Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Gathering of the Tribe

I walk half a mile through a chill autumn morning to the bleak little cinderblock building that serves the old mill town where I live as a train station. Wednesdays aren’t usually busy, but close to a dozen other passengers are waitinge before the train pulls up. I climb on board, stash my duffel bag above my seat, get my ticket punched, and then head forward to the lounge car. By the time we roll past Oldtown, where the Shawnee once had a major village, I’m perched at a downstairs table with a cup of tea, some Latin reference books, and the draft translation of a Renaissance handbook on the art of memory, proving (if there was any lingering doubt) that there are non-computer geeks as well.

The train rolls to a halt in Washington a little after noon, ahead of schedule. I shoulder my duffel and head through milling crowds into the cavernous magnificence of Union Station, then back out into bright sunlight. A few minutes later I’ve reached the hotel. It’s one of those grim concrete-and-steel excrescences that justify the claim that Americans have their sense of proportion surgically removed at birth. Not long afterward I’m stepping into the faux-comfy bleakness of the generic hotel room I’ll be sharing for four nights with someone I’ve never met.

I have a few hours to kill—enough time to unpack, visit the hotel fitness center for a good long t’ai chi practice, shower, and replace traveling clothes with something that blends in a bit more with my current surroundings. Later I’ll be meeting a friend for dinner, and later still there’ll be a reception. I check the paper copy of my script, make sure the thumb drive with the PowerPoint half of the presentation is in a convenient place. I’m here for work, as an attendee and presenter at the seventh annual conference of ASPO-USA, the American branch of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.


Meanwhile, a few thousand miles to the east, the economic system of a continent is coming apart at the seams. During the boom times now fading in history’s rearview mirror, the nation of Greece borrowed heavily to pay its bills, and found no shortage of banks willing to ante up the funds. Now that boom has given way to bust, Greece can’t meet its payments. In the ordinary way of things, Greece would simply default on its debt, and the banks would suffer from what economists call “market discipline;” that is to say, they would take massive losses, and some would go under.

The first commandment of modern high finance, though, is that investors must be protected from the consequences of even their most stupid decisions. Instead of defaulting, accordingly, Greece has been pressured by the rest of Europe to accept one round of massive budget cuts after another, in exchange for just enough money to keep default at bay a little longer. The latest arrangement brokered by the French and German governments includes cuts so sweeping that Greece’s prime minister George Papandreou, returning home, decides to put the matter to a popular referendum.

It seems reasonable enough that in a democratic nation—which Greece is, at least in theory—the people ought to have at least some say in any arrangement so burdensome. This logic does not impress the unelected junta that effectively runs the European Union these days. By the time the ASPO conference is over, Papandreou is forced to retract his proposal, and is on his way out of a job. Meanwhile, European banks are dumping government bonds as fast as they can, Italy is in increasing trouble, and France is probably next.


Thursday morning, after an early breakfast, I head up the street to the US Capitol. The opening session will be held at the, or more likely a, Capitol auditorium. This is part of a maze of underground rooms beneath the plaza in front of the Capitol; we file through an airport-style security checkpoint, follow a guide through spaces that would not seem out of place in a midrange hotel in Pittsburgh, and end up taking seats in what looks unnervingly like a pricey suburban movie house.

Conferences, I have learned, follow one of two models, which might be called the Chautauqua model and the circus model. The Chatauqua model—does anyone these days remember the old Chatauqua shows? Communities across nineteenth-century America built large meeting halls and brought in lecturers to speak in them. Every week or so, outside of planting and harvest time, you could count on an evening lecture at the Chautaqua hall on any subject you cared to imagine; after some entertainment and a bit of speechifying, the lecturer would spend an hour or two talking about Arctic exploration or electricity or, well, just about anything, followed by a lively question and answer session.

Conferences on the Chautauqua model follow a similar pattern. Individual speakers get 90 minute slots, an hour to talk and half an hour to field questions, so there’s ample time to get into details and engage the audience. Conferences on the circus model, on the other hand, have panels of speakers with fifteen or twenty minutes each, and maybe a few questions at the very end; the man on the flying trapeze gets his fifteen minutes of fame, and then it’s on to the clowns or the dancing bears; the famous names are under the big tent, while lesser performers are sideshow acts. Most conferences I attend outside the peak oil world follow the Chautauqua model, but ASPO follows the circus model.

In the Capitol auditorium, of course, we’re all in the big tent. ASPO’s ringmaster—er, executive director—and the head of the board say a few words, so do the two Congressmen who’ve taken the time to show up, and then it’s on to the major names. Chris Skrebowski, former editor of one of the oil industry’s main trade publications; William Catton Jr., whose 1980 book Overshoot is still far ahead of most other publications on the subject; Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce—that’s the first lineup. Skrebowski is precise, Catton measured and thoughtful, Rubin breezy; he sounds a bit like an aging California surfer, which makes an odd fit with his message, which is basically that in the absence of cheap fossil fuels, the global economy is screwed.

There’s a break, and then the next lineup follows—Richard Heinberg, Chris Martenson, Angelina Galiteva, Roger Bezdek. It’s all pretty much variations on a common theme. The next to last is an exception; she’s a California bureaucrat who insists airily that there’s nothing to worry about because alternative energy can easily pick up the slack. She gets asked at the end about the huge and arguably unavailable volumes of rare earth elements and other scarce resources a major buildout of alternative energy tech would require, and evades the question with practiced ease.

That’s how the rest of the day goes. There are some memorable talks, but those who read the peak oil blogosphere have already heard most of it. A fair number of people skip one or more panels and head for the lobby or the bar, where the real action generally seems to be.


Meanwhile, a few hundred miles north, uncomfortable news is beginning to filter back from the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest in New York City. Despite the loud rhetoric of participatory democracy, control of the half million dollars or so of money donated to the protest has been eased into the hands of an unelected committee. Those pushing this arrangement insist that this is because OWS can’t make decisions effectively; this claim is all the more curious in that some of these same people are among those who pushed OWS to adopt the consensus system that’s preventing it from making decisions effectively.

Those of us who are familiar with the professionalization of dissent in recent decades have seen the same process at work countless times. Call it coercive consensus: the manipulation of the forms of consensus to enable a faction with an agenda to take control of a large but unfocused movement. It’s become the standard model for organizing a protest on the American left these days, and is a core reason why the American left has accomplished so little in the decades since that model came into fashion.

The justification for consensus you usually hear these days is that consensus prevents the majority from dominating a minority. This is true since, as a handful of activists have pointed out, consensus allows a minority to dominate the majority. Given standard democratic methods, a gathering of people with common concerns can choose its leaders, set its agenda, make decisions the majority supports, prevent those decisions from being endlessly reconsidered, and get things done. Coercive consensus stymies all these; it’s all but impossible for a consensus-run group to remove even the most manipulative moderator, stop a power grab, or make a decision that won’t be revisited any time it suits the controlling minority to do so.

By the time the ASPO conference is over, the first whispers of these difficulties have started to spread through the peak oil scene. What will happen in the months to come is anyone’s guess, but promising movements time and time again have been hijacked by such methods and reduced to irrelevance.


My roommate is Guy Dauncey, an environmental activist from British Columbia. Attendees who learn that the two of us are sharing a room go wide-eyed and start to giggle, because the ASPO staff would have had a hard time finding two speakers whose ideas are further apart. Guy believes that a green and prosperous world with abundant alternative energy is within our grasp. Still, he’s a likeable man, and we easily find other subjects to talk about when we’re not either asleep or busy at the conference.

We are both presenting on Friday, and the big top is hopping all morning; Guy’s slot comes in a plenary session on alternative energy right before lunch. His presentation blends enthusiastic claims about solar power with Teilhard de Chardin evolutionary mysticism and an insistence that people like me, who suggest that the hard realities of our situation predict a much less genial future for which we need to get ready, are among the main obstacles to bringing his happy future world into being. It’s hardly the first time this argument has been directed my way; I don’t take it any more personally than he takes my jab, later on, at grandiose projects drawn up without reference to the limits of the real world.

After lunch and a rambling speech by eco-farming proponent Wes Jackson, it’s sideshow time, and my session gets under way. It’s on local and community responses to peak oil; that wasn’t what I’d planned to speak about, but the ASPO staff assign speakers to panels by a logic all their own. For all that, it‘s a good panel. Aaron Newton talks about his experience coordinating a local farming program in the rural South. Peter Kilde presents the findings of a task force trying to help poor people and the organizations that serve them get ready for the end of the age of cheap energy. I sketch out the lessons of the 1970s energy crisis for the present. Naomi Davis, an African-American community organizer, comes last, and steals the show with a report on her program to reinvent Chicago neighborhoods as self-supporting and self-governing urban villages. It’s the one really innovative thing I encounter in any of the panels, and deserves the enthusiastic applause it gets.

That evening is Speakers’ Dinner, and a bona fide fanboy moment for me. William Catton is there, of course, and I nervously approach him, say a little about how much Overshoot meant to me, and ask if he’d likea copy of my latest peak oil book, The Wealth of Nature. He graciously accepts, and then flummoxes me completely by offering me a copy of his new book Bottleneck. We talk for around a quarter of an hour. I do my best not to act like a 14-year-old Twilight fan who meets the actor that plays the sparkly vampire, but that’s basically how I feel the whole time; few books influenced me as powerfully as Overshoot, and anyone familiar with Catton’s ideas can find them easily enough right down at the foundations of most of mine.


Meanwhile, in the south of France, the much-ballyhooed G-20 summit meeting is lurching toward what even the mainstream media admit is complete failure. The financial crisis in Europe is the focus of discussion, but nobody seems to be able to come up with any response to the widening spiral of trouble. Reports claim that US officials are pressuring Europe to flood the markets with freshly printed euros; the dire implications of such a step are clearly of less interest to the Obama administration than the impact of a Eurozone fiscal collapse on the American economy, and thus on Obama’s fading reelection prospects.

Meanwhile another head of state, China’s Hu Jintao, has quietly taken center stage. It has been a little over a decade since the old G-7, the exclusive club of core industrial economies, was forced to open its doors to a baker’s dozen of rising powers This time, Hu moves and speaks with the assurance proper to the leader of the world’s next great power. It doesn’t hurt that 200 miles overhead, the Chinese space program has pulled off another impressive feat, docking an unmanned Shenzhou space capsule with Tiangong 1, China’s equivalent to Skylab and Mir and the next step in the Chinese march into space.

The European press spends the days before the G-20 meeting feverishly speculating about the hope that China might bail Europe out of its widening crisis. Nothing of the kind happens, of course; the Chinese would be fools to accept that role this early in the game, and they are anything but. If a bailout offer comes from China at all, it will be much later, when European leaders are desperate enough to accept help on almost any terms, and it will come with a hefty price tag of China’s choosing. By the time the ASPO conference is over, Europe’s heads of state are heading home to a cheerless welcome.


For an imperial capital, Washington DC is surprisingly pedestrian-friendly, and I have no problem making my way Sunday afternoon to a lunch appointment with friends. Saturday was anticlimax; I was on two panels for which apparently nobody did any planning or preparation at all, and which proceeded to ramble aimlessly for their alloted time. Thereafter everything more or less ground to a halt, except for conversations among those who weren’t leaving quite yet.

I head through Chinatown, thinking of conversations over the days just past. I’ve had long talks about the prospects for sail transport, rail lines, and streetcars, with people who know these technologies inside and out; I’ve spent time with some old friends and several new ones, met more of the regular readers of The Archdruid Report, and been asked for advice by younger attendees who, I’m startled and then amused to notice, seem to approach me with pretty much the same diffidence I felt approaching William Catton. It’s more than that, though: this is as close as we have just now to a gathering of the tribe.

There’s a passage from Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian that is on my mind as I walk the streets of this city of faltering empire in this bright November sunlight. Emil Sinclair, the narrator, has come to recognize himself as one of a diffuse and disparate group—call it a circle, an order, a tribe—marked by something half-seen and half spiritual that can be glimpsed in the faces of those who share it. What unites them is not an ideology or an organization, but an orientation toward time, toward the future. The unmarked people around them live their lives in relation to the world as it is, but the ones who wear the mark in their faces are oriented toward a world that does not yet exist.

The friends I meet for lunch have the mark in their faces, and we spend a pleasant couple of hours over burgers and tall glasses of craft beer, talking about beekeeping and brewing and other useful skills for the aftermath of the age of cheap abundant energy. Not long after I’m climbing aboard the train that will take me back home. As the Washington suburbs roll by, I get another cup of tea, but the translation will have to wait for another time; I get out my reading glasses and settle down to read my signed copy of Bottleneck. I am still reading it when the train arrives at my station three hours later. While I have been away, humanity has extracted another 378,000,000 barrels of crude oil, 56,2500,000 tons of coal, and 36,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas out of the planet’s steadily depleting reserves.


barath said...

I've been slowly writing a short story, and finally posted it:

Three Meals Before Supper.

It's the first fiction I've written in about a decade, and I'm glad I did it - thanks for the motivation!

Thomas Daulton said...

Greetings, JMG and everyone --
Here is an entry to the Archdruid's call for short fiction:
It's an ironic co-incidence, because Justin (another frequent commenter here) and I had already agreed six months ago -- a couple months before JMG's call for stories -- that we would collaborate on a graphic novel depicting Los Angeles in the early days just after the "Peak" (of "Peak Everything"). So we have now completed a story which takes place just on the other side of the "Peak", when people are starting to realize that something big is wrong, but not many people understand just what it is. It could be five years from now, it might be last week.

We intend to continue the story for quite awhile, but for purposes of the Archdruid's call for fiction, our entry is what appears on the site right now: a Prelude, plus Chapters 1-3. Counting some words inside the artwork, this is about 6000 words.

We will supply a mailing address to you, JMG, in a mail to your blog contact e-mail.

We hope you all enjoy our illustrated tale. Thanks to JMG for the opportunity! Now that we have finished frantically cranking out 6000 words, we look forward to reading the other entries!

mary said...

Thank you JMG for the beautifully written posting. The glimpse into the ASPO "processes" answers for most of us the nitty gritty of such a meeting as though we were there and making the same observations.

Texas_Engineer said...

A good summary JMG. It was my third ASPO USA Conference. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I share you feelings that it is too rushed with short presentations and loses strength as a result. I may skip it next year unless world events convince me to go back once more.

I am not convinced that moving ASPO headquarters and meetings to Washington is of that much value. The political class is not going to ever address anything that goes beyond the next election and our best responses are going to be at the local and family level.

Looking forward to your future posts.

GHung said...

Priceless, Greer! Perhaps you should get out more..

escapefromwisconsin said...

I find it ironic that Greece, the wellspring of the idea of the West, seems to be ground zero for the meltdown of the global financial system that is the apotheosis of Western culture. The future is looking much like the past:

Greek crisis forces thousands of Athenians into rural migration (The Guardian):

Timeless values help villagers (BBC):

My short story contribution:


John Michael Greer said...

Barath, got it. You're in the contest.

Thomas, I'll have to check into the possibility of doing a graphic story. One way or another, I'll be in touch shortly -- and since you've submitted this before the deadline, you're in.

Mary, glad you enjoyed it.

Texas, if they're going to be in DC they need to get much more active in lobbying -- that's about the only purpose for being there. Still, I'll probably be back next year -- if they invite me, that is!

GHung, if you'd like to cover the costs, I'd be glad to do so. ;-)

Escape, got your story also; you're in. You'll need to let me know your name, email address, and mailing address -- this can be done by posting a comment here, and letting me know it's not for publication.

Stuart Long said...

Thanks for the excellent post. While I like your usual deep essays, this weekend journal was so much more interesting because of the personal touches. Perhaps you could at some future time write a post around a more typical week at home.

I followed the ASPO conference from afar via The Oil Drum and Energy Bulletin, also the Europeans and to a lesser degree the Occupy shenanigans.

Meanwhile, I made a substantial investment in a welded steel broadfork, FedExed from the West Coast to my house in Nebraska. I tried it out today and it was as useful in deep aeration as advertised. Now I won't need gasoline for my mechanical tiller.

I thought about showing it to a welding friend of mine as a product he might consider manufacturing locally, but then I remembered he recognizes neither peak oil nor climate change, so why bother?

I have a plastic tunnel of salad greens about ready to harvest which I planted in October, just as an experiment. Tomorrow I'll start digging a new bed where low winter sun hits, planning an early tunnel next spring. I wasn't gardening before I started reading your blog about 18 months ago.

I'm old enough to remember President Carter in a sweater and how Reagan tore down the solar panels. Some days I expect a long slow regression, other days I'm afraid we're in for more of a roller coaster ride down.

GHung said... for the short story thing, about the time mine got to the point where I was feeling a bit too much pride, my laptop died a rather quiet, complete death. I took it as a sign.

I think the file is recoverable, though I may let dead files lie. Meantime, I've managed to assemble a workable PC from old parts, including some from two old PCs I found at the dump (folks really need to format their old hard drives before tossing them in the landfill). I'm working on an ultra low power unit that will run DC direct (12 volts), using a new mini-ITX board, 11 watts, sort of a low power, minimalist system.

beneaththesurface said...

Thanks for sharing your experience at the ASPO conference! I myself was working on an essay about my experience attending it this year. I was trying to articulate my feelings being in a conference room watching neatly organized, somewhat abstract, power point presentations about fossil fuels and the future of industrial society. And then my feelings stepping out of the Hyatt hotel Saturday evening and walking several miles back home, amidst exhaust fumes, car traffic, and night life, in the not-so-neat world that all the presentations were ultimately concerned with...

It was a pleasure to be able to meet and briefly converse with you! Ha, I might be one of those attendees who approached you with the same diffidence you felt approaching William Catton...

I'm currently in the middle of William Catton's "Overshoot." I was able to converse with Catton several times during the conference. When I mentioned I was reading it, he seemed worried that his work might be depressing me. I said not to worry, that I already had a worldview that could handle it...

Rich_P said...

Thanks for the report, JMG. During the conference, a Google News search for "ASPO" yielded only a smidgen of results, mostly from a small investment advice blog. How disheartening.

Wes Jackson's selection as a presenter, though a bit odd, encouraged me to learn more about him and The Land Institute in Kansas. One of their goals is to create highly productive perennial variants of the world's major cereal crops. Ambitious, but if they succeed, it will be a tremendous achievement in the agricultural sciences.

Ceworthe said...

A masterful assessment of reality as always. Great way of tying all the happenings of the world this last week together. Your writing ability is engaging in every "genre" you've done that I've read.
I found it curious in the piece that Cathy posted the url for that the commentator characterized your input as that we should be living "poor" so as to get used to it. It seems, rather, very rich and satisfying to me to be able to live life without so much dependence on petrochemicals, to live life more as humans have for millennia before the industrial age. It is an adventure in discovery and practice that is very rewarding. Not being able to take care of yourself and others now and in a post carbon world is the real poverty to me.

dltrammel said...

We have most if not all of the submissions posted on the Green Wizard forum here:

"Stories About The Future"

including an alphabetical listing by screen name down the thread, if you want to check if we have you.

You don't have to add your entry there to be in the "official" list, but its nice to read what everyone has added.


BTW, if you have submitted earlier, please read down the thread, there are some questions about a few of the entries. Please help JMG out and clarify your submission if there is a problem.


Paranoid writer's

From last weeks comments:

Dr. Brian Cornfeld -
"A heartwarming story of irreversible decline: "

dtrammel -

DeAnander said...

Nice report, especially that last sobering sentence.

As my podner and I prepare to flee from an overdeveloped urban environment to someplace a little further out on the fringe -- someplace with a well, some cleared land, a woodlot, a well-insulated house, etc -- we've been ironically doing some shopping (I think of it as salvage) for tools and furniture and stuff. Where we're going is kind of remote; there's some motivation to bring along whatever we expect to "need", i.e. make good use of. So we've been exposed to the full-on roaring engine of the consumer culture, the endless procession of little (and big) car-capsules to giant parking lots to collect more and more of China's obscene overproduction. A scene we generally avoid.

It's kind of depressing on the whole, because most of the goods are cheap and shoddy. All the furniture we bought was used and several years old, from thrift stores and craigslist and so on; we did look at some new stuff, even though we can't afford it -- but our conclusion was "Who'd want it anyway?" Even when pricey it's kind of ugly and basically cr*p -- substantiation, as if one needed it, for JMG's earlier riff on resource scarcity being expressed as a continuous downgrading of quality in mfrd goods.

The other thing it was, is deeply unsettlingly terrifying. Costco is terrifying. So is Home De(s)pot, Rona, Canadian Tire, Sears, Zellers, all the big chains. It is downright scary, the giant floor-to-ceiling warehouses absolutely stuffed with Stuff. Sensory overload of sheer Product. The manic mobs of shoppers. The giant SUVs and monster trucks jockeying for the closest parking spaces (I perversely park at the distant perimeter).

You can hear Ross Perot's "great sucking sound", but it's the last sweet crude on Earth being slurped up through a big fat straw. And ugh, dammit, we're (for the nonce) part of it! Last week we also consumed our share of those millions of bbl of oil and so on. And I exercised those comparison shopping skills that we were all taught from childhood on, marched around in retail spaces like I was born there -- yuck! Most of us from the affluent cores know our way by instinct around Big Retail. It's "our habitat", and that's sickening when I stop to think about it, that 90 pct of us don't know one mushroom from another and can't find our way around a provincial park without trail maps, yet we know where to find the tool department in any bigbox. The rituals and geographical conventions of retail are so familiar, almost comforting in a way, like that first nice warm shot of booze... [shudder]

All I can say is that we're trying to stop, or at least to taper off, before the supply dries up and withdrawal kicks in for real. But those last couple of lines of your journal resonated so strongly for me. It's scary, incredible, mindboggling to witness the energy being squandered, 24x7x365, and the efforts being made all around to encourage *more* squandering, more spending, more buying, Moremoremore. Like there's no tomorrow. It beggars description. "Dear god, this cannot end well," have I got the quotation right?

Luciddreams said...

Great blog JMG! Nice to have some unexpected change in MO every once in a while.

I finished reading "The Glass Bead Game" recently. It has been on the shelf above my desk along with about 20 other books that have all been patiently waiting to be read. It's been there for a while. I started reading it a few years ago but quit 100 pages in because I wasn't ready for it. So thanks, I finished it because of your suggestion (started from page 1). It's now sitting next to "Beneath the Wheel," and "The Journey to the East," where it belongs. I've read Damien,and Siddhartha but they seem to be missing from my collection? They must be just among the many I have loaned out never to see again.

I must say that "The Three Lives" from Joseph Knecht's Posthumous Writings at the end of the novel were what I enjoyed the most. I can see parallels with Hesse in your own written thoughts. He's always been one of the most influential authors for me. It all started my junior year of high school when I read "Siddhartha," I had no idea who the Buddha was at the time, nor Hesse.

Lastly, I recently read "Apocalypse Not." Thank you for writing it. It really resonated with me and once again, thanks to you, assisted me beyond some things I had been stuck on. I read it straight through without stopping...I couldn't stop. I read "Galactic Alignment" several years ago and was unable to find the flaw in it. So thanks for settin' me straight. Your work is invaluable. Apocalypse Not. A riff on Apocalypse Now? My blog is Epiphany Now.

I hope I don't sound like a Twilight Fan, but then you are what the Author of Bottleneck is to you to me. I suppose it comes with the territory. Just keep writing.

Matt and Jess said...

It's hard to put together a coherent thought at this time of night but what the heck. Wow, reading the OWS "uncomfortable news" link you provided (thanks for that by the way!) gave me the impression that if things go the way they're going the whole movement is going to end with a lot of previously intrigued folks shaking their heads in confusion and disgust. Like, for example, me. The movement has become a movement for the sake of being a movement and little else, apparently.

Bruce The Druid said...

Here is my submission:

Bruce Edward Wilson aka Brucethedruid

I aimed for some light hearted humor. I think laughter is needed in trying times.

Rob said...

Your article made me feel like I attended without having to burn a year's worth of carbon to get there. Thanks.

Alice Y. said...

I am appreciating your critiques of consensus, here and in other posts. I am involved with Quakers and familiar with consensus because that language is used in a secular context to describe what Quakers often do in decision-making; and because I have encountered professional activists through mutual interests. Julia Cameron has written that good criticism feels like a relief, and your comments have had that effect on me.
I am interested in how my church can make good (better!) decisions, particularly in the weak areas you point out. Belonging in community locally has something of the challenges of marriage in it - perhaps in contrast the oil age offered an enticing illusion of escape from interdependence, and the necessity for confronting the consequences of our decisions and actions? I have been meditating for a while now on a reflection from a point you wrote about previously - what might a healthy, explicit, principle of authority look like in some of the groups I am part of? I'd be interested to hear more of your thoughts on that, if it fits into your plan for a future series of posts.
As I understand it from my christian language, the principle of authority would be "The Holy Spirit"; & a "seasoned Friend", in Quaker terms, - someone who has done a lot of their own work with God - might have an increased chance of expressing it? Perhaps the more explicit we can be in a group about how we understand that, the better we can be accountable to it, and hence functional in carrying out the great changes required of us.

Kieran O'Neill said...

Well, my story is, belatedly, taking shape into something almost completed, but will only be hammered into its final form tomorrow. I hope that will still be on time (the deadline being the 10th, though I think you used the word "before"), but even if it is not, thank-you for a very enlightening exercise.

In fact, if ever a Green Wizardry curriculum were to take shape, I think the task of writing a story in a post-peak future might be an excellent learning opportunity for a student about half a year to a year down the path.

And thank-you for a beautiful, atmospheric post today. An excellent counterpoint to the stories.

Cherokee Organics said...


Before my usual rant and rave, I just wanted to point out that the geeks are the true individuals! They are the ones that aren't conforming to societies norms. The cool kids are well and truly stuck in their play pens and thinking about the next status symbol they're trying to attain - with no end in sight.

Access to half a million or so dollars with no strings attached is too much of a temptation for some I fear. Perhaps also the organisational situation developing with the occupy movement is a reflection of your own society and its organisation? I'd also suggest if this is happening then they are lost before they have even started. I remember that the Sea Shepherd captain (much respect) complained about a similar thing with Greenpeace.

It is a strange state of affairs when gardening with open pollinated heirloom vegetables is considered to be a subversive activity!

I've come across quite a few people (males mostly) who state that the movie "Ferris Buellers Day Off" is their favourite film. It's an escape fantasy, but it's also very telling about societies desires.

In the exact same way and in a strange coincidence at about the same time, the whole departure from reality that was the whole Morning in America thing was also an escape fantasy, and therein lies its appeal for the masses.

However, it was funded on debt. Someone had to pay and it was collectively decided that it would be the future generations. Yes, you are all responsible for selling them off and continuing to do so.

The difficulty with debt is that it doesn't go away without major societal difficulties. But at some point if the charade is kept up the ability to service that debt exceeds the income of that household. What happens then is beyond me.

PS: I'm a fan of microbreweries. You never know what amazing tastes you'll end up with. They're not all good, but some are pure genius!

PPS: I'd like to see how long the lovely lady who was suggesting that renewables in California had a big future would be able to live in my house! A couple of days at most I'd expect. Renewables are really good, but just don't expect to have a business as usual lifestyle.



Cherokee Organics said...

Ooops, I forgot to mention!

PPS: The really big joke about all of the economic goings on is that China simply considers the whole economic mess to be simply a return to business as usual for them. They are probably already the next superpower. Western countries have played into their hands. Somehow, somewhere we collectively decided that hard work is for other people - what an error!



Jeff Gill said...

Really really enjoyed that. Thanks!

Avery said...

Hey JMG, the "Chatauqua halls" you're talking about were also referred to as lyceums. It seems that most of them got institutionalized, which is really just the changing nature of community.

By the way, on the subject of Occupy Wall Street, I think the political issues they claim to focus on blindside the importance of the culture they create, the same culture and community your blog is so focused on. I wrote a quick essay about that here:

Jolbytlan said...

JMG - Very interesting and entertaining "journal entry." And not just anyone can make an account of attending a conference entertaining!
I've only posted one comment here before, way back under the "Merlin's Time" post, but I have read 'em all, cheering some, disagreeing every now and again, but finding them all useful. I'm trying to get more active with the Green Wizard project, along with all the other irons I have in the fire.
The Greek situation (the people not being able to decide for themselves) is disgusting, and further proof the OWS crowd and the TEA Party are really on the same side, could they only see it.
The Chicago "urban villages" idea is really not new, I'll look around my files and try to find where I first saw it some years ago. Agreed that it is a very interesting proposal.
It seems to me that meetings of the minds between folks like yourself and your hotel roomate might just be part of what gets some real good accomplished. Also, it's fun.
Thanks for letting me ramble.

redoak said...

A friend and I have been teaching the worldview of, as you call it, "catabolic collapse," for about ten years now at a small college. Once you break the grim news and disprove the common counter arguments and the students truly face their situation, the most common reaction is something like, "Why aren't we doing anything about this?!"

We are. The title of your post outweighs the disappointing, if unsurprising, report on ASPO. The hard work today is not in building the future, but preparing a culture that can handle this fundamental shift in expectations and experiences. That to me seems to be the most important work of the peak oil tribe broadly conceived.

It doesn't really matter if someone in that tribe promotes non-sense ideas about green technology and renewable energy. They understand this new culture and will be better able to adapt because of it even if their ideas don't work out.

We often tell our students simple things to do: get to know your neighbors, grow something, learn a craft, turn off the TV, etc. These activities are not going to "save" anyone or "build the future" or "revolutionize" our way of life. Certainly it isn't going to get us anywhere near "sustainable." I think we all know that is probably a goal beyond our capacity. Instead, we are playing like children at games that will someday define our lives.

That play seems to me the real work of our tribe and it is so important.

idiotgrrl said...

The tribe also gathers at the University of New Mexico.

They seem to be serious.

Justin Patrick Moore said...

I've heard of Wes Jackson in the writings of Wendell Berry -now a further connection. I'll have to look into his work.

The chicago neighborhood villages project sounds like something that could be replicated in other cities.

@GHung: my 10 year old IBM desktop finally started going to hell. I was running Windows XP, and when I had to reformat put on Windows 7 but my system couldn't handle it. Now I've installed the latest version of Linux Ubuntu (11.10 codename Oneiric Ocelot) and my system is working great again. Of course there is a bit of a learning curve for me with some of the programs and the new OS, but using Linux on old computers will be something that the tech-salvagers of the future can get on board with.

Justin said...

To add to Thomas,

I just hope the going rate isn't still 1,000 words per picture!

B-man said...

Ah, what a pleasant travel piece.
Thanks for giving us the rundown on the conference, as well. I'm a bit envious that you were able to take a train all the way to your destination.

I had not heard anything about the funds for OWS being restricted. Thanks for bringing that up. Your comments on the professionalization of dissent is unfortunately true. I've been looking for signs of that other all too typical trend in any revolt: commodification of dissent. It is only a matter of time before the marketing departments figure out a way to sell our "desires" on this front back to us (well, not me, surely).

Thanks again for the nice post,

Tyler August said...

Wonderfully done, JMG, wonderfully done. This is the most beautiful prose you've put on the blog to date, I think. (I haven't been around that long, but I have been through most of the archives)

I do have one (small) quibble-- the recent Chinese launch is indeed very closely equivalent to Skylab, but not Mir. Mir was a multi-module space station very similar in plan and complexity to the current International Space Station. Skylab and Tiagong 1 were/are both monobloc stations; the Soviet equivalent would be the 70s-era Salyut program.

Odin's Raven said...

Here's a couple of seasonal greetings from another Druid's blog:

Civilizations and cultures rise and fall, but the seasons still keep cycling.

Valorie Rockney said...

Hi JMG, and everyone,

Here's my entry for the contest:

I've already sent JMG another posting with my contact information.

Thanks for the inspiration and good ideas,

Zach said...

Not quite on topic, but timely -- someone else noticing magical thinking on display in the current political silly season:

"The other striking thing about the debate was the complete, ... stigmatic, religiously euphoric, seeing-the-Virgin-go-past-on-a-go-kart veneration of The Market. (A minor deity, The States, also came in for some ritual prostration, too...) Let The Market work its magic and the budget will be in balance, unemployment will sink, personal income will rise, the housing crisis will abate, health care will be cheaper and more plentiful, and all the people will have houses and all the students will be able to afford college. I am not paraphrasing here. I am merely condensing two hours of magical thinking into a single sentence. The solution to every problem — every d--- one of them — was to rely on The Market for a solution. It was like watching one of those Star Trek episodes where entire societies grow up serving a computer that the people took for a god."

(Slightly edited for the profanity filter.)

In other matters... almost done with my story entry. Planning to stay up until it's completed, although that may put me past midnight 11/10 local time. :)


Witter said...

Mr. Greer,

On 11-6-11 I submitted a comment asking you to throw out an old version of a story I wrote and to substitute the new one. The story is called Nobody Knows. I also included my name, address, and email.

Could you let me know you received that information so I can stop worrying?

John Michael Greer said...

Stuart, I suspect it's going to be a bit of a rough ride in places, but a broadfork is a good investment either way.

Ghung, the irony is that my internet computer is down with a dead logic board battery! It'll get fixed shortly -- in the meantime, I have other options.

Beneath, Overshoot is an intense book, but a crucial one -- glad to hear that you're reading it.

Rich, ASPO is way off the radar screen. That's something they'll have to change, if they're going to get anywhere.

Ceworthe, maybe so, but I think it's important not to downplay the very real material shortfalls we're all facing. Materially poor but spiritually rich beats the stuffing out of the other way around, but it's still materially poor.

Dltrammel, thanks for the update!

DeAnander, very close. "Dear God, this is going to end so badly" was Keith's standard line on HousingPanic, and of course -- despite the torrents of abuse to which he was subjected -- he was dead right and the abusers were utterly wrong.

Lucid, we all have our Twilight moments! I'm just glad to hear I helped you get over an attack of new age Utopian apocalypticism.

Jess, or a movement for the sake of providing unearned authority and income to a handful of activists, which is how it usually ends up working out.

Bruce, got it! You got in under the deadline, so you're in.

Rob, you're welcome.

Tracy G said...

Welcome back, John Michael, and thanks for the report!

It may cheer you to know that there's a Chautauqua pavilion in a city park not far from my house. I walk by it regularly on my way to the thrift store.

Constructed in 1907, our pavilion seats up to 3,500 people (the largest such structure built in Nebraska). William Jennings Bryan and Robert F. Kennedy were among the most famous speakers who appeared there. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and is still in semi-regular use. So the chautauqua tradition has not yet been forgotten everywhere!

John Michael Greer said...

Alice, from everything I've read, the Friends do consensus right -- there's an agreed-upon set of practices, and most meetings have a core of "seasoned Friends," as you've phrased it, who know how it works and help keep things on track. Consensus can work, but it can also be abused, and the coercive consensus I've discussed is what happens when it's turned into a systematic method of exercising unearned authority over other people. I may end up doing another post on the subject one of these days; we'll see.

Kieran, 11:59pm on the 10th is your deadline! The idea of assigning people to write a story about life in the aftermath of peak oil is worth considering, given the importance of narratives in all this.

Cherokee, you know, it's not a bad metaphor to think of American history since 1980 as a futile attempt to follow the script of, let's say, "Ronald Reagan's Day Off."

Jeff, you're welcome.

Avery, true enough. Thanks for the link!

Jolbytlan, I'm not sure that there's ever going to be a real meeting of minds between the believers in progress (reworded, in this case, as "evolution") and those who don't belong to that faith. Guy and I managed the sort of workable truce that people of radically different faiths can have if they choose to work at it, but it does take a bit of work.

Redoak, if your students are getting that far, that's great! Part of the work is building the foundations of a new culture, but part of it is learning the core skills of getting by during the transitional times -- which will likely outlast the lifespans of anybody alive today. Thus the Green Wizardry we've discussed here: that's culture-building, but it also puts food on your table, warmth in your home, and salvaged raw materials in your workshop so you can get by.

Grrl, glad to hear it.

Justin, well, we'll see what works out.

B-Man, give it another six weeks and you'll see OWS t-shirts and memorabilia for sale.

Tyler, of course you're quite right -- I thought Salyut and wrote Mir.

Raven, indeed they do. Philip and I are good friends, by the way -- I had my original Druid training in his order, and they've got an excellent study program.

Valorie, got it! You're in the contest.

Zach, thanks for the link! Very funny -- and also very true.

Witter, sorry for the oversight! Yes, I got your story, both versions, and the new one has replaced the old one.

John Michael Greer said...

Tracy, that does cheer me. Thank you!

escapefromwisconsin said...

What's fascinating to me is how Peak Oil, which is theoretically a scientific issue based on geology (are we running out of hydrocarbons?), has become a rallying point for criticisms of society (along with the Permaculture community to some extent). To phrase it somewhat more more basely, why has it become associated with hippies? (I know, but it's the perception). I mean, it's fundamentally a scientific issue, is it not? What does that mean? Why should a topic that should be hard science become an attractor of such a diverse group of people, including some with no scientific expertise and social grudges (I'm thiking of folks like Mike Ruppert here). I'll answer my own question:

Criticisms of industrialism go back to it's very beginnings, from Blake's satanic mills, to Tolkien's scouring of the Shire. The criticisms of what industrialism unleashed have become all the more pointed as the system is becoming more and more dysfunctional and oppressive. What Peak Oil proposes is that all of this may be undone by removing the central fuel that makes it all possible, depriving it of oxygen, as it were. I think there is as much hope as science in the movement. People upset with the social order and want something else hope this is the opportunity to get it. For better or worse, modern society has been built on cheap energy, and that includes all the ugly parts. For people who don't like the ugly parts, Peak Oil seems to offer deliverance.

Which is not to say that A non-scientific perspective is not valuable. Indeed, it is essential. One of the reasons I like this blog is it brings a humanities perspective to the discussions of resource scarcity, e.g. history, economics and philosophy, which is so often missing. I suspect the people who see a painless transformation to a glorious and fair post-carbon economy ahead (such as your erstwhile roommate) know a lot about technology but little about history or human nature. That's also a criticism of Singularity prophets - they know a lot about technology, and think society should work as simply and elegantly as the machines they build. Not so. Look at the utopian dreaming the car engendered versus the reality for a demonstration of that. If pure technology were the only limitation, we would have houses on the moon. I'm sure you've reminded people that the Ancient Greeks had the capacity to build steam engines, but they didn't because they had plenty of slaves.

P.S. For those not familiar with it: The Iron Law of Oligarchy

P.P.S. I've heard in some interviews that J.H. Kunstler's forthcoming book is to be entitled "Too Much Magic." I don't know if your recent columns have been in response to that or merely a coincidence, but you may want to school him on what magic really is, or convince him to change the title. He's perpetuating the misconceptions!

hadashi said...

"Meanwhile, in the South of France . . ."
What an unexpected and pleasant surprise to catch another post from you, JMG, within the week. Your narrative about the conference, interspersed with world happenings, reads like a story itself. Submit it to the short story anthology! On a more serious note, I appreciate the links you've sprinkled your last few posts with. Follow up reading assignments.

Myriad said...

That is one beautifully crafted post.

It reminds me of some of Al Stewart's most poignant folk songs, about people (sometimes aware but often oblivious) on the brink of momentous changes in history. Especially, "The Last Day of June 1934" which is a montage of images of ordinary Europeans going about their lives "in a world that's finished with war," on the date the title refers to (which is better known as the Night of the Long Knives).

Would it be reasonable to hypothesize that the same basic effect that accounts for mages experiencing coincidences (a sort of broadened awareness, I'd suggest), is also responsible for the perpetual swirl of richly layered metaphor that apparently accompanies your own travels?

On the conference itself, the theme title "Truth in Energy" gave me some concern that the peak oil awareness community could be turning in the direction of conspiracy theory. That way lies madness, IMHO, so I'm glad the program content you described did not seem to be heading there after all.

Richard Larson said...

Very descriptive and interesting report on your journey.

I will have to use that ending in my other internet postings. :-)

Ruben said...


At least one design blogger has been offering 99% tee shirts for a whole month--proceeds go to OWS.

He also has some Occupy Wall Street Posters for free download.

Jennifer D Riley said...

Made me feel I was almost watching a video. The borrow from the EcoTechnic Future, I think a better trip would be a guided tour of de-industrializing locations versus salvage society locations.

Steve said...

"B-Man, give it another six weeks and you'll see OWS t-shirts and memorabilia for sale."

This reminded me of the trademark kerfluffle I saw mentioned the other day. Besides, the t-shirts are already available.

Thanks, also, for the summary of the conference from your experience. I've never attended one by ASPO-USA, so it's nice to hear a bit what they're like.

I'd also like to second the request for another "journal entry" style post that outlines a bit more of regular life for you, if you're open to the idea. You've offered a few glimpses and plenty of good advice, but as you're encouraging us all to lead by example, I wouldn't mind learning a bit more about the way you do so.

Thanks so much for the last two months' posts, by the way. I've been too busy with harvest season and getting ready for winter to have commented much, but the posts and discussions have been fascinating!

Justin said...

However it works out, just happy to participate/ create something/ happy to have you read it. I figured pictures were a long shot for the contest and gave Thomas a way out when he had the chance. :)

You may be more heartened to hear that I am currently working with my brother and apprenticing under him as a blacksmith and metal fabricator. Smelting ore, working with a forge, etc. Making a world by hand.

loki7 said...

Hi JMG, those of us in BC who know Guy Dauncey find him just as off-the-mark as you do. His techno-utopic fantasies have been boring us here for decades, and diverting many away from real preparation for the future.

Thijs Goverde said...

An unelected junta is ruling Europe? That seems a bit harsh. Both Merkel and Sarkozy were elected, as were most of the others who make up this 'junta'.
They weren't elected by the people of all Europe, of course, much less by the people of Greece, but elected they were, for better or for worse.

(It's for worse, actually. The general European headache can be explained largely by politicians catering to their *national* electorate, instead of to the needs of the continent. Mr Papandreou's cowardly referendum scheme was a perfect example of this.)

Actually, Mr. Greer, based on one of your previous posts Europe's insane political inefficiency had me looking for signs of resilience.
however, I am now beginning to think that resilience and efficiency may not be perfect opposites, after all.

We are headed for some very interesting times, and I am beginning to think that I have embarked on this green wizard thing exactly one year too late.
Still, better than never.

On a more positive note: within one week I have twice seen the mainstream Dutch media refer to Peak Oil as a very serious problem. That beats the year before that by a wide margin of two.

It's almost as if, having their eyes forced open by one crisis, here and there people are beginning to see that there are a few others in full swing.
Wonder how long that window of opportunity stays open....

Ceworthe said...

Well, I have always been fascinated with doing things the old way (as in a couple of hundred years old way), but the richness I was talking about was having an option and possibility of surviving after the SHTF, we run off the cliff, hit the wall, enter your metaphor here..., rather than going on thinking things are going to be as they are now and being rudely awakened. Those that don't have the skills or a clue are either going to have to be very fast learners or not the fittest (as in survival of same) Hard work and poor like most of the rest of the world, for sure

SLClaire said...

A couple of weeks ago I was re-reading Donella Meadows' book Thinking in Systems. She noted that the purpose of the upper levels of a hierarchy is to serve the lower levels, but that this gets forgotten too often. I suspect that forgetting by so many in the upper levels is one of the factors that leads so many of us to distrust authority figures and hierarchical structures.

Part of that forgetting is that in many of our hierarchies, the people at the top are rewarded with money and prestige far beyond what is available to folks at the lower levels. Organizing a group to get something done is a talent that not everyone has. Those who have it can make it work to everyone's benefit by being near the top of a hierarchy, where organizing the work makes it easier for those lower down to do their jobs. But it doesn't mean that organizing the work is more valuable than doing the work, and rewards and prestige would be better to be more equably spread around to reflect that everyone's role is of value.

Apple Jack Creek said...

Hi all (and welcome home Archdruid, I'll bet it's nice to be back in your own bed) ...

In news related to the larger theme of the blog, much of western Canada is experiencing serious shortages of diesel fuel (refinery problems) and the resulting lack of juice is throwing a bit of a wrench into 'just in time deliveries'. The local gas station has no diesel at all and no idea when they will have it, and I'm way out in the country so it's not like we can go to the next station down the way and see if they have anything. There's gasoline, but I'm driving the diesel truck while my husband is away working (ironically, in the oil field, where he is modifying his usual routine in order to save some of the diesel they burn so profligately while drilling for natural gas). The shortage is not expected to ease off for another month or so, and I suspect things will get rather interesting in the meantime. I have a full pantry, half a tank of diesel and nowhere I need to be for the next while, but it certainly is an interesting look at the future.

siddrudge said...


This is what I have for the short story contest. It's titled "That ‘new car smell’ of a pristine soul"

It's probably not anthology-ready as this is the first time I've ever done anything like this, but you can't imagine how therapeutic this exercise has been for me. Thank you for that!

I'll continue working on it regardless. Now that I'm starting to find my voice I can't seem to shut myself up :)

Matt and Jess said...

Sadly, there already are shirts for sale for Occupy. We saw them a couple weeks ago on some online ad. Also some of the liberalish bumper sticker companies have found a new angle on their products. "Products to fuel the movement" or some such.

DeAnander, buying old things is so much funner than shopping in stores. Our living room tables are both 40ish years old and hold up way better than the crap you'll find at most stores. Plus my dear partner now has professional furniture refinishing training which makes it much easier for us:) But the style of things was so much better in the mid-century anyway so it's win-win all around. You just have to be a bit picky at the thrift stores and garage sales.

William Hunter Duncan said...


After reading the first sentence, I thought, 'that was interesting.' Finishing, I think, 'How late in the day it seems, and we have hardly begun.' Thanks for helping me to stay grounded. An important piece.

Kieran O'Neill said...

Here is my story, at long last. I didn't think I would finish it on time, but having some time off this week I did. I think I might want to edit it some more, but a deadline is a deadline. I hope you enjoy it:

Zach said...

There! Made it all the way to the end. I think it's still 11/10 somewhere on the planet...

All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter - Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 - Conclusion


Cherokee Organics said...


"Ronald Regean's Day Off"!

I shouldn't be laughing, it's a very serious subject matter, but I can't help myself you took it to the whole next level.

Thanks for the lightness.



dltrammel said...

Ran across this article on the wider scope of the Arab Spring and the OWS movement.

GHung said...

@ J P Moore- I installed Ubuntu as well, in a duel boot config with Vista (so I can hopefully transition gracefully). It occured to me that the latter reflects the hyper-complex, bloated, plodding society we've become; the former, the leaner, more efficient society we perhaps could have chosen - not trying to be all things to all people. Free and open source is nice as well. While it's a bit buggy, I'm adjusting well (I used to be a unix/OS2 guy), I like the plethora of open source apps available, and that there wasn't a bunch of useless junk pre-installed. With Windows, I found myself always trying to de-complexify the system, getting unneeded "infrastructure" out of the way. With Umbuntu I'm adding just the carefully selected tools as needed, trying to preserve the capable but minimalist nature of the system.

The mITX platform I'm using is designed to be "ultra durable", using more copper to dissipate heat, and the tiny case it fits in is an antithesis to the giant, power hungry gaming boxes of today; sort of a laptop in a box. Not needing the portability of a laptop or tablet, and tired of trying to dispose of (not so) old, unrepairable laptops, I feel this idea of an efficient, upgradable, tiny system has merit. The power supply I'm using is a 95 watt, 12(6-34) VDC direct, used in "carputers", and the little touchscreen monitor is designed for automotive use (12 volt as well), found at a swap meet.

I know this stuff is a bit off-topic; just thought it could be useful to those trying to cope with the power-down thing while maintaining certain advantages/capabilities. I hate aquiring things that I have no hope of repairing myself and that have a limited lifespan built in. I'm focussing on stuff that runs on 12 volt DC (my shortwave, LED lighting, even my dog clippers) as it is a well-tested, low power standard, batteries will likely be available, and it is compatable with PV.

Planner said...

Great post, JMG. It sounds like you enjoyed DC. I have lived here for the past 6 years as a member of the Ohio economic diaspora. In that time I have met a lot of nice people from all over. The only knock I'll give it is a lack of neighborliness due to the quick turnover of residents. But no place is perfect!

I particularly enjoyed your description of the 'loose circle' of folks who are peak-oil aware. The impending difficulties of our collective future permeate my every thought. It has become part of who I am. Nowadays, I occasionally recognize it in others, too. As you say, it manifests itself as 'something half-seen and half spiritual that can be glimpsed in the faces of those who share it.' It gives credence to the saying that 'it takes one to know one.'

I cracked up when you described meeting William Catton in person. I would react similarly - 'Overshoot' was very influential on me too. Having said that, I'd probably go all 'fanboy' on you too; your books are just as influential on my generation as his were on yours.

Finally - as an urban planner myself, I'm encouraged by Naomi Davis's work as you describe it. Did she provide a link to a fuller description of it?

Mister Roboto said...

I share your concerns about the direction of "Occupy Wall Street". Another potential problem is that the movement might get highjacked by what I call "anarcho-kiddies", who are basically the loud-mouthed, miserably-alienated, nihilistic bullies on the very far left. Anyone who has been to a few left-oriented demonstrations will recognize them as the adenoidal young people who wear bandana-kerchiefs over the lower part of their faces along with other "radical-chic" affectations. That there has been an awful lot of theft occuring at the main camp in New York City doesn't help create an effective, cohesive movement, either.

Degringolade said...

Here is my entry to your call for stories. Thanks for the effort in putting this together

Bobby's Dream said...

Brought into your fold by very fine English blogger, Phil Knight. Excellent post - I shall continue to read and will definitely check out Catton.
Thanks for that.
John Bradley

Astrid said...

JMG et al,
OWS is being supplanted by Occupy Earth. Proof that there ARE space aliens after all! They are even organic gardeners and drink raw milk!

idiotgrrl said...

Read this and weep:

"No peak oil yet. Global liquid production reached new high in October.


***I, Pat, explained to him the difference between income and a fixed asset in terms of a common savings account, citing my qualifications as a bookkeeper. Sigh. I honestly believe he thinks they make it in a factory somewhere like any other widget.***

Unknown said...

I just wanted to thank everyone who has submitted short stories for your project. Great reading!

Unknown said...

Not so relevant to this week's blog, but couldn't help pointing out this (in today's Wash. Post) near miss of another opportunity by the mainstream media to elevate to the real issues at hand:

The fourth paragraph achieves liftoff (although it begs the question of whether most people, being unaware or in denial, are currently any more interested in low-tech solutions than high-tech.)
But the reporter immediately bails out and spends the next two or three pages dancing (pardon my extremely mixed metaphors) blindly around the elephant in the room, finally grasping its tail in the very last paragraph but only declaring the thing a rope. Not knowing the Price is indeed the problem.

(hope you can make that link work-if not see the Wash Post web site for today-11/11)

RainbowShadow said...

Hahahahaha, "Ronald Reagan's Day Off" is such a perfect description of our culture.

Thank you so much for your as-usual 100% brilliant writing, JMG, I really needed that laugh this morning!


Speaking of a culture based on a Ferris Bueller desire to escape obligations, here's an interesting story for you:

A year ago, an evangelical Republican named Mark Demoss tried to pull off something called the Civility Project, where he tried to get our Congressmen to sign a pledge to be polite in their conversation, like statesmen like George Washington used to do with his rules of civility.

Not only did Demoss only get three Congressmen (out of 435!) to agree to sign the pledge, but ironically enough he got a lot of hate mail from the public accusing him first of being leftist thought police (despite being an evangelical Republican), and then accusing him of refusing to "grow up because your side started slinging this mud."

That real grown-up behavior means being polite whether the other guy started it or NOT never occurred to those people, who represent a huge portion of the American public. Anyway, in January 2011 it got so bad that Mark Demoss eventually had to give up the civility project, because not enough people could agree on something as obvious as being a decent human being.

In other words, instead of insisting on politeness getting you called a curmudgeon or old-timer or fuddy-duddy like THIS guy is sometimes called:

you actually get called childish in this country if you call someone out on rude and childish behavior. And the fact that we have a political segment in this country that teaches that consideration for others in your actions and in your words is somehow "thought control" and "against free speech" has resulted in a population that swarms in front of subway doors instead of letting riders get off, or talks loudly on cell phones in art museums, or political debates that are nothing more than angry name-calling that then call YOU names if you try to do the "real adult" thing and tell them both to cut it out.

It's kind of a "reversal of reality," in other words, and I thought you might find that hilarious.

Keep writing, sir! (Now there's politeness for you, ha ha ha.)

Heart of Balance said...

Brilliant, wise, insightful and providing much food for thought. Thank you for your work John.

Tony Dougan

Bret said...

Hi -- thanks for all the wonderful writing, it's a real touchstone and sanctuary. As one link in my personal chain of displacement from a precarious perch in the tertiary economy, I'm living more or less temporarily in a highrise rental building on a small East River isle off Manhattan. Here, my daydreams of building a Vermont redoubt play second fiddle to new ones, in which I leave a copy of Wealth of Nature at each renter's doorsill, with a card inside inviting all to join me in working as a community toward replacing the rooftop chaise lounges with a victory garden. This would then become a first step toward green wizarding the building, its ownership, renters, staff and this little corner of the world. As my paper "wealth" quickly evaporated in these early stages of the tertiary economy's collapse, I can't finance the undertaking and of course wouldn't want to take liberties with your work product, so am asking if the idea sits right with you generally and if you have any ideas as to how I might source copies affordably to that end. Many thanks, and apologies as I'm sure there's a more appropriate medium for me to be raising this inquiry to you.

Maria said...

Wonderful essay! I addition to your skill at breaking down complex information and making it accessible, your writing is so very, very good.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Hello JMG and all,

Here in Europe the crisis is threatening to engulf us ... but you wouldn't know it. I have yet to meet a person who does not airily dismiss it all with a wave of the hand and a joke - usually along the lines of 'lazy Greeks/Italians/Spanish' or similar. The consensus seems to be that 'they' will sort it out sooner or later. We'll see.

It's great to hear reports from the ASPO conference. I would dearly love to attend one day, but it doesn't seem very likely. In any case, I'm one of those people who finds it easier to digest information and messages in written form without having to hear it from the horse's mouth. Still, it would be good to hang out with a few like-minded people for a while!

On a side note - I also follow Philip Carr-Gomm's blog and have read several of his books. In fact, I have downloaded the course materials for the course in Druidry from the BDO and will start shortly on my path. I've never been a religious person but this somehow feels right and I've run out of reasons for *not* doing it. Who knows where it will lead … after all, what you contemplate, you imitate ;-)

oji said...

An English woman's effort to covert her family's farm to natural methods. Appearances by Colin Campbell and Richard Heinberg, but otherwise a pretty homey little film. Thought many here would like it.


John Michael Greer said...

Greetings all --

For the moment (until my usual internet computer gets out of the hospital) I'm going to have somewhat limited internet access -- it may be a bit, in other words, before I can respond to everyone! Thanks to all who got stories in; you're in the contest, which is now officially closed. Now to read 'em all and, the hard part, choosing 12 or 14 of the best from the 70 or so that have been submitted! More when I have the chance...

CalebTemple said...

As a new reader here, I was very pleased at the desriptions of the conference, it was like being there without actually going.

One thing I wonder about is the science of science, I pretty much believe in the Peak most things concept, but stare at the different interpretations of what logical science thinks is going to happen.

Urban Roman said...

I don't really have a story to tell, but tribe member Nicole Foss has posted a link to this video:

I'm now watching another from the same site:

These communities apparently started in the previous back-to-the-land movement in the '70s. It gives one an idea of the time scale and general texture of this trend.

As for me, I'm still surrounded by denialists. ... But I have ordered some solar panels. :-)

Cathy McGuire said...

Thanks for the ASPO travelogue! I’ll never get to one, so it’s good to hear about. Sounds like a lot of the conferences I’ve been to in other fields. :-}

Yesterday I went to a “Fill Your Pantry” day in a nearby small town, where many of the local small farms brought their root veggies, dried beans, local meats and fresh-milled grain to sell! There was a chance to pre-order, so picking up the several pounds of food that I ordered was pretty easy. And it was just wonderful to know there are food options relatively nearby!! (For those of you in Oregon, it’s the Ten Rivers Food Web). The apple cider was scrumptious, the heirlooms beans all tempted me (yum! soup!); I got potatoes, garlic, oats, barley, chicken… a wonderful day! And got to visit with a friend who is also working on a homestead (hers is much bigger and more efficient, but she has a strong, organized partner) – just to be able to talk post-peak with someone is great. And now I’ll stash away my purchases and feel more detached from the economic writhings, knowing I have enough food for at least the next six months.

Gavin said...

Your passage ~

"There’s a passage from Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian that is on my mind as I walk the streets of this city of faltering empire in this bright November sunlight. Emil Sinclair, the narrator, has come to recognize himself as one of a diffuse and disparate group—call it a circle, an order, a tribe—marked by something half-seen and half spiritual that can be glimpsed in the faces of those who share it. What unites them is not an ideology or an organization, but an orientation toward time, toward the future. The unmarked people around them live their lives in relation to the world as it is, but the ones who wear the mark in their faces are oriented toward a world that does not yet exist."

~ struck me as very resonant of the feeling in the Dark Mountain / Uncivilisation movement/scene in the UK.

Odin's Raven said...

Here's someone else who shares your interest in Peladan:

RPC said...

Another great post. I noted one crucial difference between you and the "twilight" fanboy: tha latter meets an actor, while you met the real Bill Catton. Sort of like going to a Star Trek convention expecting to shake hands with Bill Shatner, only to find yourself face-to-face with James T. Kirk.

Wendy said...

Wow! I pulled this quote from your piece: "ASPO follows the circus model."

As a fellow New Society Publishers author, I was, originally, considered for the conference, but that quote made me a little glad that I ended up not being invited (only a little, though, because, obviously, it would have been an amazing learning experience ;).

I wish I had been able to go as an attendee, though, if nothing more than to hear the talk about the urban-village project, as that is exactly my hoped-for vision of the future - only not "urban", but "suburban" village ;).

My horoscope today said, in effect, keep a tight grip on your wallet, if you want to be prepared for what's coming in the next few weeks. Coupled with this post, our near future doesn't look so very bright. said...

Are you familiar with Lin Ostrom's rules for functional communities? She won a Nobel in economics for her work on same, using water rights and water co-ops in the American West as her test models. Okay, so I was just writing about them myself, but your OWS critique brings them back to mind. Consensus works, but only if there is open monitoring and a fast and fair process for resolving conflicts... something that doesn't scale well.

Guy Dauncey said...

Greetings! For those who think that my work is all "techno-utopic fantasies", here's the actual presentation I gave, so that you can judge for yourself:

best wishes, and greetings, JMG!
Guy Dauncey

John Michael Greer said...

Escape, it's not entirely or even primarily a scientific issue. The scientific questions around peak oil are old hat; the reasons that there's so much resistance to dealing with what is ultimately a matter of common sense (a finite resource can't be produced at an endlessly accelerating rate indefinitely!) are cultural, pasychological and (let's whisper it) spiritual. Thus the hippies!

As for the Singularity, one thing you can count on is that in every generation, somebody will discover that if you extend an exponential curve far enough into the future, the result is absurdity. The only problem with Kurzweil et al. is that they don't realize that this is what they've discovered!

Hadashi, thank you -- but I've already got a short story lined up. Longtime readers will remember three winter tales linked by a slide rule; that's the one.

Myriad, you get tonight's gold star purely for mentioning a fave of mine that almost nobody else seems to remember. I'm going to go put Stewart's album "Past, Present and Future" on the CD player and listen to it while I type.

Richard, by all means.

Ruben, no surprises there.

Jennifer, I'll keep that in mind.

Steve, if you've been busy with the harvest, your time was better spent. We did pretty well with the next to last round of garden produce, too -- and there are still radishes and snow peas bearing.

Justin, that's good to hear! You'll have a good skill to trade with as things start to unravel.

Loki, interesting. Mind you, I'm sure there are plenty of people who think I'm boring, and diverting people from the shiny green future we can all have if we just did whatever it is.

DeAnander said...

escapefromwisconsin asked why peak oil is associated with hippies.

interesting question and I offer a couple of theories.

1) the last time a vocal social bloc insisted that energy conservation and smarter, humbler technology were important priorities was during the fascinating 70's and a lot of the people involved were hippies or semi-hippies or at least part of the "counterculture" in some way. therefore, by the sterling logic of media, anyone who advocates energy conservation, appropriate tech, or humbler lifestyles must be a hippie.

2) lots of disappointed (or just persevering) survivors from that earlier movement are still around and have been consistently living their values ever since. unsurprisingly they are still eager to advocate for a saner lifestyle and a longer view -- and the stakes are much higher now. so there are, in point of fact, lots of old hippies who have valuable skills to offer or who have never stopped agitating for strategies for dealing with Peak FF and climate change.

3) historical revisionism as practised by mass media (in flicks like Forrest Gump for example, or the tedious Rambo franchise) has successfully redefined hippies as figures of fun (or hate, depending on the audience). therefore, if the PTB are threatened by peak oil as a subject of public discourse, one way to get people to dismiss it out of hand is to associate it with hippies. so there may be some, er, selective coverage going on.

4) hippies or hippie-like people might have something cultural in common aside from sartorial choices; is it possible that they are often more willing to cop to their real feelings than the numb or staunchly stoic mainstream? most people looking at the state of the planet, the economy, etc. are scared s***less and why not? but many can't face those feelings and retreat into denial, rooting louder for BAU, insisting that Science will Save Us, etc. maybe hippie-like people are more ready to face fear and grief and disquiet, and to take some personal action to try to feel safer? just another WAG.

5) hippies and hippie-like people are more likely to be exposed to, and not terrified of, spiritual traditions other than the consumer cult or mainstream, denatured christianity. hence they may be more open to the idea that material possessions are not identical with happiness, and more willing to consider a less materially-excessive life as a viable, contemplatable, even palatable prospect.

any takers for any of the above, or some combo thereof?

John Michael Greer said...

Thijs, well, I'm not going to quarrel about European politics; those of you who live over there can take care of that. I'll simply say that if my economic destiny was being decided by a group consisting of the governors of California and Texas, the head of the Federal Reserve, the Secretary of the Treasury, and a few other bureaucrats, I wouldn't see that as particularly democratic. Good to hear that the Dutch media is beginning to mention peak oil, though!

Ceworthe, that's also a valid point; poor and living beats rich and dead three falls out of three!

SLClaire, in an ideal world, granted. In the real one, people generally have an eye toward their own interest much if not all of the time, and will take what they can get; an effective system is one in which the people who organize things don't have too much opportunity to plunder the whole system.

Apple Jack, that's fascinating. Spot fuel shortages are worth tracking; if they become significantly more common, it's a potential warning sign of a system under strain.

Sidd, got it! You're in under the wire.

Jess, the glossy magazine will be following shortly. Gah.

William, thank you.

Kieran and Zach, got yours too.

Cherokee, think of it as gallows humor. Might as well laugh!

Dltrammel, thanks for the link.

Planner, her organization's website is Her program is probably a bit optimistic, but it's decentralized and pragmatic enough that even if the whole thing doesn't pan out, it'll likely do quite a bit of good.

Mister R, granted, that's also an issue. Radical politics makes a great front for basically abusive attitudes.

John Michael Greer said...

Degringolade, since you got this in originally well before the deadline, you're in -- otherwise you'd be out in the cold, since this was posted here after the 10th!

John, thank you.

Astrid, er, radical groups like to think of themselves as supplanting one another when they're basically competing for the same narrow ecological niche. We'll see which ones end up surviving.

Grrl, and of course nobody's talking about how much of that new peak of total liquids consists of biofuels grown and harvested with diesel fuel, tar sands extracted using immense amounts of natural gas sold at below-cost prices due to the current shale gas bubble, etc., etc. People will do anything, absolutely anything, to avoid facing up to what's actually right in front of them.

Unknown 1, agreed.

Unknown 2, thanks for the link! It's embarrassing to watch. really.

Shadow, yes, I heard about the Civility Project and its results. One of the reasons this comment forum has the rules it does is that I have similar ideas -- and this is one of a handful of social spaces where I can make them stick. I'd encourage others to do the same; it's really one of those one-step-at-a-time things.

Tony, thank you.

Bret, I'd encourage you instead to get to know your neighbors, sit down with them over a cooler full of beer or something like that, and see if the lot of you can come up with some good ideas together. Books left on doorsteps usually end up being used to prop up tables or the equivalent; people making contact with people -- that's another matter.

Maria, thank you.

Jason, glad to hear it! Blessings under the oaks.

Oji, thank you for the link! Most interesting.

Caleb, it's important to remember that "science" doesn't think anything. Individual scientists do, and they're human, with deeply human reasons for saying what they do.

Roman, thanks for the link! A medieval village might be a very good place to start; pity there's a shortage of them on this side of the Atlantic. ;-)

Cathy, that sounds like a great event. I'm envious -- though we've also got a fairly well stocked pantry, of course.

Gavin, most interesting. I hope I have the chance someday to attend one of the Dark Mountain events.

John Michael Greer said...

Raven, most interesting -- and complete with the obligatory Julius Evola titles on one side. Thanks for the link.

RPC, true enough. Catton's an extraordinary figure, over and above the fanboy effect; his recent book Bottleneck breaks significantly new ground -- I'm going to have to integrate some of the points he makes into my catabolic collapse theory. Most scholars his age are long past having original ideas!

Wendy, I think you'd have had a good time meeting with the tribe, even though the events might not have been too useful for you. As for your horoscope, well, that's a prediction even a rationalist can respect!

Huntgather, I quoted Ostrom in The Wealth of Nature; her work balances Garrett Hardin's very nicely. The problem with OWS is that they've created a commons where there are no restrictions on abusing it; the result, as Hardin pointed out, is tragedy. (Or, to borrow a bit of Marx, farce.)

Guy, thanks for posting the slides! I'll have mine up once ASPO gets 'em on the website.

John Michael Greer said...

DeAnander, seems reasonable enough.

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ DeAnander - Re: Hippies and peak oil. My vote goes for all of the above. I get my "t" words mixed up, but it's another word occasionally thrown about to inspire fear and trembling.

"Ohhhhh! Booga! Booga! Hippies!"

Overheard in a barbershop in Cleveland a few days ago in relation to OWSers. From an old military guy who was getting his weekly flat-top. "Well, I see the Hippies are back."

My intelligence web spreads wide.... :-) .

LewisLucanBooks said...

Renewable energy news. The Coyote Crest Wind Park has been put on hold. This was in western central Washington State. It would have had 44 turbines. All the permitting was finished and the project was "good to go."

It was put on hold due to an "...inability to find a buyer for the power" and "...uncertainty regarding the pending expiration of a federal tax benefit for renewable power." A recent glut of hydroelectric power was also mentioned.

SophieGale said...

Here's an interesting sign of the times (NY Times, that is). I believe the subject was addressed in The Ecotechnic Future:

"Hispanics Reviving Faded Towns on the Plains"

Cherokee Organics said...


Hope your computer is feeling better now. I've noticed that computers, whilst getting faster, seem to be suffering from the chaos theory effect (a bit at least anyway). Change one thing, put in some new hardware, install some new software and chaos ensues! Years ago I used to enjoy mucking around with this stuff, now I'm just happy if it works and I don't mess with them.

I understand that you use an older computer which is probably more stable.

Can't understand the obsession with these smart phones either. They are neither wholly a computer nor are they a phone. Why would I want a computer in my pocket? Why would I want to receive emails when I'm out and about. It's frustrating for other people, but when I'm not contactable, I'm just not contactable. All I see these used for are games.

A mate of mine did actually use his as a GPS on a car trip we did once, but it was telling us that a short cut was to be made down this dirt road - which I knew from prior experience was a disaster. It was hard to convince him to ignore the GPS function.

Hi DeAnander,

I've never seen the Rambo franchise, but have read the book. I'm not sure which came first. The characters in the book were quite complex individuals. I strongly remember the scene where the protagonist wins over the backblocks moonshine guy. Neither of the characters were protrayed as one dimensional and they undertook a complex ritual in unusual and difficult circumstances, whilst maintaining mutual respect.

I suspect that this didn't come across in the film.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Here's the complete live blogs from the ASOP Conference as provided by Transition Voice magazine.

Haven't had a chance to look at them yet, but I wanted to get the link up.

John Michael Greer said...

Lewis, we're going to see a lot of this in the years ahead. All those grand plans for a massive buildout of green technologies miss the fact that such a buildout has to be economically feasible, and not just as a way of cashing in on government tax credits; as the economies of the industrial world go into permanent decline, as they are, the economics will become ever more of a problem. That's another reason why the green wizard approach makes a lot of sense just now. Thanks for posting the blogs!

Sophie, thanks for the link! It was indeed; I wonder how many Americans are aware that the American settlement of the dryland West has failed, and the nearest available society with the population and cultural vitality to do the job is moving in to replace it.

Cherokee, we're waiting on a new power supply, but I've got a loaner for the time being. Yes, I use old computers; it's more a matter of salvage than anything else -- since I don't need anything but word processing and basic internet access, it makes more sense to keep an old machine out of the landfills and save the resource costs of building a new one, and I can get a very nice machine that will do everything I need for a small fraction of what a new one would cost me. As for smart phones -- you know, I remember people talking about the idea of a portable phone you could carry in your pocket, back when that was just a fantasy, and my reaction even then was "why would I want to be at everybody's beck and call all the time?" It doesn't make any more sense to me now.

Fabrice said...

Your activism is good but I strongly advise you to stop watching at the news

Joseph said...

I enjoyed the tone of honest reportage. I have a question also. Pretty speculative but I hope not too dumb. It's about China and what they might bargain for in exchange for bailout assistance in the current economic crisis.

It just seems that investing money in the current system is not in China's interest. That funding an oligarchic management of a system so unequal will not favor China's ability to supply an expanding array of goods. For that they need more western money in more hands. Might they actually require taxes on the investor class, or other devices to promote the distribution of wealth to a broader base of consumers? Might they require that the yuan be made an alternate reserve currency ?

It's a fascinating question anyway and I 'd love to hear some tentative thoughts.

Rich_P said...


You should consider writing an essay about why you think the American settlement of the arid West has failed; not that I totally disagree with that thesis, but as far as I know, the subject's never been addressed so starkly, though Cadillac Desert, etc. point in that direction.

Having lived and traveled throughout the American West, the one image that sticks out in my mind is a beautiful arid landscape in Basin & Range Country marred by a century and a half of the accumulated detritus of American civilization: rotting houses, old bulldozers, busted RVs, trash, airplane graveyards, abandoned mining towns. The BLM in Nevada, for example, is overwhelmed by the amount of garbage being dumped on public lands around Las Vegas.

John Michael Greer said...

Fabrice, you might want to be a bit careful before jumping to conclusions. I haven't owned a television since 1984, and I'm not an activist.

Joseph, my guess is that it will be nothing so modest. The Chinese have been establishing naval bases along the Indian Ocean littoral in classic Alfred Thayer Mahan style, laying the foundations for a future blue water navy, and in general preparing to become a superrpower with global reach. What exactly they demand will depend very much on the situation and their own needs at the time, but I'd expect serious technology transfer, permanent military bases on islands owned by EU nations, and backing from European nations in international disputes to be high on the list, just for starters.

Rich, I discussed it a while back in a post here, but you're doubtless right -- in the upcoming series on the twilight of American empire, something of the sort needs to be included.

Bret said...

John, I guess so.... although I'm not sure if you're fully accounting for the level of dissociation one finds in a big city 15-story rental building.

Not that it's any different in the burbs, for that matter, but as we've all experienced at some point, everyone starts out strangers and very few ever progress past that point before moving out. It's entirely common for the same four or five people to ride an elevator up to their homes together in silence, day after month after year, and never learn each others' names.

In that context (and honestly in most any setting within the range of the corporatocracy's media-enforced consumer cult, which is to say all of civilization), inviting a neighbor (or several) for beers and then, assuming that gesture alone doesn't mark the inviter as an oddball, taking the outing as an opportunity to (however gently) enlighten them about the energy decline of civilization, seems, well, a bit optimistic. They'll be expecting talk about sports, or something of that nature, and their defenses against reality will be up as usual, no?

There's a call, it seems to me, for a gesture both more compellingly noticeable (because it departs from the mundane contexts and conventions people sleepwalk through all day long) and more well-formed (in that it articulates with a reasonable degree of completeness the case for waking up) than a casual chat over beers.

After all, aren't we 30 years behind schedule?

That said, of course I'll stand down, keep my head down and keep reading. I'm one of your readers who still hasn't necessarily quite gotten the hang of "magic" as a consciousness-raising resource, so maybe I'll re-read your relevant posts and see if I can come to a better understanding. Thanks again for the writing and the forum.

hawlkeye said...

When cell phones first became popular, I was amazed how much it fast-tracked the demand for constant availability for communication. "Just call me before you get here..." But why? I'm calling you NOW; I'll be there in an hour... Or, "why didn't you answer?" Because my phone was in my truck, not stuck into my skull...

A ringing phone is always a request, not a requirement.

And anyone who wonders about the arid American West ought to crack open a can of beer and any book by Ed Abbey (he would have preferred that order) although his prescience from forty years ago might be unsettling for any readers in the Sun Belt.
Which is why folks there should read him; to un-settle the heck out of there, PDQ...

Edde said...

Good morning John Michael,

A favor, please. Could you add a bit more context to your responses to individual posters?

Particularly when the number of responses to your articles climb (a good thing) I often find myself without the time to read through them all. So I look for your responses.

If you could add a bit more quoting from their response to put your comments in context, it would make your comments more readable. I often have to parse through the que to find a particularly interesting response, a time consuming process.

THANKS! Hope this isn't too onerous.


RPC said...


A technique that works for me is to open two browser windows; this lets me see the posts and JMG's responses side by side. I'm impressed with the degree to which JMG replies to posts; that might have to decrease if we start placing conditions on his responses. (It's an unfortunate shortcoming of Blogger that he can't interject his replies directly after the appropriate posts.)

Phil Knight said...

The Chinese are already acquiring ports in Greece:

Ruben said...


I too find the gap between comments and responses to be hard to bridge for my attention span, especially in times when JMG has computer troubles....

I use Control F (the find function) to search for the person JMG is responding too--that bounces me to the original comment. One more click bounces me back to his response to continue reading from there.

Hal said...

Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone has been a very sane and reliable (if too potty-mouthed for my taste) source on the unraveling of the financial system. It's unfortunate to see in his latest article on OWS, he seems to have bought into the lifestyle thing.

Myriad said...

@Edde: Considering the number of replies JMG writes, asking him to add quoted passages to each reply might very well be too onerous.

If what you want to is read through JMGs replies and then look up only the comments that elicited the replies you find most interesting (or something close to that), there is another tool that can help reduce the necessary scrolling and parsing. That is the text search field or dialog box in your browser, that searches for matching text on the current page. (Not to be confused with any Web search function that searches for different pages.) Control-F will usually jump directly to that field or dialog. JMG references each commenter by name in each reply, so search that name to find the comment being replied to. Control-G to jump to the next match, for common names, or when there are multiple back and forth exchanges with the same commenter.

I'd say, to the credit of the frequent commenters here, that if you're not reading all the comments you're missing a lot. Some of the most interesting ones might have only something like "I agree" or "Thanks for the link" as JMG's reply. (But we're all post Peak Time in our own lives, so such choices must be made.)

@JMG: It seems about 1 in 1000 Americans remember any of Al Stewart's songs beyond the 70's top-40 singles (especially "Year of the Cat"), so naturally you're one of them... that probably means you also know his extensive ongoing ("post Peak Al"?) work, but just in case, I can almost guarantee you'd appreciate his Between the Wars (1995 album) among many others.

idiotgrrl said...

Resilient communities - you might find this amusing.

NPR's Bioneers program had a segment on resilient communities, a subject that interests me greatly, so I put my ears on and listened.

The first statement was that the secret is, we are all one, we are interconnected, the secret is total acceptance, is Beloved Communities ... and then they had a couple of Native spokespersons, one an Aleut and one from Mexico. The Aleut spoke lovingly of how when he was little the adults in his village all affirmed his as he went by ... as if either this was rare, or as if he'd gulped down the Self-Esteem culture* whole. The Mexican woman started in on the same sort of green mush with artificial sweetening.

Somewhere in there it popped into my mind that the most resilient culture known to the West was also the most argumentative one on the face of the planet. People who would argue with, and even ream out, The Almighty. Sharp debaters and sharp in every way. Tight with family and tribe-as-a-whole, given to lots of quarreling internally. Lasting through ups and downs that would kill most cultures and have killed many. And there is no green mush about them, either, despite the fact that they've produced huge numbers of our Idealist types in this age.

I'm studying their literature right now, including a prolonged, dry-slapstick Jewish joke about the worst prophet in the world and a giant fish. Great God, Jonah was such a schlemiel.

Anyway -- ! Makes NPR's idea sound like a kindergarten teacher's notion of goodie-goodies.

Edward said...


I know it's Wednesday evening and the new post will be coming out, but I have a way to manage your issue. It drove me nuts also until I figured it out.

Assuming that you're using a windows computer, open your browser twice in two separate windows. Navigate both of them to the Archdruid report and to the comments. Squish the windows down narrow so both can appear side-by-side. Use one of them to scroll down the comments,and use the other to scroll down the corresponding replies. JMG is usually very scrupulous about answering each and every comment (unless they're addressed to another commenter.)

That way you can go from comment to reply without scrolling up and down constantly.

carlgombrich said...

JMG - thanks for this lovely post. I'm sorry you didn't get to speak on what you had prepared at ASPO, but I hope at least you had the ears of some who can make a difference and implement your ideas.

There is a gentle melancholy bearishness to this post which appeals to...well, us melancholy bears!

As you know, I find your vision convincing and am drawn by its logic. But it is a melancholy vision (at least to many of us who do not relish working the land and doing craft work in quite the way you do). And so, as a pick-me-up, I will continue to follow our young entrepreneurs (resembling, perhaps, your Washington roommate), brimming with confidence and focussed on biotech innovation, green energy, 3-D engineering and all the other wonders that the 3rd industrial revolution may bring.

You many be right; they may be right. It may only take our human race to climb one more 'potential hill' to find we can release abundant energy on the other side. This would then give us, say, another 300 years of energy, after which - I would say - all bets are off in any case.

All best,


Jan Hendrik said...

Basically what you are saying is; a growing fraction is going to friction...