Tricking and Treating the Future

We live in some pretty incredible times. The realization that we have borrowed so much from the future (US current deficit is 41% of expenditures!!)that we'll likely not be able to pay it back using our current economic model and existing wealth distribution is slowly starting to dawn on people. At times the implications seem overwhelming. But this Halloween Campfire post is a quick reminder that despite our massive challenges, (and that we are human, imperfect, and mortal) - we can find joy, fun, meaning and satisfaction in many everyday, low throughput ways - we just have to decide to do so. That's both the trick and the treat.

Snap-Apple Night, painted by Irish artist Daniel Maclise in 1833. It was inspired by a Halloween party he attended in Blarney, Ireland, in 1832

On this Hallow's Eve, let's take a brief respite from brain spinning analysis. What is Halloween anyway? From Wikipedia:

The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half". The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores.

"Trick or treat?" The word "trick" refers to a (mostly idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. In some parts of Ireland and Scotland children still go guising. In this custom the child performs some sort of show, i.e. sings a song or tells a ghost story, in order to earn their treats.

As we move into the 'darker half' of the limits to growth movie that we've all been watching and cataloguing, it is important to realize that a) we have the power to 'trick' our brains into obtaining meaning and satisfaction in unconventional ways and b) we can 'treat' ourselves to fun, laughter, and joy - even in the face of energy descent.

Adaptation executor

We actually still have plenty of energy. The main problems are not technology or BTUs but a misguided faith in a financial/economic system that will require at least 20 years for a viable lower energy quality/quantity transition and that must continually grow to keep society stable en masse. Despite micro-economic mantra that human agents are rational actors, the body of research is growing suggesting we are adaptation executors, in effect interacting with our cultural cues to perform activities that give us the cocktail of neurotransmitters that caused our ancestors to successfully be our ancestors. Ergo, we don't run around trying to increase the survival of our genes- but we respond to available cultural stimuli that pull us in the direction of matching historically parallel behaviors. It is important to note that pursuing economic fitness is a 'trick' of our evolutionary wiring - we (at least in America) live in a culture where monetary wealth is (perceived to be) correlated with social status, which is one of our core sub-cortical behavioral drivers. A carton of Haagen-dazs contains more fat and sugar than literally anything in the ancestral environment. No human with a purposeful goal of maximizing their alleles' inclusive fitness would ever eat a tub of ice cream unless they were starving. As such, individual organisms, after they are birthed, are best thought of as adaptation-executers, not fitness-maximizers. (I wrote a much lengthier description of the science underpinning this, in The Evolutionary Origins of Resource Overconsumption.)

This will (hopefully) be a recurring theme in addressing resource source and sink constraints. As our assets and liabilities become better sorted out, it will be an open question what sort of skills/genes/assets portfolio will equate with social status in the future - I think it a virtual certainty that piles of virtual wealth in the next 20 years will have less impact than they have had in the last 20 years - suggesting to me that a) we must substitute quite a few lower entropy choices into our weekly routine activities once this cultural carrot begins to shift and b) we can play a role in what such a shift looks like.

Inglehart Curve - how do we get to the red circle? (voluntarily)

This can only be taken so far - no matter how we choose to get our enjoyment or status we still have to eat, stay warm, use energy. Sociological research suggests however that once these basic needs are met we get very little incremental utility from increases in throughput. As such, to target the red circle in the above graphic might be a logical societal (and individual target). But how do we get there?

This concept not limited to hominids only

The USA has 4% of the world population but consumes 50% of the worlds prescription medicine annually. IOW we use 12.5 times the pills than the average non-American human. I suspect in many cases we can attain the same results from 'tricking' our brains into different behavior - we could do the same with energy and resource use. To use one example, the presence of a pet increases ones serotonin levels in similar ways to eating chocolates or taking an antidepressant. For me personally, I spend a lot of time with animals, and nature, and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. I now have 4 cats, 3 dogs, 4 horses and 11 chickens (lost 2 goats and 2 horses in last year). I enjoy watching the interactions of the different personalities and different species. All are friends, to varying degrees, though I'm well aware this comedy menagerie is subsidized by a ready, steady supply of kibbles in the cupboard and barn. And, actually, with exception of my flights to various concerts and the rare vacation, I use dramatically less energy than I used to - probably less than 1/3. It is important to note that I didn't make this shift to 'save the planet', but to improve my own life. We all want a better planet, but focusing behavioral change at the selfish/immediate bottom line will work much better than theoretical far-off 'facts'.

This week we attended a Halloween party at a friends farm. Kids were invited as well - it was a potluck. I decided my costume to be a deerskin Daniel Boone jacket with a buffalo horn hat, dog collar and leash, held by my girlfriend dressed as a dominatrix. Though funny in itself, it became even more so after arriving at the party - where roughly 40 adults and 80 kids were milling around - it turned out the 'costume' aspect of the party was for the kids not the adults. The hostess, upon seeing us said in a flat tone "nice costume - and only mildly scary" - after a couple 6 year olds stared at me and looked like they were about to cry, I removed the dog collar and leash and retreated to a corner with double fisted beers. (In the future, I'll recall my brother's advice that I could go to most Halloween parties as myself and folks would think I was wearing a costume).

Peak Credit and Peak Oil are a big deal. Let's work hard on ascertaining and mitigating our energy, resource and economic situation - but let's try to balance analysis with humor and levity from time to time. (I'm actually planning a trick to play on Rembrandt right now...)


1) What sort of lower throughput activities are you pursuing in order to improve your life facing general resource decline?

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots?

3) Any good tricks?

One of the most important single tools in answering these questions in my own life is (drum roll) ...the bicycle. With a few calories of food energy a bicycle lets me commute, exercise, and pursue recreation (on occasion simultaneously!). I'll probably never have the money/freedom to truly shuck off participating in consumer/fossil fuel business-as-usual. I don't see alt energy investments, organic farming, gold 'n' guns survivalism or major activism in my future. I do see bicycles and am very thankful for them.

Artist David Byrne's new book Bicycle Diaries is heartening reading along these lines. There are movements everywhere toward car free streets and in favour of serious investment in cycling infrastructure. A good cycling environment does not just stem from a quirk of geography like flat land in Holland or sunny weather in Florida. It stems from serious intentions (political will) and tangible investments. I hope we see much more of both as we ride the fossil fuel draw down.

Below is an article from the Toronto Star about the opening of the first part of a rail trail. This is exactly the type of thing we need to start seeing basically everywhere: bike-centric, local infrastructure adaptation/reuse.

Hume: Trail Breathes Life Into Dead Zone

...the West Toronto Railpath Park, a 2.1-kilometre linear green space that picks up from what were once train tracks. As designed by landscape architect Scott Torrance and architects Kim Storey and James Brown, the $4 million trail/park brings new life to this part of the city and its 250,000 residents.

It will also help reconnect areas that have been isolated for decades. Indeed, the underlying irony of the project lies in the fact that an element that long divided the city will help knit it together.

"It was a dead zone," Torrance explains. "We have opened it up, made it safer and brought it back into the city.

Hi Stvo,

Great comment! And your point:

we need to start seeing basically everywhere: bike-centric, local infrastructure adaptation/reuse.

As much as I whole heartedly support this idea, I still see this as a major challenge.

This photo is of our family vehicle :-) and a bike/ped bridge we got over the Milwaukee River. The bridge made it possible to get over the river without the dangers involved in using the motor vehicle bridges. But, this was a long hard battle to get this constructed. We continue to develop our really excellent trail, The Ozaukee Interurban Trail, but it is a battle every step of the way to get funding. We are very fortunate to have a few gov officals and business leaders that got behind this effort - but it only happened with substantial private donations from many local citizens (along with state and federal grants). The county will not use any local tax dollars.

I suggest that any community that would like to become more bike-centric that it will take a lot of grass-roots organizing and political action.

I think more of this kind of thing is bound to come about in North America. It kind of has to. Some of it will be coerced by the energy situation and it won't be easy, no. On the other hand, the benefits from this kind of infrastructure are just too good and too numerous for societies to remain ignorant and indifferent. Some of the transition will be driven by the sheer joy of moving down a rail trail. Remember, joy is a pretty good incentive for a lot of people. I think that's what this article is about. Humans, despite TV, Xanax and consumerism are actually wired to seek it out.

I've ridden two-dozen or so rail and canal trails and I have to say I loved every one. A rider gains a relatively level route that follows a sensible path between points of value. Because the old steamers didn't like tight turns and climbing hills the grades and curves are quite gentle, perfect for cycling. Its easy to cover distance and a rider can choose the level of exertion that suits them. Along rail trails there's usually historic town centres, curiosities like old steel or masonry bridges. I see plenty of birds and animals and have more scenic moments than I can remember on the rail trails. Several times out on rail trails I've hit stretches where there was no road infrastructure nearby. It's actually kind of stunning to realize that most of us live in a landscape so transformed by the automobile that we cannot even imagine it any other way. Rail trails are a major reversal of that lack of imagination, that's why they can be misunderstood. Where they are understood the benefits seem to have a snowball effect.

If there's gonna be fun after the Peakocalypse, it'll be on the rail trails. I want to have a small-scale solar-powered organic farm up a rail trail. I'll ride produce into town on a cargo bike via rail trail. Nodding to my neighbours on horseback. Just a fantasy? Maybe, ...maybe not?

I bet that tandem recumbent can really move on a rail trail!

Cheers & keep up the good work.

HI Dave,

Gorgeous bridge - and handsome family, as well.

It might be interesting for TODers to hear about the process and expense of the bridge - time and whatever else was actually involved.
Perhaps write up for a "Campfire" contribution?

In case others would like to learn from and follow your excellent example. :)

"One of the most important single tools in answering these questions in my own life is (drum roll) ...the bicycle. With a few calories of food energy a bicycle lets me commute, exercise, and pursue recreation (on occasion simultaneously!)."


And in response to a remark further down the line: hilly terrain is not a show-stopper (except maybe in your imagination): modern bicycles have such low gearing possible, and so easily achieved, that going up the steepest of hills is just a matter of continuing to pedal. Yeah is takes a little longer, but then on the return you get to go down the hill, and you are rewarded for your effort going up. So forget about the hills. Anyway slowly cranking up a hill is a good time to ponder what you need or want to ponder.

Added civic benefits to cycling are cleaner air, safer streets, and quieter neighborhoods.

I am 73, and I cycle on fairly hilly terrain about 20-to-25 mi. per day six days a week. I do not bike for exercise but rather for pleasure. It simply feels good. I am also part of an informal cycling group that occasionally numbers up to 15+ riders. The riders range in age from the mid 20s to the 70s (I'm the oldest). We usually stop at a local coffee shop for refreshments and conversation. Having a group of close friends with healthy habits and a generally positive outlook on life is far more important then most realize.

I used to bike into town on a very choppy up-down road. I never got my shifter or my chain to be completely reliable, and sometimes my brain wasn't either, so I would stall out on a climb from a wrong shift, or have to get my hands dirty putting the too-stretched chain back on the sprocket.

I also nearly killed myself several times not just by dumb teen-ager stunts induced by bike-euphoria- but by missing a shift or jumping a chain at high speed. And besides, I myself was getting decrepit and weak and needed an easier way.

Anyhow, I had the motives to think about shifting- something better than the standard many-sprockets- many shift things we all use today. And since new energy widgets is my game, it seemed natural to give it a go.

So the fun part- after dozens of oft-ludicrous tries, I finally got to a drive that has no chain, no shifter, no sprocket, and requires no brain. You just pedal, and it adjusts to the road conditions as you keep your comfortable cadence. And oddly enough, it can go down to zero wheel speed, and of course the associated infinite torque ( or whatever the mechanism can tolerate), all at high mechanical efficiency.

A young, smart, eager guy is turning this into a business as I speak, so if you think it's baloney, as any proper engineer should, just wait.

But fun.

I'm giving some thought to your questions between trick-or-treaters

1. Lower throughput activities: I've been learning some of the old-timey skills. Some of them really do improve my life: how else will I get elderberry-summac jelly if I don't make it myself? I made a treadle wood lathe and have been making bowls. It turns out that turning green wood is very satisfying and sensual: a waterfall of warm, moist turnings pour over my arms, and they often sre fragrant as well:) It turns out that my friends love getting a stylish and useful burl bowl as a gift; we're all happy with this one.

2. Moving to the red circle of the Inglehart curve: maybe this one will be easier after the collapse of industrial corporations and the end of television: current advertising is very effective at making people dissastisfied with their current possessions and/or relative status.

3. Good trick: a friend was riding a broom as part of her witch costume. A friend lit it on fire behind her back; we about croaked trying not to laugh until she realized why it was so warm behind her:))

Errol in Miami

Hi Errol,

Thanks for the "share."

re: "treadle wood lathe"

Do you have a photo of it you could post?

I'm curious!

And you say the bowls are "green wood." Does this mean they dry out over time? Or, how do they hold up?

Hi Aniya,

I don't have a photo (made note to myself:) but here's a link showing several historic and current springpole lathes:

Yes, "green" wood means it is still wet. Wood usually cracks because one area has dried (and shrunk) before another area has. Bowls have relatively thin walls with both sides exposed to the air, and so usually dry without cracking (tho sometimes with interesting distortions! :)

The important thing about green wood is that it is MUCH softer than when dry; back when muscle power was the norm, our ancestors did as much cutting and finishing as they could with the wood wet.

Errol in Miami

My answer to Question 1:

Use my bicycle as much as possible. I am lucky to live in an area with a mild climate and few hills. At home, it is less than a mile to the center of town, so most errands that don't require carrying large loads can be done by bike. Although my workplace is 50 miles away, I can get there using a combination of the bike, bus, train, and light rail. It works better than it sounds, and on a day when traffic is bad (Fridays), it doesn't take much more time. A side benefit is the increase in stamina I have after a year of using the bike as much as possible. I think that being in good physical condition will be an asset in the not too distant future.

nate, thanks for the partly light hearted post. i just finished reading all the comments from the excellent Stoneleigh interview from yesterday. Interesting times before us. Wonder how the commenters find the time. Its fall and the transition from summer to winter gardens is underway and i just can't seem to catch up.

1. Old man, retired for many years, on fixed income, with health issues. Glad it has finally started. Been afraid I wouldn't be around to see the first innings. Hasn't been hard to cut back since i was never a heavy user of petroleum. Heat with wood. cook with wood in winter, etc.. Rarely venture out into the world except to shop for a few staples. hoping for a quick hard crash, because if it is delayed humans will burn every damn blade of grass trying to survive. Worry about my grand kids though. times are going to be tough.

2. Inglehart curve. Been living below the curve for many years. just wondering when old worn out men who refuse to flash the usual fitness capitalistic consumer indicators are going to come in vogue. Don;t know how the adjustment will occur, but i sure as hell don't think it will be from the top down. grass roots are already well established in many areas. the worry is those that are just partying on.

Here is my temporary transportation my food and entertainment. Introducing Buster.
Po. From the mountains in Colorado!!

A real pleasure in my life is acoustic music. Learn to play, it's fun and useful. I'd suggest upright bass, mandolin, fiddle, dobro and even accordion, guitar players are a dime a dozen.
I've been playing music for better than 25 years but only started playing old timey stuff about 10 years ago. The folks who took my under their wing(s) had an umbrella group of musicians (The Post Industrial String Band) of about 10, that played most of the contra dances in about a 300 mile radius. A reel low brow hoot.

Now that sounds like fun! I'm one of your "dime a dozen" guitar players, but after 35 years I'm thinking about diversifying into banjo and possibly mandolin :)

forgot mention banjo, a great instrument.

Oh man, you are hitting a chord with me. On my sillier days, I often wonder what peak oil means for my pedal steel playing. Those 6L6s, Boss pedals, active volume pedals, complicated mechanical bridge shifters needing constant lubing don't seem as sustainable as an acoustic instrument... not to mention the giant, plenty-o-headroom, 10+ vacuum tube, power-sucking amps.

Back to boring old regular guitar, I guess. :(

But I look forward to spending more times reading more novels and less time reading TOD online.

I've only met two pedal steel players in my life, if can play that thing competently, the gov. should start cutting you checks and honoring you as a national treasure.

Learning how to play the violin and fiddle has been on my to-do list for quite some time...

Another dime-a-dozen electric guitar player here, but the mini marshall solid state amp (or drum machine) powers up with 5 watts, and that can be accomodated with the small pv panel.
pocampo, IMHO I don't feel rodeo is much entertainment for the animals exploited.
Vegetarian now 2 years and befriended my Hindu neighbor after 15 years, now trading currys, org.peppers from the garden. Birdwatching and preserving native habitat is the only way to tweet.

1) What sort of lower throughput activities are you pursuing in order to improve your life facing general resource decline?

I'm originally from South Africa - my lifestyle there was much lower-throughput than my US lifestyle, so I almost feel like I'm re-aquainting myself with former skills. My mum taught me to knit, sew, crochet, do tapestry-work, and cook from scratch. My dad taught me how to use basic tools - hammer, saw, drill, spirit-level, paintbrush - thank goodness, my old house always needs something - and how to be an entrepreneur. My grandmother knew how to pluck chickens - I can barely recall watching that. Although, I have to say, there's nothing worse than the feel of uncooked chicken skin...

I used to be in Pharmacy, and have a pretty good grounding in both contemporary medicines and herbal remedies. I've always been an avid flower-grower, so to progress into growing food and medicinal herbs wasn't hard, and I know how to prepare creams, tinctures, syrups and lotions by the old methods.

My US detour into high-throughput living was via corporate software consulting and a computer science degree. I left all that behind, to start my own small bookkeeping business.

I figure we're a long ways away from zero taxes...and then, I know how to calculate without a machine. I still remember how to hand-wash, line-dry, ride a bike, paddle a canoe, and connect with neighbors.

I have 3 cats, a dog, a couple of fish in a tank, a worm-bin in the basement and 2 beehives. Miscellaneous other critters live in and around my house...field mice and orb-weavers, to name a couple...

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots?

If you mean US society, I'd say top-down will never happen. People don't really understand the difference between real freedoms, rights, and privileges. There will be a lot of yelling about the right to drive, the right to a hamburger 24x7, the right to have the lights on anytime of the day or night.

I suspect, after long observation, circumstances will drive behaviour. Bottom-up grass roots movements will be helpful - I'm trying activism in my neighborhood, but the general level of denial is substantial. I think people will either come and ask me what to do when things get tough, or trash my yard.

I write for the local newsletter - topics include innocuous items such as getting the basement cleaned up, in case of a power outage in the summer, since it's cooler down there (code for energy descent). I'm working on a volunteer weatherization project in the neighborhood this year. Maybe that thought process will get people moving in the right direction. My articles always have a "website of the month" - usually I will include something about energy, food or environment.

3) Any good tricks?
My dog has long fur - she gets a bit matted sometimes, so a very bad trick for her is when I get the muzzle and the shears out at the same time....the treat is a raw turkey neck...

PostScript : I'm learning how to make wine from any fruits handy - not going without that !


You sure sound like you would be a good nieghbor.There are similarities in our background.

After bouncing around a great deal in the world but never actually traveling that far, I am lucky to be able to live with my aged parents on the family farm and expect to end my days here, although if the right opportunities arise once they are gone I will travel a bit.

I have spent a considerable amount of sweat and cash getting this place in shape to operate like my grandparents and great grandparents farms operated.They did depend on a number of purchased inputs-tools of all sorts mostly-but they lived from year to year and decade to decade mostly on thier own output and were the kings and queens of thier little kingdoms,answering to nobody.

The work was long and hard but it never occured to them to think that -barring a failure on thier own part- that they might not have food, fuel, and a roof.

Over the last few years we have gotten an extra source of potable water functioning-gravity fed , no less!Converted an unused small barn to a woodshed with a three year supply and growing.Added insulated vinyl siding to the house plus double glazed windows.Built a raised bed garden to experiment-will be building a lot of raised beds this winter-partly for improved productivity but mostly because as one gets older it gets harder to work at ground level.

Been adding onto the skills and tools inventory forever.The last and ultimate (for me ) shop is laid out and materials are on hand to build it.

Enlarging existing small farm pond which will hopefully in the future yield a couple of hundred pounds of fish annually-plus provide a nice swimming hole and bbq spot.

Planting fruit trees and nut trees not common in this area-paw paw, pecan,soon.

Enhancing wildlife habitat-abandoning some rough ground except for occasional bushhogging to the rabbits, quail, and deer-even though we are already overrun with deer.

Learning to really cook-not just decent batchelor grub but good bread, etc.

So the general idea is to make the place so good you really don't want to leave, at least not very often,and that it supplies most of what is necessary to be contented.

If I can catch the occasional lunker bass and get a nice buck off our own or a nieghbors property I can be satisfied without going to Wyomimg to hunt-although I dearly would love to see the country there abouts!

Decades ago I learned that a good book beats a night out at the movies hands down, and costs much less.

An evening drinking my own cider and playing cards with a couple of old buddies beats a night of barhopping hands down-especially since we are all too old nowadays to seriously chase the opposite sex.

Need to learn how to make wine, other than my cider.

Have been making discreet inquiries among the older old timers about some lessons in the making of good brandy-a trade that is still practiced to some small extent in this part of the world.

II.Intuitively I would say that top down will not work in this country but I could be wrong-It could have a considerable effect if the right opinion makers and trend setters decide to push conservation, efficiency, and self reliance.

A combined push by the medical profession-the eat better and get more exercise crowd, the environmentalists-the low input lifestyle crowd,and the social trendsetter- the first lady crowd, could eventually get a movement towards the sweet spot rolling-helped along by the the likes of all the people on this site and others such as TAE, the CSA movement, and so forth.

But I expect it will be mostly bottom up-people will just have to learn how to make lemonade out of the lemons of life , collectively.If things don't fall apart too fast, I can see most people learning to take a more relaxed view of life-millions of young people and millions more middle aged folks are have already quit even trying to play the "get ahead" game.

My folks generation were eager to work on Saturdays to get more money -money that was used to buy eventual lomg term secutirty for the most part-a house, some farm land, a truck as opposed to a car.

My nieces and nephews are simply not into that work ethic-they will not exert themselves for what they view as rapidly diminishing returns from work.They value thier free time more than money.

III No tricks needed here-I'm even uglier than Nate. I used to rig up ghost eyesin a shade trre with two red lenns flashlights but the kids these days are not easily impressed by simple tricks.


Baking bread? Yep. So do I.

Ifn you really wanta get into bread ,way way into it, then I suggest sourdough.

I keep three different sourdough cultures going in my dedicated refrigerator(46-50 deg).
One is LA-4(French), another is New England(which I label as Yankee) and third is my own captured wild yeast which I call Kentucky.The first two have very very long lineages. Yet my Kentucky seems to be almost as good as the foreign ones.

Right now I have a batch of French working up in my homemade proofing cabinet for Sundays bread baking ritual. It helps to have a convection oven for bread baking.

Yes I do biscuits and cornbread but I make my bread with bread flour or all purpose or a mixture of each, well water and salt. Thats all. Three basic ingredients. I also grind my own wheat on occasion as well as corn meal.

For my other past times I am wrenching on my Jeep Wrangler, my Jeep Grand Cherokee and my Chrysler Concorde. All have over 150,000 miles on them. I also have the Harley Low Rider torn down in the barn. I love to wrench you might say.

Got a new log splitter dirt cheap. Only used one time. Splits hard hickory with even going off idle.

Spend the rest of my leisure time getting my slide-in pickup camper ready for some late season fishing down at my neighbors 1,000 acre lakes I have gated access to.

I'm thinking a sail boat, about 30 feet is in my near future so I can sail Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Right now just a dream but perhaps soon reality next summer.

All of the above cost me very little in energy and money. I get by easily on my IBM pension and SS.
My medical thru IBM costs me only $16/month. My cancer has not returned so far. I got good tests from the oncologist this last friday. Knock on plastic.

I can't complain too much.

Airdale-back to hunkering down mode


I am GLAD to hear you are doing well.

I'm definitely going to give sourdough a try once the weather gets nasty-we generally get a lot of rainy slushy days around here thru the winter. Sometimes some real snow but not often anymore.

It's kinda funny to listen to the rednecks on the one hand deny climate change in general and global warming in particular and ont the other to talk about thier grand daddies driving thier model t s on the river for many miles in the winter-nobody living around here has ever seen it cold enough to do it.

But they're my rednecks and I love'em anyway.

If you put enough miles on your Harley to wear it out you must be in better shape than most people your age!

I keep two yeast cultures for making different styles of mead .I'm in the middle of writing a paper about them now and their life cycle comparisons to human societies.

I dont exactly keep them going though. I store them for months in extream die off mode and then reactive them when needed. It is at least one positive fact that even after a complete die off has taken place there are always some hardy survivors ready to re populate when better environmental conditions become available.


I think all one can really do is try to keep adding skills, and try to bring others along, albeit slowly.

I've started selling various home made items, honey, herbs in peat pots, at the local farmer's market. I get to chat with people, and hang out in the sun a few hours a week. It's pleasant, and I'm always thinking about the next item to try.

A wonderful bread book is "Bread Matters" by Andrew Whitley.

I have a couple of sourdough cultures going - rye is my favorite.

On my plan of to-do's :-

1. Potable water
2. Garden improvements
3. Insulation improvements

I actually "work" - i.e. money remuneration, far fewer hours than I used to. Doesn't mean I'm less busy though. There's always something to do around here. Today is the first sunny day in weeks, so it's time to pull off the honey supers from the hives, and start bedding the bees down for the winter. There's also yard cleanup, and leaf-raking.

It's interesting how the weather starts to determine one's daily activities.

Luckily, I'm pretty familiar with power outages - they are pretty common in South Africa. The idea of managing without electricity for a couple of hours, or even a couple of days, is quite manageable if one is prepared.


We have friends and nieghbrs who are selling enough honey and potted plants and so forth to supplement thier income a little-but he field is grossly overcrowded locally-the entire countryside was once composed of small farmers and there seems to be two sellers for each customer as folks scramble for any opportunity to make a dollar.

I believe any folks who are urbanites planning on moving to a small town oor out into the country need to think about this-raising your own and preparing your own SAVES a lot of money but the price of a pound of garlic buds in a small town where nobody has much money except the lawyers and doctors is a far cry from the price they are used to paying.

And those who expect to sell LEGALLY ANY JAMS, JELLIES, SOUP, CURED MEAT,CAKES, CHEESE PASTRIES or dxxx near anything else might as well figure on investing enough money for an inspected restaurant type kitchen-something that is not always possible , given zoning rules.

The local authorities have been rather easy going so far in this respect-merely chasing such operators out of the established farmers markets and off the roadsides.But anyone who persists in trying to continue his or her business is prosecuted.

There have been no sting operations as yet-anyone selling strictly by word of mouth to known customers is generally left alone but nobody can sell enough that way to earn a living-unless the are selling something more valuable than soup or pies.

I have mixed feelings in respect to this cottage industry-I'm well aware of the fact that some unscruplous yahoo will certainly poison a bunch of people in short order by cutting corners if commercially prepared food establishmemts are not inspected, but the inspection process seems un necessary for one cook operations in my opinion.I think that if a person wants to both prepare and personally sell thier product-no middlemen involved- that that should be sufficient.


Right now, being in an urban area, there are way more customers than sellers, at least for what I'm doing, and I'm able to tailor things to the audience. I'm not planning on moving - I'm adapting in place - after much consideration of all the options, I felt that was the best choice for me.

The big, professional market sellers are present, though. I have to work to sell against a large flower nursery - but they don't do herbs. A large beekeeping outfit sells honey from downstate, but I'm 4 blocks from the market with rooftop hives - people (mostly of them, anyway) kindof like that notion, and I'm developing a following.

I'm not really much competition for him, anyway, since I sell about 75 lbs in a season, and may do 3 or 4 markets all year, while he is there every time.

It's true that any prepared foods have to be processed in a licensed kitchen. We have one in the area that rents space fairly inexpensively. It's a nuisance to have to drag stuff down there, but the market requires it. Access to a rental kitchen, fully inspected, is a great solution for a small producer.

I am afraid some small producer will cause an outbreak - after which, the clamps always come down hard. But, at the same time, we should be encouraging entrepreneurs of all stripes to get out there and share what they know. I'm waiting for the Chilean lady who does empanadas at home to get going....yum...

I am afraid some small producer will cause an outbreak

Don't worry - FedGov's got ya covered!

HR 2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including “prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area.”


Frankly, when it comes to food, I'd rather have standards a bit too tight than a bit too lax.
There are things of which we are going to find ourselves in short supply, in the not too distant future :-

1. Antibiotics
2. Chemical Preservatives
3. Pumped, treated water
4. Generalized sanitation

It's easy to forget that people just 100 years ago routinely died of food-borne illnesses, including Typhoid, Cholera and Botulism.

We've mostly done away with that, at least in industrialized countries, due to contemporary methods of sanitation, but I expect a resurgence as we start down the back of Hubbert's Peak.

Nowadays outbreaks are largely due to E-Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, generally easily treated with proper medication.

If folks don't consider how to properly can and cook food, and properly dispose of food and other waste, we could be in for more serious diseases.

Mostly, people ought to be concerned with the number of antibiotic-resistant strains we have created.

PostScript : from the CDC website :-

"How many cases of foodborne disease are there in the United States?

An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the United States. The great majority of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne diseases each year. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, those who have an illness already that reduces their immune system function, and in healthy people exposed to a very high dose of an organism. "

Hi spring,

nice to hear what you're doing.

Is there any chance you might send me an email if you have time?
Mine is in my user profile. I'd appreciate it.

I entertain myself for hours by teasing my pets into chasing around the laser pointer light.

hehe... fun...hehe....funny...hehe..oh look!....hehe...funny...get it, catch it....hehe

very low throughputs

#2 - Ground up;

a) we have the power to 'trick' our brains into obtaining meaning and satisfaction in unconventional ways and b) we can 'treat' ourselves to fun, laughter, and joy - even in the face of painful transition.

These are two of the most powerful statements in the article. We CAN get by on much less, and we are able to be happy about it. This shift will be difficult for many who have been lulled into thinking the biggest house, car, TV, etc was the pinnacle of life.

We just came back from playing dominoes at a neighbor's house. Energy consumed; 1 CFL lightbulb.

We can learn to enjoy of the hobbies of gardening and horticulture, walks in the neighborhood, biking to work, school, and shopping (or taking mass transit). We are growing 65 fruit and nut trees (and another 30+ berry bushes) along with a sizeable garden. It is most satisfying to see one's plate brimming with the fruits of one's labor.

Our ancestors led meaningful lives on a fraction of the energy and 'goods' that we consume; are we too cushy and spoiled?

A common admission I'm hearing more frequently now from those who work in this area, is that the amount of time spent reading, writing, thinking, analyzing, conferencing, posting, talking, and synthesizing has taken a toll on the body. It would appear that weight gain, not weight loss, is a risk for those who intend to leverage up their knowledge base and increase their work product. Writers traditionally have expended a ton of mental energy, while sitting. The natural impulse is to replenish with comfort foods. When I go through my next reorganization, I might try to place my office outside my home, about a mile away. Of course, I could always walk in a circle each day for one mile, before and after my office time, somewhat in the manner of marathon man here who walked 26 miles in 75 laps around his Brooklyn block.


despite efforts to contrary, I am heaviest I have ever been in my life. My brain is fuller but so is my belly. 2010 will be the year of the Elephant (2004-2009 were the years of the Man)

Nate, thanks for sharing your dominatrix Halloween story. Both my son and I were LOL as I read it outloud. Humans are funny creatures and after hearing your ASPO talk and seeing the slide above again, I think it's the ID riding on the elephant and guiding the behavior. Overall, I think we vastly underestimate the power of the brain stem. The latest book I am reading is "Feeling, Being, and the Sense of Self" by Marcus West. I think you would find it interesting in describing why humans seem to be motivated to do bizarre behaviors which appear to conflict with the organism's interests. The author drives home with repeated examples that the beast we call man is primarily motivated to seek sameness and avoid difference in experience. I thought it was a bunch of elephant dung but after too many examples it is starting to sink in...

What really grabbed me for this thread of discussion was just the IDEA of peak beer. Oh, the HORROR, the horror.... thank god I just bottled and put-by 10 gallons of home brew.

The good news is that thinking burns calories...but not many...

"Scientists from Laval University in Quebec City (NOT Montreal, as I mistakenly wrote earlier) determined that you burn more calories while sitting and thinking (such as, working at the computer) than you do if you are just sitting and relaxing. But not many. In 45 minutes, you might burn an extra 3 calories. However, that wasn't really the point of their research.

It's what happens next that is really interesting: They found that you are likely to eat more after doing some sort of intellectual work than after resting. A lot more!"

I walk out of my house, walk through Muir Woods, and then on to Stinson Beach. The coho salmon will hopefully show up soon in Redwood Creek, and the mushrooms are already out.
I can take the Stagecoach back home for 2 dollars, or continue walking if I have time.

I've taken that walk before with a girlfriend years ago. I nice trek down, but a thigh burner on the way back up. By stagecoach, do you mean bus? Stagecoach conjures up visions of the wells fargo stagecoach from the nineteenth century. But how does taking a diesel powered, smoke spewing montrosity like a bus (designed to carry 50 people) up a steep curvy grade make you feel you are getting by on less? Oh, because it cost only $2. Well, we are all burning the midnight oil so to speak, and can't blame you for not wanting to hike up that hill. And besides that bus would be taking that route anyway, right. In fact, one could say you're just utilizing public transit in an effort to reduce your carbon footprint.

Hey, did you go to Tam High?

It was a life changing event attending the ASPO conference with Gail the Actuary, Engineer-Poet, and Jules Bern. Thanks to each of you for your wonderful companionship and inspiration.

Sorry I didn't get to spend any time with you Nate. Thanks for your wonderful posts. There are so many good souls on this site.

Bicycles are in, Baby! My work requires to get over two Rocky Mountain passes almost every week, through sun and snow. We just had a great snowstorm.....3-4 feet on dome areas. My back yard got 14" in 24 hours. When this happened for a few days in a row a while back, I got to the grocery store to find all the shelves empty. No food was scary. I have a small 2-week supply of food in the basement after that experience.


1) What sort of lower throughput activities are you pursuing in order to improve your life facing general resource decline?

I'm insulating the garage so my neighborhood friends have a nice and comfortable poker setup through the winter. With 250 employees around the state, I'm using Skype technology to reduce travel. There's a baike just waiting for me on Craiglist.

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots?

It's a more interesting question after a little deliberation. It may have to be top down, i.e., rationing, tax incentives, punitive measures for over consumption, Big Brother, etc. Although an optimist by birth, I just don't see much signs of hope at street level.

3) Any good tricks?

Love and compassion are the best tricks. Music, dance, drawing and other creative arts.....adaptibility, attitude and appreciation are alliterative favorites.

Thanks for your hospitality! I think in the longer term, hospitality is likely be a gift that will be needed more, as commercial establishments become too expensive or less available. If one looks at the Old (and New) Testament, the need for hospitality was stressed far more than it is today.

It has gone out of fashion to look at the teachings of the various religions, in thinking about what we should be doing. Instead, it is more fashionable to talk about sociology and the like. But many of the religious documents were written in simpler times, facing some of the same issues that we may be facing. While we may not agree with all of the teachings, I suspect that some of the long-abandoned customs and traditions may have some usefulness in the future. There may even be some hints as to leisure activities mentioned that we could revive.

But the burning of witches has a much lower EROI than that of biofuels...I would think.

On the subject of applications of religious books in the future:

If illiteracy becomes commonplace in the future, I wonder how long it will be until a priest decides he can distort the content of the holy books for his own personal gain? It happened in the past and although it still happens now, the incidence of such is greatly reduced.

I watched a series of interviews on Youtube (sorry, I cannot find them) about how cults work, and how it is possible to hit the reset button on someone's psyche, and reprogram them to believe whatever you want. In the event of a relatively rapid TSHTF scenario, anyone who can offer food+work+shelter to sufficiently traumatized people will also be able to reprogram them.

Turn on the TV. It happens every single day, right now. Our culture is functionally illiterate already.

If one looks at the Old (and New) Testament, the need for hospitality was stressed far more than it is today.

Old testament hospitality?, e.g. God kills 70,000 innocent people because David ordered a census of the people (1 Chronicles 21). God also orders the destruction of 60 cities so that the Israelites can live there. He orders the killing of all the men, women, and children of each city, and the looting of all of value (Deuteronomy 3). He orders another attack and the killing of “all the living creatures of the city: men and women, young, and old, as well as oxen sheep, and asses” (Joshua 6). In Judges 21, He orders the murder of all the people of Jabesh-gilead, except for the virgin girls who were taken to be forcibly raped and married. When they wanted more virgins, God told them to hide alongside the road and when they saw a girl they liked, kidnap her and forcibly rape her and make her your wife! Just about every other page in the Old Testament has God killing somebody! In 2 Kings 10:18-27, God orders the murder of all the worshipers of a different god in their very own church! In total God kills 371,186 people directly and orders another 1,862,265 people murdered.

Don't forget Jeppin's pro slavery position - make slaves of the neighboring lands.

You guys are missing the point! You're supposed to be hospitable to your fellow man (looks kind of like you and was indoctrinated by the same priests as you), everyone else is either wasting your oxygen or not working in the fields for you yet.

"...It's a more interesting question after a little deliberation. It may have to be top down, i.e., rationing, tax incentives, punitive measures for over consumption, Big Brother, etc. Although an optimist by birth, I just don't see much signs of hope at street level...."

The difference between wild animals and humans is the emotion of compassion.I say 'wild' animals because everyone who has a domesticated pet knows they are quite faithful and compassionate; I have an 80 lb pitbull and he loves everyone including cats and guinea pigs - its all in how we are raised...right?

The problem with humankind - even though we have great potential for compassion - we also have a great potential for cruelty and violence.Just look at the last century:the greatest acquisition of knowledge in recorded history vis a vis the most violent century in recorded history.
In the upper levels of society it seems the main motivation for these dark times is a need for power and control.I see this even on the micro level of our society when the wants of a spouse supercede the needs of the family: such as the wife wanting to have the ultra McMansion at the expense of the financial security of the entire family; or perhaps the husband more interested in extracurricular activity (extreme euphemism) than with the well being of his childrens psychological health and security.

Our society is toast for the most part.
Personally, I think if EVERY household would just simply disconnected their cable tv, and the only time spent infront of that idol utilized for watching something educational - with 0 commercial interruptions - our society would be on the path to healing.Just think of how advertizing/ violence/ immoral sex/ psychological operations/mindless entertainment etc. etc. affects the minds of people unawares when they spend most of their free time infront of that electronic marvel.It literally changes peoples perception of reality and lowers their IQ.

The elderly will often ask - wth happened to our society?
We can answer that question with another - What was our culture like before television?
I think the answer is axiomatic - nothing on television is real for crying out loud, it's all a show, and the greater majority of the population of America do not seem to realize this.Until we eviscerate this nefarious influence from our culture NOTHING will change - watch and see...
Even Zbigniew Brzezinski lamented "There is coming a time when people will not be able to think and reason for themselves."
Maybe the time has arrived!?

Pardon my rant but I'm afraid your assessment is right when consideration is given to the current macro and micro trends:Big Brother is alive and well, and compassion is not on the agenda.
We can always be free in our minds though, society cannot take that away from us; at least not without our consent.

We can answer that question with another - What was our culture like before television?

And the question before that was 'what was things like before radio' and before that '...before the telegraph' and before that 'the printing press' and .....

Big Brother is alive and well, and compassion is not on the agenda.

Groups are not in the business of compassion. Individual humans are.

"....And the question before that was 'what was things like before radio' and before that '...before the telegraph' and before that 'the printing press' and ....."

With all due respect Eric, you are evading the original question.
What was the American culture like BEFORE television?

Yes - propaganda was disseminated through the printing press and radio waves, but to say this pales in comparison to television is the understatement of the ages.
Whether George Orwell was trying to warn, or if 1984 was written to insult the intelligence of the majority of Americans - the nightmare technocratic society he wrote of has been ongoing since the close of WW 2.If you do not see this then perhaps you believe 2+2 does indeed = 5.

He warned of television and how it would be used to brainwash all those who are exposed to it.

YOU are not an individual in our society - YOU are a number.
We are controlled by group (corporate) thought -

Can you really reason on your own??

Throw your TV in the garbage and see how you reason and perceive reality - if you can actually live without it and face the reality of our current paradigmatic.

Throw your TV in the garbage and see how you reason and perceive reality

I don't have to create garbage - the government made the TV worthless by changing the broadcast rules.

And I only got the TV when 2 of the local TV stations were paying me to intergrate their weather radar systems onto the web. I needed a way to see what the video card was capturing and compare it.

What is interesting is the people who were at the timebank filming by the local station - none had TVs that could watch the showing of the recorded/edited material. The 4 people all had to go to the neighbors and watched it there.

My apology and good for you Eric.

It is amazing how detatched people are from relationships with one another.That is the stark difference I hear from the previous generation who remember what our society was like before television; and when they tell me of this they are very troubled by this trend.People seem to be losing their communication skills and families, if they are lucky enough to be intact, are detatched from one another primarily because of tv and new technologies.

Fast food,telecommunications,abnormal amount of visual stimulation,nuclear weapons,military industrial complex controlled media,destruction of biosphere,computer controlled grid/with all aspects of a persons life recorded in data bases(which includes phone conversations/internet habits),proposed chipping of entire population of world, computer chipping of cattle/wildlife/pets,genetically modified organisms,mind alterative psychotropic drugs,emotions of masses affected through microwave technologies in large cities,poisonous fluoridation of puplic potible water systems (used as a means of sedating people in Nazi concentration camps),mercury laden thermisol in vaccinations;hyperfrenetic culture:And not many seem to be alarmed by these trends.Why?Perhaps the psychological mind numbing effects of television!?How can anyone doubt that we are not being mis-led by powers greater than ourselves?
Those who contemplate these trends are marginalized as being "crazy"

Well, I spent the majority of Saturday working at Cross-purposes. Determined to build an Electric Cart to be a Tiny Float for my Daughter and I in the neighborhoods Halloween Parade, I was also refining my ideas for a small carryall wagon that might serve as a Pedal/Electric Vehicle (or S.U.B., Sport-Utility Bicycle) to assist me in my local Handiwork Business and other errands.

In a nod to TOTONIELA's Strategic Wheelbarrow Reserve, the recycled parts that go into my 'Lego-Erector Set Format' Carts include a Wheelbarrow wheel up front, and two Kid's bike wheels at the back. All are built into Plywood Housings with 3/8" mounting holes that can be easily attached to simple frames, and these wheels have been used this way for some 3 years now. They smoothly carry hefty loads around town, and in all sorts of weather. When carrying bulky video gear to gigs, these carts can roll right inside to a location, into elevators, etc.. so multiple bags, stands and etc's need only be loaded and handled once at each end of the process.

Since the project was thoroughly last-minute anyway, the Electric Motor and Wheel I got from a Razor Scooter proved too floppy for steering the Trike with the framing I had allowed, and I reworked the whole concept in the last 15 minutes with the unpowered wheel and I propelled the cart Fred-Flintstone Style and later as a plain Wagon when my Quads were used up.. Still, with the two girls who joined my little Chipmunk (The costume plan moved through several mammals..) these quality Wheels make for a very clean ride, and one is quickly reminded of just how much a work advantage is gained simply from Ball-bearings, Spokes and Inflatable tires.

The pedals and electric are coming.. but this Human Powered Vehicle was a great success! (The sparkly, battery-powered LED string and the Skull up on the prow did a lot to win acceptance by my fellow travellers.)

(PS - Other very helpful RECYCLED materials for such Adult- Erector Set fun includes a bunch of Iron Pipe and Fittings for framing and axles, etc.. these were all removed from my homes old Gas-lines. Quality stuff.. they don't use as much of the good pipe nowadays. ALSO, try to get a good collection of RAILING fittings, like Kee-Klamp or SpeedRail, NuRail fittings.. you can structure ANYTHING with these!!)

I don't post a lot here but I have been doing a few things to adjust and turn the corner...

* a small organic garden

* decreased nat gas use by 15% or so by tweaking furnace

* decreased gasoline use by maybe 20-30% using various techniques (which can be used on all older vehicles)...and when it hits $4...just don't drive as much

* bought some CFLs

* run around telling people that the sky is falling...and argue with deniers ;-)

The realization that we have borrowed so much from the future

Where on earth does all this 'borrowing from the future' nonsense come from? We borrow from each other - anyone who doubts that should try not repaying their creditors and instead claim it's the future they owe their debts to. Sure, our ability to repay will depend on our future earnings which may prove insufficient but it will be existing creditors that suffer not 'the future'.

Excess debt is really another expression of excess imbalance and this is addressed by default of one type or another. I'm sure it will be excacerbated by resource depletion but it has also happened plenty of times in the past for other reasons and should not be confused with the overall threat posed by peak oil.

The consequences of declining cheap energy is hard enough to get ones head around without imagining the need to pay back some mysterious 'future' as well!


Our 'agreed on' asset valuations heavily relied on debt -increasingly so after our aggregate EROI decline below 20-25:1 ish. As we increase the amount of debt as individuals, nations and a world focused on economic growth, the debt imperative becomes greater - all the while our natural resource (water, energy etc) are becoming scarcer. Massive free credit caused prices and assets to stay higher, longer that we able to afford on non-leveraged, real time flows. So we pulled consumption forward at cost of having less in the future. Another example is cash-for-clunkers - at cost of trillion+ in stimulus, car sales were 1.66% of the 3.5% Q3 GDP -since the program ended - car sales have plummeted - we moved consumption forward at future cost. Also, US will eventually have 270 billion barrels of URR give or take. Do you think if we have pulled out 240 already that this wasn't 'borrowing from the future'. Perhaps a better word would be taking, but I used borrowing because we are a society that borrows, and is now technically insolvent. It's not that complicated.

Also, US will eventually have 270 billion barrels of URR give or take. Do you think if we have pulled out 240 already that this wasn't 'borrowing from the future'. Perhaps a better word would be taking, but I used borrowing because we are a society that borrows, and is now technically insolvent. It's not that complicated.

Well first of all, based on the complete disagreement between many different and yet nevertheless well educated and intelligent schools of thought, I reckon it is pretty complicated. In fact I would go so far as to say the global economy is as close to being chaotic, and thus completely unprdictable, as the oft-quoted weather (especialy here in te UK!).

Which makes it all the more important to get the terminology, and the interpretation of that terminology, correct. To believe the expression 'borrowed (or even taken) from the future' is clear and unambiguous then sorry but I disagree. What does 'borrowing 240bn bbls of oil from the future' mean? My guess would be different things to different people which means you are starting a discussion from an ambiguous base and it will as a consequence become very divergent very quickly. If you don't beleive me try asking half a dozen people from different walks of life and see what range of answers you get. If nothing else it's a good test of the degree of ambiguity inherent in your statement.

If it means oil we have used and therefore cannot use in the future then fine, no argument, that's clear and not in dispute. And we can move forward with common understanding as to the consequences of having used that oil. Without wondering how we are going to pay 'the future' back.

Maybe this sounds pedantic, and I suspect we actually have a common recognition of global problems pending, but language is a tricky thing and one has to be so careful to avoid lapsing into incomprehensible jargon.


"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"

The once and future Hamburger..

Don't forget to think flexibly.

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"

Note in your example you have goods (the hamburger), a borrower and a lender. If the borrower defaults on his payment the vendor is out of pocket. Not the future or people yet-to-be born.

Flexibility of thought is important but so is clarity.


Note in your example you have goods (the hamburger), a borrower and a lender.

Don't forget the the hamburger of the now may have lesser weight, lesser quality or greater fat from the yesterday Hamburger.

And, Hedonic Adjustments to the Hamburger may be needed.

And yet, and yet.

Perhaps "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" is too simplistic.

Let's try a more universal, major, bog-standard (at least in the 'developed world') offer instead: "You and I promise each other that we will collect pensions from the government 30 years from now; that we will pay extra taxes that in the meanwhile will support additional everyday government services; and that we will assure each other (wink, wink) that we are paying said taxes and receiving said services now in return for said pensions in the future." Not quite so simple as the hamburger, but the real world hardly ever is. In the USA we call such a scheme Social Security. [Maybe in the UK it would be 'state pension scheme', but in the USA, only people questioning or criticizing it would ever use the word 'scheme' - as I just did.]

The very need for you and I even to trouble ourselves to make such a promise arises from the likelihood that we won't be in any condition to make good on the supply side of it when it comes due. Nor will the necessary goods and services come (in any substantial measure) from stored inventory - services aren't storable, and most goods are perishable, usually in obvious ways such as rust and rot, but at the very minimum in the sense of possibly being outlawed at any time by capricious and arbitrary government action. The capital equipment needed to supply the goods and services likewise won't come from stored inventory.

No, the goods and services we implicitly promised to each other, and the capital equipment needed to help supply them, will inevitably be provided, if they are provided at all, by somebody else who is not a party to our original agreement, very possibly somebody else who has yet to be born and thus could not conceivably be a party.

So, when we speak of making a promise to each other, such that the work necessary to make good on it is to be performed by a non-party sometime in the future, or such that making good on it requires a non-party to forgo a significant opportunity sometime in the future, it seems reasonable to use the metaphor "borrowing from the future" rather than grind to a halt every time to re-hear this long dissertation. It hardly seems likely that the metaphor will mislead anyone terribly, and should it do so, the dissertation remains at our disposal.

One of the best ever short posts!

Hi PaulS

Oh don't get me wrong, it's very clear that the US (and UK) govmnts are racking up a level of debt that they are unlikely ever to be able to make good on - at least in real terms. But so what? The consequences of debt default, whether by inflation or failure to repay, are no more than a temporary dislocation as long as the primary factors for economic growth are still in place - infrastructure, human capital (labour, expertise, entepreneurship etc) and of course natural resources. The degree of dislocation will depend mostly on psychological factors - rebuilding of trust, politcal handling of moral hazard, re-establishment of trade etc.

And that's my point, that imbalances have always in the past built up through human greed and, if they get too large, have always resulted in some form of default. Peak oil is different because it strikes at one of the fundamentals that enble growth, ie. energy. Yes, this will impact on the latest cycle of debt default but what is more critical, and should not be conflated with the economic cycle, is that it will be far harder to recover because recovery will not be totally dependent on the purely human factors mentioned earlier.

So to equate peak oil with debt default is misleading because it suggests no more of a problem than has occurred many times in the past whenever individuals, corporations or nations have defaulted. i.e. foccussing on the consequences of debt IMO could potentially downplay the seriousness of a problem we may not be able to come back from using historical analogies (of which, as I say, there are plenty)! Debt default is nothing new, peak oil is.


We borrowed from the Japanese?

Very interesting talk about how deep in the hole we really are....3 parts....

Hi, this will be my first comment after reading for 12 months. Thanks everyone for the great education!

1. I am helping to revive the local C.W.A.(Country Womens Association) that my grandmother helped found. We are starting a local market in three weeks to help locals sell to each other and tourists, and bring in some extra money. Of course we are subtly promoting transition town type things and gardening etc!

I also started to plant fruit and nut trees 20 years ago and am practicing with raised bed gardens for the veges. Also I have a chook run and vege gardens attached with the beginnings of a food forest started beside that. I would rather be working on this than leisure seeking in the town. There is so much satisfaction in growing your own. I encourage anyone to try it whenever I get a chance!

2. I think that grass roots is the way to go because I cant see any govt making the hard rules until it is too late. Grass roots in your local community is the tried and true way it has always been done throughout history. Doing favours for neighbours now will build the relationships needed in hard times of any sort.

3. I dont come over strongly or pick an arguement with friends about the so called fall of civilisation (although it has always worried me as a possibility) but I find other ways to make it happen anyway such as using the C.W.A. to achieve the same results ie. a market in my town. We have to go gently with people who have known us since birth as relationships are very important.

I hate trick or treat. We organised a 'ghost hunt' for ours kids and a neighbour's kids through a local wood. Walking back from the wood, every front door we passed opened and the kids were bombarded with sweets (candy). It took three hours longer than usual to get my six year old daughter to stop climbing the walls and go to sleep.

My wife was torn (not much, actually) on whether to mention that the simple baggies of popcorn we gave out used organic corn, healthy coconut oil and sea salt. In the end, it was just offered as popcorn, as is appropriate.. but I heard one dad say, 'Good, you can eat this one now..' having clearly placed most of the sugar stuff off-limits to the hungry kid. (A Darth Vader who was very timid about going down our stairs, in case he tripped on the cape.. evil just keeps getting cuter and cuter!)

I've always found it a bit bizarre that houses have pumpkins & corn stalks outside, when all they grow on their properties are lawn and evergreens.
Have to buy them at the store, along with the costumes. I like the outfits that are hand-made, and the kids that use face-paint. People have obviously taken time and trouble with that.
It's annoying, after a while, to have to open the door to teen after teen in a "Scream" mask...

Yes, dripping with bloody irony how some of the gated mcmansions in my dysfunctional suburb were excessively decorated in October. As if their excessive architectural taste (or lack thereof) isn't scary and in-our-face enough, 24/7 365...

We roasted the seeds and made a few breads. Wonder how many pumpkins actually get back to the soil vs. landfill; of course our terrier loves to dig them up.

Hell, today the neighbor's service has been blowing leaves around for 2 hours now, the drone of 2 cycle engines to begin the week. They'll religously buy another 10 yards of mulch next spring...

This is my summary of "We had everything but money," a series of first person accounts of the Thirties in the US. The book is available again from the Country Store website. I think that it would serve as a pretty good handbook for the Greater Depression.

It's interesting to see how Peak Oilers versus "normal people" view the book. Jim Kunster and Bart, of the Energy Bulletin, both thought that the book was optimistic, while my daughter didn't want to read it because she thought it too depressing (although I think she had a different point of view after attending ASPO this year).

We went trick-or-treating through the neighborhood last night, with several home-made costumes (part of the fun was gluing rubber snakes to a hairband for my daughter's Medusa outfit) with my kids and some of their friends. It was the highlight of my week, better than anything store-bought. It was also nice to uphold the tradition of going through neighborhoods instead of going to a mall or megachurch halloween (those alternatives seem to appeal to people who are paranoid about their kids).

I also like the comment upthread about music making at home. Listening to old recordings of Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Doc Watson, I realize how music wasn't a commodity in their community - it was part of the culture, and a way to enrich life.

Color me fascinated by the human mind. My own case as example:

Humble beginnings. No material wealth to speak of. Much GRATITUDE.
Then I took on debt and a comfortable job and increased 'ownership' of things. Decline in GRATITUDE.
Learned of PO. Quit job, divested of things (SCARY), went to work on small organic farms. Introduced to my attachment to things and self/ego. Increase in GRATITUDE.
BAM! Serious auto accident. Nearly bought the farm. Psychological reset button pushed. PEAK GRATITUDE.

Received settlement, not materially wealthy by today's standards but had money in the bank for the first time. Then a strange thing happened: I wanted more. STEEP DECLINE in GRATITUDE

Today. Gaining insight into my own psyche (with continued practice) and its many 'tricks'. Learning that "One who has enough is truly rich." Increasing GRATITUDE.

thanks for sharing. I had a much different trajectory but similar realizations. We don't usually realize what we had until we lose it, and much of what we have won't be missed if it disappears.

These realizations will occur individually by the thousand millionfold in the coming years, and it would be far less painful if gained through proactive understanding. We need a beacon light...

Great observations.

We keep hearing talk about how generousity may be a result of our rich lifestyle, while I think the opposite is probably more likely. At a personal level, I'm much more likely to feel and act generous and helpful towards the desperately needy when I'm close to the edge myself.


It is a well known fact among people who have actually lived and worked among the poor and the middle class that the poor are far far more apt to help out someone in a bad spot.

It is depressing almost beyond the point of tolerance to see how some of my acquaintances have changed as they have moved up the economic ladder-once they have a few hundred grand in net assetts every dime is more precious to them than a hundred dollars was when they lived from paycheck to paycheck and couldn't afford a hot dog.

One of them cajoled and "befriended" a couple of local guys -simple characters-for years when he needed cheap temporary off the books help on his way up.They helped him get to be a millionaire.

Now when they are in a desperate situation, he can't seem to spare enough to hire them to rake some leaves or chop a little fireplace wood since he retired.But he has a fifty thousand dollar pickup truck.

Sometimes he wonders why I don't visit with him any more-I just make excuses about being to tied up.

I hire one of the two to help me a half a day a week doing work I should be doing myself and am trying to find the other a temporary job of some sort.

I tend to be a conservative person politically because I believe about half or more of our troubles are the result of too much government-imo govt grows like a cancer or a corporation -but I also recognize that govt has benn the solution to many problems that have been solved or at least partially solved, such as civil rights and environmental preservation.

We would not have an energy crisis today if we had listened to Eisenhower when he talked about the military industrial complex that he feared.Not having a military establishment big enough to take care of the problem -temporarily- by invading other countries would have forced us to make the necessary life style changes and the necessary investments in renewables long ago.

We wouldn't have a financial crisis of the kind and scope we have today if the govt hadn't grown so big that the average citizen or businessman could not keep an eye on its activities.Corruption on the institutional scale became the norm decades ago.Pretty soon we will probably be in the situation of some banana republic in terms of who truly runs this country.Of course the more cynical regulars gere think that day has already passed but imo we are not yet TOTALLY trapped and there remains some hope of a peaceful paradigm change.

Anyone who does not understand that the folks running things in DC these days are just as deeply and comfortably in the pockets of the big banking big military big biz triumvirate as the republican were is either uninformed or deluded.

The original mistake , if any one mistake can be pinpointed, was probably the failure to put a sunset clause in income tax laws passed to deal with the first world war, etc, or maybe the passage of the social security program.

Some ancient greek once said that a democracy can exist only until the govt discovers that it can buy votes by passing out goodies-at which time it must surely collapse as a result of loose fiscal policies.

My folks depend on social security and medicare and my Momma would probably be dead without the medicare given the medical industry status quo-but then we don't know what that status quo would be if we had chosen a different path about a century or so ago , do we?

But in the end the big govt that made this short term (still longer than her life time probably) program possible can arguably be indicted as a co conspirator in the current general crisis of banking, energy, and war.

And the net results may well include the early deaths of quite a few nephews and nieces.

In cidentally when I posted a few days ago that "capitalism" properly regulated is worth saving I should have typed "free enterprise free market system properly regulated ".

Well, my Campfire essay, A Trip to Todd's, pretty much says what I've been doing for years and years. But, what motivates me is the serenity of my life.

Take this morning; the fog is in the valleys below our mountaintop and it is perfectly silent outside. After breakfast I'll, too, bake bread (although I make whole wheat/oatmeal bread). Then I'll pump the water storage tank for our tenant. After that I'll work some more on next year's firewood. After lunch I'll go down to the garden and pick raspberries and strawberries.

Then I'll take a break and decide what to do next. Maybe rake the leaves off the patio or wash my wife's car. But, during all of this it will be serene with no intrusions from society at large. This keeps me going.

When I was first out of college and starting my career I spent a lot of time in or around major cities such as Cleveland, NYC, Philadelphia, SF and did all the usual city stuff but found it mostly to be a way to kill time. In the boondocks my time is spent on meaningful things that make my life here possible.


Thats the main difference of someone who is prepared (Todd) and someone who is not (Nate). He is working on NEXT years firewood when I'm just finishing what I hope will be enough for this year...;-)

This is an example of how blogging, electronic information, internet discussion etc can be a TRICK - as none of those things, other than perhaps better understanding our predicament, will likely lead to my fitness - in fact quite the opposite (unless our current or future leaders understand the situation and act on it).

nate what you are describling is withdrawal. Hell, the average human only needs about 2500 calories to take care of personal physical needs. yet, the average american uses about 300k/day as i recall reading somewhere. Its the mental shit we got to work on. and mental shit is hard work. just like physical stuff, mental stuff seems to wear out.

found myself, a number of years ago. practicing looking at the world through the eyes of 3-5 interesting folks. darwin, odum, seagan, campbell and whitman. made for interesting watching. I call it my sloth time. believe me it soothes the soul. For example, we are getting some pretty nice nights for star gazing this time of the year. watch some carl seagan clips from cosmos, then go out and do a little gazing. you don't have to know all the constelations, let your mind wander. when it focuses, what you are thinking, when you analyze it, will be an indication of how old you are and if you are happy.

remember, from the buddah I think. yesterday is just a memory. tomorrow is just a dream. now is the only reality.

got work to do now. fill up the eleven bird feeders, transplant some greens, mulch some garden space for onions, cut some zenias for the table and contemplate the cosmos.

You might be thinking of the Sanskrit 'Exhortation to the Dawn' ..

Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

attributed here to Kalidasa, 353-420, written in 400

An after word: So, how did today go? I did pick raspberries and strawberries but I spent most of the day on firewood - bucking some up and splitting it (with a 30 ton splitter). Hauling the slash to a couple of burn piles. And, late as the sun went down, trying to figure out why my Mantis tiller wouldn't pull a load. I need it to put several of my raised beds to sleep for the winter - I can use my rear tine tiller for several. It looks like a plugged fuel since the Chem Tool seems to be making it run better. Thanks because I hate rebuilding 2 cycle carbs.

I also went down to our city neighbors cabin (nice small house) to see if they had put up the glass on their outside storm door where the rain beats down. No! People are brain dead. His damn floor is dry rotting because water is infiltrating and he and I spent a ton of hours replacing the old door. Ugh.

I also saw that some tall trees (maybe 80') are seriously blocking my PV panels late in the day (4:30PM) due to the time change. They will be a pain to fell since they lean the wrong way. They'll have to be pulled over by attaching a rope up the tree, to a snatch block on another tree, hooked to my 4x4 and pulled the right way as I fell them. That's life in the boondocks.

And, yes, I still see it as serene.


1) What sort of lower throughput activities are you pursuing in order to improve your life facing general resource decline?

I have done much the same that others have. Got myself out of debt. Moved to a smaller city (118k pop as opposed to 9 million). Grow my own fruit and veg in two gardens. Keep chickens. Go foraging (swapped chestnuts with my neighbour the otherday who went foraging for walnuts). Bought a bakfiets (boxbike) This is already proving handy transporting the kids around and for shopping trips. Make bread and mead.

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots?

Transitions towns initiatives and similar ideas will help. Copenhagen might help. We're not going to make it to the red circle though.

3) Any good tricks?

Laugh at everything. I Laugh at the obsurdity of our situation. If I didnt I would probably be in the nut house by now.

1) What sort of lower throughput activities are you pursuing in order to improve your life facing general resource decline?

Reducing links/dependency on the money economy; removing the middleman and collapsing the supply chain; investing in social capital and partnerships; using good-enough tech; simplifying, economising and reducing; monopolising where possible.

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots?

Do the same as I'm doing. It has to be grassroots, the Top will not decree their own demise.

It's curious how we leave gaps in modeling the problem, as (quoting from the plost):

"The main problems are not technology or BTUs but a misguided faith in a financial/economic system that will require at least 20 years for a viable lower energy quality/quantity transition and that must continually grow to keep society stable en masse."

The out of place phrase that to me suggests a "lack of imagination" as the problem rather than "misguided faith" is "must continually grow to keep society stable". I think people would have surely acted end our economic system's ever multiplying contradictions long ago, had it been evident how to do that. So, in that way, I see the problem as what we assume to be "fixed" that prevents us from discovering a better way to approach limits than by collapsing our environment...

Then there's the following sentence:

"Despite [the] micro-economic mantra that human agents are rational actors, the body of research is growing suggesting we are adaptation executors, in effect interacting with our cultural cues to perform activities that give us the cocktail of neurotransmitters that caused our ancestors to successfully be our ancestors. Ergo, we don't run around trying to increase the survival of our genes- but we respond to available cultural stimuli that pull us in the direction of matching historically parallel behaviors."

I think there's a much simpler word for that. That human agents are not "rational actors" simply means they don't seem to follow the preset rules like scientific equations represent us as doing, but evidently make up our own rules as we go. What we're discovering, oddly at long last, seems to be that human beings, and lots of other things in a self-animating world, are not controlled by mechanistic rules as science has always assumed. The simpler word for it than: "in effect interacting with our cultural cues to perform activities that give us [our] cocktail of neurotransmitters" and "respond to available cultural stimuli that pull us in the direction of matching historically parallel behaviors", is "learning".

There's no living thing you can find that isn't spending most of its energy exploring and responding to its environment, after all, foraging and dodging in the animal world, opening and closing pores and things in the plant world. The growth of living things is also clearly a physical "learning" process in being where the structures of organisms comes from, a kind of active local environmental learning itself. Who would guess that actively learning what to do with their environments might be part of what causes humans to do the very odd things we do, the accumulative development of our societies, businesses and economies, as well as our dashing around in strangely unpredictable ways in living our personal lives.

I think the idea that all of this, all of nature, follows abstract rules from afar is the rule that is completely falling apart these days. When you closely watch how individual events develop, continuity of development rules, but the path follows new rules each time. The idea that things are controlled by the rules we make that may later satisfy us for them in our stories, seems more like a fantasy we are attached to.

Because all complex systems have to develop locally, rules from the past is not what is ever actually happening. So it would seem it's "reality" in nature is as another one of mankind's notable constructs of "magical thinking".

One almost has to ask, then, are fantasy attachments, to the unreal delights of human mannerisms, theatrics, and manias, the bane of our existence or the purpose of our existence?? Our whole cultural world, a private universe, is made of them it seems. The cultural realities we use to organize our experience nature and each other appear rather detached from the physical realities in so many ways, it appears to be for our convenience.

Not learning about those detachments, though, also seems to result in some inconvenience too... Perhaps we need to be constantly learning about both.

1) What sort of lower throughput activities are you pursuing in order to improve your life facing general resource decline?

I've limited my non-essential flights over the past few years out of eco-guilt. The definition of essential is likely to be further pared down. Instead I spend money and time on books and reading. The added knowledge is both a blessing and a curse, but better than ignorance in any case.

Doe not having kids and not having pets count as a "lower throughput activity? Or a non-activity? I'm not sure that these non-activities have improved my life as much as they've provided me with peace of mind that comes from a non-pressure to provide.

My gardening has switched from having a purely esthetic focus (perennials) to a focus on learning about permaculture and food growing. Digging in the dirt is not quite as exciting as my old globetrotting days spent dancing in the nightclubs in Bali and Bangkok, but I sense that this is going to improve my life in the long run more than the more exotic high-throughput activities ever could.

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots? I think the shift will be not so much top down or bottom up, but a result of social and financial circumstance.

3) Any good tricks? Through all of the data, numbers and generally frightening information (thanks, Stoneleigh)we must somehow try to stay grounded and sane. Lots of laughing and daily walks in the forest works for me.

2) How can society move towards the red circle in the Inglehart curve above? Top down decree or bottom up grassroots?

The best way to answer that question is: What are we doing that the societies in that red circle are not? (Or conversely, what are they doing that we are not?)

The first and most obvious thing: We have a lot more automobiles and drive them a lot more. A society operating within that red circle simply doesn't have so many cars, and those that exist are not driven around nearly so much. What happens instead is that people walk, or ride bikes, or catch mass transport (which is just a likely to be a bus or a boat as it is a train), or just stay near home and don't go hither and yon so much. Make that one big change and you are already most of the way there.

The second obvious thing: Less stuff, and smaller housing space per person to put the stuff in.

The third obvious thing: Less government and military overhead. None of the societies that are presently in or close to that red circle are faced with "imperial overstretch". The only way a nation can get to that red circle and stay there is if they have a government that just keeps its focus on the most important things, and keeps itself smallish and frugal.

The fourth obvious thing: Less waste. This is partly a consequence of less stuff, but goes beyond that. I am not just talking about trash, but of not wasting resources of all types. An example of what I mean: in a society where people are poorer, whatever they do buy had better be built to last. This thing of buying shoddy, unrepairable junk that has to be replaced every few years just doesn't fit inside the red circle.


The third obvious thing: Less government and military overhead. None of the societies that are presently in or close to that red circle are faced with "imperial overstretch". The only way a nation can get to that red circle and stay there is if they have a government that just keeps its focus on the most important things, and keeps itself smallish and frugal.

I'm a fan of Lester Brown's Plan B and he advocates cutting the military budget in half to fund more creative ways to help address global issues. For many reasons I think we should reduce our military presence across the planet. However, I wonder what implications this would actually have if we ceased our "imperial overstretch" activities? At present, do we get the lion's share of natural resources from around the globe simply because we are feared? If we stopped bombing anyone we viewed as a threat or a terrorist; if we pulled our CIA and troops from the 80 to 100 countries in which we currently have a presence; if we just relied on hardening our borders and taking a defensive posture within our own shores; would this result in a diminished flow of natural resources?

Personally, I'm willing to that the chance that we would be better off with a smaller military, more international aid, more international cooperation, more international intelligence sharing, etc. But, I really not sure how this would all play out?

If you check the import stats, you'll find that the US gets far more of its oil from Nigeria than it does even from Saudi Arabia. We get amazingly little oil from Afghanistan! Where is it that an insurgent conflict is threatening to actually shut down the oil production? Nigeria! Where does the US have military forces and is intervening? NOT Nigeria!

The US presence in the Middle East has something to do with oil, but it actually is not all about oil. It has a lot more to do with imperial geopolitical power games gone totally off the deep end. To put it bluntly, the power elites got so drunk with power that they didn't know when to stop. They stopped being able to see clearly enough to see what truly was in the long-term national interest of the US, and started doing what they COULD do (and stretched quite a bit beyond that, unfortunately, due to miscalculation), rather than what they SHOULD do.

My personal feeling is that the US needs to maintain a minimum strategic deterent, but for conventional forces we need to shift to a maritime defense posture and pull back behind a defensive perimeter in the mid-Atlantic, Mid-Pacific, Mid-Arctic, and Caribbean. We need to quit most overseas bases lying beyond that perimeter, and negotiate a wrap-up and termination of treaty obligations and interventions outside of North America. My very rough estimates suggest that we might only need 2/3 of our present Navy (+ Marines), 1/2 of our Air Force, and 1/3 of our Army (which would be mostly just National Guard and focused mainly on domestic missions). That would work out to roughly a 50% reduction in overall forces and DOD budget. That's just a first step; once the dust has settled and we have a chance to see how that is working, we might find we can do a further round of cuts, maybe all the way down to 25% of the present DOD budget. It might take us a decade or two to get there, though.

The above is premised upon a simultaneous transition of the US economy to one that can get by without oil imports from outside of North America. That also will take a decade or two, but is going to have to happen in any case according to the Export Land Model.

We get amazingly little oil from Afghanistan! Where is it that an insurgent conflict is threatening to actually shut down the oil production?

Not all of the world is about oil.

Sometimes there are other 'concerns'.


You have my vote! Although I still wonder about other resources beyond FFs if we were no longer feared as the most "imperial geopolitical power"?

In any event, if your defense plan were put to national vote, I would march in the streets to support it.

The war on terrorism or on energy supply, whoever you believe, has cost the US almost one trillion dollars (US notation), or $0.927x10^12, since 2001.

Just for fun: Lets see how much renewable energy 1 trillion dollars buys if the politicians could have mobilized America for a self reliant energy supply like they did with 'the war on terror', given that the US used 2PWh (2x10^9 MWh) of electricity in 2005.

- 1x10^6 MWp of solar panels at (1$ per Wp), capable of producing 1x10^9 MWh assuming 1000Wh/Wp irradiation (might be double that in Southern areas) every year for at least 30 years. That's half the US electricity usage.
- 1x10^6 MW of wind capacity (1$ per installed W), capable of producing 2.6x10^9 MWh per year for some 20 years assuming 30% availability. That's more the the US electricity usage in 2005.

Even with the current relative low production volumes the 1$ per Watt for solar and wind is already possible (wind is already there, solar in about a year or so). These young industries can still benefit a lot from economies of scale which could make them at least 50% cheaper, especially solar with thin-film, roll-to-roll, automation, etc. This would make a complete solar system with panel, inverter and mounting around 1$ per Wp, while wind could easily be around 0.5$ per installed Watt.

Theoretically, this would make the US for a large part independent on foreign oils, gas and domestic coal for electricity production.

Just a thought: How would the world look like when the US had started such a project? It has influence on foreign policy, production costs of renewable's worldwide, public health, CO2 levels and accompanying countermeasures, indirect funding of terrorists, trade balance, etc. There's just too much to think about how the world could have changed to the better with such a radical change in politics.

Wnc,Strongly in agreement with your number two answers.

In my post where I said top down wouldn't work I was half asleep and thinking in terms of big brother TELLING us how to adjust our thermostats.

Some top down will work-if you just can't buy an incadesent light bulb you will use flourescents.

If gas taxes are high enough you will minimize your use of gasoline and so forth- but a change in the mindset of the public is what is really needed.

There are countries where "top down" works pretty well. The USA isn't one of them, and with the singular exception of WWII, never has been. We can debate whether it is because the national culture is just too rugged individualist for people to ever obey the top down rules, or if it because the national culture is such that we are not capable of putting people at the top who actually are wise and competent statesmen with the best long-term interests of the nation and its people at heart. Interesting debate, but it doesn't change that fact that we are as we are, and that we'd better accept that reality. In other words, it is all up to us.

Workers and friends -

I have discovered, during my recent resuscitation, the plant known as marijuana. Had I only known of its medicinal benefits during my times with Big Bill and the rest of the gangs. My Lord, how much easier my life would have been. How much less stressful. And so, it is through smoking copious amounts of pot that I've reduced my overall impact greatly. No longer do I find it necessary to leave the house, consuming fuel in the process. I consume less of everything, save for a slight increase in products laden with carbohydrates, and find my personal happiness to be very 'red circle'.

Strength to your swords arms,


Nothing I'm doing yet, but the various wack-job radio (aka podcasts) claim that is beneficial.

So I'll shlep down to the library and see if I can get access to these books.

Really enjoyed the trick or treat piece. 1/2 way through reading The Sustainability Mirage by John Foster which takes trick or treat even further. See for more info.

1)Thinking Thinking Thinking for alternatives atm. It uses roughly 400 calories a day(my brains) what would be the eroei of that? The eroei of our world was always slightly positive, the big differance now is that it became slightly negative. The only real problem is: our monetary system isn't designed for that.

2) By pointing out a positive route.
Telling people that the rest of their lives will be miserable isn't the best way to get their attention. They act by sticking their heads in the sand. Because the sytem we have in place, pushes them to work more and harder to keep their present day live going. Stopping for them means loosing it all. So they ignore it.
A savety net that prevents that toshed out people will loose it all, can keep these people available for a positive relaunch.

Transforming/remoddeling our monetary system worldwide (because it is worldwide) is in my opinion the only way to break the downward spiral we have entered. This is the base on which we should focus. The monetary system's homebase is in america so the change in our behavior must start in the western world. The rest can make up their own mind.

Our indoctrinations machines can be used for this.

The savety net and the "new system" could be based on the same.

Some sort of digital system that acts like money (duh) but has it's base from a one person view. Everybody is entitled to food/shelter/clothing. The new economy can be based on labor/goods/craftmanship/clever thinking on the local scale. This gives people the opportunity to get more than the basics the new system provides. A yearly reset can prevent that to much ends up in one place. Encouragement to be as energy conserving as possible must be build in the new system.

The biggest machine ever(our present day world) must be kept alive by al means necessary, and slowly winding it down can free up enough energy to make the necessary changes. The new economy can gradually take over from the old one.

In short: The system dictates us what to do => We take control and use it for the best possible outcome.

3)Sticking our heads in the sand and wait it out. (when things go wrong and millions and millions of people start scavaging (hunter/gatherer thing) the lottery will have few winners)

4) Positive thinking can get us their because our species needs a positive view to survive. That's when we thrive.

1) Personally, so far as energy is concerned, I turned off the gas boiler and switched to a 'green' electricity supplier late last winter and installed a woodburning stove for heating and hot water this summer, so in theory my home consumes no fossil fuels. (This is resilience, and I think it's where Nate is coming from when he talks about action for self rather than to "save the planet") All I wish for now is find a local landowner who will accept my labour in helping to manage/develop woodland in exchange for firewood to complete the carbon cycle. (note for those outside the UK: we still use the feudal system over here, you know: peasants & landowners). Chickens & veg in the garden. Some rainwater collection. Lots & lots of stuff heading in the general direction of folk like oldfarmermac but I don't have access to much land & can't seem to go fast enough.

2) Topdown? I think the chance to move the market in the right direction (via TEQs or something like them) may finally be lost at Copenhagen in December, so it is left to grassroots. The required cultural shift that I sense is underway ("Muddling toward Frugality" to use Warren Johnson's phrase) may be slow-spreading. I think what many of us fear is the impact on those who have not anticipated the descent when TSHTF, and the resulting social problems which I guess will be worse the steeper the decline. Other phrases like "Voluntary Simplicity" come to mind as I manoeuvre my own life to somewhere near the red circle. All we can do is help spread the message I guess, have faith in the better side of human nature, and hope for the best.

3) Mutual credit systems for local economies?

3) Mutual credit systems for local economies?

4 choices to run one. Something called timetracker (hasn;t seen an update for 10 years or so I was told) Cyclos (open source can cost $0 to get and run) Community weaver ($250 a year) and ($750 one time and $120 a year)

It has been a little more relaxed in our household since I stopped explaining my actions in terms of powering down and preparing for major societal and economic changes, and began using as my reason, "because this is so cool and so fun."

So, the bicycle (which I have been slow to use much, so far), is fun, playing the autoharp is fun, drying clothes on the line outside is fun, as is learning how to grow and preserve food, making more compost piles, foraging for herbs and food, learning how to spin and crochet, and getting to know more people in town.

I am currently building "little Fort Knox" so that I may, Lord willing, get some runner ducks in the spring, because they are so cool and so fun (oh, and by the way, they eat slugs, make eggs and fertilizer).

Good post, Nate!