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Thriving in the Age of Collapse, Part II:
What Can Young Professionals and Aging Baby Boomers do to Prepare for America’s Collapse?
Dmitry Orlov, Life After The Oil Crash
(LATOC Editor’s Note: Part I of this article is available here. Dmitry Orlov lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this installment he offers his advice on how young professionals (“yuppies”) and aging baby boomers can prepare for America’s collapse. -Matt)
The first personal profile I will consider is of “Chris”, a professional in his twenties, who lives in a large urban area in the Pacific Northwest. Chris earns some $60,000 to $90,000 a year, contributes to his employer’s 401-k program, and carries massive student debt. Thankfully, he is in good health. Among his many marketable skills, none are directly applicable to an energy-scarce environment. He is a fantastic bore at parties, compulsively attempting to hold forth on the subject of resource depletion and economic collapse, and, needless to say, his parents, friends, and fiancée do not wish to hear any more about it, but love him just the same. Being uncertain of the future, he rents. Chris is a regular North American workaholic, working 50 to 60 hours a week. Chris had never given politics, oil, or the looming economic collapse much thought, until somebody handed him a copy of Mike Ruppert’s book, but now he is a true believer.
(9 Sep 2006)
Thriving in the Age of Collapse, Part III:
What Can Young People do to Prepare for America’s Collapse?
Dnitry Orlov, Life After The Oil Crash
The final profile we will consider is of “Steve,” who is 18 years old. He found out about Peak Oil after one of his on-line video game buddies sent him some links to Web sites, which he found deeply shocking. Now he is totally freaked out. Is he about to get drafted and sent off to fight for oil in the Middle East? How is he going to survive in a collapsing society? He works a part-time job and lives with his parents, who take his fears to be the folly of youth, and assume that he will be going to college, earning a respectable degree, and entering the workforce (while going into debt at the same time).
(22 Sep 2006)
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Dmitry’s excellent presentation to the Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma conference in NYC, comparing possible future US and past USSR collapse conditions.
Surviving The Oil Crash:
Leadership And Social Structure
Peter Goodchild, Counter Currents
The biggest news story of modern times rarely appears in the conventional news media, or it appears only in distorted forms. Ironically, the modern world is plagued by a lack of serious information. Today’s news item is usually forgotten by tomorrow. The television viewer has the vague impression that something happened somewhere, but one could change channels all day without finding anything below the surface. But television is only the start of the enigma. What is most apparent is the larger problem that there is no leadership, no sense of organization, for dealing with peak-oil issues.
… It has only been in a tiny fraction of the life span of humanity that political units have been created that are far too large for people to know one another except as abstractions. Small groups have their problems, but in terms of providing happiness for the average person, the band or village is more efficient than the empire.
(22 Sep 2006)
This short clip features Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of The Ingenuity Gap, talking about the 2003 blackout as an example of complexity, resiliency, and the potential for collapse—exactly what I was trying to get to in the weakest of the Thirty Theses, thesis #19. Homer-Dixon notes that we’re moving in the opposite direction from the resiliency that complexity requires; I was trying to explain why we’re compelled to do exactly that. I haven’t read The Ingenuity Gap yet, but I think it has to be the next book I read.
(21 Sep 2006)
Click headline to watch 5 min video.
Homer-Dixon appears to talk serious collapse scenarios to elite institutions. Full audio is available of a presentation he gave to the Aspen Institute, entitled Climate Change: The Greatest Challenge for Human Ingenuity (MP3 21.8MB).
There are some transcripts of other speeches available at Thomas Homer-Dixon’s website. Here’s a quote from his Ingenuity Theory: Can Humankind Create a Sustainable Civilization? address to the Royal Society of London, October 2, 2003:
The path we are following, as individual societies and as a species, is unsustainable. Our social, economic, and technological systems are now incomprehensibly and often unmanageably complex, they operate at unprecedented velocities, and they produce sudden, sharp, and often harmful surprises over ever-shorter intervals of time. Our rising consumption of energy and fresh water is unsustainable, and we are putting enormous strain on the planet’s natural environment, including its climate system. In coming decades, these deep stresses could converge and combine in ways that cause violent breakdown of states and a collapse of global economic and political institutions.
How should we address these multiple challenges? In this new world, what should we do? I have many suggestions, too many to outline them all here—perhaps we can discuss some of them during the question period.
I have suggestions applicable at each stage of my model of ingenuity requirement and supply—we need to, for instance, boost our support for science; we need to make our markets work better; and we must try to renovate our democratic institutions so that they aren’t so easily hijacked by powerful special interests. But I’ve come to believe that there’s one overriding imperative: we must reduce the rate at which our requirement for ingenuity is rising.
We have to ease up on the global accelerator pedal. Because if we don’t slow down and simplify things voluntarily—if we allow the complexity, speed, and unpredictability of the systems we’ve created to go on increasing, unchecked—these systems will sometimes fail catastrophically. In other words, system failure will eventually slow down and simplify things for us, whether we like it or not.
This imperative means, among other things, that we urgently need to reduce our load on the natural environment by lowering the material throughput of our economies. We should also increase the resilience of our complex systems and networks—from our electrical grids, to our food supply systems, to the international financial system.
We need to loosen the coupling among these systems’ components, increase their buffering capacity, and increase the redundancy of their most critical components. But if we’re to accomplish these and similar changes, we will have to address and in some cases adjust some of our most basic values—utilitarian, moral, and spiritual values—that underpin our high-consumption lifestyles, our highly unequal economic arrangements, and our hyper-paced and too tightly coupled social, economic, and technological relationships.
People don’t like to even think about their values, let alone change them. So confronting and changing our values, I’m convinced, will be our greatest challenge of all.
Jason Godesky has recently written on the concept of overshoot. -AF