Thoughts from Alcatraz

More than a month has passed since the ASPO/TheOilDrum summit at the Libera Università di Alcatraz at Perugia, but only recently have I had the time to go through my notes. In this post, to match the summit's informal framework, I provide a collection of thoughts I brought back home from the conference, instead of the usual one paragraph digest of each presentation.

An audio version of this log entry can be downloaded from here.

The Setting

Alcatraz is an Arab word referring to the large, white sea bird that through linguistic migration and evolution came to be known in English as albatross. I have yet no idea how it also came to be the name of a sanctuary/tourist venue in the hills north of Perugia, but that's where the so called Peak Summit took place. It is a wonderful site, deep within the luxurious North Italian forest, comprised of a few scattered houses built around a central complex which houses a reception area, a small bar, a self-service restaurant and a sort of conference house.

The central buildings were decorated with eerie post-modern wall paintings featuring a good number of bare breasted ladies, plus some scattered sculptures in the same vein of alien art. The staff were warm and laid back, leaving the central buildings pretty much to the guests, easily making everyone feel at home. But what made the place really special was the total isolation from the outside world, away from the cities, their traffic and noise. In a subtle invitation to introspection, we would wake up to the chants of dozens of small birds in the morning, and when it got warmer our ears would be flooded by the callings of a million cicadas.

There were about 60 attendees. All were able to fit in the conference house, a sort of elementary school class room with a projection screen in place of the black board. This class room environment, the proximity of speaker to audience, the extended debate sessions, and the natural setting engulfing Alcatraz together provided for a unique experience, a close sharing of ideas without any of the formalities imposed by a more academic (or larger) event. Discussion erupted naturally during presentations and went on to the dining area and into the night.

Without a shadow of doubt, this summit was the first-rate idea of Ugo and Rembrandt, that they were also able to very-successfully implement. Congratulations and thanks to both.

Beyond Energy

One major difference between this summit to previous ASPO gatherings was the small number of presentations directly aimed at energy production and/or consumption. This change came perhaps as a consequence of Peak Oil being now history for many, or perhaps because the current economic crisis forced a new perspective on the issue. The truth is, the wider implications of the perceived end to energy growth were the main focus of this event. The impact on raw materials production--the impact on food production--the impact on the economy--the impact on social equity, any one of these subjects can eventually exacerbate the scarcity of energy itself, triggering social convulsions of enormous scale, but more than that, masking the root problem of the finitude of fossil fuels.

A very common concern is the social impact of an extended period without physical economic growth (physical, as opposed to growth in reported GDP, e.g. based on Inflation). As many times discussed at this forum, and pointed out clearly by Herman Daly, this growth interruption will immediately translate into a degradation of Social Equity under the Western Socio-Economic framework, with less wealthy folk being the first to lose access to scarce goods and services. When the numbers of those hurt by unemployment, rampant energy prices, inaccessible products, crime waves, etc, becomes large enough, all the best-laid plans for the energy transition will go overboard.

Whilst avoiding that sort of social breakdown is the underlying motivation of all those giving their time to the energy problems, it may be exactly there that Society is set to go. As Nate would explain in his wrap-up address, with everyone set to compete their way into the 20% of individuals that own 80% of the wealth, northing short of re-instating growth will do. In his words “we need to compete for something else”. It is very possible that Social Policy will need to find a larger place in this whole fossil fuels debate. How to do so without darting right down into daily politics faits-divers is the difficult thing.

Planned Economics

Another important point common to many speakers is the necessity of changing the current Economic Paradigm in order to avoid the outright onset of the Social convulsions discussed above. Tweak the Market in order to avoid the depletion of rare chemical elements and foster the use of more common ones, expand the recycling processes to keep matter circulating in the Economy, manage food consumption reducing dependence on imports, change rules to facilitate the build up of alternative energy infrastructure, were among the strategies discussed. The speakers at the summit had funny names for it: “Managed Austerity”, “War Time Economics”; at school there was a much more recognizable definition for it: Planned Economics.

Unfortunately, today the term Planned Economics carries with it a political connotation that distorts its true intention. Planed Economics is about setting long term goals and objectives and devising the strategies and tactics to achieve them. It doesn't have to be about ending or limiting private entrepreneurship; on the contrary, it can be used as a means to actually foster it, but in ways that lead to a different overall outcome for Society.

Wind power is an interesting case, well known to readers of this forum. This energy source has been assessed as having a relatively high EROEI, even factoring in storage losses, well in excess of 10:1 and comparable to other mature electricity production systems. But when entering the market, Wind presents itself as financially disadvantageous, a disconnect imposed by the current financing framework that penalizes projects where the largest share of investment is made upfront. Without the feed-in tariffs aimed at facilitating the scale up of this energy source, most of the infrastructure already in place in Europe would not exist.

Programmes like the EU 20-20-20 goals can be seen as an archetype of an Economic Plan, with the establishment of a structured set of long term objectives. Unfortunately in this particular case, the tactics to achieve these goals either do not exist or are too vague to assure success.

As the Peak Oil community moves from pre-peak warning mode to post-peak mobilization mode it might become important to address Planned Economics in a scientific, politically open way, exploring its possibilities in times of scarcity.

The “classroom” at Alcatraz.

The Roman Empire and Money

Ugo's talk was one of the most stimulating. The talk links to many of the issues discussed during those two days, with the difference that it was prepared from a historical perspective. In short, empires go through several cycles of good and bad times, but always increasing complexity, up to some point beyond which complexity can't increase any further. From that time onward, investment cannot keep up with capital depreciation, and the decline unfolds.

Ugo referenced in his talk a very interesting theory about the collapse of Rome. The crucial element that the Romans brought about and made the Empire possible was the professional military. The English word soldier (as in many other languages) evolved from the Latin soldato, a man on salary, formed in its turn from the word soldo, pay or salary. The professional military was the great Roman invention. Prior to its invention, war in Europe was waged either by mercenaries or farmers, defending or taking capital (land, crops, etc). Under the new approach, legions were comprised of men dedicated entirely to the military activity, receiving a fixed income, either engaged at war, stationed as peace keepers or in training. This meant that the Empire had to maintain a constant flow of precious metals to its legions. As long as the Empire kept expanding geographically this was easily attained, with plunder and more precious metals mines under its domain, assuring the maintenance of the military machine. The expanding territory meant an expanding Money Supply.

Some historians say that the Roman Empire expanded to wherever vines and olive trees could be farmed. Whether imposed by climate or other factors, the truth is, when the Empire reached certain foreign environments, such as Scotia or Germania, it stopped expanding. Once it stopped expanding, it was only a matter of time before Money Supply would stop growing. The number of mines producing silver and gold stopped increasing, but at the same time precious metals would leave the economy either looked up as wealth storage or sent abroad through trade (taxation had a special role on this, sending money to Rome that would be spent on luxuries). At some point, the flow of money from mining was outpaced by the outflow and it became impossible to maintain the usual number of military. Some point to the depletion of silver at the Rio Tinto mines as the catalyst for this reversal.

Other reasons can be pointed for the collapse of the Empire--Pollution, Disease, Climate Change and more. It might even have been a combination of factors, but the Money thesis is attractive in several respects. It presents a clear token for Complexity, and furthermore, it postulates that it wasn't exactly production constraints that brought the Empire down. Gold and silver, even more then than now, had no practical usefulness. They don't grow crops, and were too malleable to produce hand tools. Their value arose solely from their exquisite chemical properties (density and durability). This leads to a very interesting perspective of the Roman Empire running out of the tokens to maintain its Complexity.

As a more technical speech, the statements above outline an Economy where Money Velocity is relatively low and constant and Money Supply is the main macro-economic variable. With the mines depleting, Rome debased the currency and increased taxes, trying to prop up Money Velocity, but it failed nonetheless, because under those conditions being a soldato became a much less interesting profession.

This description of Rome's downfall becomes the bridge to today's Economic Crisis and its relationship to Fossil Fuel depletion. There's an essential difference between today and Roman times--now there is no physical constraint on Money Supply. This is an advantage, but there is a catch: money today is created as debt, the promise of future growth, not as a token for the real energy (Complexity) that flows through the Economy. Without growth this system can stop working, and that may exactly be what the present Crisis is about. While the Oil Empire is in no clear way better prepared than the Roman Empire for Peak Complexity, it may have some interesting options the latter didn't have. Money can actually be a key element in the transition away from Finite Energy.

And a final note in this vein. The idea that Money Velocity today has the same properties as it did back then is at least worthy of discussion. It is hence somewhat appalling that one sees the debate regarding the relationship of the Economy with Energy almost always subject to a rather strict Monetarist perspective. This was apparent at the summit, as it is in the daily discussion among the ASPO/ TheOilDrum community. Some open mindedness on the subject is in order.


A common thematic at this sort of gatherings is the apparent difficulty in bringing the fossil fuel depletion home with politicians and stakeholders in general. Being such an obvious and pressing issue, why are the power structures largely ignoring it? Or at least pretending to ignore it?

In my perspective there's an old book that may explain why: Animal Farm. It is the story of a farm where the animals working there revolt against their masters and take power. They are led by the pigs, the brightest of those on four-feet, who learn to read. The story ends up with the pigs simply replacing the men, enforcing their power on other animals (mainly sheep) with fierce dogs. Written originally as an allegory for the rise of Communism in Russia, it actually has much more wider application than that; it can be interpreted as a book on the human condition itself.

The supreme leader of the Animal Farm is a pig called Napoleon, who takes that position by learning how to teach and control the dogs. But in the course of the book he becomes less of a leader, with the practical leadership relying on another pig: Squealer. He is a brilliant, charismatic speaker in whom the other animals completely invest their confidence. Squealer is at first able to make the animals understand the miserable lives imposed on them by men, and then convince them into revolt and seek freedom. Unfortunately, that blind confidence is later used to bring the animals back to a sort of slavery.

The point is: there is no Peak Oil Squealer. Surely, there are bright minds and special individuals in the this realm, starting with M. King Hubbert himself, and including many others that readers of these lines know pretty well. But none of them has the charisma of someone like Al Gore, for instance. Since his first involvement with the cause, then as US Senator of the state of Tennessee, he dedicated a good part of the last 20 years raising awareness to the possible effects of the increase of global atmospheric CO2. He became a venerable person, a man the masses are willing to listen to and follow. He exerts the authority that Nate writes about, to the point that the man is sometimes be confused with the cause itself. He is the Squealer of Global Warming.

While there's no Squealer for Peak Oil (or more broadly, Fossil Fuel depletion) it might be actually good that there isn't one. There isn't such a thing as “a solution” for Peak Oil. There may exist answers at different levels and different places, but as of now, there's no silver bullet, no magic formula, that can solve every problem right away. Cassandras are not charismatic; Squealer wasn't only telling the other animals they were doomed, he was also telling them precisely how to act upon it. A Peak Oil Squealer can only emerge presenting a solution to the masses, and considering that to be the case, the chances are good of him being wrong.


The most important is saved for last, and not because of the interest this word naturally generates. Last year TheOilDrum conducted a survey revealing that less than 10% of its readership is of the female sex. The same with the web site's staff, where presently only two members are women (although producing more and much more regularly than the men). Similar figures could be drawn from a statistic on the summit's attendance.

In his wrap-up lightning address, Nate briefly referenced the fact that Men have steeper discount rates than Women. The obvious question was raised by Ugo during the ensuing and final debate session: being so, why were so few women at Alcatraz that day? Somewhat surprisingly Nate couldn't give an objective answer, saying that it was possibly a combination of several factors. But one of the female attendees had a pretty objective thesis to bring forth: it is all a problem of communication. So we were left with the view that institutions like The Oil Drum or ASPO are unable to communicate properly with about half of the world's population.

This subject would dominate what was left of the summit. After dinner I entered into a rather long discussion with the female attendee who brought up the issue of Communication. It was a serious mind opener for an issue that I'd never realized to be so profound and horizontal to Society. Adding those new elements to Nate's approach on human behaviour, I walked away convinced I really understood it all. And that may be exactly the problem.

The Oil Drum should definitely try to reach the female audience, not only to broaden the community aware of the issues discussed on its pages, but because women may bring different ways to deal with them. That is something that possibly only women can do, so I guess I can say we want to hear from you. Writing for The Oil Drum is pretty close to being in that classroom at Alcatraz, no formalities, scant rules (mainly directed at format, not content), it's just a blank sheet of paper ready to nourish your thoughts.

See you at the next ASPO/TheOilDrum gathering.

For the contents of the Summit go here.

Thank you, Luis, and I share many of your thoughts about the meeting. It was an idea that appeared as we were sitting through the ASPO scientific committee meeting in Barcelona, last year. It seemed to several of us that the standard format of the ASPO conferences is obsolete. Too slow and ponderous and - I am afraid - not so innovative any longer. After peak oil we need new ways and new ideas; probably not a "peak oil squealer", as you say. At this point it is not so useful to keep trying to warn people about something that has already happened. It would be as if Al Gore were still broadcasting the need of reducing CO2 emissions while sailing along the flooded 5th street in New York. So, Alcatraz brought many new ideas and, no doubt, put together a group of very smart people. Can it be repeated? We'll see about that for next spring

Not to nit pick (or maybe to nit pick!).
The Assyrians came pretty close to what you call a professional military well before Rome.

Yes, good point, porge, the Assyrian empire had many characteristics similar of those of the Roman Empire.

I am female, in my twenties, and a long-time lurker on TOD (as well as Energy Bulletin and Sharon Astyk's blog, among other excellent sources of information)

One reason I am not a prolific poster is that I think between them the other posters tend to cover my own point of view perfectly well, and I'm quite content to allow them to spend hours arguing the case for me while I do something else. Second, that I feel I haven't yet worked out for myself what the consequences of resource depletion, climate change etc are for my own life: ie, given what I know now about the likely state of the world in 30 years, how should I restructure my life in order to best thrive in the world as it will be? Is there nothing that can be done - in which case I look for a forward-thinking community in a sparsely-populated area, on good land well above sea level - or can I do something to change the course of society? At the moment and with few ties (no kids or house, etc) I'm working on the latter premise, on the basis that Plan B remains an option in all scenarios except sudden collapse.

So I suppose my "female perspective" is that I am more interested in solutions, both small and large scale, than in endless discussion/analysis of what has gone wrong and why. I really like the Campfire series of posts.

I kind of dislike the assumption that there is a different "female" worldview per se, so, on a slight tangent, perhaps I could suggest a variant of the gender bias observation which I have spotted in unrelated but also gender-biased activities. The Myers-Briggs types (if you have not heard of these, you can take an online test here) are one of the few "personality test" things that actually seem to "work" (my definition being that your own type description "rings true" and - unlike eg horoscopes - the other descriptions all do not). I tend to find that many of my social groups are a) primarily male and b) primarily INTx, with the females also INTx.

I hypothesize that many/most of the posters here are INTJ or INTP and that there are more male INTJ and INTP than female in the population. Therefore it may not be so much a question of how to reach the female audience, as of how to reach the S and F audience.

This may be a completely wrong assumption but I would be interested to hear if it has any basis. Just throwing it out there for consideration. I am INTJ, for starters.


I will check out the links someday soon.Maybe you're onto something interesting AND useful.

It has always been my impression that on the average women are more disposed to think in terms of the long term than men.

My personal guess is that( now that the sexes are treated more or less equally in terms of educational and career opportunities) we will see a rising tide of feminine interest in the sciences.

This will take quite some time however,as we are creatures of habit and take our cues from our friends and peers.The one young woman out of ten who might make a good engineer is not apt to be encouraged by her best friends/parents/guidance counselor to major in engineering,but the one young man out of ten IS so encouraged.

Most people don't realize it but before too long women are going to OWN a lot of professions once considered male bastions,including medicine and the law.Men within your lifetime COULD be sueing under sex discrimination laws to gain admission to the bench or to med school-if the girls decide to play the " it's our turn to run things" game.That won't happen but it sure jolts the average guy to try to imagine a world where all the rules are made by women.

Sometimes I wonder myself if I should refrain from posting my thoughts concerning the more shall we say UNPLEASANT aspects of a possible collapse as the discussion of such material may cause a lot of women to turn away in disguist.

It could be that another reason women aren't well represented here is that the vast majority of women who might be interested just aren't yet aware of the big picture.Only a small percentage of men seem to understand whats going on vis a vis energy ,society,and the environment,and men are much better positioned by circumstance(there are not too many female petroleum engineers,deer hunters,commercial fishermen, commodities traders,retired oil executives,etc) to become aware of the whole resources/environment situation.

Another possibility is that the relatively few women with an activist streak are alreay busy with other battles/issues.You can't very well blog about peak oil if you spend your time on a site devoted to health care.

Everybody knows that Fred Astaire was a marvelous dancer.Not many recall that GINGER ROGERS did it all backwards in high heels.The girls have finally realized that they can do anything the boys can do and just as well.

There are only two exceptions that I am aware of.One is that women just don't seem to be as TALENTED as men when it comes to starting fights and wars.;-)

The other is that I have never yet met a woman strong enough to carry me down a ladder if I get caught in a burning building.

It could be that another reason women aren't well represented here is that the vast majority of women who might be interested just aren't yet aware of the big picture.Only a small percentage of men seem to understand whats going on vis a vis energy ,society,and the environment,and men are much better positioned by circumstance(there are not too many female petroleum engineers,deer hunters,commercial fishermen, commodities traders,retired oil executives,etc) to become aware of the whole resources/environment situation.

I think that's a fair point, and also borne out by the converse observation that traditionally women have been much better positioned by circumstance (as mothers, housekeepers, nurses, carers and food preparers) to become aware of smaller-scale environmental issues such as local pollution, air quality, land degradation etc and are correspondingly much more involved with local campaigning and activism on such issues.

we will see a rising tide of feminine interest in the sciences.

There is a rising tide of feminine interest in the sciences - but, thus far, it is primarily in the fields of medicine and biological sciences rather than physics, civil engineering and mathematics (at my university women now outnumber men in the former fields but are still by far the minority in the latter).

One word why you are wrong on women taking over. Testosterone.

Generally speaking, in an office environment almost all men prefer to have women as underlings, which is one of the reasons women will totally dominant lower and mid level office employment. The heightened ability of women to allow pyschological domination is also a major plus in the corporate or bureaucratic workplace.

So you are saying they patronize and manipulate the male ego need?
Probably right........... but again I think this is in the DNA of each of us.......just the way it is.

OTOH if you cannot allow yourself to be dominated, women are far more suitable (usually) to be your immediate supervisor. A lot of them have a mothering instinct that works with the unruly employee.


But when they are in charge of medicine and the bueracracies,they will adjust our hormones for us and make nice house pets and laborers out of us.;-)

And maybe they will keep a lucky few as testerone dripping sex toys up stairs in women only clubs and and good looking young guys serve the drinks.;-)

Seriously there are some differences in the PREFERENCES of males and females that seem to be built in rather than cultural.

Women may come to dominate medicine and law because they are simply highly interested careing for others and seeing fair play prevail.This would leave more openings in the fields of politics and war for the men on the average.

I base this speculation on the observations made by psychologist of very young children.Even when deliberately raised to avoid sex role training,little kids still divide themselves into male /female groups and choose male/female associated toys and games etc.

Medicine maybe but not least in it's current incarnation.
The legal system is competitive and hasn't been about fair play since I have been alive.
The law, as it exists, is for the haves to be protected from and to exploit the have nots.
I know that that statement sounds cynical in the extreme but I have had some involvement and was shocked to see how outrageously corrupt the inner workings of the legal system are at present.

Oh Yeah, I will sign up for the entertainment positions in the new matriarchal society that is on the way. ;) smiley face with a wink.

Corruption seems to be rampant throughout much of our society. Real estate, banking, law, much of the rest of the corporate world...

How does a society cure itself of such a cultural disease?

Latin America, Africa,parts of Asia are a lot worse than the USA. The exceptions are the societies that aren't like this-that is planet Earth. The USA is merging with Mexico-Mexico is currently a lot worse in this regard than the USA. Corrupt societies dramatically favor the current elite, which is why it flourishes.

2:00 into the vid Llyod Blankfein's wife.
It smacks of the French Royal elites arrogant, oblivious attitude toward the declining middle class just before they started building guillotines.


The FACT that the system is corrupt is exactly the reason idealistic women are drawn to it-to FIX IT.Look up the figures on law school enrollments.

About the best job i could hope for in one of tbse clubs would the be maintainence mechanics position.

Depends on what kind of maintenance and the mechanics involved.......might even make a good theme for a stage know tools and all that.

Idealism goes to my point.
In practice the wildness of the male will never be tamed until we evolve some more.

I will offer an additional reason that there are fewer females, something I have spoken of before: safety. There are quite a few alpha males here (I had four brothers so I'm not so likely to be intimidated) but they too often pound their chests rather than engage in conversation/inquiry/relationship building. I can't count how many times I have read "if you can't stand the heat..." I guess I missed the memo asking for more heat. I will restate advice I posted several days ago, "be tough on issues and tender on people." TOD is an interesting observation, as the heat increases, fewer by-standers get involved, better to wait it out or forgo testing the water.

I have taken the Myers-Briggs test several times with large groups of people and agree with Erica that TOD is likely to attract a certain type person. But that doesn't mean there aren't steps that can be taken to attract additional voices/readers. It means that we as individuals have to moderate our tone--it is an adaptive challenge which means it requires learning new ways. When we rail against others for not changing their behavior (the preferred object of scorn here is government), we should look at ourselves first. Or as Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis points out, why is it we can see the speck in someone else's eye and not the log in our own.

All of the tough issues in our lives, like peak oil, are an an adaptive challenge. But rather than do the tough work, we try to find a technical fix (drill more, build renewables, energy efficiency, etc).

In short, if WE want to attract a larger and broader audience, then WE have to make it safe for all voices. If a small community here can't/won't do it, what are the chances that our larger communities will adapt on their own.

I invite everyone to use the "Flag as inappropriate" tag as often as you consider it necessary. This way, the readers can help us decide which comments should be hidden--even for being too aggressive. Once five readers have identified a post as inappropriate, it is hidden from view.

This happens fairly often, but could happen even more often if readers were diligent in flagging posts they find offensive. Don't worry about running out of flags. If you use something like one flag a day, you will be OK.

OK, If the above is in response to my testosterone comment I want to clear the air.
I made a factual statement. There is a undeniable difference between the sexes and that is by natures design not mine.
In written communication the lack of the nuances of facial expression and tonal inflection leave comments open to more interpretation on the part of the reader.
I guess I could try to use punctuation marks to make smile faces that wink.......I will try that next time.
But for this comment I apologize for any misinterpreted "bowing up" on my part.

I certainly didn't read anything into the comment. Here is my "fact" threshold of appropriate/inappropriate.

Fact: 2 + 2 = 4 Appropriate

Fact: you're fat/ugly/stupid. Inappropriate.

And for those with the extra boost of Testosterone, try counting to 10, "preview," count to 10 again, consider deleting, then hit "save."

The wounds from sticks and stones heal much more quickly than those from harsh words and we should never be afraid to say we're sorry.

Perhaps my all time favorite example of a relationship rescue is in the exchange between "Reed" and "Oil CEO" here:

The guidelines for the deletion of posts on this site are childish. Five readers are threatened by a post so it is "inappropriate".


I must disagree.

If the language gets nasty and the insults start flying flying fast and furious,the Oil Drum will become just another site.

The capable thinkers here will leave for a new home,if they can find one.I'm a redneck hillbily from way back who happened to be born lucky in the genetic lottery and score a scholarship to a good university,and I can handle it.

But I am a regular here because it is the ONLY site that I know of with the quality of articles,relevance,intelligent comment,etc, that can hold my interest.

The high standards of this site ,as far as I am concerned could stand a little more tightening.
There are already a few regulars that have little to offer except strings of links and insults.

Mostly thier links are useful only as ammo for a pointless attack on a serious comment.Only rarely is there a worthwhile constructive comment included.

You didn't disagree with me.

I thought I disarreed.
Maybe we interpret the words "threatened","disguisted" or "uncomfortable" differently.

I flagged three posts myself today that were nothing but advertisements for some sleazy business.

Other than those three I have flagged only two in two months or so for excessively crude langauge.

A cuss word here and there is one thing but a string of them is too many imo.

I hope the the editors review any automated hide-after-five decision. I can conceive of something that might be taken as highly offensive by some people, but not legitimately so -- it is just highly controversial.

The editors do a great job-I was accused of "hating Obama"-my response to this absurd claim was deleted, while the obnoxious claim itself remained posted.

Brian this puts things in a different light.

We don't want the site hijacked by either left or right wing partisans.

And there sure do seem to be a lot more lefts posting.

The left has always been more adept at guerilla politics imo ( the right may be catching up )and you may have been a victim.

I'm not a programmer but maybe a little program could be written that would keep track of who flags who and automatically displays some sort of spread sheet,comments and all , back at the ranch.Then maybe once a month or so an editor could bump somebody for abusing flags.

At least a politically inspired guerilla flagger or troll would have to sign up again with a new handle.

What about extreme centrists? :)

This, I must say, is one form of what I'm talking about. Once we get into flagging for political leanings, the site is in deep doo. Flagging should be used to maintain a somewhat reasonable tone of discussion, not to impose or enforce political boundaries.

Some of the biggest figures in the PO movement would be excluded, e.g. C Campbell and R Heinberg, both of whom hold unpopular views in 9-11. Campbell cannot be called a leftist, Heinberg maybe, me yes. But such distinctions are somewhat meaningless. It goes issue by issue. Lt Col Robert Bowman has recently been denouncing the left-right divide in approaching issues -- I agree with him. He, however, is not a peaker to my knowledge. Anyway.

"be tough on issues and tender on people."


(This is primarily a reply to EricaT, but I have a comment for Debbie Cook at the end, the rationale for which follows from that)

EricaT, thanks for the test link. I've taken similar before, but this was better formulated than those - I was rarely in doubt about what I wanted to answer.

I come out solidly INTP!

And yes, I think you're right that there is a huge concentration of INT[P,J]s here. Not necessarily a majority - INTPs being rare, a significant minority would qualify as a "huge concentration".

Did some poking around, and found this very entertaining (well, for me at least) essay: An INTP profile by Paul James. I have to say "touché" to every point he makes (only I'm not a Trekkie).

EricaT said: I kind of dislike the assumption that there is a different "female" worldview per se

Well, you're an INT by your own reckoning, and as such strongly individualistic. You probably resent being "boxed" as much as I do...

...that being said, there IS a difference. I was brought up to believe there isn't; that led me into some emotionally painful clashes with reality. The difference is quite fundamental, stemming from the biological fact that optimal reproduction strategies differ substantially between the sexes, which does dictate cognitive development (statistically, not in any absolute way). provides an overview of the ratio of the personality types by gender (sadly without providing references, and stating that it is an estimate and "may be inaccurate"... duh): They have 4% of males as INTP vs 1% of females.

Basically, being an INTx is a high risk/high gain strategy, which is more appropriate for males. (Afterthought: It's clearly only an appropriate strategy if you discover in early childhood you are well above the mean, intelligence- and perceptionwise. The INT-"strategy" likely makes more sense the more "gifted" you are; the strategy being more appropriate for males likely doesn't mean it's inapproptiate for females, but rather that a higher level of giftedness is required for it to be appropriate. So we should expect the INT-women to be truly formidable...)

A low risk/low gain strategy would be characterized by "keeping to the middle of the flock", as it were, relying on the help and support of others. The F types would be the ones most able to weave and join such social webs... And what do you know? In all the F personalities, women outnumber men; for ISFJ, INFJ, ESFJ and ENFJ by as much as 3:1.

So, I suggest this is the reason INTs are predominantly male; and that it should thus properly be considered a "male viewpoint"; and when you say Therefore it may not be so much a question of how to reach the female audience, as of how to reach the S and F audience, I fundamentally agree... and disagree. Reaching the F audience and reaching the female audience is, if not excactly the same thing, then intimately linked.

BUT I question the wisdom of trying to recruit an F audience to TOD. I think TOD is a self-selected group, one that is attractive to INTs; I further make the educated guess (i.e., speculate) that those very INTs are what gives it its intellectual power and interest. But INTPs are special:

Extraverted iNtuition has a strong influence on how the INTP views his own interaction with others. It is the Ne above all that the INTP most loves to show others. He is therefore happy to be seen as somewhat eccentric, innovative and perceptive. In dreaming about what he would like to become or achieve, his goals are invariably highly individualistic. He must become the composer, the solo performer, the genius scientist who makes the unique discovery. If he is to be noticed at all, then he must be centre stage. If he can't be centre stage in an area of interest, then he must withdraw and resort to vitriolic criticism. But in all areas which interest him less he happily leaves to others and observes. With an INTP it is either all or nothing.

(from the Paul James essay linked to above)

Which leads me to this:

Debbie Cook said: In short, if WE want to attract a larger and broader audience, then WE have to make it safe for all voices.

INTPs are not "we people". Bring just one conspicuosly extraverted "we person" to a party, and the INTPs will go into a corner and sulk.

If "we" try to make TOD "safe for all voices"... There will be nothing left here for the INTPs, and a significant, perhaps vital, part of what makes TOD the unique place it is will evaporate like the morning mist.

Please, don't do it, because I love you. TOD, that is.

Extroverted Intuition???
The most common characteristics on this site are The "N" and the "T". Viz. intuitive, thinkers.
The other traits that form the individual's cluster are secondary.
There are more extroverts here than you are recognizing.
I am one and I bet OFM is as well.

I had EricaT's first post in mind when I wrote; she said I hypothesize that many/most of the posters here are INTJ or INTP, to which I responded I think you're right that there is a huge concentration of INT[P,J]s here. Not necessarily a majority - INTPs being rare, a significant minority would qualify as a "huge concentration".

Where are the extraverts I'm not recognizing?

There is probably some selection bias in that the Es are more likely to post their results here. I don't think we have enough information yet to conclude either way. It's also very hard to tell whether someone is I or E over an internet discussion.

I think the traits that are manifesting in interest in sites such as TOD are NT and the shyness or outgoingness of the Intuitive Thinker is secondary.
And fine point Erica for pointing out that Extroverts will be more inclined to post comments than Introverts and hence may be over-represented.
I think that you might identify that Es by the frequency of posts and the boldness or passion in the comment.
Tough to tell just reading words though.

I fundamentally agree... and disagree. Reaching the F audience and reaching the female audience is, if not exactly the same thing, then intimately linked

I'm interested that you focus in on F vs T rather than S vs N as being the main issue here. I think that the division between T and F may well, as you say, be more gender-linked (leaving aside the obligatory pseudo-evolutionary suggestions of why that might be so), but it's more likely to influence people's choice of solution rather than their ability to comprehend the problems of resource depletion etc. I see the difference between N and S as more of the key to this debate because it's an ability to see the big picture, to look forwards to the consequences of decisions made today instead of living in and for the present.

The gender breakdown of types you linked to is very interesting and actually the split between male and female S appears to be relatively balanced.

INTPs are not "we people". Bring just one conspicuosly extraverted "we person" to a party, and the INTPs will go into a corner and sulk.

Only if they've decided a priori that they should be limited by their own stubbornness. The INTx is perfectly capable of "socialising" if there's a good reason for doing so. I think there are a lot of "we people" on TOD already but because they are not allowed to dominate threads completely (as they would at a party) they don't end up stealing the show. Sulking seems like a decidedly non-optimal strategy for a self-professed T (my usual choice in that situation would be to go and read a book instead ;o) )

(my usual choice in that situation would be to go and read a book instead ;o)

LOL - yes, that's what I do, too! Closest I get to sulking, so for me it's the same thing...

The gender breakdown of types you linked to is very interesting and actually the split between male and female S appears to be relatively balanced.

Yes, that's why I emphasised the F characteristic. Other than that, I can't say I've grokked the interplay between the types... However, I think I'll have a look at the Big Five/OCEAN(CANOE) described by Turbo Yummy, below, before I delve deeper into the MBTI.

Hi Kode,
I probably didn't explain myself very well. As others have already expressed, it is the tone of the discussion here that will maintain a high quality of participation by any and all types. I think you would agree that setting a professional tone is not likely to chase away INTPs. In fact, it would probably do the opposite. I am a firm believer that the best solutions come from diversity of ideas/people/opinions who have learned how to communicate. The The Village Square has a good approach that we could benefit from implementing.

Hi Debbie,

I certainly do agree that other things being equal, the discourse should be kept civil; ad hominem attacks in particular is clearly no go.


Where the extraversion of the iNtuition function becomes obvious is during discussions, especially heated ones. In contrast to INTJs, an INTP will often make controversial, speculative points of argument, often annoying the discussion-partner, and make them in such a way as to leave the impression that he is very serious about what he says. In reality, the INTP is not actually even certain himself whether he really stands by what he is saying, but his Ne strongly suggests that there must be a core of truth there. The purpose then of his outspoken style of argument is to sharpen his own intuitive understanding by testing the reaction of the listener, and indeed to examine the logic of his own arguments in real time while speaking them out. On occasion, INTPs may seem brash and tactless, but for themselves it is part of their way of getting closer to the truth.

(from the Paul James essay linked and qouted above)

Take it from me, a self-diagnosed INTP, that this description is spot on! Also realise that no harm is meant thereby; it's just that the quest for truth trumps everything. And add to that that these moments are very important to the INTP; this is the Edge, where radical new ideas hatch.

Demanding too much civility takes the opportunity for such moments away, and then there's no fun anymore. TOD wouldn't be half as interesting without, for example, Memmel's controversial, speculative points of argument.

From the same essay:

Independence, derived primarily from strongly introverted Thinking, leads to perhaps the most difficult aspect (for others) of the INTP, namely stubbornness. If an INTP is pushed into doing something he will automatically resist. The reason for the resistance is simply that any action must first be filtered by the Ti, guided by the Ne. He must be given the chance to reach an independent decision, approving or rejecting the action. Hence, he must withdraw to allow the analysis process to work. If withdrawal is not allowed then stubborn resistance is the inevitable result.

Forgive me for being blunt, but: When you say, if WE want to attract a larger and broader audience, then WE have to..., I take that as you projecting your wish onto me. You are in effect pushing me.

I will automatically resist.

Ah, I see we are at it again. First, a question: are your comments not male-bashing: Pounding our chests? Intimidating you? Heat? We can't see our own log-infested eyes?

Oh, come now. So far as I can tell, you're among the more down-the-nose-looking people in The Drum. It would be interesting, except it ain't.

As someone else pointed out, TOD is a self-selecting site. That is explanation enough. But let me - idealist, "lefty," former counselor, teacher, feminist, etc., offer a simpler answer:

Women don't post 'cause they bleepin' well don't want to. And the reasons are likely as many as the women not posting. There's no need to over-analyze this. It isn't something worth examining for it is the nature of the beast. Astyk's site exists and is well-read.

Gee, I wonder why....

No site need be all things to all people, nor can they be. To put it simply, there is *NO* place of any kind, in any time, or of any form, that is safe for all people. Never has been, never will be. TOD is about the issues, not so much the solutions. That is changing a little, but if you want hearts and flowers, get thee to places where those are. Sharon's seems an appropriate one for those folks seeking that until TOD has become such - if it ever does.


ENTP here.
I think that there are a lot of E types on this board maybe even more than the I type.

Interesting test-ENFP for me-seems to sum it up accurately.

Better than Tarot cards or palm reading anyway.

Hi Erica,
I am a female in her mid-forties, and a bit of an outlier in that I am not an NT but rather a Champion/Inspirer, an ENFP (NF). There is a natural attraction, both friendwise and relationshipwise between the INTJs and ENFPs (introverted intuition combined with extraverted intuition create a huge mental playground), so Hi! I work in high-tech, however, and have (painfully, at times) trained myself to be more NT.

If you've studied the Myers-Briggs and especially Kiersey's excellent "Please Understand Me II", you already know that the Intuitives (the NTs and NFs) make up less than 20 % of the population. So, yes, how to reach the Sensing types, the dominant ones in the population who live day-to-day and have a hard time extrapolating into the future.

At least in Washington State, the women active in the sustainability groups are acutely aware of peak oil and The Oil Drum. Nate Hagens had given me a Campfire post Energy, Transport and Sustainability Changes in The Puget Sound Area back in March, where I had archly titled one section "Where the Smart Girls Hang Out". We also just got a fantastic article in the Green edition of the Seattle Times Sunday magazine, with several women leaders quoted:

A TALL, HANDSOME woman, Vic Opperman trained in architecture and became determined to help curb what she sees as society's stumbling course toward self-destruction. It began for her, she says, when the Bush administration was ramping up to invade Iraq. "I started going down to Ballard and protesting every Wednesday. I had never been involved in anything like that, but I found myself organizing rallies."

While the war raged on, Opperman turned her attention to energy conservation, which became the founding principle of Sustainable Ballard. It is not a huge organization; the annual meeting and elections in January attracted just 40 people. But that small group has made itself felt by incubating ideas for reducing the community's dependence on oil.

As similar groups sprouted all over the region, Opperman and two friends saw a need for an umbrella organization — "something like a congress" — where activists could bounce ideas off each other. Hence, SCALLOPS.

Hi SB, nice to meet you!

I am almost an NF myself but tend to (just) come down on the NT side of the fence. I read your post back in March and am always heartened by success stories like yours of groups who actually make a difference in their community.

I think that reaching the S types is not a matter of explaining-all-the-facts-in-nauseating-detail (which we N are maybe a little too good at!). It'll be a question of demonstrating to them that a sustainable lifestyle is not only possible, it can also be successful, comfortable, joyful and connected (ie not living in mud huts knitting one's own tofu....). Leading by example. The Transition Towns movement and groups like yours may be small and local and may not make a massive difference to oil consumption in themselves but bit by bit they are breaking down the psychological barrier that "this is not possible" and "there are no solutions". So keep at it! Good luck to you and the other Smart Girls! :o)

Thanks Luis - I would like to add my appreciation of Rembrandt and Ugo and the location. Thanks also to American contributors who came that long way.

I agree that Ugo's presentation (End of Roman Empire) and your point you raise just now about 'Women & Communication', as they fed (and feed) into discussion, were key experiences. What to do with 'competition' still hangs in mid-air?
My question for what it is worth on 'Empire' is to ask not so much why it 'collapsed' but why it did not continue to roll-out, perhaps in linked modular form, given the self-stoking 'success' of the growth stage? 'Money'?

A few thoughts below from a private source (with some 2004 'references')

" ...[Forgo a modern] Coliseum in Ancient Rome. ... The position of women changes, perhaps more in the direction of ... “individual autonomy, more self-reliance within a community setting”. ‘Planning’ is not [their] way, (their decision taking is more complex), but mathematical simulation can help with 'our' complexity. In 1984 a prescient paper [Ref] suggested non-economic societal reforms in Bangladesh. A systems dynamics simulation study of the interaction of various social subsystems addressed integrated planning concerns. Study results indicated that policies, importantly societal reforms, could decrease the population growth rate to year 2002: (1) reducing the school dropout rate for females and (2) expanding the educational infrastructure. (3) Increasing adult educational opportunities for females, (4) raising the legal marriage age, (5) increasing family planning and health services. (6) Expanding job opportunities for women, (7) promoting the development of labour intensive production, and (8) increasing food production. Twenty years later in 2004, Bangladesh ... has one of the higher population densities in the world and higher agricultural to urban employment ratios than the regional average, but crude birth rate and births per woman have reduced markedly and are lower than the regional average. Female participation in education has increased markedly and is close to the regional average. Maternal and infant mortality remain high. Further focus on women’s empowerment and reproductive health, aims to stabilise population [Ref] More gender parity and womens education really is a new world. Curiously, also, if we do really think and communicate better when we cultivate a calm appreciation, and as seems to be the case, also become in this way more robust when under stress, then aggression and fear potentially are less competitive. If our autonomous bodies and brains are seriously healthier when we adapt socially to cope with emotional distress, perhaps this provides a humane feedback loop? ... Similarly, if women’s education lends itself to longer intervals between births of children ..., there are family health benefits including at least the opportunity for more emotionally secure infancy. ... Make your own lists of examples. We do actually become what we practice; we grow our brains; we remodel our synapses. The more altruistic ‘co-operators’ can co-exist with non-co-operators. ... For those of us who need a bit of theoretical buttressing, a development different from classical game theory allows simulations of the evolution (adaptive dynamics) of ‘cooperativeness’ between unrelated individuals, and subsequent stable states of co-existence within social diversity, which appears a cheery thought. [Ref]

Accessed 2004:
(i) “Simulation modeling perspectives of the Bangladesh family planning and female education system”. Behav Sci 1984 Jul; 29(3): 145-61.
(ii) Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) E-17 Agargaon, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh. Further focus on women’s empowerment and reproductive health and population projections are at 2004-10-19 12:58:37
(iii) Science 29 Oct. 2004.306, 5697, 859-862.
... "

best wishes

‘Planning’ is not [their] way, (their decision taking is more complex), but mathematical simulation can help with 'our' complexity. In 1984 a prescient paper [Ref] suggested non-economic societal reforms in Bangladesh. A systems dynamics simulation study of the interaction of various social subsystems addressed integrated planning concerns.

Systems dynamics simulations lack the reproducibility characteristics that many of the more fundamental models have. Someone who wants to try to duplicate the results either can't or will end up with a completely different set of parameters. That is simply a reality of these kinds of simulations, and why I would rather start with a better formal basis as I state in a comment downthread.

Of course the idea in Phil's suggestion and reference is good but the execution leaves something to be desired, based on my own experiences.

Here is a question: Has anyone ever duplicated the "Limits to Growth" simulation before? Go to this site and you really have to wonder.
Just looking at it, I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole, but I am very tempted to see how brittle the whole thing is.

Crack into it, WHT.

The objection on that page you linked to seems to be that the particular computer had problems with errors compounding.

It would be easy to test the model software with systems for which an analytic solution is known. Forrester, being an engineer, probably did that. Coming from a control systems background, he would also have understood the theory of error pretty well.

Final point - system dynamics is a technique for checking and refining analysts' beliefs and intuition ("hey, why did the model do that?"), not for making predictions. In macrosocial science, reliable predictions are thought to be pretty much impossible.

I will give it a try. According to the web page, the software is either free or it costs nearly $2000.

Great! The Personal Learning Edition (PLE) of Vensim is free to use. There are at least two other packages if you don't like Vensim: ithink and Powersim. If you know and have Matlab you could probably roll your own :-)

A tutorial that looks OK.

Re assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the method: I have hauled out my old maths and statistics textbooks to refresh myself - I'm so rusty, I have to start again from linear algebra and simple calculus. I can't even remember what use an eigenvalue is, let alone how to formulate and solve PDEs.

Unfortunately I long ago sold or recycled my Advanced Engineering Mathematics, which, IIRC, had a chapter on errors.

Not to worry - there'll be something on the internet, somewhere...

"Managed Austerity"

Regarding the title of that talk, I think a better name may be Depletion Management. This latter name has more of a spin quality to it than the former as the business term "management" clashes against the idea of "austerity". This has nothing to do with reality but with acceptance by the vast majority of business and media. Acknowledging that management of depleting resources will not really solve the underlying problem but will aid in cushioning a softer landing. Of course the framework of depletion management will have to be a clear understanding of the quantities of fossil fuels that we have left in the ground. So depletion management will include foremost the formulation of the fundamental models of depletion such as dispersive discovery, shock model, fat-tail (i.e. 'black swan') reservoir sizing, and ELM. These will supplement the previous heuristics of Hubbert Linearization with a formal understanding.

If we can get a clear handle on these quantitative aspects, we can possibly control expectations and place uncertainties on predcitions, something that no one has really done before. I wonder how much of the huge fluctuations of petroleum pricing have on the lack of knowledge on quantitative depletion numbers. After all, uncertainty feeds speculation. (and I am speculating on this idea as well, so there you go)

About the origins of Alcatraz, the retreat was founded in 1980 as a 'gesamtkunstwerk' (total work of art?) by the italian satirist, playwright, director, writer, actor, composer and designer Dario Fo along with his wife Franco Rame and his son Jacopo Fo. The name is probably more related to the legendary island jail near San Francisco rather than the bird, as an isolated and remote place. The structures and paintings all relate to themes in Fo's work.

I'm not sure I understand what you where getting at with the following couple of points:

(1)"...Money can actually be a key element in the transition away from Finite Energy."


(2) "...It is hence somewhat appalling that one sees the debate regarding the relationship of the Economy with Energy almost always subject to a rather strict Monetarist perspective. This was apparent at the summit, as it is in the daily discussion among the ASPO/ TheOilDrum community. Some open mindedness on the subject is in order."

-can you expand a little on these?


Dr Sousa,
I agree with you when you consider extremely important women being not aware ( interested in ? ) of peak oil issues : usually people tend to ignore and delay confrontation with problems not easily solveable.
It is clear to everybody ,with some common sense, that you can not deal with peak oil ignoring overpopulation issue and aging of western nations.
Italian women have a fecondity rate of just 1,3 children per couple since the 90', so they seem to behave a little more wisely then their english-speaking counterparts , but I believe that almost no women can psicologically face off harsh issues like planning a strong decrease in welfare for elderly people in order to mitigate dangerous distortions of post peak society.
Dont know if somebody have watched " No Country for Old Men ", a 2007 movie awarded with several prizes : well, I am used to say ,referring to Europe and to Italy in particular , that Italy is no country for young men.
Baby boomers' children are mature men and women now, and there is necessity they to strike back and try to balance distortions between different generations when some leeway is still possible. ( That means that it si possible to take actions democratically and within borders of a persistent society when we are not much far from peak oil, lets say then within 2015 )
My ultimate thought : it is possible that women rappresent a conservative force that may prevent taking proper actions in time in order to mitigate social crisis in next 20-30 years.
( I still remember, even being just 4-5 years old at that time, Yoko Hono' speech in 1979, about opportunity in cutting off space exploration and research in favour of feeding Africa people : today is she aware we have got 3 billions and half more people to feed all over the world ? )
Peak oil crisis compell all of us to face off our unsolved moral issues first : just new,widely accepted moral behaviours can grant us force and cohesion necessary to take proper energetic and social actions to avoid major energetic and social collapse.

Dr Ganzetti Francesco

Italian women have a fecondity rate of just 1,3 children per couple since the 90', so they seem to behave a little more wisely then their english-speaking counterparts

Are you saying that men have no control over their reproduction? It takes two to tango!

almost no women can psicologically face off harsh issues

That's a totally unreasonable generalisation. Evidence??

it is possible that women rappresent a conservative force that may prevent taking proper actions in time in order to mitigate social crisis in next 20-30 years

Perhaps. But this by no means follows from your statements above.

...Peace " motto " up to date of a past peak society :

Make love , ( with condoms ), not war.

....Peace " motto " for a quite beyond peak society :

Make love with condoms, not war.
( Eventually make war on those not using condoms )

...Peace " motto " for a far beyond peak society
( or what is left of it)

Make war.

PS: lets try to avoid this development

Ms Cook has previously pointed out, ( may be unwillingly,) a very interesting aspect we need to investigate a little more: there are some alpha males here.
She probably meant that you need to have a very independent way of thinking in order to take interest , ( even if merely speculative ), in harsh and new problems.
If you have to spend many hours per day feeding and taking care of children this can be very difficult, even just because you have got no time left to invest in your own cultural leisure.
" Alpha males " are wolf males leaders of the pack : just alpha males and alpha females can reproduce in nature.
We cannot exploit more land productivity, so perhaps we must mimic nature and ( temporary ) come back to a more hunting shaped society and rules : we desperately need alpha females indeed....
The rest of the pack will follow alpha males and females, if they byte strong enough....
The so called "green revolution" has perhaps convinced us that what is easy is right too.

this post has some truth to it. ~Heh, I've been thrown off energy boards, twice, once by a poster here. So now I am very careful and low key...nuff said.

The push back on peak oil that I get from my female friends is, "I get it, give me something to do." Check out the websites for sustainability/gardening and you will see a huge number of females. It doesn't mean that those of us who post here are not doers. Perhaps the ratio of talk:doing isn't high enough for them.

Political blogs are similarly dominated by men; they wield a tone of dominance that is abhorred by most women (yes, these are generalizations but are reflective of my experience). Men and women are different and I think we can respect our differences and still have a productive conversation that keeps us coming back. Have you all noticed that the mere discussion of "tone" has kept the tone very civil? Nate has pointed out on many occasions that social cooperation requires enforcement of rules.

Note to future speakers.
This is what happens when you speak too fast during your presentation in a foreign country:

That's also how the wedding party held the bride at my son's wedding in Scotland.

The classroom looks lovely, wish I had been there. Thanks for the summary, with the personal touch.

Planned Economics carries with it a political connotation that distorts its true intention ...

Now there is so much misunderstanding in the US about communism, socialism, the free market and so on; the topics are impossible to discuss as the US public has been totally brainwashed and dumbed down to a point where public discourse is completely senseless and turns hysterical and violent.

The present brawls about health care are truly so staggeringly stupid and ill-informed - including from the present US president, who admittedly has a lot on his plate, yet a fine politician he is not - that the mind boggles.

Peak 'energy' is a topic that is just as difficult, if in different ways. More abstract, perhaps, in the sense of not as directly as impactful like health care; but also less complex in all of its ramifications. (imho.)

Even Kommie countries ran, in primary school, classes about different regimes and different types of economic exchange. Communism was presented as the final, best choice, with socialism being a sort of feeble previous stage. This made the kids laugh and the teachers throw their eyes at the ceiling and smirk. (According to some reports though no doubt it often was dead serious.)
Meanwhile, they studied feudalism, democracy (greek version), anarchy, etc.; interest and usury; and planning for the common good...The USSR collapsed in part because of the high educational level of the citizens.

Ok, to planned economies. The US in fact has a planned economy.

It isn’t planned by the voters, or their representatives in the purist ‘republic’ sense (congress critters) but by shadowy circles of production and influence, including, not exhaustively, the military-industrial complex (world domination and arms trade), the financial industry (the Fed, banks, stock market actors, etc.), agri business and the associated food producers, the health care conglomerate (17% GDP), etc. as well as by the Gvmt. itself, in the shape of, say, the Dpt. of Homeland Security and the law-enforcement-cum-prison business, ineffective education, etc.

Who actually owns the wealth (in US terms) or the means of production (in social study terms)?

The answer depends on pov, or criteria taken into account.

A small elite, say 2% of pop, or, in more politically meaningful terms, the Gvmt. itself, the finance industry (now blatant under Obama), and a few major producers in cahoots with the other two (guns and butter or better corn syrup and pork fat..), and, perhaps, to a certain degree, stock / bond holders, though they have almost no influence and just ride the waves created if they are smart enough to dope them out.

Joe n Jane 6 own nothing - not their house, their car, their children’s education; and their decisionary power is precisely nil. They are wage slaves, provided they can find/hold a job.

None of these entities, groups, admittedly not well defined here, have any interest in planning for a rational, egalitarian, ethical, ‘democratic’, bearable, interestin’, fun, or just survivable future.

By definition, if you are on top, you need to remain on top, and even if the top is blasted or suffering badly it is still the best place to be.

Therefore, energy and climate matters will never be addressed by any US admin in any serious way, though a lot of hot air will be blown about.

This has nothing to do with a putative ‘free market’ but with an oligarchy taking and keeping control.

NO CHANGE without concerted, organised, political action.

Well said and all true.
I don't think that political action is going to be nearly enough.
Nothing short of forcefully removing the current criminal power structure will be a remedy to this Leviathan of doom.

It certainly sounds like a good get together.

First, women. You've got it right about the two women at TOD -- they contribute far in excess of their numbers. But I think they only thing that can be realistically done by TOD and the peak oil movement (is it a movement?) is make sure that it is a comfortable place to be for all those interested, including women, which only means sticking to the issues. I remember the day a year or two ago when I noticed something Leanan said indicating she was a woman -- I had no idea til then. Gail was no surprise of course, but of course it would have been were she just TheActuary. The number of women here is a reflection of the numbers of women currently employed in or interested in the fields discussed here. There's no gender thing in the issues. So I don't think there's much to done except for what I said above.

Second. There IS a magic bullet for the oil and resource depletion, and we all know it. It's been called various things by various people: managed contraction, winding down, scaling back to sustainability, radical retrenchment (by, ahem, me), and so on. There are all kinds of debates about how to do that of course, but we know that has to done.

And we know the chief obstacle to doing it: capitalism, the absolute subordination of all else to profit, our inability to trump it. It is global capitalism that requires and mandates "growth" at any cost. We also know that in Latin America there is a growing bunch of countries that ARE willing trump profits when needed, whether always intelligently one can reasonabley debate.

There have been innumerable theories on the collapse of Rome (well, the Western Empire in any case), and I'm not about to get into it. And it's interesting to read them and mull their relevance. But to some extent I feel this is a diversion from seeing and speaking what is right in our face.

Re-reading the above, I realize one error (in particular) -- not everyone agrees on downsizing as the only possible direction. Some feel that renewables can keep the show going. And there are shades in between. I feel the peak oil debate is over. IMO the real debate is: can renewables keep the industrial era going, or is it over, and therefore we must adjust and transit to a post-industrial era in some form or another?

It's a live issue because that's just what Obama is premissing his program on, or at least pretending to: the greening of industrialism as the next big thing, as the way out.

I quietly and extensively read OilDrum, LATOC, Energy Bulletin, etc. every day, but seldom comment. My experience as a 60+ woman is that men tend to have the gift of seeing both the big picture and analyzing data more often than women, but women want to actualize ways of dealing with men's insights into the real world.

The one criticism I would make of the discussions here is a lack of ways to apply this knowledge- how should I change my behavior and environment to deal with facts and studies?

In my own life, we are retrofitting our house extensively for energy efficiency (heat pump, insulation, electric on-demand hot water, etc.), I grow a big garden, preserve food, practice permaculture, and am an active leader in our town's sustainability movement.

You might say it another way for women: "Ok, Ok, there's overwhelming data on these problems, now what do we DO?!!!

My criticism of many women's take on PO is too small a focus, on self and family, (how to make crocheted hot pads from old jeans, a narrow focus on homemade laundry soap, etc.)

Fortunately, both men and women as they mature into their 50's and above seem to develop some of the abilities and perceptions of the opposite sex, becoming closer to whole; thinking AND doing, macro and micro.

PO, climate change, ocean acidification, economic disruption from PO, etc can induce hopelessness and sadness in folks. There has to be a balance of clear sight and practical doing- solutions are not going to come from entrenched interests, they are going to be grassroots. The grass starts on my lawn and yours, literally.

There is, in general, a difference between men and women when it come to abstraction and particularity. It causes tiffs between me and my wife all the time. I'm always telling her: TMI (too much information) cut to the chase, etc. I, on other hand, a mathematician by training and inclination, though not career, go a tad, well, maybe several tads too far in the opposite direction. "Take a spherical cow, for example..." perhaps sums it up.

Anyway, one has to say generally because there were (are) some very famous women mathematicians in the most abstract parts of mathematics, Emmy Noether, Julia Robinson, etc. And there are men who can retain vast amounts of detail, even some mathematicians.

It may be impossible to ever figure out how much is in the wiring and how much in the culture.

Anyway, it doesn't matter too much so long as talent isn't thwarted wherever it appears. There's going to be plenty of room for all kinds of talent in coming decades.

The one criticism I would make of the discussions here is a lack of ways to apply this knowledge- how should I change my behavior and environment to deal with facts and studies?

Agreed, there is little of that.

A lot of it may be to do with the predominant (Myers-Briggs) personality types here. For Introvert-iNtuiting-Thinking-perceiving or judging people (INT[ PJ ]), it's all about understanding the ideas. To get action, dynamic leadership, mobilisation behind a vision, and so on, we need an ESFJ (Extrovert-Sensing-Feeling-Judging) person. :-)

Unfortunately ESFJs tend to rely solely on their own direct experience and memory, so (generalising furiously) they're not good with problems of slow - but accelerating - pervasive change.

If you want a single thing to do, I would say learn and then teach First Aid. It's a "no regrets" action - it enhances your employability and/or general status in the community. Check out the Transition Town movement for other practical ideas.

Final thought: if one comes to the belief that 59 out of 60 people will die very prematurely during the next 75 years, it's hard to escape the corollary that survival is going to be a lottery prize - random, or at least not predictable in advance. It's better not to get locked into one survival strategy early on.

And of course that sounds like a rationalisation for nihilistic inaction, to those who want to act.

This is my first post on The Oil Drum. Previously, I have not felt the need to contribute to the already high level of discourse and have been quite content to devour the information on a regular basis from the sidelines.

I am a retired psychologist and know quite a bit about psych testing. Hence, I would like to address the thread of personality assessment with the MBTI. A primary reason why it is so widely used is that its use is not controlled. Lots of test instruments have been developed which the publishers provide only to those who have the training to use them. It is similar to pharmaceutical companies selling certain drugs only to MDs.

The MBTI was based on the personality theory of Carl Jung and other assessment procedures have been developed based on other theories. One faction of researchers has gone the route of using factor analysis to allow the relevant personality dimensions to emerge instead of making presumptions about which traits will present themselves ahead of time. If one uses a certain type of factor analysis called orthogonal, fewer factors emerge because the solution is to find factors that have little overlap, i.e. they are minimally correlated. It is from this solution that the “Five Factor” or “Big Five” model emerged. These factors have been named Extroversion, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Openness. If one takes the first letters of these factors and rearranges them, you have the acronym OCEAN, or less commonly CANOE.

If one uses an oblique solution to the factor analysis, more factors emerge and they will have some correlative overlap. One way to appreciate the value in using this approach is to recognize that we typically see height and weight as two separate dimensions of measuring the physical body, but they are certainly correlated. The Sixteen Personality Questionnaire by Raymond B. Cattell is the prime example of this approach. One can consider that this latter method generates a system that breaks the Big Five down into smaller components.

There is some correlation between the MBTI dimensions and the Big Five. They both tap into the Extroversion / Introversion trait and these scales on the two instruments are highly correlated. Agreeableness correlates with the Thinking / Feeling dimension. Conscientiousness correlates with both the Thinking / Feeling and the Judging / Perceiving dimensions. Neuroticism is not related to any MBTI scale. One short coming in the use of the MBTI is that the dimensions are dichotomized. One is either Extroverted or Introverted without taking into consideration how extreme one is represented along the continuum of this dimension. So for example, person A could score at the 49th percentile and be labeled Introverted, person B scores at the 51st percentile and be labeled Extroverted, and person C scores at the 99th percentile and be labeled Extroverted. Clearly, A and B are much closer than B and C who have the same label.

The Big Five tests have been shown to be quite robust over long periods of time in predicting outcomes. Timothy A. Judge, et al. have found in longitudinal studies that high Conscientiousness, high general mental ability (intelligence), and low Neuroticism predicted extrinsic career success (income and occupational status). Conscientiousness also predicted intrinsic career success, i.e. job satisfaction. The participants in these studies were followed from early childhood through retirement. Put simply, it means that those who are smart, disciplined, and emotionally stable do quite well in their careers and the disciplined folks are happy as well. These dimensions are evident from early childhood and they have a sizeable genetic component.

What does all this have to do with fossil fuel depletion? If we are going to address personality dimensions in pondering who reads TOD or who will or will not survive or thrive in the post peak oil world, I would suggest we use good test instruments that have better research support. Regarding the availability of these tests, one could pay for the assessment, but there are variations of the original instruments that are free online. But here is a suggestion. Since these are self report and one can easily distort the results by consciously or unconsciously trying to look good, I would suggest in addition to taking these tests yourself, have someone else who knows you quite well (your spouse?) complete the tests as how he or she perceives you to be. See how closely or widely the two assessments track.

Also, keep in mind that general mental ability keeps showing up over and over in terms of predicting success in a variety of outcomes. In this country, we have an American mythology that virtually anyone can succeed in any endeavor regardless of the starting conditions. The data do not support that notion.

The petroleum engineers and others with special expertise have done an admirable job in continuing to present the reality of the situation of peak oil to politicians, business leaders, academicians, and others. I would like to see a similar reality addressed in the behavioral sciences.

Thanks to TOD for a great venue.

I'm not the right person to welcome you... relative newcomer and infrequent poster... but thanks for the information 8-)

I'd like to know more, though. Do you have any references - books or articles - or links?


You are asking if I have any references. Yes, there are many, many books and articles about the test instruments I have mentioned, but I will presume you are starting from the beginning. In terms of what is free on the net, one of the best summations for the Five Factor model is from Wikipedia:

There is also a decent write up about Cattell's 16 Factor approach:

If you would like to take a free version of these tests, I recommend this web site:

And here are the links within that web site for a Five Factor test and a variation of the 16PF:

In the real 16PF, the second scale is an intelligence scale. This one online has changed it to an "Intellectual Interests" scale. If you would genuinely like to assess your cognitive abilities, here are two online that I think are pretty good:

The first of these is a variation of the Raven Progressive Matrices which is very culturally independent. If you grew up in the American culture, the second one is also applicable. IQ tests are referenced at the mean of the population and that value is given the number 100. Most use 15 points as the standard deviation. Hence, you can translate to percentile scores which most people can wrap their heads around more easily. So at the mean, you are at the 50th percentile. At IQ 115 you are at the 84th percentile. An IQ of 85 is at the 16th percentile.

The two tests at the SimilarMinds site gives results in percentiles. It is not clear what their standardization sample is but I have seen the scores of quite a number of people who have taken these particular tests, and at least from my point of view, they seem in the ball park. But remember, I suggested earlier that you also get someone who knows you well to take these two tests scoring how YOU are in their estimation.

The IQ tests are harder to fake. It is like faking a bench press of 500 pounds.

Returning again to the relevance of these assessments to TOD and peak oil, I humbly submit that it is a good idea to have an accurate idea of one's personal make up, just like it's a good idea to have an accurate assessment of one's physical condition and prowess. As we go through the Darwinian bottleneck, it is my guestimation that these behavioral and cognitive dimensions will be a major part of the those traits that are selected.



Funny... I did that one yesterday!

Thank you, first aid is a good place to start, but I would encourage folks to go a lot further than that! (BTW, I am a retired Level III EMT (ALS) who used to work both with our fire dept and an ambulance service, have taken all the prereqs and half of a nursing degree, and studied homeopathy.)

In the post-PO world, widespread practical and people skills will be of greater survival value than at present; I would however encourage those with well developed analytical minds to apply them to calculation and projections of needed changes: insulation and energy saving retrofits to lower demand, economic impact of localized food growing, finding ways to finance start-up local businesses and shorten supply chains, etc. Some genius will hopefully come along who will devise a new economic theory that does not require the impossibility of unending growth as a basis.

The theories already exist.

I love Americans!
Obama Birth Certificate
Healthcare debate (as a Canadian I love this)

Seriously, just as in the build up to WW2 and the strong isolationist streak, which turned instantly to war fever after pearl harbour, I think the same will happen with peak oil and the financial crisis. Americans are the most distracted people, but when they focus, things get done.

the US will be first in, drag the world down, and be first out

The Oil Drum should definitely try to reach the female audience, not only to broaden the community aware of the issues discussed on its pages, but because women may bring different ways to deal with them.

It is interesting that the subject of women's involvement came up. It occurred to me, more as an armchair observation than anything else, that countries with a more sustainable set of demographics tend to give better economic prospects and more political power to women. Maybe we need to let more women run the show.

I'll look into this some more. Many armchair observations don't survive serious scrutiny.

A tradeable permit system for babies (which I have brought up previously) with a cap of say 2.1 permits per woman ratcheting down through time, accomplishes two things: puts a powerful economic incentive at each woman's control, and encourages each woman to consider alternatives to child-rearing.

Under the patriarchical society, women have the babies and men chuck the spears. The control of resources accruing to men is what leads to their concentration of power. Limiting and pricing out the right to bear children addresses that imbalance, at least in part.

Steve,I can't see a birth permit system coming into being any time soon in relatively free countries but you and I will see women in positions of power and influence in greater numbers every year.

The number of women obtaining college degrees has passed that of men and the trend is accelerating.

Are you assuming BAU.....
Women catch right when degrees are becoming hardly worth the paper they are written on.
If I had kids to advise right now I'd be telling them to only get educated enough to learn survival skills, gardening, farming, gunsmith, any smith, masonry, carpentry. Get a trade skill.

Learn early to work hard and long and learn on the run because the competition for jobs will overwhelm most job seekers. The emphasis on a person's usefulness will be increasingly scrutinized as we ride the down slope of economic decline.

A young person's greatest asset will be their ability to work hard and with a little hyperbole, endure the unendurable.
Women are no exception.
I sadly and fearfully doubt women will ever again surpass the perceived equality they possess at this point in time.


You may be right.I have posted a lot myself about life as a subsistence farmer/gardener.

But Imo there is always going to be a place for somebody who knows some things that can omly be learned efficiently at a college.

I don't think our society is going all the way back to the stone age,or even back to the eighteenth century.

Any training in the health sciences,machine trades,genetics,etomology,botany,etc,will be needed and find a ready market in the future as we adapt to a lack of cheap energy.

I certainly agree with you that the usefulness of a marketing degree,or a Spanish or French degree,etc,will be next to zero in the job market.

All the jobs you mention will still be around probably but work is apt to be scarce in any occupation.
(As an aside,I see that gunsmithing figures prominently on such employment lists in nearly every case.I know lots of people who own lots of guns each and I can assure you that guns are the gold standard of all manufactured items as far as durability and dependability are concerned.A few people have guns modified ,usually for no good reason,but repaired?I will guess that my extended family owns enough guns to stock an armory ranging in age fron new to well over a hundred years,and probably the whole clan together has never provided as much as a weeks work for a gunsmith in the last hundred years. If you don't buy a Saturday night special ,or a military piece that has been used for training and had a few tens of thousands of rounds put thru it,she will not break if you keep her clean,dry and well lubricated.)

Don't expect your kids to learn more than the bare abc's of anything in a high school shop class.Vocational education is our society's mandatory attendance trash dump for the kids who for several reasons aren't WANTED in the regular classrooms where some serious math,chemistry,English,etc are taught.

Otoh,it is possible to teach (and to learn something!) at a community college.

You are of course correct, there will be employment where adequately educated people are needed. I think that the vast majority of jobs will be increasingly menial.

A person with a college education and a willingness to work hard will still face competition from an uneducated person willing to work hard, especially if the uneducated person has been in the workforce for four or five years first.

In the long run education will find its own level.
Governments won't be able to fund education forever.

Has or does the promise of employment,access to credit and the parents employment status/situation determine the amount of education within the community, state and country?

I guess what I'm saying is that the odds of employment will favour the skilled and those willing to do almost anything for a living.

Getting used to living with less and less will be an education in itself. Understanding that "things" won't get better and your children's prospects will be worse than your own will never be revealed to many, they I think will probably get squeezed at the bottleneck.

OFM --

I agree with you it is unlikely, but I bring it up as a stalking horse from time to time, because otherwise discussions about population come in two flavors:

(1) population is the root cause of all of our problems, and no one is addressing it
(2) 90% will perish regardless, and preparation for the future should focus on somehow being in the 10% who survive.

I'm interested in moving beyond these positions, if possible.

Luis: "So we were left with the view that institutions like The Oil Drum or ASPO are unable to communicate properly with about half of the world's population."

It may actually be less than half. A year or so ago I forwarded one of Gail's posts to an engineering sister. Gail's post was well-reasoned and supported and not at all doomerish. I had thought that my sister the engineer, a person who has no trouble with numbers and graphs, would be able to read and understand without freaking out. Turns out I was wrong.

FWIW, I am a non-engineer, not especially math-oriented, and female, and I read this site regularly. Understanding the main points in TOD doesn't necessarily require a background in a related field. Not sure what it DOES require, though.


It requires only the ability to read and an open mind.A certain minimum amount of brains-say an IQ of 95 or better- is also a big plus but not essential imo.

I know at least one intellectually challenged old hillbilly who looks up at the mountians and asks what we are going to do when all the timber is cut.

Some of the graphs can be real puzzles.There were no such graphs with ten different functions stacked and superimposed and in different colors in any of the texts used in the sixties.

Not to mention the fact that I seem to be male color blind now!I simply cannot distinguish between some shades of color,and most of the graphs can't be expanded on screen,sfaik,which would help a lot when figuring out what they mean,especially since I use a smallish lapotop.

And even though I am technically well educated for a non engineer,I sure would appreciate a few less acronyms and a few more explanatory notes to help me along with some terminology and definitions from time to time when the engineers have the floor.

Hi Mac,

if you use Firefox, try the Image Zoom extension After installing it, click on an image with the right mouse button, and choose from the menu.

Otherwise, try Ctrl+Shift+[plus sign] to enlarge a page. (i.e., hold down Ctrl - either one, and Shift - either one, and then press the "+ =" key one or more times. Sometimes you need to wait a few seconds to see the results. Let go all three keys when happy.)

Ctrl+minus to reduce the page again.

Ctrl+Shift+Plus works in most of the browsers I have used, the exception being my current one, epiphany. :-(


I arrived kinda late at the computer party and have never had time to really learn how to use them well for anything except web browsing,other than running a few specialized programs written for mechanics,etc.

I definitely need to get over to the community college which is ONLY a forty five minute drive away.

I can’t speak for other women and certainly not for men, but I can try to explain why I personally keep coming back here almost every day. I am a woman in my mid-40s, mathematician by education and inclination, artist by hobby and with 20 years of experience in IT. I am also an INFP type to throw in the mix. I approach every task, project or problem by establishing a subtle emotion connection with it, creating an abstract holistic picture and then start filling it in with mental blocks of information, first almost entirely intuitively and then more and more sequentially and logically. I didn’t need TOD to tell me about peak oil, but I need it now to help provide me with information to complete the big picture and form practical steps.

Therefore, I personally don’t see any need for TOD to dramatically change what they are doing now. You’ll never be able to lure a non-technically inclined audience (men or women) into reading oil production graphs and drilling methods.

You’ll never be able to lure a non-technically inclined audience (men or women) into reading oil production graphs and drilling methods.

I guess it would all depend on how and where you present them ;-)


OT but I just hit the CNN site and this is currently the main headline...

How vulnerable is your state to oil prices?

Though TPTB still don't seem to have much of a clue...

The executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, Bill Weatherspoon, blames the council and other environmental action groups like it, for what he calls a scarcity of fossil fuels contributing to higher prices.

"People who are paying a lot for gasoline have the NRDC to thank for that, because that group has stopped the search for new clean-burning fuel we'll need in the future through government regulations," Weatherspoon said.

"We want to find clean-burning natural gas and oil here at home. We know we can," he added.

Sure Bill, whatever!

I really like this! Any budding guerilla-artists out there keen to go and replace installations in modern art galleries with (graphical or abstract) representations of resource depletion?

How about all those blank bill boards out there now that the economy has tanked.

Erica, check out Chris Jordan's work

That's it!
This guys stuff on the Bill Boards.
That ought to work as shock treatment.

Another woman here, just to let you know...
I'm mid thirties, been a musician most of my life, haven't done a personality test, but I can tell you why I keep coming to TOD and Energy Bulletin just about every day. I want to learn, and this is the best, most active and lively and passionate forum for learning about energy that I have found. My reasons for wanting to learn could be related to my femaleness - I am a mother, and I want to be prepared for my sake and my son's sake. I appreciate that the community of commentators here keep an eye on each other, try to keep things nice, and most importantly, try to keep things referenced and scientific so we are not just blowing hot air.
Why are there not more women on TOD? I don't know. But there are some. And what we learn on TOD affects what we do in our lives, especially as mothers.

...Lots of stereotypes about the differences between men and women, which I from the EU can’t really relate to. Not that they are erroneous, or even just too general, truth I am sure in much of them.

To me, the relative dearth of feminine presence on TOD is simply the outcome of the fact that energy related fields (foraging, building geo-thermal pumps, improving electric lighting in hangars, getting into light electric rail, and on and on) are dominated by men. If the board was about building tunnels, mining, space flight, unconventional warfare, or theoretical physics, the situation would be the same.

So yes, there is an ‘outreach’ difficulty, but it is not limited to women, as pointed out by several posters. And were TOD to try and do better in this regard it would have to transform itself completely, which doesn’t sound like a good idea.

If we dumb down the oil drum, we will be too busy flagging beached whale freaks.