The World to Take Economic Hiatus, Focus on Resilience

To me there are many parallels between Tiger Woods' situation and the broader socio-economic predicament we find ourselves in circa 2009. Tiger, until very recently arguably the most recognized, respected and wealthiest athlete in the world, has fallen from grace and then some in the span of 2 short weeks. He underwent no ostensible change during this time, other than that certain aspects of his life once hidden, suddenly came to public light. Backed into a corner, Tiger has chosen a path of redemption and change, which at least for the moment requires him to give up the one thing that brought him fame and fortune to begin with: the game of golf. However, he chose this path after the damage was already done.

Expand to an OECD culture scale, where on the surface we have decades of relatively straight line economic growth, more countries joining the ranks of the 'wealthy', and nearing 3 generations of world peace. Though readers of this website are aware that this is somewhat illusory, as these gains have been subsidized by a one time gift of stored sunlight. Though we have yet to have a similar 'cadillac crashing into fire hydrant and rear view windows smashed with 3-wood' moment in our civic discourse, this moment seems to be getting closer. Could you imagine Obama, or Geithner, or Bernanke, acknowledging that we are shoveling fuel into a runaway train, and instead of 'spending our way!' to recovery (the Tiger Woods equivalent of sex with yet another woman before he was discovered), someone in this country took such a stand, before it became a last resort?

Tonight's Campfire is an imaginary such admission, as usual followed by some open ended questions.

Faced with an avalanche of women coming forward claiming to have had affairs with the married Tiger Woods, the world's greatest golfer posted this on his website yesterday:



I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try.

I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.

After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.

Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period.

There are many things he COULD have said: 'my family situation is my own business', 'there is a conspiracy to slander my name', 'no comment', etc. However the weight of the evidence (and perhaps the influence of his wife), led to a pretty laid bare confession. This is what addicts do when they hit bottom and run out of options. Tiger hit bottom (socially speaking, he's still a billionaire) and took the path not of denial, or disregard, but of responsibility, sacrifice (golf and probably money), and contrition. Tiger represented the pinnacle of success in our culture, yet having sex with many women while his wife cared for 2 young children is such a story of taboo to our moral fiber that it narrowed his options, down to basically one...

When I heard about this last night the situation struck me as a microcosm of our larger energy, economic and environmental situation. So much of the salient and negative aspects have been either advertised or rationalized away, that real recognition of OECD insolvency, and our inability to service our oversized debts and unproductive infrastructure in an energy poor, consumption/population rich environment will someday create a serious watershed moment. But at this point, 'the end of economic growth' is still a taboo phrase in our country. It will take some shocking revelations from someone of authority for people to viscerally question and then grasp our real situation. Personally I think many people are looking for some sort of public admission/recognition of our situation. Stop dancing around the truth with half measures meant to regain our former (declining) trajectory and come out with the truth cannons.

How might a similar speech from Obama appear? Though he is (clearly) not to blame for the OECD consumption orgy, he happens to be the commander at its terminus, and as such has opportunities that few others in history do. Unpopular as it might sound, here is the 'society-wide equivalent' of Tiger's admission:

Fellow Americans, fellow citizens of the planet, I speak before you a humbled man. I have become deeply aware of the reasons for the disappointment and hurt present in our modern societies. Though no fault, or at least very little, of my own, I feel a responsibility as the leader of what has been considered the greatest nation on earth to speak the truth, the truth not as a politician, but as a human animal on an ecologically full planet.

Our model of equating spending and throughput as our metric for success no longer works. For too long we have been able to issue debt to pay for our consumption, not just the USA, but all countries that rely on currencies that have no backing in our real wealth: our land, ecosystems and natural resources. We did this because we could: GDP is not handicapped by increases in debt; however our most important assets - our children and our environment - have their capital accounts drawn down each time we pursue unsustainable consumption. I want to say to them that we are profoundly sorry and that we ask their forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage that has been done, but we should do our best to try.

I would like to ask everyone, including all citizens from accountants to zookeepers, our business leaders, the PGA Tour, and my fellow politicians around the world, for their understanding. What's most important now is that our population has the time, fortitude, and safe environment we will need for personal and cultural healing.

After much soul searching, I have decided to advocate an indefinite break from professional economic growth. We need to focus our attention on being better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and people in general. We should gradually but quickly change our goals from profits to resilience.

I am especially grateful for all those who show compassion, foresight and resolve during this difficult period and the years ahead. The path ahead will require new institutions, new goals and much sacrifice. It's time our culture starts enjoying the rainbow instead of continually chasing the pot of gold. This is something that will take all of us to accomplish - it will not happen if you wait for your government to fix it.

I think it is easier for one person to change their own course than an entire culture, but for an entire culture to change it has to start, somewhere, with one person. Personally I think many people are looking for this public recognition. Stop dancing around the truth with half measures meant to regain our former (declining) trajectory. Bring out the honesty cannons, and lets get a true accounting of our assets in natural resource terms, change our goals, and set our course accordingly. And so it turns out that Tiger Woods, once an icon of our culture, actually represents the worst type of example of how human raw materials given opportunities and cultural approval can overshoot to something decidedly and unexpectedly disappointing.

Next week I will post an essay titled “The Neuroscience of Sustainability”, suggesting that irrespective of the supply side changes we make to our extraction based economy, the real war/battle for sustainability will be fought on the neuroscience/demand side - will our society be able to switch its goals and activities to ones more aligned with our benign/cooperative neural heritage (like oxytocin and serotonin) and deemphasizes activities with high dopamine and testosterone feedbacks. In retrospect we can probably guess what a typical Tiger Woods neural cocktail might look like.

Tiger is toast - he waited until his bad behavior reached a point where he had no choice. I am hoping our culture won't follow the same path. The main point of this post is that things we consider sacred cows (or Tigers) are under the surface anything but - and the negative feedback loops necessary to stop/slow errant behavior are naturally located well beyond the point of easy remediation.


What can world leaders say/do that would appeal to different aspects of our personalities than selfishness, greed and individualism? (i.e. How could powerdown be conveyed as a positive message?)

Do new trajectories only follow 'bad news'?

Are we (in aggregate) ready for change that involves sacrifice, or just change that has no costs?

Further thoughts and analysis welcomed...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead

For those interested in the lighter side of this situation, here are two recent Saturday Night Live clips about Tiger, and Obama/Hu Jin Tao. I'm not sure which one made me laugh more

Saturday Night Live Tiger Woods Skit
Saturday Night Live Obama/Jin Tao Skit

I will post a longer reply to the keypost of today's campfire down the line, but I cannot NOT reply to the youtube video of the Jimmy Carter energy speech linked by porge.

It is almost impossible to quantify the damage that this one speech did to the very real need for a modern restructuring of the advanced world's energy systems. Such is the terrible damage caused by false alarm. To this day, that time period (the late 1970's), that speech (the Carter energy speech) and that period of press hysteria has ingrained into my mind the absolute need to be cautious about making or accepting hysterical pronouncements of "we are running out of oil", "by the year XXXX we will consume more oil than we can produce {you actually heard this said in the 1970's, but of course on a worldwide basis it is a statistical impossibility) and all such claims that the end is nigh.

There can be nothing more damaging, NOTHING, than false alarm. It destroys for decades the credibility of the perhaps well intentioned campaigners issuing the warning, it destroys support for the cause (whatever cause it may be) among the most able and dedicated potential recruits to the cause, it gives the enemies of the cause needed ammunition to rip apart the cause on the sword of it's own words.

I have always believed, and still do, that Jimmy Carter was and is one of the most honorable politicians in American hitory, one of the few men of absolute conviction and decency to ever become President of The United States of America.

I also believe that the speech he gave on energy on the fateful day was one of the most damaging speeches ever given, to the future of the United States, to the future of rational planned transition to a modern energy system, and by extension, to the future health and prosperity of the world.

Jimmy Carter armed the enemies of modern energy, he destroyed the credibility of those who knew the need for change and modernization was real and imperative, and he drove a generation away from taking seriously one of the most serious issues of our era. No enemy could have done as much damage to the cause of a real humane transition away from our enslavement to fossil fuel as this friend of the cause Jimmy Carter did by way of a poorly researched, poorly thought out false alarm. His hysteria helped waste a third of a century.



First, the time of Carter's speech WAS the right time to start preparing for energy descent. By waiting another 35 years (and counting) we're guaranteed much pain on the down-slope.

Secondly, you seem to be assuming that the US public WOULD have perhaps "seen the light" with a better-thought-out warning approach -- maybe in stages, with more toned-down language.

One could argue that Carter's "teachable moment" -- that hiccup in the up-slope -- was the ONLY chance Americans had to re-think the big party & maybe call it a night. It didn't work, but it might have been our best chance.

What sort of warning approach do you think should have been tried? And when would you have started it?

Because we DID need a warning. (we still do.)

-- Dan


The argument should have been made, at the time Jimmy Carter spoke, that it DID NOT matter how much oil was left, the issue was whether we wanted to hobble the U.S. economy in international competition by keeping it tied to an outdated energy system. The need to move away from fossil fuels as the monopoly fuel for transportation for reasons of national economics and national security would have inspired many more people to accept perhaps higher prices for transportation in an effort to achieve a greater sense of security and more redundancy, and even price leverage in relation to the energy suppliers.

My core point is this: Predictions of ever increasing oil prices and ever decreasing world supplies turned out to be factually wrong in the 1980's. Over the longer haul, I think Jimmy Carter was correct in fact, but very, very wrong in timing. He should NOT have predicted we were "running out of oil", and stated this in such a way as though it sounded like it was happening at that moment, because if he were wrong (and he was) he could easily be made to look like a hysterical goof (and he was made to look exactly as such) and his enemies could dismember the alternative energy efforts with virtually no one left willing to go out on a limb and defend them, for fear of being considered a "goof" by association (a tactic Ronald Reagan used with great success)

This type of "prophecy" has come back to haunt us again in the last two years, and in ways that are not often thought about: In our area, there are many very unhappy energy shoppers who topped up propane tanks for this winter when propane was at least a third pricier than it is now, because they were sucked into the hysteria created when oil was $147 per barrel. The same is true with natural gas, in which futures and contracts were locked in at huge prices by people who had no real understanding of energy price volitility. They were burned badly by the "oil will go to $400 per barrel and beyond!" hyteria, and they will not now be prepared for another price (which will come sooner or later) because they frankly lost their ass listening to the immediate short term hysteria. For people of baby boom age, they have now seen at least 3 of these types of major energy hysterical much credibility do you think those warning of "peak oil" now have with these people?

Again, we should avoid giving these predictions of dates and prices unless we can be ABSOLUTELY certain we are correct (and can we ever be?). We are much better to push alternative energy and conservation/efficiency on multiple fronts (climate change, national security, national economics, modernized and diversified energy supply, price leverage for the buyer, etc.) than to use false alarm to attempt to create action.

My posts on TOD at the time oil was over $140 speak for my position at that time...I asked everyone to please be careful in making wild predictions...I have never disputed the very real and serious issue of energy depletion and have always made the case for the need for real structural change in methods of energy production and use, but have always resisted the temptation to set a date and predict assured future prices, because missing on such predictions completely destroys the credibility of the whole cause.

This was the grave error made by Jimmy Carter...He was correct in fact, but terribly wrong in timing. He was correct in the need for action, but wrong in the assurance that we were "running out of oil" in the immediate future, and using that as the reason for the need for change...he basically helped destroy the credibility of oil depletion as a serious issue for the following 25 to 30 years. He should have pointed out the need for a modern eenrgy system, but should have avoided the dire predictions of energy shortage and assured price increases. It is a lesson for today for writers and speakers such as Matthew Simmons and Colin Campbell. The cause is correct, but resist the temptation to try and act as a prophet.


Wrong again. "We" WERE in fact running out of oil at the point that Carter spoke. We being the US. By that point it was clear to many that we were past peak, just as Hubert had predicted.

We had two options at that point--start to live within our shrinking oil allotment, or commit ourselves to securing by whatever means necessary the oil needed for BAU from abroad. The country resoundingly rejected the former and chose the latter, and we can see the negative results of that choice in everything from a foreign policy warped by the need to secure Middle Eastern and other oil, to our current lack of preparation for world PO.

Of course, after the fact it is quite easy to point out how he could have made his case in some more compelling way, and I don't remove all blame from Carter. But is the failure always one of the leadership and not followership? Can we admit that we also share the blame in failing to follow a path clearly laid out for us.

TIIO has clearly drunk the conventional cool aide that Carter is to blame for all our ills. I am merely humbly suggesting that the rest of us share some blame for refusing to see what he was so clearly laying out for us.

Carter's speech wasn't a good speech. Carter understood energy - he worked for Hyman Rickover in the Navy - but he had little sense of how his office was supposed to work. He was grasping in the policy closet with the light off.

As I remember it; the 800 lb gorilla in the room was Vietnam. The country was positively addled with the aftereffects of the war. There was massive resentment between the war's disgraced establishment promoters (who had been decisively beaten on the battlefield) and the war's opponents who had succeeded in ending US involvement but in doing so had been painted as cowards, shirkers and traitors. They were accused of stabbing the country in the back; the 'left wing media', the 'Hollywood liberals', the 'civil rights activists' and the 'hippies' and 'scum'.

By not promoting a 'muscular' energy approach, Carter inadvertently ambled into the 'wrong' camp in the endless Vietnam divide.

The Glenn Beck- Sarah Palin- Pat Robertson version of America was born in Vietnam. The resentment feeds on itself.

America is a weird country, it has a real problem with losing wars. Our lost wars are national blood feuds. We cannot get over the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Maybe when Fidel finally dies ...

An outcome of the war during the 1970's was inflation. The US was seen as a 'paper tiger'; Middle Eastern intransigence had a lever with increasing US dependence on Persian Gulf oil supplies.

Vietnam was the first real failure of US technology. By 1977, America's love affair with technology had ended. There would be no flying cars or self- cooking kitchens. Tech became a highly specialized marginal endeavor, exiled into the inscrutable plastic box. Ironically, the country never lost faith in modernity, which promised increasing creature comforts and luxury. This was crammed awkwardly into a backward- looking social framework which gave lip service to tradition, religion and 'moral values'. Reagan's deregulation, anti- unionism, finance expansion and 'supply side' nonsense found fertile soil in a generational cohort that possessed a thirst for consumer goods and lacked the critical facilities to properly measure the consequences of embracing them.

Why doesn't Obama do something? Why don't Americans protest? What will Obama do? What will they protest, the decreasing availability of consumer goods? The country is caught in a 'paradigm trap'. There is no issue of public exasperation, rather no platform exists upon which government action or public exasperation can stand. The county is submerged within a coma of consumption, excess and credit run amok; kill the disease and the 'patient' will likely die. Don't do anything and the patient will also die.

While this unfolds, the public discourse is colored exactly same now as it was in 1975, when staff boarded helicopters on the roof of the embassy building in Saigon. The establishment merely has to cock its fist ... with tea- baggers, climate denier bully- boys and smear campaigns ... and alternative arguments disintegrate. We are all locked into a daisy chain of self- reinforcing failures.

Carter wasn't smart enough to be president, Reagan was just dumb enough. Neither should have been elected. Ditto with Obama, who doesn't have a clue, but knows enough to always triangulate to the 'right side' of the establishment.

America will have to lose the 'war on energy depletion'. Not just technology but our wacky version of modernity has be fatally compromised. I think we have a long, long way to run before that happens.

"There is no issue of public exasperation, rather no platform exists upon which government action or public exasperation can stand. The county is submerged within a coma of consumption, excess and credit run amok; kill the disease and the 'patient' will likely die. Don't do anything and the patient will also die."

That is truly brilliantly put.

I agree that it wasn't a great speech, but it puts me in mind of a kid in a burning house--a passerby yells at him to get the hell out, but the kid says that the passerby wasn't using "good speech" and wasn't asking nicely enough, so he stayed in the house and died.

Complaining that we weren't seduced with the exact right soothing words and blaming the messenger for not being persuasive enough when telling us the horrid truth of our situation is just the most obvious kind of blame shifting.

I pretty much agree with everything else you say, and you say it well.

I agree that it wasn't a great speech, but

It's funny (and at same time sad) how those who engage in the dark art of psycho-linguistic manipulation can turn night into day by sheer magic of words. (Black is the new white. Down is the new up.)

If you haven't yet seen George Clooney's new movie "Up In The Air", go see it just for this one line: "Nice touch."

Anyway. Bottom line is that Carter was right.
1975 was the year that "we" should have recognized the energy crisis and started doing something about it.

What "we" (USA) did was go into denial mode and elect the Grinning Rogue Man, Ronald.

What "we" did was to buy into the "Shining City on a Hill" fantasy just at the moment when Mother Nature was warning us: Your species is about to be fired.

But then again, Ronald had all the right (winged) words.

Nice touch.

dohboi, you make an interesting point...the defining of "we" and the percieved horrors of "running out".

If Carter was thinking in terms of "we" as only the U.S., then he would have had to confront an intellectual conundrum:

At the time of Carter's speech, Americans were busting up Japanese cars on television and in hysteria that Japan was dominating the world...and yet Japan had absolutely no home oil!

The Americans were buying German BMW's, Mercedes and Audi's as the newest status symbol and because they were supposedly cars of superior performance and quality, yet Germany had no home oil!

Germany and Japan could not fear "running out" of oil in the sense that we claim the U.S. did, because they had always been out...they had no home oil from day one...and yet they were percieved as major competitors, even claimed to be threats to the U.S., and yet we are still certain that Carter was referring to only "we" in the U.S.? Would Carter have not seen the contradictions in his own argument?

Of course, if Carter was convinced that world production was at peak, then his "running out argument made sense, it would have just been an absolutely mistaken argument...the rise in North Sea production, OPEC production and Mexico gulf coast production were still in the future.

AGAIN, I stress that I am certain that Carter (and for that matter, Hubbert,Campbell,Deffeyes and Simmons) are absolutely correct...depletion is occuring, and has certainly sped up (the oil extraction for the wild wasteful period of the 1980's and 1990's required hard extraction from already depleting fields, does anyone argue that?), BUT we still cannot know when the day of peak will (or has) arrived. It may be in the next month, it may be in the next year, it may be 20 or 30 years from now, or it may have been last month or last year, or yes, even 2005, we simply cannot know.

I find that the absolutely most dangerous thing, and in some ways frightening thing about peak can happen on any day, we will never know exactly when it did, and one day is as good as any other. THAT is what Carter should have told the Americans because it would have been THE TRUTH. He should have told them that we must begin the change NOW because we are living with a timebomb in the world economic and modern technical order that can blow up at anytime and destroy a thousand years of effort, art, technology and development. Why, Carter should have asked, Obama should now ask, would any nation, any age, willingly live with that prospect, given the terrible consequences it implies?

There is a reason the ancients taught their students the art of rhetoric...doesn't anybody know how to write a polemic anymore? We have a terrible prospect to use as a call to change, we don't have to make up these guesswork dates...look, just give me the mike and I will deliver this stuff, okay...:-)


P.S., to your other question, "But is the failure always one of the leadership and not followership?" You make a good point there, but you have to assume the followship is at least somewhat prepared for the effort required to judge the message...I think the American people did in fact make the effort, as did American business (witness the decline in oil consumption in the U.S., we did not reach old peaks of consumption again until the late 1990's!), but the complete collapse in oil prices and subsequent glut of oil in the 1980's undercut by evidence what Carter had said in words. No outside opponent could have done more damage than that.

He was an American President addressing the American people, so the default position would be that "we" refers to the US. On your other point, do you really think that the US, long used to having a large native supply of oil (and other ff's), would do just as well as Germany and Japan if it suddenly was deprived of these resources. That would seem to be an uphill argument.

You seem set of blaming Carter and I don't hope to dissuade you from the position. I do recommend Andrew Bacevich's "Limits to Power" for a quite insightful perspective on the last forty years of American history.

Carter's allegedly "false" alarm needs to be compared side by side with the Bush and Reagen Happy Days are Here Again talks:

This is a You-Tube of Bush on "Drill Baby Drill" drugs, any questions?

Here is another You-Tube: Kudlow Hearts Reagen's Oil Policy

Carter's big mistake was in not declaring war on Iran when they took the hostages. If the US had been at war, then the citizenry would have accepted rationing, travel restrictions, speed limit reductions, the whole works.

Cynical, I know, but that's the way it was.

From the comments to the President Carter speech video on YouTube:

Climategate proves climate change is a lie.

This weeks 'The Economist' Letters section had 3 or 4 letters denouncing the idea of human-driven climate change.

The deniers will be in high hay for years...

Speeches don't move the culture, consequences do.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Porge - we're not all revolutionaries like yourself. Sometimes there needs to be a critical mass of understanding/emotion before things move to a higher level. Thats what Im trying to suss out - are we close to that inflection or are we too tilted in the feckless direction to do anything but decay?

We are no where near the pain point that will cause change.

Agreed. The culture I see will need to have the sense knocked into it before such a revelation would be seen as credible. And it would have to be a speech surpassing even the "I have a dream" speech. If Obama were to test such a speech on his staff I'm sure that they would tell him (as I noted on an earlier thread) "Gee, Mr. President, we all feel that it would be better to try and keep the Country's head above water until we all go over the falls together."

I would love to hear it though! Until I do, I'm going to stay the course and cover my own ass.

Agree totally that the moment is still quite aways away. It will come (IMO) when the cars can`t be used anymore as they are now. When there are gas shortages, when oil prices really start to bite, when roads have to be blocked off because they can`t be repaired. When starvation looms and then if people start to try to take necessities from other people who still have something. Then perhaps there will be a speech about the necessity to shut down things and cool it for a while while the government works on helping people cope with just finding the basic necessities. People wouldn`t accept this speech until there is a serious crisis first, it`s the way we are built. We want the chance to try hard to succeed and won`t accept any alternative until starvation for all is all but assured.

Even some 6th graders that I know are totally focused on studying to get into an elite junior high school. As long as there are elite schools available, these students will want to compete to go there. They would only be dissuaded if there were serious starvation, no oil available for food transport, etc. In the eyes of most (not to me), food production is the dullest, most menial, lowest form of servitude there is. To most, it is the lifestyle of peasants, the uneducated and uneducable, the lowly, the stupid, the unlettered, half-witted, and the closed-minded. If the government suddenly started saying that it`s time to focus on everyone growing food (unless there is serious starvation first), people would quickly throw them out of power. "My little Johnny grow turnips? No way! He`s going to be a lawyer of course!" Everyone feels this way, even those who are currently growing turnips for a living.

I think that there is a basic understanding among the elite in power that the people will desire to carry on in the lottery even while the odds grow exceedingly small that one (or more likely one`s children) will succeed.

But how could someone face their child and say, "sorry, I know you had big dreams of being a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, etc. but I thought it would be better to invest that money for college in a piece of land so you can be a farmer".......Probably your child would be furious if you said this to him/her (because someone else will get the slot in school to be trained for that elite profession, while your child will be hence widely ridiculed as a clueless idiot with a field) UNLESS everyone else around is literally bags of skin-and-bones begging for bread in the gutter. In that case if you have a field while others are starving, well, then it`s probably fine.....

I`m not saying farmers are stupid. It is the image they have only, and think it`s unfair and quite wrong also. It`s a mistake the culture has made in assessing jobs, giving primacy to the city jobs where you can wear a suit. So shallow, so thoughtless, materialistic, idiotic reasoning. A huge mistake. Hopefully it will be rectified in the near future. When I recently heard Jim Pogers telling Maria Bartiromo she would be a farmer in the future I felt hopeful.

I notice this among us Doomers, everyone wants to be a gunsmith or a chemist or something, somehow no one wants to be what 90% of us are going to be, farmers.

We deserve some breaks for planning ahead of the great unwashed..

I think I want to be an Anarchist-King in the Mises World of the Future:
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: The Great "Peak Oil" Theory Is Just Not All That It Is Cracked Up To Be

A blast quote from the past (in comments section of above link):

"Many thanks to free market economics which teaches us that only the market economy can solve our so called energy problem."

Can I ask a question, and please do not assume I am trying to be a smart ass, I really, REALLY am trying to figure out this belief that the "feudal farmer" thing can work...

Given the average age of the population of the developed nations, even if the bulk of the population suddenly WANTED to be self supporting farmers, why would anyone assume they could do it? This nation is a giant indoor/outdoor old folks home now, and only getting more so, and we have a more balanced age demographic than Euope or Japan! Do 50 plus year old people who have never known hard labor really make good farmers?

Do we assume that driving the professional class back to the land will work better for us than it did for Mao in China, in which more and more farmers meant more and more starvation (interesting that, huh?) Are we making the assumption that everything we ever knew about specialization and division of labor is crap? All we have to do is have everyone back on the farm and the food will flow like water, oh, and the little problem of how the food is transported, stored, seeds and fertilizer and pest control...well we sure don't want a bunch of egghead specialists messing up Eden, do we?

Cornucopians may live in a fantasy world, but theirs is the cutting edge of bloody realism compared to the "Green Acres" back to Hootersville dream...


The complexity that our civilization managed to create required division of labour. As that complexity winds down due to lack of energy to do "stuff", we'll be back to living simpler lives. Like Defeyyes put it, we're back to stone age by 2025.

Yes, you do have a valid point. The "hope" that becoming farmer will solve the problem is at best only delusional. We don't have a clue how things will turn out to be for the addict in us has never run out of drug supplies thus far.

But then, striving to be a farmer is the most realistic option that I can think of. No teacher, no poet and no political leader will be needed in a future where meeting the basic food needs in a changing, unpredictable climate will be the biggest challenge.

... or does all of that sound too "uncool" for ye smart human being?

RC asks " Do 50 plus year old people who have never known hard labor really make good farmers?"

IMO no. But there are still a few who once did labor in the family farm. Milk cows, butcher hogs and all the rest.

I consider myself one of those. How many more exist? Very very few. Most of my cohorts have died off or in nursing homes. They are incapble of leading anyone.

But there is Me. OFM,Todd,Sgage and a few more I should mention but can't at the moment.

Likely before the collapse we few will be gone. If at or approaching age of 70.

If we are ever going to capture the knowledge these people have then steps should have already been taken.

I can say this for sure. Obama will lead us no where.


I grew up doing fairly hard labor to feed my siblings and later, myself.

Hell I lived through the 70s anyone who could do that as a kid knows how to work.


Not to be disagreeable with Airdale below, but the answer is clearly yes. Fifty + year olds can leave the professional world and become successful farmers. And they are going to have to in large numbers in the near future in MHO.

I myself have done this very thing. If you peruse Campfire from last Dec/Jan you will find a main post about what I have done. I have another main post updating what I have accomplished in the last year in draft form in Jason's hands as we speak. Hopefully we will get it up and we can get some give and take on it soon.

There seems to be some strange misunderstanding about farming being so physically demanding that anyone who does not take it up as a child will never be strong enough to handle the work load. This is just not accurate. There are plenty of 50+ year olds who are very physically able who have never farmed. Not all are from the professional occupations but many are. What about the large numbers of veterans who leave the service every year. These are ideal farmer candidates. The have some form of pensio and health care provided, tend to be in good physical shape and many would love the lifestyle.

I had dinner last night with 2 other farm families who were not born to farming. One was a college professor before he started and the other couple were both teachers.

The physical aspects of farming are such that by pacing oneself for a time you will quickly gain the required strength and endurance to handle that part of the workload. The main issue of being able to "do it" is the knowledge of "how" to farm. If you have not had previous life experience in farming vegetables then you have a steep learning curve if you want to be a vegetable farmer. But it is not impossible by any means. Study, consultation with those more knowlegeable, trial and error, desire and necessity will get you there.

If we were talking about going from being a sit on your ass lawyer to a true no equipment subsistence farmer doing all manual labor then the 50+ year old would be in some trouble. But then if you have traveled the world you would find that even those who started out as subsistence farmers as children are pretty much toast by the age of 50. But we are not talking about that.

It will be a long descent from where we are today before there would be no technology to assist us. And there will naturally be loads of younger people to work these farms in the future drawdown as I can attest by the frequent numbers of recent college graduates who contact me and the other farmers I know looking for farm work. We have had a large surplus of "professional" workers for a long time and will not need anywhere near as many as we have now in the future.

Your comment on China has no relevance in this situation. Unless you count Mother Nature as doing the driving. If depletion of energy supplies requires that more farmers exist to grow enough food then that IS the current specialization and division of labor that society needs filled. We used to need lots of computer experts that are unnecessary right now, and structural engineers and petroleum geologists, etc. Things change. Smart farmers are going to do better than dumb farmers but you can say the same about any profession.

Those who see a problem and attempt to work out solutions may fail, and some may try things that others think are futile, but to disrespect them in comparison to those who choose to stick their heads in the sand seems ... somewhat ignorant.

A couple of points on how "hard" it is to produce food.

1. Knowledge - The successful food producer has wide knowledge and will use far less effort to produce crops than someone who is guessing at what to do.

2. Skill-sets - The successful food producer will also have wide ranging skill sets. The novice is like the over-used adage, "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

3. Physical effort - The successful food producer is like a marathon runner who paces his/her effort so that they can go all day. The novice is like a sprinter who has a single burst of energy for a short period but then can do no more running.

At 71 I only work 6-8 hours a day whereas when I was younger I typically worked 9-12 hours a day. Having said that, my guess is that I can accomplish far more than a person in their 40's working longer hours who doesn't know what they are doing.

Let me throw in a #4 - wisdom - I don't have any illusions about the effort food production takes. I'm not like the stary-eyed novice who expects crops to appear like Minerva, fully in fruit and ready to eat. I expect some crop failures. I expect good weather and bad weather, etc. So, rather then becoming angry or frustrated, I just think about next year.


I agree that there are huge hurtles. But as you point out, knowledge is key. Could access to the internet play a role here? Traditional farmers had no such access, but today such access provides the potential for ready access to information and even wisdom.

Of course, it also provides access to a lot of junk, and as we see with various types of denialism, the internet can concentrate ignorance as efficiently as it spreads accurate info, probably more efficiently, in fact.

I think a lot of people are already starting to get some experience growing their own food. Sale of vegetable seeds exceeded sale of flower seed in garden stores last year for the first time in decades.


A good set of things for someone starting out to keep on a list on the refrigerator to remind them every morning when they go out to work on their new farming job.

All of them are common sense of course. Some will have to learn them the hard way and others will just instinctively know that that is how it works. There are corollaries to your thoughts for many disciplines.

The world is full of things that are 'hard' to do. But a great many people are fully capable of figuring out how to do them. Not all of course. And it is worth remembering that we are not talking about folks that are doing this in some vacuum but rather in a setting where there are many others who are doing it as well. Some will have more knowledge and experience than others (folks like yourself, Airdale and my neighbors) who most likely will help disseminate their knowledge. Esspecially as they age and cannot do as much of the physical stuff as they used to. What better way to remain valuable than to be a store of essential knowledge.

Surviving future problems will be a team effort.

But it is foolish to think or imply that people who have spent their entire lives in suburban/urban settings and are in professional occupations of some kind are inately incompetent and incapable of adapting. It's just nonsense.


RC, the middle class are being crushed by economic collapse and will be increasingly eviscerated by salary arbitrage with China, India, et al. So will the "feudal farmer" thing work?

Yes, for those that can adapt to it and be successful. And no, for those that can't do it. But, your question really misses the point completely, the "feudal farmer" thing doesn't need them, nobody will need them.

Your question really is; "how will all those millions be able to maintain their lifestyle when their livelihoods vanish because its obvious that becoming farmers will not do it?". The answer is they cannot maintain their lifestyle regardless and those that do become farmers will be the lucky ones, the rest will have to join the growing ranks of the poor and compete head to head with them for their daily crust.

What does seem rather bizarre and fantastical is your belief that somehow the middle class will have a choice in the matter.

To answer your rhetorical questions which really don't need answers except maybe for any newbies who know NOTHING about agriculture:

If for some reason our industrial ag system collapses world wide or perhaps even just in North America, depending on a lot of "what ifs "we will be starving by the tens of millions within a few months.

And there would be absolutely nothing that could be done about it, once we kill off the livestock and eat the existing grain stocks normally used for feed.

I will hazard a wag that it would be impossible to get enough people back on the land and started farming by traditional pre ff methods to stabilize the food supply in less than ten to twenty years even under the harshest of martial law regimes-unless of course so many of us were dead that we would not NEED the huge amounts of food consumed today.

We are absolutely and totally done for if the power goes off and the water/ sewer systems in the big cities go down and stay down.

Ditto the fertilizer industry, the mechanized farms themselves, and the trucks that do the hauling.

But given the choice between starvation and living in a tent town in Alabama and learning how to hoe corn my guess is that quite a few soft as soap middle aged office workers would find themselves in the best shape of thier lives after six months.

The rest of them would be pushing up new grass in fields laying fallow for a year.

Time frame is key. Sudden = death. Gradual = a fighting chance for many. That is the basic difference between doomers and declinists. Doomers are certain that there is not only going to be a crash, but that it is going to happen soon and fast. Declinists are at least hopeful that things are going to go long and slow.

I'm not sure that "everyone is going to be a farmer" anytime soon, but just about everyone is going to find that it is to their advantage to grow at least some of their own food starting pretty soon now.

No, there are not a lot of 50+ year old desk jockeys who are going to be able to cut it as farm hands. However, there have been plenty of people who have retired and then started a garden. Lots of city folk who had never turned a shovelful of dirt learned to garden during WWII.

Of course, there are plenty of people right now who are taking care of cats or dogs. It is not an insurmountable chasm to leap from there to taking care of laying hens or rabbits, and from there to other small stock like milk goats or pigs.

At least here in the US, we have a huge amount of land presently being used unproductively for lawns. If household budgets get stretched tight enough, then more and more of those WILL get placed into food production. In the cases of those lawns of homeowners who are too infirm enough to do the work themselves, I have no doubt that there will be neighbors with more time than money who will be eager to work out a share-cropping arrangement with them.

Let us not forget...

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

- Charles Darwin

I believe that quote was actually by Clarence Darrow to paraphrase the ideas of Charles Darwin, not by Darwin himself.

I`m not saying farmers are stupid. It is the image they have only, and think it`s unfair and quite wrong also

Jimmy Carter armed the enemies of modern energy, he destroyed the credibility of those who knew the need for change and modernization was real and imperative, and he drove a generation away from taking seriously one of the most serious issues of our era

I wonder if Jimmy Carter's ineffectivness was amplified by the fact that he was (and sounded like) a farmer.

Jimmy Carter is a nuclear engineer... (sort of).

He studied math in college and became engineering and electronics officer aboard several nuclear naval vessels. He went back to Georgia when his father died to help the family...

I went to some of the same Navy schools that Carter did and I was born in GA as well. He was still percieved as a farmer from Plains, in part because his campaigns promoted that image. I have an Atlanta "southern blue-blood" accent and have experienced accent bias in many parts of the country. Many people never get past the accent to consider that I, or Jimmy Carter, have nuclear engineering training, served on submarines or have degrees. It's rare that these folks realize that they "talk funny" too.

"accent bias"


There is a famous Jimmy Carter quote to the effect, "It's about time the country had a president that doesn't have an accent."

Having attended Ga Tech, I often noticed the different accent of the folks who went to University of Georgia, which was generally an AG school to us. There is a noticeable difference between the country redneck accent and the "Southern Blue Blood" accent you mention. Atlanta was (and probably still is) a more cosmopolitan, almost Yankee city surrounded by the South. And I never had an Atlanta "accent" even though I went to school in Atlanta, as my parents were mid-westerners and I was in the first wave of TV viewing kids.

BTW, I also worked for Jimmy Carter briefly when he was running for office. at the time, I didn't know he was a member of Rockefeller's Trilateral Commission or what that implied. It was all part of the Game, sort of like Obama hiring all those people from Wall Street...

E. Swanson

Northerners who have never lived in the South generally fail to realize that there is no single "southern accent", there are many of them. Each Southern state seems to have at least two, sometimes more.

No speech or speeches, no matter how well-crafted and delivered, and no matter by whom, will knock our lifestyle off of top dead center. Only dramatic events leading to crises will move the needle. By the time that happens it will be too late to do much meaningful. People should have had the forethought and critical thinking to listen to Carter...back up, listen the the LTG, how about Malthus?

People are enticed and fooled every time we buy our way out of potential saves the day again and again...of course, the fact of finite sources and sinks vs. exponential growth never goes away, but is masked by industrial revolutions, green revolutions, information ages, the promise of a second biotech green revolution, the singularity, etc.

The inability and unwillingness to look forward beyond one's own circumstances and understand limits is our greatest failing.

We are no where near the pain point that will cause change.

Pain is a common and reliable way to trigger change, but it is not the only way and not the best way, if any alternative can be made to work.

The problem with pain as an inducement to change is that the change will be reactive. No analysis or understanding involved, just "get me out of here!" Or the equivalent. It quenches whatever behavior is associated with the pain, but doesn't guarantee that what replaces it will be any better. Many addicts flee from a problematic addiction by switching to another. GWB replaced drinking with religion, but I don't think the result was especially salutory.

I'm strongly in favor of promoting enlightenment. AKA eductation. We might or might not get society at large to the point of recognizing the value of changing before things get desperate, but at least we can plant seeds of thinking. Then when the social beast cries "Ouch!" and flees the pain, there will be a better chance that the direction in which it flees will be constructive.

Hi Roger,
what have you done personaly to promote enlightenment/education?

I ask this because I've just got in touch with my local Transition towns group who are all very new to this as far as I can tell. When I contacted TT 6 months ago and asked about a local group there wasnt one.

I'm hoping you have some tips for me.

I'm working with Transition Towns movement here in Northern California. We are new, and letting it emerge, but have had some success.
I'm open for any tips.

Hi ht,
I think you're local to me.
If you have the inkling, contact me. - I'm just gardening so far...
(info in profile)

Pain and consequences alone will be reactive as you state. Knowledge without pain is mute and dead in its tracks to move the culture. There is some interplay between these two that works its magic.

I propose that this would be an interesting thesis to explore if it hasn't been done already.

There's a big assumption being made that when a "pain event" happens it will be obvious to everyone what the cause is. But if it happens suddenly that, say, there're huge price rises in supermarkets and relative shortages in your country, I suspect most of the public will be looking to the mainstream media to explain it. So whether you believe in conspiracy or laziness/incompetence it's highly likely that only immediate, dramatic causes will be looked at. Speeches now won't change behaviour now to avoid the problems I agree, but they can put the issue of dramatic reductions in accessible enegry "on the table" as an cause that needs to be considered by the MSM.

We only learn from our mistakes.
Experience is the best teacher.
etc. etc. etc.

I went through two very distinct styles of training when I was younger.

The first was British military training where if you made a mistake they screamed in your ear till you got it right. It works well when you need to train groups of people I think. one man can scream at several and they all learn together.

The other was Thaiboxing. My teacher was an ex prize fighter, a quiet man who would tell you politely where you were going wrong but also point out what you were doing right. Although we also trained in a group he would speak to us all individualy on our strengths and weaknesses.

Of the two, carrot and stick methods, the later was more effective I found with people becoming competent boxers far faster than the Military method although fewer people were being trained.

Yep. Speeches won't force people into car pools, or taking the bus or the bike or walking. Not being able to afford the next tank of gas will do so, and very effectively.

The cause and effect may not be so direct. Who or what do people blame when they have no job to which to drive, but gas doesn't cost much more than before? The huge number of jobs tied up in oil-based investments almost guarantees unemployment before high gas prices.

"I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty's Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation.

The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

I once knew a ham radio operator, an old guy, no rocket scientist but kind to a fault. He was well regarded by "hams" smarter than him and it was a lesson to me, that there are more important things than intelligence. (I consider intelligence a curse these days but that's a different subject).

I'd go visit him once in a while and he had a violin and bow hanging on his wall. He'd been the Concertmeister of some, more like this, that, and the other, prominent symphony orchestras. I was itching to ask him to teach me to play, but I could tell the subject was kind of a no-no. The closest I got was asking why he didn't play it any more and he looked at me and told me that for the longest time, in his life, all he'd done was play the violin.

He'd obviously been coached as a violinist since a young age, it'd been his love but also his only path in life. Later, since I'm sure he was an adult during WWII, it may have been his lifeline. Now, finally, he'd gotten old, and he didn't have to play the violin any more. So, he didn't.

I see an analogy with Tiger here, he may love golf and be very glad he got to do what he's been able to, but on another level be SO SICK of it, he's been sabotaging his life so he can get out of it.

It is easy to talk about giving up economic growth, but economic growth itself is highly popular mainly because for many it is an easy path to prosperity.

Figure out a realistic way in which people can live comfortable lives without economic growth (assuming such a thing even exists). Then you might have a shot at convincing people to give it up.

Until this happens, people will continue to vote for politicians that promise growth and prosperity. Some politicians may out and out lie to tell people what they want to hear, but many of them will really believe that their schemes might actually work.

And keep in mind that politicians are human too. They want prosperity as much as everyone else - just because you elect someone to office doesn't change anything and make them suddenly gain any new insights.

Personally, I don't give a damn about prosperity, but I care a gread deal about security. It's a fault of our society that the two are so intimately linked. Lose your job, lose your savings, lose your life and the lives of those dependent on you. It doesn't have to be that way, and probably isn't, in reality. But it's not so far from the truth, and is how most of us think.

Oh man! this one hurts. OK, I'll play.

So Tiggrrr (or is it Cheetah?) who has more money than doG, decides to take a few years off and try as hard as possible to spend some of it, just try and spend at least 10% of it if possible. Its going to be hard but his fans understand and support him in this effort.

Americans could take the hint, pick up on his lead and see how much they could spend. Do their patriotic duty.

Bush tried to set the country up for this with his plan of privatizing SS. If he were successful we would all be recipients of Gov. largess and bonuses (TARP + all else) and could be making every effort to spend our way to prosperity.

NOW I understand the correlation, this is fun.

-End Sarcanol Drip-

Tiger represents all of what is wrong with our culture, every mans dream, play marbles really well, get as rich and successful as him and you absolutely will get laid by anything that moves, without even trying, and still be a hero to millions. A god among men. EFF him.

Does Tiger represent what is wrong with our culture?

He is a successful man fullfilling a biological need in taking advantage of his position by sleeping with as many women as he wants. He is most likely doing what comes naturaly to a man of high ranking and it is only in our society this is looked on as wrong.

If he was Ghengis Kahn or some medieval caliph this would be expected of him. The difference is the enthasis each society places on sexual relationships.

Maybe its our culture that is wrong and not Tiger?

Duh! Our contemporary Western "culture" is out of touch with reality. Here in the USA, sexuality is still repressed, marketed, misunderstood, and generally a mess for most people. Desire is part of our human core. From Bill Clinton, to Newt Gingrich, to Tiger Woods, the evidence is very clear that sexual desire and willing partners don't fit into our outdated models of monogamy and marriage. Just like we have come to realize Peak Oil necessitates us to change our world view and that life of the status quo is unsustainable, we should likewise make peace with the end of monogamy as it exists today. If the Bonobos can get along, can't we figure learn how to as well? Broken models of living, like unlimited cheap oil, need to be recognized as deficient. Unlike oil, sex is a relatively free and renewable resource. ;-)

Maybe Tiger should just stand up and own it - "Yeah, I'm the best golfer in the world, I'm worth a billion bucks, I have a hot, Swedish wife, and, I have a posse of babes at my beck and call - I'm living the dream!" I'd be quite ok with that if not for the wedding vow bit. If she'd agreed to him doing the naughty on the side, who cares? But I'm quite sure she wasn't in on the deal. Essentially, he got himself into an arrangement that wasn't sensible for him over the long haul.

Similarly, with PO, we need to change the arrangement. No, we are not entitled to the things that we thought we were, and yes, we can restructure to something more in keeping with what is sensible. We can get a divorce from our old ways, take our hits, and move on to something that does not cause us such pain. Perhaps it's better than a golf club to the face?

To extend the metaphor a bit, there are a lot of folks who don't know what Peak Oil is or that it will impact their life. Similarly, I doubt Tiger realized there were other options or ways of living that didn't follow the broken status quo. I seriously doubt that he considered living like Hugh Heffner and not having a trophy wife and nuclear family. Poor Tiger, like the majority of humans follow social norms and conventions even if they obviously don't work or are irrational. Just look at prudish Victorian era norms about class and sexuality, look at the failure of alcohol and cannabis prohibition, look at the disgrace of "chaste" and "celibate" Catholic priests preying upon children or turning the monastery into a gay love shack.

I don't see divorce as the only option nor a golf club to the face. How about creating more types of relationship models. Hell, we have civil unions, gay marriage, open marriages, couple swapping, and loving sacred orgies. There should be room for a new hybrid that lets us raise children, support each other in the relationship, and not be afraid of restraining sexual energy and interest to only one pattern of Western married monogamy.

A book that I felt philosophically addressed this idea of living outside of or pushing social norms to expand and change them is "Lilla" by Robert Pirsig (his follow up novel to "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance")
Interestingly enough it has a strong sexual thread running through it.

Tiger represents all of what is wrong with our culture

Puts a whole new meaning into how women view this oil company ad:

LMAO! On a more serious note...isn't it the same desire for wealth, power, prestige, sex, excitement, etc. that seduced the various pooches to "put a Tiger in their tank", that has also lured us into the global predicament we're in?

btw, I'll take a sasquatch over a tiger any day.

It's always the border collies who suffer most.

I've been avoiding the Tiger drama, despite my wife, my dentist, and seemingly everyone else I run into is seeing the world through this lens this week. Seems to me as though he has in a real sense maximized his personal pleasure with this exact scenario as a game plan. That is, that having lots of affairs and finally being caught is not a bad game plan for a shallow billionaire. Rather like living a sinful life and getting religion when there's nothing to lose.

I think to a large extent that's what we're doing about AGW, peak oil, resource degradation, the environment... "getting away with it" while we can and letting the future fall the way it will. Like monkeys, dogs, insects, bacteria, viruses. Perhaps our biggest neocortical rationalization is that the neocortical "self" is doing anything BUT rationalizing.

Hitting a ball and driving after it, on lavishly watered turf that exists for no other reason, is not a bad metaphor for our civilization. Although I'll admit that millions of people watching in high-def TV from air-conditioned rooms as someone ELSE does this is even odder. One wonders what a sentient alien would make of it.

What could Obama do? Perhaps threaten to start openly banging skanky groupies and taking bribes until US citizens start acting a bit less selfishly. The "I have a disturbingly arousing dream" speech. Or not.

Fact is, there's probably not much a president can do, short of convincing US citizens that the Mole People, in league with Satan, have attacked world oilfields from below and are sucking them dry, to make us burn coal and heat up the surface world so they can emerge to conquer us. We're playing into their grimy troglodyte hands.

"Satanic Mole People Who Want Our World" would probably be a useful meme complex.

But I won't hold my breath.

With all respect. This thread has gone too far. I'm not an addict off political correct statements. Bu here we are going to interpret the lives of two successful afro americans in the light of peak oil. That is absurd. The discretionary part of the GLOBAL economy is under pressure. AND WHAT??? Is there anything new? May I miss a point?


We will know that we have passed by the time that racism is still an issue when no one brings it up defensively or offensively in a discussion that has nothing to do with race.

That time may never come of course -but YOU brought it up first here tonight.

Tiger's crash on the personal level is my Pearl Harbor wake up call on the societal level.Maybe Tiger's wakeup call has come soon enough for him to salvage his family life.Maybe we will get our Pearl Harbor wakeup in time for us to reevaulate our situation and execute a sharp emergency course change.

Porge is right-the level of pain is nowhere near what it will take to convince the body politic that we must change course or else.

But Nate is right in that the level of pain is high enough that the public is beginning to percieve that all is not at all well wit the American Dream, that our current ills are not something that we will recover from , like the flu or pneumonia , or something that will heal, like a broken leg.

We are as a society possibly beginning to realize that our ills are serious and chronic, and that we may never again be what we once were-young and tough and brash."Ten foot tall and bullet proof" is an apt description, but I can't remember the source.

We are beginning to realize that the aches and pains aren't going to go away, and that perhaps our current ills were a bullet dodged-a heart attack that left us alive and functioning but probably permanently unable to run the old collective rat race of consumption ever again, except maybe in the senior division along with the other old fogeys -the western European countries.

Old age comes fast to nations during an era when the rate of change-and therefore time for practical purposes-is steadily accelerating.

Getting old has it's compensations but it ain't fun.

Paraphrased-" Ah but it's a grand feeling to be young and tough with hard muscles and a heart full of hell!" Louis LAmour

I have personally already passed the point where as the song goes "I ain't as good as I once was, but I am as good once as I ever was."

May be we truly are beginning to realize collectively that our best days are behind us.Perhaps the "best is yet to come".

We will know that we have passed by the time that racism is still an issue when no one brings it up defensively or offensively in a discussion that has nothing to do with race.

Well said Mac. Like Bulworth said: "The only way to get rid of racism is to keep f@$*ing each other 'til we're all the same color."

At least we're good at somthing.

I ready and willing-not so ure about the able any more-but they say a heart attack while enjoying a nice gallop with a stylish filly is not a bad way to go!

Excellent comment, OFM.

I have to say I am surprised to see the trials and traumas of some golfer become a subject for this forum even while I am not surprised at all for it to flame high in the popular info buzz.

Okay, it's a metaphor. So to the questions:

Number one fails to draw the distinction between the epiphany of an individual and the cultural totality of a global society. Obama doesn't speak for the world, doesn't even speak for the US. He can't even speak for himself. Any politician anywhere who steps past generally accepted cultural limits is dead in the water. If Obama gave the speech Nate suggests his power and authority would instantly drop to zero even without benefit of an election.

Number two, MLK. Once again the individual is not the collective. The civil rights movement was becoming culturally mainstream long before he was murdered, even before the "I have a Dream" speech. He articulated what already was in the air. Major civil rights legislation (and anti poverty) was enacted in the wake of Kennedy's murder not King's and even Kennedy wasn't moving any faster than he thought majority opinion would support.

Number three, are we ready for the kind of change under discussion? I rather doubt it. Obama was elected under the banner of change. But did that mean simply, no more Bush, or did it mean some kind of radical departure from our past cultural, economic, and political norms? You could get a different answer from just about anybody you talk to. The message was vague so therefore difficult to attack. If it had been specific to the satisfaction of most of us here it would have been real easy to attack and McCain would be president.

If Obama gave the speech Nate suggests his power and authority would instantly drop to zero even without benefit of an election.

I wonder how many remember Carter's speech during the 70's energy crisis. It was really a great speech (, worth revisiting if you missed it), telling Americans they would have to make sacrifices and should get used to making do with less.

It went over like a lead balloon, and I remember a newscaster looking like someone peed in his water as they talked about it after.

Please see the discussion of the Carter speech at the top of the thread. Perhaps Carter failed, but the country failed even more miserably.

I groaned when I saw the topic here, having struggled unsuccessfully to avoid learning anything about this latest tawdry media fest.

But I thought this quote to be particularly brilliant, even by Nate's usual high standards:

"He underwent no ostensible change during this time, other than that certain aspects of his life once hidden, suddenly came to public light. Backed into a corner, Tiger has chosen a path of redemption and change, which at least for the moment requires him to give up the one thing that brought him fame and fortune to begin with: the game of golf. However, he chose this path after the damage was already done."

What we all need is to choose a path of redemption, even if we never reach the goal. If there was ever a moment for collective reflection and reevaluation of our basic premises, this is surely it.

Not that it's gonna happen.

Ditto; excellent comment OFM and OC.
I am not American and TW does not figure very large, but we have our share of golf courses: would like to import visionary Bob 'Toto' Shaw.
I am about the same stage in life as young OFM. And my retiring from paid employ has marked a sea change or two. Tell it to the young ones?

How could Obama explain that USA and old fogeys over here in Europe can expect no economic growth while China (and India!) can 'get away with it', and, further, 'we' will be lucky to get by on half income?

I like the way though that Nate has led with his own personal exploration of lower pay and now does extreme info. Indeed my own boy also took a lower income and along with similar types now does demanding green tech related jobs with steep-learning grades, the while making good friendships and continuing bits of extreme rock-climbing.

A question does occur to me. The salient society-wide moment might come if China 'proves' in very practical terms, fairly soon, they actually can not become American?

Thank you Oldfarmermac. This time it was eurocentrism that got me blinded. Here we are constantly dwelling in that mood you describe, europeans are natural born pessimists and, as they constantly practice it, insensitive to this point of view. My father told me the way you did since I was young - but America at least gave us Rock´n Roll.

Wow, I'd managed to follow the Tiger show for two weeks (couldn't avoid it), and this entire thread up to here without even ONCE thinking "race". What relevance does that possibly have to the discussion?

Thanks for reminding me how important race apparently is to some people.

This would never happen - even if understood by all the elite - nobody would ever venture out and say it loud - atleast until they retire from active politics.

When growth as we know it actually stops - there would be a large section of population and their opportunistic leaders blaming it on things like (timid) action to limit emissions. They will promise to reverse course and bring back growth. In this competetive "optimism" and promisiing rosy futures, no politician can fall back.

unless what served as a political success marker in times past (growth, jobs, profits), no longer equated with political success...? I think we are closer than most realize to an inflection point on that but I live in the woods so perhaps I'm wrong...;-)

Melting it down to that point I go it (I've been stepping into a bar this saturday night and there wasn't any customer inside. The barkeeper told me this was the first time he saw that. I'm reporting from Germany.)

They have internet in the bars in Germany??

almost ;) (It's my hometown and in spite of the crisis centralization is going on. Everybody is leaving to the metropolis. Not even the representative of the green party was in the irish pub next door. In Germany the periphery is suffering big losses while the centers dwell in youth and multicultural life. This is going to be an issue very soon.)

IMO, we can predict this outcome from the fact that 2/3 of Americans are overweight, and half of those are fully obese. This happens despite the widespread dissemination and acceptance of knowledge of the many health and social-relations downsides of being overweight.

It's pretty clear that acceptance and understanding that a behavior pattern will lead to bad outcomes, even on a personal level, doesn't really change peoples' behavior. They can't help themselves. Humans who would get all they could while the getting was good were strongly selected for; those who want to 'save something for later' are a distinct minority.

Saving can be the wrong strategy. Any concentrated wealth or energy amongst hungry flames like humans and other organisms becomes a target. If it is not utilized, it must be protected and hidden. Ever eat a burger in your car and get an uneasy feeling with other people close to you, watching you, not lifting the burger to your mouth until a safe distance from potential competitors? At one time calories were much more precious than they currently are and eating surreptitiously was an advantage. The behavior still lingers even though food is currently abundant.

Resilience should increase with the increasing probability of adverse conditions. Unfortunately it won't be until half of the herd has done a nose dive over the cliff that resilience will be seen as a virtue amongst the survivors. Many people do not consider the resilience of their own bodies until they are diagnosed with cancer or have a heart attack, then it is often too late.

I continue to ride the "indiginous tribe" horse in these discussions. Because for each envisioned solution that I conjure up, there is a tribal equivalent to that idea. You will find no other past paradigm if I'm not mistaken for the the political success of a leader that was predicated on how much he and his family GAVE AWAY, versus hoarded. (Although some may argue that J. "Me no sink" Christ was also an example of this, our culture is replete with figures that regurgitate christian doctrine from the TV studios of their Oral Robertsonian mansions.)


What can world leaders say/do that would appeal to different aspects of our personalities than selfishness, greed and individualism?

It will be a "do", not a "say". When the first "Haves" begin to approach the "Have Nots" and with internal and external sincerity claim "I have too much....please take some", this will be a start. (This reminds of a time when Mary Chapin Carpenter played the Red River Valley fair in Fargo. A high platform in the middle of the throngs supported chairs for "VIP" attendeeds. Mary noted the height difference and obvious display of disparity and exclaimed "Haven't you guys heard of Marie Antoinette??..." ....which was lost on most of the crowd.)

So tribal paradigm #1: The most exalted individual is the one who gives away the most.

Do new trajectories only follow 'bad news'? (I wonder if the civil rights movement would have been as successful if MLK had NOT been assassinated.)

No. Many new trajectories take place simply when the internal angst is degraded, piece by piece, usually by surroundings or interactions that reveal the source of the anxiety for what it is. I've certainly read more convincing transformations coming from Western/Eastern cultured individuals who became immersed in indigenous cultures than those who cathartically "saw the light" through Judeo-Christianity, Buddism, or any of the other "portable" religions.

With regard to MLK, maybe the assassination helped the movement, but I've got to think it was the relentless pushing, pushing, pushing, by millions of little pieces of the movement over many centuries that would not go away that finally had its say.

Tribal Paradigm #2: You only needed your senses that you evolved with and some lessons from nature to follow and new, more stable trajectory.

Are we (in aggregate) ready for change that involves sacrifice, or just change that has no costs?

No, but it doesn't matter. There are some who will embrace it, some who will go kicking and screaming and others who will ho-hum through. I really think you should contemplate your use of the word "sacrifice". I keep coming back to Benjamin Franklin's observation that many of the Euros who "had a taste for the savage life" (I can't recall his exact words) preferred it to "civilized" life of the time. But of course there will be "costs" since in no way could a smooth transition from the current lifestyle to a much more modest one occur without some serious re-education. After some growth contortions, I submit to you that most...not all...but most people would feel better off.

My biggest worry: Since the US is only 4% of the world's population, such a changed lifestyle will not be very defensive against those that haven't changed. Witness the decline of indigenous cultures the world over due to external invasion....

Tribal paradigm #3: Does one in an indigenous tribe wake up saying: I'm late for my job. The damn toilet's plugged again. I'm not feeling well....which HMO to I belong to? Is there gas in the car to bring me to my hospital? What should I wear to the hospital? (Author's Note: During a trip to the hospital to visit my recovering mother this past summer, she actually asked me what I was going to wear!) Why isn't Jimmy doing better in school these days? The grocery store is open 24/7, but they don't have my favorite Gulf coast shrimp!....... You get the picture.

I don't think anyone gets it yet.

The economy will just squeeze down tighter and tighter until the "new" standard(s!) of living are accepted as necessities which will be explained by the government flappers after pundit pressure builds.

Blame will fly everywhere, consequences will happen rather randomly, and the people will never accept any of the proffered blame for their own plight, since one of the emergent purposes of government is to explain the flaws in people that make government necessary, without ever actually admitting there ARE any flaws.

America will muddle through because it is fat people with guns and resources. I live in Richmond California, in a housing coop built very well, in months less than was believed possible, because it was so ordered and so done. The land was deemed too low, so some high ranking corps of engineers officer pointed to a local hill, and Lo! it was flattened in days to raise the land. Easter Hill, it was called.

The reserves of energy and effort available to an unbombed land are immense. I'm almost seventy, but I think I could put out a days work, just like my father before me if there were a good reason.

But there are really no traces for me to pull against yet. I think this discussion is about how to make those traces.

Haha of course you mean "co-op" but please keep calling it a coop, it's much-needed levity, and it's less typing than "veal pen".

No, I think he said it right the first time, it's probably a coop if it's like any of the co-ops, apartments, townhouses, condos, or any of the other utopian socialist crap housing I've been looking at over the last couple of years. The new attack on ownership of a decent house as a sign of filthy decadence is just one of the great social/cultural aberrations we have subjected America to since the great "bank robbery" is truly astounding.


After his sitting in his COOP for years and hooked into TV and a recliner, the average 'oldster' wouldn't last too long past the massive leg cramps and faltering cardiovascualar systems hiccups.

I am there and though alwasy fairly active I experience both of the above.
It takes good muscles and a able body to do hard work, like splitting wood. Thats on the low end of the labor area. Just getting up wood.

TV has done a number on us. My last uncle sat and watched for years and had ZERO muscle tone. Could hardly walk across the floor. Just from sitting and vegetating.


In addition to healing the family situation, Tiger might also consider (as penance) forming a convert-the-links project, whose madate would be (ala Toto) to create rich ecosystems where once roamed only the lost Golf Pro and apostles.

That's what I was thinking. Some sort of connection to what Bob Toto Shaw had been harping about in terms of the elaborate golf course projects Woods was involved in.

Has anyone heard from Bob Shaw lately? I have not seen him post in a while.

Friends hoping for his welfare.


The golf courses of today will make lovely cemeteries in the future.

Who is going to bury the bones of the carcass after they pick it clean.

I know, terrible and extremely fatalistic.

You know Porge, your probably right. They will likely grind the bones up to make fertilizer. ;-}

Are you totoneila under a new handle?

Nope, just an old cowboy who has too much time on his hands. I had my spine fused in mid October and the Doc says it'll be about 6 months until I will be as good as used again. Anyhow, when spring comes I will quit bugging you guys and go and do something useful.

Speaking of whom, did he get banished or start a blog somewhere?

No way banished.
I don't think he could do his own blog either.
The guy was weird...but in a good way.

Just bury the whole body. A new study found they make great fertilizer.

the carcass after they pick it clean.

Did a quick search and found no one's made reference to the movie "The Road".
I didn't want to bring it up cause it's so depressing, but since you alluded to cannibalism, I figure it's ok.

As an American I can only answer from a U.S. centric view. Currently the metric in the U>S. appears to be to keep the masses in a constant state of fear. The PTB can continue to divert the nations resources to themselves and their friends without interference from the masses. It is too early in the crisis for any leader to arouse the masses by revealing that a problem exists. As the standard of living decreases for an ever increasing number of the population the remainder are kept concerned but manageable by the PTB by "FEAR" fear that the Taliban navy or the Al Quada Air Force will attack the Homeland thru one of our borders allows the PTB to keep track of movements of people. Vehicles are routinely stopped within hundreds of miles from the border and proof of citizenship is required for the occupants. H1N1 provided a wonderful source of fear (it could infect your children) the secondary fear was " we have a shortage of vaccine-this might affect your children." The speech by Obama at West Point-we must fight them over there to protect the homeland. The leaders will only acknowledge the problem when it has become too obivious to hide. The the speeches will be about the "they" who are doing this to us. They will never admit the real problems.

Good one penury
Voted the #1 comment closest to reality in the whole thread.

I would add that the "inflection point" that ALL are waiting, hoping, praying for has little or no chance of happening unless we make it happen.

There are no shortages of ideas for the future, nor of people capable of making all of these wonderful transitions happen.

There are almost none who are interested, willing, and able to stand up to the system which has historically shown us what we can expect and which is currently doing everything to insure that point of inflection will not be ours to do with what we want.

Some of us (me for example) have been "standing up to the system" in one way or another for more than 40 years. You get tired of it after a while.

The basic message is right on target, though I think it will need to be repeated many many more times before it starts to make an impact on most people in the US. The paradigms of a linear human progress to prosperity through history and the desire of every generation to exceed the last are pretty well hammered in and reinforced, by religion, government, educators, and by both liberal and conservative ideologies.

I don't know much about Tiger as I don't watch TV, but the basic notion of a limit to economic growth and human endeavor is a hard pill for everyone I know to swallow. I think its what is behind much of the desperate denial of global warming and peak oil.

>>basic notion of a limit to economic growth and
>>human endeavor is a hard pill for everyone I know to swallow.
>>I think its what is behind much of the desperate denial of
>>global warming and peak oil.

I agree. We are waiting for a new resource injection. Otherwise...

The cure for Athens is Sparta. It's a thought-stopper.

Agree that the pain comes from fearing that your kids will come down a notch or two and make a family where the work is white collar into a blue-collar one. It`s unbearable for the generation now in its 40s which by and large succeeded so well. You know the old misty-eyed tale: "granpa had a farm but daddy was the first to go to college, then I could go to graduate school....." Then the next generation (it goes without saying) is supposed to have two post graduate degrees, not just one. The old narrative about the grandparents` struggles so that subsequent generations could succeed NEVER includes the INCREASING energy picture that was the background for the action. "Oh no. Energy from oil had nothing to do with it. Wasn`t nothing but hard work!!" Well, that is how the MYTH runs anyway.

Until you can puncture this DUSTY old MYTH (which will deflate quite a few egos in my immediate family BTW!) you can`t really address the problem at hand. And so it goes, circular reasoning after catch-22....

My own myth is certainly punctured: on my father's side, my grandfather was a mechanic for a tugboat company, while my father got an engineering degree and made an fine living in the defense industry. I worked as a mechanic to make my own way through college, but several jobs failed to materialize and I just stuck it out as a mechanic. As the years have gone by the standards of employment seem to have declined; for me (and unlike for my father and grandfather) both health care and retirement have receded beyond the horizon of likelihood.

So while I am well enough employed and have no complaints, there is no doubt that the living standards and expectations of the past, even of my own recent past, are not available any more.

Similar to my own experience. Kind of a lumpy plateau with me being more of the normal lump. Like me, father's siblings were all trades, mechanics, maintenence types ,save him, who managed the doctoral thing. The 'black sheep' he was called. Yep that was the perspective, there wasn't hardly a high school grad among them.

I'd always tried to prepare our offspring for the possibility of a change of expectations and living standards (being an old LTG type from way back) but never discouraged them from trying to go the 'professional' route if that is where their paths led. It seems they did so WITH adjusted lifestyle expectations and so far so good.

W/o the spectacular excesses availiable during the cheap and easy oil age they have been inclined to prioritize away from mass accumulation and tword stability based on social contact and pretty darn decent vocational goals.

Adaptation can take many forms perhaps. My big worry for them ,like you, is the further downslope consequences and 'receeding horizons'. They did ,however, get the same advice that my dad got (I think it was about 90 years back). "Get an education but don't despise the plow". Interesting how things come back around.

So which US generation is "the first generation to be worse off than it's parents"? I've been giving this some thought -- my kids aren't the academic types that I was and likely won't go to grad school, much less get two post-graduate degrees. Are they the first to be worse off?

Looking at retirement planning, I wonder if it isn't the Boomers. Our (well,my) parents had a comfortable retirement with pensions and savings contributed by their employers. I have a 401(K) with a small contribution from my employer. And Social Security, maybe.

Through the 50s and 60s, my parents made a good living on my father's salary. These days it takes two salaries to keep up the same standard of living. Is that better or worse than the last generation?

BTW, this isn't meant to be a whinge, just food for thought.

a more nuanced question might be 'the first generation to realize it's worse off than it's parents' - because we can often be better off than our parents by taking more from our children...

Given the "How to boil a frog" syndrome perhaps the realizations will never happen. And the worse the situation gets, the more preoccupied people get with just surviving.

It would be interesting if Obama could force himself to say something along these lines. We might be there soon. War has always had the ability to forge people into doing things they would not do before, like rationing, and working to save everyone else not just themselves, in a "for the common good" reasoning.

I am not sure when that will roll around and turn the thumb screws tight enough for people to notice and try to change.

I did not know that Tiger Woods had gone so far as to get out of golf. I don't follow who is hot and who is not in the popular press. There are a few artists that I read about, but it is mostly after the fact.

I know how to play golf. But never could get over the waste of all that space that could be growing something useful. I don't like green lawns in yards either, mostly it a waste of energy. If you see what looks like a lawn in my yard, I'll show you all the "weeds" I have ready for picking in season.

One thing Obama could say is, " My fellow humans, seeing what has become of Tiger Woods and golfing as we know it, I suggest that all golf courses be converted to gardens to raise produce to feed our hungry citizens. If you used to pay a greens fee, chip some of that cash into buying seeds and helping buy extra grains for feeding your fellow hungry humans. Thank you for your help in this matter."

I mean in all honesty can there ever be a golfer better than Tiger Woods? Why not just stop while we are ahead.


PS, I don't think any of the above will happen. Only will we change when it is forced upon us.

If only Obama would give that speech!

And while he were at it, he would decree that all cars (including Tiger Woods` famous Buick Escalade going first) would be converted into shovels and ploughs. A news cycle or two later and Tiger would then be filmed trying the new plough made from his melted down Buick on a recently converted golf course. While his wife says that he seems to be a changed person......Yes he can, yes he could, and all that. Talk about a TEACHABLE moment!

Given the total furor unleashed when O makes even the most bland of comments (encouraging kids to stay in school, for example), I doubt any such statement will rise above the entrenched political divisions unless he had Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and other influencial voices on the right by his side.

In other words, it's never gonna happen.

One thing we are all going to have to think about is that during these days of sliding down the slope of recession/depression not everyone we see even in these posts are at the same place as everyone else.

We see people with loads of money and no fears for their future, but also people one step away from homelessness, or worse. Who knows how many lurkers we have in here reading and not posting.

We can talk all day about what would be nice to hear from those in Gov't. But what happens is still going to happen even if they did do a lot of telling the truth and hoping for the best. We are clearly near the breaking point population wise. We are seeing changes in our world that no single one of us can change, and even working together we have a slim chance of stopping the snowball on it's way down the hillside.

Facing the facts is more of a group mindset, but it all starts with people who are changing their ideas about happenings around them. The group comes into play when more single people start calling their friends up and getting the change started that way. I don't think we are near enough to falling over the cliff for most people to start hearing the screams of those going over before us, not hearing anything bad, we are still rushing to our doom.

Then there is that nasty habit of crowds getting out of hand and crushing those that might fall down underfoot. Have we gotten to big as a population to do anything about stopping this slide, even if Obama were to say what Nate wrote?


World leaders are extremely constrained by their positions, if not by their own binders, then by the all-pervading institutional inefficiencies and social myopia that pervade the halls of power.

We need to take responsibility onto our own hands as citizens. What we need is a self-reinforcing, grassroots movement to prepare for collapse, the idea for which was outlaid by Dmitry Orlov. We need a Collapse Party to inform the people, to promote the right course of action, and above all to help prepare local communities for collapse.

To this end I have made a FaceBook group, The Collapse Party, which I invite you all to join.

Once we get a substantial following (and once I learn Drupal properly ;) ), we will migrate operations to the official website and from there expand into the real-life political struggle. Action is the only way to inspire people to make the sacrifices for the change we need.

Yes, bottom up, rather than top down is the only way real social change happens. There is certainly a growing bottom up movement looking for alternatives to consumer capitalism -- local foods (which includes more people helping out at the farms where their CSAs come from), college students joining WWOOF and spending their vacations apprenticing on organic farms, homesteading, eco-villages, co-housing arrangements, community gardens in urban areas, the huge Do It Yourself movement aided by very popular websites like "instructables," a return to putting food by (every year canning jars sell more and more), freeganism, couch surfing as a way to travel on the cheap, people hanging out at the Oil Drum instead of watching Fox News ;), backyard animal husbandry, alternative currencies and barter systems, etc., etc.

From the original posting:

Do new trajectories only follow 'bad news'? (I wonder if the civil rights movement would have been as successful if MLK had NOT been assassinated.)

The civil rights movement's big legislative successes (like the Civil Rights Act of 1964), as well as its success in dismantling officially sanctioned forms of public segregation in the south, were well before King's assassination. Granted this was just a start of what the movement promised, but one could even argue that the movement hit a major wall after this shocking event, with all of the urban rioting and subsequent "white flight" that followed hollowing out urban centers as the tax base left.


Yes, bottom up, rather than top down is the only way real social change happens

So true. Those at the top are deeply invested in preserving the status quo.

Speaking of Lurkers who don't post - well, here I am. There's quite a bit to digest in the comment threads even if you don't get actively involved in the postings. I've been following TOD & EB for a few years now, I check both several times a week, time permitting. TOD comment threads only for the past year or so. As someone who grew up (sort of) in the 70's with the oil crunch (first) & general environmental awareness explosion that was going on then I keep wondering: Why did we not make smarter decisions? The cynic in me is ready to answer the question, the realist in me wants to keep analyzing, and the idealist is still holding out some hope. BTW in response to a recent query about TOD'ers: age 42, city dweller (multi unit apt bldgs are very efficient), lapsed gardener, dedicated bike (mostly) & bus (occasionally) commuter, largely unplugged, I like to think (perhaps erroneously)from the "concensus trance" of mainstream media.
Something I really appreciate about TOD & other PO groups/sites is that they provide a safe virtual(actual?) community for one to express the ideas & thoughts that one believes are essential to understanding our predicament, without one being looked at as if one has two heads. I admit also to a great fascination with our political processes, even while accepting the great limitations of political leadership.
I work in the Arch/Eng world, which many would believe is home to a great number of enlightened designer types who are aware of the Big Picture Of Sustainability. It's true that there are some who get it, but there's a whole lot who are pretty much hoping for BAU for the foreseeable future achieved via "Green Bldgs", Priuses, techno breakthroughs, etc. Not much support for using less energy across the board. As in the national media, this is an option that is not even on the radar. I do have one co-worker that is onboard with the PO. To end on an optimistic note regarding the built environment, there is a tremendous amount of waste in our current system. Yes many bldgs have been energy upgraded, but I walk down my local automobile artery and am amazed at the amount of electricity being used to light signage, parking lots, etc. If energy prices were high enough "the market" would figure out that using less makes sense.
I hope to be able to post & follow somewhat regularly...

Best Regards to all the TOD'ers & PO'ers


Why did we not make smarter decisions?

Because we were not as smart as we thought we were
And we still are not

So once again the shrill scream rises up, to paraphrase Cato The Elder when he spoke of Carthage, "GROWTH MUST BE DESTROYED!"

Once again, dear brethren, your lack of faith is showing! If we assume, as many folks here do, that the rapid collapse of oil, raw materials, water, and climage are just around the corner, we should assume that growth will be DESTROYED by the nature of things, by the sheer overwhelming force of natural depletion and events. Why are we then speaking of killing the already dead, how unseemly!

But do we have (heaven forbid!) doubts? Like the apocalyptic cults, are we afraid the forces in which faith is held will not act as we expect or hope? Do we assume the overpowering forces, against which no human effort can prevail, will fail in delivering the death of the hated enemy "growth"? Thus, is it our duty to help the inevitable occur on a timetable of our choosing?

Of course the difficulty is in defining this hated enemy. While millions of people in the wealthier nations are overweight or obese, millions in poorer nations, or in the poorer regions of the richer nations, do not get even enough calories to live healthy lives or to have healthy childhood development. If we should hope that the poorest among us can be properly nourished, is this endorsing the hated enemy "growth"?

While we have large McMansions sitting empty, millions live in substandard housing. If we hope that the poorest among us may live in safe and sanitary housing, are we endorsing the hated enemy growth?

If we attempt to develop technology to reduce waste, are we working against growth? What if we want to reduce waste so that the saved resources can be used to assist the poorest among us instead of having resources leak unused out smokestacks, tailpipes and poorly insulated homes? Thus we are not really wanting to "save" the resources as much as we want to re-balance the use of resources away from waste and toward utilization by those who are in need of minimal improvements in standard of that endorsing growth?

Of course we get even more metaphysical when we discuss the growth of ideas, the growth of awareness, the growth of art and should such be defined?

Growth, to those of an ascetic disposition, like Carthage to the Roman senator Cato, becomes a catch-all word, the word that can be used to describe essentially anything and everything I do not like, anything that strikes me as low brow and proletariat. Joe Sixpack wants his own home, he wants a riding lawn mower...the swine, "GROWTH MUST BE DESTROYED!".

To be fair, the ascetic does suffer, and terribly. Carrying the weight of the world on ones shoulders can be exhausting to the point of maddening, constantly worrying that every decision may be treason to the cause of "GROWTH MUST BE DESTROYED!"

In a media driven world, the anti-growth (whatever exactly that means) ascetic cannot avoid the cult of personality, and sees even his chosen idols disappoint him...his golfing hero was always known to live large, but this is just too much, absolutely too much, the guy was living like Caligula!

The populist President the ascetic voted for with high hopes sounds like the others, we will wage war as we always have, we will promote business and jobs, the new ascetic age will have to wait..., is the President a traitor to the rallying cry? What has become of "GROWTH MUST BE DESTROYED!"?

The burden of guilt, of disappointment, becomes almost unbearable to the true believer, the anti-growth ascetic...WHAT MUST WE DO TO STOP THIS GROWTH? What if it will not stop on it's own? Must he take action, destroy the mills, crash the machines? If he is correct in thought, why should he not be willing....but...can such militant action be moral and correct...would he not then be just another violent force in an already too violent world? But something MUST CHANGE, he is seeing the signs of decadence and destruction everywhere, from Tiger Woods to his SUV to his golf course...the ascetic searches for relief...

Of course, he can take comfort in the facts if he will unblind himself from his self imposed ascetic light: If, as he truly believes, oil depletion is now, financial collapse is now...then every automobile in his nation could be stopped and burned where it stood, every golf course could be destroyed, and it would not matter, because the depletion curve and the abortion of "fiat money" (essentially, the wormwood of the anti-growth ascetic) will be even faster. The ascetic suddenly may realize that he cannot destroy growth fast enough to change what he is certain is the unavoidable outcome anyway, the assured destiny of his world...

His faith can rest assured, there will be no continuation of growth, and no action will be required on his part, there is no need for destructive action on his part. He may choose to sacrifice only so much as his conscious demands of him, because he will be doing for himself and not for the world. And if the growth does not stop, then that does not mean the ascetic was wrong in his faith, simply that he was early! The ascetic has, once he finds the light, the burden removed...he is doing what he does only for his own spirit, now knowing that no amount of conservation or "anti-growth" can operate fast enough to change the outcome.

It is the technicians who carry the burden. They live in a race, driven by the attempt to make technology outrun nature. They are convinced it is the only chance, the choice they must make, the sacrifice they will bear to struggle against the destiny of nature, of meaningless death, death with no advance, no step forward. It is the curse of the profession of mechanic, scientist, technician, the lot they have chosen. Like the ascetic, they too must often wrestle with their chosen faith.

In a way the ascetic, the "doomer", the anti-growther cannot lose, because no matter how bad things get, they cannot get as bad as the ascetic already believes they are becoming...and the technician cannot possibly win, because no matter how much he gains, he knows it will not be enough, that there will still be so much to do, so much to learn.

Both camps must envy the hedonist, the financier, the golfer, who play in the sun in the day, and spends their millions on wet and willing mates at is this that is fascinating about the likes of Tiger Woods or Bernie Madoff. Both the technician and the ascetic are thinkers, examiners, they THINK about life, they EXAMINE LIFE.

The hedonists LIVE LIFE.


Considering the increase in unemployment that our decrease in the consumption of goods has caused and the positive feedback loop it created then a deliberate and long term cut back in consumption means very high unemployment rates for a very long time. What are we going to do with these unfortunate folks both now and during this deliberate economic depression?

25 hour work weeks and spread it around.
That was one measure taken back in the 30s.
We need a new FDR.

Jonathan Haidt, gave a very interesting talk as part of the Enlightenment 2.0 series, he studies the emotional basis of moral judgment and political ideology.

He posits that there is an intrinsic polarization between two diametrically opposed world views, one based on a two foundation morality vs another based on a five foundation morality. In essence this is the underlying difference between a liberal vs. conservative bias. Conservatives tend to be of an authoritarian mindset, (see, Liberals by definition do not.

Since I fall more into the liberal than conservative camp it is my intuition bias that conservatism is maladapted for solving problems on a global scale because that the vast majority of humans are still operating on a local tribal scale. This is a direct consequence of millions of years of primate evolution.
We do not seem to be normally equipped to deal with solving global problems. We are too provincial and tribal. We are stuck in the us vs. them paradigm.

Case in point:
That there should be such a backlash at this artist's work underscores the fact that the holders of the authoritarian five foundation morality feel threatened when their world views are criticized.

I think that problems such as peak oil and climate change can not and will not be solved by any world leader openly admitting that these are problems for all of humanity.

It would be akin to the Pope coming out and openly stating that he is hereby apologizing for all the atrocities done in the name of Christianity because religion and god are just fairy tales and it is time for everyone to grow up and take responsibility for their own actions.

He would be burned at the stake!

Haidts book, 'The Happiness Hypothesis', is great.

"Dear Fellow Americans,

Parties over, now, and for the rest of your life you need to sacrifice and accept less. By the way I'm humble in my mansion."

There is no way any such message will EVER fly. Nobody will ever accept it, hear it or want to take it onboard. No one would ever give it, and no one in a position of power would survive using it (witness Carter).

You want to give a message, it needs to be a positive message, one that most people could and would buy into. You want to sell 'powerdown' then it needs to be a positive message - and it isn't. Most people like what they have and think they deserve more. That's the only message you could sell.

In essence you are asking for a message you can't craft, not now. Only thing you can do is try to sell a plan, a pathway, AFTER things begin to get bad. However you will be up against other messages, more enticing and flavourful messages of taking, conquest and power.

You will lose.

You can't get there from here.

thats my main point
you/we are on our own in local/regional areas to accelerate planning, especially knowing that such a speech will only happen after the time to plan is over.

I believe this change will mainly come from the bottom up driven by local/regional people who are aware of our situation to one degree or another and are willing to act as change agents and take positive actions. These actions, if successful, may be noticed and some of the more progressive governmental leaders will step in line to promote and celebrate them. A good place to start is for us to try and make a difference in our local communities.

Sorry Nate, I thought you were arguing that the genie could be put back in the bottle, that the clock could be wound back to an earlier time voluntarily - less consumption, less goods, less of everything.

To sell anything it has to be better than before - that's the chicken that comes before the growth egg. We are programmed from a base level to search for it. To sell less energy usage, you have to sell something different, but obviously better.

Mind you, I think there is one message Obama could deliver that might work:

"My fellow americans. We are in deep trouble, the oil is running out, the climate is getting warmer and pollution is everywhere. Therefore my government has made plans to start again with the best, brightest and richest in Northern Canada, safe from the rising temperature and with energy to sustain us. Only the best will be admitted, the rest will be left behind."

Then once 50% of the US population had crossed the border into Canada you close it and station machine guns along its length - confident that you are left only with those with humility, capable of doing real work, or really intelligent enough to recognise bull when they see it.

As a Canadian I can say that the plan would never work. We have been expecting an influx of Americans now for quite awhile and we have made preparations to prevent such an influx of illegal aliens. Our defence is called, "really cold weather". We have found that this has been effective up until now and only a few have ever managed to penetrate this defence.

Do we assume that driving the professional class back to the land will work better for us than it did for Mao in China

We won't drive anyone back to the land. Circumstance will.

Agree that the pain comes from fearing that your kids will come down a notch or two and make a family where the work is white collar into a blue-collar one. It`s unbearable for the generation now in its 40s which by and large succeeded so well.

I never bought into the idea that my kids had to be more "successful" than I was, at least not in the way our society defines success. I pushed them to learn as much as they could about as many things as they could, and most of all that they should learn to live on less. This, more than anything, probably ended my first marriage. It's better to back down the ladder a rung or two voluntarily than to have the ladder collapse under you. Most folks I know have climbed above the rung that says "NO STEP".

Why did we not make smarter decisions?

Because most humans don't make decisions based on smart. Decisions are base on personal ambition, security needs, and EROEI. Like most things, selfishness is a two-edged sword.

We won't drive anyone back to the land. Circumstance will.

Yes, and in China, in spite of the huge amount of economic stimulus money that the Chinese have been spending (on adding to export manufacturing capacity among other things), many Chinese workers are voting with their feet and returning home to their villages after a relatively short stint as the worker bees of globalization.

See Vanguard's short doc on "Outsourcing Unemployment."


This is not directly related to the topic but this PBS series is an excellent example that we don't learn from others mistakes. Just amazing how history keeps playing the same stories and just changing the actors.

My hope was that if any single spot on the webs could remain Tiger Woods free it would be TOD. Is he really needed here?

I don't have any statistics at my fingertips but I'd say golf is a major component of Business As Usual and a major contributor to AGW - all that land, all those pesticides, all that air travel, all that consumer sponsorship. A serious misallocation of resources and a MSM staple. Seriously, this guy had the world at his feet and he turns out to be just another horn dog.

Really, I could care less about his personal 'morals'. His personal life is between him and his family. If he went around preaching 'family values' on a high horse I would feel different due to my distaste for public hypocrisy.

However, the whole idea of golf being a fine example of wasteful consumption is valid. Last time I was in Phoenix (~5 years ago)I saw some literature stating that there were some 300 or more golf courses in that metro area. I thought about the Central Arizona Project sucking the last bit of water and life out of the Colorado River,much of it to water these many golf courses and to supply the many fountains on the street corners in the fancier neighborhoods.

This one was a whiff.

Economic growth is not a cultural or personal choice. It is an objective, systematic requirement of corporate capitalism, which relies on it to generate investment opportunities and ameliorate the economic pain it generates.

Barring a massive popular uprising, no U.S. President is going to come within 1,000 miles of raising it as a political topic. No way.

And MLK was murdered 3 years after the CRM's major victories, by the way. The real question is what could he have accomplished had he lived to old age.

whiff...;-) good one
i have the flu - perhaps its obvious. sorry
one thing tho - i realize economic growth is a culmination of many path dependent prior decisions, not by 'choice' - but the fact that it maybe not the goal we should aspire to can be illustrated and discussed - a president COULD take such a stand - indeed Sarkozy already has (somewhat)

This whole thing was tried before right here in the good old USA by Carter.
The rest the cliche goes............history.

that was just a speech -not prelude to new institutions etc - i.e. no follow through or game plan. we know far more now about our ecology/brains/environment - elinor ostrom just won nobel prize for collective action -these concepts aren't as foreign to policy folks as you might think..

If this "new knowledge" isn't made part of our popular culture it is useless.
I don't see that happening do you?

No - but that's why I continue to host this forum - I'm in a holding pattern until I figure out what else to do...

I am not trying to discourage your efforts.
I am in a similar spot but I think that the approach is going to have to be more forceful.
The only way to sway the masses is to sway the masses.
In other words get control of the media.
Everything else is just dust in the wind.
The herd mentality is the answer and I don't like the implications any more than you do.

Sorry you're ailing, Nate.

This last bit here reminds me of Antonio Gramsci's formula: "Otimism of the will; pessimism of the intellect."

Nobody sane could be optimistic for our species. But some chance is way better than no chance, and the argument for no chance isn't clear and convincing either.

The Oil Drum is a highly valuable asset to our future, even if it's not nearly sufficient in itself to get us there.

My own view is that we need to build a "pre-movement," a community of folks that will be large and informed and smart and wise and democratic enough to provide an option for folks when reality is no longer deniable.

Seems to me we are not completely failing in that effort, despite the long odds.

i agree on the 'pre-movement' - theoildrum, in some small sense, is like a virtual such place - the precepts learned here will hopefully be taken back to the town meetings, etc. of the future (so that 5 out of 10 people will have a clue instead of 3...;-)

But a pre-movement for what? Ascetic self denial and voluntary reduction in lifestyle? For most people, limping along as best they can simply trying to maintain health insurance and home heating, are we now to go on the crusade against them, "we know you are doing on little, we know you have been robbed of your retirement funds, and your investments crashed, but you MUST DO ON LESS!"

That may be fine as a philosophical movement, a religious cause, but to repeat a point I have often made here, if we accept the depletion and ELP (Export Land Models) often put forth here on TOD, it will ABSOLUTELY no difference to the sustainability of anything remotely akin to a modern/technical/scientific economy. We could swear a national vow of poverty and the accepted depletion/collapse curve accepted by most here would still outrun it, and fast.

As to TOD, I do think it is a valuable resource...I would like to see links such as the article posted here on TOD Australia/New Zealand posted everyday (as opposed to musings about Tiger Woods as a parable of America)

If we are going to sacrifice our way into something, let us at least choose something noble, something artistic, something that inspire...selling the steady grind backward into a new Gothic dark age (and finally right into the mud of de-evolution down the spiral instead of up it) has no appeal, we've been there, done that...
if we are going to go out, let's go out with a bang...or to use an allegory often used here, sure, up with the giant heads! Let's make it fun anyway... :-)


I like the use of the term "Pre-movement", as the usefulness of most movements (in cases where significant society-wide change must happen) IMO is to pre-position themselves for the aftermath of major disruptions. Prior to some sort of upheaval, movements tend to cancel each other out. This has been the two-edged-sword of the two party system. The idea was to have two general points-of-view that debate, refine and moderate ideas, leading to incremental change. The beauty of the system is that no one group is likely to impose radical change that the society will have trouble adapting to. The problem with this is, when the society needs radical change quickly, it is unlikely to occur. This is why fundamental, sweeping changes often are revolutionary and compressed in time, and rarely voluntary. Throw in the MSM and mass comunication and the people base their society views on unqualified opinions rather than facts, whether they are choosing leaders or a sweeping program to deal with climate change or energy/resource depletion. Our ability to change our society has ground to a virtual stop. Our ideas , good and bad, have become self-cancelling. Opinion storms have suplanted education. Blame has usurped debate. Distrust has overwhelmed confidence. Our societal truck is overloaded and stuck in the mud well above its wheels. Half the people are trying to pull the truck forward and half are trying to back it up and the elites at the top are happily selling fuel to keep the truck's wheels spinning. The truck continues to sink regardless of who may be driving.

Are you listening to what you are saying? Who is going to be more forceful than the current crop that has control over the media now? Or has the capability of being? You?

The mass of the populace will not begin to move in any meaningful way until it is under much greater stress than it is now. Not to mention much greater pain. It will not get there in time and when that time comes the ability to manipulate them via some form of media will allow someone to have a large impact. You can bet that there are those who are consciously working towards gaining that kind of opportunity right now. Are you that clever and ruthless. Because you will have to be party to mayhem to reach that brass ring. If you are then go for it. It may as well be you as anyone else.

IMHO no one is capable of solving the big problem. Look around you and see some part of the problem that you think you can handle and just bite it off and start chewing. Don't spend time worrying about dragging the rest of the populace along. They will start to move in their own time. It might be too late for some, but hey, them's the breaks. If it's just too late for all of us, well them's the breaks. You are not responsible for what they do only yourself. If you do your best, whether you fail or not, you at least did your best.



Any thing you post that gets a good discussion started is a good post.

This discussion has been a good one - lots of good comments, lots of ideas batted around.

We are learning about what might or might not be possibe politically as we gain insight into the way politics have played out in the past.

Even a very rough idea of what is and is not culturally and politically impossible will add a great deal to our ability to make realistic decisions individually or collectively.

If thshtf my vision tonight of political reality is martial law and tent farms in the deep south where it is warm, the growing seasons are long,the land is flat, and water is plentiful.

Our new snowbirds will speak with Brooklyn accents and upper mid western accents.There's lots of good farmland out that way of course , but tent cities aren't workable when a blizzard blows in....

I was just watching a program about this year`s Nobel Prize Laureates.
How are you all going to fit them into the new paradigm?
Let`s face it, for many they are as royalty used to be a couple of hundred years ago.
Will there still be a Nobel Prize after the inflection point? No (ha ha) I`m not asking because I have any personal interest in this issue. But just out of curiosity......

The Nobel Prize is one of Swedens most valuble assets. I am sure the tradition will be well maintained as long as we are on or above the 17 century prosperity and civilization level.

And we globally only need a fraction of todays scientists and innovators to get prize worthy winners that we can give recognition, prestige and some wealth.

How about everyone's beginning a quiet campaign to persuade people to value the natural world more highly? To take every opportunity to get people to notice their own environment and PUT VALUE ON IT. Last night was the Geminid meteor shower. I saw a few - and could only imagine the number I would have seen had there not been so much light pollution. It would provide value (and save money and resources) if people would turn off their largely unnecessary outdoor lights. Same story with many inexpensive, yet priceless, experiences.

I have researched the sources of US economic weakness for some time and have reached the following list of causes in descending order of importance:

1. Understatement of the CPI by from 5% to 7% since implementation of the Boskin Commission report in the mid '90s. This is why a Social Security check buys less than half of what it did 15 years ago, even though it is supposedly indexed for inflation (see

2. Runaway heath care expenses which have reduced our international competitiveness and flattened employee salaries over the past decade. A sharp jump in employee out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare which has eroded purchasing power. Controlling healthcare expenses is the only way to close the "wage gap" between what workers can afford to buy and how much they need to buy to keep our economy afloat. There is a direct relationship between controlling healthcare expenses and the creation of more jobs.

3. Union contracts which include employer coverage of retired employee healthcare expenses. These were negotiated in good faith by all parties but no one anticipated the overwhelming increase in healthcare expenses. Now these contracts are punishing our old line successful businesses by making them noncompetitive with Europe and Japan.

4. The inexorable rise in resource cost which eats into worker purchasing power

5. The states' rising Medicaid burden which acts to amplify economic cycles and also creates an unacceptable rise in in-state college tuition, the milk of the middle class and the seeds for our future.

Sure peak oil is real, but we should avoid blaming it for all of our economic woes.