Techno-optimism meets its match

According to the extremely conservative International Energy Agency (IEA), we’ve passed the world peak for conventional oil (in 2006, they say). In a stunning nod to reality, even the New York Times agrees. In a bizarre case of committee-style cognitive dissonance, the IEA follows up on the admission that peak oil has come and gone with the conclusion that energy will never limit economic growth. In short, World Energy Outlook 2010 is (1) characterized by questionable assumptions and major omissions, or (2) a cry for help. Maybe both.

Not that we should believe IEA about anything related to oil. This is the gang that promised an annual decline rate of 9.1% in conventional oil, beginning in 2009. We’re holding at a decline rate of about 3%, year over year, since early 2009.

Techno-optimists take note: It’ll take 131 years to replace oil. Not 130, and not 132, but 131. And we don’t have 4.9147 years left in the Age of Oil. That might prove problematic.

Taking a turn to the other side of the fossil-fuel coin, the IEA devastatingly projects global temperature will rise 3.5 degrees C by 2035. This prediction comes on the heels of increasingly dire projections, the latter of which all suggest habitat for humans will be gone from this planet by mid-century. I remain optimistic because none of these projections acknowledge physical limits on combustion of fossil fuels. That is, they fail to acknowledge the truly good news of economic collapse for our species and many others.

If we accept the IEA’s analysis and prediction, the few humans on the planet by 2035 won’t be worried about the price of air fare. We can only hope the projection for global temperature is based on the same kind of fuzzy logic used to conclude we’ve passed the world oil peak, then conclude we never will. Or we can hope the IEA is using climate change to justify economic collapse contraction. I suspect we’ll see a lot of this type of argument in the coming months, as the world’s industrial economy goes up in flames.

Just when you thought the Great Recession Great Bank Robbery was over, it turns out the courts are helping the banks steal money from homeowners. No surprise there, of course: Civilization is properly defined as the transfer of fiat currency from those who have little of it to those who have a lot. And there is nobody more civilized than Bernanke and Obama, as indicated by the way they spend print money on bank executives instead of us “little” people. If you have a sense of humor about the economic apocalypse, check out the video below, bearing in mind that if you can laugh at yourself, and you can laugh at the apocalypse, then you’ll never run out of material.

Fortunately, regardless of the lies by the likes of Geithner, Bernanke, and Obama, the days of fiat currency are just about behind us as collapse of the industrial economy nears completion. Ireland is the new Greece, but the U.S. is dogging both countries on the path to insolvency. Historian Niall Ferguson describes one plausible outcome here. Regardless of the details, soon — and perhaps soon enough, though only time will tell — we’ll be using Federal Reserve Notes as toilet paper or fire-starter, which will be handy when we can’t find either product at the grocery store.

The American Dream, which is based on never-ending economic growth, is over. Change is coming, and it’s not the peaceful kind. But it’s bound to be better than living in country governed by war criminals who are adorned with Nobel Peace prizes.

The TechnoMessiah has met Reality. As with the Federal Reserve’s money-printing vs. the secular bear market, there can be only one winner. I’m betting on Reality, in a rout.


This essay is permalinked at Darwiniana, Counter Currents, Bill Totten’s Weblog, and Island Breath.

Comments 68

  • Yes Guy, the IEA are noted for the absurdities they generate on a fairly continuous basis. In fact, anyone who has been following IEA projections over the years regards the IEA as a rather sick joke. However, the continuous failure of the IEA does not deter western governments from using IEA forecasts to support their idiotic economic policies, based on perpetual economic growth and perpetual increases in oil comsumption. Presumably any reference to peaking of conventional oil extraction will remain a taboo topic in government circles, and policy will continue to be founded on the absurd notion that we will discover another three ‘Saudi Arabias’ some time over the next decade.

    Techno-optimism may be hitting the wall in the real world, but in the fantasy world that governments and the vast majority people inhabit techno-optimism remains foundational. Indeed, techno-optimism is a major component of the ‘glue’ that holds western societies together.

    A month or so ago I was discussing with an acquaintance the fact that the world economy has been staggering along the peak oil plateau, and that times are going to get much tougher in the near future. His response? Nuclear fusion of hydrogen will provide more energy than we could ever use. I did point out that after 60 plus years of theoretical analysis and experimentation we have managed to run a hydrogen fusion reactor for about a nanosecond (and probably input a million times more energy than the output), and that the only place nuclear fusion will ever take place near here is in the Sun, but his belief in a brighter, better future based on industrial fundamentalism seemed unshakable, so I shut up.

    The idea of preparing for an energy-constrained future, or a resource-constrained future, or a climate-inpacted future is just too absurd to contemplate. People who have no technical knowledge and have only ever known good times cannot conceive anything other than good times based on advances in technology: hence the continued belief in ‘economic recovery next year’.

    As the months go by it becomes increasingly obvious that it will only when widespread food shortages commence in the developed world that ordinary people will recognise they have been grossly misled for decades.

  • Last night I watched the video Dirty Oil ( Just when I think I can deal with this slow collapse we are in and the adamant ignorance of the general population I am confronted by another atrocity, how in h3ll do you stay optimistic???
    I’ve come to the conclusion that we will continue to poison our water, air and land until it won’t be able to support anything…

    Until then it’s just death by a thousand cuts…

  • The status quo “powers that be” keep reshuffling the deck, hoping to come up with a winning hand. But each time the deck is reshuffled, a high value card is lost and the losses to the house (nature) keep mounting.

    Everytime I go to a convenience store I keep seeing members of the public shelling out scarce hard-earned dollars on lottery tickets. It is the only hope these people have of prosperity.

    Newt Gingrich was on Fox News this morning telling about the need for the new Republican Congress to exchew earmarks “for a year or two” to establish good spending habits. He should have said for a century or two, bu8 Newt does not get it, either.

    Obama told the G20 that the US government has plans to cut the deficit in half in the next two years, but he meant the annual deficit and not the national debt deficit. Even cutting the annual deficit in half in two years is hardly progress, as he has more than quadrupled it in his presidency. Obama doesn’t get it either.

    The rest of the world may decide to quarantine the US, and neither buy from or sell to or invest in American goods or debt. America is becoming increasingly irrelevant, even militarily, as it has proved that its military investments have only bought stalemates for the past fifty years against third world militias that the US outspends a billion to one.

    It is time for the Republicans to take the helm and let the Democrats refuse to play ball. Let Palin get the presidency and she will make Obama look competent and caring when she tells all her supporters that she just cannot afford to bail out business and she cannot afford unemployment insurance, health insurance, or pensions for the already-retired.

    Yes, indeed, hard times are ahead and the complaining of the right-wing public will ultimately shift to governance from the right when the Elephants cannot carry the weight any more than the Donkeys can.

    Instead of “Hope We Can Believe In”, the mantry will become “We Are Screwed”, and there will be no more room to maneuver.

    Right now the maneuvering is delaying the inevitable accounting, but that maneuvering will be lost soon and reality will bite hard.

    The US will lead the way to oblivion, but the rest of the world will inevitably follow down the rat hole and to oblivion.

    The goal of the wealthy elite will be to prevent organized resistance by misinformation, disinformation, violence, suppression, repression, and obfuscation — by all means necessary. Their effectiveness is already manifest by the absence of revolution in the streets already.

    A successful collapse from the point of view of the elite leaves them alive and prosperous while all around them goes to hell, and still the collpsing underclass admires the elite even as the elite toast their successful manipulations.

    Stan Moore

  • Guy, I trust you have seen the calls on youtube for people to buy up physical silver in an effort to put JP Morgan over the edge. When I told my wife she was disturbed by my response (laughter). Well, I guess that’s just me. Really, I can’t wait to see ol’ JP collapse, and there are some who say the rest of the US monetary system will go with it. Buy a silver eagle and destroy JP Morgan, after all the fraud, they have it coming.

    Kevin, Stan, yes, your right, people just love to play the fusion card, and most of them know nothing about it. Even if a commercially viable reactor was running today, it would take 30 years to replace all the coal fired plants and fusion doesn’t solve the problem of air and sea travel nor agriculture (most runs on diesel) it just generates electricity.
    Yes, wait till the food runs out and watch them come flocking to my table at the farmers market. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to that day…

  • @ Randy
    Me too! I have absolutely very little $ but if I can buy a silver coin or two & hasten the end I’m all for it, heading to town mid week, either way it’s a gift for the SS & DiL
    Crash JPM! =)

  • And then there was the 60 Minutes Infomercial last night selling the “Shale Gas is Our Savior” story, which James Kunstler ripped to shreds in his column “Sixty Lame Minutes” this morning.

    So as Guy notes, the IEA is in the desperate “Cry for Help” Stage, and the snake-oil (no pun) sellers are lining up to answer that desperate cry help.

    Hopefully the financial collapse happens quickly enough to deny the Frackin’ Oil Shalers the profits they need to continue to pump their so-called Frackin’ “safe” cocktail of poison into the earth.

  • Thanks to Dr. McPherson for the excellent video: I have emailed the YouTube link to my address book recepients and posted it on the Facebook page. I have also cast that pearl before four swine, one in the White House, two in the Senate and one in the Congless.

    The idea that “energy will never limit economic growth” depends on one’s perception of what is “economic growth”.

    The primary economy – what Nature gives us – sunshine, water resourtes, wind, arable land, flora (including edible plants, stands of timber, etc.) & fauna (earthworms, honeybees, ungulates, lagomorphs, etc.) are worked upon by humans (the secondary economy) througn their own labor and the use of animal, wind, solar, water and (in the past couple of centuries) fossil fuels, producing items of food, clothing, shelter, and the inflastructure for management of primary economy resources (canals. dams, levees, windmills, watermills, soil and environmental restoration, etc.).

    The tertiary economy in the creation and (often diabolical) manipulation of symbols purported to represent values in the primary and serondary economies. These symbols can include cowrie shells, wampum, discs of metal – precious or otherwise, pieces of paper with green pictures of dead presidents, pixels on a computer display, mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations. etc. It is this latter economy that, when divorced from the primary and secnodary economies, can grow rampantly on just the promise to make good at some future date its purported value in assets from the primary and secondary economies.

    The wanton degradation of the primary economy and the constraints from fossil fuel depletion on the secnodary economy make it impossible to keep that promise when it comes time to pay the piper. The temporary solution is to postpone the payment even though this runs up the liability by accreting further debt. It can only work so long as there are counter parties willing to buy into that play.

    The prospect that “we’ll be using Federal Reserve Notes as toilet paper” reminds one of the Indian brave who goes to the trading post to buy toilet paper. The clerk offers brand-name product at $5.00 and generic at $2.00. “Why difference?” asks the brave. “Because generic has no name”. “Me take generic.” Next day the brave returns to tell the clerk “Brave got name for generic toilet paper”. “What name?” “John Wayne toilet paper”. “Why?” “Because toilet paper it rough, it tough, and it take no crap off Indian”. Maybe the Federal Reserve Notes can be bundled according to the pictures of the dead presidents depicted and named after them.

    “Instead of “Hope We Can Believe In”, the mantry will become “We Are Screwed” “: as the saying goes. if you cannot avoid it. make the best of it.

  • Robin Datta, thanks for your detailed explication of economic growth and its various meanings. They remind me why I usually (almost always, in fact) use the phrase “industrial economy” to distinguish the real, Earth-based economy to the made-up, fantasy most people think is the real thing.

  • Stan you wrote ” America is becoming increasingly irrelevant, even militarily, as it has proved that its military investments have only bought stalemates for the past fifty years against third world militias that the US outspends a billion to one.”

    That is one of the reasons I think the nukes will be deployed. The American military has the belief that they are the finest military the world has ever seen. As things continue to go poorly for them in Iraq, Afganistan and all the other countries they are aching to invade at some point they will, like the spoiled little boys they are, say OK you can beat us on the ground but we can nuke you into non-existence. The collateral damage will be humanity.
    “In his October 15 speech, Fidel Castro warned the World on the dangers of nuclear war:

    “There would be “collateral damage”, as the American political and military leaders always affirm, to justify the deaths of innocent people. In a nuclear war the “collateral damage” would be the life of all humanity. Let us have the courage to proclaim that all nuclear or conventional weapons, everything that is used to make war, must disappear!” “

  • US military seems to think that the risks are acceptable and that nuclear is definitely an option.
    The Bush administration’s new nuclear doctrine contains specific “guidelines” which allow for “preemptive” nuclear strikes against “rogue enemies” which “possess” or are “developing” weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (DJNO)).

    The preemptive nuclear doctrine (DJNO), which applies to Iran and North Korea calls for “offensive and defensive integration”. It explicitly allows the preemptive use of thermonuclear weapons in conventional war theaters.

    In the showdown with Tehran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, these Pentagon “guidelines” would allow, subject to presidential approval, for the launching of punitive bombings using “mini-nukes” or tactical thermonuclear weapons.”

    Even as far back as Nixon:

    In its current state of mind and given the risks to US interests long-term with respect to peak oil, I would suggest that its use is as close to inevitable as one can get.

  • Hey folks our worries are over. We are saved. My current issue of Discover Magazine that I just got out of the mail box says right on the cover “FOUND, Endless Clean Energy at 3,000 feet” Eagerly turning to the magazine I find the pertinent article called Inherit the Wind. Kites is our current salvation it seems.

    Just 4 years ago Discover said we were to be saved by turkey guts (etc.) into oil by the thermal depolymerization process (never mind that all the things that were going into the process had to first be created by oil .. in the case of the turkey gut oil makes sure that there are lots and lots of turkeys being degutted in a central location)

    Well I had my humor for the day and am reminded there was a reason I didn’t renew my Discover subscription for several years.

    Everything that is is a part of how things are working right now, even wind at 3,000 feet. Appropriate a little and probably nothing will go wrong. Appropriate a lot and something is bound to go wrong. Coal and oil were just sitting in the ground doing nothing useful except keeping CO2 out of atmosphere so we had a climate we could live and thrive in. Just that one little thing…..OOOPS 3.5 degrees C by 2035. Maybe we should have left it alone…except the lifestyle of current first world people is so non-negotiable that we just had to have it regardless of what we did to the planet and the future. Ooops loosing my sense of humor here time to stop.

  • A Flash-Phase Transition for the global financial system might be very close at hand.

    The lit fuse we call Ireland’s is getting very short:

    “Ireland told: Take EU bailout or trigger crisis – Dublin warned it has 24 hours to make decision”



    The Greek “financial firewall,” built just last spring by the EU/IMF, is itself now on fire:

    “Austria Witholds Funds To EU Greece Bailout Package”


    And here in the USA the too-big-to-fail Banks are getting preparing to disembowel each other in a desperate search for Real Paper Mortages to back their MBS.


    Gotta put the popcorn down… time to stack another few cords of wood and re-inventory the pantry.

    Good day all.

  • If any one of these EU countries goes over the edge, then this would be the second, and a major, step down. Very hard to call all of the repercussions. It is important to keep the financial collapse ahead of the oil collapse (sarcasm).

  • I must admit I was fooled by the ‘imminent attack on Iran’ line when it was first churned out 6-7 years. We would hear reports of various battle fleets headed in particular directions. Month after month, year after year, nothing happened. Then it occurewd to me that the speculation about an ‘imminent attack’ was simply propaganda, designed to maintain the myth in the minds of the general public that the US was capable of launching a successful attack on Iran.

    It was much the same with the Temple Mount. Many were adamant that it would be ‘all on’ by May 2010, as a consequence of the machinations centred on reconstruction of the temple.

    Kunstler was convinced the American people would ‘go apeshit’ before the end of 2009, and Celente was calling for a Dow collapse by February 2010.

    Meanwhile, Australia was suffering the longest period of severe drought on record.

    Then there was the speculation that BP would be so badly injured by ‘the gulf volcano’ it would never recover.

    Instead, the minor wars continue, it rained rather a lot across Australia, BP rapidly returned to profitability, ordinary people become victims of devalued money and other financial scams, and the industrial economy just carries on looting resources.

    I believe nuclear war (even use of small, tactical weapons) would terminate globalisation, and that is definitely not on the agenda of TPTB. Although Russia and China are happy to see the US slowly bleed to death in Afghanistan, I can’t see them allowing the US to become truly dominant by knocking out Iran.

    Much as I would like to see the industrial economy collapse fairly quickly, I do not think it is going to happen. Assuminmg we experience a 3% per annum decline in oil extraction from here on, demand destruction could easily accommodate and allow the supply-demand balance to be maintained. After a promising surge recently, I see that oil dropped back again. The slow collapse will continue hit indivuals, families, and communiites, but will continue go largely unreported.

    I am reminded of how the Japanese government responded to the severe losses incurred from 1943 onwards: every battle was a ‘great victory that would turn the tide’, and when aircraft carriers were sunk it was simply not reported. The majority Japanese people had no idea what was actually happening. In present-day western societies censorship of the truth is largely self-imposed. The truth is readily available.

    Looking back we can see that the biggest mistakes most of us involved in the field of energy-resources-environmental activism made were to over-estimate the intelligence and concern of the general public, and to anticiptae a faster crash than is occuring. I know it is not politically correct to say so, but most people are uninformed, stupid and gullible, believing any nonsense churned out by those in power or the corporate media.

    I’m afraid Sue might be right: ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that we will continue to poison our water, air and land until it won’t be able to support anything… Until then it’s just death by a thousand cuts.’

    Unless I can come up with a new ‘escape plan’ (is there anywhere to run?) I am just like everyone else, I watching it all slowly unfold, apparently understanding most of it, but powerless.

  • Let us hope that United States Strategic Command does not get involved in world affairs. At last look, USSTRATCOM has 6,000 deployed nuclear weapons on 450 Minuteman III ICBMs (1,350 Mark 21 and Mark 12 warheads), 240 D-5 and C-4 SLBMs (2,400 W-88 and W-76 warheads) and the balance in ALCMs (B-1 and B-52 bombers) and gravity bombs for the B-2. If the United States decides to go to war with Iran, North Korea or even China, that war will mostly be fought by the US Navy and the USAF. The US Army and Marines being somewhat busy in Iraq and Afghanistan. As to winning, Iran and NK will be toast (also probably Seoul, SK) just like Iraq and an air campaign would probably do the job for the most part (sorry army). As to China, they know full well what the US Navy is capable of. China is more likely to a avoid a direct confrontation on the high seas. Carrier battle groups are not to be taken lightly and will likely be the case for at least a few more years. Personally, I’m more concerned about the home front as things in our society are coming to a head with the latest foolishness from the Fed. Political revolution here in the US is becoming a real possibility, and as energy and food begin to dwindle, this becomes a greater likelihood.

  • Off topic and more on old topics:

    The man who fixes our cars said that they had a lab that was a wonderful farm dog except that on the odd occassion he would kill a chicken. Perfect in every other way. His uncle arrived to stay with them from Italy. The next time the lab killed a chicken his uncle put into place the traditional solution. A chicken necklace. Hung the dead chicken from the dog’s collar, and left it there for a week. The dog never killed another chicken.
    We visited some new friends on Sunday afternoon. They have a log cabin. 1200 square foot first floor with another 450 for the loft. Incredible house. Beautiful windows, small operating Pellas at the bottom with big windows above that they made from tempered glass. They get by, quite well with a 2,200 dollar PV system a hand dug well with a hand pump, and propane stove, fridge and freezer. Total price for the house 50K, and land here in Steuben County can still be had for 1,000 dollars an acre. It can be done.
    We made the decision that we will try and start all of the 55 medicinals for next year from seed. So many of them have a stratiphy schedule of 60 cold, 60 hot, 60 cold and then in the ground. No small task and impossible if you don’t have a fridge. Only alternative is to stick them in the ground now, and hope they come up in 2 years. The goal is to get them in the ground and growing and trying to maintain a source for our area. We will see.

    Best to all,


  • Ed, Re. the chickin-killing dog anecdote/antidote.

    The same thing happened with my friend’s dog. After the fourth chicken he duct-taped what was left to his dog’s neck for three days…

    Then he caught the coon that was the real killer using a live trap.

    He felt so guilty about the dog, and so mad at the coon, he got drunk and killed the coon using a BB-gun.

  • Kevin
    Collapse will come when it comes is my take on that. I think that when it finally arrives, it will happen in several relatively quick quantum step-downs. I would tend to disagree with your 3% decline rate of oil production as we remain at this point on the undulating plateau and currently are under a 3% decline rate. That will change. I figure the most likely point at which we begin seeing a significant drop-off of production will be in the 2012-2015 time-frame. When that drop-off finally happens we will begin to see not 3% declines, but closer to 6-8% declines, likely followed within a few years by 10-15% declines. This would be consistent with what we have been witnessing in Mexico, Alaska, UK and other places. It is that point at which we will see things truly begin to unravel in a major way – and very quickly I think. For certain, I do not believe we will ever run out of significant reserves – things will fall apart long before that.

    In my model you have “Resources”, “Sustainable Population” and “Technology”. But these are bound together and linked by the “Economy”. A significant and ever-accelerating decrease in oil production will have a catastrophic upon the “Economy”, thus mortally disrupting the linkage between “Resources”, Technology” and “Population”. The only thing of significance remaining standing at the end of the ensuing downward, and fundamentally discontinuous, spiral will be “Resources” – resources for other species, as by then we will not have a “Population” capable of maintaining “Technology”. During that time, the “Derived Economy” upon which modern human civilisation has functioned for so many years will have reverted to the “Natural Economy” within which all other species have always operated.

    The Collapse will be relatively fast as our highly complex, and thus extremely fragile, system breaks apart. However, the resulting reversion to a more natural Economy might be a relatively long process taking place over many years as we go through stages of “powering down”, if you will, to the final equilibrium point where it should remain subject to continuing natural forces impacted by residual climate change already in the pipeline today and over the next few years. The significance of that impact, both upon the remains of human population and the rest of the natural world is a great unknown at this point.

  • Food may be a trigger for collapse this year.

    “BEIJING (AP) — China’s government says it will give poor families subsidies to help pay for food following a spike in prices. The Cabinet announcement Wednesday comes after politically sensitive food prices jumped 10.1 percent in October, raising the threat of social tensions. The government also promised efforts to increase supplies of grain, vegetables and diesel fuel. The Cabinet’s statement stopped short of ordering direct price controls but said they could be imposed if necessary.”

    There is some reason to believe that the USDA is producing artificial numbers on corn, wheat etc. Last years corn crop was impacted by mold because of unusual weather. The problem for farmers was finding enough “good” corn to mix with it to come in under the mycotoxin levels mandated. This even applied to corn sold for ethanol. While the process kills the mold, it does not destroy the mycotoxins. This ends up concentrated in the DDGS (Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles) which is used for animal feed. Without being able to sell the DDGS to farmers the process despite subsidies is not profitable. One that was particularly problematic for hog farmers last year was “Deoxynivalenol (DON) is also known as vomitoxin because of its impact on livestock through interference with animal growth and acceptance of feed. DON has been implicated in moldy corn toxicosis of swine.” Corn was being turned away from Ethanol processors if it was too high in DON.

    As we know Russia had a bad wheat year due to heat and fires and last I heard was not going to export any wheat. I think we can expect to see food prices rise considerably which might be the last drop of snow before the avalanche, although there are plenty of other factors that could do the job.

    Victor, like you I think the collapse will be quite fast once it gets rolling. We won’t know that all the plateaus are gone until we find ourselves sliding IMO right on down to the stone age.

  • Kathy, Also it is not simply a matter of scarcity. It is a matter of cost. The US dollars being pumped into the system are going not for jobs but to the banks who are investing them globally. This is weakening the dollar significantly, as I understand it, and because the dollar is “currently”, the international currency, prices of commodities shoot upwards, putting a strain on the poorer, more populated nations. I’m sure someone on this site would be better at explaining this than me as it is not in my area of expertise.

    As for collapse, I think people generally don’t have a really good feel for just how complex the global social network is? Its extreme inter-dependencies, inter-connectivity and just-in-time distribution mechanisms preclude any graceful contraction. We live day-to-day in the midst of all this complexity without comprehension of the vast numbers of things that have to come together at the right places and at the right times and with the right labour/capital/financial inclusions that make that personal existence possible in today’s modern world. One of the more popular papers on this can be seen here by Sole and Montoya and although this paper’s emphasis resides with biological systems and the necessity of high biodiversity, its principals will likely apply as well to complex technological structures as well:

    Such fragility inherent in complex systems can be seen in any number of biological and other systems such as human civilisation. Chaos introduced at the right place at the right time with the right force can bring down the entire structure quite rapidly, no matter how “stable” it might appear at a superficial level. This will in some measure explain the frustration that Kevin feels as he witnesses apparent “self-healing” of the system when threatened within the bounds of its ability to repair itself, thus giving the appearance that though degraded, the system can continue until it finally dies with a whimper. I do not believe this to be true, but in a manner of speaking and quite selfishly, I hope Kevin is right.

  • Navid that’s quite a story.

    I found this back of the envelope fascinating if it is in fact correct. I’ve read that to replace oil with nuclear power here in the US would require building 750 nuclear reactors, but this?

    Kathy, here in our part of NY State the grain bins are full and in some spots 50% of the corn is still in the field because there isn’t a market for it.


  • Maybe it would be worthwhile to think about what exactly will collapse. I say that what will collapse is the operational structures that make a civilization what it is — the organizations of government, business, communications, industry, military, etc. that allow people to live and work and thrive (albeit in overshoot) in the modern world.

    When these structures collapse, people will remain and have to find food, water, shelter, etc. But due to “overshoot” of our earthly resource base at sustainable levels, the human ability to find food in the absence of organized agriculture which is highly dependent on petrochemical inputs will be restricted, leading to die off.

    One of the fundamentals that people of conscience tend to forget but keep getting reminded of is that the powers that be and the social elite do not practice fairness and always seek their own advantage. If wealth and resources were equitably distributed, we could alleviate much suffering and would have had a chance at an orderly transition to a non-petroleum world. But just as the distribution of prosperity has never been fair or anything close to it, the emergence of the long emergency will continue to feature lack of equitable fairness even as the elite right now are grabbing all the liquid and non-liquid assets they can as the social infrastructure begins to heave and show signs of collapse.

    While nuclear war is a real possibility when tensions between nations are high, I think the primary reason nuclear war has been avoided is that the ecological consequences are so unpredictable. Those who best know nuclear nuclear weapons and warfare know that a nuclear exchange t could easily lead to “nuclear winter” where no humans could survive and the planet would be uninhabitable for even the wealthy. These people do not want nor intend to spend their lives in underground bomb shelters just to maintain life — they intend to thrive in a post-petroleum world.

    To me, the bottom line is that collapse will likely lead to a large-scale dieoff that will likely be exacerbated by Global Warming. But people will survive with some luck and some preparation. Enterprising individuals may resurrect some functionality of the past civilization by scrounging stuff for daily use from what survives, which could include tools, chemicals, fuels, etc that survived intact.

    Everthing that made and makes humans what they are will survive into the post-collapse world. There will be magnificence in altruism, and there will be selfishness and crime and murder. There will be victimhood and there will be self-sacrifice.

    Life will go on and the tendency will be to repeat the process that led to collapse because human evolution will mandate it. People will immediately try to rebuild what was lost and in a few lifetimes crisis will hit again.

    Some of it depends on how debilitating Global Warming turns out to be.

    Meanwhile the focus needs to be on survival and developing the tools and mindset to survive with flexibiliby, toughness, skill, and assistance from one’s “tribe” or “community” of fellows.

    Stan Moore

  • Ed,

    I note that at the end of the link you supplied a commenter, “King M”, questions the figures, suggesting that that the amount of oil involved is actually much less than suggested and therefore the math is wrong. I don’t have the time right now to figure out which of them is closer to the truth of it. However, in his response King M (who may well be a super-cornucopian) notes the following:

    “Peak oil is not an energy crisis; the world is awash in energy. Peak oil is a liquid fuel crisis.”

    This statement was a good reminder for me. Intermittent local brownouts because of insufficient electrical production is not likely to bring down the whole system. Insufficient diesel for transport probably will. It’s not enough to electrify the rail system for transporting goods across the country if you don’t have fuel for the trucks hauling the goods to and from the railhead. Of course this is just a restatement of the “Why Alternatives Won’t Work” argument but it was good for me to hear it again.

    Michael Irving

  • Ed, I am originally from Western NYS – south of Buffalo. Used to be lots of vegetables grown near us in the fertile soils there. Boy it sure did take some getting used to red clay down here, but my garden is beginning to look more like the soils I knew growing up.

    Glad to hear NYS crops have done well. I don’t know why there isn’t a market for it since the USDA report as shown below has raised corn prices. Perhaps farmers are holding on to it in hopes of even higher prices. But also since I have started looking more closely at food I have learned that a lot of people don’t trust the USDA. Surprise, surprise…. :)

    “It looks like the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been completely wrong-footed by the U.S. corn crop. And that has sent agriculture stocks soaring today, October 8.

    Just a few months ago the USDA was projecting a record crop. Just a couple of weeks ago on September 30, the agency projected corn production of 13.16 billion bushels on a near record yield of 162.5 bushels an acre.

    On October 8 shockingly lower projections completely reversed the shocking higher estimates issued by the USDA on September 30.”


    “December corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade reached a high of $5.84 a bushel in trading on Tuesday. In late June, similar corn futures were trading as low as $3.43. That is a 70 percent jump.”

  • 30 years ago NZ went down the track of constructing the first gas to liquids plant in the world: methane to methanol and then methanol to alkanes. The fact that half of the energy content of the methane was lost in the process was of no concern to the proponents, since the plant generated liquid fuel at a profit (the gas being supplied at a very favourable price and much of the cost of the horrendously expensive plant being off-loaded onto taxpayers).

    At a meeting I attended yesterday (not connected with any of this stuff) a participant exressed great enthusiasm for a new project -extraction of methane from coal seams in Australia. And there are whispers of the same thing in NZ, corresponding with what is happening in the US. I was not appropriate to query her enthusiasm for destroying the Earth’s future climate, there being ‘no connection between fossil fuel extraction and climate’.

    There does seem to be a distict possibility that governments and corporations will work hand in hand to prop up current arrangements by any means possible -in other words printing money to pay for gas-to-liquid plants, coal-to-liquid plants, promotion of a complete disregard for financial, environmental and energy factors currently limiting expansion of tar-sand-to-liquid-fuel projects, expansion of palm oil etc. -whatever can be implemented in a particular location. In other words governments print money to facilitate the burning up of all the natural gas and natural environment left on this planet in one final frenzy of insanity. The general public could be induced into supporting such madness via the ‘there is no alternative’ arguement. And the increase in CO2 emissions could be ‘dealt with’ by a higher Emissions Trading System levies ….. thereby forcing the general populace to pay for their own destruction. Isn’t that the prime agenda of TPTB?

    Victor. We keep coming back to the 2012-2015 period for the commencement of significant collapse due to oil depletion, which, interestingly, is what was postulated around a decade ago. Perhaps we will be lucky and there will not be sufficent time or resources for the madness I indicated above to be implemented.

    One of the best measures of collapse seems to be the number of potholes in roads and the time taken to repair them. For while things around here were starting to look grim, but more recently the roads have been repaired – a lot more affordable when oil is around $80 than &150. The latest round of financial turmoil in the international amrkets could well see oil prices drop further, exacerbating the delusion at the local level that ‘all is well’.

    Kathy. Thanks for that information.

    It is all getting increasingly interesting.

  • In my in box tonight

    “The UN today warned that food prices could rise by 10%-20% next year after poor harvests and an expected rundown of global reserves. More than 70 African and Asian countries will be the worst hit, said the Food and Agricultural Organisation in its monthly report…Extreme volatility in the world markets has taken the UN by surprise and forced it to reassess its forecasts for next year. “Rarely have markets exhibited this level of uncertainty and sudden turns in such a brief period of time. World cereal production this year, which is currently put at 2,216m tonnes, is 2% below 2009 levels, 63m tonnes less than the forecast reported in June,” said the authors.
    “Contrary to earlier predictions, world cereal production is now forecast to contract by 2% rather than to expand by 1.2%, as anticipated in June,” they said.”
    Full story at

    Of course we can’t rule out price manipulation by Powers that Be, but it seems that chaotic weather and desertification are beginning to reveal nature as the Power that Is.

  • Kathy. I suppose we should be thankful it will be people in Africa and Asia who will bear the brunt of the impact of rising food prices. For the moment most people in the west can continue to comsume more than is good for them.

    There is obviously storms brewing in China and Europe, reigniting the prospect of a fast crash via demand destruction and unravelling of fiat currencies. China now seems to be caught in a similar economic trap to the west:

    Oil prices slide on higher dollar, China November 17, 2010


    World oil prices sank on Tuesday, weighed down by a strengthening dollar and concerns that China might tighten monetary policy to rein in inflationary pressures, analysts said.

    New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, shed $US1.93 to $US82.95 per barrel.

    Brent North Sea crude for December lost $US21.74 to $US85.02.

    “There are fears about the falling value of the euro against the dollar, leading to a rise in relative oil prices for European countries,” said Ian Parrett, analyst at UK energy consultancy Inenco.

    “Fears of rate tightening and slower growth in China will also have a knock-on effect on demand,” he added.

    The European single currency plunged close to a two-month low under 1.35 dollars on Tuesday as eurozone finance ministers held a crunch meeting in Brussels to address Ireland’s debt crisis.

    In afternoon deals, the euro sank as low as 1.3492 dollars – the lowest level since September 28. A stronger dollar weighs on dollar-denominated oil which becomes more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

    Eurozone finance ministers began talks at 1600 GMT in Brussels to grapple with a spreading debt crisis that has already brought Greece to its knees, and now threatens Ireland and also Portugal.

    Speculation is building over a possible rescue for Ireland running up to 90 billion euros after Greece was bailed out by the EU-IMF with 110 billion euros in May.

    “Several factors are keeping a lid on oil prices at the moment,” said Westhouse Securities analyst David Hart.

    “Among these, rising inflation expectations in Asia are increasing concerns that growth in the region will be reined back which would, in turn, moderate increases in crude demand.

    “A stronger dollar is also not helping, as debt woes in Europe continue to weigh on the euro,” he added.

    Data released last week showed that Chinese consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in more than two years in October, reviving worries that the authorities might hike interest rates again.

    Chinese spending might be affected if monetary policy is tightened further and there are some who worry this will reduce China’s appetite for commodities including oil.

    © 2010 AFP

  • I’m sending the IEA my underwear bill, ’cause that light blue wedge means its brown trousers time! :(

  • Without comment as it needs none.

    “The revival of German militarism, 65 years after the end of World War II, is a development of world-political significance. It is inseparable from the deep crisis of world capitalism. As the financial and economic conflicts between the great powers worsen, militarism is on the rise everywhere.”

  • Guy,

    Regarding Kathy’s last remark, note that the chart looks really different if the light blue wedge is placed above the yellow wedge and labeled something like “magical thinking oil.”

    Michael Irving

  • “The revival of German militarism, 65 years after the end of World War II, is a development of world-political significance. It is inseparable from the deep crisis of world capitalism. As the financial and economic conflicts between the great powers worsen, militarism is on the rise everywhere.”

    And nowhere more so than the USA…

  • The “industrial economy” is the secondary economy on steroids – or should we say – fossil fuels. This permitted its unremitting growth over two centuries, unprecedented in human history, and quite possibly the history of any large vertebrates. The proportionate increase in population places us in overshoot with the depletion of fossil fuels.

    The paradigm of unremitting growth translated into an expectation of such growth, and the manipulations of the tertiary economy were adjusted to profit therefrom.

    But with the primary and secondary economies ceasing to grow, the tertiary economy can delay the full effect of the constraint by postponing the day of reckoning – hence “fiat growth”.

  • From Kathy’s link:

    ‘the policy objectives of the Bundeswehr were redefined in the official defense guidelines. Its duties now included, in addition to national defense, the “promotion and protection of worldwide political, economic, military and ecological stability” and the “maintenance of free world trade and access to strategic raw materials.”

    “promotion and protection of worldwide …… ecological stability”

    Nice to know we have the support of the German military. I feel so much better now.

  • We were out for a run this morning, and noticed the amazing number of piles of poop in the last of our fields. The field is a little under 7 acres and a neighbor farmer has 8 horses in there. Now I’ve always known that you can burn those wonderful little piles for fuel, but this guy takes it one step further. The poop ash seems to be a great fertilizer. I know the farmer doesn’t use meds to deworm the horses, but the residuals from dewormed horses used as manure can do damage to your worm population. It would seem that a good burn would get rid of the residuals. Supposed to smell like hemp when it burns.
    Boy are we going to have fun this weekend.

    Best hopes,


  • Joe Barton and John Shimkus are vying for head of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Doesn’t really matter that such incompetents might head this committee considering how poorly it has done so far. Couldn’t do worse could it? Any rate in conjunction with my belief that we should laugh and enjoy on the way down to the Olduvai Gorge I offer Stephen Colbert on Barton and Shimkus.
    Might as well conserve our vital fluids and laugh rather than cry….

  • A recent Energy Bulletin interview with Chris Martenson about his views on Peak Oil, whom many of you will be familiar with:

    A quote from this interview:
    “AA: Are you more optimistic about the future than 5 or 10 years ago, given the situation how it evolves now?

    CM: Well, I am personally very optimistic because I have had a lot of progress in my community and getting my own life squared away and figuring out ways to be more resilient. Here is the most important thing; when people come first into this conversation they often do exactly do what I did which is they say “what do I need to get”. So they start thinking about the things they need, right? And that is fine, to get through the first wave. And then the second question is “what can I do without”? And in the process of paring down you can actually live on quite a bit less than you thought you needed. And so I am absolutely optimistic that my family is going to be happy and healthy through all this…

    AA: And the general development, maybe your family, or some other families are fine, but the general trend…? Do you believe in high adaptability of people to sharp decline of energy availability, given the past experiences?

    CM: There are two types of people out there, people who can adapt, who have open minds who can see these things coming in advance. And then people who have no idea what is happening, they have not paid attention; there is going to be a pain adjustment for these people. And the only thing I am concerned is how rapidly do we go from here to there. If it is very rapid, that is where you could see elements of social unrest, you could see anger…”

    By all means read the entire interview, but the above quote caught my eye, I must say. Any comments?

  • Victor, I haven’t had time to read the whole interview. I have listened to Chris Martenson’s Crash Course and think it is quite a good introduction to why we are in deep dodo.

    I think that most people decide how much less they could live with and then decide that things won’t get worse than that. When anyone proposes that things might get worse, much worse it is rejected and often the person who says that is labeled a “doomer” or accused of putting out “doomer porn”.

    I think that things are going to get far worse than Chris Martenson imagines. I am not at all sure I can or want to live in the world I envision. But I can’t think myself out of what I see coming. Does that make me a seriously ill person or a seriously objective person. Guess time will tell (as with paranoia you don’t really know if a person is paranoid until some time passes and the thing they fear happens or doesn’t :) )

    As you have written, things are far more interconnected than people think. When the volcano of the unspellable name erupted in Iceland, who knew it would affect the livelihood of people in Africa. Turns out some cut flowers are grown there and flown to Europe on a daily basis. When the planes could not fly due to the ash, the flowers in transit rotted and the flowers in bloom faded and farmers on the edge, edged nearer to the edge. We cannot begin to imagine how things will fall out.

    My game of choice for the endtimes is Jenga
    You stack the sticks and then start pulling them out – object to not cause the stack to fall. By careful extraction many can be removed, but at some point either by lack of skill or just the physics of stacked objects, it falls – usually completely with nothing left standing.

    Chris is far more open than most to what is coming, but from everything I have read previously he envisions far less of societal disruption than I do. But being adaptable is as he notes an essential trait if one wants to extend survival past collapse to some sort of new future.

  • Kathy,

    Prof Clive Hamilton wrote a truly insightful book, Requiem for a Species, Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. In it he describes the process each of us needs to go through to gain the state at which we are ready to act for the new world coming, which he believes is a world of climate change, and which I believe is a world of climate change lording it over the end of human civilisation. But his advice is true for either scenario, both of which, as he says, “has the smell of death about it”.

    He says the first thing we must do is to gather the courage to follow the reasoning to its terrible end, to allow it to completely destroy all hope in the future of “now”, beyond the ability to recover to the “now” in any fashion. Here he quotes T.S. Eliot:

    I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
    For hope would be hope of the wrong thing.

    He says the waiting here is not inaction, but a journey we must take and follow to the end at which point we become agents in our own disintegration. At that point we will look around at the hopelessness of it all, and begin the process of examining the pieces of our lives that remain, and reintegrating them into a new future, a future far removed from the “now” and based upon the very essence of survival. First, each of us who is able, then corporately as we begin to imagine and then to reintegrate ourselves into a new world separate and apart from today’s world sans the hopes and dreams of the “now”, but taking to ourselves to the future as we reconstruct it. Then we ACT upon that. We do whatever is necessary, not to live in the “now” or to save the “now”, but to begin living the “future”.

    He says: “The inner struggle to adapt ourselves to changed circumstances requires that we go through a painful process of disintegration involving strong emotions, including excitability, anger, anxiety, guilt, depression, hopelessness and despair. But the ability to navigate them and reconstruct our selves is a sign of mental health. Accelerated psychic development requires a difficult transition in which the individual becomes an active agent in his or her own disintegration, a process in which we assess and reintegrate the broken pieces of ourselves into a new and more robust whole. It is an adaptive coping strategy.”

    He goes on to elaborate what he believes is one of the next steps we as a society must endeavour to accomplish, building a new democratic structure which will allow the necessary reconstruction of society so we are prepared to address adaptation to climate change.

    But here, I have to come down on Derrick Jensen’s side of things when he declares quite openly that “civilisation is not and never can be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilisation.” And in his book, Endgame, he proceeds to lay out his case for not only not supporting the “now”, but actively doing whatever is necessary to bring it down as soon as possible, thereby lessening its terrible toll upon the Natural World.

    Indeed, the Collapse, the Great Unravelling, is much like Jenga. For the last several thousand years we have been building the stack until we have a magnificent structure, using the cheap and easy energy of fossil fuels. In May of 2005 we hit global Peak Oil production, and by August 2008, the sticks were being removed, bit by bit. It is a huge a complex stack. A lot of sticks can be removed, but as you indicate, in the end, a stick will be removed and the entire structure will collapse in its entirety. We each of us must come to terms with the implications of that. We each must walk through that darkened door before we can begin to conceive of a new world, the First World – back to our beginnings, back to Nature.

    If you haven’t, you would do well to read Jensen as well as William Catton, people who come as close as any I know to a proper perspective of where we are and where we are headed.

    Apologies for being so long-winded…. ;-)

  • Chris Martenson’s Crash Course has one of the best depictions of falling off the EROEI curve I know of. It therefore seems rather odd that he should express optimism, given the stubborn refusal of western governments to make any preparations whatsoever for the inevitable decline in available energy that is on the horizon, coupled with the more or less total ignorance of 99+% of the populace.

    I can only speak for what is happening around here; my percetion is that the level of interest in preparation for the future is LOWER than 3-5 years ago. I think Robert Atack would agree.

    I don’t know Chris Martenson’s circumstances. Perhaps he lives in a small, remote community that has fertile soil, a temperate climate and a good water supply.

    The more I look at it, the more I agree with Kathy, especially for anyone living in a large city, i.e. most of the population, though presumably those hwo are prepared to eat almost anything will survive.

  • I’ve come to believe Martenson has turned into an uber-optimist about the oil age since he put out the Crash Course. Or else he’s spinning a message people like to hear because they like to hear it, not because he believes it.

    There is a decent overview of peak oil today at The Burning Platform. As with Martenson, there is no mention of the moral imperative associated with how we live our lives.

  • Victor, a most interesting post. I have read Endgame, and although I haven’t read Catton I have read of his ideas and heard him speak on youtube clips. If you haven’t read it already, Jensen has written an article on hope It ties in somewhat I think with what you tell of Hamilton’s writing, although Jensen’s writings have an angry edge to them – which in fact I like.

    I will check out Hamilton’s book

    Kevin, yes it is an interesting phenomenon how writers will bring you to the cliff and then adroitly step away before looking down. I read the book Ishmael some time back. The author makes his point (via a talking ape :( ) that hunter-gatherer lifestyle was the best way for humans to live. Then right at the end asks do we need to become hunter-gatherers and with little explanation says no. Richard Heinberg brings us close to the cliff and then moves to optimism, but from one thing I read by him this is deliberate and self acknowledged. It is how he chooses to live whether or not it works.

    I fear looking over actual cliffs – acrophobia – but don’t fear the end time cliffs, whether of personal death or TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it). Seems to me its better to know what is coming than not, but it seems that most would rather not know.

  • Victor. Excellent comments.

    The problem for those of us attempting to swim against the tide at this stage is exactly that … swimming against the tide. The fact that we know the tide is going to change direction fairly soon provides little immediate benefit (unless we were wealthy enough to be able to invest in gold/silver when there were low).

    Kathy, I wrote a book with the title TEOTWAWKI early in 2010, but did not bother to get it published. The effort involved and the general lack of interest (that I have previously refered to) suggest it would be just another futile exercise. People prefer not to know. I edit and update it occasionally as part of sanity maintenance, and just recently wrote that most people in western societies are unreachable, as pointed out by Derrick Jensen several years ago. That point was driven home for me yesterday, a social gathering.

    During a converstion with a close acquaintance about peak coal, peak oil, climate change, deficits etc. I pointed out the converstion would not be possible with any other of the 150 or so people present, because they know next to nothing about any of the topics. Later, matters of enthalpy, bond energy and activation energy arose. My acquiantance (with an engineering background) was out of his depth at that point. But he did go on to insist that ammonia was NH4, and would not have it that ammonia was NH3 until I pointed out NH4+ was ammonium ion.

    We might conjecture that Martensen, Heinberg etc. are delivering the ‘happy ever after chapter’ just as Al Gore did -‘if we just do this, this and this it will all turn out fine’, in the hope that some portion of the message might be more palatable to the uninformed masses. I believe there is a degree of deceit (self-deceit) in understating the predicament we are in and overstating the mitigating potential of so-called ‘solutions’. That is one reason I am attracted to Guy’s commentaries, based on the best available evidence, even if that requires a ‘full look at the worst’. And, as Guy rencently commented, there is little or no mention of moral imperitives elsewhere.

    By the way, I have started to use the past tense of TEOTWAWKI -The End Of The World As We Knew It, since TEOTWAWKI has been underway for some time.

    If anyone new to this stuff is reading this far down, welcome to our nightmare.

  • A few people have mentioned the interconnected nature of our globalized mess. For quantification, with obvious implications for near-term collapse, check out the article titled, Analysis of 2008 Collapse Shows Economy Networked for Failure.

  • Authors and Conference Speakers must sell books and be invited to conferences to stay in business. Prophets have no such constraints.

    The author feels that if he (she) can sell enough books and speak at enough conferences, more people will begin to get the message – we are living beyond our means and have done so for some time now. What they don’t recognise is that the message they are selling provides a Hollywood ending, something people expect and yearn for and are thus willing to pay for in today’s world. Because of the money and the opportunity for people to listen to a vital message, the author feels no moral imperative for taking people through the darkened doorway. He only approaches the door, shows them a hint of the darkness beyond, just enough to scare the shit out of them, then in effect says, “But we have no need to bother with that, because if you will just step over here please, away from the entrance, I’ll show you another way out of all this.” In doing so, he has convinced himself that he is doing a public good, fulfilling some kind of perverse moral obligation to be “positive” so that people’s hopes are not destroyed and they be immobilised by fear and filled with panic. Instead, he ends up leading the people astray to pin their hopes upon a falsehood.

    The prophet on the other hand, expects neither money, nor praise of men, nor fame, nor even the ear of the people. He (she) has followed the path to the darkened entrance, and has recognised the need to enter and to abandon all hope.

    It is the prophet who alone recognises that to have any hope of survival, one must enter the door and let nothing prevent him. The prophet is an agent of disintegration. It is the prophet who understands that one must die to the present to live in the future. It is the prophet who understands that the root of humanity’s problems today lies in nothing less fundamental than the idea of civilisation itself.

    To paraphrase Alexander Herzen, The prophet is not the doctor trying to save the patient (civilisation): he is the disease whose intent is destroying the patient.

    Entering through the darkened door does not make you a prophet. But it will irrevocably alter you and how you perceive the world.

    By the way, prophets are usually either cast out from the people….or killed….

  • While “the individual becomes an active agent in his or her own disintegration” if one can “assess and reintegrate the broken pieces” the disintegration has not occurred. Once the disintegration occurs, there are no broken pieces to reintegrate. That is the Great Death in Buddhism: if it occurs when one is in embodied form. there is only one more little death. Nirvana (Sanskrit; nibbana – Pali and modern Bengali) = extinguishment

    “But he did go on to insist that ammonia was NH4”: there are four possibilities. 1) he did not go to high school, 2) he did not graduate from high school, 3) he did not keep an eye open or an ear open while in class, and 4) he went to some American high school (not necessarily true of all of them).

  • Kathy

    Jensen on hope. An excellent article. Thanks for that. I would differ with Jensen on one point, however – that hope is, in itself, little more than a tool of those in power to keep us all in line. He is correct. But he is also incorrect. I believe hope is uniquely a part of our make-up as humans. When things are difficult, or out of our control, it is hope that often keeps us sane, or in good spirits, or alive, or spurs us on in our efforts, or whatever. Indeed, I would go as far to say that one without hope is in mortal danger. One without hope is on the edge of self-destruction.

    No, it is not “hope” that is at the base of inaction, as Jensen, would have it. It is instead, hope in the wrong things. I think Jensen makes the same mistake as so many others do about such things as hope, faith, democracy, religion, free markets, etc – they imbue such artefacts with a power they do not in and of themselves, possess. We have a tendency to attack that which we are harmed with instead of attacking those who wield it and induce harm. You might as well have substituted the word “religion” in place of “hope”.

    Most religions of the world strive to make us better, morally, ethically, spiritually. The problem is when evil men assume control and warp religion, using it as a tool against the many to control them. It is not religion that is evil; it is the men who use it to their selfish ends. The same can be said for virtually any human tool that is meant to make us better people. It is even true for material objects like guns or knives, or axes, or automobiles, or whatever. If you get seriously harmed by one of these, or someone you dearly love does, then we have a tendency to imbue the object with an evil it does not, by itself, contain, rather than the people who wielded that instrument. In reaction, we often end up working to take away the cursed instrument that was used against us, rather than working to hold accountable those responsible for perverting its legitimate use.

    I feel that it is often hope of the ultimate end that drives us to keep on working towards that end. Jensen, though he perhaps chooses not to recognise it, ACTS upon his HOPE that the salmon will survive. He, I have found, is heavily influenced by his own personal history of abuse. It has affected him and his perspective on life in a deep way, indeed, in ways that he himself might not see.

  • Guy,

    The link you provide was an excellent example of what we have been talking about. In the case shown, fortunately (or not?), there was no catastrophic failure. However, I would also draw your attention to the article linked at the bottom of that article, entitled, “Networked Networks Are Prone to Epic Failure”. If we extend the theses presented by these two articles as an example and perhaps draw from them the conclusions intended, and then hold up as an example of networked networks (indeed the Mother of All Networked Networks!), the globalised economy, then one must be confronted with the very real situation we find ourselves in today. The only question is which network will fail first and when? These studies demonstrate that the potential is there for extremely rapid and uncontrolled catastrophic failure – “catastrophic” in this case meaning failure of all networks simultaneously and in quick order.

  • Wow, so much stuff. Victor I think your take on Jensen and Hope are right.

    I have to go work and affair today to raise money to save our town charter to protect us from encroachment of development. Yeah right…development is over but people here think the economic downturn is temporary. So I keep my mouth shut, help create an event when vendors will be selling creations to decorate Christmas trees etc…. So I will just have to go silently fume and leave the discussion for later….Darn this is far more fun. And it galls to be doing BAU (business as usual) stuff. But perhaps I can keep quiet, smile a lot and so help form community bonds that will be useful later :) change that to :(

  • OK one more comment before I go – the network for the US that is most important is probably not the economy but the electric grid.

  • Robin,

    Good point, but I would beg to differ with your conclusion in a small way. I hope I am not splitting hairs too finely here, but the implication to me is that “disintegration” does not include the concept “annihilation”. With annihilation, nothing remains afterwards. With disintegration the parts are pulled apart and the pieces remain. At that point you “reintegrate”, re-forming some or all of the remaining parts into a new structure. Apologies for any miscommunication on my part.

  • Sorry about the poorly formed statement referring to disintegration.

    The Second Feature of Existence (in Buddhism), “sabbe dhamma anatta” – “no entity has any real abstraction”, there is no soul or independent individuality. All entities are conglomerations of their parts or features, even if the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts.

    In disintegration what is annihilated is not the parts but the perception of a self, an individuality. For a particular person the physical body parts. the memories, intelligence, personality, etc. will remain, but the there will no longer be any subjective sense of an individual “self”: there are no broken pieces of the “soul” or “self”. While the parts may be reshuffled, they cannot be re-integrated into any semblance of a “self’.

  • Robin

    I will have to defer to your knowl;edge of Buddhism here. What I am trying to communicate is that which represents an individual’s “world view” – how he perceives the world and its workings – is made up of many parts formed since birth and the result of many parts coming together in a way that allows her (him) to “make sense” of things; i.e., interpret what is going on and why. I think that “self” you refer to is at a lower level still and seems to represent much of the essence of the person? My error, I now think was referring to the disintegration of the “self” (or “ourselves”, I believe I said). Here, “ourselves” was meant to convey the idea of “world view”, not “self). Hopefully, this clears it up a bit? If, not, you have exhausted me!…. ;-)

  • Kathry said:
    “But perhaps I can keep quiet, smile a lot and so help form community bonds that will be useful later :) change that to :( ”

    Probably no, probably yes and definitely yes!

  • The world view is centered in the viewer. That view will undergo a radical transformation when the viewer has dropped a sense of “self”.

  • I recently brought up Jeff Rubin, the optimistic former CIBC economist who understands resource constraints.

    Today Stoneleigh at Automatic Earth takes Rubin to task for his misplaced optimism (and arrogance?):

    “November 20 2010: Jeff Rubin, another economist who doesn’t get economics”

  • Victor. I usually agree with what you write, but cannot fathom the logic of:

    ‘Most religions of the world strive to make us better, morally, ethically, spiritually. The problem is when evil men assume control and warp religion, using it as a tool against the many to control them. It is not religion that is evil; it is the men who use it to their selfish ends. The same can be said for virtually any human tool that is meant to make us better people. It is even true for material objects like guns or knives, or axes, or automobiles, or whatever. If you get seriously harmed by one of these, or someone you dearly love does, then we have a tendency to imbue the object with an evil it does not, by itself, contain, rather than the people who wielded that instrument. In reaction, we often end up working to take away the cursed instrument that was used against us, rather than working to hold accountable those responsible for perverting its legitimate use.’

    When the first proto-human picked up a stone and threw it at another it was to obtain advantage with respect to access to food, water or a mate. Driving off, injuring or killing competitors was (is) fundamantal to suvival and genetic success of the individual. Does driving off, injuring, or killing others make us better people? As far as the individual or the close gene pool is concerned the answer must be ‘Yes’.

    Surely, nothing made by humans has any legitimate use other than to confer competitive advantage to the owner (and perhaps those closely related to him/her) over others. The only use for a gun (legitimate?) is to gain control over some other person in order to gain competitive advantage. Or to defend one’s own resources. Knives, axes, cars, helicopter gunships, computers, books, potato peelers … absolutely anything we have or use is to confer real or preceived advantage in the game of life. Ford may have told the world he wanted to liberate the masses, but deep down he just wanted to make money and acquire power (and help his associates sell the ‘suplus’ oil thay had) -and production line assembly made his operations more profitable.

    As for religion, is there such a thing as religion without control by [evil] men? Are not all religions based on the selected thoughts and observations of humnas, designed to control/manipulate the spirituality that lies within most of us? Those who manage to attain rank in the vast majority of religious systems acquire immediate benefits, and all adherents are promised defered reward.

    The one area of human activity I have the most difficulty coming to terms with is the torturing to death of another human for pleasure. I just cannot resolve that one at all. Especially when done in the name of religion

    Kathy. I am finding it increasingly difficult to have any enthusism for Christmas, now that I fully appreciate the extent to which we have been lied to: a pagan feast connected with the Sun’s elevation usurped and distorted by the Romans and now commecialised by the globalised consumer economy. I suppose you can console yourself in the knowledge that every vehicle trip, every misuse of resources helps bring the system closer to collapse.

  • Some very food points have been made regarding Derrick Jensen and hope.

    As understand it, Derrick says that hope is the problem when people hope that information they are given is incorrect, or that someone else will mysteriously deal with a problem that they should be dealing with. He attempts to rescue the living world, even as the industrial economy wilfully destroys it at a rate a milliion times faster than he can save any part of it. Which in a sense is hopeless.

    I have been reviewing material about the Nazis and the ‘final solution’. Survivors of the death camps talked of God abandoning those locations. Hope (and a degree of good fortune) kept them alive.

    I must admit I keep falling into the hope trap, hoping that something or someone I have no control over will effect a good outcome of some kind. In the light of evidence to date am working hard to suppress such thoughts.

    Pehaps we need to focus on the fact that we are living in an almost totally artificial world which has no meaning, but that if we can endure the next few years things will start to return to normal. I have explored practically every avenue I can think of and found all to end in cul de sacs.

  • Guy, quite the fun article!

    You mentioned the Greece situation, and how the U.S. is dogging them. How long would you say Germany’s going to continue bailing out the other PIIGS countries?

    On my way back to the good ol’ U.S. of A. we made a stop in Romania, Germany and Scotland. While in Germany we talked to numerous Germans that were… VIOLENTLY unhappy with the direction things were going with them being forced to bail out countries who were significantly less fiscally responsible than they were. When we brought up the very real possibility that they were going to be bailing out Ireland, then Spain, then Portugal, their thoughts were that eventually the German people were going to push as hard as they could for Germany to leave the E.U. monetary union and go back to the Deutche Mark.

    The Scottish take on the situation was actually funny. It involved the act of “Fooking da Airesh!” which I though was a way to score in Cricket until I got them to talk a little slower. Then I realized it was a little closer to leaving them high and dry.

  • Welcome back Turboguy !!

    How have you been ?

    Double D

  • Derrick Jensen was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy now. The first part is about 20 mins at to view or get transcript.
    Its almost painful to watch them both skirt around the issue of using violence. Not sure at all why Amy would choose to interview him. At points her voice sounds very tight. At any rate it is of some interest if just to watch the two interact and Derrick to search how to say things to Dem now viewers…..
    But haven’t most of us at one time or another skirted around issues with others because we know that what we think is coming is not acceptable table talk…

  • Dear Friends,

    Given the general mind-set, the one driven in our time by economic globalization and the global political economy, it is difficult to believe how change to whatsoever is sustainable could occur. The mantra of endless growth of unsustainable lifestyles and too-big-to succeed corporations appears pervasive and unassailable.

    Gigantic, multinational conglomerates are adamantly engaged in the production of goods (both needed and unnecessary), business and finance, the marvelous edifices housing the great religions, large-scale agriculture, the military complexes. These entities are the actual constructions that drive the process of economic globalization and give the global political economy its leviathan-like structure.

    What you are reporting appears correct. It seems to me that two things could happen. First, an internet-driven transformation of global human consciousness will somehow occur in order to bring about necessary changes in the self-serving, destructive behavior of the fossil fools among us. Second, something embodied in this shift in human consciousness will give rise to completely unexpected, somehow interlocking events like the one which occurred at the city of Jericho in ancient times when “the walls fell down”. Even the leviathans of human enterprise in our days could crumble.

    Recently we witnessed the near collapse of some of the giants of the automobile industry and the virtual implosion of investment houses and big banks on Wall Street. Are the titans of big business and finance not only “too-big-to-fail” but also “too-big-to-succeed” precisely because they are soon to become patently unsustainable on a planet with size, composition and ecology of Earth?

    We have also seen in the past several years the poisonous fruits to be derived from extolling as ‘virtues’ outrageous greed, obscene overconsumption and relentless hoarding of wealth by many too many leaders. Never in the course of human events have so few stolen so much from so many….with a sense of pride. That these people reward each other with medals and awards for their pernicious activities is shameful. I believe we can agree that the unbridled overgrowth activities of the masters of the universe now overspreading the surface of Earth can much longer stand neither the test of time nor the biophysical limitations of the planetary home we are to inhabit and not ruin, I suppose. Following self-proclaimed masters of the universe down a primrose path could be the wrong way to direct the children to go.

    The children deserve the chance of facing the prospect of a future that is good enough. I am no longer thinking of leaving the children a better world than the one that was given to their elders. That appears out of reach now. It remains my hope that the elder generation, with responsibilities to assume and duties to perform, will do better than we doing now by changing our ways for the sake of keeping Earth fit for habitation by children everywhere. As examples, we could pay our debts instead of mortgage the children’s future; we could clean up the ecological messes that have been made in the course of the past 65 years; we could eschew “bigger is better” and “the biggest is the best” in favor of “small is beautiful”, doing more with less, and embracing the spirit of living well by living more simply and sustainably.

    Perhaps changes toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized enterprises are in the offing.

    And perhaps we have been travelling down a long road over hundreds upon hundreds of years, a road of growing production and distribution capabilities, of wanton overconsumption and reckless hoarding, and of unbridled overpopulation. These activities have been occurring for a long time on a small scale, but only recently exploded in seemingly uncontrollable ways, within the natural world we inhabit and without sufficient regard being given either to human limits or Earth’s limitations. An improbable combination of narcissism, arrogance, foolhardiness and greed blinded leadership to the practical requirements of living on Earth; to the “rules of the house” in our planetary home. Too many leaders decided to willfully behave like kids who were left alone and given the run of the house by their overseers. All the rules were ‘forgotten’ or simply ignored. Laissez faire, whatever will be will be, living without limits and all that ruled!

    The children tore everything up and made a big mess. When they realized what they were doing, they felt stuck as if between a rock and hard place. Do they stop their destructive activities or else choose to keep tearing up the house? This is a tough choice for kids at play. Who knows, perhaps they will not be caught red-handed at what they have been doing. And if they are caught, they could always blame the wreckage on other bad boys. How many times have we seen kids at play and men at work blaming their wrongdoing on others and not ever taking responsibility for their own dishonest, deceitful or destructive behavior?

    Either the choice to turn back and begin the clean-up or the choice to keep tearing things up is fraught with danger. From a kid’s (or fossil fool’s) perspective they could face more danger by trying to clean up the mess they made than they would be exposed to by continuing with their rampage. Either choice presents its own challenges and threats. After all, so much damage has already been done. There is no longer any easy way forward, that is for sure, even under the best circumstances.

    What to do here? Now what? These are the questions, I suppose.

    Sincerely yours,


  • Turboguy, so the Scots blame the Irish. Here the Tea Party blames the goddless liberals, the preachers blame the gays, etc etc etc. All this misplaced blame. But perhaps even blaming TPTB is wrong. We are evolved creatures with extended consciousness. Some traits are too beneficial. If the cheeta had ever gotten so fast it could get every gazelle it would have eaten and produced itself into extinction. So too we are such good energy exploiters that we well may become extinct. No one to blame just how it goes as traits develop and get selected for or against. Same trait can be good in one environ and not in another. Perhaps if we deplete and poison our world enough we will defang ourselves by making daily living a challenge so great that we can just get by.

    On the other hand, I enjoy blaming TPTB because they are sociopaths of the worst sort and I am programmed to blame someone when things go wrong, why not them :)

  • Steve. ‘It remains my hope that the elder generation, with responsibilities to assume and duties to perform, will do better than we doing now by changing our ways for the sake of keeping Earth fit for habitation by children everywhere.’

    Unfortunately, a 2 to 6 degree C rise in average temperature climate catastrophe is now underway, which, as Guy recently pointed out, will probably remnder much of the Earth uninhabitable in a few decades.

    However, the very existence of those in control of the system (the corporations) is dependent on keeping the general populace uninformed/misinformed about this, and numerous other life-threatening (life-terminating) factors.

    Global corporations will keep doing what they do until they can’t, I’m afraid. And will continue to seek ways to profit from the predicament we are in. The Emissions Trading Sc=heme (scam) is a prime expample of a corporate ‘solution’ which makes short term money for the elites, but fails to address the fundamental problem.

    As for leaving a better world to our children, in hindsight we now recognise that we stopped doing that before the year 1800. The pace of environmental degradation has been accelerating, and is certain to continue to accelerate until the oil economy crashes. All the evidence indicates that the more desperate corporation become for energy and resources, the more outlandish and destructive their ‘solutions’ will become.

    Nevertheless, our deceitful political leaders will continue to campagn on the slogan of ‘a better, brighter future’, and undoubtedly will continue to fool the ignorant masses for quite a while longer.

  • Kevin, Jared Diamond has made the case that the mistake was made when we started down the road to agriculture and the attendant civilizations that went with it. So perhaps we as humans stopped leaving a better world for our children much earlier than 1800 –

    Although for some time there was fresh land to exploit and fresh ways to exploit it, once started on the road to agriculturally based civilization we started to change our world. It looked good for a while but it has led inexorably to where we are today.

  • For what it’s worth, my take on hope is here, with a nod to Jensen.

  • Nice to see you’re still kickin’ around here Frank! I’m good. I was injured in the line of duty so got to come home a whole week and a half early. Long story short I broke my fibula, tibia, the malleolis off of my tibia and dislocated it. I found that when people say that it really hurts to break your leg, they’re actually wrong. It doesn’t hurt at all!

    The surgery, on the other hand, is quite painful. It actually reset my pain threshold so now things that were a five or six out of ten before, don’t even register as a one. After the ORIF surgery I spent a month in a cast in Germany, then another three in physical therapy. As I was in peak physical condition when injured, the doctor expects a full if not 98% recovery. The Physical Therapy was painful, but if that isn’t a time to cowboy up I don’t know what is! I’m already running again and have to work off all that delicious Jagerschnitzel! Just another example for us all to get in awesome shape! I had an injury that cripples some for life and I’m running five months later. It’s really incredible how much the muscles in my right leg atrophied while in the cast. Anyway, enough about me!

    Hey Kathy, yes they all blame each other! It’s really quite funny. The problem that they’re running into is that there simply isn’t enough money in anyone else’s bank to bail everyone else out. The Scots aren’t actually blaming the Irish as much as they’re saying to them that they made their own bed and are going to have to sleep in it. When they joined the EU economic/monetary union, the Irish seemingly thought they were getting a better deal than had they just stuck with the UK. A better way to look at it is that the Germans are blaming the Irish, and they’re really not that far off base.

    It’s like a parent deals with little kids when you’re trying to cut a brownie to share with five kids. If one is perceived to have gotten a tiny amount more than any other child, the kid that perceives they were shorted brownie screams bloody murder! They’ve been done an injustice and so need more because so-and-so got more than they did so they think they are entitled to part of the brownie given to other children or to the whole pan! This becomes problemsome because there simply isn’t enough to give everyone a brownie.

    Realistically this can only end in disaster as every other country in the area is relying on Germany for their financial solvency. Eventually Germany is going to tire of robbing their own coffers to keep other countries afloat. Does that mean that they cut off the lifeline and say no, or will they pull out of the EU and go it alone? Only Germany and her citizens know for sure, but from the word on the street, they aren’t going to stand for having to continue throwing the fruits of their labor so other countries can continue the dead end road they’ve been traveling thus far. Painful change is coming. The French rioted over a two year extension to retirement age and they’re going to have to curtail benefits significantly more just to stay afloat.

    Yeah, the Tea party blames the Liberals, the Liberals blame the Republicans, the Republicans blame the Democrats, the Democrats blame the Conservatives, the Conservatives blame the Liberals, and the Liberals still blame the Tea Party. If you look at this mathematically it’s NODODY’s fault! I’d prefer to call it everyone’s fault! When the Tea party first started it appealed to me as it was a movement of fiscal responsibility. Now the Tea Party’s message has been co-opted for every ultra-Conservative social pet project. When they started delving into social issues signaled the death of the Tea Party. It’s little more than a catch phrase label now.

  • Guy, excellent article on the subject of hope. We get all tied up in words don’t we. The words that have the most emotional impact have the most diverse meanings and we can get all caught up in what a word means. Action is what matters and you have put action behind your hopes. It really doesn’t matter whether the action comes from hope or from giving up hope. The action is the key. Same with love. It is not the feeling but the actions that make love tangible.

    I am reminded of a movie we watched “As far as my feet will carry me” of a true story, although the “hero” remains anonymous. “(a German soldier capture by the Soviets at the end of WWII) escapes from the Soviet GULAG lead mines at Cape Dezhnev (East Cape), Siberia, and spends three years making his 11,000 km (6,800 mi) long way to Iran by sled, train, and mainly walking. After interrogation by Iranian police, who suspected him of being a Soviet spy, he was identified by his uncle. He arrived home in Munich in December 1952, three years and two months after escaping.”

    At least as portrayed in the movie, his promise to see his daughter again and I guess you would say his “hope” that he would do that sustained him, BUT it was his feet that carried him. The action of endlessly putting one foot in front of another was what got him home.