Archive for November, 2007

The New Pilgrims of Peak Oil

Peak Oil Pilgrims Thanksgiving

I was thinking about Thanksgiving this year, and how much it relates to our global situation in relation to Peak Oil.

The Pilgrims were a group of dissidents who came to America from England to escape religious persecution. They were at odds with the Church of England, and in the early 1600s anyone who disagreed with the church was hunted down and thrown in jail.

These folks braved treacherous ocean storms, disease, and even death to finally land on the shores of America, all in order to escape from a previous world (that’s the friendly Yankee story of our colonization, anyway). They may have dressed like wussies, but man, that kind of dedication to fixing their situation took more intestinal fortitude than our current leaders are showing.

Like it or not, the population of the world is the new Pilgrim, faced with crossing the turbulent waters of energy depletion and overpopulation. Our boat is a global Mayflower, yet enough people on board haven’t yet seemed to agree which course we should be on. Our present religious persecution comes not from a single church, but in the form of extremist religions dedicated to finishing stories they believe have a very unhappy ending.

This Thanksgiving, I am 31 years old. I understand that the US economy is doomed as long as it is pegged to a dollar dependent on oil. We just don’t have the stuff to drill anymore, and we can’t get enough of it from our many dealers around the world anymore. They just don’t want our money.

You very bad customer!”, they are saying. After our escapades to secure oil, other countries are making moves to shut us off.

Folks, if you think things are bad right now, wait until countries stop sending us oil. If the economy collapses completely, we will need to act like orderly pilgrims indeed. The cool part is that we have plenty of houses, plenty of food, and we can make enough fuel from Alcohol to get by.

Of course, everyone would need to downsize their luxury Western lifestyle, and that will take some real adjusting. As long as money exists, there will be class disparity and seemingly “unfair” distribution of things. That means there will be fighting, unless we all agree to work together and figure things out for a while.

That’s why I am so Thankful to have food, family, and friends to celebrate with tomorrow. Because experts don’t know how much longer the ship can hold together on the course the world is presently charting. Unless country leaders can come together and put together a global action plan to curb population without resorting to murder, we may not get to see many more Thanksgivings.

So when you are digging into your Turkey or Tofurkey, take time to not only think of yourself, but of the young faces sitting around the table. You have the chance to help them have a better future by changing your behaviors today.

The Portland Peak Oil Task Force has written the best Peak Oil emergency plan available. It can be tweaked to fit your local needs, just change out the variables. Most of the work has already been done, and I invite you to pass this plan along to your local government and businesses.

Happy Thanksgiving.

BONUS: Check out this Population / CO2 / Species clock!


November 20, 2007 at 9:56 am 3 comments

Matthew Simmons Neuters Wall Street

Watch Matthew Simmons lay out the truth. Then watch economists’ heads explode.

November 16, 2007 at 3:34 pm 1 comment

What If America Focused? Can We Fix This Mess?

Are you an American?

Do you know what our country’s focus is?

Do we have one?

Seriously, what is the focus of our great country? Do you think it’s great anymore? What are we, who are we, and what are we doing? I feel somewhere along the way, America became uncoupled and we can’t seem to admit mistakes and keep making more of them.

Come on everyone, we know war is shit. We also know many people in America have been conditioned to a “Me-Against-You” mentality. Of course, when other countries are uniting to fight the United States, we have a national security concern. And instead of fixing our problems at home using renewable energy, we seem to hold a world view that “survival of the fittest” means killing the competitor. It doesn’t. It means that you share and cooperate. That’s how economies survive.

The privatization of water, oil, land, food, shelter – all of our life necessities for modern living, has made prisoners of everyone already. Yes, your rights to freedom have been revoked, welcome to hell. If you don’t have money, you are not allowed to live. That’s the planet you live on.

After all, there is no more promise of a future. At any moment, some assholes in control could get together and decide to loose some nukes, leading to a chain reaction and a breakdown of all societal systems and ecological life support.

Yeah, that is pretty crappy, and one reason that Albert Einstein regretted helping in the development of the atomic bomb. He said “World War Three will be fought with nuclear weapons, and World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones.”

So what can we do about it as average citizens? Not much, other than behavior modification. We absolutely must change our consumption habits, killer addiction to the Federal Reserve’s economic model, and plan for doing more with much, much less. Peak Oil is here now, and according to the way domestic and international breakdowns are occurring, the earth seems to have reached it’s limit of how many humans it can carry living the way we do.

Uh oh! Momma earth done got mad and now we’z in some troubles! As we have been saying, tough times are here and it will only get worse from here in terms of gas prices, food prices, and the shrinking value of your purchasing power. It’s when nice people trying to make a living and survive start to get desperate.

And when one class of people gets desperate, it usually attacks the class above it. Purse snatching and robbery will take place before mobs are at the gates of the rich. So while the wealthiest folks will probably be the last to go, if we do not FOCUS and STABILIZE our society, we could reach a tipping point when we can’t return to normal civil cohesion. That means Escape From New York lifestyles, not Monday Night Football.

Instead of giving up trying to fix this place, I would rather get to know my neighbors, carpool, do cooperative dinners, share duties like neighborhood watches, and help live in a safe community. That means establishing a bond of TRUST among people who don’t even know one another.

Sure, there are exceptions and some neighborhoods are quite involved with activities and socials. I’m talking about the average American neighborhood. Here’s a little test for you:

1) How many neighbors do you know up to three houses down on all sides of your home?
2) How many neighbors can you count on if you need help with something?

That’s my new focus. I’m not going to run for city council here in Portland. That’s too limiting. I want to help people across the world, and am going to build a company that helps neighbors rely on one another. Maybe when we know how to coordinate a little better, we can start fixing things at a bigger level.

And then, it just becomes acceptance to the idea or tool. Here is something interesting from another Peak Oil writer named Sharon Astyk:

How do we differentiate between ideas that immediately get dismissed and those that percolate a while, perhaps leading to further change? How do we help people get familiar with any change that seems to go against cultural pressures, from putting a garden on their front lawn to composting their own wastes?

My own experience is that the following five things all help a lot. I think one of the most important things that bloggers and other environmental activists can do is to simply present new stuff in an accessible way, that helps get people past those first hurdles of resistance.

1. Expose people to the new idea, repeatedly if necessary. They say that to get a toddler to try a new food, you may have to offer it to her as many as 20 times. Grownups, I think, are often even more conservative than toddlers – the first time we confront an idea, we might not even notice it. The second time we might instinctively reject it. It might take three or four or twenty times for an idea even to translate all the way into awareness of it.

Think about peak oil – the idea that we’ll eventually run out of fossil fuels itself is often hard for people to grasp, which is weird, because of course, we all should know that. In order to get to the idea that we’re at or near an oil peak right now, we have to get people to grasp a whole host of subtler ideas, including the fact that oil is a finite resource for which there’s no obvious replacement. Intellectually, most of us know that. In practice, millions of people, maybe billions, have never gotten their heads around that factoid enough to be able to translate information about peak oil into knowledge. The more times they hear this information, and the more sources they hear it from, the more that “click” moment is likely to happen, allowing them to take the next intellectual step. So it is important to reiterate information all the time – yes, it can be boring for those in the know, but it is absolutely essential.

2. Let people know that other people who they know, like and respect are doing this. Let’s be honest, we’re all vulnerable to peer pressure, at least a little. When I run into a new idea, I usually categorize it by the context I find it in – that is, if it comes along with a lot of other things I find crazy or wrong, I might not do the hard work of sorting out the one gem in there. And if I’m forced to think “Oh, well Annie does that, and she’s not too weird…” I can associate it with “normal” people.

I’m not sure that this is one that I do especially well – I doubt many people think “Oh, Sharon’s so normal…” ;-), but I do think that one of the most helpful things I can do is point out “I bake my own bread for a family of six. I am a normal slob of a person, not some superwoman, but I can do it.” Other people may then begin to think “we normal slobs can begin to bake our own breads…”

2. Respond to the appeal to “irrelevant authorities” – that is, people like to think that new ideas come with authorization. If you can show someone an article in the paper, or print out a list from the internet that mentions your new idea, you’ve automatically transferred it from teh category of “weird thoughts in my head” to “thoughts worthy of being written down.” Now we all know that just because things are written does not make them truth, but still, there’s something to words on a page or a screen that makes the idea accessible.

I’ve come to realize one of my own primary roles in the world is to take the heat from other people’s spouses off of them. That is, I can’t count the times that someone has told me “I got my wife to do X, and said to blame it all on you because you said so.” And I think that’s great (I just wish it worked on my husband, who has a much more jaundiced view of “Sharon said” than many people’s spouses apparently do ;-)). I’m fully prepared to blamed by people I’ve never met and often never will meet for driving them crazy. The simple fact is that my authority is totally irrelevant – but I won’t tell if you don’t.

3. Provide accessible way into the idea. Getting a garden on a front lawn might be scary – what if then neighbors object? What if the town gives us trouble? What if it gets messy, and I don’t have time to maintain it and I ruin all the property values around me? What if the neighbor’s kids ruin it? But half the time we don’t even know why we find an idea scary or overwhelming – we can’t articulate what it is that seems wrong to us, so we just say “no way.” The more access we give people to new ideas, the more likely they are to adopt them – for example, offering ways to try it out without too much commitment, say, suggesting we replace foundation plantings with blueberries or that we start with one bed and interplant with flowers. The more of us who can tell our own personal stories about how we got here – or even how we’re working on getting there the more times we may touch off one of those “Oh, I thought…” moments where we suddenly realize what the problem is.

4. Find the pleasure. This does not mean endless, mindless cheerleading about how everything will always be wonderful, but I do find, for example, that locating pleasures can help you jump over some of the necessary intellectual steps. I know lots of people who will not (yet) grow food to save themselves from the ravages of climate change – they simply aren’t there yet, and they would have to take too many intellectual steps to get there. That may happen over time, but because I want them to grow food more than I want them to agree with me, I can circumvent the whole discussion by observing that I grow food because the food is better than any you can possibly buy, no matter how rich you are. Or that my food budget is manageable because I grow food.

It doesn’t have to go systematically – you don’t have to accept peak oil, for example, to see the value of local food and energy systems that provide better, healthier food. Think of it as an intellectual checkers game – figure out where you want to go, and see how many “steps” you can jump right over to get there.

5. Encourage people to try things. I’m a reader, one of those people who, confronting a new idea, gets as many books as possible together. And that’s great, those books can save you a lot of time and energy. But they also can bog you down into not trying things. I know I’m perfectly capable of getting caught up in research and getting distracted from the larger question. Reminding ourselves that there’s no substitute for direct experience is important – go on, try the cloth toilet paper, try making bread – the worst that happens is that you won’t like it. Internet challenges and other “do it with me” projects here are enormously valuable – trying something new is intimidating, trying something new with other people to ask for advice, and other people brave enough to admit their errors is different.

Getting past our fear of failure is the other thing that we need to work on. Even when there are no stakes at all, people hate to make mistakes or be wrong. I think one of the most important things we can do is admit our mistakes, laugh at them, and encourage other people to try and fail sometimes. Because the reality is that the stakes are small in many cases – if you’ve never built anything before, and you get out there with a hammer and nails, the worst thing you’ll do is get a sore finger and have your chicken tractor fall apart. Life goes on. There are some things you shouldn’t try without knowing what you are doing – pressure canning, using a chainsaw, anything that can kill you. But for the most part, you have to make some mistakes to get good at something, you have to take some risks and try something before you can do it – and the more we can help people feel comfortable with making mistakes, the more competent people there will be out there.

November 16, 2007 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

All Paper Money Burns The Same

Burning Money

Do you know what “Heat Value” means?

Imagine I open up my wallet and pull out a One Dollar and a Twenty Dollar bill. When it comes down to it, if you burned them both, you would get the exact same amount of heat from each of them.

Get ready to grab a book of matches.

A report from the Royal Bank of Scotland this week predicted the total losses from financial write downs will be “somewhere between $250-billion and $500-billion.” For all of us normal folks who work day jobs and don’t make fat commissions off of creating a false economy based on future assumptions, this is bad, bad news.

After all, people are already getting thrown out into the street and crime is on the rise. And you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is why I previously wrote that the “Green” marketing campaigns for companies will only go so far. People that can’t afford to pay rent or for food certainly are less apt to care about offsetting their carbon footprint for purchases they make.

And I don’t feel so bad for the financial institutions taking it up the ringer right now. The people running banks and oil energy companies could have been pushing industry to make the switch to an alternative energy economy with value predicated on real energy values. That means you would only be able to use the money once, and then it goes away instead of recirculating and adding more money to the fake pile of value that is presently imploding.

But these are big concepts with lots of intricate details, and I’ll get to the point. FASB 157 will bring in an Accountant of the Apocalypse, and you will see many banks and companies fall to their knees. I mean, you can only bullshit mother earth for so long before fake money value meets the 4th Law of Thermodynamics.

So as the dollar dies, and all of the reactions begin to amplify, remember that cigarettes and alcohol are “Poor Man’s Gold”, and you can always barter with those. The only questions that remain are:

How fast will the collapse occur?
What are YOU doing to prepare for it?

November 13, 2007 at 3:36 pm 6 comments

Lawns to Gardens Gets on Mainstream TV

Homes and gardens

Hooray for KPTV in Portland!

They decided to help people see what all the cool kids are doing these days, which is to convert your lawn into a food garden! The show “Good Day Oregon Home & Garden” paid us a visit at the “Lawns to Gardens” HQ, and put us in their show.

Sorry, there is no YouTube feed, you’ll have to see Lawns to Gardens on TV through their website.

Thanks very much to KPTV’s great reporters, they have all been stellar.

Now that oil company executives are admitting they are greedy idiots, we know for a fact peak oil is here. This isn’t a joke, folks. Planting food and learning vital survival skills are of utmost importance right now.

I highly encourage you to get active in your communities and get to know your neighbors right now. You can all help one another work over one another’s yards.

One more note (for political junkies): This TV video made me realize in order to be taken seriously, I needed a haircut and more professional clothing. Snip snip snip and now I’m clean cut. Grandma’s across the city will be proud.

November 10, 2007 at 1:23 pm 1 comment

How Do We Convert Suburbia Into Earthships?

Just wonderin.

November 10, 2007 at 2:43 am Leave a comment

Corporate Media Must Do More To Communicate Peak Oil

Peak Oil Communications

Man, someone needs to make Corporations realize that we are in the deepest of shit and they must make emergency preparations. Right now, the question facing us is not whether the world will move away from fossil fuels, but how. But, Corporations see it as harming themselves to tell the world that America’s financial living standard can’t continue as it is right now. That message doesn’t go over well with advertisers.

Peak Oil advocates have long been ridiculed by the media as fringe theorists. The past Corporate mantra has been to prop up the military-industrial strategy, just trying to take the oil from elsewhere. That plan isn’t working out so well. Oops.

Now, when the mainstream media finally IS interviewing respected peak oil thought leaders, they seem more interested in ridiculing them rather than listening to the dire warning presented.

Watch this video clip from CNBC with Matthew Simmons and experience dismissive reporter attitudes and utter lack of Peak Oil market education:

What an outrage to mock those trying to implement plans to change our dependence on oil as energy. Mr. Simmons is telling the market that the global market has reached the point when price doesn’t matter, people will pay anything for oil because their current economies can’t live without it.

Our economy is pegged to the dollar (petrodollar). As that collapses, so does our economy, shutting down transportation systems and completely destroying our “Just-In-Time” way of operating our country. We have run out of time for smarmy commentary, our country has to act like the most responsible of grown ups right now.

I applaud the way this reporter treats a true visionary by doing proper media homework before the interview:

Notice the difference? Please do what you can to make the media better communicate the seriousness of peak oil. As food and fuel prices continue to rise, housing and auto prices fall, political tensions mount, and more wars likely break out – we need to brace for impact.

Peak Oil Chart

Idea: Revoke the ability to declare war – congress needs to cancel this order.

Idea: Buy David Blume’s book, “Alcohol Can Be A Gas“. It shows you all the tools you need to make it through the peak oil crisis.

November 4, 2007 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

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