A Message to the Nearly Converted

I was recently asked to give a talk at "The Generation Green Tent" during the Summer Arts and Music Festival at the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area. Here's the text and supporting images for that talk.

Thanks for coming to my presentation. I am going to say some challenging things today. I don't know if you are going to be validated or view me as a heretic. In any case, if you are taking notes I am going to have eight main points to cover. Here it goes!

My wife is a physician and has a Masters in Public Health, and so I am going to start with an analogy inspired by her profession that I believe all of us can follow. A very telling study was done on the health of Native Americans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. The Mexican population was quite fit, while the U.S. population had high rates of obesity and associated diseases, such as diabetes. I am going to make some judgments about the society that produced this discrepancy, and perhaps we can primarily assign the blame for the illnesses of these people on their sick environment. However, I don’t want to absolve individuals of all responsibility for their predicament because that is a disempowering thing to do.

Overcoming the obesity crisis of humanity requires paying off our ecological debt. This means accepting certain job losses and developing job gains in other areas. See full article for discussion.

What I am going to argue is that you are all capable, powerful individuals and that you are responsible for making great changes.

So, let’s imagine a morbidly obese person died. What was the cause of death?

Did the heart get clogged? Perhaps the lungs filled with fluid? Was it renal or kidney failure or a collapsed circulation system? Did a growing cyst or new cancer lead to a weakness in one of the organs? There are so many possibilities because just about every system was over-taxed.

The patient was in the hospital before expiring, and the doctors weren’t sure what to do. It was like one of those “wack-a-mole games” at an arcade. Addressing one problem, such as heart failure, worsened another, such as kidney failure. The problems kept popping up, and taking care of one simply brought another to the surface…faster and faster and faster until coping with so many became impossible. The medical staff, and ultimately the patient, were simply overwhelmed as everything seemed to go wrong at once.

I’ll ask the question again: “What was the cause of death?”

Common sense tells us that looking at the death of this person from the perspective of failing organs misses the point. The root cause of death was years of unhealthy habits.

Point 1. This is the first point of my talk. I want everybody to view the grim environmental statistics as multiple “organ failures” approaching for human civilization.

I’ll just run through a few of them: Species are being lost at a rate that is about 1000 times higher than normal. Nearly all populations of commercial fish are in severe decline or utter collapse. Forests, wetlands, prime agricultural lands, and other highly productive habitats are routinely paved over or degraded. Key non-renewable mineral and energy resource stocks, especially oil, have been consumed at exponentially increasing rates for decades and are now past or near their extraction peak. Fresh water is frequently polluted and overdrawn from aquifers. And just to finish off this incomplete rundown, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are destabilizing the climate system with frightening consequences.

Graphs from New Scientist.

Most environmentalists will give a talk about one of these systems and then propose some things you or the government or business can do to make it not so bad. I am not going to give that kind of talk. Let’s not waste any more time dealing with the organs, let’s take a look at why they are all failing at once.

Point 2. The second point I want everybody to get is this: The cause of environmental decay is a kind of obesity crisis of humanity. We humans are taking more than we should from the planet, getting fat in the process, and leaving our trash behind.

Why do I put it this way? Well, let’s examine some other statistics. Growth in human population has been sharply rising for several decades. So has industrial output. The number of cars, trucks and planes in the world has increased steadily. Consumption of paper products, and stuff of all kinds, really, has risen exponentially. This is people taking stuff from the planet, building things, and creating lots of waste.

Graphs from New Scientist.

I am going to do an audience survey. I want you all to check your feelings during the following scenario I will describe. It will help if everybody closes their eyes for this exercise. It will only take a minute.

Your radio alarm clock goes off on Monday morning and it is the newscast you regularly hear. The tone of the newscaster is subtly jubilant. She is telling you about the latest survey of consumer confidence. It is high. A new report on the economy indicates that GDP is growing again, that car sales are up, and so is new home construction. Resorts around the world are preparing for a new tourism boom as the economy gets back to robust growth.

Keep your eyes closed. Now, how do you feel about it? I am going to give you three choices. Be honest, eyes are closed. First, raise your hand if your emotions register this broadcast as “good news.” Now raise your hand if your emotions register this broadcast as “bad news.” Anybody left with “mixed feelings” raise your hand.

[Historical note: I gave the same speech on Saturday and Sunday and only one person thought this was good news. The split was about even between bad news and mixed feelings. I suggest this was not a randomly selected audience.]

Thank you for doing that. I believe the common response to that news report would be a sense of “good news.” Now, what if the next news report told you about another calving ice sheet and warned of sea level rise? Perhaps it is an update on the area of plastic waste in the North Pacific Ocean the size of Africa. These would be taken as “bad news,” right?

To make it crystal clear, I am saying that the idea, “Economic growth is good,” is in conflict with “Destroying the environment is bad” because currently, the way things work, growing economies destroy the environment. Just look at the past 20 years in China. They are now wallowing in the putrid wastes of their own “progress.” Conversely, the current economic depression in the U.S. has people driving fewer miles each month for nearly the past two years. Why aren’t we celebrating this drop in gasoline use? Isn’t it great news that we are reining in greenhouse gas emissions and using less foreign oil? Bike sales in 2009 are now greater than car and truck sales combined. Shouldn’t we be celebrating the closing of car factories and the rise in bike sales?

How bizarre then, that the activities that we call “good” are the cause of our collective obesity, leading to organ failures such as calving ice sheets. Keep in mind that societies frequently have bouts of madness. We look back at history and gush, “What were they all thinking?” Can anybody give an example of a crazy mass delusion in history? Our mass delusions are extremely dangerous.

Point 3. This brings me to my third main point: It is well past the time for us to admit that we are a bit off our rockers too. Our society is obviously in a state of collective cognitive dissonance.

Wikipedia defines cognitive dissonance as:

an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The "ideas" or "cognitions" in question may include attitudes and beliefs, and also the awareness of one's behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

Apparently there are two ways to reduce cognitive dissonance: “either by changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, OR by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”

I am here to ask you to do the former, not the latter. Change behaviors, don’t rationalize. I will also make the claim that by changing your behavior you are going to feel a whole lot better. It will be like going on a diet and exercise program, tough at first, but ultimately very rewarding. I will also make the claim that you really don’t have any choice. You will never hear a news report about a newly robust economy--only the false promise of one some vague distance in the future. We are just beginning the Greater Depression and you better get ready. It’s time to shed some pounds.

Some may be wondering why I don’t believe Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geitner and good old American spunk can get the economy back on track. Well, here’s why.

Let’s imagine Mother Nature is a banker. Several generations ago our forefathers walk into “Bank of Nature” and get a loan. Mother Nature approves our loan and offers us plenty of credit. We are now endowed with the riches of ancient forests, prolific fisheries, fertile topsoil, clean water, concentrated mineral ores, vast reserves of fossil fuels, and a splendidly stable climate. These assets, Mother Nature’s credit slip, are the source of our wealth and comfort. Every widget, gizmo, thing-a-majig, do-dad, wach-a-macall-it and Winnebago produced in our factories, sold in our stores, piled in our landfills and spilled in our waters originated as a loan from Bank of Nature.

Why is there a problem? Because loans, as we are now discovering, are not just slips of credit, they also come with debt. While we gleefully liquidated the Natural Capital loan Mother Nature approved for us, we failed to develop a business plan that could pay back the debt. This ecological debt is the underlying problem in our financial system right now. As soon as the economy tries to heat up again, which we call increasing DEMAND, it will be capped on the knees by the henchmen Mother Nature hired. She will not extend us any more credit since we have done a poor job with the first loan. Some of the protest signs you may have seen pictures of around the world are correct: Nature doesn’t do bailouts.

If you are not quite following me here, a few of examples should help. Let’s say demand picks up for fish…woopsie, most fisheries are already collapsed. Want a new tourism boom? Too bad, oil supplies have peaked and the airline industry is being forced to contract, not expand. Looking ahead, how’s the ski resort business going to be with dramatically reduced snow packs and expensive fossil fuels?

The global financial system is not structurally capable of dealing with this situation and is in the process of failing. The current policy response is to inject more money into the system, which doesn’t help because all students of economics know the following: When more money chases fixed or declining goods the result is inflation that brings demand in line with what is materially available.

Don’t get me wrong, economic opportunities remain. What I am saying is that business and government enterprises that run an ecological deficit each year and further deepen our ecological debts will fail. I’ll get to those opportunities later.

Point 4. This brings me to point 4. Problems with the environment or natural resources are problems with the economy because human economic systems are a subset of planetary ecological systems. Environmental issues should be the main topics on page 1 of the business section of your local newspaper—assuming you still have one.

The human economy is a subset of planetary ecology, or Earth System. Ignorance of this simple truth has led to a misdiagnosis of our troubles.

This point brings me back to our original analogy. 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. If we don’t cut back on our portion size, get off the couch and start cleaning up after our slovenly selves, our poor health will lead to our demise as Mother Nature boots us out of her home.

What this means, of course, is that if we want to have a nice home and the economic security and stability that goes with it, we have to repay our debt to Bank of Nature. This sounds scary, and is a huge project, but ultimately we have no choice so let’s not whine and delay. Let’s take it on as a great adventure, a thrilling challenge. Our success or failure is going to hinge on our attitude. We need to take control of the circumstances instead of being passive and expecting someone else to solve the problems we create each day by the way we live.

Let me give you an example. I have a friend named Mary Wood who lives in Eugene OR. I am going to read something she recently wrote about her experience as a soccer mom. This is going to be a long quote because it is much easier for me to copy from her than to write something myself:

Five years ago, I was a newbie soccer mom. I enrolled my little boys in soccer and started hauling them around town to practices and games. Along the soccer field at the appointed time was a regular line-up of huge, gas-guzzling SUVs and mini-vans. After the children spilled out onto the field, the parents would idle on the sidelines sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups, or drinking Pepsi from plastic bottles. They would talk about their family trips to Costa Rica, or Mexico, or Europe, or Disneyland. They would rave about the new soccer equipment they had purchased and share their exploits at the mall. At half time, the parents would dole out dozens of plastic juice bottles to the little soccer players. They would dispense Albertson cookies from plastic boxes and slices of cake from thick plastic domes, slap the goodies on paper plates, and stuff plastic forks into little reaching hands. Within five minutes, the trash cans exploded with paper, plastic and Styrofoam. No one seemed to give any thought to the waste. This was the soccer life. Practices three times a week, two games on the weekend, and heaps upon heaps of trash.

What did Mary and her family do about this? I’ll read on:

There came a point, however, when I could no longer look my children in the eyes with out thinking about climate crisis and the tipping point and my role in it all. Yes, there were benefits to soccer, but really, in light of the world ahead, is soccer the skill that our kids need most? And how do we reconcile the enormous carbon pollution in today’s parenting? How can we love our children and yet contribute to the demise of their world? That’s not love. That’s denial.

We gave up the soccer life.

At about this time, Mayor Kitty Piercy made a carbon challenge to the residents of Eugene in which she asked them to do two new things a month to reduce carbon. We made this a family challenge. At first we did things like ride the bus, or have a no-drive day once a week. The next month we’d come up with two new things, and the next month two more things. Within a year, our front lawn had become a mini-orchard and vegetable garden, there was bulk food stored in our garage, we were riding our bicycles nearly everywhere, we had eliminated almost all food packaging, nearly all of our fruits and vegetables came from local sources, we made our own bread and chicken soup and granola bars every week, we rarely entered a grocery store, we raised chickens and built a coop, we gave up plastic and air travel, we spent our summers berry picking and backpacking, and we spent the long autumn days canning, freezing, and drying the harvest we had gleaned from our own garden and local farms. Our family enterprise became completely devoted to self-sufficiency, home food production, and skills-building in farming, food preservation, wild plant identification, and the like.

These days, our kids dash home from school eager to get started on planting, or raising seedlings, or canning tomatoes, or drying pears. They hop on their bicycles and ride through the neighborhood, giving away extra lettuce, tomatoes and berries from our garden. Their little acts of sharing build community. Neighbors drop in with gifts for our kids – like an old tub to wash carrots in, a blueberry bush, a jar of pie filling, pumpkin seeds, and a recipe for granola bars. My children have become self-appointed ambassadors for this urban homestead lifestyle by talking about it to our neighbors and their friends, and using it as the subject for school writing assignments and projects. Our family dinner conversation is often filled with new insights into raising vegetables or canning foods, or the latest ways to keep slugs out of the spinach. We also have discussions about how fast the world is changing, and how we will prepare for it, embrace it, and learn new ways -- or old ways. Days upon days go by without using the car, and we really don’t even notice it because we are so occupied at home, working side by side to produce our own food -- all of which is part of a family journey towards more self-sufficiency, carbon reduction, and sustainability.

At some point along the way, I noticed that Mayor Kitty Piercy’s carbon challenge had evolved into a new – and infinitely richer – way of life for us. The challenge of two carbon-reducing initiatives a month had grown into a family enterprise, a source of joy and pride, a learning experience, a family identity, and a well-spring of self-esteem and responsibility for our children. Perhaps most important, it had become a shared statement of purpose, a moral fabric for family life – a daily expression of the trust covenant shared with our children. My husband often comes in from the garden and says, “It’s a wonderful life.” And I have to agree. I invite you to embrace this new world ahead -- with courage, passion, and a sense of adventure -- and join in the Great Family Turning.

What Mary’s family is discovering is well-known by social psychologists and goes under the heading Self-Determination Theory. According to the research behind this theory, well-being depends in large part on meeting one's basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Can you see all of that developing through Mary’s story?

Point 5. My fifth point is this: Your zone of control is you and your family. Start the changes there, taking it one step at a time. Over a year this will mean changing your life, but it will happen at a reasonable pace, and it will be a healthy and responsible way to live.

I have a kind of system for thinking about my life and how to get what I need without deepening our ecological debt, while also enhancing my family’s resilience and health.

I plan my home and habits around these categories: Food, Water, Shelter, Transportation, Health, Communication, Personal Skill Set, Social Network, Economics and Finance, and Disaster Preparations. In each of these areas I work to become more competent and self-reliant. For example: making our house energy efficient and powered by renewable energy systems, having a large garden and food storage, paying off debts and limiting unnecessary purchases, using a bike and cargo trailer for nearly all transportation. I will not discuss any “how to” details for these. Anybody can sort out how to do this when motivated. I didn’t know much about any of these things a few years ago. All I needed was time to develop competence. You can do this too. Are you motivated yet?

This has been a five year process so far, and we are not complete. It is an ongoing journey. Personally, I am not able to hold down a full time job, invest in retirement funds, take big vacations, watch T.V., and do all sorts of regular stuff like that anymore. For me, time and money are spent building and being in this new way of life, and I agree with Mary’s husband Joe that it is much better than the old way.

Now some people look at my family and Mary’s family and think, “That is fine for them. They have made a nice lifestyle choice. My choice is to keep on doing tomorrow what I did yesterday.”

Well, that is not going to cut it. While I like my lifestyle choice I want to make another key point.

Point 6. Sustainability is not a lifestyle option of the few, it is a necessary change for everyone if we want a decent future on this planet. This is logically true because anything unsustainable must end, and our demonstrably unsustainable old habits are coming to and end, whether we want them to or not.

Let me give you an example of our old ways coming to an end. General Motors just went bankrupt. Residential developers of suburban sprawl and mega-malls are going bankrupt too. Why? Because our economy is part of the finite planet Earth and we have reached some hard limits. Oil production is in decline and this means GM can’t keep building Hummers that will fill garages in dwellings miles away from work and schools and basic goods and services. Ecological debt yields financial ruin. Ways of life fade away.

If you accept this new direction it will be extremely liberating. No longer will you feel at the mercy of the unfathomable and mysterious global market system. That system is crumbling, and you should get away from it. If you move away in time, you might be able to watch it dissipate with a calm sense of detachment rather than horror.

Oil production history and forecast to 2100 by Tony Eriksen at theoildrum.com.

Mary mentions interactions with neighbors. This is very important. My family is not a modern-day Robinson Crusoe in the midst of civilization. We are part of a small but growing local economy. This new economy is building rather informally at first, meaning it is happening without the use of much money or legal structures. Informal economies are actually the dominant ones on Earth. Think of the statistics you hear about people living on $1 per day. How do they manage? Because most of what they need is available without money!

As our formal economy declines more work will be done in the informal economy, as is true now in so-called developing countries. Graph from Post Peak Living based on World Bank data.

Typical two income households end up paying for all kinds of services that they could do themselves if they had the time. Laundry, housecleaning, home maintenance, vehicle repair, processed and prepared food, gym fees, childcare…it goes on and on. By contrast, the “underemployed” can share skills and time with neighbors, basically trading favors, and no money needs to change hands. Remember: autonomy, competence, relatedness…

A social shift is happening now because of the Greater Depression. Home gardening is undergoing a huge revival. This is fantastic news. It means people are reacting wisely to new circumstances by building skills and improving self-reliance.

Point 7. Here’s point 7. We are social animals and need each other. There is no separate peace. Build community based on your personal strength and example.

A few, or perhaps many, of you might be thinking: “This guy is taking joy in the loss of the American Way of Life and the good jobs that hard working people have held for many years. Is he a heartless jerk?” Well, I don’t think so.

Plenty of job opportunities should exist in order for us to pay back that loan Mother Nature approved. But we can’t keep doing the old jobs and these new jobs. Put another way, we can’t afford both a massive new “green jobs” program and a bailout to the very same industries that have gotten us into this mess. We have to go green all the way.

I think you’ll get my point with some examples. I am going to list “Jobs we need to lose” and “Jobs we need to gain.” I will first say a job, or type of business that should disappear or at least shrink dramatically, then a job or business that should grow rapidly.

While you can make changes in your own life, there is no guarantee that society will follow along. Unsustainable ways will end, but, as professor Jared Diamond documented in his book "Collapse," and Joseph Tainter in "The Collapse of Complex Societies," they could end in the morgue. I’d rather see them end by becoming outmoded. I want to see humans live as constructive parts of the planetary ecology. Making the necessary changes society-wide requires engagement beyond your home and neighborhood.

Point 8. My final point is this. Find ways to widen the circle of change to include governments, businesses and institutions at all levels.

I should mention that in addition to being a fantastic mother who does what it takes to create a future for her children, Mary Wood is a law professor. Here’s something else she tells me.

Governments are incorporated as trustees of the commons and have an obligation to protect assets held in trust, which includes the natural assets like air, water, and soil. Legally speaking, your government shouldn’t spend your tax dollars or give permits to businesses that degrade those assets. To do so is to steal from the future, and therefore a violation of the function of a trustee. But governments have been treating protection of natural assets as discretionary instead of obligatory, which has led to the ecological debt crisis. This can’t go on any longer. Every action of government should be viewed in light of the need to repay our ecological debt. Since government is a trustee of the commons, they legally must protect the commons.

A vital job of citizenship is to hold governments accountable for their trust obligations. And because you have personally reduced your ecological debt you will speak with authenticity when you say, “I don’t need freeways, I need safe bike routes. Why are you spending my tax dollars expanding an energy inefficient transportation system that we can’t even afford to maintain when we have inexpensive alternatives that don’t pollute.”

If you are going to be involved in government my advice is this: Follow the money. Governments are great at making fantastically eco-friendly pronouncements while the budget funds diesel-powered backhoes digging us deeper graves.

Another great option that widens the circle is to start a business. This may sound funny from someone telling you the economy is never going to rebound. While the economy we have now will shrink, we do need something sustainable to grow in its place. Because of financial instability and expensive oil, I see a process of decentralization occurring. Whereas in the past factories in China and Taiwan could be relied upon to deliver, that won’t be the case in the future. Small local shops or regional factories can be amazingly productive at building the new products we will need to take care of basic needs like developing sustainable food, shelter, energy and water systems.

For example, I run a small farm that operates primarily using manual power. The key implements I use are generally not available in stores. When was the last time you saw a low-wheeled cultivator, and do you even know what it is? How about a broadfork, a no-till roller, a scythe, a drill seeder, a grub hoe? I have had to go to great lengths to source and maintain this equipment, which was ubiquitous in America 60 years ago.

I am using a no-till roller to kill an annual cover crop. This is a low-energy method of farm management that minimizes soil disturbance and avoids herbicide use.

Can you go downtown where you live, walk into a store and purchase a solar oven or a cargo trailer for your bike? Can you test-ride an electric bike? Will a local contractor readily install a rainwater harvesting system for your home, or a gray water wetland that irrigates your yard? Do you have a local seed company that tests and packages cultivars for your bioregion? Is anybody making prepared foods like soups and stews using local, seasonal ingredients? I hope you are seeing some potential by now.

Lastly, I want to discuss another opportunity. Underemployment could mean more free time. What are you going do with it? May I suggest supporting the non-governmental institutions where you live? Perhaps join Friends of the Library, work in a soup kitchen, or any number of service clubs that undoubtedly exist. As government programs are cutback and shut down, we will have to learn to take care of ourselves and the less fortunate to a greater extent.

A special class of non-governmental organization is involved in paying back our ecological debt. These are the local environmental centers. I strongly encourage you to join with them on various projects that could make the difference between a healthy versus a dystopian future. The big question I have is this: How are we going to restore and manage local watersheds and ecosystems in this new economy? For example, will a switch to renewable energy mean greater use of wood, and will that decimate the forest or be done with ecological wisdom? Might the jobless hunt for meat and will cause the local extirpation of game or be a healthy, sustained harvest. And I wonder, as people can’t afford trash disposal services will they dump in creeks and at the edge of fields more and more? Who will watch and restore the creeks and clean up the mess others leave behind?

Personally, I have helped found a local group called Willits Economics Localization to discuss the very topics in this speech today. You may have a group in your area like mine, or you can start one. Look for the Transition Town Network on the web. If you are going to begin the process of change that sets you apart from the mainstream it really helps to be socially reinforced by sharing this transition with others. Someday, what you are doing will become the mainstream, but for now we need courageous pioneers.

In this new era, local watchdogs, citizen organizers, restoration ecologists, sustainability educators and pioneers will be extremely vital to the function of a society that must learn how to fit within the limits imposed and the richness given by the Earth around them.

A reader has kindly provided a pdf of this talk.

The 800-lb gorilla that you don't mention is overpopulation. Maybe you would lose your audience if you were to introduce that downer.

But other than that, I liked it..

Oh come on now we can easily provide food for about 10 billion happy monkey's it it's just a question of transforming the entire planet's ecosystem and simplifying it down to about a dozen or so species in each Phyla.

Why let things continue to be so damn complex. KISS! That's a good thing right? I mean If 90% of the Amazonian rain forest is cut down and we plant a monoculture of genetically modified, herbicide and pesticide resistant Monsanto soybeans we can feed many millions more Brazilian Indians, right?

See discussion in the comments for "The Trouble With Energy - Part 1" to see if that makes sense to you and what I really think.

We are in population overshoot as we speak, to pretend that we are not is to be ignorant of basic ecological science and the data that is coming in from all over the world. In my opinion it is in the same league as denying anthropogenic climate change. Either you are ignorant of reality or suffering through the classical stages of denial.

Why let things continue to be so damn complex. KISS! That's a good thing right? I mean If 90% of the Amazonian rain forest is cut down and we plant a monoculture of genetically modified, herbicide and pesticide resistant Monsanto soybeans we can feed many millions more Brazilian Indians, right?

Well, technically it remains to be shown that we can't, risks of monocultures aside. We can keep moving the goal posts too if you want. Growing genetically engineered algae soylent green inside massive global greenhouses or perhaps even synthesizing sugars and proteins directly rather than going to the trouble of relying on photosynthesis. Technology keeps moving the goalposts of the possible.

We'll likely enter the next age before hitting the limits of feeding monkeys on a single planet.

Angels and ministers of grace, defend us.

Well, technically it remains to be shown that we can't, risks of monocultures aside. We can keep moving the goal posts too if you want. Growing genetically engineered algae soylent green inside massive global greenhouses or perhaps even synthesizing sugars and proteins directly rather than going to the trouble of relying on photosynthesis. Technology keeps moving the goalposts of the possible.

Actually the opposite is true.
Since your proposal is so outside the realm how the observable natural world functions, it is up to YOU to provide examples of your claims.
Can you point to even region wide "massive" greenhouses? I think not.

Just because one observes the "goalposts" moving in the subset world of Man does not mean that same operative can be applied to Nature.

Your use of the term "technology" is also illustrative.
As though it has something to do with science.
The proposals you consistently post here are more in line with 1950's science fiction than modern scientific thought.
The only thing "technology" has moved has been Man's relation to the natural world and at his considerable peril as well.

Since your proposal is so outside the realm how the observable natural world functions, it is up to YOU to provide examples of your claims.

Well, its as observable as the total collapse of the human population. I think you're missing the point entirely. We dont know what the limits of support of technology are, only that it provides marvelous adaptive advantages to crisis. So much that people are actually pursuing the ridiculous idea of burning food as fuel as national policy (ethanol.)

I dont think we'll ever enter in some future where we have to do anything more drastic than irrigation and fertilizer production because benign demographic transition will make short work of population growth long before we have to enter into the silliness of some soylent green style dystopian race to feed trillions.

The point you think I'm missing is you DO believe we can monoculture our way out of our predicament. I maintain that the scientific, technological attitude that spawns such thinking is THE reason we are in our predicament in the first place.

Came up in Q&A. Hard to cover it all!

Overpopulation x consumption = Exponential depletion of resources + exponential increase of inorganic harmful waste

Thats about all you can say. Nobody can really do anything to control population (genocidal maniacs may disagree) but we can all do something about consumption of natural resources. Reducing consumption to a point which allows the currently overpopulated earth to depopulate through natural attrition is the only morally acceptable path we have.

Except that consumption of resources is strongly corrolated to benign demographic transition...

I have never seen evidence of a "benign demographic transition." Every nation that has apparently gone through it has an ecological footprint and accumulated debt that is enormous.

The best response to cornucopianism I've seen so far. +100

Do you really think Nature cares one iota whether human population can be reduced on a moral path? When the food supply can no longer be relied upon to support our vast numbers, billions will die in relatively short order of starvation, plus some disease. This is basic ecology, with many examples in the field and in the literature to cite. Some interesting modern examples for humans can be found in Northern China. Just scale up the process. It's not that hard to envision. Morality has nothing to do with it.

Native Americans in the USA are overweight, have high infant mortality rates, die young, drink get drunk more often, and commit mass crimes because they recieve massive amounts of welfare.

No race can possibly overcome the effects (Which are all negative) of socialism/wealth redistribution/sharing. Indeed no animal can overcome free food, it always leads to starvation in every species.

Mexico doesn't have reservations for their Indians, so they have a little less sloth there.

Indian Reservations are an expirement in socialism, and like all such trials, the result is always horrific.

Indian Reservations are an expirement in socialism, and like all such trials, the result is always horrific.

Dunno, Norway doesn't seem to be all that horrible.

As for Indian reservations, the Brazilian model seems to work as long as cattle ranchers, loggers and gold miners aren't allowed to kill them indiscriminately and steal their natural resources.

Hi FMagyar,

I wonder how many socialism bashers have actually studied the history of of socialism and have a good grasp of it's pros and cons. It is amazing to see someone support unrestrained free enterprise after the abuses recently wittnessed on Wall Street. It is pretty depressing that we, as a nation, cannot have an adult conversation about how to manage our country without these kneejerk, hardline positions dominating the discussion.

It is pretty depressing that we, as a nation, cannot have an adult conversation about how to manage our country without these kneejerk, hardline positions dominating the discussion.

Unfortunately those with an interest in propagating the meme, "that socialism is the mother of all evils", have been quite successful. Especially since it is anathema to their ability to exert control over resources that should be part of the commons. Sad, but not surprising.

Whenever I hear USAmericans denigrating 'socialism', and then offering examples that don't remotely resemble the real-world cases of actually-existing socialism, I can't help laughing. As you say, the meme has been very successfully suckered into the US population by its self-perpetuating ruling gic-class ['gangsters-in-charge'], to the point where everyone uses the word, and apart from a small percentage of serious due-diligence-done thinkers, no-one has the remotest idea what it really means. A bit like 'communism' -- in the popular-American usage --I suppose.

Here in Britain we've had an extremely mild experiment with dilute socialism -- the real thing -- since WW2, and despite massive hostility and a continuous bullshit blizzard of lying propaganda against it from our gics and their servants in media and 'democratic' politics, the bulk of the common people here, who have benefitted mightily from it, and paid for it out of their own taxes, won't part with any of the great strongholds of our version -- particularly the National Health Service -- not at any price, no matter what tosh the privileged minorities try to spin to us.

In the US, as all the world knows, you could have afforded a socialised medicine system at a minute fraction of the cost that commercialised corporate 'medicine' has cost you, and everyone would have been covered, instead of the current 40 million or so USAmericans with no effective cover at all, and many more who are bankrupted by one serious illness, even when they've been paying the corporate health insurance protection racket money all their lives.

Even our lame, ballsless version of socialism is better than that. And the real thing, if we were ever to insist on the real democratic choice, would be even better.

I paid my tax/national-insurance dues for the health service for decades, though virtually never needing it when younger. Now, retired, and with the sort of income which average USAmericans would regard as near-Third-World penury, I do need the service from time to time. Can you imagine the comfort of knowing that it's always there, always -- in my experience -- pretty good, and always free at point of need. The US has a lot of waking up to do in such matters. And the fat days have now gone for ever.

Thanks Jason for this excellent piece. Linked on to other audiences. What would we do without TOD!

I wonder how many socialism bashers have actually studied the history of of socialism and have a good grasp of it's pros and cons.

Few, if any. And if they did, it was with the mindset of ACC denialists: searching for fault, not reality.

It's a serious problem that with all the education and information we have, so many people still don't know a damned thing.

Must be genetic.


Spoken like a man with a garage full of empty beer cans who dreams of having enough returnables to get a set of mag wheels for the house.

Sorry, but that went over my head.

It would be a campfire faux pas to just come right out and call that a white trash sort of view, so I slyly insinuate that he lives in a house with wheels ie a trailer. Are you not in the U.S.? I would think a native speaker would immediately stifle a laugh after seeing that one liner.

“Spoken like a man with a garage full of empty beer cans who dreams of having enough returnables to get a set of mag wheels for the house.”

“I would think a native speaker would immediately stifle a laugh after seeing that one liner.”

Hey, I laughed, not so much at the attempt by the writer of the line to ridicule the great pathetic, uneducated, working class that is now the butt of all jokes (he lives in a trailer! Hee, hee, why wasn’t he and his redneck pathetic family living in a half million dollar home in the suburbs the way real American successes live!), but because it revealed such great accidental reverse ridicule of the elitist Pollyanna types who will change the world with sermons given “ during the Summer Arts and Music Festival at the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area.” (does anyone other than me wonder how long upmarket “preserves” for the well rested and “superior” few will last when their dream of “TSHTF” actually occurs? We had one in central Kentucky called Otter Creek Park that died a fast death when the city of Louisville realized that the beer swilling rednecks who had been subsidizing it out of their tax dollars could no longer do so when they were laid off from places like Ford Motor Co., so it looks like the well rested intellectuals will have to find another patsy to pay for their “green playground”)

So while posters in reply to the article say “The 800-lb gorilla that you don't mention is overpopulation. Maybe you would lose your audience if you were to introduce that downer.But other than that, I liked it..”, and the writer of the article himself says “ and the Growth in human population has been sharply rising for several decades.”, there seems to be no shortage of what Charlie Chaplin once hilariously referred to as “the kinder, ah…the kinder!”, as the happy chortle of so many children pervade the article ““These days, our kids dash home from school eager to get started on planting, or raising seedlings, or canning tomatoes, or drying pears. They hop on their bicycles and ride through the neighborhood, giving away extra lettuce, tomatoes and berries from our garden.” Glory day, it sounds like a Mormon playground!

I myself have no children, (from my parent’s four children there have so far been produced two children, which is why I have a free pass on the carbon and consumption issue…I could not possibly burn in a lifetime what the combination of the children I never produced, (and the children they never produced, and the children the unproduced grandchildren never produced, on into INFINITY) would have consumed…

And yet we stand judged by people who have comfy houses for the kinder, and operate “small farms”:

“Now some people look at my family and Mary’s family and think, “That is fine for them. They have made a nice lifestyle choice. My choice is to keep on doing tomorrow what I did yesterday.”Well, that is not going to cut it. While I like my lifestyle choice I want to make another key point.”

First let me make a key point: Who the hell gave you the right to tell anyone what is and is not going to “cut it”? In exchange, will you give the childless poor the right to tell you and your green friends and then their clatter of shiny well bred kinder what is and is not going to “cut it”? Is that an exchange you will make willingly? If so, I beg that you keep in mind the fate of the educated elite who have fallen prey to the masses of disenfranchised poor from the French Revolution to the Maoist “everybody should produce what they eat” movements, the whole “ send them to the farms” mentality… It ain’t been pretty…

But the author defends…
“A few, or perhaps many, of you might be thinking: “This guy is taking joy in the loss of the American Way of Life and the good jobs that hard working people have held for many years. Is he a heartless jerk?” Well, I don’t think so.”

Nor do I. I think the author has good intentions…and we all know where the road paved with those has often led…, but of course, “Plenty of job opportunities should exist in order for us to pay back that loan Mother Nature approved”.

Yes they should, and I would gladly take up bicycle vending or citizen farming, especially if I could confront the glorious problem of, “Underemployment could mean more free time. What are you going do with it?”

Of course I can answer that question easily. I speak for myself here, if underemployed deprived of health insurance and needed medication, I am going to die, unless said “underemployment” can provide the medication to keep my blood pressure down, which stays up and continues to rise to astronomical levels without it (I am a 129 pound male at 5 foot 5 inches…just thought I would mention it before the folks who now believe that obesity is the only illness in America chime in…my condition, like so many conditions in the U.S. is inherited, suffered also by my father, uncles, an aunt and other assorted descendents on my father’s side, only one factor in my avoiding the path of procreation).

But all of the above are mere quibbles to the happy yeoman gardener with his herd of kinder and earth mother wife tilling the soil on quarter million dollar an acre land on the edge of the happy suburbs…(one wonder what is used to haul around the collection of antique farm implements once they are found, and whether they all rode one bicycle to the “Summer Arts and Music Festival at the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area.”)

Ah, it brings back fond memories of the first and last peak oil meeting I attended in person some 3 years ago, in which a collection of aging boomers all agreed that “people have got to stop consuming oil” and then went to the parking lot and drove away in a glorious collection of Japanese and German sports sedans and SUV’s while I drew sad frowns limping away in my ancient 1982 Diesel 240D Mercedes with a quarter million miles on it (still runs, my uncle has it now).

I am the kind of guy my rural friends love to hate, a bit too much the “Frasier” type…I like wine and craft shows and museums and literary events, and am a believer in the “green” and “sustainable” idea…and having no kids, I have nothing to speak to about with either my down to earth country friends nor my elitist green ones, who all have the pretty shiny offspring and all preach their brand of “family values”, that great unifier of Americans whether your taste is beer or wine, granola and Kashi cereal or KFC and ribs, Bach (Johann Sebastian, not Barbara) or Faith Hill (with her adorable Anglo Saxon face and beautiful permanently pregnant tummy, a Madonna image for the trailer park masses) or Barack with his adorable princesses, the image of the progressive and green universal nation to come, all play to the various fantasy utopias for “the “kinder, ahhh, the kinder”.

I who can be a bit of an elitist snob myself sometimes….but my respect for the down to earth real people of America who have wheels on their houses increases more each and every day.

And SacredCowTipper, never worry about one of your snide pissy elitist jokes getting over my head…oops, have I committed a "campfire faux pas"? Stifle a laugh, it's all in good fun! :-)


Roger: Quit poking holes in the Matrix.

"Quit poking holes in the Matrix."

Thats a keeper! A bumper sticker.

I myself have no children, (from my parent’s four children there have so far been produced two children, which is why I have a free pass on the carbon and consumption issue…I could not possibly burn in a lifetime what the combination of the children I never produced, (and the children they never produced, and the children the unproduced grandchildren never produced, on into INFINITY) would have consumed…

Perhaps you are my long lost, ever unknown sibling! My mother used to go shopping and come back with all sorts of brick-a-brac.

Me: Ma, why'd you buy that?

Ma: It was on sale!

Me: No, I mean, why?

Ma: It was on sale! I saved money.

Me: But.... you would never have... oh, never mind.

You two are sort of negative images of each other. Me? I'm only having one, so I can burn carbon like hell, too! Yay!

Or not. Do keep in mind it's the total in the atmosphere, and even at your lowest possible consumption, there are a couple-a-few billion out there using far less than you. That is, you are still at deficit.



Hardcore rant, there, Roger! I'm a bit relieved at least, that you seem to be aware of your own part in this pissy class-warfare game that has kicked-off Jason's post. High Plains really bit into it with the Limbaugh soundbite on Socialism, and then SCT took the bait.. and off we go!

I don't like the Kunstler-esque tirades against the poor and working class americans, as you don't.. but you fell right into it when you're tilting at those Wine-reception stereotypes among us who are trying to look at consumption and make a better way to work it out. Is it possible to leave the door open for the Middle and Uppermiddle class to start working on consumption and lifestyle? It won't be pretty, and class habits and tones of voice are going to be obstacles all the way along.. but taking the first steps on a thousand mile journey will still show you people 'who are in the wrong place', right?

As I say now and then.. we're all soaking in it. If it were mud, then anyone who is trying to scrape some of that mud off themselves gets slammed both for 'trying to make everyone else look muddy and cheap', and at the same time, they get knocked down 'for still having mud on them' ..

At this point, I have to try to remember.. it's not where you are, it's where you're headed, and where your head is..


It is obvious you really have no idea what this crowd is like in Humboldt County. There are plenty of crass put-downs we could come up with about them, but not the ones you attempted.

Could be interesting to get into the nuances of medical care and my concerns about it because I think I detect a good point in there. I do have plenty of subtleties of thought about all of this but you're style doesn't put me in the right mood.

It's true, the world is full of stereotypes, from the ones about the folks with wheels on their houses to the ones about the limousine liberals, and I was happy to use a few of them for the sake of satire. Caricature involves a good bit of exaggeration.

On the health care issue, if you want to see (or need to see) a good bit of mobility in the American workforce to staff the green revolution, just provide portable/affordable healthcare, and you will see a class of indentured servents who are bound to where they are by health care coverage begin to break the chains...the movement of talent and release of talent would be astounding...


I completely agree. I have discussed this a couple of times on my radio programs and Sharon Astyk I see wrote something about it recently.

My apologies, I thought you were replying directly to me and saying that was my view.

Providing an animal, even a human animal, with free food will make it a helpless dependent on the zookeeper in time. It works even better with drugs like alcohol and tobacco and better again with opiates, amphetamines etc if you really want to own someone.

Indian reservations, like the Aboriginal "communities" we have here in Australia are simply the zoos constructed for the captured animals so that farmers could settle on the land and grow introduced species. It was the wholesale appropriation of land by white farmers that necessiated the removal of the indigenous humans. Paying them massive amounts of welfare actually keeps them politically docile and impotent, even while the conditions on the ground are apalling. Removing all this welfare would have them harrassing the invaders, and demanding land rights and reparations - all reasonable demands IMO - but objectionable to those who have inherited the booty from their ancestors evil deeds. Welfare and reservations is the price the invader must pay.

Raj Patel in his book Stuffed and Starved demonstrates how western agriculture has not only enslaved its own indigenous peoples this way, but has now exported this model to the third world. After WWII, massive amounts of subsidised US grown food was distributed to third world countries, destroying markets for local farmers who could not compete with free food.

The result is now globalised dependence of the third world on the charity of the rich. Despite the public pronouncements and hand wringing by politicians, this is exactly what the rich set out to achieve. Even China is now getting in on the act. The underlying reasons of course are the same as they have always been: subdue the local population so they can be marginalised enough to steal their natural resources.

The cost of the welfare is actually quite small compared to the payoff of the booty. What sickens me most is those damn concerts that pop-up every few years, organised by rich ageing rockers like Bob Geldof and Bonpo with slogans like "Make Poverty History" raising more money from the glitz covered teenagers to extend and prolong third world misery even longer.

Seems like the Aboriginials and Native Americans etc all did pretty well until their land and therefore their way of life were taken from them.

Not only that, but their system was rather *gasp* socialist.

Double-plus correct!

Termoil: You might be aware that their plans are to have you and everyone else on this blog as an eventual inmate of the zoo you described.


What you describe is the conditions and events of my GGrandmother and also my GGGrandmother. Both Full Blood Cherokees.

My GGGrandmother was born in 1838..the year of the Trail of Tears, of which all transited Kentucky except for the one thru Memphis. She either was left her in my area or was abadoned in some fashion or adopted because many of those with the same cherokee name live not far away in this area. Like 15 or 20 miles away.

Married to my GGGrandfather when she was 14, and birthed 9 children. Then the first son married another Cherokee and was my GGrandmother and married to my Ggrandfather.

I have been 'following' that Trail of Tears and have so thru Hopkinsville,Ky where two of the chiefs perished and statues of them are erected.

Chief White Path and Chief Fly Smith.

So the taking of their lands and a quarter of them dying from this is part of my heritage. My journeys of following that Trail are not complete but will be before I pass on. It is the respect I owe them. It is the blood in my veins that I owe them for.

The Eastern Band in N. Carolina seems to be doing ok. The Oklahoma Band is given enough welfare to IMO partially destroy their own heritage. They owned land in Ky,Georgia,N.Carolina and Tennessee. They farmed and tried to live peacefully with the white 'frontier people' but Jackson defied the Supreme Court ruling and the forced deadly marches to death and foreign lands was accomplished.

I doubt this history is taught in our schools or elsewhere. Too much shame to admit it.

My next trip is to New Echota,Ga. and then to Tahlequah,Ok in further search of my roots. Research is difficult since the Cherokees consider it bad medicine to speak of the dead, so I am told. Even names were changed to prevent the inclusion in the Census back then, of 1850. They were still hiding.


You of course meant to say 'An experiment in Broken Treaties, Remapped reservations (whenever valuable minerals showed up on the old map), and Several loudly trumpeted attempts at genocide'.. right?

There is also the case for the biological degradation that we all get to suffer here from a culture of addiction.. Sugar, White Flour and Whiskey.. The three legs of Lenin's stool, no doubt!


Well put Sir!I wonder if high plains thinks it's the Indians fault they are on the rez.

Btw, in the vernacular it's "either side of a pig's "axx"

Thanks, Mac.
Hadn't ventured back to find the answer yet! Glad I got it basically right.. might be hope for me!

(might have been the chemical makeup of Lenin's stool, anyhow!)

Have you ever worked or lived for long among a American native community? "Natives have high infant mortality because they receive welfare"...welfare? You might want to learn more about the situation before you start being too opinionated about this. Federally recognized Indian Tribes recieve money from the Federal Government because that was what the government agreed to when it forced the tribes to sign over their lands. Its the "rent" if you will, on land that you and I like to pretend we own.

Native communities suffer from a high rate of addiction, in part because they had not developed a tolerance for alcohol (like whites who had been drinking and drugging for 1000s of years), and in part because thier culture and thier identity has pretty much been obliterated. Crime, addiction, infant mortality, poor health, domestic violence, are all a result of the criminal displacement and consequent attempted genocide of our continent's indigenous people. Its too complex to discuss here, but I urge you to learn more. Take a class in American Indian studies.

Your racism is surprising to see on a site that is otherwise pretty high quality.

in part because they had not developed a tolerance for alcohol

And this is genetic tolerance, not a behaviorally-based intolerance.
(Edited to reduce specificity due to lack of links.)

My first wife (also Korean, passed in '97) couldn't drink more than about a 6 ounce glass of beer before falling asleep. Many Koreans turn florid well before being technically drunk. It's all part of the genetics. (That particular gene is considered protective, since it is hard for those people to drink enough to get drunk. Apparently, First Nations don't have this gene, so they can drink all they want... and apparently did. See Li, U of Indiana.)

We whiteys couldn't have picked a better drug to addict them to.


It's not racist to say that a population that doesn't need to work for a living will suffer those problems. The exact same thing happens in multi-generational welfare receiving sub-populations of any race. Reserves are simply the optimal ground for all the badness because they generally exist in areas that have no inherent economic promise whatsoever (at least in Canada), so even many people who wouldn't ordinarily succumb to temptation do.

Yes, we destroyed their culture. It's done. Get over it. It's not coming back. Continuing to house them on reservations with soul-destroying lack of economic opportunity is the greater evil. You could throw 5 million dollars each at their residents and a generation from now all the problems would be back in full, if they didn't use the money to leave and join mainstream society. Stop treating them like children that need to be taken care of their whole lives.

That sounds like a good talk to tie together many of the issues we are facing, without using too much scary language. Much like the Crash Course, it ties complex and diverse issues into one larger issue in order to convey that everything is just a symptom of consumtion and population.

Side note: I've started using an ancient high wheeled plow/cultivator that belonged to my great grandfather. It worked great for shallowly cutting in the crimson clover cover crop this spring.

I think it's an excellent talk to introduce the subject of 'Peak Everything' and they're all worthwhile changes. Highplainsfarmer- Indian Reservations don't have anything to do with a real definition of socialism.

The United Socialist States of America has more or less been in effect since 1932. Unemployment, food stamps (10% are receiving it!), and the like have cushioned the blow of the crash of 2008 - we're a socialist leaning democracy and no amount of hot air from the GOP's snivel defense coordinators on the AM dial will change that. I fully expect we'll take another giant step back that direction, recalling what worked for the last depression. It's the only way to keep a lid on discontent here.

Unlike 1932, the majority of the USA workforce is employed by various forms of government or entrenched monopoly interests. The current unemployment rate outside of these sectors is astronomical, and Obama is working hard to make it 100% IMO.

I came at this from another angle in a recent writing entitled Food Security, Fuel Security, National Security. Relocalization is all well and good but we're still going to want to both disentangle ourselves from regions that simply have no hope (the highly impolitic triage) and at the same time ensure we can project power globally. Scratching my personal itch again, I posit renewable ammonia as both fertilizer and fuel, freeing the U.S. in some ways and providing it leverage in terms of food production in others.

I'm horrified at the mess I'm leaving my soon to be draft age son.

Please change "loose" to "lose" in your table and comments. Loose means not tight; lose means to get rid of.

Ahh...much better now. No more mistakes now, I am sure. Thanks.

...the human economy went past its healthy growth phase and is now so enormous it desperately needs liposuction and a frugal diet plan.

Is it the human economy that went way past, or the American or Western economies? Fully half of the people in the world currently, at least, are in survival mode and on an extremely frugal diet plan.

Whenever I hear people speaking about our need to reduce population, I always wonder why they always seem to assume that those who should go are those in Africa or elsewhere, namely the currently poor, and never the rich, bloated, obese bunch we have in the West. Wouldn't our planet be much healthier without 300 million plus Americans? Why not get rid of them first, maybe throw in Australia and Canada, then let's see how well we can do without their gluttony.

Great point. See Appendix 1 of this report for a nation by nation account of the ecological footprint.


After years of trying to discuss these issues with family, friends and others, I myself see very few opening their eyes. Even passing on this article will not work. Been there, done that, have that t-shirt. Maybe you will have more luck than I, but for me, I don't have much interest in helping those that continue to take, and especially those that listen and say they are cutting back, yet own boats, large houses, and continue to plan and spend as if it will not happen.

There is an excellent documentary on Native Americans called WE SHALL REMAIN. You can watch it online at PBS.org. It has played on air. Go ahead and punch it to full screen and back off the screen. Looks good. A very well done show. One I wish I could have worked on.

There is a recurring theme on how the lands were acquired. Health Care costs, take a look around at what is happening now. It was a plan, not an accident.

Having some familiarity with Native Americans, I'll pass discussing the problems with reservations, though I will say on some the old ways are still practiced, they remain for a reason. I have a great respect for those that practice the old ways, and I wish them well and hope they will survive what is surely to become worse for them, but they have practice at what will most likely befall white men that will have them wandering their streets and buildings of stone that they no longer will recognize. Some NA will take joy in that, some will not.

One of the suggestions was more bike shops. As a qualified bike mechanic as part of my plan, I can say that this too is not an easy thing to accomplish. Bike shops are a very closed industry. Most manufacturing is done overseas. I wonder how parts for repairs, tires, tubes, bearings will be readily available. Insurance is another matter, I couldn't believe how hard it is to find carriers. Rates are high because of litigation. Manufactures control like a Harley dealership. Its tough and the success rate is not high for new shops.

As a film and video professional I thought insurance was tough for that industry, ha, bike shops and repair shops are double for liability or more.

I have come to the conclusion that a transition/power down with some order may be very hard to do. I worked for such an event, but for me the Time has come for me to give it up. Try to ride it out and watch it unfold. My Native American teachings are a part of what I will watch for in this.

I wish you all good luck, after what I have just experienced with my family in a last effort to open their eyes just a little bit, I have to walk away in peace knowing I tried. That they were given an opportunity to prepare. They choose to ignore and of course choose all the arguments we know they all use to remain in this power hungry world they live in. Power hungry is very descriptive in my view of what is wrong in many paths.

Did you get any feel from the audience on acceptance of your views. Can you offer hope to a teacher, or did they get up and go get on a whirling ride with blinking lights churning on a heavy dose of energy gulping machines, expecting the next invention to save them.

The audience was quite receptive. We had lively discussions following. But keep in mind this was a group that decided they wanted to hear this.

Was more of an arts and craft and music fair, no whirling rides but some juggling acts, stilt walkers, and hoola hoops for the kids.

PrisonerX, I can't help but have the same despair about convincing people. For those of us who live in progressive cities and read TOD, it may be easier to feel that significant progress is being made. I, for one, live in a fairly conservative, less-than-progressive region of the northeast where I receive the same blank stares that you probably have. Sure, there is a small contingent of aware folk, but for most the mention of an end to business-as-usual gets the same reaction that you would expect from Rush Limbaugh.

I had lunch a few years ago with the only relative who I thought might take the issues seriously. I laid it out and he responded with thoughtful and pointed questions. Thought I had him. The next week, he picked me up in a brand-new Hemi-powered SUV and told me "I heard what you said, but I decided Fu**-it, I work hard and I deserve it!"

Yes. I am seeing this in my dear husband himself. He used to live on $12,000 a year, lived in a yoga ashram, started a school recycling program in the 1980's, was a vegetarian massage therapist, and an activist with Native Americans at Yucca Mountain. He married me, an obvious lower consumption type who worked at a clinic for homeless people.

Fast forward 14 years of grueling pre-med, med school, residency, subspecialty, starting a practice and working 60 hour weeks - and presto, you have someone who drives a minivan one block to the restaurant and thinks San Francisco is nuts for imposing fines on people who won't recycle properly (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/06/san-francisco-recycling-law.php). In fact at home he will put a glass bottle next to the recycling bin, and in the garden he will help with planting flowers but not vegetables.

Some of this I am beginning to understand as a sudden need to depart from the tradition of generations. My husband's great-grandfather came to the US as an indentured servant. He worked hard on a farm, eventually married the farmer's daughter, and raised 3 boys - but his most fervent wish was that they not become farmers. My husband's grandfather was an engineer with GE, but loved to grow food. My husband's father is a chemist who jokes about his pathetic attempts to grow anything edible. My husband can garden but prefers to arrange plants as though they were furniture, so ornamentals and Japanese gardens are what he prefers.

To grow his own food, for my husband, would mean going against the deepest wishes of a revered ancestor. To recognize that we no longer live in a world where it is appropriate to wish for your kids that they go from servant to farmer, to engineer, to university chemistry professor (department chairman), to sub-specialist MD, is terrifying, and robs us of something crucial: identity and meaning.

The bottom line is the cognitive dissonance. I will point that out to my psychiatrist husband one of these days. It's the obvious point of leverage. He has a deep love of nature and the outdoors. On some level, we know our daily actions are inconsistent with our values. It turns out Mary's life, described in her words above, is right along the dreams I have for our family and the path I am placing us on. Maybe one day my husband will also think it is a better life than what we have now.

This doesn't surprise me at all. We have all been stewed in an economic broth where over-consumption and over-reproduction have no real penalties. The recession has people reconsidering loading on the debt, but I don't think anyone has changed their mind about overconsumption - they are just "taking a breather until things turn around". Or perhaps in many cases, tightened credit means that people can't get loans to buy more crap, so they are on a forced diet. But in the end, they still yearn for the possessions (the SUV in the example you cited).

Hi Dayahka,

Although your point has merit, it is unlikely that the US will voluntarily agree to a 100% dieoff. There is some potential (probably small) that the US could recognize that population levels in the US are a problem. We just need to get most of the religious folks, the corporations, and the political parties to acknowledge that population might need to be discussed. On second thought, maybe my point has even less merit.

Plenty of job opportunities should exist in order for us to pay back that loan Mother Nature approved. But we can’t keep doing the old jobs and these new jobs. Put another way, we can’t afford both a massive new “green jobs” program and a bailout to the very same industries that have gotten us into this mess. We have to go green all the way.

I thought this was well put. A way I hadn't (conciously) thought about it before. How Green is it to bail out GM to make more SUVs?

Thanks for the article. While it was surely ALL hard work, I mainly looked at the end, where you describe ways to look at potential businesses for local economies.

I doubt I'm the only one here who is busy chewing over notions for what new line of work I might try to start up around here. Your overview offers some good vantage points, I think!

My main thrust is towards homebuilt systems to get my and other homes off of any possible forms of 'bought energy' .. strictly BB's, I suspect.. but I have some good ones.

So After asking, "What can I make, do or sell that keeps my bills paid and is moving in the right direction?"

.. is, "How do I work this for the neighbors who would like to buy, but are among the many who are now out of work?" This is not just a question of altruism, but of making my products available to more customers.

A couple thoughts on that..
1) We have Timedollars in Portland, and I think there is another local currency starting..
2) Set it up so I can 'hire' people to work for me against some of the cost. (some of my potential products will require basic assembly and prep-work, not complicated or esp. skilled)

Finally, the New issue of YES! Magazine has a main title of "The New Economy Starts Here" .. I hope people find it useful. Good Magazine, subscribe and you won't be disappointed! (and they'll be thrilled!) http://www.yesmagazine.org/


DON'T Forget to sign the PETITION! Be the first one on your Congressional Bloc to tell Washington to have the National Academy of Sciences provide them with a serious study on Peak Oil! http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Understanding-Peak-Oil

We have Timedollars in Portland

I think this is the only way forward for any barter/sustainable/steady state economy.


One part of it that we need to reteach ourselves is how to bargain with each other.

Considering MacLuhans' "Every Automation is an Amputation", I think that having prices and values so universally pre-devised for us has really cut off our experience with 'dealing' with one another, and the skills of both conflict-management and compromise that would come with it.

If local currencies do take off, there will be a whole new range of 'exchanges' between neighboring communities and even within, as different debt and credit systems have to interact.

"C'mon, Mac, HAGGLE! Dollars or Pounds?!" Gordon Urquhart, LOCAL HERO (I need me a bit of that 47 year old scotch!)

I wonder what percentage of the US population would actually adopt these life style changes: A - before a crisis, just based on a rational analysis of what to expect in the future; B - even after TSHTF. Here in Wisconsin I notice some small percent of people discussing sustainability issues but few doing anything meaningful. I have this vision of a soccer mom (or dad) with his/her 4 kids in the SUV driving to the mall with a Starbucks in one hand and a cell phone in the other - talking about his/her great "green" initiative by buy a few CLBs.

Nearly everyone I talk to assumes that our current lifestyle will continue far into the future - with maybe a few minor adjustments. I really wonder how this will play out when actual shortages of common goods start to occur - I don't think it will be pretty and I doubt that the author's model (good as it may be) will rule the day. We always need to keep Mogadisha in mind.

Excellent summary Jason. I forwarded this to my family and friends.

I admire your ability to live and learn a new life while still finding time to try to influence others. Keep up the great work and special thanks for the Reality Report which in my opinion is the best podcast on the net.

P.S. You inspired me to change and I am now doing volunteer work on a permaculture style farm in preparation for buying my own farm.

Thanks for the feedback. It is nice to know that the efforts I put into media has an impact. Enjoy the farm!

I wish at least a reasonable percentage of farmers had recollection of agriculture with rail branchline logistics.

The US northern tier states had the Great Northern, Northern Pacifioc, and the Milwaukee Road rail corridors, which bristled on the maps with lateral feeder branches out to the farming districts. In California, we had rail lines to Isleton, Placerville, Calaveras, Josephine, Capay Valley, many more places up & down the Central Valley breadbasket.

Jason mentions truck builders getting into the passenger railcar business. Please don't forget the even more crucial freight & perishables rail car fleet that must be expanded along with the local in town warehousing interface, and food processing plants. Sacramento is a good example, with vestiges of the rail served food infrastructure still visible, though the rail connections are mostly dormant.

Mr. Bradford and others here will find "ELECTRIC WATER", by Christopher C. Swan, a useful look at methodologies for local rail service, along with renewable power and emphasis on a systems approach that works thru and beyond the Oil Interregnum.

Simple maths can prove that we need to move to a fully 'sustainable' mode or die-off as a species to a level whos consumption is 'insignificant':

If I have children and they 'consume' equal or greater amounts as me then their sum of consumption tends to infinity as Date progresses:

SumOfConsumption = My Consumption + Sum (betwen Date=now and Date=infinity) of [ChildrensConsumption]

Sum = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + .. = Infinity

Since we do not have an infinite amount of resources something has to give.


Children could consume half or less than their parents generation -in which case the sum becomes:

Sum = 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + ... + 1/infinity = 2 (which might just be do-able from here until the consumption term dropped below some survival threshold which I suspect would come pretty quickly: this is equivalent to a 'store enough for future generations to survive with' type scenario)

Alternatively the series could end at some point (due to die-off or choosing not to have kids, etc.)

Sum = 1 + x + 0...

For a sustainable series 'consumption' term in each generation needs to become the same 'stuff' that the parents have consumed or come from outside the consumed system -how is this possible?

1. By recycling all material that cannot be created
2. By tapping into an energy source outside the 'Earth System' that will not deplete -i.e. The Sun.

I think we need to see a massive increase in 'Design for recyclability' if we are to avoid our landfill simply becoming poor-grade ore deposits.


Ahh, a fellow math geek.
How about "designed for a lfie time." That would engender the mindset we are going to have to acquire.

While on symantics and the impression they make on the sib-conscious.
I bet if the public was referred to as "utilizer" rather than the derogatory "consumer" It would change consumption patterns for the better.

I have to say this is the best post you've done thus far, Jason.


Thanks. Maybe I improve with age?

(This said as I approach my 40th, which has a psychological shock value.)

You're young yet! Passed that mark a few years back. I never understood why it was such a marker. What is it, exactly?

As for the post, I'm not sure why. Just seems to be more meat on this one, more depth, but not as much... fluff... kumbayah... not the right words...

Anyhow, nice job. Not that my opinion means much.


Thank you Jason.
A point though.
I read somewhere that railroad passenger/mile carbon footprint is greater than airline p/mile carbon footprint, once the infrastructure carbon debt in steel rails is acknowledged.

I am dreaming of a carbon/carbon matrix glider that could store enough environmental energy to get it up to the thermals. It should be good enough for 750 miles a day. It would have to have rugged landing gear, because the roads will be potholed. Thermal visualisation would make it viable.
Of cause it would not be suitable for transporting millions of tonnes of wheat. (I thaught I had better get that one in before the peanut gallery)

The Airline/Rail comparison looks like a very idealized study to me.

Distance traveled PER-PASSENGER-TRIP seems to be completely outside their scope of interest, and I would have to think that the compound benefits of an established track are also not getting much consideration.

Look at the 100year old trolley tracks in NOLA.. there is no airway alternative that would do the work that they do, OR would last as long as such a system.

The Northeast Corridor, serving millions of commuters and tourists daily also carries volumes of freight. I'd really have to be convinced that this has been compared in ALL fairness.. and also gets evaluated based on future fuel availability and available alternate fuel options.. Is Rail not the clear winner?

2 questions

How can I get really really rich off these new jobs?

How can I retain my massive wealth that I have already accumulated, while we transition to the new system?

mind putting a little signal into the noise?

If your point is that people with 'certain' business attitudes won't listen to or want to hear such suggestions.. well, fine, why try to plant these ideas where they CAN'T grow?

Get the ideas going with those who ARE willing to work out the possibilities in this, and will be happy to just make a business that can survive and hopefully make a bit of profit to carry you along and add to a thriving community.

Or did I miss your point?


Hence the title. I don't really bother working hard on those who are, well, hard to work with. But many out there (perhaps a couple dozen) are edging towards a personal shift. They are becoming aware of the cognitive dissonance and/or have had the rug pulled out from under them and don't know what to do next.

That's easy but the information I have about it is proprietary so you'll have to communicate with me offline and I charge in 6 minute increments for the consultation. You have my email.

These days, our kids dash home from school eager to get started on planting, or raising seedlings, or canning tomatoes, or drying pears. They hop on their bicycles and ride through the neighborhood, giving away extra lettuce, tomatoes and berries from our garden. Their little acts of sharing build community. Neighbors drop in with gifts for our kids – like an old tub to wash carrots in, a blueberry bush, a jar of pie filling, pumpkin seeds, and a recipe for granola bars.

That too shall pass....

The morbidly obese person might have had as much incentive to continue in the bad lifestyle as Mary has in her new lifestyle. Or to put it otherwise: why do you think Mary changed hers and the obese person didn't?

If you think that everyone can better themselves, you're right. If you think they will, you're wrong. Ages of human experience (for the evolutionists: millions of years) prove the contrary. Otherwise we would be there already.

To think that socialism will solve the problem for you is therefore stupid. Keep biking though.

What makes you think Mary isn't Morbidly Obese, and yet somehow still chose to make a change, and reported that she and her kids have liked it?

He never says "Everyone Will change themselves.." , nor that "Socialism will solve the problem.." so whatever lessons you've learned from Ages of Human History, they really only apply to your own statements, and not to Jason's observations on how to redefine local economies, lifestyles and business opportunities.

I'm sure YOU could better yourself, Willem.. but I don't know if you will. Either way, why shouldn't I offer some ideas that you can consider as actions and systems that could be great improvements?


I said "IF" and the use of "you" is generic.

How would those lessons ONLY apply to my own statements?

You're right though: Mary did what she liked and so did the Morbidly Obese person. Don't we all?

Because your IF statements sent the presumptions out to the extremes, unlike the middle-ground that Jason is clearly working in.

When you throw in presumptive charges like 'IF you think Socialism will solve everything' or 'IF you think everyone will change', then you've stopped discussing the issue, and just started rallying for a Black and White environment that you yourself have introduced to the topic. Such Black and White doesn't permit gray areas, it's 'with us or against us' ..

"If the Russians love their Children too.." It's not really a question, is it? ( I have to hope that Sting used that line with the irony of the 'NON-question' as his actual point.. but I don't know for sure)


why do you think Mary changed hers and the obese person didn't?

That's an important question. Mary has time and education level to access a lot of new information. She also has a supportive family and a broader social network that doesn't look down on what she is doing. In fact, she may be a bit odd on her street, but people tend to be interested in what she is doing and she gets asked to speak around town a lot.

I tend to favor explanations that involved "cultural materialism." This doesn't mean that individuals can't step outside the bounds of what is normal and do extraordinary things, just that probabilistically it is low without social-material support, however small, for change.

This is why I use the term sustainability pioneers. It is a positive way to look at it, instead of "fringe lifestyle." However, I would argue that what the pioneers are doing will become more supported as the economy declines. Therefore, the material conditions will shift to increase the probability that others will try and succeed.

Perhaps you have a more cornucopian outlook on the future. If you disagree with my basic premise it will all look absurd. That's why I spend some time at the beginning setting up the context.

Chuckle, "I would argue that what the pioneers are doing will become more supported as the economy declines"

"Pioneers Often Die With Arrows In Their Backs"

Don in Maine

Therefore, the material conditions will shift to increase the probability that others will try and succeed.

But then it is no longer because of well thinking Mary-like people, but outside conditions forcing the change. You yourself said: "there is no guarantee that society will follow along." Indeed, there is no guarantee unless people are forced to by those "material conditions".
Preaching that some people may find fulfillment in their "back-to-the-yard" lifestyle may convince some. But the Obese guys tend to find "fulfillment" otherwise.

You are making up clear distinctions where none exist. Some people are ahead of the curve, some behind the curve, all react to either the perception that they must or should change or because they are forced to change or somewhere in between.

THanks, Jason, for the great, real spring board for the conversation. In re: to your last post, though, I'd like to encourage everyone to think that there is another category of people, and that is folks who have made changes simply because they feel good and right, and not from any sense of impending gloom and doom. I've known a few of those and their path to change has been much more smooth and easy than the rest of us who have some sense that this is NEEDED. Makes me wonder about all this debating.

I also want to introduce into the dialogue an awareness of ecovillages. There is a thriving network of folks who have decided to create community (thereby getting the support to make all these changes) and take sustainability really seriously with a full lifestyle shift. This isn;t the only way to do sustainability but for folks who think that living with others who are dedicatedly working on this stuff is a pipe dream, you might want to check these out. My group is Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage: www.dancingrabbit.org And there is a whole directory of intentional communities at www.ic.org that includes a lot of other ecovillage projects (plus other kinds of community).

Appreciate your work! Thanks for putting it out there so clearly.

A note from the hinterland.......
Yesterday, I heard, second hand, third hand, our single grocery store in the county, is about to fail. The WalMart, 68 miles over the mountain, including a 8500 foot elevation pass, is putting it out of business. Folks in the county make the 136 mile round trip to WalMart every month, to "Stock Up" and the family owned grocery here in the county is now at the edge of bankruptcy.

Down County, Randy, our single permaculture farmer, is still at it. He now has a sizable goat herd and has managed to purchase a commercial pasteurizer so he can produce Goat Cheese in quantity. His vegetable farm was wiped out last summer by a flash flood, but he's back at growing vegetables.

My good friend, is baking bread in his basement and has passed the requirements for commercial licensing by the Board of Health. He now has a contract to provide speciality breads for the Gifford House, a preserved homestead in the National Monument, funded and maintained by the National Parks Service for the benefit of tourists (a peek into the past and what sustainability looked like 90 years ago).

Two years ago, a nationally published Author moved into the neighborhood. He is a known "Enviornmentalist" and he writes often about issues of sustainability. His home is on a piece of ground that is worthless; no water and lots of rocks. It's pretty though. It doesn't matter however, because he spends all of his time traveling about the country giving talks and doing workshops on sustainability. I have invited him to participate in my little gardening enterprise....so far, no interest. I do have a couple in their 70's who come by regularly to help with gardening and they seem to enjoy themselves. We'll split whatever we harvest this fall.

Gasoline is headed up again, here, more than areas more accessible to the tanker delivery trucks. I won't prognosticate, but I would guess, fuel will be more expensive as the summer goes on.

The weather here has been unusual, as usual. It's been cloudy, rainy, and nothing in the garden is coming very fast because the night's temperatures have remained stubbornly in the 30's. So here's hoping for a bit of warmth. We do have water on the mountain however, and a month ago, water was in short supply.

This evening is Music Night at the neighbors. We now have a small orchestra of guitars, violins, banjos, accordians, and a single washtub bass fiddle. We make a lot of noise, sometimes not bad, mostly not good, but we sure have a lot of fun. Best from the Fremont

I created a comment on another POST about the conditions here in my area. W. Ky. but I deleted it in the end. OT and perhaps not interesting to those here.

Anyway what you observe Fremont has started now to become quite apparent to many here. Not a large number but some and growing.

Why? Only one gas station and they are gouging now since the other is down and not open. Prices are skyrocketing for junk because when there is only one hardware store they can gouge and you can do little about it. They are getting close to permament shutdown as well but I hear they have enormous debt. They no longer allow personal accounts which I had for the last 25 years but no more. I had to pay it all off in just three days. That hurt. Their inventory is shrinking rapidly as well. Some lumber they no longer carry.

The only industry for miles is also starting to feel the pinch. 1/5 laid off and now another bloodletting. Their product is becoming useless in this continuing downward spiral.

I spoke to a woodworker and he was just laid off from a Government/State job. He was extremely agitated about the economy and what is happening. He screamed "they want me to return my work clothes, the clothes off my back"...he is very very upset at the future.

A few farmers are now starting to take off their rose-colored glasses and understand that something monumental is happening.

Stores closing, yards sales everywhere, auctions even on workdays, farms up for sale, less and less of everything and becoming visible.

Only one restaurant and only open part time. As I drive thru other same towns I see it by lack of vehicles,little traffic and malls suddenly going silent.

Its here. Its starting out here in the outback. I waited and waited and now its becoming apparent. Also the great lack of 18 wheelers rumbling thru town. Out on the interstates on the weekends you can find long stretches void of much traffic. A year ago it wasn't like that. Major interstates that is.

Currently I have to watch my gas gauge to see that I don't get stranded.

Airdale-gas at $2.7x

Thanks Airdale!

JN2 - gas at $6.5x

I don't know what the answer is to this. Until making that monthly 136 mile round-trip gets to be so expensive that people don't want to do it any more, the local businesses aren't going to be viable.

When I was a kid, we had a coop in the neighborhood. They had stuff like dry goods (maybe frozen stuff). No fresh veggies or meat as I recall. Next time I talk to Mom, I will ask her what the stated purpose of the coop was. This was in a city, and we had some neighborhood markets around as well - I think back then driving longer distances to buy groceries was something to be avoided.

The way the coop worked was that it was all on the honor system. There was no checkout person - you would go and grab whatever you needed, and then fill out a slip. Each coop member had to do some number of hours a month of work for the coop - cleaning, restocking, working out the billing, and all that. Something else to ask Mom about, I guess..

This mini-rant isn't really directed at Jason's essay but it seems to fit in. Why is it that with the exception of a few weird people, a few small groups and fiction writers everything that is proposed as a solution is nothing more then some iteration of BAU? There is Green BAU, Alternative Energy BAU, TOD BAU, Relocalized BAU and on and on.

How about we freeze technology for a generation. After all it is technology that got us into this mess and it is unlikely that more technology will get us out of it. Let's require that all durable goods last 20 years. And, how about we standardize everything so that only one "model" of stuff (the 'best' model) is produced.

My point is that all I see are time-worn ideas that haven't worked, and IMO, won't solve our problems.



Very few people can or do dive deep enough into the problem space to get a realistic understanding of how deep its roots are. We can only propose (or accept) solutions that are consistent with our understanding of the problem, and only those who understand how deep the roots of the problem lie are likely to embrace strong solutions.

At some point, however, this approach breaks down. For example, I'm convinced that the root cause of all our woes can be traced back to the the sense of separateness that arose from the self-awareness we gained as our neocortex developed. That perspective, while interesting, is not terribly useful. It provides no resolution path, and can easily lead one into paralysis from feeling that our problems are "bred in the bone". In a sense we we need to go deep enough to understand the need for radical change, but not so deep as to start feeling that any change is useless or hopeless.

I see one possible long-term resolution path, even if my belief about the root cause is true. It's a two pronged approach. First, it involves deep cuts to BAU using the technological and regulatory tools everyone is familiar with. This alone is hard enough, but will do little more than buy us some extra time. The second prong, the one that I view as the real game-changer, is a global, grass-roots transformation of consciousness from an economic paradigm to an ecological one. The only reason I give that any credence is that Paul Hawken has already documented that exact shift in his book, "Blessed Unrest", and it appears to be accelerating dramatically.



I fully agree that the consciousness paradigm is what needs to ultimately change. And, through that to recognize that there are different realities available to us.

I recent times, I think the Hippies came closest to a paradigm shift on a large scale which is probably why they were marginalized.


Hey just a note that there are plenty of what you are probably calling "hippies" still out there and we are gaining more and more ground in mainstream respect. One example, there is a big upsurge in progress of new intentional communities (which include "communes" but also things like ecovillages) www.ic.org. I live in an ecovillage in NE Missouri and we are a growing, thriving alternative culture: www.dancingrabbit.org And we get along just fine with our neighbors. W are living the paradigm shift and continuing to develop it on a daily basis.

Oh my, file that one away as a source of easy pickings when TSHTF. Northeastern Missouri, Rutledge. Got it.

Don in Maine


Are you not speaking here mostly about the breakdown of "families"?

Something that was brought about by our society and culture? The schools re-teaching your children from what you might have taught them?

Telling them that pornography is natural. Self-obsession is fine. You have the right to 'be yourself'. Etc.

This happened to my family. Ugly selfishness beyond belief. Hatred almost of parents. Detesting their parents belief systems.
I stood on my 'principles' and was throughly dismissed for that.
Now things are changing rapidly. When the family is needed as a cohesive unit the strength is gone. They are scattered. They have lost an anchoring point. They would NEVER NEVER put their hands to what I put mine to each day.

The list is large.



I see the breakdown of small-scale social structures like families and communities as being driven by the same general forces that are breaking down the environment, the economy, and the human spirit. These forces seem to work fractally, generating similar problems at all scales of our experience: from dying species to dying towns, from ruptured ocean ecologies to ruptured personal relationships.

The underlying problem is that we are telling ourselves a cultural story about who we are, what our place in the universe is, what our rights are (very many), and what our responsibilities are (very few). This underlying story drives everything we do, from strip mining to cruising for chicks, so the results are similar in every arena we enter. The story is malignant, so the outcome of the behaviour it causes is malignant.

The story we are telling is one of our innate superiority, independence and separateness -- from nature, from each other, and from any sense of the sacred. Unless and until that story changes our behaviour will not change, nor will the effect our behaviour has on everything we touch. At the core, the problems in the world today are not technical so much as spiritual.

Luckily it's not we who are broken, it's just the story that's broken. We can always tell a new story about ourselves. Again luckily, that's starting to happen. Will enough of us change our story quickly enough? Who knows? We're a species that's addicted to risk, and waiting this long to change our story is the biggest risk we've ever taken.

When the family is needed as a cohesive unit the strength is gone. They are scattered.

Victims of "Life Incorporated".

Google search for the book. I haven't read it yet, but did hear the author speak on NPR. He explained the history of how family and local community ties were systematically broken so as to encourage growth of selfish individual consumerism.

Jason, I appreciate your work. It is simple, practical and accessible, and it's something people can get their hands on. Good job! I look forward to downloading more installments of your Reality Report.

a good heartfelt read; i agree with ccpo. thanks for u'r work jason.

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I have been teaching a course called the Uncrash Course with Andre Angelantoni that is along these lines. Great to see people get into action.

It might be a good idea but I am totally put off by sites/people who want to remain hidden from view. Count me out.


I looked at the links and saw nothing that indicated secrecy or hiding. Anyone can join up which means anyone can spy on them.

Did I miss something or are you making an assumption?


Unfortunately, catastrophes are the more likely engine of change, as people generally find it difficult to care about across-town fellow residents and Medicare for the aged, much less “future generations.”

It is nearly always the case that only fairly well-off individuals say stuff like, “Shouldn’t we be celebrating the closing of car factories and the rise in bike sales?” Perhaps to understand how the rest of population thinks and feels, they should give all of their disposable wealth to ecologically sustainable developments at which they become the bike shops' repairmen, then have to worry about sending their kids to college, before talking. Should Jason possess the strength to go all the way, I might join them in work at the bike shop. First, however, he should hit up his wife for a raise in bike shop repairmen's wages, as the lowest I could go for longer distance transportation is a top-of-the-line Vespa.

Cautionary Note: Remember Paolo Soleri’s sustainable project in Arizona, Arcosanti? See http://www.arcosanti.org/project/background/history/main.html. There are lots of artists there selling their wares, and there are plenty of teachers and classes. However, no one there really wants to be doing the farming on a regular basis, and such is the case for most people.

Tonto Goldstein
Yale Law

I have taken up small-scale farming and can only afford to do it because my wife does earn a decent income. But I am willing to work hard, and find it great. The situation is a nice one. Organic farm in which I set my own schedule and can make most of my own decisions in the context of a sense of responsibility to those I serve.

This is a big issue and I am glad you brought it up. Part of the trouble are the debts we have. Education debts, then mortgage debt. That's about it for my family, but it is significant.

I don't think about college or retirement savings because I don't think the financial system will stay together long enough for it to make sense.

You may like the last episode i did of the Reality Report on globalpublicmedia where i dealt with a lot of these subjects.

I think that the way to find out what other people think is just to meet and engage with them.

You've tossed out some pretty sweeping broadsides there. I know many non-well-off people who will be the first to celebrate bikeshops replacing car factories. Having well-off folks buy their credibility by putting all their possessions into 'the cause' is appealing as a rallying cry, but I'd be more encouraged to hear about efforts to develop programs that gave the more and less wealthy in a community ways to rally forces and work towards local goals. People are generous with their time, talent and wealth if they are convinced about the ideal they are pursuing.

Arcosanti is very appealing in their stated mission of creating livable communities in even far-less-than-ideal land, from better use of water, sun and other resources.. but I think there are communities like some of the Co-housing groups that have made more practical steps towards devising real workable communities. Looks like a lot of concrete in their systems.. be interested to look through the Architectural Concepts again..

people just want to be happy
but i am here to tell them that they aren’t going to be happy
i am here to tell them that the world’s gonna be a shithole real soon

they will be homeless, jobless, busted, in jail or dead soon
90% of the world’s fish are extinct
the planet is almost dead already
humans will soon be killing each other over the last scraps of food

there will be no rescue
there will be no divine fucking intervention
there will not be a ‘better day’
better days already passed long ago

there will be ‘worse days’, and ‘worser days’ after them
there will be killing, murder, rape, rape of children, killing and eating of children
there will be acts committed that we don’t even have words for yet
and that will be just the beginning

just the beginning of a new deathlife for the survivors
their own private horrorshow filled with coming attractions

Doomer, your replies are quite repetitive. If the outlook is so gloomy, why not enjoy the time you have left ?


I think you misinterpret folks like Isochromax a/k/a Doomer. That kind of "kiddie rage against the machine" ugly art is what they enjoy. On the other hand, we seem to enjoy revealing ourselves via pointless intellectual masturbation on a website that is going nowhere. To each, his or her own I suppose ...

I found it kind of funny that some of the folks who contribute to this blog went to "Peak Oil" conferences. There were no movers or shakers there, only goofballs plunking down attendance fees and slightly more savvy goofballs collecting them. When will they stop falling for this ridiculous trick?

Tonto Goldstein
Yale Law

Jason: I immediately comprehended that your wife's support and cooperation made that which you do possible. You're fortunate to have her. Either way, you're now doing something, and something is better than nothing at all. However, your financial doomsday scenario interfering with savings for college, etc., is not good. It won't put your kids through Yale, Harvard or Stanford, but those and other decent educational institutions will still be around long after your doomsday time-frame passes. As for the Reality Report on globalpublicmedia, with plugs for www.radicalsimplicity.org and www.thehappyminimalist.net, someone always wants someone else to purchase their book, guide, lecture, etc. The global reality, however, is that Indo-Asia and Brazil will largely duplicate the last 65 years of U.S. Industrial/Labor/Environmental history regardless of what any of us think or feel is the right direction for the planet. Among those countries is half the world's population. In other words, as admirable as your efforts may be, your advice is for the downside of life and simply won't be heeded by people happily swimming upstream in rapidly developing environments, that is, until real catastrophe hits (which was among my original points).

Jokuhl: The "many non-well-off people who will be the first to celebrate bikeshops replacing car factories" are a very tiny minority. I am glad that you have found company with them, but don't kid yourself on the absolute or "critical mass" numbers. There are, however, enough people for a related cottage lecture, book sales and web-access industry. "Critical masses" for change right now are in windmills, solar technology and battery technology. (Ecuador will be a winner due to demand for Lithium.) Don't count on a return to the days of world-wide, family-based, agrarian economies and the several children per family such economies generate. People don't want that; and they don't need it.

Isochromax: I guess you're among the folks driving up the value of Smith & Wesson, Colt, Berreta, et al. You remind me of the line in that Rolling Stones song, "I see a picture and I want to paint it black ..." This ought to warm your lovely heart: http://members.cox.net/csanta/WM.mp3. Otherwise, chill out ...

Tonto Goldstein
Yale Law

Well Tonto, There is a big difference between what I want to happen and what I expect to happen. If you are right about the choices being/going to be made in Indo-Asia and Brazil (and I don't doubt that you are) then perhaps you need to pay more attention to Isochromax, because then he/she is likely to be right too.

I am trying to make both of you wrong with some pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.


I'm encouraged by your thoughfulness.

You underestimate technological solutions presently underway that will have sharply rising deltas (not to mention others not yet off the board), and your analytical time-frame regarding enviromental change is hundreds of thousands of years too short to be employed as a valid predictor. Now, I'm not saying, "don't worry, be happy" with things as they are. However, I am saying (1) while not good enough, the situation is not as bad as you think, (2) homo sapien doomsday won't occur this century from earth's enviromental degradation, and (3) in the absence of a dramatic "something else" to do, the U.S. will merely experience a shrink in the middle-class and will consequently have a class structure more like other second-rate industrial countries (e.g., England) except temporarily without the balancing compromise of universal healthcare.

Beat my drum to Isochromax's rhythms and rhymes? Nah, that's for teenagers suffering from anomie.

Tonto Goldstein
Yale Law