Advice to Pres. Obama (#6): Beware the Hungry Ghosts

This article is one of a series of articles offering energy advice to President Obama and his administration.

January 2009

Dear President Obama,

You don’t know me personally, but we have a few things in common. Like you, I became a community organizer after earning an advanced degree (my doctorate is in biology). Thanks for dramatically elevating the status of my current work. I was also elected president once, though that was over twenty years ago while I was in high school. Our children are about the same age (my pair are boys) and I especially enjoyed watching yours during the inauguration, imagining what an adventure this must be for them.

The theme of your campaign was hope. Quite honestly, I don’t have a whole lot of hope for my children’s future, and that’s why I am doing something as audacious as writing you a letter. I am a worker, not a big complainer, and I will suggest some concrete steps that would make me hopeful. But first I want to connect hope to something else, realism.

Hope begins by facing the truth because decisions made in a state of denial are likely to be poor ones. Sometimes, truth is painful, and so hope may only arise through a path of disillusionment. Our country has been living in a state of denial for a long, long time, and now many are disillusioned. My question is: Will you lead a process of truth telling? Are we going to stop scapegoating and over-simplifying our troubles, and get to the core of our predicament? We may have to shed a lot of healing tears along the way, but people are waiting for this.

The Predicament

As a scientist my job is to sort out the rules of the universe, but most of my expertise is limited to planet Earth. The trouble I see is that the laws, policies, codes, habits and various behaviors of Homo sapiens are incompatible with keeping the planet suited to our habitation. As a lawyer you are aware of the phrase: “The constitution is not a suicide pact.” If that is the case, your oath of office permits you make sure, above all else, that social norms are in alignment with the laws of nature. After all, nature doesn’t negotiate. Furthermore, a primary role of government is to protect the commons from assault or corruption. Governments also strive to protect private property and individual liberties. When these two functions of government are at odds, one must be given primacy. We all know that private interests tend to fund politics, but it is well past the hour to stand up for the commons above all else, or everybody—rich and poor—will lose.

What an amazing gift of perspective we have, to see the planet from space. Clearly, the United States of America is only one territory on Earth. The relationship between our nation and the Earth is a nested one, meaning the Earth contains our nation. Here’s the rub. The same nested relationship holds to the global economy. All economic activity is nested within, and wholly dependent upon, the biological, geological, climatological and hydrological systems of the Earth. What we do to the Earth we do to ourselves.

Why is the economy collapsing right now? In the news we see the problems reported as a process of “deleveraging” following a “bubble,” and that we ran up too much “debt” relative to our “balance of trade” and long-term prospects for “GDP growth.” This is all true, but only hints at what lies underneath. When I step back and put on my biological goggles it is a much bigger story. In reality, the rules of finance and commerce do not recognize the simple and obvious fact that the economy is a subset of the Earth. Our predecessors mistakenly created monetary and political systems that drove humanity into ecological overshoot. The most worrying debts are not financial, but ecological. Financial debts can be forgiven; ecological ones need true repayment.

Let me explain. Look at the graph below of the Ecological Footprint. The human impact on the planet has risen in parallel with the growth of the economy. This is no co-incidence, but a function of rising population and consumption levels that are measured collectively as growth. It has gone way too far.

Perhaps an analogy will drive home this key point of mine. I would hope that my children will grow for another decade, perhaps averaging 10 lbs per year over that period. Then I want them to stop growing. If they don't stop, either something is wrong hormonally and/or they are eating too much. Imagine they keep up the 10 lbs per year rate after they become 20 or so, by the time they reach my current age they will weigh nearly 400 lbs. I happen to weigh the same as I did in college. This is good. You see, I am not "anti-growth" but comprehend the simple fact that physical growth is a phase that eventually ends. To our great detriment, the human economy went past its healthy growth phase and is now so enormous it desperately needs liposuction and a frugal diet plan, or it and its host (the planet) will die.

Now the bankers in your administration may say: We must grow the economy or the financial system collapses. They are right! However, I speak as an ecologist (akin to Jane Lubchenco, nice choice there) and ask that you reply to the bankers with: Then create a financial system that doesn’t require perpetual growth. Believe me, this is possible, the theories and models exist, and it is easier to do than repealing the laws of physics and ecology.

Okay, if you have followed me so far perhaps it is safe to tell you the following. When I hear you talking about stimulating the economy and rebuilding our roads, honestly, I shudder. Perhaps I don’t know you well enough, but my fear is that you are trying to get us onto that red path on the Ecological Footprint graph above, the one labeled “business as usual.” Frankly, that is impossible now, and I think you know that. Rapidly “greening” the economy and giving money to governors for their new, “shovel ready,” freeway projects are mutually exclusive propositions. I am going to follow the money. Will precious resources be used to perpetuate our national “suicide pact” or will they turn us onto the above-labeled rapid reduction path? Let’s face up to it: We can’t have it both ways.

More specifically, the economy requires inputs in the form of resources that come from the Earth. Our people and industry use these to make products that are bought and sold in a reinforcing feedback loop (circular flow model). The outputs are wastes that become part of the Earth too. We are in trouble at both ends right now. The inputs are getting more difficult to come by (e.g., fossil fuels, water) and the pollution has accumulated to damaging concentrations (e.g., greenhouse gases, persistent organic compounds). Policies need to recognize limits at both the “source and sink” sides of the equation and treat the economy as a subset of the planet.

Allow me to sink this basket: Wave a magic wand and solve the credit problems. Banks are solvent and consumer confidence is high. Would we have an economic rebound? I seriously doubt it, because money is a claim on source supplies and sink capacities that have reached physical maxima. That's what the Ecological Footprint is showing us with hard, real world numbers, not ethereal financial digits in a database. When more money chases fixed or declining goods the result is inflation that brings demand in line with what is available.

How You Could Give Me Hope

I know heaps of ridiculously high expectations are being placed upon you, but allow me to give you five simple, inexpensive and immediate ways that you could provide hope.

1. Convert White House lawns to food gardens. In addition to an assortment of vegetables (imagine fresh arugula whenever you are at home), go ahead and include hens, a beehive, and perhaps a dairy cow (I think you have the space). I am a farmer so I know that getting your nails dirty would be a great compliment to a basketball workout and is fantastic for mental relaxation and acuity. A walk through the garden would likely help during tense negotiations, whether foreign or domestic. But most importantly, this move would give people the message that some degree of self-reliance is good for them and their country.

2. Bring House Rep. Roscoe Bartlett over to your office for a special presentation of his energy talk, make sure your cabinet is there, and present him with an appropriate Presidential Medal of some sort. He’s a Republican so this would be a great bipartisan move. He is also a bona fide scientist who can speak with authority on the “source” side of the equation with respect to fossil fuels.

3. Invite James Hansen and his wife to stay in the Lincoln bedroom. Keep him around long enough to personally be assured that you understand his positions and reasoning. He believes substantive changes in energy policy need to happen within your first term or the planet is toast. Unfortunately, I think he’s right.

4. Place Herman Daly as a key economic advisor. So far your economic team looks to me like the same folks who created the mess. I have absolutely no confidence in them. Much of the banking system is a black hole that is insolvent and unredeemable. By contrast, the hundreds of billions (soon to be trillions?) of dollars wasted in shoring up banks could help pay down our ecological debts if allocated wisely. Maybe you are going to tell these guys to do a pirouette and reform themselves and their ilk?

5. Develop a “Securing the Basics” plan. With the economy tanking, the risk of civil unrest, both here and abroad, is real. Because we are mostly a society of urban and suburban consumers, households in the U.S. must pay for basic goods. The extreme income inequity in the U.S. is an additional vulnerability. Lack of self-reliance means that if oil imports are cut off suddenly or commerce falters due to a cascade of credit failures, the very necessities of life such as food, water, and shelter may be lost to tens of millions of citizens. If the population knew that a credible plan existed to mitigate for such a catastrophe, ensuring fair and timely distribution of goods, it would reduce the likelihood that panic would set in. Over the long-term, a society that is not so import-dependent, especially for food and energy, should be a policy goal.

Tell you what. If you do these five steps I’ll invite you onto my radio show, called The Reality Report, and you can have plenty of time on local public radio to tout these early accomplishments. :-)

Overcoming the Hungry Ghost Syndrome

Several religious traditions describe what are termed “hungry ghosts.” These sad beings have insatiable appetites, with tiny mouths and huge stomachs. Modern society creates hungry ghosts among the living. We “have” more than ever, but are constantly bombarded with messages that it is never enough. The poor go to dollar stores, the middle class spend hours at Bed Bath and Beyond, the rich buy ever larger yachts, and city planners are always looking for more land and water in which to expand their urban sphere. Wants have become indistinguishable from needs. I anxiously walk among our nation of hungry ghosts, asking myself what these addicts will do when they can't get their fix? I am afraid of what they will think of you eventually. They expect you to turn things around so they can feed on more and more and more, but this is impossible. Will they come to despise you when the "economic stimulus plan" fails to stimulate them?

Like obese junk-food junkies, our addiction to consuming the planet will lead to an untimely death for most of us if we can’t stop it. Many of us know we are addicts but need social reinforcement to change. This is where great political leadership can really help. Your inauguration ceremony suggested to me you may accept this role. Your speech and the poem spoke of the hard times ahead and the value of a life of honest work, friends and family. Social scientists and neurobiologists know where addiction comes from and what can be done to break it. Once we “hit bottom” it could be amazing to see and feel a nation regain a sense of purpose and direction again. Greater systemic fairness, social equity, and honest communication will be crucial to our revival. I am not a politician, and you are a very skilled one. How you lead us away from the hungry ghost syndrome I leave to you.

While I want hope, I fear it will never come. My life feels like it is taking place on a runaway train. My friends, family and all I hold dear are on this train with me while it careens towards destruction. But the passengers and driver are apparently oblivious to their peril. They sometimes get angry at me for trying to alert them of the dangers ahead. At some point, because of momentum, it will be too late. Physics will trump hope. I don’t want to face that sort of existential crisis; living while aware that we’ve passed the point of no return. Do you know what I mean?

Can you be fearless? I don't mean this in a reckless sense, arising from delusional, juvenile feelings of immortality, but in a way that comes from a cool and truthful evaluation of a deeply difficult predicament. It has probably been said before, although it now seems truer than ever. We have arrived at a paradoxical point in history where we have nothing to lose, because if we don’t act properly then everything is lost.

Sincerely yours,

Jason Bradford
Willits, CA

Jason, this is excellent. Now that's change I might actually believe in, if Obama did anything close to this.

The prospect of Hermann Daly as top economic adviser instead of the likes of Summers and Rubin....(sighs wistfully).

The "hungry ghosts" remind me of Nietzsche's "inverse cripples", those who just have one organ grown to monstrous size while the rest of him is just a microscopic appendage.

What can be done with these stomachs?

Unfortunately, everyone is just looking for a way (and assuming there exists a way) to keep filling them.

Agree with your perspective and recommendations, and especially like the "Securing the Basics" plan idea, because it makes sure food, water, and shelter are covered, instead of having completely separate plans. The housing part is very complex and expensive (even if only considering winter heat), and fraught with certain perils if it becomes merely a huge public housing project.

Having such a plan will help to mitigate food JIT headaches in the event of a major energy interruption.

Setting an example with (portions of) the White House lawn would send one of the strongest messages.

That's a great picture of sheep on the lawn.

Folks can vote on who they'd like to see as White House Farmer, though I don't know if this has any official relevance:

Jason, the choice should be quite obvious--it should be you.

Great article Jason, I'm going to distribute this on as much as I can.

Hi Jason, excellent article.

Just one small comment:

or it and its host (the planet) will die.

That will never happen. The planet will recover. Hundreds of millions of animals will cover the planet and our cities will slowly disappear. The only thing we can lose is ourselves. The planet has survived worse than humanity.

Just from a anthropocentric perspective, we trashed 100 million years of rather robust evolution. The Sun is becoming a aging star, and will probably not have that many more shots at this (what ever your perspective). So some equanimity on the "the planet will always recover" perspective is probably warranted.

How about I make the claim that the planet is metaphorically like a phoenix. It will indeed rise from the ashes again and again until the sun goes crazy.

Lovelock makes the case that Gaia had been working hard to keep up with the slow warming of the sun and that we may well have pushed earth into a new stable state - hot rocks. Gaia would probably be just as content that way.

cfm in Gray, ME

Keeping the metaphors to a minimum is probably good.

And mimizing the impact of a mass extinction event is poor advice indeed.

Metaphors can be instructive in helping us arrive at solutions to problems (through lateral thinking), they certainly have a place in achieving a holistic understanding of the world.

I have sympathy with your second point though, it's too early to give up on humanity and worry about our legacy. That's a philsophically surreal place.

We cannot avoid metaphors. Nearly every one of the words you just used is or was once a metaphor.

Agreed. While we are often very destructive, the impact of a 10km asteroid or a Yellowstone level volcano puts us to "shame" (not to mention geologic periods of incredible damage, e.g. "snowball earth" ==> whole planet covered in ice, followed by "hothouse earth" when the average temperature was 50 deg C, which both occurred near the end of the Paleozoic era). Life survived all those disasters. Somehow, I don't think that we will be able to significantly damage the extremophile bacteria living 5km down below the surface in granite. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to see tigers and elephants (and even whales) disappear.

Very much agree with your letter and especially the way that you have written it. Strongly agree that we are seeing "more of the same" type of politics with better spin control. We have the audacity to hope but the realism to see that politicians don't get elected (and re-elected) by telling people the (painful) truth. People don't want to hear the truth, it would mean change for them (and us). Change is tough. Self-delusion (and scape-goating) is MUCH easier.

Not sure I agree with your recommendation on James Hansen though. An increase in CO2 is unlikely to persist long in the face of peak oil and peak coal. Also, CO2 concentration increases have already been shown to increase plant (and crop) growth rates (e.g. soybean), especially during droughts. Human beings are a tropical species. Global cooling would be a much bigger problem. Imagine trying to run a US economy with New York and Chicago and Detroit and half of the wheat belt under a mile of ice!!

Keep up the good work!


when the average temperature was 50 deg C Southern Australian cities were 46C yesterday or 115F. We haven't got far to go.

He meant 50 deg C AVERAGE, not for a few weeks a year....

Plant growth can be improved by co2, but the added heat stress tends to eliminate any gains. The review literature is quite clear on this by now as experiments, models and real world data have accumulated since the early days of crop modeling with respect to climate change.

I work with many university students who are working to promote a more just and sustainable future, but who struggle daily to maintain hope. I'll share your post around, thanks.

Some of your comments echo a speech given recently by David Orr, entitled 'The Designer's Challenge" . . .
I quote:

"Four facts.
One has to do with the largeness of the human spirit and our capacity to connect to life.
The second has to do with justice, fairness, and decency in a more crowded world.
The third has to do with our wisdom and creativity in the face of limits to the biosphere.
The last is about human survival on a hotter and less stable and predictable planet.

In the face of the remorseless working out of large numbers do you have reason to be optimistic? Frankly, no. Optimism is a prediction that the odds are in your favor—like being a Yankees fan with a one run lead in the ninth inning and two outs and a two strike count on a .200 hitter and Mariano Rivera—in his prime—on the mound. You have good reason to believe that you will win the game. That’s optimism. The Red Sox fans, on the other hand, believing in the salvation of small percentages, hope for hit to get the runner home from second base to tie the game. Optimism is a bet that the odds are in your favor; hope is the faith that things will work out whatever the odds. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. Hopeful people are actively engaged in defying the odds or changing the odds. But optimism leans back puts its feet up and sports a confident look knowing that the deck is stacked.
If you know enough, you cannot honestly be optimistic. But you have every reason to be hopeful and to act faithfully and competently on that hope."

We must indeed keep raising our voices (and keyboards) to remind our charismatic, intelligent new President that a new economic paradigm must emerge. Tax cuts and more pavement and non-net-zero new building projects ("shovel ready projects") favor predominantly male-dominated jobs and invest in exactly the wrong sort of future. Once another round or two of stimulus money has been spent, it may be a long time before more funding is readily available on this scale for investment in projects like energy efficiency retrofits on a national scale, rail, distributed renewable generation, mass transit, relocalization, a new agriculture . . .
Oil Drum readers well know what is needed.
Hope we can believe in? I sure hope so.
Meanwhile, the state governments are not only slashing budgets Hoover-style but also dumping what money there might be into the same sorts of infrastructure, and looking to the feds for more. Invest in people and pollution-free power, not just pavement - the new rallying cry? We must be contacting all levels of elected officials, now, not just the President, with this message.

So how can you tell when you know enough to preclude optimism in a system so large and complex that it is truly beyond our comprehension? Ah but we no longer consider presumption a sin.

I hate to get too philosophical about this (Plus, I don't have the time to do it in depth right now.) but there is one overarching issue that is never discussed: In all the arguments for change, what are we trying to accomplish? Stated another way, what is the purpose of life?

To me, this isn't some fanciful question but rather gets to the root of the issue. The first view might be that whatever we do is rooted in our genes so there is no point in reflecting upon the meaning of life - Hell, let's just consume everything. The second view could be that we have cognitive abilities and can overcome the innate bias of our genes.

We can look at other societies where community, leisure and/or the arts were considered to be more important than accumulating "stuff." Is it possible that our western view of life is actually an aberration of how our species was meant to live?


"In all the arguments for change, what are we trying to accomplish? Stated another way, what is the purpose of life?"


I concur. I like the Latin quote The Dude uses over at PO forum: cogito ergo non satis bibivi [loosely translated--"I'm still thinking, so I must not be drunk enough yet" though that misses the put on the Cartesian cogito ergo sum]

But I do think the question is exactly central. What should we get busy doing of we do not know why we are doing it?

I think a positive answer is too difficult and would vary with different people and cultures.

But it is worth considering what things we might agree that we are not (or should not?) be living for--

Should the purpose of our lives be do end life (or complex life) on earth?

Or to just maximize (super-size?) ourselves, as economists say?

Or to grow the economy infinitely (economists again)?

Perhaps a first step would be come to a general if not unanimous agreement that these are not valid or valuable meanings for human life, though they have been what we have been doing in the west and now pretty much globally for quite a while now.

Could our purpose be to ponder our purpose? If so, we don't really need to consume the planet to undertake such speculation. We don't need 7 billion of us either, probably.

Unfortunately, the general culture has succeeded in labeling any such questions as silly. The culture has to reinforce this labeling, because of lots of people start focusing their lives on these deeper questions, they won't be as interested in consuming mass quantities...

I would say our goal should be to:

1. Minimize human suffering

2. Minimize species extinctions

Good ones. Of course the means are always the problem. Someone could point out that euthanizing the population would be the fastest way to eliminate human suffering. Short of that, you could keep everyone doped up on morphine--hmm, maybe not such a bad idea!


I'm not into smartassed replies so maybe you should start by eliminating yourself. We are plunging ahead with programs that are ill-thought out and have no rationale except to save BAU or some form of it.

I posited that maybe, just maybe, we should start by thinking about where our society is headed before going off half-cocked on multiple programs that may actually cause harm.


Todd, take a walk in the woods or something, man.

Sorry if the tone of my first sentences threw you off, but the rest of my post was an attempt to support your point and to engage in serious dialog about how to approach deep questions.

In response, I got your polite suggestion that I off myself (which is doubtless in violation of some code or other for posting, by the way).

Hoping the rest of your day goes better,

It depends. A hedonist would agree that we should consume as is needed to acheive our own happiness. Since human happiness seems linked to increasing prosperity (ie, if things stay the same forever we get bored), it follows that a hedonistic viewpoint would require consumption of increasingly larger amount of resources.

Though most at this forum would agree the consumerist model is a poor choice, I would suggest it is possible if we move beyond the paradigm of Earth. Had we taken the space program seriously (instead of cutting its budget to fight more wars here on Earth), we would be that much closer to moving beyond this planet.

I have read Prof. Bartlett's paper; I know finding another jar is not really a solution. However, the universe is infinite; there are solar flares 3 times larger than our planet. On that note I posit that we must become sustainable, if we are ever to have enough time to develop sufficiently advanced technology to transcend the resource limitations of our planet. However, in the long term, man is destined to inhabit the stars.

man is destined to inhabit the stars.

I'm not so sure about that. In fact, I think you're quite mistaken. Humans are evolved to live on Earth. Period.

First of all, do you have any concept of how incredibly vast the universe is? Or even our galaxy? Or even our solar system? We're talking thousands of light-years! (One light year is
5,865,696,000,000 miles (or 9,439,899,200,640 km, if you prefer)). Yes, almost 6 Trillion miles.

The nearest star is Proxima Centauri, only a short 4.2 light-years away. So how long to travel the cozy 2.46x10^13 miles? Obviously, even at the speed of light it will take over 4 years.

But we are not space travelers. We are biological critters. We require Oxygen. We require water. We need it not to be too hot or too cold. Too much pressure will crush us, too little will also kill us. We don't tolerate radiation too well. All these are problems in space. Heck, there's plenty of places on Earth that we can't survive.

And our evolution and adaptation to this ecosystem (Earth) are just incredible! From the trace elements we need (remarkably similar to the proportion of elements in the Earth's crust) to the symbiotic bacteria that live in our gut, it really goes on and on.

We couldn't even live on Mars. Too cold. No water. Nothing to eat. Wrong trace minerals in the crust. OK, we could bring those things with us, but if I'm not mistaken Mars has a solid core = no magnetic field = bad radiation.

And let's assume we could find a biologically verdant planet and actually get to it. Do you think we could survive among all the bacteria and viruses and other critters that we would find? I doubt it. For that reason (bacteria and viruses) I don't worry over much about aliens coming to Earth. Well, that and the distance thing.

No, if we are to travel through space we must take our entire spaceship (Earth) with us. And since our life-support system is powered by the sun, we should take that with us too. When you figure out how to do that, get back to me.

aside: for an excellent layman's explanation of these concepts and tons of other interesting stuff read Bill Bryson's: A Short History of Nearly Everything. A little dry in places, grippingly fancinating in others. Hope you enjoy it.

Certainly gives us good reason to try and right the ship.


Thanks for the thoughtful and heartfelt essay. I understand your perspective and agree completely.

Because of what seems clear to me, I am confounded, frustrated and disturbed by the lack of alarm, denial and, in fact, initiatives counter to sensible action (from my POV). For example these:

Larry Kudlow CNBC -- "Enviro-maniacs" --

"...children are victims of public-health malpractice by green groups and the federal government, which have been issuing dire but exaggerated warnings about harmless levels of mercury that have always been present in ocean fish."

Rush Limbaugh (note, republicans no longer use the -ic suffix on Democrat presumably to eliminate the notion that the "Democrat" party is in any way democratic.)--

"...our new president and his Democrat Congress are planning to kill even more jobs by demanding that automakers build green cars that nobody wants, by adopting Draconian fuel standards to appease radical environmentalists."

I do feel better, if not hopeful, with Obama in office because I think if "things" get worse rather than better he will likely act decisively. He is in touch with people and actively seeks input from all quarters. (I'm interested in watching how he deals with Republicans in congress)

His appeal for the CA's greenhouse gas reduction plan and 2011 CAFE standards was an opening salvo. We can hope the next steps will be additive.

But Steve Chu believes technology will save us so perhaps Obama does too.

In the meantime, on the public's priority list Energy is in 6th place, Environment falls to 16th and Climate Change falls to 20th according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

The first step is the people have to give a hoot.


Another excellent post. I will be sharing this with many of my friends and neighbors. Hopefully, some will wake up and want to have roses to smell in the future.


What amazes me is how quickly people's priorities change in those polls. After Gore's film climate change concern spikes. Then gas prices go up and energy is top concern. After 9/11 of course security was huge. Currently it's the economy. Someday soon it might be food, etc.

So much seems to relate to what the media decides to write about. Are they reflecting opinions or making them, or is it a positive feedback loop run amok?

I think Nate said a good thing on BBC about leadership and celebrities on a message, and setting behavioral examples, such as riding a bike, is crucial. This is why I emphasized the bit about White House lawn.

Could the rapid priority swings be both cultural (need for instant gratification) and fed by the media?

If true then your emphasis on the White House lawn is an outstanding idea, especially now when O's political capital is high.

But are environmental ethics as ephemeral as that?

I realize the White House lawn/vegetable garden is more symbolic than real but I believe it would need a few years of organic cultivation in order to be purged of all the years of artificial stimulus it has received.

Speaking of artifical stimulus...

Are they reflecting opinions or making them?
MSM is the tool of big business and actively leads public discussion in ways which benefit TPTB. The freedom of the press is limited to those who own the presses. MSM lead the public agenda more by the topics they choose to ignore than by what they actually cover. For instance the rampant union busting of the last 30 years has been seriously ignored along with the failure of government to actually enforce the laws on the books. When the MSM does discuss organized labor it is framed in derogatory terms such as emphasizing the connection between the Teamsters and the Mob. The crimes of the Pinkertons against peaceful picketers is ignored.
Anything connected to science is usually misrepresented as an unsettled debate (as in a certain ex-president's comment that the jury was still out on evolution) or they drag in some hack from the Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute about how we can't afford what science recommends.

When more money chases fixed or declining goods the result is inflation that brings demand in line with what is available.

Jason, you weaken your argument to put "inflation" in there. Sure, limited natural resources limit what can be done. But what we're seeing right now is a mix of inflation and deflation. Limits - in our money system - mean the whole FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) crashes. Bankers make no loans because they know they will never be repaid. Toast. That's what's going on around us.

The financial crisis is first and foremost an ecological crisis.

Shovel ready means putting those shovels to work rebuilding the bigger environment, not building stuff that taps out the environment even more, as you note. Instead of stimulus, it would be better to send all the legislatures home, to compost all the legislators - assuming they are not toxic.

Humans can rebuild the environment better than time alone. But to get there requires a huge paradigm shift. Start by replacing everyone in the cabinet with someone 20 years younger because the people Obama is choosing are already all fossils.

Meanwhile, a huge ice sheet in Antarctic is about to break free.

cfm in Gray, ME

I think you may have taken my inflation point out of context. That quote is preceded by an "If the credit problems are solved" statement, which I agree is unlikely to happen. The point is that even if they solve a problem of credit, the true predicament will come back to bite.

What was the saying? "Never trust anybody over 30, man." Sounds so fresh.

I have been a reader of the site for about a year (though in that year I have spent way too much time on here to the point of neglecting other areas of my life... so trust me, I get it), but never felt like signing up for an account until today.

While I agree with what you are pushing at here, this all seems like token action... I think I would prefer to see 1) open and honest acknowledgment to the citizenry about what is going on and 2) some substantive policy forming (which, arguably, we are starting to see).

On point one, I am sure many people here will argue this is political suicide. I don't think that matters even if it is true. Nonetheless, I do believe, hope at least, that over the next one to two years, PO will become as hot button of an issue as climate change. People trust in Obama right now, and I think if he and his people were to step out and tell the truth, many would believe.

Thanks for posting Andrew in Texas,

On a light note, the fictional President Donald Vanderdamp in the satirical novel "Supreme Courtship" by Christopher Buckley does precisely that - tells the truth - and raises the ire of everyone. He does this because he has no desire to run for a second term and cares deeply about the country. Ironically, in the end, the people, to his dismay, re elect him!

No good deed...

It's a good, fast read and I'm not giving away the whole plot. The president's 2nd term is not the main theme.

Yes, welcome to the madhouse. But do check out sterling's link on people's ranking of their concerns--energy is way above global warming right now for what people are worried about. Not that this means they fully understand either.

Of course, as long as we have plenty of cheap oil, we clearly don't need a livable planet ;-/

Giddaye Andrew,

I'm about fifteen months in myself (not a TODster, just an average bloke from Australia, perhaps two or three steps up the strong, but very scary "awareness ladder").

Your "Point One" has been foremost in my mind for some time; posing questions / making observations to family, friends, emailing to all sorts of whoevers - so much so that I feel my own "prupose in life" (if there is such a thing) is becoming truly muddled.

But I fear, even if your new President hammered home the hard facts of limits-to-growth, most of the population simply wouldn't buy it (or just plain ignore it). Afterall, don't the vast majority still believe the world was created in seven days and all that?

Regards, Matthew
Still a concerned dad

Maybe not at first they won't believe, but no one believed Global Warming at first either. Then the pictures of melting ice caps and public discourse changed public opinion.

I also sound the PO alarm as much as I can, and right now, there are a lot of deaf ears. But TOD gets a lot of hits, Obama mentions America's need to face resource constraints, and Peak Oil (if not its implications) is now regularly in the news.

I probably have a different view than many here though. I am not sure we've reached the limits of growth just because we hit Peak Oil. Oil shocks and The End of Days may look alike in the first few days, but the course of the two might turn out to be quite different.

People may very well believe the message of PO (if it's told), but again I wonder what will actually be done? Seriously, what's being done (scale wise) about GW? Even a so-called "one hundred year event" in our city this week - several days of sustained very high temperatures - have failed to ink out a GW comment from MSM here.

I fear the message has been lost for the most part by the Average Joe. It's all to hard, I guess.

And so, I see a long-(few decades?)-plateau-to-cliff scenario; too many ignorant people consuming too much, pushed along by Big Business. Perhaps when it's mostly gone (economically recoverable crude), my fellow Joes and Janes - 8 or 9 or 10 billion of them - might then take a *real* interest.

But what would I know?

I agree that the lessons of Global Warming are actually more cause for concern than hope. Congress was publicly warned about AGW 20 years ago. Kyoto was 16 years ago. Pretty much nothing of import has been done about the issue since then. It continues to be studied to death.

So, what year is this in terms of PO? Does Twilight in the Desert = Kyoto Protocol? If so, in 2021 will we be doing scientific studies and giving speeches about PO, or will we do anything about it?

"Does Twilight in the Desert = Kyoto Protocol?"

Nope. One book with very limited circulation cannot be compared with an international conference that included high-level represented from most of the worlds most powerful nations.

The most recent IEA report and even more some of Birol's public statements since may come closer. But really we aren't even anywhere close to an international meeting of all the most powerful nations to specifically discuss how to handle the inevitable power-down that PO (and GW) implies and demands.

Is any such meeting even on the most distant horizon? Is Bartlett still the only one in congress who has any inkling about this unfolding calamity? Are any other nations more aware or proactive?

Hi Andrew,

re: Your points 1 and 2, if you have a minute, could you possibly send me an email (address in user profile)? Thanks.

Thank you, Jason, for an eloquent letter to President Obama.

One thought, though, about eating produce grown on what was White House lawn: I would first have any produce grown there tested for herbicide residues, since I imagine the lawns there have been heavily dosed with chemicals to keep them looking pretty.

Very thoughtful post. Hope Mr. O lurks frequently around the drum.

Can someone explain the EROEI of a wind turbine? Including construction and transportation costs and with some reasonable capacity factor?

A very brief investment comparison of a wind turbine to CFL light bulbs is at

To summarize, it says that an equal investment of a wind turbine in CFL bulbs would SAVE 5 times more electricity in only a 5 year period than the investment in the wind turbine would PRODUCE in electricity over a 20 year period.

Thank you,

Ok, but all my lights are already CFL's. Now I want some wind turbines, or better yet solar thermal, DG, etc.

To quote old Bob Dylan -- from memory:

"Right on target - so direct!"

Gotta go right now, into the deep freeze of my town, but great post!

I'll check back later to read more comments.

This is a wonderful commentary--would that all of your nominees be put in service!

How about something on population too. Like removing the federal dependent tax credits, steep curbs on immigration, deporting illegal aliens, and promoting the child-free lifestyle by declaring a national non-parents day or something like that.

We might as well just fire off all the missiles now and get it over with.

Societies that successfully promote childlessness only ensure their own demise, and not a whit more than that.

A society that allows its population to overshoot the carrying capacity of its environment meets the same fate but with greater suffering. Are humans smarter than yeast?

If you can get everyone that can walk or swim to your town to accept the same sort of limits it MIGHT work, otherwise your responsible society will simply be outbred and overwhelmed by irresponsible neighbors. This is why you only see cultures with norms for limited population in seriously isolated areas.

To paraphrase a bit of pop culture: a human is smarter than yeast, but humanity is not.

Look at the current bailout bill, H.R. 1 of the 111th Congress, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (enter "H.R. 1" in the search box). It increases the tax credit for 3 or more children.

(3) SPECIAL RULES FOR 2009 AND 2010- In the case of any taxable year beginning in 2009 or 2010--
(A) INCREASED CREDIT PERCENTAGE FOR 3 OR MORE QUALIFYING CHILDREN- In the case of a taxpayer with 3 or more qualifying children, the credit percentage is 45 percent.

Neither Congress nor Obama understand population overshoot. The bill is mostly a wreck wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on BAU.

Excellent. I would add a sixth point: propose yet another respected figure to preside over the the downsizing and retrenchment of the military machine. If that isn't done, if we don't change our relationship to the rest of the world to one of equality instead of "leadership", "indispensability", dominance in other words, then we're still screwed.

I can think of a few names (e.g. D R Griffin), but they are excessively provocative in today's context. I no longer know where to draw the line on matters like this - things are collapsing so fast that I wonder if it isn't better to be provocative in some ways.

Very interesting comments, Jason, but I'm disappointed that you didn't suggest a single, concrete action item that you'd like to see Obama do. Your five suggestions are ALL SYMBOLIC. Putting sheep on the White House Lawn or having Dr. James Hansen give a lecture to President Obama or even having another high level government commission charged with making another plan might feel good, but it wouldn't accomplish a single thing. I'm sure that you have thought long and hard about the problems we all face, and you have probably come up with some actual programs and plans that could result in real progress along the road to the economic/ecologic transformation you seek. I hope that you will submit another contribution in which you will share some of your more substantive ideas with us.

I understand your critique. In self defense, I felt that other TOD writers were doing more along the lines you suggest and so tried a different approach.

If advancing Obama's understanding in those areas with those who have the keenest insights could happen, then that would be an enormous accomplishment in and of itself.

I really liked your simple, practical suggestions at the end. It is always easy to dismiss suggestions that would take a major government appropriation, but suggestions which are cheap and symbolic are easy to do, and can have impact far beyond what their cost would suggest.

Not to steal too obviously from others, but...

"Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour
And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge."

I find myself thinking on that Jackson Brown song more and more these days.


I appreciate the fact that you put primary emphasis on the need for ecological intelligence, and consequently on the need to end the growth orientation of our economic system, rather than on purely technocratic solutions involving alternate energy and greater resource efficiency. Unless we explicitly build ecological intelligence into the structure of our economic system, then purely technocratic responses cannot save us from our dilemma and might actually make things worse by allowing us to build up an even larger ecological debt before the payment comes due.

However, there is an important driver of the growth orientation of our economic system which you do not discuss. You mention that the monetary/financial system needs to be reformed so that it can function effectively without growth. I agree that such a change is a necessary condition to bring about an economy without growth, but it is by no means a sufficient one. It is not hard to imagine an economic system with a much greater degree of income equity than exists at present and which provides investment capital in the form of interest free loans from community banks which nevertheless vigorously desires economic growth. As long as the primary path to material security involves individuals and families storing up value in the financial system on an atomized basis, a desire for composite growth will continue to dominate economic thinking.

Financial stores of wealth do not correspond to physical caches of wealth in the same sense as a squirrel's cache of nuts. If I retire when I am sixty-five years old (Don't I wish!) and expect to live for another twenty years off of my 'savings', there are no warehouses under lock and key filled with food, clothing, and fuel dedicated to my exclusive future use. If I go on eating, wearing clothes, and staying warm at night, it is because men and women get out their beds every morning and go to work and produce economic output, part of which they give to me.

One person's savings is another person's consumption. While I am working I am effectively supporting the people who are not working, and when I retire (should such a day ever come) the people who are still working will, in turn, support me. Mutual support in complex economies is an objective physical reality which can be understood independent of any particular political ideology. Apart from some necessary amount of inventory real physical savings are in the built up infrastructure of society (in which I include the knowledge and skill of the men and women who are that societies brains and hands) and the resource base which supports that infrastructure. Since we build infrastructure in order to use it, the desire to store up value is really a desire to produce and sell as much stuff as we can in the present. When people are in the stores buying home theater systems, laptop computers, MP3 players, etc. then our 401K funds and pension funds are happy.

This fundamental structural contradiction of our economic system, in which greater current resource consumption is made to appear as if it will result in greater future security, needs to be fixed. Financial/monetary reform alone is not an adequate solution to this problem. We need to make the objective fact of mutual support manifest in the daily operation of our economic system. Your suggestion of a plan to provide basic goods and services in the event of an economic crisis is a step in this direction but does not really address the long term functioning of a steady state economy. In a world in which constant productivity increases are no longer possible we can no longer count on Adam Smith's cooperation of greed.

I could say something about how I think a policy of mutual support might be implemented (It does not involve the complete disappearance of markets for goods and services.), but this post has already grown too long, and besides, I am tired of being publicly castigated (possibly correctly) as a socialist moron.

...I am tired of being publicly castigated (possibly correctly) as a socialist moron.

Oh, don't get tired of that now. The capitalist morons have been at bat long enough!

You said "Unless we explicitly build ecological intelligence into the structure of our economic system"

and I agree, but we have to build ecological intelligence into ourselves, and, more importantly, into our children, because it is they who will really feel the effects of Peak Oil, and who will ultimately have to deal with its consequences. It is not just oil that is important here, it is the entire biocapacity of the earth, which is stressed far more than it can handle, and which is starting to call in its debts. We need to prepare our kids for this. We need to make them aware of the importance of conservation, of considering the environment, of community. If I go on,I will be accused of being 'maudlin', and maybe I am. But I am also very aware of the importance of childhood in determining the circumstances of later life, and we have to do what we can for and with our kids now to get them ready.


Some good points especially what motivates people as they come close to retirement. Most of the wealth of a country is held by retired or close to retired segment of the population and the national publicly owned infrastructure, or is held by sovereign wealth funds or pension funds to provide for future obligations(ie food and clothing of retired).

I am not sure why a "steady state economy" is considered the solution to resource depletion and environmental degradation? or why "constant productivity increases are no longer possible"?

For example, if all FF are replaced by renewable ( or nuclear ) energy, we no longer consume 1.4 or 10 earths, we would be using 0.01% of the present earths wind, solar energy.
Similarly growth that uses fewer resources, for example watching a travel program rather than actually traveling half way around the world, or phoning a relative rather than visiting. Surely these types of GDP growth are more desirable than a steady state using the same technologies. To take an extreme, should be keep the old but very inexpensive kerosene/whale oil lamps( or even incandescent bulbs) or replace them with more expensive high efficiency lamps powered by an expanded electricity grid using wind and solar power? The second alternative will increase GDP ( lots of jobs building infrastructure) and COULD result in more driving of the old low mpg vehicle, and the use of additional oil, but it's not the only possible outcome, the increased GDP could enable those building renewable energy infrastructure for for example buy a new PHEV or high mpg hybrid( again more GDP but less use of resources).

I am wondering if you have ever read and of the "Limits to Growth" books. They do a fantastic job of discussing this subject, which is about substitution and the kinds of growth possible. Generally, great efficiency in one kind of resource use leads to a limit rapidly encountered elsewhere. For electricity generation this might now be water. If that is overcome another one pops up. Collapse of the economy occurs eventually when all limits are hit at once and the rate of innovation and efficiency to overcome them can't keep up. Because of the exponential function, this happens remarkably quickly.

Limit's of growth( 30year update) give 9 scenario's of possible future worlds, the 9th is where industrial output and population stabilizes at the levels we have now. This does not mean that GDP has to stabilize, just that the amount of resources( steel, food,water etc) does not increase. It doesn't prevent steel being diverted from new private vehicles to build wind turbines or public transport, or the steel in a SUV being recycled into much more valuable products( ie higher GDP). It doesn't prevent the expansion of the service sector of the economy as has occurred in the US over the last 30years(even allowing for increased imports of manufactured goods).

I've heard these arguments before, but what you are really advocating is growth without growth. Put another way, you have redefined growth as something else, then stated that it is possible for ever.

Why bother calling it growth. Is there something talismanically magic about it that you can't let go of? Is it that central to your religion?

As always you are very thoughtful. This would be a wonderful sort of post for a Saturday campfire if you have time to flesh it out.

I will put something together, though I will not be lightning quick about it.


This is not a technical paper on peak oil. This sort of emotional piece is not consistent with this site, in my opinion.

This 'sort of a piece' is essential to this site. It is not just dedicated to looking at the technical aspects of peak oil, which in a perverse sort of way are interesting (a bit like watching a big fire, as long as its not your house that's burning up). but the critical issue is how does it affect us as humans, and as society, and what do we do about it. Jason's contribution is dead on in this respect.


In the 3 plus years I've been visiting and posting at this site, it has always combined emotion with expertise. Without the emotion, who cares, literally? Without the expertise, the caring is useless. I would not want that to change.

You sound an awful lot like some of my relatives ;-)

However my emotional response to your comment is to say,"Who cares what other people think" and "Surely your Joking, Mr Feynman Kopits!

I was invited to be a contributor to The Oil Drum because the staff was heavily weighted towards those looking at the supply side of energy and depletion. My "job" is to discuss implications, potentially mitigating personal and community responses, and wide boundary issues.

This do seem on the mushy side, but don't try to disentangle fact and emotion in our makeup.

We are story tellers. The story is just the way we embed emotion in facts or at least perceived facts so they can be retained and passed on substantially whole by those who listen to the story. And since I embedded no emotion in this at all you won't remember a thing I said.

Are you actually submitting these letters to Obama or just posting it here to entertain readers? Just curious.

I think there is some hope that at least some of these letters will make it through to staffers, if not President Obama. We can at least try.

Your inauguration ceremony suggested to me you may accept this role.

Oh. My. God.

Obama as rohrschack test again???????

WAKE UP!! I know you mean well. You'd make a far better president than the current one because it seems you actually have a conscience when it comes to the welfare fo the people. But by definition that is a disqualifier for occupation of the White House, dude.

The new President is NOT your friend. When are you going to get that the NY banksters bankrolled his budget-buster inauguration and his budget- buster campaign. Follow the money! Sorry to burst your bubble but with Barack it is business as usual. How do you know when a politician is lying to you? When his lips are moving! The HOPE, YES WE CAN guy is another lying sack of shit, just like his predecessors! They never really give a shit about the rest of us, they just pretend to care about the little people while they serve their true masters. When are you folks going to get it? His BAU nominees and his BAU policies speak louder than those lofty lying words. Never forget that the better liar always wins the election.

If I hear another "he has to do this so he'll get elected, then he'll show his true colors" rationalization from die hard Obama supporters, I will puke. He has to get reelected again doesn't he? So don't expect that he'll suddenly become what you think he is. He is bought, the RNC is bought, the DNC is bought. And your thoughts on the matter are NOT important to those who bought him and the other national "leaders".

Whatever brain function helped you to interpret over the past 8 years what George W Bush was really saying has been turned off. Turn it back on so that you can properly interpret The Real Program. Right now that program is "shovel what's left of the US Treasury into the bank accounts of Wall Street Theives while promising it will help average Americans" - with no oversight from Congress because they've also been bought out by the banksters. Even when public opinion was massivley against the TARP, they STILL voted against their constituents.

Frankly I am sick and tired of everyone offering suggestions to the Obama campaign as if they really care what you think. The campaign inviting suggestions from the public is a neat trick: it is just a way to make you think eveything is going to be fine and keep you complacent while they rip you and your family off bigtime.

When Americans finally give up hope in false political leadership and get off their ass and take back their country from the big moneyed interests, that's when you'll finally see "CHANGE". [Not holding my breath.]

"Nature doesn't negotiate."
God, how I love it...!
I don't know how visible we TODers and others are on the President's radar, but perhaps we can collectively make it more so.
As with a tipping point for most everything, perhaps this is our own collective and especially individual push.
Let me suggest that we all send to our good new president a personal email and link to this great and important post by Mr. Bradford.
If enough of us get 'on the radar' perhaps it will be seen and cogitated on.

That one last final e/mail sent by one of us may indeed be just the momentum to allow it to become a mainstream part of our planetary fabric.
The decisive Tip.
I sure hope so, because remorseless time has no conscience nor concern for our silly human strivings. It's all up to each of us, regardless of our views on whether Obama is legit or not. Do we really have time to discuss that? I think not.
I don't know Mr. O., but I'd rather try to reach out than remain curiously quiescent in my sullen opinion that he is more of the same.

I love this site.

Actually, PO is becoming slowly more mainstream. For example the Jan. 26 issue of The New Yorker has an article entitled "The Dystopians" in which Orlov, Kunstler and Taleb are profiled. (I recommend this article). In particular, Orlov mentions that his book "Reinventing Collapse" was ordered in large numbers by financial types looking for guidance as the stock market tanked last fall. The author of the article is obviously aware of PO. Among elites I think the "secret" is out of the bag now and the point is to keep the game going as long as possible while they make their way to the lifeboats (assets they can use as things get difficult).

There is an article today in the NYT about all the huge bonuses being paid on Wall Street (using bailout funds). Now these wealthy people are looking for safe places for their maybe or farmland I have no idea. But the point is they don't necessarily want everyone to figure out what is going on. In that sense, Obama is kind of a performer hired to entertain and soothe everyone in the theater while the rich people escape unnoticed before the building is overtaken by a blazing fire. Little by little more and more people are smelling the smoke and looking at each other, whispering, wondering if they should follow the few headed to the exits.....while some heroic types wish to save everyone (I hope that is possible obviously)....and others sit oblivious watching the show and admiring the amazing show on stage.
The New Yorker obviously is a magazine that can't continue to rely on subscribers loyalty if it ignores the PO message when so many on Wall St are ordering Orlov's book. It has to nudge a few shoulders, wake a few people up but not arouse mass alarm.....if you read the article you'll notice that it doesn't MENTION THE EROEI OF A SLICE OF BREAD processed using FF inputs.

I think Obama might understand PO but what he wants (what all politicians want) is power and to run the whole show for as long as possible. He might also want to save people through keeping the system going, also for as long as possible. His ambition is perfectly natural but if he were a scholar of entropy and economics he would realize the game is up.

The best liars don't really know they are lying. People talk out of two sides of their mouth. Politicians are especially good at this. Cognitive dissonance, domain specific learning, call it what you like. Obama has some great rhetoric and almost no track record. Some of his picks I think are great, others really horrific. The letter is the kind of respectful approach I believe has a chance to be heard, not that my expectations are high. Reading it carefully, you should sense that I hold few illusions.

Getting off ass...good! Giving up hope might be the best chance we have that people will do so, but if that happens without good political leadership it can get very ugly. Might this be inevitable? Possibly so, but I tend to talk about what I'd prefer to happen rather than what I think will happen.

By the way. I personally stood in front of my congressman and told him the bailout of banks would not work and was a waste of taxpayer money. I think I used the phrase "mathematically impossible" when he reluctantly tried to justify it.

"Giving up hope is good." Okay so when will you give up hope in messiah Obama. What will it take to finally see him as he is instead of as you hope he may be? Seriously what's the criteria for that? I really want it spelled out. Because I am waiting for my fellow Americans to stop wasting our time trusting these theiving bastards. I need to know when you will be ready to face the awful truth. I need to know when to be ready for some real political action, not some preapproved authority sanctioned symbolic feel good musical crap in on the national mall on a day the pols aren't even in session.

Well, the letter was quite a bit about the fact that I don't actually have any hope in him in spite of the fact that he ran as the hope dude. Sort of, you haven't impressed me much yet, but try this and I'll get on board.

I suppose writing a letter to him means that I actually have a teeny, weeny bit, otherwise why bother, right?

Done written all my letters. They weren't accompanied by tens of thousands of dollars in campaign conributions so they weren't even read by the addressee. I've been a Republican. I've given up on them and switched parties. I've been a Democrat. I've given up on them and switched to a third party. Not being a GOP or DNC dupe anymore I can now see when both parties betray us, which is always.

If you are a DNC partisan hack you never recognize when 'asking the tough questions' isn't followed up with any consequences: Impeachment off the table. No war crimes trials for torturers. No filibustering anti-civil rights judges who overturned Carhart. NO BALLS. But they sure talk a good game, don't they? Oh yeah they saved foreign women with a reversal on the global gag rule, hallelujah, they are heroes! Yet an american woman has less access than ever to reproductive services. How about that gag rule in US public schools against the science of plain ol' birth control, never mind abortions, for teens old enough to marry. How's that working for ya?

If you're a GOP partisan hack you are not reality based, they got you so programmed to cheer the homeland team that you never notice when the party of limited government turns the nation into a fascist authoritarian police state; or that the party of free enterprise sets up an uneven playing field for the bigger business players to decimate the little business players. Science and reason is your declared enemy and you don't even know it.

Jason, you know the right prescriptions for the country in your letter. I'll grant you that. You just haven't figured out that, unlike you, the PTB doesn't care about the country - just their country club members. In a system where the criminals rise to the top, it makes no sense anymore to write letters appealing to their patriotism or sense of national duty.

I may be tilting at windmills, but I am also willing to throw a Hail Mary if I have nothing to lose. I do a lot of personal preparation, and community preparation, but in the end this may matter little because, as you say, the big money still has so much power and they are extremely selfish and protective of "theirs."

When the good honest folks give up on politics then that just leaves the power in the hands of those you denigrate. If we somehow "took back our country" would that mean more of a workers productivity going to the workers or to the investors? It is one thing to insult those in power and offer up vague platitudes but it is another thing to actually lay out a description of how society would work if we took back our country. Less profanity and more well thought out ideas would be appreciated by me and many others on TOD.

Puh-leeze, give me a freakin' break here.
The guy has been in office for less than two weeks, and already you're pushing your Limbaugh/Hannity/Hatemongering BS, and hoping that he won't succeed so that your PoV can be vindicated.
Write him a letter, and then tell me how inept and corrupt he is.
At least then you can have some validity in my eyes FWIW.
He's done more in just a few days than the great W did in his whole terms.
For the last 4 presidencies I've been told to shut up and love it or leave it.
Well the shoe is on the other foot.
Either help him regardless of your political persuasion, or get out of the damned way.
It's not like we have a lot of time to bandy about who is more corrupt.
We will not last into another election if we do nothing, and as it seems, we are curiously approaching Mad Max meets the Donner Party.
Is that what you'd prefer?
Love all your posts, but sometimes I just get pissed off over this partisanship.
Hell, I'm not even a Democrat, but I certainly will do all I can to help.
Write a letter, and promote this important link.
Don't be the missing link.
I think Mr. Bradford's great ideas NEED to be put forth, as frequently, widely, and vigorously as we can.

The power is already in the hands of those I denigrate.

Stop trying to shut up US dissidents.
You'd be the first to put down any proffered ideas as disruptive to your precious theiving so-called market economy.
If you want ideas on how to take back your country just look overseas.
When those people take to the streets, THEY don't head home at the end of the day, THEY camp out, THEY disrupt business, THEY bring down governments. Ever heard of a general strike?

Or heck just look back at your own history. The New Deal didn't just happen by itself, child labor laws didn't just happen by itself, the PTB didn't just wake up one day and decide to pass women's suffrage, or the right to vote at age 18 or the civil rights act. No, people scared politicians into it every time. Later the politicians take the credit and act like it was their bright idea and the history books trick you into thinking the politicians will save us if we just wait for the right hero and write him a letter.

The politicians never have been the heroes. This Obama worship is sickeningly complacent.
WE NEED TO SCARE THE CRAP OUT OF THE POLITICIANS AGAIN. Make no mistake they are threatening our lives.

For a start, average americans could stop donating to any RNC or DNC candidates thinking they'll support your issues. They betray voters over and over and over and still voters think this time it will be different.
Boycott 'em, and boycott the corporations financing them. Stop celebratizing elected officials.

"people scared politicians into it every time."

I agree, but your caps don't further your point here. We're all frustrated, infuriated...

So what in particular are you planning to do to pressure the leaders. Convince me it is viable and I'll join you (but not if you scream at me with caps).

How's this for an example:

A huge mass of clean cut but clearly very angry voters in neat dockers pants and button down shirts attempting to break into the people's house [not the peanut gallery but the actual House or Senate floor] during a TARP IV voting session with chants of "Let us in! let us in!..."
[It intimidated them/worked in Florida.]

Sign me up!
BTW where in Florida are you? I'm in Hollywood FL.

LOL! I guess to someone in Hollywood in 2000 it was just a local news story. But I didn't watch it from Florida: the whole world saw that bull**** "voter protest" organized by GOP congressional staffers and conservative lobbyists.

My point is a) that it worked and b) that turnabout is fair play.

I actually joined a number of others outside a local federal building to protest the TARP just before it was passed. No many showed up, but we got some media coverage.

So many people are so unaware of the enormity of the situation, or just too paralyzed or distracted to take any significant action.

I'm glad to hear you lean toward the socialist side just like me. The public enterprise side of the economy has been neglected far too long in this country. For several decades the public sector has been just an appendage of the military. If it didn't support defense spending then the GOP would block it.
We are now starting only the third year since 1980 where the Dems have controlled both the Congress and the White House. If Al Franken finally makes it to the Senate we will only be one seat short of a filibuster proof majority.

Real Socialists wouldn't pin their hopes on a Democratic Party majority.

I'm sorry where did you get your history? This country was started by big money interests. Overextended ones at that. The average tobacco planter was in hock over his eyeballs bankrolling his slave intensive production system in the late 1700s, when tobacco was our #1 export. I guess that means drug money was crucial to the revolution as well. Private property has always been a critical and highly protected component of this republic. Merchants were the other big constituency that forced conception of this nation. It was only after some arguement that a person without property was included as a citizen by the founding fathers in the first place. It has been quite the battle ever since, but big money never relinquished its hold much so 'taking back the country' can't really happen since that which isn't big money never had it in the first place.

What an amazing gift of perspective we have, to see the planet from space.

Tell me about it.

Nice sentiment in your letter, unfortunately Obama has other priorities.

Rational family planning and making abortion more accessible are mild forms of population control. It is a step in the right direction to mitigate the impact of peak oil.

making abortion more accessible are mild forms of population control.

Why stop there?



More technical analysis abound on this and other web sites, in relation to Peak Oil, though establishing a new and sustainable course must start with basic understanding from a broader economic perspective, of the ecological predicament we are in, and this must be translated into something that everyone can relate to both intellectually and emotionally.

The core principles of Ecological Economics offer hope for the future I think, but they need to be conveyed aggressively and finally put into practice.

Thanks for giving us an example to follow. :-)


I'll tell you what gives me hope. Jason Bradford gives me hope. I find it comforting to know that at least one other person on this planet understands what is going on. And is fighting hard to influence change amongst a sea of people that do not understand and do not care.

As for me, I am currently paralyzed as to how I can make a difference. But I keep watching Jason and he inspires me, so maybe I will try something with my local community.

Just knowing others feel the same way is very important. Trying to do something challenging on your own, without social support, is nearly impossible. We may try to post some articles along these lines. In the meantime, you could look into this model for group formation:

Thanks very much Jason. You have given me the perfect article to post on my universitie's website. I am in Thailand and it is blind business as usual here. We are a long way behind the eight ball. But as a very old and popular saying goes 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep'

I do agree that the USA must now become a true leader to prevent more damage to our biosphere, the diversity and abundance of other life, and the spectacular demise of our species.

Thanks. And I love your "name."

Jason--kudos for your effective and clearly framed suggestions.

Yours is the most effective communication of the problem and doable starters for remedies, IMO.

@Isochroma - look up Greshams law - it applies to people as well as money - one day someone like you will cause our volunteer contributors to go away and this site go dark - until that day happens I hope that we can keep the signal to noise ratio high enough that folks smarter than us can further the objective of finding answers and solutions and not placing blame...

Perhaps at the root of your complaint is a a question for future Campfire post?? - are those that had children before they understood limits to growth and resource depletion somehow to be penalized?

Had you asked it that way it would have some validity, as difficult a question as it is - to accompany it with vitriol and foul language does no one, including yourself, no benefit.

Please let us at least try to keep the discussion going - we are all well intentioned -despite the fact that some of us have children (I have 3 relatively high energy footprint canines). Jason has more altruism and goodwill in his little finger than 99% of humanity. If you disparage him further it is to the future detriment of cracking these hard social nuts in ways that neither you nor I can know - please desist.

...offensive comment removed...

Dude, you need to relax. You probably wouldn't be censored if you took a more civil tone.

I don't really have time to properly respond, perhaps tomorrow, but I thought if I was quick, you might read this before you get "censored" again.

We all agree that too many humans have turned out to be a bad thing. But of course, if no one had children, humans would be extinct. Think about the long line of ancestors that YOU have and ponder.

Second, Nate is not The Enemy. The way I read the post you are responding to he has no children, but rather three dogs.

And please, do not keep reposting this post. It will be like teaching a pig to do tricks. You will just waste your time and annoy the pig.

If it weren't for breeders you wouldn't be complaining about your air. There is plenty of room for you up here in the taiga. Bring your long johns and a knife and see how you do (a few folks complain seven months of white can be a bit long but you sound pretty ballsy give it a go, thats what men and women with guts who can't stand the crowd have generally done--gone and lived past its edge, thats just a few clicks from my door but I don't spend that much time there). Otherwise we are all interdependent (especially if you have access to the web--how many breeders are making all this tech you are using available to you).

The mandatory sterilization thing certainly seems attractive sometimes especially if it could be use retroactively. But seriously that is a very tough nut to crack. If you can't stand a little bit of censorship of your extreme abrasiveness, no one was saying not to state your point in civil fashion, done with the intent of trying to keep a civil open forum, I can just guess how much you would love a mandatory neutering program from on high. Or are you appointing yourself the judge and jury of who gets to produce the master race. The guy who did that in the thirties and forties did manage population reduction, but isn't all that well thought of these days. Maybe it is your time now, but you aren't going to win any disciples here the way you are going about it.

"We Will Not Apologize For Our Way Of Life, Nor Will We Waiver In Its Defense." Presitent Obama January 21, 2009


Below is the letter my 10 year old daughter wrote to President Obama as a homework assignment on the topic of his inauguration speech. Get real, man, your new president is simply and merely an 'operator' for the elite global ownership class. As such, his role is singularly symbolic--there is nothing substantive about it. Please take the time to engage in a deep reading of the message he delivered from his inaugural rostrum-- it is replete with hypnotic conversational devices and is rife with double-speak of truly Orwellian proportions. By treating it as serious discourse you are recruiting for the new operator who wants hordes of ordinary folks to redouble their energies and throw them into the black hole of meaningless political agitation, rather than banding together in small localized groups to actively assume roles of self-determination and the clear-eyed, and intentional scaling back of our modus vivendi. Your open letter is a disservice to the fundamental imperatives which we must acknowledge and use to inform our everyday actions. Enough of this so-called progressive baladerdash; you are running interference for the categorical construct.

If you think there's a snowball's chance in hell that your new president represents hope for essential and meaningful wholesale change then you are lost in too much smoko up north there in Willits.

Get off the pipe, friend.

We live within the framework of an irredeemable system which is based upon the immiseration of the many who produce an endless stream of caustic consumer goods at the ultimate expense of the planet and its ecological capacity to support life in all its diversity. Our culture is a toxic outgrowth of the golden arrow of consumption which is the prime directive of the facisist imperative. Fear not however, you thrall to the false god of science, this is but a 500 year aberration in our journey and it will soon fall of its own weight. Yes, it's going to be ugly, but when all the lemmings with their car keys plunge over the cliff, the sun will still have a tremendous amount of fuel in its core, and the planetary organism will continue to evolve in spite of us. Thus far humanity has proven itself an appalling embarrassment to the very notion of consciousness itself. Stop wasting your time trying to tweak a system which is fundamentally flawed and which cannot by any twist of verbal/intellectual, social/behavioral, or legislative/regulative gymnastics be reformed into something which is even remotely sustainable.

We will be experiencing a collective world-wide die-off of homo sapiens sapiens, and those who spend their time pissing in the wind and spewing intellectual drivel now will drown in their own effluent in the near future. Change yourself, change your life, do it everyday. The rest is all symbolism, nihilistic cheerleading, and misplaced hyperbole. By playing pit bull on this undercard you are contributing to the furtherance of the ownership's agenda. Wake up and stop diverting individual energies to the top.

Your Pal The Plumber Oakland, CA

January 21, 2009

Dear President Obama,

On January 20th my class watched your inauguration ceremony. I didn't listen to your speech attentively while at school, but I watched it again today with more awareness.

One of the messages I heard you state was that "America is a friend of every nation." If this is true then why are we at war in the Middle East, and why do we have more than 800 military bases around the world? Most of all, why is our military defense budget larger than all the other nations' combined if we are supposedly friends to all countries of the world?

If we want to build friendships with the other nations, such as Iraq, one of my suggestions would be to remove our troops from their countries before the end of 2009. I would close down military bases and direct the money spent on weapons and other military items toward other uses like education.

You also declared that, "We (Americans) will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waiver in its defense . . . " We should apologize to the world for our way of life. We have 5 % of the world's population and yet we consume 30 % of the world's resources. Our habits are unsustainable and we are slowly and painfully slaughtering our planet, Mother Earth. For this we must apologize and work toward a sustainable solution. I see this as our duty and responsibility if we want to begin building friendships with every nation. This is what our money and resources should be going to, not the military.

If we want to have good friends we need to be a good friend: to ourselves, and to the world. We have the opportunity to be a great nation and a true friend by making necessary sacrifices and working towards changing our need to consume the world's resources. As our leader how will you help us confront this looming challenge, which has been denied for decades and now must be addressed or Mother Earth will perish and so will we?


Chloe Carothers-Liske
Age 10 Oakalnd, California

Obama will not save us, but he will try to save all Paulsons buddies lifestyles with expenditures that rob Chloe's future education, future health, future community, future security.

I feel sorry for all our Chloe's. They did not deserve this.
We adults owed them so much better and we have so miserably failed them.
Instead we all dope up on another episode of 24 and sleepwalk her to the cliff.

Please understand that this is a blog discussing energy and the future - our Letters to Obama series aren't really intended for Obama but to educated folks on the wider boundary issues surrounding energy in a summary fashion on each of our contributors 'angles' (because there is not one. So to point fingers at our letters as being a waste of time, because our political system doesn't work shows a myopic understanding of the process.

I enjoyed your daughters letter and agree with many of your points. Thanks for posting it.