Grifter nation

Throughout the blogosphere, pundits are predicting the foreclosure fiasco will be the tipping point. Instead of death by a thousand cuts, this spurting wound will bring the industrial economy to its overdue close, they say. Those of us who care about the living planet should be so lucky. All twelve of us.

Let’s ignore the fact that the media tack “-gate” onto every single event, large or small, as if every event since Watergate is a REALLY BIG DEAL. How many thousand “gates” have we experienced since Nixon waved goodbye, with no appreciable change in the national scenery? Politicians are slippery enough to squirm away from this crisis. And by politicians, I mean banksters and corporations. They’re all cut from the same coarse cloth, after all.

If we set the guilty free this time, the pundits say, we have abandoned the rule of law. Chaos will erupt. Anarchy will rule the day.

Never mind the difference between chaos and anarchy, which most people cannot distinguish. Let’s cut straight to the argument about the rule of law.

As if that’s mattered in this country, or the entire industrialized world, for the last several generations. When was the last time you saw a person of color, accused of raping a while college girl, receive the same treatment as, say, an east-coast, Ivy-league, blue-blood with blue eyes that reflect familial bling? To suggest we are a nation of laws that apply equally to all citizens is to express a level of national naivete we haven’t seen since the cultural revolution of the 1960s. I’d like to think we are equal under the law, and that resistance will overcome inequalities. But I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

We’re a nation of grifters, addicted to Ponzi schemes. We specialize in scams that transfer financial wealth from the poor to the rich. There is no honor among the conniving thieves herding this country into the abattoir. The last American on the stinking, sinking ship of empire will be laughing maniacally because he is holding onto a chest of fiat currency as he sucks his last gulp of air. “I won, I won,” he’ll cry to the crashing waves, failing to notice the seagull gliding through the azure sky.

Imperial myth number one: We are a nation of laws that apply equally to all citizens. But I have seven more:

We can bail out countries by loaning them money.

Printing money creates wealth (in the case of the U.S., it’s contributing to poverty).

Consumerism creates happiness (in the case of the contemporary American, consumerism has created resentment, frustration, and anger).

The Fed is primarily concerned about the citizens of this country. No comment necessary.

The two-party system actually presents a choice. Ditto.

Your home is a good financial investment. Ah, those were the days.

The recession has ended. Okay, that one’s not a myth. The recession is over, and the Greatest Depression is fully under way (aka the empire is in decline).

I’m sure I missed some. But any number can play (hint, hint).


This essay is permalinked at Before It’s News, Island Breath, and Running ‘Cause I Can’t Fly.

Comments 74

  • Here’s a combination of favorites: “Americans are rugged individualists” and “everyone is (or should be) responsible for their own fate.”

  • Ok, I’ll play! How about: FRNs are intrinsically valuable and accumulating them should be the goal of every hard working American?!

    Did I win anything? ;-)

  • I’ve been reviewing a lot of material lately – ‘The Money Masters’, ‘Zeitgeist’, ‘Truth and Lies’, ‘What a Way to Go’, The Power of Nightmares’, The Century of Self’, ‘The revolution will not be televised’, ‘The Oil Factor’ – to name just a few. There is one underlying theme: WE HAVE BEEN LIED TO. Continuously.

    Just how many other people have viewed and understood the content is anyone’s guess. The number should be into the tens of millions by now (worldwide) However, Robert Atack has been saying for some time that DVDs are good for putting under hot coffee mugs. Or you can dangle them from bits of thread.

    Isn’t that the very nature of a population bottleneck? The vast majority will not bother to become informed, to open their eyes (or are incapable of doing so), will not heed the signs, or will simply brush off the evidence as not applying to them? And are therefore very likely to perish. Also, presumably there are many people who know what is coming but are physically incapable of doing much about it, or a trapped by family arrangements.

    An interesting observation is that for much of history the elites actually needed the masses -as galley slaves, as plantation workers, as factory workers, as coal miners, as shepherds, as aboittoir workers, as foot soldiers etc., and more recently, as consumers.

    Now that most of the industrial economy has been demolished in western nations, it does raise the interesting question: how much longer will the masses be of any value to the elites?

    According to what was reportedly said by a certain N.Rockefeller, not much longer.

  • In addition to be a nation of grifters, we are also a nation of lemming. I shared the concept of peak oil with my staff recently during our monthly meeting. They stared at me as if I had lost my mind. One employee actually started giggling. One of them had the nerve to tell me the next day that I was crazy. They are just as incredulous when I discuss issues such as the one in your post or why simply “throwing the bums out” won’t fix our nation’s problems. I worked hard to put together the best staff I could find – and I believe I succeeded. But, even the best of us seem to be willing to swallow whole anything they hear on Faux news. Sad for our country and our world, but maybe good for the planet (after we’ve destroyed ourselves).

  • You too can win the lottery! State-sponsored gambling is a major means of voluntary, regressive taxation on the old, the poor and the desperate.

  • haven’t read beyond the first paragraph of guy’s post above. the next to last sentence of that paragraph is exactly what i must respond to, as this has been eating at me a long time.

    “those of us who care about the living planet”. is that me? am i one of the 12 (all there are, according to guy, in exasperation)?

    on the surface, intellectually, certainly. down deep, emotionally, i’m not so sure.

    intellectually, i know this should be treated as an emergency. someone has to lead the way into unexplored territory.

    what do i mean by this? well, this isn’t a ‘real’ emergency requiring panic/determination/life or death consequences, is it? i don’t see anyone shouting in the streets on a regular basis about it, do u? none of us are going to die today, tomorrow, this year, or next, as a result of it, unless someone chooses martyrdom as a last ditch attention getting device (which will almost surely be in vain).

    i’ve never shouted at anyone about this whole predicament. i might have a little bit re. some aspect of it, like agw, but when it resulted in only further aggravation, i quit.

    and thar’s the rub. anyone determined to try to enlighten/educate the dogmatically ignorant is in for a hell of a fight. extreme aggravation/frustration, harmful stress, placing oneself in danger by appearing to be ‘unbalanced’/dangerous/insane for being adamantly in someone’s, anyone’s face, not taking no for an answer, demanding to be heard. in addition, facing dogmatic ignorance, which can seem like metaphorically facing a solid brick wall which has to be demolished, without any tools. there simply appears to be no way to appeal to reason with many people re. many things.

    and thar’s the worst of the rub. that giant ‘invisible’ pink elephant in the room i think i’ve touched on in this blog previously. it seems to me that the whole intellectual/spiritual basis of civilized cultures must be addressed/debunked. dogma must be exposed/eradicated. words like stupidity, insanity, and evil must be employed to describe the status quo/establishment and all who support it. this would spell the end of dogmatic ‘revealed’ religion, among other things. such a change would be unbelievable, miraculous, wouldn’t it? it would be changing human nature, playing god, being part of the creative process of the universe. exercising free will in a way that may never have been done previously.

    frustration in having failed relations with others leads to greater alienation/isolation socially, as i well know. it’s why i think truly becoming serious/committed to trying to alert/wake people up to our dire predicament could very well result in at least spiritual martyrdom.

    have many of these thoughts crossed any of your minds? if they have, u’ve probably made the same choice i’ve made, which, to quote a famous aphorism, is about ‘discretion being the better part of valor’.

    still, i know my continuing comfort by denial/avoidance of dealing with surreality, as it does for all of us, comes at the price of our descendents. for sure, there’s going to be hell to pay. stop reproducing, relinquish all dreams of future security/comfort by current standards, and try to occasionally think about and prepare for the ordeal that awaits us. this is the better part of valor, but it doesn’t sit well with me, for i still know that someone should be acting as if we’re in an emergency, and that someone could be me. i lack faith in miracles, and shun martyrdom. how about u?

    And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon. -pink floyd

  • Think how different the feeling was at the dawn of the New Millenium just a decade or so ago.

    If those pundits were really taking the pulse of the American people instead of trying feverishly to manipulate hope, the TV news would be too depressing to bear. Panic and revolution would be in full sway if the real situation were understood.

    It seems entirely likely that when things really get undeniably bad, the powers that be will shut down internet access and email and dissidents will not be able to communicate easily, much less organize.

    We are getting closer and closer to life and death problems, not just loss of affluence.

    Americans are going to finally figure out that they are not so exceptional after all, and the rest of the world is not going to lose too many tears mourning our decline and demise.

    And the rest of the world will fall into our downward vortex and their institutions will collapse just as ours will — we are all interconnected now.


  • Apathy rules that is for sure, harping on ….
    I’ve ‘produced’ about 13,000 DVDs of which about 11,000 have been given away and the other 2,000 sold at my cost,(or there a bouts)… it might be more, I have kind of lost count.
    I think @ 12,000 that is something like a per capita equivalent of 1 million if there was an idiot in the US doing the same.
    I’m sure I haven’t affected the sales of the movies I’ve pirated… because the simple fact is 99.9% of the people who received ‘my’ DVDs are hard pressed to watch them let alone buy a copy.
    Robert Hirsch said ‘We have a people problem, simply the people do not want to know.”
    I’ve tried to inform all levels of society, from the local preacher (I did get one minister who got very active), to the Governor General (Queens rep) and everyone in between, teachers, headmasters, Plunket nurses, even bloody midwives, police, our = to the CIA the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (they have some of ‘my’ DVDs in their library), mayors, NZ celebrities, councils MSM MSM MSM, was featured on a national TV program, as the lead into a 7 min feature,
    I’ve been on NZ National Radio

    And placed lots of signs about the place

    And we finally get this report
    Which got about 3 min air time on the radio and maybe 10 min worth of questions in the house.


  • Hello Guy and friends, I wanted to throw out an idea that some folks here might find interesting, which I’m tentatively calling my “Nietzschean Eco-Ninja Doomer Cult”, or simply “The Way of the Doomer”. Basically I’m trying to combine my interests in survivalism, doomerism, eco-radicalism, martial arts, mysticism, global guerrilladom and existentialist philosophy into one big doom-proof system – sort of like John Michael Greer’s “Green Wizards” crossed with Bodhidharma’s Shaolin warrior-monks, with a dash of “eco-al Qaeda” to make things exciting.

    It seems to me that we’re living in an interregnum, a time when the old institutions are crumbling but the new order has yet to take shape. This means our existing schools and temples are unsatisfactory – the universities train us to be cogs in a failing industrial machine, while the churches recite the words of long-dead prophets from a world that bears little resemblance to our own. Rather than despair, however, we can view this as an opportunity to create new schools and temples which will survive the dark age which awaits us in a post-peak world.

    The good news is that spiritual development is independent of technology and material comfort; in fact if we consider the elaborate self-development systems created in the East amidst grinding poverty over the millennia, it would seem that our very material abundance has left us spiritually stunted. I’m finding the Eastern examples of the Hindus, Taoists and Buddhists inspiring, because they’ve lived through so many civilizational collapses yet their belief systems remain intact. What we in the West should do now is learn from their example, decouple our cultures from our material abundance and look inward — find an order, a brotherhood, a system of beliefs and skills that can survive any external disruption. Anyway this is what I’ve tried to do, but I haven’t found anything that quite fits the bill — hence my idea for a “Temple of Doom”.

    I am envisioning a curriculum for a Tao of Doom which includes everything from primitive survival skills to meditation, martial arts, permaculture, ecology, sustainable technology, militant activism and existentialist philosophy. Note that this would not be a bunch of hippies sitting around singing bad folk music (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – it would be a rigorous school for training green warriors, eco-ninjas, global guerrillas and doomer monks. Maybe it’s just a thought experiment, but the more I think about it the more I like it. Does anyone else find this idea appealing?

    I’ll leave you with a quote from the film “Ghost Dog” that gives some flavor of the spiritual rigor that would be required for the Way of the Doomer:

    “The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.”

  • Terry: I don’t want to put words into anyone’s mouth, but I think when Guy says ‘All twelve of us’, he is just using hyperbole to make a point. We all know it is more than that. I suspect the actual number is somewhere between 12 per 10,000 and 12 per 1,000 in developed countries (or between 0.12% and 1.2% of the populace).

    When someone counted up [in NZ] several years ago the total was 11. Could be several thousand now. Nobody knows because so many have dropped off the radar.

    ‘words like stupidity, insanity, and evil must be employed to describe the status quo/establishment and all who support it. this would spell the end of dogmatic ‘revealed’ religion, among other things. such a change would be unbelievable, miraculous, wouldn’t it? ;

    No. Been there, done that, It made no difference. (yes, they are the right words.)

    FYI we did all the shouting 3-5 years ago (when there was a possibility of some mitigation). The game is pretty much over now. But for the moment the vast majority do not realise.

  • Here’s another – if we just raise everyone up to middle class standards of life people will voluntarily curtail reproduction and population will stabilize at a level that the earth can support indefinitely. (nevermind that in 2006 we were using 1.4 earths with 3 billion living on $2 a day or less)

  • It is like a friend’s “headline” said for many years, “You can’t talk sense to crazy people!” Sometimes I feel like George on Six Feet Under. Then, I come to this site, read, and feel like I am behind-doing my part lingering around in the status quo.

  • Doctor Doomlove,

    I suggest that embracing feudalism and using a hired assassin as a model for “right thinking, and right action” in a brave new world may not get us to a really swell place (unless of course you’re one of the bosses).

    Michael Irving

  • I don’t know Guy I think this could get very messy indeed. It certainly bears careful scrutiny. We all know how lawyers love to get rich and this is surely a heaven sent opportunity to do just that. No matter what the Elites do it could certainly gum up the works and with the economy as dodgy as it is you never know what may happen. Perhaps it will be like the infection that kills off the terminally ill patient. Not fatal in itself but enough to finish the job under the right conditions. Course your probably right but you never know. I can’t in all honesty say I am looking forward to the end of the industrial world so you wont see me cheering it on but there is no doubt in my mind that it deserves to get whats coming to it. Maybe this will indeed be the tipping point and you can cheer to your heart content. Charles Hugh Smith did a good essay on it the other day. Well worth a read.

    And for anyone else whose got the pom poms out ready to cheer on the end of the world as we know it I wonder if you really know what it is you are letting yourselves in for?
    Kids who didn’t deserve any of this dieing in front of you. Nature is a cruel mistress. I have lived homeless for long periods of time with little food as a child and as an adult I have worked as a relief worker handing out aid to people who are so desperate they would kill you for it if there wasnt a soldier with a machine gun in front of you.
    All I’m saying is, be careful what you wish for……

  • “We specialize in scams that transfer financial wealth from the poor to the rich”

    Absolutely agree. Beyond the doubt, it’s the most confortable way to suck blood from harmless people :-). When everything come down, I’d like to have a small CONVERSATION with a couple rich men (without police or soldiers to protect them: such is the real function of these forces).

    AFTER this CONVERSATION, a good physician will be unable to find the difference between their head and their arse.

    They will pay their evil deeds, inevitably. Starvation or violence: these greedy old men will know the meaning of pain, and they honestly deserve it.

    By the way, I do not have any debt and I never had it…

  • Here’s my entry: we can showcase the truthtellers as simultaneous objects of derision and sources of entertainment. The sad part is that this isn’t really a myth, it’s true, as I say more fully in my movie review of the 2009 documentary Collapse.

  • Thanks for playing, everybody. There are some excellent entries here.

    the virgin terry, thanks very much for your introspective comment … and yes, the number 12 is intentional hyperbole.

    Robert Atack, I am among the many who have benefited from your Herculean efforts. I applaud that you’ve fought the good fight, even though people are catching on too little, too late.

    Doctor Doomlove, welcome back. I thought perhaps you’d given up on us anti-cornucopians. I love the idea of meditation about death. We spend far too little time in this culture thinking about the end of life. And I agree that contemporary schools and churches have little to offer now and even less when the new dark age gets under way. So, count me as a supporter of a curriculum that includes “primitive survival skills to meditation, martial arts, permaculture, ecology, sustainable technology, militant activism and existentialist philosophy.” In fact, I strongly encourage you to post your comment on the blog of the students with whom I’m working this semester, asking them to consider developing the idea further (with your input and assistance, as you’d like):

    Brutus, thanks for the link to your review of Collapse.

  • Are some people beginning to see chinks in the establishment armor? Look what was posted in the NY Times
    Preparing Kids for the Unknown
    “There are many reasons not to start the push toward college before your child is even in preschool. You know most of them, but here’s one you might not have thought of: There is no point in pushing children, because by the time today’s toddlers turn 18, college — along with the book-based world for which college prepares you — will be an obsolete relic….
    “What if we’re raising our kids to succeed in a George Jetson kind of world, but they wind up living more like Fred Flintstone?””

    When you read the whole thing it doesn’t sound like they are taking it all that seriously or expect changes to happen very soon, still it is rather stunning in the NY Times eh?

  • Sue Day,

    I think your comment to Guy is right on the money.

    I do think that Guy has a very clear intellectual notion of just how bad it could get and even knowing that is still cheering on the end of industrial society. I agree with his premise that without a collapse of industrial society in the near future we may well make the world uninhabitable. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that the rules governing the outcome of this huge, planet-wide overshoot experiment we’re running differ from the rules that apply to the classic lab experiment involving fruit flies in a closed bottle.

    What I don’t agree with is the idea that anything about a collapse of industrial civilization will be a good thing for the people living it or that it is something we should be cheering about. If you take the view that people are no more, and no less, important than any other creature on the planet it is easy to rationalize that our actions as a species warrant some kind of divine retribution (even if that is only the application of the fruit fly rule). That view is dishonest, however, for anyone who has smashed a bug on the windshield of his car or slapped a mosquito. As individuals, and as a species, we are programmed toward self-preservation. Guy is simply proving the rule by preparing for the worst. What is more, regardless of what he says about gladly dying to preserve the earth, he is doing everything he can to get himself and others through the bottleneck. The extent to which he has gone is a measure of how bad he thinks it will get.

    Not one, not a single one, of the children who will die have any culpability in what humankind has done, and is doing, to this planet. Cheering their demise is as reprehensible as applauding the bombing of wedding parties in Afghanistan. I think, and hope, that Guy is cheering the ends and not the means. Better a few billion die and the earth and Homo sapiens persist than that the whole thing devolve into Venus II.

    I agree. Be careful what you wish for.

    Michael Irving

  • Sue Day and Michael Irving: Do I look forward to unimaginable suffering and death of industrial humans? Of course not. Do I look forward to continuation of our species on this planet? Yes, eagerly. Do I look forward to freedom from the oppression we visit on non-industrial cultures and non-human species? Of course.

    I’m wishing for complete collapse of the industrial economy with knowledge of the likely consequences. The other alternative spells the end of the line for many species on Earth, likely including our own. Anybody who’s cheering for continuation of the industrial economy is cheering for transformation of this planet into a lifeless pile of rubble, probably within a generation. I’m not a fan of that outcome.

    Will the days ahead pose significant challenges to our creativity, courage, and compassion? Indeed. Will they bring out the worst in people, and also the best? Almost certainly. I want us to recover our humanity, as I’ve indicated many times. If we’re to accomplish that meaningful feat, we’ll need to give up on the age of industry.

  • thank you micheal for your insight and I agree Guy that you do not look forward to what is to come with any degree of relish interms of human suffering but the day you start suggesting that you and your students become existential ninja warriors is the day I look for pastures new. Good luck all, we need it.

  • i see i’m going to have to devote much more time and attention to this blog. while it’s number of blogposts, participants, and replies is quite managable, the quality involved, the formidable information links, and the requisite time to synthesize/analyze all of it certainly adds up. thus, i haven’t been keeping pace. thus, for now this brief reply is limited to robert atack primarily, kevin moore and guy also. of course all are welcome to read it.

    robert atack, i’m extremely humbled after checking out the links u posted yesterday, regarding the prodigious time, effort, and personal sacrifice u’ve given as perhaps new zealand’s most noteworthy eco-activist and would-be educator of your fellow kiwis, along with international visitors to and (hope i got those 2 right), your prominent and exceptionally impressive websites. humbled, and honored to share this blog with such an admirable, luminous spirit. several of your observations from these various links were interesting, particularly comparing your kiwi perspective with my american one. worthy of more comment/discussion perhaps later.

    it’s rather a surreal privilege/delight to carry on electronic discussions with such eminent thinkers and doers as robert and kevin from the far side of the world, as well as other internationals who participate often here. my already very high opinion of guy is now even higher, considering this is his baby.

    robert’s done much more in NZ, made a much greater splash in their media, it seems, than any of my fellow americans. thanks so much for the fine example and cautionary tale of sharing your efforts with us. i hope to learn much, much more from u and and other NATURE BATS LAST bloggers as time goes on. perhaps my own contributions, not only to this blog but to the cause of enlightenment/preparation will expand/improve as a result. that’s all i have for now.

  • Myth…~14

    We’ve got it under control.

  • How about “sustainable growth”. Perhaps that’s just an oxymoron.

  • Dan: I don’t know if it’s the same where you are, but here in NZ local authority community plans are full of buszz words like ‘vibrant’, and invariably mention the need for ‘sustainable economic growth’.

    The Local Government Act requires local authorities to promote the wellbeing of the community and the environment in the present and the FUTURE. Since all local authroirties are required to cover as much land as possible in concrete and asphalt, it follows that by following government directives every local authority in the country is in continuous breach of the Act.

    George Carlin summed it up in three words: “It’s all bullshit.”

    PS We were ‘rather lucky’ to have an earthquake hit the sencond biggest city a few weeks ago. The clean up and reconstruction have provided a ‘much needed’ economic boost to the region.

  • Michael Irving, if caring about innocent children dying is your concern then you will cheer the early end of industrial civilization. Why? Because there is some base level of number of humans that the planet can sustain post Peak Oil. It is not 6 billion people. Therefore as the oil becomes less and less available some of those 6 billion will die untimely deaths (everyone dies eventually so this is about when you die not if you die). Lets say the sustainable population without fossil fuels is 3 billion. To get down to that number will mean the untimely deaths of 3 billion. But every year that industrial civilization continues we add 70 million humans. Thus if the collapse is 10 years from now the number to die early is no longer 3 billion but rather 3.7 billion. Yet each year the collapse is delayed we further deplete and poison the planet meaning that the number that it can sustain will be less and thus even more die untimely deaths. To wish for an early collapse then is a wish for less people to die early deaths. It is a wish for a planet that can sustain some people. To wish for industrial civilization to continue to change our climate, pollute our streams, deplete our oceans is to wish for a planet that may not support any humans. Guy’s wish is by far the most humanitarian wish.

    Now if you want to discuss how we might live post peak (which I think is what really worries people) you can argue that the sooner it comes the sooner we loose our comfy lifestyle. So true. But should we wish our comfy lifestyle to continue longer at the cost of 70 million more extra human lives per year that have to live in an increasingly devastated planet and die early. In fact if it is really just our own skins we are concerned about, early collapse will give us the best chance of having a planet that we can live on. Seems like a no brainer. Putting off collapse is the worst possible future for all humans and other living creatures.

  • Perhaps the time is approaching when someone will say so others can hear it,

    Don’t just do something, stand there and speak out.

    Then, perhaps in the offing, necessary change toward sustainability…

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC

  • Hopefully the French are lighting the fuse, and this time it spreads far beyond Europe (“remember, remember the 5th of september, 2000”).

    Pigmen, Pigmen,
    Ha-Ha, charade you are.

  • Jean, I have been trying to think how best to see this. Many of us harbor within our heart of hearts desires for revenge against the exploiters of the world. But post collapse our best use of our energies would surely be to attend to obtaining our food and other needs. While I am sure you are just verbalizing the depth of anger we all feel, I think you should consider this. The collapse may not happen as quickly as we think it might. As long as TPTB can, they will monitor all they are capable of monitoring. They might misunderstand your momentary thoughts as a plan. I suggest you qualify any expressions of your imaginings as only that. Better yet to just talk about positive plans for self sufficiency.

  • Sue Day,

    Note that Guy has carefully excised only a portion of the Doctor Doomlove philosophy, specifically not including the ninja warrior part. Included are things like primitive survival skills (check), meditation (good for the soul), martial arts (physical training/protection in an uncertain world), permaculture (one needs to eat), ecology (we need to understand what’s out of whack/how to fix it), sustainable technology (can’t count on cheap crap from China), militant activism (making our voices heard), existentialist philosophy (who is ultimately responsible for us?). Seems like a pretty good set of tools to be carrying into a murky future.

    I’m happy that Guy forced me into a deeper consideration of Doctor Doomlove’s thoughts.

    And please don’t let a small disagreement with Guy’s thoughts send you out looking for greener pastures. You’re clearly not a ditto head and we need your ideas and your voice.

    Michael Irving

  • Dear Kathy:

    I can not deny that your common sense is spectacular, but it’s something personal between me and the rich men: once, I did terrible things in their name; I was one of their war hounds (just in order to obtain the military skills I need, but inevitably in the wrong side).

    Obviously, I will concentrate in surviving and creating something sustainable around me. But if I have the chance of having such a CONVERSATION, I’ll use it.

    Revenge is childish… but men are childish, as well. :-)

  • Jean, again I am not arguing about your feelings rather I question the wisdom of airing them on the web.

  • Thank you Micheal, I appreciate your words. Guy and I always butt heads on some things. He is one of the very few people on the planet I respect enough to speak my mind too. I will look again at what was written. Yup just looked at it, sorry it sounds like a bad B movie to me. Each to his own I suppose, I dont have a problem with Dr.Doomlove, anyone who comes up with a name like that can’t be all bad. But I get tired of listening to how Churches and other establishments are complete crap when most of the main charities doing aid work in third world countries are Christian run. As a former Christian aid worker myself I think “well yeah great, you guys keep on thinking about how incredibly clever you are with your bargain basement homegrown philosphies while we Christians get on with the real work”. Nietzche gets mentioned alot around here, but isn’t he the one that said “there are many different forms of truth consequently there is no truth”. If he’s so great how come my truth isn’t allowed to the party?
    You say Guy only mentioned some of the aspects of what Dr Doomlove said but then he suggested he go share it with all his students so lets hope Guys students only pick out those bits as well.
    Sorry Dr.Doomlove I know this sounds like I’m hating on you but I’m really not. I unreservedly appologise if what I have said offends you although I am sure you have the good sense not to give two hoots about what I say.

    Kathy, I have to say that I was very impressed by what you said to Micheal. You are right of course,I hadn’t thought of it like that before. Even so I still find the idea of anyone looking forward to this repellent.

  • Sue, back in my Christian days I volunteered in Mother Theresa’s Home for Children in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Daily a few children died, but many were healed to go home to their families. I was already questioning my faith. But there I began to question something deeper and more disturbing. I began to question if we could know what was good. Was good healing kids to go home and have kids and continue to populate a land far to heavily populated already. It was wrenching but I finally came to terms with the fact that we humans are too full of hubris – the hubris that we think we can declare what is good and what is not.

    Since you find that anyone looking at the collapse of industrial civilization as repellent, I hope you also look at giving birth as repellent as no one who remains unborn has to die, but everyone who is born must die and most deaths are not pleasant (I volunteered in many a nursing home in my life and with Hospice for 10 years). And certainly you must find that idea of hell repellent and any god that would send anyone to hell as evil. And the book of revelations and its predictions of end time doom surely is also incredibly repellent to you. In fact even if you don’t believe in all that, the very fact that our sun will eventually burn up and any remaining species totally die out would mean that the plan of creation includes a repellent end. What does that say about the creator?

    No one is going to die in the collapse of industrial civilization who will not die anyway – we are mortals. While necessarily many people will die earlier than might be expected, in fact many deaths will likely be easier – easier than being kept alive like a man I used to visit who was paralyzed from the neck down and subject to daily painful seizures but not allowed to die. Easier than the woman I used to visit who at that time had been flat on her back with Multiple Sclerosis for 12 years. I remember as a teen visiting that nursing home and hearing her scream from the bed sores whenever the nurses moved her. The long unnaturally extended dying that a society in death denial has imposed will thankfully end.

  • Kathy,

    I’m sorry that I was not clear enough for you to follow what I was talking about.

    Below is the second to the last sentence in what I said. I think it should be clear that you took me to task for something I didn’t say.

    “Better a few billion die and the earth and Homo sapiens persist than that the whole thing devolve into Venus II.”

    In fact, the position I’ve taken here on several occasions makes your 3 billion sustainability level seem wildly optimistic. I’m thinking that the number might be more in the .5 billion range; meaning 1 in 14 of us might make it through.

    The point I was trying to make, badly no doubt, is that we are the people responsible for the deaths of those innocents. We should feel guilty.

    Michael Irving

  • Kathy: I agree with your sentiments, but I think it would be worthwhile looking at some different numbers.

    Extensive use of fossil fuels got underway in the early nineteenth century, when the population of the world was below 1.5 billion, and the use of industrially produced fertilisers got underway in the early part of the twentieth century, when the poplation of the world was below 2 billion. If we assume that the Earth was in some kind of ecological balance prior to 1800 (and many would argue that was not so), we could conclude that the Earth is capable of supporting a population of around 1 billion humans, and anything above that amounts to overshoot. Nobody knows how many people the Earth could support via extensive use of permaculture systems -and we are unlikely to ever know, since it seems TPTB will not permit such an experiment to be conducted.

    In thinking of England, which arguably had a sustainable population of around 3 million in Tudor times (before they began exporting people and importing large amounts of food), we see a population explosion of around twentyfold, to around 60 million. The same argument applies to a whole raft of countries, Japan arguably being in one of the worst boats of the lot, with a population close to 130 million and a climate that is not particularly condusive to high productivity of food. (Though some say a population of 30 million was sustained through the Edo period; however, we should note that the seas around Japan had not been stripped at that time).

    With world population now at 7 billion (and still rising), it all suggests there could easily be a population die-off as high as 6 billion, rather than the 3 billion you suggested, over the coming decades. Many of us have been pointing out for a long time that perpetuation of the present system simply exacerbates every problem we have and magnifies the misery to come. Garrett Hardin highlighted the tragedy more than 30 years ago, when he ponted out that providing food and medical supplies to the destitute of Africa simply compounded the carrying capacity of the land problem. (A decade ago I had a short telephone argument with Bob Geldoff on that point. Nothing has changed since.)

    We are placed in an impossible moral bind: in the absence of any contrary evidence, it seems that attempting to feed the present world population becomes an immoral act, leading to ever greater suffering in the future (not to mention that any increase in food production in the short term will come via confined animal farming systems and further ravaging of remaining natural landscapes). Needless to say, the extreme glutttony that characterises many westerners (Chrstian and non-Christian alike) must be viewed as highly immoral. How many people died today so that westerners could get food from a drive-through? And how many of the customers care?

    The more I see of it, the more convinced I am that we will witness Peak Mayhem some time in the next decade, as a component of Peak Everything. Maintaining the theme of positivity, the earlier it comes, the less the damage.

  • Kathy I did not say anyone looking at the end of civilisation is repellent. I am looking at the end of industrial civilisation as a neccesary evil. It is the idea of people rejoycing over it I find hard to take. Even then I can understand their viewpoint. I completely agree with you that Humans cannot know what is good or evil which Is why I follow the Bible to determine that for me. Hell by definiton is the complete absence of God as defined by the Bible. Revelation is a prophetic book which foretell things that are about to happen due mainly to the actions humans take not God. We all like to blame God, the elites or the bogey man for the days we live in but we are all culpable for what is happening and is going to happen. Anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves.

    Death comes to us all, I was considered terminally ill through out my younger life so I know what I am talking about. If I believed as you do that this is all there is I guess I would probably feel the same. But by your reconing does that mean that no one should have children? should we all just give up? I don’t think so although I am all for population control. I sympathise with a lot of what you just said actually.

    I guess my main reason for optimism is based on the idea of a “new heaven and a new earth”. We have totally screwed this one up but there will be restoration. Thats what I believe and like nietzsche says my truth is as legitemate as anyone elses.(although my spelling probably isn’t)!
    As I’m sure you can see I do not find the idea of God repellent.The idea of Hell is definately repellent to me.Maybe we differ in what our definition of that place might be. Or how you get there.

  • Peak Mayhem. Hmmm, I’ll have to remember that one. I’ve been more oblique about it, saying that we’re in for a lot of mischief.

    As to dancing on the grave of our collapsed civilization either in advance or as it happens, who cares, really? There will always be folks of bad faith and poor conscience. From the preserve of our presently comfortable armchairs, those pronouncements are easy, cost-free, and mostly meaningless. Whether one identifies closely with the land or the fecundity of nonhuman life or merely takes some sort of sick pleasure in the Schadenfreude we’re about to experience is mostly hypothetical and will be swept away quickly when things go to Peak Mayhem.

  • Jean probably does need to keep a lid on it, though you can see from the last blog that he is a Spaniard living in France. Jean’s probably the least of their worries right now. No one here knows what he has been through, and hopefully he won’t tell us.
    We had a forest fire on our property this spring. Prior to the 13 companies that eventually arrived, it was just Jen and I out there on the fire line with a couple of farming tools trying to do something. Looking back it was insane,with the wind causing the fire to jump constantly. Neither of us would have ever done something like that if our houses were burning in DC, but things change when you have a farm, and you spend so much time close to the soil, working like you have to 7 days a week. You become a part of the land and that farm. I have seen pictures of a farmer on his front porch with a shotgun facing the marshalls and a bulldozer. Really doesn’t seem as farfetched as it used to. Everyone has their reasons, we cannot pretend to understand.
    Just my 2 cents.

  • Kevin Moore said: “…or a trapped by family arrangements.”

    This describes my situation. But really, where can you go to escape the petroleum collapse and not experience personal suffering? To a third world country? How ironic.

    I expect to be ‘trapped’ here come what may which is forcing me to come to terms with my own potentially early demise. But how is this any different from learning that I have terminal cancer or becoming the victim of random violence? Let’s face it, each day is a blessing and the sun will rise again tomorrow for those lucky enough to witness it.

  • jean, i hope u never want to have a CONVERSATION with me! LOL

    dr. doomlove (curious name), i’ll take your critique of public schools and religious institutions a step further. perhaps the best one re. schools i’ve come across is john taylor gatto’s little gem of a book DUMBING US DOWN, re. his experiences and perspectives as a public school teacher for many years who quit shortly after receiving a prestigious award as the best teacher in new york state. it’s a scathing indictment of public schooling in america. i’m not sure if it was in this book or a subsequent one where he traced the current ‘public’ education system in america historical roots to 19th century prussia, where industrialists and their friends created a curriculum to fashion students into ‘cogs in a machine’. this was definitely an extension of what we’d now refer to as corporate power into a crucial realm of human development.

    speaking of ‘public education’, i can only speak for my american experience/perspective, and i’m curious how it compares to others here. just zeroing in on a few particular observations re. just how ‘public’ our schooling is, and that is this:

    they segregate children in strictly dogmatic hierarchical institutions for a very significant portion of their young lives. they strongly discourage the real ‘public’ (parents, everyone else) from participating in this process. it’s indoctrination, but not generally recognized as such. school ‘discipline’ involves official coercion and intimidation, emphasizing that ‘authority’ must be respected (or at least feared) and obeyed. time is regimented as is behavior.

    in his autobiography, PROVIDENCE, daniel quinn briefly addresses the subject of education and how it should be a true communal public experience, woven naturally into all our lives, not the contrived, restricted, harsh elite-serving institution it’s become.

    dr. doomlove, when u say “find an order, a brotherhood, a system of beliefs and skills that can survive any external disruption”, i think u’re out of touch with the spirit of this blog, contained in it’s title: nature bats last, meaning nature is the ultimate power. it’s insane to think or believe that our species, or any other, will ever acquire the power to survive any ‘external disruption’. here again is manifestation of human hubris/exceptionalism.

    moving on to a nitpicking correction of kathy, according to my memory of facts (and in close agreement with kevin moore’s, apparently), the world is well past 6 billion people. it’s on course to pass 7 billion in less than a year, and is increasing at a yearly rate of about 80,000,000, not 70,000,000.

    in deference to kathy, amen to the end of a culture which pressures/forces suffering and terminally ill people to continue living long after a more merciful, preferable, and even natural death could have occurred. how ironic/orwellian that those opposed to human freedom and death with dignity are called often called ‘pro-lifers’, people with supposedly high and admirable ‘moral’ values. hopefully, civilization’s collapse will profoundly change/eradicate such perversity.

    kevin moore, as always u encourage/enlighten my thinking. re. earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans living in harmony with nature, i’m reminded of how civilized european colonizers regarded the lands of indigenous tribes as ’empty’, devoid as they were of the concentrations of humanity we know as cities/metropolitan areas. i’m also reminded of descriptions of pristine wildernesses of biodiversity ‘tamed’ and ‘conquered’ by colonization. i tend to agree with more conservative estimates of sustainable population, based on the idea that civilization itself is unsustainable, and uncivilized people, living in ecological harmony, must necessarily have much smaller numbers.

  • Dr. McPherson is somewhat ktnder than Mr. James Howard Kunstler: it is to be remembered that Mr. Kunstler’s blog is named Clusterf**K Nation.

    Or how about Mushroom Nation: we thrive when fed humanure and kept in the dark.

    “An interesting observation is that for much of history the elites actually needed the masses -as galley slaves, as plantation workers, as factory workers, as coal miners, as shepherds, as aboittoir workers, as foot soldiers etc., and more recently, as consumers.”

    The Story of Your Enslavement

    Regarding “shouting in the streets on a regular basis” – shouting in the streets – is a bit passé these days. Shouting is done in the blogosphere. Of course the blogosphere has the tendency to agglomerate birds of a feather into separate aviaries – so it’s mostly preaching to the choir. And even there, the shouting has mostly died down now.

    And of “some flavor of the spiritual rigor that would be required for the Way of the Doomer” one might refer to The Maranassati Sutta – Mindfulness of Death. Not everyone can ride a bicycle without training wheels. The training wheels of religion are god and soul.

    One is reminded of the joke about the rabbi, the mullah and the priest who take the children from their congregrations for a boating trip on a yacht. Substitute Peak Oil community organizer, doomer-survivalist and bankster-politician for those three in the order you prefer: the yacht hits a rock and begins to sink.

    The organizer says “We have got to save the children”. The survivalist says “Screw the children”. The bankster-politician says “Have we got the time?”

  • Sue, I don’t think Guy or myself or anyone is rejoicing in the end of BAU. We are hoping that it comes soon enough to save some humans so our species persists. We are hoping that it comes soon enough to save some of the species of plants and animals now alive instead of turning into something looking more like Venus.

    That same nursing home where I knew the lady flat on her back for 12 years with MS also had a man I liked a lot who had MS and only was in a wheelchair. One week I came in and found out he had died of a heart attack. I was glad for him. Glad he didn’t have to go through years of pain to get his release. I was glad and relieved that he had never reached the stage my lady friend was in. Can you understand that that is how I feel about the earth. Is that repellent to be relieved when someone dies because the living has become so painful and restrictive. Note this was over 40 years ago when MS was for most a sentence of decades of progressive dying.

    When I first realized Peak Oil was upon us I went through a period of grief over the billions that would die. Then I drew on the fact that I was a person who from early years accepted that we all have to die and accepted that reducing the population of planet earth was not about IF billions died, but rather the timing and cause of their death and whether or not they passed on their genes (and what kind of life those remaining would have). In the intervening years global warming has been shown to be progressing much faster than openly predicted and it became easy to see that the sooner industrial civilization collapses the better in the end.

    I can hold the hand of a dying person, as I did so many times in the past with Hospice and hope the end comes sooner rather than later. I can hope for the end of industrial civilization even though my life will probably be quite short after it ends and hope that it is soon enough for some humans to go on. I can even wonder sometimes if we are so rapacious that I should hope that some humans don’t persist, but I have a hope that when reduced to scratching out a living by hand on a very depleted world they will only have enough energy for obtaining their daily food, and not enough energy for destroying the planet and each other.

    Sorry if I over reacted to your post Sue, but repellent is a strong and condemning word to use for people who are hoping for the best of the possible bad ends.

  • Oh my, on other blogs I have been attacked for posting a very low number of humans after the crash. So I pulled a number out of my hat that I thought might not upset anyone. I doubt that even 1 billion will be the sustainable number of humans even if we crash right now. My guess is between 500 million and 0. Zero if we have already set in motion positive feedbacks that cannot be reversed by the end of industrial activity. Or if the ceasing of the coal burning in China and the end of jet travel causes global dimming to end and thereby unleashes the full measure of warming that it has kept in check. The fact that some are insanely thinking of putting stuff in the atmosphere (such as sulphur) to create dimming means that many understand that dimming is a factor.

  • Kathy, thank you for your reply. I agreed with everything you said. In turn I don’t think I expressed myself very clearly when I said that I find the idea of people looking forward to the end of the industrial world repellant. I wasn’t really meaning anyone particularly on this site although there may be some. I go on a lot of these sites and you constantly hear people ranting on and on about how they are going to do this and that and take whatever they want and so on and so forth. They act like its going to be one big camping trip and they are going to even a few scores etc etc. That was in my head when I wrote that but of course you cant see whats in my head so I’m sorry that I wasn’t clearer.

    I know what you mean about the sick being allowed to die. Two years ago I went down with a neurological condition that devestated my health in a matter of days. It could of killed me but it didn’t, because they didn’t know what was causing it they couldn’t treat it. For a year I went through terrible physical and mental suffering my main fear was that they were going to let me carry on in this condition. I remember telling my doctor that you wouldn’t keep a dog in this condition. Had it continued I would have very likely wanted to be freed from the pain of it. So I totally sympathise with your experiences working with the terminally ill although from the sound of your writing I am sure you are a compassionate women who brought them great comfort.

  • Michael, I apologize for not reading your comments more carefully. I have done that before to others and need to be reminded to read carefully so I am sure of what a person is saying before I comment.

    Ed, I missed that Jean is from Spain living in France. Silly me, at no time in the history did either of those countries ever keep lists of people they considered dangerous and candidates therefore for rounding up. I know we are the lead in that area right now, but who did we learn from? In the US a group of angry young men are heading to jail because they expressed angry thoughts on the web and were subsequently entrapped to take action on those thoughts.
    Meanwhile the no fly list grows and people can’t even find out why they are on it. No doubt other lists are kept…

    On the other hand, I have made known on various blogs that I am no longer religious. Sometimes I say that in rather strong words. On the way to the Olduvai we will likely pass through a (hopefully brief) police state. In the past organized religions often tag on to police states (or form them) and at least in the US that looks more and more likely. I have wondered if I could fake a conversion back for the sake of my skin. I think not. Even if I tried I doubt I would convince anyone. However I have a great fear of fire and less of stones so perhaps my “easy” out would be adultery and stoning rather than heresy and burning at the stake :)

    I have warned Jean of something I should be warning myself.

  • Don’t worry, Kathy: Jean is a french name, and not my original one. :-)

    I would not worry about that: rich men are truly worried about their arses right now! Many rich frenchies are going to Spain to spend a couple weeks of fun, while situations calms down in France.

    In general, rich people get scared very easily. I guess that as situation become more and more unstable, they will move to properties in the country; if they’re intelligent enough, they will become landlords with private militias (this phenomenon occurred during the last years of Rome, in the 5th century: the “potentes” were rich men who owned lands and offered protection in exchange for becoming their willing servants).

    I know that modern states try to collect as much info about citizens as possible, but the internet has such a massive amount of information that I simply do not worry about my posts here or anywhere else.

    When power is not legitimate, then resistance is legitimate.

  • Kathy: I agree the number of humans could easily drop to well below billion (presumably living at fairly high latitudes) at some stage this century, or even to zero (because ‘we’ have rendered the Earth entirely uninhabitable for mammalian life forms). The fact that you have ‘been attacked’ for saying so on other blogs simply indicates how uninformed most people are -even those who profess to fully understand the issues!

    I know I am repeating myself here, but history clearly demonstrates that a populace of stressed humans will normally strip the environment of every resource available. Thus, we should expect nations that are unable to import oil in the future to go to great lengths to extract low grade coal, or peat, or any other form of stored energy; and we can easily imagine an early act of desperation to be felling of trees in urban ladscapes for firewood.

    With respect to Global Dimming, I still cannot decide which way the pendulum will swing in the short term; less overall industrial activity implies a reduced global dimming factor; more people ‘burning tyres’ implies an increased global dimming factor in the equations.

    Although it’s effect is minimal compared to other factors, it will nevertheless be interesting to see what happens over the coming few years as the Sun [presumably] exits its minimal phase and delivers a tad more heat to the Earth.

    Terry: good to know you are being stimulated and informed by what is on this site.

    And thanks to everyone else for the intelligent discussion. There is so little elsewhere.

  • Ed, I agree with your take on how the world will likely be stripped as we head down the Peak Oil slope.

    As for dimming, it can cease quickly, while the CO2 takes a while to get to the atmosphere and stays there quite a while. BBC did a documentary on dimming – the interesting part was a researcher, David Travis, recorded temps when all the jets in the US were grounded in the days following 9/11. He believes that the change was significant with just that amount of dimming removed. I don’t know enough science to know if he is right or not. The transcript is at his part in the interview is about half way down. You can find on Travis or 9/11 to get there quickly. You can watch it in 5 parts starting at – his section is probably on part 2 or 3 but I found the whole of interest. If the drop from 9/11 was as significant as what he thinks, then the closing off of the coal burning plants in China and India might cause a noticeable surge in warming. But perhaps the switch to burning furniture, trees, dung etc might off set the lost dimming from coal plants.

    It is stunning how willing we are to play with our environment when we have so little idea of what we are doing.

  • Kevin Moore,

    Sarajevo has been much on mind lately and you brought it back again with your comment about stressed humans stripping their environment and the felling of trees in the urban environment. My recollection of the news is that the urban forest of Sarajevo was just about the only source of heat and cooking fuel for the populous during the winter months. So what would I do, starve, freeze, or cut trees? I’d be cutting of course.

    Sarajevo has been on my mind because it provides a look at what the not very distant future might be like. When resources start to run out we will be looking to the “other” as having what is rightfully ours. And then the ends justify the means; resource wars, ethnic cleansing, you name it, all of the worst of mankind. Quoting (not really) Gollum of Lord of the Rings, “It was my birthday. It should have been mine. It’s my precious.”

    Michael Irving

  • What about Leningrad under siege? It’s older than Sarajevo, but more massive. There were many cases of canibalism and starvation there…

    Although this phenomenon is going to be different. People will leave the cities, alone or forming gangs. And it will not be sudden, but a relatively slow process (a few years, not a few days, I mean).

  • Looking for a little advice from the Nature Bats Last crowd. Our big project for the coming year is going to be vastly improving our availability of medicinal plants and herbs. Need a good reading list for the coming winter months. If anyone can recommend books on the subject I would really appreciate it. Currently reading:

    Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Harrod Buhner
    Plant Propagation from A to Z by Geoff Bryant

    Also Richter’s out of Canada has a great selection of herbs, and it seems in Canada you are able to describe the medicinal benefits of the plants something that is lacking here in the US. We have used them before and they are excellent. This spring we special ordered a 120 plant tray of Good King Henry from them, and we didn’t loose a single plant. If you are looking for edible perrennials, GKH or Lincolnshire Asparagus is really amazing

    Best Hopes,

  • Yesterday we welcomed a first grandchild. Mabry Rose is here. The mission of the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population has not changed, except there will be better communication, longer hours, faster pace, smarter campaign strategies. The prodigious collective intelligence and ineffable good will of humankind will have to be engaged, I suppose, if the human-driven global challenges looming before us (and threatening this child’s future) are to be acknowledged, addressed and overcome.

  • Ed, a relatively comprehensive set of links and books was book together a few years ago by a few students working with me. Check the “Personal Health” section of

  • For there to be grift-er there must be at least one grift-ee. In the case of a nation or culture there’d have to be millions of griftees, and there are.
    The grifter pursues his goals with the knowledge that you can’t cheat an honest person so focuses his schemes on folks who believe in a ‘free lunch'[my entry into the imperial myth list]. A grifter’s schemes find no traction with folks who’s worldview and actions are consistant with the old adage ‘a day’s work for day’s pay’, who choose never to make money off the backs and hard work of others, who understand that ‘profits’ are in reality costs avoided in the short term only to be paid by others in the future.
    Grifters are few, griftees are many.
    There is, in my opinion, at least one set of actions that a person can do to circumvent this problem of short term thinking. I’d submit that the single greatest service each of us can provide to our planet, our famlies and ourselves is to grow your own organic food from non-hybrid seeds. To save your own seed in turn, and in so doing, be part of a future solution to the present day destruction being sown by GMO’s, agri-business and bio-technology giants.

  • This morning I heard a good interview with economist Richard Wolff on the riots in France and whey they ought to teach an important lesson to Americans. Look him up — his is very intelligent and I agree with him but wish he knew of the important dynamic of Peak Oil, which takes everything he knows and advances it that much farther. (And he mentioned the “Tobin Tax”, which is known everywhere but in the US and which would be a tremendous idea, but politically impossible in America.

    And as a followup, I copy an article from, which is another essay on the unrest in France and why it is justified. I also found compelling the analysis that Americans are so dumb that instead of rioting over economic unfairness, we turn to the Tea Party programs which will make matters that much worse for the same working people who support the Tea Party.

    Here is Mark Weisbrot’s essay from

    Weekend Edition
    October 22 – 24, 2010

    No Need to Raise the Retirement Age
    Why French Protestors Have It Right

    The demonstrations that have rocked France this past week highlight some of its differences from the United States. This photo, for example, shows the difference between rioting in baseball-playing versus soccer-playing countries. In the U.S., we would pick up the tear gas canister and THROW it – rather than kick it — back at the police.

    More importantly the French have decided to take to the streets in the millions to defend hard-won retirement gains – including large-scale strikes and work stoppages. French populist rage is being directed in a positive direction, unlike in the United States where it is most prominently being mobilized to elect political candidates who will do their best to increase the suffering of working and middle-class citizens. (It must be emphasized, since the media sometimes forgets to make the distinction, that only a tiny percentage of France’s demonstrators have engaged in any kind of property damage and even fewer in violence, with all but these few protesting peacefully.)

    I have to admit it was perplexing to watch the French elect President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, a man who campaigned on the idea that France had to make its economy more “efficient” like America’s. In reality, he couldn’t have picked a worse time to peddle this mumbo-jumbo. The housing bubble was already bursting in the United States and would soon cause not only our own Great Recession but also drag most of the world economy into the swamp with it. So much for that particular model of economic dynamism.

    But Sarkozy had a lot of help from the major media, which was quite enchanted with the American model at the time and helped promote a number of myths that formed part of his campaign. Among these were the idea that French social protections and employment benefits were “unaffordable in a global economy,” and that employers would hire more people if it were easier to fire them, and if taxes were cut for the rich.

    Sarkozy has recently abandoned one of his most politically unpopular tax cuts for the rich, but there may be others. But he had also promised not to raise the retirement age for the public pension system. This has contributed to the mass outrage at his current proposal to raise it from 60 to 62, for those taking the reduced benefits, and from 65 to 67, for full benefits. (In the United States Social Security system, most people opt for the reduced benefit that is available beginning at age 62; full benefits are available, for those born after 1959, at 67.)

    Once again most of the media thinks the French are being unrealistic, and should just get with the program like everyone else. The argument is that life expectancy is increasing, so “we all” have to work longer. However this is a bit like reporting half of a baseball score (or soccer if you prefer). On the other side is the fact that productivity and GDP also increase over time, and so it is indeed possible for the French to choose to spend more years in retirement, and pay for it.

    France’s retirement age was last set in 1983. Since then, GDP per person has increased by 45 percent. The increase in life expectancy is very small by comparison. The number of workers per retiree declined from 4.4 in 1983 to 3.5 in 2010. But the growth of national income was vastly more than enough to compensate for the demographic changes, including the change in life expectancy. The situation is similar going forward: the growth in national income over the next 30 or 40 years will be much more than sufficient to pay for the increases in pension costs due to demographic changes, while still allowing future generations to enjoy much higher living standards than people today. It is simply a social choice as to how many years people want to live in retirement and how they want to pay for it.

    If the French want to keep the retirement age as is, there are plenty of ways to finance future pension costs without necessarily raising the retirement age. One of them, which has support among the French left – and which Sarkozy claims to support at the international level — would be a tax on financial transactions. Such a “speculation tax” could raise billions of dollars of revenue – as it currently does in the U.K. – while simultaneously discouraging speculative trading in financial assets and derivatives. The French unions and protesters are demanding that the government consider some of these more progressive alternatives.

    It is therefore perfectly reasonable to expect that as life expectancy increases, workers should be able to spend more of the lives in retirement. And that is what most French citizens expect. They may not have seen all of the arithmetic but they can see intuitively that as a country grows richer year after year, they should not have to spend more of their lives working. An increase in the retirement age is a highly regressive cut that will hit working people hardest. Poorer workers have shorter life expectancies and would lose a higher proportion of their retirement years. Workers who have to retire early because of unemployment or other hardships will take a benefit cut as a result of this change. And of course this cut would not matter to the richest people who do not rely on the public pension system for most of their retirement income.

    France has a lower level of inequality than most of the OECD countries and is one of only 5 – out of 30 OECD countries — that saw inequality decrease from the mid-80s to the mid-2000s. It also had the largest decrease in inequality in the group, although all of it was from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties. The country has until now resisted at least some of the changes that have rolled the clock back for working and especially low-income citizens in the high-income countries. The European authorities (including the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) are currently accelerating these regressive changes in the weaker Eurozone economies (e.g. Greece, Spain, and Ireland). All of these institutions and many politicians are trying to use the current economic problems of Europe as a pretext to enact right-wing reforms.

    Polls show more than 70 percent support for France’s strikers despite the inconvenience of fuel shortages and other disruptions. The French are already sick of right-wing government, and that is also part of what is generating the protests. France has a stronger left in than many other countries, and one that has the ability and willingness to organize mass protest, work stoppages, and educational efforts. They are fighting for the future of Europe, and it is a good example for others. Hopefully, here in the United States, we will be able to beat back any proposed benefit cuts to our much less generous Social Security system, that are looming on the horizon.

    Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

    This article was originally published by The Guardian.

  • Jean starvation in Lenningrad reminds me of something I wanted to post. The Pavolvsk seed bank was once saved by scientists at the bank who during WWII starved rather than eat the seeds in the bank. It was started by Nikolai Vavilov, who criticized Lysenko who believed in Lamarkian Evolution rather than Darwinian. Lysenko won the battle and Vavilov was arrested and died in prison. Lysenko’s ideas were put in practice and need to say didn’t work very well. But back to the seed bank. Capitalism is the order of the day and there is in the works a plan to sell the seed bank land to private developers. The criminally insane seem to be fully in charge of the world….

    “At stake, say Russian and British campaigners for the station, is not just scientific history but one of the world’s largest collection of strawberries, blackcurrants, apples and cherries. Pavlovsk contains more than 5,000 varieties of seeds and berries from dozens of countries, including more than 100 varieties each of gooseberries and raspberries.

    More than 90% of the plants are found in no other research collection or seed bank. Its seeds and berries are thought to possess traits that could be crucial to maintaining productive fruit harvests in many parts of the world as climate change and a rising tide of disease, pests and drought weaken the varieties farmers now grow. As it is predominantly a field collection, Pavlovsk cannot be moved. Experts estimate that even if another site were available nearby, it would take many years to relocate the plants.”
    Full article at

  • Jean,

    The examples are endless. Thinking of Sarajevo for me is just shorthand for all of them. I was building my house after work at night and on weekends while the worst of it was going on and spent a lot of time listening to NPR while I was working. Any of the other 100 best examples you could name would work just as well but would not be as immediate for me. Also, I use it as a self-correction whenever I hear of some atrocity perpetrated by some “other” around the world and think, “Those bastards!” Then I remind myself that any “us” is just a capable of any atrocity as any “other” if the conditions are right. Sarajevo lets me look in the mirror and see what the “other” really looks like. He looks just like me.

    As an aside, you could just as easily turn that on its head and say that any “other” is as capable of great good as any “us” is.

    Michael Irving

  • Sue thanks for your last comment which I couldn’t see yesterday – Glad you have recovered from whatever got you so sick and hope you are fully better now. I am suffering from a terminal condition – it is called life. Really hard to think about it that way when you are young, but as one ages and the joints freeze up and the skin sags, and the muscles complain it is easier to see death as the great liberator.

  • Stan Moore

    The article from Counter Punch you added, the one by Mark Weisbrot, is another good example of how hard it is to deal with Peak Oil.

    Here is a quote from the middle of the article discussing why the rise in GDP would allow the French to stick with their system allowing retirement at age 60:

    “The situation is similar going forward: the growth in national income over the next 30 or 40 years will be much more than sufficient to pay for the increases in pension costs due to demographic changes, while still allowing future generations to enjoy much higher living standards than people today. It is simply a social choice as to how many years people want to live in retirement and how they want to pay for it.”

    When you hear/read statements like this (or a thousand others every day) that are made by seeming experts and show convincingly that things will not just continue as they are but will get significantly better during the next 30 or 40 years. GDP will increase. Personal income will increase. Life expectancy will increase. Future generations will have “much higher living standards than people of today.”

    If you believe, as I do, what Guy and the many others discussing the near-term onset of the effects of Peak Oil are saying, it sets up what I think people are referring to when they talk of cognitive dissonance. I have to struggle constantly to maintain balance. I have to keep telling myself that my mind has not been taken over by an Internet doomer cult. It seems at times that I am as alone as I would be if I belonged to Heaven’s Gate and was waiting for the comet bringing the spaceship.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael: ‘I have to keep telling myself that my mind has not been taken over by an Internet doomer cult.’

    May I suggest you put such thoughts right out of your mind. The underlying FACTS, the likely trends, and the likely consequences were fairly well established long before the Internet even existed.

    As has been noted before, we have all lied to (by governments and mainstream institutions) from the day we were born. It is, of course, the minds of those locked into the dominant paradigms that have been taken over. Sadly, the ability to recognise that seems to be rather uncommon.

  • i tried to speak about collapse at a small green party event a few months ago. i didn’t do well, but was praised by some for the effort. i’ve great admiration for many american greens, but the one thing that’s driven me away somewhat is their reluctance/inability to understand/acknowledge that we’re living in an insane world that’s obviously headed for horrific hardship, suffering, and population crash. their focus is too much on now, rather than on how the future’s shaping up, and they cling to faith-based optimism rather than accept dire reality.

    if there was a political party specifically devoted to dealing with surviving/trying to ameliorate the collapse/die-off we face, i’d join it. sadly, it would be even less popular than the greens, who in the u.s. i think are less than 1%. a collapse awareness and preparation party would probably struggle to attain 1/10 of 1%.

    i second k. moore’s appreciation for the fine rare companionship here on NATURE BATS LAST.

    kathy, i taped and have watched several times the PBS NOVA tv show u referred to on global dimming. it’s the sole documentary in the mainstream media on the topic of the threat posed by AGW that’s adequately tried to convey the gravity of it. i found it to be very educational and convincing in making the argument that dimming from particulate air pollution has significantly masked the effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, making them appear less dangerous. this show was aired a few times on my PBS station over the course of 2-3 years, with little effect apparently aside from further informing a few already well informed and concerned people00. without forceful prompting, most americans don’t seem inclined to take such issues seriously, or to be bothered with scientific curiosity or knowledge.

    i think rob atack has the right idea in attempting to educate prominent people re. peak oil and related issues, for the rich, famous, and powerful can better get such people’s attention, provide the needed forceful prompting. unfortunately, as his experience shows, getting through to such people isn’t easy, either.

    ed, i think if we lived in a sane, free culture, cannabis plants would probably be widely recognized as the most versatile and valuable medicinal herb around. of course, since in it’s infinite ignorance the establishment vilifies and criminalizes the plant, including it in a garden can be very risky. if u’re curious to learn more in spite of this, try googling lester grinspoon, a harvard m.d. with personal experience and a website devoted to personal testimonials supporting my assertion. i’m strongly rooting for prop.19 to pass in california this year, which would legalize cannabis there. it has a chance! sometimes, sanity can still prevail?

    back to kathy, thanks for the wise words re. aging, which like death, isn’t acknowledged or discussed enough.

    michael irving, reality’s so strange i’ve taken to referring to it as surreality. there’s an old american science fiction-drama-horror tv series called THE TWILIGHT ZONE that sort of captures the awful dissonance u describe, which most if not all of us can relate to. it’s like a bad dream that one wakes up to every morning.

  • @Ed:

    A useful resource for references to books is John Michael Greer’s The Archdruid Report. He usually posts each Wednesday evening (Right Coast Time), and for the past several months his posts have had at the end of each post a “Resources” section. (He has been on vacation for the past few weeks and should return to posting soon.) Most of these posts and references are related to the matter of self-sufficiency in food – growing your own.

    In addition his commentators have also numerous useful references, again mostly on self-sufficiency in food.

    Greer’s book The Long Descent is a useful general description of the circumstances leading to the great Change™. Importantly he discusses at length the various perspectives regarding the situation from the doomer pellimists to the cornucopias / singularitian optimists and how their attitudes are shaped.

    Greer’s book The Ecotechnic Futire takes a long view of the post-fossil-fuel world and the transition thereto, and how those aspects of modern technology that are not quite so resource-intensive may be preserved and applied to future societies.

    One may also google for permaculture or look up for books on the subject. The same can be done for Keyline design.

    With regard to dwellings, there are too many variations based on terrain, clamate, community etc. so that one must narrow one’s perspective before going further.

  • Kndly delete the prior similar comment – html syntax errer.

  • Energy Bulletin has posted a bit of humor about denial
    Radically honest man tarred, feathered (humor)
    by Christine Patton

    Terry, yes death is perhaps the biggest and most prevalent denial. The mother of all denials eh. I think we are programmed for that – once we evolved brain programs that could predict our eventual death something had to be added so we could live with that and propagat. We are quite probably the only species that knows it will die. Of interest is the book “Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker Actually its a bit tedious to read but he thinks our fear of feces and hang ups about sex are tied to death denial, as death denial allows us to think we are more than animals, while sex and pooping look so much like animal behavior that we don’t want to be reminded that we are mortal mammals. I think there is much merit to his theory, not that it matters now as we teeter on the edge of the Olduvai

    All, yesterday I picked three ripe tomatoes. My tomatoes had virtually expired from heat and drought but I nursed a couple back to life thinking I would at least get some green ones for fried green tomatoes. Never thought any would ripen. Its almost the end of October…

    Highs are running about 10 degrees above normal, and right now the lows are also above normal most nights. However right today the lows are 15 degrees above normal. No wonder I am getting some ripe tomatoes. I should be happy but if this is from global warming then it is instead ominous. Still no rain for several months.

  • Kathy, it’s still incredibly dry here in south Mississippi as well. We’ve had two days of rain in two months. I run a video rental store in a small town and know most of my customers by name, and they’re all talking about how dry it’s been, but nobody at all mentions global warming or climate change. (More denial.) Meanwhile, the drought is affecting our mature pine trees, which have cast off a tremendous amount of needles beyond their normal late-summer shedding; and our fall crop of turkey figs shriveled and died while still pea-size. A good friend of mine has 5 acres and a pond, and the pond (which depends on rain as it’s not spring-fed) is nearly completely dry.

    It’s all rather, as you said, ominous.

  • Christopher, sorry to hear about your figs. We watered figs and blueberries this year until our well started drawing down. But I am worried that we will not have adequate rain this fall and winter to recharge the ground. Next year we might loose more than crops. Here is an explanation (perhaps) of what is going on per the Alabama Extension Agency

    Of interest on their home page are two articles about looming Phosphorus shortages, one on humanity’s looming nitrogen crisis and one on finite groundwater. Someone in Alabama is waking up a bit.

    Since we do humanure and save urine for direct application, phosphorus and nitrogen aren’t a problem for us as far as the food we grow for ourselves. But groundwater sure is. Central heat and air among other things have disconnected Americans from how important weather is, and that is perhaps part of the climate change denial.

  • Greetings Guy,

    Nice post. Much as I enjoy reading the blogs that talk about this current mortgage debacle bringing down the beast I don’t expect it to change BAU in the empire. Another opportunity for the spinmeisters, another burst vein in the body of the American empire, but in and of itself not fatal.

    I still lean towards that “long descent” Greer believes will describe our decline although I fully expects some sharp dips and drops along the way.

    One thing I can say is that I’m damn glad we sold our suburban home a few months ago and made it out relatively unscathed (once I got over my angst at receiving so much less than I had envisoned…based of course on the ridiculous values of homes in my area back in 2006 & 2007). We are currently looking for that little farm down in the Willamette valley where we can begin the next phase of our journey to self-sufficiency, community, peace and the satisfaction of living and working in harmony with nature. Sounds a tad hokey but it works for my family.

    Keep up the great work. There are a few folks listening, learning and acting.
    Chuck in West Linn

  • Kathy, thanks for the link! It was most informative. Depressing, too, if their forecast for the coming winter precip is on target.

  • Thanks to everyone for the info and links on the medicinal plants and herbs. You too virgin T. Sure hope it happens in my lifetime. We will at some point list everything we plan on putting into the medicinal garden and where we got it etc on our blog. We have quite a few already.

    This cracked me up. Just found it while searching blogs about herbs. Every spring we go out and collect dandelion and burdock roots dry them and grind them up and usually just add it to our coffee. Stupid me. I know we can eat the dandelion and we do but when you grow greens for a living it’s just another green. Burdock is called cardone, or cardoon, or carduni in Italian and is a big part of their traditional cooking.

    Also, we have only harvested the roots, but it seems the leaves will do some of the things as the roots, the trick is in the drying of the leaves. Here is how to do it.

    More reasons we cannot wait for spring.

    Sorry if this old news for everyone.

    Best Hopes


  • Christopher, we got 1 inch of rain last night. More than a week before we have another chance at rain. Maybe storm Richard will bring up a bit of rain. Glad to get what we got but its got a long way to go to recharge what we lost this summer.

  • Ed and all – what has turned out to be a good source of edible plant info is the entertaining Green Deane – he has about 114 videos at

    And an archive of edible plant info at

    He lives in FL so this has more for us Southern folks, but since most books concentrate on other areas of the country he is a good resource. His vids are entertaining. I had a weed that entered by garden through putting on leaf mulch from town – someone’s weed became mine. I knew it was in the mint family (square stem) and as with many mints it was proving tenacious. I learned from Green Deane that is actually Florida Betony and has a delicious radish flavored root, but less strong and more juicy crunchy.

  • Drought has Amazon tributary at record low levels
    AP – Tuesday, 26 October 2010 10:52:15 p.m. By TALES AZZONI

    Floating homes along the Rio Negro now rest on muddy flats, and locals have had to modify boats to run in shallower waters in a region without roads. Some riverbanks have caved in, although no injuries have been reported. Enormous fields of trash and other debris have been revealed by the disappearing waters.

    The drought is hurting fishing, cattle, agriculture and other businesses, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency in nearly 40 municipalities. Amazonas state officials said more than 60,000 families have been affected by the drought.

    The government has distributed about 600 tons of food, water and medicine, much of it by helicopter to isolated villages.

    “It is a difficult situation for the community,” resident Josimar Peixoto told Globo TV. “The families are struggling here.”

    The government’s geological service said Monday that the Rio Negro was measured at a depth of 13.63 meters (44.72 feet) the previous day near the jungle city of Manaus, the lowest since a measuring system was implemented in 1902.

    Manaus, in northern Brazil, is where the Rio Negro is at its deepest and where it merges with the Amazon River — meaning some places upstream are nearly completely dry.

    The previous low was 13.64 meters (44.75 feet), recorded in 1963.

    An engineer and hydrology expert with the geological service said rains in remote parts of the Amazon will begin raising river levels, but it will take time for that water to reach Manaus.

    “The water is expected to start rising again in about three to four weeks,” Daniel Oliveira told The Associated Press.

    In June 2009, the Rio Negro hit a record high of 29.71 meters (97.5 feet) near Manaus following months of heavy rains.

    At that time, flooding across the Amazon basin left more than 400,000 homeless and killed more than 50 people. Those high waters caused the people now experiencing drought to build new, higher floors onto their stilt houses in an effort to escape the rising river.

    Cycles of flooding and drought have been common in the world’s largest remaining tropical wilderness, but they have been more extreme recently, shifting from record floods to record drought in relatively short periods of time, experts say. Many suspect global warming could be driving the whipsaw changes.

    A report last year from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which tracks weather patterns, stated that its weather models forecast “rising global temperatures because of ongoing greenhouse gas emissions” and “project a decrease in rainfall across much of Brazil due to warmer waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans causing changes in wind patterns across South America.”

    The document says the changes could affect Brazil’s energy sector: More than 70 percent of the nation’s energy comes from hydroelectric sources, which would be hurt by reduced rainfall.


    Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.