Resource Depletion, Persuasion, and the Ongoing World Meme

Many themes pervade the day-to-day attention span of the world's citizenry right now: terrorism, fear of religious systems not your own, Asian growth, crime, immigration, poverty, war, global warming/climate change--so many are called "important."

All of these sets of attitude objects vary in importance, salience, and validity depending on who you talk to; but all are definitely a part of the din of noise we subject ourselves to every day.

It still remains my concern, however, that the pillars to the myriad houses of problems I list above are those of world energy depletion--namely oil and its peak.

This leads me to my main question, which I will address in this post: how and when are human beings able to cut through all of that noise? How can they be persuaded? Is there a difference between "elites" (defined as the people who read The Oil Drum, of course) and the "masses"?

Surely persuasion and attitude change takes place; people change their minds every day on issues. What insights can we claim from psychology to get those we care about, and even those we don't, to dig deeper to get to an understanding of the pillars of the problems we face, instead of trying to buy aluminum siding for a house slowly falling in on itself?

Ed by PG: This post originally ran June '06. It seemed germane; some of the discussion of late has been about persuasion and individual attitudes...

There are so many places to go in this post, however, I find the most interesting model to discuss is one that's been around a few years.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) distinguishes between the central route and the peripheral route as the two paths that can lead to attitudinal change (Petty and Wegener 1999; Petty and Cacioppo 1986).

The Elaboration Likelihood Model. Source: Petty and Cacioppo 1986.

The central route is typified by persuasive circumstances that require a great deal of thought and scrutiny of the attempted persuasion, and therefore are likely to predominate under conditions that promote high elaboration--or better said, higher amounts of thought/cognition.

What is elaboration? In this case, it is the "extent to which a person carefully thinks about issue-relevant arguments contained in a persuasive communication."

So, this elaboration means that ideas are scrutinized carefully, going beyond simple understanding. In turn, the receiver generates attitude relevant thoughts about the persuasive message they are being subjected to.

What motivates elaboration? Much of the theory of the ELM revolves around personal relevance and an individual's "need" for cognition (which obviously relates to sophistication), which is based on the ability to elaborate, which in turn requires freedom from distraction and sufficient prior knowledge. (In better words, the receiver must be able to understand information in order to be able to elaborate on it.)

Under the central route conditions, a person's unique cognitive response to the message determines the direction and magnitude of attitude change. The more actively one thinks about an argument, the more likely one is to use the central processing route. The strength and the direction of the argument also obviously plays a role in its persuasion capacity.

Ideas imparted via these central routes tend to be much more durable due to the congnitive changes they have on the person receiving the persuasive message. These are arguments based usually on observables (unbiased and empirical information) and things that can be verified by experience or multiple sources.

Peripheral route processes, on the other hand, require little thought/cognition, and therefore predominate under conditions that promote low elaboration.

This low elaboration means that there's little extensive cognitive work required for decision making because the receiver relies on a variety of cues to make quick decisions, and these cues allow us to travel along the peripheral route on auto pilot.

As one of my favorite book's authors, Bob Cialdini, writes in Influence (a book I assign in my courses regularly, but here's a fair review), the peripheral routes reflect the too-often visited world of "Click, Whirr." That is, most of the messages put out by the media and received by those around us merely pass through this peripheral process simply because of information overload; therefore we respond using as many shortcuts as we can.

Add to that, the amount of information around us grows exponentially every day; sifting through it is, quite simply, a bitch. (which raises, in turn, questions about how much information citizens in democracy need, want, and deserve. I often find myself thinking about these quantities as three interconnected containers with the three chambers sharing only few droplets of fluid. But I digress.)

These peripheral processes often rely on judgmental heuristics (e.g., "the Supreme Court is always right") or surface features of a message (e.g., the number of arguments presented by peak oil advocates) or its source (e.g., the attractiveness of the source) to filter information.

Peripheral route persuasion is induced less by the substance of the argument, and are based more on emotional/affective response. These attitude changes can be rapid, but tend not to be very stable, and can be used to quickly (heuristically) dismiss or accept an argument.

These routes are not mutually exclusive of course, and there's no doubt that other factors play a role that I have not mentioned, namely sophistication, quality of message, and the like.

Also, in all likelihood (heh), the ELM's routes should be placed on a continuum and related to other important psychological ideas such as the schema, as well as the continuum between affect and cognition, which relates to the recent "hot cognition literature" and the like, but I have already typed a tome, so I will stop there. After putting just this model to the page, I can see there's a few posts that could follow this one.

So, dear reader, I pose to you this question: are we doing all we can to use the central route of persuasion? How else can we rise above the din of the less important noise using these psychological insights? What other psychological insights can be brought to bear on the problem?


Petty, Richard E., and John T. Cacioppo. 1986. Communication and Persuasion: Central and Peripheral Routes to Attitude Change. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Petty, Richard E., and Duane T. Wegener. 1999. "The Elaboration Likelihood Model: Current status and Controversies." In Shelly Chaiken and Yaacov Trope (Eds.), Dual Process Theories in Social Psychology. New York: Guilford Press.

When there's a brown paper bag over the gas pump handle or a sign saying ten bucks a gallon, that's persuasive communication. And motivation to change all in one. All else is chatter.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

That's a very digital interpretation. I suppose your trying to be pithy but it's not helpful. In acuality there will be a period of time where gas prices go from where they are today to 10 or higher. I believe it's that period of time that PG is refering to. You may disagree but there will be a significant amount of communication going on in that time period. The object then is to make sure that those who are 'in the know' communicate to those who are not, as effectively and postively as possible in order to improve the chances of a smoother transition.
In other words, the purpose is to think positively.


exactly the times that are coming toward us, persuasion and reason will be even more important, not less.

Does anyone want to agree with the statement "it is possible that we are not past peak?" (and by extension that it was 2.5 years ago). Just want to make sure everyone is on the same page.


I agree with both of these statements:

"It is possible that we are past peak?"

"It is possible that we are not past peak?"

I would not say that I think there is not adequate evidence for me to agree that:

"It is probably that we are past peak"

I may be barking up the wrong tree here, or just barking, but I believe we need to differentiate between the quantity and the quality of information. There can be no doubt that the quantity of information, news, ect. has never been more abundant. Never, in all human history, have we been subjected to such barrage of information, supplied by the mass media, let's call in news, because most other information, for most people, if it's not 'news' could probably be best described as 'specialist' information directed at an 'elite' audience, much like most of the contributors to the Oil Drum. I wish it wasn't so, but I think we all know it is.

For various reasons I believe we're moving away from a society where the primary source or medium of information is the written word, towards something else. I'm not sure this is a positive development. Words are not only cheap, their easy, robust and contain collosal ammounts of information, and almost become living things in the 'dialogue' with the reader. For example, check out poetry for density of meaning. It's almost like the cognative version of oil!

We as a society seem to be moving towards 'symbolism' again after a long period when words were dominant. Don't we say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, perhaps, it's actually the opposite that's true. A word is worth a thousand pictures!

Where am I going with this? It's easy to get into metaphysics and philosophy here, and though it's tempting, I'm not sure we've got the time for all that. So I'll just say that I think we're in a uphill battle, against very powerful societal forces that base their power and wealth on pandering to the lowest common denominator and dumbing-down the population.

For example the Murdoch press. News International destroys everything it touches, drains the life and quality out of once pround institutions, like The Times and the Sunday Times in England, and replaces them with dry, husks. Not to mention the ghastly Sun, which should carry a health warning! But here I go sounding very elitist indeed, sorry.

It's said in England that The Sun chooses who is going to be the next Prime Minister. This is slightly over-the-top, but not by much. A politician, or party, or individual that gets on the wrong side of The Sun is in Big Trouble. In England Tony Blair often consulted with The Sun's owner Rupert Murdoch on important issues before he talked to members of his own government, now that is real power!

Murdoch developed his style in Australia. One could call it 'fast food news'. A mix of sex, scandal, gossip, and more sex. There's an anti-intellectualism, or anti-intelligence slant to The Sun and other Murdoch newspapers, that reminds one of the style of Der Sturmer and other papers from Nazi Germany, which is really disturbing.

But to cut to the chase, I think 'reality' will just have to step-up and bite us hard on the arse, before we wake-up. It's not as if we're really asleep, but we are 'drugged'. We're like the Romans, dulled and entertained, with bread and circuses. Obviously this is depressing stuff, if my analysis is true or accurate. Are things really as bad as they seem?

I don't think we have hope in hell of cutting through the crap given the current way our mass media are organized, owned by a handful of 'aristocrats' for the benefit of the 'aristocracy' and their world-view. What's bizarre is, that research has shown that it's not as if most people who read and watch the mass, mainstream, media, even really believe what they're presented with, but they are 'entertained' and 'diverted' and that's probably bad enough, as people only have room in their heads for so much 'news' before they get saturated and switch off completely.

Journalism is in deep crisis too. Journalists are expected to produce more and more, quicker and quicker, with fewer resources. This leads to spreading the butter too thin. Journalists who actually knew stuff, who specialized, are being replaced by all-round generalists who are expected to cover everything and are parachuted into an area and have to get up to speed and then move on. This leads to rather superficial reporting to say the least.

The whole debacle of Iraq shows just how bad things have become. America was dragged into war based on a pack of lies. Lies, often so obviously false and manipulated, that it's hard to believe even a novice journalist could have given them any credence. So our mass media is really, really, sick; but is it terminal? The very structure of the mass media mitigates against understanding and the real disimination of information of high quality, just like Mcdonalds isn't really food at all, it only has the appearance of food. It only 'symbolises' food.

Is there any hope then? Gosh, I don't know! Sometimes one feels like one is drowning in a sea of crap. Surely in a free and democratic society we can take back control from the tiny group of men who have accumulated such enormous media power and use it to further their own narrow economic interests and start over? But do I believe that? No, not really. I'm afraid it's a romantic dream.

But, but, there have been times when information did break its bonds and become free. Unfortunately these were pretty turbulent times, do we really have to wait that long? In the years leading up to the English Civil War, centally contolled censorship broke down, and literally thousands of new presses printed 'radical' pamplets and books. There was an explosion and people were starving for information and ideas, suddenly, everything apparently possible or thinkable and society was in flux. There was revolution in the air people breathed. This period lasted perhaps ten to twenty years, and then the old restraints returned and Britain's presses were under firm control for almost the next three hundred years!

Are we going to have to wait for a period of 'flux' like that, or revolutionary France where the same thing happened? Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes we are. Of course there's the internet, which is a great resource, and opportunity and a fantastic outlet, but corporate control of the media and what we think about, and how we think about it, and the context and framing of the debate, is frighteningly pervasive and effective.


Phew ! - Once again I find myself agreeing with everything you say.

One positive development you touch on is the way in which web sites like TOD are taking over the function once performed by quality newspapers. Since I started reading TOD I personally have become MUCH more discriminating in my choice of reading matter. For example, whilst I used to hold the Financial Times and WSJ in high regard in economic matters and well over my head, I can now see that much of what they report about, for example, the energy situation, is just so much ignorant crap.

The reportage of the BBC is beyond and beneath contempt. There is more genuine insight and news in a six month old copy of Womans Own.

Nobody likes to hear bad news unless there's some good news in it. Charismatic religious leaders promise a better life or afterlife. Hitler promised a greater Germany and blamed "somebody else" for their problems.

What's our promise of something better? Even in the most hopeful forecasts of the post-oil age it's not going to be much fun around here.

A few thoughts on the structure and nature of the news media

Media and Advertising:
First and foremost the current structure of the MSM news media drives it toward poor coverage. We tend to think of news companies as engaged in the business of investigative reporting. Where they research a story, generate a report and sell it to the consumer to cover the cost. In this model a news company competes with its peers to provide higher quality news. Once upon a time that was true, but now the model is slightly different. Since the advent of modern marketing and advertising news companies are engaged in the business of producing an audience and selling advertising space to cover costs. In this business model the reader, listener or viewer is not the consumer but the product. In this model news companies compete to provide a higher quality audience. Higher quality news uses the central processing route. A higher quality audience uses the peripheral processing route. High quality news is all about critical thought. A high quality audience is all about click, whirr infotainment. Critical thought is not conducive to selling tons of crap that one doesn't really need.

Opinions about the Media
When thinking of the news media we typically think of the free press. Which directly leads us to think of freedom freedom of speech. Consequently we think that the role of the news media is strongly aligned with the interests of democracy. A free and open exchange of ideas and information being debated in the public sphere. If one has a strong objection to the quantity and quality of reporting on a particular issue, say peak oil, then negative impressions of the integrity of the free press develop. In order to maintain these negative opinions one needs a reason to think badly of the press. For progressives it's Rupert Murdoch and corporate hegemony, for conservatives it's the liberal media. For Joe six pack it's neither, the news is just fine. Joe isn't sufficiently informed about anything to find fault with the coverage. It is worthwhile to note that the low quality of coverage makes it easy to find fault, but the fault that you find is based on what you were already concerned about that was missing or poorly covered. This leads you to believe that the news is biased against your particular values whatever they may be. Since the practice of investigative journalism is rapidly dying (if not already dead) more people are finding fault with the media. News companies are experiencing a credibility problem. We are already seeing comedy routines like The Daily Show replacing network news as a source of news and of course the internet, which brings me to my next point.

Search vs Broadcast
The traditional news media of print, radio and television are all broadcast systems. The news comes to you. The internet is a search system. Open up a browser to the homepage and then go looking for news. If you want to know what everyone else is looking at then you go to Google news or something similar, but if you want to know what the latest news on peak oil is then you need to type peak oil into a search engine. It is not possible do do this with out already knowing the term. Thus using the internet to find the content not presented in the broadcast news is investigative journalism for one and that is not very efficient. News in the sense that we know it requires broadcast systems. So the question is how do we fix the broadcast news? I see two answers. One, we go back to subscription news services without advertising. Two, we create a new system to share all of that individual investigate journalism, sort it, covert it to manageable packets and broadcast it all in a high quality way without a revenue stream from advertising or subscriptions. I'm open to suggestions on this.

Dropping Out
On a closing note many people are realizing the poor quality of the MSM people are dropping out. They are not consuming news. The upside of this is that people are no longer subjecting themselves to the infotainment that passes as news. The downside is that current events are no longer disseminated. Just as anecdotal evidence of this I work at a Cooperative Organic foods store and a locally owned coffee shop, both in close proximity to university area and thus a liberal crowd. Fully half of my coworkers did not know that Al Gore had won the Nobel prize until I asked them what they thought about it.

Tim Morrison

PS Professor Goose, it was nice to finally meet you. Gail introduced me to you after your speech at the conference.

Good to meet you too Tim!

(I pretty much agree with all you say here, btw.)

But "Der Sturmer" didn't have such hot pinup girls.

Still, it's nice to know a newspaper editor (Julius Streicher) can be executed for war crimes.

Now that I've read your whole entry -

When societies were small and simple and news was scarce,
ordinary folks were hungry for information.

Maybe modern complexity has caused a feedback loop that undermines democracy. The rich have a vested interest in further complexity and inequality, and can hire specialized stooges to manage it in their favor. Complexity and specialization turns off ordinary citizens, however, so that they become info-saturated and no longer want to get "involved".

So the only kind of revolution that both nature and popular tendencies support is a collapse of complexity, which is so often discussed here.

Just for the record, Who owns the media?

GENERAL ELECTRIC --(donated 1.1 million to GW Bush for his 2000 election campaign)

Television Holdings:
* NBC: includes 13 stations, 28% of US households.
* NBC Network News: The Today Show, Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Meet the Press, Dateline NBC, NBC News at Sunrise.
* CNBC business television; MSNBC 24-hour cable and Internet news service (co-owned by NBC and Microsoft); Court TV (co-owned with Time Warner), Bravo (50%), A&E (25%), History Channel (25%).
The "MS" in MSNBC
means microsoft
The same Microsoft that donated 2.4 million to get GW bush elected.

Other Holdings:
* GE Consumer Electronics.
* GE Power Systems: produces turbines for nuclear reactors and power plants.
* GE Plastics: produces military hardware and nuclear power equipment.
* GE Transportation Systems: runs diesel and electric trains.



Westinghouse Electric Company, part of the Nuclear Utilities Business Group of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL)
whos #1 on the Board of Directors? None other than:
Frank Carlucci (of the Carlyle Group)

Television Holdings:
* CBS: includes 14 stations and over 200 affiliates in the US.
* CBS Network News: 60 minutes, 48 hours, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, CBS Morning News, Up to the Minute.
* Country Music Television, The Nashville Network, 2 regional sports networks.
* Group W Satellite Communications.
Other Holdings:
* Westinghouse Electric Company: provides services to the nuclear power industry.
* Westinghouse Government Environmental Services Company: disposes of nuclear and hazardous wastes. Also operates 4 government-owned nuclear power plants in the US.
* Energy Systems: provides nuclear power plant design and maintenance.


Television Holdings:
* Paramount Television, Spelling Television, MTV, VH-1, Showtime, The Movie Channel, UPN (joint owner), Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Sundance Channel (joint owner), Flix.
* 20 major market US stations.
Media Holdings:
* Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Video, Blockbuster Video, Famous Players Theatres, Paramount Parks.
* Simon & Schuster Publishing.


DISNEY / ABC / CAP (donated 640 thousand to GW's 2000 campaign)
Television Holdings:
* ABC: includes 10 stations, 24% of US households.
* ABC Network News: Prime Time Live, Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America.
* ESPN, Lifetime Television (50%), as well as minority holdings in A&E, History Channel and E!
* Disney Channel/Disney Television, Touchtone Television.
Media Holdings:
* Miramax, Touchtone Pictures.
* Magazines: Jane, Los Angeles Magazine, W, Discover.
* 3 music labels, 11 major local newspapers.
* Hyperion book publishers.
* Infoseek Internet search engine (43%).
Other Holdings:
* Sid R. Bass (major shares) crude oil and gas.
* All Disney Theme Parks, Walt Disney Cruise Lines.


TIME-WARNER TBS - AOL (donated 1.6 million to GW's 2000 campaign)
America Online (AOL) acquired Time Warner–the largest merger in corporate history.
Television Holdings:
* CNN, HBO, Cinemax, TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Brothers Television, Cartoon Network, Sega Channel, TNT, Comedy Central (50%), E! (49%), Court TV (50%).
* Largest owner of cable systems in the US with an estimated 13 million subscribers.
Media Holdings:
* HBO Independent Productions, Warner Home Video, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera.
* Music: Atlantic, Elektra, Rhino, Sire, Warner Bros. Records, EMI, WEA, Sub Pop (distribution) = the world’s largest music company.
* 33 magazines including Time, Sports Illustrated, People, In Style, Fortune, Book of the Month Club, Entertainment Weekly, Life, DC Comics (50%), and MAD Magazine.
Other Holdings:
* Sports: The Atlanta Braves, The Atlanta Hawks, World Championship Wrestling.


NEWS CORPORATION LTD. / FOX NETWORKS (Rupert Murdoch) (donations see bottom note)
Television Holdings:
* Fox Television: includes 22 stations, 50% of US households.
* Fox International: extensive worldwide cable and satellite networks include British Sky Broadcasting (40%); VOX, Germany (49.9%); Canal Fox, Latin America; FOXTEL, Australia (50%); STAR TV, Asia; IskyB, India; Bahasa Programming Ltd., Indonesia (50%); and News Broadcasting, Japan (80%).
* The Golf Channel (33%).
* Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight.
* 132 newspapers (113 in Australia alone) including the New York Post, the London Times and The Australian.
* 25 magazines including TV Guide and The Weekly Standard.
* HarperCollins books.
* Sports: LA Dodgers, LA Kings, LA Lakers, National Rugby League.
* Ansett Australia airlines, Ansett New Zealand airlines.
* Rupert Murdoch: Board of Directors, Philip Morris (USA).

*(Phillip Morris donated 2.9 million to George W Bush in 2000)*

I think we have as much chance of encouraging people to drive less, use CF lighting, etc will work about as much as we try to have them walk up to the TV and change the station while the Remote Control is still sitting on the table.

We will keep doing what we're doing till we can't, then we won't.

Date this quote:

"The class inhibitions that haunt the contemporary press under its multimillionaire ownership are responsible in large measure for the neurotic character of American newspapers. Because so many fields of editorial investigation and exposition are taboo, the press as a whole must confine itself to a relatively restricted "safe" area.
This accounts for the undue measure of attention given to the underworld; to petty scandals involving actresses, baseball players, and minor politicians; to sporting affairs and the activities of the quasiwealthy. The press, in short, must compensate for enforced lack of vitality in dynamic fields by artificial enthusiasm in static fields. In place of an evenhanded, vital, varied daily news report, the American press as a whole is obliged to present a lopsided news report that is of doubtful reader interest. And in order to recapture the constantly waning attention of readers it must rely upon comic strips, inane "features", contests, gossip columns, fiction, cooking recipes, instruction columns in golf, chess, bridge, and stamp collecting, and similar nonsense. American newspapers, in short, are, paradoxically and with few exceptions, not newspapers at all."

-Ferdinand Lundberg, "America's 60 Families", c. 1938

And probably the most disturbing thing about this piece is that since the 30's things have actually gotten worse. The concentration of media power has accelerated, espcially in the last twenty years. The 1930's almost seems like a 'golden age' of ownership diversity! I read the other day that the FCC was considering 'relaxing' the restrictions on concentration even further. The way we're going in a relatively short space of time over 90% of the US media will be controlled by just three giant corporations who 'co-opperate'.

One can also look at the negative cultural effect all this has on American music. There's so much great music that never gets played or heard, because the formats are so proscribed and controlled. These days many of the iconic and groundbreaking bands from the sixties would never get played because they don't conform to the station's format. These 'monopolies' are strangling American music culture, and that's a shame.


Your right man.

So my response is to find that music on the FM radio as 'Golden Oldies' and of course zero 'news' on that station or just a very little.

That music however just doesn't seem to want to 'fade'. Its far too good to do so. Yet mainstream America doesn't listen to wonders just what the hell they do listen to?

I think nothing ...except the incipient(correct word?)..cellphone stuck to their ears and the ubiquitous TV.

My wife was enchanted and enthralled by the 'infomercials' on TV..she thought they were honest folks who knew everything. I suppose to her Ron Popeil was a visionary.

For her generation(the one after mine) she was totally hooked and never could squirm off. It seemed to feed some part of her brainstem, some imperative to just 'listen' to this quakery. And then of course "Go Shopping"....

I never did understand this behavior in her. Perhaps why I live more or less alone sans TV..but lots of sound and music..bluegrass primarily and some favorites from my that really spoke to the inner person..and not just advertising trash.

To this day my wife hears it on her its gospel!
She never really was able to read either fiction or non-fiction..her parents had wired her brain backwards I think. My daughter ditto...even if she is a school son the same..even if he is a CPA and has a MA in accountancy...they are wired far different than myself...not a boomer. Yet my wife's father was never in the military!

Aloha Professor.

One of my favorite topics: the randomly evolved human brain and how to interject sticky messages into it.

No. I'm not vacationing in Hawaii.
Why did you think so?

Anyway, like the multiple islands in the Hawaiian chain, the human brain has many parallel processing centers. If you want to wiggle the whole chain, you've got to fire off mixed messages that simultaneously appeal to, and resonate with many parts at once (broadly: the reptilian, the limbic and the neo-cortical areas).

Hitting a resonant chord is hard.


Why do you think all those large corporations hire so many "think tanks" (a.k.a. thought-tankers) to work for them on developing a campaign slogan that will hit just the right note at just the right time?

Example:--> BP: We're Bee-yyyyond (cough cough) Petroleum

"Peak Oil" has never been one of those sound bites that resonates and sticks. No one likes to imagine being at the top (the peak) of the slippery (oily) slope. Too many negative connotations. Best to wash out that phrase from mind the moment you hear it.

Unfortunately, the cerebral amongst us have latched onto this PO phrase and have embraced it.

Cerebral doesn't work.
Ask John Kerry. (For you non-Americans: A USA candidate for the Presidency in 2004 who lost the election because he was too cerebral, too flip-flopitty, and thus appeared to not be a strong man with strong unwavering convictions.)

As a rising movie star, Al Gore finally "got it". You can't talk intellectual to the masses. No. You've got to twang down home country-like and nostalgic about your good ole' up bringing down by the river. About your family, your loves, your hopes and how they may be in danger by a not yet visible frightening thing. That makes the herd pay attention. That pulls at their heart strings.

Before they care what you know, they want to know that you care. One thing to realize about human beings is that they are constantly being lied to. Your version of "the truth" is one of many they hear all day long. They are more interested in knowing if you share their values than your claim of spending a lifetime studying oil hole mud for subtle clues about what is really going on.

Anyways, most Americans and perhaps Earthlings as a whole by extension, believe the government-Big Oil- car companies complex are in cahoots to extract maximum dollars out of your pockets while buying up all the patents for water and magnet powered cars and anything else that threatens their bottom line. If we are running out of oil, it is because the trilateral commission wants us to run out of oil. Good luck with your education campaign.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

Robert you're hinting at some of the "influence" points in the Professor's side bar:

Cialdini identifies 6 laws of influence. They are reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

Five out of these 6 items are directed to limbic system "values". We humans are tribal creatures. Our brains have evolved to place great weight on social status.

It's a good book. I recommend it and watching a couple of Frank Luntz & Rapaille interviews. Good for intellectual self-dense. You start to notice when these tricks are being played on you (daily that is).

There are many books out there that reveal the tricks of the influence tricksters.

I would recommend Valerie Pierce's book Quick Thinking on Your Feet

It's not about "thinking". It's about understanding how you are being played at business meetings, etc. by tricksters who know how to "appeal to authority" and so forth and what the proper verbal self-defense moves are against each. Highly recommended.

A great little read by a great wordsmith.

Here's Joe describing the Mass Media Created Hologram.

The Great American Media Mind Warp


Watch television in countries with supposedly primitive media, and after a while you will be shocked at the technologically mediated and shape-shifted image of the world presented to Americans -- how the hologram makes incongruous parts suddenly fit together and make sense in its own parallel universe.

For instance, a while back I saw a video clip of an ethanol-fueled automobile driving past waves of grain with the Rockies in the background and a rippling American flag ghosted into the sky. These four elements of the clip, food grain fields, the automotive industry, the natural beauty of the Rockies and the national emblem have not much to do with each in the natural world, but they have everything to do with one another in the context of corporate empire.

Together, they indicate the national ethos. We accept such an image as naturally as the baby accepts the tit, and the idea of burning the earth's food to create gasses that will turn the snowcapped mountains into desertified mountains is greeted happily as something newer and better than the old system of destroying the atmosphere and environment. Mentally we can identify separate elements, isolate things into categories.

But the hologram nevertheless remains seamless in its interconnection of all things that benefit the corporate state generating it. Parsed, divided and isolated, any part contains the entire logic (or governing illogic) of the whole -- consuming.

In effect, the economic superstate generates a superhologram that offers only one channel, the shopping channel, and one sanctioned collective national experience in which every aspect is monetized and reduced to a consumer transaction. The economy becomes our life, our religion, and we are transfigured in its observance.

In the absence of the sacred, buying becomes a spiritual act conducted in outer space via satellite bank transfers. All things are purchasable, and indeed, access to anything of value is through purchase.

Even mood and consciousness, through psychopharmacology, to suppress our anxiety or enhance sexual performance, or cyberspace linkups to porn, palaver and purchasing opportunities. But most of all, the hologram generates and guides us to purchasing opportunities.


Of course the entire American consumer shiteree is unsustainable. One day soon it will go bust, and the hologram will sell us the bust as a lifestyle.

Renunciation of consumer goods and a monastic lifestyle will become a fad and then a major trend in America. Then it will be co-opted by the system and made expensive. The ozone hole will be so big we'll all be pedaling teensy cars that come with iron lungs as standard equipment. Renunciation will become a status symbol. All the beautiful people will be doing it.

How does this sound, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached PRR, Peak Rat Race. From now on we shall be returning to the past, a much simpler and pleasurable time. There will be more togetherness, plenty of fresh air and free time (Insert graphics: cowboys riding horses on the range, children running through a field of clover, apple pie, mountain stream. We could broadcast Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons and Andy Griffith 24/7. Control the herd.

Powerful interests want to maintain their wealth and will be sorry to see their system of involuntary tribute crumble.They are even more perturbed by reverse cash-flow from their coffers to the needy. Tribute in the United States includes income taxes, interest on loans, and the tithe you pay each Sunday at church. The Bernaysian mind games that have had us mindlessly consuming and paying tribute to the banking royalty and corporate well-connected for the last 90 years will come to an end soon. I'm sure the "more is better" attitude cultivated over the past few decades will soon give way to "less is more" message.

The Romans demanded tribute for their emperor. The Moghuls of India demanded 1/3 of a farmer’s crop yield. I’m sure the Mayan and Aztec priests demanded tribute to maintain their magnificent temples of death. These are just a few examples of tribute. The tribute Americans pay is more hidden but we still pay tribute to those who possess most of the capital.

Perhaps collapse finally comes when the peasantry exhausts the countryside trying to fulfill their obligation to their masters. More growth, more tribute (interest/taxes). “I’m sorry master, but the trees are all gone and the soil is exhausted.” Our tribute is ending now as we can no longer afford to pay interest and taxes and still eat and stay warm. “I’m sorry master, but the oil is all gone and the natural gas is exhausted.” The masters will collect their collateral. I just wonder what they will do with the excess population once they cannot produce wealth for their masters.

We are indeed in for some measurable societal changes, but I would like the public herd to wake up this time instead of being led down a rosy path to hell.

The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:

* Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
* Anger (why is this happening to me?)
* Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
* Depression (I don't care anymore)
* Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

I tend to see this pattern for those who are open enough to listen to PO explanations.

Kübler-Ross stages were mentioned frequently in informal circles at the conference in Houston last week. And it applies to much of what Professor Goose is saying here. Here's my concern: can the Kübler-Ross process be sped up for humanity's sake? If we analogize the grieving rates of individuals, probably not. The grieving process is inherently individual, each part going along at its own rate. But, can we as a species truncate Kübler-Ross for the sake of survival? It's easier to grieve with a sated belly and the hope for a future than to elongate the process while starving.

I spoke to many people at the conference who were making the conscious effort to speed up their process--moving forward despite inertia's stronghold. to the masses. A hard sell, indeed.

I understand wanting to speed up the grieving process because it's painful to undergo, but what did the people at the conference hope to achieve by speeding it up? Acceptance means acceptance of tragedy and death.

TOD is a great board--it's participants are far beyond most--but it seems to me most of us here are at the bargaining stage of the grief model. The discussions here are about the nature of PO, how to alleviate the problem, and perhaps even present sytems for a sustainable society. Kübler-Ross's model is about accepting the ultimate end.

it seems to me most of us here are at the bargaining stage

Perhaps so. I find myself listening to a lot more Emmy Lou, Tom Waits, Lou Reed and Chumbawamba. Less time for TOD. More time for target practice with my AK. I'm merging my left and right brain so they are congruent that it is too late.

Hot rocks. Soon. In the lifetimes of my sons, if not mine - but clearly visible *to others* in my own.

In "Last Blade Of Grass", the rulers nuked their own cities to spare the people this line of thought (and a fruitless search for food).

There is a huge difference between end of life in 40 years and end of life in 4 billion years. Whatever.

cfm in Gray, ME

Hey hey kids,

First off, you are leaving out the last and most important step here.

The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:

* Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
* Anger (why is this happening to me?)
* Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
* Depression (I don't care anymore)
* Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

I tend to see this pattern for those who are open enough to listen to PO explanations.

*Action (Action is doing something about it.)

Second, Dryki,

I'm replying to you post because reading it made me sad. This isn't the end. The eminent die off? So what? Everybody dies, everybody, always. Things are going to suck for the next 50-100 years but after that they will get better. Things are going to get better in 100 years and none of you reading this will be alive to see it. The knowledge that humanity has amassed thus far is not going to be lost. People will rebuild. They might even learn from their mistakes. There is a chance that humanity will reorganize after this in a better way than the way we have now. And that possibility gives me hope. I'm planning on doing everything I can for my community and then relocating to build a life boat. Not because I hope to survive but because I hope to build something better for the future.

Off the deep end here. We are a couple of billion creatures on a rock floating though space. What are we doing? What's our goal? What are we driving at? If we don't have a plan then what's the point?

I don't know if there is an after life. The idea of some preordained dogmatic bureaucracy doesn't sit well with me. The idea of some self absorbed short term nihilism doesn't sit well with me either. I need to believe that there is something out there worth doing. We all do. If we didn't there would be a die off that had nothing to do with energy. I believe that there is a possibility of a world where personal, spiritual and cultural development will be more important than GDP, nationalism or church on Sunday. I believe that we are in the adolescence of humanity and adolescence is and awkward, reckless, painful and sometimes violent act of discovery.

In short I believe that we are at a critical juncture here and the loss of cubicles and cheap plastic crap is only a loss if that is really the best we can do.


Dang, another "ELM"?

Although the concepts of central vs. peripheral pathways, and hot vs. cold cognition are no doubt useful tools for certain discussions, my feeling is that Prof. George Lakoff (UC Berkeley) really has the best approach for understanding reactions to political (and peak oil) matters. If you haven't read his book Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives, then do! (You can get it for as little as $0.83 used, or $8 new, at that Amazon link.) I think it's absolutely spot-on.

Elaboration is a typical response for progressives, where referring to the established paradigm is an automatic response for conservatives. As long as people feel like they're faithfully following the Strict Father--in the US case, Cheney and the rest of the war hawks who seek control over the world's oil--they are sure that they're right. That's why they can still believe people who have proven themselves to be liars, still keep doing the wrong things (because everybody else is doing them) and keep falling for the same old tricks (like rosy assertions that we can continue to increase energy supply for a long time to come).

As soon as you present information contrary to such a paradigm, the reactionary response is not to take that information under serious consideration, but to try to throw it out, in order to maintain the boundaries of their worldview and avoid elaboration as much as possible.

When the Strict Father comes around to admitting the truth of our desperate situation, then those people will follow, and act as though they were aware of the situation all along (as, indeed, in some ignored corner of their minds, they probably were). But not until! As long as the order of the day is to beat our chests and pursue dominance at all costs, that will be their walk: the quest for dominion over all the earth.

By contrast, the Nurturing Parent model that progressives respond to is tailor-made for sensitivity to the flip side of dominion, which is stewardship. The threats of peak oil and global warming are easy sells to them.

Along those lines, I have made several abortive attempts to engage some of the peak oil-aware crowd in a discussion on how to reframe peak oil so that it conforms to the Strict Father model. I would welcome any input on that question, either here or privately.

For example:
- Peak oil poses the possibility of major hardship for your children and grandchildren.
- Bush and Cheney both have state-of-the-art homes equipped with solar PV, rainwater catchment and other "green" features. If it's good enough for them, isn't it good enough for you?
- The most effective way to defend ourselves against Muslim fanatics is to stop funding them by buying foreign oil. That $2+ trillion that we've committed to spending fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have bought a whole lot of domestic renewable energy, and put us in a much more defensible and sustainable position.



Energy consultant, writer, blogger

Millions for defense, not one penny for bowing to reality.

Or as Ernest Becker put it, in The Denial of Death (1974)

The essence of normality is the denial of reality.

Hello Prof. Goose,

Your Quote: "This leads me to my main question, which I will address in this post: how and when are human beings able to cut through all of that noise? How can they be persuaded?"

The quickest way is to force Olduvai upon a populace:
Israel to begin cutting off electricity to Gaza
To be truly fair in politics: the Israelis should have long ago gone to Maximum Peak Outreach for the Gaza inhabitants. The Gazans might have had the resources, back in the 70s, to control their pop. and move to biosolar lifestyles if all were truly informed. Instead, they spent their resources on guns and more babies for maximum Thermo/Gene Collision.

Expect their future to be unfortunately ugly as a full, desperate resource war breaks out. Expect the Liebig Minimum worst, by further leveraging of the Foundation concepts and the porridge principle of metered decline, when water is gradually cutoff. Such is life in a very crowded planetary petri-dish.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

what bob said is spot on. Unfortunately most will ignore it in favor of something like:

"what we need to do is pool our money and buy commercial time on ABC!!!"

. . . forgetting the fact that:

A) you can't communicate this stuff in 30 seconds

B) the population is too loaded full of SSRIs, flouride, high-fructose corn syrup, corporate propaganda and brain cooking radiation to understand it even if you had 3 hours.

As ane an example y the time the average ameican is 40, they've seen a million tv commecials. this has completely fragmented their brains. They are literally brain damaged!

C) the commercial before will be for a big SUV and the one after for Mcdonalds.

FAce it folks, other than a handful of PO websites, people "out there" are never - and I do mean NEVER - going to gte it. even when the pumps run dry and they're left to starve to death or eat their neighbors out in the exurbs they'll still be clinging to the values and dreams of the Asphalt Wonderland.

My question is when will people on these boards and in the "PO commmunity" realize the beyond a handfull of folks on the internets and other "fring" communities, the citizens of Asphaltistan are never going to "get it", this includes the educated managerial classes.

My question is when will people on these boards and in the "PO commmunity" realize the beyond a handfull of folks on the internets and other "fring" communities, the citizens of Asphaltistan are never going to "get it", this includes the educated managerial classes.

Time to dig your foxhole:

The key is that we are approaching a permanent and widening world wide oil shortage. Initially there will be sporadic shortages and lines at gas stations leading to permanent shortages. Motivation will come not from the price of oil, but whatever it takes to destroy demand.

In other words, each citizen will soon come eyeball to eyeball with the necessity of using less oil.

One action the government could take to motivate citizens is to create an Emergency Federal Gas Rationing Data Base. In an emergency, everyone would use a credit or debit card to get gas and the data base would limit the number of gallons they would receive each month. This concept could be sold to the American people in the name of national security. It would have the following advantages:

1. Anyone buying a new car would be motivated by the formation of such a data base and avoid gas guzzlers.

2. In a shortage situation, we could ration gasoline in order to limit the height and economic damage of the resulting oil price spike.

3. We would have a demand weapon to be used against the supply weapon of OPEC and Venezuela.

The demand for plug-in hybrid autos will become insatiable once the first gas station lines form.

But if the Communist Party of China lacks the guts to try these things, how could it happen here?

Hello Chimp Who Can Drive,

Thxs for responding. IMO, when the Humane Society & Amer. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA] turn into for-profit retail butcher shops: this might be a rude wake-up call for many. =(

I have been 'flogging the dog' with postings on the Yahoo Finance POT stock message board in a last chance attempt to raise Peak Awareness and increase biosolar mission-critical investing to help jumpstart the sequential building of biosolar habitats as the Second Foundation. I think the topdogs' First Foundation is basically on-track for the geographical and thermodynamic-territoriality concentration of FF-detritovore habitats [for example: Hirsch Report on fifteen FF-favored States?]. Will this lead to ideal Earthmarine vs Mercs conflict-method eradication for Overshoot Decline Optimization?--Time will tell.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

The sad fact is that you're probably right, at least for much of the population. We didn't exactly learn from our experience in the `70s, that's for sure. Polls have shown that most people still think those shortages were price-gouging.

I read somewhere, that only 5% of people take action and prepare before an impending catastrophe. 95% do nothing, and they suffer or die when TSHTF.

For example in Pompeji there were quakes that forwarned people, but only 5% left the city and the other 95% died.

We Toders belong to the 5%. Let the others suffer or die-off. We can´t do anything about it.

Actually of the TODers who have a better chance than most for survival are those who are ridiculed as doomers because they’ve made preparations for themselves., friends, or families - given that collective action that will solve the problem is iffy at best. Unless you act on the knowledge you might as well be blissfully ignorant.

I'm a multi-year lurker who has been forced out of hiding by this thread. Chimp may well be right when s/he says that "the citizens of Asphaltistan are never going to "get it"" but there are a number of barriers to understanding and I think the most basic barrier, based on my own experience, is a depth of ignorance that can't be overcome by charts, graphs, powerpoint slides, news items and/or blogs.

My first exposure to "peak oil" came as result of surfing the web when I stumbled on "dieoff". I spent my free time for the next couple of weeks reading the essays, clicking links and trying to poke holes in it. I swear I lived under a black cloud for weeks. I eventually found may way up through the fog to about "defcon3" but much of what I took from "dieoff" was burned into my memory--the Laws of Thermodynamics, The Olduvai Gorge Theory, the historical perspectives and particularly the descriptions of the absolutely unique nature of petroleum, where it comes from and how it makes the modern world possible.

My experience trying to talk to people about peak oil is that they can understand the surface arguments, but they can reject them because they don't really understand the bedrock principles on which peakoil theory is based.

Once you adopt PO language as your own, you start appearing as one who "talks in tongues" to others.

Examples of noises I never heard of before and which would have instantly propelled me away if someone else threw them at me:

* Olduvai Gorge Theory
* Hubbert's Curve
* Dieoff

Before you speak to a PO-unaware person, think about how words like these make you sound as if you're part of a cult.

Out of all the people i know, only one has gotten it the message in it's entirty. That this life we live is going to end no matter what we do and that no matter how noble it is to tilt windmills or rage against the dieing of the light, he realizes in the end it's a futile strugle and the resources spent fighting it are better spent elsewhere.

Two think that once the repubs(there term not mine) are done away with things will be just fine.

One thinks things are not as bad as they say and the government should not interfear.

One thinks that since smart people(his term not mine) are working on it that one should not pay much attention to it, because chances are they will figure something out.

One thinks that if bush wasn't elected things would not be as bad as they are, basicly he is blaming him.

One is a son of a oil worker who steadfastly belives abiotic oil and that the oil companys are purposfully not drilling deep enough.

One doesn't belive we are running out because of the very small chance that in some natural non-biotic process exists that can create hydrocarbons aka the pipeline to titan thing.

Those are the ones that will listen, the rest don't want to hear about it.


I am a long-time reader of TOD even though I just started posting last week. I came of age in the late 70's, and have believed energy was an issue ever since. I am a family man and have a comfortable middle-class income, and work as a systems engineer. This site has has altered the way I think about many things, and I regret not seeing this when it was posted last year. I always thought there was a lot of wisdom you could offer on this subject. My thanks and appreciation for this forum. I would have participated in discussion earlier, but the level of conversation here requires a great deal of research and understanding to meaningfully contribute. I'm no dummy, but I have always been more of a generalist rather than a specialist and like to have something useful to offer in a conversation. But I am certainly willing to offer my perspective.

My wife I think very differently, early on I tended to believe the notions that peak oil meant TEOTWAWKI but she is very confident that we can deal with it. Being an open-minded person I try to consider all arguments, and this forum has people who represent the entire spectrum of viewpoints. One conclusion I have reached is that something needs to done now, (should have been done long ago of course), and I am supportive of efforts and ideas to mitigate the problems. But it seems there is a divergence of opinion every time solutions are discussed, and very little agreement. One thing I would say is a consistent message would be helpful. But the only thing that comes to my mind that most here would agree with is the message "The era of cheap oil is over and we should reduce our dependence on it." Is there more that we could say, or is this even too much?

Thanks for listening,


Hi Clint
I am also a generalist as you, and after a certain time at this site(and other sites), i have come to the conclusion, that there is nothing we can do but prepare our selves and our familys for what is coming.

The political systems around the world won´t do anything before TSHTF.

Hi Swede, thanks for responding. This is sort of what I'm talking about. To me what makes sense is to do what one can for your family, but work on local level within the community to try and effect change. I am sort of stuck in that I am not going to talk my wife into living in some remote area and becoming self-sufficient, but this is not unusual. I am sure there many others in a similar situation, and they will be turned off to some of the suggestions that are frequently made here. I know it's hard not to be cynical, I am myself at times, but really I think most people do the best they can and would help once they understand the situation.


I think that people who think : "Why doesn't everybody think what I believe?" are suffering from the idea that people are in the same frame of reference as they are.

The main reason is is that nobody has explained anything to them and there are 6 billion people in the world and unless you're a radio talk show host or major media personality, you probably won't get to talk to more than a few thousand of them in your entire life. These days there probably aren't a whole lot of people who even listen to political speeches of major politicians anymore.

Even global warming, which has received enormous press coverage threatening people with the imminent threat of worldwide doom has not changed people's behavior much. The only thing that really works to change people's behavior is widespread repetitive media coverage over a long period of time, economics and the criminal justice system.

Really, having traveled a bit and spent time talking to a lot of different people in many countries, people's perceptions are totally shaped regarding what they are regularly reminded about by the media.

I often talk to people in China on Skype and it amazes me how they have very little connection to the world outside of their direct perception. They don't even think about sports stars or celebrities. Kind of like not having a TV in grammar school leaves one out of almost every conversation.

I just don't think the people who run major corporations and who are in the higher levels of government who have control over what gets put on the agenda and how the economics of these situations are structured really want to let the cat out of the bag on peak oil. It would just encourage hording and a further intensification of export-land model effects.

As Tiger Wood's mom said: You can't change what other people think, you can only change what you think.

Hello Abelardlindsay,

Your quote: "As Tiger Wood's mom said: You can't change what other people think, you can only change what you think."

Recall my earlier postings and emails where I am urging Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelsen, and the PGA to lead the charge to biosolar lifestyles by plowing up Agusta National in drought-stricken Georgia. I am still trying to get the Masters' Champions to make that initial 'masterstroke for change' before it is too late***.

I hope Tiger still considers his Mom's advice for her grandchild's future, the world's Tigers, and the world's Woods.

***Assuming we can somehow avoid the full-on nuclear gift exchange and/or bioweapons.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Most of these things were true in the past. If revolutions and elected fascist movements have come to power before, then it must be possible to get people's support for extreme solutions.

Let's reverse-engineer some past crises:

how could the Great Depression have played out with no attempt at a solution?

how could the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone all the way?

how could the Union have been dissolved in 1860 without a fight?

In all these cases, it seems that national leadership really made the difference. Which is bad news to me, because national-level elites are now all corrupted beyond use in the current crisis. If strong leaders didn't occasionally impose their convictions upon events and institutional script-following, for instance, then in 1962 the Pentagon would have bombed Cuba as it was planning to, and the Kremlin could have felt obliged to retaliate even if it didn't originally intend to take it that far. But it took a genius-level IQ for JFK to simply ask the question, "What if Krushchev is being forced to posture by his own military-industrial complex and really does want a face-saving way out?" The higher up you are, the more you must seem to believe the state ideology, and the harder it is to act on your own common sense.

Now the institutions are stronger and the leaders are dumber. No chance for help from above.

Political parties, we are told, act to aggregate votes to simplify choices so that anything at all can get done in a representative democracy. Leaders who have imposed extreme solutions, both good and evil, had the freedom to define an ideology that justified a variety of remedies without being compromised to irrelevance by their party's special-interest groups. I think all the populism you can imagine won't create an ideology that can rise above coalition-building. A charismatic leader can get away with certain contradictions and betrayals in his party platform, but in a populist coalition each faction will zealously demand 110% of the pie.

You know, the further I go into this, the worse it looks. How do you get people to accept the sacrifices they will each have to make in a global crisis without surrendering their wills to a totalitarian cult of personality?

They will not be moved.


"they" are on a fixed low income in the cold northeast or hot southwest as utility bills climb thru the roof; as their medication costs are cutting into their shrinking food budget; as they depend on a vehicle to get to a distant workplace.

Tell them it's the end of the world and you get a blank stare. But tell them they can:
save money/eat/stay warm/stay cool /get to work
by making some life changes and they'll hear it.

Right now you can reach only very low income folks who will build some small lifeboats. The upper income folks will be the last to climb into a lifeboat. They're still partying.


Happiness is... a peak-nik in his victory garden!

I'm a Canadian, so I'm not sure what the general opinion is of Ron Paul in the US, but going on what I have read on the internet, he seems to be one politician who might be capable of leading America and the rest of the world (not through military force) through the crisis that is coming. I know that many have objections to his policies, but at least his stance is unwavering and complete, and I sincerely believe he would do more to stabilize global warming and help the transition to a sustainable economy than his holiness Al Gore himself.

Through the comments I have read on this site, it seems apparent to me that economists are generally not well regarded. As a student of the subject myself, I tend to agree, as mainstream keynesian/classical economics often seems to amount to little more than a tool for political propoganda . Proponents of Austrian economics put forth a different idea for the usefulness of its study, which is generally that economics is a tool for analying our limitations, not for distorting truth and extrapolating theories based on lies. For an example, just think how different peoples understanding of peak oil would be today if there was no government intervention in the energy markets. Many governments, organizations (World Bank), keep oil prices artifically low by subsidizing oil and other carbon-based fuels (by supporting already rich oil companies), making it economically unfeasable for anyone to switch to alternatives.

The same governments that artificially manipulate market oil prices on a wide scale, than point to a myriad of other reasons for why oil prices are reaching historical highs and have increased in price by over 700% in the last 10 years, with the larger increases yet to come. I assume I don't have to point these reasons out, as they appear in almost every mainstream media source (especially in the US).

The end result is a vicious cycle of market manipulation which leads to a distortion in the value of oil, which leads to over consumption in the short term, and a necessarily sharp correction in the long term. A boom must always be followed by a bust. Can you blame the average citizen for driving their SUV's when its still economical to do so?

I know this is a bit of rant, but I find it frustrating that few people choose to realise that people only react to incentives. I might be wrong, but I truly believe that if the world oil market was free from government intervention, we would not be facing an energy crisis, but rather would have long ago adapted to the limits of hyrdocarbon production.

The only thing that changes human action on a mass scale are concrete, stare you in the face, no way out, material problems. If the limited supply of oil had been truly reflected in the price of oil the transition to a carbon-free society would have be infinitely easier. (now its going to hurt no matter what we do).

For those of you who agree with me and live in the United States, support the one politician who advocates dealing with reality over tiptoeing around it; Ron Paul.

To what extent do people need to know WHY things are going to get bad, and to what extent do people simply need to know that things ARE going to get bad, before they make appropriate behavioral changes?

If the volcano is about to erupt, do they need to know WHY volcanoes erupt? Or WHY this one, now? Or WHY evacuation in advance of an eruption is a good idea? Or do they just need to know that the volcano IS going to erupt, and maybe a little practical info (best evac routes, etc.)?

Which gets into what might be the real hard nut to crack: credibility. It is enough to tell them that the volcano will erupt - IF they believe you. If they don't believe you, then they very well may ignore you, stay in denial, etc., all the way up to the moment where the pyroclastic flows sear their lungs.

Thus, the real challenge is: how to we get people to trust us enough as credible authorities so that when we tell them that things are going to change very much for the worse, they will actually believe us and act upon it in an appropriate way?

Since so many people that post here on TOD are highly educated professionals, we tend to operate in the same mode that we would at a professional meeting: we try to impress with our credentials and experience plus abundantly researched, well-written text, combined with impressive charts & graphs. That's what works for the people we try to convince on a regular basis professionally.

However, is that what works for your neighbors - for the average person with far less education?

This isn't my area of professional expertise, perhaps Prof Goose or others can chime in here. But a few things that come to mind as promising paths to follow:

1) People tend to trust the known over the unknown, friends rather than strangers. Launching into a peak oil outreach conversation with complete strangers is likely to be unproductive, or even counterproductive. Best to focus on reaching out to neighbors, building friendships in the community, and building trust amongst these known people. Which leads to my next point:

2) "Prophet" is an unrewarding career choice; "Friend" works a lot better. When you start trying to tell people about the future, only one of two possible things can happen: a) you'll be proven wrong; or b) you'll be proven right. Most people assume that alternative (a) is what happens most of the time, and most of the time they are right; thus, getting into "prophet" mode makes you automatically suspect in the eyes of many people. They'll tend to assume that you're nuts until proven otherwise, and disregard you at best, or more likely ridicule you. On the other hand, let's suppose you might be right (b). The thought will then occur: "Why is he/she telling us this? What's in it for him/her?" And let's be honest here, many of us DO indeed have an ulterior motive: we don't want our neighbors to take our stuff or kill us WTSHTF. That's what it really comes down to, doesn't it? People aren't stupid, and can be quite intuitive in perceiving that a person is doing something for ulterior motives. People don't like being used for someone else's ends. It happens, but the user doesn't gain the trust and respect of the people being used.

On the other hand, genuine friends are genuinely concerned for one another. Sharing concern about our energy future and what we should do about arises naturally in the course of conversation, and is discussed in a context of mutual concern. By the way, energy is not the only problem in the world. Your neighbor/friend might be just as concerned about global warming, or animal welfare, or too-high property taxes, or lousy schools, or staving off foreclosure. As their friend, you need to be genuinely concerned about their issues too, not just your own. Ideally, maybe you can figure out how your and their issues link together.

3) Actions speak louder than words. When you actually put PV panels on your roof, or trade in your car for an NEV or electric-assist bike, or dig up the back yard to plant a garden, the neighbors notice. Pretty soon they'll ask why. There's your perfect PO outreach opportunity. Saying that you have good reason to expect that energy will be a lot more expensive and scarce in the future and that we need to prepare for that will carry a lot more weight if you are actually doing visible things to prepare yourself.

4) Keep it simple. If you are reading these words, chances are that you are more highly educated than the average (median or mean) US citizen, and that includes most of your neighbors. Fancy technical language might score you points when posting on TOD or presenting at ASPO, but it doesn't do anything for you when talking to the average Joe; he'll just tune you out. Many people are going to have trouble grasping concepts and terminology like URR and depletion rates; everyone can understand "the cheap and easy oil is gone, it will be increasingly expensive and difficult to get what's left".

Just had a young (I guess that’s relative, I’m late 40’s) couple with a baby come thru the shop and the guy announces in a loud voice, “peak oil is a scam”,

I have a series of signs I put on the back of the cash reg. Todays says

It takes 10 calories of fosil fuel to produce 1 calorie of food.
Google – peak oil.

He said it a hoax dreamed up by L.Ron Hubbard. (I LOLed at that one)

He went on to say how it is all a plot to suppress the population and implement the new world order.

I know I should have just ignored the whole thing but looked at the mom and baby and felt like I should at least try to inject some sanity.

After eating his soup he came over and we started talking. I explained that I understand the new world order thing and how this administration is undermining the constitution, (trying to start out on his terms) then mentioned that oil is a finite resource and that it is getting way more difficult/ expensive to get it.

No go. He has all the denier talking points down pat, speaks with enormous confidence leaving none of the issues out. Alaska has enough for hundreds of years, Abiotic oil, Iraq has more than KSA, oil sands, etc.

Then he says it’s the same with climate change and launches into the list of denier zingers. Very articulate and confidant. He could be presenting to the local Rotary.

Fortunately I have read all of TOD for long enough that I was able to address each claim in turn, suggesting that he may want to read the internets a little more carefully for the sake of his new born.

I later see him across the street holding court at the espresso bar with a sizeable group around.

Really shook me up!

Heres the thing, nobody seems to get angry with him. Nobody is trying to dismiss his claims. Nobody accuses him of being a doomer. All of the reactions that I get if I try and speak about the issues of PO,CC, economic crisis. Its as if his version is easier to palate.
Even though he mentions the anal rape parties in the redwoods by TPTB and military rule.

I have learned to moderate the message when I speak. Insert positives, I am not even getting close to overshoot/ dieoff stuff. I have learned that in order to reach someone you have to, in the words of my sister the teacher leader, “teach from what they know and understand”, but I never get a fraction of the response this guy gets.

Maybe I need to be more conspiratorial. Chimp?


This is a classic example of what Lakoff talks about (see my post above). All of your customer's "talking points" are just that: he probably learned them from watching Kudlow & Company and now goes around repeating them with "great authority" without having any background knowledge about them to support his claims. His message: there is plenty of oil out there, and peak oil is a hoax.

All of that conforms to the existing mindset of his listeners! They believe--and want to continue to believe--in plenty, in the hoaxes of liberals bent on destroying the economy, and in the trustworthiness of authorities like Kudlow.

Whereas your message is very non-conformant to what he and the coffeeshop crowd already believe.

Try reframing your argument in a way that does conform to what they already think, and then try that out on them! Maybe you'd like to start with how those clever bastards in the Middle East are scheming to keep us on an oil drip of life support as long as possible?


Energy consultant, writer, blogger

what he and the coffeeshop crowd already believe

As Abraham Lincoln's cousin said:

You can't un-fool the really foolish some among all of the people any time, not now, not within all of the time available for trying to un-fool them.

In other words, there are times when you're just wasting energy trying to convince those who already know everything.

You can lead a horse's ass to the truth, but you can't make him think.

I see steaks in that picture. Talking about peak Asphaltistan makes me see everything as food.

"If you want Change, keep it in your pocket. Your money is your only real vote."


No, I don't think it was Kudlow and Cramer, your guy got his talking points from a lil o guy down in Texas, on the radio.

Alex Jones,

Jeff Rense

Greg Pallast, is a denier

Randi Rhodes (Air america) does not get it, but yet seems very good at examining certain other subjects.

Point is, there are many drumbeat that work against you, and it comes from the conspiracy side. PO is to the mainstream a conspiracy theory (though it has gained in credibility), so Peak oil is to an Alex Jones listener, Jeff Rense, and other "gatekeepers" you are a Big oil agenda, you are supporting big oil in their mind. Gets complicated doesn't it. a line of argument,.... "DUDE, even the conspiracy guys , they don't believe in Peak Oil".

anyway, for the ASTRO buffs out their, something very strange has happened in the night sky.

Comet 17P/Holmes has brightened over million times in a very short period of time. 24 hours, and its still going on. Its a magnitude 2 now. google to see if and when you can see it or check your handy computer program.

They have absolutely no clue as to why. There are reports its glowing as if it had an atmosphere. I can't see it live, If it doesn't form a "tail" now, then it will be a wow, more than the huge wow now.

hmmm Holmes, the chase is on, another mystery is afoot, quick,.. Dr. Watson, join me, I may need your assistance..., and bring your overcoat, there is an odd chill about.

Very amazing and mysterious - I wonder what it means? Which king(dom) is fated to die under this vistor?

Astrology is just as believable as science, right?!

I took a picture of it last night, added to Wikipedia, with a trajectory of its path in Perseus:

Astrology as believable as science. Depends on if the "science" is done to scientific principles or is group think and consensus ;)... using changing models to fit their view of the universe :)

However, lets see if the Sun responds with a little ol flare or sumtin like dat. If a tail appears.

Icy snowball, lol, I though that Temple1 would have allowed that to slowly remove itself, but no, old theories do die hard. Like scientist claiming the Wright bros were a hoax.

"DUDE, even the conspiracy guys , they don't believe in Peak Oil"

Ya can't pay enough to get to a line like that.

Sorry for your depressing "lesson". My overgeneralization is that it's proof that we need to humanize our world - easier to believe in "intelligent design" than blind evolution, easier to believe in conspiracy of the "elite" than to admit the diminishing returns of positive feedback loops based on finite resources.

I also try to adjust my message based on what I think a person will hear. Usually I consider it more a learning experience for me over hoping to change anyone's views. I want to know what I'm up against, and what I can believe myself why trying to imagine their worldview (and mine still too.)

My underlining message good or bad always comes down to fear. We ought to be afraid. Technology isn't going to save us. Capitalism isn't going to save us. Government isn't going to save us. The hoarding of wealth isn't going to save us. Not even my idol, conservation will save us, merely offers a chance to soften the fall.

I don't have answers, so my message is no more than "Here be dragons." Avoid debt, keep your expenses below your income and invest in anything that might hold long term value.

Oh, lastly, on the conspiratorial doomers, seems hopeless to talk to them besides experimenting. I wonder what his solutions are to 'his problems' - armed revolution? I don't know what sort of people will be most dangerous in the future - those who find out late that they were playing the wrong game, or those who see hidden puppetmasters. Are we WITH the badguys for believing in peakoil?

I guess Jung is my primary hero, seeing the real puppetmaster is inside our unconscious. Some problems are real "outside" ones, and some can't be faced outside until they are faced inside.

Well at least you had him discussing the issue. People just smile at me as though I'm some senile old fool.

Regardless, although Mr. Chimp was being amusing he did make a good point. The food people eat does affect the way they think. Maybe if your interlocutor downed some more of that healthy soup you serve he'd be more receptive (although it was somewhat mitigated by the espresso and "Healthy Low Fat Oat Cream Bar" he gobbled up at the cafe).

The treat served at the cafe is symbolic of the treats served by industrial capitalist society here in NA (and Europe, Australia, etc.) There are so many treats and the promise of treats (for the treat deprived) that our attention is elsewhere focussed, continually. Even if the yummy treats go away, you (not you directly) will want those treats.

Many people live for this. It's even embedded in the ideological profile of society. Great human sacrifices are made to save the treats, so that our children can have treats.

In my opinion the problem isn't communicating Peak Oil, but more about demand. We need a lot less to live healthy pleasant lives. We don't need so many treats. But that argument goes nowhere.

I wrote this post over at yesterday:

Ways to Get People To Pay Attention to Peak Oil

Peak Oil Freak Out Chaos

It's time to pay attention folks. Former US Defense Secretary and CIA Director, James Schlesinger, recently said at an oil summit: "The battle is over, the oil peakists have won. Current US energy policy and the administration's oil strategy in Iraq and Iran are deluded."

No more excuses, it's time to be responsible humans. The government's non-efforts to educate the public about Peak Oil are pathetic. By allowing runaway capitalism to monopolize economic opportunities, it is the default position of profit-based corporate media to remain optimistic about the existing institution.

But the stormy waters are starting to swirl out of control. Now, with natural limits of life and earth, capitalism has run its course and faces death, except for the tinkerers who will create niche markets that change the way we think. Obviously, some will profit to the end. By clinging to the old model of money based on oil, capitalism refuses to back down and nations are poised to destroy one another over remaining resources rather than cooperatively think through solutions that are fair and equitable for all.

This is the fault of all nations, of all people with the means and ability to lead their governments rather than vice-versa. Whether oppressed through the use of force, or by self-imposed mortgages and Flat Screen TV prison sentences, it is the responsibility of all people in the world to at least TRY.

Try to do something. Try to help bring peace to the world through your own behavior modification. That means thinking about what the consequences are for your decisions, not just today and tomorrow, but for years in the future.

The government does not employ a "Department of the Future". You are not guaranteed one, not with all the nuclear armed countries in the world about to fight it out over oil. And you have been misled. And people are starting to wake up to this.

While chained to mortgages and Flat Screen TV payments, you are starting to see the pipsqueaking semi-admission of the corporate media that we are headed for a recession.

We can fund hundreds of billions of dollars for preventable wars, but we can't help kids that need medical attention. Here in our own country? What kind of sick people kill others and don't heal their very own?

Yes America and the world, it's time to wake up.

But what shock message gets through to masses of people's minds at the same time? Do peak oil advocates need to go to extremes, such as the case of Motorola and the alleged "Penis Clock" phone? Is the image truly just an error?

Motorola Penis Clock Phone Interface

Which leads me to question: Do shocking images that are rude, crass, or taboo actually drive product sales? Is there a subliminal reason for using sexual imagery to get points across or sell products and services? And can this be employed to bring people's attention to Peak Oil?

I don't know, but the idea is not settling well with me. I would rather see easy-to-understand Peak Oil campaigns that are proactive and solutions based. But how does the message get through when not enough people are paying attention to the biggest crisis of our time? Or if people are paying attention, are we not motivated enough to create self-change and hold our leaders responsible for such hubris as we witness every day?

We have failed to communicate well enough to make the necessary changes. Let's face it... Peak Oil experts aren't marketers trying to sell a product like cola or cell phones. We are talking about the imminent destruction of human civilization if countries don't put down the weapons and work on solutions to our energy and climate problems. There are simply too many controlling powers in the world fighting to keep their unsustainable economies running as they are, and there's just not enough of the planet for everyone to keep going and growing this way. Not with the present system.

That leaves us at a point in time where we must collectively make the right choices. As customers and as business owners, we need to do what is right. If enough people start making changes right now, we can fix this place. If and when we do not, ultimately, decisions will eventually be made to explode nuclear weapons, and billions of people will die. It is highly probable, and sooner rather than later. This is not not biblical prophecy, rather natural limitations of the planet combined with limitless human stupidity. Human arrogance and the ability to destroy knows no boundary!

Jeremy Leggett, the Solarcentury CEO and former member of the British Government's Renewables Advisory Board puts it this way: "My experience of debating the peak oil issue with the oil industry is that there is a culture of institutionalised denial in government and the energy industry. As the evidence of an early peak in production unfolds, this becomes increasingly impossible to understand".

Which is why I feel it be great if a candidate we could vote for were to say this in the mainstream media:

'It's time to transition from a growth-based economy to a steady-state economy that can at least sustain itself. I offer a plan that lays out the national and local political framework needed to turn off the war machine and reinvest in America's energy security infrastructure. Security is access to food, shelter, and safety.
Oil, nuclear, or coal as energy sources offer none of these.

Switching back to alcohol fuel will allow us to grow enough food and fuel to sustain ourselves while helping the environment. Switching from oil to alcohol based fuel would result in many millions of good paying jobs being created across America (and the world). My plan creates a way to keep our national infrastructure intact, cars on the road, local food security, and stabilization of living prices through the de-linking of oil from industrial operations.

If we make it a national goal as large as the Moon program of the 1960's, we can do this without feeling the pains and repercussions of Peak Oil. Together as a nation, with government assistance and a national team effort, we can make the switch to renewable alcohol fuels, which are safe, clean, and plentiful.'

Yep, I would agree with that candidate. But to get the message across, I wouldn't resort to using such crass imagery. Maybe bunnies and hand puppets would work instead.

It's time to transition from a growth-based economy to a steady-state economy

Now this is a dumb idea. Before you even get out of the cradle you decide theres no world out there for you anyways.

Hi Dezakin,

You know, I used to think you were harsh but I'm starting to see where you're coming from. Aside from conflating political opinions or some off-the-wall ideology with peak oil, some people here don't think we should even attempt solutions! It's going to be very hard trying to sell that message to mainstream America.


Indeed. Commenters here often have very elaborate theories of exactly what is wrong with the world and how to fix it. In many cases, it seems to me that they have just latched on the peak oil as a way to support their pre-existing faiths. If you question any minor premise (growth is bad, for example), you must be a cornucopian peak oil denier.

Souperman's comment is a great example. He and his customers seem like mirror images of each other. They are both so sure that they are exactly right that they think they have spoken the truth to the other fool's "talking points".

The customer rushes across the street to tell everyone about his experience with the dumb store-owner and Souperman rushes to TOD to tell us about the dumb customer.

"He just doesn't get it", I can hear them both crowing triumphant after not backing down, compromising or listening to the others point at all.

Large mainstream business are built on Oil, they do not want to hear that their fortunes are going to go down hill fast. Like global warming,in the 90's Peak Oil, needs to be focusing on the twenty something, before they become corporate yes men.

Memorial gifts

Name what's dumb about it.

The promise of a brighter future may always sell, but I think a good dose of political truth about the limits of energy can be understood and accepted if messaged the right way.

What, do we need Bruce Springsteen and some sort of Peak Oil "We Are The World" song? Some sort of national collaborative communications campaign to help business executives cope with transformation?

If I were an auto dealer, I could accept that I would focus on repairs rather than new sales, and focus on converting existing gas cars to run ethanol.

Don't start in on an ethanol debate, I believe David Blume ( over the oil companies so you won't be changing this mind.

Once we de-link oil from certain sectors prices will stabilize. As for thousand+ year old grudges from parties in the Middle East, well... maybe they should buy his book too.

Man gets felony conviction for eating 10 jelly beans (the Reagan snack)

Just another day in the Empire.....

Don't forget to read all the Comments!

I wonder about all this discussion. I haven't read it all, but in what I read there wasn't much about what might actually be done to deal with decreasing availability of oil. Of course, PG's initial post was about strategies of thinking and persuation, not about what we actually attempt to do. But still - suppose in talking to the unbelievers, one of them says, "Master, I believe. What shall I do?" Can any of us suggest a mildly coherent answer? Burn more coal?

My thinking goes toward a fragmentation of our global society into a multitude of local units, each struggling with local problems. But I don't see what resources can be counted on for sustenence. Why local? Because transport will be much more expensive in future than now. But then I don't see much further than that. What size local unit is a plausible target? I keep hoping someone will suggest something.

If little cells of people start working constructively at actually dealing with the resources available in a region, others will see and either join, copy, or attack and plunder. I hope not the last option.

I don't see world leadership having any useful part in the solution. I can't imagine a grand vision of the future coming from 'the Community of Nations' as embodied in the combined diplomatic corps of the existing countries.

Thank you for the very interesting treatise Professor Goose.
Not meaning to be a nit picker though, I do have a problem understanding how you mean the word 'deserve'.

BTW as this is such a short message I hope you don't mind me adding that I really enjoy the moniker you use, very apropos:)

Prof G

What if the assumptions are no longer valid; that in fact most people 'get it', but (being sheeple like myself) are waiting for catalysts to enable the transition:

Americans Want To Phase Out Fossil Fuels, Phase In Alternative Sources

"Americans may be addicted to coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels today, but a survey from the Opinion Research Corporation finds that that the public is ready to go 'cold turkey' and put an end to its dependence on fossil fuels."

Full disclosure: I cited this over at Oct 25 Drumbeat.

Hey all you doomers: forget Peak Oil.

Peak Oil isn't going to do it. Yeah, it's real; yeah, it's going to be tough; yeah, people will have to think outside of the box. Yeah, many will suffer, and some will even die.

But _bad luck suckers_, because the human race you all so rightly despise is going to come through it just fine.

Luckily for you all, there is a real problem to worry about: global warming.

Now THAT has a chance of doing things right ... why are you all wasting your time here? Do you just want to hoard your ammo and tinned tuna for nothing?

Peak Oil is a very big problem, but it is 'doable'. Not only will the human race survive, but some of the most contemptible societies ever to exist (i.e. your own, and mine, and some others as well) may do so, with barely a hiccup. I say 'may'. I do not claim an infallible crystal ball. But the outlines are, I think, clear enough. You don't think even a place as incompetent and inhuman as the US can turn its technical competence to a form of triage to ensure that people get fed, that really necessary stuff gets made, on a fraction of the current oil budget? Of course it is technically possible. Politically, slightly less so, but that is because you are all retarded and have listened to outright crap for so many years. Luckily, your condition is not congenital. Sufficient experience will snap many of you out of it.

Peak Oil won't do it, guys. But global warming ... all bets are off. We really have no idea about that stuff.

it's the interaction between the two that is the most scary to me Franz...

Biological populations are, among other things, a function of the amount of energy flow.

More energy, and more necessary building blocks, means more population. Less energy, and Leibig minimum constraints, means less population.

The lower energy flow alone, which results from lower petroleum flow through a petroleum-dependent infrastructure due to peak oil, would be enough to reduce our population.

Peak oil alone would have done it. Climate change is just one more kick to the head.