A Letter from the TOD Editors Box...

Under the fold, I have posted a letter that we get more often than you might think--a query along the lines of: "I'm young-ish, so what can I do about all of this?"

I have a pretty standard answer that I give, which is usually along the lines of: "live your life, learn all that you can (especially skill-wise), and do what you can to slowly prepare your world. It is likely that you will have time to adapt...but time passes quickly."

I remember when I emailed an "expert" on Y2K around June of 1999 asking a very similar question re: Y2K. His response: "there's no need finishing your degree, after the apocalypse that will be Y2K, degrees and money will be worthless." (Yes, that's a quote that I just cut and pasted from an email.)

Needless to say, I didn't listen. I am rather glad about that. But, as we have discussed many times here the phrase "this is different" seems to apply to the empirics of peak oil in comparison to Y2K.

So, I figured with the diversity of opinion that is TOD, I would let you answer her email. She will be reading.

Dear Editors of The Oil Drum:

I'm not sure if this is an appropriate way to ask this question, so I hope you will let me know if it is not. I have only been a regular reader of the site for a few weeks and I did not want to burden the comments area with questions that may have already been asked multiple times.

I'm 24 years old and for as long as I've known what it was I've been concerned about peak oil and about the potential consequences for my country (the U.S.) and the world as a whole. The thing that keeps me up at night the most is the feeling that there is nothing I can do to stop us from sleepwalking over the edge of a cliff. I have worked to reduce my own reliance on fossil fuels but I still feel like I'm not doing enough. I think your site is fantastic (if sometimes terrifying) and I would love to probe you for advice.

My question is what can I, as an individual do to prepare myself to survive peak oil? I live in Chicago. I own a small, relatively efficient car (a Ford Focus) that I drive less than 20 miles a week. I bike or take the bus to work. I rent my apartment and I have no debt, children or husband. I also don't have much in the way of assets. I do my best to buy locally grown foods. I grow some veggies in my backyard and on my deck, although certainly not enough to put a dent in my food consumption. I have a job that I love (political consultant), but I know that it is extremely unlikely to be a workable career should things really start to go downhill. People won't need research consultants when they can't eat. My boyfriend is a computer scientist, and I am also interested to hear your take on what his job prospects may be like post-peak. I have some marginal agricultural skills - I can handle horses and have some experience with other livestock as well.

So... what do you, the esteemed editors of The Oil Drum recommend? What more should I be doing? Is it foolish for me to stick with a job I love that's not likely to provide me with skills that will be useful post-peak? Should I be thinking about moving somewhere smaller and more rural? Everything I've read said the cities will be, at best undesirable and and at worst extremely dangerous as things start to progress. What skills and careers do you think will be in the most demand?

I know most of these questions cannot be anwered definitively yet, but I am curious about your opinions and thoughts. If there are any sites on the Web that discuss the practical side of peak oil in a non-alarmist, non-crazy way I would love to know about them.

Thanks so much for reading through this long treatise. Please let me know if this would be better direct else where or as a comment on the site. Please keep up the excellent work.

I hear the AlphaMale is looking for a few wifes. ;)
I'm going to respond to this unchivalrous remark in a cynical ploy to get my opinions near the top of the thread.  I believe that peak oil is going to look, at least for the first decade or so, like a series of wars, energy crises, and recessions/depressions, probably punctuated by some reasonably good years, and with Western society essentially intact and functioning more-or-less as it does currently.  In short, the next decade is more of the same (high gas prices, wars in ME, etc) only probably worse.  Things could improve somewhat if we got a mostly rational government in the US.  Beyond a decade or so it's extremely hard to tell what will happen because technological innovation will increasingly come into play in a way that's hard to predict whether it will be sufficient or not.

Thus moving to the country, growing your own food, etc are a waste of time (unless you particularly like living in the country and growing your own food in which case of course you should do them).

Staying out of debt, spending less than you earn, and having a job that will be still needed in an economic downturn are good ideas for difficult times.   If your field is politics, there's a lot you can contribute since our current collective irrational response to our situation is the greatest danger.

Yes, sane PO-aware people in government or advising people in government can hopefully steer us away from the cliff. And Stuart is right about technology being the big unknown.
Psychology is another great unknown.

Our various predictions about mob psychology, modern assumptions and abilities leave even those similar enough to end up at this site in constant disagreement about the expected reactions of individuals, communities and nations as we go into these 'interesting times'..

Hello TODers,

The mood of the country is very depressed.  Perhaps the Paradigm shift is closer than we think.

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

How do we answer a child of seventeen when she asks what kind of future will there be?

Perhaps I would tell her that we will know our families better.  That her father should be listened to and her mother, she should obey.  And to trust her friends and help them as much as possible.  That she should find a passion to believe in.  That she should trust her heart but use her head.  Good instinct tells us which is which and I would counsel her to develop her instincts by learning what is true and what is a lie.  And that a lie will trap her.

I would also tell her to learn the value of silence.  That if you silently listen you can hear the truth and see right action.  Of course I would repeat this daily until she understood.  Her being seventeen I might have to repeat myself often.

I would suggest she attend the best college she could find.  Preferably Berkely or MIT.  Fer u wharf...  Or an apprenticeship on a working farm learning organic vegetable production.

I would suggest above all to find the beauty in simplicity of lifestyle and honor with friends and family.

But I know that first I would have to reflect this lifesyle or she would not ever believe I knew what I was talking about.  

After all.....

We learn from example.

I guess that is up to us.

we're screwed.... our example has created implosion as a distinct possibility.  its up to us to find the best way out of this mess using our intellect, instinct and imagination.  a lot of what we are going to lose we do not need in the first place for a happy life.

simplify, organize and exercize.  the rest will be easy.


For better or for worse, I happen to be 20, in college, and also somewhat obsessive in my consumption of information (loosely focused by the subjects, "energy, society and the environment").

But first, two mistakes I noticed  thus far. First, the comment about the the Alpha Male looking for wives is disgusting, sexist and completely unproductive. Second, the post I'm replying to suggests the author of this letter is a child of 17, when the letter clearly states the young woman is 24. 17 or 24 condescension is rarely appreciated (on the other hand, I recognize the wisdom elders hold, and do my best to listen well).

As for "advice," I'll tell you what I've done in the past year and a half in the hopes that you can avoid doing anything equally stupid.

  1. I read a copious amount of information. If you really really feel the need to try and know everything, and think you'll enjoy it, I won't try and stop you. I am certainly far more educated than if I had let my "energy, society and the environment" education rest at EOS or even The Party's Over, but it can take a toll, and if you think you will actually be able to control the future by attempting to know "everything" you may find yourself disappointed.

  2. I rode my bike (almost) everywhere, started buying locally (and from farmers directly) and organically and tried to reduce extraneous consumption. I feel more alive, generally, and think I'll be better prepared (psychologically) for harder times, whenever they come.

  3. I have a girlfriend, who has probably kept me from going crazy trying to know everything as well as provided some grounding in terms of living life (she's a creative writing/art history major, an excellent juxtaposition).

  4. I've begun some activism related to peak oil (and more importantly global warming) at college and am working with others to do more. It is time consuming, frustrating and slow going, but I enjoy it generally and even when I don't I feel duty-bound enough to keep working.

These rough points would suggest that it is best to live in the moment and not get too caught up in the future. Activism can be draining without some larger context into which it fits in one's life (and even then it is a lot of work). I'm working on developing skills, and am going into Biology. Though I don't grow my own food now, I think I may go into the agricultural sciences. Be that as it may, I think there are plenty of viable career options post peak. Adaptation, the new slogan of the Bush Administration/Climate deniers, is a horrible solution to climate change. However, for peak oil, and especially for those who are privileged (one way or another), it is a fact of life. My demand, baring the worst case scenario of the notorious alpha male (Matt Savinar), is probably unlikely to be destroyed outright, curtailed though it may be.

I'm still a completely confused budding twenty-something. I really like being alive (in all its senses), and feel somewhat compelled to do something for the future generations--although not to the point of sacrificing myself in the process overmuch.

I hope that was of some help, and if you want to continue this conversation I can be reached at david doot huck at oberlin dott edu


Re: First, the comment about the the Alpha Male looking for wives is disgusting, sexist and completely unproductive.

My comment was a joke refering to AlphaMaleProphetOfDoom's previous comments. Sure it was disgusting and sexist, but only unproductive if you didn't get the joke.

I would add another point to your list.

5. Develop a sense of humor, especially dark.

Having a sense of humor, eespecially a dark sense of humor, will probably be even more important then all the others for keeping your sanity if things get especially rough.

Amen to that
 It's what has kept me sane after 30 years of working in hospitals. Unless I'm not sane. Cops, firefighters, medical first responders; we all have it.
 And it helps if you can laugh at yourself once in a while.

Regarding the "disgusting" comment somebody made about me looking for mulitple wives:


If that is my last mistake then I will be ok.

I was talking to my seventeen year old daughter there......

No mistake about that.

I don't know what to tell her.
How much truth can a seventeen year old stand.
I am 55 and am having a hard enough time with it.


How much truth can a seventeen year old stand.

My first guess would be all of it, you are fairly grown up then. It might even be good to have a real problem even if it is a hard problem to get a perspective on the immaterial group status fancies. If he or she is not ready for hard questions and responsibilities he or she will be fairly soon.

But how much of it is not truthfull facts but someones feelings about giving up? Succeding in getting that across could hurt a lot.

Hey, bro :>) How's you? Sell the business yet?
OK, my kid got hers elf into Cal, but now I need to talk her out of being a business major. At least she knows how to kill chickens.


HEY, if she's really good at bidness, and you talk her out of being a bidness major, send me your address so I can come over and kick ya'....

Folks, there is, has always been and will always be bidness....the exact nature of it changes, but bidness of some kind will outlast the cockroaches! :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

The ultimate business is monkey business.

One of my kids is a business major too. Have not been able to talk them out of it. On occasion, I get to peruse through the scholarly textbooks they read. Some of it is total cult stuff straight out of the Adam Smith church catacombs.

It's OK to study business as long as you do not become part of the cult. "From Good to Great" yeah right, that's where the human race is heading. (--that's the title of one of the "business" books on the reading list)

" "From Good to Great" yeah right, that's where the human race is heading."

Still you got to consider the inverse....would anybody buy a bidness
book called "From Bad to Rotten."   :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

They would:

   The Wal-Mart Way

...gee, I wonder if there are a certain kind of stores where that one is prominently displayed? :-)

By the way, I someday really want to discuss WalMart, but it will have to come at the time when I am ready to be shoved out of here for good....it will be controversial.....

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

She's too smart for business. Better than a 4.0 in Science; her easiest class last year was Advanced Placement Calculus. Easy, as in "this is my mick".
doin well.  i have a email sitting on my desktop for the last four days for you.  not really waitin fer an edit but just the rest of the right words.

my peak project is about half through and the businesses being sold are about the middle of the project.  one is a few months from closing (at the most) and then the next phase kicks in.

that one involves the relocation out of this unprepared valley.  there is a good local grass root organization forming but its character is one that has no roots in know how.  

i believe knowhow to be the most basic asset needed so i am moving to an area that has a ton of basic knowhow wrapped in mechanical ability.  farmers.  

they have knowhow.  and get the job done.

so that is where i am goin.  some farming field with mountains around it.  and grow the biggest acorn squash and tomatoes possible without chemicals.

this years garden is kickin butt.

93 tomato plants
450 corn plants
rows of beans and beets

i will tell you about it in the mail.



I'll be waiting. I even check my e-mail once in a while.
That's great advice from Stuart. I would just add, keep in mind that the future is uncertain and unknowable. Never succumb to despair. Chances are nothing will go precisely as anyone here foresees. At least, I have yet to meet someone with an accurate crystal ball. Stuart's advice amounts to being prepared for surprises, and that is always wise.

Also, do not fill your mind with negativity, or it will make you a negative person. Developing personal connections, friends and family, will be far more valuable than obsessing over every fluctuation in oil supply.

...growing your own food, etc are a waste of time...

I agree with all you say but this.  

It takes several growing seasons to set up the space, obtain the skills, and get a sustainable gardening system in place.  The time to start this practice is not when TSHTF, but well in advance.  Beginners underestimate the challenges of soil and water management, composting, seed starting and saving, and weed/critter/bug controls.

And there are additional benefits to growing food: it's fun, it's challenging, it's educational (especially so with children), and it's a step toward personal energy security, which is a worthwhile persuit regardless of PO.  And giving tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers to neighbors is a great way to build relationships and accumulate social capital.

Growing your own food can be a great thing anywhere, not just in the country. It is amazing what you can to with a little compost and sunlight in a small area.  At least that way you know what you are eating, rather than some industrial stuff pushed out in the supermarket.  Like CM said, it's a lot of fun to do with your kids, there are a lot of other ways they could waste their time.
A little more on why I think growing your own food is a waste of time (except as an enjoyable hobby - which it certainly can be).  Firstly, I grew quite a bit of my own food in my twenties, and I knew well people who were devoting themselves to CSA farms.  I read the Nearings etc ad nauseum.  What I figured out is that the amount of money you can save by growing your own food is roughly set by the price of agricultural labor, which is roughly set by the availability of illegal immigrant labor, or the cost of labor growing food in developing countries (plus our egregious tarriffs etc), except reduced by the fact that your small operation will have much poorer economies of scale than a large farm.  That labor rate is extremely low, so for educated westerners you can do vastly better by developing some other set of skills that pay much better and buying food.  Growing your own food on a large scale is very time consuming, is backbreaking, and takes a long time to learn; that time can almost certainly be used for something else more lucrative (and, at least to my taste, more interesting).

Is this going to change post peak?  Well, presumably Mexico is going to get much more stressed due to the decline of its oil fields, and so the pressure of illegal immigration is only going to get greater (and I don't believe we can police a 3000 mile border effectively regardless of what congress does).  So the wages for agricultural labor are not going to improve, and the economic rewards of growing your own food will remain lousy.

The only scenario I can imagine where growing your own food makes sense anytime soon is if we get into a situation as serious as a broad and longlasting mideast war where global oil production is halved and we end up with large scale rationing of food and fuel (a la WWII).  I admit, it no longer seems beyond the stupidity of the current US and Israeli governments to manage to bring this about, but I'm still assessing it as a low probability (the oil markets agree with me since oil hasn't jumped up very much in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon).

But if it does happen, I might start dusting off my John Jeavons again....

While it is true that Americans currently have an overabundance of food now, it seems likely that there will be a substantial decrease in our food supply, despite the availability of cheap agricultural labor.

Fossil fuel inputs are such an important part of American agricultural production that is is hard to imagine that the price of food will not increase dramatically.  

Consider the fact that the high yields of modern day agriculture are dependent on fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides derived from fossil fuel inputs.  Then there is the mechanized farm equipment and the trucks needed to transport the food to market.  Modern irrigation methods are highly dependent on energy inputs.  Add to that the effects of a depletion of fresh water supplies from a growing U.S. population and global warming.

From what I've read, agricultural labor accounts for only 5% to 10% of the cost of produce.  IMO, it is a great misconception by white collar workers that illegal aliens are a force for keeping produce affordable.  If the labor component for produce is 10% of the cost, a $2 head of lettuce includes 20 cents for labor.  Doubling the salary of such a worker, from say $6 an hour to $12 an hours would only increase to cost for the lettuce head to roughly $2.40.  

I honestly don't see that the abundance of our food supply can be anything like its current state.  I readily admit as a medical scientist steeped in the lore of the biological limits of growth that I have a Malthusian bent.  Nonetheless, this question of agricultural limitations should be subject to same level of detailed mathematical analyses that are regular fare on this blog for oil production.

Please excuse my error, I meant to say a doubling of salary would put the final cost at $2.20.  A cost of $2.40 would reflect a tripling of wages, equivalent to $18 an hour in the example given.
I have a small organic garden at high altitude and a green house. I am gradually increasing the  fertility and utility of the soil each year. I compost all uncooked vegetable trimmings and waste. I have great fun  growing and eating kale, tomatoes, snow peas, bush beans, edamame, various lettuces, strawberries, arugula, and on and on.  I have no attention of becoming self sufficient but gardening plus belonging to a CSA makes me healthier and is much better for the planet as far as energy conumption goes that buying all my food at the typical supermarket, whether it be organic or not.

I have no illusions about becoming self sufficient but it is clear that we would all be better off if everyone at least did some organic gardening and composting. And who knows, this might assuage some of the pain when peak oil really hits the fan.

The amount of labor to do all my gardening is extremely minimal, in part because of the lack of weeding required where I live.  Losses from insects have been extremely minimal.  I "share" the garden with a few ground squirrels who also do rather minimal damage.  If I were a carnivore, I guess I could eat them.  Unfortunately, some of their lives have been terminated by my cat even though she is fenced in.  


If the decline rate is 4%, that halves production in 17.5 years or so.

On top of the usual decline rate, I think it reasonable to expect further/additional disruptions due to war/terrorism and weather. (More Katrina-type events)

So that bumps it up to 6% let's say, halving the supply in 11.5 years.

If the decline rate is 8% (as some have speculated) plus anohter 2-3% due to terrorism/war and weather plus then we're looking at a 50% cut in 7 years.

Having talked to farmers and gardners, 7 years is not very long considering how much you have to learn.

So how can you say growing one's food is a waste of time unless we get a 50% cut when a 50% inside of 7-10 years is somewhere between possible and probable?

Don't get me wrong: what you said about growing ones food is all true. About a year ago I went out and purchased all the things I need to grow a couple of pumpkins here on the concrete slab in front of apartment which is located on a busy street. Then I realized I was fooling myself the two pumpkins I might be able to grow would A) not make a dent in my consumption and B) likely be stolen by the local thugs.  I ascertained would be better off working to make money to move to an area better suited for sustainability.

But, quite frankly, I was stunned to see you characertize it as a "waste of time" particulary given that we very well could be looking at a 50% cut within a relatively short period of time.

war and weather interruptions do not affect supply. I think they actually have the opposite effect on depletion
Instances of drought across the U.S. are ALREADY affecting supply.  Just how much longer will large underground aquifers like Ogalalla hold out?  Deffeyes makes a good point that these types of aquifers are much like oil itself - they represent the collection of a precious substance which takes millions of years to form yet we consume it in a geological flash.

If by war having the opposite effect on depletion you mean demand destruction via population reduction from war-related fatalities then that seems like a strange way to view the consequences of war.  By that logic we should be rooting for pestilence too.

I'm sorry, I said supply in response to Matt's otherwise excellent post. I should have said reserves which is usually a given around here when depletion is mentioned.
and no I didn't mean demand destruction and population reduction due to war. I simply tried to state the obvious. if there is war in the middle east, less oil will be pumped, less oil pumped, more in the ground, simple. as far as rooting for pestilence, a cheap shot, I'm borderline pacifist. neopacifist? antiwar!
thou shalt not kill for oil
Hmmm, I suspect I'll live to see the day, you gold hoarders will want my zucchini, and I won't want your gold.
Stuart. Growing your own food isn't about labor value. To frame it that way is to miss the point. It's like Ghandi's spinning, it's a philosophy, a way of examining life.

You could apply the same market valuation to formal education.

Of what use is this or that degree? Someone from India can/will pursue this research or knowledge more cheaply. Does that make the quest of less value to you? It shouldn't.

The Amish have an interesting belief about tools. It goes to the effect that a tool has two ends. The business end changes the task. The other changes the user. More broadly, the relationship to task is what builds community... the relationship to tool builds ego.

An immigrant will work your field more cheaply. But not an Amish-man's. How does that build your community? That is the real question. The money is going to be either inflated or deflated back to paper when TSHTF.

I'm glad to see you discouraging home gardening, for that means many of the prestigious, pretentious folks that grace the Oil Drum forums will be starving in the near future.

Keep your hands off my cabbages.


Most food production in the US revolves around a highly mechanized system almost completely reliant on cheap fossil fuel. While it is true that people paid virtually slave wages are charged with the harvesting of many fruits and vegetables, the vast majority of our protein and carbohydrates, i.e. most of our calories, come from wheat, corn, various livestock and fishstocks all of which are not at the mercy of immigrant labor, but which are all fossil fuel dependent.

While you may think that you will somehow magically be able to skip participation in the farm economy or somehow do without food, I kind of think that your special status as a special person will not pay off in special consideration of your special caloric needs.

By all means, ignore the actual physical structure of our farm economy and the clearly evident resulting dearth of calories should oil supply be compromised. I am sure that everyone in Chicago will be perfectly willing to share some of their food with you, even as you heap disdain upon them.

I propose to buy food using money, in the customary manner. If money stops working, things will be at a point were your organic garden is not likely to do you much good either.
Support family farms.  Find a local farmers market and shop there.

The alternative is to support and subscribe to the system Cherenkov accurately describes: pure, blind American consumerism.  But your choices are yours.

In WW2 the Victory Garden scored big.

Why not a "Peak Garden"?

I can think of hundreds of reasons why to grow a garden.

and no reason not to.

The point of the Victory Garden that Stuart seems to be missing is that although it did not meet all our food needs it did make a serious difference to both the amount and variety of food we could eat.

It is not as black and white as grow all or none.  Grow some.
Learning the skills on a small plot now could do you a great favor further down the line.

If it comes as a hobby, and perhaps displaces other, more wasteful and less useful hobbies, then I am all for it. If it interferes with your conventional productivity, however, I'm opposed. The reason is that division of labour is and will always be a better solution as long as we live in communities.

Even in families there is division of labour. A sustenance farmer wouldn't set his granny to plow the field, or his 15-year old son to knitting, unless he absolutely had to. It would be a collosal waste if he did.

Comparative advantage is about everyone doing what we are good at. As well-educated westerners, that is not gardening, sorry.  If we worry about peak oil we should much rather spend our efforts designing windmills, constructing efficient buildings, or researching alternative fuels and migitating technologies, depending on our skills and interests.

(And take the Oil Drum editors. They may not know how to do any of these things, but they have spent a lot of time evaluating these options critically, and with skill. What they really do is give us investement advice - all our investements, not just monetary ones.)

Sustainable gardening is hard work, too, and it's a specialisation that we must respect. Those who grew up on a subsistence farm (like my neighbour) can do a far better job than me of finding out what the pitfalls are - so that I won't have to find out the hard way.

Oil will disappear, but not in a day. If I see my specialised skills becoming worthless ... the later I must  switch to permaculture farming, the better, for both me and the world.

My horseback opinion is that gardening helps many people to lead much longer and happier and more productive lives than they otherwise would. The doctors gave up on one of my friends when she was only about fifty years old and going through extensive treatments for lymphoma. Rather than the six miserable months the doctors predicted for her to live, she had sixteen more good and productive years, though at the end she could only crawl around in her garden. Another woman I know lead a remarkably active life to age ninety, when the doctors flatly forbade her to work in the garden (for fear of a fall). Forbidden her garden, she shrivelled up and died in a matter of weeks.

Now if you hate gardening, that is another matter altogether. Then I'd suggest trapping, hunting, fishing, and perhaps the raising of small livestock. Personally, I enjoy making ale and beer and am now learning to make sausage.

My rule, now that I'm retired is:

If it isn't fun, why do it?

Plus it can be much healthier for you if done with only reasonable care. To borrow an aphorism about burning firewood, garden veggies give you two spurts of good health, the exercise in the physical labor and eating much healthier food (read 'The Omnivores Dilemma')
Absolutely right, ET.  There is great satisfaction in growing your own food, plus you can grow exactly what you like, grow veg and varieties that you never see in shops, and it tastes so much fresher and better straight from your own organic garden than the force-fed stuff that's been trucked hundreds or thousands of miles.  But as mentioned above, to be really successful takes a few years practice - getting used to your own plots climate, soil, pests, etc.  Getting into the rhythm of sowing at the right time, harvesting, composting, etc.  Start now as a hobby, but keep track of what works and what doesn't, as the success of what you do may be much more important in a few year's time.  Plus giving away fresh veg is a great way to make friends in the local community - get favours from an engineer, a DIY expert, electrician, etc.!
Yes, reminds me of a neighbor couple, newly retired who just got back from Italy and went on and on about the wonderful food they ate.  When they described it, it sounded like what we've been eating for years, right across the street from them, because we garden using fresh ingredients!
Stuart's most likely right in that life in the West will continue much as before, but with higher costs, lower returns, more hassles, and fewer freedoms.  So in that context, learning to grow your own food with an eye towards self-suffciency isn't worth the effort.

However, being able to grow some of your own food could, in this scenario, be the difference between eating well and living off of beans-and-rice.  It wasn't that long ago that the household yard was a garden space, not a show-off-to-the-neighbors-how-rich-I-am space.  Lots of people grew small household gardens during World War II, for example.

Come to that, I wonder if domestic conditions during WWII might be a reasonable model for what to expect under the "moderately bad" PO future that Stuart describes.  It seems, at least superficially, like it would be similar: basic necessities can be had, but they're costly; luxuries are in short supply; oil is particularly precious; freedoms are constrained in the name of the greater good.  The big departure is that, during the war, there were lots of jobs and not enough people.  During post PO depression, it's likely to be the opposite.


I absolutely ascribe to this. If a doomer scenario occurs (due to PO), then WWII Victory gardens will become obsequious. I was reading a Drepression Era piece that told people to stop looking for a job for 8 hours and instead spend 4 hours looking, and 4 hours gardening to feed the family. In fact, remember the door-to-door seed sales advertisements in magazines where every kid could sell seeds?
Do you mean "ubiquitous?"
I'm with Stuart.  I HATE gardening.  I would much rather be doing most anything else other than gardening.  I would much rather be the local militia, local judge, local patrol officer killing the thieves, local mechanic, or local blacksmith, than to garden or farm.

Therefore, I have an orchard instead.  There is no way that I'm going to be completely self-sufficient, no matter where I live.  So, I specialized in low-maintenance fruit.  Apple trees, plum trees, asian pear trees, a quince tree, some grapes, some tayberries, some raspberries, some strawberries, some currants, and some very happy blueberries that I planted in the part of my lawn that was green year round without any water.  All it takes is water, a few hours/year of pruning and weeding, and I've got trade goods.  People love asian pears!

This is an essentially sound approach for a really horrible PO scenario (although it's not a policeman's job to kill people, mind you!). At some level, specialisation is needed, as long as you're not completely alone in the world. The question is should we specialise on a family level, a village level, a nation level or on a world level?

The answer depends on the severity of PO, but you would have to believe in truly apocalyptic scenarios for the lower levels to be worth it. And even then, if things are already that bad, low-level specialisation won't make much of a difference anyway.

I believe that even in a severely bad PO scenario, we should aim for the highest levels of specialisation that we dare. There are huge efficiency gains to be had, and they are not to be dismissed lightly. If information continues to flow across borders, and even (dare we hope for fairer immigration laws than today?) people, then the education and knowledge we rich people have should be highly prized and used as the gift it is.

When I talk about "gardening", I'm really speaking in the most general sense of growing food for my own (and neighbors') use, non-commercially.

What you are describing is, in my book, gardening.  In fact, it's the best form of gardening: perenial gardening.  The most substantial and effective form of permaculture gardening is the food forest, a "garden" based on trees and other perenial crops, with annual crops interplanted in a polyculture.

I am personally focusing more on traditional annual garden crops, but that's only because, as a renter, it doesn't make sense for me to plant a garden that will take 5-10 years to bear.

In an ideal situation, I would own land where I could start making this investment in the future right now, in hopes that I would be in grave danger of falling food by the time PO hits.  But I have chosen to continue to develop my professional skills as a green buildling/renewable energy engineer, which means I have to live where the jobs are, which means I can't afford to buy.  So my current path is a best compromise.

I'd say Stuart is pretty much right on target, as usual.  The only thing I'd disagree about is the growing food bit.  I think everyone should tend a small garden if they have any ground to do it.  I've found that Chicago has some really great soil under all the buildings and pavement.  Since she's in an apartment (she didn't call it a flat), I'll assume she doesn't even have room to grow a radish.  Try herb gardening in a window box.  The important thing is to get the hang of growing plants from seed.  It's a good exercise in patience and consistency, and a valuable skill.

Beyond that - You live in Chicago!!  You can't do much better than that to prepare for an expensive oil future.  Chicago has always struck me as the anti-Detroit.  While Detroit went all-out for the automobile, Chicago never thought that was quite right, and has always held onto its rail past.  Chicago is a town that truly believes in rail, electric rail, transit, bicycles, and walking.  Chicago is also on both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi river, is the rail hub for the midwest, and is surrounded by the midwest farm belt.  The only thing to worry about in Chicago is crime, which will probably pick up everywhere.  Whatever you do, unless you really want to live in the country, stay in Chicago, preferably within biking distance to work and on a CTA line if possible.

Heading your way for our annual pilgrimmage to the Air show next month.  From Ann Arbor, a really nice town that sucks in comparison to Chicago.  Taking our car with bikes on top this time, since our kids are now big enough for us all to bike to the airshow :-), and Amtrak doesn't let us take our bikes :-(

You're right about Chicago being the anti-Detroit.  I grew up in Detroit (actually IN the city) and it's like night and day being in Chicago now. I literally had never taken public transportation (other than the PeopleMover for a laugh) until I moved out of Detroit.  In Detroit the bus is for poor people and most middle class folks wouldn't be caught dead taking it.  There have been some rumblings about adding light rail lately.  Hopefully they go somewhere.  I also agree with what you said about Ann Arbor - I went to school there and while it's a lovely town in some ways, it's in a totally different league from Chicago.  
Amtrak will allow you to take bikes, at least the "City of New Orleans" that runs through Champaign, IL will.  It costs an extra few dollars (~$10) per person, but well worth it.  We took the train one-way to Carbondale on a tour from the Shawnee Nat'l Forest in S IL, to the Mississippi River valley, through St Louis, and back across the plains.  Best $35 I ever spent.


Ohh, I know that in some places Amtrak will let you take your bike. Unfortunately, the line I'm on, Detroit-Chicago, doesn't.  Hmm.  Why would that be?

I figure it will take a few more years and they'll add a baggage car on this route and let people take their bikes.  OTOH, knowing Michigan, people will stop taking the train altogether to save money to buy gas.  

Thus moving to the country, growing your own food, etc are a waste of time (unless you particularly like living in the country and growing your own food in which case of course you should do them).
Like one or two others, I disagree with this, if the implication is that trying to become more self-sufficient is a waste of time. The more self-sufficient one is, the more able one will be to adjust to, eventually, an entirely different society that doesn't have increasing amounts of energy to allow us to do whatever we fancy. Total self-sufficiency, in a sustainable manner, is the ideal target. This is probably unattainable and undesirable, as an individual. But, as a community, it seems the only long term way to go. Consequently, moving to a more rural area, with a lower population quantity and density, and learning more basic skills, is definitely a good thing. This does not mean moving to an isolated farm, miles from anyone.

There may well be a lot of ups and downs, allowing society to muddle along, with much hardship, for a while, but ultimately a complete change is coming. Even during that bumpy initial period, greater self-sufficiency will ease your hardships.

If you haven't got much in the way of assets, get together with others (family and friends, if possible) to try and get something going.

The other things mentioned by Stuart are good.


W.T.F... "Growing your own food is a waste of time"

As the price of oil increases so to must the price of food. Oil has almost quadrupled in price after a lag, so too will your food bill and we aint seen nothing yet in the way of high oil prices.

It takes a while to learn how to grow fruit and veg "years" what works and what doesent. Learn the skill now while it doesent matter...

Move out of the city. In fact i would advise you to leave the states. I think its population is going to cope the worst with the changes that lie ahead.

What i have done is buy a farm and set it up so it requires minimum inputs. Infact with no externl inputs it could easy support a few hundred people. Wouldent be much fun but..

There is a real shortage of farm hands I cannot find anyone who wants to work for a couple of days a week. If you move to a small comunity you probably have time to become a "local" before the TSHTF.

One last thing have fun now if you get hit by a bus tomorrow Peak oil wont affected you at all. Plan for the future but live for today.

Dont worry be happy.........


trader - what stae/country do you reside?
Southwestern Victoria OZ.
Is there good water there, without needing energy to pump it? Im thinking about visiting NZ and OZ to check it out - Ive never been.
Ground water is between 30 and 60 feet I have 2 windmills which pump it for me, Perfect for stock and a massive vegi garden.

If you are coming over to OZ look me up We have a great wine region about 20 miles away:)

This blind faith in a linear correlation between oil price increases and price increase of other products containing or using oil products needs to be analyzed- IMO it is a religious belief that has very little to do with reality. When oil was $10 the local Japanese restaurant was charging me $30 for a large meal delivered. Now that oil is $75 they are still charging me the same $30. Many items have actually gone down in price over the last eight years. You can buy a colour TV for less than the price of filling up an SUV. Yes inflation will rise, but the main impact will be felt at the pump and in heating/cooling your house. Food is currently really really cheap. A generation or two ago people didn't live on fast food. Go buy large bags of rice, pasta, potatoes and whole chickens from the grocery store and you can practically eat for free.
My farm is low input,high rainfall grazing it is still spooky how much fuel It uses..

Further north in the cropping regions they are saying its not worth planting because the price is to low and input costs are to high.

My old man is a Uni Professor at an Ag college he agrees with oil=food.

Assuming your food wont increase in price in line with oil price is akin to stepping of a cliff with your pockets stuffed with cash and anouncing that the invisable hand of economics will save you.....

One more thing do you know what the current global wheat stocks are????? go figure...

But food prices aren't increasing in line with oil prices, that's exactly the grandparent post's point. Can anyone explain to me why, if the "eating hydrocarbons" idea is correct?

I don't mean this as an insult or anything, I just want to know.

But food prices aren't increasing in line with oil prices,

You are assuming some sort of Adam Smith free market world.

This is not the case.

I ask for explanations, not ideology... Why aren't the costs passed on? If oil is the most imortant input in food production, why haven't food priced tripled? Who's paying the bill?
because, if prices were high enough, Brazil could raze a hell of a lot of rainforest to plant more soybeans, etc. Also, the grain bears think we will continue to see genetic improvements in crop yields the way we have last 30 years. But my biology professor (sorry I dont have link) told me we are approaching the theoretical yield in many cases on these grain crops.

The other side to the 'eating hydrocrabons' trade is that anyone who is bearish on grain prices and is also told by Daniel Yergin and crew think oil is going back down below $50 certainly will not be loading the boat long on wheat and beans.

It will all happen in unison

I still don't understand. An increase in oil price will increase the cost of producing a soybean by a marginal amount. Not very many assumptions are necessary to agree with that, surely? And the price of oil has increased a lot.

Now agriculture is not all that lucrative, farmers have to pass on the increased prices of diesel and fertilizer somehow. Perhaps some intermediary takes the hit? But it would have to be a pretty large hit, what kind of intermediary would be able and willing to take that to protect consumers?

Electronics, and maybe cars are about the only things that have dropped in price. You're right when you say it needs to be analyzed. The high prices have not yet lasted long enough to eat up all financial reserves. People are maxing out their debts to cope with the extra costs which they think are temporary.

But if rising oil prices don't put pressure on the rest of the economy, tell me where the rising profits of the oil majors come from?

Yes, rising oil prices increase inflation and put pressure on the economy. I was just reacting to the many posts which say basically that when oil is at $300 food prices will quadruple from here.  
Stuart those are good ideas for ANY times. That's what I like about Peak Oil, if I have to believe in a doomsday cult, at least it's one that's good for me! Getting out of debt, simplifying my life, getting exercise, gaining useful skills, are all good things even if the times are booming. The lack of debt makes your finances rocket-powered, simplifying is good for mental health, getting excercise is good for enjoying the good times, and as for useful skills, knowing you're doing something useful to humans helps one deal with that black hole of existential dispair inside....

Let me sure I'm clear here before I comment further. In your opinion:

  1. growing your own food = waste of time

  2. getting involved in politics = productive use of time
growing your own food, etc are a waste of time

Let me reply to this also a bit.

It's true that there is no real chance that all people will grow their own food and it is also not necessary IMHO. There will always be enough diesel for tractors.

But growing your own food has one very important aspect: It gets you closer to the earth. You know, the basics, the the ground we walk on and the air we breath. It may sound a bit hippie like, but there is a whole different thing happening in your mind if you check every day on your tomatoes.

I fully agree that growing all your food makes little sense right now. Food is still quite cheap and growing food on larger scale is hard work. The time is better spent on working on various skills. I think it's a very good idea to grow some food on your own and you'll have some experience if or when you really start needing to grow it yourself.

It may not be much but growing some of your food also reduces the reliance on trucking slightly. One million people growing a miniscule amount of say 1kg of food already reduces the need to transport food by 1000 tonnes. Maybe the energy will not be saved as it is often said that somebody else will use it, but that energy will be used somewhere where less crucial. The less the VITAL parts of the economic machinery depend on cheap (or any) energy the better. That's my opinion anyway.

So perhaps it growing your own food won't really have an impact on your budget either way, but growing some food could be seen as a safety belt or an air bag maybe. One using such devices don't mean much but nationally I'd wager quite a few lives are saved.

"Beyond a decade or so it's extremely hard to tell what will happen because technological innovation will increasingly come into play in a way that's hard to predict whether it will be sufficient or not."

Hear, hear.

"No scientific predictor - whether a human scientist or a calculating machine - can possibly predict, by scientific methods, its own future results" -- Karl Popper

do you believe stuart owes us a graph to back up these food claims?
stuart I love you man, but 10 calories in for 1 calorie out? ( numbers disputable) somethings gotta give. and my guess it's the relocalization of food
The more graphs the better! I've heard the 10 cal in for 1 out statement before but I haven't seen an indepth reason of where that number comes from. I'm sure it includes, fossil fuel fertilizers, diesel for the tractors and trucks, etc.
fear nothing
lead by example
follow your heart
the caterpillar knows nothing of the butterfly
Continuing the homilies --  truisms are not irrelevant just because they are true!

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.


Amen to that!


The mountain and the squirrel

Had a quarrel,

And the former called the latter

"Little prig."

Bun replied,

"You are doubtless very big;

But all sorts of things and weather

Must be taken in together

To make up a year

And a sphere.

And I think it no disgrace

To occupy my place.

If I'm not so large as you,

You are not so small as I,

And not half so spry:

I'll not deny you make

A very pretty squirrel track.

Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;

If I cannot carry forests on my back,

Neither can you crack a nut."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


there's nothing quite like poetry from a Transcendentalist, now is there?
"the caterpillar knows nothing of the butterfly"

...nor the spider ;-)

I tend to recommend doing the opposite of what the current system promotes:

1.  Ruralize instead of urbanize

A small town in a rural setting might be best, not necessarily an out of the way homestead.

2.  Localize instead of globalize

Don't think about how your vocation serves the global market, but how it can serve your neighbors.

3.  Generalize instead of specialize

Be a "jack of all trades" type.

4.  Socialize instead of individualize

Get out into the community and meet people around you instead of staying in your cocoon, downloading personalized entertainment and associating with people just like yourself.

5.  Think quality of life rather than quantity

Don't buy into the hyperconsumption model, shed stuff, be happy with less. Get your thrills in life without the use of fossil fuels.  Enjoy a good book, good conversation, a ripe tomato and the stars on a warm summer night, etc.

Also, keep an eye out for climate change.  Some places may be overwhelmed by sea level rise and drought.  

I agree with all except the first one. I think small town rural areas and big dense walkable urban areas will both do better than the Suburbs, which are what you want to avoid. Basically try to take the automobile as much out of the equation as possible.

Otherwise, nice concise summary Jason!

I second what Jason has concisely summarized. The current neo-classical world primarily measures wealth by money, or financial capital. Through media and cultural persuasion we are taught that that is the ultimate objective and that money can buy almost anything. I would resist this (hard to do ) temptation and buttress the other types of capital that are important to a live well lived. Social capital (boyfriend, friends, family, network), natural capital (productive ecosystems, water, biomass, etc) human captital (knowledge in many post-peak areas such as gardening, repair, alt energy knowledge, etc) and built capital (windmills, solar, hybrid cars, etc).

No one knows who severe or soon the future will change - could be smooth could be bumpy could be calamitous - to diversify your own capital beyond financial probably makes you better off in all scenarios except the business as usual one.

One more thing: wealth is assets/desires --we can become more wealthy (or fit) by increasing our assets or by reducing desires. Try and gradually get your daily happiness by doing things requiring less energy, and youll be ahead of the game. Instead of crashing from an 8 to a 2 on a 1-10 scale overnight, you have time (hopefully) to gradually reduce 8,7.8,7.5....etc. Do you really need starbucks every day? can you bike to work 3 times a week? gradually change your habits to represent a high HRoEI (Happiness returned on Energy Invested)

Here's my three step plan, order depending on which area the person is lacking in:

  1. Make money
  2. Make friends
  3. Get your fat ass into shape

Beyond that, all bets are off although the following might be useful:

  1. A skill (including food growing if that's what you like)
  2. A business or job likely to last the initial shocks

Other than that just get ready to roll with the punches. Things could get absoutley nightmarish in a short period of time but guess what? If an EMP bomb goes off and takes down the entire grid tonight at 8:00 pm and tomorrow at 6:00 am you look out your window to see Mad Max syphoning gas out of your car and the 4 horseman of the apocalypse personally camping out on your front lawn, you know what? There ain't a damn thing you can do to prepare for that other than be in shape and have friends.
Oh and maybe some silver rounds and a shotgun or two also. The horses will crap all over your yard so that might make for some good fertilzer if you know how to handle it.
some silver rounds and a shotgun or two ... You mean there's gonna be werewolves? :=)
Silver makes excellent bullets, as does copper. In my younger days, when the Lone Ranger was my chief Hero, I cast silver bullets and found them 100% effective against werewolves.

Lead, on the other hand, is nasty stuff, and you should be careful to wash your hands thoroughly after messing around with lead.

Nevertheless, I am fond of lead (mainly because you can melt it over a candle), but for a really nice armor-piercing twelve-guage rifle slug, try copper.

Remember that the "current system" is basically a result of people doing what they think is best, individually, but certainly not without cooperation.

Take the recent dicussions here on fractional reserve banking. It may be a good or a bad system, but it's entirely a voluntary system. It wouldn't be all that much trouble for any individual to switch to another form of currency, for example one backed by gold, or even gold itself.

There's nothing wrong with the "current system" in my opinion. The trouble is with us - compare the last chapter of Jared Diamond's "Collapse", if you have it.

Re: "Is it foolish for me to stick with a job I love that's not likely to provide me with skills that will be useful post-peak?"

I say keep the job as long as it's profitable. Learn the post-peak skills in your spare time.

I like westexas ELP formula - Economize, Localize, Produce.

As for jobs, move toward positions that are production positions, creating goods or services that are necessary and not discretionary.

Think of it this way - there are three broad patterns that can occur.

  1. Things remain mostly the same and no catastrophe occurs. If you follow ELP, then you are contributing to your local economy and saving money for your future.

  2. Things turn downwards but society holds together. If you follow ELP, you are still helping your local community and in a producing position you are more likely to be employed than not. Remember that even during the Great Depression that roughly 75% of all people still had jobs. It was the 25% who didn't who suffered the most.

  3. Things collapse entirely. If this occurs, ELP is still your friend because you've established yourself in the local community and you will need that local community in order to survive. And if this occurs, then most modern professions will be largely worthless anyway.

In terms of professions, in two out of three of these broad scenarios almost every modern producing profession will continue to have value. Computer programmers will be needed, for instance.

As for these broad scenarios, I am not going to say one of these is more likely than another but if you thought they were all equally possible, then in at least 2 out of 3 of these can utilize a modern profession.

As for moving to a rural location, I think that depends wholly on the urban community around you. There are urban communities I know of that will band together as fiercely as any rural one. For example, during one of the Washington, DC riots of the 1960s, a rioting mass moved northeast towards the Maryland state line and an urban community of people living there. They pulled out hunting rifles and shotguns and literally formed a picket line in the street. As the rioting crowd got close enough to see these people (blacks and whites both in that picket line), the rioters turned and proceeded in a different direction looking for easier targets.

This is why ELP is so powerful. You become a member of the local community. You are recognized. People will want to help you because you are then part of the local "tribe" (and the expect the same from you). During the collapse of the Roman empire some cities were bad places and some were not. Some rural towns were bad places and some were not. The worst thing you can do though is become a hermit alone somewhere. Whatever you choose to do, do it with other people. That is what sort of animals we are - social ones - and even in collapse, we will continue being social. Build upon that, because even without oil, humans will continue being social creatures.

I've always told people to be where they want to be, as travel will become increasingly difficult. Make sure you have an oil-proof income (either your job or retirement funds), but still be prepared to get by with less. Get out of debt (always a good idea) and most importantly: Keep your bike tires pumped.
You are already following two of my three recommendations for ELP (Economize; Localize; Produce).  The missing part--look into becoming or working for, a producer of essential goods and services--is harder.

Two things occur to me.  

First, you might consider looking into becoming a petroleum/energy landman.  In the Barnett Shale play, they are currently making about $500 per day, and working seven days per week.   You can take some private land courses.  After that, the best approach would be probably to apprentice yourself to a current landman.  

Second, you might look into organizing some local farmers into a local coops, where they sell directly to consumers--with you taking a cut for organizing the deal, and perhaps delivering the food.  I assume that there are already some farmers doing this, but I suspect that the demand is not being met.

First, you might consider looking into becoming a petroleum/energy landman. In the Barnett Shale play, they are currently making about $500 per day, and working seven days per week. You can take some private land courses.
Do you have any recommendations on which courses to buy? A quick google popped up more than a couple of them out there.
Re:  Landmen

To give you some idea of the demographics, my "younger" landman is 63, and my "older" landman is 80.  (No one is "old" in the oil patch any more).

You might check the AAPL website (American Association of Petroleum Landmen).  

Other suggestions for energy related jobs:  the HR/PR departments of energy related companies.  

The key point is to position yourself on the non-discretionary side of the ledger.  I would not advise buying a motel in Orlando.

To give you some idea of the demographics, my "younger" landman is 63, and my "older" landman is 80.  (No one is "old" in the oil patch any more).

Sounds like it would be more accurate to say that no one is young in the oil patch any more...

I'm a landman, and its rewarding and a whole lot of fun. Plus, if the demand is there you can continue working as long as you like. I've known a couple of old guys who had 60 year plus careers.
   The University of Texas, Oklahoma, University of Houston and a number of other schools offer Petroleum Land Management degrees. I was taught by my father who was an Oil and Gas title attorney. Lots of landmen have a legal education.
   There was a 25 year period when very few people went in to any oil career, but there are quite a few beginning now. I'm working with a couple of very smart and capable kids in their 20's, and I'm thrilled to see them. Its great to see new energy in the energy business.
  Petroleum engineering and geology/geophysics are other great possibilities, or getting a job with a logging/wireline company or core analyses. Most people in the oil patch are smart, fun to be around and positive happy people.
  But go ahead and learn to garden too. There is a spiritual connection with our own humanity in knowing about the sweat of turning the earth or the blood and shit of butchering your kill.
Important things - family, friends, community (any and all).  If TSHTF you will appreciate the ties, if not, you will still appreciate the ties.  

Two differences with Y2K and PO is that Y2K, no matter how bad you thought it might be was basically a transient event that was recoverable from.  The other difference is that for Y2K the major systems of society all evaluated their risks and took extensive mitigation steps. I'm talking about banking, food production, education, utilities, governments etc.  One more difference is that Y2K had a date certain to occur, that i think probably allowed people to think more directly about what needed to be done by when.    

Y2K was not a problem because of the effort that went into solving it before it happened. Lots of people working flat out in advance.

Yes it was a transient problem, but because it was easily visible and a potential threat, it was easy to psychologically mobilise the population to respond in time.

Trouble is, since nothing happened it is now regarded as a non-problem. Typical behaviour I think.

PO is not seen in that same light. And it is not that same kind of readily identifiable problem. We are seeing the symptoms of PO in incremental ways and there is no identifiable date or deadline to work against.

If say, the POTUS went on TV and said that After say July 4th 2010, we will all see a lot less oil each day thereafter, the people have a date to work against.

The MSM frenzy would then kick in. But there would be panic...

Put it this way, if your boss demands a report by Monday, it gets done. If your boss says whenever then it may never even get done.

I hate it when Y2K and PO are compared (and usually by people in PO denial). One was a bug fix, the other is inexorable decline of an irreplaceble resource! One is technology for better living, the other is energy for supporting civilisation.

"I hate it when Y2K and PO are compared (and usually by people in PO denial). One was a bug fix, the other is inexorable decline of an irreplaceble resource! One is technology for better living, the other is energy for supporting civilisation. "

Yep, the events/situation is completely different.  Bug fix, exactly. We took the time and spent the money to fix the bug.  

I think the most damaging comparrison (because it is true to some extent) is that there was a cottage industry of doom-sayers for Y2K, just as there is now.  Problem is, most just look at that and don't do their research.  I read a few books on Y2K and realized that many of the catastrophes predicted were silly.   I remember one predicted empty grocery shelves because produce that came in would be bar-scanned and judged to be past expiration date and not accepted.  Duh, I think we could work around that kind of bug.    

no one knows what direction PO will take..you have a job you like and a settled situation . unless you are looking for change , i wouldn't at present. things could take 5-15 years to play out, so why disrupt what you like in the expectation that life will change drastically soon. that doesn't mean you couldn't take steps to improve your skill sets in things that will probably be useful, like gardening, handyman repair,etc.i've found that it takes a lifetime to "learn" gardening, you'll always get better with practice. there's lots of books that can help,so it's not a bad idea to build up a library of those kind of subjects. consider what you might do under different situations,so that you have a plan in place if things get worse or just different.talk it over with like minded friends.be flexible.
Dear 24-year old Woman

Personally, I think that there are two important things that will matter: Social Capital and Financial/Tangible Asset Capital

Social Capital can loosely be defined as having good relationships with many people that live near you, whether that be a church, a family, a close group of friends, neighborhood association, sports team, whatever. It will be good to be on good relations with both a tight-knit group that would be willing to move heaven and earth for you and you the same for them (that's bonding social capital), as well as a wide network of acquiantances that might be useful to reach out for advice, skills development and to supplement things that your tight-knit group simply don have to offer (That's bridging social capital). I joined my local church, got involved in local government and started my own local environmental organization

Financially you should try to minimize expenses and maximize saving. In the short term, keeping your assets liquid is probably the best strategy (not locking them up in something you can't sell within 24 hours. However, be prepared when the time comes to put your savings into tangible durable assets like land, gold, etc. Westexas has a simply formula that I agree with. Be prepared to live at 50% of your current income and assume that prices will increase by 50% - basically assume that you are only 1/4 as affluent as you currently are. For most of us that means never or very rarely going out to eat or drink, making clothes last a long time, staying closer to home for vacations, getting rid of cable TV, having less kids...etc. Obviously try to use as little fossil fuels as possible. I like Steven Leeb's books on the subject of how to financially prepare for Peak Oil.

As for skill development, I'm way behind on learning more about bike repair, roof gardening and composting (three goals I originally set for this year). I feel there will be a steep learning curve as things change and we will find out then what is most important and learn quickly. Stay adaptable. Government may not be a bad place to be IMHO. Computer stuff may also be very important as we turn to technology to elminate the need to travel somewhere or entertain us.

And these are all things that we should be doing anyway - Make lots of friends, stay close to your friends and family, Stay humble in your material desires, learn new skills...stay adaptable.


basically assume that you are only 1/4 as affluent as you currently are.

Can I also assume that the NYC housing market will collapse at least as much? Because as my lifestyle goes, I would be able to give up my worldly pleasures (that's where the mental preparation comes in), but I certainly wouldn't be able to afford my rent!

Otherwise, I agree with your earlier statement that walkable cities will be better than long-distance suburbs, provided there are still some transportation routes into the cities. Though, in Little House on the Prairie they made do with their horses and carts, so if you were rural but there were a town center where you could get everything, that would probably be OK too. So I guess it's a matter of whether 1000 people ride in to where the food and supplies are, or whether the food comes to you. Either option is probably still viable.

Remember, there was fairly long distance trade even in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries. There were cities, too, so I don't think we should expect cities to disappear forever. Megacities will probably have to contract, but then, some people think that all communities will have to contract in size anyway.

I would consider that in Manhattan people will be living in more crowded conditions. So imagine 2 people sharing a Studio or two couples sharing a 2 Bedroom...etc.
what glenn said: friends, money, exercise, and (of course) shot gun shells and silver rounds.
A couple of thoughts.

Work on useful hobbies between political campaigns. (I suspect that you are good at networking and are developing contacts).

Gardening surely is an excellent one !

Predicting, and timing, the future post-Peak Oil is like "wrestling with jello".  Wait and keep your options open for now.  There is no "next week, next month" rush to do much of anything.

My personal advice is to NOT live in fear.  I live in a disaster zone, with a multitude of issues daily around me.  But I am happy & fulfilled.  Post Peak you can be too.

Take action for the social good and not just for #1.

I have been sending by "10% Reduction in US Oil Use Plan" far and wide.  If you know anyone in political life (or otherwise) that could benefit from this, please eMail me for a copy.

Alan_Drake (at) Juno. c o m


"My personal advice is to NOT live in fear.  I live in a disaster zone, with a multitude of issues daily around me.  But I am happy & fulfilled.  Post Peak you can be too."

Truly inspiring words. Thank you!


I am happily surprised that at least one lady is reading this blog.

To the previous recommendations, I would like to add that you should do your utmost to look after your health - youth and good health are the best assets one can have.

I just bought this, it is really helping me:

http://www.magnificentmobility.com I have no connection to these people what so ever.

let me know if it works as well as that other stretching item you posted a while back
What was that that I posted?
Alpha Male
We'll be waiting for your before and after pics...
Not yet mentioned: don't get into debt.
Always look on the bright side of life.  Enjoy your youth and health, the company of your boyfriend, friends and family.  Enjoy the fact that you are alive at this time of peak energy usage.  Reflect on all the things we enjoy today that previous generations could not even dream of.  Enjoy learning new things and skills.  Enjoy the fact that you love your job and that you are paid to do something you love to do.

Travel while it is still affordable, especially to places and countries where energy usage is less intensive.  Compare and contrast life in those places with the USA.  But don't go into debt to do it.

Watch, listen and observe what others say and do while the PO situation evolves.  Be prepared to help, somehow.

Hey all.  I'm the 24 year old woman who sent the e-mail.  I just thought I'd jump in and say thanks for all the advice so far.  Not nearly as scary as I was expecting. : )

Looks like for now it's more of the same - localize as much as possible, spend money prudently, keep my eyes on the future.  I think Chicago might be an okay place to be.  We've got good public transportation, good rail connections to just about everywhere else, quality farmland in the not-too distant vicinity, and one heck of a big lake to drink/ship on.  If anyone has any tips for books on gardening, I'd really love to hear them.  Currently I'm having a hard time keeping critters off my tomatoes.

Yeah, like I said replying to Stuart's post above, Chicago rocks!  Stay out of the suburbs and you'll be fine.  It wouldn't hurt to take a self-defense course, but everyone should do that.

Square Foot gardening is our bible.  I'll have to go through our library of gardening books at home and make a list.  You might want to try patio tomatoes too.  Ours are doing great this year.  Fantastic for small spaces, but you have to water them every day.  

Rebecca -- Check out www.gardenweb.org for all kinds of gardening help. Look into square-foot gardening (Mel Bartholomew) for small-space ideas. Get those #!%@& hornworms while they're young.

Glad a subject finally came up where I could contribute.

Good luck.


I have been practicing organic vegetable, herb, and flower gardening for many years, and I own a LOT of books.  The single best, in my opinion, is the Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening:


It's expertly written, and is great for beginners and old-hands alike.

Good luck to you and all.

All New Square Foot Gardening

Most libraries have it.  Look for the new version "All New".

Also, you can check out http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

The book will teach you how to make the boxes and what to fill them with.  It does not use your own soil.  It uses a mix of compost, etc.

If you have a 4x4 or even 2x2 area, you can grow veggies.


I like the website/book noted above
and here is a good pruduct for composting with limited space
don't fall for the advertizing, it needs a space outside
Both of these will provide hours of fun

'can of worms' is interesting.  

But if you REALLY want to grow worms.....

  1.  worms need oxygen
  2. What the worms need to eat need oxygen
  3. given the reading of the above 2 links - O2 is in the 1st 6 inches of material

Therefore the best worm bed design is the worm gin.


The jetcompost people can tell you how to compost a sheep in 3 days.

Now, you want to convert high Nitrogen stuff into feedstock?

The Black Soldier fly


I did not see any refernce to composting a sheep in 3 days. this is of interest to me. could you e mail me my adress is in my user info
I'm in an apartment, and have to keep my gardening within confied space. Right now, I often grow things just for fun, to stay in practice. I woke up to these two beauties just this morning:

Peak Oil or not, flowers will always be beautiful. To me, anyway. :o)



Jesus, that is beautiful!
I advise everyone I know to get a passport now. They are getting increasingly expensive and more time consuming to get, and you may, at some time, want or need to leave in a hurry.

Peak oil was just one of our considerations on leaving the country - we'd read Heinberg's books - but politics was another. Politically, the US seemed to be lurching towards fascism. The electoral process is broken. We are in a state of endless war. The Constitution is being dismembered. I wanted to raise my daughters in peace, and had no desire to support or to be part of an American Empire. Climate change was another consideration. So we moved to Costa Rica where we are practicing the ELP philosophy.

Leaving one's country is a major decision, but more and more people are doing it. Sometimes I wish we had either stayed in the US and worked a couple more years to make more money, or left the US 20 years ago to have had more time to establish roots in this community and country. But we are here now.

I believe this place will be a good place to be post peak. Good soil, ample rain, ample water, year round growing season, perfect climate (no heating or cooling needed), lots of fruits and vegies grown close by, local sources for organic milk, eggs, chickens, and other food stuffs, and we are surrounded by good coffee, with even some of it organic. Most importantly, though, it's a good place for us to be now, and a great place for my kids. If PO happens and it's as bad as some imagine, we should be okay; if PO doesn't happen we will be okay too.

Personally, if we can avoid a major world war, I think the US is facing a long slow slide, with decades marked mostly by paying more for and living with less of almost everything.

I am 55. I can't imagine the world you will have when you are.



Pura Vida, mai!

Some interesting things going on in CR!  Sadly, all I got to see was a Poker tourny through the viewfinder of a Betacam. (my current ball and chain, soaking in some Corporate Lucre while I still can)

As I read in a Chinese Bakery in NYC..
"No Outside food please.  Thank you for your corporation!"

Getting a passport is good advice, even if you have no immediate plans to go abroad. It gives peace of mind by allowing you the option of traveling on short notice, should you choose to do so.

The ability to move country to country, even temporarily for travel, is getting very restrictive. PO will probably make this even worse. If you ever consider emigration, plan on spending at least a year (possibly several years) to sort out your residency visas.


That about sows it for me, that's for sure...

Roger Conner known to you as ThatsItImout

rebecca..hi...for gardening books, just about anything by rodale press is good for organic methods and problem solving,for example:

encyclopedia of organic gardening  j.i. rodale and friends ...the bible of O.G.  

organic plant protection ,rodale press  ...deal with the bugs sanely

rodale's garden problem solver- vegetables , fruits and herbs, by jeff ball... bugs and other problems like fungus, etc.

the rodale herb book....grow herbs ,cook with them fresh and dry them for the winter

the rodale guide to composting

the farmers and housekeepers 1888 cyclopedia...the way they did back then ..and maybe in the future

Here is something fun that might work for your plants:


When the world turns upside down, at least the tomatoes will be ready!

Rebecca, I live in Scotland but the issues are similar although we probably have a better national transit system.  Here's a few ideas:

Growing fruit and veg is a great idea if you have the space; maybe you have a friend or relative who can let you cultivate a bit of ground.  If you end up growing surplus produce try finding someone to swap with - we swap surplus soft fruit for eggs.

As well as getting in habbit of using bike / transit as opposed to a car wherever possible learn how to do basic bike repairs or get to know someone local who does repairs.  World oil supplies are strained right now and it would only take some sort of marine blockage in Persian Gulf etc to cause early problems irrespective of PO - bikes are a great way to avoid gas lines!

Avoid debt and don't feel you always have to buy new - only media advertising and peer pressure pushes one in this direction.  Our kitchen table came from an auction for $15 and lasted us 15 years.

Try to buy food from small shops or farmers' markets as opposed to big box stores; the latter will quickly flee the scene in bad times when profits evaporate whereas the former will stick around in their local communities.  I use an old rucksack when visiting farmers' markets on my bike in case I buy more than the bike pannier can hold.

In an energy descent scenario there will probably be lots of jobs as automated process start to be replaced with more labor intensive manual processes.  Stick with what people need as opposed to want i.e. avoid work associated with theme parks, tourist trade, mass entertainment etc.  Any skill acquired re energy industries and especially renewable energy looks a good bet.

Good luck.

My favorite gardening books:

Gaia's Garden
This is a good introduction to the concepts of permaculture in the context of a home-scale garden.  This book is what turned me into a gardening freak.

How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons

I've been using that method for about four years now, and the results are nothing short of astounding.

I would have thought it ironic had his last name been spelled Jevons.
Of the big cites, Chicago might be one of the best places to weather out the future for one big reason -- lots of fresh water! This is going to be one of the most precious resources in the future.

As far as being a political consultant in the city with one of the most corrupt political machines in the country my head spins on that one. If you are a reformer be prepared to be depressed, sell out, or give up. I know from personal experience.

Bruce from Chicago
Bridgeport Neighborhood

I am not sure I would call Lake Michigan "fresh."  :)

There's nothing wrong with party machines in a crunch.  They get things done.

Of course, that's also why the Progressives came up with the secret ballot, the direct primary, the initiative, and the referendum.  

And those reforms have really cleaned things up now, haven't they?  


"Democracy is a good idea when you have a lot of resources and you lack a lot of diversity."  -one of my students last semester

Lake Michigan is significantly cleaner than I remember as a kid (I'm 52) when I would go to Burnham Harbor and view thousands of dead alewives on top of the water that was so murky you could not see two feet down. Just last week I was fishing off the breakwater and I could seed the bottom in ten feet of water. Chicago is actually a one party state controlled by a few influential politicians. Last week the Democratic committee replaced the present County Board President John Stroger on the fall ballet, who had a massive stroke weeks before last springs primary and still won against a strong reform candidate, and appointed another lackey fill out Strogers' term. Politics in Chicago isn't bean bag. What Paddy Bauler said years ago still holds true "Chicago ain't ready for reform". Unless someone is making a buck off of something it won't get passed.
Oops! Sentence should read: "replaced the present County Board President John Stroger on the fall ballet with his son, as Stroger had..."

Damn insert button

Ballet? I'm circling the drain here. The Chimay Ale is doing me in.
Ah, Chimay. Try Rochefort.
Zebra Muscles
A buddy of mine had to replace his motor in his boat a couple of years ago after zebra mussels clogged the intakes. We got halfway from Kenosha to Chicago to see the air and water show when the engine overheated and shut down. Ouch! He has since bought a blowboat (sailboat).
I figured you'd enjoy this one, Professor.

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?" -- Robert Heinlein

ah, yes, that would be Lazarus Long, correct?

Time Enough for Love, 1973.  

Other Heinlein favorites (the first from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the second from Time...:

"But I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do."

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.  Specialization is for insects."

The man was so so brilliant.

I pulled those two from my notebook, but there's a ridiculous number of Heinlein quotes a wikipedia:  http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein

really good stuff.

If you've been thinking about Peak Oil for awhile you have noticed our population increase enters into it. This might be a good spot to mention it. I /we don't have any children. In some ways this is good, some sad. This is a cultural and personal values area for sure. You may wish for children. Don't let it happen by `accident' however.

Good luck.


The best thing you can do to prepare is go to Daley Plaza (Washington & Clark) on your bicycle between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm this Friday evening.  The Critical Mass bike ride departs at 6 pm from there the last Friday of each month.  There ought to be about 2,000 riders out there this month.  And since it's John Stoner's birthday ride there will be free brownies for everyone!

I met John through the mass and he's an inspirational example of the power of community.  He has a neuromuscular disease far worse than my own.  Many of his muscles are in a permanent state of contraction and others he has little control over, leaving his arms, legs, wrists, ankles, fingers, mouth, tongue, etc. bent in awkward ways.  I don't think he drives (I'm not sure that he could) but somehow he manages to get around by bicycle.  And not just get around but to thrive.  When the word goes out among the massers looking for volunteers for most any task most anywhere in the city John is out there.

I think it was early this Spring that word went out that a woman (also named Rebecca, and into gardening, perhaps you?) was looking to do a human powered move to a new apartment and John was among the many who showed up with bikes and trailers to help.

John is one of about a dozen massers (all car free I think) who together bought a large, impressive brick apartment building on the south side and rehabbed it creating a great cooperative living space they call the Hub where by the way many, many brownies were recently baked.

Both John and myself have physical limitations that would be daunting in isolation, but by having a community of dozens of close friends and hundreds of acquaintances to draw on in times of need neither of us feels a fraction of the doom and gloom that worries many more abled bodied folks here.

I'm concerned about oil depletion, financial collapse, war, environmental degradation, etc. but I don't live in fear or anguish.  Though I expect too cry when the last bluefin tuna is gone.  And cry again when there are no more great apes.  If things go really sour, I'll know I made a good effort to mitigate the damage and I sleep well with a minimum of guilt.  Retain your health, happiness and especially your humanity for as long as you can and know that nothing lasts forever.

If I'm able to make this month's ride I'll be out there pulling a yellow and blue bike trailer with an 800 watt stereo playing a mix of party music from around the world plus a few songs with themes regarding, bicycles, oil wars, oil depletion, car dependence, labor, racial justice, taxes, politics, freedom of speech, drugs, sex, religion, :) etc.  If it's not windy I may have the big sign mounted on top reading "Bothered by high gas prices?" Over a poster sized photo of an Iraqi man in anguish carrying a dying young girl with shreds of flesh where her foot used to be.

If you spot me, ride up and say "Hi Todd, it's Rebecca!"

As for the gardening, the first response was right, that currently financially it's not a good investment of time.  To maximize money and time, eat shitty quality industrially manufactured food that was produced with profit as the sole concern.  Don't fret over the ingredients you'd never use or the cruelty, waste and destruction necessary to feed you so cheaply.  Then you will have more time and money for cable TV!

In addition to reading, you'll find there are plenty of friendly local gardeners here who will gladly show you first hand what does and doesn't work in addition to sharing seeds, seedlings, produce, books, etc.

This morning I spent about 20 enjoyable minutes with my girl friend harvesting about 20 lbs of tomatoes, cucmbers, peppers, summer squash, green beans, eggplant, chard, kale, broccoli, onions, leeks, shallots, carrots, grapes, basil and a variety of other herbs from my small backyard garden.  That provided most of the food we ate for the day, plus we each gave away generous amounts to friends at our places of work.  We don't harvest that much every day, mostly just enough for ourselves to eat, but once a week or so throughout the summer and fall we give away the excess to avoid it going to waste.  We don't get such generous harvests through the winter and early spring but there's enough using simple unheated low tunnels and a hoop house that we spend little on groceries.  And winter greens are of excellent quality.

My favorite gardening book is "Four Season Harverst" by Elliot Coleman, although most of the other recommendations are quite good too.  The most recent book I've read is Billy Joe Tatum's Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide which you might find more useful if you don't have any growing space.  This is a guide to foraging.  I was quite surprised to discover that so many of the weeds so common around here are actually quite tasty if you know what to get when and how to prepare it.  When I get better at it I want to lead some group foraging bike rides carrying the gear in my trailer to collect, prepare and serve the food as we go.

Nance, a great gardener & forager here in Chicago (who I met through another masser) planted that idea in my head.  She practices a hybrid technique of guerilla gardening/foraging.  She rides around scoping out sites on public property, vacant lots, fence lines of poorly maintained commercial sites, along railroad tracks, etc. and deposits seeds of raspberries, strawberries, aparagus, beans, corn, garlic, potatoes, hot peppers, sunflowers, day lillies, etc.  A lot doesn't come up and not everything survives, and occasionally entire sites are lost, but gradually over time she has developed enough places that she manages to haul in a lot of food.  Since its not her property there's less need to maximize returns by weeding, watering or doing anything at all.  Just sowing and harvesting.

My favorite bicycle bumper sticker seen recently:

"If you were biking you'd be happy by now!"

Damn, I forgot to wear my "One less car" shirt to annoy the Vancouver (WA) drivers today...

Gee, I posted a comment about an hour ago and it has not shown up.  Think the editor objected to my POV (optimistic)?  Not the first time this has happened.
posts happen instantly - no time for an editor to do anything. did you ever see it at all?  im sure it was a computer glitch - try re-posting.
Well, I'll try again:

The coming transition from oil/gas to solar/wind, with a stopover at nuclear/CTL and CTG, will provide wonderful career opportunities.   To get a sense of the magnitude, look at what is now happening in Alberta where oil sands workers from semi-skilled truck drivers ($200,000 per year) to skilled, engineering, and administrative people (much higher pay) are participating in a boom that will last a long time.

There will be similar chances for personal success and making a contribution to society for those who become part of the coming growth in rail capacity (so we can get more coal out and move more goods and people economically), coal and nuclear capacity, and wind and solar.  Skills in engineering and business management will be highly valued by those industries for the next several generations.  

The key is to take charge of your career, not just follow current "hot" areas like film or finance.  Those who just float with the crowd will suffer, but those who put themselves in the path of where the economy will be growing will prosper.

Remember, the sun provides enough energy to power human needs many times over; we simply have to figure out how to make it work more efficiently and then build out the infrastructure, a huge job.   But at the end of the process life will be cleaner and more prosperous in general for all.

goodness, why would an editor delete that?

we very^googol rarely delete (non-spam) comments here.  

Now, let's not forget forestry and other wood-related professions. As with oil, wood is at the foundation of civilization. Do the mental experiment. Take wood away, and see how long life as we know it continues...

Forestry has a long future, I suspect, unless forest ecosystems become (or are) irreparably damaged. If so, then civilization is in big trouble, oil peak or not.



I won't be surprised to see a major increase of dots on those maps as things get worse.

I consider myself to be a fairly rational man but I've whacked purchases on my credit card just because I had chest pains and thought I was going to die soon, so I decided `what the hell!' It turned out I only needed a good bowel movement and the chest pains went away but the CC transactions hung around like a bad smell.

There is a moral to this seedy story:

Otherwise rational people will go nuts when it dawns on them the good times are at an end but more calculating folk could head to the forests and wheatfields with mayhem in mind and a lighter to hand. A handful of arsonists could bring the US to its knees in no time at all.

This same thing happened to me when I made my post this morning to this thread.  I hit post and it returned me to the drumbeat without my post.  I looked around and fought for 5 mins and then I forced it again.  Dum dum dum...
weird.  I assume Super G is in da' house...?
I think most practical jobs can be adapted to do something energy related.

  • Engineering - this is obvious, lots of opportunities here

  • Management/HR/Admin - get into booming areas and you can make a huge difference. So many projects crater through mis-management it's insane

  • Software - I spent a long time thinking about this after becoming Peak Aware. It wasn't obvious at first. Now I have several plans of action for what can be done using my skills here.

  • Even arts like TV scriptwriting can be useful if you can pull the magic trick of combining entertainment with education ....

Try to stay out of soft jobs that don't deliver easy to understand benefits. EG I hate to say it but artists/musicians will be first against the wall, likewise "brand consultants" etc ...
Whoops, I jumped the gun and missed the bit about your boyfriend.

Yeah political consultant: not a great place to be. But look at this as an upside - you get an excuse to take a time out and learn some new skills. What new skills? If you think about them I suspect you can figure it out, you are already doing so after all.

OK so job prospects for computer scientists. This topic is dear to my heart as I am a computer programmer.

Firstly we must get our terminology straight. There will be nearly no jobs for computer scientists, same as today. CS types are invariably academics who might get employed to do research or teaching but usually end up kicked out into industry where they bitch about how intellectually inferior everyone is at the same time as producing crap code.

Academic computer science can be applied, but much of it is extremely esoteric and not hugely useful. Especially as some of it is speculatively 20-30 years out ..... assuming the academics predictions come true.

However because the job prospects for pure CS people are so miserable already I suspect it's more likely that your boyfriend is a software developer of some kind.

Now this is a much stronger position. There are few opportunities to use software to improve the supply side ... this is mostly in the realm of the physicists/chemists/biologists/engineers, but there are lots of opportunities on the demand side.

What can we use computers for? Optimisation. Efficiency savings. I'd rather not discuss concrete applications here because I'm wanting to work on some of them myself ;) but suffice it to say creative use of computers can crack open massive efficiency savings which could make the difference between "gosh darn it, we're in a recession" and "holy crap it's a rerun of the great depression".

Of course, I am more than a little biased here! It's also true that computers are not very energy efficient themselves yet. Lots of potential for improvements there. And if things go bad really fast (unlikely but possible) then of course we may lose the technology. Computers are by far the most complex pieces of engineering our society has ever created. So it might be the first to go in some "collapse".

Anyway my advice is to make sure your relationship with your boyfriend is good and stick with him. Ignore the Alpha Male, he is a lawyer ;)

Thought of another point - computer programming is being hit by a huge skills shortage right now.

There are lots of basic/intermediate level developers out there (which is fine because many business type tasks don't require super skilled devs) but very low numbers of skilled developers - worse the numbers are decreasing!

I don't have statistics to back this up, partly because you can't easily measure skill. But I know many tech companies have found it harder and harder to hire people of the quality they want lately. We (the industry) even have a website called "The Daily WTF" dedicated to stupid things people have found in production software projects.

Why? Well, nobody is entirely sure but general consensus is that we're reaching the end of the 70s/80s generation who trained on home computers like the BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Amiga etc - these machines were very primitive and when started tended to simply say READY> or perhaps give you a very basic GUI. They usually came with a free BASIC interpreter and so it was very easy ... indeed in some senses mandatory ... for people to get started on programming. Often this happened at an early age and these people were basically self-training throughout their teenage years (but not always).

This was a booming time for the newly born software business. People traded easily understood code in magazines, there were lots of books that would teach you from scratch and it was easy to create fun programs.

This period ended in the early 90s as the older micros were phased out in favor of IBM PCs running DOS and later Windows. DOS was OK but writing even very trivial software for Windows was a nightmare and far beyond the abilities of a beginner. As Windows wiped out the competition (and MacOS was no better) we started losing that influx of new hobbyist developers who spent years practicing at home before going on to become professionals.

Why am I saying all this? Basically I'm not expecting a big influx of well trained people into the industry. So this is a double plus for your boyfriend - applicable skills and if he is any good not much competition.

Like nuclear/gas engineers the high end software industry is aging and being promoted into management. Kids aren't learning anymore, universities aren't teaching people practical skills and it's damn near uneconomic to train from scratch. So, even in a recession if he is able to write the harder stuff (ie not business apps in Access/VB but more exotic things) he will do well.

And the best thing about software? There has lately been a renaissance. In 1998 the tools needed to get started writing software were horribly expensive and hard to get. In 2006 everything is different. You can now get world class development tools for free, just by downloading them (legally) off the net. There is also tons of new learning material on the web - so if you are motivated and know where to look you can start learning right away!

I am not sure how much of the recent boom is due to decreased supply of good developers and how much is a temporary rush for new projects.

I recently started my second job in the US. If my experience  could be used as a representative study for US, 100% of the companies in this country have some old, very crappy system they want to replace or patch somehow, because it has become almost impossible to maintain. And probably the time has come for this after the influx of cheap indian labor in recent years fostered the  creation of vast amounts of chaotic code almost everywhere.

On a macro scale I think the official GDP reported is about correct, but the growth in US is only in the paper recycling industry, namely services. Service companiies are our primary customers and hence the growth in IT.

I really don't buy this argument. And at the end you say there is a recent renaissance, which essentially torpedoes your previous argument about a shortage.

The truth is that at least some of the old "bit-twiddlers" never caught on to the abstraction-based paradigms that most SW people take for granted these days. But this isn't enough to sway things one way or another.

Anyway, you can say the same thing about the semiconductor industry. What happened to those people in the 70's and 80's that actually handled wafers as opposed to inheriting and improving on totally automated systems.

If you are looking at a retrenchment in technological adavances, no way and I don't buy it for a second.

I really don't buy this argument. And at the end you say there is a recent renaissance, which essentially torpedoes your previous argument about a shortage.

Not really. Firstly the free tools (gcc, python, gtk+ etc) are professional level tools - BASIC this ain't. It is still an improvement over Delphi ($400-$500) and Visual Studio (close to a $1000 I am told) though.

Secondly it used to be the case that programming was accessible and immediate. These days you have to know the tools exist, and go find them before you can get started. So unless their parents do some legwork children are no longer going to find out about them.

But the free tools are helping a lot, don't get me wrong. I've had several friends around my age get started lately by using Linux, Python, GCC etc ... indeed I only really got any good once I started working/learning in the open source community. It isn't quite the same though.

I recommend Ruby (awesomely dynamic OO language) and Ruby on Rails (high productivity web framework). Both open source (free) of course...
"What can we use computers for? Optimisation. Efficiency savings. I'd rather not discuss concrete applications here because I'm wanting to work on some of them myself ;) but suffice it to say creative use of computers can crack open massive efficiency savings which could make the difference between "gosh darn it, we're in a recession" and "holy crap it's a rerun of the great depression"."

This reminds me of a commercial a few years back.  It started off with some uplifting music and kids each saying part of something along the lines of "The powerful computers of today could be used to cure diseases, increase grain yeilds and end hunger worldwide, or to PLAY GAMES!! YAYYYY!!"

So yeah, computers could be used to do good, but won't they just end up running games? ;)

I hope so, after a long day in the fields a round of Halo is just what's needed :)

But seriously what I'd like to see long term is a split with high-performance video games becoming dominated by the games consoles and everything else (web browsing, email, chat, business tasks, information management, lo-fi video games) being taken over by some kind of PC replacement designed with - amongst other things - low power usage in mind. Of course there are lots of other improvements that could be made with some new device too.

Current trends are awful for power consumption - composited desktops like what Linux/MacOS already have and Vista will soon have keep the 3D core on a video chip running nearly all the time, and those things suck ludicrous quantities of power. There are no data center customers pushing for cooler chips there so they are basically going all out for performance and there is no natural power cap.

I've been thinking how great an idea it would be if some game company came out with a PO game.  It could be super adventurous with no end of scenarios to play out, and it could educate adolescent males about the prospects of preparing for their future.  Go for it, one of you techies!
Name of the Game?

Alpha Male and the Prophets of Doom


Trust me, if they haven't been killin' mine off, they sure ain't  killin' yours....I have witnesses!  :-)

Roger Conner, known to you as ThatsItImout

Lots of great advice!

One thing my wife and I have done is to start meeting regularly with some other familiesfriends to work on practical skills related to sustainable living.  We plan to learn how to can fruits and vegetables, research and implement energy saving solutions for our homes (insulation, solar, what have you), gardening (dividing up what we grow and growing dfferent types to give us variety and maximize our efforts), putting together preparedness supplies for an (a long <grin>) emergency, and whatever else we decide will be helpful.  We live in a city (Portland, OR), so I think this would be a viable option for anyone regardless of their location.  I am in the process of putting together a blog to chronicle our efforts (once it is ready, I would be happy to post a link in a future comment if there is any interest here on TOD).

We decided on this course of action because it teaches us some useful skills, creates a community of people as a support network; and maybe most importantly, gives us a feeling of power and a way to do something positive in the face of a reality that can lead one quickly to despair and hopelessness.

My last suggestion is probably nothing short of heresy, but here it is: I would suggest that you be a regular, but periodic reader of TOD (and similar sites), but not a daily reader.  Immersing yourself in the true, but often depresing and dismal reality that faces us is an enervating activity (at least that was my experience).  There are a lot of people here that are experts or professionsals in the "field(s)" covered by PO, so they are keeping up on the latest news and findings, so it makes great sense for them to be daily readers and posters, but that is probably not necessary for the lay person.  I come here once a week to keep up to date on PO, but that is about my limit these days.  I say this with the utmost respect to the editors and frequent posters and readers of this site of course.  I have recommended this site many a time to those who are interested in PO and I believe it is one of the most important sites on the internet.

I would say simply:

1)Do not buy "stuff". Keep your material world as lean as possible. This provides relocation and social flexibility.

  1. Learn to read between the lines in all media reporting. There are huge biases. Observe them. And observe the gratuitous propaganda as well. For example, you simply cannot find media coverage depicting the good side of Hugo Chavez. He is against free-markets, against trade, against this and that, buying weapons, promoting instability... Putin is the new dictator... Recognize this for what it is.  

  2. Get your teeth into the economics of globalization. Understand what it is and what it's not. Who benefits? Who loses? It's important. We've committed the welfare of our society to it.

  3. Get acquainted with your local library. Their catalog is online, become an expert at ordering books for local branch pickup. You will see a lot of writers and books mentioned here. Many of them are utterly excellent. They are not all about energy either.

  4. Do not get sucked into car culture. You aren't now. Keep away from it. When you read here that filling an SUV with corn ethanol is equivalent to feeding a human being for a year... realize that metric applies to all fuels.

  5. Toss the TV into the dumpster. It's nothing but a device for promoting "consumerism". Spend the time living. What is the one thing you never see on TV? It's TV showing people watching TV. Makes you wonder...

7)Keep a diary. Write in it. The habit will sharpen your critical thinking and teach you how to observe things around you.

8) Finally, learn a simple meditation technique. 20-30 minutes of quality downtime is incredibly important.


"What to do" PO issues often mention the rural vs urban choice. I live in a very dense suburban environment, and I think we'll be ok, as it will be more profitable for companies to continue to serve population centers as opposed to running trucks out into the countryside for far fewer people- at least for a time (years).

Of course, if the power goes off, all bets are off when it comes to big cities.

Denser suburb in a moderately-sized urban area would be my choice, which makes me a serious contrarian here.

A smaller efficient house with a small yard -- if you think vertically, you can grow a remarkable amount of food in a small space if things come to that. Ask where the electricity comes from; as oil and natural gas supplies decline, electricity (excluding gas-fired) will be more and more important. Does the city you've chosen import electricity or fuel from two states away? As an example, most of the generators for NYC are inside the city, but if Texas/Louisiana cut off the flow of natural gas, NYC electricity supplies are in a bad way. If things get really bad, I can envision that; in the 1970s, the governor of Texas threatened to have the Texas National Guard blow up the pipelines where they left the state and "let the damn yankees freeze in the dark." I do not believe the Texans will give up things in order to keep NYC going, nor that the federal government can actually force them to. Are there options for solar or wind nearby? Given an area that's not too crowded, and that can manage its own electricity supply, I think the changes can be managed pretty gracefully.

I live along the Front Range of Colorado, in one of the inner suburbs of Denver, and would suggest this as a reasonable place. We're getting a little more crowded than I would like, but I think it's still manageable. The climate is generally mild, our electricity is 80% coal-fired and we mine more coal than we use, we've got good options for wind and solar. If we closed the pipelines leaving the state, we'd be more than self-sufficient in natural gas. If we put the water on vertical gardens instead of irrigating grass and grain for beef, the water supplies are adequate. Any other suggestions for locations that might do well?

I would implore you to reach out to your peers, age specific and younger, for you will have to bear the burden of old peoples follies. Bloodshed, Debt,Militarism. contact your National leaders. If you can write that email, edit it demand your government respond and send it to these fools   via the links herein! (I don't do capitals, but if you could hear I might have raised my voice for emphasis) One or two++ emails on specific War/Debt/Globalism/GW issues each week hammer them and get some friends to get some friends... hey lets cascade outta this I know it seems overwhelming but your help is sorely needed.



thank you. may you have a blessed life.

ps i get a response many times. these can lead to follow

In my opinion, the only good advice a younger person is likely to get from an older person is:

Follow you bliss.

Go where passion leads you and tell the pundits to go to hell.

My profs told me to get a Ph.D. because I was so smart. I told them I wanted to teach at a community college, and hence they knew I was insane. I may be insane (though oddly enough, the MMPI says otherwise), but I had a very happy career for thirty-one years as a community college teacher of economics and business, sociology and philosophy, coaching tennis and teaching interdisciplinary humanities.

When I got my M.B.A. in Finance, everybody told me to go to work for [name of large investment bank deleted] because I'd be a millionaire by age thirty. I told the investment bankers I wanted to go back to school to learn more Latin and study classic literature and improve my tennis game and teach more sailing and learn to fly and learn to fence with saber as well as foil and also to spend a few more years chasing women and skiing and cooking for large numbers of people at the Co-Op. So I went back to school.

When I was in school everybody was being drafted for the Vietnam War, and so the Smart People told me to go back to work for the government (where I had been a systems analyst engineer and done some other stuff before the War) so I wouldn't be drafted, and I told them, "No way."

All these wise people with gray hair meant well, but they did not know me. My wise guardian and his wonderful wife would ask me Socratic questions, but they did not think it odd that a guy would want to go to university for fifteen years with only one short break. Secretly, I know they wanted me to follow in their footsteps and pursue a career in science--to dedicate my life to research, but that is not what I wanted (at least, not after age nineteen, when it dawned on me that I was not smart enough to do for Sociology what Isaac Newton did for physics).

You have to figure out your unique path. Then you figure out how to follow it, and then you go. And you'll fall. And people will ridicule you. And you'll get up and go a few steps, and somebody will push you down and kick you in the face. Then you'll get up and go a few more steps. As you climb, you get stronger, happier, more self-confident.

What the future will be like I do not know. It has not been written.

Keep your mind supple and have as much fun as possible.

Good luck and best wishes from Sailorman.

P.S. Learn to sail.

Ooh, yeah, forgot that one!  I second the learn to sail.  You don't need to own a boat or anything, just find someone who can take you out now and then.  If I ever manage to retire, I plan to sail around the Great Lakes with my wife, a dog, and our bikes.  What a life!

Oh wait.  I guess I'll need a boat at some point.  Hmm..  Have to work on that.  Of course, by the time I'm ready for a boat, they'll be giving away powerboats and used 30' sailboats will cost more than my house.  Ah well.  Guess we'll have to sell the house.

Old wooden sailboats can be obtained for next to nothing. Few pleasures equal those associated with rebuilding an old boat.

If you MUST have something new, kits are available, some of them very good.

One of my current projects is the rehabbing of a San Francisco Bay Pelican--a sailboat that is safe in forty knot winds and the most vicious choppy waters you can imagine. My goal is to use no materials not available in nineteen hundred, and that is an ambitious one. I may get a blacksmith to make new gudgeons from wrought iron to replace a modern alloy.

Recommended reading: Joshua Slocum, "Sailing Alone Around the World"

And now, Rebecca, time for a little brutal honesty. Stuart's post near the top is good as far as it goes. It's not possible to go any further.

Lots of us around here are loathe to admit that we are entering unknown territory. We are also reluctant to admit that we are in the same boat you are.

I'm not going to give you doom & gloom because I don't know enough about the future on various time scales to predict the worst. It's hard to imagine things you've never experienced. Don't worry about oil shocks and sudden price spikes. Let us do that. You can't do anything about them. If and when that occurs, you'll just have to roll with the punches like all the rest of us.

We're not much different than you in these respects.

-- Dave

"Free Will...it is a bitch."  -Lucifer (as played by Al Pacino), The Devil's Advocate (1997).

"Uncertainty, when combined with rational free will, is really a bitch.  -Prof. Goose (2006-sideways 8)

I wonder sometimes when 'Brutal Honesty' is based more on the former or the latter..  

I wonder if Doctors who tell you 'You'll never walk again' do so to trigger the patient's contrariness, so that they'll fight more intensely to find a way..

'It's not possible to go any further.'
  - Do you mean further up in the thread?  Doctor, will I ever walk again?

As Sailorman reminded me once, if I remember correctly.. It was R.A. Heinlein who coined the phrase..

"Politics is the art of the Possible"

(Though I heard it in the lyrics to 'EVITA',
"Dice are rolling, the knives are out
Would-be presidents are all around
I don't say they mean harm
But they'd each give an arm
To see us six feet underground " )

Politics is not going away with Petroleum, and the challenges there will be fantastic.  If you are drawn to that world, I'm sure that industry will not be petering out as long as there are Humans around..

As it says in the Desiderata,

"Keep interested in your own career however humble; it is a real posession in the changing fortunes of time."

..and since I like it so much, here's the whole thing! (The opener isn't a bad guide for discussions on 'Blogs, or anywhere else)

Bob Fiske


"Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others; even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in oyur own career however humble; it is a real posession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism

Be yourself. Espacially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."


I didn't say "You'll never walk again".

This is one of those *****-slap upside the head Jim Kunstler situations. The "brutally" honest part is that we have to live with uncertainty and that Rebecca's fears are shared by most of us -- except for superior people like yourself, who have no fear and feel the need to criticise people based on nothing but their own egos. You're not doing her, me or anybody else any favors even if whatever psychological affect you're afflicted with tells you otherwise. If you think that was an ad hominem attack -- look up the Latin if you're not sure -- it was.

And by the way, to back up my point, your post is a bunch of incoherent nonsense.

  I certainly was being critical of your tone in the above post.  I found it to be very condescending, though I didn't really succeed in avoiding it in my own post I guess.  I did try to make it more circumspect.  There are a number of Posters who regularly announce how it is their unfortunate duty to 'deliver the hard truth' into a discussion somehow devoid of reality, while these 'truths' end up being their own prognostications and philosophies.  You didn't say "You'll never walk again", you said..

"Stuart's post near the top is good as far as it goes. It's not possible to go any further."

"Don't worry about oil shocks and sudden price spikes. Let us do that. You can't do anything about them."

"If and when that occurs, you'll just have to roll with the punches like all the rest of us."

It never seemed that she had any illusions about being required to 'roll with the punches', or that we're heading into an uncertain future.  The future is always uncertain, isn't it?  So here's the AdHom, if you want it.  I thought the post was bombastic, and I wanted to call it as I saw it.  I don't claim that YOU'RE a bombast, just that you acted like one in that post.. so it was really an AdPost attack.

I thought my post made perfect sense, if it was a bit esoteric.  Alas, that's just me..

"except for superior people like yourself, who have no fear and feel the need to criticise people based on nothing but their own egos"

-see? that's what I was saying, too!

"I am a shadowy reflection of you.  It would take only a small nudge to make you like me."
"Now you're gettin' Nasty!"
Belloq and Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark

Sorry I ruffled you, Dave.  We are in the same boat, and I hope we can get along, as full of ourselves as we certainly are!  (That was an adnostra attack)


Nonsense again. We're going to go around on this until you get it right.

My comment, which can be summed up by saying that Rebecca and all of us are in the same boat, conveyed empathy and was not condescending in any way. That was the point. If you want to see a condescending post, read Stuart's advice at the top. Like my wise old Uncle. Well, I'm the younger brother (not literally) who is always in trouble with the law.

Bombastic? When I said

Lots of us around here are loathe to admit that we are entering unknown territory. We are also reluctant to admit that we are in the same boat you are.
I don't think the word "bombastic" comes to mind in this context. Don't project whatever psychological mess you've got on to others, OK?

Heinlein may have put the saying: "Politics is the art of the possible," into the mouth of one of his characters, but the wording is attributed to a fairly famous less recent source; the idea clearly goes back to classical sources, though ultimate credit (so far as I know) is murky.

Now here is one elegant piece of Latin for a political consultant to ponder, from that old orator, Cicero (pronouced, "KICK-arrow" approximately):

Nihil est incertius vulgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominem, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum.

In clumsy English this translates to:

Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing is more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.

Thus, to understand U.S. politics, I recommend a study of the ancient Roman republic during the hundred years before Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

Speaking of politics, let us not forget Cicero's reward for his elegant oratory. You can find it in Book 47 of Cassius Dio's Roman History:

And Fulvia took [Cicero's] head into her hands before it was removed, and after abusing it spitefully and spitting upon it, set it on her knees, opened the mouth, and pulled out the tongue, which she pierced with the pins that she used for her hair, at the same time uttering many brutal jests.

Don's Classical pronunciation might not be understood should you try to buy the Penguin Classics version of Cicero's works in a bookshop. In English, it is often spoken as sis-ser-o.

Hope for the best...prepare for the worst.
The problem with "preparing for the worst" is that it gobbles up resources that could otherwise be devoted to having fun and helping others.

I do prepare for the very worst-case scenarios that seem plausible to me (e.g. the election of another Clinton for president;-), but never do I put more than, say five or ten percent of my resources into such preparations. For example, when I learned to fly airplanes I put roughly two thousand dollars into the best instruction I could find in the state of California and about $100 into a "Global C-2 Survival Kit," just in case I crashed up in the Canadian wilderness or some similar rough place.

Well, I still have the survival kit, have replaced a few items and added a couple, and I still have my pilot's license. But where are most of my resources going? To get my soaring license--something I've wanted for fifty years.
Survival? I'm working on improving my fishing skills . . . and gaining more friends by teaching more people to sail.

I do prepare for the very worst-case scenarios that seem plausible to me (e.g. the election of another Clinton for president;-)
Scroll down to HO's "As Cantarell goes . . ." post, then get back to me. That's a worst case scenario right out front. Especially when you realize from Dave's recent post that high decline rates, are the result of good field management and maximum flow rates (i.e. Cantarell is not alone).  Yup, worst case scenario, I don't care who is in charge.
Oh, I totally agree...prepare for the worst at the level you can afford and people don't think you're total bonkers.

That can mean many different things for different people.

  • Planting gardens
  • Paying off debt
  • Conservative investments
  • Buying fuel efficient vehicles
  • Buying some emergency water, food, medical supplies
  • Weather-proofing your dwelling
  • etc.
I very much agree, Don. If all you do in life is "prepare for the worst" then you'll be in bad shape when something good happens. I know survivalists who have been prepared for the worst for 30 years. It's not a healthy lifestyle.

Why not... bet on humanity. Bet on human ingenuity, creativity, inventiveness, and flexibility. Bet that people will be at their best when faced with a challenge. Bet that we will rise to the occasion. Look for ways to participate in the many constructive and dynamic responses that society will create in response to the increasing cost of energy.

Rather than prepare for the worst, try this: prepare for the best.

and that Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I love Halfin.
Yes, full of WORDS, isn't he?
I feel advising someone to replace pessimism with optimism is poor advice.  Rather, I advise adopting realism as your mechanism for formulating an expectation or a plan of action.  One who always sees the negative side will probably miss opportunities and one who always sees the positive side is likely to be blindsided.

Humanity has accomplished much but I don't think the historical record is so convincing that I would bet on it.  Why not hedge your bets.  Accept uncertainty.  The future is difficult to predict.  I think if you do this, you're unlikely to go to extremes such as living out in the woods "preparing" for 30 years.  You'll also be unlikely to take financial risks on the expectation of the economy performing well.

In my assessment, the best advice is Stuart's at the top.  Prepare for the worst by making simple modifications to your life without going bananers.  This doesn't mean you can't also aim for the best.

Optimism or pessimism have no influence on what will happen. As if our emotional attitudes toward the future could possibly influence it. On the other hand, doing some rational planning about the future might help.

If someone wants to bet on mankind and be optimistic, be my guest. You would be disregarding all human history and even current events like the contemporary wars in the Middle East.

If that's the way someone chooses to be happy, go ahead then ... it does no harm ... and it does no good.

You can be happy and be prepared...all the things I listed above won't hurt you if you do them and if nothing bad happens you're really none the worse.

I'm more in line with Westexas in getting your life in order.

Optimism or pessimism have no influence on what will happen. As if our emotional attitudes toward the future could possibly influence it. On the other hand, doing some rational planning about the future might help.

Agreed.  But they will influence how prepared we are and how we will react.  I think an optimist and a pessimist go about their rational planning in different ways.  Different assumptions, different assignment of probabilities. As a result emotional attitudes influence our personal future if not "big" events like cilization collapsing.
"Prepare for the worst"

Of course, the worst is [big voice] GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR or ATOMIC HOLOCAUST [/big voice].

Can't see much point in preparing for that.  

The worst I can imagine is bird flu wipes out 1/3 of humanity.  So buy some surgical masks.  Next worst is ... whew, you can play that game for the rest of your life.  I prefer "prepare for higher liquid fuel prices."  The simplest solution being avoid getting sucked into the suburban lifestyle.  Easy enough.

The worst I can imagine is bird flu wipes out 1/3 of humanity.

this would be short term good news, in a way, as peak oil would be dramatically postponed

But long term bad, as we would avoid the hard decisions of giving up car culture, living locally, etc and they would all be postponed and made harder 2 decades from now.

Here is a SCARY STATISTIC if true, will we need to focus on a new alternative?
These numbers represent what I call semi-strong form EROI, which means they include direct and indirect energy costs as inputs (most studies just include direct, which is 'weak form'). The numbers are even worse if one includes the environmental externality costs fo soil loss, greenhouse gases, etc, which I would then term Strong Form EROI
Assuming "ethanol" and "grain ethanol" are synonomous is negligent to the point of being deceptive. Pimental's points refer only to ethanol produced by corn.

The majority of fuel ethanol produced in the world over the last 20 years has been from sugar cane. The World Bank, Worldwatch Institute, German development agency GTZ, and the Brazilian government all cite EROIE between 8-10 times.

I think the link should be corrected because as stated it is wrong.

Here is one more: IEA also cites 8-10 times figure. See page 59.


William R. Catton does not think too much of "The Simpler Way".

If any substantial fraction of the more colossal segments of humanity did conscientiously give up part of their resource-devouring extensions out of humane concern for their less colossal brethren, there is no guarantee that this would avert die-off. It might only postpone it, permitting human numbers to continue increasing a bit longer, or less colossal peoples to become a bit more colossal, before we crash all the more resoundingly.

All this tends to be disregarded by advocates of a "return to the simple life" as a gentle way out of the human predicament. Blessed are the less prosthetic, for they shall inherit the ravaged earth. Probably so, in the long run. But some view the dark cloud of fuel depletion and purport to see a silver lining already: individuals forced to abandon much of their modern technology will then get by on smaller per capita shares of the phantom carrying capacity upon which prosthetic man has become so dependent. However, insofar as the high agricultural yields upon which our irrupted population's life depends can be attained only by means of energy subsidies--by lavish application of synthetic fertilizers, and by large-scale use of petroleum-powered machinery--the dwindling fossil acreage will probably lower the output of visible acreage. As we asked before, what happens when it becomes necessary again to pull the plow with a team of horses instead of a tractor, and a substantial fraction of the crop acreage that now feeds humans has to be allocated again to growing feed for draft animals (or biomass to produce tractor fuel when the Carboniferous legacy is no longer cheaply available)? So much for that silver lining.

William R. Catton, "Overshoot" Page 174

That's why I tell people not to vote.. cause it doesn't make any difference anyway, so why bother.

Just what DOES make that little old ant try and climb that rubber tree plant?

- I think the main argument for 'simplifying' is to extend our abilities to survive through shortages, to get past our inherited blindness of having been fully supplied and oversupplied for our whole lives (Here in Affluent USA-ville), to reduce our financial outlay, to become more aware of the dependencies that have us living on crutches that we're not going to be able to abandon if awoken only at the onset of an emergent crisis.  I hardly expect that anyone in the 'voluntary simplicity' movement is harboring many illusions about the carrying capacity of the planet, certainly not compared to the majority of our TV-placated brothers and sisters. The question is, do you try to poke the gator in the eye, or do you just roll around, blowing bubbles and deciding it's hopeless?

Regarding your questions: I don't know!


"I own a small, relatively efficient car (a Ford Focus)"

By our standards (Argentina and LA in general) a Ford Focus isn't small at all.

This is what's considered small down here.

Maybe that's part of the problem - or the solution.



You are probably right about that.  Unfortunately the Focus is about as small as it goes in the US right now.  At least for Fords, which I was semi-obligated to buy due to a family discount).   I would love to get a SmartCar if they are ever approved for use here.  
Not sure where you are in the city, but you might just ditch the car all together and join one of the car sharing programs if they're in your neighborhood:
-Biologyfool (former resident of Hyde Park, East Village, and Bucktown)
Being a skeptic of the US-ized smart car I'll point out that nowhere in that link does it give the fuel mileage.  The reason is because it's dismal.

ZAP's Americanized Smart Car EPA-Rated at 40 MPG

If you really want to get an efficient, dependable car...look towards a toyota echo which will give you upper 30's to lower 40's mpg, toyota quality, has a long lasting timing chain, a back seat and a trunk.  I'd also look into 1989-1991 Honda Civics, upper 30's to lower 40's MPG with the 1.5 liter engine, again with a back seat, but these years are hatch designs and can accomodate bigger items.  If you find a low mileage example and take care of it, it's likely to keep ticking until 250,000 miles+

As the ZAP Smart car is going to be priced in the 20,000+ range, you can get a used echo or civic and still have $10,000 - $15,000 left over for gas or something.

Don't go into debt-- even for a home.

I believe we still have some time to prepare-- in fact, I'm counting on it. So I think the best plan would be to start saving money to either:

  • Buy a property that would be nice to use as a vacation place where you could put up a camper and think about building a "green" low energy house in the future as funds permit. Look for something within a couple of hours of your city job so that you can use if for weekends while things are still good or close to family members so that you can combine vacations and family visits.

  • or, if you enjoy the water, since you are so near the great lakes, save money to purchase a used cruising sailboat.

My husband and I are actually looking at both of these options. (we are your parent's age and are currently in an almost paid for house with less than 7 years to retirement.)

Other miscellaneous comments: As far as work goes...do what you love. Having a valid passport is a good plan. You already have a headstart on peak oil preparations since you are young,healthy, and aware of the situation.

Well young lady there you have it.  All the kind words from TOD. About all I can add to the comments so far is nothing.  They have just about said it all.   I will say this,  Don Sailorman beat me to it, and I will agree.  

Follow your bliss:

and along with it as others have said stay out of debt.  You can expect at least 46 more years of life, and who knows what they will bring.  For me I am already there, you will be my age when you get there.  It's been a fun ride so far, and I feel rather sorry that my generation has left such a mess for your generation to clean up.  I will leave you with my e-mail signature.

" you can cure ignorance, but you can't educate stupitidy"

the old hermit

Lurker for a year or so . . . first post.

My wife and I have decent jobs. We're taking the money we make here in suburbia (York, PA) and investing it in our 37 acre homestead in Vermont.

We have a small house in VT with water and solar electric. We're converting over to wood heat and I'm planting fruit and nut trees this fall.

My point is that our current jobs provide the income that allow us to invest in a more self-sufficient lifestyle. We're taking the assets that are available to us now and directing them into a future that makes sense. We have an excellent community of self-motivated people around us (in VT) that we are trying to talk to about PO and other issues.

We live in a time right now when we do have resources, and there is still an opportunity to direct those resources effectively. You obviously do not need to follow our model; Any re-direction of resources into a better future is a good investment.

Many thanks to the people of TOD for the education you have provided.

Marcus Bobula
Troy, Vermont (eventually)
York, PA (for now)

My vision of the future is bleak for those who cherish the American Dream. Peak Oil/Energy is not a temporary problem. I don't think there is any way to stablize the situation before 2050. At least 40 years of declining energy availability is a tough problem. I think the cities at some point will become hell holes. When? I don't know. I would use your current job to gain the means to invest in yourself and a future home in a rural community. The biggest mistake by Americans I see is blowing huge anounts of money on autos. The economy in the uS is a huge fraud based on borrowing money to maximize wasting energy. It's going to crash and it's going to crash hard. When? I don't know. I know you can't count on your competition in the quest for energy to lend you the money to buy energy. At least if you controll your access to food and shelter you will have something to do when unemployment hits 25%.
young, healthy, no debt, some "post-oil" skills in back pocket = better off than 99.5% of the population as is. So step #1 would be to relax a bit.
What I have been doing is keeping informed and keeping debt low as possible.  I plan to install solar/electic soon however I am holding off for a few years because of recent rapid developments in solar cells such as these processes:
I already have a pretty efficient house and plenty of yard space so I am pretty well setup.

The worst part I find is resisting the consumer hunger.  I find myself instead of investing in solar now lusting after a new Ducati Multistrada 620.  I guess I can justify it on fuel use grounds and the fact that I have wanted a Duke all my life however it demonstrates how strong the consumer pull is.

"I find myself instead of investing in solar now lusting after a new Ducati Multistrada 620."

It's hard not to like a guy that likes solar energy and Ducati's....now that's range!  But then, how can you really dislike either once you look at them!  :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

blogwhoring is fine, but give a little snippet so people can figure out if they want to click, please...

Thank you,

I have but one word of advice for a young person just starting out:


This thread confirms that this disturbing issue, known as peak oil, is a blank canvas, upon which we are all painting (or blogging) self-portraits.
Bob G -

So right you are!

Nothing quite seems to bring out one's latent narcissism and (if you're over a certain age) 'old fart-ism' as when a young person solicits advice from someone who is older. I suppose it's very seductive to take on the role of the wise and witty old sage.

I have been following TOD for quite some time now and have never seen a thread with so much shameless wanking as this one.  

I could easily attempt to give a young person all sorts of wise-sounding advice, but I don't, because I seldom even follow my own advice.

Or to put it another way: My only advice is to ignore all
advice, particularly if it's from some old windbag.  

My only advice is to ignore all advice, particularly if it's from some old windbag.

Following ANY advice is silly unless you also understand the REASONS for the advice.
Otherwise it amounts to following blindly some stale recipe which will put you into trouble at the first departure from the "expected" course of events.
There is no substitute for growing your own experience, it takes time and skills and pain, no shortcuts, but it will fits YOU and no one else.

THIS is an advice, I blew it!

Years ago when I started gardening vegetables I had two neighbors who were much older and much more experienced than I in just about everything... particularly gardening. Both were organic gardeners at a time when that word was still quaint. I followed every piece of advice offered, whether I understood it at the moment or not. Little stuff like: seeds have tops and bottoms, it helps to sow right-side-up...

I saved years of trial and error by listening to what was suggested. The proof was in the growing.

These posts that indicate geezers are blowhards and what-all display significant ignorance. When someone is willing to share, to be helpful, ACCEPT IT. It is the other side of the community coin everyone has been ranting about.

Having children ranging from teens to middle age, I have given a great deal of thought to your question.  What do I tell a teenager who is more concerned with dating and the latest fad?  What do I tell a middle age son who now is deep in a corporate career and raising small children?

It is not just peak oil, but a multitude of problems approaching, some greater than we have ever faced before.  How do you tell them to take time to look about them--to keep nimble and alert?  Already their lives are deeply engaging; they will hardly believe that great storm clouds are gathering.

Not everyone can become a politician or an activist.  Not everyone can enter science.  Not everyone can start a garden or retreat to the countryside, or hole up in a self-sufficient commune.  Not all of us are Staniford's or Pierre's.  Most of us are not ready--or even constitutionally able to ascend a soapbox.  Many cannot follow Khehab's graphs, least squares or the intricacies of EROI.  

There simply is not enough time in most lives to know in-depth all that needs to be known.

Most lives make very, very small waves.  We can become as knowledgeable as time allows.  We can make our waves count within our circle of friends, within our communities. Even if we are not yellers, sometimes we need only to nudge in the right direction.

In short, be as nimble and as alert as you can.  Extend your knowledge as far as you are able. Know your limits.  Be careful of being arrogant--or rushing headlong after this or that cause.  The worse things become the greater the temptation will be.  Always ask questions; no one is god; no one has all the answers, despite what they say.

Stormy - "In short, be as nimble and as alert as you can"

I think that this is the key.  The deadly danger is that you can spend years setting up what you think is the perfect lifeboat only to have it flattened in a storm or a flood or taken from you.

If you are not sufficiently resilient this will kill you faster than Peak Oil in the first place.

Setting up lifeboats is OK however you cannot possibly make them 100% secure.

I would spend a lot of time going through the archives at:


Try as much as you can to convince your parents of the problem if you are that youngish that you are with your parents. Do you earn any money? Use it to invest in things that you might need to get food without going to the store. Just think about how you would do that. Present them with scholarly articles about the subject and read them together. Ask them to invest in the things that those gold and silver people are investing in maybe. Try to disuade them from making bad investments, like real estate. I wouldn't bother with that. I would bother with storing food and learning things that will help you be independent as a family from the economy. I wouldn't get in debt at all. I wouldn't bother with college. Get a trade that takes less time to train for. There are trade schools. I doubt the peak oil future will need much erudite people. It will require direct skills to get what you need directly. College is a waste of time anyway with or without peak oil. Take it from someone who knows. Gardening. I don't know how useful that is if you have a garden and a bunch of hungry people without gardens around you.  
"College is a waste of time anyway with or without peak oil. Take it from someone who knows."

yeah right.

I have been on the soapbox on this whole subject before, and I am sorry I got here so late in the thread, having been at work when the front end came up.

The fact is, that starting in a period just after the 1970's, the absolute catastrophic disrespect for education in general and higher education in particular began to bleed America to death.  We are now beginning to pay the price for a third of a century of neglect of learning, design, engineering, and artistic applied science and art.

The truth is, had our people, bankers, technicians, auto execs, managers, and government functionaries been educated in design and applied creative art and science, we would right now consider peak oil another minor bump in the road.  It would be annoying at most, but certainly NO threat to a talanted nation.

Let me give the young lady a small sample of where her contempories, what few of them there are who bothered to study real design, real engineering, real technology (not this slop crap we have now and call advanced technology, let me give a bit of a hint as to where they will be....

#Someone is already engineering the new generation of drivetrains for vehicles...let us think of nano-tech engineered lithium ion batteries, so compact, and so powerful for their weight, they can fit almost unnoticed into the floor of a car...able to withstand massive deep charge and discharge repeatedly, the car is of course a 50/50 plug hybrid (50 mile range/50 mile per hour on electric power only, (this is not even childs play for any decent engineer and design team now, even a bad electric car can do those numbers), but instead of messing with the complexity of a piston engine, the car will use a compact gas turbine running on CNG or LPG, or possibly straight hydrogen...it will be consumed only as a range extender/performance enhancing fuel, not as baseline power for the car...on a month to month basis, we are talkign about miles per gallon equivelant of 125 to 150 miles per gallon.  Some young person with know how and real drive, not hiding out in the woods, trying to heat with cow dung, will build it, will style it, and will improve it, and then will sell and service it.

#Another current nano tech firm is already producing solar electric collecting material that is transparent, so thin and so light it can be sandwiched in clear glass invisible to the naked eye, and not affect the strenth of the glass, while producing electric power from each square foot equal to current solar panals.  Stop.  Think.  A building the size and with the area of glass of the Sears Tower, or the John Hancock Tower would be energy positive buildings instead of the huge drain they are now.  Shopping malls could have huge greenhouse areas that would power the mall while providing architects and designers the creative space to create a social area beautiful and unmatched in history, a whole new community building experience.

#Trucks and buses are already being developed with lower aerodynamic drag, lower rolling resistance, and some with hydralauc hybrid drivetrains, so that the power of deceleration and braking are converted back on acceleration and hill climbing.  The results are spectacular, with fuel mileage on a city bus that matches a four door sedan passenger car.

#New designs for using the above technology combined with energy storage, renewable, clean fossil, and computer enhanced control and command systems are birthing a distributed power grid that will extreme in resistance to storms, terror attacks, mechanical problems and fuel cut off.  Hospitals, schools, prisons, hotels, and other large buildings will act as "micro grids" and act as redundant back ups to the large "co-ordinating grid", so that the system becomes a true intelligent network.  Billions of kilowatts per day will be saved, and strain in powerline loss will be reduced as power is produced in more places and consumed closer to where produced.  For the first time, we will begin to see the birthing edge of a modern power grid.  The one we have now is essentially just a gargantuan extension of 1920 technology.

#Passive solar houses combined with such architectural design beauty so as to make the "McMansions" look like tacky shiitboxes.

#high speed trains of such beauty so as to cause people to want to travel that way instead of by air.

#Hydrofoil super efficient commuter river and lake travel that is fast, fuel efficient and beautiful.

A nation that runs on a fifth or a quarter of the fossil fuel now used, and recaptures methane in a varied assortment of ways making clean and rich cities run on less fuel than we will still be producing in 2100.

Now, will your son or daughter be living the good life, designing, building, troubleshooting, improving and maintaining the real future we need, and we WILL HAVE if we have the will and guts to build it.

Or will they, having foregone "the waste of education", be one of life's losers, living as a virtual sharecropper out on some little patch of rural dust  (and go to Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, or Kentucky, and see if you come back with that stupid romantic notion of life as self supporting dirt farmer, I CHALLENGE YOU.  I have lived among them, and they will admit they LIVE LIKE DOGS.  Dental care?  Medical Care?  Education and Culture (opps, that's right, that stuff is bad anyway, right?)

Consign your sons and daughters to that hell if you choose.

The United States used WWII, then The Cold War, The Russians, The Japanese, all as excuses to learn, to try, to engineer and to build.

If we believe in our hearts the peak oil crisis, and the fossil fuel crisis are even HALF the crisis we think they are, the above reasons were petty and stupid reasons to get an education, to learn, to engineer, to design, to advance into the future.

But, even if they were petty excuses, and even if the results they provided were meager technical and design improvements at best, they still provided the world with a level of technology, accomplishment, and advanced products unseen up to that time in many industries, and a hint of the levels of efficiency that could come.  The peak oil crisis can propel a whole new generation into a future that will be cleaner, more efficient, more prosperous, more sustainable and more free than anything in our history, IF WE LEARN, AND BUILD FOR IT in the correct way.

So, to the 24 year old who started this string, I would say the way forward is as it's always been.  Education to the level you can afford, creativity of thought, search out the modern, search for the real design in everything from Alessi kitchen ware to Toyota hybrids.  Some young people your age will be in the future.  Others who lost drive and ambition and hope will be living in the sheds out in the country  (at the end of the day, the creative ones will probably be paying for the welfare and food for those who claim to be "self supporting"....(why do people on "self supporting" homesteads and farms in the south often seem to end up on food stamps, eating at the bidding of the "modern" city folks, who are made fun of because they "can't grow their own food".  Yeah right.  Well, they seem to be able to produce enough wealth to feed the ones who life on peasant farms, with the ground to grow their own.  Is it because they produce the one thing, THE ONE THING that moves a culture forward:  knowledge, design, creativity?

To our young:  DO NOT quit on us, and on yourself when you need to be the best our nation has ever delivered.  Do not take the advice to run into the hills and live as dirt peasant.  Do not suffer the advice of those who tell you to give up.  Many of your contempories WILL NOT be giving up, will not be fleeing the future, will not be fleeing America when she needs her.

Even though you are young, you have only a limited number of years of youth, of life.  I ask you, would you rather be in the future, designing new and interesting things, learning a real road forward, or would you choose to live as a farm serf, one step up from a beast of burden, as people did because they had no choice a century ago.

Think!  Young lady, your nation needs you.  You want to live a REAL LIFE, don't you, not as serf grubing in the dirt.  If you must make the choice, THEN MAKE THE FIGHT! If nothing else, YOU WILL KNOW THAT YOU DID NOT QUIT, DID NOT BOW TO SERFDOM AND SLAVERY, while others succeeded on their wits.  You do not want to end up as servent in their homes, on theier estates, as a chamber maid to the ones who advanced while you did not.

Your 24, young lady, you are still young and strong.  DO NOT BUY INTO THE DEFEATISM OF THE OLD AND BITTER.  This is your fight and your generation's fight to win!  AND IN THE END YOU WILL.  Just do not miss out on the opportunity that will be rare in history again.


IT IS NOT, as those who would enslave you have you believe, a romantic, pretty, comfortable life.  People FOUGHT TO THE DEATH TO GET AWAY FROM IT!
Defiance is virture in this fight.

Thank you, make yourself and America and the world....and us older fogies proud of you!   :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

(and again, that's why I sign my work....:-)

Rock on Roger. You are not the only one who tires of this portrayal of subsistence farming as romantic."Close to the soil"-no thanks.
 It doesn't have to be an either or decision. A young person can garden and learn self sufficency skills on the weekends they find themselves without opera seats. The post above implies the only choices are white collar professional or sharecropper. That's not the case. Many white collar professionals garden, hunt (Dick Cheney perhaps is a poor example) and fish. If suburbanites simply planted fruiting trees instead of ornamentals it would be a big step in the right direction.
  It's not necessary that everyone be self sufficient now. Only that enough people be able to ramp up and help others should the time come. In my area, many of the homes have  gardens ranging from 100 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft. In addition to the gardens there are acres of corn and fruiting trees within walking distance and free flowing rivers, streams and creeks.
 If the trucks stopped rolling today. I honestly believe we could ramp up current food production to  maintain a healthy lifestyle.
 We could even help a certain % of others.
 However , if we tried to help everyone that chose to drive from the suddenly dysfunctional metropolis we would end up doing no one any good.
(Warning: Brutal Honesty ahead)  If other people would place greater value on self sufficiency and the related skill sets now,,I wouldn't have to worry about how to keep them from my childrens food later.  
Because such a large % of the American population doesn't care to wean themselves from the WalMart teet,,it is necessary to emulate the Israeli kibbutz  with extensive protection planning along with water and food production.
 So please,, position yourselves so that you can be self sufficient in water and  food should the need arise, I don't want to litter my Eden with your bodies when the city planners fail you.
 PS. It's possible. I'm a white collar professional, as are most of my neighbors, am well paid, have all the driveway jewelery, harley , boat, 2 volvos,  and am fully functioning yuppie scum to all that take a cursory glance. It's just on the inside I'm a psycho survivalist :)
I say the following not as a boast but am anticipating the typical "well the bank will put you on the street" response. House and 10 acres is paid for, driveway jewelry is paid for , no credit card balances,,
I swear,it's doable. Many around you have, but most don't advertise.
Best wishes  (no sh**, I wish you the best)
Great piece Roger, thanks for the cheer up.

What bothers me in the picture is that the roots of defeatism, alienation, intellectual lazyness etc. etc. at least for some part came as a result of that same technological revolution we are hoping to achieve. Yes, the enthusiasm and strive for a better life of previous generations resulted were successful and proved that we humans can. But just take a look at the results from that revolution that took place some half a century ago - the easy life we looked for back then has made us lazy, obese, hedonistic, allieneted, overwhelemed by pro-consumptional brain-washing etc.etc. Only a small portion of our generation knows what hard living means and has developed even a moderate level of critical thinking.

Clearly in order and before we start the things you are talking about we are going to need something as new moral, something to lead us to a higher state of conciousness. Since in my experience such things don't happen by themselves I expect that this could happen only after the pain from the change has reached some unbearable levels, because of some kind of economic collapse we will experience - that is I'm expecting that we won't do anything to change until it's to late. Hope I'm wrong of course.

All of this engineering depends on oil. Your optimism is based on oil too. It's oil-fueled optimism. It's too late anyway. And people have delusions about their own lifestyles and "peasants" too. Medieval peasants worked less than we do today. This is not the pinnacle of leisure and happiness; this is the pinnacle of technology and oil consumption. That is all. It's not a symbol of greatness. Our progress growing increasingly detached from nature only helps to screw future generations more. Society is heading one way, and one person is not going to steer it anywhere else. Save yourself, your mind and your body from this sick and dying society.


To your sentence, "All of this engineering depends on oil. Your optimism is based on oil too. It's oil-fueled optimism."

it does in fact depend on at least some oil and natural gas.  I think it is important to tell our young 24 year old friend that NO ONE, not Campbell, not Simmons, not even Deffeyes or Heinberg (as strange as they often get!) claim the world will run out of oil and gas.  Below are some of the Proven remaining reserve numbers given over the last several years:


  • 1980 -- Remaining proven oil reserves put at 648 billion barrels

  • 1993 -- Remaining proven oil reserves put at 999 billion barrels

  • 2000 -- Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1016 billion barrels.

 1930 -- Some 25 million American cars are on the road, up from 3 million in 1918.

  • 1928 -- US analyst Ludwell Denny in his book "We Fight for Oil" noted the domestic oil shortage and says international diplomacy had failed to secure any reliable foreign sources of oil for the United States. Fear of oil shortages would become the most important factor in international relations, even so great as to force the U.S. into war with Great Britain to secure access to oil in the Persian Gulf region, Denny said.

  • 1926 -- Federal Oil Conservation Board estimates 4.5 billion barrels remain.

  • 1925 -- US Commerce Dept. says that while U.S. oil production doubled between 1914 and 1921, it did not kept pace with fuel demand as the number of cars increased.

All this is by way of saying there are still hundreds of billions if not thousands of billions of oil in the world....(I will leave it to WesTexex to point our exactly what he considers "one half of total Quantity, or Qt, as he is so good at the math, and think that we can assume there will be A LOT of oil around for a long time (the problem is, will there be enough constantly rocketing consumption.  But yes, with REAL DESIGN and efficiency, and the breakthroughs now coming very fast, I am confident (but it will require brains and effort, that is why we need the young in on this fight, not hiding in the woods)

"Medieval peasants worked less than we do today"

if working in the fields doing back breaking labor with the insects and the dung is considered equal to working in an air conditioned office or lab, perhaps that case can be made.  The reason that field workers in primitive societies often work fewer hours than modern office workers is simply because 12 hours in an office environment won't kill you nearly as rapidly as 12 hours in the field under grueling labor.  I still cannot imagine, if the peasant farms were so great, why people took the chances of leaving farm, friends, family, to get to the industrial slum of the cities.  Could it be that as bad as they were, they were still better than being a serf  (by the way, note that the happy peasant serf you describe did NOT have control over his wealth or income, and no chance to climb socially or economically)

"It's too late anyway."  How can that possibly be proven?  Once again, on a board that claims to love "physics and scientific evidence" we get a claim that cannot to my knowledge be demonstrated as scientific or based on any type of logically provable evidence.  It may be true, it may not.  It's an opinion.

"Society is heading one way, and one person is not going to steer it anywhere else. Save yourself, your mind and your body from this sick and dying society."

That is a moral and aesthetic position.  Again, it is not in anyway related to energy.  The society may or may not be sick and dying, with or without peak oil.  To you it is "sick and dying".  To someone else, it can be seen as a pure work of art, one of the most beautiful and stunning societies in the history of the Earth (I lean more toward that position myself), and at least the equal of any other you can name.  This is much more a discussion based on faith, aesthetics, and moral position, and has little relevence to energy in any way.

Back to energy, even if peak happened this week, if you go by the darkest scenario of Colin Campbell and the Uppsalla protocal, you will notice that the world will still be producing as much oil after 2040 as it was before 1970.  In other words, a staggering amount.  If we learn to be two thirds more efficient, we will still have the oil and gas and more than enough for the critical needs of maintaining society, creating the efficient devices, medications and chemicals that only oil can provide due to it's chemical structure, and for the rest of the century.  The great waste of oil is not in chemical and technically advanced energy, but in straight up BURNING it up the stack.  So much of that can be avoided.  No home should be heated with oil or gas (none need be), and if cars and trucks are to be propelled with it, the efficiency can be three times what it is now, and perhaps even much more.

There is plenty of oil and gas to do the job, if you take out the bad design and waste.  YES, I believe oil and gas will be MAJOR SOURCES of the developing new technology, why wouldn't they be, that's the best use for them!

One more thing...."This is not the pinnacle of leisure and happiness".  Can I jut do the opinion, moral, aesthetic thing myself here, totally none scientific....to say that America is not at the pinnacle of leisure and happiness" if you look at this nation, traval about, and really contemplate it, is to me a remark showing such a lack of gratitude and respect for just how much even the poor here have, and how horribly we waste it and take it for granted, that it is almost a shameful remark to make.  We simply f-in' don't know how good we have got it...that is why this, the fight to reduce the waste, and preserve this culture, is indeed the single great fight many centuries.  Giving up and falling into capitulation is not even an option.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

I think it is important to tell our young 24 year old friend that NO ONE, not Campbell, not Simmons, not even Deffeyes or Heinberg (as strange as they often get!) claim the world will run out of oil and gas.

Of course not!
It is the diminishing returns which are going to bring the collapse.

Asebius dixit :
But the upshot is that collapse comes, not because there is no gas for your car, but because you come to hate your country. ie. The burden society places on you to keep things going will make parts of society seek alternative arrangements to membership in the complex socio-political entities they belong to.

BTW, this means all TOD posters except the cornucopians are among the traitors already!

Giving up and falling into capitulation is not even an option.

"The American way of life is not negotiable!"
It looks like YOU are a member of Tainter's Church, re p214:

We simply do not have the option to return to a lower economic level, at least not a rational option. Peer polity competition drives increased complexity and ressource consumption regardless of costs, human or ecological.

But how are we supposed to fuel the production of these new technological innovations and the infrastructure it takes to make them full scale? There will have to be the production of everything else we had plus this new innovative stuff plus economic growth, which is not possible when the oil production declines. Economic growth didn't even stop during the Great Depression. Our whole system is based on growth. Without it, the financial system cannot function. Especially when half the country or more defaults on their debt.

Design efficiency runs right in Jevon's Paradox.

Expecting to work in a cushy office punching numbers on a screen is also a big reason why we are in this mess and will be as screwed as we will be. We have all these people whose jobs do not actually create anything. But they are getting paid money to do this. Money created by resources for a luxurious waste of time. Money spent from resources for other luxuries produced by all this intercepting complicated bs to get stupid stuff to us in wasteful ways. And we get all this luxuries from other places that we oppress and destroy and we get to stay isolated from the places where we consume their resources, including where we get our oil.

The reason why farmers left their farms. Well, like the reason they are now is because megaagribusiness corporations outcompete them and they can't afford to keep their farms. All the while those megaagribusiness corporations poison the water and ecosystems with pesticides, mutate crops with genetically engineering which affect health and the environment in negative ways, deplete topsoil and aquifers screwing us in the food department when food costs are prohibitively high because food production is so dependent on oil, etc. Farmers leeft because it got harder to make a living on the farm. And some people were just deluded as well. They came to the cities where the jobs were. I'm sure it was more complicated than that. But that's what I know of it.

I do not think that it was really that great to be a serf. But how is it that different from now? Sure, we supposedly have a chance? But it also involves having to mess up the Earth and ruin it for others too. This having to climb for advancement has left empty holes in many I'm sure. I know this one website that says statistics how dysfunctional people are now and how not that happy. A lot of them were doctors. I forget what website it is though. A lot of TV watching and not any community. A lot of buying things to fill up the time they've lost doing nothing at jobs they hate but making the world worse. And socially, people are so divided socially and even when they get to the standards of what is the ultimate reverred social class, the middle, they are seperate and isolated and have to go online to even get a date.

It has to do with energy how this society is sick and dying. Our society's life blood is oil, and it is bleeding to death. All the problems in society are caused by the unnaturalness of the industrialization of humans, physically, mentally, sociologically, etc. An industrialization fueled by oil.

All of our leisure is taken from others anyway in the world which we fail to acknowledge. Our "freedom" to do whatever we want with no constraints on us individually are only possibile by taking away the freedom of other in the Third World by keeping them oppressed and taking away their lifestyles by wrecking their land with our resource extraction. America was even found not to be the happiest in the world. It's 23rd. First in resource consumption, but 23rd in happiness. It's obviously not worth it. And part of the reason is you're right, we are spoiled, if only people didn't feel they need to consume more to be happy and feel satisfied then they actually would be because they would reduce the amount of time they work, but since they were born they were exposed to a consumerist mentality.

It's not giving up. We have been so empowered that we actually have the power to influence how our society because we have the power of money and a fake democracy, but that is relatively recent. The history of civilization is elites deciding what society will be. Will they lose this power finally? We shall see.

The history of civilization is elites deciding what society will be.

I would like to bring your attention to the fact that YOU are (unknowingly) part of the elites even if you don't feel or think so.

Will they lose this power finally? We shall see.

What do you expect?


Ah,  Michel de Montaigne and Etienne La Boétie, are you are a fan?  Then one thing I trust....we may not agree on everything, but there will always be a road forward for discussion and humane respect. :-)

When some ask a ridiculous question such as "Are humans smarter than yeast?", I can think of the giants like Montaigne and La Boétie and say, "Well, they were once too smart to even dwell on such a question."

And when humans are compared to "sheepies" and "screaming apes and babbling monkies" as they often are here at this august discussion board,  I can think of La Boétie's warnings and his firebrand writing, YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN SERVITUDE.

And when people invoke the certainty of the prophet, "it's too late", it's a done deal, "it cannot be changed", I smile....how much that could not be changed in the past, HAS ALREADY BEEN CHANGED.

And when people invoke physics and the limits of "physics", I say, Humans invented physics.  We have a Universe around us so huge and varied that we are as a gnat consuming an elephant.  The vastness of the world and the universe are blessings, not curses.  The person who has trouble understanding the physics of a light bulb easily proclaims, "it's a DONE DEAL, the PHYSICS SAY SO.", while a giant like Isaac Newton says..."I played on the beach as though a child, while the whole vastness of the sea of knowledge lay right there before me."

Physics you would invoke?  Humankind has not even BEGAN to play the game!

Etienne La Boétie understood that DEFIANCE is a virtue.  Defiance of tyranny, yes, defiance of circumstance, yes, defiance of dogmatic thought, yes, defiance of nature?  Oh, woe, the environmentalist, the naturalist hates to hear it is true, but if we are to use it to our advantage, we must FACE the true nature of it!  Yeast does not defy nature, it simply does what it is designed to do.  Humankind SEEKS what it is designed to do, and then designs it!

Defy God?  Woe, the moralist hates to hear it, but it is true!  The Librarian in that great play closes...."God tells man to sit, he stands.  So he tells man to stand.  He dances."   "Under The Lintel" by Glen Berger.

Defy ourselves.  Most of all.  We see everywhere evidence, PROOF that it is a hopeless cause, all a waste.  And then we get up and go out and DO SOMETHING, DEFYING THE HORROR OF INERTIA AND DEATH IN LIFE.  DEATH WILL COME SOON ENOUGH.  WHY DWELL THERE NOW?
We defy ourselves with self doubt.  No yeast doubts itself.  If we have no conscious, no higher soul, why would we?  Why would we not just DO, without questioning EVERY SINGLE CHOICE, EVERYTHING WE DO.
Read Pirsig, "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintainence".  We are striving to a higher value, THE VALUE.  Petty circumstance or geology is too small to get in our way.  WE MUST FIND.....what we value.  But, WHAT IS IT?  WHY DO WE VALUE IT?  SHOULD WE?  The self doubt will always be horrendous.

I once heard a writer smear the French of collaborationist WWII by saying, "who could respect a nation that took defeat without even taking their guns out of the shipping crates."  In factual basis, it was an unfair remark in some ways, but the point was made.

Michel de Montaigne and Etienne La Boétie, let us invoke their ghosts.  Could they respect a generation that was beaten without ever taking it's tools out of the toolbox?  Could you?
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.  Tainter's entropy, if it is to come, will come soon enough.  For now, we play.


Oh yeah,  The house of Michel de Montaigne was a house unheated by oil, without electric lights, without air conditioning.  And yet, a house of spirit and thought that was more lit and electric than any modern home.  Montaigne would understand:  On my own volition I may choose such a home, a home lit only by fire, and enjoy it more than all modern, fast, shiny toys.  ON MY OWN VOLITION.  But I will defy it being chosen for me by pathetic science, poor and stupid design, fatalistic thought, and non consequential circumstance.

Michel de Montaigne and Etienne La Boétie would of course, understand.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Hi Roger,

Let's go for a few discrepancies :-)

Ah, Michel de Montaigne and Etienne La Boétie, are you are a fan?

So, so, I read Montaigne when I was 19 and moved further since.
If I do remember he was not that much "proactive", was he?

And when humans are compared to "sheepies" and "screaming apes and babbling monkies" as they often are here at this august discussion board, I can think of La Boétie's warnings and his firebrand writing, YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN SERVITUDE.

Everybody "choose" according to one's own capabilities and sources of information.
It is indeed the case that many people "choices" look like they ARE "sheepies" & als, to me at least and certainly to some others who are throwing those epithets.
I am not even sure that you or me really "choose" that much, but let's not enter the free will debate...

And when people invoke the certainty of the prophet, "it's too late", it's a done deal, "it cannot be changed", I smile....how much that could not be changed in the past, HAS ALREADY BEEN CHANGED.

Yeah! "heavier than air cannot fly" but squaring the circle will never obtain, you should be wise enough to make the distinction betwen those two cases.

Physics you would invoke? Humankind has not even BEGAN to play the game!

Agreed 100%, but this may be the reason why we don't have a "solution" at hand.
Are you betting on a breakthrough in physics in the next few years?
Cold fusion or something?
Don't count on this!!!

Yeast does not defy nature, it simply does what it is designed to do. Humankind SEEKS what it is designed to do, and then designs it!

"designed" ???
Here is a major disagreement, I don't think either yeast or humans are designed.
It does happen that we appear to be a lot "smarter" than yeast but I would not bet the house on our intelligence or wisdom ESPECIALLY the collective one, contrary to what many think.

Read Pirsig, "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintainence".

I did, didn't like it at all, found it neurotic bordering on psychotic.

Tainter's entropy, if it is to come, will come soon enough. For now, we play.

Agreed, but play is better when joyful and relaxed, that's a bit difficult with the "collapse game" :-(

On my own volition I may choose such a home, a home lit only by fire, and enjoy it more than all modern, fast, shiny toys. ON MY OWN VOLITION. But I will defy it being chosen for me by pathetic science, poor and stupid design, fatalistic thought, and non consequential circumstance.

I would choose the same (nearly, up to idiosyncratic preferences) but volition is only one factor not a magic wand, we already talked about that.

(warning, this is a long response.   It cuts SO MUCH at the philosophical heart, the very core of how to respond to the potential of "Peak Oil", the  philosophical, spiritual and mental response  {which in the end, trumps ALL technical, mitagation and geological issues),  As importantly, we will discuss the use of WILL DESTROYING and OPPOSITION destroying terms becoming more and frequent, bitter, insulting and dehumanizing in this debate....for Kevembuangga, who I have been having an ongoing and fascinating discussion regarding the above issues with despite our differences on many things. it has been civil, for those who have read my other posts, and wondered how I could believe what I believe, and for those who are perhaps looking for a consistant core philosophical TOOL (as opposed to dogma), a STARTING PLACE in how to cope and evaluate their thoughts, values and actions in this time....you may be pleasantly surprised that YOUR SPIRITUAL FREEDOM is still the strongest tool even better than the alternative energies and the organic gardens. :-), and by your values and goals YOU WILL DECIDE YOUR CHOICE (as always in history for the free people, the free thinkers, those who resist the brainwash of "voluntary servitude").
Ah, I am in your debt a bit, you keep pushing my thinking and causing me to re-look at the core questions...which as Montaigne had emblazoned on his medallion,  "What can I know?", or as Pirzig asked, "Since the Universe obviously values change, and it seems to, what does it value changing to?"
Implied of course is that human life must be valued in some way by the Universe, because, well, we're here!  (I often think of this, if NATURE VALUES something, then it's very existance is evidence that nature, the universe, God, values it.... and it shoots the tendency to fall into the lure of nihilism right in the foot!)  

Combine the two above, and I get, "What can I know about what to value?"  It was for me a STUNNING philosophical question, a breakthrough that gave me goose bumps at the time I realized it's extreme value.  It decides what direction your life and your views will take, and it transcends technology and conditions.  WHAT CAN I KNOW ABOUT WHAT TO VALUE?  Decide that one, and much panic concerning outside events and preordained futures melts away.

 Does it go without saying that Montaigne and Etienne La Boétie are BIG influences to me? (plus I owe them, I once got perfect marks on an essay relating to my understanding view of their relationship and importance, graded by two Ph.D. professors (o.k., not a status college, but since I was self taught at the time, I wanted confirmation that I knew anything about their work and importance!)  Pirsig is separate, but for me worked  (neurotic, yes, it is about SELF in a way few books are, but then Socrates was somewhat likewise, "Know thyself", not because you are that important, but because without that, you can know nothing else), "psychotic", well it was about and by a man who had suffered a nervous mental breakdown, and faced it as a HUMAN, a whole human (actually two!), again, he is asking what is the VALUE of it, what does, and why does my mind VALUE THIS?  It starts to set up a pattern don't it?

 This breakthrough happened during my first "Peak Oil" hysteria, in the 1970's and early 1980's, when I suffered the type of horror and depression so many now describe here today....(brief aside, and only a conjecture on my part...that is why "Peak Oil" and particularly the catastrophist theories are not catching hold in the mainstream...so many went through "the horror" when the were young....)  and I realized that I would battle in some way for "What I could know of what I value." And so would knowingly or unknowingly to them,  would everyone else.

Now for those who had always considered, and please choose your favorite term here: technology, complexity, growth, wealth, consumerism, choice, freedom, movement, speed, advance, consumption, the list could go on, but we recognize the family, for those people who had always considered these things a horrible, immoral, un-aesthetic choice for mankind,  "Peak Oil" would be the dream vehicle to help them first see and then get WHAT THEY KNOW OF WHAT THEY VALUE, the end, the death, the ASSURED NON REFUTABLE, NON-NEGOTIABLE DEATH OF THE MODERN AGE.    And the cool part is, it would be not because they wanted it (so they thought) but because they had theories proving it was A DONE DEAL.  IT WAS SCIENCE.  There was no refuting it!

 But there was a fly in the ointment :-(
There were those who liked technology, complexity, growth, wealth, consumerism, choice, freedom, movement, speed, advance, consumption, on and on.  They liked the modern age!  They liked the cars, the planes, the boats, the electronics, the nice homes, the freedom of movement, the PURE AESTHETIC OF THE MODERN AGE.

 I have stood at the top of the Sears Tower at night, and seen the moving carpet of light, arteries and veins of the highways coursing with the white and red "blood cells"  of headlights and taillights, I have seen and heard a Ferrari Formula One car in full song on a road race track with engine turning 22,000 RPM,  have driven a Mercedes Turbo Diesel Sedan down the dark empty of an interstate on cruise control at 100 MPH, under the stars at night across the Tennessee River...do I value these things, DO I KNOW OF WHAT I VALUE?  It is of course an aesthetic and moral discussion, as surely as the beauty of a Gothic cathedral or a Greek Temple is.  

Of course, those who hated, and to the core of their being this so called lying hypocritical beauty, this DISGRACE that had destroyed our planet, this hateful movement and wealth and freedom, and (what do I know of how I define this value?)  this DIGNITY?

As in all great battles, the FIRST thing to do is to reduce the enemy to non-human, to animal.....thus, the repeated terms on TOD, "screaming monkeys", "monkey genes", "chattering apes", even, (this even a bigger leap than we used against the Japanese or the native Americans in dehumanizing them, "yeast", barely alive, barely functioning, nothing but the fungus of a sort that swells bread!

The SECOND is to convince the opponent they have lost.  Break out your technology, use your petty brains, IT'S OVER.  IT'S DONE.  SURRENDER NOW AND SAVE YOURSELF SUFFERING.   (As La Boétie so rightly pointed out, the trick of subjugation is to get the slave to accept the yoke, not to have to master the slave.  True victory is "voluntary servitude" of the vanquished.

So through a combination of unproved and un-provable intellectual assertions,    the effort to find and use the tools to preserve options is ended, destroyed, the will is put to rest.  Humans, at still in their youth, learn to view themselves as animals, yeast, taught that all options are hopeless, all possibilities are ended, variety of response is finished... except....and does it surprise anyone that the recommended lifestyle for all human beings looks astoundingly like being a share cropper, a peasant farmer, a serf?   LIKE THE CENTURIES BEFORE FREEDOM, INCLUSION, DIGNITY?  Is this just coincidence?

Now for the FINAL victory, you must make them love it.  Did you like moving about in vehicles, living in comfortable homes?  Did you like having options in life, seeing designer furnishings?  Do you still recall the great names, Alessi, Ferrari, Prada, Mercedes, Apple, Blackberry, Gucci, the various materials you got to see and hold, the technical wizardry of the magnificent handling of materials and electrons, the communication over thousands of miles?  But you realize now you NEVER wanted any of that stuff, don't you, you only thought you did?  You must know that it was all evil, destructive, bad.  Man could only be happy out here on the farm with the animals, with the dirt, that is the only right way, the only sustainable path.

And the windmills, the idea of power from the sun, that was more of the same path, wasn't it?  Even if it worked, it would have led you back to consumption, to motion, to speed, did you want to risk that evil, that corruption of a real life?  Did you?  WHAT DO YOU VALUE?

And as Etienne La Boétie had taught,  at a time when MOST HUMANS lived as peasant farmers and serfs, the choice to serve would in so many real ways be made by the servant...and once made, it would be taught to his children and their children, now the serf class of the world....it could be a done deal for a thousand years. And the serf would have ACCEPTED IT, ACCEPTED that he had NOT wanted the things, the items, the home or the freedom he had had before, that he was an animal, a monkey or yeast, and not deserving the good things he had, and that it was over, a done deal anyway.  Might as well love it...

You see, even then, La Boétie could see that most humans did not live as subsistence farmers because of a lack of technology or science.  They lived that way because they refused to allow themselves to use their minds, their liberty.  They would not even play the game.  They were told all effort was futile, a waste.

But, even a vain exercise such as squaring a circle must be PROVEN to be impossible before we accept it so.  We do  NOT accept it as impossible on rumor.  WE DO NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING AS IMPOSSIBLE ON RUMOR.

That is, if we think about what we can know about WHAT WE VALUE.

The great writer W.H. Auden once said, "the measure of a culture is unity retained with variety achieved."

At some point, (in my case, in the horrible depression of the 1970's, when it was certain that the modern age was at an end), I had to ask myself, what will I be willing to lobby for, in my tiny way, what will I use what little talent I have to propagandize for, WHAT DO I KNOW OF WHAT I VALUE?  I looked at my America.  It needed to change, it needed to be more efficient, it needed to be cleaner, it needed to reduce waste, it needed to improve it's consumption, to reduce STUPID consumption that was not adding to variety, but simply to weakening us.  America needed  new, cleaner, efficient ideas.  We needed to respect beauty in design, respect the WAY WE BUILT.  But, at the heart, WHAT DO I KNOW OF WHAT I VALUE?

"UNITY RETAINED WITH VARIETY ACHIEVED."  AUDEN MEANT THAT FOR ALL CULTURES  (Like Tainter, he had studied the history of many of the great ones), not just ours.  But, it was WHAT I KNEW OF WHAT I VALUED.

It still is.  It will be for the remainder of my life.  To side only with variety is to spiral into the type of wasteful, stupid, needless consumption, to burn and destroy for no reason except that we can, to engage in over the top gaudy showiness, not in design, not in efficient, modern, functional and beautiful items, cars and homes, which with good education are shown to be cleaner, less expensive, and MUCH LOWER consuming that badly designed gaudy ones.  Likewise cars, appliances, recreation.

But to side only with unity is tyranny, slavery, servitude, and a life of drudgery that is almost unbearable to a thinking human.  The Unity of no tools, no design, no technical options, no way forward, just a coast to coast sea of serfs,  bent over in the fields, serving a small handful of those who did not buy into the defeatism of the masses, it is the unity of a dead slave culture, gone.  

Complexity as a threat?  Think about the threat of surrender to those who would have you believe there is no choice but surrender, you are monkeys, apes, YEAST, THERE IS NO HOPE.  

"If you teach a man for long enough that he is a gorilla with a gun, he will act exactly as a gorilla with a gun."  Thomas Merton

Time to close.  So, am I a fan, of Montaigne, La Boétie, Pirsig,  Merton,  Auden?  (Add in by the way Alvin Toffler, who predicted with DEAD ACCURACY "THE YEARNINGS FOR A NEW DARK AGE" BACK IN THE 1980'S, SEEING THE QUEST TO END THE COMPLEXITY OF THE MODERN AGE AS A MAJOR GOAL OF MANY WHO HAD BECOME HORRIFIED AND FRIGHTENED BY THE SPEED OF CHANGE AND LOST THEIR WILL AND NERVE.  understand what was just said...complexity would not end the modern age,  people would end the modern age out of terror of complexity, it is a HUGE philosophical difference)

Am I a fan?  It is the towering intellects above who have taught me to teach myself, to ask myself, to CHALLENGE MYSELF...

"What can I know about what to value, and why?"

And please do not take this as an offense, but of course, now you can see why a childlike theory such as "diminishing returns" or "complexity" destroying the modern age went right in one ear and out of the other for me.  It was useless, and appeared to be merely fear of modern existence, nothing more, or worse, a way of breaking the will of people who were afraid of modern existence.

The "peak aware" crowd can slur those who would strive to go forward, who have made a conscious choice abut "What I can value, and why.   Call them apes, monkeys and yeast, or dung if you choose, they have deeper shield than they are often given credit for.  They will not have thier will broken by thin arguments, geological guesses and inconveniences, and non proven theories that NOTHING will work for the animals they are.

"What can I know about what to value, and why?"

Ask your self that  question, and thank Montaigne (was a "proactive" type, you ask?  Once unveiled and thought about, a man who could have sold out with his skills to any one of the bloody, filthy factions slaughtering and pillaging and raping the countryside and been rewarded and protected, but instead, gave us what he did if we attempt to understand what he and La Boétie understood and gave us...proactive?....I only hope someday you can see how much so...

"What can I know about WHAT to VALUE, and why?"


Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Easy Roger, Easy!

I am not gonna convince you to drop your quest and neither are you gonna turn me into an optimism, even if I DO SHARE a lot of your "values".
I despise the primitivists and all those who are indeed "YEARNING FOR A NEW DARK AGE" for whichever reasons, but...

- Once in a while I am yearning for some rest. That is, I do not want to be forced to follow "THE SPEED OF CHANGE". Some days I enjoy the speed, some days I enjoy a rest and I DON'T WANT TO BE AT DISADVANTAGE whenever I don't feel like speeding.

- I do see VERY BAD prospects for things ahead but I am not blinded by faith, denial, fear, horror or depression. I expect to die sometime, not like Kurzweil and als and as an atheist I see this as an end. I am puzzled to see so many believers in an afterlife freaking out about death. Why should they care?

- I am not caring much for myself but I have a six month old granddaughter, before enjoying any "values" she has to be alive. Then what could be the BEST POLICY for me to follow?
Surely not running madly toward utopian "solutions" of whatever flavor, techno or anti-techno, authoritarian or democratic.

if NATURE VALUES something

I don't think so.
You value some things, I value some things (not all the same), WE value some things (even more differences among fellow humans), NATURE does not.
If Nature were to "value" something it would rather be death, decay and apoptosis which are necessary conditions for ongoing life.
Why do you need the backing of Nature, God or any other "authority" for your values?

"What can I know about what to value?" It was for me a STUNNING philosophical question, a breakthrough that gave me goose bumps at the time I realized it's extreme value.

It's the dopamine Roger, just the dopamine, you are hooked on hope the goose bumps prove it.
Being addicted is NOT an optimal condition as explained by TLS.

The "peak aware" crowd can slur those who would strive to go forward, who have made a conscious choice abut "What I can value, and why. Call them apes, monkeys and yeast, or dung if you choose, they have deeper shield than they are often given credit for. They will not have thier will broken by thin arguments, geological guesses and inconveniences, and non proven theories that NOTHING will work for the animals they are.

Can you see that you are thinking in a BLACK/WHITE, all or nothing fashion?
Where did you found that ALL the "peak aware", even among the most pessimistic, have their "will broken" and not strive to find solutions?
As for the "apes, monkeys and yeast", yes THERE ARE SOME, "yeast" not caring about the problem, "monkeys" trying to dominate at the expense of the survival of others and even their own in the long run and "apes" rushing to idiotic solutions.


I will try (note the word, try) to keep this as short as possible given it's range...(I often build my own thinking in writing, so be forgiving, as I center my own ideas and write more for the purpose of clarifying my own logic and thinking than to persuade anyone else!)

 I do have to use one sentence to extend a Thank You for what has been a fascinating and thought provoking dialogue that has been enjoyable and pushed me to reexamine "core assumptions, goals, and for lack of a better word, aesthetic and value choices in evaluating my own future action.  You have been a worthy partner in assisting me on that needed task! :-)

#On you point concerning my remark, primitivists and "yearnings for dark age"...for those (not you apparently!) who desire the "dark age" let me stress that is their right as a person to make that choice.  My discussion is whether the "dark age" should then be given to others as an absolute scientific certainty, instead of an aesthetic or value choice, which I see it as until proven otherwise.  I think we have the right to question that.

# forced to follow "THE SPEED OF CHANGE".  I agree with you absolutely.  I live in a rural area, and am not forced to. I think the first study for our young designers and planners should be HUMANE design, humane pace.  The cars and other toys are to serve the humans, not the other way around.

#"puzzled to see so many believers in an afterlife freaking out about death. Why should they care?"  That is very personal indeed.  Mother Teresa, obviously devout, fed the poor.  WHY?  They were going to die and go to a better place.  And yet, if she (we) could not show the gratitude for the place we have, and show the desire to have others enjoy what time they have on it, would we deserve the better place?  It is the core of that tradition and faith, human service and reduction of misery  (if you have not, check out Dr. Albert Schweitzer
It is more than just humanitarianism, art, music, philosophy, study of culture, medicine, it is (opinion here) transcending beyond just life and death (perhaps because it is about values and aesthetics and PURPOSE, yes, man is more than yeast. again, opinion and aesthetic call here :-)

#"It's the dopamine Roger, just the dopamine, you are hooked on hope the goose bumps prove it.
Being addicted is NOT an optimal condition as explained by TLS."

Perhaps.  But for me, it was self created thought (you would be surprised how difficult to do nowadays in the noise and rush you yourself describe!), and taught me the power of creation for the pure joy of creation (something else that stays with me, I like to see stuff, APPROPRIATE, BEAUTIFUL, CLEAN stuff built.  It's harder than it looks!  (plus, my self made dopamine was cheaper than the purchased stuff!  :-)

if NATURE VALUES something...."I don't think so."

You are certainly correct, that's an opinion/judgment call, all but impossible to prove.  I am just going by what I can see....there seems to be always change (so existence/universe may "value it",  there seems to be life (so existence/universe may value it) and the "death, decay and apoptosis" you mention seems to be exactly as you say, "necessary conditions for ongoing life."  But why would the universe value ongoing life?  And yet, here's this whole magnificent system to keep it running!
(aside, I have always been thrown by the sureness of "entropy" and winding down, and reduction to simpler and simpler levels until you get cold dark "static" nothing, but what we see in existence at all levels is the opposite, complexity, movement, heat, pressure, action, life...it seems to run against the grain of logic of "entropy"....what writer once said,
"The Universe is not only stranger than you imagine, it is stranger than you can EVER imagine."  But your right, it's an aesthetic and value call, NOT a technical scientific one.  So much of what matters is though  (when you watch your grandchild play and laugh...I only have nephews and a niece, but it works there too :-)...I assume it's more than the dopamine, either way, blessings....

"Why do you need the backing of Nature, God or any other "authority" for your values?

That one is too simple for me.  I got here too late.  The universe, the world, mankind, existence had already done so much!  I knew I didn't know enough to build my own values from scratch, and (a) why waste the beautiful (yes, on occasion faulty!) work of all history, culture, and nature, the sheer beauty of it?  
 (b) Why not join in a millennia old culture, and have community with the ideas, art, artifacts, and philosophy of the centuries and the nations of all humankind.  Me trying to build my own values, my own culture by my own "values" would be like me trying to build Chartres Cathedral out of 2X4's and concrete blocks from out behind the garage!


In the days of beaux arts architecture (close of 19th century), it was considered proper to "sanction" a facade or design, by showing in the presentation of the work the prior facades, arrangements, columns, and proportions in he history of architecture.  New things could of course be added, introduced, attempted, but first, the building had to be "sanctioned" in so much as possible this way.  The Boston Public  Library for instance has a facade and arrangement that was boasted in the presentation to be sanctioned thrice, by three prior facades.  It many daring new features, but it had the stamp, the communication, the community, with the old VALUES.  Again, as you point out, it is a choice, a  matter of opinion, value and goals, not science or proof that this works better.  But it does for me.  The loneliness of being cut off from this civilization, this culture, would be  among the great losses to me, compared to that, oil and technology would be NOTHING.  When W. H. Auden talked about the goal of "unity retained with variety achieved" he was most certainly not just talking about this century, but about the cultural and artistic unity over centuries (the first time I heard Beethoven's 9th century, I did get tears...I said "WHO would have thought that even possible to do in music?!"  :-)  Now the tears I got when I read the architecture critic Vincent Scully's tow back to back essays on art and architecture of Gothic Cathedrals, and then American Shingle Style houses!  (just by way of example)  Are you beginning to guess that as much as I like writing and discussing technology, applied science and the design arts, I am a Liberal Arts Major?  That guess would be correct.  I started out in the machine shops and sheet metal fabrication shops, and moved over....

I must close, I have gone a bit long.  Allow me to say this, though:

So many here at TOD and other like minded forums speak of the horror of wasted resources, of wasted fuel, of the "throw away" plastic society with disdain, and rightly so.

Yet they seem to see no tragic lose in throwing away a culture of centuries, severing the connection with ideas, art, beauty and values that took thousands of years to build,  leaving us adrift, culture less, surely becoming the yeast and monkeys they love to ridicule.  I know that is overstating it, for rhetorical point, (as you rightly mentioned in your earlier remarks about "black vs. white" thinking, more present in written rhetoric than it would be in contemplation or face to face discussion)

So we are where we began.  This culture, like all, will certainly someday pass from the scene, so why save it at all?  

Just as any member of the family, it seems a good idea to keep it around at least long enough for all the members of the family to get to meet at least for awhile!

And you have been an excellent TOD correspondent, and done a great favor in helping me to re-center and bring myself back closer to the core of why this whole discussion is important and fascinating to me!  Again, thank you for  a great discussion, and I only apologize for in some cases going long in posts, and reevaluating, clarifying,  and rededicating my  ideas here on TOD at such length.  But, they are freebies for the taking for anyone who might find it interesting, and through the miracle of modern science, it consumed no  ink or paper!

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

I am not prescribing my thoughts to control anything or anyone. Whatever happens, it won't be because what anyone thinks. I am just giving my opinion of it anyway. That's part of it that really exposes this modern age. It didn't come about because of industriousness, it came about because of oil. Getting machines to do things for us. It was because of where our culture was. It was where our cultures were and what their environment was like determining their cultures. The Earth decided, not anyone of us. Certain cultures environment dictated that they develop hierarchy and culture that would eventually conquered and oppressed others into their lifestyle. To me, the real servitude is in the capitalist system. The real reason why it's so miserable in the Third World countries is what we've done to them. We aren't saving them with our sweatshops. We coerce them into leaving the farms with our food dumping, and then, they have to work for us. And that goes along with your volition argument as well. Well, people will have their own volition, because we won't have the power anymore to send people over a around the world to mess all their land up and make their governments oppress them. We will actually have to face the consequences of what we do to our immediate locality as a result of our longing to be modern. And there is a price to it all too. If we manage to continue it a little longer, the Earth will be even more denuded and made suckier when the modern age ends. Is all that we are going to lose when global warming really starts in worth it for the thousand years it will take for the atmosphere to get back in balance. My answer is an emphatic NO.


David Goodstein in his excellent book The End of the Age of Oil states, "If we were to suddenly stop burning fossil fuel, the natural carbon cycle would probably restore the previous concentration in a thousand years or so." I assume that Goodstein is conservatively applying several century-long e-folding times to derive his thousand years, but he implicitly assumes that the CO2 will relax toward its 1750 concentration. The point is that it does not.

How useful is it to not have a garden, and a bunch of hungry people without gardens around you? Hunger doesn't come suddenly. Quality and quantity of food will diminish slowly. Fresh produce will become more and more rare and expensive. Gardening is very worthwhile, if only for your health (and it tastes better too than industrial crops).
Doesn't it? I don't know. If the financial system collapses, then that is a problem. Especially when there is the potential for a sudden blockade of what runs our economy. And our financial system which induces distribution of our food to where we are collapses because it cannot function without growing stops. Garden, I guess, but I would prepare for a less sedentary extence as well.
PO and GW are global issues.

Americans consume so much because they can.

Oil, electricity, food, flights, goods....

Optimism as characterised here is reliant on historical and current economic wealth, which affords people the ability to go beyond mere survival.

Pessimism is based on the loss of that luxury.

The debate is here because we have the luxury of choice.

Many others do not.

Would we be considering these changes if we were PO unaware?

Dont watch too much TV or Internet, make friends instead.
Moving to another country will probably not help but if you succeed in accumulating weath try to get to know another country and some people in it.

If you like to interact with a lot of people save and buy some property that is economical to maintain and run in a good interchange point between future road, rail and boat transportation where lots of goods will be transported long after peak oil. It seems that other recommends Chicago.

Having gardening as a hobby cant hurt. But only move out in the wilderness if that is where you want to live your life, PO problems or not.

Have any kind of professional career where you are usefull for other people, jobs realted to the energy business should be high paying, building, maintaining, teaching and hospital jobs should be fairly dependable. If you are bright at something anything will do but you must be a genious if it is a buisness peaople mostly can be withouth in hard times.

Myself I am trying to establish myself in the energy business but I am unfocused. And I hope to get myself a summer cottage. And I should take better care of my friendships. Most of the time goes into making sense of the world and wondering what realy happens, not especially productive.

Get a sailboat big enough to carry you, and a few friends to the U.P. of Michigan. Make friends with some Yoopers so when the worst happens you have somewhere to go. When your neighbors can't buy enough gas to get to Kenosha and its 105F and the grid fails you can still get away.
TOD needs away to convince people that conservation is more than a personal virtue, that corn ethanol and hydrogen are more hype than hope, and that our energy future needs to be looked at as a well regulated utility. If left to market forces we'll just be selling our enemies the rope they will hang us with.
Learn some real energy science. Know that the difference between insolation and insulation is more than just one letter. Learn the difference between fuel and energy. Learn the difference between power and energy, between a kilowatt and kilowatt-hour. Learn what Carnot efficiency is and how it applies to everything. Learn the difference between oil reserves and oil extraction rates.
Teach the politics of Love Thy Neighbor.

Note also that Upper P. of Michigan is blessed in many many ways--one of the best places in the world, IMO.

There are a bunch of declining mining towns on the UP, and you have to get used to the culture (or lack there of), but from sailing to growing apples to having your own secret copper mine, you just cannot beat the U.P.

For a university, there is the very respectable Michigan Tech; a place where engineers are considered to be normal and interesting human beings--and you won't find that in many places.

My advice would be to become accustomed to and happy with "making do" with what you have.  Always wanting more and better goods and services is what drives our high energy consumption.  Take up a small space in the world energy-wise but take up all the space you want with your creative endeavors. Learning gardening skills never hurt anyone and is something I would recommend to any young person PO or no PO.      
My advice to you would be to go and purchase at least one firearm, and learn how to use it.  Learning to grow your own food at home is great, but you have to have the abiliy to protect yourself, your family and what ever food supply you have. There is very little doubt in my mind that the years ahead will become extremly chaotic and violent. There is no reason to believe we will have a functioning government police force. Even nowadays you can't count on the police to really protect you from voilence and crime. So to sum it all up, if you are some tree hugger wo is against gun ownership, you might find your self at the mercy of some one who does have a Gun. And thats reality for you.
I have a different point of view to most, I think.  I see no reason why a combination of lower demand, shift to electric power, and massive increases in electric generation capacity cannot together result in a society not unlike today's, except with a far lower level of pollution.

Transportation in North America is a very significant proportion of worldwide energy use.  Advocate:

  • less long-distance shipping
  • shifting the vast majority of goods shipment from road to rail
  • construction of rail lines for urban mass transit
  • elimination of road subsidies and suburban car-dependent lifestyle
  • telecommuting where possible
  • high speed rail service in place of aircraft for short-medium length trips (an order of magnitude more efficient - e.g. TGV Duplex service seats 545, on average 80% load ergo 436 per train, 18 kWh/train-km for 300 km/h service, 32 MJ/L gasoline equivalent -> 506 passenger-miles per US gallon.  Southwest airlines 737 service average 58.9 passenger-miles per US gallon.  See

Do not fall for the "hydrogen economy" promise - end to end efficiency is very low compared to electric power generation plus delivery on the grid.

Promote use of human-powered transportation wherever possible, mass transit as the next best option, and for those who "need" cars - well, battery-storage electric cars are perfectly feasible even today.  It's a question of attitudes, so work towards changing those attitudes.

On the supply side, we need a massive investment in wind and solar power RIGHT NOW.

Lastly, I would suggest becoming educated, if you aren't already, in some basic laws of the universe, and get a feeling for some "orders of magnitude".  Many will decry the proliferation of laptop computers, for example, as a serious energy issue.  Is it?  They consume something on the order of 100 Watts, probably less.  What is a "horsepower"?  746 Watts.  How much power does it require to move a car at highway speed?  It depends on the car, obviously, but something on the order of 20 hp is a good guess.  That's 15 kW.  15000 Watts.  Versus 100.  Basically you could run your laptop for an entire week and equal the energy used by driving for an hour.  Keep these things in perspective, and educate others as well.

On the question of world politics: behave as if it matters how others live, because it really does.  The world cannot support China or India developing in the insane manner in which the U.S. did.  Peace has its dividends - if all the energy going into building bombs and supersonic fighters and tanks and all the energy going to supply them (the U.S. military itself is a huge oil consumer!) were not wasted in this manner, there would be a lot more wealth to spread around and a lot less resentment in the rest of the world.

In short, an awareness of the issues and willingness to push for sane energy and foreign policies is the most important thing you and your generation can do.  As for personal issues - if I'm right then there will be more jobs in the field of electrical power generation and mass transit and a whole lot fewer in airlines and in internal-combustion-engine-related manufacturing and maintenance.  Other than that things will be pretty much as they are now.

Don't panic.

a whole lot fewer [jobs] in airlines and in internal-combustion-engine-related manufacturing and maintenance.  Other than that things will be pretty much as they are now.

JZ Guy,

I think most of us agree about the need for a massive paradigm shift from a petro-based infra structure to a renewably powered infra structure.

The problem is how to get from here to there.

New stuff does not magically appear one day. It has to evolve from the old. Everything has a history. How did we evolve into the situation we are in now and how do we evolve into the society we need to be tomorrow in order to remain viable?

If things remain pretty much the same, then we are hosed. That's because the Invisible Hand will guide us toward burning coal more and more. Without government subsidies, the natural profits are in burning whatever we can extract as fast and  as cheaply as we can.

Advice to a 24 year old (from a 32 year old):

These are the things I wish someone had told me when I graduated from college.  In no particular order and non peak specific.  (Peak specific below)

  1.  Live cheaply, but richly.  Have roommates.  Play cards.  Drink wine/beer.  BBQ.  Sail.  (I like windsurfing)  Take roadtrips.  

  2.  Teach yourself the basics of sound finance.  Don't carry a credit card balance.  Spend less then you earn.  Start a Roth IRA.  Buy a home/condo.  Rent your spare rooms to your roommates.  Don't pay the landlord - be the landlord.

  3.  Love.  Listen.  Laugh.

  4.  Read.  The internet, fiction, non-fiction, the classics, technical manuals, documentation, and even an occasional trashy novel.  When you have questions, find someone on the internet (or locally) you can get answers from.  Never stop learning and growing.  Universities get upwards of $40k/year for the same thing you can get from the internet and a library.

  5.  Stay active and fit.  You have nothing if you don't have your health.  Brush your teeth and DO NOT SKIP YOUR DENTIST APPTS.  Trust me on that.

  6.  Moderation.  Everything in moderation.  Good and bad.

In terms of peak oil:

Have faith in technology.  A world where we return to subsistence farming is not a world I care to envision.  Advances in solar, wind, and tidal power can make a huge difference.  Maybe cold fusion is possible.  Certainly nuclear power will be ramped up.  

Attend your local town govt meetings.  Vote LOCALLY.  This is far more important then voting for the next president.  (Though you should do that too)

Limit your consumption where possible.  Gee-gaws and doo-dads are quick to break or become obsolete.  Wait 24 hours before buying something - do you really need that?  Invest instead in relationships with friends and family - these aren't subject to inflation but pay life long dividends.

I don't think a career in politcs is a dead end at all.  The greeks had politicians.  The romans had politicians.  Kings have courts.  And the political lobby today is as pervasive as ever.  Just make sure that you feel good about whoever/whatever you are supporting.

Good luck!!  


In terms of peak oil:

Have faith in technology.  ...  Advances in solar, wind, and tidal power can make a huge difference.

Praying to the Technology God does not make things happen ("Have faith"). Investing in basic science research makes things happen. Politicians make basic R&D possible. If you do become a politician, try to remember that. My great grandkids may thank you for it.