Truth or Consequences

Of those reading this website in the early days, many expected that by 2008 the world would begin to look like a different place. Perhaps they made some personal changes and hoped that information and facts about energy/environment would gain a societal tipping point and engender some tectonic shifts on global energy policy. Standing here (or sitting) today, it is apparent that in the past 3 months we have gone from the mild fire of high oil prices (hot, but pretty to watch), into the frying pan of a systemic international financial crisis. But under the surface, recent events are accelerating our energy crisis in stealth mode: supply side investments are being crimped due to low commodity prices, and investment capital is available at a premium if at all. On the demand side: people in the US are financially strapped, but gasoline at under $2 a gallon, (arguably the scarcest input into societies' future - see GasBuddy Map here), is paradoxically the most affordable item on the weekly shopping list!

Humans, governments, and Americans have a long history of putting out short term fires while simultaneously increasing the risks for long term systemic conflagrations. In the coming week we are going to continue our review of the IEA WEO report with posts on Decline Rates, Megaprojects, Saudi Arabia, Belief Systems/Economics, Reserves, Natural Gas, and more. There is no data or analysis below the fold today, just a list of questions for our readers about where we stand, what can be done, what should be done, and who should be doing it.

The banks and financial institutions are being attempted to be bailed out. What's next? Does it make sense to bail out the auto industry given what we know about the future? Airlines? Healthcare? Tourism? Energy? Doesn't it seem that those who go under first are almost at an advantage? What is the strategy? (EDIT: and what do we believe about the future, and what do we actually know?)

What is the purpose of this site and others like it? Impacting large scale paradigm change, or building local and regional nucleii that via social cooperation and reciprocity, expands outward? Or something else?

What is the purpose of govermental energy agencies? Who is their overseer? (the government?, private energy forecasters?)

How can we get to the root of our resource depletion and climate(?) problems - the way we use energy for conspicuous consumption - in a holistic manner, without focusing on one narrow aspect at a time?

Ultimately who has responsibility for changing our energy paradigm? Polticians? World Energy Watchdogs? Citizens? Bloggers?

Is our knowledge and scientific awareness that humans have a natural inclination to focus on only the most immediate problems, an advantage? If we understand that by solving this crisis using the same methods that created it, that it will come back even larger again in the future, shouldn't we use this awareness to look beyond the current financial morass and invest our remaining cheap fossil resources into long term productive ventures? (do we need to redefine 'productive' and 'venture')?

Should we wait until oil goes back above $100 to start changing energy use/policy? When will that be? Do the benefits of waiting outweigh the costs of depletion?

How much are we willing to borrow from the future to solve our current financial crisis? Do we even perform this neural 'calculation' or do we just act?

If you could aggregate the knowledge/ideas of the 1,000 brightest, wide-boundary polymathic forward thinking readers of The Oil Drum and were able to somehow magically telepath a summary of this information into the awareness of everyone on the planet, would you do so? And would they thank you or curse your for such 'gift'?

I don't have the answers to these questions - perhaps no one does? They are difficult both conceptually and politically. Ergo, does it hurt or help to discuss them?

I only like the last Q on the list.

The answer is yes absolutely.

Why? Because then everyone would then consider all future actions from this perspective, and the actions of others too.

I think that part of those considerations would be that violence, greed, selfishness, etc. would not be appropriate nor tolerated. Sort of like getting religion only with out all the doG crap.

I understand all the rapacious tendencies of mankind but I also have seen and felt the universal desire for peace and equality that comes out in people in times of stress.

I can't help but feel that much of the explanations for mans wrong doings, that he can't help it as it is in his genetic makeup, we are animals after all, are just a very convenient way of rationalizing the continuation of these misdeeds especially if we are making big money at the time.

Anyway thats just me and I am sure that many will point out that their are just too many of us so forget it.

Edit; Upon further reflection the methode described in your last question would be the ONLY way to achieve my arguably utopian scenario. The slow grinding collapse will guarantee that all of the worst things that rapacious man is capable of will occur. In other words we are so screwed.

That's kinda what religion really does in people : it makes them consider more long-term effect. Yes for the wrong reasons ("God will punish you"), but nevertheless.

Unfortunately it's also true that religion is under attack, not because people really think it's dumb, but because they don't want to think about longer term consequences. Quick random sex is supposedly more fun than marriage. Yet the advantages, for the persons involved and society at large of a monogamous marriage can scarcely be overstated. Family, kids, stability, the need to care for others, ...

Everything that stands in the way of quick immediate satisfaction gets blasted. Whether it's capitalism, religion or peak oil. Once people get really confronted with global warming policies, they too will be blasted. All "conservation" efforts have in reality resulted in no reduction or even an increase in energy use. This is not an accident.

In response to the last question on the list, sadly, no.

The effect of hope and optimism on fertility is well established by now. The current crises, once they are fully understood by the public, will result in zero population growth faster than any humane alternative. Until then, the effect of solutions will be quickly countered by the increased population that their announcement will encourage.

A recent example is the euphoria surrounding the U.S. election, leading to an expected baby boom.

In a perfect world, zero population growth would be a virtue, taught in Sunday schools and Madrasahs. But that's not likely anytime soon, so in the meantime 'polymathic forward thinkers' should probably remain in stealth mode.

In a perfect world, zero population growth would be a virtue, taught in Sunday schools and Madrasahs.

Fat chance of that! Both the Catholic church an the Madrashas notonly condone but encourage large families overtly. The primary excuse given is one of Gods divine right choose who is born and who is not but the underlying growth paradigm is simply a case of domination by numbers. The intersection of population growth and broader political objectives for that population is an area which increasingly deserves more study.

In these dying days of the Aquarian Age it is still difficult to have dispassionate and detached objective conversation about these issues without classifying people into various ethnic and cultural groups. That of course invites a charge of racist overtones which many of us find distasteful and therefore avoid the subject. Even on this site, population growth is only ever discussed in general terms with out scratching the surface and asking the hard questions like who is breeding, why, and what pressure points does that growth create and how will it be resolved? Linking explosive poulation growth to energy demand should not be too difficult for readers of TOD and yet there is a reluctance to push it too far.

My fear is that the pressure points will be ignored for too long in the name of political correctness and will only be resolved through violent upheavals as the dominant numbers overwhelm or are forced back by other cultural groups. We have alreay seen what this led to last century. Are we condemned to repeat it? I for one would prefer, even at the risk of causing offence, robust and forthright conversation, than allowing the situation to descend into a free for all.

Fertility opportunity hypothesis does not classify people into ethnic and cultural groups, and says nothing about race. Abernethy draws examples from all groups to make the point. It is concerned with relative shifts in expectation caused by changes in environment.

Reversal of population growth in rich western countries since the time of North American peak oil correlates with steadily declining expectation of future affluence by the middle class. The group that formerly consumed the most energy has declined the most, even while immigrant groups have experienced an improvement in their prospects, relative to their former lives, and have more children as a result.

The significant implication of FOH is that western populations will continue to decline in sync with fossil fuel decline, while those populations that don't currently consume a lot of FF will continue to grow until affected by something else, like declining water and food.

Fertility opportunity hypothesis does not classify people into ethnic and cultural groups, and says nothing about race. Abernethy draws examples from all groups to make the point. It is concerned with relative shifts in expectation caused by changes in environment.

But, if we have even a single recalcitrant group, given long enough time, they will overwhelm the efforts of all others. And, of course there are major incentives for it to be YOUR group that has the highest growth rate. As long as religion/culture are sacrosanct this fatal flaw in population control will exist.

Recalcitrant in what way? If you mean being happier, hence more fertile, with less consumption, then a new unhappy/poor equilibrium is quickly reached. If you mean happier while consuming more, that must imply more productive and competitive, and a new unhappy/productive equilibrium is even more quickly reached. Given that our expectations are currently deteriorating, the unhappy/productive condition is unstable and whatever creed is promoting it will lose adherents.

You may be attributing too much to religion. Italy is the home of the RC church, yet has the lowest fertility in the world - because their resource and manufacturing base is declining relative to the rest of Europe.

It is broader than just religion adn takes into account cultural expectations. If the community you live in is dirtpoor adn all your peers are just a poor as you, but the one thing you have in common is large families, then that very sense of community of purpose will mean that you don't give any thought to how you are going to feed the resultant kids. The community will help you becasue thats the way it is. If you are a "sophisticated Italian culturalati" that likes to enjoy the finer things of life and freedom to travel and do as you please, then kids can be a real drag. The one kid you might have may come late in life at which time you can afford to buy in as much help as you need.

The immigrant family that moves in next door however with six kids, Grandma and aunts and uncles are notgoing to be content to remain inside all day. They will play on the street, open up businesses to sell the food they like, speak their own language and not bother with yours, maybe opoen a school and then perhaps invite many of their friends to join them. Before you know it, you are a stranger in your own neighbourhood, all because of numbers. Political power must surely follow.

EDIT: We have just seen in the US election how race can affect the political process. The voter turnout of blacks was significantly increased becasue of the candidates race. This marks a very big turning point for American culture as it embraces black culture in a way which shows that it is now a mainstream force.

In the future upcoming survival earth it will be awfully hard for just one person..or say one and his wife(some like 'partner' but its still wife to me)...hard as hell for just two to work a substience lifestyle.

And on the other side of that once more it will behoove farmers (if any left) to have several children. Must repopulate the earth,,and not destroy it will overpopulation. And natural selection as well as a lower natural age will likely take care of much of this.

We must look to the future as this one is shot to hell.

Or course cornucopians will disagree,,even with all the evidence in front of them.

So what is best? Have about two children. Teach them the skillsets to live in what may be the future.

Why is it I wonder that liberals tend to give illegal immigrants, and legal ones for that matter the full rights of uncontrolled births yet whine constantly about the rest of us? Their rights of many large families is no less than the rightsd the citizens of this country should enjoy.

I will garner many negatives numbers on this post. I am used to it.


My man, you really need to view the 'Crash Course' and learn about exponential growth curve/plots. Trying to change the paradigm at this time is totally fruitless.

Why do folks post this? We are way way way far far far beyond attempting to make any changes in this and any other areas that are compounding at the higher water mark on the 'hockey stick'.

Please.Get real. View the Chris's course then come back and tell me if I am right or wrong.


To the extent that people are moving away from religion it is because they becoming more knowledgable and enlightened. To imply loss of religion is a cause of societal moral degeneracy and in turn to peak oil is quite a stretch (or rather, two stretches).

Rather, the failure of individuals, states and the world collectively to respond to peak oil is can be ascribed to the following factors:

Socialogical / Psychological
1. Denial / disbelief (this cannot be happening really, can it?)
2. The soporific comforting effects of consumerism and affluence (note that this is independent of religious views or lack thereof)
3. An expectation that science and technology can solve all future problems (or perhaps for the religious amongst us, plain old blind faith)

Corporate /political
1. Business management motivated to quarterly or annual results when choosing between alternatives to allocate capital.
2. Strategic pricing of oil by the OPEC and the oil industry over many years to dissuade investment in alternatives
3. The US being fixated with oil supply side over demand side, perhaps because half the outgoing regime are oil industry men.

Financial / economic
1. Artificially low cost of capital and artificially high returns driven by unchecked M3 growth
2. Fear of (real) renewables which have a lot lower lifetime customer values. By definition, a renewable anything has a lower cost to run and own than something you pay by the litre/mile to keep going. After all, the basis of capitalism is consumption. Maybe capitalism should have been called consumptionism.
3. Market failure in the sense that the many negative externalities have never been fully factored into oil consumption.
4. Disbelief or hostility by mainstream economists towards a world in which compound growth is no longer a given. So much of our modern economic and ultimately societal underpinnings come back to this one simple fact, itself underpinned by ready and cheap energy and oil. Reorientation towards a new zero growth / low growth paradigm in economics awaits a modern day Keynes. I know he or she is out there somewhere.

I am sure there are a heap more factors, but that is what comes to mind (whereas lack of religion does not).

There was a great article in SciAm last year(?) on what it would take to rid the US of foreign energy dependence. Honestly, I think it is going to take something of that magnitude to get out of this. However, like climate change, people won't believe something unless they can see it. Therefore, I am fairly certain at least some level of impact has to be felt before the massive investment required to reorient to a renewable society could be justified to the populace. Whether that is inherently defeating, because any impact signals we've left it all too late, remains to be seen. Either way, there will be winners and losers.

Personally, I think the world economy and quality of life is going to go through a period of sustained decline before things get better. Eventually, the world (economically, socially, politically) will realign to the new realities of steady state and sustainability. After all, is there really an alternative?

How far we shall decline and how steeply before reaching that place, I leave for experts on this site to judge.

I am sure there are a heap more factors...

I would place on the top of the list poor thinking skills (epistemology) by the vast majority of people. Shortcuts, such as ideological thinking (whether religious or secular in origin) prevent people from seeing the world as it is. And a commitment, to winning the intellectual competition for my tribe, over honestly seeking the truth. This later tendency places public relations, and propaganda above the truth. Another of the shortcuts is to assume that things are unchanging, there was sufficient oil for my grandparents, my parents, and at least for the first half of my lifetime, my children, therefore it is a law of nature that this will also be true for my kids, and grandchildren. This leads to the simplistic view that if we are falling short, it could only be the work of a group of evil people plotting against me.

Another mental shortcut is to learn only one of two paradigms for understanding the world, and applying them even when they are not appropriate. The most irritating to me is the "follow the money" type paradigm, all human activity is determined by individuals/groups following their pecuniary interests. For these people, Global warming is a fraud by scientists, whose sole incentive is to obtain research funds from a frightened government. The fact, that some groups of people and professions, try their best to be openminded is inconcievable to them. The other really difficult worldviews are usually religious, god loves his children, and wouldn't have designed a universe where bad things can happen to people that follow his writings....

Unfortunately it's also true that religion is under attack, not because people really think it's dumb, but because they don't want to think about longer term consequences.

I am so very pleased you can see into the mind of every non-religious person on the planet who speaks less than positively about religion.


I invite you to figure out the many errors inherent in your statement. (Hint: It's quite similar to "They hate us for our freedom!")

Even though I am a christian I see society in general being under attack by fanatics of various faith groups. These fanatics like to claim they are the victims of society as they attack the civil rights of women, gays, and poor people in general. They form picket lines outside ob/gyn offices but I have never heard of pro-choice groups picketing any church. They beat down gays with Old Testament verses taken out of context which is what Jesus chastised the Pharisees of doing to the common folk. The poor are poor because they didn't pay their tithes to the fanatics.

Religions in the 21st century face the problem presenting themselves using metaphors that made sense to an agrarian culture but are meaningless in the age of the Internet. Few understand that the word "sin" was a term borrowed from archery competitions. Very few people have thrust in their sickle and brought in a sheave. Being cleansed in the blood doesn't make any sense if you are ignorant of the practices of the mystery religions which the Apostle Paul was competing with. Today's people believe a tanner is someone renting time under some UV lamps and have no understanding of the low place in life those making leather were held. Those who are biblical literalists have the burden of reconciling the many contradictions in their perfect book. Their rejection of evolution has hurt the cause of Christianity much more than anything Darwin and company ever could. I have never understood why literal acceptance of the first few chapters of Genesis is essential to accepting the teachings of Jesus. It is not that people don't like thinking about long term consequences as much as they can't see the connections between what the fanatics propagandize them with and the challenges of 21st century life.

I have been talking to people about peak oil for nearly six years now, and climate change for even longer. From my experience, the greatest hindrance to effective communication is one of core belief and identity systems.

Why are belief systems an important topic? Because until enough people are able to speak to each other not just honestly, but with honesty grounded in a shared reality, there will be no “solutions” that actually have a chance to work. The reason I place that word “solutions” into quotes is because few of us can agree on the “problem” right now. When we come together with vastly differing world views we can’t even identify what it is we should be concerned about!

For the present, when I try to spell out the implications of the limits we are encountering I typically run into the standard rebuttals of “techno-triumphalism” and a general faith in the “system” whether that implies big business or big government or both. A bit of “human spirit” is also tossed around frequently. This makes it impossible to go further with any discussions like, “Hey, I think we need to get a local currency going,” or, “Don’t you think our schools should teach home economics and agriculture again?”

I also sometimes encounter those who are on the path of disillusionment, and this is where our hope lies. Only those who have recognized the depth of corruption, myopia and sickness that pervades our “way of life” are willing to explore the actual changes required by circumstances.

This realization is a conundrum. Must I be “cruel to be kind”? How far can I push people before they react too strongly against a painful message? The situation is ironic in many ways. I do offer “solutions” and I am able to “think positively,” just not in ways that many others can appreciate right now. But I watch and I wait, keeping friendly with many people and looking for an opening, a sign of sorts, that they are questioning some fundamental beliefs, losing faith in what they have known, and searching for a way out.

But I watch and I wait, keeping friendly with many people and looking for an opening, a sign of sorts, that they are questioning some fundamental beliefs, losing faith in what they have known, and searching for a way out.

And, this is why I remain a doomer. It is already too late to make the needed changes in a rational way. Things will be even worse by the time society has reached even a minor consensus on just a few of the issues. After all, we aren't simply taking about just energy but rather a plethora of interlocked systems and beliefs. There is, of course, energy but there is also governance, finance, population, food production and on and on.

Simply the need to move beyond BAU is a massive step to fully grasp that few people I encounter can understand much-less accept.


No disagreement from me.

For some reason I still try. I suppose it's because I'd rather give it my best shot, even if the odds are ridiculously slim. And maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Some may see my lack of belief in the likelihood of success as a great disadvantage. But this is not necessarily the case. Because I feel like I have nothing really to loose and don't expect to win, I am not upset by my own failures.

Think of a football team going for the hail mary pass. Nobody expects it to work, but they give it a shot anyways and, behold, sometimes it pays off.

I keep at it because I want to be able to say to myself that I did everything I could.

I'm also finding people along the way who I think will be good to help with the rebuilding, or at least make the descent as decent as possible, which I actually believe can be quite decent if we get enough people going.

Although I have lived in quasi-urban, suburban, exurban areas and the boondocks, I really view the future from a boondocks perspective since that is where I have been for the past 30 years.

I think Jeff Vail's Rhizome Communities (see his post of February 11. 2008 at ) are, perhaps, the most realistic, best case as to how the future might play out.

One of the things about the boondocks is that we recognize our interdependedness, especially in difficult situations. At the same time, the old-timers/true survivors have the skill-sets and resources necessary to pull it off alone if necessary. To put survival in perspective, many years ago the snow was so deep that when my neighbor went to check his sheep, his horse couldn't get through the snow with him on its back. Instead, he hung onto the horse's tail and was dragged a mile through the snow to home.

Further, we all "owe" each other. If I help a neighbor, he "owes" me. The thing is this happens so often, and no one keeps track, that we simply respond when called upon. This is vastly different than "city people" who never develop these kinds of necessary interrelationships.

Let me put this into a real life context. Last year my 4x4 was in the shop and we had a snow storm (I'm in the northern CA mountains) and my wife had to get to a conference. My neighbor said would get her out. He not only did this but he and a friend had to spend two hours cutting up an oak tree that had fallen across the road to even get to our house. Now, David didn't have to do this...but he promised he would get Ginny out and he did. His word, and all of our words, are our bond.

I never saw this sort of thing in other areas where we have lived. But, this is what it is going to take to survive.


Todd - Thanks for pointing out the article by Jeff Vail. FYI it's a .net not a .com so the address for others to go to is



Thanks for the correction. It's ironic since I had a hard copy of the article in front of me when I posted.



How it used to work in the older farming lifestyle of my youth was like this:

I helped my neighbor get his hay in the barn. I did it for no pay. He now owed me a 'favor' or some compensatory work on my farm. He did so by helping me cut my hogs.

So you helped others and if they did NOT return the favors? That person found himself alone when he needed help. He was perhaps 'shunned' so to speak. He didn't return favors. They weren't called 'favors' but the practice was very prevalent and of course it had to be this way.

Yes you could make it on your own hook IF you had some children. Having no children made it very tough so you didn't grow much as you could have. You might just make it.

Now if you were a miller or blacksmith or midwife..then your 'traded' work.

At a nearby county the fairgrounds each Saturday or perhaps Monday had what was called a 'Trade Day'. Folks brought in chickens,geese,dogs,whatever in order to trade what they had a lot of for something they needed.

Up until a few years ago this was still held and I picked up a lot there. But I think the auctioneers maybe killed it off for it was all free and no costs. The auctioneers are viewed pretty much as scum by many. Necessary but they tend to feed off peoples misfortune. They now exact a very very high price.


My list of "favors owed" is quite long (and often useful :-)

Best Hopes for Urban Communities as well,



as you no doubt know, the brain "hardens" up after at around 25. So new info, at least fundamentally new, cannot be processed or integrated. The brain basically switches to "read only". A person might be a raging Young Republican drinking the hard right evangelical captialism Kool-aid at age 18 but still at least has the potential to change by age 25. After age 25, it is next to impossible. Maybe possible in 1 out of 100 people don't go into total "ready only" mode and those 1 out of 100 are probably in fields where they have to wire and rewire thier understanding of the tasks presented them day to day.

The natural biological tendency is made a lot worse by modern lifestyle which depletes the brain of necessary nutrietns, thereby further inhibiting it's ability to wire in fundamentally new ideas. You may as well be asking a 300 pound couch potato to turn himself into an olympic athlete. In fact, I think you're chances of doing that would be better. We're talking 1 out 1,000 chance here.

People here will say "but I changed my belief system after age 25". Well either it didn't change as much as you think (you had probably concluded prior to age 25-26 that "things are not right") or you are the exception to the rule.

In the "hail mary pass" situation, the unspoken assumption is there are people downfield who actually want to catch the ball. In the situation at hand, how many people truly WANT to understand how much trouble we're in? Maybe 1 out of 500? 1 out of 1,000?

I can't decide whether this is hokum or on target. While generally speaking most would agree that people's beliefs tend to settle down as they age, many external factors intervene - economic depression causing people to adopt very thrifty, cost-conscious habits, even when their objective situation does not encourage let alone require it, for example my mother; Warren Buffet. People are capable of change at many stages of life, even in basic ways (huge literature on religious conversion, for example).

On what basis did you choose 25 as the inflection point? I'd say that's a construct of our extended adolescence in western industrial societies. I'd put the inflection point for most of humanity now and in the preindustrial period much nearer age of puberty.

I think we 're dealing here with the costs of information processing, the likelihood that we're wired to stop assessing major alternatives as we pass puberty. But we're capable of change; isn't that our hope and potential?

I can't decide whether this is hokum or on target

I suspect its a little of both. I presume Chimp is repeating what he heard from Jay Hanson, because Jay often (loosely) used the age of 25 in his discussions of when brains became more or less 'set', and it would take a great deal of effort after that to learn something truly new. But 'set' in what ways is the relevant question. I don't think he meant set in their beliefs, but set in how they process the beliefs.

The origins, as you might guess, are in evolutionary psychology, which I know you are familiar with. The domain specific vs domain general aspects of our thinking (we stand on escalators with our gym bags waiting for it to take us to the gym where we will exercise is an example - our brains think domain specifically => ESCALATOR/STAND STILL and GYM/EXERCISE and don't use an overriding general thought module of 'if purpose is exercise then run up escalator to gym'). One explanation is that these content-dependent modules are not “informationally encapsulated” and some of the variations in ability you notice in adults are differences in interconnections between these modules and the general speed of the connections. The speed of such neural connections is related to the amount of 'insulation' on the neurons, called a myelination, or myelinated sheath. This typically keeps developing to age 10-12 but science is unclear on when it stops - it might continue on into early adulthood which is where the 25 figure came from. Once these domains are set, they are difficult to change or build new ones.

In sum, I think its a guess, but an educated one.


With all due respect, and that is not a platitude, I submit that the nature of the brain is so complex that to say isolating a specific observed biological change or cessation can determine the outcome of how the brain functions over the long term is somewhat specious. The fact that the brain "develops" in a physiological sense at some arbitrary age says little about how it might rearrange itself later. Allow me to compare a microprocessor which is usually fixed when it is manufactured but it's output can change depending on the software which may run above it.

This has been evidenced by how varied the recoveries are from stroke, traumatic brain injury and a host of other effects.

My point is, like AGW, PO et al, there is so much we still don't know.

OT, I think the nature of this thread represents the best of TOD because it allows a venue for people to think and interact. Not just on issues of energy equivalency or EREOI but how interconnected it all is.

The fact that you participate in the hijacking of your own thread is a testament to that. Perhaps that is the answer to your original question.


I uprated you!!

Chimp - You make a very good case for offing everyone over 25 unless of course they can prove they have accepted the fact that "things are not right" prior to becoming 25.

What church did you say you were with?

I disagree with a magic number of 25. (leading off with "as you no doubt know" is a dead giveaway). It is a continuum.

Recent studies have shown that there is considerable plasticity in the brain well into the 70s and 80s.

Your final paragraph is more on point, IMO. The issue is not the capacity for change but the desire or willingness to change. That is another matter entirely and is culturally and emotionally based not physiological. Since I passed 25, many years ago I have changed many times based on new information and relationships and continue to do so.

That said, your guesstimate of those who WANT to understand, and thus change, seems about right, unfortunately.

My understanding is that the age is closer to 35. I remember form a linguistics class I took that for this reason it is much harder for most people to learn languages after that age.


An earlier linguistic boundary:
If you learn a new language after age 13-14 you will always speak it with an accent.

Can you cite any references? I have direct anecdotal evidence to the contrary. (BTW using the word "always" makes me nervous :-) )

Secondly, (again contradicting myself) everyone speaks every language, native or otherwise, with an accent y'all.

It's generally true... if you learn your *first* second language after the cutoff age of 13-14. There are exceptions.

But in my personal experience, if you learn two languages before that cutoff age, then you can continue to learn more languages after the cutoff, without an accent, and become fluent (with enough work). This is, I think, because some pathways in your brain that relate to learning languages and how they work, get reinforced enough by having a second language, that they stick around longer.

At the risk of undermining my own point, It is my understanding that studying music or learning a new language at a young age sets the stage for continued learning for the rest of your life, particularly wrt music or language. Apparently, it is the algorithm that is established, not the specific skill. Perhaps it is the ability to change your mind that is learned when one is young.

See? I'm still adaptable ;-)

In the "hail mary pass" situation, the unspoken assumption is there are people downfield who actually want to catch the ball. In the situation at hand, how many people truly WANT to understand how much trouble we're in? Maybe 1 out of 500? 1 out of 1,000?

I'd say you have the odds about right.

Furthermore, most people will tend to get the stuffing knocked out of em' if they attempt to throw the Hail Mary pass (the stuffing being one's inclusive fitness).

At this late stage in the game, it is critical to the survival of you and your loved ones that an extended social network be built and solidified. By going around throwing Hail Marys, however, one risks alienating potential friends, mates, and allies.

Many people are too worried about tomorrow to deal with 'limits to growth'. The stability of their jobs, healthcare, and housing have them on edge. From the average American's perspective, the friend, colleague, or stranger who discusses pessimistic topics like Peak Oil is not fun to be around. These 'pessimists' elicit negative feelings in others, create socially awkward situations, and may even be avoided or shunned. :(

Absurd, sad, but true.

My advice is to keep learning, preparing, and making friends and alliances... and recognize that there are times when you'd be better off keeping your pie-hole shut about the bigger picture - at least until people's brains are similarly focused on the problem (or domain). Trust me, we won't want to be lonely and isolated from our communities when the SHTF.

CAVEAT: None of the above is necessarily relevant to situations in which a person is educating policy makers, decision-makers, community task-forces, government, significant others, immediate family etc.

Edit: Should mention that I'm only 25, so my situation may be different than others here. I would probably have a different outlook/strategy if I was in my 40's, 50's, or 60's.

I changed my belief system totally in my mid-thirties. It was in response to a new set of circumstances. I distinctly recall the struggle to let go of old beliefs and the firm decision to follow the evidence no matter where it led, no matter how scary. Hardly any of my peers were able to do this and remain stuck in their old belief systems.

Jason, you wrote:
"How far can I push people before they react too strongly against a painful message?"

I have a real-life ancedote to offer. I took my ex-wife to see "An Inconvenient Truth"; walking out of the theater she said "For twenty years I thought you were a f...king raving lunatic." It seems to me that we forward-thinkers will be dismissed by the average person unitl 1) a respected authority figure popularizes our position, or 2) the consensus of their social circle comes around to our position.

In other words, people are herd animals.

It's called the 5% rule...and most of the 5% out there, know they are one. The other 95% are sheeple that don't have a clue, and are almost never going to get one. The age of 25 makes no difference, one way or the other. It's simply Biology. All men ( and women) are NOT created equal. Look around, beyond the trappings of money, or the artificial status given by a college degree. Being able to make money, or paying an institution for that piece of paper to hang on your wall that says "I'm smart" to somebody passing by, is by no means, any indication as to whether or not you will survive what is ahead. I have had the opportunity to brush up against many a Phd. socially, as well as the very wealthy, and in all honesty, if I had to depend on most of them for help to survive, I'd be dead in no time at all. The common sense of a potato bug is about all they were good for. If you have had an opportunity to be around lots of children, as a teacher or coach. You understand this quite well. It's there at a very early age, or it's not.

Basic Biology. With a little social intercourse thrown in for good measure. The 95%, not only need the "Leader" in their lives to fuction, and to have focus, but are lost with without one.

I also sometimes encounter those who are on the path of disillusionment, and this is where our hope lies. Only those who have recognized the depth of corruption, myopia and sickness that pervades our “way of life” are willing to explore the actual changes required by circumstances.

This realization is a conundrum. Must I be “cruel to be kind”? How far can I push people before they react too strongly against a painful message? The situation is ironic in many ways....

I'm not a particularly religious person, but I was brought up Catholic, largely in Jesuit tradition. Liberation Theology and those like the Berrigans have influenced me greatly. Which brings me around to "hope".

Unfounded hope is presumption. It's evil. It's cruel. It was the last thing out of Pandora's Box. It is not like Dr. Seuss' Vooom - hidden under little cat Z's hat. Unfounded hope will not clean up every mess. Unfounded hope will not clean up any mess.

The significance--and ultimately the quality--of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part. - Wendell Berry, Christianity and the Survival of Creation

One does need to understand "the analysis" of what is going on. Peak Oil, resource depletion, climate change, cancerous growth, environmental toxicity, economic inequality. If the understanding of where one is leads one to despair, that is entirely appropriate. Desperate times require desperate deeds. Many of us recognize that these are desperate times. And we still have to figure out what desperate deeds the times require. We're at the river; we need to build the boats and get into them. Only then is there going to be the possibility of real hope.

I can hear Alan Watts asking, "What is to be done?" and admit I don't know.

Growing food, getting out of debt, preparing, building resilience.

Last night I went to a "raw food" potluck. What does a gardener in Maine eat in November that's raw, local and organic - other than Kale and apples? It was a sure thing those would turn up. I figured out a celeriac salad with all sorts of mixed wild and garden greens. But everyone else brought things from Whole Foods and every part of the planet. We try to fix one bit of our lives and make every other bit worse. [Dinner was unbelievably yummy, esp the kales, apple sauces, cashew cheeses, butternut squash (which could be local) and the pumpkin pie (which wasn't pumpkin but nuts and carrots).]

We can't get there from here. That much I do know. I know that if we are going to evolve, it will look like a paradigm shift and a discontinuity. We have to get in those boats and we cannot see the other shore. That's not hope. That's an act of despair.

As Jason puts it, any hope lies on the far side of disillusionment.

Welcome to Monday morning, 2008. A couple of days still to hard freeze. Got work to do in the garden.

cfm in Gray, ME

After watching the morning political shows here in the US, it's clear that many political ideologies are being tested to their very limits by the current economic crisis. Ben Stein, libertarian in good times, thinks the auto-industry should be bailed out. Tom Friedman's flat world is getting rounder by the minute. Fiscal hawks suddenly sound like Keynesians and Democrats are worried Bush will completely bankrupt and nationalize too much before Obama gets into office...

The X factor behind all of this is that the energy and resource crunch is the main cause of all the current economic problems and should not be brushed under the carpet until the economy is strong enough to handle the inevitable transition to a lower energy and lower consumption economy.

But first we need more recognition of the central problem - natural limits to consumption based growth. We don't need people to go shopping. We need to find a new path to happiness. Overconsumption has had its chance and it failed - we need to try something else or many different paths to happiness individually and as a society.

Huh ? It's mostly Obama that's talking about bailing out and taking over entire sectors. Also the amounts he talks about (he tossed around 3 TRILLION dollars for the car industry) dwarfs the amounts Bush used. Bush talked about 800 billion as an "extremely huge" number.

It's not the republicans that will nationalize the nation.

The X factor behind all of this is that the energy and resource crunch is the main cause of all the current economic problems and should not be brushed under the carpet until the economy is strong enough to handle the inevitable transition to a lower energy and lower consumption economy.

That's the real rub. I fugure we are in a race against three tough adversaries. The most visable one currently is the financial/economic meltdown. Can we stimulate our way out, before the debt burden becomes intolerable? Then the next one to real it's ugly head will be peak oil. Can we transition away from oil dependency faster than the supply diminishes? The third one is climate change. Can we move off of fossil fuels before the climate damage is intolerable?

The human and political temptation is to attack these sequentially. IMHO this would guarantee, that we can at best only win one of these races. Unfortunately the future will be grim if we lose any one of them. The only strategy which has a chance of succeeding, at this late date, is to pay simultaneous attention to all three opponents, and choose tactics that simultaneously address them all. But, this can be a hard sell. People are not motivated by theories, and numbers and predictions. They are motivated by individual up-close and personal stories. right now those are about the effects of the meltdown. It is tough arguing that those problems should only recieve a third of our focus, when we see immediate suffering.

Ideologies come and go, often within ten minutes. I'm not sure economic methods are the best approach to this problem, anyway. Economics is too variable with too many feedback loops and unintended consequences, it is too entwined with politics to be particularly useful in changing attitudes; it is a better 'post- attitude change' tool.

The biggest problem that I can see is there is poor connection between our curent crises and the 'standard narrative'; the quest by the lone individual who changes his (or her) destiny, ususally by force and bravery. Resource depletion does not lend itself to this drama, in fact it is generally on the 'other side' of it.

This drama is a central part of most cultures; it is learned from childhood.

The fundamental myth is the lone wandering hero on a quest: Jason searching for the golden fleece, Heracles and his tasks, Odysseus and his war and return. The individual is the center of Western enlightenment and industrial development; Galileo v. the Papacy, Guttenberg's printing press, Edison's light bulb, Henry Ford's Model T, Bill Gates's Windows; Steve Jobs's iPhone. The myth extremely hardy, it simply tranforms to various exotic locales; Frodo Baggins destroying the 'One Ring', Ripley battling the alien on LV-426, Ghandi v. the British Empire, Martic Luther King v. Jim Crow America. There is a transormative element to this narrative that is very powerful; a single individual is or becomes powerful who (perhaps with some help) can destroy evil in order to allow the rest to live happily ever after.

Until the next time, when another hero arises.

What 'Peak Oil' needs is a transformative hero. Al Gore ... fuhgetaboutit!

The culprits are all us collectively. Even if an individual here and there decides to pull 'off the grid' the increasing numbers of the rest cancel out the individuals' acts. Additionally, the parallel great myth - of personal enlightnment, the evolution of humankind and progress - has been coopted; it is now the intellectual property of big business, big politics and big religion.

I don't know if it's possible to make a new narrative liberating the idea of progress from the forgoing scoundrels, but that is what is necessary.

I'll take a stab at answering the most difficult question: What does it mean to be alive and human in 2008. My answer mostly comes from Aristotle, but also from other philosphers, both ancient and modern.

In my opinion, what all humans aim for is happiness, and I think that still is a reasonable goal for 2008. Happiness is plural; there are several (not many, but several) sources of happiness. One is virtue, which comes down to adhering to what Aristotle referred to as the golden mean. By itself, virtue is not enough to guarantee happiness, but it is a necessary prerequisite.

Something else prerequisite to happiness is purposeful activity. This can be work, or it can be posting comments on TOD, or it can be spending time with the family or with community organizations.

Friends and relatives, and good relationships with these are necessary for happiness. You need not have many friends, but you do need some. For happiness it is impossible to overestimate the importance of good relationships with your extended family.

We need enough income for food, basic shelter, warm clothing, and medical care. We also need enough funds to keep our human relationships going, and even buying access to the Internet requires some income, even if we just travel to the public library each day.

Pleasures are important. The highest and best pleasures are aesthetic experiences like going to great movies or listening to fine live music. But this is not to knock "lower" pleasures such as one gets from good food and sex. (No, an active sex life is not a prerequisite to happiness, but it sure does help.)

Health is prerequisite to happiness; we cannot be happy if we are living with extreme pain. Not all philosphers agree on this point.

I think it is necessary for happiness to live in a good community--not one dominated by violence, fear of crime, lies, and corruption.

The above list is by no means complete, and the multiple dimensions of happiness certainly impinge on one another, but it is a start. Note that one can be happy (achieve eudaimonia, in Aristotle's vocabulary) in an economically declining society.

Last weak I had the pleasure of visiting an Amish community here in Wisconsin. I dropped off a quilt to be finished. As I drifted through the community in Medford, my mind, for reasons not unlike those in today’s postings, started asking questions. Is this the future? Is this a doable option? What is it really like here? How many of us could really adjust to this setting. After all this is to some degree a life without oil.
I had the opportunity to stop a buggy to ask questions of direction not knowing if the locals would want much to do with the “English”. A man of forty jumped from the black buggy and grinning, approached me. His eyes were full of glimmer but his teeth had never visited a dentist and were for the most part lost to decay. He seemed to relish the exchange and spoke confidently and without hesitation.
While I do not know his religion, I feel confident that he was a man dedicated to Virtue and that Virtue was a means to his happiness. Was this The Golden Mean of Aristotle, the prerequisite. I suspect that he also had been instructed in Purposeful Activity, the activity that my father-in -law referred to as a worthy activity, one that benefits his fellow man, his family and possibly one that does not hurt the earth. I saw no signs of techno-triumphalism, just a purposeful life, happiness, maybe a touch loneliness. I saw material poverty, an austere bleakness that left me uncomfortable. I was attracted to the simplicity, but somewhat frightened by the change that would be needed to leave my life of 2008, and my life is miles from the average individual living in today’s sea of beige, the never ending sprawl. Are they the future?
It is my understanding the Amish have one of the highest birth rates in the USA.

Hi Wrighttracks, thanks for your interesting comments on the Amish. You ask:

Is this the future? Is this a doable option?

You've virtually answered the question yourself by noting that the Amish have one of the highest birth rates in the USA.

No, it is not doable.

In fact:

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - America's Amish population has nearly doubled and spread out in the past 16 years due to large families, more marriages within the community and longer lifespans, a study showed on Wednesday.

The population grew 86 percent to 231,000 in 2008 from 125,000 in 1992, or 4 percent a year, and is set to double from this year's level by 2026 if the current growth rate continues, according to the study by Donald Kraybill, a sociology professor at Elizabethtown University in Pennsylvania.


At a time when some other ethnic and religious groups fear dilution through mixed marriages, the Amish have boosted their numbers by insisting on marriage within the group and providing education at Amish-only schools for 90 percent of their children, said Kraybill.

Their rate of population growth has accelerated in the past 20 years because they have an average of five or six children per family, and have done a better job of retaining their young people, he said.


Whatever about their 'dedication to virtue', the Amish are hardly the poster children for an overpopulated world.

Some Mennonite sects are very aware of overpopulation and use birth control. They are very aware of overpopulation because farms can only be subdivided so far amongst the children before they become unviable. If only one child, usually the eldest son, inherits the farm, it stays intact and of viable size. However, then the other children have no farm land and will have to be hired hands. This destroys the social equality that the Mennonite community values highly and leads to massive social problems. This lead to many problems in the Mennonite colonies in Czarist Russia.
The Old Colony Amish have been getting away with 5-6 children because they are currently able to buy more farm land. If they are unable to do that, the elders are going to have to confront some hard decisions about family planning (which some will be able to do).
Some Mennonite sects also accept intermarriage, they joke about "bedroom prosletizing". The way of life and belief system are sufficiently outside the "English" societal norm that I think it would be difficult for a mixed marriage to last unless the non-mennonite partner is at last sympathetic or something of a fellow-traveller. I am a non-mennonite married to a mennonite. When we married, I faced a rather uncomfortable grilling by mennonite elders about my ethnic background, I realized after awhile that if anything they were pleased that I was very genetically unrelated to them. In the early years, there was some hostility towards me from younger members of the community, but as our marriage lasted, they calmed down. In retrospect, they were probably just worried that a mixed marriage wouldn't last and that my spouse would be hurt.

I'm seriously interested in this and I don't want to put you on the spot. Clearly you shared similar religious beliefs but how have you pulled it off?


The key to any marriage that survives I suspect: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Talk, talk, talk. Be patient. You don't have to agree, but you do have to respect. There have been rocky moments over pacifism. I think that my spouse is so psychologically conditioned by culture to be totally unable to ever use lethal violence. I reserve the option in self-defense and in defense of others. My spouse trusts that I am very slow to use violence which I despise and knows that I walk away in cases where mainstream society thinks I should fight. I respect that the Mennonite tradition of pacifism that came out of the hell of the 30 years war in which a 1/3 of Germany's population died, primarily non-combatants. It seems to me that the historical Mennonite community, in the face of such total war, decided to enforce a total ban on any violence, even in self-defense, and that the price of allowing any male violence (even self-defense) entailed so much collateral damage, caused too much intra-communal violence (spousal and child abuse) that it was not worth it. Also they realistically knew one could never produce soldiers that would not kill or abuse noncombatants. These were people with a realistic view of war as they had survived the Congo of their day. They do work very hard at the psychological conditioning to produce a very different type of person than the "English" mainstream. Children who cannot accept it, must leave the community and do. Me, I have done some part-time human rights work which always seems to lead to the problem of violence, primarily male, so I can respect their decision, even if I can't make it myself. I appreciate that there is a very slippery slope for an individual or a culture that says that violence or killing is legitimate in "this case". It's hard to stop the creep. I have known some violent men (sex offenders, killers, bent sadistic cops into torture, women and child beaters) and women (child abusers) and they will all assure you that they are not an abuser and that their victim made them do it so their violence was legitimate.
I personally am a pagan. The Mennonite community finds trusted outsiders such as myself useful in dealing with English authorities: cops, lawyers, doctors, so I can play a useful role.

Do you live the Mennonite way of life?

A mennonite would say no (come on, I'm typing on a laptop right now :^)). The English would say somewhat. Seriously, there are many anabaptist sects, all with different ideas about how life should be lived. Some old colony who farm without electricity and no modern cons, some more like us. Neither of us attends religious services regularly, so a mennonite would say we don't. As I said , I'm a pagan and squirm alot when hauled into church, too much himmel, and not enough erde.

Maybe. Maybe not.

The Amish may be growing there population in order to achieve critical sustainability. If you consider the energy required to sustain each Amish as opposed to the energy required for each multifathered underclass child of the 'burbs, then you can see that the Amsih may in fact have an advantage. They are likely to have cultural strength and resilience which the underclass do not. If and when they decide to exercise that strength by say colonising a small town or city which is socially fractured, sheer numbers will prevail.

The Amish have moved into large parts of this area.

They were once respected and not paid too much attention to.

Of late they seem to garner negative feelings. First if they have a business they tend to treat 'outsiders' with a certain amount of disrespect. They have also lately been found to be cheating folks somewhat.

Also they go to auctions and whatever they bid and obtain NEVER NEVER will be seen again. They NEVER let anything go.

So they got most of my blacksmithing gear. Will anyone ever profit from this except themselves? No. They are very insular.

I have dealt with some. They demand , demand yet give nothing back.

Recently they built a guy near here a open bay pole barn. Ike took it down. Others built by owners were untouched. I had asked them when building it just what type of treated lumber they were using..I drew blank stares. I pointed out that only certain types of fasteners should be used on treated lumber...say CCQ or MCQ.....again more blank stares and rubbing of beards.

The shed is now on the ground. A very big shed it was too. Huge.
They may understand some carpentry. They don't understand modern fasteners, not in their book.


I thought that the Amish refused to use electricity, no less complex modern chemicals that only a chemistry buff or structural engineer would know much about. Had they stuck to their traditional methods and overbuilt by a large safety factor, that shed would probably still be standing. My guess is that they were more interested in the bottom line (like many humans).

PS: I've used contra-indicated materials before (aluminum on CCA on a non-critical structure - I generally use what I have on hand instead of buying new), and the results over the years have been mild corrosion of the aluminum and staining, but the wooden parts will rot and fail far before the aluminum is corroded through. Those Amish probably did something else wrong than just use fasteners of the wrong material (like using excessively small fasteners, incorrectly placing them, having too few of them, not tightening them correctly, etc).

I have been rebuilding a friends deck. Made of CCA(old treatment and no longer available)..and the builder used drywall screws. And some cement coated sinkers(nails).

In all case trying to remove the screws resulted in them broken off inside the lumber.Most were totally rusted away. The deck was just barely hanging together.

Today you can not get CCA.Then along came CCQ..which was even more deadly to fasteners. In fact a whole bunch of people were injured when a deck collapsed here in KY some time back. CCQ must have hot dipped galvanized fasteners.

Now we have MCQ.which is a little better than CCQ. But still it calls for the same fasteners.

Next to a friends store in my home town is some playground stuff the Amish put there for display. I checked it out. Not a single galvanized fastener. And this is for children to play on??????

Come on.

Well, anything outdoors should be galvanized (or stainless), regardless of what you're fastening.

I guess their ignorance is just too much for me to fathom.

Freud's answer.
The essentials to happiness in life are:
1) Something to do.
2) Someone to love.
3) Something to hope for.

In my opinion, what all humans aim for is happiness,

I have examined that issue for myself, and concluded that fulfillment is my highest goal, not happiness. I see happiness as more of an unintended byproduct.

Best Hopes for Fulfillment and Happiness,


Funny. I have been posting about 'reality' for some time. But just last night and today I made two comments about the 'truth'. And labeled some of them 'Signs of the Times'. One just a minute ago.

Then I clicked back to the tab holding the homesite and reloaded the browser. What did I see but a key post labeled:
Truth or Consequences!

Yes the truth beyond all measure. If we lie, as they do about the peak of oil,,then what can one or anyone do? I mean if falsehoods are the realm of our leaders and business people and even the ordinary man in the street then what help is there for us EVER?

So far on TOD its been , doomers vs cornucopians pretty much.
Both sides lightly shade the truth but right here on TOD,I mean right here and now some truths are becoming very very self-evident.

To those that deny the future and have in the past? I say to you

Look around,its here now. What are YOU going to do? A question I asked way way back and that kicked off a site named WTDWTSHTF...its dying but TOD is living.

What is the purpose of this site? What is the meaning of life?
Big questions. The site is what the members make it mostly.

Life? Do some good.Have moments of joie d vie. Be honest and take your blows. Seek the inner man and the spirit. Raise your children well. Don't let society steal them from you. Treat the earth with respect and the lower lifeforms on it if you possibly can. Do not harm the innocent. Hope for the afterlife. Live like it counts. Seek nature and her beauty. Revel in it. Do good work. Sounds like Lake Weboegon doesn't it? I like Keillor.
And lastly try to marry well and be faithful.Don't above all lie to your children. They are the future.

The last I just had to throw in. I apparently failed there(the marry part). Truth.

Airdale-thanks for TOD. They are going where others fear to tread.

Good post. I hope that negative mark plays as a compliment of some kind. Got under someone's skin..


'Always tell the truth. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.' Mark Twain

How to proceed is not a matter of deciding whether to be honest or deceitful. When Europeans first came to America, they honestly believed that genocide of Native Americans was moral, and they honestly believed that their European culture would improve America.

Just as today, almost everyone believes that "progress" is forever because we "have the knowledge" to solve any problem. These people are not deceitful; they are merely hopeful.

Hundreds of times, I've shown evidence that "progress" is failing and never worked anyway. Many people understand, and a few even agree. But they do not work this idea into their worldview, and that does not necessarily make them deceitful people.

A worldview is like a suit of clothing. It is worn because it suits the weather or the fashion. Nobody cares if it is "false." When the clothing no longer suits the weather or fashion, it will come off and be replaced.

I've mentioned this before and I'll mention this again. TOD is a highly diverse group of individuals with significant understanding on a wide ariety of topics. In my mind, the TOD does a stellar job sounding the alarm, but is almost negligent on not harnessing the creative problem solving potential amongst its readers to at least try and mitigate this problem. Regretfully, it is probably becasue TPTB don't have a sufficient grounding in the creative process to understand what needs to be done to really start investigating potential ideas. It just seems that they would prefer to take a seat at the highest elevation of the titanic and be the town crier and call out the remaining time until the whole thing is underwater. Just my $0.02 worth.

TPTB in the world or TPTB at TOD, Lothereu? If the latter, I understand enough about the creative process that it is much easier done under anonymity, which I do not have...(at least not here)

Not just that, but I think it's more the point that just getting a handle on things has been our main goal throughout all of this instead of focusing on creative solutions--simply because those creative solutions, thus far, have had to come from mainly the individual level. With changes that are coming, there will be opportunities for changes at higher aggregates, and we can also affect those debates as well, which is why we are embarking on the IEA journey, etc.

The problems are, as Jason pointed out above, macrocultural. Culture is very slow to change, it is embedded in all of us, right there along with Nate's cognitive biases and elephant penis comparisons. It is very difficult to realign peoples' interests so that they flow with the river of courage and truth, especially since most of the time, people build dams to harness that river for their own benefit as opposed to being a part of its greater flow.

If you buy what Einstein/Feynman says about solving problems--that they cannot be solved at the same level or in the same manner as they were constructed...where is there to go? There ain't much higher than macrocultural. So, you go down to the level of the individual. Individuals need knowledge and perspective to make decisions, which is what we do...but the results are still individual efforts at changing macroculture, which is already slow to change. They add up, and they can reach a crucial mass over time; but as you wait, your patience is definitely tried and your nerves are fraid, hoping that society writ large can make enough inroads to the problem to stem off the worst of scenarios.

Long story short: there are solutions, the solutions are inside every person that reads this site. If we can inspire one person today to take action or to change their perspective, then we have made progress.

Just to be clear, (I think) PG meant Nate's "discussions" on cognitive biases and elephant penises, (as opposed to Nates possession of either....though I do admit to some cognitive biases...;-)

Very well put Professor. Very well.

As each individual makes his own choices its hoped that he can influence some around him such that they form a small group. That small group influences more and so it grows to a small community or networked group that live near each other.

Such as this is it will work in farm country. I hope. But until it does each has to go their own way and must.

Creating websites devoted to 'howtos' and survivalism is not working AFAICS..they tend to die for lack of participation ,due possibly to not enough folks being worried as yet or just not able to reach critical mass. A few come but thats all. Or perhaps I am missing a net revolution and just not seeing it.

Can city dwellers or suburbanites make it? Do they work together?
Can they? They don't have the right culture IMO. They don't really know each other or have kinship or gone to school together. They have moved around too much.

Well stuff to think about but its going to maybe work itself out no matter what politicians or those in control wish. And perhaps it has to be at the very lowest of the grassroots level.

I have read of plenty here who are taking the right approach. I learn from them. I keep an eye on whats happening here and the news relayed.

Good work,


In the Twitter universe I have started to get connected to a few of the country's social media gurus and progenitors. In this universe, even from social media Venture Capitalists, I have seen two common views about social media. 1. That social media is a navel gazing activity and culture that is skipping happily along, concerning itself with frivolous ideas that have little connection to our most serious problems. 2. That social media platforms, alternately, could probably be leveraged to address our most serious problems. The layering, dispersion, collecting, and networking aspects of social media harness and spread ideas in interesting ways, and could be used to collect ideas, and hone them.

One wonders that a second TOD which leverages these new platforms could run concurrently with the original TOD. Original TOD is still bound to the linear threading, of messages. That will likely always have some advantages. But the hub and spoke or decentralized platforms in social media are intriguing. (I did not find them intriguing until I started using them). Now I like to see ideas spread across different groups of people. On Twitter last week, for example, I watched ideas regarding conversion of auto manufacturing capacity into rail and train manufacturing capacity spread across the plain. I may have started the discussion several days prior. Or, maybe I didn't.

What's clear is that there is a welling up of ideas. The culture senses that it faces an economic black hole on one hand, and yet, is ready to get out of jail from the last 8 years. There is clearly an urge among idea makers also, to find discussion platforms to gather all the ideas. I see as an early attempt to respond to this urge.

So, one of the most central questions I have now is: how shall we organize and collect all the ideas? I think team Obama is perhaps asking the same question. At least we know that the community organizing model is one that Obama kept, in his campaign. He has just taught this model to a whole bunch of people, over the past 2+ years. In general, I see that top-down, linear models of organization are being questioned.


I completely agree with your point about social media, Gregor. While I tend to think of TOD as a non-linear, non-traditional, and network-based site, it does not have the nimbleness of real-time social networking and interaction, though we've tried to harness it a bit, we definitely have not fully taken advantage of it.

(The problem is, I think, that it requires even more time that we spend here on TOD to make those kinds of gains...unless we were to have someone dedicated to that cause--like Rick Sanchez's producer on CNN, who is profligate in his use of the Twitter.)

Still, and this edifies a point I made above, the internetworking of individual perspectives, whether it is here at TOD or on Twitter or whereever, still starts at the individual level. If those individuals are not informed and activated, then little progress will be made.

This site is nothing without its readers, its participants, and its contributors, all working as a whole. TOD is one big brain, as is twitter, as is any functioning social network.

As long as we keep seeking truth, even in a post-modern era with its alleged many versions, we can still move toward consensus. We all worry, of course, that this movement may be too slow.

However, it is what it is. We can only do what we can.


I agree with most of the stuff you write and the way you think about things.

However, I believe we are in a period of flux and major change in society, and it's going to be very interesting. I think the potential for rapid and deep change is going to increase enormously. Time is going to appear to speed up. Ideas that once seemed fanciful, like 'nationalising' the banks, and 'socialism' in the United States, questioning central tennets of 'the free market' are going to push themselves centre stage.

I hesitate to call it a 'revolutionary' period, but who knows? A few months ago when I talked to people about the problems facing capitalism; how unstable it really was, how wasteful, how corrupt, how short-sighted, how dangerous, how unfair; well people looked at me like I was a madman. Now, things have changed radically, as people see the world they knew and prospered in, a world that seemed so stable, powerful and so rich, being to crumble under their feet.

In 'revolutionary' periods, or perhaps I should use slightly different terminology; times of rapid and fundamental change, not only time appears to speed up, the way people think speeds up. We enter a realm of increased velocity within our culture. The old ways begin to lose their grip, things begin to flow and their is potential for very rapid change, there are suddenly opportunities we only dreamed of, and chances abound, change is literally afoot. New ways of living and interacting with other people become possible.

I think old-style capitalism is dead in the USA and the UK.

This is a pretty big claim on my part, what do I mean? This is absurd surely? Am I a prophet of doom? In a way I am. I don't believe old-style capitalism will survive the current crisis, and what will replace it will look very different. It won't be mass-consumer capitalism with a hugely inflated 'market-place' towering over everything. I think the market-place is going to shrink substantially, wiping out large sectors of the economy and millions of jobs in the process.

During the last few months we've witnessed big changes, massive state intervention in the economy to stop the collapse of the world's financial system and the stock market, followed by a slump comparable to the Great Depression, or worse, a permanent depression. This sounds inflamatory, hysterical, ridiculous, mad. Yet, in reality we were very close to financial disaster only weeks ago, but it didn't happen by a hair's breadth. Or did we really just delay the inevitable? Did we choose to save the banks, by sacrificing the real economy over the longer term? Perhaps it would have been better to let the banks fail and start again somehow?

The United States is far weaker economically than it was during the Great Depression in number of vital fields; back then it was the richest country in the world, had the biggest and most effective industrial base on the planet, arguably the finest schools, cheap and lavishly abundant energy supplies just waiting to be exploited, it wasn't involved in enormously costly and unwinable wars, the national debt was tiny, it was the world's largest creditor nation, in reality all that was required was reasonably competent leadership, a new strategy and some confidence, in many respects the real enemy was fear itself.

Today, unfortunately, things are very different. All the incredible advantages named above have been reversed. It's highly debatable whether even competent leadership is enough anymore, one would like to think so, but I have my doubts. Things may have simply gone too far in the wrong direction and now they will have to take their course, like a force of nature restoring a chronic imbalance.

I think the chances of a new, Great Depression are probably 60/40 and getting worse all the time. I don't relish this thought as I personally have done very well out of the old system.

But perhaps the only good thing about such an awful scenario, another Great Depression, is that people will be forced by circumstances, whether they like in or not, to wake up and think, look around them, and think. At least that's what I hope will happen. We cannot escape the 'revolutionary' rapid change that is coming, what we can do, have to do, have no real choice about, is using this time of change positively to move in a new direction that offers real hope for the future.

We might of course fail, success is not garanteed, and it won't be easy, we are up against powerful odds and an entrenched ruling elite, almost an aristocracy, who live in a global, virtual Versailles, luxurious, decandent and isolated from the rest of us, yet still in control. If we don't find a way to challenge their rule, we will fail to change the rules of the game, and a new society will emerge. Probaly 'fuedal' in character, a kind of corporate state, the state merged with what's left of the market/capitalism, a new form of Facism, military capitalism, it's difficult to say exactly, but something along those lines. So the stakes are very high for all of us and the planet. Like I mentioned at the beginning, the future is going to be interesting.

I think the chances of a new, Great Depression are probably 60/40 and getting worse all the time.

Only 60%? I put it at 100%. It's just a matter of time and not too long from now, either:

World Crude OIl and GDP

I tend to agree about the lost advantages and resources that makes the US that much more vulnerable today, but all the more, it makes me look to what we DO have left in the quiver. I think there are some real assets that we not only have the opportunity to appreciate, but also the obligation.

Culturally, I think there is still a sleeping giant in this country.. a rumplestiltskin, if you will. We've had our bouts of slovenly decadence (Gatsby?).. and subsequent resurrections, and I think there is a robustness in the ethnic and regional flavors that still has considerable potential for any range of new combinations, once the catalysts of change have once again roused the dormant components.

Population excess might become a die-Down in a really bad scenario, but not an extinction, which would of course do a lot to compensate for resource demands, but would not have to erase all our technical knowledge, our cultural habits (good and bad), and our political ideas. It doesn't mean a guarantee of retaining Democracy, but there's been enough of an experience with it in several shapes now, that many of it's precepts are solidly built into the language. It will be forever challenged, but it has grown roots in all sorts of places, too.


Wall St is so obsessed with growth that a drop in retail spending of only 1 or 2% has stock prices dropping 40%.. Wall St is all about only two emotions greed and fear. A sense of fairness or humility are no where to be found. Going back to levels of economic activity that were considered good times just a few years ago is a cause for doom and gloom. There are those on one side saying we are sliding into socialism, as if the people of Scandinavia are starving in cold dark shacks, or racing into fascism. Each side uses the same evidence to prove their argument. Maybe it is about time that out of work bankers and bankers should stand in line at the welfare office and get a sense that sometimes poverty isn't because of some moral failing of the poor.

This site is nothing without its readers, its participants, and its contributors, all working as a whole. TOD is one big brain, as is twitter, as is any functioning social network.

And the strengths and weaknesses of these two networks are different. TOD's strength is more in the enforcement of reasonable analytic thinking skills, and the application of real world data. I'm not familar with twitter, but clearly sites like U-tube can quickly spread ideas throughout the non-analytic portion of the population. The key there is to get your ideas absorbed by one or more people who are skilled at artistic representation, or good old fashioned PR type activity. Once you've done that, they can carry the ball by themselves. Its really just a division of labour, with different groups possesing different core competencies.

Doing what we can, must approximate doing what we could, when less motoring energy was needed. As stated by Jim Kunstler & Richard Heinberg, the railway mode is the key element.

Electrified roads sounds like a smooth transistion, but ignores call on rare-earth materials as well as carbon fuels for replacing 100's of millions of cars & trucks. So it's back to the rail mode, looking on the map, like the matrix of pre-WWII.

The 44th President has a circle around him to assess and summarize and brief him. We can only hope he has, maybe in Rahm Emanuel, someone who reads Richard Heinberg, Swan's "ELECTRIC WATER", and remembers that GM used to be good at building electric locomotives and buses.

To the president: your election support has key people in all 48 states; you have the juice to suggest they obtain the US Rail Map Atlas Volumes for their respective regions (from and begin process of alerting the 3000+ county planning bureaus where the rails and local victual warehouses once stood.

There is boilerplate at ( articles 374 & 1037; the author can be found in the Sacramento phone directory.

Electrified roads sounds like a smooth transistion, but ignores call on rare-earth materials

You only need those for permanent magnet motors.  Neither brushed DC nor induction motors need REE's; they're just laminated transformer steel and conductors.

as well as carbon fuels for replacing 100's of millions of cars & trucks.

Absent a massive crash, it's going to happen regardless.  Even at today's radically reduced production rate, we'll make 200 million vehicles in under 17 years.  The only question is what kind of vehicles we build.  The faster we go PHEV/EV, the quicker oil stops being a factor.

So it's back to the rail mode, looking on the map, like the matrix of pre-WWII.

We can move massive amounts of everything to rail, including high-speed personnel transport.  Between rail freight and electric local delivery trucks, I'll bet that 2/3 of our diesel demand could be destroyed in 10 years with no loss of utility.  But it's not going to look like the past; history doesn't repeat itself, it just rhymes.

If you buy what Einstein/Feynman says about solving problems--that they cannot be solved at the same level or in the same manner as they were constructed...

It's a favourite quote among management consultants, but now you mention it, I don't buy it. There is no evidence Einstein ever said it, but I suspect his name (and Feynman) lend credibility to an otherwise unproven saying. "I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you" (Studs Terkel)

So irrespective of who said it, is this statement generally true, and what is the proof?

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. "
It's a useful line if you look at it openly.. this version here is from an Einstein quotes site, but I don't know if he said it or not. It fits nicely with the "Insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results" .. and where I tried to form my counterpoint.. "Intelligence is doing something differently and observing whether it works."

The point, for me, would be to look at just what the level or manner was that created a problem and understanding just why it didn't work. So in a sense, you do have to go back into that level of consciousness, only now you do it with the new light of experience that tells you one more turn to avoid.

Here's another related one .. I think these aren't axiomatic lines that require proof, they're just food for thought.

"The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. "


Hmm, now I am more convinced that it is just a hand-wavey New Age type of saying pinned on Einstein for credibility.

In this case, a sustainable society is not new thinking, it's very old thinking. I really don't see that it requires a higher "level of conciousness", whatever that is.

In the absence of any proof, I will assume that there is no reason for this saying to be true, apart from in a very trivial sense, that unforeseen problems occur which require new solutions.

The only saying worth knowing is "A witty saying proves nothing". Real insight is not found in sound-bites.

You won't find anything in it if you don't want to.. and it sounds like you don't want to.

The quote doesn't say it has to be a 'higher level', just not the same level of thinking.. he doesn't even say it has to be 'new', right? These are qualitative demands, I think, not necessarily quantitative.

It sounds like in looking for "proof", you are asking that these observations should offer you a hard and fast direction for how to get there. A blueprint. That isn't what thinking is about, that's about being led by previous thinking. Current thinking is trying to create the new blueprint, when the old one isn't filling the need any more. It requires using one's imagination ("Imagination is more important than Knowledge" -Einstein) to make novel combinations that stand a chance of working better than the failed plans you seek to replace.. but it also means you are delving into unknowns. The proof isn't there yet. You try it, see if it solves any, some or all the problems, and to keep your eyes open for where it missed the mark, how you might vary the approach. Each such step is a fine example of 'not using the same level of consciousness' as you used before.

'The same level of consciousness' might be described as falling too much in love with an idea or an approach. You have to be flexible enough to let go of and challenge treasured precepts (like a Self-regulating Marketplace..)

But ultimately, you can approach a problem or a soundbite with the intention of trying to understand it, or with the conviction that you don't like it and don't really want to understand it.. your call.

In my view we lost our last chance to counteract the current crisis two years before I was born - 1972. Back then the "Limits to Growth" report was released and was discussed and then subsequently ignored. 1972 we still were about 3 billion people. We didn't make the paradigm shift then and we sure as hell will not be making it now. We will continue to grow and metastasize like cancer until reality imposes it's limits on mankind.

This is incredibly sad because we could have set out to the stars and evolved into something greater. But now we are stuck on this planet and will probably eliminated when the sun turns into a supernova in 40 million to 4 billion years. End of story.

Basically it is all "Carpe Diem" now. Responsibly, of course.

The sun is much too small to turn into a supernova; eventually (a few billion years from now) it will turn into a red giant.

Thus there is one more worry to cross off your list--no need to worry about a supernova. What a relief!-)

I agree with you that it would have been much better and much easier to change course in 1972 than it will be now. Currently we must react to crises, because it is too late to be proactive.

In regard to setting out for the stars, humankind may still be able to do that--but not this century. This century will be one of first rising and then declining population as death rates increase. How the world looks at the end of the century will be very different from how it looks now. Indeed, I think children born in 2000 will see as much change in their lifetimes as children born in 1900 saw. The end of fossil fuels as a major source of energy provides many challenges--but also some opportunities.

Yes, I just read wikipedia to check and correct my text. But too late ;-)

But a red dwarf would probably be either fatal for earth :-(

"Even if Earth escapes incineration in the Sun, its water will be boiled away and most of its atmosphere would escape into space."

Personally, I'm not too worried about what happens a billion years from now.

I mean, how old is the earth? How old is mankind? How much time did it take for our species to evolve from its apelike four footed ancestor into the "homo erectus". These things happened a much much shorter time than a billion years. It is like a flash.

No one knows what the earth will be like in a billion years. And if people still exist, I doubt it would be fair to call them "humans".

Our predicament exists right now: how are we as species going to make it through the next couple of 100 years.

But in the greater scheme of things, I'm not too worried for life on earth a billion years from now. Compared to a billion years, biological evolution of species is blindingly fast. Even if we fuck up big time and drive into extinction all but a single species of bacteria, a few million years should suffice for these bacteria to evolve into higher life forms and pretty much fill up every biological niche on the planet with fresh new species. And maybe one of those species will be smarter than us and "get to the stars". A billion years leaves plenty of time, to try several hundreds of times to start over and reevolve a whole new ecosphere almost from scratch).

Absent some major geoengineering (like space sunshades or moving the orbit outward), Earth will become uninhabitable in about 500 million years.  Old Sol is brightening slowly as the core accumulates helium and it becomes denser and hotter, and eventually the greenhouse effect of Earth's atmosphere will drive it into Venus-like conditions.

You're also quite mistaken about how long it would take to evolve higher life again.  Life on Earth was bacterial for perhaps 3 billion years before it went multi-cellular and eukaryotes evolved.  Everything we have and everything we are is built on a number of genetic inventions, like HOX genes, which took a very long time to arise.  If that was lost, there would be no guarantee that it would ever recur in the time Earth can continue to support life.

But that's almost certainly not what we're faced with.  Our future is becoming one of less fossil fuel and more renewables and nuclear.  Fortuitously, one of the few easy ways to get to orbit is with nuclear rockets; after a short boost out of the atmosphere with e.g. liquid methane and oxygen, fission-heated hydrogen would take us to LEO and beyond much more cheaply than even the old Russian Proton.

A resurgence of nuclear might also presage a revival of space technology in the USA.

I remember when JFK came to the site where I was working in electronics and rocket guidance systems. He was interested in taking us to the moon.

What a happy time that was. To believe that we could actually do it.
Friends of mine worked 'down range' tracking the spacecraft and in other areas of the venture.We all thought that nothing could stop us now.

The dreams died. We declined and something in us died as a result.

I remember with awe those days. Those days when we reached for the stars. My old spacecraft/rocket sits alone on a deserted pad somewhere in Florida, rotting away. I visited it once but now I think its gone perhaps.

Later my company provided guidance systems for a segment of the spacecraft(Mercury,Gemini). I was out of that part but my field office supplied programmers and engineers that worked on those systems not very far from where I lived at that time and at McDonnell where I used to once work after high school(Class of 57) wiring avionics for fighter aircraft.

I never thought something like this we now have before us could ever happen.


I wonder if that decline is not, in part, related to the US domestic oil peak that happened in the '70s. It isn't so much that we ran out of fuel for the Saturn V, nor that we no longer schooled engineers because they couldn't drive to class.

It's more subtle than that; we outsourced our industries, because cheaper fuel was available overseas somewhere. And, since 1985 or so, why would you major in engineering? Nobody was hiring engineers any more anyway. There was better money to be made selling each other insurance or real estate. The best place to drill was Wall Street. It wasn't entirely the fault of greedy unions or stupid management, it's just that the US very gradually became less competitive. And the general mood gradually became pessimistic.

The preliminary aura of catabolic collapse.

The "Doomers" have always been wrong (as evidenced by the fact that we're still here.)

The Cornucopians have always been wrong (everything is, certainly, far from perfect.)

I think most people fall in the "Realist" Camp. They know from observing human nature, and studying a bit of history that serious shitstorms will arise, and there will be "Great Times," as well.

Myself? I've seen enough incredible Scientific advancement in my lifetime, as brief as it's been, to imagine that we might just be able to muddle our way through.

"The "Doomers" have always been wrong (as evidenced by the fact that we're still here.)"

Actually, there are some peakers who were among us a few years ago who are no longer here.

As collapse sweeps across society, most people who are disabled by the collapse lose the ability to speak up about their situation.

Carpe diem has always been the watchword - life simply exists, and living creatures strive to continue living and to propagate. "Purpose" is a story we tell ourselves to superimpose an order on the chaos, but there's no ground under our feet, and there never was. Get over it.

My personal decision has been to accumulate (hoarde?) what I need to remain comfortable for awhile, namely water, food, shelter, heat, and physical security, in that order. What follows is a status report that includes my current thinking. I hope some here find it useful, if only to compare to your own preparations.

I’m not optimistic about our ability to “pull together” in hard times or some such nonsense when our cultural teachings revolve around rugged individualism and never admitting defeat. You might even say that my skepticism and distaste for the local groups like Portland Peak Oil is a reflection of that very sin - The rejection of community, no matter how imperfect, will ultimately prove fatal to Americana. But that doesn’t mean that I’m paralyzed into inaction.

My partner and I took a deep breath and made the big step a year ago, leaving our professional Silicon Valley jobs for the outskirts of Portland. Now we own a junior acre a mile from the MAX train line, with our own well in a wonderfully secure neighborhood. This year focussed on construction projects that I’m not going to describe in detail, and next Spring will see new life brought to our gardens - She gets chickens, I get beehives.

In the meantime, we’re hedging bets in every possible direction - including the off chance that the equity markets will recover! It’s painful but prudent to watch some bets go South, if for no other reason than to remind me of the cost of hubris and simple human fallibility.

If anyone would like to bet that the NYSE is going to continue functioning for awhile, I recommend SRS and FXP as good buys - leveraged inverse ETF’s that trade intraday like stocks but go up when their target indexes go down - that’s commercial real estate for SRS, and the FTSE/Xinhua exchanges for FXP. After all, it does appear that for the next few years at least, I’m going to have to come up with regular old cash to pay my property tax and gas bill.

But I can see that the prices of physical assets are becoming decoupled from their paper proxies, and nowhere is that clearer than in gold and silver Eagles. Because of the specific advice given by Mike Ruppert (and backed up by my professional financial advisor), I bought those coin reserves years ago, when gold and silver were cheap and readily available. Then I moved on to firearms and ammunition. I’m a pacifist and a vegan, but I also believe in self defense, and well-maintained firearms never decrease in value. Still, I wouldn’t recommend buying guns to anybody unless they had a pile of cash that needed diversifying.

I like 22LR ammo because it’s rugged and pocket-proof, universally useful, and most importantly, it can’t be reloaded. Kept cool and dry, it will outlast our children's golden years. But you can’t eat ammo, and the neighborhood squirrels won’t survive our first hungry Winter, so I’m also buying plenty of food in conventional forms.

The containers are as important as the food, and are often more expensive than the food they contain. I just invested in a secure “container” facility to keep a large amount of conventional stores cool and dark and dry. I’m not camping, and this isn’t a “bug-out bag,” so the cost and general nastiness of freeze-dried food just ain’t worth it. In fact, I can foresee a time several years from now when a can of tuna will be a standard barter unit, just like a round of .22 ammo. And it also pays to look around your Sam’s Club for the things that you and everybody else likes which come from far away, like chocolate, coffee, sugar, batteries....

Ah, batteries. Is it better to go with lots of cheaper NiMH cells of a single size, and standardize your applications, or should one diversify into super-expensive, long-life lithium batteries of many sizes? You know, I decided on AA, and that’s that. No more CR123’s, no 9V, and the only D cells I’m still stuck with are those in my electric-assist bicycle. I use, and buy their cheap but effective Tenergy AA’s by the hundreds. Of course their self-discharge rate is a little higher than Eneloops, but they cost less than half as much! Just remember to keep your NiMH’s charged, topping them off every couple of months, whether you use them or not.

I expect that power will become intermittent (a la Baghdad or Karachi) long before the lights go out permanently, so I have backup power that can hold out for a couple weeks at most. I also have a small solar array that will charge my laptop or 20 AA cells at a time, but for much of the year sunny days are rare here in Cascadia. That’s why I’d like to find a manual generator to interface with a bike, just for battery charging. There’s one electric bike that’s already set up to do it: The Bionx uses regenerative braking like a Prius, but alas, it’s made in Quebec and so is ridiculously overpriced. ;-) So I plan on using low-drain AA devices, like LED headlamps as an excellent example, and having plenty of extras for replacements or trading.

I’m also buying vitamins, more than I could possibly need, because the children of tomorrow will really benefit from a simple daily pill to supplement their plain and sparse diets. I can imagine a time when the people on my block gather to fill their water jugs at my well, each pedaling to pump their own, while the kids line up for free vitamins, courtesy of the resident cranky old coot.

Here’s another wild flyer of an idea: After our first try at a homemade cold frame turned out so well, we ended up buying a few thousand square feet of greenhouse film. It may only last four years in direct sunlight, but it will wait for decades in storage until we need it. This climate allows us to grow greens for much of the year, as long as we protect them from the night frosts.

And how about music? When the DVD’s aren’t spinning and the house is lit only by the fire, we can pierce the loneliness by sharing the old songs we knew from our youth. I play hand drums too, which are a great way to draw people in, get them charged up and moving, and give up their inhibitions to the tribal rhythms.

I’m sure there are other small but important things that I’ve forgotten to mention, things that are cheap and store well, like salt, toothbrushes, peppercorns, band-aids, Tagamet, lighters, mustard, needles and thread. We’ve deliberately decided against storing booze and cigs, although they may be worth their weight in gold to the desperate. That alone is reason enough to not keep them, if home invasion becomes a threat here the way it has in South Africa.

So here’s how I might imagine the future of currency: twenty .22 rounds for a NiMH AA; four AA’s for a can of solid white tuna; fifteen cans of tuna for a silver Eagle; and forty silver Eagles for a gold Eagle. I think that works out to 20X4X15X40= 48,000 rounds of .22 for a gold Eagle. At today’s prices of nearly a thousand bucks for an Eagle, that’s two cents per .22 round - sounds about right.

I think you're, seriously, underestimating the value of .22 shells in a future such as the one you're supposing.

In a hundred years? Yes, .22's will be priceless. In ten years? Probably not so scarce. For the remainder of my life? Who knows how long until the squirrel population recovers, versus how long I'll be needing cash to pay property taxes.

Say, I'll mention this generally since it occurs to me: reasonably often I wish to privately follow up with some aspect of something a poster says, but relatively few people have a contact email in their profile. That's one simple step which might be useful in making some kinds of connections.

Nelsone, along those lines, could you drop me a note at the email you get by clicking on my user name? Nothing important, just minor cross-fertilization.

I'm very much enjoying this keypost, but will wait to post my own thoughts. Keep it coming, gang.

I agree that population is one of the drivers, but I expect that will get fixed in the next few years. I don't buy the Olduvai theory, except as it relates to oil and the population, which is most of it. But oil was never going to get us to the stars. What will get us to the stars is still out there and will be long after lack of oil and coal has reduced populations to preindustrial levels.

We invariably take a high energy substance and confining and channeling its power. We do this when we harness a horse to a cart. We do this when we contain exploding gasoline vapor in a piston chamber. And we do this when we yoke an entire nation under taxes and nationalism, and a way of life that we can' escape.

That longing for the stars must be kindred to the feelings that the pilgrims and then later the pioneers felt as they set out to establish a "better" life.

This is incredibly sad because we could have set out to the stars and evolved into something greater.

Well, may I ask you what "greater" that is you are talking about?
I actually like my mediocrity quite a lot, and to be honest I think the desire for greatness is one of our core problems, and an old one, too.
Just think of the time when that invisible person was made up, who presumably crafted all beings, and, what a funny coincidence, he created our species after his own image. And even better, he granted us control over the whole world!
Sounds pretty laughable doesn’t it? To say you are the image of a self-invented god is just as ridiculuos as people claiming they are Jesus Christ.

Though obviously this kind of thinking is convenient enough to be believed even by those who don‘t give a damn about god or religion.
And it is barely if ever questioned by anyone. The notion that the life or simple well-being of a single homo sapiens is worth more than the life of an unmeasured number of animals or plants is so deeply engraved in our system and ourselves that it is literally unthinkable for most people to ponder if it is justified.
I guess the thought that a life is a life, and is worth the same, no matter who or what lives it, is too horrible to comprehend. Or the consequences, that is.

I really find the desire of so many to be something special foolish at best. Why do people always want to have more, live more, yes, even be more. Isn’t it just fine to be a nobody and have-not, living in misery and dying early?
No, life in poverty is certainly not easy, though to ease your own calamity by increasing the distress of others, be they born or not yet, sounds even more horrible to me than enduring your own hardship.
To finance an orgy by causing misery, well, where are the ethics in that. You might expect such a behaviour from a sociopath, but looking at our species you almost inevitably come to the conclusion that sociopathy is not the exception, but the norm and that this world is one hell of an asylum.

Indeed, to accept that you are just one idiot of many in an overcrowded madhouse is relieving in several ways. Just take a step back and look at the stupidity of common human behaviour. If the consequences weren’t so dire this would be the best comedy ever.

We didn't make the paradigm shift then and we sure as hell will not be making it now.

If the alternative was humanity spreading into space, the upcoming scenario might be even the preferable. Just imagine future wars with Star Trek-equipment! Whole worlds obliterated in the blink of an eye, millions of dead, where thousands are counted now.
What an irony; the ultimate dystopic vision might be the one many people are wishing for.

A spider doesn't really give a damn about the well being of the fly caught in the web.

Maybe this is true, I don't know (nor do you or anyone else, as none of us actually is a spider and therefore could give us a first hand account), though true it is that I've never heard of a spider that killed a thousand flies just to decorate its net with lots of useless shiny stuff.


And even if the spider doesn't care about the fly, is this excuse enough to say that we don't have to either? If someone somewhere values his profit more than anothers life, is it ok then, if I do likewise?
Sorry, but this sounds like a cheap excuse to me.

You completely misunderstood me here: I just want life itself and maybe intelligence (if we have any) to survive and continue beyond the red dwarf event. And as evolution hopefully progresses, so will we (best case scenario). We don't know what will develop from our species. Right now we are nothing but intermediate (naked) apes that can drive cars and launch ICBMs. We HAVE to evolve from this stage.

And: We are part of the ecosystem and we are nothing without it. That's understood. No discussion about it. So we need to take parts of it with us.

There is a common misconception that evolution is a kind of advancement. It is not. Evolution is aggregate change in a species, as individuals with certain traits tend to leave more offspring behind.

These changes can, for example, make people short, hairy and stupid, if that's what leaves more offspring.

This idea that we've evolved "this far" and now need to visit "the next stage" is simply nonsense. There are no stages.

Both we and the bacterium have been on the same planet for the same billions of years. At some point, we were all bacteria. Now us humans are better adapted for living like people, and the bacteria are better adapted for living like bacteria.

Well, I guess you misunderstood me, though it is likely my own fault. Overall I just used your post to do some public musing.

But to address a few points in your post above:
I know the desire you are speaking off, the wish that something of us, or more generally the life on this planet, will survive even beyond ultimo, though it surely is no more than a dream of keeping the status quo, which is non-existent anyway.
The time span you are talking about is almost incomprehensible for a little being as ours. So many things will happen between now and then, and there'll be likely several incidents that would wipe out all mankind (which I don't expect to survive even the next thousand or hundred years, if we continue to seek our salvation in technology). Maybe another species like ours will evolve, make all the same mistakes we have made once again and finally share our and so many others fate.

In my eyes it is pretty pointless to see the finiteness of existence as a problem, which, I assume (and only an assumption it is) is the root of your concern. It just is that way, and it is good as it is. Things come, things go and new things come.
So do we, and with us go all our memories, our history, all we have created and valued so much. Everything man thinks of as important will be proven petty and negligible in the end, so I don't see any need to evolve, in one way or another, to a state where we can settle on other planets and take with us a whole lot of other invasive species.
We'd likely just do the same, as we have done here anyway; cause death and destruction and build an unsustainable society at the expense of the native flora and fauna.

I just want life itself and maybe intelligence (if we have any) to survive

I am quite certain that the universe is abound with life. If said life is intelligent, well, I doubt that the whole concept of intelligence itself is of any worth. So I don't care if it's "intelligent" or not.
I'm sure you meant Earth's life and intelligence here, but, well, see the first few paragraphs.

We HAVE to evolve from this stage.

Well, do we really HAVE to? :)
I guess I have the liberty not to, though, of course, I've seldomly heard evolution asking anyone if he wants to evolve.
If anything, I think we have to devolve. Back to the roots I say, I've heard there's a lot of beer there, which might make it easier for some people to follow me back to the monkey stage of existence.

And as evolution hopefully progresses, so will we (best case scenario).

(Yes, I am senselessly taking your post apart. Nevermind.)
I doubt that the evolution of life can ever keep up with the evolution of technology (though I've heard technological advancement is slowing), which means that our problems that come with that new technology evolve a lot faster than our adaption to behave not like a greedy and pretty aggressive chimp.
So, long before any major change in our behaviour happens that would prevent us from causing our own end, someone, out of sheer panic, will have used some doomsday device.
Well, maybe we could speed up evolution a little bit with some fancy technology (certainly an all-inclusive package with its own inconceivable problems), but I fear that the end result might look somehow like "Brave New World". And as far as I’m concerned I am already enough of a slave of myself, so I don't need others to enslave me even more within me.
Oh well, its Iceland for me then.

We are part of the ecosystem and we are nothing without it. That's understood. No discussion about it. So we need to take parts of it with us.

This remembers me of that guy from NASA in a documentary I’ve seen a long time ago, who was like "The sun is exploding in a few billion years! We have to get outta here!" (deliberate exaggeration), which made me smirk and think "Yes, ignore our immediate problems and put your time into finding a solution for one that is so far in our future that the world has changed completely several times by then."
So, that guy was going on to talk about terraforming Mars and I am still wondering how he wants to make plants from Earth grow in the dead soil of a completely different planet with a life threatening environment.
I see little chance of transforming a lifeless rock in outer space into a blossoming garden Eden. Not within a reasonable period of time. I guess there's a reason why nothing is growing there.
And if we'd invade an already thriving planet, well, to destroy the biosphere of one planet to recreate that of another ... I'm glad, I think it'll never happen.

We don't know what will develop from our species.

The answer is worm-shit!

That's a strange desire to me.

This intermediate ape has much more under the hood than just the Profanities you allude to. We have examples of humans being simply extraordinary, whether its subtlety of expression, physical achievement, generosity, curiousity, poetry or philosophy. It's fine to hope we can continue to find our higher selves.. but I think it's also here with us today.

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!
- Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2

Hamlet was just a figment of some guy a long time ago with really good press. Here's a notion of what is really important now.

"A California man smashed the world record for hot dog eating at a contest Saturday, gobbling up more than 59 franks in 12 minutes. ..." and to prove this is not just an idle statement.

See the croud. Now tell me again what you were saying about evolution.

Uh Huh. It's got me missing NY already.. big Hot Dog Contest town.. but also a place full of artists and other great folks.. a lot of people striving for excellence of all kinds.

Thankfully that example doesn't represent all of us today, or defy the idea that there have been knucklehead festivals all along, too. I'm sure you know people who have made you feel lucky to be alive at the right time to have met them.

The Buddha goes up to a hotdog vendor and says 'Make me one with everything.'

Nate - too tired tonight to tackle all you questions. What is the purpose of TOD? It provides multiple and varied levels of functionality to different individuals and groups - hence any answer would necessarily be long.

A quote I've been posting a lot recently:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

I just heard on the BBC news that two favored stimuli to our failing UK economy is to pay higher allowances to old folks to help then pay for winter fuel (that is basically UK tax payers money going straight into the atmosphere and coffers of the Norwegian Government) and to reduce taxation on motor vehicles.

So we still have a long way to go with respect to impacting policy decisions - though I know we are making inroads in the UK and Europe. I guess we need to re-double our efforts, and develop ways of working smarter.

.. while paying Seniors to install geothermal (and solar heating/insulation?) would go right into the building industry and back into the English monetary system.

Absolutely nothing is going to get done as long as those who control the peak oil megaphones continue to ignore and vilify business.

If you want to change the paradigm, you have to change the way profits are created. There are many, many ways to make decreased consumption and increased resiliency profitable. If you align these two you'll have the sustainability people and the money people working toward the same goal. But as long as they are at loggerheads, the money people will always win at the expense of sustainability -- and all the moral judgments against this situation in the world are useless, counterproductive even, because no matter what, billions of people around the world still need to pay their bills.

You all want to change everyone else's paradigm, I think you need to look in the mirror and realize your own paradigm is every bit as rigid as the one you want to get rid of. People don't tune into the peak oil "message" because the only vision it offers is a crappy life of forced austerity, or even worse, a crappy life of forced austerity in an eco-commune. No one is going to choose this of their own free will with the exception of a tiny sliver of aging, white hippies who are already rich enough to ensure they won't ever have to deal with real poverty.

If you present people with something resembling genuine opportunity you'll be able to gather enough critical mass of early adopters to catch the attention of those who deal with real money. And once that happens there will be enough money to permaculture entire cities, get passenger rail back online, retrofit single-use areas into multipurpose areas, install solar pumps to continue pumping water to peoples' homes, and everything else that needs to be done. And everybody will make enough of a living doing it that it won't just be an exercise in extreme self-sacrifice. When millions of small players can make money solving the millions of small (and large!) problems posed by peak oil, they will get solved en masse.

It would be far easier to make powerdown profitable than to suddenly convince everyone and his brother agree that prosperity is evil. But TOD and all the other big peak oil organizations/websites are so deeply entrenched in their own anti-business worldview that they are totally blind to the possibilities it offers. I guess there's some dopamine rush in viewing oneself as the lone voice of righteousness in the wilderness. But it isn't doing anything to transition our economy/society to a post-petroleum state, and it won't. I think peak oilers are more interested in being right than in actually doing anything useful, so that when billions of people die and the Earth lies in smoldering ruins they can look back and say "See? Told you so."

Ms Rabbit: Your response is both dead wrong and spot on. I have to go run an errand so will briefly attempt to comment:

Absolutely nothing is going to get done as long as those who control the peak oil megaphones continue to ignore and vilify business.

If you want to change the paradigm, you have to change the way profits are created. There are many, many ways to make decreased consumption and increased resiliency profitable. If you align these two you'll have the sustainability people and the money people working toward the same goal.

First, I know you to be a business person, so your view is logical from that perspective. But if we change the way that 'profits' are created we will still have people competing for profits: each 'profit' requires an input of resources - so we also need to change the way that 'profits' are defined. "Economics is the study of how people transform nature to meet their needs-Hungarian Anthropologist Karl Polyani

the money people will always win at the expense of sustainability

Totally right.

You all want to change everyone else's paradigm, I think you need to look in the mirror and realize your own paradigm is every bit as rigid as the one you want to get rid of.

I think you need to differentiate between the many voices in the peak oil community, and between writers, posters, and speakers at Peak Oil events - it is a disparate group. As author of this post, I don't think you know what 'my' paradigm is. I've never articulated it, other than conspicuous consumption is a dead end and doesn't make people happy. If my own writing is rigid, it is because what is possible is bounded by energy gain, and human drive for 'more'. Beyond that I am flexible as hell.

If you present people with something resembling genuine opportunity you'll be able to gather enough critical mass of early adopters to catch the attention of those who deal with real money.

I totally agreed until the last 2 words. What IS real money, after all?

It would be far easier to make powerdown profitable than to suddenly convince everyone and his brother agree that prosperity is evil. But TOD and all the other big peak oil organizations/websites are so deeply entrenched in their own anti-business worldview that they are totally blind to the possibilities it offers. I guess there's some dopamine rush in viewing oneself as the lone voice of righteousness in the wilderness. But it isn't doing anything to transition our economy/society to a post-petroleum state, and it won't. I think peak oilers are more interested in being right than in actually doing anything useful, so that when billions of people die and the Earth lies in smoldering ruins they can look back and say "See? Told you so."

We (at least at TOD) don't share a 'worldview'. There are 23 independent collaborators on this site and we agree and disagree on many things. I am probably most vocal on anti-business, because I see the enormous waste of resources from the 'dopamine rush' of billionaires who are just trying to get richer for no reason other than the 'er'. Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake is a great person but has gone from hugely rich to broke twice (first Austin Chalk, then this recent margin call -I suspect he will become a billionaire again based on running CHK). E.g. for most people reading this forum who already have basic needs covered, it's not about the ends its about the journey)

Regarding 'I told you so'. You are probably right about that - I wrote about same in the relative fitness part of 'Peak Oil - Believe it or Not' - Peak Oil gives some a reason to feel 'relatively' better off than they would in a business as usual scenario where they are outcompeted by those pursuing growth and profits. But that is a cognitive phenomenon that is entirely separate from the hard facts about resource depletion. I.e. whether or not that opinion is prevalent doesn't alter the challenges facing us.

I have dozens of friends who are very successful in business and they are each good people (otherwise they wouldn't be my friends....;-) To a person, they more or less understand what is happening but are not doing a thing to change, nor do they want to - the rate of change would be too great. But personally, I feel their talents at trading and exchanging things and taking something off the top (which is quite large given the nominal value of what is exchanged) could be put to FAR better use constructing better longer term physical infrastructure than how they spend their current days.

Regarding 'profits' - how do YOU propose to maintain (at least the illusion if not the reality) of profits for this and the next generation in the face of declining energy surplus? Without substantial energy gain there can be no 'profits for the masses'.

If you have a discrete solution please offer it.

Nate -- thanks for your comments. I am admittedly frustrated and this has certainly come thru in my post. My experience in the past 7 or so years that I've been working on peak oil and related issues is that even bringing up the idea that business has some role to play is either ignored or met with outright hostility. Still, you're quite right that I don't know other peoples' paradigms... it is perhaps more accurate to say "the paradigm most easily accessible to new peak oil converts via the internet and other media." FWIW, I did not intend my comment to be directed at you personally.

First, I know you to be a business person, so your view is logical from that perspective. But if we change the way that 'profits' are created we will still have people competing for profits: each 'profit' requires an input of resources - so we also need to change the way that 'profits' are defined.

Agree totally, and I would add that information resources can also be used far more extensively as inputs for generating profit than they are currently. Also, outputs do not have to be disposable to be profitable.

I think you need to differentiate between the many voices in the peak oil community, and between writers, posters, and speakers at Peak Oil events - it is a disparate group. As author of this post, I don't think you know what 'my' paradigm is. I've never articulated it, other than conspicuous consumption is a dead end and doesn't make people happy. If my own writing is rigid, it is because what is possible is bounded by energy gain, and human drive for 'more'. Beyond that I am flexible as hell.

What has been rigid, in my experience over the years now, is the various groups' I've been involved with, on both the west coast and east coasts, unwillingness to consider any "solution" or perspective beyond "money is bad and must be put to death." No discussion is even allowed. Even here at TOD when I've tried to comment on the matter I am ignored, met with hostility, and/or voted down into the negatives. Very frustrating.

What IS real money, after all?

In that particular instance, I was thinking of angels & VCs.

Regarding 'profits' - how do YOU propose to maintain (at least the illusion if not the reality) of profits for this and the next generation in the face of declining energy surplus? Without substantial energy gain there can be no 'profits for the masses'.

If you have a discrete solution please offer it.

I don't think of peak oil as being something that has a discrete solution, a point in time that divides "before" the solution and "after" its arrival. Transitioning to a post-petroleum economy is going to have to be a process, an evolution, a series of steps that move in the direction of sustainability. Adaptation and evolution is where business excels, and that's why I believe business has a substantial role to play in the process.

It is very true that profits require inputs, but there is no reason the outputs have to be disposable. I believe generating profit, in the sense of the word it is currently used, by creating non-disposable outputs is the first step in the process. This basically represents an investment with measurable ROI that can attract the investors needed to make it happen, but on the individual company scale, not the global paradigm scale.

For example, a permaculture landscape company could conceivably transform hundreds of suburban lawns in the course of a couple seasons. This would increase both the sustainability and quantity of the local food supply much faster than the grant-writing process currently used by food security nonprofits, as well as generate profit for the entrepreneur, provide tax revenue for the municipality, and provide possibly a dozen or more jobs. If you franchise that business, now you're increasing the resiliency of the local food supply in lots of cities and generating income for hundreds or thousands of people. Now if you take that company public, suddenly the monetary value of local resiliency is magnified by however-many-times earnings, and local resiliency becomes very attractive to investors who, once invested, now have a direct financial stake in permaculturing the nation's suburbs and cities. And if this permaculture company is profitable, it will surely draw competitors who want to cash in -- now you've got multiple companies competing to see who can create more permaculture than the next company. Imagine what a permaculture bubble now would mean for future generations.

Does this require inputs? Yes it sure does. But this represents a worthwhile investment of resources and capital, does it not? The growth paradigm that currently drives the raping of the natural environment is put to use rebuilding it, fast, because the business model aligns sustainability with short-term profits.

Does it solve every last peak oil problem? No it sure doesn't. But it doesn't have to, because once people catch on to the idea that they can make boatloads of money creating non-disposable outputs they will think of all kinds of ways to do it. To me this is the most critical thing -- shifting the economy away from burning through the Earth's natural resources. Redefining profits and the structure of money can come later, after this critical work is underway.

Anyway, that's just one example, but the larger concept of aligning short-term profits with sustainability needs serious consideration because it can move things forward very rapidly. Certainly much more rapidly than the way things are going now. I think all it requires right now are innovative business models... and openness to the idea of creating them, so we can at least get stabilized ecologically.

Hi RabbitMountain. You write:

People don't tune into the peak oil "message" because the only vision it offers is a crappy life of forced austerity, or even worse, a crappy life of forced austerity in an eco-commune. No one is going to choose this of their own free will with the exception of a tiny sliver of aging, white hippies who are already rich enough to ensure they won't ever have to deal with real poverty.

LOL -- but I think you're shooting the messenger because he bears bad tidings. What you say may perhaps apply to the 'sandals' end of the PO community, but certainly not to the 'suits' end.

Nobody in the 'suits' camp actually wants forced austerity -- they are simply saying that there may be no alternative, and that people will thus have to consider how to make austerity as tolerable as possible.

Aye, indeed. This is the role of the Cassandra...and as I said up above, I am fine with that. If folks can find a business model to fit the information we provide, and its concomitant new road to economic growth or even a steady state, I would welcome it.

My experience of the world is if I think about something for long enough I come up with an adequate solution to the problem.

Peak oil and it's consequences is not a simple subject - I realise something important and new (to me) about it almost every week.

What is important is that people realise there is a problem - then, if sensible information about the topic is available for people to learn for themselves maybe, just maybe, we will be able to find an acceptable way forward.

Clearly MSM and politicians aren't up to the task so, please TOD keep up the good work.

As well as the complex discussions please try and have some simple, short, posts for people who know nothing of the energy problems - most people have short attention spans and little time.

As you present it, there should be business opportunities in all this even if TOD people are not tuned into them. So are there none in the business community that can see these opportunities? This suggests making powerdown profitable is not particularly easy. Peak oilers are few, business people many. Why be angry with a few who actually admit there is a problem when if "billions of people die and the Earth lies in smoldering ruins" it will be these business people who were waiting to be presented with something attractive* who are currently determining in large measure the course we are on?

*"If you present people with something resembling genuine opportunity you'll be able to gather enough critical mass of early adopters to catch the attention of those who deal with real money."

This suggests making powerdown profitable is not particularly easy.

It is not possible in the current energy regime. To take an extreme example, a powerdown business doing permaculture landscaping with wheelbarrows and bicycle trailers would not be competitive. And if it uses the industry standard level of energy and inputs, then it is not a powerdown business. One needs an entire economic structure - which could be parallel to and embedded in the existing structure, but not on a pick-and-choose basis. That drops one into a world like the monastaries in the middle ages or perhaps the Amish today.

Permaculture enthusiasts cannot shop at Whole Foods. Virtue, as Don writes upthread.

cfm in Gray, ME

So, let me get this straight -- it counts as 'powerdown' if everybody drives or flies to a permaculture farm to take a permaculture design class, then flies or drives home, then makes multiple car trips to home depot or wherever to buy the plants and dirt and small animals they need, then drives home with their purchases, then rents rototillers and other tools necessary to permaculture their lawns, then drives them back, as well as purchasing all kinds of chinese-made and imported shovels and whatever that they will need... multiplied by millions of people. This counts as powerdown. But one business that saves all those people flying and driving around, as well as accomplishing a much more significant level of food supply relocalization in a shorter amount of time than if everyone does it individually, for less overall energy investment, this doesn't count? You gotta be kidding me.

I talk to businesses about peak oil and I don't think it's quite so simple.

Getting enough of business to know about peak oil may do some of what you say, but it will eventually tank the stock market and likely collapse the currency. Why? Because stock valuations are based on future earnings, which in turn are based the ability of businesses to perform work. But take away the oil and they can't do the work and so the projected earnings and the company valuations are completely out of whack.

In other words, I don't see any way of widely educating businesses to have them help that avoids actually causing the collapse I am warning about. What will happen, I think, will be just like the seizing of the debt markets now, but for good as the debt on the books is finally seen as unable to ever be repaid.

I'm open to ideas on how to prevent this, but I haven't come across any good ones yet, in my judgement. I am very clear that every person I tell hastens the collapse.

And yet, what else is there to do? Get nothing set up in the time remaining?

Jay Hanson said it best, I think. Recently he's added spiffy animations, too:

Corporations will ingest natural resources and defecate garbage until resources are depleted, debt can no longer be repaid and our money becomes worthless.

If you want to change the paradigm, you have to change the way profits are created. There are many, many ways to make decreased consumption and increased resiliency profitable.

We need to be clear what is meant by the term ‘profitability’. If I plant tomatoes in my garden and harvest a significant crop of good tasting tomatoes then my gardening efforts have reaped a profit. Profit in the sense of a valuable return on human labor will disappear from the world only when human beings disappear.

However, profit as defined by financial capitalism, is a very different thing. If I invest in your business by giving you money, which represents purchasing power, I expect you to return to me a larger amount of purchasing power in the future (Why would I loan you the money otherwise?). There are only two sources from which this extra purchasing power can be derived. Either the total output of the economy increases or someone else loses purchasing power. No third choice exists, at least not in the universe that I inhabit. Of course, you can try to increase total output through greater efficiency (i.e. by dematerializing economic output), but if the goal is unending exponential growth even efficiency improvements will run out of gas.

It is absolutely true that we need growth in certain sectors of the economy: e.g. sustainable/low energy input methods of food production, energy efficient housing, public transportation, etc. However, it may well be that the growth of these important sectors of the economy will not increase our net wealth by one iota. They may merely keep our wealth from decaying away. Repairing highway and railroad bridges does not make us richer; It merely keeps our wealth from decaying away. By the same token replacing coal fired power plants by more expensive renewable energy sources may very well reduce our net wealth even though such resplacement is desirable from the viewpoint of ecological sustainability. Switching agriculture to more labor intensive methods of production may also reduce our net economic output. And so forth. If we cannot develop new methods of production without making private financial investors richer, then we may face an insurmountable problem in a resource limited world.

Personally I think that private enteprise can play an important role in the transition to sustainable methods of economic production, but private finance, with its constant drive for increased sales volumes, cannot.

A large part of who I am is tied to the status quo. It is difficult to let go. I am emotionally tied to my way of life, to the people who I have brought into this world and to the hundreds I have taught. I will continue to teach those things I believe will be important for the survival of our kind. Yet, part of me wants to see it all collapse, to disintegrate, to fall apart. Only then will it be possible to create something new from the ashes of the old. I have compiled some of what I think needs to be transferred to the next generation. Some of the best is actually in written form. I suggest all try to preserve what they think is important.

I do not think that our institutions will hold out. National are failing and will continue to do so. Cornell University is to be commended with others (Please list them) with placing on line the old agricultural literature. I am certain there are others. I would especially appreciate water mill information. I feel that we are approaching that point where mostly written material will get small communities through. Though trained as an environmental scientist, I am working on my masonry an carpentry skills. By shere luck I am am a generalist. I have 4 hectares set aside to grown what I need including energy. I suggest that others move to this minimal level and try to maintain the electric grid and computer connection for as long as possible. I am thinking about ham radio to maintain contact after the web fails. Any experience in this area outside the U.S. would be helpful. My research has moved almost entirely to small scale alternative energy. I already have the capacity to supply myself and a few others with biodiesel and bioethanol. While funding remains I will attenpt to get a wind turbine factory started.

I do not think we will have more than a year or so. Time to batten down the hatches and get as much up and running as possible. I have no faith in the powers that be. In fact, they are making things much worse. We are essentially on our own. Find your community, maintain it, try to keep this one afloat and help those willing to accept it. I hate to say this but there is no time or resources for fools. You all mostly know the flood is coming. Those unwilling to move to higher ground are lost. Don´t waste too much time on those unwilling to move. Make sure your higher ground is secure. Best of luck and stay in touch as long as you can.

Beautifully said, tirwin, and an eloquent if unintentional rejoinder to Rabbit Mountain. There comes a time when screaming into the whilrlwind takes too much time and energy, and is simply fruitless.

On November 4th we the people spoke up: "Throw the bums out!" and an instant later BAU had returned. So much for hope and change from within. Sure, you can make your local changes, but remember that some bigger players are spending the last of your inheritance on General Malaise and another million rounds of 5.56 ammo. We'll go broke before we can build out our new infrastructure, because the experts at spending our money have a head start and a rigged game. There's no way out now on a national level.

I hope to be able to trade stories with you by HAM in the future - there's one a few doors down from me. Until then, chin up and godspeed.

I have been a radio amateur operator for about 40 years or perhaps more.

I even programmed a Kim I bare board computer to decode morse code. But CBs came along and ham radio mostly died except AFAIK some old diehards.

So I got rid of my rigs and antennas.

Yet realizing the upcoming events I started putting my hobby back together again. I now have a big Yaesu HF rig, plus many VHF and UHF rigs and also maintain business/farm 2 way gear.

I have not turned a single one on at yet ..because I think the time has not come. I have antennas but nothing strung or set up yet.

I am waiting for the right time. Maybe this winter I will clear some space and checkout the wavelengths once more. Get my code back in shape. Maybe back up into packet once more.

Yes I think some near day HF rigs run off batteries and PV panels maybe all there is as far as any communications.


Amature Extra KF7O (that's 'Oh' not zero :-) 1955 - present.

Thank you for reminding me, Something else I need to bring up from the boat next week. All of our Ham gear, radio, modem for e-mail and tuner

Next year is going to be fun


I've had a General Class license for 55 years now. I've always enjoyed Ham Radio, especially when I was a kid. I sent away for a build your own transmitter kit. It came with one crystal, so I had a single frequency. It was continuous wave only and so I got good at Morse Code, a skill I still have. When I went into the Army, my MOS was instantly decided when it was discovered I was quite competent with the Code. Now my little Yaesu xmiter/receiver does what a whole barn full of tube radios would do 50 years ago. I've got a simple dipole antenna hung from the tree in back. It works fine. There isn't much glitter to Ham Radio these days with cell phones, ipods, the internet, and lots of TV. But, I still remember the thrill, when I was a kid, talking via Morse Code with someone across the country. Of course we didn't have TV then, and our phones had just recently replaced the crank phones with an operator and "party lines". Best from the Fremont

I have used ham radio and single side band sailing around the world. I find that yanks use ham and the rest of the world uses S/S.

A useful net is found at 14.320 mhz at 800 AM Hong Kong time. It is a yacht info group who can do just about anything and a terrific info base because yachts are everywhere and know the local conditions intimately. 'The morning breakfast show' covers the area from Japan to Sri Lanka. It can be received on the west coast of the US at about 1100PM with a decent skip. And the US ham will patch thru a phone call collect if you chat with him for a while.

Ham and S/S work best when transmitting north to south. IE Japan to Australia. East to west takes an atmospheric skip to work . With the sun spot cycle going worse, it will make skips more difficult for the next 10 years.

A cheap Yaesu rig with antenna tuner and inverted V wire antenna should cost about $1500. Uses 10 amps at full drive when supplied with 12 volts

Good luck , Mate

Morse code was an impossible to overcome barrier to me. You had to pass it to advance in boy scouts. I have some sort of auditory processing deficit, and I could not tell the difference between a dot and a dash. So there was no way I would ever be able to listen to dots and dashes and decode anything by ear. I beieve there are some human abilities that are essentially hard coded in the brain, and if one or more of these circuits doen't function properly, the individual just won't be able to perform certain types of tasks. I suspect this is one reason why peoples abilities vary so much. Given enough special circuits like this, it is very likely that most people have one or more broken circuits, and simply learn to do their best regardless.

I never could clear the morse hurdle either. I think it has to do with one's neural processing styles. I am very much a visual person, I suspect that aural people find morse much easier to learn and to do well.

On learning Morse Code.

Ok..I was at a hamfest in St. Louis..way way back.

I used to work at McDonnell Douglas and when a speaker stepped forth that also worked at McDonnell D. I listened to his presentation.

It was on how he created a method for learning the morse code so that Navy aviators could send distress signals when downed. He background was in psychiatry so he studied some and devised this method.

He produced some cassette tapes that would teach you morse code very well. The old methods were just not hacking it and even though I used the old methods and finally got up to 20wpm it was a hell of a job. Took forever. And I might add I had started as a Boy Scout on the Radio Merit Badge.

I copied his tapes and put them on my computer having revised his procedures by adapting them to the computer and voila...I then merged my old background and sorta adapted to his new technique and the results were quite astounding.

When you study his techniques it becomes very obvious why many failed.

I forgot his name and I never could get a handle on him again but this was before the age of the WWW. I suspect all of it has disappeared down a rathole and now I see nothing but the same old methods online and now that its no longer required ....its gone the way of the DoDo bird.

Too bad for in the future(On The Beach?) it may be our only way of really communicating.

A skill that is mostly lost now except by some older hams. The new guys could care less.

Myself when we flew surveillance for many thousands of hours the radiomans duty station was right next to mine. I had enough code to understand it all. We sent all our postition reports and other data strickly via code for voice at that time , even SS was not up to the task.

In fact if we were going to ditch say..then the radioman and his postition report was all that might help to save our crew. The ocean was far too vast for us to be found otherwise.

End of story...sea story at that.

Airdale- hey all you dittyboppers!!

Ham radio is alive and well, but aging rapidly. I think that the average age of an American ham is somewhere in the mid-50's. Surprisingly, morse code is having a bit of a resurgence now that it officially no longer is required. The FCC has cut us back to three license classes. everything is much simpler, but we do need new, younger blood.

So, now is the time to get a license and get on the air. Make those new friends around the country, hemisphere, and world now, so that they will be waiting to hear from you in the future.

I still need to get some kind of solar powered system up and running. Most ham gear runs on 12v DC. So a couple deep cycle batteries and a charging system can keep you going for a long time.

High frequency amateur bands work best for long distance communications. Most modern radios for these bands typically put out 100 watts of RF. More than enough to reach out across the oceans IF attached to good antennas. The VHF and UHF frequencies are better at local communications. They typically put out 10-50 watts RF. Hams have set up repeaters across the country, some of which are linked, giving even greater area coverage using VHF/UHF. Hams have also linked these systems with the internet so you can sit at your desk here in the U.S. and have a nice chat with a ham in Sydney, Australia or London, England while they are driving or walking about.

The ham bands are also open to all listeners. So if you are in a conversation (QSO) with another ham talking abbout peak oil, don't be surprised is others are listening in. They may even request to join in the conversation!

I think the ham bands are an incredible resource for us at this time. Wouldn't you rather try to talk to someone directly than glean information fourth or fifth-hand from TV? I would like to see interested people from TOD network via ham radio. Let's do it now while we have the luxury of time and finances to get it going.

Dale WU7X

Just make sure you aren't near a wind won't be able to communicate by HAM radio near one.

EDIT* This is not a joke

It is time to reach out to the world at large. Having less interperonal skills than Rodney McKay, as do many of my fellow technical types, perhaps we should consider trying to find a "charismatic" type to spread the word. I recognize this methodology carries the real danger of establishing a "religon", but may offer the speed of communication at the visceral level that is required. Changing our 1000s to millions offers so many more chances of successful strategies at levels ranging from the individual to the regional level. While time is critically short, I think there may, just may, be enough to get through this next critical phase.

Does it make sense to bail out the auto industry given what we know about the future?

An additional question worth considering:

"What do we believe about the future, and what do we actually know?"

One quite frequently sees claims about what will or will not happen in the future. Those claims typically encompass a wide range of variables, from the unknown (OPEC's actual oil reserves) to the likely-unknowable (what decisions societies will make in the coming years). All too often, though, the claims are made with great certainty, rather than with the level of tentativeness which a hypothesis based on so many unknown variables should rationally have.

This isn't nit-picking about writing style; skeptical objectivity is a cornerstone of the scientific method, and a key part of a well-reasoned examination of a topic. One's gut instincts cannot predict the future, but they can derail one's rational thinking about it.

(For what it's worth, I personally lean towards a probabilistic approach such as the one used by the IPCC. The probabilities are still semi-arbitrary, but at least they can be used to encode valuable information on the certainty differences between "oil will peak" (>99%), "nothing can replace it" (<1%), and "nothing will replace it" (50% +/- 49%).)

I wrote this post in 15 minutes this morning and didn't intend it to be scientific. But your point is noted and I will add your question to the list.

As you know, I believe that beliefs play a central role in all of this. Belief systems are the hardware and ostensible attitudes are the software. New hardware is expensive and requires a great deal of (time) investment.

As to what do we know with respect to long term future of autos, is that the industry requires direct and indirect inputs of oil, steel, metals, water, labor, capital, etc. We also know that investments into that industry are investments that could have gone into energy industry. The details emerge over time. That is what we try to do here, adding to knowledge that has accumulated and changing it around the edges as new information and research comes to light, thus changing the probability disribution of the most likely future and how best to prepare for it (knowing there will always be a 20%+ wedge in our future distribution labeled 'black swan'.

But, as a Professor, let me ask you this: at what point do we acknowledge that we know 'enough' and recognize that waiting to know 'more' to get beyond the 95% confidence interval, will come at too high of cost?

For what it's worth, I personally lean towards a probabilistic approach such as the one used by the IPCC. The probabilities are still semi-arbitrary, but at least they can be used to encode valuable information on the certainty differences between "oil will peak" (>99%), "nothing can replace it" (<1%), and "nothing will replace it" (50% +/- 49%)

Pitt - I try to read all of your posts as sometimes they seem like the only sensible view amongst a group of headless chickens.

From what I quoted above it seems like you think there is a 99% chance that something can replace oil, but only a 49% chance we will use it. I really find that difference hard to believe. I am sure people will burn their own grandmothers if the alternative is to freeze and starve to death. If there is an alternative, I am damm sure we will use it.

In what scenario do you see us failing to use an alternative to oil?

I think he meant it as a joke.

"What do we believe about the future, and what do we actually know?"

Not one thing because there is always a lurking Black Swan.

Credibility is shot if you put error bars on probabilities. But I thimk you were trying to be funny with the +/- 49.

I see the bailout of the auto industry as part of the financial bailout already going on. A bailout means the creditors get paid everything owed to them whereas in a bankruptcy they may only get pennies on the dollar. Post bankruptcy reorganization could leave more banks needing assistance considering the enormous amount of debt the Big 3 and the thousands of smaller companies owe. A GM reorganization would lead hundreds if not thousands of smaller business into bankruptcy and many of those smaller ones may simply liquidate their assets and no longer exist. Together with a Big 3 bankruptcy we would likely have Michigan and Ohio as well as several other states defaulting on their bonds and thereby dragging more pension funds down and on and on. It would be everything the Doomers drool over.

Apologies if this has been posted before, it's an account of a guy and his family living in Argentina during and after the 2001 financial meltdown.
He gives his thoughts on survival strategies, on stuff he wished he'd had, things he'd do differently.
I found it fascinating, if scary to contemplate. Worth a read if you haven't.;...

Thanks, countryslicker. This link HAS in fact been posted before -- but it's worth posting a dozen times over!

Scary's the word.

Very informative-the parallels between the USA and Argentina are obvious. One difference is that the USA will continue to have many areas that are very safe-the gap between the safe and dangerous areas in the USA is incredible. The areas that are currently dangerous will probably end up as actual war zones.

Right and wrong at the same time.
The similarity is the existence of safe and dangerous areas.
In Argentina there are a few places to avoid, mostly because they are unpleasant, in the US virtually any city with mixed demographics is a death trap.
In the process of moving to Uruguay I spent a few weeks in Argentina. Even with their troubles one can go anywhere unarmed with relatively little risk, any time of day or night. Doing so in many places of the US would be suicidal, and there are neighborhoods in the US where even the police can not go except in force and with armor. Large cities in the US are more like Somalia or Iraq then anything else.

The big difference is the attitude of the people. Down there even people in obvious economic difficulties are graceful a have a smile on their face. Everyone talks to each other. Here in the US it is mostly growls and readiness to snap each others necks when dealing with strangers.

He also has a blog:


I believe in leading by example.
When I talk to people about Peak Oil and global warming I frequently use the things we (my wife, 2 sons and myself) have done or the sacrifices we made as a PeakOil/GlobalWarming conversation starter.
Some examples:
-That I use my bike for my daily commute (2 x 10Km, also when it rains or in winter)
-That we try to avoid using the car and that we only filled up 3 times this year.
-That we use public transport for short trips during the weekend. And then I tell them that public transport is very cheap (in Belgium that is) if you take a multi-ride card. A single bus-trip costs 1.5 Euro (including connections as long as these connections fall within a time limit of 1h30) and that there are also reductions when taking the train.
-That we also used public transport for our holidays (we also tell them that this is more complicated than you think).
-That I am insulating my roof.
-That we turn down the heating.
-That I again send some mail to one of our ministers.
-That I am working part-time and that it is doable because of our changed lifestyle.
-Stuff that I read on the Oil Drum and other sites.
- …
I genuinely believe that if everybody takes these steps combined with some government intervention we could buy enough time to solve our problems, but I am not so naïve as to believe that that will happen.
Most productive I think is to inform educators about Peak Oil (and Global Warming). I have managed to inform several of them via my sons who are also PeakOil aware.

It is easy to blame government or industry for our problems, but government does only what we, the voters, tolerate and industry only produces what we consume.
However I do think that government should take action.
For starters this:
-First and most important is to communicate (and make clear) to the people that we have some giant problems that need urgent solving! Because of our 3 converging disasters NOW would be the perfect time to do that!
-Than use their legislative power to make sure people/industry take green decisions using legislation,taxes, subsidies etc.. For example: I can’t imagine why government allows us to continue building conventional houses when a passive house only costs 10% more.

A final solution will only come if we manage to convert our grow-economy to a steady -state economy (and a lower living standard).

I think we best be getting on with the promise of making America energy independent.Iran just asked OPEC to reduce production by yet another 1.5 million barrels per day.This past year and the record gas prices played a huge part in our economic meltdown and seriously damaged our society.We keep planning to spend BILLIONS on bailouts and stimulus plans.Bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil. Make electric plug in car technology more affordable. It cost the equivalent of 60 cents a gallon to drive an electric plug in car. The electric could be generated from wind or solar. Get with it! Utilize free sources such as wind and solar. Stop throwing away money on things that don't work. Invest in America and it's energy independence. Create cheap clean energy, create millions of badly needed green collar jobs. Put America back to work. It is a win-win situation. We have to become more poractive citizens, educate ourselves and demand our elected officials move this country forward into the era of energy independence. Jeff Wilson's new book The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW outlines a plan for America to wean itself off oil. We need a plan and we need it now!

"I think we best be getting on with the promise of making America energy independent."
A fine idea, but there some things to work through first. I'll put it in terms of what I call the 4 denials. I refer to "the problem" seemingly to put it in the singular. A term that gives more sense of multiplicity is to refer to it as "the mess".
1 The first is denial that there is a problem, or if recognized, the seriousness of it.
2 For those who recognize the problem there often comes a second denial, that anything can really be done about it, technologically speaking. This is the denial that there are technological solutions.
3 Having seen there is a problem and that there are technological solutions, there is a denial of the extent to which our social/political/economic systems stand in the way of their implementation.
4 Having seen the social barriers, a denial of humanity's ability to over come these.
These denials are do not necessarily come in that neat sequence.
Consider one area now getting considerable attention, the so-called big 3 of our car companies. There is some recognition that there is a problem, but solutions likely to be employed show the seriousness of it is not recognized in "official reality" which suggests we should bail them out. Of course that does not address the issue of what it would take have them recover. Who is going to buy their cars? The bail out, to work, would have to include subsidies to buy Detroit products and subsidies for buying the fuel to keep them on the road. It seems most likely that bailout will be tried. It will fail as the ongoing cost becomes apparent. I think a better course than manning the barricades against this folly is to try to get as much of the technological solutions shoe-horned in as possible.
We are looking at a series of failed attempts to handle aspects of the problem. These failures can serve to bring awareness of the problem. Those who see a little further can work towards getting as much that is workable into those failed attempts as possible. By "workable" I mean aspects that can be used in further, more successful attempts. I think it useful to point out the folly of various attempts, such as bailing out the financial system, but to then to move on to trying to use as much of it as possible to keep people in houses so that people have decent places to live and houses do not fall into disrepair.
To date me somewhat, I can remember that a bunch of us kids used to have great adventures sneaking into the empty boarded up houses in the town where I grew up. That boarding up was in response to the Great Depression. Can we do better in this, the Greater Depression?

Hey Dad:

I take mild exception to denial 2, but perhaps it is a matter of semantics. Many people, particularly politicians, keep talking about "solutions". Solutions imply BAU but IMO, this can be dangerous, as all I see in our future is mitigation as we move down a very bumpy slope.

Whether it is bailouts or biofuels, we are wasting time in the negotiation phase, because we are trying to negotiate with physics, mathematics and thermodynamics and thus not making the necessary changes for a "smoother" landing. Like Kyoto, I see us implementing plans which may have been appropriate if we hadn't dithered. By denying the seriousness of the problem we will never make the changes necessary until things stabilize, (i.e. bottom out). Like many, I'm not sure where that bottom is, but the bottom will vary widely depending on location and circumstances.

The potential Greater Depression is simply a milestone on the way down. The Great Depression had vast amounts of energy on tap with less than half the population to use it in an atmosphere that contained less than 280 ppm CO2.

Even if one assumes that we are not in overshoot in all aspects of the Triple Threat, I believe that the rate of change of our situation exceeds our capacity for change in a timely manner so the bottom line is: Our goose is cooked.

This comes from someone who spent a lot of time trying to disprove peak oil, (probably because I didn't want to believe it :-) )



Trying to be brief does not allow for many of the qualifications. With respect to #2, what I have in mind is the almost automatic response, no that won't work, no that won't work either, no nothing will help. You seem a bit ambiguous with "the bottom will vary widely depending on location and circumstances" and "the bottom line is: Our goose is cooked." I can agree much more with the first rather than second point. I've chosen a personal location that can withstand (maybe) 10 degrees F before I'm cooked and rainfall cut in half. On the other hand if this Hawaiian volcano blows .....


Like you I was trying to be brief, but on my first point; the bottom depends on local resources, the local climate change (better or worse) and the local mindset (as well as local marauders etc,etc). It is why I prefer the term Climate Change rather than Global Warming. AGW represents an aggregate and does not address the local minima and maxima that will be far more dramatic, and in some cases beneficial.

My point about solutions is that denial of a solution may not be ipso facto a denial in the psychological sense, but simply an assertion that there is no solution, which is why I compared "solution" to "mitigation".

On the second point, using an idiom may have put me in hot water ;-). Your welcome humour aside, after looking at the math and the human nature, I thought it was a more polite way of saying we're f****d.

Hawaii is an interesting case. Good mean temperature, fertile soil, lots of water but isolated. Many plusses and minuses. At the very worst, you can watch some kickass sunsets in our sunset years.



I forgot an important example.
We chose an all green (wind, solar, hydro) electricity provider which I think is a very good idea to do. There is a waiting list of about ½ a year and you must buy at least one share (250 Euro) in the company. This is of course no reason to be careless about your electricity use.

A final solution will only come if we manage to convert our grow-economy to a steady -state economy (and a lower living standard).

I disagree, in my opinion if we actually acheive a steady-state economy (not holding my breath), I can't quite see why it should automatically equate to a lower living standard.
Possibly what needs to happen is that what constitutes the definition of a high standard of living just needs to be redefined.

Growth has costs as well as benefits, but we typically don't count the costs-among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on.

The whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth.

The world's leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to virtually all problems, but they are pushing with all their might in the wrong direction.

Donella Meadows

"What is the purpose of this site and others like it? Impacting large scale paradigm change, or building local and regional nucleii that via social cooperation and reciprocity, expands outward?"


"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
- Buckminister Fuller

To which I might humbly add, build a new model whose form and tempo, melody and rhythm harmonize with bio-physical laws and principles.

One of the main reasons for this website has to be to educate part of the population that a problem is appearing that needs their attention and action. To that end I think that some people are starting to sit up and pay attention.

In the UK some of the national newspapers have now recently run articles about oil supply problems or peak oil and they include the Financial Times giving prominence to the IEA report in advance of its publication, The Independent, The Guardian and this Sunday the Observer. One of the articles in todays Observer went beyond peak oil to consider how the UK should produce food when oil will be in short supply.

So the message is seeping out to a wider audience and although none have dared to speak of it, I am sure that politicians are aware of the problem and that some planning for shortages is being made along the lines of adapting plans from the 2000 fuel blockade.

The question is whether the UK or EU can take any any action to head of the threat before it overwhelms us. There I am less optimistic but if my forebears lived through the 1930s and WWII then I am sure we can survuve. I prefer the glass half full vision of the future.

In the UK some of the national newspapers have now recently run articles about oil supply problems or peak oil and they include the Financial Times giving prominence to the IEA report in advance of its publication, The Independent, The Guardian and this Sunday the Observer.

Don't be over-optimistic -- in 'The Guardian' (2008) there are 82 hits for 'peak oil' as opposed to 3257 hits for 'climate change', a ratio of approximately 1 to 40.

Ditto for the other newspapers.

Of course this is an improvement over 2004, when the hit ratio was approximately 1 to 150.

My fear is that with the upcoming depression, peak oil will just fall off the radar for a couple of years. When the newly unemployed start having to scavenge in the dustbins for their food, Hubbert's Peak will be the last thing on their minds.

what is the 'purpose' of being human and alive on the planet in 2008

there is no purpose... no point what so ever and never has been..

there is nothing but arbitrary space which given enough effort can be filled by what ever shade we can conjure up.

which is optimistic because it essentially frees us up from any supposed purpose to make heaven on earth and; ignore, take ownership or modify any of the basic chemical rationales we perceive as purpose.

the solution to peak oil is too chill the f**k out.. it is not the end of world that you can't afford to replace your PS3 with an xbox or whatever every year. people should kick back, relax and take in the view... thats the purpose of being a human being in 2008.

can we get to the root of our resource depletion and climate(?) problems - the way we use energy for conspicuous consumption - in a holistic manner, without focusing on one narrow aspect at a time?
Is our knowledge and scientific awareness that humans have a natural inclination to focus on only the most immediate problems, an advantage? If we understand that by solving this crisis using the same methods that created it, that it will come back even larger again in the future, shouldn't we use this awareness to look beyond the current financial morass and invest our remaining cheap fossil resources into long term productive ventures? (do we need to redefine 'productive' and 'venture')?

Should we wait until oil goes back above $100 to start changing energy use/policy? When will that be? Do the benefits of waiting outweigh the costs of depletion?

How much are we willing to borrow from the future to solve our current financial crisis? Do we even perform this neural 'calculation' or do we just act?

I don't know.. i was hoping for leadership on this sort of stuff... bracketed myself in the 75% unstupid grouping and all.

which brings me too this one.. and i think this is a good one

who has responsibility for changing our energy paradigm? Polticians? World Energy Watchdogs? Citizens? Bloggers?

the crass semi un-profound answer is everyone which is a bloody useless answer

the useful answer is politicians... we need leadership that can make the big mutha f**king decisions... when you strip it all down someone has to un-crowd this rock in the most pleasant way possible.. and people are going to have to be told/reasoned with/forced too make sacrifices and there is no magic telepathic revelation wand... tedious as it is.... its going to be double geography and politics


I’m a cynic; TOD does not have enough money to impress TPTB and money is the only motivator in Washington and most other places that can make a difference.

TOD vs. 11000 registered lobbyists. Kum ba Yah my friends.

Better to prepare yourself, family and make friends with those that “Get It” than beat your head against the wall of denial, stupidity, big money etc. I know ... you gotta try, Kum By Yah.

We are all so soft and stupid it is amazing. Think of this. After oil, ride your bike. Sounds good and you even have a hand pump to keep the tires up after the electric compressor fails. But do you have that little check valve in case the pump fails or do you have a tire repair kit after the glue dries up and is out of date? After the tires wear out, what then. Buy new ones? Huh? 10 years with constant use and no repair parts. What then?

Better to get in shape by running miles, shed some pounds and be prepared to walk. Shoes? Maybe tire pieces and leather straps. Leather? At 75, my knees are shot for heavy work or standing a lot. Better those like me check out when the time comes so as to not hold back the grater family.

Surviving after the infrastructure fails will be enough challenge to get your attention … without worrying about why am I here? What plan does God have for me? Worry more about how to fix coyote so it is edible. BTW: I don’t know for sure but I would imagine pups would be better.

Amish ... good life without the pill. Lots of kids will be necessary after the dieoff.

Yep, I'm a cynic and a doomer.

I not 100% with the cynic thing..

the very fact peak oil is disputed or resource limits are arguing against in the MSM... CNBC often throws this stuff about..

being opposed (with reality on your side) is a sign of progress.


Reply to Lynford,

Best thing someone mine and your ages can do is pass on to one's grandchildren every single bit of wisdom we can. Our children,at least, is pretty much past listening to what I say,even though he now knows that terror,sheer horror might be just around the corner but he is too far set in his path and ways.

So I say grandchildren. They will be the inheritors of this mess.

And yes, your right about lots of kids being needed after the dieoff.

This is the time to prepare them then.

Since we have been around long enough to see it with the long range eye we know what might work and what won't. We have a duty to pass what we have then , long range viewwise, along to some we can place our hopes on.

Airdale-as for me, I have had a good run but I won't go easily nor roll over for anyone or anything,,for now comes the comeuppance and it twernt my fault neither,this folly...

OT, but just in case anyone needed another reason, as to why liquid fuel from corn is probably a really really bad idea. If thinking about the consequences of Peak Oil makes you want to curl up in the fetal position or go hide in a cave then this should really give you some FOOD FOR THOUGHT

When the corn weevil knocks, we are all doomed.


If you are someone who eats, you should know that our food supply is based on corn. This means that the food supply is vulnerable to crash if this one element ... corn ... crashes. And it can crash.


This sentence

"The carbon isotope signature tells us whether or not the animal ate a particular type of grass, which would include but not be limited to corn, during later stages of development."

in the 3rd paragraph of your article is Very important.

There is not nearly as much corn in a hamburger as your link would infer. Cattle are fed, mostly, on grass for the main part of their life. They are only (sometimes) finished on Corn and other feed-lot feed.

Feed-lot cattle typically double their mass in their last six weeks of life - their corn binge.


I don't want to hijack this thread to talk about the vulnerabilities of our food production but what caught my attention was this:

The other reason this matters is because of the financial structure of the food industry. I do not honestly know how much of an effect subsidies have on corn production, but it is the case that corn production is subsidized. This means that not only are there a few varieties of a single species grown using one method to provide us with a large percentage of our food, but the financial structure on which this industry is built is to some extent similarly undiversified and thus possibly vulnerable.

BTW I believe poultry and pigs are also fed corn and then we have all the products that we consume that also contain some corn by product such as corn oil and corn syrup to mention only two. So the fact that this all rests on the one legged stool of a single vulnerable species of domesticated grain, caused me to raise an eyebrow.

Interesting comparison.. now we have Gas-fed Cars that are Finished on Corn, too!

As I see it, TOD's main purpose was to fill a gap left by officialdom as it snoozed. Turned out, however, that it wasn't quite asleep, just groggy. Others had already pinched it as we know that by late 2005 the EIA was putting together a scenario where conventional oil production remained flat to falling from now on.

Most of the contributors are radicals of one form or another that thought they had found in peak oil a lever by which they could make a broader point. But they disagree with one another. And then there are the amateurs that enjoy grappling with things way beyond their pay grade.

All of this has been seriously fun and useful in surprising ways. It has indeed been "Discussions about Energy and our Future", albeit spiced with as much alarmism as could be mustered with a straight face. (sometimes much more)

The exotic views represented help give the exchange energy. And it works as a discussion, I think. But not as anything else. Certainly not as an EIA/IEA watchdog. Remember, they've studied 800 oil fields. ;-)

Certainly not as an EIA/IEA watchdog.

That was a joke (but wait until you see the errata sheet)

Remember, they've studied 800 oil fields. ;-)

If perfect knowledge existed on those 800 fields, (which it does not), that would still be only a fraction of the data we need to make informed energy decisions.


If perfect knowledge existed on those 800 fields, (which it does not), that would still be only a fraction of the data we need to make informed energy decisions.

I'm very surprised by this statement. Surely by the time you have a sample of 800 somethings you can have a very reasonable guess as to what the remainder will be like too, even if there are 800,000 of those others. And Colin Campbell inter alia says that the prospect of any new major fields being discovered is remote.

Can it not be stated with reasonable confidence that in the next decade there is going to be a liquids decline of several percent? And that due to the Export Land Model, the fall of supply to importers such as the us&k will be even greater? And that's enough to tell us that radical change is inevitable, whether via decisions or via their absence.

My point is that you could have perfect knowledge on the oil fields and even all oil geology and still not understand the interplay of human socio-economic systems, water, soil, biodiversity, wide-boundary costs, world inequality, deliverability, pollution, steel/rig limitations etc. etc. i.e. knowing how much oil is in those fields and how quickly it will decline is important but only one thread of a larger tapestry.


I'm curious, are your comments meant to be satire, or an attempt to cheer us up through parody? I'm confused. After all we've seen in the last year, surely you can not be serious? Are you really, honestly, optimistic about capitalisms future as a self-regulating economic system, despite all the mounting evidence that it has reached the end of the road and is, in fact, collapsing?

Collapse? Some days I wish it so. Homo rapiens could use a lesson in humility. But alas, the sun will rise tomorrow, enormous quantities of commerce will be transacted.... life goes on.

What has happened is that our nerves are weak having not faced a real recession in almost 30 years. When people call it "the system" they sometimes talk as though it were a machine that hums consistently a long time and then comes to a grinding halt when it encounters something it can't handle.

Not so. It's not a machine, it's a supra-organism. Stung or burned, it lives and learns. I'm not claiming its immortal but our current travails are far from being severe. No, some of us had grown soft...including me. But we're changing. We are adjusting to the new normal.

That's a pretty good summary.

President elect Obama and the Democrats in Congress are Peak Oil's worst enemy. Their socialist policies will put the US (and the rest of the world) into a declining GDP spiral. Less demand for oil, increased worldwide ethanol production, and state control of the auto industry (mandating plug-in hybrids), may just be the medicine to cure the country's oil addiction.

In the future, oil may become as worthless as the bar of gold in a twilight zone episode.

Just a week or so ago dissing Obama would have earned you about a negative 22 here.

Now just a -4?

Perhaps his jumping on the bailout bandwagon was a boo-boo.


In fact I saw a poster get a -5 just for mentioning Al Gore in some vague two sentence slighting manner that was never clear at that.


He should get a -22. Obama hasn't even taken over yet and so far 5 trillion USA taxpayer dollars has been wasted-somehow this is A-OK with the braindead Limbaugh crowd shouting their "socialist Muslim" slogans to each other.

Federal government bailouts of financial institutions are not without precedent. Perhaps if the socialists in Congress would have allowed increased oil production in the US, it wouldn't have come to this. No worries, your Obama Messiah will be sworn in soon enough and REALLY start screwing things up!

Stock market investors seem to know what we're heading for.

I know, I know trolls, don't encourage them. But "conservationist" been one for 30 years and never could imagine your thought process. Ok took my own advice.

Don in Maine

Asking questions is always a good idea. Sometimes the answers we get make us uneasy. Sometimes we just get more questions. But when the world doesn't behave the way you came to believe it should then it really is time to ask the hard questions.

My weekend post at Question Everything is the culmination of a lot of such questioning, some of which I've shared at this site. It's titled "What's the Plan then?"

The world really is in the midst of a massive change, geochemically, biologically, climatologically, and, clearly, sociologically. The big question seems to be: What are we and what is our role in the future?


that strikes me as sound... even in the short term

not only is the future not panning out its not really conforming in detail to forecasts made here either.. While I think commentators here have made good generalized predictions the actual nitty gritty of how it plays out has caught a fair few of us out

I did seem to sense a degree of confusion over the meaning of the price collapse from all sides of the PO debate

George.Mobus -

How exactly is the world is undergoing massive changes 'geochemically' that are of any significance within the time span of recent human history?

I spend a fair amount of time underwater on coral reefs and support Reef Rescue in my back yard so one example that jumps to my mind is Coral Geochemistry and Climate Change.


The ‘purpose’ of being human and alive on the planet in 2008 is the same as it was before the first oil well. Regardless of circumstance, we are here to extinguish selfishness on a personal level so that we may be effective stewards of the planetary ecosystem. When this state is actualized (I’m not speaking from personal experience…not there yet…but rather from observation: what has been achieved by others can be achieved by anyone; no proof of this, just a feeling), the alive human becomes an effective agent of positive change in the world, and that’s putting it mildly.


I'm not sure what you're getting at with this post and the survey. Also, I can't answer questions like what is the purpose of living on earth in 2008.

I can say I love to read this site, particularly the energy posts. The combination of summer peak in oil prices and now the financial crisis has brought out the "Doomers" and that contributes, in a small way, to the reputation of the "Peakists" as a doomsday cult.

I think this site should stick to the one prediction it is geared to analyze: the peak and decline of petroleum production. There is little point in debating predictions of 35% vs 55% die offs, or how many independent states will exist in the current USA by 2050.

The next best thing I like on this site are posts about living in a post peak world. TOD Local does this well. I have begun a small vegetable garden after reading here, and even if we're all wrong about this stuff, I'm better off for doing some manual labor and eating fresh tomatoes and beans.

Give the financial crisis folks a link to other blogs that cover that topic better. Or give them a sub-TOD page like TOD Local, Europe, etc. I acknowledge that the fate of GM is related to energy issues, but the credit crunch shouldn't take over this site.

I don't know about the survey, but I suspect his post was in reply to this.

At this point in time in the USA we have three groups sounding alarms and yet none speaks out against the sacred cow of immigration

1) environmental groups
2) peak oilers
3) global warmers

which as Tad Patzek points out is like mopping the floor with the pipe still leaking.

I mentioned the other day that we have the tremendous paradox of the Sierra Club being implicitly for a continued infinite immigration into the US. Someone defended their implicit support of infinite immigration by saying that they were explicitly against population growth. So we have the Sierra Club implicitly in favor of infinite immigration and apparently wrestling internally with whether they should endorse a one-child policy or forced sterilization or infanticide or murder in order for there to be a stable population with infinite immigration. It just gets so pathetic when sacred cows and a lack of balls prevent otherwise intelligent people from thinking and speaking intelligently.

What has been the role of the US in creating the economic circumstance impelling people to leave their countries?
But what's to worry about? More cheap labor for the right, more voters for the left.

What has been the role of the US in creating the economic circumstance impelling people to leave their countries?

If you want to make an argument that the US has caused the poverty in Mexico and India and China and the Phillipines I would like to hear it.

But what's to worry about? More cheap labor for the right, more voters for the left.

And plenty of oil, coal, natural gas, and water for the right and left and the infinite stream of immigrants. It is a good thing that fossil fuels and fresh water are infinitely available to match our infinite immigration.

I mentioned the other day that we have the tremendous paradox of the Sierra Club being implicitly for a continued infinite immigration into the US.

There's a rumor that the Sierra Club got a $100 million donation from one David Gelbaum on the condition that it not ever oppose immigration.  (There was apparently a board fight over the issue in 2004; I'm not sure which side won.)

The true environmentalist platform didn't die of natural causes, it was murdered.

For those of you who read Barron's, the editors got together this weekend and wrote a letter to Obama with 8 discrete suggestions to stop the financial crisis. I can't reproduce it all here, but suffice it to say, its tenor is a bit different than my little post above:

On the following pages, you will find the recommendations of Barron's
editors -- eight steps, starting with the most urgent. Some of the
recommendations are sweeping, while others are tightly focused. All eight,
however, are necessary to bolster the confidence of consumers and businesses,
get the economy back on its feet and restore order to financial markets.
No offense, but your relationship with markets could use some improvement.
Since Sept. 24, when you opened up a nine-point lead in the race, the Dow has
fallen 19%. Don't let it fall further. You must show the markets that you
understand the problems and are taking action.

Stock mkt has to go up at all costs...its akin to a natural law...

Support a $100 billion stimulus now, and be ready to advocate another,
similar-size package soon after you take office. Pay the money to people right
away -- as was done in the $168 billion stimulus package earlier this year.
The mere knowledge that it's coming could prompt consumers to step up their
spending for the holiday season.

No comment, other than I'd much rather see the $100 billion go into wind turbines.

Offer an aid package to GM and Ford -- $25 billion for each in the form of
special preferred stock that would pay the government a dividend.
Though the idea of a bailout is languishing on Capitol Hill, and it can be
argued that bankruptcy proceedings would help them restructure, we feel that a
bailout is essential. These two companies are vital parts of America's
industrial base. You cannot let one or both of them collapse, particularly in
today's sagging economy.
Chrysler, on the other hand, lacks the brand and world stature to compete in
the future....

Umm. Is that kind of like if PG and I would start recommending which energy stocks to buy?

The avalanche of foreclosures must be stemmed, pure and simple. ... drawing on the $700 billion financial bailout approved by Congress. Participating banks, mortgage servicers and holders of
mortgage securities should contribute another $50 billion.
The program would reduce a borrower's mortgage to the level of the home's
current value, which might amount to a cut of 20% to 30%. In return, the
government would be entitled to an agreed-upon portion of any price
appreciation realized when the home is sold. In other words, neither the
homeowner nor the mortgage lender would get a free ride. Yet both would be
better off than with foreclosure -- and so would the economy.

Lets just send out get out of jail free cards. This is why some larger comprehensive plan needs to be considered. These measures just make things worse down the road.

Short-selling of stocks also requires some attention. While the shorts, who
bet on stocks declining, play a useful role in the market -- often digging up
unflattering information that investors need to know -- the practice can be
abused and exacerbate big market declines.

For editors of Barrons, which is basically the weekend Wall St Journal, they really don't understand the markets. Since the rule change on short selling, many of the large short selling players have closed up shop or stopped trading, which has exacerbated dramatically the volatility. It seems that baseball, apple pie, cheap gas, AND rising stock market are American rights..

I will stop now, lest Rabbit Mountains 'anti-business' comments about TOD prove correct...;-)
The sad thing is, Obamas advisors are going to pay 1,000 times the attention to that letter than anything written here or of similar tenor...

Does this letter from our nations largest financial newspaper to our new President strike anyone as gross?

Dear Barrons,

Please don't waste your time trying to tell President elect Obama what to do. His agenda is clear, and it has nothing to do with free markets. Failing industries will become nationalized. Their employees will now become government workers. Socialized medicine will be provided by the State for free. The "fairness doctrine" will eliminate talk radio, Fox news, and all other forms of dissent. Assault weapons will be banned. Those earning the highest incomes will have tax increases, so that the wealth can be divided amongst everyone else.

1) Well, your agenda is certainly clear enough..

2) It seems like Free Markets also have little to do with Free Markets..
("The trouble with these 'Gentleman's Agreements' is these Gentlemen ain't Gentlemen!" - Twain)

3) You're quick pinning this on Obama, when Bush, Bernanke and Paulson are up on the Windswept prow of this Ship of State, feeling like the 'Kings of the World!'

4) Fox news is 'Dissent'? This IS the Silly Season! Day is Night, War is Peace, Arbeit macht Frei!

Reminds me of how Fluoride allegedly works on bones and teeth.. as I follow it, it helps the formation of boneforming cells, Osteoblasts, but they are malformed or toxified, while it also seems to retard the activity of the Boneremoving cells, the Osteoclasts, thus preventing the removal ('resorbtion') of poorer bone tissue, and promoting the growth of (hey!) poorer bone tissue ! So you get big, heavy, brittle bones and woody teeth which seem denser.. but are in fact unable to regrow properly and to clean out their malfunctioning parts!

The establishment is finally getting the message of oil and other resource depletion. While many in power are now aware of the problem, we as a society and T.O.D. as a group have not yet developed a plan.

As for the role of The Oil Drum, I am hoping that we can help develop a plan for the new sustainable economy. The first step is to better define the problem.

For quantifying the problem on a time scale, I propose we use software developed for dynamic energy and material balances, such as ASPEN or IDEAS, perhaps requiring some modifications, or a modified version of something like STELLA. Working as a chemical engineer I routinely used simulation software to model industrial processes. Engineers model such things as energy and raw material streams in a process, or fuel use in a power boiler, net of internally consumed power to run feed water pumps and air supply fans. If one wanted to know EROI of heavy oil produced by steam injection one may be able to ask the a petroleum engineer involved with a particular project to consult his model. To direct inputs of boiler fuel to produce injection steam we could add fuel for drilling the wells, quantity of steel and other materials used for the installation, etc. In like manner we could consult the various subject matter experts (SME’s) and gather the data on various energy production and consumption processes.


1. Member survey-subject matter expertise and willingness to volunteer
2. Select staff, guidelines, establish chain of command and make personnel and task assignments
3. Encourage continuous reporting of progress, findings and exchange of ideas within work group
4. Develop list of good information sources (Departments of Energy, Transportation, etc; various industry groups)
5. Develop outline of overall system to be modeled, both supply and demand (oil, gas, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, wind, etc., passenger autos, trucks, rail freight, inland waterway and ocean freight, commercial, industrial, household)
6. Break model into component modules
7. Determine what software to use
8. Determine if software modifications are necessary and how to proceed with modifications
9. Build component models
10. Peer review, make changes
11. Assemble components into overall model
12. Review and make changes as necessary
13. Run various scenarios
14. Recommend best solution

Simulations, even complex ones, are not hard to run for experienced users.
I cannot over emphasize how much they have revolutionized the design and control of manufacturing processes. I have personally used models to solve complex problems that defied other forms of analysis, often with eye opening results. Most process engineers today wouldn’t even begin a design without first running a steady state material and energy balance. But the type of simulation I am recommending is the newer dynamic software, which will respond to changes, such as varying inputs and outputs through time. These are used to fine tune processes almost to perfection, and are so life like that they are used for plant operator training and flight simulators.

In conclusion, I firmly believe that we can take our understanding to a higher level by using the resources of members of T.O.D. to build dynamic simulations of energy production and consumption and to accurately predict the outcomes of practically any known inputs. The only thing we can’t model, and therefore predict, is what we truly don’t know.

You can download a trial of STELLA to get a basic idea of dynamic modeling. It’s not the heavy duty industrial software most engineers use, but it is still a very good tool and a great introduction to modeling.

Whoa! Those are some pretty big questions! 18 months of lurking, and I come out of the closet to answer....I don't know. But to speak only for myself, TOD has been incredibly valuable as a source if information against which to asess our own planning, look for weaknesses, areas where I need to know or understand more, etc. I think the diversity of TOD's community makes specific "solutions" very difficult to propose, as what would be workable or acceptable in one part of the world, may be useless in another, and conversely, solutions which are often written off as impractible in american communities are not so elsewhere.
As regards leadership in these issues, my own take is that the call for governments "they oughtta" this or that has a subtext of "..somebody else should fix it". So down to the next level, community leadership, where it is easy to get so busy with meetings and committees and whatnot that you dont have time to become more self reliant or whatever. And to me a person who is not self reliant but is an energetic advocate of transition towns or community gardens or walkable cities is really saying "I want you to change your life so I dont really have to change mine"
Which only leaves the individual level, which works for me, but unless one prefers the solitary spam&ammo road, is not enough to help others, and can suffer from the same image as the newly ex-smoker who suddenly wants to spend hours browbeating his friends with the evils of the weed, and rhapsodizing the benefits of their new status, brilliantly described here recently as MEGO (my eyes glaze over).
So our solution to the possibilities of the future has been:
Sold house and service industry business, bought land, building self reliant home and also CSA. We have answered honestly when people ask why, but not tried to convert anyone to our point of view. So thats our stage one, putting our oxygen mask on first.
Our stage two is a combination of the quote " If not you then who? If not now then when?" and "you can lead a horse to water...". The people we deal with are by and large not ready to learn to cope, but at some stage they will be. So we are "storing water" because one day we will know a lot of thirsty horses! We look at our community in the light of what we learn from TOD and say "what will we need to do, and what will be the best way to do it and what will be required in order to do that" and try to plan accordingly. When our friends, neighbors, community decide that growing food is a good thing, we will have seeds, grafting stock, laying hens etc to offer them. We have tracked down and are putting into practice lots of ways to build/create greenhouses and energy efficient houses with recycled or commonly available materials, and even better with local and natural materials. Lots of really complex things are simple when you know the trick to them, so we collect the how to's and the tricks.
Sometimes I wonder if I should be taking a more political path, but I think the outcome for that time and effort is too uncertain, and I have young children, so that uncertainty is a luxury at the moment. (LOL ERoEI rears its head again)
In the end - TOD is a valuable source of info, and as for the knowledge of our human short sightedness, I think thats an advantage, now I know to save my energies and "don't shoot til I see the whites of their eyes"

If you could aggregate the knowledge/ideas of the 1,000 brightest, wide-boundary polymathic forward thinking readers of The Oil Drum and were able to somehow magically telepath a summary of this information into the awareness of everyone on the planet, would you do so? And would they thank you or curse your for such 'gift'?

Hmmmm! You do put the most devilish thoughts into my head.

I think it might have already happened actually, on some level, with both PO and AGW.

I'm in the old geezer group here. Todd, airdale, Don Sailorman. Boy have we seen some stuff. Read arthur c clarke as a child and then saw the very first satellite. This was a great post, and the replies have kicked over long dead brain cells.

There is much we can do, there is much we won't do. Trained as an engineer back in the days of vacum tubes.

I went back to the woods a long time ago, it was where I needed to be. The old backpackers creed was leave no sign of your passing, let no one know you were there. Made sense to me. Issues of respect.

I don't need to dissect a kitten to see why it purrs, or where the purr comes from, I just need to understand that the kitten is happy. I need to know when the kitten is sad. Some days the most important thing I do is pet the kitten.

Don in Maine

About the only thing that contributors and reader of TOD have in common which differentiates them from the general population is that they are mostly convinced that peak oil will happen, probably now-ish.

Otherwise if you adjust for factors which are general to those who participate in reasonably intellectual website discussion, there would seem to be very little to distinguish either then or their viewpoints.

Income is rather higher than average, as is education and intelligence - kind of like an older 'World of Warcraft' crowd.

If you go on to try to arrive at a common agenda, you will not find one as even the goals are different, as well as the underlying philosophies.

Opinions here range all of the way from those who would seek to stay as close to BAU as possible, and are happy to use present business models to do so, to those who feel that even if a continuation of present society were possible, it would be undesirable and some kind of ecological model is being violated so that a huge population crash is both needed and desirable.
Of course, there are all points in between represented as well.

To become useful as any political movement, or to arrive at any conception of the basics of what should be done, this original primordial consensus on peak oil has to be refined into broadly opposing camps, presumably along the lines of those who would think that what we should be doing is to try to keep as much of society as possible intact, and those who think that what we should be doing is to try to mitigate the effects of a rapid and complete collapse.

There would still be innumerable variations and different sects, of course, just as there are in any political movement, but some degree of cohesiveness would then exist in objectives.

As a peak oil aware group only one function can effectively be carried out, proselytising the idea.
Perhaps some would say that conservation is also held to be a desirable common goal, but even there some feel that Jevon's paradox makes that a little irrelevant.

I may be assuming here, but I will endeavor to answer your (what I believe) main question.

You want to know if the TOD community has any real advantage to propel the PO message into mass conscienceness, how to most effectively attain this goal, what solutions can the TOD community agree on, how best to achieve the formation and exicution of these solutions.

I will offer what I know about eclectic groups of diverse peoples and how politics effects the group once assembled.

The TOD community is an excellent example of this phenomenon....where as a outside political entity would adversely place force, by inside or outside measures, to achieve its goals and aims.

The very acceptance of the idea of PO is a highly charged political concept (Iam preaching too the choir here) and as such, many political (to numerous too mention) considerations need to be acknowledged.

When not much notice or attention is given towards a group or individual, who is screaming truth in the wilderness, its easy for the group or individual to continue, even though they feel impotent.

When TPTB see a certain group or individual is gaining momentum and this could adversely affect the BAU for TPTB....they react and apply the standard modis operandi applications....too all the usual suspects.

So I assume that someone has been applying pressure to get TOD to tone it down, change its message, tac a different course. This pressure will always appear to come from within and in effect it does always come from within. But it is always from an outside source.

I realise I sound like a conspiracy kook and am a newbie to the forum, Iam just saying, thats how it always goes down. I won't say another thing about the matter, as I have previously addressed this issue a few weeks ago. I will stick around , just to see how things pan out though.

I sincerely hope I didnt offend anyone, that was not my intentions, Judas need not be looked for and identified, they always make known themselves by their own devices, Judas is merely a puppet in any case, the power behind Judas's actions is the propellant, and many are the political entities in that mixture.

So I assume that someone has been applying pressure to get TOD to tone it down, change its message, tac a different course. This pressure will always appear to come from within and in effect it does always come from within. But it is always from an outside source.

Peak Oil and AGW have, in my view, activated the immune system of several existing, species-wide conversations that have been running the show for some centuries now. One such conversation, which was taking place already when we were all born, is something like "growth is good" or "growth is necessary." There are other conversations that have an equally strong presence in the network of conversations that make up human discourse, many of which have been mentioned in this thread. ("Have many offspring" comes to mind.)

In other words, any pressure to tone it down or change the message is usually the existing conversation defending itself, because long-lived conversations always defend themselves (otherwise they would be short-lived conversations, like "So and so just got married to Brad Pitt"). Long-lived conversations are excellent at swatting down upstart conversations so that they can continue to monopolize the network.

There is no need to invoke a conspiracy theory. Successful conversations like those in operation today have many ways of defending themselves and the defense can be mounted even by those who are introducing a new conversation. Dr. Hirsch's request to tone it down is just such an example. So I don't believe it's correct to say "it [pressure to suppress a conversation] is always from an outside source."

I'm working on a post that adds more depth to this whole concept, but those who are interested can study discourses if they don't wish to wait.

Just a thought your post inspired.

I personally agree with the idea that "Growth is Good". I think it is what gets removed from that discussion that makes it Cancerous.. that being "Death is also Good". Western Judeo-Christian culture has a 'mild to strong' jealousy over the Hegemony of Nature, and so we have culturally insisted on the Candy and eschewed (unchewed?) the Broccoli, and then declared this menu to be Good!

.. and back to Ecclesiastes. "There is a time for everything under heaven, A time to live, a time to die.." (GM, your ride is here!)


If you could aggregate the knowledge/ideas of the 1,000 brightest, wide-boundary polymathic forward thinking readers of The Oil Drum and were able to somehow magically telepath a summary of this information into the awareness of everyone on the planet, would you do so? And would they thank you or curse your for such 'gift'?

Sure. It would have to be framed for the average recipient, however. For the thoughtfull masses perhaps a Gilligan's Island analogy would be a good way to package it:

OK folks, we're on a three hour tour here and have some serious decisions to make. We have enough fuel to get us back to civilization but we have to turn back now! If we don't then visualize this:

We run out of gas (flow insufficient to get us home) and have to live on an uncharted island with no radio, internet or cell/sat phone capabilities. Message bottles only. The professor will be technology minister and provide strategies for us to adapt to spartan circumstances and will provide training for all. The skipper will be manager and organize work parties with the rest of you who will need to pull together if we are to make due. Mr. and Mrs. Howell will need to be carried along as they will create the illusion of society in their denial and will be functionally incapacitated but occasionally add comic relief. (The drama of Ginger and Mary Ann, [who will they mate with?] gets solved as the professor and skipper are clearly dominant. Gilligan is happy because that is his nature regardless of the challenge.)

If we choose to turn around fuel will remain in short supply so remember the flight attendant's advice, "Be sure YOUR oxygen mask is securely fastend AND oxygen is flowing before trying to assist others." You all know how slow government is at all levels so we'll need to put our houses in order first then begin to work with our friends and neighbors. Show them how to become more self reliant and resilient as the future, while we have no crystal ball, will likely be full of surprises. Take risks with alternative energy. Study history and agriculture. Teach history and agriculture. Become more community minded, creative and develop local trade. Anticipate rapid change and be prepared to sacrifice quite a bit and roll with it. Cooperate with others or suffer the consequenses of isolation, conflict and lack.

OK, we have 10 minutes to mak a decision. What say ye?

Gilligan remains happy because that is his nature. Looking forward he shout's, "Land ho!"

Good try Sterling but it won't work. By the time you've finished your story the majority of the guys would be starring at Ginger's boobs and wouldn't have heard a word you said.

I really mean know it's true.

Hey Rockman,

Yeah, I guess you're right. But how effective would a gender neutral telepathic summary be??

Oh, the challenges we face :-|

I kinda liked Mary Ann best. Ginger seemed a bit...superficial.

If you could aggregate the knowledge/ideas of the 1,000 brightest, wide-boundary polymathic forward thinking readers of The Oil Drum and were able to somehow magically telepath a summary of this information into the awareness of everyone on the planet, would you do so? And would they thank you or curse your for such 'gift'?

I'm not really sure what a magically telepathed summary of TOD's aggregate knowledge and ideas would entail. The basic peak oil bell curve is the only way to summarize everything without introducing contradictions and conflicts.

But even then we can't be certain we're at the top of a bell curve. Anything is possible. I've been working in the electrical engineering field for 10 years and I just recently found out about memristors.

The only thing lacking is imagination and the will to innovate. Given an annual supply of 1 cubic mile of oil per year, it is possible to feed and educate every person on the earth. I believe it is possible to do that with half a cubic mile of oil. Or a quarter cubic mile. But we arent doing it with a full cubic mile, and I doubt we'd be doing it even if we had 2 cubic miles of oil to work with. (But there sure would be a lot more SUVs on ever more crowded roads! Do you know what I am saying?)

So I cant help but conclude that energy isnt the problem. Or maybe the problem is too much energy?? The more energy we have, the more we stripmine the earth and dig bigger holes for ourselves. So now instead of a peak oil problem we also have a peak coal, peak copper, peak uranium, and basically a peak everything problem. All because we had so much energy and no idea how to use it. It seems as if peak oil is not the problem, but is actually the solution to the problem. Or at least, the beginning of a solution.

Me thinks a change in tac is appropriate, especially for myself.

Electing a mixed race person to The White House is a big shift for human society, a very positive indicator that suggests we should proceed in a more optimistic manner.

I am convinced that the blogsphere is a functional educational and political tool. I believe that now is a good time to start creating "positive memes", anyone who's been silly enough to read my stuff knows I'm a hard core doomer generally, but I spot an opportunity right now so doomer can have a short vacation. We broadly know many things that are do-able, public transport, solar & wind power are 3 obvious ones, so maybe we should create positive memes, that may also encourage a different demographic to view these pages. "Yes We Can" is a thought we should hold dear because mood affects creativity, we need to look no further than the markets to see what a profound impact mood has upon behaviour. Let us make ourselves more attractive to the general public, we could avoid angst and brutal confrontation when refuting each others perspective, gentle with the puppies kiddies, no pulling their ears sorta thing. (I'm referring to the public commenters not the TOD staff)

We appear to have the global slowdown that was necessary to conserve petroleum and reduce the rate of GW emissions a little. I am thankfull for small mercies. (Anyone got numbers). Apparently ice formation in the arctic is going very well this northern fall( ? numbers ?). All of this drama with storms, banks, the credit system and the markets has surely woken "the vast masses" to that fact that something is not right; enquiry and illumination will proceed from there.

The number of people that "went with" Nate's suggestion of telepathy is kinda interesting and promising also, having experienced direct telepathy consciously many (over a dozen) times in my life I do not discount it as a potential tool. It would require a SIMPLE meme rather than an all encompassing one however.

It could take several decades for "The Olde Ways" to be replaced by "The New Ways", two steps forward, one step back as the saying goes. Speaking of which, very silly to bail out industries that manufacture petroleum powered transports, JOBS you scream - RETRAINING my retort, if we must have cars could we please have an electric option pack.

I am feeling genuinely optimistic now, that's a new and unusual experience for me. It could have something to do with the fact that my home urban garden keeps turning into a jungle of food that is impossible to consume, something which I would like to share with everyone in the near future is THE RAISED AND ACTIVELY VENTILATED GARDEN BED, which I claim is my invention. My wife smiled and comforted me for my foolishness.

Big Hugs.