CERA Says World Has Peaked, Buffett Calls Capitalism a Ponzi Scheme

The Oil Drum is known for primary analysis and perspective on a variety of energy and broad resource related topics. Of our content, this lone Saturday (Campfire) slot was intended as a side forum to explore non-empirical, deeper questions relevant to society and our energy future.

The trend in media this decade has been for the gritty, non-politically correct analysis and muckraking to be primarily found on the internet. The content of conventional media is largely confined to a narrow band around conventional institutional views. A couple years ago, I wrote this overview to belief systems, including such aspects as cognitive dissonance, self-deception, steep discount rates, our penchant to listen to confident authority figures, and our split brain unconscious editing mechanisms. As we live through growing disconnects between perception and reality, the abstract and the concrete, and the aware and the blissful, I thought an imaginary press conference among some conventional luminaries might highlight some truths via its juxtaposition.


Jim Lehrer: Ahem. If we could get started folks - please everyone take their seats. We've arranged this joint press conference/interview to set the record straight on some issues critical to the future of every American, and even every citizen of the world. Though lacking in organization, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of bloggers, private analysts and internet forums claiming that the recent peak in oil production was a hoax, that there are in fact no limits to economic growth, that fiat marker capital accurately reflects remaining available flow rates of natural resources, and that capitalism and democracy actually could permanently improve the welfare of all the worlds citizens without fouling our only nest. With me today are legendary social muckraker Warren Buffet, oil expert Daniel Yergin, and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Gentlemen: what do you make of these assertions?

Warren Buffett: Well, if I may start Jim, these folks are extreme to say the least. We all learn in school there are no perfect substitutes and that a marginal unit pricing system is completely ineffectual at predicting long term scarcity. I think these online blogging battalions ought to look at the real world for a change - can't they see wide boundary limits to growth with their own eyes? The only time to buy these naive theories is on a day with no "y" in it.

Daniel Yergin: I totally agree with Warren. With respect to oil, these bloggers claim that conventional media coverage of the oil supply fears in the 1880s, at the end of World War I and II and again in the 1970s were unneccessarily alarmist - in reality these were valid long horizon warning signs of technology advancing, but not keeping up with, depletion. This is a misunderstood position: CERA has never claimed we were physically running out of oil, only that the bloggers' 'Asian Phoenix' and other fantastic scenarios do not incorporate rising costs, receding horizons of non-energy inputs, and environmental impacts. These internet analysts are well intentioned, but frankly just don't have the training our people do needed to understand these complex systems.

Jim Lehrer: Mr. Paulson? What do you have to add?

Henry Paulson: There is a long history of social malcontents thinking we can have unlimited growth, develop some perpetual energy machine, or completely replace primary wealth (like oil and forests) with tertiary markers like stocks, bonds and derivatives. Science has pretty much closed the door on these faith based views of our planetary systems. I think it is a danger to the stability of our steady state system to allow these type of fringe views to permeate our media.

Daniel Yergin: That's right Hank. If we had unlimited resources, then why does the overburden continue to increase in virtually all metals and mineral extraction, which requires more energy to operate, which itself requires more metals and minerals. These online analysts have probably never heard of a positive feedback loop! Our field by field analysis of over 800 oil producing structures confirms that the 6.7% decline rate for mature fields that is oft bandied about on the internet is grossly understated. First, technology and high dollar prices caused us to suck out oil with a larger straw in the first half of these oil fields' lives, than physical principles will allow in the second half. Furthermore, the artificially high oil prices brought about by the fiat credit orgy made more supply appear than was sustainable - as investment ceases and as old oil infrastructure needs replacement, the decline rate the world will observe more closely approximate the natural decline rate of all fields. And most of what we find today is small fields, which give sharp bursts of production followed by steep declines.

Warren Buffet: Interesting Danny - I always say that if past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians, and the happiest too. In the businessworld, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield, but in the field of ecology, the windshield is usually a pretty good indicator of whats coming. As far as these internet analysts pointing to indefinitely repealing the second law of thermodynamics, let the blockheads read what the blockheads wrote. They point out that Mexican drilling activity is twice what it was a couple of years ago, as if all that is needed to pull oil from the ground is more capital. Without oil, or similar quality energy, there is no capital. We believe that according the name 'investors' to institutions that trade solely on financial capital is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a 'romantic.' These would-be-capitalists are in for a surprise - only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.

Jim Lehrer: Expand on that please Mr. Buffett. How does natural capital, like fossil fuels, impact financial marker capital?

Warren Buffett: Imagine a spigot attached to a large underground cavern. From the spigot comes a natural resource elixir which is variously consumed by the planets denizens, human and other. The sun and our ecosystems gradually replenish what the cavern loses via the spigot. Human sociopolitical systems dictate how wide the spigot is opened: capitalism, unchecked financial markets, and technology all open the spigot wider. The wider the spigot, the faster the elixir depletes, and the more social tiers are created, which creates unstable and unsustainable tensions. The kind of system being painted by these internet rebels would undergo a temporary increase in riches at the larger costs of destruction of global social and natural capital, unlikely to be replenished. We have weekly strategy meetings at my fund, and like to think in as wide of boundaries as possible. Our favorite holding period is forever. What do we want to hold forever? Natural capital, social capital, built capital, and human capital. What these blockheads are proposing would never make it through our committee.

Jim Lehrer: My gosh. I imagine not.

Warren Buffet: Well Jim, you can imagine the reaction of my grandkids and yours if they found out we had depleted the natural capital beyond the ability to create new built infrastructure with bad financial tracking markers? I always say that should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks, which is what the capitalist system advocated by these inciters would be a perpetual exercise in. There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.

Daniel Yergin: There are only 2 things certain in life: death and EROI. These resource cornucopians have never grasped that the major obstacle to the development of new natural capital is not geology or ecology but what happens above ground: international affairs, politics, investment and technology.

Henry Paulson: I'll simplify it further Dan. The concentration of wealth that would result from these internet analyst recommendations would imply only 2 options: a return to the feudal system or a hell of a dieoff.

Warren Buffet: It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently. Why would I listen to these pseudonymous resource cornucopians sprouting up all around the internet if I understand ecology, complex systems, biophysical economics and that the earth is round (well, slightly spherical)? People should spend time listening to the conventional media - the smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. For to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves - and the better the teacher, the better the student body. I have enough on my plate than to read these distracting treatises about the unlimited growth chimera by blockhead bloggers.

Henry Paulson: I find these penny-ante criticisms bubbling around the internet of our recent financial policies laughable. The Federal Reserves duty is to maintain natural capital levels so that any short term drawdowns can be relatively quickly replenished with solar energy flows and net primary productivity, which we now have a full understanding of its quantity and dispersion. The cornucopian chants for accelerating growth in the system via more debt are incredibly dangerous if taken seriously -you simply can't grow any socio-economic system by borrowing capital from yourself. We are taking this step to secure permanent natural capital to stabilize; to share ownership broadly among our citizens now and through future distribution; and to permit us to use publicly traded securities to finance strategic acquisitions that we may contribute to a more secure future for all of us. “We are very confident about the long-term outlook for our biosphere, but believe that the immediate impact of recent policies will be a further weakening in the operating environment and a delay in reaching a steady state, ... However, given decreased fiscal and monetary stimulus, we anticipate that long-term risks of future cannibalistic growth in our system should be less frequent and muted than previously expected.”

Jim Lehrer: Well what about those who claim that we went from wood to coal, and coal to oil and oil to gas - that we will similarly be able to more efficiently be able to harness sunlight and use this excess energy to recycle potentially scarce non-energy inputs? Do you ever get intimidated by these congressional analysts who are starting to throw barbed questions at you at hearings, with the sole intent to create a playing field where all their constituents can have more?

Henry Paulson: All can't have more - that is a delusion. Some can have more, or more can have less. I amuse myself a lot by sitting in those hearings and thinking what would happen if I said, "Do you realize what an idiotic question that is?"

Jim Lehrer: Thank you gentlemen. Let's pause and field a few questions.


1. If such an unlikely press conference were to take place, with the icons of modern industry and intellect doing a complete about face on resource availability and limits to growth, what would happen?

2. Is blogging, public analysis, social critique, etc. found on the internet, more of a social relief valve than a real attempt at changing the future? In other words, is the vast undercurrent of angst and opinions of what is wrong with our trajectory just a 21st century passive variety of self-expression, ineffectual at impacting real events?

3. Is there any time in history in the liminal space between paradigms, where the most authoritative voices of the dying model were the ones to articulate the model was dying? IOW, if things are badly wrong, wouldn't listening to the most successful people at the top be the wrong strategy, as they got to that position from being the most ambitious/skillful/invested in the current paradigm?

Re question 1: They would be escorted away in straight jackets.

Re question 2: It certainly is a relief valve for me personally, it's one of the few places where I get a least a sense of not being the only one who thinks we have a problem.

Re question 3: I defer to Donella Meadows:

So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that. In a nutshell, you keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you come yourself, loudly, with assurance, from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don't waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.

Donella Meadows: Leverage Points - Places To Intervene In A System

Dana was an eternal optimist. In psychology, it's called the "Messiah complex:" an urge to save the world at all cost, a world that is fighting every attempt at being rescued with nails and teeth.

It's important to get the message out and to do our best expressing the message in a language that is easy to understand ... for anyone willing to listen. More we cannot do.

Derrick Jensen discusses Endgame in two parts. (Find the second linked there.)

There is MORE that we can do than put out the message. John Robb at global guerillas points out what worked on 9/11 - civilian militias. Anyone who thinks this isn't going to be violent is nuts; it's already violent. Jensen makes good fun of those who "hope" it won't get violent. He makes a strong case that anything short of MEND, the IRA and the ANC combined won't be enough.


I was totally bowled over by how many "buffettisms" you listed when you created the fictional interview! nice work! As a huge Warren Buffett fan, I was laughing in recognition all the way through!

I think your characterization is buffett is mostly correct. I think he'd agree with all of that BUT, he would also say, we've had many seemingly insurmountable challenges before, and we have managed to find a way. While we do face some dire ecological challenges, I'm optimistic about our prospects.

In case anyone is interested, here is probably the most comprehensive list of books recommended for reading by Warren Buffett

61 Book Recommendations from Warren Buffett

61 Book Recommendations from Warren Buffett

What an idiot that gomer Buffett really is. Not one book on oil or energy.

Just goes to show how badly we are scope-locked on money.

"What an idiot that gomer Buffett really is."

yes, but poetic justice prevails, look how he has suffered for his lack of proper information.

I on the other hand read every book on energy I could lay my hands on in my youth (there were not nearly as many in those days) so I could be a REAL success. I would put a smiley face there, but it only hurts when I laugh...hee, hee, OW! :-{


The health care debate currently taking place in the US might be an instructive example (if I correctly understood your question). Obama is trying a new paradigm for healthcare (the society should be responsible for ensuring that everyone gets access to healthcare) and he is getting pretty much attacked as a "socialist" and a "commie" by some people who can`t tolerate a paradigm shift.

Or how about the Americans who told a woman who did a walk to raise awareness of climate change, "don`t worry! God would never let our planet heat up!"

It`s very tough to change minds when a paradigm shift is inherent in the next step of awareness. Most people can`t re-think their assumptions. Governments are probably banking on that fact as they decide what to do next....Most people will understand only simple and recognizable messages. It`s worse than useless to try logic.


If he tried this he might actually get somewhere.

And, come to think of it, the same logic might be applied to PO: "evil space aliens have decimated our oil supplies and left us with hard-to-get expensive stuff."

Actually, probably a version of this will be tried, (slightly off topic, but newspapers are reporting that Netanyahu visited Russia "secretly" this month to discuss attacking Iran.) Space aliens being in short supply!

(checks calendar)

No, we are nowhere near Apr 1.

So that's it then, we're all going to die!

TSHTF, TEOTWAWKI, etc. How will I break the news to my wife?

[edit] oh, a FICTIONAL account ... nevermind [/edit]

Non Fiction can be stranger than fiction, here's something from WTFTV.


Disney Announces Major Expansion At Magic Kingdom

Posted: 4:42 pm EDT September 12, 2009Updated: 12:26 am EDT September 13, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Disney outlined plans for the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Plans include a major renovation of Fantasyland and the construction of a new Little Mermaid ride.

The real fantasy is expecting BAU to continue and having people be able to afford going there in sufficient numbers to actually keep their Fantasyland afloat. I sure hope they have extra stocks of pixie dust. Oh, never mind, that's in Never Never Land, my bad!


Don't be hard on yourself.

For a split second my undissonanted brain also accepted the headline as The Voice Of Authority ...

Well if CERA is saying the jig is up (and it ain't April 1), then heck, the jig is up. How am I going to tell my wife?

The Jigs is Up (Left click for bigger image)

By the time I posted that comment, I knew better, but couldn't resist quoting from H2G2.

So, um, which one is the girl truck? :->

I see the sculpture as "hemorphadite scorpion fixing to execute itself."

Step Back,

I had the same experience.Came in hot and tired after a long day preceded by a night up a couple of times looking after my Mom.No radio,no paper.Lit up my computer.Got that feeling that only comes during the moments that live in your memory forever.Principal walks into English class to tell us kids that the president has been shot.Berlin Wall is down.Out in the boonies on 9/11 near Fort AP Hill.Copters and various individual aircraft often seen in that area but never multiple flights of dead serious looking stuff flying low and in tight formation.WWIII?Found out about the towers an hour or two later.

So my hot tired brain is saying Something truly world changing..Black Swan ..I have heard the older folk talk about Pearl Harbor this way.

To have authorities admit our position upon the precipice while we are teetering on the edge may not be productive. Instead of leading us back towards sustainability, the newfound knowledge could just as well send us plunging into the depths of economic collapse. In addition, it doesn't provide them any return on investment to warn the general public. Their capital outlays can only provide an adequate return over many years. They have to keep the game going to earn back their investments and reposition capital.

Abraham Lincoln expressed his dislike of the dying paradigm of the economic system of slavery. The North could easily accept his message as they were avidly substituting the new fossil fuel and mechanical slaves for the human variety ( the North also relied upon indentured servants and tenant farmers). The rural South had not been as great a beneficiary of industrialism. Perhaps the objections to slavery will wane as we lose our industrial slaves although I hope this is not the case.

Wealthy slave owners of the South thought they needed slavery to maintain their privileged lifestyles but learned that their rich lives could be sustained by allowing their former human slaves to work the tool factories that would eventually turn out tractors, pesticides and fertilizers.

Unfortunately I don't think most people have enough knowledge to separate fact from fantasy and therefore opt for the most desirable ideas or constructions. Blogging is as effective at turning the direction of society as a squirt gun is at putting out a house fire. A large water cannon is needed. In addition, there are so many institutional bastions of disinformation in our society that distilling the truth is much more than the average J6P is capable of, even if they were willing to give up the next tent revival, Nascar, and Dancing with the Stars to do so. It takes a long time and much effort to get things straight and it's an ongoing battle.

One thing is certain-if those characters ever give such a press conference, they stand to make major bucks from whatever they are promoting. The thing is, there really aren't that many powerful or influential Americans who aren't grifters at this point-pretty well everyone important is for sale or has already been purchased. That would be an interesting campfire-who are the top 10 or 20 Americans that haven't been purchased yet?

would we know them? are there any?

It would be an interesting discussion. I could guess Nader, Paul, Kucinich for a start. It appears that those of integrity are definitely on the fringe.

I think Nader is not corruptable from external sources but he has become delusional in his dotage.

Nader is way ahead of the pack.
He's already figured out How to Profit From the Great Dieoff

Is blogging, public analysis, social critique, etc. found on the internet, more of a social relief valve than a real attempt at changing the future? In other words, is the vast undercurrent of angst and opinions of what is wrong with our trajectory just a 21st century passive variety of self-expression, ineffectual at impacting real events?

I have no doubt that it is considered an attempt to change the future by many who do it. It's easy to rationalize that "the easier thing to do is the appropriate thing", which is pretty close to our de facto cultural motto.

It is certainly not impossible to change the future by doing X thing. Flagpole sitting had its heyday. Nascar drivers earn social capital by driving in circles really fast. Nichiren Buddhists believe that they change the world substantially by continually chanting namu myoho renge kyo, and it would churlish of me to suggest they're wasting their time. They point to many successes.

The cockroach in this particular soup is that many such approaches give short shrift to causality, the actual sequence of dance steps necessary in the real complex world to achieve a particular something.

I'd say that IF a specific timetable and sequence of planned events includes a specific goal to be accomplished by blogging to X audience, it's valid as a plausible world-changer. However, to the extent which people blog instead of formulating and putting into practice specific plans, it is acting primarily to quash dissonance between the feeling that something should be done, and their own non-doing of it.

Of course, many people may wish to do something concrete but just not see a way to do it, and thus blog out of frustration, or to get help finding a way forward. Hopefully, blogging will for them be a good intermediate step on the journey.

Valid point Carla. It is one of the reasons I have withdrawn somewhat and taken more action in TRW. I do think however that my time spent here in the past was a valid education that prepared me for my real world activism. Someone even described me as a "peak oil expert" the other day which was positive fedback that i didn't waste my time here. I doubt very much that I could have gained the knowledge I now have from books and courses etc. Corresponding through blogs may be an aeven more powerful communication tool for learning than face to face conversations.

I think bloggers can positively affect some issues, but not peak oil and climate change. The only "solution" to these predicaments is for everyone to have fewer children and to consume less of everything. The vast majority will not voluntarily do this.

For me the value of blogs is truth seeking, mental preparedness, and ideas for living in the coming new paradigm.

The "Overview to Belief Systems" mentions Global Warming and the impact of CO2. Here's a recent update on the subject of modeling such esoteric non-linear systems.

As common sense would strongly suggest, new Climate Change models show the sun is the source of observed Global Warming, NOT CO2.

“Previously, the direct impact of increased irradiance on global average temperature has been estimated at around 0.25°C last century—a threefold amplifying effect would raise that to 0.75°C. This leaves practically no warming effect for CO2 to account for and renders the whole anthropogenic global warming argument moot. In other words, if the atmospheric solar amplifier theory is correct anthropogenic global warming is wrong, a useless theory describing a nonexistent phenomenon. It seems like poetic justice that a modeling experiment may point the way to discrediting global warming once and for all.”

See http://solarcycle25.com/?id=84 for details.

The sun is certainly the source of global warming, speaking generally. It's a big futzing fusion furnace which showers us with energy.


The way a greenhouse works is pretty straightforward. There may well be nonlinear stuff happening inside it, such as your poodle's eyes crossing, glazing over, and ultimately rolling back after being locked in your SUV on a sunny summer day in the House of Pancakes parking lot with the windows up. But the poodle's machinations, however intricate, don't alter the greenhouse effect or the poodle's probable destiny.

Many silly people argue, in effect, that how the poodle acts in the interim is salient to the greenhouse effect. Poodles are extremely nonlinear systems. And of course the situation seems salient to the poodle as it yaps and hopes, but a metal box with glass windows in the sun does its thing, no matter how complex the saga which plays out inside it.

The heavy burden of proof must be upon those who insist that the laws of physics do not apply in every case; and their own belief systems may not easily bear close scrutiny.

that post was NOT about climate change other than it being one of many environmental externalities that are long term in nature. I will posit this though: Im not sure whether human carbon burning is 5% or 95% of climate variation, but Im reasonably sure that whoever believed in climate change being largely due to human forcings 2 years ago, and whoever believed it was due to non-human forcing 2 years ago, are roughly those same camps today -those that were on margin waiting for facts were a very small % of people indeed. In any case, other than the self-deception angle, that was not point of this particular campfire so lets not bring AGW facts, from either side, into tonights discussion. thx

Agreed, was just keeping the balance. I've also flagged the comment. The comment I replied to was indeed, of course, arguing about climate change.

The poodle metaphor may need work.

Its easier if you assume a spherical poodle of uniform density, and in a vacuum.

are you guys really that geeky?

You apparently haven't been around here long enough or you'd know that the answer was, *YEP*!

The Society for the Protection of Animals is investigating this post.

Well, Nate is the king of wishful thinking on this Saturday. FMagyar closes out the conversation in one post, so maybe we need to think of different questions to ask regarding his happy dream. A wise man once said, it's not the answers that science finds, but rather which questions that science chooses to ask, that are the most important.

Regarding the questions, I would only add:

1. If such an unlikely press conference were to take place, with the icons of modern industry and intellect doing a complete about face on resource availability and limits to growth, what would happen? If you wait long enough, the strait jackets turn into nobel prizes. Schopenhauer said, All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. We're on the verge of the third stage, with these three clown as representatives of stage two.

2. Is blogging, public analysis, social critique, etc. found on the internet, more of a social relief valve than a real attempt at changing the future? In other words, is the vast undercurrent of angst and opinions of what is wrong with our trajectory just a 21st century passive variety of self-expression, ineffectual at impacting real events? Blogging on the internet is both high quality embodied information (in the form of subversive paradigm-changing communication that contradicts the MSM power elite) and also random, spurious entropic heat release of a civilization that doesn't know what to do with too much energy at their disposal, so to speak. The problem is the differentiation of the two when there's a firehose of information coming at you, especially if you don't have a functional conceptual framework on which to hang the cogent pieces as you sift through the mess.

3. Is there any time in history in the liminal space between paradigms, where the most authoritative voices of the dying model were the ones to articulate the model was dying? IOW, if things are badly wrong, wouldn't listening to the most successful people at the top be the wrong strategy, as they got to that position from being the most ambitious/skillful/invested in the current paradigm? Uh, no. Einstein agreed, with his quote about not being able to change from within the paradigm. That's why collapse is such an effective tool for cleaning the house.

Mr. Lehrer, I'd like to pose an additional question to your august panel, particularly Mr. Buffet, who is a particular hero of mine [gag]. Mr. Buffet, you're good with numbers, and are known as a savvy investor. What's the best way out of our economic mess?

Mr Buffett's reply: Well little girl, I would like to add some comments that further describe our Ponzi economy, and suggest a solution that transcends the current paradigm. There is a long tradition of financial entities only holding symbolic representational metals and then currency that in no way matches the dollar value of holdings. This tradition dates back to the 1600s, when banks first started fractional reserve lending. As the process worked and the bankers gained power, the process intensified, and was extended, again and again, until we do truly have a Ponzi scheme of endlessly leveraged paper products and a financial-insurance-real estate economy of useless eaters and paper pushers getting rich off of the backs of the real economy, fueled by a massive store of ancient sunlight, in a massive, blow-off top.

Not only are the big banks horribly leveraged with 100 times as many liabilities as assets; the government is quickly headed the same way, with IOUs supporting IOUs which support more IOUs. Derivatives and securitized assets, most of which are worthless, overhang the real productive economy's net worth by 40-50 times. This game will be a very short one. It has been suggested that the big 5 banks hold 95%+ of all derivatives out there (although since it is all over-the-counter, we may never know how many are out there).

I would propose that the best way forward out of this mess for us as a country would be to do the Jedi thing. Step back, holster the light saber stimuli, and allow the big 5 to crash. All of the derivatives and many of the securitized assets would disappear, along with many of the multinational agreements. Holdings of derivatives by innocent bystanders such as municipalities and pension funds would experience massive destruction, and perhaps some of the debt would need to be defaulted/forgiven selectively to protect critical entities integral to the social fabric of the country. Deflation would hurt the big guys much more than the little guys. Me, I'm willing to lose my companies, my fortune, default on all of my swaps, and start over so that this country can have a chance building a real economy at the local level with a philosophy of descent and simple living. Yes, holstering our stimulus light saber would mean my head would come off, but I've lived a good long life, and I'm willing to forfeit the rest of it for the good of the little people and the real economy and the hope of a new way of life to go with it.

We could then rebuild regional economies with new currencies and new systems dependent on less energy inputs. That would reestablish/reboot the power base and reduce the GINI coefficient. We have gotten too far out of line with the power imbalances in this country; democracy no longer works, and if the supreme court votes this week to allow corporate personhood through unlimited campaign finance, I fear that that will be the last nail in our coffin. The power differential continues to grow unchecked, moral hazards are rewarded, positive feedback loops intensify, just like a hurricane. The next thing you know, the system is totally undone, and because of the disparity between the haves and have nots, it creates a revolution, rather than a peaceful collapse more on the lines of Russia in the 1990s.

But, as I have said previously, I have no hope at all that we will choose the deflation/default action that protects the base and perhaps the real economy at the local level. I am positioned for inflationary destruction of the global economy as we all go down in flames together, but from the bottom up, which is much more destructive in the long run. This path is a given, because of the power imbalances and the positive feedback loops that are driving them, among many other causes. Derivatives truly are WMDs, as our means of exchange becomes more and more disembodied from energy and production/consumption. Since I'm positioned for politicians to do that thing they do, which is to kick the can down the road and create massive inflation, I'm going to get richer. I win, you lose. Write me a letter from the new Debtor's Army, little girl. Too bad.

Me, I'm willing to lose my companies, my fortune, default on all of my swaps, and start over so that this country can have a chance building a real economy at the local level with a philosophy of descent and simple living. Yes, holstering our stimulus light saber would mean my head would come off, but I've lived a good long life, and I'm willing to forfeit the rest of it for the good of the little people and the real economy and the hope of a new way of life to go with it.

I happen to subscribe to the notion that would be pretty much the only way forward from where we are now.

Now I propose a thought experiment:

Suppose that there was a technology that could be deployed at the push of a button and it would randomly decimate the human population, the button pusher would be equally at risk, but the planet would be saved and the survivors would have a decent chance of building a sustainable world. Would you be willing to push the button?

deja vu.

This question would make a good campfire of its own.


I'd push the button. Push it twice. We totally blew it this time around. I'd gladly trade a few billion people for a second chance for the species.

Would you be willing to push the button?

Vishnu ask Bishma if he would be willing to sacrifice his race to protect Dharma. Bishma said he'd have to think hard about that - and had been long thinking hard about that. Vishnu tells Bishma not to interfere with the game, no matter how bad it gets. [I might have that all wrong.]

As a thought experiment, there is a lot to be said for total global thermonuclear war. The planet will certainly recover more rapidly than it will from the continued economic activities and ecocide of the human race. Maybe even a few humans might survive, chastened with some new creation myth about fire and hubris.

there is a lot to be said for total global thermonuclear war.

Shall we play a game?

I have already pushed the button.

It is already too late for the Virus known as Humans to try and stop future events.

Seems as though there is an underlying symmetry to life.

Good turns to bad, and evil destroys itself.

Yin and Yang?

2. Is blogging, public analysis, social critique, etc. found on the internet, more of a social relief valve than a real attempt at changing the future?

I would say yes, otherwise, for one example, there would be at least an internet attack on Henry Paulsons blogsite.

Ohmygoodness, snakes alive!!, Wrong Paulson!! Sorry there Henry, but gee won't the real Paulson please stand up?

"...fiat marker capital accurately reflects remaining available flow rates of natural resources..."

Somehow it seems just a bit jarring even to imagine Jim Lehrer painfully extracting that sort of lingo from the jargonic infundibulum of academia, much less actually saying it with a straight face... ;)

Excellent interview. I was just a bit puzzled as I hadn't heard about it in the mainstream media before.
How about getting it into one of these, for example the next Yes Men edition of the New York Times?

I've recommended getting the yes men involved here before

Sorry to write this Nate, drivel sums it up.
My English teacher pulled me up for writing such nonsense at 10 years old, you know lots of long words, oh, ah ;¬)
Get yourself an education scientific preferably.
Worst of both worlds:
I am all for using literacy to interest and amuse thereby getting logical or scientific method theories to a jaded reader.

No problem. I've asked you twice to write a guest essay and gotten no response. As no one else volunteered either this week, I came up with my own. Nothing else was really working so I tried satire. I'll try something else next time..;-)

Sorry, I didn't read the fictional interview out of principal. It may have been the greatest piece of literature ever written, but I am wary of sometime, somewhere quoting down the line that either Buffet or Paulson said one of the lines in the interview. I tend to retain at least some of the things I read.

A "fictional" exchange would go something like this:
Me: "I know Buffet said that"
Them: "Show me"
Me: "Just Google it"
Them: "It said it was a fictional account"
Me: (turns red)

Otherwise, I don't care how big a set of words you use. All language is just shorthand for describing thoughts. A big word used in context properly triggers a logical connection instantaneously.

I honestly never thought about that. (having people misquoted in future). If it does happen it will be 6+ standard deviations from the rest of their quotes that it will be considered an outlier and discarded..;-)

People in general are not as smart as you Nate.
No offense to Web Hubble.

You know
mr WH has stated here on tod, he cares for neither satire or BEER, my two staples
Thank tod, thanks nate, thanks WH
You've all made my life a bit strange

That had to be an inside joke.

They nailed me on the beer angle. See today's DrumBeat.

Webhubble makes a very good point..... the use of such fictional devices is not sound given the nature of der web

Nate, I think there's some soundness in WH's objection, but don't take it to heart/head; even I made a mistake once.
Some quite amusing liners you came up with in there though.

Blimey must have missed those posts.
Thanks for making the effort I guess product is required to keep the flow rates up.

I will try to mug something up in the next few weeks, sharpen your knives ;¬)

I disagree.
number one.consternatuion dismay disastermarketcrashriots.. eventual explainationthey weredrugged slowreturnto bau Plane crash kills all three on way to congressional hearing.Move along folks here is nothing here to see ,you're holding up the traffic, move along,nothing here to see...

number two. I believe the net put OBama over the top during the primaries and in the White House.The newspaper and tv news generations will be gone soon ,in historical terms.If the net survives as an open forum nobody will ever control anybody else's thoughts again by owning the local paper,radio station,tv station,newsstand.Kids are giving tv up for the net fast imo,could be wrong on this but when I visit where kids are,they are at thier computer rather than in front of the boob tube.People living thru major changes in the way the world works generally don't notice because such changes don't happen quite fast enough to be really noticed by anybody but writers.The rest of deny whats in front of us,even the readers /commenter here on the Oil Drum because we want that damned kettle to boil INSTANTLY.

When we old fogey farts are gone there is no telling what the kids will do.I get it.The net is a Black Swan apparently to many/most but not to Nate Hagens or he would not have posted or reposted this piece.Smoke is probably coming out of his ears right now while he trys to figure out how the smartest single collection of bloggers on the net can miss something so obvious.It's simple Nate.
But of course you have to figue out a way to quantify it,or you can't prove it's reral or something along those lines.Not my problem ,that,I don't get to go to conferences and present papers.

Our monkey brains are not geared to the right time scale or time frame to see it,until after it has happened.Then only a few of us will believe it because the rest of us must wait for someone in authority to tell us it's ok to change our minds.

I expect Greenish will elaborate on this for us if he is feeling ok and has time.(best wishes ,Greenish!)

Failing to LISTEN to the old guys on thier way out would be a major mistake.Taking any thing they say at face value would be an even bigger mistake.Listening to the true believers of any of the new religions such as biomass solar geothermal genetic engineering would be the worst mistake of all.
Best keep an open mind !

Hearing the guys out who are on thier way out just might prevent a disastrous detour down some dead end road with no place to turn around.As a guy who drives a big truck occasionally I can STATE WITH CONFIDENCE that this is not a GOOD THING. BACKING UP FOR A FEW MILES IN DOUBLE LOW REVERSE CAN BE ONE HELL OF A TOUGH JOB.


I expect Greenish will elaborate on this for us if he is feeling ok and has time.

Thanks Mac, but you're carrying the ball nicely. I'm pulled away for now due to being the person primarily responsible for my elderly mom's care. It's an interesting intersection of responsibilities, thinking about how to protect a planet while caring for a loved one. Many of us, I know, have to deal with this in some way.

Carry on, I'm not leaving just yet.

If the net survives as an open forum nobody will ever control anybody else's thoughts again by owning the local paper,radio station,tv station,newsstand.

The net will not survive as an open communication vehicle. It is in fact a far better instrument of surveillance than any other means of communication so far invented. And even if that were not so, thought control - the urge to merge with the herd - that's something entirely different.

There is no need to back up for MILES IN REVERSE if one never makes a mistake - if one CANNOT make a mistake. Olfarmermac, take your drugs and repeat after me: the road is straight, there is no blind spot and there is no oncoming traffic. There, don't you feel better now? Be with the herd. Embrace the herd.

cfm, The Growlery, Gray, ME - no more TOD for a bit, back to my novel.


Thanks,I feel a LOT better now.Certainly I do have a tendency every once in a while to forget or escape reality and some day the peasant mob may toss me on a bonfire as a result-or else tptb may send a carload of those nice big muscular but soft spoken hospital aides and a deputy with an involuntary commitment order for me to make sure I am safe and well cared for-it wouldn't do for me to go running around loose frightening the chil er imeant everybody with talk of famine or plague or war or a shortage of cheap chinese disposables would it?

In one or another of the classic anti utopian novels some of the characters learn that they can fake the symptoms of overdose and get thier drug dosa-excuse me I meant ration -reduced so as to be able to carry on an interesting conversation,etc.

I wish I had time to read them again.

I fully agree that the net is a double edged sword and that it could eventually become the net that cannot be escaped.My own guess is that it will remain an open forum for quite a while,and that democracy will survive in a form more of less recognizable to you and me for a few more decades...... in the richer parts of the West at least..of course in China the net is already a closed forum.

In a world well supplied with energy that would not run short-the breeder reactor scenario writ large perhaps- I can easily envision a world wide and stable big brother scenario that once well established might last many times as long as any previous culture.

what is the age group of kids not watching TV?

1. The current paradigm will continue until it's absolutely impossible to continue any longer. The wheels need to come off completely before most people are willing to recognize the problems; not just getting a wee bit stuck as we have so far. It matters little who speaks up about the problems, they will be ignored until things have completely failed.

2.It will do much to help prepare a minority of people. But it will not influence the majority because it is so easy for most people to completely ignore.

3. Everyone sees the issues through the filter of their own experience and self interest. Thus, those at the top in Business have virtually no chance of seeing our problems as they really are (though they may recognize certain aspects, they will not have the full picture). Those at the top in Academia do have a small chance because criticism is not always completely discouraged and they generally do not have a small fortune to guide their thought processes. If Jesus said you cannot serve both God and Money, I'll add that you cannot serve both Truth and Money.

Everyone sees the issues through the filter of their own experience and self interest

Right on, and so we can't complain too bitterly about the banksters when we can't even throw a bum a dime. And hey who knows, but maybe tomorrow that may be your old man, or you, or me. Who the bankster is, of course.

3. Is there any time in history in the liminal space between paradigms, where the most authoritative voices of the dying model were the ones to articulate the model was dying? IOW, if things are badly wrong, wouldn't listening to the most successful people at the top be the wrong strategy, as they got to that position from being the most ambitious/skillful/invested in the current paradigm?

The fall of the Soviet Union would be the place to look for this. It's my understanding that the KGB which, through it's network of spies, had a better understanding of the system's failure than others, were among the strongest supporters of Gorbachev's reforms.

There was growing disillusionment with the Communist dogma among the elites since the violent suppression of the Hungarian revolt which the suppression of Prague Spring only deepened.

I don't know if any of them ever articulated this. Perhaps Yeltsin? But there was an erosion of the ruling paradigm that helped bring down the Communist state.

Nate, this is a great piece. My loudest LOL was triggered by Yergin's "Asian Phoenix" reference. The irony here in Australia is that the economics guru (and China officionado) advising our government on its climate change response included a "Platinum Age" in his reference case emissions and economics scenario. We wrote to him before he finalised his report, to no avail. His first draft included a withering attack on Limits to Growth. Another irony is that, if world oil production did actually peak mid last year, his final report was released after the peak.

"Platinum age". Goodness! What a huge PDF file.

Getting into bed with China has its cost.
Still, they can run a civilization.

There have been break-throughs with the second best catalyst, nickel.
It needs an alkaline environment.

I cannot find the report card from CSIRO on the accuracy of The Report to the Club of Rome.
I think it showed that there was little co-relation between the prediction and reality.
What do we make of that? Was the report card faulty?

Some light reading can be found here. http://www.csiro.au/csiro/search/CSIROau.html?query=%22Club+of+Rome%22&a...

Here is the abstract from Graham Turner's (CSIRO) A Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality, published three months before the final Garnaut report:

In 1972, the Club of Rome’s infamous report The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972) presented some challenging scenarios for global sustainability, based on a system dynamics computer model to simulate the interactions of five global economic subsystems, namely: population, food production, industrial production, pollution, and consumption of non-renewable natural resources.

Contrary to popular belief, The Limits to Growth scenarios by the team of analysts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did not predict world collapse by the end of the 20th Century.

This paper focuses on a comparison of recently collated historical data for 1970–2000 with scenarios presented in The Limits to Growth. The analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compares favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the “standard run” scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st Century. The data does not compare well with other scenarios involving comprehensive use of technology or stabilizing behaviour and policies. The results indicate the particular importance of understanding and controlling global pollution.

This is what Garnaut had to say about "resource limits" in his draft report:

Concerns about natural resource limits to growth were raised by the Club of Rome and others ... Similar pessimistic expectations about the availability of natural resources to support rising human living standards had been raised by eminent economists from time to time in the first century of modern economic development (Malthus 1798; Jevons 1865).

These prophesies failed spectacularly, mainly through underestimation of human ingenuity and of the capacity for markets to support far-reaching structural change. The failures immunised the economics profession against acknowledgment of the possibility of resource supplies being a fundamentally important constraint on growth. But the possibility at least that natural resource constraints might force fundamental changes in consumption patterns has been seeping into the professional consciousness, as real commodity prices across a wide front have now been sustained at exceptionally high levels for longer than ever before. High commodity prices across the board, despite the US economy teetering on the edge of recession, are concentrating many minds. The prospects of much higher levels of income for high proportions of the world’s people later in the 20th century focuses minds even more keenly. Will resource constraints prevent total global output from increasing by 17 times from the levels of the early 21st century that are already stretching supplies of many natural resource–based commodities?

... Could limits on minerals and fossil fuels could also constrain growth? Table 4.3 looks at the number of years that reserves and the known reserve base can sustain production at current and at assumed 2050 levels for several important mineral resources and fossil fuels. By 2050, global output is projected in the reference case to be almost five times its current level. For this illustrative exercise, it is assumed that the production of metals and minerals is at three times current levels in 2050. Predicted production of oil and coal in 2050 is based on US Energy Information Administration projections. These rates of production are compared to estimates of reserves and the reserve base. Reserves are that portion of the reserve base which can be economically extracted. For fossil fuels, the reserve base is the total global ‘ultimately recoverable’ resource base, including an estimate of undiscovered resources. For metals and minerals, the reserve base is that portion of the global resource which has been identified, whether or not it is economic. (For the precise definitions used, see the notes to Table 4.3.)

... This analysis suggests that mineral and fossil-fuel shortages will not be a constraint on growth in the first half of this century. ...

One of the hardest of all things is to imagine a new paradigm so different from the present, when so much of our language, social customs, ideas of wealth and scientific beliefs are arranged to only talk about the old one. Part of what you hang onto are glaring contrasts, like the evident physical resource depletion and the present paradigm's faith in limitless resource substitution. That helps anchor people to the new reality as they grope for how to build a new paradigm for it that can spread. I've been anchoring my thinking that way using the contradiction between organizing everything to stabilize growth and the evident growing unmanageability of things it naturally produces.

Still, people all tend to get caught in their own "little worlds", the hives of like minded people and the group-think they develop together. We have all these little closed cells of self-fulfilling world views, all seeing "the truth" as whatever point of view has been profitable for them in their own little sphere... To break through that what is needed is to craft the new paradigm out of the contradictions that aren't hidden from them, using whatever "glue" one can find in the common traditions worth saving, and make little pieces of a new view that can become contagious. Then they'll spread and leak through the cracks. One can't predict response patterns, but contagion is how nature begins all kinds of lasting organizational changes I think.

1. I can imagine Krugman, possibly, writing a column saying

"there's something I've been really missing that has to be talked about... we seem to be running into a physical wall of complications"

for example. He might have that level of intellect and daring, I don't know.

2. Most blogging communities don't have strong traditions of literacy, numeracy and critical thinking about history and change. I think the time scale and complexity of the issues about the oil bubble fosters that, though. Still, we're all a bit like ants, somewhat erratically running around bumping into things, waiting for nature to show us the new pattern everyone is picking up on.

3. It could happen. People have death bed conversion all the time it seems, and designers commonly spend months of effort on things only to throw the whole mess out once they understand they should have been asking a different question. This shift is bigger than most though, seeming to require people figuring out why their belief in the long standing "tried and true rules" has been missing the reality.

I tried to resist posting this because I have nothing to say but I completely agree.
I probably am starting to sound like some sort of a panderer but I am not.
I simply think you are correct that nature is the model that we should emulate.
You have obviously done a lot of thinking on this.
I am still accumulating base knowledge but I know that I am heading in the right direction.
Of course to complement your reasoning could be nothing more than self flattery on my part!
Like you said.......we see what we want to see.

Thanks! The task of accumulating base knowledge, and exploring the environment for better questions, is always the first part of studying any complex natural system, and finding its natural parts and wholes. As some point it becomes productive to see any whole system as somewhat analogous to any other, and so questions you're familiar with in one environment can suggest new questions to raise in others.

An example is general patterns of running out of stuff, that are similar for all environments and searches. Improving your search can keep the flow going, but at some point always results in each find lasting for shorter and shorter periods of time... When I was reading in yesterday's Drumbeat about the Russian Oil find topping out already it reminded me of that and raised a question about, how our technologies are also lasting for shorter and shorter periods of time too...

PF, could you click on my user name and drop me a short email? I'd like to be in direct touch.


(and say, I'd generally like to recommend that people attach an email contact to their member information, unless in the witness protection program or something).

"Suppose that there was a technology that could be deployed at the push of a button and it would randomly decimate the human population, the button pusher would be equally at risk, but the planet would be saved and the survivors would have a decent chance of building a sustainable world. Would you be willing to push the button?"

There is a button. Its name is entropy. The button has been pushed--by Mother Nature. Behold--the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It's the ultimate Ponzi Scheme.

Yeah, but I think he meant button as an instantaneous response to a whim.

I'm well aware of the entropy button but I did indeed mean the instantaneous response.

Ok so then it is democratic and not cherry picking and across the board.
So it will preserve the current ratio in the gene pool.
Ok Why not. It is tantamount to drawing straws.......right?
I can't think of a fairer way of deciding.

By the way decimate means to reduce by one tenth.

By the way decimate means to reduce by one tenth.

Yeah, I know I took both Latin and grew up in a country that uses the metric system. I was not being literal in this particular case. I also think that reducing the global population by one tenth probably isn't sufficient to solve our problems. Unfortunately I'm not quite sure I have a grasp on what the real number might be, eight tenths perhaps?

I have no idea either but I am also not willing to be the one that decides what that number might be.
I think that we are not players but in play.
I think we are along for the ride and the best we can do is try to ride the wave.

My first thought was that we had one tenth LEFT, for sure removing one tenth would not be enough.

"Suppose that there was a technology that could be deployed at the push of a button and it would randomly decimate the human population, the button pusher would be equally at risk, but the planet would be saved and the survivors would have a decent chance of building a sustainable world. Would you be willing to push the button?"

Is there anyone here who wouldn't push it? If not, why not?

No, I wouldn't push the button. If I did, I would probably vaporize the fusion guy that was going to save us all, or the new Buddha or Jesus that was to enlighten us. Better to let "nature" run its course.


If it "would randomly decimate the human population" wouldn't that just delay the inevitable by a few years? Surely we would have a population with all the same characteristics, just fewer people for a short while? Within 150 years we'd probably be back to 6 billion so not very sustainable.

Now if i could select the people that would be a completely different question with a different outcome.

Why do you think that you have the ability to "select"?

Firstly, it's remarkable how well you've channeled Buffet. His turns of phrase are his signature, and you've nailed that totally. How did you do it?

I love this Campfire question because, as far as I'm aware, the entire subject of how one should go-a-prospecting among the public is not dealt with yet, as far as I know, outside of marketing.

You can go to TED, for example, and get all sorts of answers on how to launch ideas more effectively to the public. I enjoyed talks by Godin et al, but Dave Eggers' talk on the viral nature of pairing volunteer tudoring storefronts with pirate shops is really quite remarkable. (imo this is a vaguely reliable principle of surrealism, which we must remember prior to popular useage was actually an art technique). The specific Eggers talk is here.

Now to answer your campfire questions more specifically: 1. If such a press conference were to take place, then it would be taken very seriously and it would be a significant news lead for several weeks. The reason: they are authorities and it is law that we are persuaded by authority. That does not change, when authority figures change their mind. However, there would within several weeks of such a press conference be a blowback from many quarters. 2. It's not clear what does impact real events so it's not clear what doesn't. I don't trust alot of the certitude in this area. I'll just mention one point: repressive governments have historically feared one medium more than all the other: writing. 3. Usually only in art do you see authority figures not only ready but horny to give up the old paradigm, as creative destruction is of course the name of the game. It's much easier to be free when you only need a marginal audience to sustain yourself. Once you need a good chunk of the public to stay afloat, you are sunk--or--you simply have to wait for them to make a shift. It's a hard question to answer: the most clever will always deliver a one-two punch - they will sell you on killing the old paradigm, but then maintain it cleverly in a new guise. My real answer is that it's not a choice authority figures can generally make. When you are deep inside the paradigm, you can't see any light from the outside. If Buffet thought the next wave was some new form of capital-ism he'd surely pounce on it. I just don't think (he) can see it. There is also the problem of branding. So when authority figures renounce the paradigm, many in the public have the following reaction: Oh I guess he's gone all potty and soft on us.


it would be taken very seriously

No it wouldn't.

You forget the adage ...
In the Valley of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is nuts.

Roscoe Bartlett is a US Congressman.
He has stood up in the chambers of the US Congress many times to warn about Peak Oil. No one listens.

This really happened.
(Unlike Nate's fictional story above, the Roscoe Bartlett story is a true and sad one.)

...what would happen?

Their "reputations" would be ruined. Kings are knocked off their pedestals every day. Think politics. When the public disagrees with your values, you are gone.

Yes but what the public agrees with or disagrees with is manufactured.

Only partially.

There are many things the public likes which are endogenous: love, laughter, enough food, interesting things to do, challenges, sleep, animals, being respected, health, etc. The spin is on the best way to obtain these things, and also that these things aren't enough so we need more.

Ok...hmmmm let me think about that for a while.
Manipulation of inbred desires.......This is your area of study no?


What does that mean? Humans are influenced by everything around them (to the extent their senses allow). It is not a value judgment, just a reality. Influenced by both science and science fiction, nature and technology, genetics and environment.

the tv

I went cold turkey on TV in 2005 I am 100% certain that I am no longer being influenced by the constant bombardment of messages to buy this or that because it will make me happy! When I stop in sports bar with friends and I must watch a commercial on the screen in front of me because it is almost impossible to avert ones gaze, I'm struck by how the messages are almost overpowering and I actually find myself being temporarily seduced by the ads. It is not at all a pleasant feeling. I have to consciously fight the urge to agree with the desires that are being subliminally created in my psyche. Considering that I am aware of what is going on I still find myself suddenly yearning for fulfillment because of not having the latest and the greatest gizmo that everyone and his mother now must have and I'd better hurry to get it because it soon will all be gone and I alone will be without it.

Go watch the BBC documentary and Aldous Huxley interviews linked above by AngryChimp

Getting off tv would have to be one of the twelve steps in any program designed to help one progress on the path to wisdom.

I got rid of my last television sometime around 1979 or so.Never watched it much previous to that any way.Every once in a while someone questions me as to whether I have read even a fourth of the books I have actually read.

The sad thing is that they never realize they could have done the same if (One) they were fairly fast readers and (Two)had just spent the time reading that they actually spent watching tv.

I am still a long way from wise but I have at least accumulated a knowledge base sort of like the River Platte as described by some long dead cowboy -"A mile wide but only an inch deep"

Some paradigms change very rapidly - others are very change adverse.

I submit that the combination of a modern bicycle and a pathway of smooth asphalt is the most important technological achievement of mankind (ever - for all of recorded history). Bicycles (actually human powered vehicles - HPV) could save humanity from the 4 horsemen.

China was known as a nation of cyclists. In a wink of the eye, China has embraced the car culture - perhaps very soon selling more cars than the US. The personal transportation paradigm shift was abrupt and universal for most Chinse people.

In the US, nearly every attempt to promote utilitarian cycling is met with huge opposition. In my county, it took over 10 years to get a bridge on our bike path. Zero county dollars will ever be spent for bikes - this is a stated policy of the county board of supervisiors. Of couse, there are counties, in other states, that have a different record regarding bike accommodation - but not many.

Trying to convince the average person to ride a bike to the supermarket is a totally lost cause. The reality is that HPVs are totally rational from a number of perspectives. But the idea (even among TOD folks) that we should use a bike in place of the car for local shopping is basically unacceptable (and, of course, that motorists should embrace cyclists as planet saviors).

A possible paradigm shift from a motor powered vehicle to a HPV has nothing to do with science and logic - it has everything to do with the folks who mold our thinking processes. It has everything to do with a variety of emotional factors.

My grandmother is 94 years old. She does not have an auto and she does not have a thermostat. I go to her house twice a week and get a grocery list from her, and go buy her groceries and take them back to her house. I do this in a vehicle that gets @ 15 mpg. Should I require my 94 yr old grandmother to ride a bike to the grocery store (13 miles one way!!) and should I sit by the phone waiting for EMS to give me a report, and possibly waiting for EMS to call me and tell me where to claim the body?

Just wondering..........

No - but you could take the bike


Hi FMagyar,

What a great photo! Must be France - when cycling in France I would see women biking along with a baguette crossways in a "rat trap" type of rear carrier rack - wondered how much road stuff got on the bread!

As much as I like HPVs, scooters can do a heck of a lot of work with a small amount of gas. When working in India, I saw plenty of examples of this.

I am personally ready to buy an electric assist bike as soon as the price is right and there is a local dealer with parts on hand.

I have too far to go and too many hills to climb to use a plain bike.

Hi Alakazaam,

It seems that DeeperCheaper proves my point about the difficulty of some paradigm changes. He is attempting to use an irrelevant emotional appeal for BAU in spite of the obvious arithmetic flaw in his argument. Even if 20 or 30 percent of the US Population is physically incapable (or weather prohibited) from cycling for local shopping, what bearing does than have on the great majority of people who could easily do this most of the year? Beyond shopping, what about the benefits of kids (especially older teens) cycling to school if motorists truly accepted cycling as a valid form of transportation - and our culture considered cycling "cool".

Yes. His grandmother, at 94, is just about old enough to remember the times when one did not go to the supermarket.

My mom, at 86, is having a difficult time giving up her car, even though she is in one of the best places in Maine to do that. We kids set it up that way when we brought her here to die. [Let's not mince words.] What she is running into is not access issues, but class issues. Sociology and biology. This is my mom, grew up in Switzerland during WWII, knew the sound of the men walking to the fields at 4am to cut the hay with their scythes. My mom that dumped the pix of GWB into the trash at the SS office. Still wants her car. It's biological - an energy extension - can't give it up.

Hi Dryki,

It's biological - an energy extension - can't give it up.

My dad had to give up his drivers license at 90 - he felt his life was ruined and he never was the same until he died at 96. But, I disagree that it is "biological" - IMHO, it is cultural. But for our parents it probably does't matter - they just want their car.

In India it is (or was, the last time I was there) a popular activity for wealthy men in declining years, to abandon all material wealth and family and become a wandering pilgrim, begging for food, and walking vast distances to various shrines. Often they make the task deliberately more difficult - I remember one man decided to crawl on his knees. He was widely venerated. Cars are addictive, but the urge can be overcome.

I could be bothered to calculate roughly how much gasoline/diesel that would save, but I really don't care. You would also have to adjust for the effect of reducing car traffic. If traffic moves faster, then less gas will be used by those who are driving. This will also have a negative feedback effect on cycling - the less drivers there are, the more desirable driving will be because of the decreased amount of traffic. However, the positive feedback effect is that cycling is often more pleasant than driving, so people might not rebound to the car as much.


This guy got the idea right. Bikes are awesome; they are cheap, simple, durable, use far more heavily standardized parts than cars do and most repair jobs can be carried out with a tool kit that costs less than the bike. Bikes contain zero exotic materials and have low embedded energy. All you need is steel and energy and rubber. Aluminum is a nice bonus.


Hi LNC3,

Neat links - I did bookmark them for future use.

I don't think that there will be any meaningful return to cycling (HPV) until gasoline is very expensive and probably rationed. Even then, I suspect that scooters and other such devices will be much more popular than bikes. It has been several years since I worked in India, but at that time scooters vastly outnumbered bikes on the common roads. China had a different history regarding bikes.

Hiya Dave,

I actually thought Deeper was a troll who was throwing out such a silly argument. Notice he didn't say that his grandma should be driving herself to the store, but leaped to the conclusion that she should be bicycling. LOL.

I darned myself to heck for replying to him(to quote Adams), but we did discuss some interesting things thereafter.

I gave up my ICE completely almost 2 years ago now in favour of public transit and bicycles. I biked to work (12k one way) until I had a nasty fall, but I plan on getting back to it once physio is done, likely when the snow is off the road next spring. I do my shopping with my bike. I use a kiddie carrier, the trailer with the tarp cover, to carry my things so they stay clean and undisturbed during my ride home. Works like a breeze. Winter means I have to integrate shopping with other activities, do it more frequently. Interestingly, since shopping by bike I tend to buy large supplies in the summer - to stock up - so less dog food, or canned goods, or other bulky stuff, has to be bought in the winter. It is a very agrarian model. The biggest drawback so far to no ICE has been that I need a warm pak in my bag on really cold days so the tender veggies don't freeze on the way home (seriously)

As an aside, I often wonder why the huge discussion regarding getting to work all sweaty is occurring. I would think the answer is obvious. Just don't pedal so fast. It would seem that even cycling is caught in a fasterfaster mentality. It takes me approx 1 hour-70 minutes to get to work, and only on very hot days do I have to wash up due to sweatiness. I am usually about as stressed as if I have taken a long walk. I just plan my time so I don't have to race like a maniac to get there on time. Of course I understand that I have climate on my side for this one. However, if one expects a bike to be as fast as an ICE, or if it has to be ridden in 'bike attire' and we all have to zip along like couriers (and no one cares if they sweat), then my thought is that the paradigm has not changed. Or at least, like Deeper, we are approaching the framework in a skewed manner.

Anyway, about 6 of us ride to work (out of a population of about 100) Not bad percentages. Half of us are 'gung ho' bikers, with gear and timers and showers before work. The other half just ride our bikes, know roughly when we will get there, and wear regular clothes. (we have options in lockers in case we get splashed or fall, etc) The second group is always there, the first group comes and goes as the exercise fad changes.


Hi Alakazaam,

6 of us ride to work (out of a population of about 100) Not bad percentages

Excellent percentage! Great to hear about your experience with cycling - maybe more stories like this will encourage others.

I'm retired now, but a job that I had for 24 years that was also suitable for cycling about 9 months of the year. For most of that time it was just a six mile ride each way and I never needed to shower or do anything else extraordinary. Later on, we moved and the commute was much longer - so, I rode my bike 12 miles to a park-and-ride lot and then took the bus into town. That also worked well.

I have a friend who has never owned a car. He rides is bike every single day and does the bulk of his shopping by bike. He lives in a small-to-medium sized village so most of his shopping needs can be met within a 5 mile bike ride. Even here in Wisconsin he rides his bike about 10+ months a year (a bit more than I do). He is now 80 years old.

Hi Dave,

Ithink maybe about two thirds of the problem with people using bikes for the little nieghborhood trips for which they are so well suited is nothing more than pride and status.

Nearly everybody I know casually looks down at me because I drive a ratty old compact pickup truck-they would really get thier cookies if I were riding a bike.

Since they think this way it's obvious that the chance they will get on a bike and ride down to the corner for a six pack is zero.

And most of us are not really interested in showing off our flabby bodies in the street near home even if we could be convinced that getting some exercise is a good thing.I know a half a pearshaped dozen small town lawyers well enough to say hello.I would bet that not a one of them would ride a bike a mile down main street for two hundred bucks for fear that potential or actual clients would look else where for legal advice.Serious responsible alpha people just don't ride bikes in this culture.

I see a good number of people on bikes -kids not old enough to drive and adults riding for exercise and recreation.I cannot recall seeing a single seriously over wieght person on a bike this entire summer even though biking would appear to be an excellent choice of exercise for obese folks-easy on the joints and feet.

Hi Mac,

responsible alpha people just don't ride bikes in this culture.

For the most part, I'm sure you are right. However, around here we do regularly see very chubby folks trying to use a bike to lose weight and I have biker friends who are highly successful lawyers and even one who is a neuro-surgeon.

But this is just the point I was trying to make about a cultural paradigm change being so difficult in most cases. Why is it so hard for "alpha guys" to understand the problems coming down the road and start thinking rationally about energy, environment, health, consumerism, etc.? Most of these same guys are probably fairly intelligent and have a pretty good idea of how the world goes 'round.

Perhaps if they really understood the problems facing our children and grandchildren, they would be more open to change - but maybe not - there are very powerful factors that influence or attitudes even when these attitudes may eventually bring harm.


I will hazaerd a guess that your alpha buddies are in relatively good shape and that they never ride to the office or the mall but rather on reasonably quiet and pleasant streets.

Hi Mac,

Yes and yes. There is no doubt that utility cycling is dangerous and out of fashion. Actually, I still do most of my local shopping by car unless I feel the store has reasonably safe access and parking for bikes - most of them don't and it is just too much of a hassle to get there on a bike.

I have no intention of being a martyr for any cause - but that does not stop me from advocating for a better way to do things.

I find it quite different here. Several hundred bicyclists cross my corner each day, at all hours. No real harassment of bicyclists (stupidity though). Basically a growing acceptance of bicyclists as part of the urban fabric.

Best Hopes,


Hi Alan,

Basically a growing acceptance of bicyclists as part of the urban fabric

Let's hope the example of your city encourages others. Although we have some very dedicated people here who make a great effort to promote cycling - the result is a mixed bag at best. It is still an act of personal courage to get in and out of major shopping centers.

However, we have some of the best rural cycling of any place in the entire world. The farmer's lobby was very powerful at one time and got every little back road paved - many of these roads now have very little motor vehicle traffic. And, they are very scenic.

The Metropolitan Bicycle Coalition "secret" dream is to model the growth of Bicycling in Copenhagen in New Orleans. Not Portland Oregon :-)

Quite frankly, it is possible :-)

A basic comity that rules life here is certainly part of the mix.

Best Hopes for Bicycles, Streetcars and high Walkscores in New Orleans,


I just found out that 800 Bourbon Street scores a perfect 100 on walkscore. Maybe those drunk Texans are onto something >:-)

Bicycles (actually human powered vehicles - HPV) could save humanity from the 4 horsemen.

That inspired a fairly vivid literal-minded fantasy in my head.

I've done a lot of cycling, and some horse trekking, and I'm pretty sure I could shake off the four horsemen on a bike. As long as they didn't run me down in the initial charge. The worst case would be if they were charging uphill at me, because a horse can generally beat a bike uphill. But on the flat or, better, in descent, I'd be safe. And at the end of the day I'd be many miles ahead of them. No horse can keep on galloping all day.

Hi alistairC,

I'm pretty sure I could shake off the four horsemen on a bike

uhmm... if you don't mind, I'd like to borrow this line from your fantasy - strange mind you have - but very creative!

Watch this BBC documentary:


It wouldn't matter what a handful of people said in an interview. It is not enough to recreate reality for the mass. With the power of the media a new "zeitgeist" can be manufactured but it would have to leave the current power structure intact. Those in power now will never voluntarily give up their power.

I think Huxley's world has been here for quite some time. It is the silence about the truth that allows those in power to maintain it. The western world is population of slaves and they love it. Huxley could see it for what it was.

With the limits of growth pressing down on all of us I think the question that needs to be addressed is this:

If we are living in Huxley's vision of the world, due to the limits of growth, are we about to transition into an Orwellian world where overt force is going to be needed to maintain the power structure?

Emmanuel Goldstein [Bin Laden] is already on the job.

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

Great Huxley interview:





amazing. I often forget that the issues we discuss here are only more detailed and urgent than in past generations - but the general themes have been being discussed for a very long time.

After years of pondering these issues I think this video is the closet I have seen yet to the actuality "reality" we are now living.


The power of print and video media have made it possible to impose a different "reality" upon the great mass of people living in or under the control of the western world than the one they are actually living.

Below Huxley sees the same thing as the video above but uses "dodo-farmers" as his parable.

"At this point we find ourselves confronted by a very disquieting question: Do we really wish to act upon our knowledge? Does a majority of the population think it worth while to take a good deal of trouble, in order to halt and, if possible, reverse the current drift toward totalitarian control of everything? In the United States and America is the prophetic image of the rest of the urban-industrial world as it will be a few years from now -- recent public opinion polls have revealed that an actual majority of young people in their teens, the voters of tomorrow, have no faith in democratic institutions, see no objection to the censor­ship of unpopular ideas, do not believe that govern­ment of the people by the people is possible and would be perfectly content, if they can continue to live in the style to which the boom has accustomed them, to be ruled, from above, by an oligarchy of assorted experts. That so many of the well-fed young television-watchers in the world's most powerful democracy should be so completely indifferent to the idea of self-government, so blankly uninterested in freedom of thought and the right to dissent, is distressing, but not too surprising. "Free as a bird," we say, and envy the winged creatures for their power of unrestricted movement in all the three dimensions. But, alas, we forget the dodo. Any bird that has learned how to grub up a good living without being compelled to use its wings will soon renounce the privilege of flight and remain forever grounded. Something analogous is true of human beings. If the bread is supplied regularly and copiously three times a day, many of them will be perfectly content to live by bread alone -- or at least by bread and circuses alone. "In the end," says the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky's parable, "in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, 'make us your slaves, but feed us.' " And when Alyosha Karamazov asks his brother, the teller of the story, if the Grand Inquisitor is speaking ironically, Ivan answers, "Not a bit of it! He claims it as a merit for himself and his Church that they have vanquished freedom and done so to make men happy." Yes, to make men happy; "for nothing," the Inquisitor insists, "has ever been more insupportable for a man or a human society than freedom." Nothing, except the absence of free­dom; for when things go badly, and the rations are reduced, the grounded dodos will clamor again for their wings -- only to renounce them, yet once more, when times grow better and the dodo-farmers become more lenient and generous."
~Huxley,"Enemies of Freedom"

Maybe a good campfire topic would be how is it possible to show the "people" to see the invisible chains that now bind them into slavery.

"None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes."
~Johann von Goethe


Maybe a good campfire topic would be how is it possible to show the "people" to see the invisible chains that now bind them into slavery.

Tis possible to lead the plow horse to water but you can not force it to drink.

And then assuming that you could make them see their chains how would you set them free? How ethical would it be to do so if at that point you end up with billions of individuals who for all practical purposes have literally nothing, and nothing left to lose?

I agree that people do not want to have their illusions exposed. They use them as scarecrows to frighten away reality. I was just thinking it would be an interesting thought experiment.

Kubrick had warned in his 2001: A Space Odyssey that we would soon become no more than maintenance men to our own technology. We have obviously passed the point of no return. There is no option to turn off this machine, electromagnetic civilization, without the death of millions. As Malthus had earlier spelled out population has indeed grown faster than the means of sustenance. I believe the current statistics show that at least 1/3 of the worlds population is now starving. Only though massive military spending has the western world been able to maintain its privileged advantage. The world has spent $1100 billion on military spending and the US alone accounts for $623 billion of this.

The slaves don't want to see their chains. The reality of the situation is enough to make slavery into freedom. Freedom from the reality of our own existence...

"It is to the effect that our seeking the truth in human motives for acting and thinking is destructive. With the truth, one cannot live. To be able to live one needs illusions, not only outer illusions such as art, religion, philosophy, science and love afford, but inner illusions which first condition the outer. The more a man can take reality as truth, appearance as essence, the sounder, the better adjusted, the happier will he be. At the moment when we begin to search after truth we destroy reality and our relation to it."
~Otto Rank

There is no option to turn off this machine, electromagnetic civilization, without the death of millions.

You mean billions, I presume. After all, what is a million here or 6 or 12 million there? And NOT turning off the machine, then wnat?

We have ringside seats. We can interfere with the pitch and the catch. We can even run out onto the field.

Courage and conviction - sigh - without courage and conviction we are lost. Imagine, 1000 people around the planet with courage, conviction and resources - 1000 points of light as GWB might have put it. That we do NOT have the courage to mount that resistance against the obvious ecocide, what does that tell us? It doesn't matter that Justice Roberts is about to hand over everything to the corporations.

The most important technology of the 20th century according to MIT's "Tech Review" - the AK-47. Who has an AK and will use it? When? Against who? The hungry black woman or the corporation/government agency partnership making us all hungry? How do you spell organized crime and fraud? Obama, Paulsen, Bernanke, the Fed, Congress, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, FHA, Fannie Mae, AIG. Who is ripping you off, who is eating your children and their children? And if you are not willing to stop them, tell me, how do your children taste? Do you prefer them roasted or just left to rot?

Which is really the bottom-line reason we don't stop the rape - because we-the-entitled prosper from the rape and pillage. Humans laid bare, worse than cannibals.

cfm, the Growlery, Gray, ME

"Which is really the bottom-line reason we don't stop the rape - because we-the-entitled prosper from the rape and pillage. Humans laid bare, worse than cannibals."

Economic growth and progress is now a religion. Commercial industrialism promised Western man a paradise on earth that replaced the paradise in heaven of the Christian myth. Psychologically the salvation we are seeking here on earth is the same as any otherworldly myth.

We even have the a ritual to consummate it:

“Money provides a fixed, external, recognizable sign for what would be confused, contradictable operations: ritual makes visible external signs of internal states. Money mediates transactions; ritual mediates experience, including social experience. Money provides a standard for measuring worth; ritual standardizes situations, and so helps to evaluate them. Money makes a link between the present and the future, so does ritual. The more we reflect on the richness of the metaphor, the more it becomes clear that this is no metaphor. Money is only an extreme and specialized type of ritual.”
~Mary Douglas’s

Our Kings [capitalists] and their Priests [economists] have billions worshiping the god of economic progress via the ritual of money. Humans needing to ward off being swept away by the maelstrom of our fears cling tightly to our gods even as they slaughters millions. Like all religious fanatics we will sacrifice everything including the biosphere to secure our faith.

Geza Roheim famously stated that civilization originates in delayed infancy and its function is security, the colossal efforts made by a baby who is afraid of being left alone in the dark. Being aware if his own demise [self-conscious] has left man to be a stranger in the world, separate, lonely, and frightened. We need these illusions to secure our existence, to frighten off concious awareness of our existential condition...

“Man is cursed with a burden no animal has to bear: he is conscious that his own end is inevitable, that his stomach will die. [Herein we have the origins of civilization] As soon as you have symbols you have artificial self-transcendence via culture. Everything cultural is fabricated and given meaning by the mind, a meaning that was not given by physical nature . . . . [but] the terror of death still rumbles underneath the cultural repression. What men have done is to shift the fear of death onto the higher level of cultural perpetuity . . . . men must now hold for dear life onto the self- transcending meanings of the society in which they live . . . a new kind of instability and anxiety are created.

In seeking to avoid evil [(death)], man is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than organisms could ever do merely by exercising their digestive tracts. It is man's ingenuity, rather than his animal nature, that has given his fellow creatures such a bitter earthly fate."
~Ernest Becker

The natural world of evolving species is about combat, warfare, eating and finding energy wherever you can. The only morality is that which has arisen amongst social animals and that morality is rarely projected outside the species.

Humans wish for and try for a different reality as when we try to save porpoises from mindless slaughter in fishing nets or wash birds after the most recent oil spill. We let our kindred spirit overflow into the natural world, especially to those species that also show some moral characteristics, in some instances these species practicing a morality greater than man's. But in the end, a line must be drawn, for we must kill and eat each other and procreate to the extent of our abilities.

Now we are all trying to grab as much as we can in the theatre of the absurd, before someone else does, because historically it could mean the difference between life and death, the difference between continuing the trajectory of our lineage or not. I too wish we could save the idyllic pre-industrial nature while keeping just enough technology to maintain a relatively comfortable life but our combative and murderous nature insures that there will be no sustainable plateau, only a steady competition that will utilize all energy and material available to it.

Do we recognize the possibility of a different dynamic for mankind, sharing, cooperation and so on or is there a reason that when fair rules of engagement are established half of the population begins to find a way to circumvent them to gain an advantage. We truly have competing traits within us and the success of one, (cooperation, rule of law) only provides an opportunity for plunder to the other (lying, cheating, stealing). Our current financial overlords are a perfect example. A rich and dumb populace is a tasty meal for the likes of Goldmansaurus Rachs.


Would you mind posting the titles of some of your favorite literature?You have obviously turned up some gems that I have missed.

It's sad and depressing but I tend to agree with you pretty much across the board.

And as I see it your pov stands up well when examined for compatability with Darwinian biology/evolutionary psychology ,these being the only real yardsticks we have for taking our own measure.

Our delusions are adaptive,no question.Most of us would commit suicide or rape or murder or just sit in a corner until we fatally dehydrated without that ultimate natural sedative known as cognitive dissonance.

From some where in The Brothers Kamarazov, paraphrased,(the characters are discussing religion /ethics/morality)"If there is no God... then.... anything goes"

From an intellectual pov I have no trouble understanding how a man without a moral anchor such as a belief in a God could make the intellectual leap(notice I DO NOT SAY jump to) to the conclusion that in the grand scheme of things, IF there IS a scheme to things,humankind as individuals are of no value or consequence whatsoever.

Other than our egos,what evidence do we have to the contrary?

I cannot see that we are important for any reason but we flatter ourselves by thinking so.

When we are gone this planet will still be orbiting the sun exactly and precisely as if we had never existed.

Remember Twain's bug that having lit on the pinnacle of the Eiffel tower reasoned that the tower existed to provide it with a perch?

So we are going to die off.So what?Hundreds or thousands or maybe even millions of species suffer die offs every day.This is not big news.

Most of the species that die off do so locally only ,in the biological short term, and recover.

More than likely some of us will survive.

If not the universe is not going to declare a day of mourning.

One of the best writers I have come across is Ernest Becker. He takes hundreds of years of philosophy and psychology and attempts to combine them into a science of man. After reading three books from him my entire perspective on life has changed.

"Birth and Death of Meaning"

"The Denial of Death"

"Escape from Evil"

While reading you will discover what to read next.

Here is a good summery of his work by Sheldon Solomon:




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

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

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

~Ernest Becker, The Structure Of Evil

Tell me, what would the point be in a million or billion years of a civilisation in a static state?
No, technology and our electromagnetic civilisation, is really all we have to work on collectively that's a worthy goal.
If our technology eventually dominates and replace us, then so much for the better, there is no point in staying still forever.
I am a technologist. And as far as I'm concerned, money and economics is just a tool to increase the efficiency and rate of technological change.
There is no Kubrick superman or starchild on the horizon, that is a fantasy. All we have is technology.

No, technology and our electromagnetic civilisation, is really all we have to work on collectively that's a worthy goal.... All we have is technology.

yuck. creepy.

"what would the point" "there is no point in staying still forever"

Exactly!! The human animal can not live without MEANING. Technology is not going to replace us, it is going to kill us. Human history began when we began to "care" for our dead. From that point forward man's activity on earth has been to deny his pointless and purposeless existence, to deny his death. This was known long ago and the story has been told in the parable of Adam and Eve. God said to them do not eat from the tree of knowledge for you will surely know you are going to die. Man became aware of "good" and "evil" symbolic concepts, good bring more life evil bringing death and sickness. "They became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. This is why they felt "naked" and "ashamed": they had evolved into human beings, conscious of themselves, their own mortality, and their powerlessness before the forces of nature and society, and no longer united with the universe as they were in their instinctive, pre-human existence as animals."

In our long list of gods our new modern GOD [technology] said onto us:

"And You Shall Know No Other God But Me"


“By being aware of himself as distinct from nature and other people, by being aware - even ever dimly — of death, sickness, aging, he necessarily feels his insignificance and smallness in comparison with the universe and all others who are not "he”. Unless he belongs somewhere, unless his life had some meaning and direction, he would feel like a particle of dust and be overcome by his individual insignificance. He would not be able to relate himself to any system which would give meaning and direction to his life, he would be filled with doubt, and this doubt eventually would paralyze his ability to act – that is, to live.”
~Erich Fromm, “Escape from Freedom”


We don't hear enough from you.

Your post reminds me that it is time to read Huxley again,its probably been twenty years or more since.

So let's continue the show...:

Jim Lehrer: Now that the station break is over, my thanks to the older panelists' discussion. We now move on to a younger generation that is equally aware of the coming Paradigm Shift.

Please welcome Tiger Woods, Justin Timberlake, and Hannah Montana [Miley Cyrus] to the show..[audience applauds].

Jim continues: In earlier pre-show discussions with these youngsters, they jointly asked me to specifically mention first the unique ecological quality to their names, as this was key to their self-recognition and self-revelation to what lies ahead. Tiger, will you please kickstart us off...

Tiger: Thxs, Jim. As most know, I have two youngsters now. I also intensely considered my future destiny as prophesied by the key figure in my life, my dear, departed Father, Earl Woods...

The Chosen One

.."Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity," Earl says.

Sports history, Mr. Woods? Do you mean more than Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, more than Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe? "More than any of them because he's more charismatic, more educated, more prepared for this than anyone."

Anyone, Mr. Woods? Your son will have more impact than Nelson Mandela, more than Gandhi, more than Buddha?

"Yes, because he has a larger forum than any of them. Because he's playing a sport that's international. Because he's qualified through his ethnicity to accomplish miracles. He's the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Tiger continues..: As most know, golf is a doomed activity as we go postPeak, and more courses and resorts are closing daily as they go belly-up financially. At my level, we already see corporate sponsorship funds rapidly shrinking and Pro-Events being eliminated from the Pro-Tour. I can see the writing on the wall quite clearly, even my golf-resort development company is struggling. My global Tiger-brand is not enough as BAU collapses.

I realized my first name would be a sad ecologic mocking if tiger habitats and tigers go extinct, and a human-managed golf course is the exact ecologic opposite of a natural and vibrant woodland.

Thus, I am announcing my allegiance to Optimal Overshoot Decline where we, the younger generation, need to go to provide the best chance for reshaping the Dieoff Bottleneck. My company is already buying tractors and plows for permaculture conversion of golf courses, and we will soon be announcing the 'Tiger Tools' brand of home gardening equipment as we cease our money-losing production of golf equipment. My initial 'Tiger Signature' product will be a high-tech, lightweight, but very strong and durable wheelbarrow made of carbon-fiber, titanium, aluminum, and other human-powered tool-innovations are forthcoming as developed by my company.

Justin, why don't explain our joint collaboration?

Justin Timberlake: Thxs, Tiger. Just like Tiger, I too realized that we would be likely and easy targets by enraged, cold & starving postPeak mobs, as defined by the anarchy of Jay Hanson's Thermo/Gene fast-crash scenario. Again, same as for Tiger, my legions of global fans would quickly become my tormentors...

..If you were born after 1960, you will probably die of violence, starvation or contagious disease...

Justin continues: ...as my vast fortune would provide no protection from the Overshoot. I realized that pledging my wealth towards mitigation, and my art towards 'Peak Outreach for All' is the best strategy going forward.

My next album, to be released next week, is entitled, "Little Blue Marble', and includes songs to best awaken the young to their transformational task ahead. I hope many volunteers, of all ages, will join me as I work with Tiger plowing golf courses and carefully dis-assembling abandoned big-box malls so that the steel can be used for both standard and narrow gauge buildouts. IMO, it will be great fun working and dancing in the fields singing the key songs, "Earthmarines" and "SpiderWebs", along with my cover version of the Harry Chapin Classic, "Remember when the Music".

Okay, enough from me for right now. Miley, go ahead...

Miley Cyrus: Thxs guys. I think I have the toughest Overshoot task of all, which is convincing women of all ages, but especially the young and reproductively fertile, that the most important, overarching goal is negative population growth to match the negative sum game of all resources being depleted. My 'Hannah Montana' fortune is thus pledged towards reaching this end so that we can postPeak minimize the numbers of mothers crying as their babies are dying...

Jim Lehrer: I'm sorry Miley, but we need to momentarily pause for a Yeasty beverage commercial that again highlights doing the famous tradition of the Peakoil Shoutout. This is of course known to all from the Presidential Directive mandated recently...we will return in a few moments to continue this discussion with Tiger, Justin, and Hannah Montana.

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

This could happen and nobody would notice anyway.
Lehrer and PBS have already gone in depth on how the financial system really is a ponzi scheme that was committing mass insurance fraud and repackaging assets they knew were bad. But the mainstream didn't pay any attention.
This interview could happen in real life exactly like this, and still only we would be talking about it.
The mainstream media would ignore it, regardless of the high profile people. Why broadcast coverage on something that's not really entertaining and is going to upset your customers, especially if it's something that's easy to ignore in the short term.
It would take the president to give a speech and explain it to the public. But Carter already tried something like that, and he was voted out.
Obama is a peak oiler, it's pretty clear when he's said quotes like this in his campaign.
"Without a doubt, this addiction is one of the most dangerous and urgent threats this nation has ever faced. We know that we can't sustain a future powered by a fuel that's rapidly disappearing, not when we purchase $700 million worth of oil every single day from some of the world's most unstable and hostile nations, Middle Eastern regimes that [will] control nearly all of the world's oil by 2030...We know that we can't sustain this kind of future."
"Breaking our oil addiction is one of the greatest challenges our generation will ever face. It is going to take nothing less than the complete transformation of our economy. The transformation is going to be costly, and given the fiscal disaster we'll inherit from the last administration, it will likely require us to defer some other priorities. It's also a transformation that will require more than just a few government programs. Energy independence will require an all hands on deck effort from America."

But he's an intelligent pragmatic politician as well and he knows he can't openly say to the public civilisation is in danger of collapsing. He knows how to handle the media, he knows he can talk about peak oil using language well beyond what can fit in a soundbyte or he'll be attacked as a peak oil nutball. But at the same time he knows how to say to peak oiler he's on their side.
The real challenge is congress, expect most of the efforts to deal with peak oil, being marketed under the guise of climate change and energy security.

I urge you guys to calm down some what. I think our message is getting through to the elites, it's the general public that is totally oblivious and that's a real problem.

I wouldn't be so hard on the general public-when one examines the numbers, it is clear that the USA is flat broke. All these programs Obama is touting depend upon the kindness of foreigners. Yes, the public is oblivious about a particular subject (oil depletion) but many oil depletion experts appear to be oblivous about the financial situation of the USA and the unlikelihood of a meaningful governmental response to oil depletion because of financial constraints. Obama does not appear to be able to make the difficult choices about which major areas of government spending to slash in order to be able to properly deploy funds. It is very easy, effortless in the case of the USA government currently, to borrow money yet all this borrowing condems the financial future as the funds are not being deployed into important economic upgrades. Basically, the USA government is using credit cards to pay the rent and buy cheeseburgers, without any plan for the future as far as I can see.

Well, the US government debt to GDP ratio is around around 70% right now. Compare that to Japan which is rocking up past 200%.
If you look at a list of nations by debt tp GDP ratio, the US actually comes off as better than most.
In an emergency, the US could double their debt and still be doing better than Japan is, the US is not as deep in the hole as it's commonly thought. And if the debt rises beyond what the government can afford, what happens is 1920s Germany. Hyperinflation. Not the destruction of a civilisation, but something unpleasant.

Now on to Obama, those quotes in my earlier post were actually from his speech on August 4th 2008 about energy.
http://thepage.time.com/prepared-remarks-of-obamas-energy-speech/ Read it, I was over joyed that a politician actually grasped the problem so well.
And he did go into his plan on how to deal with peak oil, although I'm not sure how much of this plan has survived into his presidency or if it will do the job, but at last somebody in power is trying to do something! And what did the media focus on in his speech about peak oil and energy efficiency? One comment he made about keeping tires inflated. There you go, that's an example of the mainstream media and the publics obliviousness.
I'll paste some excerpts from his speech here, his plan.

"First, we will help states like Michigan build the fuel-efficient cars we need, and we will get one million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years.... With technology we have on the shelf today, we will raise our fuel mileage standards four percent every year. We'll invest more in the research and development of those plug-in hybrids, specifically focusing on the battery technology. We'll leverage private sector funding to bring these cars directly to American consumers, and we'll give consumers a $7,000 tax credit to buy these vehicles. But most importantly, I'll provide $4 billion in loans and tax credits to American auto plants and manufacturers so that they can re-tool their factories and build these cars. "

"The second step I'll take is to require that 10% of our energy comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term – more than double what we have now... I'll also extend the Production Tax Credit for five years to encourage the production of renewable energy like wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy... By 2022, I will make it a goal to have 6 billion gallons of our fuel come from sustainable, affordable biofuels and we'll make sure that we have the infrastructure to deliver that fuel in place. Here in Michigan, you're actually a step ahead of the game with your first-ever commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, which will lead the way by turning wood into clean-burning fuel... we will also need to modernize our national utility grid so that it's accommodating to new sources of power, more efficient, and more reliable."

"The third step I will take is to call on businesses, government, and the American people to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade... We will set a goal of making our new buildings 50% more efficient over the next four years...
In just ten years, these steps will produce enough renewable energy to replace all the oil we import from the Middle East. Along with the cap-and-trade program I've proposed, we will reduce our dangerous carbon emissions 80% by 2050."

"If these sound like far-off goals, just think about what we can do in the next few years. One million plug-in hybrid cars on the road. Doubling our energy from clean, renewable sources like wind power or solar power and 2 billion gallons of affordable biofuels. New buildings that 50% more energy efficient."

It remains to be seen what he actually will do, the economy might have disrupted his plans. He may decide some options have no chance in congress. But I am confident he understands the necessity and the stakes. So far there have been some tiny steps. The cash for clunkers program to increase the fuel efficiency of the car fleet. And spending on electric grid and renewable energy in the stimulus package...

And it's not just the US elite that coming to terms with peak oil, it seems China very much is too.
China is buying up energy assets around the world, from oil fields in Iraq to natural gas in Australia. And they are making the largest investment in renewable energy of any country.
I'm in Australia, and I hear our politicians talking about our declining oil production and the need to develop our natural gas resources for energy security, sounds promising.
So far we have politicians who realise there is a problem and are taking action. We need more than these baby steps though. The public needs to be as aware as the problem as they are of climate change, so large scale action would have political support. This is going to take political activism on our part, the politicians can not do it because votes don't go to activists.

Excuse me, but would you when conducting a study on oil leave out light sweet crude and just focus on tar sands because that is exactly what you have done with regards to seeing public debt alone.

The US Total Debt to GDP ratio is 375% of GDP.
The consumer is broke.
Unemployment is soaring, 20.6% according to John Williams of shadowstats.
The US Budget deficit is projected to reach 1.8 Trillion this year, quadruple Bush's last year
It's total debt which counts, all your fancy projects and ideas won't get off the ground.

The system is too broke and rotten to the core. You have less then a year to prepare for collapse.

I actually agree with that, and I think it's the main cause for this recession.
There's a great blog by an Australian economist who talks about how bubbles of consumer debt is what causes depressions, when the economies debt level rises above what is sustainable, people reduce spending and use their income to pay off debt, and the economy declines.
But I was more talking about, that the US government is actually in fairly good financial position, that is to say that as bad as the governments finances are, it's still far from maxing out it's 'credit card'. The government is actually in a better financial situation than it's citizens. So it has the capacity to deal with a major disaster, like a world war or peak oil, at least now. This stimulus package, TARP, may serve to train the public for the sort of massive government response peak oil will need when it comes.
The previous generation survived a depression and a world war, I wouldn't be automatically pessimistic about this generation. Although neither would I be automatically optimistic...

Norman Borlaug RIP


Quoted in the Atlantic Monthly Jan 1997

...Borlaug has long warned of the dangers of population growth. "In my Nobel lecture," Borlaug says, "I suggested we had until the year 2000 to tame the population monster, and then food shortages would take us under. Now I believe we have a little longer."


There's a crucial change in UK govt (lab/con) policy.
Instead of trying to reverse the "recession" by boosting public spending (Keynsianism), they are preparing to make major cuts instead.

Keynsianism is now dead. The end is seemingly nigh.

Looking ahead to Copenhagen, this is only going to work with serious money on the table.

The UK has made a start - but $100bn is just a drop in the ocean.


When will the US stump up?