Sacrifice, that pesky idea

The Sunday New York Times had an interesting article called All Quiet on the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why. The second paragraph of the article raises the question:
From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?
The article goes on to discuss how the "nation at war" of 2005 bears no resemblance to the behavior of either the government or the citizenry during World War II.* Americans are not being asked to sacrifice in any way, except to perhaps send a care package or two to the troops to ostensibly boost morale. There is no serious talk of a draft (though the liberal blogosphere seems to have its suspicions), and in fact, Americans are even being explicitly told to continue living life as normal to "not to give terrorists a moral victory by giving in to the fear of violence."

*I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine how the national psyche during the Vietnam War fits into this debate.

This is psychologically damaging to the troops. According to the article, soldiers are sensing that the regular citizen's level of committment to this war is pretty weak. Says David C. Hendrickson of Colorado College,
"Bush understands that the support of the public for war - especially the war in Iraq - is conditioned on demanding little of the public."
"The public wants very much to support the troops" in Iraq, he said. "But it doesn't really believe in the mission. Most consider it a war of choice, and a majority - although a thin one - thinks it was the wrong choice."

Now, I find the sentiment expressed in this article this article sort of peculiar. I can understand why the troops would like a greater show of committment by the country, since the feeling that the military is at war but the country isn't is certainly demoralizing. But what I don't understand is what the soldiers would have us do. The pictures that accompany the NYT article reflect the effort that people made with victory gardens and gas rationing during WWII, but wouldn't that kind of effort today be just as symbolic as the care packages? There aren't really shortages of anything right now. One possibility that the article points out is that we could raise taxes to pay off the deficit caused by this war, but certainly the citizenry isn't going to accept that.

I bring this up on The Oil Drum because I think it reflects a salient aspect of the American psyche that's going to cause us great difficulty in a Peak Oil world. It seems to me that many Americans of the 21st century feel a great sense of entitlement. I am not immune to it myself; for example, I believe that our services should run flawlessly, and when a subway stops for 5 minutes in a tunnel or the airplane sits on the tarmac for a while I get indignant. Every American reading this can picture the angered, agitated, high-pitched voice of the customer who believes he'll miss his connection. Considering how minor these things are, imagine what will happen if and when gas is once again rationed, and certain foods are in short supply because we can't grow as much of it as we used to. Will there be riots? We're seemingly at the limits of the rich/poor divide--but could it possibly get worse? I'm going to take the high road. Perhaps once the reality of the situation is crystal clear to everyone, we'll have a massive shift in our collective behavior, and we'll begin to understand why it isn't our God-given right--or even a part of the American Dream--to want for nothing.

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My grandmothers used to tell me stories about the sacrifices they made during the great depression (meals of cornbread and buttermilk, etc.). This type of existence is unfathomable today. Even the poor seem to find sufficient resources for cell phones super sized waist lines.

I think we will see denial among many long after the peak. The evidence for global warming seems crystal clear to me, but there is a lot of intentional clouding of the subject out there. I expect to see the same with PO. Of course, gas shortages and high prices will be self evident. But how long will it take for a general consensus that we are in permanent production decline?

It is very easy for me to imagine the oil companies and conservatives screaming that we just need to open up everything for exploration and invest more to bring back the good ol' sacrifice-free days.

Re: Give the People What They Want and Cold Turkey

Ianqui said "It seems to me that many Americans of the 21st century feel a great sense of entitlement". Damn right.

I've wrote this same thing in the past on this site. (I wish the Oil Drum comments were searchable). That sense of entitlement is fundamental to the American psyche. After all, with approximately 4.6% of the world's population, we are entitled to use about 24% of the world's daily oil production and emit about the same percentage of all CO2 emissions. Woe to anyone that suggests that we should use less energy or even implement a very weak first step like the Kyoto Protocol. Just today, concerning the energy bill

House members rejected an effort to incorporate a plan passed by the Senate to require utilities to use more renewable energy like wind and solar power to generate electricity. They also defeated a bid to direct the president to find ways to cut the nation's appetite for oil by one million barrels a day.

The renewables provision would take effect in 2020. The reduction requirement for oil was not based on current demand. It was based on projected future demand. Here's a quote:

Consider just one example. The Senate, apparently having screwed its courage to the sticking point, asks the President to implement measures that will ensure that our consumption of oil INCREASES by only 4 million barrels per day by 2015, rather than the 5 million barrels per day currently projected by the Department of Energy. In other words, our dependence will worsen considerably, but not as much as it could have!

There's the refusal to change CAFE standards, there's.... well we could go on and on. Apparently, we Americans are entitled to all the energy we will ever want to meet our endless demand. Here's what Kurt Vonnegut said back in May of last year:

"Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey."

It would be nice to blame the evil oil companies and the politicians they have bought and paid for but really, in the end, it is the spoiled American people who are to blame. Give the people what they want.

Finally, the Iraq War (barely noticed by most Americans) was sold (marketed) as part of the "War on Terrorism". But everyone knows you can't make war on an abstract noun and we attacked Iraq on this phony premise. Shock and Awe, anyone? Despite repeated and false allusions to 9/11 to justify the war during last year's campaign, no one really bought it. Sacrifice during wartime? Sacrifice and aggression just don't seem to go together. We are losing this war that we started. And if we did go to war over oil, as I think and many people who are aware of Peak Oil reasonably think, that also has been a miserable failure. Afterall, Americans like to back a winner.

Hey, I support the war! I have two magnets on my car!


It ain't how many magnets you have, but how many children to pay off our deficits.

Two disparate points:

1) I thought the article was great as I felt it highlighted the absurdity of the Bush administration's insistence that we are a nation at war and that W is himself a war president. The soldiers get how crazy such an assertion is and the lack of sacrifice at home just makes such assertions even crazier.

2) But, to follow up on the scarifice point, I think the whole country from left to right is nuts. Kunstler's favorite rant about the lady with the anti-war signs in her yard and her SUV in her driveway get right to the point - Americans just cannot fathom life without cheap oil.

Yet, I don't like the subsequent conclusion that all Americans have a greedy little sense of entitlement. I think that's just falling into the same old easy tripe that the right spews when it wants to cut welfare state spending, yet they themselves are the greediest of all when it comes to air-conditioned mega-churches and huge shopping malls. I don't think we help ourselves at all by pointing our fingers at America and saying greedy little pigs -

There are people who would sacrifice if they understood better. I really think the "econological footprint" and "food mile" sorts of exercises are useful and will help those who are willing to sacrifice but don't know that they should.

I do think that there is something about the need to sacrifice and I think it is something that we will all be called upon to do - but we call on ourselves and the nation to sacrifice without first castigating them as greedy little silver spoons.

Let's just talk about it as "now is the time we begin to make the sacrifices necessary to save ourselves and our world . . . " We need to be in this all together - even the people living in the burbs.

And it's the guys fighting in Iraq who are asking us to begin -

"Save the Troops. Park the SUV."

I think the ianqui is dead right when she says that the American public feels a sense of entitlement, not only to this way of life, but to many things. The common teen thinks when his 16th brithday hits he should get a new car; Mothers take for granted that their premature children will survive; baby boomers feel entitled to their pensions and SS checks; everybody feels they are owed something, including myself.

I feel I am owed something because I work until July every year just to pay all my taxes. Slavery? You bet. And it makes me feel the friggin government owes me something, because I haven't ever taken a dime from them other than the road system I drive on. Every war I have experienced was about expanding the military or political power, not about saving the homeland.

The government epitomizes the sense of entitlement, and every employee working for the government that treats a taxpayer badly adds to this. We are pulled over due to skin color, our assets can be seized for almost any reason officials care to fabricate, and even our homes can be condemned if government thinks they need to do so "for the public good". Crooked politicians are not just tolerated, they sneer at attempts to unseat them! The hubris present in the halls of our democracy is unprecedented, and if the laws do not work in their favor, they strike them down, re-write them or issue edicts.

We are living the nightmare our founding fathers hoped to prevent. This is not the America our forefathers fought for - it is something else entirely. Not everyone has changed - there are more good people than bad. But we have devolved societally to the point that we tolerate badness all around us, and we turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality. Why? Because we are lazy and our freedom muscle is in dire need of a workout.

"Don't judge others" is a prime unspoken tenet in America. Yet it is this unwillingness to pass judgement on others that has led us into this morass!! We should judge others, by the things they do and say. And it is ok for people to be right or wrong, to be good or evil. To deny this is to be stupid, as there is evil and good all around us. One should be embraced and the other condemned. But in America, everything has become gray. Right and wrong are for sale.

Entitled? En-freaking-titled? Until we take back our government we will always feel something is owed to us - because so much has been taken away.

I basically agree with Carla here. Why would anyone give up their opulant cheap oil lifestyle if they don't have to? To be on the cutting edge of eco-chic?

Just because a nation is living well with cheap and abundant energy, it does not follow that they are genetically incapable of adjusting in the face of increasing scarcity. It does, however, mean that things could get very interesting in the transition.

"There are people who would sacrifice if they understood better. I really think the "econological footprint" and "food mile" sorts of exercises are useful and will help those who are willing to sacrifice but don't know that they should."

Carla, I wish I could agree with you, but I don't. Let me make an example of one of my favorite bloggers on this issue. Phantom Scribber (in posts like this one and this one) is an incredibly conscientious person who knows where we're headed. She's environmentally conscious, and wants to do the right thing, but very often her good intentions are derailed by real life. With 2 little kids and a household to manage, sometimes the easiest thing to do is not the most sacrificial one.

And she's one of the "good guys", so imagine what the rest of America is like. Surely you're right when you say that many people don't even know what's about to hit them, and would make changes if only they had the information. But crucially, our government DOES have all of the relevant information about global warming and peak oil and avian flu and whatever other disasters await us, and yet, still they're doing nothing to influence us to stop our destructive behavior. And no body has influence like the government does--they're the ONLY ones with enough power and influence to get the American people to change their ways. But they don't, probably because of the fact that conservation isn't exactly consistent with unfettered capitalism, and I'd venture to guess that there are a lot of "regular citizens" who agree with that.

I don't usually like supporting my points with anecdotes, but I'm going to do it this time. In May, I was traveling from Canada to the US, and upon my arrival at the airport, we found out that a lightning storm the night before had knocked out the airlines' computers. Consequently, everyone had to be checked in by hand, which took 2 extra hours and meant that a lot of people would miss their connections. I was absolutely amazed at the stoicism of the travelers. Most of them were Canadian, and hardly any of them complained. Had the same thing happened in the US, there would have been total chaos, with people screaming at the airline employees and demanding compensation for the trouble. But not these guys. They seemed to accept that shit happens (as it were), and no one got too upset. Whenever I travel out of the country, I'm constantly reminded that the American sense of entitlement is a real phenomenon and has become ingrained, and I am worried about what it will mean when we're faced with something more serious than a travel delay.

In the WWII era, it was clear that sacrifice at home would help in the war effort. Less oil or steel used here meant more for use there. In the current environment, that is not so clear.

I think sacrifice at home would help to link Americans more closely in an emotional sense with the "war", but would it do any good? I think asking people to sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice wouldn't go down well anywhere.

Yes, I was joking about the magnets.

From where I sit, there is much less trust (for lack of a better term) that our sacrifice will help. I see a lot of people say "I need a big SUV so if I have a wreck my family is safe." Whether or not this is a true assumption, of course, could be debated forever. But what I've seen is a kind of vehicular arms race where everyone wants the '5 star crash rating' and high ground clearance and heavy steel in the doors, etc.

Which of course means less fuel efficiency. ('light, strong, or cheap, pick any two")

A second part of the mentality seems to be "if I don't use it, somebody else will, why should I suffer?" In other words, why drive an econobox when you are surrounded by luxury SUV's? What's one more SUV on the road?

disclaimer: I live in Texas and trucks are a way of life in my area. Sometimes literally (hauling cattle to auction, etc). But twenty years ago when they started putting leather seats and power windows in pickup trucks and marketing them as tougher cars, suddenly everyone seems to "need" one.

I think I lost my point during my ramble, but basically: I don't see many people that want to sacrifice. And even fewer leaders who would ask them to sacrifice.

Saw this article from the Falls Church News-Press as linked by From the Wilderness

While the plan is obstensibly to combat global warming, seems to be just the ticket to respond to Peak Oil as well. Some excerpts:

A couple of weeks ago, the British press reported that Her Majesty's cabinet is considering a plan to ration energy consumption. The immediate reason for implementing such a system is to reduce the UK 's emission of greenhouse gases as required by the Kyoto Treaty. The plans authors, however, claim that if the proposal works, it will deal equally well with equitably allocating dwindling energy supplies caused by peak oil. . . .

Under the plan, every adult in the country would be given (for free) an annual "Personal Carbon Allowance" (PCA). This allowance would be measured in "carbon units." One carbon unit would be equal to one kilogram of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere when the fuel is burned. Carbon units can be equated easily to gallons of gasoline, heating oil, diesel, or jet fuel, or to pounds of coal, BTUs of natural gas, or KWh of electricity. For example, one gallon of gas would be the equivalent of about nine carbon units. Thus, for every gallon of gas purchased, nine carbon units would be subtracted from your account.

The annual allowance would be the same for all adults, with possibly a smaller allowance for dependent children, and would be tracked on a central electronic system similar to a credit card account. The size of the annual individual allowance would be based on what a government panel believed would be the total amount of fuel available for consumption in a country during the coming year, divided by the number of energy consumers. Whenever one purchased or consumed fuel, such as on an airplane trip, an appropriate deduction would be made from one's PCA account. With oil depletion, of course, the annual carbon allowance would shrink with each successive year.

The next most interesting feature of the plan is the government would also establish an electronic free market to buy and sell carbon units. Thus, those who have no need for their complete annual carbon allowance would be free to sell their excess units for cash at the market price. Those individuals who want and can afford more than their allocated share can buy as much as they want at the going price. Note that above-allocation consumers would not only have to pay for the energy, they would also have to pay for the right to buy the above-allocation energy. Non-residents visiting a country would not be given an annual allowance, but would have to buy the carbon units they use on the open market as they consume energy. Businesses that consume energy would buy their carbon units on the open market and would pass the cost on to the final consumer either money or in cases such as airplane rides as a PCA debit.

It seems to me an eminently sensible plan. Unfortunately, I can't even imagine someone broaching the subject in the US. It shows the truth of "great sense of entitlement" Ianqui's notes.

How do we overcome this feeling of entitlement? Because it is a huge barrier IMO. In my experience education helps, peer pressure helps, propaganda helps, leadership helps. And getting over entitlement isn't a one shot thing. It will unfold as a process of coming to grips with the reality of the situation and mourning the loss of what we feel is our birthright. Even if I am exploitive and my energy and carbon footprints are outrageous compared to the rest of the world, there is still a loss to be worked through. And the guilt. Guilt has the problem of contributing to a need to stay in denial.

Besides, I don't want to sacrifice for the war effort. I want to sacrifice for the peace effort.

I guess this has been one of my fears all along: the notion of going backward and how that just doesn't seem to work with the human psyche. It seems to me that Joe Six-Pack (G-d love him) would have to accept that we have "failed" before he's willing to take less than he's already getting. He has to accept that the hopes and dreams he had are no longer going to be as likely...that life is going to get harder, not easier.

All our lives, we work so that our lives will get easier, not harder. I cannot fathom humanity's response to such a stimulus. Probably something like what came after the black death, lots of religion, lots of consolidation of power, lots of abuse...the catch is that now we're educated, those folks weren't then...

I wouldn't want to be in charge, that's for sure. Imagine the choices...

Yes, I think the demands of everyday life in the US can undermine the best green intentions of even the most dedicated. And, yes, I do think that some Americans have a boorish sense of entitlement.

I do not think that sense of entitlement is new to the age of cheap oil or unique to the US - slavery, imperialism, western expansion, etc. It seems not surprising that the age of oil quickly proceeded on the heels of slavery and the final years of western expansion in the US. The sense of entitlement to land, to the lives of others, to the natural resources of the earth is clear - Even Jimmy Carter claimed that the oil in the Middle East was of strategic American interest and that we would use our military to defend our access to it. The spoiled suburban brat is just the most recent incarnation of the excesses of unearned wealth.

Yet, there have also been abolitionists, environmentalists, labor union activists who have tried to re-distribute the wealth of societies, the abundance of cheap oil in a more equitable manner. There are people who will make the sacrifices necessary if they see others putting aside their entitlements.

And, I am convinced that the excesses of suburbia and American obesity rates and American debt are all symptoms of a culture in a deep crisis - and that calls to sacrifice, rationing oil with coupons may really come as a relief to quite a few people.

Especially if rationing and getting back to nature and going on a diet and walking also mean more time with the kids - fewer pampers, more games of patty-cake.

Yes? I think Liz is right - if the sacrifice is for the better good, the peace, rather than the war machine and SUVs, then we might see some signs of moral uplift in the outer rings.

Carla, I think that in fact we are in perfect agreement.

RE: PG's "I guess this has been one of my fears all along: the notion of going backward and how that just doesn't seem to work with the human psyche."

Going backward is where we're going, of course. Doesn't work with the human psyche? You bet. The obvious thing about Americans (all people?) is that it will take a crisis to create any movement at all in any direction. And when that movement occurs, then comes the usual Shakespearian human tragedy--the anger, fear, hysteria, blame, scapegoating, violence, selfishness, persecution of others, etc.

A choir all on the page and singing in the same key. Lovely music!


Picking up on the attitude of "entitlement" is key; we, the global modern "we", have largely forgotten our responsibility to the land and to each other (I mean this in the broadest sense possible) in favour of "rights" and living for the moment, courtesy of the Gold Visa card of course!

As a Canadian, I will say "thanks" for the comments above on stoicism and politeness, but I will also say that we also have a long way to go when it comes to recongnizing that our way of life is threatened by... our current way of life.

You'll probably find somewhat more recognition of the issues at hand up here because we've had in fact some political leadership (and a somewhat green-friendly history) willing to bank on Kyoto many years ago. True, living up to our Kyoto committments is still a hotly debated topic, certainly within Alberta and energy circles. And true, the current plan does seem to be lacking.

Ironically Canada's energy consumption per capita is *worse* than the US but that is in no small part due to, ironically again, energy production. Sure takes a lot of fuel to produce oil from bitumen.

Change is needed, but where to start? Will someone else do the dirty work for us? No.

Individuals do have the power to change things and I'd suggest that people already predisposed to the notion that we must change (like Phantom Scribbler) need to be encouraged.

I'm from Vancouver, birthplace of Greenpeace over 32 years ago. One doesn't have to agree with everything Greenpeace has said or done over the years (I don't) to recognize that they were one group - started by individuals and supported by individuals - that helped dramatically change the way people thought about the environment. There are others of course which have played similar starring roles and they all started off as the brainchild of a small group of people.

Unfortunately often a crisis has to develop first before people will listen and believe; I recall the 60's and 70's when some of the Great Lakes were dieing from pollution and you couldn't walk a beach without boots on for all the dead fish. Activists, with the help of an apparent crisis, made a difference and changed conciousness and influeced politics and legislation.

We've got a similar challenge with global warming and peak oil... and while it seems daunting, individual action, education and communication do make differences. Eventually leaders and groups will rise above the fray and these issues will get more airplay and recognition. Thankfully the internet makes it easier to spread information; unfortunately there are competing interests also skilled in using such tools.

In the meantime, individuals can make choices that matter on a personal level and better yet, can let others know and lead simply by example. Just riding or walking our kids to school 2km away on an almost daily basis has got other parents into the same game when before it was a rarity at the school.

Another example - A family we know parked their car without insurance and rode everywhere, using tandems and trail-a-long bike attached to move two kids. They influenced us and we do the same now - sold one car and try like crazy not to use the other - not because we have to or can't afford it but its the right thing to do and sets an example to our friends and neighbours and importantly to our kids and their friends.

Sure, these are individually not big gains. But that doesn't matter, for two reasons - 1, it wasn't hard to change our lifestyle (more mode of transport, little lifestyle change) and frankly we'd be making these choices anyway because we believe in them, but 2 - the biggest gain, even more easy to achieve, is a change in mindset across an ever larger group of people who interact with others and so on...

Unless there is an educated, interested, public, we'll never get the momentum required to make neccessary change at the political level. I'm not talking about Democrats vs Republicans (most of my family are American and all but one are Republicans... mostly quite "green") or Liberals vs Conservatives; no, I'm talking about the change of ideas. Conservation is an idea not foreign to all republicans or conservatives. Perhaps not acceptable among the current crowd running the show, yes, but not all are in the same leaky boat.

Changing the political system is something that can not be done solely at the ballot box. People need to be involved at the local, state/provincial and federal level in politics. Supporting parties, candidates (support those who are open to change!), political action committtees, etc is how the system works and this will not change any time soon. Few (at least in my experience) are actively involved in the political system but unfortunately while its distasteful to many, its critical that new thought leaders make their way through the political system either at the front of the room or in the background working to make a difference.

leaving aside the war, and speaking generally about energy ... i'm not sure it has to be about "sacrifice." i think there are other-futures that could be as happy, if not as energy intensive.

i guess in my most optimistic mood i see it as a change of direction, with its own rewards. a jet-ski is fun, but so is a wind-surfing. motocross is fun, but so is a mountain bike.

the problem, which brings back my pessimism, is that any change from the path of least resistence probably will be SEEN as sacrifice ... and put off for that reason.

people will probably find a way to to be happy, on less oil, but only when they have to.

lol, the future:

Could it be because if this administration started actually increasing taxes on blue and purple staters, not to mention drafting their kids, to properly resource their messianic crusade in the Arab-Muslim world, all hell would break loose?

I would love to spend some time taling with folks about just what they do feel entitiled to and what they are willing to sacrifice for. I suspect that something very interesting would come out of that project.

In fact, I have been thinking about doing something like that professionally. So, maybe in a few years I might have something interesting to say. I am very interested in the ecological mind: that is what people understand of their resources and what needs to be presereved or conserved and what can be casually taken for granted. I'd be happy to know if people in this group might already have some ideas or have read something substantive on the topic.

The current administration missed a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the mass-patriotism post-911, and instill a sense of duty and sacrifice as it relates to the 'war on terra' our over consumption of oil. I think that GWB and others felt that their chief obligation to the nation was to "keep the economy moving forward," and ignored problems that were at the root of the confict that we are in. With every news conference, we have heard that there is such-and-such terror alert in the this big city, but by all means continue to go about your daily life. Let it have no affect on you (and your spending.) The messages coming out of Tony Blair after 7/7 were strikingly similar: If you change your lifestyle, then the terrorists have won.

While this is true that the terrorists goal is to disrupt the economies of their enemies, preaching over and over that we should be 'going about our business' and not 'changing anything in our daily lives, except being vigilant' (whatever the hell that means) The undelying message is frightening: If you make changes in your life, such as conserving energy to reduce our foreign oil addiction, and trying to influence others to do the same, it isn't "American" or "patriotic" to do so. That's letting the terrorists win. Rationing means we're losing the war, etc. Thoughts?

Balogh--I would even venture to say that if we had actually passed an energy bill that miraculously did have a proposal for reducing dependence on foreign oil, then the Bush administration's messed up rhetoric would have meant that we were being unpatriotic. That is, some Middle Eastern groups (including terrorist ones) have said that the ME oil producing nations should stop selling to the western infidels. So of course, if we stopped buying their oil, then we'd essentially be accomplishing the same thing. And that, of course, would be unpatriotic since it's what the terrorists want.

But then again, I don't think the administration cares that much about contradicting themselves or generally being incoherent.

Those are good thoughts, baloghblog. The so-called "war on terrorism" as yet another excuse for Americans or Brits to continue their unsustainable "lifestyles" and energy usage... and to do otherwise would be victory for suicide bombers. Consume, consume, consume--otherwise, its Sharia Law for all of us. They hate our "freedom" you know, that's why we sacrifice our women and men in the American military, not to mention the 25,000 Iraqi confirmed dead, so resolutely.... because we are entitled to the way we live.

Excellent comment.

This is part of what the Sustainable Hedonism trope is for, to point out where going 'backwards' will be outright pleasant.

Me, I think it's evident that for many people consumerism is more a status game than it is related to material wants (cf. _Luxury Fever_) and for many people long work hours are also a zero-sum game to stay employed (Schor's books? also, Dilbert). So if there's a good excuse to stop, if it becomes credible to say that you aren't a slacker even if you aren't using all that gas, many people will be relieved. It's just hard to be first.

After all, there are several magazines full of "time porn"; beautiful shots of local seasonal produce hand-sliced by a gaggle of family and friends, decorations drawn onto scrap paper, etc etc. Also, the Slow Food movement.

Very interesting. Couldn't agree more. The only thing I think I could add to this debate is this: an intriguing way of looking at overconsumption is not as 'entitlement' (fascinating though that is) or as 'conspicuous consumption' but as addiction. We are dependent on cheap oil in the manner of an addict. It ain't good for us but we want it to the extent that almost any price rise will be tolerated. We'll sacrifice almost anything else in order to consume. Interesting times ahead, indeed.

Goodness, I was talking about sacrifice sixteen months ago.  A realistic program to replace petroleum with something else would not only scare the hell out of OPEC (and keep them from tightening supplies to prevent the shift from happening faster and sooner), it would also give the US technologies to sell.

As for what people could sacrifice, how about the Hummers, Excursions and 4x4 Durangoes?  They could probably attract plenty of charity money at a dollar a swing with sledgehammers.

i think the real problem is that we think giving up big cars, and going to smaller/different ones is "sacrifice."

geez, driving a Mini to the beach, dancing by the fire, and getting laid is a happy future.

Exactly odograph... exactly. And we have our past history to reinforce this. In the 70's and early 80's everyone bought Toyotas and Datsuns (before Nissan name change) but overtime, the "problem went away" and now... its just incredible to me... we see cars that routinely have more horsepower than 2 or 3 cars of yesteryear put together.

We've learned that in time oil will be cheap enough for us to keep on truckin', which is why, I believe, there has not as yet been that much consumer backlash against higher prices.

I wonder if there are stats on how many drive to the store, when its

... 7 blocks away...
... 5 blocks away...
... 3 blocks away...

I've this sense the numbers are surprisingly high.

Michael, the obvious way forward for electric cars is to use something like the Toshiba Li-ion battery.  They charge in 5 minutes (80% in 1 minute) and can probably discharge just as fast.  If you carry a 60 kWh battery pack and can use it all up in 5 minutes, that's 720 kilowatts of power or about 960 horsepower.

If you think the petroleum-free cars of the future will lack for horsepower, think again.  The best among them will make today's Corvettes look like 2cv's for performance, not to mention Trabants for filth.

on 07.26.05 - 2:57 pm Ianqui said....

".... And no body has influence like the government does--they're the ONLY ones with enough power and influence to get the American people to change their ways."

with all due respect to ianqui i suggest she is dead wrong on this point. in fact, leaving it to the govt to "change the people" is how we got ourselves in this mess in the first place. the govt is a REFLECTION of the people. more specifically, it is a reflection of the DENIAL of the people. we leave it to the govt to "fix" everything for us. we leave it to the govt to "protect us" and to secure our future and our "entitlements" for us.

and worse, we assume they are the "good guys". we assume, ...despite overwhelming evidence that our govt is corrupt to the core, is the absolute worst violator of human rights on the planet, has participated in the thievery of the documented trillions of dollars that have been stolen from various govt agencies and moved out of our country, has been the instigator in the corruption of third world "leaders" so we can then steal their resources and then, years later, "forgive" the billions of dollars of debt we saddled them with as long as they agree to forfeit the infrastructures and natural resources we loaned them the money to develope in the first place, is in bed with organized crime, multinational corporations, and the very same terrorist organizations and war lords who we claim are the "axis of evil" in this so-called "war on terror" in the cultivation, trafficing, and distribution of the tons and tons of drugs loosed on our neighborhoods and streets, ...we assume this wonderful govt of ours is acting in our best interests despite the overwhelming evidence now available for us to puruse that it is acting on the collective greed and sinister agendas of those that run it in bed with corporations and individuals of similar self-interest.

how many of our people know that our govt agencies refuse to abide by law to provide audited financial statements? how many know they "balance the books" with an instrument called "UNDOCUMENTED ADJUSTMENTS"? off a few billion? just "adjust" the bottom line to make the numbers work. we would NEVER get by with this kind of accounting in our own businesses yet we allow our govt agencies to do so with narry a word of objection.

how many know that our economy is absolutey plugged into the over 500 billion in illicit drug money laundered through our very own banks and wall street?

how many know that, ... despite their intentions and actions to be "environmentally conscientious", despite their efforts to minimize their personal footprint, despite their anti-war position, despite their objections to appaling human rights violations, despite their objection to the massive corruption and power-over agendas, despite their knowing that our own shadow govt is either complicit in or directly responsible for the events of 9/11, ... they hold positions of alignment with "the end justifies the means" agenda and they are perfectly willing to turn their head so their future will remain secure??

we are getting EXACTLY what we deserve when we refuse to look at the evidence or worse, after looking at the evidence we choose to do NOTHING because to do so would mean our economy would collapse, our jobs would be lost, our mortagaes forclosed on, our "economic security" would go to the dogs, our pension plans, our ira's, etc, would be worthless, our health insurance (if we are one of the fortunate who can even afford to have it) would be non-existent, our meds might be unavailable, our way of life as we know it would be OVER, our lights and air conditioners might go off, our water might not run, our cupboard might be bare, our gas tanks would be empty, our nation would be under martial law because our streets would be chaos, and our american dream would turn out to be a nightmare! and no body in the rest of the world would have any desire to help us because they are tired of being abused and killed, of being overridden and taken advantage of BY US!!

many do not know the details of the various issues i have touched on here but i submit that somewhere, within the unspoken reality, within the deep dark irrational realm where reason cannot reach and intellect cannot venture, every u.s. citizen knows this.

so i submit that what is really going on here is that when its all said and done we, each of us in our own ways, are, through the UNSEEN ROLE OF DENIAL, in bed with the greed, corruption, and sinister agendas of those who, by that very same denial, we have put in the so-called power positions and charged with "taking care" of us.

and in the end we are each, in our own ways, responsible for our own roles in this and ABSOLUTELY responsible for our own change.

AND TO SAY THAT WE MUST "SACRIFICE" TO DO SO IS AN ABSOLUTE DENIAL OF WHAT IS POSSIBLE INSIDE OF LOVE AND LIFE!! not only that but "sacrifice" is likely to be GUILT driven which is in direct conflict with love... to be guilt operating in love's place as it is most often a denial of self in some form or other. guilt and love cannot co-exist in the same space at the same time because of vibrational differences. when the motivation for action is guilt driven incredibly nasty reflections are created.

the role that these two dynamics are playing... GUILT as a motivator and THE UNSEEN ROLE OF DENIAL... are huge in the reflections we are now seeing not only on the macro... the collective, the objective, the global level but also on the micro... the personal, the individual, the subjective, level.

we have hard decisions to make. pogo said it for us many years ago... "we have met the enemy and he are us".