed an interest in quantifying the financial effects of global climate and fossil fuel depletion. Since the mid 2,000's Gail has focused her research and writing on these subjects and additionally the world financial system within the context of industrial collapse. She is a regular contributor to the leading publications in the field and posts to her own blog "Our Finite World."

Orren Whiddon read the original "Limits to Growth" report in 1974 and has never looked back. Founding Four Quarters in 1994 has provided much practical experience in the art of growing a rural based community as well as the applied realities of local food production and shelter. As a consulting engineer he has stayed abreast of the technical developments and has "Engineered" Four Quarters with the ethic of reduce what you need and sustain what you use. He is the lead organizer for The Age of Limits and has written on both nature based spirituality and industrial collapse.

Albert Bates
is author of The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook and numerous books, films and new media on energy, environment and history. A former environmental rights lawyer, paramedic, brick mason, flour miller, and horse trainer, he received the Right Livelihood Award in 1980 as part of the steering committee of Plenty, working to preserve the cultures of indigenous peoples, and board of directors of The Farm, a pioneering intentional community in Tennessee for the past 35 years. A co-founder and past president of the Global Ecovillage Network, he is presently GEN's representative to the UN climate talks. When not tinkering with fuel wringers for algae, hemp cheeses, or pyrolizing cookstoves, he teaches permaculture, ecovillage design and natural building and is a frequent guest on the ETC Podcast. He tweets at @peaksurfer and blogs at

M Cochrane
Dr. Mark Cochrane:conducts interdisciplinary work combining ecology , remote sensing, and other fields of study to provide a landscape perspective of the dynamic processes involved in land-cover change. He is an expert on wildfire, documenting the characteristics, behavior and severe effects of fire in tropical and temperate forests that are inherent to current systems of human land-use and management. His research focuses on understanding spatial patterns, interactions and synergisms between the multiple physical and biological factors that affect ecosystems. Recently published work has emphasized the climate change, human dimensions of land-cover change and the potential for sustainable development. In his ongoing research program, Dr. Cochrane continues to investigate the drivers and effects of disturbance regime changes resulting from various forms of forest degradation, including fire, fragmentation and logging as well as the mitigating effects of forest management.  He holds a Ph.D. in Ecology from Pennsylvania State University and a S.B. in Environmental Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

KMO2014KMO Conversation Facilitator
is the host and producer of the C-Realm Podcast and author of the book ‘Conversations on Collapse.’ He recently relocated from the Ecovillage Training Center on the Farm in Summertown, TN to Brooklyn, NY. He describes himself as, “a recovering libertarian and Singularitarian." 
    He was an early employee of, made a lot of money on stock options, spent it all, and had to re-enter the rat race with a decade-sized hole in his resume. He spent a good portion of his temporary, early retirement studying NLP, public speaking, and leadership while working to establish himself as a web-cartoonist. During this period he also traveled repeatedly to the Peruvian Amazon to participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies.
     Libertarian ideology and techno-utopian fantasies are very attractive and self-validating when one is living on the proceeds of an internet stock-option windfall. They are less attractive and self-validating when scrambling to earn a living and starting from scratch in middle age. The six year arc of the C-Realm Podcast provides an unintended look into KMO’s evolving worldview”

 Kilde loresPeter Kilde Conversation Facilitator
   Peter Kilde has been executive director of the West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency, Inc, since 1995.  West CAP provides low income housing, homelessness and foreclosure prevention programs, weatherization, food security and sustainable community initiatives. He serves on the national Community Action Partnership Board of Directors, where he chairs the “New Reality Initiative” focused on how the depletion of fossil fuels and other natural resources, environmental degradation, and economic turmoil impact low income communities.
   Peter also serves on the Boards of ASPO – USA, his regional Workforce Development Board, the local Habitat for Humanity and the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation. Prior to coming to West CAP, Mr. Kilde  was operations director of Wilder Forest, a 1,200-acre conference and education center linking social and environmental concerns.
   Peter Kilde lives on a small farm near Spring Valley, Wisconsin, with his wife and three daughters.