On Independence, Energy Subsidy, and Freedom

How much of our freedom is related to 'cheap energy'? Last I checked, the average American uses over 60 barrel of oil equivalents of the 3 primary fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) per year. Depending on ones assumptions (and occupation), this is in the neighborhood of hundred(s) of years of manual human toil supplanted by cheap ancient sunlight. (At $20 per hour, a human laborer makes over $40,000 per year so even an energy subsidy of 100X p/a equates to $4 million in dollar terms.) Do our social freedoms emanate from the nature of our socio-political system, or the reverse - is our socio-political system a byproduct of the resources we acquired and used after finding this land? What is freedom, anyways? And what will freedom look like in the future? On this the birthday of the United States of America, let's discuss energy and freedom around the Campfire.

I love America. I state this as a plain fact - my friends, family, experiences, connection with nature, and memories are all 90%+ associated with this country. But I also consider myself as a citizen of the planet, circa 2009. Having traveled a great deal, I am all too aware of the advantages our country has vis-a-vis the ROW, that many of us often take for granted. Among many differences I notice when comparing American attitudes/behavior to those of people from other countries when I travel, one predominates: that of entitlement. While scanning a crowd at a train station or airport or restaurant or public event abroad, one can oftentimes notice just by attitude alone who hails from USA. With increasing occasion, perhaps due to my firming awareness of energy as lifes fundamental currency, I credit our enormous liquid fuel subsidy (we have 4.4% of worlds population but used 25% of the worlds oil flows) as a core pillar for our freedoms. Our daily volition, free will and perhaps even confidence likely has direct ties to our natural resources; both our geographic endowment, and what we receive in exchange via increasing amounts of debt. A recent proposal by Congress to release the SPR because $70 oil is causing economic hardship bears witness to just how dependent on energy our 'independence' has become. At $70 a barrel, oil costs much less (retail) than gatorade, milk, lemonade, beer, and bottled water. And we import 70% of what we use. Oh the horror when oil passes Gatorade in cost...

Like everything, I think freedom (to act, think, express, etc.) is related to the 'feelings' it engenders in our brains, which are essentially different neurochemical recipes. We have some idea of what situations generate these 'cocktails'. One seminal experiment on 'control/freedom' was by Lundberg and Frankenhaeuser (1980) "Pituitary-adrenal and sympathetic-adrenal correlates of distress and effort" (Journal of Psychosomatic Research volume 24, pages 125-130). To paraphrase, the researchers had subjects hit colored buttons that matched colored lights that would flash with increasing speed during the experiment and flashing about as fast as the subjects could follow near the end. Similar tests were undertaken where subjects would match these colored buttons to the flashing lights - the only difference being they had control of the dial that would increase the speed of the flashing lights. In this second experiment (controlled individually not by the experimenter), the speed of the flashing lights was as fast or faster than the first experiment.

Before and after blood tests and interviews of the subjects were taken for both experiments. The typical response after the first test was 'that was one of the hardest things I've ever done', and indeed the ratio of cortisol (a stress hormone) to norepinephrine in the blood was high. In the test where subjects had individual control, a typical response was 'that was fun! I enjoyed the challenge!' etc. Blood tests showed the inverse as well - cortisol was much less pronounced. There are similar and follow up tests in the physiological literature**, but the inference is that in IDENTICAL tasks, the difference in our brains response (with pleasurable or stressful sensations) depended on our ability to exert individual control over our circumstances.

Furthermore, from "Biological Basis of the Stress Response"

Recent work shows that differing perceptions of stress result in different patterns of neuroendocrine activation. An easily handled challenge elicits norepinephrine and testosterone rises with success. With increasing anxiety, active coping shifts to a more passive mode. Epinephrine, prolactin, renin, and fatty acids increase. As the distress grows, cortisol augments.

While not 100% explanatory, these and similar findings lend support to the notion that our cheap energy, via subsidizing our basic needs (and even those not so basic), suppresses stress hormones and allows us to feel control/freedom in more situations than we would without such subsidy. To me, this angle is potentially helpful for envisioning post peak institutions and behaviors. As long as people feel they have control of their circumstances and are not overly stressed, I think they (we) could endure a great deal more hardships than if we feel control is out of our hands. Irrespective of declines in resources/capita, assuming basic needs are met, we might be able to 'trick' our wiring into responses that are less stressful as long as we feel ownership in what's happening. (However, we'll likely need to address the habituation/addiction/behavioural ratchet effect angle at the same time....) In my experience, the number of digits in ones bank account allows for the 'perception' of freedom (options), but past a certain point it is just the opposite.

Freedom is related to control. And it could be argued that how much individual 'control' we have overall is a function of resources per capita. It would stand to reason that as resources per capita decline there will be fewer individual freedoms.
(some) campfire questions:

What is freedom?
Without cheap energy (cheap being anything under $500 a barrel), how much freedom will we have?
How much are we entitled to?
How could less energy per capita equate to more freedom?

And Soon I will be free...


Sailing uses solar energy and embodied high quality energy and materials. Could we all have sailboats?

Peculiar why anyone should think sailing associates with freedom. In a boat one's movement is constrained by the surrounding death-inducing water. Walking around on dry land in a rural area, one is arguably much more truly free.

There's that state of mind thing again. The perception of being in control.

You are obviously the epitome of a land lubber!!! Argh!

Sailing is the more correct definition of "freedom" than almost any other...freedom in step with the normal pattern of nature, freedom that is not "abstract" in some egghead sense of nomenclature but that is in step with nature, bound by the wind, the currents, freedom allowed by riding on the very forces of nature. It is a beautiful thing. If you exceed the bounds of freedom allowed by the cosmic bounds of nature while sailing, you die. If you read them correctly, and use the forces correctly, you not only live, you thrive and enjoy the experience, the speed, the freedom of movement that nature provides. There is a reason the poets have sang about sailing since the birth of song and language, and have depicted it as the ultimate metaphor for existence writ large. Let intellectuals argue about whether real freedom exists, the sailors will live or die by their ability to work with nature's own brand of freedom.


It is a beautiful thing. If you exceed the bounds of freedom allowed by the cosmic bounds of nature while sailing, you die. If you read them correctly, and use the forces correctly, you not only live, you thrive and enjoy the experience, the speed, the freedom of movement that nature provides.

Not to mention that it doesn't take much skill to open a throttle and harness your oil slaves!

It's 5:45 AM Sunday morning and still dark outside and I'm heading out for the next best thing... Kayak diving!

I'm not only the president I'm also a member. www.kayuba.org

That looks great, some great pictures on the website! I have a friend who was trying to teach me Kayak on the Cumberland River in KY, she was a guide, but I essentially cannot swim, so the eskimo rolls don't work too well for me...for now, I am staying out of the whitewater until I can master the slow and peaceful stuff! :-)


what is keeping you from learning to swim ?

i learned to swim at age 38, i thought it would be a good skill to have for a scubba diver. i did some watersking before that.

Hmm, as one who has owned and sailed his own boat, I'd say it's fun, but I wouldn't equate it to freedom in any fundamental sense.

What sense of freedom that sailing brings, in my experience, comes from the permission one gives oneself, for a time, to do nothing else. "Today I'm going sailing, and to heck with (whatever)". It's good for gaining psychological distance from the daily concerns of job, family, or whatever that may cause us to feel tied down and not-free. So are a lot of other things. I, at least, was never able to experience sailing as more than a temporary respite. And it kinda stopped being fun when taking care of the sailboat and paying for its upkeep joined the list of daily concerns that had to be dealt with.

I go with Nate's assessment that freedom is related to control -- or the sense of control. It's about feeling that one has choices, and is beholden only to the consequences of what one has freely chosen. I suspect that that has been true forever, and has little to do with the service of our modern "energy slaves".

I go with Nate's assessment that freedom is related to control -- or the sense of control.

Nate should do a free-wheeling pub crawl with me that would disabuse him of that idea:)

That would require Earthmarines to protect the forest habitats of trees AT ALL COSTS. Makes common sense to me, but YMMV.

Maybe with Cali [and other States] being broke and shutting down their parks it might be getting jumpstarted now...no positive ecosystem gain in just letting the Overshoot decimate the rural & wild areas. Recall that the record confirmed-kill sniper distance is 1.65 miles.

Is Cascadia & other areas ready to reorganize along watershed mountain boundaries, or are we going to make things much worse to maximize future conflict by continuing to have political boundaries map-drawn down the middle of rivers [EX: CA-AZ border, etc] and other pointless demarcation lines with no Asimov Foundations' & Herbert's "Dune" planning with respect to natural geo-flows & eco-flows?

There will be earthmarines. There will be some who understand. Stand with them when you can.

Could we all have sailboats?

In my native Brazil this is called a Jangada... very low cost materials the energy is still very high quality though :-)

That sure looks good, I have built a couple of small low aspect sail boats for drift fishing but not quite that low. I think maybe my next one though will be, I never thought of making what looks to be essentially a pontoon or large surfboard. Thanks for posting the picture.

The beauty of the art of sailing, from the Jangada, to this:


The beauty of the human mind. :-)
There is a reason that humans coined a word for the feeling called "respect".


This is a good example of energy efficiency. The Jaganda will have very little embedded energy, especially when you consider the likely low levels of energy consumption of those who build them. But it performs pretty much the same function as more energy intense counterparts. It might even be more effective at attracting mates than a flash yacht.

It might even be more effective at attracting mates than a flash yacht.

Given the fact that these are working fishing boats the people that sail them usually are the ones who actually bring home the bacon fish, so they tend to do quite well in attracting mates ;-)

BTW our dive today was close to being as good as it gets in these parts. Sunny, mild breeze, good visibility and the reef critters were out and about. I even saw some nice big lobster that emerged to check us out. Mini season isn't till the end of the month so I know they were just teasing us!

Hey Nate,

It isn't a rhetorical question at all. I do firmly believe that Peak Oil will lead inexorably towards the Age of Sail 2.0 :-) For now, some of us DO see sailboats as an embodiment of freedom in a post-peak world.

My wife and I (and baby arriving any day!) live on an engineless 38 foot gaff cutter. We blog at:


We dream of going cruising. But for now we're living, working and sailing in the San Francisco Bay area.

For more on sailing engineless as a peak oil coping strategy, see also:


As a sailor, I read the comment about "surrounding death-inducing water" with amusement. While the ocean must always be respected, it's the hard stuff (land) that most often causes sailboats to come to grief. :-)

Fair winds,

- Ari


Thanks for the links, I've bookmarked your blog, loved the picts of the real sailboats as opposed to the Volitan... WTF?!

Congrats and best of luck with "Tree Frog"!

Fair winds to you on every sea you sail.


How about, subjective "freedom" represents the perceived socially-acceptable options available to a person and to groups of people. Real-world freedom would be the actual physical options available to those persons or groups.

The latter is closely tied to energy and resource availability, although arguably in a nonlinear way. The former is a state of mind. They are not necessarily highly correlated with one another. A heroin user may feel more free than a CEO.

Just a short note to prime the pump; defining "freedom" in the USA on the 4th of July is a delicate business... as it's also a hot-button meme.

The freedom to live on a healthy world, to have a couple kids, and reasonably expect one's species to be around for a million years; that would have been nice. Reasonable deep freedoms like that have been supplanted by shallow freedoms.

Isn't it possible that subjective freedom will actually increase for two reasons as energy becomes less readily available

1.) less mobility could cause peoples social circles to become smaller, this will mean less people that can exert pressures on you, and that each individual becomes correspondingly more important in these smaller social circles.

2.) Law enforcement agencies require energy to operate effectively as well. As energy becomes less available they will have to prioritise more and therefore let small violations of laws slide. This will mean a greater amount of freedom in one sense, but a reduction in another sense.

Subjective freedom will probably vary hugely no matter what happens with energy. A teen without a new dress to wear to a prom may feel she has no freedom at all. A person who has been in enforced servitude might feel freedom simply from being left alone.

Subjective freedom is a relative thing. Watching the clock tick down the last seconds of school before summer vacation in 6th grade, and then hearing the bell go off, was a huge "freedom" rush - do most of us remember it that way? Listening to the Vietnam draft lottery was an interesting experience as well.

Some of the "freedoms" we have now, such as the freedom to buy a salad shooter or drive in circles in an air-conditioned car, aren't properly freedoms at all but entitlements, and messed-up entitlements at that. I think Nate's mention of entitlement is spot on. Freedoms are probably best balanced against responsibilities, while entitlements are rather more mindless.

Entitlement means giving yourself permission to be mad at the world if you aren't provided for by others as you think you should be. The current level of entitlement feelings I seem to see around me is one reason I don't think the USA will necessarily collapse gracefully. More people store ammo than store food.

And the universe doesn't recognize entitlements.

And the universe doesn't recognize entitlements.

Indeed perhaps it's a peculiarly American recognition, as in the uk I had not even heard of the word (in that meaning) let alone the concept. The word might just about be used in very limited specific contexts such as being a disabled person gives entitlement to claim certain benefits, being over 60 entitles to a free bus pass etc. Then again it may relate to the rumoured fact that American men traditionally drive along the pavement rather than the road while wearing only their pants rather than any proper trousers.


"Americam men...trousers"?I usually "get" British "English" but this time it might as well be Chinese.

Enlighten me,please.

Translations for the confused over there:
UKglish / translation into Americanese
pavement / sidewalk
pants / underpants
trousers / pants
cowboy / petty crook manual tradesman

At $70 a barrel, oil is far cheaper than gatorade, milk, lemonade, beer, and bottled water.

I used to think that this statement made sense, but now I'm not so sure? All the things listed are currently only made, indirectly, from oil, so the final product will have to cost more then the wholesale price of oil.

Anyway, I think that there is far more energy put into every bottle of water then there is water.


I don't think the comparison is valid in the first place. If I drive 100 mi. a week and use 5 gal. I certainly do'nt use 5 gal of gatorade or coke or anything else per week.

I certainly do'nt use 5 gal of gatorade or coke or anything else per week.

Estimates vary, but each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day.


Figures for Palm Springs residents are closer to 1,400 gallons per day. You drink a half gallon a day for a total of 3.5 gallons per week actual consumption. This does not take into account the "embedded" water in fruits and vegetables that you consume; they are 70-80% water.

That bowls me over. Our two person household consumes 110 to 120 litres per day, or roughly 15 U.S. gallons per person-day. And we both shower daily, do laundry, flush toilets, etc.

Now, if I could get him to lay off the damn power washer...


Yeah, but even if you did and many, many, many others did, it would make no difference. Efficiency is irrelevant, because no matter what, nothing is wasted. What a human sees as efficient is merely the denial of "good stuff" to the larger environment. And when the larger environment dies because it is unfed, oh well.

I see things differently and structure my life accordingly, but to each his own or, in other words, whatever lifts up your skirt.


I believe that the average water use includes water used by agriculture and industry. These uses make the use of water in our homes seem trivial.

I would have hoped that were truly the case, but the OP wrote:

"Figures for Palm Springs residents are closer to 1,400 gallons per day."

which suggests these other sectors are excluded, and the following link confirms this number pertains to residential demand only:

Double Standard? Palm Springs Water Use Stays High
While Bay Area Conserves, Average Household In Desert City Uses 1,400 Gallons A Day

See: http://cbs5.com/seenon/palm.springs.water.2.455513.html


Oh the horror when oil passes Gatorade in cost..

Are you kidding me? I assume you mean that when the price of oil passes the CURRENT cost of Gatorade. When the price of oil rises, the price of Gatorade will rise higher because oil is an input to all of the processes that produce Gatorade. This is similar to the law of receding horizons that appears for things like shale oil or other renewables who have low eroi's and require huge subsidies to operate. It usually means that product or process is a energy sink or a < 1 EROEI process. I hope this was a joke, but I seriously see a lot of people confused about this concept and you of all people Nate, I hope are not confused.

Think of it like this: Why is something so usefull and finite as petrol, cheaper then something useless as Gatorade? If we have no more Gatorade in this world we have no problem....

Brilliant timing for this post Nate!

You touch upon one of those deep ironies in America. The history and rhetoric of freedom with the absolute dependence on global finance and energy flows. I think freedom in a structured society is largely mythical. Does the myth serve a purpose? Does it give people a sense of control while keeping them chained to social bonds and norms?

And I don't thinks these chains of bondage are necessarily bad. I have a spouse and a couple of kids. I therefore have less freedom to do as I please unless I decide to skip out on these responsibilities and place them onto others. Don't most of us feel such obligations and aren't they essential for a social species?

But what do we do in a culture of so much entitlement during energy descent? This does worry me. I try to talk people into starting on their own energy descent paths now, while it IS under their control, because I know how important that is for their sense of well being. However, most people aren't paying much attention and simply adapt to change in the moment. Losing a job = energy descent, not a planned powerdown.

So I am wondering if the same basic message warning people to get ahead of the curve works once they are in trouble? Be more self-reliant, establish local economic relationships, an informal economy, focus on the basics of shelter, energy, food, water, transportation and communication using fewer resources and money. Does it matter that much if they hear it later than sooner? Will people still accept this as a legitimate form of adaptation or wait around for the new recovery?

Please give me an answer. Thanks. Jason

Freedom, as Americans see it, depends totally on those energy slaves. Nate does call them slaves for a reason. But he goes off track with the word "freedom". That's for Arendt, Fromm, etc.... What we're really discussing here is our American "way of life" - which we are brainwashed to call "freedom".

Americans are consumers, not citizens. The freedom they enjoy is the freedom to consume and to do so irresponsibly - that is "freedom from". At best. Freedom as I learned it, however, comes with responsibilities. Jason, you are free to marry and free to have children, but with that comes the responsibilities of sharing in the support of the family one way or the other. It's not freedom if you feel you have no such responsibility; that might be an entitlement, or a sense of entitlement. Or it might be social breakdown; Paulson, Geithner and Obama are stealing from me so why shouldn't I steal, etc.... But that's not freedom.

Freedom comes with responsibility. Americans are not free. The empire cannot afford that.

De Tocqueville wrote of how every farmer at a plow had something he was reading as he plowed. We, instead, drive and yak on our cell-phones. Just passed such-and-such. TOD is on twitter. Twitter???? Your farm, your mule, your food or their phone, wire-tapped, their job to pay for it. Who does the NYPD Terrorist study consider more likely "terrorists"? Those without mortgages and bills to pay. Or in other words, self-reliant people, ahead of the curve, those opting out of the consumption.

Freedom, indeed. We're not even "free" to do the right thing.

cfm in Gray, ME

for the record I have never, nor will ever, use Twitter (I'm trying to go in the other direction...)

Nate you might want to do whatever Twitterers do to protect your own name.I have seen mention of this as being a necessary pr cover your ass activity for celebrities and vips.

You are certainly already a vip in the small circle of peak oil ,and you just might become a real overnight sensation when Oprah or Conan or somebody calls.

a)no way
b)no way (I'd go underground)

Something I dropped off re "freedom". Consider the Thirteenth Amendment

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Consider it in context of energy decline. Why were bankruptcy laws changed? Why will health care reform likely end up being mandated private insurance? Energy decline. As we work our way through energy decline, variations on peonage and slavery will work their way back into society.

cfm in Gray, ME

Dryki, your post touches on that other word, entitlement. It is a very strong feeling in the first world even if people don't use the word. I see it come out all the time in posts here and on other peak oil sites, sometimes directly, more often indirectly. We are entitled to this life so we HAVE to believe that technology will keep it going. But our life (which is not free) enslaves others. Our military is used to keep us on top, us the strongest military in the world so that we can get oil and other raw materials at rock bottom prices and insure that we continue to get more than an equal share (which doesn't bother us as we are somehow entitled to live well when 1/2 the humans on the planet live on $2 a day or less).

No human is free - we are born without having a say, and we all have to die in the end no matter how much we may wish not to. We live by the laws of the universe - gravity, the laws of thermodynamics etc. Ancient fossilize sunlight gave us the illusion that we could cure death and live outside the laws of the universe. It is possible that even conscious will is an illusion (Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will http://www.amazon.com/Illusion-Conscious-Will-Bradford-Books/dp/0262731622 )

Freedom is perhaps the wrong question. I'm not sure what the right question is. Rich or poor, 1st of 3rd world, we all die in the end. Looks like the rate of death is about to increase which means the likelihood that any of us will die before we expected to die is increased. Perhaps the question should not be how to be more free, how to live longer, how to keep our "entitlements" but can we choose. If we can then perhaps we should be choosing those actions that make us proud of ourselves rather than those that extend our life, and keep as many of our goodies as possible.

Perhaps freedom starts in acknowledging that we are mortal.

Freedom is perhaps the wrong question.

Good point.
Maybe, the antonym, "not caged" or "not constrained" is the better way to look at it.

Although I place myself on the leftist side of the spectrum, I enjoy listening to the right wing rhetoric stations just to get a sense of how the other side "feels" about things.

"Freedom" is their number one theme in many respects. They believe in American "exceptionalism", that somehow "we" will always be immune to the ills that befall older civilizations just as long as we preserve our "freedoms" and not let the commies cage us in under their socialist ideologies. They believe in self-made success based on the freedom to exploit others and profit handsomely from it. They believe that a man's property gives him the unfettered right to do with it has he pleases. Hey if I pay for my SUV and I pay for my gasoline, don't have some left wingnut dictator tell me how much CO2 I can spout into the air. Heck, next they're going to tell me not to exhale! They will destroy my right to breath! It's all about me being free to do as I please to whom I please and when I please and to whatever extent I please. That's freedom. Anything less means being caged in like an animal.

A chapter in Malcomb Gladwell's book Outlier is about the sense of entitlement of middle and upper socioeconomic classes in America. For the most part, the chapter is biased towards seeing this as a "good thing" as it leads to the questioning of authority, the sense of self-importance, and the notion that one is, to some extent, in control of ones destiny.

The irony is that much of the book is about LACK of individual "control" in the sense that cultural norms and history has enormous predictive power about who will succeed (usually defined in terms of economics). However, those who believe they are entitled are more likely to get what they want than those who are shy and fear or loath power and authority.

I am trying to sort out what this means for American prospects during energy descent, as entitlements are eroded. Some foresee a neofeudalism, but this is difficult, it seems, given the culture of entitlement that has developed.

Perhaps it all makes war socialism more likely?

Another chapter is about the "honor culture" in the southern U.S., which is a relict from herding cultures in Europe. Even today, sociologists have found southerners more "itchin' for a fight" when dishonored compared to those from other US regions. I wonder how the demographics of the military looks with respect to geographic origin of soldiers? Which part of the country is more likely to be moved by bombastic cries of national threat from foreigners? Where do biblical interpretations of a wrathful god find more adherents?

I am concerned about the rise of a political movement arising wrapped in the bible, the flag and the military. Bush may have been just the beginning of this. Did the last election repudiate those politics, or will it simply come roaring back 10-fold as the economic crisis deepens--as I completely expect it will?

IMHO one of the challenges facing the USA going forward is the decline of the "honor culture" and the rise of the "grifter culture". Grifting as a lifestyle works very well for the individual and a reasonably small % of any population-it doesn't work at all as the major industry of the nation.

Re: "itchin' for a fight"

My assumption in Dallas is that most pickup drivers have the following characteristics: (1) They just left a bar; (2) They just got laid off from their job; (3) Their wife just left them; (4) Their dog just died and (5) They have a loaded handgun on the seat.

I try to be a very friendly driver.

This term war socialism is so new to me that I'm afraid to use it for fear of misuse,having only encountered it here a few days ago,but I don't see how anybody who is impartial and who likes to read history can come to any conclusion other than that energy,land and water driven wars are very likely, and fairly soon too,if the ELM energy model is correct.

Southerners are disproportionately represented in the armed services ,partly as the result of cultural influences and partly as the result of limited career oppurtunities -at least this was the case a few years ago,it may have changed.

It's hard to seperate a core of truth from a cultural myth,but there is no doubt that there are still a few hard core Scots /Irish clan type people left,especially in the mountians.I can proudly claim to be from such a family myself,but the old ways are dying out really fast.

Hardly any body ever gets shot around here any more,excapt in the occasional domestic dispute or the rare robbery gone wrong-in which case it's usually the victim doing the shooting.

I don't THINK we are at risk of a political movement "wrapped in Bible ,flag and country" but otoh I can't see any real reason such a movement might not arise,if conditions continue to deteriorate and some evil genius on the order of Hitler arises to lead it.

There are churches every where you look in the old south,but most of them around here are attended about one teenager for every ten grandmothers and the day of the illiterates who seriously believe in hellfire and brimstone is imo about gone..

A few decades back the churches were really the glue that held the communities together but now the members mostly only see each other on Sunday mornings.Cable tv,pocket money,the internet,automobiles and all the other trappings of the late twentieth century have captured the young folks attention,and I don't think the preachers are going to get it back.

You may come to the conclusion that I am wrong from reading news accounts of the resurgence of the evangelicals but personally I think the msm is mostly full of hot air in this particular respect.

I grew up in a Primitive Baptist church household and I've seen it all from the inside,and I've been to services at a couple of the big megachurches as well as some newer small churches.The old fire is just not there anymore.

They believe in American "exceptionalism", that somehow "we" will always be immune to the ills that befall older civilizations

In that, the "right" is indistinguishable from the "left". So bump it up a level.

Still, "unconstrained" or "not caged" isn't something I'd buy. Freedom to me means I can choose. And I am therefore responsible for the results. The results constrain and cage me. For example, my mom and step dad are running up close to $1M in health care costs this year. Statistically, that's end of life. Statistically, that's resources they destroy that my children will not have.

Were my parents - 86 and 96 years old - not to get it, that might not even amount to a penny saved for my children. Do I shut them down? What lessons do I take from that for me?

The moral approach is to shut them down. Thanks for bringing this into focus.

"Don't seek fame or profit, glory or prosperity. Just pass life as it is , according to conditions. When the breath vanishes who is the master? After the death of the body, there is only an empty name. When your clothes are worn out, repair them over and over; when there is no food, work to provide. How long can an illusory body last? For its idle concerns would you increase your ignorance?"
— Zen Master Dongshan Liangjie (b. 807)

I think people are starting to realize, that the USA, was given an aweful lot of free Capital, when they took the country away from the natives. Now they have spent so much of it, they are finding it difficult to replace all that they have wasted.

"At $70 a barrel, oil is far cheaper than gatorade, milk, lemonade, beer, and bottled water."

Sure they are all liquids, but we don't put beverages in our gas tank and we don't drink oil. Thus, comparisons of their prices seems misplaced. Simmons often talks about how cheap oil is in comparison to coffee. But no one drinks 18 gallons of coffee in the time it takes for my Ford ranger to go through a tank full of fuel.

According to this article, each one of us goes through 60 barrels a year of fossil fuels. 60 x 42 = 2520 gallons, which is 6.9 gallons a day. Who drinks 6.9 gallons a day of any form of beverage?

with respect, you're missing the point that Simmons was making.

He was commenting on people complaining about the price of oil relative to what it gave them and relative to the human powered alternatives.

E.g. a cup of oil can transport 5 humans and their luggage for 2.5km in just over a minute. Try that in a rickshaw/bicycle etc.

Very relevant point in a discussion on energy slaves. I think it was Simmonds who told an interviewer something like, "A car can carry 5 people over 1 mile on a cup of gas, that's 15 cents. If you asked a guy with rickshaw to carry the same amount of people the same distance for 15 cents he'd laugh in you face."

Perfect illustration of oil as an energy slave. In my own conversations with people about the value of liquid transportation fuels I have started using the following. If you were to replace the work done by a 5 ton truck by manual labour, how much would it cost to move a truckload of goods from, say the port, to a distributor 5 miles away?

Alan from the islands

Will nature get a break, will forests grow back, etc. because we are forced to move back towards ports and other centers of distribution?

Or will people get by with very few material goods in the hinterlands, and draw on wood and soils for fuel and food, thereby pushing nature back even further?

I imagine that is dependent on where you are and whether there is a redistribution of land. In the US, there is more than enough arable land to feed the current population+.

I am toying with the idea of a new Land Rush involving Big Ag land as payment for the destruction they have wreaked on soils and lives. All very communist of me, I know. And not likely to get much traction.


I think that cheap energy has an effect on freedom, but the increase in freedom per extra unit must diminish exponentially, in a similar way that we see when we look at GDP vs. actual quality of life. For example, in Europe the average citizen uses half as much energy as the average American citizen but you wouldn't seriously consider Europeans less free that Americans.

Also, if we consider what each individual freedom entails, then we can see how to maintain these as energy availability drops. Eg. If I want the freedom to be able to visit friends and family who live far away then I could move house, or a more efficient public transport system could be developed that would enable me travel the same distance with less energy.

Also, consider that if there is less energy available and we have to overcome some amount of adversity to achieve tasks that we now find effortless then we may start to actually feel more proud of these more difficult achievements which may make us feel more subjectively free overall.

Hello Nate,

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain.."

Your Quote: "Irrespective of declines in resources/capita, assuming basic needs are met, we might be able to 'trick' our wiring into responses that are less stressful as long as we feel ownership in what's happening."

IMO, seems like a good reason for full-on Peak Outreach to All so that All 'feel ownership in what's happening' and then All want to move to some degree of Optimal Overshoot Decline so that 'basic needs are met' as best as possible.

Imagine if the global pop. agreed that Asimov's List [P is #1, S is #2..] was to take the same priority in our economy as it is in Nature, and we then legislatively encouraged the FF-producers to massively stockpile recovered-S, not only to hoard it for the next seven generations, but to gradually drive I-NPKS prices skyhigh.

I guarantee you everyone would ramp O-NPK recycling and minimal water usage strategies to the max to reduce their stress and increase their feeling of ownership by activation of their Innate Territoriality.

Wildfire Reloaded [4:52]
Can you hear the very faint music 'that sets our minds afire' when very gentle winds blow across Spiderwebs 'strung with silver wire'?

Picture each dewdrop as just one converted golf course of our 16,000 in the USA... EDIT: in this photo: the big sticks represent the 'Spine & Limbs' of Alan Drake's standard gauge RR & TOD.

Are there any kids today that are tightly hugging their bags of NPK?

304-bushel corn — in 1955?

He was the rock star of corn.

..A state record corn yield of 179 bushels in 1950 for his first 4-H project, when he was just 10-1/2 years old...

..“I broke it deep, rowed it up in 28-inch rows, subsoiled, and used 30 wagonloads of barnyard manure, 1,200 pounds of Vigoro fertilizer, 1,000 pounds of soda, and planted Dixie 17, thinned to 12 inches, cultivated once.”

..“I made the crop with our eight-year-old mule, Dolly.

..I’d get up in the middle of the night, go down there with a shovel and a coal oil lantern, wading barefooted in mud ankle deep, to turn the water across to another row.

..After my first state record yield, companies gave us some 13-13-13 fertilizer and that made a big difference. We’d dump fertilizer in the irrigation water and you could almost see the corn change color before your very eyes. It was beautiful, and people came from all over to take photos.”
Are there any kids today that have abandoned their videogaming record attempts to pursue new agriculture records? Try to wrap your mind around the concept of a postPeak pre-teen working in the midnight loam with only the feeble light "of the cold-hearted orb that rules the night..."

That is certainly not 'Nights in White Satin, never reaching the end..."

How many kids will yearn to feel the 'white satin' of beneficiated fertilizers slipping from their fingers to the final square foot below? Borlaug: Without I-NPK, Game Over!==> so lets move to ramp O-NPK as much as possible before it is far too late.

How many will eagerly fall to the ground to stir in the O-NPK they so laboriously saved?

"Remember when the music
Was the best of what we dreamed of for our children's time
And as we sang we worked, for time was just a line,
It was a gift we saved, a gift the future gave..."

"Remember when the music
Was a glow on the horizon of every newborn day.."--Harry Chapin

Or are we just going to let as many as possible newborns just fall to the ground?


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

304 bushel of corn, what a beautiful story if it were made into a movie. I am not in the film industry, but if someone here has connections, i can see the movie being very inspiring.

I see "Freedom" as the lack of external controls on ones decisions. With the increasing level of elected dictatorship in the US we have continuing levels of declining freedom.
Freedom is primarily a struggle between government control of our decisions and being in control ourselves of our own decisions.
I don't really see that oil, coal, natural gas or any other form of energy directly affects this government vs individual struggle for control of our lives.
Back in 1776 there were no fossil fuels used, but the struggle to remove government control took place anyway.
Sometimes I think there is too much emphasis at this site to tie fossil fuels which have only been around for maybe 200 years at most to all of our problems.
Many of our current problems are not the result of having fossil fuels, but the result of human GREED, LUST for POWER and SLOTH. Those three human flaws are the primary cause of loss of Individual Freedoms. The Greed and Lust for Power persons want to control individuals to acquire more money or to obtain or maintain Power while the Sloth in individuals prevents them from taking the necessary steps to prevent the first two from taking control of their freedoms.
If all of the electronic/electrical devices in the world (which have only been around for a bit over 100 years) were to suddenly disappear, most people would gain increased freedom as a result of the failure of the Greedy and Lusting for Power groups to maintain the level of control they currently have.
There are those on this list that continually wish to control the lives of others (Lust for Power) by mandating where they live, where they work, how they get around, what they eat etc... and there are those who wish to maintain the freedom to make those decisions for themselves. I don't really see oil or other fossil fuels being a significant factor in these differences.

mandating where they live,
mandating where they work,
mandating how they get around,
mandating what they eat
mandating etc.

Gee. You mean I can "choose" to live someplace other than on [Easter] Island Earth?

Gee. You mean I can "choose" to have whatever job I want? How about that job of sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office? I think today I feel like choosing that job. But if I get tired and feel a higher calling, I'll just shake 'em up in that there D.C. place and quit to do something else instead of floating like a dead fish down the river. (Oops, am I starting to channel the freedom-wheeling thoughts of the Airhead of Alaska? Sorry.)

Gee. You mean I can "choose" to fly an airplane anywhere I please and at any time without FAA approval? How about if I buzz that impostor who has my job of sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office? That's freedom. No one is going to "mandate" to me how I get around. Freedom means you buzz whom you want when you want. Anyone who disagrees with me can just buzz off. They are free to do that.

What is freedom?
One man's freedom from is destroyed by another man's freedom to.
I think a better word to consider is "opportunities", or "options". But that didn't make such a catchy political slogan.

How much are we entitled to?
Meaningless concept unless it is referred to some legal or political policy.

How could less energy per capita equate to more freedom?
Freedom from or freedom to? Freedom for whom?
Energy under the control of whom?
Those who control their own energy have the greater freedom thereby, providing they don't allow it to somehow blinker them (e.g. into thinking they mustn't walk or bus to the store as it would be beneath their dignity).
But that man's freedom To reduces another's freedom From.

There are few more gigastupendanormous violations of freedom that that constantly imposed by motorists on non-motorists. Just about all the public spaces are turned into death-metal blockades thereby. The freedom to safely walk, cycle, along "rights of way", or just stand around or play hide-and-seek are massively stolen thereby. So the end of the car age would be a massive positive in that respect. And also in respect of less crime: www.energyark.net/urbna.htm.

Energy in the hands of government could be very antithetic to freedom. A tank defending us against invasion by the dictator Saddam Badman would increase our freedom; that tank being used to support a Washington dictatorial regime (perish the perverse thought) would be reducing it.

......(cheap being anything under $500 a barrel)
I somehow think this en-passant parenthetical needs a post of its own.

A tank defending us against invasion by the dictator Saddam Badman would increase our freedom; that tank being used to support a Washington dictatorial regime (perish the perverse thought) would be reducing it.

More tanks.

cfm in Gray, ME

The freedom to breed to overshoot on a finite planet ultimately curtails other freedoms.

Such as the freedom of other species to exist.

Too often, the vague definition of "freedom" in our minds has been conflated with an entitlement to do anything which is not expressly forbidden, such as dumping waste into streams, overfishing the seas, logging the rainforests.

The "Freedom of Beliefs" entitlement often includes the freedom to enslave others or diminish the global commons. The tragedy of the commons is all about freedom, after all.

But there is no freedom from freedom's consequences.

An awkward word, freedom. It's inherently relative, referential.

While I agree with most of your points I would like to point out "The freedom to breed to overshoot on a finite planet..."; The American Birth Control League has existed since the 1920's and now goes by the name "Planned Parenthood". It has been the goal of the MSM to convince us that it is us (the western world) that is in overshoot, but this is hardly the case as most western populations are in terminal decline (Japan included).

In the world there are about 60 countries under 2.1 births per woman most are European/North African/American countries.

Parsing out the fact that many 'Western populations' are in 'terminal decline' does not do any good. The only logical way to consider human population impacts on our environment is to consider the Earth as a whole. Every part in interconnected to every other part, over various time spans.

The United States, which is arguably at the forefront of discussions about the Western World, is not in population decline...far from it. We will have some 400M people by mid-century.

Two points: Western countries' people consume far too much, and 2) non-first-world countries people are striving to increase their consumption towards current U.S. levels, AND the population of many of these countries continues to expand.

I would offer that the population of 'Western' / 'First-World' counties (U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan) should contract over time and stabilize to about one-third of their present values, while decreasing per-capita consumption as well by one-half.

Nice idea, but we are too bull-headed, proud, and stupid to accomplish this, so 'Mother Nature'/Gaia will get around to doing this for us and/or will will end up living such as most people in Mumbai (and other similar places)presently do. Maybe Ethiopia.

Models predicting 400M are based on the aggregate of a whole populace, but it hides the fact that the population is aging and relying more and more on technology in the medical field to keep up. Don't get me wrong, the population can still increase with the fertility rate under 2.1 (btw the US is at 2.05 most recently), but the physical reality is that technology and immigration are proping up the populations of the US and the rest of the 'first-world'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_territories_by_fertil... ; for reference

My point in any case is that while we have our own problems, overpopulation is not one of them, because simply removing technology (say due to PO) or immigration (say due to war-on-terror/totalitarian state) will reduce our population to more sustainable means all by themselves; Especially considering corn and grain which is currently being exported by the US could be diverted home to feed the populaces.

Other western countries with even lower birth rates aren't growing or in some cases declining. Italy with 1.38 births per woman currently had a population of 47M in 1950 57M between 2001/2002 was 60M in 2008; which seems fine, but 1/5th of the population is older than 65 now, which doesn't sound very healthy.

http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/population-health/country-profile-91.html ; italy citation

'Terminal Decline' is a term used by short film/documentary I saw about this issue; in it, it was shown that historically no civilization or nation has ever recovered with a fertility below 1.8. The various western countries besides the US will have to deal with an increasing old and care intensive population and a declining work force instead of overpopulation in the coming times. I'll try to find the video and link it.


So much focus on the exponential growth of population has been on getting fertility rates down that most think that reaching replacement or lower rates lowers population growth quickly or doesn't have other demographic downsides. It can take several generations to work through the previous high fertility cohorts.

Just as high rates above replacement [with high survival rates] produces the exponential growth pattern, lowering the fertility rates to or below replacement makes a big bulge in the older cohorts that were born during higher fertility rates. At 2.1 replacement rates a population can reach an equilibrium where the elderly cohorts are still large, but possibly not too damaging economically.

The mirror image of the left side of the growth curve is based on this incremental reductions of the bigger cohorts. The below replacement fertility rates that we are now experiencing speed the process of reaching the top of the curve sooner than straight replacement rates would. That is, the peak number will be smaller. However, it has the effect of the elderly bulge being bigger sooner.

If we were to maintain the below replacement fertility rates worldwide rather than replacement rates the right side of the curve would become steeper. And no generation would escape the elder bulge. It would be a race to the bottom.

The reduction in population will be a boon for resource depletion but because of the distortions in the demographic balance of the different age cohorts I see the possibility of cultural norms never being able to stabilize. Unless we are willing to revert to accepting high death rates and lower life expectancy as the norm. Just like the good old days.


Once we had the frontiersman or the mountian man as the symbol of all we supposedly hold dear-rugged individualism,self reliance ,freedom from the necessity of bending the knee to lord or employer.

These incarnations of our dreams gradually morphed into the cowboy, a character perhaps not quite so free as the "long runners" who risked the tender mercies of Airdales ancient kin,when they were still numerous and strong,to trap the beaver,but nevertheless a freespirited soul beholden to nobody beyond his little tribe of fellows bound in brotherhood by the "brand".

The cowboys are for all intents and purposes gone now and thier replacements,the farmer and the trucker,the most recent reincarnations of the myth are,if not threadbare,at least badly shopworn.

The farmer,that reputed pillar of free enterprise,has rooted himself out a spot at the trough that has allowed him to become,on a per capita basis,one of the biggest and fattest socialist hogs around.

(The msm created the farmer as myth and has since been rather reluctant to revisit the state of his symbolic health.)

He is furthermore,as things stand today, an utter and absolute prisoner of the ff industry.

The independent truckers are in even worse shape in regard to the diesel merchants-the farmers do have the necessary resources as a group to throw off the fossil diesel yoke by brewing thier own fuel- but the truckers have no option,other than the hat in the hand.

Who will wear the cowboy boots and drive the pickup trucks in the future?

(A few July 4 brews can put strange hic!thoughts into your head and lead to trying your hand at flowery old time July 4 urp!rhetoric.I mean tryin'to caricature -never mind,my glass is empty and my fire is just about ready.)

The trouble with tryin'to compose lies when you're drinkin is that you are apt to forget in the middle and tell the truth at just the wrong spot.

Long live the Dream!

Back in my youth on the farm, no one was given anything for free.

You worked your farm and bartered and there were ZERO handouts.

If you were lazy you might not live long. Begging was the way then and those beggars were in the cities. I remember them in Chicago in the
60s. Ragged coat,vomit all over it, drunk and leering at your as they held out their hands.

You could go stand or sit by the town hardware store and someone needful of work might drive by and hire you to build fence...for room and board...and you were then a hired hand...no money to speak of...at the most maybe 50 cents per day and that was unlikely.

But this is now changed so much that I doubt many here ,except FarmerMac will even believe what I say..

So who changed the equation? The gobbermint did. They altered it.

They now are broke from their ponzi schemes they implemented and their control of everyone.

I would just as soon be back in that old farm house doing chores and eating three good healthy meals each day. And you children took care of you in old age...of course another thing the gobbermint changed.

So I see it differently because I was there. Some of us,,very few here on TOD can remember it. Some had it harder on poor ground, their fault, but on good dirt and good weather? We had it pretty nice.

Of course plowing the praries , they should have known the result but they did it anyway however just some few wiser methods solved all that and brought Ky back from the days of gullies and erosion......and all was good until BigAg and BigBrother got together again and now its worse than ever.

Airdale-still class of '57

"gobbermint"? Come on Airdale. You know better. The government is not some mystical,abstract, evil agent. It is an agent, actually many separate agents, of those who have the political power and money (but I repeat myself) to define the actions of institutions that are enabled by the voters. The problem is that so many of us are slurping at one or another of the troughs put out by the government that we are afraid to curtail the actions of the other parts of the government. Add to that the distorted picture of reality painted by the media and the omnipresent advertising blitz and you get the reality that we experience now.

And don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that you, specifically, are feeding in any given trough, but that collectively the larger society is and that we are mired in the collective result. To the extent that you can live without roads, electric power, the internet, health science, banking,police protection, etc. you are not part of that collective.

Oh come on jihman, you just try saying "GottdamnEliterunGobbernmentagencies" fast when you are angry and you'll sputter your lunch all over your shirt and end up looking like some city bum asking for a handout with vomit all over his chest.

What I was saying in my comment was , there was a time and I can recall it for I was there in it , when most folks in the rural areas,,and the USA was very rural and huge numbers lived on farms,,,,when all of those relied ONLY on their own work and livelihood for sustenance. No handouts. No welfare. There was CCC and a few other programs.

We did it then, we can't do it now....and the reason is that the government instigated programs , that we now recognize as ponzi schemes, schemes that have now played out and we are descending into bad times as a result of interfernce by the gov. in the past.

Right now a man and wife are not allowed to punish their own children. As a for instance. There are many more instances that show the huge difference in what the country was like in my youth vs now.

I was pointing that out...and that only those of us who were there, and there are very few of them on TOD,,can remember how it once was.

I live alone. I was not allowed to chose to either participate or not in SS. I was not given a choice. The money was withheld from my paycheck.

Yet I could live without it and even without my company pension which I worked 30 yrs for. I can do that and suspect that before I pass on I will have to do it.

But if I do then I expect NO INTERFERENCE by agents of that government you speak of. You don't get to have your cake and eat it too...applies to the goverment as well as to the citizen.

But I do own my land and most everything else free and clear. No one can take anything from me. That is FREEDOM as I know it and the subject of this CampFire essay. Freedom.


I suspect you can't be too much older than me (I'm 65)and I've lived in both rural and urban environments.

I also own everything free and clear. Unfortunately the gobbermint can take away all of my real estate if I don't pay my property tax and they can prevent me from using my vehicles if I don't license them. They can even take away my savings if I don't pay tax on the interest. Am I free or not?

To the extent that we are even in the proximity of roads, police protection, air quality standards, courts, etc. we give up a measure of freedom for the security these services represent.

To me freedom is, as discussed at length above, a word so thoroughly abused in modern America as to be meaningless. We are masters of our own destiny only to the extent that we are separate from other beings. As our environment takes on more and ever more humans we need more government interference to even enjoy what diminishing amount of "freedom" is possible.

I don't pay property taxes. Homestead exemption in Ky.

I could let the vehicles go and not even pay that.

I despise socialism. It deprives the soul and the man.

Enough said then,

Airdale-I wonder if you ever served in the military,in time of war.
I believe you are one who takes,a taker and gives little back...

sorry but thats how I read your comments..I gave my time and served for what????? FREEDOM...from tyranny by other countries ,,as did my ancestors,,a Capt and a Col in the Continental Army...remember what the 4th is all about.It wasn't a fight for more 'entitilements'--a nasty catchy word that means just the opposite from how its used.....we are ENTITLED to Freedom,,not to force others to take care of us/you/them..the ones who can NOT take care of themselves but could if they had to but wish NOT to....

PS. Rural? Was you living on a farm in the late 30s,and 40s? I was. There were NO handouts, as I have said about 3 times now. None.

I despise socialism. It deprives the soul and the man.

Even in the most communist of states, people have private property rights in their own underwear. So it is not pure communism.

Even in the most capitalist of states, people share the air they breath. So it is not pure private property. There is common property.

The only question is how much of each?

Of course, I too would despise living under a government that controls your every breathe.

On the other hand, I would despise living under a government that let's everyone (criminals, mafia bosses, warlords) do as they please.

Finding a balance that pleases everyone is next to impossible. I think in the US Constitution it says that we strive towards establishing "a more perfect union" that provides for the common defense and for the general welfare.

There were NO handouts, as I have said about 3 times now. None.

Airdale you talk a good story but I don't believe a word. I think I would get a meal and likely a couple bucks, to get on with, if I ever turned up on the bum at your door. As far as despising socialism I think you are a churchgoing fella and if Christ wasn't a socialist I don't know who ever was.

To keep somewhat on Nates topic my current expression of freedom is that I put in a whole bunch of underwater lines for my gardens and greenhouses and don't have to drag hoses any more.


Of course you would get a meal and whatever as well BUT you might be expected to do a little payback in labor or cooking or whatever.

The bums who jumped off the freight trains coming thur back in those early 40s asked for a drink of well water, a few matches and nothing else but would go split some wood or do a bit of free work in return.

They were basically gentle people and I was never in fear of them. They didn't look you in the eye but kept their heads down. They were down on their luck and would welcome work. They simply drank the dipper of water , thanked us for the few matches and walked on down the gravel road.

We never feared them. This was the way it was back then.

Peace be upon you,

Every action a human takes is a motion, a search, for freedom. Freedom is our universal goal. The drug addict and the priest are both searching for freedom. They are both seeking to satisfy desire. They want to be free of desire but they only satisfy a single desire.

We are all seeking a palliative to our disease of desire. Desire is our fundemental bondage.

But instead of ending all desire we satisfy our simple desires. The spiritual masters today are all hidden and so the average person is left with consumerism or politics to be our guides. The capitalists , doctors, and politicians know our simple desires and they sell us temporary freedom in thousands of different packages, knowing that these things only temporarily satisfy our suffering.

No thing, no product or concept or ideology, can permanently end our desire. When we get the new political leader or the new cell phone, something or someone comes along to remind us that we still have desire. And we are off on another search.

Seek the freedom that depends on nothing. A freedom that does not depend on a concept or an object. That is the only true freedom. That freedom does not depend on words, or lines on a map, and is not the result of "getting" anything. Our natural state is the bliss of freedom. It is not given to you by anyone. It is. And you are already it. The only thing one needs to do is renounce. We need to let go of control, let go of the idea that we need to do something to get free. Then cortisol will be lower! We do not need scientists to figure this out but if it helps you to understand the wisdom of the sages it is all well.

Most of you here are still seeking that control, through numbers and charts and plans. You figure if you just "know that one thing" then everything will be alright. This is good because it helps those who still cannot comprehend the greater freedom. It helps those who are still addicted to desire and are afraid to get rid of desire because they are afraid they will lose the high. So we need to teach everyone that all "things" can only give us a limited, impermanent, freedom. "Things" gives a feeling of freedom that is bound by the very thing that makes us feel free.

Oil does not make us free. It only gives us a taste freedom. Like a psychedelic drug, it only lasts while it is coursing though our veins. It is so silly to hear you state that freedom depends on something! Think of that!

You sound as if you have found your way a state close to what I percieve to be "enlightenment"as defined by Zen Buddhists.

Congratulations,very few westerners are even capable,so the experts say, of becoming enlightened,and hardly any manage it on thier own.

I appreciate where you are coming from,and feel the same way to the extent that I generally ignore the things that are important to most people these days.

I've never owned a new car because the freedom from working-sacrificing my time-to pay for it means more to me than the status and convenience of new car ownership.

But I sure do enjoy being able to spend hours every day reading and more hours just loafing and indulging this dangerous new habit-the Oil Drum- and none of these things would be possible for me without the enhanced standard of living made possible by cheap energy.

Furthermore it is quite possible that I would be dead as the result of an accident if not for the fact that medicine has advanced so fast in the last century-and most of our technical progress in that time has arguably been made possible by the wealth generated,and the research thereby made possible, by the explosive growth due to cheap oil.

I 've about made up my mind that I'm gonna miss my pickup truck so bad that my only out is to either brew my own fuel or build a wood gasifier rig to stay mobile,if I live to see the day I can't buy my petroleum fix.

For me freedom includes the ability to drive to the nearest good bookstore,which is fifty miles away.But if most folks have to give up thier cars,it will close,and the next closest one ,located in a downtown area that might enable it to survive, is even farther away.

Christian: Desire is fantastic and is one of the greatest things about life. IMHO the problem (reality) is that most people aren't pursuing what they desire because it can be very disruptive on a societal level.

Yes. To explain further, desire is not the problem. It is our attachment to desire that causes the suffering in the world. For instance, what length would you go to to get a gallon of gas? How much does our desire outweigh our compassion?

Amen, I have the smell, and taste and touch of the earth, the wind in the trees, and the stars at night.These are my most cherished freedoms. No man can take those things away from me, just death. When death does come I'll just be going back to being a part of them all.

Don in Maine

Even those can be taken away.


But if I see the leading edge of the crash wave coming quick enough I'm going to write a few bad checks at a bunch of bookstores so I can enjoy at least some good one way conversations with people who know about the rest of the universe.

"we might be able to 'trick' our wiring into responses that are less stressful as long as we feel ownership in what's happening."

I have noticed this racing sailboats. Those who are afraid often retreat into non-action where they feel even more afraid. Those who begin laughing at the rush of wind and spray of water stay happy and functional. Those who are "forced" into situations beyond their control often develop a fear of the sport (say a storm blows up) even though when racing, they might be putting the boat in far more dangerous situations every 15 min as they round a buoy with a pack of other boats.

As far as freedom and energy, I think those are less related than zero growth economy and freedom.

When I think of freedom I think about doing the work you enjoy (or have a skill or passion to pursue), loving who you want, learning what you want, saying what you believe, as well as being protected from others killing, maiming, taking what you have, poisoning your air, water, etc.

So I feel freedom is directly opposed to competition. As competition increases the ability to have a choice decreases.

People start to band together to protect themselves under competition (in anything from gangs, to churches, to national governments). Or they ally with stronger powers (Medieval families would often write powerful people into wills that the powerful person (a bishop say) would inherit should they leave no direct descendants, so that the powerful person would protect their land from hostile takeover).

The same is true with land ownership. If you have more kids than you have land, then some will have to do without. How many bible stories are about brothers killing brothers? Lots.

Today kids are turned loose with the expectation that they will make their own way in the world. And mostly, they do. But in a zero growth economy where there are no new jobs, it will be vitally important to parents to make sure their children get, at least, their parents job. Suddenly what you want to do or what you are skilled at doing is no longer important.

This spills over into love and child raising also. No longer is your spouse selected on the basis of love, but instead on the basis of politics. Just read any Jane Austin novel to see how constraining a zero growth society can be. Lots of rules and laws about which children are legitimate (and thus can inherit) and those who are not. And the rights of women (restricted I feel to block them from competing with men).

When the new world was opened up, it allowed economic growth. And people could and did escape to be part of that (often with fatal results). But it made "freedom" possible without an large increase in energy. Just unfilled economic positions. Check out the novels Wuthering Heights or Great Expectations. The military life (soldier or seaman) was often a death sentence, but like a lottery ticket, could also win big.

Energy, of course, creates more unfilled economic positions without needing new land.

So, my musing, unsupported, and shaky view, is that freedom is not in conflict with low energy precisely, but in conflict with resource competition, which has been reduced, first, by conquest of large pieces of territory, and later by the discovery of large energy sources.

The problem with the whole "Freedom" question is that it is primarily a male value or goal, just as safety and security is primarily a female value or goal. It is one of the reasons old guys don't psychologically adjust too well to seniors residences, while many women flourish in the environment.

Superficially that is true, but on a fundamental level we are all seeking freedom.

It is just that the woman in the nursing home are free of the drudgery of housework!

That is a cliche-there are a lot of guys who would be quite content to have their wife let the housework slide (a lot). Usually women are more concerned with the optimal appearance of the home (and struggle to get their man up to their level of fastidiousness). A lot of guys don't even care if their wives cook (ever).

Oh, please read what I write in a broader sense. I was just commenting on how a simple freedom can be taken away or obtained by a change of circumstances.

In the nursing home my grandmother remarked to us; "I like it here, finally someone is cooking for me."

I basically disagree with your premise that we are all seeking freedom-freedom has a pretty heavy price tag attached and a minority of people are willing to pay the price.

US at 114 in happiness index:

Hello Hightrekker,

Thxs for the link:
..The report sets out a "Happy Planet Charter" calling for an unprecedented collective global effort to develop a "new narrative" of human progress, encourage good lives that don't cost the earth, and to reduce consumption in the highest-consuming nations – which it says is the biggest barrier to sustainable wellbeing.
IMO, seems to support my efforts for full-on Peak Outreach [which includes pop control], SpiderWebRiding, Asimov's List Strategy, and O-NPK recycling. Much better than quickly reverting to this Tlameme Scheme:


IMO, we should all be yearning for: "There's been a hoot owl howlin' by my window now, for six nights in a row.." as it won't be much fun later to be a lonely old man by the dwindling campfire and not hearing a damn thing in the Wild.

Freedom has been turned into another sensation, as in 'feeling free'. It's a feeling you get when you are sitting in a car and driving down an open road with no traffic and a beer in your hand.


You are tethered to the car, you have to work to pay for it, it breaks and you have to pay for repairs; the gas costs money and you have to pay for that, too. You live in a house that you have to pay for, it costs so much the only way you can pay for it is to live in a house a long way away from anything which means more and more paying for the car/gas/repairs.

Some freedom.

You are free to chose whatever consumer product you like, the blue one or the brown one. It's that fleeting sensation of having a choice. The sensation of freedom that comes from walking away from the mall with bags full of stuff.

You are tethered to your choices; you have to pay for them too, you are going into debt because you need the thing to be creditable at work and in society. Television makes all the rules. When you get to the point where the rules stop applying, you get fat. Then you pay some more at the doctor's office and the hospital and eventually wind up in the geezer warehouse with the drooling, mindless, pathetic inmates of that bedlam all wishing they were somewhere else if they have the wits to wish with.

Life condensed into a handful of words: Some freedom.

You are free to do what you like with yourself. It's another fleeting sensation as the things you like to do don't equate with robbery, which has become American business's operating system.

You are tethered to your choice, you can hate your job then it disappears and you become an economic refugee with nothing for support outside of a small and fleeting amount of money compensation. You want to be a painter or a jazz musician but there is 'no market for that'. There is a merket for people willing to work at a box- store. Without the job you cannot pay for the house. When it goes you live in a box or the auto unless that is repossessed as well. The freedom of job choice is a form of gambling on forces you have no control over.

Freedom has become 'feeldom'. It's another scam.

I know one thing, I'll never be free until I get rid of all the stuff.

Hard to understand why the Evildoer Moozlims would hate that life.

I lived with Inupiat Eskimos in northern and northwestern Alaska for several years back in the 1960s and 70s, including two years of cultural research. From the point of view of a material standard of living, the great majority could be classified as poor in comparison to the general American population. Their homes were usually small and crowded often lacking running water and electricity. Wresting a living from a harsh environment exposed them to severe weather, difficult work and danger. Many older villagers had experienced prolonged hunger and had witnessed starvation that took the lives of family members. While certainly not the stereotypic "happy Eskimos", they impressed me with their love of laughter and sense of pride in their accomplishments. They had a strong sense of community, willingly sharing with others and expecting little assistance from outside sources. I considered them some of the most satisfied and freest people I had ever known.

The above description of the northern Inupiat has been altered by time and increasing exposure to Western influences. Most now live in modern houses supplied with modern amenities. They rely much more on purchasing food and other goods from stores for basic needs. Virtually every home has a television set, telephone and, increasingly, Internet service. Motorized vehicles (snowmobiles, ATVs, etc.) have virtually eliminated the dog team and other forms of non-mechanized transportation. The need for cash income is far greater forcing many to reduce traditional seasonal subsistence activities in favor of more regimented wage employment. Substance abuse and related social problems are sadly common. Diet related health issues are endemic. Generally, there are much greater opportunities for travel to other regions, formal education, modern health care and commercial forms of recreation. In summary, I have to conclude that an important degree of personal satisfaction and freedom have been lost.

Marketing and propaganda is based, in large part, on making people dissatisfied with what they have and promising them greater satisfaction through new purchases or practices. Artificially creating dissatisfaction is a highly effective means of controlling people and, ultimately, reducing personal freedom.

The ideals of freedom and independence have at times been tied to a concept of patriotism.

I have little use for nationalism, but I think that on a holiday which is meant to stand for ideals of freedom and independence through sacrifice, it might be appropriate to mention planetary patriotism and the war raging around us, this assymetrical assault on the future of life.

If ever there were a cause worth living and dying for, surely the health and survival of our home planet, the life systems which nurtured us, is one.

We've all been born into the teeth of overshoot and decline, of a scale which will not be repeated on this planet or by our species. We are spectators to and participants in a mass extinction event. One of those rare and terrible events which endangers and changes life itself and will eventually extinguish earth life entirely.

It is natural to be horrified at this realization, and its implications for those people and things we love. Yet the wild species are not yet all dead, the earth not yet entirely despoiled, and the end state of the human energy/resource/population crush not determined.

In a way we're lucky. Being alive now, on the cusp of great change, lends an incongruous gravity to our individual actions. Like people suddenly waking from a pleasant dream into a burning house, our panic - or our resolve and levelheadedness - during a short span of time may make a huge difference in who and what is lost or saved; in what options the future has to work with.

We have minds and the potential for selfless action; and are faced with deep existential challenges and terrible choices. Not esoteric and theoretical, but as gritty and real as anything our anscestors of the past billion years ever faced. And we worry about how we're going to drive our cars?

I'm glad I have the freedom to choose my own fights and my own risks, and I'm indebted to those who made that freedom possible for me. I choose to fight for the earth of 1000 years from now, and its inhabitants; whose quality of life and very existence likely depend on the decisions, large and small, we are all making now. I wouldn't choose to be alive at any other time, since this is when a difference can still be made.

This website is one of the best of the best, and its readers are some of the least delusional people around as near as I can tell. It's what always pulls me back, and what occasionally causes me to write something here that sounds corny.

To the extent that we have freedom, let's use it to make a difference as well as blogging about it. There will be no more worthy cause or convergence of crises to ever justify taking individual risk. If we don't use our real freedoms of action to save our planet, then what was freedom good for other than a dopamine fix?

Survival isn't the only thing; there's also duty. I won't presume to say what that might be, but if we appreciate the improbable gift of our own awareness and existence, then we each have a heavy responsibility to the future. And many of us here have the freedom and intellect to engage that responsibility, even knowing the odds.

So to freedom, entitlement, and energy I'll throw in the consideration of patriotism and duty, knowing that it will resonate with some here, and hoping it will cause others to think about it in those terms on this holiday.


"If ever there were a cause worth living and dying for, surely the health and survival of our home planet, the life systems which nurtured us, is one."


Survival isn't the only thing; there's also duty."


Independence from oil means freedom from fear of walking, or riding my bike, on the road. Freedom from worrying about speeding drivers striking me, or my granddaughter, or my dog. Freedom to paddle a canoe on a quiet lake, without fear of being run down, or swamped by somebody’s wake.

Independence from oil means freedom from the disgusting stench and sickening poisons emitted by all the cars and trucks infesting every city and town, and the vast highways in between, and the giant sulfurous bunker fuel-gulping boats infesting all the harbors and oceans. Freedom to smell the flowers, or the coffee, or anything more interesting than exhaust fumes.

It means freedom to enjoy peace and quiet sometimes. Freedom from the constant, never-ending noise of internal combustion and turbine engines.

Independence from oil means freedom to eat fresh locally produced food from a neighborhood market, or a garden. Freedom from the tasteless, nutrition-free stuff the supermarkets call fruit and vegetables, and all the other processed corn syrup-sweetened crap they sell. Independence from oil, for many of us, means a chance for freedom from obesity, and all its attendant health problems.

It means freedom from the solitary torture of long-distance commuting, unless it’s by rail. Freedom to safely sit back and read, enjoy a conversation, or take a nap while enroute.

Independence from oil means freedom for our sons and daughters from being caught up in the next senseless resource war, and freedom from forcible extraction of more taxes to support the wars.

Independence from oil, if accomplished soon enough, may mean freedom for our children and grandchildren, and maybe our great grandchildren, to live in a world with a climate somewhat resembling that to which we have become accustomed and adapted.

The transition certainly won’t be easy or painless. We will no doubt dearly miss certain freedoms supplied by our cheap energy slaves. However, we need to bear in mind that it is only independence from oil that can return some of the many freedoms that have been taken, or will be taken from us.

I am surprised that you are suggesting that because the US used 25% of the world's oil it has more freedom than say Europeans that use less. Does a Prius driver have less freedom than a Hummer driver?

What I found amazing about many people in the US is the thinking that gasoline at $3 or $4/gallon is expensive! Virtually everywhere else, most people have just moved to fuel efficient vehicles.

Because oil went to $147 at the time of the sub-prime banking crisis there seems to be the acceptance that an oil price above $150/boe will destroy any economy. I think drivers in the US are going to discover that $300/boe oil is not so high once the average fuel efficiency of vehicles is >39miles/gallon, and for PHEV drivers gasoline will still be a minor expense. In the US, 60% of energy is not from oil, and a considerable amount of oil energy is lost in refining and distribution, and even higher losses when used in ICE vehicles.

"In the US, 60% of energy is not from oil, and a considerable amount of oil energy is lost in refining and distribution, and even higher losses when used in ICE vehicles."

Exactly, which why it is asinine when people compare the alternatives head to head the amount of oil we consume...and say we MUST replace XXX amount of crude oil per day.

We are using the oil in the most wasteful way possible, suffering every possible loss in production, distribution and use...to have to replace that much oil we would have to assume we are going to carry ALL of the inefficiency of the old methods straight across into the new generation of alternatives! WHY would we assume that to be the case? A person can be very good at math and still be very poor at making assumptions.



Great post--I love the direction you took this. It gets a little more complex when extending the notion of a less stressful life due to energy availability. I think an alternative is hinted at in the Lundberg and Frankenhaeuser: the more self-determination (one could logically substitute self-sufficiency without much of a reach) an individual has, the less stress they will experience (c.p.). There are a lot of studies that have shown that US citizens are more stressed than any other industrial counterpart, despite much higher per capita energy use. Energy is certainly important in all this (I'm trying to figure out just how much so myself, from a different starting point), but I don't think it is the direct causal force acting on individuals.

Americans are getting shorter, fatter:
(And probably dumber, but that is for another post)

A better link on the height gap:

hmm -I understand the fatter but the 'shorter' is surprising...

Not really Nate. Americans are stressed, have bad health care, a poor diet and a declining educational system, often live in a violent communities, and have the highest incarceration rate in the world.
The New Yorker article is a bit long, but worth the read.

Not at all: bad diet and lack of exercise. Conversely, S. Koreans, who went from subsistence diets prior to and throughout Annexation, then during and after the war, have added something like 5 inches in height due to the addition of protein and a wider-ranging diet, though that diet has too high a content of the worst of American-style crap in it now.

Back in '93 when I came here for the first time I saw exactly two truly obese people who were under, say, 45 years old in three years. It was so shocking I actually can still see them in my mind. Today they look more and more like... um... us.


ccpo- Read the article-- it would not disagree with your observations, but it is much more complex than that.
Equality of wealth (Gini index, as Nate points out), etc have proven to be huge factors, among other things.
What is more telling, this is across class etc,- we all seem to be suffering from something that is making us shorter (in general).
Disclaimer: I'm 6'2".

I love America. I state this as a plain fact

Really? You love the land that gave us McD's, Monsantoh, various scam cults such as skientologism, built-in-obsolescence and the throw-away culture, Guantanamo, Vegas (a whole city based on the deceitful scam that is casinos), the hiv-causes-aids hoax, the only country in history to launch a nuclear attack (let alone unprovoked and unjustified though I appreciate some will insist on their rationalisations for what was really an exercise in global intimidation by a country exceptionally well-defended by wide oceans), the land that includes the revolting inner Detroit, that only ended its racial apartheid in the face of major insurrection and race riots (though still going strong in Houston I've heard), a country that has led the world by a long shot in planet-trashing in general...(and I'm sure others could add plenty more here).

That's notwithstanding the so many great things, from Levine and the NY Met, Dylan, Hendrix, ...(, some scientists who have actually appreciated my own publications!,)... to no less than theoildrum itself.

But wouldn't you agree better to say "I love some aspects of America"?

No resident of round my way would ever say "I love, [errm,] England/Britain/the UK"... we aren't even quite sure whether we are English, British, UKlish or whatish, and that's because we don't really give a four letter word beginning with d for such parochialism. (And that from the only country with "great" in its name, as after all, no other country has so stellarly dominated history.)

Well, at least the US is not to blame as the UK has been for introducing the energy-addiction disease to the world in the first place....

[P.S.--And to be fair to the US at least their FDA has now warned that dental mercury amalgam restorations could be neurotoxic etc whereas the UK equivalents continue to insist that my illness does not exist, backed up by a scam civil "justice" system that the US couldn't possibly outdo.]

I think of freedom in political terms. In that context freedom is self ownership, while the opposite, slavery, is being owned by another or others. Of course, nature commands us by her constraints, but this is quite different than being coerced by the force of other humans.

Slavery really began with civilization. Before that there was little excess production, so there was little benefit to be derived from spending energy to capture and control another person; he produced only enough for himself and there was no excess to steal through enslaving him.

When agriculture began to produce excess, there was motivation for plunder (the excess) as plunder and control of those producing the excess became economically advantageous. The random plunder of roving bands gave way to the systematic plunder of government as producers cut deals with the stronger bands for protection in return for regular tribute (tax). Wars between governments, essentially as attempts to expand their business, made available a pool of defeated workers, who were enslaved by the victors, giving rise to the institution we call slavery.

Increase in energy usage mitigated the need for individuals keeping slaves so the institution of slavery diminished, but the enslavement of the population to the government and to those with government granted privilege continued and expanded; there was increasingly more to plunder after all, and who driven by power and greed would pass up such easy pickings.

I think that as we lose more and more energy slaves, there will be an unwinding. There will be less and less for government and special interests to plunder, giving rise to resistance from the general population (fortunately well armed in places like the US) and at the same time there will be increasing advantage to individuals to acquire slaves to replace the lost energy slaves. And the struggle between the future smaller governments (wars) will create a supply of slaves as the victors capture the population of the losers.

Of course life will become more difficult for most of us as the loss of the energy slaves will far exceed any possible gain from the return of human slavery (from the masters point of view), or from escaping some of the plunder and control of government and those with government privilege.

Much of the energy can be transformed into little dopamine pulses, some packaged in cellophane, others bottled, ready for purchase and consumption as the body signals its need. But the cost of consumption is production and the cost of production is submitting to the inhuman abuse of factory schools and then factory work. We must become a part of the machine. I dislike being a part of the machine, the FICO scores, the packaged sports for your yelling and screaming rush of excitement, the mass produced food for mass produced people, the cars, the concrete and asphalt and so on. All of those energy slaves may provide freedom from want but it also provides freedom to become a degenerate society focused only upon the next feel good moment which is intensely needed to extinguish the pain of having to work in a technological dystopia where people become overweight and stupid by the ease of their high energy trajectory through life.

Maybe we all should try to find a way to obtain our little pulses of dopamine while avoiding the noxious necessity of working in degraded and unnatural environments. The Chinese have been sending us little dopamine packages in exchange for paper (and our jobs) for quite awhile now. Perhaps the best result for someone like myself is to end up on a farm of some sort within a relatively natural environment producing a high value product to exchange for the factory doo-dads I need. Maybe set up a Macedamia nut farm over in Greenish's neighborhood. You are not free if the clock and employer rule your life, regardless of the amount of dopamine drug you can buy to obscure your unfortunate reality.

Entitlement is a microwave oven. Freedom is a home-made double-jar solar cooker.
Entitlement is AC in the desert. Freedom is putting in a swamp cooler.
Entitlement is paying off that car over 5 years. Freedom is a scooter that pays for itself after 4 months.
Entitlement is lights on in stores in the daytime. Freedom is installing skylights and solar tubes.
Entitlement is buying frozen foods to fill your freezer. Freedom is buying them as you eat them and eliminating the freezer.
Entitlement is TV. Freedom is turning it off.
Entitlement is fortified and enriched bread. Freedom is grinding and baking your own.
Entitlement is installing roof PV systems. Freedom is making your own solar air heaters from blackened beer cans and old glass.
Entitlement is voting. Freedom is running for office.
Entitlement is being a lurker. Freedom is posting.
Entitlement is bitching about the world. Freedom is starting a list of 10 reasons we're all insane (culturally) with potential corrective measures. How's your listing coming along?

Great topic, thanks.

"Freedom" on the global farm?



“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and school teachers.... The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth."
~Aldous Huxley

The late Donella Meadows on her energy slaves - and Thomas Jefferson


How could less energy per capita equate to more freedom?

If we electrified transportation, energy use would drop substantially, and we'd have better cars as a result. If people produced their own power via solar panels on their roof they would have more freedom, both physically and psychologically.

What is stopping this? Chevron's patent on the NiMH electric car battery which prevents manufacturers from making series PHEV's with a range of 700 km, for less than $25,000. We will, however, see them on the road in 2014 when the patent expires.

I am much more optimistic about our energy future. Once we get off oil, we will have more energy available to us than we could really use.

To do this we need to keep idiots like Alaska's Airhead out of power, who seems to reason that the way for America to become energy independent is to drill for more oil in the Arctic.

I guess my first question should be freedom to what?
You can have all the energy in the world and still be forced to wear a veil, whether you like it or not. Energy allows a society the option of freedom, but there are always those out there who will try to force others to live the same way.
Was this country free 100 years ago? 200 years ago? Not if you were Native American…, or black…, but for the settlers…, yes; because the native population was small and lived on very few resources. So the invaders could keep marching westward and develop more and more until…, someday soon…, they’ll be nothing left for future generations.
Yes…, to some degree energy makes a difference. Industrialism created the middle class from a mostly rural peasant population. It allowed for the abolition of slavery, which I believe probably would not have happened without the invention of machinery to the same job faster while also increasing profits.
But…, Latin America also had whole continents to conquer, albeit, with much less oil then the U.S., and developed much differently. There’s less freedom in Latin America, even countries with oil, like Venezuela.
Mexico has Cantarell, the second largest field in the world and uses the Napoleonic system of justice – Guilty until Proven Innocent.
So I guess the reality is that burning Hydrocarbons helps to allow societies the opportunity to be more free…, but societies do not have to accept the offer. The middle east is a much better example because gas is pretty cheap in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but the masses are all expected to live a certain way.
Freedom is complicated and cheap energy helps, but there are always going to be people out there who want to tell you how to live.

  To me, freedom is the ability of an individual to behave according to internal directives from the brain (both rudimentary and cerebral), without social restrictions or responsibilities. Freedom appears to be a relative thing. Being totally free would amount to living in a social vacuum ( like a mountain man!).
  On a planet with finite resources, the average degree of individual freedom is inversely proportional to the total human population. Other major factors might include employers, governments, and religious entities. A relatively high degree of freedom might not be so desirable, since many factors that restrict freedom, also serve to improve one's quality of life, e.g. being restricted by the responsibilities of a job or a local community from which one acquires essential physical and emotional needs. The restrictions of family, community and employer give us a sense of purpose and very real worth. We are mostly interdependent ( except for a few mountain men :-) .

  I would contend that the powerful human reproductive impulse (along with other irrational drives) that may well end in decline, or even a collapse of human civilization, should not be considered as a kind of freedom but rather as a form of enslavement, with freedom being understood as one's ability to learn from experience and not just follow primitive impulse, to better understand nature through observation, to think and apply logic so that one can more rightly predict future challenges and restrictions.
  Until humans develop a stable and lasting social system in which reproducing is no longer equated with 'being free', then civilization will be destined to repeat cycles of exponential growth and collapse, perhaps until the sun grows dim, or until the earth has been so altered by human activity that we find ourselves no longer welcome.

  It may be that the freedom to reproduce will always consist of a war among individuals, who then reactively struggle against every other kind of natural limit, to transmit their genes into the future, and I suppose one can never be free from Nature; but might we learn or evolve in such a way that we are free from certain aspects of our internal natures, such that human civilization might be more enduring?

"freedom being understood as one's ability to learn from experience and not just follow primitive impulse, to better understand nature through observation, to think and apply logic so that one can more rightly predict future challenges and restrictions."

Benedict de Spinoza's Ethics was about this very topic. An individual may believe he is free out of sheer ignorance. When in fact he is being driven [the affects] by unconscious forces [the cause]. The person who lives his life as affect and has no idea of the cause is truly a slave. The vast majority of individuals living in industrial civilization are slaves because the are living out their lives completely unaware of the unconscious forces that are guiding their decisions.
They were born and indoctrinated into a ready made prison where individuals slavishly follow preset paths using whatever means they can to achieve ends that where imprinted in their minds by social conditioning .

"...men are mistaken in thinking themselves free; their opinion is made up of consciousness of their own actions, and ignorance of the causes by which they are conditioned. Their idea of freedom, therefore, is simply their ignorance of any cause for their actions."


Hey AC,

Great stuff! I wish you would post here more often.

Yeah,,,just so its not twaddle like that above.


AC's disseration on Spinoza'a dissertation.

If you really believe this trash/stuff then likely you are bound,as you/he says.

I pity you then.

But if you have freedom of spritit then like me, I discount it as trash/stuff and nonsense. My freedom, my right, my life and F**K Spinoza and his dissertation.

Airdale-you are what you make of yourself and so don't lay it off on others or whine too much, anger though is good if used productively

PS. Do I dare to eat a peach(tomato)? No. Or yes...the choice is mine.
And what Spinoza states is simply navel gazing taken to extremes and labeled philosophy..a dead science or discipline, there are many opposing views anyway and one could even argue that being the unconscious rules that God did create such and therefore its all part of HIS plan...if that's your thing....so you screed is fairly worthless anyway...or were you doing it on purpose???NO! for according to your screed you had no REAL CONTROL over what you posted......See? I call it a screed for that's what it is...Blindness.Wasted.Silly. and I think it was all a putup job for fun and to tweak a few noses.

PPS. Now isn't it about time for someone on TOD to resurface the Ann Rand Atlas Shrugged and other novels? Isn't it time to once more jump down the rabbit hole? Or are we ever going to get serious about the train wreck coming and really start to do something or just play mind games forever???????????????????

Is TOD ever going to make a difference anyway? Is anything?
Well to hell with it, my unconscious tells me I have cabbages to turn into kraut and tomatoes(wolf peaches) to pick and can. Thank you God and saints preserve.

If you have a difference of opinion could you have made your case without insults and sarcasm? Do you know what triggered the obvious anger in your post? Was it a free choice of yours or did you lash out for other reasons?

You say "you are what you make of yourself"

Since we are not built into this world instinctually I would argue that ones "self" is a product of his childhood training [how the child learns to deal with anxiety] and what society at large has shaped. To believe you freely created your symbolic "self", is just ignorance of the facts. Could it be that you so angrily denounced the concepts that I discussed in my post because it calls into question your own conviction of your own reality?

Thanks for your opinion Airdale.


Man is the only animal who is not "built into" his world instinctually. An
animal with an instinctive set of responses suffers limitations because its
world is "ready made" for it. Evolution has built up the proper response
patterns and sealed the animal firmly into its adaptational mole. Man alone
among the animals gradually develops his own perceptual response world by means
of imaginative guiding concepts. He is, in this way, continually creating his
own reality.

Man creates his own meaning, and the penalty for failure is what we would
expect: if man creates his own life process, his own reactive world, then when
he fails to do this sufficiently or well he edges back from life; this is what
we see in the deculturation of certain tribes and peoples and in the psychiatric
syndromes known as schizophrenia and depression. Evolution has thus left man
with the greatest burden and challenge; he is born, not into a world, but into a
"backdrop", that contains the raw materials for his manipulation and for
creation of his own world. By the time the infant-training period is over,
almost ALL ANIMAL REACTIVITY has been recast into SYMBOLIC MODES. Hence, Homo
Poeta seems indeed the most apt title foe the human animal.

Man needs the conviction of his own reality, and without it he is deprived of
his life space. Thus he must be grim about the play-form of everyday performance
and even be ready to kill to safeguard the niceties. When man loses the
conviction of his everyday social performance, his basic and elemental meaning
grinds to a halt. In this kind of play, in sum, and for this kind of animal,
the stakes are life itself.
~Ernest Becker, The Structure Of Evil


As a result of being born lazy but intensely curious,I have spent more waking hours reading than anything else.

There is much insight to be gained from reading classic philosophy but I gave it up decades ago when I discovered evolutionary psychology.

There is no comparision between the explanatory powers of the two fields.Ev psyc is as far ahead of the classic philosophers in terms of human ethics and behavior as the atom bomb is ahead of the club in lethality.

But your comments do make sense and you have obviously done some serious thinking.

I used to drink the Jay Hanson punch. One of the reason I gave up on EV psyc is because there are always exceptions to the rule. It is nice to boil everything down to genetics but how can one explain a devout zen Buddhist. It is possible, after much self reflection, to deny the will and live an ascetic life. To say those have decided to do so is in "their genes" doesn't explain everything. You can bring a die hard genetic consumer robot tossed into this world with the finest Macy's shopping genetic family, and bring him up in an a ascetic belief system and he could be totally different than if he was raised in a consumer culture. Genes plus environment I understand. But how much influence does the environment have on the genes? Can the environment [belief system] override the genes?


It was not initially my desire to be insulting but the philosophical aspect of your comment raised my hackles unduly.

I believe it would be very easy to dispute the 'unconsciousness rules' paradigm. For instance I doubt its ever been proven that there is an

And if there were and we are in total lockstep with that entity then what about lifeforms that do not posses such an unconsciousness? They impact us and therefore will alter our actions in untoward and unseen manners...so we are all not just prisoner to others and our own actions forcing other actions,,ad infinitinum due to this member in our brain.

So the chain of event,cause,event,cause is heedlessly broken due to unintelligent events that cannot be due to the mind.

But if one believed this then why should one then strive to better himself since all destiny is already laid out.....this is akin to the Islamic belief "It was written"...and of course Lawrence rebutted to the sharif..."Nothing is written." with which I agree...

We are what we make of ourselves thru real free will. God (if one believes) imbedded that in our makeup, as I read the Hebrew Bible. There was a tree, etc etc.....

Airdale-sorry for being rude but of late events and much endless drivel and chatter on TOD does take its toll, especially when it diverges from what is coming at us and we try to talk around it constantly..like its not there.

PS. I always enjoyed ACs comments. I miss much of the old crowd. In better settings we could debate this endlessly..in fact you could put it in as a Campfire essay since Campfire seems to be more a pyschological foray in lieu of what is pratical...like FIRE?

PPS. Our minds are not going to save us anyway...if that was your point. Our minds are simply awash with stupidity of the first water...consume,consume, etc....deny,deny,deny,,then cycle back.
The mindset of the consumer is the downfall. I think ADVERTISING and the MSM did more harm than realized. Why do people watch trash so much? Now my granddaughter mimics a vampire,,in speech and action...WTF is this world coming to anyway??????

I doubt it's ever been proven that there is an

Which part of "you" believes in that silliness; the left hemisphere of your brain or the right hemisphere of your brain?

Maybe the same hemisphere that supports a belief in god?

The ovarian lottery created me 1/2 Scot, 1/2 Italian. I spent the first 16 years of my life in Scotland. After 2 months in Italy during my last High School year I felt I'd discovered myself as an Italian "I'm not Scottish!". This faded in time. 15 years travelling the world I'd notice meeting Scots here and there that I did have a strong bond, but sometimes this only lasted as a brief buzz for 5 minutes. The accent, the background, then it was gone. Other times I'd bond for hours with someone from Japan, Germany, Italy the USA....Here I am, 15 years after the 15 year walkabout back in Scotland.

When travelling I felt free with $2000. Enough to get anywhere, find a place to stay, make contacts. Now, I have much, much more in $ terms, but, truthfully and sincerely, no more freedom. Freedom has very little to do with $. (I say this to Oil Drum readers, respecting that for billions of souls from North Korea to Darfur freedom is absolutely and probably rightly seen in $).

It is very easy for most of us to have a comfortable life with very little money. It depends upon your wants.

Money buys freedom and insurance buys anxiety.

Isn't life wonderful for you?

Ohhh...just someone to give a person free money and then Hooo Haaa!..
fun never ending....what a life.

You scored well on the ovarian lotto...but who coughs up the bread?

AD-and who says TOD doesn't have a plan for the world or at least its members ,some of them, do? You read it here.

not sure what you mean, but I will state for the record that no one at TOD (at least that I am aware of) has any specific 'plans' for the world other than to make the future a better place than it would have been without this grab bag of information about energy and our future.


This man I replied to had a plan....

I found it absurd. Sustainable? Who gives him the money,,,etc..etc....


It seems to me that there is only one true freedom, the freedom to choose our next action. We cannot always choose the context, and we certainly cannot always predict the response, but we can always choose what we do. This is the one and only truly inalienable right. Unfortunately, we rarely exercise it for the precious gift it is.

All other "freedoms" and "rights" are those we agree to give ourselves and each other as societies. Whether they be found in constitutions, laws or societal norms and morays, these are all agreements between people to accept certain behaviors and not accept other behaviors.

I suspect that in most societies, the "accepted" behaviors are highly correlated to the available energy/resource combination. Where human labor is the primary provider of energy or where resources are scarce, I suspect (but do not know for fact) that societal norms might focus on shared resources and freedoms. In western industrial societies, especially those like ours (USA) with rich resource endowments and, heretofore unlimited, access to energy, I think different "freedoms" evolve. In these cases "freedom" is focused more on individual rights, what the individual may gain/lose, and less on shared rights, what the collective whole may gain/lose.

The USA is a great country. However, just like all other societies, our "rights" and "freedoms" are entirely formulated within the context of our history. Our founding fathers lived in a land that must have appeared if not infinite, then at least mostly empty. History, with minor hiccups, would more or less reinforce that view until fairly recently, e.g, when oil peaked in the early 70's or when we became a net energy importer (or pick your moment, it's probably in the last half century, if not the last 3 decades :). For the last few decades we have been living in a different place, a crowded, resource-declining society whose "freedoms" and "rights" were all tailored to an empty, resource-rich time.

If you feel like our rights and freedoms are constantly under assault, possibly from all sides, possibly all seemingly reasonable on a case-by-case basis, perhaps this is part of the reason. Maybe it's just nature letting us know that the rules that we wrote once upon a time are going to have to be revisited. The game has changed. It continues to change. Perhaps the time is approaching where we, humans, will have to utilize our one true freedom and make some tough choices about the the very nature of the rules by which we play this new game, and about the optional "freedoms" and "rights" that make sense in this increasingly crowded and resource-poor planet on which we are so luckily stranded.


Shorter, Fatter Americans, plus Shrinking sheep:

Shrinking sheep:

That will have to be added to the list:


Sorry it's already there!

Is the "encroachment" of the earth by sovereign nation-states fueling out of balance "over-population" and "under-population"?
2. Is that also the rootcause of several other resource imbalances by their segregation and unnatural barriers to movement?
3. Is this too big a question to ask, or is this OK?

Dryki wrote: Freedom, as Americans see it, depends totally on those energy slaves. Nate does call them slaves for a reason. But he goes off track with the word "freedom". That's for Arendt, Fromm, etc.... What we're really discussing here is our American "way of life" - which we are brainwashed to call "freedom". Americans are consumers, not citizens. The freedom they enjoy is the freedom to consume and to do so irresponsibly - that is "freedom from".

I sympathize. Being free from ‘want’ and over-consuming are not “freedom” (taking into account that the concept is hard to define.) They might even represent some form of subservience - a requirement to act, consume, etc. in very set, conventional ways.

Nate: Our daily volition, free will and perhaps even confidence likely has direct ties to our natural resources; both our geographic endowment...

Nate’s post suggests a close relationship between freedom and control. Being in control - that is able to take and implement decisions, act, involve oneself, have an effect, participate, influence, interact, makes tasks - lab psych experiments, work, schooling, etc. etc.- challenging and fun or at least worthwhile, possible. Having no control, being a passive observer, or a “slave” whose only choice is to obey or sabotage or check out is so deadly that ppl don’t put up with it for long, depending on the extent and form of the “slavery.”

Babies as young as 3/5 months exhibit the same mind set. Offered an interesting display or moving object, which is remote controlled and which they can’t manipulate, couldn’t even if they could touch it, pleases and interests them when their own movements have an effect on it. If it is just moving about randomly, they rapidly ignore the dumb thing. Heh. They are ready to play Super Mario by kicking one leg! (no links) We are programmed to interact, exchange, share, with others and the material world. Control - as a bidirectional interaction - is heady. Other situations, not so favorable or agreeable.

The relationship between control and energy use seem tangential at best - with one exception, agriculture /infrastructure and stuff like moon shoots..which looks more like domination of as opposed to interaction with the natural world.

As for freedom, this meme, I think, is a direct descendant of US history - escaping tyranny and oppressive rule - and being able to branch out into virgin, lush, territory, acquiring land. Land.

Today, all these events and concepts are muddled by buzz words and the garbled, nonsensical discourse of politicians.

A long, long time ago I was part of the crew of the USS Independence, an aircraft carrier displacing 64,000 tons. With 6,000 men, about 80 airplanes and a few helicopters squeezed into about 4 acres meant no one had any independence and very little freedom. We were told where to sleep and where and when to eat with little choice in what to eat, and what to wear and when to wear it. It had to be that way due to the population density and technological sophistication of the immediate environment. Without all those restrictions on freedom of choice the ship would be totally useless and the crew would not survive very long out in the ocean.

Now contrast that with the freedoms that pre-Columbian North Americans enjoyed. What one person or even a mall group of people did had little effect on folks just a few miles away. If they disagreed with the local boss they simply could walk away to the next valley and start their own village.

This led me to conclude that freedom is inversely proportional to population density and technological sophistication. The closer we live to each other the greater the impact our choices have on others and therefore more rules to follow. Put the hazards created by modern technology on top of high population density and even more rules are needed if we are to simply survive let alone enjoy prosperity. The unintended side effects of fossil fuel use now means nowhere on Earth is free from the harm it causes. If we are to prosper over the time scale of decades to centuries then we are subject to more and more limitations on what we can choose to do.

Sure,,the UCMJ and not the Constitution.