2010: The Year For Making Contact

Another year. Another decade. Older, wiser and on an unchanged trajectory. Though it may not feel like it, 2010 puts us 5 years beyond the technical annual peak in world crude oil production. 2005 was also the inaugural year of this website - devoted generally to exploring the details, constraints and opportunities accompanying energy depletion. Just behind oil's apex was credit's peak, and as energy and debt have been the two primary drivers of economic growth, GDP won't be far behind in declining from all time highs, though it has been temporarily supported by sovereign debt infusions masking public/private credit decline. Though I suspect 2010 will be a watershed year for many in dealing with reality, a new year also allows for some self-reflection, and perhaps a reassessment of purpose and tactics, both as individuals and as a culture. The below essay is a short summary on where we are, what brought us here, and some resolutions for the coming year.

As I write this the mercury on our thermometer drops below -18 F. I sip imported coffee and pasteurized cream in a room made toasty warm with a combination of ancient sunlight (propane), old sunlight (wood) and today's sunlight (south facing windows). I write these words on a portable computer and bounce them 2000 miles up into the sky where they get beamed back down to our Gaia server so that strangers (and some friends) around the planet can read them. And I've yet to have breakfast, which will be something tasty, fresh from our electrical refrigerator. My 3 dogs and 4 cats are sprawled in myriad ways around the couch and floor, patiently waiting for their kibble. I peer out the window to watch my girlfriend feeding and watering her 4 horses, with hay harvested and stacked by complex tractors and water pulled up from 250 feet via electricity. Nick Drake is playing on my Ipod shuffle connected to a Bose Wave and the first Saturday of 2010 has begun, with things I have become accustomed to, and enjoy. Convenience, comfort and novelty on demand.

We did not always live like this, and for the majority, such high throughput will probably not be possible a generation hence, proximately due to many causes but ultimately for lack of energy gain. Centuries ago, the discovery of new lands and new fuels combined with the passage of time and humans gradually honed in on the natural sociopolitical system for a cooperative/competitive/curious species with access to a huge stored surplus - what some now refer to as turbo capitalism. Energy has been the primary driver of economic growth - take away energy, and technology, productivity and growth melt away. Fossil fuels allow us to run myriad processes at 2-3 cents per kWh input (w/oil at $75) whereas human labor globally costs over $10 per kWh (and considerably higher in the USA). Without this immense stable labor subsidy everything will change, from our international trade networks to our local food, water, heat and medicine delivery systems and most of the components in between.

Everything did in fact start to change in the 1970s, as US energy per capita consumption peaked, real wages peaked, US oil production peaked, and we started to use debt (spatial and temporal reallocation of real wealth) to increasingly supplement energy's role in current growth. Urged on by socially acceptable excess consumption via advertising, borrowing from the future also became socially acceptable, and the linkages between real capital (natural, built, human and social) and financial markers for this real wealth became blurred. I should clarify: I believe we have plenty of energy, resources, technology and materials for this many or more humans for a generation or so to come, just not at current levels of consumption, aspiration, and the perceived extant (digital) wealth.

Source: GDP -Bureau Labor Statistics, Debt - Aggregate household, financial, corporate and government. Source: Fed Reserve Standards Board 2009

If we lived in a society of 100% reserve requirements (no leveraged money), then oil's peak would have come later, and implied higher oil prices pretty much right after the peak. As it stands, though, debt pulled allocations of energy and other resources from the periphery and future towards the present and center - thus the 'peak affordability' engendered by the ongoing credit collapse will run its course first. It is important to understand we are not close to running out of available energy or resources, even for this many billions. But it is very clear (to me at least) that the amount of energy flow rates (and accompanying non-energy inputs like water) are not enough to service/maintain the accumulated financial claims in this system, especially given that a large % of energy inputs have been spent long ago (marginal EROI is overstated). It is likely if not inevitable that the claims extant in current system will cause currency reform which in turn has implications for all sorts of interdependent systems based on just-in-time inventories and global trade. (*I define currency reform as a cessation of accepting one (or numerous) currencies as international means of payment, resulting in issuance of new currencies which may or may not honor prior claims - and the more they honor prior claims the shorter lasting they will be.)

We are roughly where I thought we’d be 5 years past peak (technically still on a plateau) – we're replacing oil with lower BTU alternatives (biofuels, NGPLs), increasing environmental externalities, and obfuscating resource depletion with financial witch-hunts. On the demand side we're still trying to maintain the façade that everything is normal - and there continues to be a concerted effort among the icons of society to borrow and legislate our way back to just before the social precipice. We have shorter attention spans, shorter interest in things academic and more interest in things practical. I, like many people, misjudged government and central bank efforts to keep things afloat in the near term, and this could well continue for a while. Ignorance is bliss and all that. But we now require around $10 of new debt to generate each new $ of GDP. And the next time oil goes above $100 let along $150 or $200, this will be financed only with more and more debt. We are faced with, barring an unforeseen white swan, an untenable situation.

Given this backdrop and without further preamble, let me share my own thinking about 2010 in the form of my personal resolutions given my perspective on the world, and society. You may notice a general theme throughout the list.

Top 10 resolutions for 2010:

10. Despite the seeming profound nature of our circumstances and growing social malaise, we are alive at one of the most amazing thresholds for our species. Despite growing issues with both democracy and capitalism, few periods of human history show evidence of as much freedom, energy, art, and choice as we now have globally. It's important to step back from the trees and look at and enjoy such a forest each and every day. Resolution #10 Live, love and experience, with one eye (but not both), on the greater good. Be goofy, creative, flexible, and don't take things too seriously.

9.Friends and former clients are increasingly asking me about the markets, where I’m putting my money, and how to capitalize on the upcoming energy/credit descent trends while at same time protecting their capital. By and large they all focus on the Dow (or SP500) as a barometer of health and success of our country and global systemic health in general. I think this era is over. We are in the liminal space where perceptions of what defines wealth are shifting, and amassed financial digits are going to be a giant headache to protect in the year(s) before currency reform. The balls in the sovereign credit pinball machine will soon become blurry from fast movement - Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, ???? - and who knows who else before the balls disappear or the game goes tilt. Inflation, deflation, rule changes, and too many claims vs. real assets will require one to be incredibly nimble, both in the markets, and in translating abstract markers into real capital, even a portion of it, in a timely fashion.

Personally I moved 1/2 of my (small) assets out of the market in Jan of 2009 and am moving another 1/2 out next week. It's not that I think stock markets are going down, but that they've now become a lagging, not a leading indicator -the currency markets until their eventual terminus- will be the tail wagging the financial dog. Equity wealth/share prices no longer represent the fair game that I once understood, a game that since its inception has been subsidized by energy surplus but now to an increasing extent by abstractions. Given that governments are pursuing the sovereign-for-public/private debt switcheroo, I think financial armageddon will eventually first occur in the currency/bond markets, not in stocks (though I would expect they would soon follow). A first step towards mental clarity is to stop equating the SP500 and the Dow as metrics of health of our system, something I (and many others), frequently do. Those that do so, and bring their own financial health along for the ride are going to be disappointed and ultimately left holding the bag. As my advisor Bob says, we as a culture have been overly focused on pursuing the pot of gold and in the process have lost sight of the rainbow.

Resolution #9 Stop getting sucked into viewing or even caring about where the SP500 or DJIA are. As a marker of our progress it has really lost its relevance. The currency markets will be a much less noisy signal as to health of financial system.

8. A natural further step in this direction would be to stop measuring one's net worth solely by financial assets and to gradually (or quickly) embark on a diversification plan. Stocks, bonds, commodities, cash, even gold will have outsized risk for perceived reward. This is not to say I relish poverty or wouldn't turn down a $1 million lottery ticket winner or gift, but that digital wealth is not only at risk of taking a haircut (or clean shave) in a currency reset, but it also is only a temporary proxy for the things we really need and want- we've just become conditioned to compete and measure our net worth in digits as opposed to friends, skills, activities and goods.

A complementary resolution to de-emphasizing financial capital is to increase emphasis on human and social capital. Of the 100 or so houses within 3 miles of where I live, I have only met 3 families. I intend on taking produce from our root cellar, and perhaps some baked goods or such, and meet real people in my area in the coming weeks. Very new concept for me. My numerous contacts and friends on the ether are of the highest quality, understand the things I am interested in and am studying, and are very bright. But they will not be my neighbors in the future. It's time to meet that train halfway. Many non-linear synergies can be collected using resources close to home.

Resolution #8 Continue to diversify away from financial assets. Portfolio objective by year end: 25% financial capital, 25% natural/built capital, 25% human capital and 25% social capital (I may be there already in reality, it is the mindset/perception of such that I want to change). I realize that it will be virtually impossible for the very wealthy to maintain their perceived relative fitness lead over their human conspecifics using this strategy - you can't easily or quickly translate $10 million into social or human capital.

7. Despite the bloom being off the scientific/academic rose since I first started, I will jump the last few hoops and finish my PhD. Though I recognize the only people that will likely care are my parents, my girlfriend's parents, and other people with PhDs, my procrastination has started to bother me (in the form of repeated weird dreams, etc.) I also would like to educate young people, and being affiliated with a university requires such a marker.

Resolution #7 Finish PhD.

Understanding that ‘resolutions’ are essentially attempts at neocortical suppression of limbic/reptilian impulses (and therefore can only be partially effective), let me label the preceding resolutions as ‘absolute’ and the following as mere ‘intentions’.

6. I am addicted to the internet – in systems language the internet represents an attractor with some positive externalities (knowledge, data, synthesis) and some negative (habituation, shorter attention span, steeper discount rates). In reality, I am not ‘addicted’ to a computer nor the Google per se, but the act of receiving perpetual unexpected reward. In my opinion, the concepts of unexpected reward and neural habituation are probably the largest impediments to positive social change. We are a culture of prevalent novelty and stimulation options- education and behavioral change with respect to resource depletion are in general low stimulation options that create feelings akin to physical withdrawal if other options are still available.

Each time we use energy and create material throughput, there is a debit on the supply side resource ledger and a credit (liability) to the externality. But what is left out of the sustainability equation is a debit on the demand side, our plastic neural template. These debits play a large role in future resource throughput. If one would spend the same embodied energy on a barn as an all-terrain vehicle, not only would the ATV continue to require energy (fuel) in the future, but the neural high water marks engendered by the excitement and unexpected reward of driving at break-neck speeds through changing wilderness scenes would virtually guarantee higher minimum thresholds for 'unexpected' sensations in the future, themselves highly correlated with resource throughput in our current culture. These would manifest as desires, cravings and 'wantings' that barring social pressure would seem entirely normal. (If a barn and ATV fail to make this point, consider a pairing such as cocaine and wine.) In effect through our own behavior and choices we create mental chinese finger traps that narrow the options of our own future actions.

Once (and if) we look at our human socio-economic system as more akin to a human ecosystem, there are certain lines in the sand that must be drawn. Beneficial attractors need to be stabilized, maintained and/or amplified. Negative attractors would need to be dampened or phased out fairly quickly. It is an open question whether such attractors, from a societal perspective, should be tinkered with until there is a viable bridge to Plan B as I will discuss below. However from the perspective of the individual, changing one's ‘attractor’ portfolio probably can’t happen soon enough, once recognition of the benefits is internalized. So many of the problems we face are symptoms of our realities and expectations for the future being ‘tricked’ by concentrated stimuli that our ancestors brains were not sensitized nor prepared for.

The preponderance of environmentalists and others interested in sustainability focus entirely on the actual footprint of the energy and resources we use. I intend to find a way to articulate the future impact of past decisions/purchases as well. Furthermore, given the particular life I have lived, I am interested in an n=1 sense if I can reverse the neural grooves that a high information, world travel, internet, stimulative lifestyle have created over the years. In order to do this, of course, I have to give up many of the same things that allowed me to come to these conclusions - ergo find more balance.

Resolution #6 Reduce/change the attractors in my life that pull me in to unsustainable activities with positive feedback loops. This includes the internet, sugar (has now been proven to be a gateway drug (Hoebel 2005,2008,2009)), and cell phone, etc. Amplify beneficial attractors like exercise, meditation, rest. No brainer.

5. In retrospect it was some composite of naivety and ego (and if 100% ego then also 100% self-deception) that made me believe efforts at broadcasting the truth about resource depletion via analysis and discussion would naturally combine with human goodwill and via the snowball effect, result in behavioral and policy change. I now am of the suspicion that calling further attention to the real elephant - our massive debt overhang in relation to social claims - may actually have unintended negative consequences. (not at the level of theoildrum, but at the level of CNN, CNBC, etc.) I should add that mitigation efforts in 2010 are a bit different than in 2004-5 (when I started speaking/writing about these issues).

If people en masse are repeatedly told the emperor has no clothes, it may result in people actually understanding that the emperor has no clothes, which would lickety split result in what effectually would be a societal run on the bank. In other words, I now at least acknowledge the possibility that winning the cognitive game of pin the tail on the donkey might ultimately make one a donkey. If we’re to seriously critique the wardrobe of the emperor, we'd better have explicit plans and options for a whole new wardrobe to articulate, otherwise perhaps being quiet and working on said plans is a better idea.

Resolution #5 Unless I'm just talking among friends, I will no longer articulate our societal problems without offering some action plan. There are of course no blanket 'solutions', but there are many suggestions for action that are far better than our default trajectory. I basically realized there is more to this whole thing than the truth. The truth has to come with a plan.

4. As a corollary to #6 and #5, I am stepping down from editor to contributor on theoildrum, something long intended and promised to family. Co-running this ship for several years has been a great experience. My relationship with this band of brothers (and a few sisters) will continue going forward but as colleague rather than choreographer. I'm not ready to step off of the analytical merry-go-round altogether just yet, only ride it at a slower pace and focus on the bigger picture. The energy data highlighted and discussed here, especially in the archives, is of significant societal value.

3. I intend to not allow myself to get paralyzed/distracted by coming details of what will appear to be 3 standard deviation macro-events in 2010 given the basic fact that our financial system itself rests precariously above 5 sigma. I'm sure smart and curious people will continue to suss out further details on debt jubilee, which credit demographics will lose the most relative status after currency reform, refined details on the externalities of human commerce, the various technological improvements that may potentially slow the decline from energy apex, and the correlations of the various changing variables impacting our economic system. All this is important and relevant but, in my opinion, the image taking shape on our socio-economic tapestry is relatively clear. As such, the quest for more and more information and refined datapoints can also be addictive. I suspect 2010 will delineate for some a recognition that personal altruistic self-expression on the internet will have crossed into an unproductive state. I intend to maintain balance and perspective in the face of this risk. Resolution #3 Don't get bogged down on details when events materialize - stay aware of the bigger picture.

2. Resolution #2 - to be determined....

1. Resolution #1 I'll reserve the right based on new information or new insights, to change my resolutions. (remnant of Catholic upbringing.)

That's my list, now known to whoever may read this missive, meaning I've made a social contract of sorts which have higher chances of succeeding than mumblings to oneself. (I'll try to honestly score myself a year hence)

We live in special times. Change is needed and will eventually, as always, arrive. Growth is possible but only under unlikely assumptions. Hopefully we can use our remaining highest quality energy and resources towards building something more stable. We have the technology and resources but lack the political will and perhaps the human nature. Technology based 'solutions' should be used more like a crutch than a machete, in my opinion.

Of all the possible futures we face, maintaining social stability and tilting people towards their positive potential, not as producers and consumers of things, but as humans living with each other within limits as much as possible, may perhaps buy us time for something more ambitious. The biggest potential trump card, in both directions, will be human reaction to events and cultural change.

Happy New Year - 2010 - the year to go out and make contact.* (*and in writing this, I am 1/2 day behind.)

What's the source(s) for the $ debt/$ GDP graph?

I'll put it in - GDP is BLS and debt is Federal Reserve Standards Board 2009.

Hi Nate...

I had originally read your above statement as "GDP is BS..." Upon closer inspection, I see it reads BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), but it got me thinking about a recent article and conference. Here are a couple notes (just in case you are unaware...)

Globalization has led to the overestimation of GDP - and productivity as well.


More reading/links on this topic: http://www.upjohninst.org/measurement/final-program.html

And as for the debt trend, I think that the earliest writings on the topic of growing debt as a percentage of GDP in the 'modern' - post-WWII era - were by a pair of Marxist economists: Harry Madgoff and Paul Sweezy, who built on the work of Hyman Minsky (specifically Minsky's 'financial instability hypothesis'). Madgoff and Sweezy documented the rise of debt in relation to GDP beginning in the 1980s. Of course, Keynes famously wrote about financial bubbles and the decoupling of financial assets from the physical economy as early as 1936, and Alvin Hansen expounded his 'stagnation thesis' in 1938. This was followed by Kalecki's work which he presented in his Theory of Economic Dynamics, and then by Baran and Sweezy in Monopoly Capital. Magdoff and Sweezy, I believe were the first to write about the new era of debt in their article "The Strange Recovery of 1983-84" which was published in the Marxist journal Monthly Review.

I've included these references for your review, as I know that you (and Gail) have focused a lot on the debt problem. But I also think that all this talk about debt seems to many to be something new, and it was something that orthodox economists weren't looking at as early as the Marxist economists. As a body of work, these books and articles cogently explain WHY debt exploded. Though this is not the only debt explosion theory, it is internally consistent, logical, and is supported by empirical data.


Best wishes for getting out there and making local contacts!

It is remarkable how much harder it is to go make acquaintance with a neighbor than it is to post views (even uncommon ones) on a heavily read forum like TOD. Seems like it ought to be just the opposite...

“Everything did in fact start to change in the 1970's”,
Well Nate I have to disagree with you on that, I think that things started to change when Watt invented the steam engine, and things got that much easier for the man on the street to get ahead.
“Friends and former clients are increasingly asking me about the markets, where I’m putting my money, and how to capitalize on the upcoming energy/credit descent trends while at same time protecting their capital.”
I think that the markets will ultimately disolve because they have lost their way, and are driven by greed rather than a desire to stimulate creativity for the betterment of humanity.
“we as a culture have been overly focused on pursuing the pot of gold and in the process have lost sight of the rainbow.”
I could not have expressed it better myself
“we've just become conditioned to compete and measure our net worth in digits as opposed to friends, skills, activities and goods.”
Not all of us my friend
“Of the 100 or so houses within 3 miles of where I live I have only met 3 families”
Yes it takes a lot of courage to be humble and ask ones neighbour can I help
“I intend on taking produce from our root cellar, and perhaps some baked goods or such and meet real people in my area in the coming weeks. Very new concept for me.”
This will be one of your greatest achievments
“Amplify beneficial attractors like exercise, meditation, rest. No brainer.”
“I suspect 2010 will delineate for some a recognition that personal altruistic self-expression on the internet has crossed into an unproductive state.”
I had trouble with this one, I suppose it is because so many people do not actually have access, and that you are talking to the converted most of the time
“Don't get bogged down on details when events materialize - stay aware of the bigger picture.”
This is the most difficult aspect of the entire aspect of living, choosing what the bigger picture is!

As a final comment I do enjoy your thoughts about what is going on in this world.


Good comments, Mike, but I have to disagree with your history. It goes back much farther than Watt, since even Descartes was an heir, starting at least as far back as the Greeks, to "man as machine" which was just one of mankind's balls rolling in the wrong direction.

As for your concern about "the bigger picture", I would recommend some reading about indigenous outlooks on this. Robert Wolff's "Original Wisdom", Jean Liedloff's "The Continuum Concept", and Dan Everett's "Don't Sleep, there are Snakes" are but a few writings of westerners coming in deep contact with remaining indigenous cultures and how this was transformative in their world view.

And speaking of your/our own abilities to transform, a gripe and possible microtransformation. Snowmobilers.....I hate them. Noisy, polluting, destructive machines, but as chance would have it, often driven by MTV/NBA/NFL-hyped youth and adolescents. Occasionally in encounters while skiing on the nearby river, I have the drivers turn off their machines for a bit and chat and pet the dogs. It seems silly and simple but I like to think that in those moments, the boys/girls are hearing silence, interacting with something living, and chatting to another human versus their general immersion in the fumes, engine noise and blaring iPod. I realize that against the backdrop of their daily lives, this may seem inconsequential, but I myself recall such "jolts to the system" from my own youth that took me out of the daily paradigm and into something that would seem to make more "sense".

Snowmobiles aren't so bad. We have a trail running across our land for about a mile and like working with them to keep it open. It's part of a state wide trail system that is like an alternative highway system. Advantages to that. The machines are not as noisy as they used to be, traffic volume is not obnoxious, the riders are mostly good people, and the trails are patrolled. The trails are good to ski on and they are good routes for deer and other animals in the winter. ATVs are another matter.

Nate: If, as I gather, you are a fairly recent Vermonter my advice is, regarding your efforts doing a reverse welcome wagon with your neighbors, go slow.

OldChuck, I have to agree with BadWrongBilly (in this case GoodRightBilly). My nephew has an ATV and a jetski (Not much snow around here). He just didn't get it when I banned ATV joy riding on my property. I told him that riding jetskis and ATVs for fun was perhaps the most completely selfish thing that he could do with his time and money. They consume resources, create noise polution and are only fun for the folks driving them. I said that there are a thousand things that he can do that are fun and much less selfish. His blank stare said it all.
Unless these resource hogs are used for some constuctive purpose, they are "that bad", IMHO.

I have lived in the city and in suburbia, as well as out in the deep country, where I grew up.I'm back in the (formerly) deep country.

Most of what passes for rural or country these days is as fake as a plastic Christmas tree , as Nate makes clear.

All you folks currently living in suburbia accomplish as a rule when you move ten miles or a hundred miles past the city limits is to create more suburbia albeit with larger lots and greener hobbies.The country for most country wannabes is nothing more than an opportunity to play the same consumption game on a larger and grander scale-the lawn becomes a pasture, the lap dog a collie, the collie a horse, and the four by four truck finally gets it's due-a double horsey trailer with tack and dressing room.

Nate, you are on the right track but don't be suprised if the genuine old country folks -if there are any in your nieghborhood-are a little standoffish.More than likely they got that way fron being treated like vacuum cleaner salesmen or low level employees by a few of thier uppity new nieghbors.

It is unfortunately very hard for well educated and prosperous people to move out into the boonies where the less educated and less sophisticated (in worldly terms) live without either consciously or unconsciously exhibiting patronizing attitudes and behaviors.

And of course even if you are from the same suburban middle class background, just approaching other new country dwellers can be hard.After all , not many of us invite too many strangers into our houses in suburbia , do we?

We are fortunate in that we have been able to make friends with some of our many new nieghbors but most of them might as well be from Mars or from the royal court of some European country a couple of centuries back as far as interacting with the local peasentry.

I'm too tired to pursue this any farther right now but maybe tomorrow I will try to add a few comments concerning making successful contacts with people from another world.

The first thing you need to realize is that your (the rhetorical you and your is intended) arrival is a nail in the coffin of thier lifestyle and culture , and that you are also likely causing them some considerable long term financial problems.


Seriously seriously. Amen

oldfarmermac -

I know exactly of what you speak, as I have observed it first hand.

What it amounts to is nothing less than a clash of not only two cultures but also of two different classes. As the outer fringes of the distant suburbs start to encroach on what were formally rural areas, there is increased friction between the typically well-educated, reasonable well-off white-collar people moving in and the poorly-educated, low-income natives. The latter usually view the former as yuppie interlopers bent on taking over what they view as rightly theirs.

One should also not underestimate the level of envy and resentment. Some of the natives have lived in the same area for six or seven generations, and in many cases the latest generation has not improved at all compared to their grandparents, and may indeed be worse off.

When during the 1970s we lived in a far suburb of Boston, not far from Concord, there was this family that ran a local gas station who was loosely descended from one of the colonial soldiers who fought at Concord Bridge. These people were bad news and epitomized New England white trash (which at its worst can give Mississippi or Arkansas white trash a good run for their money). They probably hadn't improved at all since colonial times, and deeply hated all the new suburbanites that were moving in at the time. They made no attempt to be friendly, and one could sense the thinly veiled hostility.

This sort of thing typifies the deep cultural divide between urban and rural in the US. An upstate New York or a downstate Illinois farmer has absolutely nothing in common with a denizen of New York City or Chicago. They might as well be from different planets. My hunch (and it is only that) as to why this is probably getting worse is that many of the more capable and ambitious people have already left the rural areas, thus leaving more of the dregs behind.

One can get a good feel for the attitudes at work here by reading some of the novels of Carolyn Chute, such as 'The Beans of Egypt Maine' and 'Letourneau's Used Auto Parts'. Rural poverty is a whole different animal compared to urban poverty. I'm not sure which is worse.

So, like you, I would strongly advise Nate to go slowly and not to try to get too overtly chummy with the natives.


I am very busy with my aged mother, my wife and other issues but I always read your comments and of course this one needed badly to be said.

The point about those who attempt to move into the 'country'.

It was just the other day that someone from New Yawk...dissed the country folks and another who I had once thought better of stated that the country rural area has a 'Social Stigma'.

This was serious enough to make me extremely angry. I decided to step back from TOD as a result. I could have replied in kind and did a bit but this POST of yours answers far better and more consisely.

Thanks for sticking up for us flyover scum.

Best to you for 2010,
and hang in there and continue to portray the true rural life,

Airdale- to me NewYawk represents the utter most scum pits of the lowest sewer levels of the universe..."there I said it in anger and I feel a little better for doing so"

Why? Because we sent our people and emergency personnel to work in the rubble of the Twin Towers. This is how they now treat the areas many came from? The heartlands of this nation.

airdale -

I grew up in a New Jersey suburb that was only about 15 miles from Times Square as the crow flies. However, it was a small town and had a small town atmosphere and small town mentality. It might as well have been in central Ohio for all the influence New York City had on it. (It also happened to have been the home town of Ozzie Nelson, so that should give you some idea.)

I once worked in midtown Manhattan and so am quite familiar with your 'New Yawkers'. Many indeed do have a big-league complex and tend to view anything west of the Hudson River as the wild frontier. Many don't realize that there is such a thing as an 'urban hick'. I worked with a number of middle-age men who never learned how to drive a car and probably had never been more than a 25-mile radius from the section of Queens or Brooklyn where they were born. Yet they felt they were at the center of the universe and that everyone else was a hick.

I think you might be a little overly tough on New Yawkers, though. Though they tend to be a bit hyper and have an edge, many can be extremely friendly and outgoing once you get to know them personally.

Negative views of country folk, farmers, farm workers...are quite old and have left their mark in the vocabulary. Try looking up the origins of words like churl, boor, and even villain. All were originally neutral or positive terms for farmers or farm workers. Similarly with heathen and pagan.

On the other hand, 'astute' and 'polite' meant 'from the city,' and of course the connection of the word 'civilized' to 'city' (< Latin civis) is well known.

The city folk mostly had and have control over political and linguistic influences and get to define cultural and linguistic standards, by and large.

These are among the deep cultural mindsets that will keep many current city folk from wanting to join Astyk's and Heinberg's 50 million farmers. It is actually surprising to me, given all this, that small farmers are actually held in quite high esteem these days by a number of people. Someone recently started printing up Farm Cards, like baseball cards but with farmers' pictures and info/stats on them, and they are a local hit. This is part of a broader conscious attempt to recognize farmers (especially those trying to farm in non-industrial ways) as the heroes they are.

My nephew informs me that many of his twenty something friends speak longingly about getting into farming. I may just live in an odd place and know odd people (actually there is no doubt about either of those), but there does seem to be some kind of shift starting.

There is a continuum of options. Moving to a small holding on the outskirts of a small town is one thing, and may well be feasible for quite a few people from the cities and suburbs. Moving to a small holding deep out in the boondocks is another thing altogether. Do-able, perhaps, but considerably more of a challenge than most realize. Expect to encounter the types of social obstacles wrt relations with the locals discussed here. Then at the other extreme is setting up as a large-scale farmer - the whole 9 yards (or rather, several hundred acres). This is undoubtedly a fantasy for anyone that has not grown up on a farm, or at least has grown up in farm country amidst farms and who has not been very far removed from the soil. For city folks, it is about as realistic as the old "Green Acres" TV series, and in fact would be pretty much of a real-life re-run.

In any economic sense, yes.

My brother, a patent attorney for a major corporation, has bought 400 acres of marginal land (some for $500/acre when estate liquidated 10,000+ acres) in Milam County Texas. All hilly and once farmed & ranched but abandoned to brush since then (1950s ?).

As far as I can tell, the sole economic utility is 250 acres in grass lease where another farmer grazes 15 head (drought has reduced grass). Many tens of thousands of dollars and almost every weekend clearing brush (like that other farmer GWB) for about 17 years, bulldozing out a couple of ponds (he throws corn on them to supplement feed the catfish). A variety of fruit trees planted but not in orchard quantity or uniformity, but great for home use.

My grandfather (who farmed from sharecropper at age 14 to 800 acres free & clear of prime Kentucky Bluegrass when he died) used to call these "toy farms".

My brother and perhaps his children (only one of which occasionally goes on weekends with him) are certainly several steps ahead of most urbanites if TSHTF, and he should be able to feed his family in non-drought years (see Climate Change) but is unlikely (IMVHO) to have much surplus to trade. In severe drought years (normal weather most of last decade), I question if he could even feed his family without significant inputs (oil, fertilizer, electricity, parts) from outside.

400 acres, 17 years of weekends and many $ invested in improvements = self sufficiency for 5 urbanites with good weather and minimal outside inputs.

When my father passes, I think I could "make do" with a large garden on a few acres of what is left of the farm while waiting for fruit and nut trees to mature *IF* I can keep it clear of encroaching Suburbanites. But this is prime land with permanent water. Not at all sure how to keep from freezing in the winter without "outside" inputs though.



Good luck and may you be blessed with a few more happy days with your Momma-I guessing she must be very close to ninety, maybe much older.Other than those who have spent extensive amounts of time in the third world, I doubt if there are more than a handful of regulars on this site who have any real idea of the life she must have lived while you were a little kid.

Airdale. You misinterpreted me. I was acknowledging that the attitudes of the New Yorker exist. I was not saying that was a good thing, and if you re-read my comment I said it was actually a bad thing to let stand!

You rightly pointed out that the "stigma" goes both ways. I acknowledge that as well. What we need are people able to bridge that divide. Something I work very hard on, actually.

Sigh. It's hard to know for certain what you're responding to, but I do recall relating - which is not identical to endorsing - the existence of certain fairly widespread attitudes a good two weeks or so ago (which may or may not be recent enough to count as 'the other day'.) I recall linking to an image of the famous 1976 New Yorker cover illustrating - and satirizing - those attitudes. Oh, and I do recall someone using the word "stigma". I would have to say that exists, since I also recall the intense ribbing when it became known that I would be taking a degree program located well outside what was and is known as The City (BTW lest one be tempted to Blame America First And Exclusively, the same terminology is also used by Londoners, in a somewhat similar sense)...

Which all squares up with this: irrespective of what one likes or dislikes, if it ever comes to pass that large numbers of people drift out of New York (and L.A. and Chicago), then things are going to get 'interesting' everywhere else, far beyond anything happening on the exurban fringe now. In order to cope, everyone concerned will have to face up to the reality that the attitudes exist - on both "sides" - and then get past that somehow and make peace or at least arrange a truce. It will often be a meeting of two very different planets, as per OFM up above: "We are fortunate in that we have been able to make friends with some of our many new neighbors but most of them might as well be from Mars or from the royal court of some European country a couple of centuries back as far as interacting with the local peasantry." (BTW the picture OFM paints squares reasonably well with the aforementioned ribbing; but I'd suggest reconsidering your use of the term "scum", which is not only depressing, but doesn't square with the repeated use of the word "wholesome" in the course of said ribbing.)

All the cars in the foreground have all their bonnets up! ;)

...how much harder it is to go make acquaintance with a neighbor ...

What a wonderful insight! Or perhaps a wonderful restatement of same. Thank you.

I think we will begin to make a difference when we do connect more with those neighbors with whom we find it so difficult to connect.

I normally make no 'resolutions' to go with a new year. I do on occassion make resolutions, and I will do so today, to make connection with my neighbors, and in so doing to, in a good natured way, extend what little knowledge I might share with them, and to solicit from them their ideas about how we, as a community, as a society, and as a species, might make things better, or prepare and survive with some sort of cultural continuity.

I'm resolving to reach out farther in our neighborhood, possibly bring some homemade bread as a gift, and the offer to let them use whatever tools/books they may need.
It may not lead to life-long instant friendships, but at least I will have contacted them, and let them know that should they ever need assistance, we can help.
Perhaps nothing will come of all this, but ya never know....

I think setting up some kind of a tool sharing system would make a lot of sense. Many have tools around that they have used only once. The legalities might get sticky, of course--probably why it's not done more often.

Why buy a rototiller, when your neighbor down the street may already have one?
Or is thinking about getting one also?
Makes sense to pool resources and share tools. Of course there will be problems, but reasonable people can often find solutions.
A nice $1500 tiller or lathe split 5 ways is only $300.
I'm getting ready to build another solar grain grinder, as friends around the city like mine, and I want to build one for them to use and share in their own neighborhoods. There are a lot of things we can build/buy to share with our peers and others, which will help stretch out our resources and cut down on dumb redundancy.
Same goes for my library, which I have put onto a lending list and is available to folks here in the Reno area. Borrow a book, and bring it back, and you can borrow another....
Loan me one of yours, and you can keep mine longer.

I live in Golden Valley and would like very much to talk to you. lynandclarice at charter dot net. TIA Lyn

I expected to have to defend my remarks about suburbanites moving to the boonies.It is gratifying to see that the audience here is so perceptive, but that's why I hang out here.

I didn't do anything to explain my position, other than simply mention financial hardships ans cultural destruction.Maybe a few supporting comments are in order.

If you move to an area mostly consisting of small time farmers and rural people only a generation or two off the farm , most likely the first impact and most obvious serious impact on the locals is that you drive up property prices and taxes.

This is fine for locals who have lots of property and can sell off some of it, but most don't and furthermore most don't have very good jobs-property taxes can very quickly become a very real burden.The land with the timber on it that would have been sawed for old age money becomes a burden rather than an asset but selling it means the owners are doubly damned-giving up the old home place is like losing a loved one, even worse for "the generations cometh and goeth, but the earth abides forever".Sons and duaghters are likely enough to leave, with the land gone there is even less incentive to stay.

The first thing new owners do all too often is erect locked gates and put up no trespassing signson land that everybody has hunted , fished and just walkeked over forever-with never a thiught as to asking permission-Nobody in my entire family history since we came to this part of the world ever posted land, or erected locked gates, or needed to ask if we could run our dogs thru a nieghbors woods.We owned the land legally , but our culture was that we HELD IT in common, insofar as access to it for recreation was concerned.

We may be secret Darwinists, but our parents and grandparents are buried out there in those churchyards,and we believe in the philosophy of Christianity-the yokels who are ignorant bigots are real enough, but there are far more Archie Bunkers proportionately in any suburb-I've been there and I know.The three or four richest people in the nieghborhood are almost invariably as polite and respectful of the poor and as considerate of them , showing up for wakes and funerals , visiting in nursing homes,etc, as they are to thier equals-because that preacher reminds them every Sunday that they are all equal in God's eyes..

We went for generations needing a lawyer only for the rare criminal case or to prepare a will or a deed-people worked together, you didn't need a contract to build a house or get your car fixed.

Nobody could concieve of sueing a local doctor.

We didn't need a building inspector and a zoning hearing and a lawyer and a contractor to put up a pole barn for storing hay. We had wells and septic tanks and they worked just fine and they were PAID FOR.

We could sell milk and sausage to ouir nieghbors-and if we were reasonably discreet, a little brandy too.

Now we have to pay for a community center we can't use because it's too far away, and a water treatment plant and the water and sewage lines running down the main highways for all those business moving in that hire lots of clerks but no skilled labor.

Of course perfectly good paid for school buildings are no good anymore, and we gotta have a twenty five million dollar office complex for the county govt.

Every year we see more of the sort of foolishness so beloved of the big city big govt operators-SOMEBODY can have a farm market, and get it paid for by god with tax money,but not us, now you get ticketed for selling on the roadside.-and the guys with buildings on mainstreet get something called grants for something called urban renewal -it's welfare to us.

And if we aren't damn careful they will put a stadium or something on the public tab for some rich axxhxxe on top of everything else.And evertlast person who used to be our servants but now are our masters gets paid BETTER to do less in comparable jobs than the rest of us.And none of them have any problems with doctor bills or retirement , either, cause the state looks after itself first.

I could go on , and I could do a much better job but time is short and the word rate is zero here.It matters not if these comments are actually justified or accurate because they are intended not to persuade but to provide insight as to how things LOOK AND FEEL from the other side.

But I will add that I would be glad to have just about any regular here for a nieghbor-Oil Drummers are part of the solution rather than part of the problem and the heavy emphasis in this forum on community is priceless.

OFM - your post reminded me of the essay "Everything I want to do is Illegal" by Joel Salatin. If you haven't read it, you might find it interesting. For all I remember, you may have been the one to point me to it in the first place.


Its amazig that we are more free in socialist Sweden...
What have you done to your country?

OFM, we must live in the same county.

Magnus, folks let themselves get distracted from the things that really matter. The good news is that in places like where OFM and I live there is a quiet revolt happening. People are shunning credit and quietly ignoring regulations that don't make sense. Even the sheriff's dept has developed a public relations problem. People long for the day when we had a sherrif more like Andy Taylor again, who's duty was tempered by wisdom and understanding. I'm looking forward to the next election.

At my local Farmer's & Fishers Market (a 1.1 km walk away on Saturday), there are three farmers that sell meat (beef & goats) that they slaughtered themselves. One from Mississippi, so he crossed state lines (Magnus, that makes it interstate commerce and the US Constitution says that the federal government regulates that).

And several fishermen (families really) sell their catch, some as filets, others undressed.

Lax regulation perhaps, or common sense "exemption".

Best Hopes for Reality based Regulations,


Alan , For goodness sake keep revealing details such as the actual location of such things quiet-those people are only able to stay in business because they are flying beneath the radar of about twenty or so different regulatory agencies.

If they come to the attention of JUST ONE wellintentioned (most likely ) busybody, such as some hysterical suburbanite who once knew somebody who got food poisoning or maybe poison ivy, they will be run off if they are lucky and summonsed to court if not.

We live in a world where all available ground is turf, and the turf wars employ one hell of a lot of soldiers-and lots of those soldiers are technically educated (in some narrow sense) true believers eager to get thier name in the paper and build a resume.

Consumer, thank you for bringing this to my attention.I have seen similar pieces but not one so well written.

I strongly urge everybody to read and study it and think about the basic conservative principles of minimal govt and self reliance when contemplating sustainability.

The kind of conservatism I advocate is a world view and has very little to do with the republicam party and it's current positions, except in respect to a very few issues such as maintaining a strong military .And in that respect if I had been Reagen, KNOWING WHAT
I KNOW NOW, I would have went for a new isolation LET THE REST OF THE WORLD BE DXXXED foriegn policy and flatout energy research and development.

By now we could have been trading super insulation and solar power plants to the rest of the world, driving electric cars,riding bullet trains everywhere, enjoying a robust economy-all for less than we've spent on keeping the military overseas.

Consumer, thank you for bringing this to my attention.I have seen similar pieces but not one so well written.

I strongly urge everybody to read and study it and think about the basic conservative principles of minimal govt and self reliance when contemplating sustainability.

The kind of conservatism I advocate is a world view and has very little to do with the republicam party and it's current positions, except in respect to a very few issues such as maintaining a strong military .And in that respect if I had been Reagen, KNOWING WHAT
I KNOW NOW, I would have went for a new isolation LET THE REST OF THE WORLD BE DXXXED foriegn policy and flatout energy research and development.

By now we could have been trading super insulation and solar power plants to the rest of the world, driving electric cars,riding bullet trains everywhere, enjoying a robust economy-all for less than we've spent on keeping the military overseas.

Thanks, Consumer. I'm looking forward to reading it.

BTW — and completely off-topic — this link seems to be going around in my email world, and it's wonderful:

OFM, we did something like what you wrote above, and I'd like to know what you think of it. As far as land prices, we paid about half what the guy before us paid for our 12 acres. He bought the land thinking he could put a house on it, but got his perk test back and decided a water table 6" below the surface was more than he bargained for. So we bought the land.

We have no plan to ever put a house on it. We put a barn on it. Instead of renting it out, we're farming it ourselves. We only manage to make it out there on weekends and a dozen or two other times a year. The land was posted when we got it. We did put up a gate, because t-posts we were putting up to mark our fields kept disappearing.

How bad is that? Is there anything we can do, short of giving up the land, that would make people who live there not think we're jerks? I'd like to be on good terms with my neighbors, both at home and on our land.


What is practical will depend a lot on how far away you are from your land and the amount of develpoment already taking place in the nieghborhood.

The first thing I would do is make the acquaintance of as many nearby nieghbors as conventiently possible, driving my oldest vehicle , and wearing my oldest clean gardening clothes.Let them know that you are a regular guy, that you aren't opposed to rabbit hunting or loose hound dogs and kids playing in the woods, and that you will want to hire somebody to run thier tractor over the fields occasionally, etc., that you like to garden and play farmer and may eventually move to the property.Try to attend a local church service occasionally.Write a small check (twenty five dollars or so)to the local rescue squad and fire dept once a year or so and bring a bucket of chicken to a fund raiser organized by either organization and stay the day if at all possible.You will meet a lot of people.

Your entree into the lives of thse people will come in the form of invitations to church,high school ball games, going coon hunting, rabbit hunting, or deer hunting.If you can , accept some of them.Showing up at a funeral or wake is the ultimate sign of respect so long as you are on speaking terms with at least one member of the immediate family..

Don't say much about your politics until you have the lay of the land figured out.

The main thing is to LISTEN rather than talk.If you listen respectfully everybody will like you-this is as near to a universal truth as I know of in dealing with people.

Ral country people will take the time to discuss anything of any importance to you or them .This is not just breezing or killing time but GOOD MANAGEMENT of thier community and lives -just like the various managers within a company making time to talk with the other managers.Real country people have not yet DELEGATED the management of thier lives and communities, except for the schools, where they have pretty much lost control.Soon the little control they have left over the running of their farms and woodlands will be gone too , and they are aware o this and resentful of anyone who looks to be in favor of more instead of less regulation.

Quietly investigate the possibility of getting a well drilled, which may be possible on agricultural grounds, unless you have a good potable spring.Ditto the possibility of getting utility electricity-it may cost thirty bucks a month for something almost useless now but it may also be priceless later, and impossible to get later.

(The regulation rachet only tightens insofar as the little people are concerned.)

Talk to at least two soil inspectors who wll not be involved later about the siol and possible septic system solutions.A system that looks outrageously expensive now may look like a bargain later on.

In terms of actually developing your property,once you have water and sewer permits you are usually home free as far as eventually building a house is concerned, which may be very important eventually.Keeping permits good may require some occasional work.

Sorry I'm rambling but I don't have enough to do , it's windy,fifteen degrees F, have cabin fever, and I don't know enough to be specific.I don't think there are any specific rules, you must play be ear.

OFM, I don't think you're rambling, I think you're giving me exactly the advice I need to hear. I'll work on what you recommended. Thanks!

Building intangible wealth should be on top of your priorities.
Invest in your health,your knowledge,your friends,your skills,etc.

Nate -- You got it. Let's get down to work. Good luck -- Dan

Good intentions! I personally believe it might be easier to make neighborly contact in the US via a more rural/agrarian setting. Of course, I cannot even establish any forecasting ability other than tomorrow's weather with my wife... let alone discuss buying a 50 acre wisconsin farmette. This pathetic captain probably stays on board the stinking suburban ship.


I moved into my current neighborhood in March, '06.

I started reaching out to neighbors right away, but found it a bit frustrating that I couldn't really talk about what I understood of our predicament. I got a lot of pushback, even on things like showing environmental movies, and talk about oil prices garnered me the "political" label.

I found my only real outlet for ideas, albeit rather muted, was a monthly half-page article in our local newsletter.

Nevertheless, things do move along, and I was just asked to participate in a neighborhood "walkability" effort. While people are still not articulating "Peak Oil" or "Resource Depletion", clearly folks get that something is very wrong, and we ought to be doing something about it.

Now, I'm not saying I'm on the verge of breakthrough just yet, but one does have to gain a certain credibility with people in order to make things happen, and that takes time.

I think just having run a successful weatherization project, where I trained and helped folks install 60 low-cost weatherization kits (simple stuff like outlet pads, doorsweeps, foam tape, caulk weatherstrip, CFLs) in homes around the neighborhood, helped to raise visibility.

Clearly, eveyone who took a kit wanted to find out how to patch up their leaky old houses - our neighborhood is full of 100-year-old drafty Victorians. I think one project will now lead to others, and all preparation will help.

Good luck with your outreach, and make sure you keep your expectations in check. It takes a lot of work, but you may end up being pleasantly surprised.

to be clear - this is not local outreach -this is just to meet people, engage. bring cookies, help start a truck, trade eggs, play games etc. Social capital can (and should) be created irrespective of the details of the broader social backdrop. At least thats what I have come to realize. I doubt I'll mention theoildrum, peak oil, debt overshoot, or any such thing when I meet people locally, at least at first. As I said, I think import substitution is about the best advice I can render locally, but it would be a tough sell. Being myself of course, relatively quickly someone might figure out my views and concerns, but I don't plan to beat anyone over the head with them...(that is until/when I stop my holding pattern of indecision and go whole hog after something, which may be never...)

I see - good luck with building social capital, then.

I found it impossible not to try and effect change, knowing what I know about where we are.

Thanks very much for your big contribution on TOD this last while.
Your proposed extension of neighborly contact reminds me this is a big issue also for me here.

until/when I stop my holding pattern of indecision and go whole hog after something, which may be never ...

and from your essay above ...

my procrastination has started to bother me (in the form of repeated weird dreams, etc.)

Likewise: don't I know it ...!
Human community though IMO needs a bit of fission as well as fusion - coming and going as well as staying put and gardening.
3 local families so far? Seems like a good start. They presumably have families and friends?
very best

Bought 4 rolls of bubble wrap, and am helping folks put that as inside insulation on their windows.
It's a quick and easy fix, and also allows a lot of light in as well as diffusing it.
I'm only asking that they put away HALF of the savings on their power bills to allow me to buy more bubble wrap.
In the 90's I lived in a trailer, and that stuff saved quite a bit of money, and made the comfort level of the place instantly much higher.
As and if I get any money back, I'll get more rolls of wrap and keep on helping more folks.
There's a lot of people who can't afford expensive new insulative windows, and bubble wrap works just fine.
I'm actually growing fond of it.
Pop pop pop.

Put in the gaskets that go behind outlets & switches. Blocks a lot of drafts. Also low cost and lasts more years than bubble wrap.

BTW, bubble wrap is also useful as insulation elsewhere. On attic stairs from conditioned space for instance. Trim & fit with staples or silicone caulk.

Best Hopes,


Or join a local volunteer fire dept.

My first spouse and I took EMT training alongside neighbors. A great way to make new friends and feel part of the neighborhood. Even better was the time my spouse as a first responder revived a neighbor who had suffered a MCI. This kind of thing builds strong friendships.

It sounds like you are experiencing burnout which is understandable. Its natural for someone of your level of intelligence to want to find a way to alleviate what promises to be a pretty horrible situation. But you eventually come to the realization that we as a species are inherently unsustainable. We've been on this trajectory for at least 300,000 years since Homo erectus first started using fire. Now we've about reached the apogee and the inevitable crash will be horrific. Nothing to do but pet your dogs, burn your propane heat, drink your imported coffee, and type away on you petroleum-based computer.

I think you'll find reaching out to your neighbors is pretty much a waste of time as well. Not only are they uninterested in the concerns you have but most of them hold really strange and contradictory beliefs. My mother insists that we were created by God not evolution but when I asked her if she thought the world was only 10,000 years old she said she doesn't think about it that much. When push comes to shove they will be stealing rutabagas out of your garden if they have to whether you've gotten to know them or not.

Amen, brother. I strongly intuit that you right about this.

"steal your rutabagas" Maybe, but it is certainly less likely if you get to know them. The whole point of getting to know your neighbors is not to help them see the world the way you do. That was the old view that would make more "neighbors" into "friends". What we must come to terms with is the fact that these folks are within walking distance. That is the point. Learn to need them. Offer your self to be needed in return. Just like learning to use the wood lot or garden. This has little to do with a desire for friends. This is collecting valuable resources close to home and it takes work. Surprisingly this will lead to many new friendships.

Well put Donn.

To reduce the concerns raised by OFM, Airdale and others, I think it is important to approach established neighbors as teachers - that is as a humble learner (i.e reduce potential perceptions of coming across as an arrogant ex-urbanite who is trying to teach rural folk how to live sustainably). Bringing bread, offering use of tools, offering to help them in tasks for which they could use an extra set of hands are all good ideas. And most importantly, approach without expectations. Social capital is probably the hardest of all capitals (natural, manufactured, human, social, financial) to build. But the importance of at least knowing the different mindsets, capabilities and contexts of all, or at least most, of one's rural neighbors cannot be understated.

In case you're wondering, my partner and I are in the process of moving from a semi-rural area (I call places within an hours' drive of an urban center "peri-urban" - beyond the suburbs and geographically rural, but not entirely socially rural due to social connections many people have with the city) to a fully rural small farm. We have made it a priority in both places to get to know neighbors and get involved with the community. Luckily for us, people in both places are by-and-large open and welcoming.

Mule Man Dan wrote;

""steal your rutabagas" Maybe, but it is certainly less likely if you get to know them."

Perhaps, but the British MI5 have a saying - "Society is only three meals away from anarchy"

If I had a neighbor like you, I wouldn't miss a wink of sleep. However, with (some) neighbors who do nothing but mow 8 acres, have no concept of gardening, and are waiting for the stock market to resume its 'perpetual' climb, there may be something to worry about if things head south, even slowly. Getting to know them may mitigate this for some aspects, but eventually even very subtle suggestions for preparing for harder times will clue them into the preparations I must be doing. A few neighbors have small gardens, and one even has chickens. Planting ideas and resource constraints facts successfully require diplomatic skills that may be beyond me, but I haven't given up yet. One neighbor welcomed my gift of a couple of young nut trees, so some headway can be claimed.

Interesting and thoughtful post, I relate and very much appreciate it.

I'd say locally here on our very remote island I was myself in a very similar headspace about this time last year, recognizing many of the same issues. With the relative advantage/disadvantage of the isolation that comes from living on the shoulder of a strange active volcano in the middle of the pacific ocean it's perhaps easier to take a step back--this has certainly hastened my efforts towards very similar goals. And in encouragement, I'd have to say that by and large those goals have been successful. Hawaii is a progressive place in many ways, but not too forward thinking--still I've been very pleased to see rapid growth in building real functional community from the ground up, and a community that is interested in founding itself on sustainable principles. The time is ripe for such things, and I expect a lot more people are interested than one thinks. The primary key, I believe, is that most people are keenly more interested in seeing solutions than discussing issues. It's hard to argue with results--and nothing will put a community together than focusing on real constructive projects. Dirty hands make for tidy thinking.

There are those that will be willing to listen, and will understand. They're eager to get involved. There are those who willfully remain ignorant and arrogant. Screw 'em.

So, then, I'd suggest getting folks together and planting sweet potatoes. Or some such. Or at least that was our kernel of creative energy. The rest is gravy. . .

Are you acquainted with Jay Hanson who also resides on the Big Island?

No, I'm not, but certainly invite all comers. "Puna" is my mostly identified district, however strictly I'm "Ka'u." I'm about 10 miles from Halema'uma'u itself, even, if that. and Pu'a O'o, at about 6. These are geographic markers and matter to some degree both culturally and ecologically.

Here's a link, please invite any and all, and be aware that we really feel our role is not only being demonstrative of a better way of living for ourselves, but of the planet itself. See, here, we didn't get so much dragged into the oil game--so the transition out won't be so bad maybe either. . .

Maybe you know Jay Ram .....http://agrinom.com/profile.html

N.H.: "Resolution #6 Reduce/change the attractors in my life that pull me in to unsustainable activities with positive feedback loops. This includes the internet, sugar (has now been proven to be a gateway drug (Hoebel 2009), and cell phone, etc. Amplify beneficial attractors like exercise, meditation, rest. No brainer."

BWB: Please expand the reference for Hoebel, 2009.....I would be interested in this from a past research standpoint.

As for reducing the current uses of internet, cell phones, TV, etc., I like to use the indigenous examples as a guide that seem to teach that nothing that we would call "art" or "entertainment" existed in their cultures WITHOUT being coupled to something practical. Dancing was not just entertainment and for the most part the idea of non-participatory "audience" watching "artist/performer" was unheard of since this was the antithesis of communal. The artwork of most of the indigenous, from my reading, was never "art for art's sake", but was imbued with spiritual significance. So as an example, "Internet"...use as tool for information on getting something done in your immediate sphere where a human next door may not have the answer. But lean towards human/nature contact in your immediate sphere for social network and reduce use of internet for this and entertainment purpose.

N.H: "If we’re to seriously critique the wardrobe of the emperor, we better have explicit plans and options for a whole new wardrobe to articulate, otherwise perhaps being quiet and working on said plans is a better idea.

BWB: I've thought about this at times and have concluded that if you simply begin to help people "in the right direction", they will see the lack of clothes on the emperor for themselves and, on a population scale, this will allow for a gradual realization of said "clotheslessness" as opposed to the cataclysmic one that you are correct might happen. For instance, as your local social interactions widen/deepen, each time you have the chance to "weigh in", offer suggestions that are more sustainable. You may be scoffed at, but (a) you will not change everyone's mind and (b) you have to start somewhere. As an example some people where I work were debating on installing a sunroom or a deck with a hot tub. I kept telling them about the nice things we were able to do with the sunroom and did not need to worry about pool issues, energy to drive it, etc. After deciding to go with the sunroom, the extra bennies started becomeing noticable....leaving the door open in the fall and spring so the the warm air would cut down on heating, starting transplants in the room instead of cluttering up a main room with seedling mats, AND the socializing that they thought the hot tub would engender was matched by socializing in the sunroom. As a glaring contrast, a home recently went up about 0.5 mi south of us...the typical suburb-o-dome with vaulted ceilings, a gazillion gables, and ......get this, an equal number of glass pane windows FACING NORTHEAST!!! (Not to be unfair to them, this is a common architectural theme in the Fargo, ND area.) So the interest in curb appeal for these folks clearly outweighed a desire for energy efficiency.

N.H: "The quest for more and more information and refined datapoints can also be addictive."

And it's funny how many more data points are needed for the really important issues. In other words, the search for the "ultimate study" can paralyze any action just long enough for those with $$$ to re-group their investments. The tobacco industry is a good example.....how many studies were needed to show that smoking had a bad side effect. But until the movement became vocal enough, no amount of data would have allowed the government to demand warning labels.

On Hoebel, I couldn't speak for Nate's specific context, but here's a general reference starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_addiction

BWB: Dancing was not just entertainment and for the most part the idea of non-participatory "audience" watching "artist/performer" was unheard of since this was the antithesis of communal. The artwork of most of the indigenous, from my reading, was never "art for art's sake", but was imbued with spiritual significance.

W: That depends on a reading of "art" which does not, right away, include spiritual significance. If "Art for art's sake" means "Art (which has spiritual significance) for art's (which has spiritual significance) sake" then contrasting art, as you're doing with that which has spiritual significance doesn't work. In the Middle Ages when art largely served religion, it was believed the art inherited the spiritual significance from the religion. It was the insight of the romantics (and others before them - notably Shaftesbury and Hutcheson) that art didn't in fact require religion to derive its spiritual significance, but was spiritually significant in itself, as an original source. It wasn't, I'd claim, art that took spiritual significance from its former religious affiliation, but the religions which had gained whatever legitimate spiritual significance they had from what art leant them.

Religions largely drain spiritual significance from societies. They urge us to turn away from the spiritual significance of the existing world, to seek it instead in impossible fantasies. As for an audience enraptured by a performer, that goes back to the earliest human specialization: the shamanic performer. All art descends from them. The audience empowers them. And we need both. Otherwise we cease to be human.

Hi Whit,

Religions largely drain spiritual significance from societies. They urge us to turn away from the spiritual significance of the existing world, to seek it instead in impossible fantasies

Very well said - hope you don't mind if I repeat that bit of wisdom. It seems to me (since I was able to cast off my childhood religious up bringing) that the universe is a wonderous place full of great mysteries to explore and enjoy. It seems to me that we could vastly enjoy our "existing world" if we focused more on or need to come into balance with nature instead of earning brownie points for a better bleacher seat in the afterlife.

Saw 3D Avatar the other day - aside from Hollywood stuff - some interesting ideas about living as part of nature instead of being exceptional beings created in the "image and likeness of god".

interesting ideas about living as part of nature instead of being exceptional beings


Actually the movie (Avatar) does ask you (the movie goer) to accept "exceptionalism" as a core religious belief.

The Navi apparently have dominion over all other creatures on their planet (with the exception of the god-like 'tree of wisdom') simply by tying their nerve endings into those of any "lower" creature (i.e., their horses and flying bird machines).

So Avatar still perpetuates the idea of dominion over nature as compared to the idea of being just another equal creature within nature.

Hi step back,

I guess you are right - another warm fuzzy thought dampened. What hooked me was the fact that the Na'vi people did not use machines of any kind and lived without destroying their natural environment. But, you are right - they could make other creatures subject to their will.

Great visual escape however.

Don't get me wrong Dave,

James Cameron does a masterful job of drawing the moviegoer down that suspension of disbelief slope.

Of course during that trip there are many hypocrisies that escape attention.

The movie becomes more fun when you decipher the many levels of deception.

That's strange that you saw this linking as "Dominion".. I thought it was a pretty good description of partnerships and cooperative connection. I didn't hear any suggestion that they saw or treated any other life forms as subordinate to them, even if they were using them for transport. Not all Animal/Human interaction is condescending.

Still, the movie had 'Human Guy gets the cute 'Native Girl' and leads the poor unsophisticates to victory' cliche' going on, and a bit too much 'Big Slender Kitty Eyed Foxy Amazon Babes who hiss and snarl- pretending to be new-agey' .. But as you pretty much said, Cameron does it Hollywood style, and does that well.

Billy - the source is:
"Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical
effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake"
Nicole M. Avena, Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel*
Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540 USA
Published in final edited form as:
Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008 ; 32(1): 20–39.

I have meant to finish my post on "The Neuroscience of Sustainability" but have not. My point wasn't so much that sugar is bad for your health (it is to varying degrees), but how it changes your brain (to varying degrees) for future behavior. As you might imagine, studies on addicting rats to Mountain Dew and seeing subsequent behavior are not yet being attempted on humans in shopping malls..

Chocolate is better ... happy dorfins.

Thanks for the reference, Nate....I'm looking forward to reading that paper and seeing what behaviors were observed.

With regard to humans, it has been noted before that the drugging of the poor and disenfranchised in the U.S. may not be accidental. Keep them drugged and they may at times be individually violent, but remain disorganized. As others may have observed at various workplaces, even at the morning coffee break, cans of "Dew" now outnumber coffee cups. Nicotene's becoming unfashionable, but as long as various forms of caffeine and sugar (sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, etc......can't speak for the non-sugar substitutes) mixed with various distractions remain abundant, people will be content to wait out the work day for their trips to the Mall, the Buffet, and the 'Plex.

Thanks again!....

Sugar is looking rather benign, almost a health food, these days, compared with the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup.

As you might imagine, studies on addicting rats to Mountain Dew and seeing subsequent behavior are not yet being attempted on humans in shopping malls.

Maybe not. But there is a large addicted population to study in any software shop. Seriously. (Although I'm sure it has more to do with caffeine than sugar)

"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportional to the quantity of coffee he drank." Sir James MacKintosh - 18th century Scottish philosopher

The truth has to come with a plan.

I really like this. I have been reading John Ziman's Real Science. One major theme is how knowledge is always embedded in some fabric of purpose and action.

My own resolution is basically to lose some weight. I know that it's the key to bringing down my blood pressure. And that is one of my biggest risk factors. We've got an exercise bike downstairs. I have a heart rate monitor. 40 minutes at 130 beats per minute, six days a week. If my sweetheart doesn't bake too many brownies and pumpkin pies, it might just work. Well, a little portion control could come into play, too!

Nobody survives - any kind of individualistic survivalism is just silly. What survives is culture - slowly evolved, but a thread of continuity can stretch for millennia. The basic technology of food, shelter, clothing, medicine - that is likely to be so chaotic over the coming decades, the only effective strategy would seem to be to stay alert and light on one's feet.

But the higher level qualities that make being human meaningful - maybe Plato's enumeration fits here: the good, the true, and the beautiful - these really don't have much to do with wood versus coal versus petroleum. Set your course by such a compass and whatever comes, you won't have wasted your time here.

A bit late to be making a comment, but congratulations on your resolution. There is actually a lot of bona fide med science to back up your efforts. Some of the fruits and berries seem also to help with blood pressure. We did a controlled test using a 'complete' (water) extract of pomegranate that brought my wife's only partially controlled hypertension to a fully controlled normality. Also blueberries continue to get a good scientific press for a lot of reasons. West Texas recommendation of Vitamin D also appears to be worth careful thought.
Agree Platonism seems to have some real life left in it.

A good tactic is to get her in on the act as well. Tell her that you're trying to lose weight, but her food is so delicious, and you don't have enough self-control, and can she not bake quite so much.

Nate - Great Post. First 2010 movie reference in a post I've seen on the interwebs and I have been expecting one and your post is a very appropriate analog to the movie. We definitely have traversed economically to a point where we must get out of here for our own good, lets hope TOD and others messages are heeded to avoid the worst scenarios.

I've only been visiting TOD for a little less than a year, Campfire is what drew me in, and in the process I learned a lot by the staff, guest posters and the frequent commenters.... Old Farmer, West Tx, Rky Mountain Guy, Rock, Alan in the Big Easy and many others,,, So for your past efforts I say thanks, and good luck with the PHD, hopefully its will not just be "higher and deeper" :) - I don't think it will be from the evidence of your posts.

I share the resolution of making more contacts this year, albeit with people who can understand the concept of limits and that there may be a change in BAU. My resolution is to try and get my Apt/Condo community to start a garden in some of our green space. I can only grow so much on a 3' x 7' West facing balcony.

Happy New Year to all!

Interesting to consider just how many things both "2001" and "2010" got wrong:

-No moon base
-No routine passenger travel between Earth and Moon
-No big orbiting space station with centrifugal gravity (just a smallish tinkertoy station, minimally manned)
-No manned space exploration beyond the confines of the Earth/Moon gravitational system
-No orbiting nuclear weapons in space (supposedly) (these were shown but not identified in the movie (the first shot immediately after the bone in the air), you had to read the book to know that is what they were)
-No "PicturePhone" in widespread, common use (yes, we've got web cams, but that is quite different from what they depicted)
-No more "Ma Bell", especially not with the anachronistic 1950's era logo
-No HoJos in space
-No more PanAm, in or above the skies
-No technology yet to enable people to hibernate for months
-No more Soviet Union, or cold war
-No HAL (or SAL) - not yet, anyway

Things that people making long-term predictions should keep in mind.

Good luck, Nate, and thanks for all of your work as an editor!

I think that you will find making friends takes a lot of small interactions, rather than just a simple introduction (although that helps). The traditional networking site, especially in rural communities, has been churches. My own view is that liberal churches (do not take the Bible to be literally true) can be fine for this purpose--the literally true folks would probably drive you nutty. A tipoff that a church is liberal is if the denomination permits gay clergy--for example ELCA Lutheran or Episcopal, but there can be differences within congregations.

Another thought is to start or join a club--but I think you have already thought about this.

Networking is very important. Try:

Seminars of professional associations, public hearings, forums in town halls, community gatherings on issues like road widening, public transport or bike paths, open days in Unis, media events in TV studios etc. Distribute flyers with the oildrum logo and web address.

To Nate and all the readers of TOD, get a daily dose of optimism.
There are a lot of good news every day.

Sounds like more racial madness gone a muck. Now what happens when the real troubles occur from Peak Oil not that far down the road?


I went down your path many years ago when I stopped serving on non-profit boards and stopped trying to herd cats.

I wish you the best.


Interesting that you used images that originated in the movie 2001* to illustrate the chat - it came out in 1968 as I completed my own PhD and went forth into a world that we weren't all that sure would still be around today. (I was a very scared student at Leeds in the UK during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as background). This week we went to see Avatar which as my son has noted is as likely to be as revolutionary in the making of film as 2001 was back then. (And in it mining engineers are still the villains).

Thanks for all your efforts with TOD, and the innovations that you brought - I will continue to look for the contributions - all the very best, and in today's more protective society I hope nobody got chilblains.

*though I guess that they also appeared in 2010, which was nowhere near as revolutionary for its time.

Nate - From reading alot of your posts it is clear that you have what Nassim Taleb calls "Fuck off money". In other words you have a very comfortable nest egg, (although I fully acknowledge that it is never enough).

You have the luxury of contemplating all of this nonsense that has no earthly relevance to anyone currently living on the planet other that the .001% that also, thru their circumstances are free to dabble in this alternative reality.

It seems to me that you work very hard at rationalizing your life up till now and the wealth that you accidentally accumulated before "seeing the light" as it were.

I personally would be much more impressed if you used your new found powers for good instead of for obfuscation. Get Real Dude.

When I started my phd and blogging 5 years ago I had a decent nest egg. I've spent most of it so please don't make assumptions. Shall I give away my last penny? What good would that do anyone?

I could have made a fortune on a peak oil hedge fund in 2005-2008 which I was approached to do - I decided instead to do this, and learn things. I don't regret it (too often).

There is an upcoming conflict between rich and poor. I've been both and can understand both perspectives.

I think now there are 3 general categories of people: 1)those with or without job who are independently wealthy, 2)those without a job who have little or no wealth and 3)those with little or no wealth but with a job. Category 3 has the highest numbers of people though its lead will shrink in coming years. However, this category, in perception if not reality may be the best off. Of the dozens of people I have talked with about finance/markets in past month it is only the ones with money that are really stressed out. Those with no money but stable jobs don't seem concerned in the least - yes I know that could change but I have thought for a while that wealth could be an albatross in whats ahead. First of all there is huge cross correlation between someone with most of their net worth in financial capital, ALSO employed in financial capital industry ALSO who's human capital (skills) are in the financial capital area ALSO who's social capital is AGAINST social norms (people are pretty pissed off at bankers etc.) I would say to those people they need to diversify and soon.

I suspect if you were around here in 2005-6 you might have phrased your post differently


as a newbie to TOD I want to thank you and all who contribute so much to what I consider a little island of sanity. Having a community of minds that have set aside reasons for not facing reality has been important to me in a time of transition, and I wish you well during your time of transition. I hope that you don't transition to far.

You say that there are three basic categories of people these days:

I think now there are 3 general categories of people: 1)those with or without job who are independently wealthy, 2)those without a job who have little or no wealth and 3)those with little or no wealth but with a job.

I submit that there is a fourth category (or perhaps a hybrid of the others) of people who have redefined for themselves what wealth is.
In our case, we are currently severly under-employed, yet have things of intrinsic value: family, property/home, tools and knowledge, and friends who we can rely on for many things. 18 months of under/unemployment has us "land rich and cash poor". This period of transition has forced us to rethink priorities and redefine what really matters. I feel that it has been good preparation for the future. I told my daughter last night (she was speed bitching about material things) to get used to the new normal, that if she uses this time to reset her expectations, she will be ahead of the curve. When she starts seeing a full woodshed as being more important than 500 minutes on her cell phone or a full tank of gas, I'll be more inclined to listen. She has a baby now, so she needs to understand that her child will grow up in a very, very different world than she grew up in. The party, as we know it, is over. Our preparations are indeed, money in the bank. Good luck with yours!

Sorry if I offended. I was just trying to get you to share your black box trading algorithm that you and Jay Hansen cobbled together, which was mentioned in a past post of yours ; )

I firmly believe that the current monetary system under which EVERYTHING is structured makes it impossible to "transition" into any sort of positive new paradigm that we all talk about.

This is based on direct observation and participation in the economics of transition. Also I don't believe there will be an inflection point where Transition of the kind we all wish for will happen...unless we talk about the economics of the situation and address that specifically.

Transition will be controlled by those who control the money. This is not conspiracy theory, just a realist observation of past and current situation.


Nice memory. That system fizzled. Jay and I work well together when discussing human nature but not when engaging in it...;-)

(I will say that he created from scratch in 6-7 hours what it took my own programmer 3 months at 4 hours per day though - his mind works in highly unique ways)

E.E.: "I firmly believe that the current monetary system under which EVERYTHING is structured makes it impossible to "transition" into any sort of positive new paradigm that we all talk about.......Transition will be controlled by those who control the money. This is not conspiracy theory, just a realist observation of past and current situation."

I partly agree with this, but always fall back to the example of the French Revolution. That's not to say that France is some shining example of egalitarianism now, but simply to say that "those who control the money" are not guaranteed the control of power in adfinitum.

Take an urban, low-income housing district. It can be possible to begin to instill a sense of growing ones own food even in such places using container or small plot gardening. It's not the food production per se that is transformative here, although that is part of it. It is more that one sees ones ability to nurture life, to bring forth a creative potential that "those who control the money" would rather "those that don't" not know about.

For me it still comes back to fear reduction....the more skills and views that you can instill in people that allow them to realize "Hey, if the lights go out, I really am not as screwed as I once thought", this this for me qualifies as "transition". It's slow, it's fraught with set-backs, and if "those who control the money" catch on to what's happening, they might just tighten the screws a bit harder and faster.

A movement that I find inspirational as a model is that of civil rights. Certainly the charisma of Martin Luther King was important, but ultimately and quite possibly with bloodshed, some stands are taken by many that change the playing field. So when I'm thinking of urban neighborhoods that have invested locally in food production and services perhaps at some point being told "pay up your higher taxes or else!", I imagine at some point they may just say no. Then we have the making of Shay's Rebellion again. (see proliberty.com/observer//20090205.htm for a mock modern day interview with Daniel Shays).

You have the luxury of contemplating all of this nonsense .. that also, thru their [& your financial] circumstances [make you] free to dabble in this alternative reality.


Good point ... to some extent.

Except for total hermits and the ultra rich, we all must keep our footings anchored inside the socially dominated view of the world --and that of course means keeping a job, staying in the rat race, and remaining a participating member of The Matrix.

On the other hand, it may help some of us to keep our sanity simply by knowing there are others out there (i.e. TODders) who are aware that the so-called "real world" is really a facade made up of myths about money, finances, religion, ideologies, etc.

The true truth is that Mother Nature neither hears nor cares about the mutterings of we hairless apes regarding our "money", our "politics", etc. Mother Nature is going to do what she always has done regardless.

If one more species goes extinct, so what? If planet Earth becomes a lifeless rock, so what? There's plenty more where that came from.

At some point we have to wise up to the "alternate" reality imposed on us by the laws of conservation of mass/energy and the one way arrow of time. We can't just keep going in our BAU direction without consequences.

There is nothing like a good Cat 4 or 5 hurricane to allow you to get to know your neighbors well. When Hurricanre Iniki hit our little island, I had a chain saw and a good diesel generator and plenty of fuel. Immediately had a lot of friends. ( For those who do not remember this storm it had measured wind gusts of 227 miles per hour, it dropped a third of the telephone poles on the island and made 1 out of every 3 houses uninhabitable.) We had 7 refrigerators in our garage. We got running water 3 weeks later. In the meantime met all kinds of people as we bathed in the local waterfall and ate at a military kitchen. The power came back 3 months later and we were finally able to empty the garage. Even now, 18 years later, there are few people within a mile that I do not know. I would hate to go through it again, but I am glad that it happened. We are still a much closer community and I'm sure it will help us deal with the crap ahead. I would bet Alan would agree.

Making life altering plans based upon a careful assessment of what the future is likely to bring - I found has its hazards and rewards:

After reading "The Population Bomb", I was persuaded to become more self reliant, learn how to use tools, and build stuff. Well, the so called "green revolutions" delayed the bomb and all of its predicted problems. But, it started me on a life long hobby of woodworking, metalworking, masonry, etc. No regrets.

The Iranian oil crisis convinced me to build a DYI passive solar home. Of course the crisis evaporated. But, I now have a home filled with sunshine on bitter cold winter days in Wisconsin - happy I made the decision.

Many years ago, all kinds of environmental and safety issues convinced me that the private automobile had poor prospects for being the dominant form of future transportation. So, I became a bicycle user and advocate. Of course, automobile usage has increased every year since I made that decision. But, I love biking and have no intention of falling silent about promoting cycling as a fundamental form of transportation.

All in all - none of my predictions have materialized - but, I don't regret any of my life decisions that arose from these predictions.

Thank you Nate for all the time you put into TOD and your comments that I mostly didn't understand but sounded about right.

Good luck with your garden. Spring will be here before you know it. Yukon Golds have lasted well and I will try a few replants this year. I'll post how they turned out.

We used to have llamas. They are not much good for anything around here nor very tasty but it was a topic of gathering for all the neighbors. People who have llamas can't be totally bad. So with your getting around to the neighbors, ride your draft horse over because someone riding a draft horse can't be totally bad either. :-)

As long as there are grocery stores, produce from the garden is not worth much but if you give a neighbor a nice big zucchini to stuff and a straight neck and the makings for an apple pie, you will do fine. That's what we did for Christmas and everyone loved it.

Go ahead a get your PHD but if you want to know something about furniture building, I might be able to help. Take a tree and cut away everything that doesn't look like a chair; same-same with drug store indians. lynandclarice at charter dot net.

The main thing is to enjoy life even though you know TSWHTF someday if not in 2010 and no one will be totally prepared.

Good night all.

Nate, Your post was most remarkable as your resolutions mirror so many of my own. And I note others have expressed the same. I can't help but suspect a convergent evolution in the cognition of these complex issues many seem to share. Or from where does this serendipity come from? I sense an intuition at work here and this intuition is tugging us away from the computer and compelling us to get engaged out there in our communities and engage in the opening acts of transitioning. It seems like the moment is ripe.

The community value of this forum is valuable. As we move about in our real physical communities we will most likely not find companions with the insights this tribe here on the Oil Drum and related sites have developed. Maintaining this seems to be important if only for those of us who may find themselves alone in the wilderness of the uninformed.

Having said that I predict that intuition is also at work in the society at large and we may be surprised once we take more distance from our own virtual tribe here how many people out there are beginning to connect the dots without having had the 3-5 years studying the interconnected relationships between our economy, debt, energy issues, environmental degradation and human overshoot due to overpopulation.

We're off in a new direction here. It feels right

The shroom, is that a Bolete?

I am addicted to the internet – in systems language the internet represents an attractor with some positive externalities (knowledge, data, synthesis) and some negative (habituation, shorter attention span, steeper discount rates). In reality, I am not ‘addicted’ to a computer nor the Google per se, but the act of receiving perpetual unexpected reward.

I have become addicted also and have started to think a lot about its implications. I now believe the internet will have as much impact on the future as Peak Oil. Perhaps more.

Here's an article by another internet addict, actor Stephen Fry:


But the internet is a city and, like any great city, it has monumental libraries and theatres and museums and places in which you can learn and pick up information and there are facilities for you that are astounding - specialised museums, not just general ones.

But there are also slums and there are red light districts and there are really sleazy areas where you wouldn't want your children wandering alone.

...Let's look at the most powerful kings there have ever been ever, the great autocrats or even dictators. In any sense that counts except the power of life over death, I have more power than Louis XVI.

The internet allows us to escape the real world and almost live in a virtual reality, a city of our own creation and over which we have absolute power.

The problem then becomes the old saw: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Are we addicts being corrupted absolutely in that the real world no longer matters very much to us?

It is sometimes fascinating to enjoy the confluence of random events: As I write this I am watching C-SPAN. They are broadcasting an exercise being held at American University's "Campaign Management" school. The class is a group of young students (18 to 25) doing an exercise of planning a "fictional" political campaign. This is being hosted and taught by Niel Newhouse of the firm "Public Opinion Strategies" a consulting firm to the Republican Party. He is basically teaching these young people how to "war game" the American political system.

It is fascinating to hear these young people being guided in how to extract information from polls, other sources and even individual voters, and then narrow their message, nurse the image, the words, refine down to the hot button issues, the words, the pivotal phrases and images that will play the fears and desires of the voter to exactly where they want it. The scenarios are played out from every angle, over and over, to "micro-target", to find the points of weakness, to refine the deep psychological "hitting power", the "strategic communications" of using certain words, images, using personalities, attacking certain personalities, until the message has maximum hitting power, the ability to strike at a level that even the votor will not recognize why they are behaving as they do, but simply behave in a way that can be predicted, can be modeled, can be controlled without said voter ever knowing exactly why.

This is not a joke, this is a POWER struggle. This is a professional game, not an arena for amateur dilettantism, not for those who piddle with public perception because they "believe in the cause". The amateur "true believers" will have all the chances of succeeding against these pros that a high school baseball team would have of beating the New York Yankees. I have seen this game in the marketing and media industry, and what we can call "crowd control" works when PROFESSIONALLY APPLIED.

We have seen the power of the groups who know how to play the game well, the big political machines, the big banks, the big energy producers. Even when all the odds seem to be against them, they have th advantage of playing the game professionally and playing it to WIN.

What does all this have to do with Nate's resolution and post of today? Perhaps nothing...but perhaps more than we may think. I have noticed that there are at least some influentual voices in the "peak oil", "sustainability", "green", "catastrophist", "neo-primitivist", "limits", "depletion aware"...call it whatever you want to (and that tells you how difficult it is even to get a grip on what "group" we are trying to refer to) but some true believers are frankly losing heart. It has been very easy to play the role of Cassandra, but then what? With each passing year one senses themself getting older, and as Kaynes told us "in the long run, we're all dead". To put it plainly, shouting "the end is nigh" really becomes somewhat boring after a while doesn't it? It saps the strenth of the prophet doing the shouting, and said prophet is still stuck with a problem..."what do you do in the meantime?" Just keep shouting?

Nate's treatise makes me think of the Roman emperor Diocletian who after a hard and long campaign to salvage what he considered the best of the Roman empire, retired to his palace home in Dalmatia on the Adriatic to refine his country home and raise a garden. When asked by a contingent of important Romans sent by the then current emperor to return to the throne and the fight, Diocletian is reported to have said "If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your current emperor, he definitely wouldn’t dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."

This is not a new story. One of the most telling signs of the decline of a culture is not a decline of energy supply or raw materials supply (although that may certainly have an effect), or being ripped apart by outside forces (although the lack of ability to confront outside threats is certainly a symptom). The surest sign of an unstoppable decline is loss of interest and will from the inside, when the best and the brightest begin to seperate their own fate from the larger culture and retire to the country.

Ah yes, a life of bucolic country living with horses, dogs, cats and gardens and loyal and comforting wife...who can resist it if they can afford it? Political or religious affiliation are no longer matters of importance...the powerful and wealthy pagan emperor Diocletian took the same path as his near contemporary, the humble Christian Saint Augustine of Hippo. They both left Rome behind, disavowing the city life of the greatest city in the world, leaving one to a luxury palace and the other to a monestary. They were only the most notable of the thousands of former "Romans" to abandon the city when they were needed most to help it. The strongest of mind or money left, the poorest stayed, and Rome descended under the barbarian rule of the least able, but the still most loyal to the city, mostly because they could not afford to leave it.

I am not judging, simply stating a common pattern. Persons must do what seems to be most beneficial to themselves. And the truth is, it is probably most fitting that those "true believers" who really do not want to engage the coming fight do leave if they can afford to do so. Because to stay, to engage the pros of marketing, political polling, political and market controlling, will require those who want to and are able to play the game to the maximum effect...to train, to learn, to use the tricks, to engage the enemy in the same merciless way they will engage their adversary, with all of the testing, skill, technique and research needed to match those who will fight to the last ounce of sweat (let us pray not to the last ounce of blood) to protect a place they have no intention of abandoning, and playing to an audience who cannot afford to leave.

Let us be frank with ourselves: How many of us aging old men and women are willing to make this fight late in life? How many of us have the energy, the willingness, to continue year in and out, to learn, to research, to figure out how to sell the future we believe will work to a public already trained by the pros to distrust, even hate this "new revolution" that seems to promise them only poverty and destitution?

Cassandra had a hard sell, and she was younger. How many of us want to make this fight late in our lives? How many of us can learn fast enough to play this now merciless game, to learn its unforgiving rules, to even be able to play this game? Much easier to try to afford the life of Saint Augustine or Diocletian, pull out and hopefully enjoy a few years of peace and serene contemplation. But how many can afford it? And can they assume those who will play hardball in the culture, those who have studied the art of this warfare of people control, will they leave the apostate former Cassandra be in their rustic country home? We have already seen the media guns, the credit ratings firms guns, the banks guns turning around, preparing the attack on home ownership, dismantling property ownership. YOU ARE ALL SUB-PRIME! Is it not the rich old geezers in the suburban homes who have done this to us? Look at what even their dogs consume, much less their SUV's! Country peace is a fragile thing.

Each person should have the free choice to abandon their culture. But abandoning a culture can come at a steep price. It may be a choice freely made, but it is not free.

I have often said here on TOD that at some point we all will have to choose our side, and then live with that choice (and die with it). That point may be getting nearer than many may wish. Would we side with the culture, even with all of it's faults and try to reform it and salvage it? Or will we side against it, take the path that it either cannot or should not be salvaged nor saved? What will we be asked to contribute to our side? Do we have anything to offer to whichever side we choose? Perhaps the most important question, will anyone be allowed to abstain?

Make no mistake, the power brokers who play this game to win are playing hard. They know they are getting older so they are busy teaching and training the next generation, preparing them with the best tools, the techniques of people measurement, people control. They are playing not only to win, they are playing for the long haul. The power players do not intend to give up the benefit of their hard won victories quickly. Those who refine the art of controling people today not only intend to win today, they intend to outlast their opponents tomorrow. We have seen the word "Resolution" often today. It is an important word. How many of us either can or will make the resolution? How many of us could deliver on it?


this game in the marketing and media industry, and what we can call "crowd control" [it really really] works when PROFESSIONALLY APPLIED.


It's called the human brain.

It is an organ that has developed random points of weakness thanks to evolution and time.

The only way to have a chance of controlling it, is to learn how it works in the first place.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

step back,
"But you already knew that, didn't you?"
Yeah, I really, really did. :-)

There are certain instincts that are so primal that if the research is well done and well thought out, it can strike right at those basic instincts at a very subconcsious primal level and move the party one seeks to influence without him or her ever exactly understanding why....but you really, really knew that didn't you? Of course we have all seen the auto ads that are fastened to the male sex drive...and often studied has been the way in which women of relatively small stature are lured to giant trucks and SUV's because it is connected for them to a sense of strenth and "presence".

The best of the people controlling technique is even more subtle, and the practitioners learn from each other. On the C-SPAN show I was watching, there was shown a commercial from back in the 1990's for cell phones. At that time, one of the more disappointing sales areas for cell phones was young women. In polling the cell phone companies found out that women considered cell phones as "boy toys" or "gadgets". In a famous commercial of the day, busy mother is portrayed preparing to go to a meeting with a client. Her children want her to go to the beach with them, but she insists she has to be with a client. In the famous tag line, a darling little girl asks the mother "when can I be a client?" The mother quickly agrees to take the children to the beach and pulls out a cell phone at the beach to conduct the meeting while the children are playing joyfully all around her.

So the cell phone allows the mother to be (a) in two places at once (good selling point) (b)to be a good and modern executive (more concrete selling point), AND, to be a GOOD MOM (primal selling point, even though many feminists would bite their tongue at the thought of admitting it!) Core message of the ad: Your not being as good a mom as you can and should be if you don't buy and use this.

Years ago I heard a programming manager for the Discovery network say, when asked what really drew the viewers in, he answered "Sharks, Nazi's or sex, they never lose." Consider the primal instints there!
Remember that the above discussion showing the cell phone commercial was on a program instructing young people on how to conduct research and then set up political campaigns. If you intend to beat or even match these guys on the basis of a reasoned argument, you can hang it up and go home...they are playing to the gut, to the primal "lizard brain".

I have seen it over and over, and even though I am familiar with many of the tricks and manipulations (some of them terribly mis-leading...sad is the guy who buys a hot sleek sportscar and then finds out that most prospective mating partners do not notice the difference between a Subaru and a Porsche) but I still have to respect the abilities of the magicians...to this day I get a lump in my throat at the cell phone commercial described above, not only because it is sweet and touching, but because I am moved by the sheer artistry of the manipulation....I always think in muted respect, "Damn, you SOB's are good..." :-)


Hi RC,

How many of us aging old men and women are willing to make this fight late in life? How many of us have the energy, the willingness, to continue year in and out, to learn, to research, to figure out how to sell....

I resemble that remark ;-) I have a close friend who often tries to get me to take part in anti-war street demonstrations - I always decline. I am only willing and able to devote a certain portion of my life to causes I believe in. Necessity places many demands on my time. Exercise, social activities and just plain enjoying life takes another big chunk. Never-the-less, I try to be informed by reading and spending time with things like TOD. I provide what financial support I can to organizations I believe in; I write letters-to-the-editor and government reps; I try to modify my personal behavior in regard to many environmental issues; I try to make appropriate life decisions for myself and family based upon my best guess about the future; I always vote in every election.

Beyond this, I have no intention of being a martyr or crusader - I hope my actions help in some tiny way but I try not to harbor illusions about my personal ability to change the course of history. Hopefully, I can at least understand the path that history is taking.

Politics doesn't matter, so the sociopaths busily gaming the system don't matter either. They're part of the rot that's destroying a thoroughly corrupted system, so god's speed to them. The more successful they are the more people see how thoroughly rigged the game is and sensible people don't play in rigged games, they simply walk away. Politics simply doesn't matter, not now, not in the future.

In a high entropy environment, everyone has to fight for the resources to live, so everyone is going to have to fight eventually anyway in whatever form that takes.

Burgundy said,
"Politics simply doesn't matter, not now, not in the future."

Perhaps, but we shouldn't forget the warning of Aristotle, "those who feel they are 'too good' for politics and civic affairs often find themselves ruled by those who do not think they are 'too good' for it."

Years ago I was instructed by a female professor of government, former 1960's activist type. One of her core teachings was that "one of the most important functions of government is using it's power to set the relationship between creditor and debtor."

I was a radical capitalist in those days so I dismissed it as a minor point, class warfare stuff, after all, she was pretty much a leftist...

The more I have read her work over the years, and read my notes from her classes, the more I realize she was also brilliant....and the full import of what she was saying only lately has come back to haunt us all...



In my later years I have come to realize that one of our biggest missed opportunities was failing to have enough women - hardly any women , really - in positions where they could seriously influence the BIG DEBATE.

But that began to change in a serious way during the late sixties and it will change very fast now that the boomers are beginning to die off.

Soon the girls will own a half a dozen key professions-if bau stands , we are headed to Europe politically within the next fifteen years, you can bet your entitlement check on it.

The handwriting has been on the wall for a good while now; it is obvious that right wing American politics are finished.

Demographics and peak "EASY LIVING" are not arguments and rhetoric but cold hard facts.People are going to be voting thier welfare checks from now on.

I think it can be accepted as a fact, it seems factual enough to me, that in recent times the more perceptive foot soldiers of the conservative establishment are fast turning into independents and populists-these foot soldiers have not so much lost faith in the principles of conservatism but they have lost faith in the will of the conservative establishment to work for policies good for the rank and file.

But they feel like a decent girl who realizes she has been strung along by a guy who will never marry her and when they take a look at the only other potential beau in the nieghborhood,it looks like more of the same.They aren't much interested in this other suitor on general principles anyway, too many of them put too high a value on thier cultural values, which the democrats have ma for generations been trying to destroy.

If the current democratic establishment had been a little quicker to embrace the cause of the worst off two hundred and ninety million of us, which includes me,and a little slower to throw itself like an over eager call girl into the arms of big biz/ big banking, they could have sewn up control of American politics for at least two generations.

As it is they may turn out to be inept enough for the 'pubs to regain temporary control occasionally.

I think we will see some noticeable movement towards third parties and independents soon.The various caucuses within the two major parties will probably find it to thier advantage to continue to differentiate themselves from the rest of thier party.

I think we will see some noticeable movement towards third parties and independents soon.

From your words to my prayers to God's ears.

The times are getting quite ripe for a real populist/reformist 3rd party movement. All that is missing are a few people of sufficient civic stature to be credible leaders, and who have enough courage and integrity to give the middle finger salute to the two-party oligopoly (and its corporate paymasters/puppeteers). Were such a movement to get going, I think that many people would be just stunned at how rapidly and massively people would flock to it.

I have been amazed we do not have at least three parties, and possibly several more, for years. In a country that has 30 kinds of soap powder and who only knows how many bands of beer, you think we would want more than two political parties! Remember, there is NOTHING in the Constitution of the U.S. that stipulates two parties...and oldfarmer, I agree with you about the influence of women and think that is one of the United States ace in the hole...we make more use of our female talent than most nations in the world and much to our benefit. I have learned a lot of the important stuff I know from smart women...


The problem with third parties is that they tend to get their strongest political enemies elected. They tend to form on the far fringe of one of the other two parties, steal votes from the party they're politically closest to, and get the other major party elected. If that weren't the case, Al Gore would have been President. Every decade or so, people on one fringe get uppity and try to form a third party, get their worst nightmare elected, and vow to never vote third party again.

As we pass the peak, analyzing and projecting the remaining reserves and production rates will continue to be an important part of TOD. To help people shift their thinking, however, in a transition from minimum threshold mass consumption to a level that will not rob future generations, we need to know how we (and humanity in general) feel the need to 'require' ever-increasing amounts of energy, directly or indirectly. Hence the heightened importance of this type of post.

We also need to understand how to not only prepare our families for such a transition, but communicate that need to others in our community who are either in denial or are simply not even aware of the overshoot/peaking issues. While the former does take careful planning and much toil, the later is certainly more difficult and a entirely different problem to solve.

So TOD Campfire/Local will play an increasingly important role in helping us to understand how to transform ourselves, our families, and our communities to meet the very real economic, sustenance, and security challenges faced by the peaking of multiple resources.

What a great essay. I just hope the majority become far more aware of this before the transition to a new way of life becomes very painful.

Nate, thanks for this great post and thanks as well for your efforts here at TOD to educate and inspire. I'm one of the few "sisters" you referred to (although at 67 some prefer to call me "grandmother"). I have been a TOD member for about 3 years and an avid reader since its inception. You are one of the contributors I most value and I will miss your insights greatly if you don't at least keep up a bit of a stream coming our way. I have gone through pretty much the same evolution in thinking about this whole thing and am also at the point where stepping up "contact" at the local level is the obvious place to put my energy. Portland has several groups dedicated to helping Portlanders turn Portland into a "havana" of urban farms and that is where I find my energies best placed --after tending my own urban farm of course. Best wishes...don't forget to keep up a bit of contact with those of us who only know you via TOD. Kathryn Gray (Tomahawk)

Fantastic posts and comments. Thank you all.

Inflation, deflation, rule changes, and too many claims vs. real assets will require one to be incredibly nimble, both in the markets, and in translating abstract markers into real capital, even a portion of it, in a timely fashion.

This will remain the "guiding" process of mankind for as long as we exist in the collective. The notion is as old as gold in earth.

Best wishes for a safe, sane and prosperous new year

To the other editors of TOD.
It is about time to tranform TOD.
It should become a solution and idea machine.
Internet is accelerating the diffusion of knowledge.
Millions of brains are working to find solutions to every possible problem.
It always takes too much time but progress will continue.
For exemple,instead of personally attending continuing medical education lectures at McGill University,I just go online and watch these lectures live from my home.
I expect these trends to grow.
High level education will become available even in remote areas.
No need to transport yourself to the physical place where the lecture is offered.
For me,this is progress and also a huge time and money saver.
My car stays in the garage instead of being on the road.
Another way to learn without attending congress is to order the proceedings of the congress or watch on Google video or the University to view the conferences.

Reality doesn't make mistakes. If we're doing something with less than stellar results, reality didn't screw up, we did.

Our first screw-up was with our own bodies, by walling ourselves off from our highly evolved and specialized sexuality. Our second screw-up was leaving the environmental niche in which we evolved. Our third screw-up was the discovery of fire. Everything else followed from these, which began some 750K to 1.5M years ago.

(SolarDude: I read a recent article that reported archaeological findings that we monkeys have been playing with fire since 750K to 1.5M years ago.)

One recent screw-up includes money, which, like electricity, is not an energy source, but only an energy carrier. Electricity carries solar, wind, oil, and methane energy (among others). Money carries human energy.

Another screw-up is sustainability. Because "sustainability" is about nothing more than the same underlying meme from "man was made to rule the world, and the world was made for man to rule it". It's the same fundamental idea from The Matrix. It's about our desire to control, which stems from fear of the unknown.

Another screw-up is Humanity's Unique Potential. We're the same kind of living things as every other species on the planet, there is nothing more special about us than any other species. For millions of years humans have not really done what they "should" do, we just do what we can get away with, subject to universal physical laws. And if you want to change someone's behavior, Dale Carnegie and Dr. Robert Cialdini are whom to listen to.

Yet before this devolves into a litany of dead-wrong human screw-ups, we also need to remember that as far as our cognitions are concerned, it is only human beings who have ever changed the human world.

So if it is still your desire to "change the world", it is certainly possible, you just have to figure out how. Without screwing up. Again.

Yeah, that damned ape never should have played around with those bones.


Nate - thanks for all of your efforts on behalf of the readers of TOD. You have brought a huge amount and wide breadth of quality information and well reasoned thinking/analysis to this board. I don't know how you found the time to do so much (your quick mind certainly must have helped), but we have all benefitted from your very significant contributions here.

It is good to periodically stop, step back and think about what is really important...including how to best allocate our limited time resources. Sounds like this is one of those times for you. Everyone brings their own unique approach and value set to this. For me, those important things include: connecting with family and friends, maintaining physical and mental health, learning and enjoying nature. You and Bob Costanza are well versed in these values and they are what we have built our business around. I have also enjoyed working on public policy issues relating to energy, economy and environment. This has been very challenging yet rewarding, particularly because of the many wonderful people you get to know along the way.

There is no doubt that you will continue to make good use of your knowledge and creative talents and I look forward to reading more of your posts at TOD.

Nate, Thank you for your well thought piece this morning. A good start to a good day.

I haven't posted for quite a bit because my old ".....puter" burned up. So I took the opportunity to see what life would be like without access to the internet. My conclusion, after four or five months being computerless.......everything goes along just swell without internet access. There was some anxiety in the beginning, but it passed within the first week. I made a piece of yard art of my old computer, buried it in the front yard, as if it had fallen from space.

I have a new Mac. The keyboard is awful, but I'll get the hang of it. My daughters insisted I "...had to have" access to e-mail. They have a point. But, the tipper was that internet access is essential, it turns out, for one living in a very rural area if one enjoys access to good books, and stimulating thought. TOD is a very good example of one of the numerous internet sites that offers excellent discussion. Buying a good book is soooo easy if there is access to the internet. I'm 230 miles from the nearest book store.

I backed out of the American Way of Life some 25 years ago. I have no TV, no cell phone, and I don't have to get on the interstate highway system. The nearest on-ramp is some 70 miles off. I get along well with my neighbors, both the newcomers and the locals. I'm considered a local by the newcomers, although the true locals will never think of me as one of them. I understand that. I know almost everyone in this end of the county and lots in the other end as well. I find it all quite satisfying.

I generally keep my ideas about where we're headed to myself. Through experience I've found few who are even slightly interested in what I think about our future. There isn't a point and no payoff in the business of Casandras. I'm plenty content to live my live as best I can and to happily take folks as they are.

Best Wishes from the Fremont

(a friend's blog......redrockrosie.blogspot.com)

PRICELESS - we as a culture have been overly focused on pursuing the pot of gold and in the process have lost sight of the rainbow.

And in many cases, process for the sake of process. We have lost what the original intent was - a positive, healthy, fruitful and productive contribution to life, yours and others.

Many many thanks for your efforts and energy - excellent work.

"A house full of gratitude has no place for fear to hide".

Thanks Nate for all of your hard work, and my best wishes and regards to those who read and post here around the Campfire. In keeping with the resolutions theme:

"self-reflection, and perhaps a reassessment..."

I'm really good at this, but less able to turn my conclusions into action. That is my first resolution for this year, although it is a broad one:

1. ACTION - turn my meager savings into something concrete...something I can build. As a lifetime renter, I want to OWN something...to put my energies into something creative and sustaining. For a while I thought it might be a rural property, but being a city dweller with a job I love, this has become less-likely for me in the near future. I wonder if it is folly to buy a house in this west coast city, a little house on a big lot, and grow food and plant trees and work on said house etc. when I believe it may not be possible to sell the house in a few years. Will my city even be livable in 10 years?

This sort of thinking has led to stagnation and atrophy for me because I am inherently risk-averse.

2. TAKE RISKS! - do it...take the risks!

3. REMEMBER, always, that life is the leading cause of death...



ps - some wisdom on city vs. rural property/living is welcome!

Choose the path of least (likely) regret.

If you always dreamed of living rural - do it. But only move to a rural location if it's something you want to do anyways. If TS doesn't HTF "quick enough", you might otherwise regret such a decision.

Temper your choices with your visions of the future, but be sure to align your path with your heart's desires.


I want to thank you for your service to this site, to humanity, and to me. As a fellow creative trying to do something positive in this arena I know well that it is often quite a thankless place to be.

On the other hand, because I know what I know about what is coming next, I was free to change my life, on my own terms, when I wanted to. I seriously doubt I would have forsaken my corporate role/position and recreated my entire life without the belief-shifting information I found here.

So thank you again for all you did. I wish there was some way to properly express my gratitude your contributions and valor in advancing the messages of this site. That goes for all the staff and contributors.



Thank you as well, Chris. I know myself and many others here appreciate your site and have learned a lot from it.

What can I say? Thank you, I guess. I typed a few thoughts but deleted everything. Maybe some other time. While doing your outreach, don't forget resolution #10, Nate.

Live, love and experience, with one eye (but not both), on the greater good. Be goofy, creative, flexible, and don't take things too seriously.

Whatever you will experience, don't take it too seriously. I tried to go down the road you are about to start... I know what I'm talking about.

Take care.


Hi Nate--

I would like to thank you for sharing your many insights with us over the last five years--I've learned a great deal from your writings and talks. Your resolution to articulate actions in any discussion of the energy/debt bottleneck is especially worthy of emulation. I hope our paths will cross sometime in 2010, especially in our fair though temporarily frozen state.

MV in Madison

I want to sincerely thank-you for your time (at a significant opportunity cost) and effort in making this site an invaluable source of information to the world. I have been a TOD lurker for many years, a member for just over a year, and am now a more frequent contributor. During this time I have both enjoyed and benefitted from your circumspect analysis and humourous insight.
Good luck with the next phase.

Seems like the financiers with MBA's shall become the poets, and the poets with MFA's shall start the new enterprises. And the economics of geography will reassert themselves. And we will all finally make our way back home.

Thanks Nate.

Here's some Frank O'Hara, on the matter of journey and destination.
To the Harbormaster

I wanted to be sure to reach you
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.

-Frank O'Hara

I'm surprised and disappointed to see this thread regarding cutting internet usage and interfacing with the neighbors and not a single mention of transition towns.

There is currently a gap between the internet peaker contingent and the meatspace transition towners. I think there is far too much preaching to the choir going on with internet peakers. It's very comforting to bobble-head here with the other peakers, but as you can see, no amount of essaying is really accomplishing anything.

Remember TOD post questioning what TOD's purpose should be going forward? This is what it's all about. The burning question of "NOW WHAT??"

Nate's desire to go finish his PhD and a recognition of his internet addiction shows that he is an academic who perhaps has a hard time going from pontificating on the issues with convoluted language to being able to explain the situation to Joe Sixpack. Buring himself more and more in academia, to me, is counter-productive. We need more missionaries who can bridge that gap between the theory of limits to growth and the reality on main street.

I really think an active transition movement is worth more than every TOD essay combined.

In my area (Boston) there is a peak oil meetup group that has recently gone through a similar "now what" process. It reached a point where moping no longer had any value, and they saw the statewide transition movement begin to make inroads, so it's kind of fizzling off and merging into the greater Transition MA framework. I think this is the way it's going to go, folks. Even if you have some misgivings about the TT movement, time is running short and everybody's going to have to stop thinking about doom from the comfortable distance of the future tense and start thinking about stepping away from the computer and organizing locally.

Hi Mos,

I dont know, Nate grew some faily tasty looking potatos and posted the picture up about a month or so ago. Not bad for an academic egghead.

I've got in touch with my local transition towns group after reading your posts on the subject at Malthasia although they seem to be hybernating for the winter!


Your "couch" photo proves a point I've been trying to make. Cats are smarter than dogs. How else would you explain the fact that they found the warmest, most comfortable spot by a 3:1 margin?

Nicely written essay. I'm still a non believer... I think we can (and do) have peak oil without any serious problems. In other words, I agree on the easy stuff (how we got here), but not the hard part (future predictions).

It all eventually gets down to available energy per capita to do work. If we had our current situation with little or no debt and little or no leverage in our monetary system, then I agree we could sail for some time with ~10:1 energy gain....OR...if we had lots of debt (like we do now) but also lots of 20-30:1 energy left to be easily harnessed then the debt could be maintained and even grow. Again, I am not fortelling doom for civilization, only for the financial system and the current creditors. After that it depends on a great many things, including our own behavior, to suss out what the path will be - I am putting the mass die-off, pandemonium event at 5-10% - iow a longshot not a favorite.

And cats are smarter than dogs only depending how one defines 'smart'. If there were no kibble in the stores I would guess that feline survival rate would be much higher than canine so in that sense they are smarter....(I particularly like watching the interaction of my dogs and cats - they originally hated eachother but are now pretty good friends..)

Thanks Nate. You were one of the key people that awakened me to power down and prepare. In addition to TOD, your many appearances on the Reality Report were much appreciated.

Suggestions that work for me:

Join/start a timebank. (I did both) In the process of doing this I've fallen in with a gent who plans on submitting a business plan (to my ex-college of all places) to not grow FRN capital but to grow social capital via creating a hard local currency. He doesn't expect to win, place or show but wants the docs to add to his website about the matter.