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We're at the end of economic growth as we know it.  Not everyone has realized this yet, but it has arrived nevertheless.

In past weeks I discussed why this is the case - a combination of hitting a variety of hard geological and ecological limits.  Particularly, we have reached or are near (depending on how you calculate it) the peak of oil production and alternative energy cannot substitute for oil in an effective or timely fashion.

The consequences of hitting these limits are huge.  As I remember someone saying - this is one of those rare topics where the more you learn about it, the worse the news gets.  I'm going to talk about those pieces of bad news, but mainly my goal is discuss what we do about it - what's an intelligent response to the predicament we face?  It'll take many weeks and many diaries to fully flesh this out, so I'll only begin to explore our responses in this diary, and it's going to be a learning experience for me as well.

How does oil impact our economy?

As the foundation of oil upon which we've built our industrial system crumbles, we will face direct economic impacts.  Hirsch, whose 2005 study for the Department of Energy on the peaking of world oil production is still the gold standard, conducted further studies to try to understand how oil connects to GDP.  He concluded that there's a 1-to-1 relationship: for every 1% oil production declines, world GDP declines 1%.

How much does he expect world oil production to decline?  Here's what he says:

Best Case Scenario: Maximum world oil production is followed by a period of relatively flat production (a plateau) before the onset of a decline rate of 2–5% per year.

The trend break happened in 2005, when global oil production stopped increasing.  We've been on a plateau of sorts since then.  While the graph above is technically about oil, it maps directly to the economy.

This indicates that in the best case scenario we should expect a yearly 2-5% decline in world GDP.  As a point of reference, the Great Recession that we just experienced caused a US GDP drop of 4.1%.  That is, we'll be having the Great Recession nearly yearly.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, it's unlikely that this will result in a constant, smooth decline.  Instead, it seems likely we'll go through a number of stair-steps.

The economy on the down escalator

It's difficult to forecast with any certainty what we're going to go through.  The best way I've come to think of it is as having an oil ceiling:

In the past, say in the 1990s, when the economy grew, it grew no faster than oil production was increasing, so there was plenty of spare oil and the price didn't go up.  When it did grow faster than oil production, the economy bumped against that rising oil ceiling, choking off growth, contributing to a recession (during which oil use declined).  Once the economic recovery began, we started using more oil, but in the meantime oil production had continued going up, so there was plenty of room for the economy to not only make up for lost GDP due to the recession, but to grow to an all-new high point.

Now that oil production is flat and soon to be declining, what happens?  We hit our head on the oil ceiling, a recession ensues, and as we begin to recover, we quickly find ourselves hitting our heads on the oil ceiling because production is declining.  This has two consequences:

  • After a recession, the recovery that ensues will only be a partial recovery - that is, the economy won't recover to a better state than it was in before the recession
  • Recessions are likely to be more frequent (maybe on the order of every 3-5 years)

Even very data-oriented conventional looks at the economy are starting to realize this, even if they haven't discussed the root cause:

My biggest concern is that jobs and real household income will not even make it back to their pre-great-recession levels before the next one hits.

There are a lot of other consequences to this that I'll try to write about in future diaries.  (For example: what happens when the financial derivatives bubble eventually pops again and governments are unwilling or unable to bail the banks out?  What happens when countries try to start crash programs to make biofuels to substitute for oil?)

Where do we go from here?

This situation is bad.  There's no easier way to say it.  But it isn't the end of the world, just the end of a fairly temporary lifestyle that we've had in the industrialized world since the middle of the 20th century.

There are many specific responses, but the most important one, to quote Dmitry Orlov (whose writings on this are very interesting, though a bit dire):
If you're going to fall out of a window, it's better to be on the ground floor.

This holds true for whole economies as it does for individuals.  One of the best responses to peak oil is for us to collectively decrease our oil consumption by faster than the rate of decline in production, so we never hit our heads on the ceiling and can have a managed descent.

Another way of looking at it is that if you decrease your personal expenses at greater than the rate of oil depletion - say a minimum of 6% per year - then you'll be ahead of the curve.

The topics that we need to explore for this new paradigm are varied but all important: transportation, finance, food, shelter, work, leisure, community, etc.  In future weeks I plan on writing more on each.

Until next time...

Originally posted to barath on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Amateur Left and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Doom! Gloom! (0+ / 0-)

      We're all gonna die!

      Meet me in five or ten years. We'll see if the damage is anywhere close to what you say...

      Try looking at things another way.

      by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:02:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I never said any of that... (8+ / 0-)

        You might re-read the diary.

      •  compared to life in the mid 20th century.... (8+ / 0-)

        ..... the shit has already been hitting the fan on all fronts.  

        And you sound like a frog in a pot on the stove saying "talk to me about it if the water boils."

        •  No it's not (0+ / 0-)

          Things are not significantly different in the mid 20th century. We produce more, we consume more. We're also much more efficient.

          I'm saying talk to me about it if the water boils because the diarist is talking about the end of economic growth - which is really quite crazy.

          Try looking at things another way.

          by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 08:38:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, if you read the diary ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ... "We're at the end of economic growth as we know it."

            The end, in a word, of economic growth through increasing material consumption per person. That was built on growing fossil fuel consumption per person, first coal, then oil, over the past roughly 200 years.

            And now that's over. So if there is going to be economic growth, it will have to be of a form distinct from what we have been doing for the past 200 years.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:30:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Or we'll wait around until (0+ / 0-)

              another cheap energy source is discovered, or as we increase the fixed costs that provide ever increasing renewable energy. There's an equilibrium and we go above it and below it from time to time.

              Try looking at things another way.

              by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:42:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  This is not an equilibrium process. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                A fire is not an equilibrium process, it is the consumption of a thermodynamically far from entropy fuel returning it to a closer to entropy state. And once the fuel is consumed, the fire goes out.

                Our economic growth has been far more like a fire than like an equilibrium.

                Indeed, the notion that we can just "wait around until a cheap energy source is found" ignores the basis equation of sustainability:

                sustainable + unsustainable = unsustainable.

                That is, we need sustainable energy sources, and sustainable ecosystem impacts, and sustainable material consumption, in order to be sustainable. "Two out of three" is not a win, its just a choice of how we lose.

                Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                by BruceMcF on Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:46:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I mean, we live on a ball of mostly molten rock... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...that orbits a giant ball of fusion. There are energy sources around. The fire of human development represents a match being lit in a giant fireplace full of wood.

                  Try looking at things another way.

                  by atheistben on Mon May 23, 2011 at 07:12:33 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  And I mean ... (0+ / 0-)

                    ... big fat hairy deal if we come up with "cheap energy" while we are coping with an ecosystem collapse in the face of the mass extinction event we are causing, while at the same time are trying to cope with climate chaos caused by pretending that the energy sources we have been using are "cheap" energy.

                    The whole bundle of problems must be solved ~ and in reality, not in the hypothetical abstract, which means that the possibility of solutions that entrenched political power does not permit to be deployed does not actually pull our chestnuts out of the fire.

                    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                    by BruceMcF on Mon May 23, 2011 at 08:02:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  What an ignorant statement. (0+ / 0-)

        Was poised to HR but that stupidity needs to be here for all to behold.

        Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. - Norman Douglas

        by Fossil on Sun May 22, 2011 at 08:23:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, I'm the stupid one (0+ / 0-)

          thinking that economic growth will continue. I'm the stupid one who thinks global population won't be cut in half in 100 years. I'm the one who thinks the food supply isn't at a limit. Please.

          Try looking at things another way.

          by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 08:41:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  To quote your signature... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            truong son traveler, RJP9999
            Try looking at things another way.

            The argument in this diary is that:

            1. Our economy depends upon fossil fuels, particularly oil.

            2. Oil and fossil fuels are finite.

            3. In the production of all finite resources, production must reach a peak at some time.

            4. Discoveries must precede production.

            5. Discoveries of oil are well past their peak and current geological studies indicate we are near or at the peak of oil production.

            6. No alternatives can substitute for oil in scale, malleability, or cost.

            7. With the decline in oil production comes a direct negative impact on the economy.

            8. Until there's a crash program of the type the Hirsch report describes (which we cannot properly start now given the time lag inherent in it), there's no way to get out of the negative economic impacts of oil decline.

            9. Therefore we're at the end of economic growth as we currently measure it.

      •  well... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, nchristine

        can we have a serious discussion about global resource depletion and its consequences, without the discussion degenerating into an argument about whether this thinking is Doom-&-Gloom-ism? The intent of the diarist is not to needlessly alarm or frighten readers, but an honest attempt to inform and to call for action.

        And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out. --DFW

        by klingman on Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:55:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Squeezing one last brawny recovery ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... out of the end growth entails the real physical investment required to establish a more sustainable basis for our economy.

      So long as those use our presently idle labor and equipment resources and are investments that reduce the material consumption of economic activity, they can navigate between the "rock and the hard place" of recession and resource price shock stagflation.

      However, its not sustainable in the sense of being able to be relied on indefinitely  ~ its more in the nature of a one-shot.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 22, 2011 at 07:03:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well There Are Two "We's" (39+ / 0-)

    Ownership and the masses.

    Ownership is sustaining its growth for some time to come by looting the masses. Since they began this 35 years ago, I have to conclude that they had the general picture back then.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:59:47 AM PDT

    •  Definitely (26+ / 0-)

      Greer argues that our decline actually began in 1974, when the first wave of outsourcing began and when we started squeezing the manufacturing base of America.  The "we" here is the ownership.

      But now even the rich won't be able stave off decline, because the limits are fundamental.  I really wonder what they're going to try to pull off to stay on top.

      •  what will they do to stay on top? (10+ / 0-)

        That's the part that scares me the most.  Electronic entertainments and telecommunications and easy transportation are the most vulnerable aspects of our society, but the technology existed for us to enjoy most of the rest of our current lifestyle in the pre-oil 19th Century, but it was the social structure that was the real cause for the hardships.

        What will the rich do to stay on top of a failing system?  Think North Korea: rule by terror, starvation rations, work camps, and pro-elite propaganda that'd make Ayn Rand blush.  They'll feed us just enough to keep us alive.  They'll work us harder then they ever have before.  They'll outright enslave or kill anyone who steps out of line.  They'll tell us this is the way God and the market (as if there were a difference) wants things to be.

      •  They'll need to pull nothing off. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassandra77, rmabelis, G2geek, damfino, cai

        They'll still be on top, just of a smaller hill.

        We'll be neck deep in shit instead of knee deep.  

        The Democrats set the Rules of the Senate. Don't like the President's nominee's being filibustered? Don't forget who could have kept it from happening. The Democrats. Why didn't they? They didn't want to.

        by Rick Aucoin on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:54:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Heh (0+ / 0-)

        Our decline...

        I assume you mean Americans. Because the rest of the world is coming along nicely. In fact, what is going on right now is just a rebalancing of labor. As new cheap labor is found in other countries, the economic status of those people improves - just like ours did over the last 100 years. And just like here, as their labor works, it demands a higher cut of the profits.

        Cheap labor will dry up on a global level at some point in the future and the rise in economic status that we first enjoyed and other countries later enjoyed will become a lot more equal between countries. It will balance and continue on. There's not going to be an end of the world over this...

        Try looking at things another way.

        by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:10:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  They're going to get old and die... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greengemini, RJP9999, nchristine, Cliss

        Someone on Dkos referred to the current situation as "smash and grab", and it really strikes me as apt. The rich don't care. They are hoarding their wealth and they'll die with it. The rest of us will live with the consequences, but the top 1% will remain untouchable and then they will be gone and it won't matter to them what kind of world they leave behind.

        Recall Rick Snyder!
        "Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes."

        by terra on Sun May 22, 2011 at 08:25:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  i've been saying that since Reagan: (8+ / 0-)

      "Trickle down" and "supply side" and all that crap were all about this:

      The oligarchy realized that we were about to hit the limits to growth and started redistributing the wealth upward.  

      When growth stops, it's all about distributional equity: who gets how big a slice of a pie that is not getting bigger.  

      Progressives are in denial of this the way the extreme right is in denial about climate change.  BTW, the climate denialism is all for show.  The oligarchs know what's up and they're making their plans.  Remember that huge Bush land purchase on top of the biggest aquifer in Paraguay?  Remember that the Bush land is right next to another huge chunk owned by Sun Myung Moon (keyword: moonies)?    


      And for a glimpse of the future the oligarchy is building right now, put together these three datapoints:

      1) The increasing attacks on education on all fronts.

      2) The rise of the private sector prison industry.

      3) The loophole in the 13th amendment, whereby slavery is forbidden except upon conviction of a crime.  

      Yes that's right, they don't need an educated electorate working real jobs: instead, they're creating a social darwinist minefield where those who make the wrong move end up as slaves, and it's all nice & legal.  

      Legal slavery will become the growth industry of the 21st century, soaking up the "surplus population" (look it up) who might otherwise be too demanding.  

      Here's one of the trigger points to look for:  Criminalization of default on consumer debt, by expansion of the fraud statutes, thereby creating a whole new class of "criminals" to enslave in the private prisons.  Mark my words.

  •  That chart at the end is interesting. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, alyosha, rmabelis, cai

    So you're forecasting a tremendous drop in human population as oil shortages drive down GDP?

    It is a do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

    by Timaeus on Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:03:06 AM PDT

    •  The chart is the Limits to Growth (19+ / 0-)

      It's from the classic study The Limits to Growth (the 30 year update).  They built an intracite model of the world and tried to simulate what would happen as we ran into resource and other limits.  The chart at the end is from their baseline (i.e. business as usual) scenario.

      As a result of food and energy scarcity, they anticipate that both there'll be a drop off in people having kids - as people see their economic circumstances get worse, they'll probably decide they can't afford kids - and sheer lack of food in some places.

      •  oops - intricate not intracite n/t. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jm214, cai
      •  Richard Manning on the Green Revolution (11+ / 0-)

        He pretty much nails why population will decrease.

        Those among us who live by subsistence farming (none of us here, actually) will be the ones who are successful after oil depletion.

      •  Out of curiosity, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        What is so bad about people deciding they can't afford kids? Although the question/statement are kinda rigged because it's not a decision if they truly can't afford them, it's really just that people would prefer other things than kids. And so what about that?

        And why in the world do you think there's going to be food scarcity? Do you have any idea how much food we have access to right now? We only spend 10% of our income on food. And we have an unbelievable level of variety between cheap and expensive foods. We can easily ramp up production by dedicating more resources to food. And yes, despite that the free market is seen as a boogeyman around here, people will choose to devote a higher percentage of their budgets to agriiculture and food if they start starving.

        Really, let's try to have some connection to reality here. There's not going to be any food shortage.

        Try looking at things another way.

        by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:25:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not food scarcity here, elsewhere. (6+ / 0-)

          There has been major food scarcity in other countries and it's been getting worse in recent years.  Consider the fact that the Arab Spring we're seeing started as food riots in Tunisia and Egypt.

          We just haven't seen it here so it's out of sight, out of mind.  Another part of the difficulty is that as we turn to biofuels, we push the price of agricultural commodities up, which inevitably pushes more poor people into starvation.

        •  back in the late 70s there was an article.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          .... in the NY Times Sunday real estate section, where the author was saying "why are we only spending 25% of our income (single earner at the time) on housing?"   Yeah, there was a lot more room for real estate prices to grow!  And how'd that work out?

          So here you go again, saying we "only" spend 10% of our income on food.  

          How'bout 30%?  Like in parts of the world where lots of people are starving?   You like that?  

          Or do you still believe in magical growth?  

          Strange kind of faith for someone who calls himself an atheist.

          •  Well, the housing issue wasn't about (0+ / 0-)

            how much of our money we could spend on housing. It was about inaccurate estimation of risk, and it was about a system with bad incentives.

            And higher spending levels on food are not difficult. Throughout most of history, food prices have been much higher. We'll adjust. It will mean fewer cars, denser populations, etc. There is an equilibrium here, and to think that we could get to the point anytime in the next 100 years where supply simply can't meet demand is ridiculous.

            Try looking at things another way.

            by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:11:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  If you are put in the position... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          you say

          "What is so bad about people deciding they can't afford kids?"

          to which i ask:
          If a person is put in the position where they realize they are unable to do something, how much of a "decision" is it?

          The issue is freedom of decision. People who can't afford to have kids don't have the freedom to have kids if they so choose.

          •  Well, that's kinda my point (0+ / 0-)

            Barath phrased it in a way where it was both a decision and a necessity that people not have kids. And I just wanted to point out that it can't be both.

            Also, that if it is a decision, what's the big deal?

            Try looking at things another way.

            by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:25:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think it can be both... (0+ / 0-)

              Things of this sort are generally a shade of gray, not black and white.  Maybe some people will want to have kids and know it will make their lives financially difficult, but will make it work regardless because it's important to them.  Others might weight the pros and cons and decide against it.  Depending on their financial circumstances and the situation around them there may be overwhelming financial costs to having kids, or maybe not.

      •  yep, I recognized the curves from... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, truong son traveler

        .... their resemblance to the original Limits to Growth which I read when I was 16.

        But the decline in birth rates due to people not being able to afford kids is only one part of the overall population decline.  The rest will be due to dieoffs:  starvation, pandemics, resource wars.  

        •  Don't forget forced (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nchristine, zett

          sterilization as government policy. China has about five times the population of the USA but has roughly 10 times the number of abortions due to its One-Child policy. The good Fundamentlist Christian Walmart shoppers ironically are doing more to foster abortions with their wallet then they can ever dream about stopping through the ballot box and mandatory abortions at that rather than elective. And America suffers from this bat shit crazy thinking or should I say non-thinking. And it stands on its head the reason why "a little bit of education is a dangerous thing".

          Only in America! - Don King.

          by nomorerepukes on Sun May 22, 2011 at 07:08:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  forced sterilization and abortions.... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PeterHug, greengemini

            .... are downright kind in comparison to what happens if we keep doing nothing.  

            And in the end, appealing to anti-abortion sentiment to get people to stop shopping at WalMart is counterproductive: it provides positive reinforcement to rightwinger anti-abortion memes.  

  •  So, in a nutshell we need to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, Timaeus, jm214, rmabelis

    get population more in line with food and resources?

    "Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you might still exist, but you have ceased to live." Mark Twain

    by Void Indigo on Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:58:44 AM PDT

    •  Yes, eventually. (14+ / 0-)

      But in the short term we can't really change population, so consumption is where we have the most leverage.

      There's the classic formula:

      Human impact = Population x Affluence x Technology

      Affluence is really consumption, and it's the easiest thing to decrease.  And the (maybe) good news is that it doesn't require selling people on an intangible good thing (i.e. the environment is worth protecting) but rather a tangible good thing (i.e. their paycheck isn't going as far as it used to so it's probably a good idea to waste less and consume less).

      •  That's what the effect of this recession has been (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jm214, G2geek

        Resources are limited, so consumption is the first thing to get cut.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun May 22, 2011 at 12:01:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Overpopulation is the direst (7+ / 0-)

        problem facing mankind. It means the 6th greatest extinction in planetary history.

        It is a direr problem at present than climate change.

        It may be temporarily insurmountable but so are all our problems. None of which were dealt with two generations ago.

        I notice that many recommends are given to the person who has a good answer, with hardly any given to the person who asks the right question. That is backwards to me; without that question, the good answer might never have come.

        by Nulwee on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:07:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  in agreement... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          It is a direr problem at present than climate change

          That is a bold statement that will come as a slap to the face of some people in this community who suffer from tunnel vision on ecological affairs, but one that I agree with and think should be repeated (albeit with the syntax "more dire" rather than "direr")

          however, with some humor I have to point out the fallacy of the following statement:

          It may be temporarily insurmountable

          The problem of overpopulation is easily surmountable, people will die.  Preventing the problems that come with that would have been the real accomplishment.
    •  Or grow food and resources (0+ / 0-)

      Well, technically, we don't need to grow food. We have enough now, and our income levels are completely within a range that they can absorb increased food costs.

      Try looking at things another way.

      by atheistben on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:27:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  which happens in two ways. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, RJP9999

      One, voluntarily, via birth control and family planning.

      Two, via Ma Nature cleaning house: starvation, pandemics, resource wars.  

  •  I think that we can do better, if... (20+ / 0-)

    the human race realizes the problem and start to act cooperatively.  For instance, the world must give full civil rights and control of their own reproduction to all women, both because it is the right thing to do morally and because it is the most important step in stopping population growth.  I can think of many other possible things that should be looked at.  But I am pessimistic that the societies of the world will take these steps.  The most important step of all is to realize we have long term fundamental problems and need to start looking for solutions.

    The most frightening thing to me is the total lack of debate about the long term fundamental problems among politicians or anyone else in a position to do anything about it.  The average voter knows something is wrong but has no idea what to do about it.  Neither does anyone else, so the lack of discussion is both surprising and dismaying.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sun May 22, 2011 at 11:00:39 AM PDT

    •  Our timeline has shortened (17+ / 0-)

      In two ways.

      First, in the way you describe - that collective response to these challenges would have a significant impact, but it's too late for the most part to prevent the crises.  (That doesn't mean it isn't worth taking action anyway.)

      And in the second is that the timeframe that we look ahead and plan for the future has gotten shorter and shorter.  In the sixties I think people were looking ahead to the end of the century, in the seventies maybe twenty years ahead, in the eighties and nineties at most 5-10 years ahead, and nowadays we're lucky if we're discussing the future past the next election.

      I really do wonder what fraction of the population is aware of the issues we're discussing here.

      •  A very small fraction are aware - Many out there (7+ / 0-)

        have a vested interest in denying that there is and will continue to be "An Oil Shortage"  They say things like:
        "There's enough oil out in Colorado right now to power
        the earth for the next 500 years, but Obama just won't let em drill."  They hear bullshit like this on right wing radio.
        Then, there are "the Rapture is at hand folks" who are so wrapped up in the next life that they worry not for this Earth.  It was created for them to have dominion over.  It doesn't matter how fucked up they leave it -
        Not their problem.

        Let's face it, this is a really depressing subject.
        Its hard to get people to focus on mass starvation,
        societal breakdown, and extinction.  They'd rather
        question Obama's birth certificate or pontificate about
        Paul Ryan's courageous plan to stab the majority of us in the gut.
        There seem to be so many more Me's than We's.
        What "We" desperately need is a lot more "We mentality-
        If we're going to survive and find solutions. .......

        United we stand - Divided we are all truly screwed. Keep them blaming one another - they'll never notice what's really going on.

        by Cassandra77 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 04:09:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Check out Advertising and the End of the World. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, RJP9999

        It's a documentary by the Media Education Foundation:

        full preview here.

        It's not new, and the graphics weren't high-tech at the time.  But it talks about how advertising encourages us to think and act in the short-term, rather than the long-term... and how this will have disastrous consequences for the planet.

    •  well said (11+ / 0-)
      The most frightening thing to me is the total lack of debate about the long term fundamental problems among politicians or anyone else in a position to do anything about it.

      It really is worrisome. You know we are headed toward problems but no one wants to talk about it - not sure if they even understand or if they have a plan.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Sun May 22, 2011 at 11:17:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It could be profound denial (10+ / 0-)

        To cite Greer again, it could be that we resolve the cognitive dissonance of the 1970s energy crises by denying the problem and going full steam in the other direction.

        He had a an interesting three part take on this recently [one, two, three].

        •  Those links to Greer are very interesting. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          barath, JanL, Margfh, G2geek

          I'd never read him before, but I've bookmarked his blog.  He is a very good writer.

          It is a do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

          by Timaeus on Sun May 22, 2011 at 12:02:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Not denial, just evil, greed, self-pleasing on (5+ / 0-)

          the part of "the leadership," aka the Kleptocracy. These people know the fundamental truth that there are no consequences TO THEM for all you describe here and what will appear in your other diaries. They know that "IBG-YBG" says all they need to know, ethically, spiritually, and morally -- "I'll be gone, and you'll be gone," so like the soulless bastards in Wall Street and K Street and the other halls of power, they will maximize their personal pleasures at the deathly expense of the rest of us, who are too uneducated and/or too stupid to act rationally and collectively to keep the species including themselves and their children alive.

          "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

          by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 01:51:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  They are afraid to take the lead... (7+ / 0-)

        This problem has been with us a long time.   In the early to late 70s it was discussed and written about.

        The path of least resistence was paved with the inovations in agriculture to produce more.   Humans forget and get off track easily.

        We went from lines at the gas pumps to larger and larger SUVs.  I have always thought it was a strange thing.  Let the good times roll and don't worry about tomorrow.  Well, tomorrow is here.

        I am happy to see this being discussed, and feel finally someone is asking questions that will help solve the problems in  the best way as we move forward.  

        We need young people who take the time to realize what is goning on.  Solutions will not be easy.  These are big problems.   I am so happy to see a beginning.

  •  Thanks for bringing this up, B. (15+ / 0-)

    One of the most infuriating things about the L-o-n-g slide is that the government folks, the policy makers, they all KNEW what was coming.  And they did nothing.  Even worse, they encouraged everyone to go out and have One Last Fling.  Go buy 2 trillion more Hummers, really BURN through the gas.  Lower the interest rates so housing becomes a gigantic bubble which bursts leaving millions of families without a home.  

    These people are not ignorant.  Wiki leaks showed us that.  In fact, they had access to the best information money can buy.  A lot of it.

    Instead of preparing people, they just kept the illusion going.  One last heist.   The really sad and frustrating part about this is, people very clearly understand that we're in trouble.  But that's about it.  If we could just start planning ahead, there are hundreds if not thousands of things we could do to start preparing.

    This is a wealthy country.  There is still immense wealth, in terms of natural resources.  If we could just start preparing, things would be a lot easier.

    A very good Diary, well-written.

    •  Thanks. (10+ / 0-)

      One of things I have the hardest time writing about on this topic is that some of those very people you describe as knowing what's coming and not doing anything are progressive and/or liberal and/or Democrats.  I just think about the boom years under Clinton, when instead of taking the wealth that was being generated to decrease use of fossil fuels, move to a more sustainable economy, etc. we went the other way.  (The trend really started with Reagan, but hasn't changed since.)

      Since Carter's time there's been awareness of these issues in Washington, but also since then there's been a fear of doing anything about it because the truth is unpalatable.  Which is why on this most critical issue Democrats and Republicans are in agreement: growth is good, no growth is bad, and we need to find a way to make the economy grow.  While their prescriptions are very different - and when I have to choose the Dem strategy is far better - they still both miss the point.

    •  Those folks you talk about ARE preparing. To (4+ / 0-)

      maximize their "take" from the Last Big Gasp. Their catch phrase is good old "IBG-YBG." Every day in every way, they are getting wealthier and wealthier.

      Humans are a fried, failed species -- we are collectively too smart when it comes to self-pleasing, and complete failures when it comes to self-policing. Our bodies have finely tuned homeostatic mechanisms that keep us alive and healthy. Our souls have no such facility. There are NO negative feedback loops at any useful scale (short of decimation of the species) to control the Cult of Growth and the Litany of Sacred Perpetually Increasing Consumption.

      Locusts have a similar life arc, with at least the ability to shed eggs with finely developed covers that let the pests survive the droughts and starvation that follow their paths.

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:04:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is a little depressing, no? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have to go to a science news site to find the good news of our progress towards a sustainable future to counteract the effect on my spirits that the political news causes. On my bad days, I think there is a fundamental flaw in the human brain. On my good days, I take hope in the children's' lawsuit against the government for its' failure to protect their future.

  •  Denmark (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, JanL, Cliss, Sunspots, G2geek

    is on the ground floor and looks like they are not planning on falling out the window...

    Antemedius | Liberally Critical Thinking

    by Edger on Sun May 22, 2011 at 11:34:48 AM PDT

  •  We really are in trouble (10+ / 0-)

    Ugo Bardi gave a fascinating talk on peak oil and the fallacy of continuous growth throughout history.  You can read it here.

  •  We're in trouble because we were robbed (7+ / 0-)

    and the evil rich don't want just most but everything. We are fighting over the moldy crumbs. There is plenty.

    Evil in America brought to us by the people who didn't vote and the people who were misled.

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Sun May 22, 2011 at 01:09:30 PM PDT

    •  "We have met the enemy and they is US." Each of (8+ / 0-)

      "us" needs to look at our own consumptive, consuming behaviors. Vote or not, it does not matter if you eat at McDonalds', "shop" at Walmart and Macy's and all those glib catalog stores, burn fossil fuels to run your cursed "yard blowers" to shoot the offal from your suburban manse onto your neighbors' lawns or into the public streets, spray pesticides, leave the water erunning while you brush your teeth, leave all the lights on "because it doesn't matter all that much." Etc. It's a revolting, additive process, and unless you grow your own food, live in a yurt, and eschew all the "modern conveniences and (sic) necessities," you (and I) are just part of the death spiral problem.

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:09:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Peak Oil is scary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cliss, PeterHug

    and it should be. There aren't enough answers for the world at the moment. The UN estimates of 9 billion people in 2050 with a leveling of population afterwards were incorrect and optimistic. We are now projected to number 10 billion by the end of the century.

    But we can feel confident in taking action now.

    I notice that many recommends are given to the person who has a good answer, with hardly any given to the person who asks the right question. That is backwards to me; without that question, the good answer might never have come.

    by Nulwee on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:06:14 PM PDT

  •  And maybe it's just early in the day, but isn't it (8+ / 0-)

    interesting that the gossip diaries and the stuff about Israel and Guns and LGBT and other little corners of "progressive" interest draw huge participation but this subject, which is about, get it, SURVIVAL OF THE FREAKIN' SPECIES, draws a couple of dozen.

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:12:54 PM PDT

    •  I've been reading.... But, had much more (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      important things going on.... Tornado 15 miles to the south of me... all has basically quieted down to heavy thunderstorms.

      •  May the Great Spirit keep you and your family safe (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cliss, G2geek, ladybug53

        from harm.

        The world becomes an increasingly dangerous place as humans keep messing with it, and too few of us are doing or trying to do what's needed to keep the rest of us alive, the "rest" being very busy going about the business of increasing their "share" of everything without an Eloi's mindless glance at what's really going on.

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:28:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It sounds like mainly minor property damage. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jm214, G2geek, PeterHug

          You know, siding beaten to a pulp by 2 inch hail, holes in roofs from same, maybe an old barn and/or shed blown over.  That's just around here.  A highway at the Iowa/Minnesota border (around Howard Co) has been closed due to tornado damage.  It's sounding like northern parts of Minneapolis took the worst of it this afternoon.

          I agree, there is much that 'we' can do to minimize the impact of coming years.  Unfortunately, it appears that everything has to fit into a 30 second sound bite in order to get any attention.  There is no political will to make any of the necessary changes and the ones that want to 'help' in making plans and appropriate changes are being scoffed as loony-toons.  When the shit really hits the fan..... the 'deniers' are all going to whine about nothing having been done.  There are way too many that are voting for people who has no interest in helping make necessary changes.

          My dad is very happy about the fact that his eldest granddaughter is being taught how to use a rifle and shotgun by her stepdad.  She's turning twelve this year and will be getting her own shotgun for her birthday.  She also has a black belt in martial arts and will be testing for 2nd degree black this fall.  The youngest is also in martial arts.  They'll be able to defend themselves, but have no clue on how to sew, or cook, or garden, etc....  They're still young enough though that they can learn.

          •  It's all about priorities, isn't it? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nchristine, G2geek, PeterHug

            "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

            by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:53:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  effective self-defense skills.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              PeterHug, cai

              .... provide the discipline and confidence to learn other skills that are needed for community resilience.

              •  Yeah, too bad those "self defense skills" translat (0+ / 0-)

                e so easily into "effective road rage" and beating up people in bars and pounding the crap out of your wife and/or kids and all the rest. "Community resilience?" What kind of stuff do YOU drink? I wonder how well Our Troops We Support, with all their "effective training," will do in encouraging "community resilience" when (if) they ever are  Brought Home?

                But then I happen to like guns, and know that the Kung Fu Wizard who brings his "effective skills" to a gunfight is going to come up short. I gotta say, on small acquaintance, that you are a person I would not like to spend a lot of time with. And I am sure you reciprocate.

                "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

                by jm214 on Sun May 22, 2011 at 06:50:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The martial arts training has given eldest niece (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek, PeterHug, cai

                  a whole bunch of self confidence.  You'd never know she's been trained watching and talking with her.  She does not talk about it at all.  The aunts and uncles have to pull it out of her.  But, she is definitely sure of herself.

                  If a person has only the martial arts training and not the other social 'training' then yeah, they're the ones that go off in the bars, etc.  The niece is being taught proper behavior.  Not only by the family, schools, church, but also by her martial arts instructor.

                  You are correct in that knowing martial arts is useless when the other party comes with a gun.

                •  dude, check your pot for pesticides. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Whatever you're smoking this evening is making you say crazy shit.

                  Martial arts for girls >> road rage? bar fights? spouse & child abuse?   Huh?

                  NChristine, you, and I all agree about firearms.  So where did the rest of your wild rant come from?   After a rant like that, your conclusion is correct: I don't need that kind of vibe anywhere near my community.  Not that I was thinking of you as a prospective member: it takes a while for people to make that list.

    •  Quite honestly... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine, Cliss

      ...this is because most of the people who would participate in the discussion, other than to echo the presented talking points, have been driven elsewhere. Not so with the other issues.

  •  this diary belongs on Jeff Rense's site (9+ / 0-)

    in every desperate situation lies the seeds of breakthroughs in new ways of thinking, doing, being.

    We CAN switch in a few years to electric cars; the problem is not technology it is will.

    We CAN reignite the economic engine by imposing a flat 28% income tax on ALL income, exempting the 1st $75k, a 10% corporate tax on US operations, 20% on outside operations, making SS and Medicare tax apply to ALL income while cutting the tax rate to 3.8% and keeping the Medicare tax at 1.45% though allowing workers to donate higher to qualify for Medicare earlier.

    other things too numerous to mention.

    My best guess was a reflection that did not look back, an image lost in every mirror.

    by Zacapoet on Sun May 22, 2011 at 02:23:00 PM PDT

    •  It might no be that easy (5+ / 0-)

      But it would be a lot better than what we have now.

      The ruling class, of course, has no interest in such things.

      Utterly dependent Serfs are so much easier to deal with.

      The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. -

      by No one gets out alive on Sun May 22, 2011 at 03:01:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Er (6+ / 0-)

      We CAN switch in a few years to electric cars; the problem is not technology it is will.

      Well, kinda. The economics for this are still staggering, because there's a LOT of infrastructure to be built, specifically recharging stations and the power generation, and transmission, to power those stations. Right now almost none of that exists, and so the only consumers with the optimal infrastructure are single-family home owners who have a garage.

      Back of the envelope, we need to double our electric generation capacity to convert our vehicle fleet to electric. Not all of that can come from solar and wind energy. We're going to have to burn a lot of coal and natural gas to make it work, too, and that won't be cheap in 2050.

      •  A better solution (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, martinjedlicka, G2geek, Alumbrados

        In fact, what will happen, is that most car and car-support infrastructure is going to go away no matter what crazy schemes people try to keep it going.

        Let's just hope we'll still be able to run trucks, rail, ambulances, etc in some fashion.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun May 22, 2011 at 04:54:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  about that coal and natural gas: (0+ / 0-)

        If we do that, we're toast, via climate change.

        Whatever we can't get from renewables, we have to get from nuclear.   New-generation reactors are melt-proof, and the waste can be reprocessed into new fuel.  Also look up thorium fission.  

    •  No idea who that is... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But looking him up, he sounds kind of out there.

      The stuff I'm writing about is based on the studies by serious geologists (see my last diary for links to that stuff).  This is sort of where climate science was twenty years ago, where nobody except a handful of atmospheric scientists knew what the data was showing.

      Also, your solutions sound great, except that I've never seen a practical way of making them happen.

  •  Not all growth is benign nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Perpetrual growth as an economic streategy (7+ / 0-)

    is nothing but a Ponzi scheme.  We need to learn to become sustainable as a culture.  Our strategy needs to be one of equilibrium, where the proceeds are distributed equitably.  

  •  excellent coverage (6+ / 0-)

    I became aware of this issue just about four years ago. Pretty much every minute of my time has been spent on remediation efforts since then.

       People do not understand that once they get knocked off that consumer bandwagon they are not likely to get back on.

  •  Thanks for this diary. It's pretty gloomy stuff (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Al Fondy, tacet, LLPete

    Starting with Malthus and continuing with Lovelock, Ehrlich, Jensen and Eisenstein.  It's the secular version of the End of Days and basically nobody wants to consider it because it's so bloody depressing.  

    The more I read about this topic the more of a nihilist I became because our brilliant technological solutions are backfiring already, take nuclear power or burning corn in your gas tank.  It seems like this is where our powers of rationality just turn back on itself, as we try to use science to solve the problems science has brought us.   Still, every day we make the choice to live a brightly burning life, where today's fossil fueled comfort bring us all closer to tomorrow's dark and cold suffering.  

    Then I turned a corner one day and realized that there's a strange beauty to the prospect of humanity's oblivion.  Everything has to end sometime and perhaps man's demise due to the exhaustion of the planet is an order of magnitude for the mortality that faces us all.   Perhaps it's the most we can do to live our lives as ethically as possible and appreciate the time we have here with each other.   Hope that mankind's dwindling is marked by kindness and grace, rather than cruelty and barbarism.

    Or one could become a doomer and stockpile bullets and Krugerrands in preparation for some Mad Max future.  That's too much raging against the dying light for my taste.

    "Welcome to Costco, I love you" -- Greetings from "Idiocracy"

    by martinjedlicka on Sun May 22, 2011 at 04:49:49 PM PDT

  •  the real problem we face is our (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Churchill, cai

    corrupt political system, which prevents from taking any remedial steps.

  •  Its not quite so doom and gloom (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RosyFinch, barath, foresterbob

    yes, the world will change, but I'm not sure it will be for the worst.

    We have plenty of capability to grow food.  The issue comes from energy consumption.  Globalization will naturally reverse itself, the world will become more local.  We will be able to harness wind, solar, etc to create enough power to maintain a decent standard of living.

    But everyone having a car?  Widespread plane use?  Manfacture of personal electronics?  Pineapples and bananas being transported all over the globe?  All will decline greatly.

    But, with the decrease in technology, people will have to pick up the slack with agricultural labor, as more and more food needs to be produced locally.  Places like Las Vegas and Phoenix that have nothing to offer from this standpoint will become ghost towns as people begin to repopulate the rust belt.  

    People will survive.  We might just have to go back to taking trains and reading books and stuff.  Not having the excesses that we have enjoyed.  But life will still be good.

    (Makes me glad my state isn't one of the idiot states that rejected high speed rail funds.  All those roads in Florida and Wisconsin will be mighty useful when few people have cars)

    My state is better than yours.

    by Keep Oregon Blue on Sun May 22, 2011 at 06:34:52 PM PDT

    •  wildly optimistic if you think (0+ / 0-)

      that future will occur peacefully.

      Not saying I buy peak oil, but if its true we are in for a horrific correction we're talking billions - if the numbers are correct - of people who will starve or die fighting to survive.

      A global economy without petroleum can not support 5 billion people let alone 8 or 9.

      •  I buy peak oil (0+ / 0-)

        but I think you're wildly pessimistic if you think billions will starve without it.

        We produce a lot of useless crap that can go before we have to touch food production, as well as plenty of land to produce more food, and do so locally.  After all, what do you think is going to happen to all those big box parking lots in the days after cars?  

        My state is better than yours.

        by Keep Oregon Blue on Sun May 22, 2011 at 07:57:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  and where will all that agricultural labor.... (0+ / 0-)

      .... come from?

      The private sector prison industry, reviving slavery via the loophole in the 13th Amendment:  slavery is legal "upon conviction of a crime."  

      Nice, huh?

      •  again, wildly pessimistic (0+ / 0-)

        if we don't have the energy for everyone to have white collar jobs, it goes without saying that people will need to pick up work somewhere.  The agricultural sector should be booming.  And I could easily envision a scenario where those are community based jobs as shipping produce all across the country no longer becomes feasible.

        Peak oil has happened or will soon.  We will not be able to enjoy the excess that we have for the last century.  But I'm not buying that all will be plague and pestilence without petroleum.

        My state is better than yours.

        by Keep Oregon Blue on Sun May 22, 2011 at 08:00:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  were forecasts in 2006 about the.... (0+ / 0-)

          .... looming economic crash, unduly pessimistic?  

          Sure they were.  

          Right up to 18 September 2008 when the economic shit hit the fan.

          Private prisons are a growth industry.  How do you think they're going to keep trying to grow?  

    •  I actually agree... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, cai, truong son traveler

      One thing I find that's odd when I write about or speak about this subject is that about a third think I'm being overly pessimistic (and argue that I'm spreading doom and gloom, when I'm really not) and another third think I'm being overly optimistic (and argue that things will decline rapidly and we'll have widespread famine, etc.).  I'm not really in either camp, and for the most part I agree with you.

      Life will still be good, but just very different.  However, that's probably after some hard years of adjustment.

  •  yeah, the ground floor comment (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RosyFinch, barath, cai, RJP9999

    exactly right. Even more ground floor than reducing oil, dig up your lawn and plant food, keep bees in your backyard, and support your local farmers. Your gonna depend on them soon enough.

  •  So how come the MSM pushes population growth? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Perhaps if the mainstream media would scare the living hell out everyone about the obvious, people might decide to quit reproducing for a while.

    This would give the USA and the world some chance to cope with the impending hardships.  As it is the mainstream media is cheerleading us into a horrible calamity that will not be pretty for anybody including the suits on Madison Avenue.

  •  Peak water is a bigger issue. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, cai, nchristine, Cliss

    For all the seriousness of peak oil, peak water will hit us first.  There are at least substitutes for oil, even if, as shown is this posting, they are inadequate.

    There is not any substitute for water. Without water there is no food. All around the world groundwater reservoirs are being depleted. We are already seeing rising food prices, which are an irritant for most of us readers, but are a disaster for billions of poorer people.  

  •  disturbed by the hyperbole and innaccuracies (0+ / 0-)

    The diary has a lot of good information, but I was immediately turned off by your title and have issues with aspects of your presentation.

    What you are describing is not the "end of economic growth"- it's the end of "fossil-fuel based economy". There will be economic growth after oil. Whether it will be enough to keep 6 billion people fed remains to be seen. (definitely looks improbable from where we are at right now.)

    This type of hyperbole made me doubt the value of reading the diary, fortunately i did because your tidbit about:

    He concluded that there's a 1-to-1 relationship: for every 1% oil production declines, world GDP declines 1%.

    to be very important and more people should be made aware of that fact. (although it should also be noted that the 1to1 relationship will change as the situation progresses)

    •  I'm curious... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And I don't mean this to be confrontational - what are the specific inaccuracies that you noticed?

      Also, since the economy is fossil-fuel based and since our current metric for whether the economy is growing is GDP and since oil is tightly coupled with GDP, it seems we are at the limits to growth.

  •  Are you familiar with Transition Towns? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, Alumbrados

    The idea is, we're gonna have to re-localize.  Assuming that, what are our strengths, both as individuals, and as a community? How can we improve our readiness to be as locally self-sufficient as possible?

    I like the Transition Towns idea because they take a positive, active approach.  (And, it's not an individualist, survivalist approach.)

    •  Actually just came back from it... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cai, Alumbrados

      from a talk at the local transition town group.  It's definitely an interesting approach.

      •  Personally, I feel it beats trying to defend my (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, Alumbrados

        subsistence farm with guns.  (And not just because I don't have a farm.)

        •  Yeah, I don't buy the survivalist stuff. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cai, Alumbrados, truong son traveler

          There was a (now hopefully dwindling) group of folks who thought that peak oil would cause some sort of catastrophic crash to a mad max like existence.  I never bought that, and wonder how much of that was driven by apocalyptic movies and books and end times fantasies.

          Community-based, localized responses are the way to go.  I do believe that the Transition Town approach is a good one.  Though I should say that I also believe that multiple simultaneous approaches is a good idea, because that has the greatest chance of success and also because different people have different personalities.  For example, Transition Towns are big into consensus-based decision-making, which can be good at times but cumbersome at others.  For those that just want to get their hands dirty in a garden or doing alternative energy work, they may not need to participate in the consensus-based process to make forward progress.

  •  I agree that we are at the end... (0+ / 0-)

    ...of economic growth in our consumer economy, but I disagree with your analysis of its cause. The problem is the rising inequality of wealth in our society. With over 80% of the economic wealth of the nation now in the hands of the richest ten percent of the population, the declining marginal propensity to consume associated with great wealth has kicked in with a vengeance. In simple terms the spending power needed to sustain the economy has been drained out of the system and placed in the hands of a relative few who have no need or desire to spend enough to spur economic growth. Until and unless we find a way (like taxation) to redistribute some of this stagnant accumulated wealth into the hands of the 90% of the population who would in fact spend it on goods and services, unemployment will remain high and little economic growth will occur.

    To see the data go to

    Sitting, silently watching. Oh, and knitting.

    by wishbone on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:37:20 PM PDT

    •  Bill McKibben addresses this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In his book Deep Economy he looks at three main problems / constraints regarding economic growth:

      1. Rising inequality

      2. Physical constraints (specifically peak oil, climate change, and other environmental limits)

      3. Human happiness

      He concludes (though I can't do it justice in a short comment) that these three are in order of increasing significance.

  •  Welcome to The Road (0+ / 0-)

    Random bands of humans killing each other. Cannibalism. Few decent people left. High rates of suicide. No hope.

    Well your diaries are such the thing for my depression. Perhaps I should kill myself now and get it over then? After all one less human being?

    •  Absolutely not. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not one of those things are what I'm describing here.

      The rate of decline I'm talking about, while unprecedented, is still fairly gradual.  We're talking about the United States having a standard of living comparable to, say, Mexico in a few decades.  That's not even remotely similar to The Road.

  •  thanks barath, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    interesting, if somewhat dire.

    I look forward to your continuing series.

    Got Time?
    Take ten, to find something else informative and fun to read. Thx.

    by jamess on Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:38:39 PM PDT

    •  Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      My hope is that I'm painting a realistic portrait of where things are given the data and scientific analyses that exist.  Maybe I should try to make it sound less dire while reporting the same info?

  •  Late to the diary, but great job, James. (0+ / 0-)

    Republished to The Amateur Left group site.

    Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbraith

    by Vtdblue on Sun May 22, 2011 at 10:52:07 PM PDT

  •  Very Needed (0+ / 0-)

    I think that the problem we have in discussing this issue in the US is that our culture has become so short-term in focus.

    No one thinks about the long term and economically, all the incentives are against it.  Politically, there is no demand among the voters for it.  

    If you think about it, there is a perfect storm of conditions that make it pretty much impossible to have a comprehensive discussion that requires connecting the dots.  

    The reason that the term "Madison Avenue" is in common usage for advertising and marketing is that there was a post WWII effort to move the wartime production mobilization into a consumer mode.  The choice to let things go back the way they were during the Depression was unthinkable.

    Every media organization depends on advertising and thus, is unable to focus on the status of this grand scheme.  Many people are unaware of the dynamics at the heart of what amounts to our whole sense of what the world is, to the extent it comes from any media.

    You would think that academic work would be outside this framework, but it really isn't.  

    So we are left with thinking through this for ourselves.

    I think that the ability we have to use the internet to share perspetives is the saving grace.  What we can do about it is the next question.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sun May 22, 2011 at 11:38:09 PM PDT

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