We don’t want the world as you have made it

by John Duffy

“But what do you want?” a political cartoon jokes, of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who hold so many signs with clear demands. I myself hear this question posed as criticism daily, almost as much as I hear “Get a job,” yelled from a speeding car. Of course, all it would take for people to figure out what we (or at least I) want, would be to come, sit down, and speak with us. Not for five minutes, four of which are spent telling us what we are doing wrong or why our movement is doomed to fail. Come sit, and have a serious discussion with even-tempered young people, and then come and have another. And another. You’ll find that yes, most of us do have jobs (though we likely hate them) and you’ll find that the core of our grievances is not just wealth disparity, not just rampant political corruption, not just the abject theft of trillions of dollars from the national treasury by financial institutions, but that the world built by our fathers, and their fathers, and their fathers is one we are not desirous to inherit, much less propagate.

The first protest in this movement started in New York, with the intention of physically occupying space on and around Wall Street with the hopes of packing in enough bodies to disrupt the business there. Support protests sprang up globally, so it is reasonable for most people to assume that the movement is focused on corporate excess, greed, and the unchecked crimes perpetrated by white collar criminals who graft with impunity. Yes, I have a problem with that. But it is not my only problem with our society, and many of us in the Occupy protest movement feel that it would be disingenuous to not point out that the crimes of the financial world do not exist in a vacuum. They are symptoms of a greater disease.

If a person contracts a virus, they may vomit, have a fever, feel body aches, and get diarrhea. If this person only attempts to treat the vomiting, the virus will persist, still damaging them in other ways. The economic collapse of 2008 was very visible to everyone, and thus the derivatives, Mortgage Backed Securities, robo-signing, bond rating fraud, illegal foreclosures, and all of the other malfeasance attached to the collapse of the housing bubble are like the vomit induced by an intestinal virus. Society sees it, they smell it, and they want it cleaned up. However, this fiduciary puke pile is not unrelated to the acidification of the oceans. It is also not unrelated to the glyphosate in our drinking water or the dioxins in the breast milk of every mammal on the planet. It is not unrelated to the children working in sweatshops to make sneakers, the labor leaders assassinated in central America, the ongoing clusterfuck in Afghanistan, or the collapse of honeybee colonies worldwide.

So what is the disease? Consumerism? Capitalism? Civilization? How many layers must we peel back to find the pulsating root of our collective nightmare?

My first night at Occupy Austin, I spoke with a young man about values. What does our culture value? From my limited perspective, I can say that the only truly valued things are money and power, which themselves can easily transpose. There is no value for life in our culture (despite the stumping of republican politicians). Truly, how can our culture claim to value life over money when it is so readily willing to destroy an ancient forest for the private profit of a handful of people? How can we keep a straight face claiming in one moment that our culture values life, when we spend the following moment showing off a smart phone that required the exploitation of people and land bases through every phase of its production, and that will continue to do so with its use and when it’s finally disposed of? How do we not plainly see the absurdity of a culture claiming to value life, when the culture has come to perpetuate itself and its expansion on the burning of petroleum — the extraction of which not only requires the militarization of the globe but which also destroys vital ecosystems, and the usage of which disrupts the atmosphere and threatens to alter the climate patterns of the planet?

It’s enough to make you want to smash your head in a car door until it either pops like an overripe cantaloupe, or until you’ve done enough frontal lobe damage to yourself that television shows become watchable, and you can slip into a slow coma on your couch like the majority of Americans.

That, or it makes you want to take to the streets, where you can throw the flesh of your body against the gears of the machine like so many salmon swimming headlong at a concrete dam, hoping that maybe, just maybe, you can inflict some critical wound in that which robs you of your birthright.

After talking about this only a week ago with a young woman who currently studies at the University of Texas, she asked me “How are we supposed to fix problems like these?” I was as honest as I could be. I said I didn’t know. I said I had some ideas, but that we would never solve any of these problems if we don’t first acknowledge them. If we don’t sit down like rational beings and honestly account and confront the multiple calamities that are barreling down on us, we will never solve them. We will merely do our best to survive them. The media and its many critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement push a toxic meme on the population which is best summed up as “the cult of the solution.” Basically, anyone who popularizes a social problem will be lambasted if they do not bring with them a prepared and seemingly workable solution. Further, this solution must fall within the parameters of the current political and economic paradigm. The mainstream punditry will not, upon hearing of the toxicity of pesticides for instance, allow a solution that demands corporations, “Stop making and using pesticides.” Our culture values money and power over life. To stop making and using pesticides would cost various corporations and thus a handful of wealthy and well-connected individuals their money and power. Sure, it would extend lives. Sure, it would preserve the health of the land for future generations of humans and non-humans. But life is low on this culture’s list of priorities.

I told the young woman from UT that the spaces being created by the Occupy protests are venues to discuss our values, to discuss how we will go about solving problems, and most importantly, to educate each other on the interconnected nature of our systemic disease. I asked her to please come back. And then to come back again. To bring other students, because it’s their time to answer the call to put something on the line for others, to sacrifice personal time and comfort to work so that other people may live in a more just world. Most importantly, it’s their time to rebuke the cultural, economic, and political paradigms being handed to them by their parents, who either willfully or not, perpetuated systems of human organization which stand on a foundation of widespread exploitation, slavery, violence, and death. The systems in place which comprise the viral malady from which we all suffer are not set in stone. They were not handed down to us at Sinai from God. They are the creations of shortsighted and sociopathic men. There is no command we must obey that says we must employ these systems ourselves. The world we build can be one of our choosing, where the value of a thing is found in its interplay with the world around it. The world we build can be one in which our decision making efforts set their focus generations into the future. The world we build can be one that doesn’t begin from the egocentric view that human race and the desires and comforts of its individual members trump the very real needs of the ecological systems which give our species the necessities of life in the first place.

The world we build will not be perfect, but it can be better, and it all starts with a coming together of minds and hearts that start from a common realization: “That which was built before we came does not satisfy us, and we are not going to allow it to continue any longer.”

John Duffy is an artist and an activist currently residing in Austin, Texas. Having disavowed the culture, he has given up on his previous career choice as a filmmaker in favor of growing food and raising hell. His previous essay in this space appeared in April 2011.

On a closely related topic, please join me in supporting the production and distribution of a series of short films on the Occupy movement.

Finally, my monthly essay for Transition Voice is here, lightly edited from an essay in this space.

Comments 101

  • Thank you John for honesty, frustration, anger, and truth to power. My wife Karen and I will be in Austin next week through the end of November. We plan on attending and participating in OWS Austin.

  • We’re going to need a new set of values, based on living within the means of what the sun provides, and on the ecosystem’s terms. That will require a new religion. Anyone up for it?

  • So what is the disease? Consumerism? Capitalism? Civilization? How many layers must we peel back to find the pulsating root of our collective nightmare?

    The disease is the contraction of energy flows. This results in a decreasing rate of production of usable items from the available resources (=shrinkage of the economy). While the pie got bigger, even the ones with the smallest slices sawt their slices growing. They did not complain too much. When the slices start shrinking, the ones with the smallest slices will feel the pinch first and be the first to complain. What is overloked across the board, in that the pie will continue to shrink to pre-industrial levels.

    Basically, anyone who popularizes a social problem will be lambasted if they do not bring with them a prepared and seemingly workable solution.

    The solution is in the offing, and neither requires nor brooks himan intervention. The world peak energy per capita usage was in the early 1970s and has been flat since then. A conservative estimate for decline in petroleum extraction on the downslope after Hubbert’s peak/plateau is 3% annually – and the downslope is expected by many to start in 2012. That should put us at the start of the petroleum age in 80 years.

    A pari passu decline in population to that at the start of the industrial age will put the population at about 2,000,000,000. That is a 5,000,000,000 reduction it 80 years. That will be reflected in an average of 62,500,000 excess deaths over births every year for 80 years. Some come up with a figure of 100,000,000 deaths per year for 80 years, figuring a lower end-population.

    This does not have to be popularized, and indeed cannot be popularized. But then again, it does not have to be popularized.

    Further, this solution must fall within the parameters of the current political and economic paradigm.

    The die-off trumps all the parameters of the current political and economic paradigm.

    We’re going to need a new set of values, based on living within the means of what the sun provides, and on the ecosystem’s terms. That will require a new religion. Anyone up for it?

    There are religions in the East that are relatively “new” to the “we”, that have been around substantially longer than the religions in vogue amongst the “we”.

  • laato:

    I am. I already speak to the pea spirits.

  • Now that it’s “official” that we have about 5 years to completely change our way of living off the planet and start living with the planet, i’d suggest we get moving in earnest. The trouble of course is that we have no leadership in positions of power. Obama is a sad, disappointing bait and switch joke and no leader in any other country seems to be doing anything other than “keep on keepin’ on.” Humanity appears to be on its way out as a species due to the fact that we’re so corruptible, short-sighted, greedy, horny and ignorant. It looks to me that Wm. Catton was right and that we’re going to go through a rapid and terrible collapse on a global scale due to our inability to cooperate and the whole “survival of the fittest” (dead) paradigm that people always fall back on when stressed. So instead of a world-wide movement (which is what it’s going to take to put the brakes on) that will completely undo the whole capitalist/ownership class/”special” 1% crapola that’s been going on since the Industrial Revolution, we’ll get Koch-funded misinformation, Apple coming out with another gee-whiz “gotta have” piece of useless junk and many other distractions that these power people will try to prevent it at all costs. So don’t get your hopes up for a Kumbaya upwelling of support for needed change.

  • Robin, well put. We are no longer in the driver’s seat. Nature Bats Last, but oh boy what a swing when it starts swinging.

    John you wrote
    The world we build will not be perfect, but it can be better,…

    We built structures ON the world, we did not build the world. Start there for a new mind set. The world is about to become a very unfriendly place, a place with less and less energy per capita, a place with a more and more unstable ecosystem. Merely staying alive for the normal allotment of human years is going to be struggle enough. Visions of a brighter future will have to wait until the dieoff of excess human population is over and everyone sees what is left in terms of stable climate and fertile soil.

    “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
    Albert Einstein

  • “There are religions in the East that are relatively “new” to the “we”, that have been around substantially longer than the religions in vogue amongst the “we”.”

    Robin, I think we need to go back further than eastern religions; I’m looking for something based on sun worship, more druid, more matriarchal and cooperative. More like Curtis’s peas, LOL? The current Dalai Lama is just as bad as everyone else in missing the big picture; bargaining for nuclear to maintain BAU or to battle inequality.


  • I treated my veggie seedlings with respect, and they responded with an excellent crop, and I harvested with care to show my thanks.

    It was a pleasure to sit in the sun on my front step, with a hose on a mist setting while I scrubbed my carrots.

    Much more satisfying than sitting in a cubicle in front of a terminal, debugging some idiot’s code.

  • In so far as religion is associated with correlation instead of carefully looking for cause and effect, superstition, in other words, and belief in entities and powers that have no evidence to support them, I do not see the need for any religion. People whose brains seem to be endlessly attracted to this kind of thing, are prone to make serious mistakes about what actually works, both for the short term and the long term, and can hurt or kill themselves. Faith without any evidence, for a myriad of beliefs, is at the heart of current problems.

  • Curtis: Great picture! It really doesn’t get much better than that, though just rubbing them on your pants and eating them dirt and all is a close second.


  • Tom, I don’t see the evidence for saying that “survival of the fittest” is a dead paradigm. If the fact is that people only live by teamwork, and that team also needs to work in another level of teamwork with the rest of life, and liars and addicts to piling up stuff only for themselves ignore that fundamental fact, and create and perpetuate systems that promote individuality, talk about survival of the fittest with humans in individual terms, ignoring the fitness of the social team and its relationship with nature, they have not demonstrated fitness, they have demonstrated stupidity, if not complete insanity. And out of the collapse of that complete failure to see reality accurately, true strength should survive better- people who see and act on the truth about themselves, who work in teams that cooperate closely with each other rather than playing stupid games, and seek to fit smoothly in with the rest of life instead of destroying it for the sake of those stupid games, to endlessly pile up money and stuff and “be fit”.

    I see nothing wrong with the paradigm of survival of the fittest. If someone takes *any* well established concept of science and uses it inappropriately, do you fault the principle of science or the person who wrongly used it? I fault the person(s). But you are faulting the science here.

  • “It was a pleasure to sit in the sun on my front step, with a hose on a mist setting while I scrubbed my carrots.” Exactly what I meant, Curtis. Elemental and as old as time.

    Arthur, values and morality are culture’s form of DNA–the community’s method of equitable dispersion of resources for the protection of the system and swift, unified action. Look at the absence of values in the media this week–here’s evidence of just one more loss to blame on fossil fuels powerful influence. The power of religion has been displaced by the power of football, or wall street, or politicos in DC. There is at least a sop of morality left if they chucked Joe Paterno out, however.

    Yes, faith without evidence is dogma. But dogma serves to reinforce behaviors that are good for the system as a whole. Our dogmas are skewed towards a system of growth. We need new dogma, reinforced by energetic feedback behaviors, that promote efficient behaviors as good or right. That is what the old solar religions did. They taught behaviors of living with the system cooperatively and sustainably for the benefit of the whole. Survival of the fittest is a more predominant feature in situations of growth where doing better than someone else and winning does not mean that the entire community fails. In descent, community survival will depend predominantly on cooperation rather competition. “Thou shall do unto others as best benefits the energy flows of thy system.”

    “Thou must find in thy religion, stability over growth, organization over competition, diversity over uniformity, system over self, and survival process over individual peace.”

  • Faith without any evidence, for a myriad of beliefs, is at the heart of current problems.

    Indeed. Such systems, if not abandoned, will lead their adherents to extinction in the now-shifting  paradigm. 

  • John Duffy

    Excellent post. And good insights into the OWS folks and their underlying message.

    So what is the disease? Consumerism? Capitalism? Civilization? How many layers must we peel back to find the pulsating root of our collective nightmare?

    We are the disease.

  • Occupy Cal (U.C. Berkeley) Demonstration

    Thank God the police were there to control that violent crowd full of useful idiots.

    What makes people take a beating like this and come back for more?

  • La Curee, thanks for the link about sea ice. Isn’t it interesting however that the danger cited is loss of habitat for critters living there and not the positive feedback of more blue water to absorb heat rather than snow and ice to reflect it back. Musn’t scare us into thinking it will do anything other than make the polar bear adjust or die. It seems we must never be told it is our own extinction that may be in the balance. Ah well.

  • Maine farmer heads group challenging genetics giant


    Despite Monsanto’s legal muscle, Gerritsen remains convinced the current lawsuit will succeed. He also sees hope in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has spread rapidly around the world and has demanded an end to corporate greed and dominance.

    “What I understand the Occupy movement to represent is resistance to the growing tradition of power concentrated in the hands of the few, which is most often corporations,” Gerritsen said.

    Citing the revolving door between corporations (including Monsanto) and the government agencies which purport to regulate them, Gerritsen said, “we basically have a dysfunctional government. The Occupy Wall Street concept is to try to give power back to the people.”

  • your whole post was very interesting and it reminded me of a book and subsequent movie which has probably been covered before: Joel Bakan’s “The Corporation”. Corporations are legally constituted entities, something like an “artificial person” and, as such, they display traits that, if they were actually persons, would lead to a diagnosis of psychopathic personality disorder


    Apologies for not replying to this on the previous post – I seemed to be caught up in trying to clear up a bit of misinformation being propagated on this site.

    Yes, I have both read the book and watched the film. Loved it. Lived it because it rang with truth, and truth sometimes rings clear and refreshing. Nearly every major organisation now – education, business, religious – is formed around the concept of the corporation, a legal vehicle designed to deflect personal responsibility and maximise profits above all other considerations. It is this combination that drives all these organisations to excess, time and again in the never-ending quest for ever greater profits for their shareholders and bonuses for their management teams. The legal framework provided for the corporation encourages by its nature the advancement of people who are willing to put profits above all other considerations, no matter the context or the moral implications. The better you are at doing this, the higher you can expect to rise to the top. Working in tandem with the powerful Public Relations industry, the corporation and the political framework in which it thrives, acts to put image and profits above all other considerations. Indeed, as Bakan indicates, the legal system not only allows profits to rule above all else, it mandates it – a corporation could not deviate from this behaviour even if it wanted to, especially if doing the right thing would place profits at risk!

    Such a psychological and legal environment does not bode well for a ‘civilised’ society. It removes the impediments put up by ethics and morals to protect society from the organisation and thus, introduces and promotes a cancerous rot into the very foundations of civilisation – a rot that will not be denied until the host organism is destroyed.

    Here is an article that published by Zero Hedge that does a really nice job of describing these men and what kind of creatures they are. As you read it, keep in mind the legal mandate of the corporation and how such men as described in the article could have been placed in these positions to begin with.


    Along with the author I am sick to the core of these people – and those people and institutions who stand with them, against us, to protect them. And I think others are beginning to see this and to feel this way as well. I suspect it is almost time for the pitchforks and torches…. ;-)

  • victor, loved your responses to tg. glad u’re back.

    Thanks, VT. Though I never really left…I was here…just a bit quiet…(though I am sure you find that hard to believe!)….. ;-)

  • The problem is not going to be to have corporations or not have corporations, the problem is going to be having food or not having food and avoiding harm from others.

    I am as sick as anyone with the way things are, and would like to see a new and better way of living come into being, but when civilization starts coming down, the problems we will face will be quite different. One piece of understand that is perhaps the war in Yugoslavia. Many fine movies about that, none of the much fun to watch. The problem for the civilians was no longer what form of government to have but how to stay alive day to day between bombings, snipers and lack of food. In the US at least there are so many weapons in the hands of civilians that I expect once the central government fails all hell will break loose. I have already had neighbors tell me that war between races is coming. I know these folks well enough to take at least their intent seriously.

    I suggest the following movies for those who are constitutionally able to watch such horror
    The Secret Life of Words
    Shot through the Heart
    Harrison’s Flowers

    Not about Yugoslavia but similar
    12 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0488478/
    Prisoner of the Mountains

    But in these conflicts there was still some hope of a better tomorrow. Hope of a better tomorrow is only for the small portion of humans who are still alive after the dieoff and will depend on how much is destroyed in the process.

    That said, I am enjoying the OWS movement immensely.

  • John Duffy, I appreciate your essay. It reminds me of an old joke my dad used to tell from the pulpit about a preacher who kept giving the same sermon week after week. When finally the people of the church began to be concerned, the head deacon asked the preacher, “Brother, why do you keep preaching the same sermon every Sunday?”

    The preacher replied, “When people finally start behaving as if they have heard what I’ve been saying, I’ll move on to the next topic.”

    I wonder how long this sermon will have to be preached before people start to change their ways.

    The problem is, we’re out of time – the sermons won’t have time to work.

    Perhaps I should change my user name to “affect laden doomer” because that’s what I’ve become. My hope for any meaningful solution has disappeared. There are too many problems facing us and there is no real leadership out there to fix them. Even if we had such leaders, what would they do about overshoot? Send 6,000,000,000 people off to the gas chambers? What would they do about global warming? End all fossil fuel burning immediately and face total anarchy? What would they do about all the nuclear power plants waiting to melt down and all the 1000’s of chemical plants waiting to explode without fossil fuel power?

    The house of cards we’ve built is coming down. There’s no stopping it.

    Have a great day everyone! :-)

  • I haven’t seen this getting any play at some of the oil sites. Remember when the predictions for when Mexico would be a net importer of petroleum products in 2016 or maybe the earliest 2014?


    If I’m reading this correctly their net surplus in September was down to 97 million dollars.

  • Ed looks like you are reading that right as far as I can tell. But hey not to worry “Stocks ended higher for the week as Italy’s Senate approved economic reforms, easing investors’ concerns about the euro zone’s debt crisis.” One day things are up, one day they are down. One day we are worried the next we are not. And the oil keeps getting sucked out of the ground……

  • John Duffy, thank you for the essay, and thanks to Guy for posting it. John, I see that you were a filmmaker once, so I assume you have some years behind you, and I am curious: how old are you?

    I support OWS in theory; however, at 41 years old, I feel more every day like Han Solo, just trying to stay alive while a younger generation of Luke’s and Leia’s puts it all on the line to fight an evil Empire. Too bad I don’t resemble Han Solo physically, too. :(

    I find it remarkable that WTI is over $99/barrel and Brent is near $114, yet there seems to be little change at my local gas stations over the last two months, aside from fluctuations up and down within about a ten cent range. Why the seeming disconnect between the two? Movement in crude prices not too long ago meant a corresponding movement in gasoline prices.

  • Kathy, I’ve been meaning to ask you — you live in Alabama, if I remember correctly — have you noticed any problems with the dogwood trees in your area? They are dying in droves here in my area of Mississippi, due to a virus called anthracnose or some such. It began affecting the dogwoods here in earnest in 2006, I noticed, the year after Hurricane Katrina. The radio “garden guy” I listen to sometimes wrote it off to the species’ sensitivity to drought, excessive moisture, storms, and other stressors. Of course, he never mentioned anthropogenic global warming as a possible root cause.

  • Christopher, I am thirty.

    And trust me, I’m plenty doomer. I am actually giving a teach in this week at Occupy Austin about peak oil and resource scarcity.

    This isn’t about saving the world. Some days it’s about letting people know that their world is even going to be crashing down. Other days, it’s about building support networks and strategies to help people manage post crash. And then there are days when it’s just about showing up to the fight. We might be all about to die, but I’m not going out without throwing some shit back at the bastards who pushed the pedal to the floor on our destruction.

  • We might be all about to die, but I’m not going out without throwing some shit back at the bastards who pushed the pedal to the floor on our destruction.

    There may be a touch of bitterness and anger in that attitude.

    There are three gates leading to hell— lust, anger and greed.

  • John
    Good to hear about the education of protesters, huge task, nevertheless urgently needed.

    Is it all about “appropriate hugs”? If they are not allowed to exchange hugs they’ll resort to violence.
    Brasscheck also has some reports on food raids, -organic vegetables as a biohazard.
    In the war crimes section find the movie – Obama: the most pro-war president in history.

  • How violent upheaval and collapse is going to play out is also in the present making:

    14:30 – this connects to – human contacts banned in schools – from the film above.

    Have a great day.

  • John, “We might be all about to die, but I’m not going out without throwing some shit back at the bastards who pushed the pedal to the floor on our destruction.”

    I sympathize with your feeling John, but do remember that we in the US use 4 times the energy per capita that the rest of the world combined uses, 10 times per capita that Africa uses. The rest of the world may well want to throw some shit back at the bastards who pushed the pedal to the floor and they may see little distinction between those who made the choices and those who benefited. Likewise the young being born today may make little distinction. It would seem that while the good life is being provided to the people that the people lap it up, ignoring how the good life is being lived off the backs of others, such as the migrant workers picking their strawberries, or the Chilean copper miners who die at about 45 so we can have copper wires running to our computers. I am so damn sick and tired of hearing about how they are killing the middle class. Where was the middle class when the rest of the world was dying to make their high priced clothes????

    How about a movement of the 50% who live on less than $2 a day?

  • Christopher, I read some time back that the disease hitting dogwoods was affecting wild dogwoods and not domestic dogwoods. I can’t find anything on that with a quick search though. I am not aware of large numbers of dogwoods dying here. We have some that are not bought but may come from seeds of domestic dogwoods as I mulch with leaves raked in town and when I get interesting seedlings from that I move them out of the garden. At anyrate the ones around our house are doing fine and I am not aware of seeing any in town that are dying. Harder to tell about the woods. Sorry for you as they are a delight year round. We do seem to be having more trees up and die for no apparent reason and our pecan crop failed once again.

  • How about a movement of the 50% who live on less than $2 a day?
    Thank you, Kathy C.

  • Christopher: I’ll take a stab at your question on gas prices. WTI which has been going up as of late represents a very small portion of the oil that is available in the world. It’s based on the oil that is stored in Cushing OK. Brent represents about 60% of the oil priced in the world, and it has been pretty stable as of late. Those refiners using Cushing oil have been making a killing. This is coming to an end, because of increased rail service to the GOM refiners, who want the crude so they can send refined product to South and Central America. What folks cannot understand is why there is such a huge difference between the price of heating oil and gasoline. Just my opinion now, but I think it might have something to do with the urgent need for diesel in the mid-West (shortages being reported due to the high usage getting Bakken out of the ground) and South and Central America. This is taking refinery capacity from those facilities that are switching over to refining heating oil for the winter, and driving up prices in that product. Again, this last part is just my opinion.

  • Kathy: I have to be careful and not get caught up in all the financial stuff. I haven’t been in the market since it went through 12,000 years ago, but the “sizzle” surrounding it is hard to resist.

    Just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen UK oil and gas down 15% YOY(or more) with coal imports up more than 20%. US stores down 15 million in one week. Khazastan down 14% in a year. European storage to their lowest level in 9 years. The topper I think was an article that said if the US were to experience an overall decline of 3% that it would represent a loss of 24 GW of total power. To make up for that would require either a new nuclear power plant, or a gas to liquid, or coal to liquid plant be put in place at a rate of one a week for the entire year.

    Have the best day ever to all of you

  • Shut Down: A Story of Economic Collapse and Hope by WR Flynn
    Review by Edward Curren
    “But I didn’t imagine either that the most powerful and complex civilization in world history could collapse in 24-72 hours. That is, until I read Shut Down: A Story of Economic Collapse and Hope, which paints a pretty convincing picture of how an ill-planned government housecleaning of insolvent banks started on Monday morning could set in motion a chain of events that would bring down the whole of American and world civilization by Wednesday night.
    First-time author WR Flynn, a retired law enforcement officer living near Portland, Oregon who traveled in Eastern Europe and the USSR, and in 1985, spent a month in Cuba working on a communal farm, has written a didactic novel clearly to make a point. Namely, that our powerful and seemingly solid society is actually frighteningly brittle and vulnerable to the slightest financial shock…
    Here’s the simple, yet fiendish, plot that gave me nightmares for a week: On Monday morning the FDIC closes more than 600 insolvent banks nationwide. But under pressure from a deficit-hawkish, Tea Party Congress, the agency forgoes its customary caution and closes more banks at the same time than prudence would suggest. This shocks the financial system enough to shut down both debit cards and Food Stamp cards, sending the US public into panic when they can’t get cash and sending hungry people first into the streets, and then into grocery stores for looting. Electronic panic spreads throughout the world’s interconnected financial system. From there, with payments stopped, oil supplies are disrupted, depriving law enforcement of fuel for patrol cars. That leaves the streets to urban street gangs who start a massive LA Riot in every major city in the US, soon followed by civil unrest around the world.”
    Full review at the link

  • We face a culture of silence with regard to the growth of the human population on Earth. As a consequence, a colossal, human-induced tragedy is being precipitated in our time. But this is not the whole problem being utterly avoided. Even among top-rank scientists with appropriate expertise, extant scientific research of human population dynamics and overpopulation is being willfully ignored. Attractive preternatural thought and specious ideologically-driven theory by non-scientists, namely demographers and economists, about the nature of the human population have been widely shared and consensually validated in the mainstream media during my lifetime. This unscientific thought and theory is not only misleading but also directly contradicted by scientific evidence toward which first-class scientists have “turned a blind eye” for way too long. That is to say we have two challenges to confront and ovecome. The first is the culture of silence. The second is the deliberate collusion within a sub-culture of experts who have determined not to acknowledge, examine and report on vital scientific research. Some scientists have referred to “the first challenge” as revealing the facts of “the last taboo”. What I am asking scientists to do is address “the last of the last taboos” by reviewing and reporting findings of unchallenged scientific research of human population dynamics from two outstanding scientists, Hopfenberg and Pimentel(2001), Hopfenberg(2003, 2009). At least to me, it appears the denial of the population issue by people everywhere and the denial of scientific research of human population dynamics/overpopulation by scientists with adequate expertise have resulted in a betrayal of humanity and science itself. This failure of intellectual honesty and moral courage among so many so-called experts with responsibilities to assume and duties to perform is as unfortunate as it is unprecedented. A good enough future for children everywhere appears to be at risk on our watch and we are bearing witness now and here, I suppose, to the way silence ‘kills’ the world.

  • Christopher, you didn’t ask me directly, but thought I’d chip in my 2 cents since I’m not too far from you. The dogwoods around my neck of the woods (NE Arkansas) are all doing fine – no sign of disease that I can tell. I must have hundreds of them in my woods and yard – they are incredibly beautiful right now (and the rest of the year too).

    My apples and crabapples are a different story. I’ve pretty much lost all of my crabapples over the last two years. It’s going to make pollinating the apples more of a challenge this spring. I’ve also lost a couple of apple trees.

  • A good enough future for children everywhere appears to be at risk on our watch

    Risk is not the word. It is die-back, from 7 billion now to the 2 billion or so of the start of the petroleum age which will occur concurrently with the decline in petroleum extraction. That decline, at about 3% per year will take 80 years.

  • On the eve of destruction – your sunday morning sermon

  • John, thanks for answering. I’ve been very curious about OWS (and other movements such as Peak Oil) as a possible generational struggle.

    Ed, thanks for attempting to clarify this for me. It is my understanding that WTI is what we here in the South get, for the most part, so I fully expected a price rise at the pump to reflect its recent rise in commodities trading.

    Kathy and TRDH: thank you as well for the responses. Looks like our dogwood problem may be mostly in areas more directly affected by Hurricane Katrina, and it is the native variety that seems to be suffering the most, and not more domestic cultivars.

    Hope everyone is enjoying the autumn. The trees are putting on quite a show in my neck of the woods this year.

  • Kathy,

    I’m well aware of the vast consumption patterns of Americans as opposed to those of people worldwide. It’s something I talk about every day.

    Remember though, we are not a hive mind. People born in 1975 didn’t design suburbia. They were told to live in one spot, drive to work somewhere else, drive to get food somewhere else, and so on. The architecture of our society is something people navigate for survival, not necessarily for an enthusiasm to do so.

    And the personal consumption habits of Americans are far different now than they were in the 1930s and 40s. It took massive propaganda campaigns to convince Americans not to wash a plastic spoon, but to throw it away.

    Titans of industry spent large sums of money to twist us into what we are. They tapped deep into our psyches using advanced psychological techniques.

    I’m not making excuses, just offering explanations. And as my essay outlines, we are trying to reject this world with our protests. Another world is possible. But we have to actively participate in making it.

  • John “Another world is possible. But we have to actively participate in making it.”

    I figure that for everyone to have an equal share we alive in the world today would each get $8 a day to live on. But we are over consuming already so lets say you tell me the plans to make a world in which we all live on $4 a day. Then you take that plan to OWS and see what the 99% of well fed Americans feel about it. They want a share of the American pie, (or Greek pie, or Italian pie etc.). They don’t want their fair share of the world pie. Blame it on advertising if you want, doesn’t matter. No amount of counter advertising will get people to want to live on $4 a day. The 99% in the US do not want to live at double the daily rate that the bottom 50% of the world live at. I sure don’t. But I don’t pretend that we can have a middle class lifestyle for the whole globe either.

    Any rate it is too late. With any luck the economy will really tank hard and fast soon, for that is the only way an environment that humans can live in MIGHT be preserved. If it doesn’t tank, nature will do some serious housecleaning and we might all be tossed out with the trash.

    Another world is coming, we have already made it. We were warned a long time back.

  • How good have been previous attempts to make a different world? Seems like even the best intended go awry. For example the wonderful, noble, attempt to end hunger by the green revolution. Such a striking success, it made possible another leap in human population and now more people get to go hungry. Socialism. Communism. Religious revivals. The Enlightenment. And here we are after all those attempts, with a planet in ruins and extinction possible. Seems like we humans should never be allowed to run the world. For 190,000 humans ran their tribes and even those humans when finding new untouched lands ran amok. The idea of humans creating a new world is the scariest idea I can think of.

  • I’ve been away ‘fighting fires’ elsewhere but on my return see that little has changed: another author has written an excellent critique of the system and people agree to varying extents on what needs to be done while noting that nothing that is needed is actually being done (other than by the usual 0.1%).

    I didn’t know the story of the frog and the scorpion till I read this:

    ‘A sermon by minister Davidson Loehr, November 7, 2004


    First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
    4700 Grover Ave., Austin, TX 78756
    512-452-6168 http://www.austinuu.org

    You may know the story of the frog and the scorpion. A scorpion wanted to cross a swift river, and asked a frog to carry him on his back. The frog asked “How do I know that you won’t sting and kill me as soon as you get on my back?” “Well,” answered the scorpion, who was good with words when he wanted something, “then I wouldn’t be able to get across the river.” “Well,” said the frog, “then how do I know that you won’t sting and kill me as soon as we’re across the river?” “Oh,” said the scorpion, “because I’ll be so grateful for the ride, why would I want to kill you then?”

    This convinced the frog – apparently, frogs are easy to convince in stories – so he let the scorpion on his back, and began swimming across the river. They were about 2/3 of the way across the raging river, when, to his great surprise, the frog felt a painful sting and looked around to see the scorpion pulling his stinger out of the frog’s back. Very soon, the frog felt himself becoming numb. Just before he was completely paralyzed, the frog had the breath to ask “Why?” “It’s just my nature,” said the scorpion, as they both sank into the river and drowned. “It’s just my nature.”

    Of course, the story was never really about scorpions. It was meant as a warning against certain rare but dangerous kinds of people whose nature, like that of scorpions, is to destroy others even if it destroys them too.’

  • great writing, john. u should contribute here more often, or start your own blog.

    hope is necessary, particularly for the young, but i’m with kathy for the most part. nature bats last, and whatever new world comes from the big changes already set in motion, nature will determine it’s outcome far more than us. soon that world we don’t want shall be swept away.

  • Unfortunately, rage — or at least, righteous anger — for the most part ignores both the lessons of history and the realities of living on a finite world. The (surely justifiable) anger of OWS is not going to go away until the disenfranchised are satisfied, or are silenced. The question is, which will it be, and how will the losers make out in the new paradigm?

    I fear the youth will lose, either way, and lose their humanity — by being ground into zombie-like submission by TPTB, or by morphing into a relative of the very status quo they are currently protesting.

  • In this brave new world how will the problem of over population be dealt with. With a draconian policy of one child per family China saw its population rise by 300 million from 1979 to now. So if we are going to decrease population what policy will our young idealists propose. One child but only at age 40? Voluntary euthanasia for everyone over 60? Withholding of health care for everyone with cancer?

    I not only question whether the youth will, as in previous movements, loose their way. I question that there is any way they can choose that has any similarity to the ideals they hold.

    While I love to see TPTB being challenged in this way, high sounding words about changing the world are just blowing in wind. THERE IS NO GOOD SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS WE FACE. No high sounding rhetoric will put oil back in the ground, fertility back in the soil, remove enough carbon from the atmosphere in time etc. To the extent that OWS hastens the collapse of industrial civilization they help in some small way. But when that happens what will be first and foremost in their minds will be getting enough calories and avoiding gun toting thugs.

    Ah well, enough hot air from my end. The C is for Cassandra and no one likes a Cassandra.

  • Meanwhile perhaps OWS would like to revive this song from Malvina Reynolds

    Last night I had a lovely dream.
    I saw a big parade with ticker tape galore,
    And men were marching there
    The like I’d never seen before.

    Oh the bankers and the diplomats are going in the army.
    Oh happy day! I’d give my pay to see them on parade,
    Their paunches at attention and their striped pants at ease.
    They’ve gotten patriotic and they’re going overseas.
    We’ll have to do the best we can and bravely carry on,
    So we’ll just keep the laddies1 here to manage while they’re gone.

    Oh, oh, we hate to see them go,
    The gentlemen of distinction in the army.

    The bankers and the diplomats are going in the army,
    It seemed too bad to keep them from the wars they love to plan.
    We’re all of us contented that they’ll fight a dandy war,
    They don’t need propaganda, they know what they’re fighting for.
    They’ll march away with dignity and in the best of form,
    And we’ll just keep the laddies here to keep the lassies1 warm.


    The bankers and the diplomats are going in the army,
    We’re going to make things easy cause it’s all so new and strange;
    We’ll give them silver shovels when they have to dig a hole,
    And they can sing in harmony when answering the roll,
    They’ll eat their old K-rations from a hand-embroidered box,
    And when they die, we’ll bring them home, and bury them in Fort Knox.

  • Kathy C

    If China’s population has continued to rise since 1979 despite the one child per family policy then there must have been an awful lot of cheating going on. If the whole world had adopted such a policy in 1979 and it had been adhered to the dieoff would have been avoided. I suspect even a zero child per family policy now would not avoid mass starvation in the next two decades. Maybe much sooner.

  • Brief return from self-exile to compliment John Duffy on an excellent blog post. There are lots of takes on the OWS movement; everyone gets a crack at it. Yours is as good as any I’ve read. Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone also reevaluated OWS more charitably a few days ago. Your comment on the Cult of the Solution relates to the Happy Chapter, which I blogged about earlier this year. The main difference is merely competing media — print publication vs. public protest.

    Finally, I should reinforce comments by Robin Datta and Dr. House (among others) confirming that the solution (such as it is) is already in the pipeline and that it’s awful and unavoidable. It’s not the solution we want, of course, but as the name of the blog reminds us, we aren’t up to bat last.

  • How can large numbers of human beings with feet of clay not see that the Earth is being overpopulated by the human species? Humanity appears to be on the verge of precipitating some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage. Scientists readily located virtually everywhere on the surface of Earth in our time have unaccepted responsibilities to assume and unfulfilled duties to perform by speaking out loudly and clearly about whatsoever is believed to be true with regard to the incredible human-driven planetary emergency that looms so ominously in the offing. Can it be that ideological idiocy and outrageous greed of a tiny minority of self-proclaimed masters of the universe will be permitted to rule the world and bring about its ruin on our watch?

  • John:
    You wrote a very good and inspiring essay. You are fighting. You are trying. You have the knowledge to know what needs doing, the courage to do so and the hope that it will make a difference. I say good for you. We need more on this planet like you. In the final analysis we all have the same destination. It’s the journey that matters. Good luck and keep fighting!

  • Kathy C,

    Thanks for the reminding me of Malvina Reynolds. There were so many songwriters back then asking hard questions and helping people to understand the issues of the times. I have trouble accessing the music of our youth. I guess I’m having the same problem my grandparents must have had understanding the music I listened during the ‘60s.

    Michael Irving

  • kevin, i think u may have posted a comment on the scorpion and frog story previously, because it was familiar (although i’m not sure where i may have seen it before). it’s a good story, capturing metaphorically what seems to be the evil essence of some powerful people.

    from whence does evil come? well, first let’s say that evil is in the eye of the beholder. that said, i say it comes from insanity, which comes from foolishness, which comes from stupidity. any way u look at it, ultimately our species/culture’s evil destructiveness is just plain stupid. stupidity that crosses all political and spiritual boundaries.

    good to have u back, kevin.

  • The (surely justifiable) anger of OWS is not going to go away until the disenfranchised are satisfied, or are silenced.

    Disenfranchised? What so few realize is that the whole franchise is coming to an end.

    Scientists readily located virtually everywhere on the surface of Earth in our time have unaccepted responsibilities to assume and unfulfilled duties to perform by speaking out loudly and clearly

    Depends on one’s perception of what “scientist” means. Galileo was a scientist in the sense of being a seeker of the truth. Today’s “scientist” is a person trained in the application of certain methods of enquiry to finding the answers to questions in specific subjects. What questions are asked and what answers are deemed acceptable depend mostly on the scientist’s employer and the socio-cultural milieu. The scientists’ responsibility (if they wish to keep and advance in their jobs) is to comply with these requirements. 

  • Robin Datta; I fully agree with your post above. Excellent!

    Scientists take no responsibility for the havoc they wreak because, in splitting away from philosophy, they left the ethical compass behind.
    Science is directionless. It serves the agenda of power-seekers and lacks the capacity (or motivation) to evaluate the outcome.

  • Yorichan, there are several reason why a population could keep growing despite a 1 child policy. The percent that are at or coming into childbearing age, the age at which they choose to have that one child, and the age at which the elderly die all affect the population numbers. I know it seems counter intuitive. China I believe had a huge number coming into childbearing age at the time the policy went into effect, and was increasing in its ability to keep people alive longer. Families in rural areas were allowed to have more children, recognizing the need for families to have children to help on the farm. I don’t know what incentives the Chinese used to enforce 1 child, but it was strong enough that people were sometimes killing girl babies so they could try for a boy. I believe however that extending lives coupled with the relatively large number just entering or to enter childbearing age had a larger effect on the numbers continuing to rise than cheating or larger families being allowed to have more than one had.

    Even if we had a zero birthrate, if the annual deaths per year stayed normal (57 million) it would take about 65 years to reduce our population by 1/2. Of course if we had zero birth rate for 65 years we would then be a population unable to reproduce as every woman would be 65 or older.

  • Sometime back when Habitat for Humanity was relatively new on the face of the earth, my ex husband and I joined them as volunteers in Americus GA. Millard Fuller, the founder, was a man of carisma, inspiration etc. He visioned that Habitat would remove poverty housing from the face of the earth. While wanting such a good to come I have always been of a rather practical frame of thinking. I noticed right off that poverty housing is to some degree a state of the mind, ie relative to some degree to what others around you have. I also noticed that saint millard was of the opinion that removing people from poverty housing in American required more money than removing people from poverty housing in say Bolivia. That is that the cost of giving an American a decent house was about 20 to 40 times that of giving a Bolivian a decent house. Part of that of course is building codes. Yet an American would feel they were in poverty housing if they had to live in what Habitat deemed a decent house for a Bolivian. I also discovered that volunteers needs should all be sublimated to the great cause and employees could be cheated of overtime for the sake of the cause.

    I saw such things also at other Christian service organizations I was involved in before I freed myself of god beliefs. But I am sure they are there in idealistic causes of any sort.

    So forgive me my cynicism about idealist causes. But history backs me up on the fact that idealist causes almost always loose their clear vision.

  • Hi Kathy

    You are right: it is counter intuitive. Even with a very young initial population I would have expected that strict enforcement of the one child policy over thirty something years would have resulted in a much reduced population by now. Wrong! If you look at the chart in this article you will see that China’s population would now be about the same as it was in 1980 if the policy had been strictly enforced.


    I have to question your second paragraph, however. The assumption that the death rate could stay constant for 65 years seems dubious. All other things being equal (i.e no dieoff or large increase in lifespan), the death rate will inevitably go up in the short to medium term as the number of old people increases. Or is my common sense letting me down once more?

  • Thanks for that link Yourchichan. So strict enforcement would have meant a slight rise before decline. I had wondered how that would work out. I presume strict enforcement would have meant 1 child for rural families as well. I quite understand why farming families got a break on the policy. I also understand that brides are sometimes being imported because of the excess males due to infanticide of female infants. That would affect the numbers as well.

    I didn’t say the death rate could stay constant and yes your common sense makes sense. I was just proposing a hypothetical that even no child per family would not result in a huge drop in population if the death rate remained the same. Purely a hypothetical to introduce the idea that just encouraging birth control by various means will not possibly reduce the population to sustainable human levels post crash. As less money is available the ordinary death rate will increase. But my common sense says that once the economy collapses the death rate will vastly increase and less deaths will be of the ordinary type (famine, war, disease you know all the usual suspects). In other words, “nature” will take over population control because we have failed at a task that should have been doable. To late for us to manage our own numbers now as a species. However individuals can do something. I would strongly suggest that anyone who has not gotten themselves “fixed” do so. The future may not have condoms and birth control pills, and it is hard to see how the future will be a place anyone wants to bring a child into. It seems that the future for many american children will soon look like the future of the children living on the garbage dumps of Brazil or China, living in the horror of the wars in Bosnia etc.

  • Yorchichan, here is another problem, enforcement – per wiki
    “The policy is enforced at the provincial level through fines that are imposed based on the income of the family and other factors. Population and Family Planning Commissions exist at every level of government to raise awareness about the issue and carry out registration and inspection work. Despite this policy, there are still many citizens that continue to have more than one child.[9]” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy

    How could you be more strict? Forced abortions? Government infanticide? Jailing or execution of the parents? China seems authoritarian enough to those of us in the US. How would we worldwide enact and enforce 1 child per family. An Orwellian one world government?

    Also, the policy of fines if not increasingly severe for those at the top end of the income scale would result in eugenics of the poor.

  • Kathy, as you mention, the death rate will most certainly increase. I believe, though my evidence is only anecdotal, that we are seeing an increase already here in the U.S. now that collapse is underway. Currently, there are more than 200 drugs that are unable to be obtained. Many of these are drugs which are commonly used. Others are more specialized, such as chemotherapy drugs.

    My father, who died in August from leukemia, chose not to seek treatment, but my mother who has a type of pre-leukemia, is choosing to be treated. The drug she will be given is not one of those in short supply. But for how long? Will she be able to continue with the treatment once it begins?

    As collapse intensifies, there will be many, many such examples. Those who rely on modern medicine for their survival will not last long once their treatment is no longer available. I know some who frequent this site are dealing with these issues now.

    Suicide is another factor leading to an increase in the death rate. There have always been those who find that the struggles of the world are more than they can bear. But, from the monks in Tibet, to the vendors of north Africa, to the farmers in India, to the formerly middle class in the U.S., suicide is on the upswing. One of my patients committed suicide yesterday. He was a good man for whom I cared immensely in spite of his penchant for making choices which society says are wrong. He couldn’t find a job which paid a decent wage, his child support was always more than he could pay, and since he had a felony conviction, couldn’t get state-based healthcare. He simply saw no other option. That is going to become a much more common theme over the next few years.

    This crazy world we’ve created (or as John Duffy implies in his essay, the earlier generations have created) is simply impossible for many people to survive without medications. At the beginning of the millennium roughly 10% of the U.S. population was on anti-depressants. A study in 2009 found that the use of such meds had increased by 75%. It’s even higher now. What does that say about our society when 20% or more of the population has to be on anti-depressants simply to cope? As anti-depressants and anxiolytics become scarce, look out!

    I strongly suspect starvation is going to become much more common in the developed world over the next 12-24 months as well. As all the “austerity” measures kick in, it will be the chronically and newly poor who suffer the most, of course, and food programs will be among the first to be cut. This is happening already in the U.K.

    Some talk as if collapse is something that will happen in the future. I maintain that it has started already; the evidence is all around.

  • Kathy

    I have a son of eight and a daughter of six. Would I still have had them if I had known before they were born what I do now? For sure! They are a joy to me and there is only now. Whatever happens in the future it is better to have had some happy times for a while.

    I might reluctantly have accepted a one child policy applying to me if it was enforced across the board, i.e. throughout the world or throughout my country with zero immigration. Why would anybody accept it applying to them but not to others of their compatriots? Seems to me in China there are way too many exceptions.

    I hope not many would agree governments should attempt to restrict numbers of children through infanticide or forced sterilization, but discouraging children by financial means would be acceptable. In the UK there have been policies in place for a long time that positively encourage a large number of children, particularly for poorer families. Although these policies no doubt exist for the right reason (to end child poverty), given our current plight they are insane.

    My faith in modern medicine and doctors is such that no doctor is going to be ‘fixing’ me! One thing most on this blog would surely agree with is the more you mess with nature the worse the outcome.

  • Yorchican I had two sons. They have been great joy to me. My one son has two children. They are beautiful children. I wish however, knowing what I know now, that I had not had my children or grandchildren. I would gladly give up every bit of joy they brought me so they would not have to live through what I believe is coming. I wish my son with the two had listened to me about the future.

    I was fixed, my ex was fixed and my son who has the two is fixed. No problems and for me it was a great freedom from worry. I am quite sure that if I had had a late pregnancy I would have been in more danger than any I risked in surgery (although it was before the super bugs really started going strong). Many seem to think that because pregnancy is natural it is risk free. It is not.

  • Dr. House I am sure you are right about the death rate already increasing. My father at 95 takes nitroglycerin tabs like they were candy to get through the day (pops one before every strenuous task such as getting up to eat) and is on constant oxygen. Take those away and he will be dead. His wife can no longer purchase generic nitroglycerin.

    I am sure, since your profession is extending life, that losing a patient to suicide must feel quite bad. But I am amazed, but not really surprised knowing you, at how much you knew about him. I don’t think any Dr. I have ever seen has ever known that much about me. You are a gift to your patients.

  • RDH: I read/heard recently that there are 20K soldiers in our armed forces that need meds to get through the day, and that one of the most common ads on Armed Forces TV/Radio is suicide awareness.

    Sorry to hear about your apple trees. Of everything we have grown so far we have had our best results with aronias and currants. Both berried in the second year, and seem to be very hardy. Birds don’t like them, and the deer will browse them but only a little. We have a couple hundred currants, but only 2 aronias. This year we were able to get 3 quarts of juice from the aronias. Doesn’t sound like alot but we cut it with water about 1 part berry to 6 parts water, and it tastes wonderful. We will get a couple more in spring, if we can.

    Kathy: Reality is setting up your wood/cook stove, and realizing that some time in the not too distant future you may have to cook on that thing. So much about checking out is such an upbeat experience, but looking at that stove was depressing. They say it takes a couple of years to learn how to cook with one. For those of you interested in cost us 1,500.00 dollars delivered. The stove pipe is going to be around another 500.00. Not cheap, but you can spend a whole lot more.

  • Gene Lodgsdon is one of my favorite down to earth (literally) authors. Thanks for the links Robin.

    Ed I am quite sure you can cook stuff right away. I thought the biscuits I make in the wood stove are the best – even the first batch I did in the stove.

  • “Why do I always do this: pick a challenge and show how ridiculous it is to solve the problem by a monolithic approach? Maybe I’m the one being ridiculous!

    This tendency is a reflection of my quest to understand how we might face the tremendous energy challenges ahead. The first step is always to assess the potential of a solution relative to the full-scale demand. If it wipes the floor with an excess capacity, then great: it is inarguably a no-brainer go-to solution. If it comes up short, that’s very informative too.
    Doing the math by Tom Murphy
    “If we adopt solar and wind as major components of our energy infrastructure as we are weaned from fossil fuels, we have to solve the energy storage problem in a big way. An earlier post demonstrated that we do not likely possess enough materials in the world to simply build giant lead-acid (or nickel-based or lithium-based) batteries to do the job. Comments frequently pointed to pumped hydro storage as a far more sensible answer. Indeed, pumped storage is currently the dominant—and nearly only—grid-scale storage solution out there. Here, we will take a peek at pumped hydro and evaluate what it can do for us… (then he does the math)
    Yes, a diverse portfolio of a half-dozen inadequate solutions may be able to add to an adequate solution. But a half-dozen woefully inadequate solutions cannot pull off the same stunt. So far, my quest keeps turning up the woefully inadequate type. The scale of fossil fuel replacement is so daunting that we very quickly get into trouble when putting numbers to proposed solutions.”

    Full article at http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-11-16/pump-storage

    OK WHY doesn’t anyone do the math before proposing such solutions????

  • Oh My — Gerald Celente got stung in the MF Global meltdown

  • Kathy, But I am amazed, but not really surprised knowing you, at how much you knew about him. I don’t think any Dr. I have ever seen has ever known that much about me.

    One of the consequences of practicing in a small town is knowing a lot about your patients – sometimes way more than you’d like. :-)

  • Ed – I have been cooking with wood for many years and still learning new tricks all the time. It is pretty easy. It broke me of the habit of frying everything – slow cooking is healthier, I think. I used to want to get a roaring fire to fry everything – but no more.

    I am reading “Little Heathens” about growing up on a farm in the 30s in Iowa. Learned from this book that if you have a water jacket on your stove you can start a cake or pie at 400 or 425 degrees and lower the temperature to 350 after 10 minutes by filling the water jacket with cold water.

    All y’all would enjoy this book.

  • Kathy C.:

    Good summation.

  • I don’t know if those outside the UK can stream BBC Radio 3 over the internet, but I expect so:


    (a discussion on “What is the Future of Civilisation as the Oil Runs Out?” tonight at 22:00 GMT.)

  • OK WHY doesn’t anyone do the math before proposing such solutions????

    Because few of us have advanced training in mathematics and physics. To a physicist – an astrophysicist – like Tom Murphy, such caltulationss are play, but even he acknowledges assistance from others in various specialized areas. It is indeed good to have him bring sanity to the proposed solutions.

    Moreover he is doing it ad hoc and not ex-officio. That gives him much greater freedom than it doess to persons like Steven Chu, for instance.

  • Robin, it was a bit of a rhetorical question. However anyone seriously proposing solutions to problems, if they can’t do the calcs themselves, can find people trained in math and the related subject and check out feasibility first. Of course some proposing such solutions are just thinking from the sidelines. I would suggest that the growth/progress paradigm is so strong that no one WANTS to find out that there is no good solution to the problem of Peak Oil. And as you note many, such as Steven Chu, also have strong pressures to put up a good front and not talk about problems.

    Of course wanting things doesn’t necessarily make them happen. A good friend told me that he and his family had spent some time trying to figure out how to get all their wants met. Then they realized that what they needed to do was to “get their wanters fixed”.

  • Thank you John for participating in life! None of us know how and when it will end and all we can do is our part to stop the madness and live differently.

    Every day we make choices and though sometimes it feels like a moot point, it’s still a choice.

  • http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/ElectricPower/8588441

    Japan to need $3 bil/month on extra oil, LNG in 2012 if nuclear output zero
    Tokyo (Platts)–16Nov2011/

    The International Energy Agency has estimated that Japan would need to spend $3 billion per month on additional oil and LNG in 2012 if the country’s nuclear power output falls to zero next year, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Maria van der Hoeven, told reporters Wednesday.

    Speaking to Platts in Tokyo, van der Hoeven said that Japan would need an extra 460,000 b/d of oil and 30 billion cubic meters of gas in 2012 if the country had no nuclear power output.

    When asked about Japan’s winter oil and gas demand outlook, Van der Hoeven declined to comment as the country’s actual demand situation would depend on the country’s nuclear output situation, which remained uncertain.

    Japan is about to enter its winter power demand season, which normally runs through December-March, and the weather and nuclear utilization rates have a direct impact on crude, fuel oil and LNG consumption for thermal power generation.

    Japanese power utilities have hiked their oil and LNG consumption to make up for their shortfall in nuclear output in the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake, and subsequent nuclear outages across the country amid safety concerns.

    Only 11 nuclear reactors are currently operating in Japan with a combined capacity of 9.864 GW, representing 20% of the country’s total installed capacity of 48.96 GW spread over 54 reactors, according to Platts calculations.

    It is widely expected that none of the nuclear plants shut for scheduled maintenance would be allowed to restart any time soon because of stress test conditions imposed by the government in July.

    If none of the nuclear reactors are allowed to restart in the coming months, Japan is scheduled to lose its nuclear output completely in April or May 2012 because of the Japanese regulation that requires nuclear power plants to carry out scheduled maintenance at their reactors at least once every 13 months. If this happens, it would be the first time Japanese nuclear power production has fallen to zero since it commenced in 1966.

  • Here is how the visiting team reacts when it falls behind.


  • re tonights BBC Radio 3 program “What is the Future of Civilisation as the Oil Runs Out?”

    If anyone actually listened to this – sorry! Ten minutes was enough for me. Predictably the “Free Thinkers” in the debate didn’t forsee any problems with future energy supply or business as usual. I shouldn’t have expected anything else from the BBC.

  • Curtis, great find. Nature Bats Last or as the writer says it Mother Nature shrugged her shoulders and replied, “What the (expletive) do I care?”

  • Kathy C:

    I knew you would love it. That was the most biting sarcasm I have read. It will give fits to any Pollyanna.

  • Some of you may find this video quite interesting. It’s of a small food forest in Viet Nam.


  • Many in the OWS movement still appear to hold to the belief that the police are victims as well. Simply not true. The police are there to protect the interests of the Bloombergs of the world.

    One of the criticisms levelled at the OWS is that they are composed of many different kinds of people who cannot agree on the solutions to the problems they identify. Take a moment to visualise a large square representing the world and place the Global OWS in the middle of that square. Then on one side of the square place a small circle and label it – The 1%, representing the fusion of corporate power and the government. On the other side of the square place several small circles along the outer edge and label them most anything you want – libertarianism, communism, capitalism, socialism, buddhism, and any other ‘ism’ that comes to mind. These are the varied solutions identified by the many members of the movement. It is these circles on which those who criticise the movement concentrate. “They can’t agree on anything.” “They are divided.” They completely disregard the other side of the square containing only the lone circle labelled The 1%. Yet it is that circle that all the OWS members are there for. It is that circle that binds them. It is that one circle they concentrate their energies on, not the circles on the other side.

    Now mentally draw a vertical line between the OWS in the middle and the 1% circle. On one side of that line lies the interests of the 99%. On the other, the interests of the 1%. It is area to one side of that line representing the interest of the 1% that the police are protecting. The police, the laws, the courts, Congress – virtually all authority – represents the 1% and only the 1%. Don’t ever forget that.

  • Speaking of Occupy Wall Street, there is a dangerous trend developing across America (and probably other countries as well). The police are now arresting and harming reporters, even those with credentials.


    Freedom of the press is being seriously challenged today. To be a real reporter is more and more to place yourself in defiance of The Man.

  • Twitter and Facebook are known as social media that has been used effectively in much of the Arab uprisings to communicate among the activists. What is not so widely understood is that these media represent the corporate/government powers behind them and their interests, not the users. Where the Arab Spring movement could utilise Twitter,a s an example, the American OWS might not, as proper access and use of such tools might be denied when activism is pointed instead at the heart of the Beast itself.


  • Extreme weather to worsen with climate change-IPCC


  • More good news:

    Amphibians facing ‘terrifying’ rate of extinction


    Climate Change, habitat loss, and disease

  • At last…a courageous cop:


    Society needs more of these.

  • As energy depletes, infrastructure will get more and more neglected with tragic consequences – this dam dates from 1896:

    “Small cracks appeared at least at three points in the 115-year-old Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala’s Idukki district following two minor tremors that occurred early on Friday.

    The tremors and cracks have created panic among the people in River Periyar’s downstream areas. The district has more than a dozen large and medium-sized dams including Asia’s largest arch dam, Idukki.

    Officials of the Kerala Water Resources Department said the cracks had appeared in Block 17 and the joint of Block 17 and 18 following the tremors. The tremors also caused water seepage through the cracks from the Mullaperiyar reservoir, situated on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Officials said the cracks were no serious enough to cause panic.

    However, a team of experts from the Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) would visit the district and the dam on Saturday for on-the-spot evaluations.

    The team would be headed by John Mathai, director, Earth Studies, CESS. A minimum of 15 mild tremors have hit the Idukki district, sitting on a faultline, in the past 15 five months.

    The first tremor, measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale on Friday had hit the district at 5.26 am and the second – with intensity of 3.4 on the Richter – occurred some 20 minutes later. A 3.8-intensity quake had hit the Idukki region in July last but the strongest tremor occurred in the area in recent past was in December, 2000. It had measured 5.0 on the Richter.

    Kerala is arguing for the construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar so that the now-weakened Surki-concrete dam commissioned in 1896 could be decommissioned. The existing dam is seen as a serious threat to the lives of over three million people living in four Kerala districts. People in Vallakadavu near Mullaperiyar said the new cracks were indeed a cause of alarm for them.”
    Rest at http://dailypioneer.com/nation/21406-tremors-cause-cracks-in-kerala-dam.html

  • Dr. House; excellent video. I’ve also been shown family forest gardens like this here in Thailand and we are working on creating such an environment around our own home. Interesting to see how knowledge is paramount in this kind of relationship with the living earth but complex technology (& burning fossil fuels) is next to irrelevant. I don’t think agriculture/horticulture of this kind is uncommon in Southeast Asia but I see it being displaced fairly rapidly by “modern, scientific (destructive) agriculture” because of the promise of MONEY as opposed to real well-being.

    Daily harvest of the abundance of such a permaculture habitat is similar to foraging, but it includes an element of tending and cultivation to keep the whole system healthy… humans in a mutually beneficial relationship with nature (part of nature, not apart from nature).
    Toward the end of the vid., Geoff Lawton says; it is “the only possible future we have”. All my life experience has led me toward complete agreement his statement, and that’s why I’m so personally interested in giving this way of life a try.

  • Researchers in Brazil say they have found one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes in a remote corner of the Amazon forest.

    Aerial pictures revealed by the Brazilian government’s agency of indigenous affairs (Funai) show four large thatched huts fully surrounded by various crops in the Vale do Javari region.

    Aloysio Guapindaia, a Funai director, also said they would work to keep the tribe isolated and safe. The tribe is thought to belong to the Pano linguistic group that straddles the border between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia.

    Gabriel Elizondo reports from Sao Paulo.

    Since un-contacted, one cannot know if they have any agriculture. But they have a way of life that doesn’t rely on anything civilization has to offer, since they don’t connect in any way to civilization. We cannot know how happy they are. However, listening and reading more about the Piraha hunter-gatherers that Daniel Everett lived with, the Piraha seem to be extraordinarily happy. One research team noted how much they smile and laugh, which appears to be most of the time. If civilization collapses soon enough without a worldwide nuclear war, these self reliant remnants of the way of life that humans lived for most of their existence, may well be the future for humanity. Our venture into civilization will be an unhappy blip in the history of our species.

    If hunter-gather lifestyle is deemed bad, deficient, less desirable then I think we have to deem all animal life as bad deficient, undesirable. We are animals.

  • Victor,

    How do you reconcile the Ray Lewis faction of the police corps with the OWS head busters? Turboguy keeps reminding us that we depend on the police for certain services, services that are not the same as those provided to the 1%. How are we to separate the good guys from the likes of Turboguy and worse? They all look the same now. Even the local sheriff deputy who was first to arrive at the latest car wreck in my front yard was dressed in black fatigues and, even though friendly and helpful, looked for all the world like his brothers in New York/Oakland/Warsaw/Cairo…

    Michael Irving

  • With sincere thanks to John Duffy, and new post is up, based on my recent trip to Georgia and especially Michigan. It’s here.