Is TOD a better journal than <i>The Economist's Voice</i>?

The point has been made that TOD is basically a multi- and cross-disciplinary journal with some of the best peer review around.

Well, tonight, I wanted you to see some other journal pieces. Under the fold is an online journal piece from Berkeley's online economics journal/press (no, I don't think it's peer reviewed actually, but still...). This is free for you to access with the inclusion of someone's email address. NB:I would never suggest that anyone be surreptitious about such things as using a false email address, let's just understand that.

Anyway, consider this an open thread too. You all deserve it.

Aaron S. Edlin (2006) "If Voters Won't Go for Taxing Oil to Conserve Energy, How Do We Do It?", The Economists' Voice: Vol. 3: No. 9, Article 2.

Proposition 87 reemphasized that Americans don't want the cost of driving to increase: Aaron Edlin suggests a way to reduce driving that may be more politically palatable.

Proposition 87 reemphasized that Americans don't want the cost of driving to increase

I would disagree with that. What voters didn't like was the uncertainty of how much prices would increase. If Prop 87 had been pushed as a nickel a gallon tax with the proceeds going toward alternatives, I think it would not have been opposed by the oil companies and it would have passed. But just pulling $4 billion from oil company coffers in California was likely to crimp supply down the road, and the opposition used this to scare voters away from the proposition.

yeah, I thought that too.

by the way, the author of that piece is a full professor of econ at Berkeley.

I think we do better stuff.  

Hi Robert,

 Just FWIW, re: 87 - I heard a "community forum" on KPFK (Pacifica) public radio just prior to the elections, and a community activist (who had worked on energy issues) said he thought people (he and others?) were excluded from discussions during the drafting stages, if I understood him correctly.  

Somewhere, I have an essay saved on the history of Prop 87. I will have to find it. My friend Ana Unruh Cohen helped draft the legislation.
Do you have the name of the program? Pacifica programs are generally available online through the call
I think the idea they propose is fine.  Any sort of fee which is accessed on high milage drivers is a good thing.

As with all the other options for using costs to reduce driving (other than running out of oil), it doesn't have a chance in hell of happening.

The article, of course, is no better than many of the pieces written for TOD.

Completely off topic, but this is an open thread. Some of you may know that I am a voracious reader. In 2005, for the first time I started to keep a log of the books I had read. A few days ago, I decided to post it as a blog. From the link below, you will see that one of the most influential books for me in 2005 was Kunstler's The Long Emergency. It was after reading that (immediately after that I read Twilight in the Desert) that I started thinking about getting more involved in energy policy debates, because I fear the future that Kunstler described.

Anyway, I wanted to post the link to my list.

Robert's 2005-2006 Reading List

If anyone has any recommendations based on the books I have enjoyed, I would appreciate hearing them. Incidentally, my favorite book of all time was probably Hyperion (and the sequels). If you know of any books that you believe compare favorably to those, I will pounce on them.

Replied on your blog but hats off to your prodigious reading abilities...
I work out every day during lunch, and people think it's funny that I am reading during the 60 seconds between sets, or while I am running on the treadmill. But I usually read 30 or more pages a day just during my workouts.
I too work out several times a week.  I find reading to be a bit difficult on the treadmill and between sets.  However, my ipod is stacked with lectures/podcasts from Global Public Media and other sources.  It's a great way to multitask.
I find reading to be a bit difficult on the treadmill and between sets.

What I have found is that I can walk 5.3 mph without bouncing around too much. So, I put the treadmill on an 8% incline, and I walk uphill for 2 miles, 5 days a week. By gripping the front of the treadmill, I am able to walk and read, and I get my pulse into the target zone. On 2-4 days a week, I lift weights after the walk.

A recumbent bicycle is very good for reading.  I suppose an upright bike would work well, too.  Neither offers the most vigorous cardio exercise in the gym, but they're good for reading.
I wonder if what separates TOD posters (and readers) from other Americans is their voracious and serious reading habit?
Robert, have you read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel"?  If not, it is a great read
Oh yeah. I read it in 2004. This would be one of my 5 favorite books of all time. I have read every book Diamond has ever written. Guns, Germs, and Steel was the first book of his that I read.
Robert, I have also been a voracious reader all my life. I always favored non-fiction over fiction. I read some fiction but not that much.

My reading habits have changed over the years. I always loved short science essays. I have perhaps 100 of Isaac Asimov's books; most of them are books of science essays. During most of my life I would read one non-fiction book about every two weeks. I had a very long career as a computer field service engineer. That's a fancy term for computer hardware repairman. I worked on large mainframes, now monsters of the past. I usually only worked when something was broken. This allowed me to do a lot of reading at work. In fact I almost certainly red far more at work than I did at home.

I love astronomy, geology, biology, paleontology and psychology. I have read some philosophy but could never get philosophers to hold my interest because of their writing style. I found Nietzsche and most other philosophers insufferably boring.  But Eric Hoffer would certainly be considered a philosopher and his books I could not put down.

Some of my favorites:

The Moral Animal by Robert Wright
Overshoot by William Catton
The Spirit in the Gene by Reg Morrison
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
Constant Battles by  Steven LeBlanc
The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins
Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom
Demonic Males by Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson

Ron Patterson


I have read a lot of Asimov (all of the Foundation books) and quite a bit of Richard Dawkins (although not the one you mentioned). In fact, I have several of Dawkins' books in my bookshelf. Many people have recommended Overshoot to me, but the library here doesn't have it, and I am pretty stingy with my book budget. Maybe the Aberdeen library will have some of these books I have been wanting to read.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestions. I will write them down. Have you read Peter Ward's "The End of Evolution"? That guy is a very unique writer. I liked that book a lot.

Robert, thanks for the kind words. I too have read most of Dawkins' books. It is just that The Extended Phenotype is the best of them all.

Overshoot was written in 1980 and most librarys that ever had a copy has discarded it by now. But it is by far the very best book ever written on the subject. I loaned my original copy out and it never came back. So I bought a second copy. That is how much I wanted to hold onto it.

I have "The End of Evolution" in my library but for some reason I have never read it. I buy books in lots of seven to ten at a time, from discount houses like Edward R. Hamilton, and sometimes before I have read them all I will forget that I have them. But thanks for recommending it. I will start on it tomorrow.

Ron Patterson

If you have read anything of Dawkins you should probably read 'The Extended Phenotype' - it is, after all, the work that Dawkins himself is most proud of.

There is also an interesting but brief discussion in it of the general confusion that surrounds the notion of 'genetic fitness'. I remember being pulled up short by that because at the time I was engaged in an argument with someone over the topic, and I was therefore surprised to see Dawkins pointing out various common but incoherent ways of thinking about it. Most people here will take it as some sort of straightforward concept, but it is not (or at least was not, when Dawkins was writing).

If I am lucky I still have the book lying about.

One problem for Dawkins (though it is not his fault) is that he is extensively misread by both people on the left and the right. The left see in his ideas some demon that wants to conclude 'So let's oppress the poor!' (I know because I have wasted time arguing with such people, and I'm a leftist myself...) The right sees that same thing, and cheers. But Dawkins is a careful writer, and I do not recall seeing anything like that in anything he has written... hence getting into pointless arguments with people that believe, in the teeth of the evidence, otherwise.

Anyway, read TEP.

Looks like a few people like to read about the intersection of evolutionary biology and other disciplines.  How about:

Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought  by Pascal Boyer

or the works of Marvin Harris which are a materialistic, energy-resourced based perspective on history and sociology.

I preferred Daniel C Dennett's 'Breaking the Spell :religion as a natural phenomenon' on the same topic.
Since religion is a major ingredient in the stew of energy geopolitics it is important to understand how it unites and divides people in ways that are largely independent of the
dogmas of the particular creed.  
Hello TODers,

Bloomberg:  Mexican House Speaker suggests a heavy security force may be required to keep Calderon's Inauguration from turning into a huge Congressional Mosh-pit:
Mexico House Speaker Prepared to Ensure Calderon's Inauguration

By Thomas Black

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The speaker of Mexico's lower house said he may ask for security personnel to ensure President-elect Felipe Calderon can be sworn in Dec. 1 after legislators scuffled over control of the congressional dais yesterday.

Lawmakers from Calderon's National Action Party and the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution camped out at the dais last night after fighting to gain control of the area where Calderon is scheduled to take his oath of office. In the traditional ceremony, Calderon would receive the presidential sash from President Vicente Fox at Congress.

``I don't want to reach that scenario,'' said Speaker of the House Jorge Zermeno in a television interview on a channel operated by Grupo Televisa SA. ``But if it's necessary, I have the ability to request help from public security.''

I suggest putting the protestors, with AMLO included too, on one side of the convention, but not actually ejecting them, with the foreign dignitaries and their respective Secret Services between them and the Presidential Podium.  Let them chant and hold banners all they want--after all, that is their right.  Calderon's invitation to AMLO would be seen as a huge gesture to reach out to the Mexican-Left--AMLO would be able to convince his delegates to not charge the podium.  I don't want to see our Secret Service duking it out with any Mexican Senators or Representatives!

Calderon could also agree for a split-screen broadcast: 1/2 his swearing-in ceremony, 1/2 the Congressional protestors.  If AMLO was offered equal, but later TV rebuttal time to Calderon's Acceptance speech, then the protestors, from either side, would have no reason to try and drown out either leader's speeches by shouting-- both leaders could calmly present their views to the Mexican Population at large.

If our US 2008 election is this contentious--would this also work on our Capital Hill?

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


Who was it who said recently that Mexico doesn't transfer power peacefully. It must be done through revolution.

Luis Obrador's parallel government is an interesting idea that bears watching.

Maybe we need to form a "peak-oil" parallel government in the United States. No power to tax (dang!), but it could debate and pass model legislation that would help put the country on the road to energy sanity if enacted.

It would not be a confrontive parallel government, but a thoughtful and perhaps inspiring one.

Hello Don in Colorado,

Thxs for responding, and I like your train of thought.  Many countries around the world may not be able to smoothly transition.  We don't even know if the US, with all it's present resources, will do it.

AMLO may find the best postPeak course ahead for himself is to lead his people back to a somewhat Indigenous biosolar lifestyle. The history of the world has been to crush these people, but maybe the time has come to foster their growth.  Mexican Federales gunning down citizens will only make things worse.

Consider the alternative method of Richard Rainwater's desire to install himself in his local farming community as indicative of a wiser way to jumpstart this reduced shared carrying capacity indigenous effort; bringing plants and horticultural knowhow is better than bullets.  I hope he becomes a community leader to transform this area into a model for relocalized permaculture.

Calderon has the difficult task of trying to appease the addicted Mex. detritovores just as Pemex is headed down the tubes, and the coming American recession will greatly diminish remittances back home from the Mexicans working in the US.  He needs to somehow tax the crap out of the monopolies and the rich without them deserting the country, and using these funds to more equalize the economic polarization to try and headoff civil war/revolution.  Easier said than done, of course.

Using Foundation principles of predictive collapse and directed decline: it is easy to see Pemex, already poorly managed and full of corruption, to get steadily worse if it is not allowed to fully exploit its resources by being hamstrung by the Mex govt.  Even then, geologic constraints will force it's eventual demise.

I think Calderon and AMLO would be wise to fully inform their people on Peakoil, then Calderon would push for maximum conservation and efficiencies to forestall detritus decline as long as possible, while AMLO would work to jumpstart a huge back-to-the-land indigenous permaculture movement.  Two Foundations working: one for Detritus Powerdown, the other for Biosolar Powerup.  Overall results would be aimed at making the postPeak transition as smooth as possible.

In my earlier posting, Mexico currently leads the world in deforestation--huge numbers of AMLO's people could be employed replanting and regaining the ancient skills and methods of the Mayans & Aztecans, but with modern, more civilized, but modest enhancements.  Calderon could be leading the transformation of Mexico's transport by using AlanfromBigEasy's ideas to stretch their energy peso as far as possible.  

If nothing like this happens, and widespread civil war or revolution breaks out--then we should expect a flood of humanity heading north across our borders into Cascadia and other possibly sustainable areas postPeak.  Time will tell.

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

First post on TOD, have enjoyed staying on the sidelines and learning.  Quick question, I have seen Cascadia mentioned a few times in the past.  Why do you feel it is "sustainable" in a PO world.  What boundaries do you feel 'Cascadia" lies within.  I guess I would  consider it to be a maritime region from Northern CA to SE AK.  Do you feel only areas served by rail within those boundaries are viable?



Hello jjlalaska,

Thxs for responding.  I am no survival or ecological expert, so please take this info with large doses of caution.  Compared to the Asphalt Wonderland of Phx and our miniscule amounts of rainfall, Cascadia, and other areas further north and east, offers a better chance for survival.

The North American Southwest climate is forecasted to get even drier with Global Warming [GW], and Peakoil will make further pumping of water from already declining acquifers more problematic, and as we all know: survival starts with having a good source of potable water.

I think all areas are in Overshoot, therefore none are sustainable till after the Dieoff sequence, but that maybe just my doomer mindset.  But as GW forces the migration northward of all adaptable plant and animal species--humans will follow: read James Lovelock and Gaia writings.  Living near RRs will be advantageous short-term so that one can be re-supplied with societal products, but longer-term: seaports or river towns are better at providing cross-habitat shared carrying capacity.

If you currently live in Alaska, good for you.  As time goes on-- I expect you will have many new neighbors unless your State Govt. sets up an autonomous area to forbid further in-migration.  The Alaskan Powers That Be are probably just as corrupt as humans everywhere: they will be more concerned with making a short-term buck than insuring the best chance for true multi-generational sustainability and minimal violence.  Good luck and best wishes for the Xmas Holidays.

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

Ask about inter-library loan.
Wow.  Now I understand why I like you guys.  :)

GGS is a fundamental for my research design course (esp. the last chapter), even if I am not an anthropologist.  Diamond has been a favorite for as long as I can remember.  

I also recommend Influence by Bob Cialdini.  Sharply written psychology, almost Gladwellian.

Of course, I have always been a fan of SF, especially cyberpunk--back to the days of Gibson and Neuromancer.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of consciousness stuff.  Pinchbeck (Breaking Open the Head) and a few others.

I have Catton in my TBR pile.  I've only skimmed it.  Of course, I think the Freeman Dyson book is next, then I was slated to reread my favorite book (I am a big fan of re-reads), Genius, the biography of one of my idols, Richard Feynman.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of consciousness stuff.

That's another big interest of mind. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of consciousness. What causes it? Are there varying degrees? Do dogs have some degree? In 2003 I read Dennet's "Consciousness Explained", but I felt like the title was misnomer.

I like Feynman a lot. I read "Surely You Must be Joking" several years ago, and became really fascinated with him. I knew he was a great scientist, but I hadn't realized what an interesting person he was. Then as you can see on my list the first book I read this year was "The Meaning of it All." I will have to check out Genius.

I read this when it first came out(1987?).  I think it's an oldie but goodie.  Maybe some of the newer stuff is sharper on details, but very readable and a good grounding in the time involved:

The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of consciousness. What causes it?

I'm a slow reader (not voracious). Only half way through The Naked Brain by Restak M.D. But "I" "think" (all of these being misnomers) that if you want to understand "consciousness" from a scientific vantage point, you should read books like this one that are based on scientific experiments conducted on the human brain to see how  it actually functions as opposed to conjecturing on the operations of the brain based on what we "feel" it to be doing.

Example: when I am sick and have a fever, I "feel" that it is cold outside. But my feelings are incorrect because it is not cold outside as can be established scientifically with a thermometer. Instead, more heat is leaving my body and my nerves are registering that phenomenon to my brain as meaning that it is cold outside. What we "feel" and what is actually happening are often two different things.

Example #2: I "feel" that there will always be cheap gasoline at the gas station for me because it's always been like that before as far as I personally remember (assuming I have Alzheimer's or denial syndrome and don't remember the 1973 oil embargo).

As for consciousness of self, there are parts of the brain that model the observed behavior of self and then analyze it. There are parts of the brain that model the observed behavior of others and then analyze that. Therfore we are conscious not only of self but of others based on this constant modeling of the external world and constant reexamination of the validity of our internal models.


"The Quantum Brain" by Jeffrey Satinover is fascinating from this perspective as well. He makes a very good case that the brain is a heavily elaborated quantum computing deice, and that consciousness is an emergent quantum phenomenon.  All without dropping back into the kind of mystical hand-waving we got in "The Field" by Lynne McTaggart (which is fascinating in its own right, but harder to take seriously).
One part of my brain says you meant to say "device".
Another suggests that you didn't randomly slip when entangling it with "dice".

Aside from the brain of an individual, may I suggest that we also have a larger "social brain", the thing by which a society, a civilization debates within itself and finally comes to a conclusion (i.e. a voted upon decision)?

Where is the center of TOD's brain?

When I saw your book list I immediately thought of Genius, by James Gleick, because you had both a book by Richard Feynman and a book by Gleick listed. I too read that book a long time ago, but it an excellent book because both the subject and the author are so compelling. There are probably other biographies of Richard Feynman but Genius is the only one I've read.

I noticed few if any books on economics on your list. Furthermore, hardly any economics books were recommended in the posts (Dryki's post here has a few). A great book, and a quick, entertaining read is The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki. I read it partly at the suggestion of Halfin who regularly posts here at TOD. In fact, I used the prediction markets at Tradesports and Iowa Electronic Markets to follow the mid-term elections this year; they were as good or better than any of the polls. Halfin, if you're reading this I would be interested in your reading list.

Hi Robert Rapier,

I have yet to find a book from a colleague which would "explain" consciousness (I'm a neurologist).

For the philosophic background I would recommend the essays by Henri Bergson on consciousness who makes some very good points about the relation between time and our consciousness.

From a neuropsychologic perspective, the attention processes, the tools of our self-consciousness are very well described by Antonio Damasio ( the best modern author in the field of neuropsychology) allready cited by Stuart Staniford.

For myself, in clinical practice I define full consciousness through orientation in time and space, attention to the surrounding. The result of full consciousness beeing a correct anticipation of the immediate future. The cause of consciousness for me is the encounter between the input from our senses and the processes of intention in the wake state. It is a function of the brain as a whole.

Of course I would be glad to expand a lot, but for that we should find another place to discuss.

I define full consciousness through orientation in time and space, attention to the surrounding.

My primary interest is what causes it. Where is the source? If I had nothing but a brain, would I be conscious? I think so. How about if I removed some small section of my brain? How about if my brain was frozen for 30 years and then reanimated. Would I regain consciousness? Would all of my memories have been wiped out when the electrical signals ceased? Could a machine gain consciousness?

Those are the questions that I would love to answer. Those are the questions that I like to meditate on, but I really wish I knew the answers.

wow, a whole bunch of questions, very interesting, but of course I have only partial answers.

Asking those questions really calls for a definition of consiousness, which is already quite difficult (hence my clinical approach). This was one of my first experiences in neurology : Pr Hommel in Grenoble asked me how I would tell if someone was consciouss. My first guess was to state that the person would answer more or less appropriately my questions. But then he asked, what for persons who have lost their language (aphasia) ? Ok, let's look at his behaviour. But what when he is locked-in ? And so on. Things are getting also difficult when you try to define consciousness for yourself. When you dream you can have an illusion of consciousness, same for psychotic brains in a delusional state. People with confusion don't term themselves unconscious but an outer observer can't qualify them as fully conscious.

But I can try to answer some of your questions assuming that we both have the same intuitive idea of consciousness.

* First of all, a single brain lesion isn't most often enough to induce unconsciousness. It is like memory, there isn't one region which is responsible for consciousness. This is not to be confounded with arousal, which is a function of our brain stem (the reticula of the pons and the mesencephalon to be exact). A lesion of these regions induces a state of coma because of the lack of arousal. In the same order, a lesion of the anterior thalamus can cause sleep, which is also a state of unconsciousness because of an active sleep state.

The most interesting case is confusion, which is a lack of consciousness not being induced by sleep or coma. There is no single lesion of the brain which has been ascribed to causing a confusion. Confusion results most often from altered metabolic states, diffuse lesions of the brain. Of course a right forebrain lesion can induce confusion but here also the regions injured are quite large and most often reversible.

So overall, I wouldn't ascribe consciousness to a single brain region.

* Is memory only a function of our brain signals (i.e. synaptic function)? Here I can only speculate. We have a lot of types of memories. We distinguish between procedural memory, episodic memory, semantic memory, emotional memory, short-term memory and so on. A very famous experiment is the learning of a maze by rats. You can teach a rat to find its way through a maze. After that, to sum it up quickly, there is no single region in the brain which will suppress this memory (this doesn't mean that there aren't specific regions in our brains dedicated for memorisation, especially for our episodic memory which relies on the hippocampal-limbic circuitry). On the other hand the neuroscientists have demonstrated the long term modifications of synaptic behaviour and connections in the process of learning.

In the state of reduced metabolism in hypothermia, we have shown that people can recover their memories afterwards. So if we would freeze our brains and wake it up 30 years later, I can imagine that we won't lose our memories (pure speculation, has never been done).

  • Would I be consciouss if my brain where isolated ? Some experiments have adressed the deafferented brain. In a few seconds the normal alpha-rythm on the electroencephalogram disappears and is replaced with delta rythms, hallmarks of brain disease or deep sleep. Very theoretically we could imagine that we still could have some cognitive processes but the lack of sensorial feedback would quickly let our mind evade its state I think. I think sensorial input is essential and drives our consciousness (after all the aim of consciousness is to prepare our motor schemes to be as coherent as we wish with respect to our surroudings).

  • Could a machine become conscious ? Some believe they can, I don't believe that. It is a favorite subject of debate among philosophers since descartes. My main objection is that our consciousness is driven by a mechanism of intention for which I don't have the beginning of an understanding but which is certainly fed by inputs from our hypothalamu and limbic lobes (and the dopaminergic connections favored by AMPOD). Machines as we make them are driven by input from a clock which doesn't exist in our brain. We can make a machine adapt to the surrounding with input based on previous knowledge or even teach them some discriminating functions in the model of neuronal networks, but we aren't able to make a machine capable of evolving from newtonian mechanics to the theory of relativity. As yet we don't know how to teach machines to be astonished. Here we return to the importance of emotions in the state of consciousness very well underscored by Antonio Damasio.

I hope that you have understood some of my text here, despite my bad English (it is the first time I wrote about this in English ...).
Hey, that is fascinating stuff! And I wouldn't have guessed your first language wasn't English.

I go with neurobiology when it comes to brain matters; they know more about it than philosophers. Defining consciousness by what it does may be the best way we will ever have of understanding it. It is hard for people to grasp the nature of emergent processes. Consciousness seems to be a "thing" that should have a physical embodiment, i.e. a part of the brain you can poke. But consciousness is an abstract process; it doesn't really exist anywhere.

I liken it to a hurricane. A hurricane is composed of air molecules and water vapor, there is nothing special about these molecules. At the boundary of the hurricane, you can't say whether a molecule belongs to the hurricane or not. They are all just part of the atmosphere. The hurricane is just a bunch of molecules bouncing off each other. The phenomenon we call a hurricane appears to exist, but there is no part you can uniquely identify as "being the hurricane". The hurricane does not really exist, except as a particular behavior of molecules that we humans call "a hurricane".

In a similar way, consciousness does not really exist. If you  look into a conscious brain, all you find is a bunch of neurons signaling to each other. We can only define consciousness by its overall behavior. If you are unhappy with this functional definition, the question "what is consciousness?" is otherwise unanswerable.

(Add "The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World", Jack S. Cohen & Ian Stewart" to your reading list!)

neuroil, you explained the neuroscience very well, but what is your view of the "quantum" theory? Is the conventional operation of neurons etc sufficient to allow consciousness, or does it require something else?

I don't know how we could modelize really realistically our superior brain function. However to explain them with the electrical and chemical properties of single synapses or neurons will be impossible, like it is impossible to explain the diffusion of 2 gases through the behaviour of individual particles.

If you make a model, you can validate it either by replication (which isn't yet allowed for the quantum brain) or try to see what you can infer from it and then test the hypotheses inferred against experimental observation. I don't know yet if people have gone so far for the quantum theory.

Interesting stuff, thanks. Can you recommend a book that you think does a good job of explaining the subject?

Also, what is  your native language? All the Scandanavians and Dutch that I have ever run across are very fluent in English, so that would be my guess. But you mentioned Grenoble, so I guess you might be French?

Seems to me (to us 'ems) that you and neuro oil are talking past each other. You want to know what the mechanisms are for establishing the thing that you feel inside of yourself as being "consciousness" and he is talking about how to determine whether a living breathing creature does or does not at the moment have that attribute.

But the first question is whether the language we use, i.e. words like "consciousness" presume things that are not true. It's sort of like a bunch of alchemists debating with each other over which part of the world they should explore to find the Philosopher's Stone, presuming in that debate that the existance of the Stone itself is unquestionable.

Sometimes a complete paradigm shift is needed before you can even pose questions like the one you try to pose.

My assumption is that you may percieve the human brain as being a Von Neumann style computing machine where the "focus" of attention is on where "the one" program counter is pointing to. I think the science is well established that the human brain operates more like a parallel MIMD system (many different instructions/ideas executing at the same time on many different data sets) rather than a single thread Von Neumann machine.

That part of you that is making all the noise in your head and claiming he is you right now, actually is not the real you but is just your mini-Me. So when he claims he is your "consciousness", he is actually bullshitting himself, err bullshitting yourself. I know this sounds weird. Maybe you should start by reading about case histories where people have their corpus collasum severed so that it is unquestionable there are two separate brains operating in the same body and yet the person reports a consciousness of being just one "me" --where that is usually the left hemisphere speech center providing that report of only a singular "me" (mini-Me) being present. Simple tests prove that this assertion is incorect and that there are actually two streams of consciousnesses operating at the same time and receving inputs from different sensors (i.e. right eye connects to the left brain and left eye to the right brain).

Now you can understand why the sheeple are confused or unconscious about Peak Oil. They are confused or unconscious even about what they themselves really are (what their "consciousness" is is).  :-)

I think your points are valid. It is true that I didn't answer the core question Robert asked me. But I stated that I don't know the answer.

I don't know how to satisfactorilly define "consciousness", but also "intelligence", "intention" and such. Therefore, from a neuroscientist perspective we more often refer to the "tools of intelligence" (language, memory, praxias, gnosias...), the "components of consciousness" (i.e. selective attention, orientation, memory...) or the "driving forces" (i.e. emotions) of intention.

But if we want to come to understand ourselves better, we need indeed to recognize that in our brains a lot of processes function in parallel. A lot is going on here behind the scenes.

A quite striking way is to examine the brain in a phylogenetic manner. We have learned that a lot of structures still functionning in our brains come from previous brains through evolution. All these structures have some internal coherent organisation and a lot of them can in some occasion take over control.

You have cited the case of the section of the corpus callosum. For those who don't know, this can lead to a disorder (which fortunately doesn't most often last for more than 3 weeks) called "diagonistic apraxia". This means that the patients left hand opposes itself to the actions of the right hand. This is a most weird condition which indeed left the student of neurology I was 15 years ago in a perplex state for some months. The patient I examined was the first with diagonistic apraxia (a 55 year old woman, who had a deficit in nicotinamide which had led to a necrosis of her corpus callosum). I wasn't prepared having only read about it in books. During examination I asked her to write down her name. As soon as she began, her left hand grasped violently the pen and threw it through the room. She couldn't quit her chamber, as soon as she opened the door with her right hand, her left hand slammed the door back again.

After that what is left of our consciousness ?

I would recommend Antonio Damasio's "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness" and of course "Descartes' Error". For a more philosophical discussion I found H. Bergson "Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness" a good read on the subject.

I am now a frenchman. But I only moved to France when I was 14 years old. Before that I was Dutch indeed and I have lived some years near Düsseldorf in Germany.

Before that I was Dutch indeed and I have lived some years near Düsseldorf in Germany.

I lived in Düsseldorf for a couple of years myself: From 1999-2001. I came to love the European lifestyle.

This reminds me, another good read, John Gray's 'Straw Dogs'. There are extensive sections on the relative _un_importance of consciousness. It's just an artifact imposed upon preconscious awareness - the conscious decision comes after all the real 'decisions' have already been made.  

Personally I have always considered consciousness something of an exaggerated mystery. We experience it as deeply mysterious because of our own subjectivity, arising from the (meaningless) question, 'Why am I me rather than someone else?' From an objective perspective - that is, considering as a given a group of conscious individuals - this makes no sense.

But anyway, our knowledge about this and pretty much all things is so fragmentary and full of dead ends that we really know nothing about anything. It is beginning to appear to me that the universe really is deeply and fundamentally incomprehensible to us (another conclusion of Gray's, by the way).

- the conscious decision comes after all the real 'decisions' have already been made.

It sounds like you are talking about the thing I refer to as the "mini-Me" (have you seen the Austin Powers' movie where he --the big Dr. Evil, has this little midget following his every move and explaining it?)

I suggest you may be behind the times on what scientists know about the human brain. Much of what they have discovered would freak the general populace out of their "rational" minds. The public is not ready to hear the truth. Maybe 30 years from now. Maybe never because PO will hit first and then the Dark Ages will follow.

Where's my fickin' cat?
Frickin' I said frickin'
Be carefull what you wish for.

Why Kitty, what big teeth you have.


Interesting to hear you were a field service engineer. I was a tech writer for FSUs (with HP).

I had a lot of respect for you guys.


Ok, it's late and I am tired and it has been cold as hell today in eastern Montana.  I've been up 19 hours but I'd like to comment.

Some books Id recommend:

"Solar Engineering of Thermal Processes"
by Duffie and Beckman

"The Independent Home" by my friend Michael Potts

"A Golden Thread: 2500 years of solar history" I believe by an author name Buti

"The Solar Decision Book" by Richard Montgomery

"Direct Use of the Suns Energy" by Farrington  Daniels

Im sure the Photovoltaic Design Manual by Solar Energy International is good.  

Most of these books are old but they are still valid.  If you want to put something together that works - these are a start.

My recommendation would be to at least to start doing some research into home energy efficiency.  If you dont have time to research it yourself contact my friends at

They have local experts most anywere in the US.

The theoretical nature of these discussions will be soon nearing an end.

Farrington Daniels was one of my earliest influences.  You can see what he leads to.

Please keep impressionable people away from that book. ;-) (just kidding!)

Farrington Daniels is a true hero. I recommend to anyone looking to solutions to problems that become apparent when looking at the Peak Oil issue- he anticipated them long ago.

Maybe as M. King Hubbert's name is recognized- Farrington Daniels will also be known.

To those reading this who are unaware of who he was- go to Wikipedia.

Ok, it's late and I am tired and it has been cold as hell today in eastern Montana.  I've been up 19 hours but I'd like to comment.

Where in eastern Montana? I am in Billings, and we had a heat wave roll in overnight. It was 19 degrees F when I woke up this morning (a 25 degree improvement over yesterday).

I would echo the advice to learn about solar. I read one (last year, I think; I would have to check my list) and at some point I will install solar panels. But not in Scotland.

RR: Where in eastern Montana?

Where the oil is - Richland County. At least the wind died down last night. -20 wind chill sucks.  Makes you think about btu's, not philosophy.

Billings is in the banana belt.  It gets interesting around Lustre/Poplar/Glasgow.

It's very interesting to see people's reading habits. It's like they've shown you their underwear!

I agree about Dawkins and Diamond--fabulous writers.

For what it's worth, what does this adjunct English prof read?

Would you believe I've come to detest fiction? It just doesn't seem worth my time anymore. Still, their are classics I hold close to my heart, like Faulkner's early novels, and some short stories.

My faves are: energy, evolution ... and bibilical criticism.

I've read ALL the pertinent energy books of the last three years (except, ironically enough, John Howe's book, and we're both from Maine. Haven't been able to find it yet.)

Under evolution, Dawkins, Diamond and Dennett (the "three Ds?")

Two highlights of my (intellectual) life were seeing Dennett and Pinker give talks here in Maine.

And everyone should read the magnificent dismantling of the traditional psychological from a evolutionary point of view,

The Nurture Assumption, by Judith Rich Harris

If you want advice about the fascinating and under-reported field of biblical criticism, how the bible came to be written, what an incredible shock it is, just ask.

"their" should be "there." What an embarrassing error!
"...traditional psychological paradigm from an evolutionary point of view."

It's 6:30 am.

"If you want advice about the fascinating and under-reported field of biblical criticism, how the bible came to be written, what an incredible shock it is, just ask."

OK, I'll bite! Lets hear it.

Sure. Start with scholar Bart Ehrman. "Misquoting Jesus" is the perfect beginning, and it's a recent book. He recounts his experiences as a fundamentalist who went into biblical studies to become more familiar with "the word of God" but was shocked to find that no such thing exists. It's entirely the word of men (and perhaps even a few women).

To misquote Ehrman: We have no autographs (original manuscripts) of anything in the New Testament, including the gospels. We don't even have copies of them, nor copies of copies of them. We have manuscripts several generations removed from the originals, which were copies by scribes who altered the texts, accidentally, purposely. Then go on to his full history of the New Testament.

Other titles include: "Who Wrote the Gospels?" and "Gospel Fictions" by Randall Helms; "The Complete Gospels," ed. by Robert J. Miller, which gives a full account the four gospels plus the remains of gospels that were left out of the canon; Burton Mack's books "Who Wrote the New Testament" and "The Lost Gospel Q." It's a fascinating field, and often reads like a detective story: scholars are forced to make inferences on the basis of the scantiest of evidence.

For Old Testament studies (which is, of course, really the Hebrews' bible), Richard Elliot Friedman is probably the most accessible writer: "Who Wrote the Bible?" (by which he means the Torah), and the fascinating "Hidden Book in the Bible," which is about the earliest strand of prose in the Hebrew bible. He works in the "documentary hypothesis" (wiki gives and excellent overview of the topic), which states that the Torah was composed not by Moses but by a series of anonymous scribes.

Oh boy, what a field! And how ignorant the public is about it!

I am a big fan of Elaine Pagels' books (The Origin of Satan, etc.) and also Freke and Gandy's Jesus and the Lost Goddess.  Quality scholarship on gnosticism, etc.
I agree that most of the public is quite ignorant of it. I'm actually writing a book on this subject (Old Testament), but with much more traditional conclusions than those espoused by Friedman, Wellhausen, etc. I'll have to self-publish the book, as I am not a credentialled scholar in this area and there is no market for books like this. I'll be glad to send you a copy, if you like, if you don't mind reading a book with a different perspective.
Most folks don't know that ancient greek and hebrew had no punctuation and hebrew didn't even have vowels. Hw cn w b crtn wht ny f t mns (insert any vowels you like)
I recommend you add Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Taleb.
Robert, I'm actually a little surprised you are swayed by Kunstler.  I think he is a bit extreme at times but he points to a very possible future.

Richard Feynman is my favorite physicist of all time just because of his take on life in general.

I'm currently reading "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson which is an interesting book about the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

Any books about Nikoli Tesla always interest me.  He was at the Chicago World's Fair by the way and his alternating current system was used to light up the Internation Exposition.

amen on Feynman (see above).  His takes on things/ways of thinking are just precious.
C' gotta love Tesla too for taking on Edison and inventing the Tesla Coil.
Robert, I'm actually a little surprised you are swayed by Kunstler.

There is a difference between being influenced and being swayed. For example, The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil just blew my mind. But I don't think his vision of the future is realistic. It influenced me by presenting some very interesting possibilities, but I wasn't convinced by his arguments.  It was, if you will, the anti-Kunstler.

What Kunstler did was hammer home a number of important points to me for the first time. That doesn't mean I agree with everything he has written. But I think his work was very important. It really got me to thinking about "What If" with respect to Peak Oil. That's when I decided I need to get more involved.

I agree.  Anyone who paints a picture of a potential dystopia has to lay out the process of getting there.  It's the questions that are raised by the many "what if's" along the way that are more important than the entire dystopic vision...that's his contribution in my opinion: he challenges the assumptions of the status quo.
Personally, I think Kunstler's greatest skill is in presenting America's structural flaws in terms of 'living arrangements' in a way that an American understands, based on facts and assumptions which are not possible to merely dismiss. After all, he is just describing the common reality of life in America for most Americans, and then asking a few simple questions, and offering a few simple observations.

I read the Long Emergency while in America, and then the Geograpraphy of Nowhere after returning to Europe, and what was most abstractly frightening to me was just how well a book written in the early 1990s decribed the America I had just visited, almost 15 years later. The 'abstractly' is because I don't live in the U.S., and because much of what he wrote about so skillfully and factually were similar to ideas and conclusions I had reached after first experiencing life in Germany 10 years before he wrote Geography of Nowhere. Nothing had really changed in that time, except those 15 (or 25) years are now gone.

While Kunstler the man is as flawed as any of us, Kunstler the author describing life as lived in America is someone hard to dismiss, which leads to the disturbing conclusion that he just may be describing reality, and not merely offering his own opinions about things he hates passionately.

And quite honestly, and being the contrary sort I am, there is little to be found to refute in his basic assumptions, even if the details and his forecasts are imperfect - the piracy one being a personal favorite of an outlandish prediction likely included more for its dramatic flair than based on reasonable extrapolation. Whether in terms of swaying or influencing, his insights and arguments generally remain a solid challenge to anyone who assumes life in America as lived by most Americans will continue without changes long into the future.

At the end of the day we have to come to terms with the end of endless growth and the fact that most of the population of the earth never got a chance to join the party. The false dream of America will haunt the world for years to come.

I just got done reading a excellent link on the great depression. It was posted here earlier looks like I did not bookmark it.

And this.

The depression link was fascinating since I had long been under the impression that the collapse was sudden and caught most be surprise instead I found that it was quite similar to the current economic climate. The underlying cause was simple to many risky investments and economic hicups.

We face the same problems today short term. On a longer term not ( 3 years is long term these days ) We will face no way to recover as Peak Oil will effectively prevent any sort of economic recovery.

The problem is a economic collapse now will gut investment in oil production so we won't see the needed investment for several years. Meanwhile the resulting decline in demand which might be as high as 5% is really not enough to delay peak oil all that much but will lower prices substantially.
Note 5% from today is a lot since it would include 2-5% lost growth with a total demand drop of 7-10% in any case it will ensure low oil prices for a few years.
Its a bit interesting that the coming economic slow down will allow low oil prices as we pass the peak.

This double combo practically ensures we have peaked.

memmel - Could you look through your browse history for that geat depression link?  I'm quite interesting in reading it too.  Thanks!
Yep...understood.  Thanks for sharing.  
"International Exposition"...not Internation
I read Kunstler in the summer of 2005 after seeing him interviewed on Free Speech TV.  I had expected peak oil in the 70's and was surprised to hear him saying we are there.  I think he changed a lot of people's view of the future.  I sent it to a friend's daughter and she refused to read it, saying she didn't want to know!  I don't see the logic of that.
  Since this is an open thread I will respond to your reading list. Aside from the meatier non-fiction stuff I have read some other things from your fiction author list that I might suggest.

CJ Cheryl;  The Foreigner series has a lot of thoughtful discourse on clash of cultures and modes of thought

Neal Stephenson; His Baroque cycle is quite an accomplishment of historical fanciful fiction chronicling the rise of commerce in the late 17th century. Some may consider it long winded, but others love it.

Connie Willis; Her Three men and a boat, to say nothing of the dog, is delightful and a much easier read after plowing through the others.

By the way I am looking forward to your discourse with Westexas. its always helpful to have ones arguements critically analyzed.


big Stephenson fan here too.  I heart Snow Crash.
Stephenson favorite: "The Diamond Age", beautiful character developments...
Not sure it fits with the peak oil mentality though.
I actually read Doomsday Book because I was looking for "To Say Nothing of the Dog", but my library didn't have it. So, I grabbed Doomsday Book.

Neal Stephenson was a visionary. I read Snow Crash, and thought "Wow, he was thinking this stuff up in 1992?"

I just finished Forge of Heaven. I was a bit disappointed by that and Hammerfall, although moreso by Hammerfall. I thought it was pretty boring. Cyteen was very impressive, though.

The worst book I have read this year? The one I just finished: "Traipsing into Evolution." It's the Creationists' take on the Dover trial. I only read that kind of stuff to better "know my enemy."

You might just want to browse The Panda's Thumb to keep track of the creo's.  The discussion is easily as insightful as you find here, and the reparteé is often hilarious.
Oh, I have spent much time at The Panda's Thumb. :-)
To Say Nothing of the Dog--one of my favorites.
Some books:

 The Tao Te Ching. By Lao Tsu. Two translations I like -
one is by  Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. The other is called "The Way of Life, According to Lao Tsu", translated by Witter Bynner. This one's known as  "An American Translation."  Some lines (imperfect recall):  "He who feels burst, must once have been a bubble." "Under heaven and earth, there is nothing like using restraint."    

  "The Promise of Mediation: A Transformative Approach to Conflict", by Robert A. Baruch Bush and Joseph P. Folger.
I haven't read Bush and Folger - (I know). The thing is, I had a "pre-mediation interview" with someone who'd been through their training and it was an amazing experience. Hence, this on my list. And I mention it for the practical aspect of addressing "peak".  

Copied from the Amazon site - Witter Bynner translation, end of Stanza One:

... And whether a man dispassionately
 sees to the core of life
 Or passionately,
 Sees the surface
 The core and the surface
 Are essentially the same,
 Words making them seem different
 Only to express appearance.

 If names be needed, Wonder names them both:
 From wonder into wonder
 Existence opens.  

I am going to update my book list. Lots of good stuff here.

One book I can't recommend highly enough -  I don't care what your interests are - is The Time Traveler's Wife. There is something in there for everyone. I haven't had anyone tell me that they didn't like it. I thought it was remarkable.

Rumi is a post peak recommendation of mine, with lot's of  candle lit winter nights reserved for contemplation.
also. I've recommended The Alphabet Verses The Goddess by Leonard shlain here before. if you don't want to buy it I'll loan you mine
oh! another post peak recommendation; good reading glasses. At 39 yoa I can feel my vision going
At 39 yoa I can feel my vision going

I am 39 myself, and my vision has been changing lately. I wear contacts, but they have started to blur a bit.

I share a lot of your tastes.

If you're not already familiar with his writing, Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' has a lot worth saying about the relationship between technology and wider culture, and the sequel 'Lila', which describes an "evolutionary metaphysics" gives a very good explanation of why, for example, the laws of thermodynamics will trump the laws of economics. I'd imagine engineers would like it the most. Got very interesting stuff about the origins of US culture.

Also: describing well the cultural attitudes that stand in our way, and their origin (aka "technology will save us") you might like to read Mary Midgley's 'Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and its Meaning'. She's an excellent philosopher, and very readable.

Oh, and one other thing. Any Christians out there who are interested in these issues might like to check out: This site (which is my talks to my church community on it all); and This site, and This list (which is extremely quiet!).
Personally, I found 'Lila' to be very disappointing, if only because by that point, Pirsig lost the motivation of trying to prove he wasn't truly insane, it was the society he lived in which was full of delusions.

And while 'Zen...' was a stripped down book, even considering its length, with many journeys reflecting on each other, 'Lila' reflects too much of Pirsig's own limitations.

Unfortunately, even though many people seem to have read it, 'Zen...' had no more lasting impact in terms of changing American society than anything else from that time.

I don't think anything but reality will end the American Dream at this point, and reality faced alone is possibly the worst teacher of all - another moral from 'Zen...', I find, at least for Phaedrus.

What is that Musharraf book about? Isn't he the pakistani prez?
Yes, and he came across in that book as having one of the biggest egos I have ever come across. I had a totally different impression of him after reading that book (which he wrote). He was the best looking, the bravest, the best shot, etc. It really took away from the book.
So the book is about president Musharafs Ego?? (Directly - indirectly..?)
The book is Musharraf's history of Pakistan, if you will. He takes the reader from the formation of Pakistan through the coup that put him in power. However, during the book he constantly makes references to how great he is. You get the impression of someone who wakes up each morning, looks in the mirror, and says "Gosh, the world is fortunate to have me."
He's probably the worst life insurance risk on the planet.

Survived at least 4 serious assassination attempts, and endless smaller ones.

I cut him some slack.  There is no way to reconcile the opposing forces in Pakistan (development, islamicisation etc.).  He isn't really in control of a lot of what goes on in the country (the Northwest frontier, the nuclear weapons programme etc.).

He is sitting on a powder keg, with a lit fuse, hoping it won't go off.

Some more recommended books:

Into The Cool by Schneider and Sagan (All Life is driven by Energy Gradients)
Big Coal by Jeff Goodell
The Weather Makers by Tim Flannnery
The Hype About Hydrogen by Joseph Romm
The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan
The Curve of Binding Energy by John McPhee
The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter
When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten

Into The Cool , if you can get through it, will change your view of life. The  Peak Oil implications are terrible.  # 1 read of the year.
Hmm. USM interlibrary loan, here I come!
Tainter's Collapse like Catton's Overshoot are classics which will haunt the recent peak oil and climate change aware.
Yes, I was surprised that Tainter wasn't on Robert's list.  Maybe he read it before '05?

I've gotten a bit hooked on the idea that Rome's Third Century Crisismay have had a form of peak wood underlying the empire's problems.  Tainter discusses this possibility in a round-about way, John Perlin's "A Forest Journey" comes right out and pins the blame on peak wood around Rome's Spanish silver mines, and J.V. Thirgood's "Man and the Mediterranean Forest" makes some important points about shipbuilding in particular and deforestation in general in the Mediterranean.  If the Third Century Crisis was indeed resource related, then the way things played out may be instructive for us.  It's not a pretty picture.

"Freakonomics", "Butterfly Economics", and "The (Mis)Behavior of Markets" were worth reading; "The End of Oil" and "A Thousand Barrels a Second" were good reads, but TOD's better; "The Prize" was a waste of time, except that it helps understand Yergin's point of view.  If you have kids, I strongly recommend Jim Dale's Listening Library rendition of "Around the World in 80 Days."  It's great fun, and a eye-opening view of world transportation just before the age of petroleum.

Thanks for the Perlin recommendation. Looks like a scholarly  work.  
Ronald Wright 'A Short History of Progress'

some very good thoughts on the issue of ecological collapse and the ancient Greeks and Romans.  We know a lot, because the chroniclers of the time worried about it.

Straw Dogs (Thoughts on humans and other animals) - John Gray

If you read, that should be on your list ;)

The Fabric of the Cosmos - Brian Greene (2004).

Very good read - and presented in a way that allows you to either just skim the surface of the science go deep into the details of it with his prolific use of footnotes.

RR, I didn't see 'The Road' (Cormac McCarthy) listed but might have missed it. Read it over the holiday in one night. It had some aspects of the dieoff that I had not thought of , yet most was what one could expect. How much it portrays reality is yet to be determined yet the spirituality of it impressed me greatly.

The man who gives everything for his son.
Who never quits trying.
Would that such people inhabited this earth to this day.

 Instead we have the man(and woman as well) who cruise thru numerous marriages/divorces/affairs all because they refuse to be responsible for what they produced and live only for themselves. (Note to detractors/trollers: I only observe and do not say its the absolute truth, whatever that is.) Its my view of our culture. 68 years of observation I might add, from 'wood' to 'fusion' and beyond or Back to the Trees Part III,whatever.

I recommend it if you haven't read it as yet(The Road).

I see your a Clancy fan. I was too but think he finally lost his edge.


The man who gives everything for his son.
Who never quits trying.
Would that such people inhabited this earth to this day.

Sounds like one I would like. I have bookmarked this thread for future reference.

I see your a Clancy fan. I was too but think he finally lost his edge.

All my life, people told me I would like Clancy. I always put off reading him. When I finally read my first Clancy book, I thought "This is great stuff." But after reading about 4 of them, I thought "This is getting pretty predictable." I had the same experience with Anne Rice. I loved the first few of hers I read, and then the rest seemed to be going through the motions.

Just having read 'The Road' myself, I had to comment. Although the books premise is based on a post nuclear war apocylapse, I venture to say post peak will vastly more redeemable. For the father and son, everyday is a struggle to scavenge and not be scavenged. Post peak and GW, we still have a chance to grow food somehow and someway. The struggle will be over the remaining energy resources. I think 'The Road' vision of the future is valid whether its 1965, 1985 or 2005. For post peak, the extremes go from life as we know it w/o oil to mad max warfare. I've seen short stories that cover post peak, for the most part, fiction on this topic are sparse. Until Kunstler rolls out his 'vision' of the post peak world, we'll have to use our imagination.
Something else to fear, Robert et al:

I read recently, on the blog for High Country News (an excellent mag about environmental, sociological and other issues of the 11 Western states), an interview with a Univ of Colorado prof, head of their department of environmental journalism, where he quoted a UC climatologist that ...

global warming could hit 15 DEGREES F by the end of this century. Not 6, not 9, but 15 degrees.

This climatologist was seriously recommending spraying aerosols into the atmosphere as part of slowing the rate of global warming.

Now, that's just as "apocaolyptic" as Kunstler on Peak Oil.

This is not news.

More than 5 degrees centigrade rises in avg temperature are associated with truly dramatic changes in the world climate.

And under 'Business as Usual' (BAU) scenarios from the IPCC and other bodies, we are almost certain to hit 5 degree centigrade, sometime in the next 100-150 years (and it could be within 50 years -- there are some positive feedback loops that, if we trip over certain thresholds, we cannot stop).

Stern basically says (above) that 5 degrees centigrade and above is too difficult to forecast and too awful to contemplate, so he proceeds to ignore those worst case scenarios.

To scale it, 5 degrees centigrade is as far now as we are above the average temperature at the peak of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago.

The net impact on the USA is likely to be that the coasts will get wetter (where it rains, it will rain more).  Conversely where it is dry, it will get dryer.  Most of the major agricultural regions of the USA will simply dry out: a similar drying killed off the Anansi civilisation in about 1200.

I still think that not too many people are talking the possibility of a 15-degree F, rather than 10-degree F, rise over the next century. So, that degree of rise being discussed more openly I would consider news.

I couldn't find any open comment at the URL provided.
I did find a PDF of an opinion policy article.

I also created an account. This presented me with the following information request --->

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1) I agree with you that a key benefit of TOD is the cross disciplinary nature of the debate and the interchange with others of vastly different viewpoint. I would argue that one of the main failings of mainstream media is an entirely homogenized viewpoint. TOD is a strong counterpoint to this.
2)While I disagree with those on TOD who propose to devour their neighbors, I find it valuable to be reminded that there are people who hold such views. I also find it valuable to obtain the perspective of those from outside North America. It might be worthwhile to have a means to identify the nation of origin of each contribution.
  1. The EV site only deals in PDF or WORD documents. These are very cumbersome. The HTML presentation of TOD is much better then PDF format.
  2. The dialog on the EV site is presented as a series of abstracts and associated downloads. You can see the abstract for each contribution but I dislike the idea of having to download 200 PDFs on each visit. If you move to this format you would not have 200 contributions; you would also hurt your readership.
  3. It is not clear how one would follow the thread of a debate under the EV format. I'm not sure I understand how to follow the threads under the current TOD format </joke> but prefer it to the alternative you have presented.
R1) The proposed debate between WT and R2 is a fantastic idea. I am less concerned with the "winner" and am much more concerned that we hone our ability to debate and publicly present issues which are critical to both our present and to our future.
R2) I believe TOD would benefit from having a wiki strucutre in addition to the open debate and comment format. The edited final version of the WT/R2 interaction would be a suitable wiki page.
R3) A reader from Finland (sorry I missed your name) had a list of 30 common objections to PO. Others have brought up the idea of TOD group review and response to each of these. The outcome of such a process would also form a natural set of wiki elements.
R4) R2's ethanol analysis would also be a suitable wiki page. By creating these elements as wiki pages on TOD you establish TOD as a key reference point for peer reviewed source material. This would draw other viewers but more importantly it would offer a valid counterpoint to such groups as CERA and others.


I thought you were seeking comment on the mode of presentation in contrast to TOD rather than comment on the subject matter itself. My bad.
Someone tell me what the deal is with US reformulated gasoline imports in 2006.
Did they just get recategorized as blending components?
And why is there a discrepancy between the above EIA numbers and the EIA numbers in this excell sheet?
Answer at the bottom of the linked thread.
Late Night Russian News

Moscow trying to flex its energy muscles:

West Must Listen to Russia When Discussing Energy Strategy -- FM

First they picked on foreign oil companies, now it's the foreign gold diggers:

Russian Authorities Set Sights on Foreign Gold Producers, Plan to Recall Licenses

Problems at the top of the world.

The Cryosphere is not looking good this winter. The decay in ice coverage over the winter is ominous and does not bode well for the future. I think we are seeing a system in transition.

Any plans to use crops for ethanol production should be reconsidered considering we may be facing major climate extremes as global warming progresses. As little as two years of abnormal weather can result in a major decrease in crop yields. I think global warming is real enough now to consider investing in organic fuel risky at best.

I think its becoming even more critical to consider bypassing any sort of road based transport solution and move directly to electric rail.

Hello Memmel,

I strongly agree with the sentiments expressed in your post.

Your quote: "I think its becoming even more critical to consider bypassing any sort of road based transport solution and move directly to electric rail."

Yep, Alan Drake [AlanfromBigEasy] needs to become a MSM star and address a joint session of Congress directly with his ideas so they get the point how quickly and easily this can be done.  As Kunstler said: "..even the Bolivians would be ashamed of our railroad system."

Future foodstuff shortages is a big worry of mine too.

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

Yeah, after reading that DOD report in another thread here on TOD today, I'm seeing how TSHTF now. Iraq is already lost. Afghanistan is lost. Wow, there will be a lot of angry 'merikans when they learn we can't whip those towel-heads, eh? Backlash. We need to bring our Guard and Army home NOW to start laying rail, setting up community gardens and so forth NOW. Before the Guard and Army are destroyed as organizations. But we can't, because that would show the world we're losers. [Oh hell, the rest of the world has us pegged anyway.]

Cassandra pointed out how things won't be as expected. Yeah, the Navy with nuclear powered ships still cannot protect an aircraft carrier (which can't launch planes without fuel - at $50/gallon NOW says the report) and it still cannot protect an oil tanker from an anti-ship rocket. That strikes me intuitively as good because it forces a smaller and more robust scale.

Order the Guard home. Put it to work building rail. All the deferred road projects - fuggetabout them. Repave one third, lay rail on one third, a bike track on the third third. Now, where to get the rail... ooops.

Food. Every state [for those of us in US] needs to assess how to achieve some degree of food security. Vermont figured it could feed itself in a year. A lot of beans and squash I bet.

wiki wiki we need a wiki

cfm in Gray, ME

The Army can take another few years of it before falling apart.  The Guard... probably not.  Especially now that a 6 year term of service can statutarily consist of 4 years of deployment in Iraq or Afganistan.


Here's a crazy technofix - which I seem to do too often here:  Please the 'aircraft carrier mafia' movement among the admirals by adding more of the best efficiency elements on the carriers - nuclear reactors.

Use the nukes to run a floating chemistry lab.  Oxygen in the air and water, Hydrogen in the water, Nitrogen in the air, dissolved Chlorine and Carbon Dioxide in the water, Limestone and other carbonates dredged from continental shelves...

Everything one needs to run a jet and rocket fuel production facility.

Hello Squalish,

Aren't the Russians thinking the same thing?  I remember reading somewhere of a proposed floating nuke plant to help power the Shtokman gasfield in the Arctic Sea?

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

So, would this be a consensus, then?  In list of, say, "top 5" TOD (?)...(dare I say it?)... TOD consensus of a national energy policy? Alan's rail plan(s)?
So, next question: strategy?  
Near the top of my list, FWIW:

Europe and the People Without History by Eric Wolf.

Economists overwhelmingly favor free trade--apparently, the freer the better.

Economists favor expanding competition and market forces in education.

Indeed, the survey showed that economists are not overly concerned about the long-term economic impact of rising levels of greenhouse gases.

Finally, economists predict that inflation will remain under control over the next twenty years. 44.2% forecast it to be about the same as over the past twenty years (1985 to 2005).

Cornucopians. Take that.

OK, I tried. Tomorrow I'll try to read the other article. All this does is prove Tainter's point about diminishing returns of education, that we are just wasting our time and money educating some people. "First up against the wall when the revolution came, the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetics Dept." To which wall I will add any economist that suggests we create a market for murder. There is no price at which it is acceptable to do harm for another's profit. The tables of the money changers and all that.

I went to MIT and had to put up with Samuelson at exactly the time Galbraith was teaching down the river. I didn't find out about Galbraith until years later. Talk about miseducation. Purposeful miseducation.

For Robert's book list, I'd suggest "Selling the Free Market", James Arnt Aune, 330.12209 or so in your library. Also James Dean's "Conservatives without Conscience". Maybe Hacker's "Great Risk Shift" and Johnson's "Perfectly Legal". There is a major clusterfuck around free-market fundamentalism, liberalism, libertarian economics, authoritarianism, racism and fear. We're so locked down we cannot even save ourselves.

wiki wiki we need a wiki

cfm in Gray,ME

Maybe the world's problems are now so complex that mere individuals can't grasp all the twists and turns. Eons ago single celled microbes melded together to form more advanced multicellular life forms. Perhaps the internet discussion group is the way we will have to solve global problems. Or maybe not. I'm convinced from a Southern Hemisphere perspective that TOD was instrumental in debunking ethanol world wide. I also sometimes pick up some lines of thinking from politicians that seem to originate in blogs. What's fast approaching may not be the technological Singularity but the internet hosted Superbrain.
Indeed.  I was shocked to see words attributed to Rick Wagoner which could have come from one of several bloggers, including me.

We'll see if action follows, but the words themselves are a wonder.

Your minds are playing tricks on you.  

People take credit for thinking of something someone else already thought of all the time.

In an interesting article about possible Saudi involvment in Iraq:

"...Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere."

Someone wake him up.

Have you Yanks forgotten the first Doomer writer you gave the world- Philip K Dick, the author of a small story the film Bladerunner was based on? Everything he wrote on the power down /Mad Max scenario we face was as prescient as George Orwell turned out to be.
Yay, P.K. Dick! You're absolutely right that his zany world has come to pass.


The director's cut of Bladerunner is the only DVD I own. IMO, one of the few instances where a movie is of a similar caliber to the book. Roy Batty! Love that character. My only qualm with this flick is with the GD dove at the end. Completely unnecessary.
A Scanner Darkly is pretty good as a film, too.

Bladerunner is actually not your 'Mad Max' scenario, quite the opposite.

The whole point about Bladerunner is that the Los Angeles of the future looks like Tokyo now (and Shanghai 25 years after the movie was made even more so).  Technology, space travel, all the rest.

You want civilisation collapsing, other examples are:

  • Omega Man (see the Richard Mathison novel 'I am Legend' which is far better) w. Charlton Heston

  • Damnation Alley (the novelist Roger Zelazny, disavowed the film) - film and book of same name

  • Mad Max (I, II and III) - of course

  • Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

on books:

  • Lucifer's Hammer -nuclear power saves the day - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

  • War of the Worlds (the original)
Around 2002 I began recording every  book I read, and included a list of every book I could remember reading prior to 2002 going back to 1959. I do the same for movies and notable web sites.  My book list is heavily shaped by  the fact that I raise children and read to them a lot.  Here's to bibliomania:
Wow, what a list. Very impressive.
James Joyce, Ulyses. I've tried. Believe me I've tried.
LOL. Me too. I've read the first third three times. "Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes." The streams from dedalus I enjoy. From the others I don't. I'm sure I'll make it through eventually with hopes of more of the above quoted.
On the fiction side, I've really enjoyed S.M.Sterling's "Dies the Fire" series.  It's a post apocalyptic vision of a world after the "Event", which stopped most technology--PV=nRT quit working, and electronics as well.  All combustion engines quit, firearms too.  Society devolves into a form of feudalism, large die-offs as population downsizes to meet the capabilities of human and animal powered agriculture.  Weapons turn edged (lots of swords made from salvaged auto leaf springs).  A lot of well researched stuff on medeival weapons and tactics. It makes a fair approximation of a worst-case post-PO world.

There are three so far in the series, "Dies the Fire", "the Protector's War", and "Meeting in Corvallis" (It's all set in the Willamette Valley, for you Oregonians)