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Interview with Ronald R. Cooke, Author of Detensive Nation: From Regulation to Leadership
Jim Puplava, Financial Sense Newsletter
Our intensive consumption of oil, natural gas, coal, arable land, fresh water, minerals, and all the products of a sophisticated industrial economy is not sustainable. That means we humans will transition to a detensive Cultural EcoSystem. Every nation. Every culture. We shall learn to do more, with less. For those of us who live in an industrialized nation, the associated lifestyle change will be traumatic. We can either try to manage a “soft landing” or let nature take its course. Constructive transformation must include the reformation of government institutions, the adoption of new lifestyles, and a restructuring of community life.

Detensive Nation, explores what is driving this transition, the challenges of lifestyle change, and the how government institutions can play a positive, constructive, and proactive role in redefining our Cultural EcoSystem. It describes the kind of government we will need, questions if existing institutions can survive, and then asks a key question: who will lead us?

These are crucial election year issues for candidates at all levels of government. Detensive Nation lays out a practical strategic plan for community, state and national transformation. Success is possible if we have the collective will. Government must evolve from an institution that restricts human behavior, to one that encourages a sustainable lifestyle. From reactive to proactive. From negative to constructive. From regulation to leadership.
(15 December 2007)
The interview occurs during the second hour of the December 15 broadcast. Audio is available in a variety of formats.

Who Knew? Albert Bartlett interview
George Kenney, Electric Politics
It’s an enormous conceit to think that population increases are everywhere and always a good thing. In the blessed tradition, however, of neo-classical economic theory (aka ‘free markets’) such is the miracle of rational choice that left to themselves people will ‘optimize’ the rate of population growth: no natural limit on population exists.

Nevertheless, in reality the unacknowledged costs of population growth mostly shift to future generations. Call it the ultimate Ponzi scheme. And if you think about it, population growth is the main driver of all our planetary scale problems, from warming to Peak Oil to food production, right down the list. Locally as well, even to diluted democratic practices of governance.

Although it makes no sense whatsoever to tackle any of these without due consideration of the population factor most of the time population doesn’t get mentioned — the implications are so politically controversial.

To help put population and its derivatives into perspective I turned to a man who’s been sounding the alarm about sustainability [.doc] for decades, Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett. It was a real privilege to talk with Al, who’s as close to being a prophet as anybody can be these days. Listen, and pass the word! Total runtime an hour and sixteen minutes.
(14 December 2007)
George Kenney who runs the site, is a retired foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department. His interviews are usually thoughtful and of high quality. -BA

Some convenient truths

Robert Costanza, Susan Joy Hassol, Tim Kasser, and James Gustave Speth; Grist
Scaling back our energy-hungry lifestyles means more of what matters, not less
The work of recent Nobel Peace Prize winners Al Gore and the IPCC, along with a veritable mountain of other evidence, clearly lays out the reality and potential costs of human-induced climate change. Most analyses have concluded that we can and must keep our economies growing while addressing the climate challenge; we need only reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we produce. We can do this, they say, by using more efficient light bulbs, driving more fuel-efficient cars, better insulating our homes, buying windmills and solar panels, etc. While we agree that these things need to happen (and the sooner the better), it is clear that they will not be enough to solve the big problems the world faces.

The inconvenient truth is that to ensure quality of life for future generations, the world’s wealthiest societies cannot continue our current lifestyles and patterns of economic growth. Further, the large proportion of humanity living in poverty must be able to satisfy basic human needs without aspiring to an overly materialistic lifestyle.

Does this inconvenient truth mean doom and despair? Absolutely not. Indeed, we think this seemingly inconvenient truth is actually a blessing in disguise, for our high-consuming lifestyles and western patterns of economic growth are not actually improving our well-being: they are not only unsustainable, they are undesirable.

Scientists are discovering a convenient truth: our happiness does not depend on the consumption of conventional economic goods and services, but instead is enhanced when we have more time and space for socializing, for nature, for learning, and for really living instead of just consuming.

…These convenient truths mean that we can solve the problems of climate change and create a sustainable and more desirable future. But to do so we must give up the false connection between material consumption and well-being. We must refocus our policy goals on quality of life (all life) rather than quantity of consumption. This is not a sacrifice. On the contrary, failure to do so is the real sacrifice, not only of our own happiness, but that of our progeny.

These convenient truths are thus prescriptions not for less, but for ways we can have more of the things that really matter.
Robert Costanza is the Gordon and Lulie Gund Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT

Susan Joy Hassol is Director of Climate Communication in Basalt, CO

Tim Kasser is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, IL

James Gustave Speth is Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, in New Haven, CN
(9 December 2007)
Discussion and comments at original. Nate Hagens reposted the essay at The Oil Drum, together with comments (one of the authors is his PhD advisor). More discussion follows the post. -BA

2007: The Great Unraveling Begins

Eli Beckerman, Swans Commentary
… But the real news of 2007 is not the disappointment of the US political system, but rather the growing signs of a social, political, economic, and environmental nightmare. The real news is that even while the mainstream politicians and mainstream media have turned a corner in their treatment of global warming, the bigger questions before us as a society are not even part of the discourse. As the subprime lending shell game has worked its way into prominence as an economic problem, big banks and big media continue to dress it up as a manageable one, contained to those who foolishly signed loans they could not handle. Unfortunately, however, the entire US economy is suspect, because it is built upon a number of assumptions that are starting to buckle. In short, the US economy, and much of the world economy, is a house of cards. And 2007 has been the year that the first cards began to fall.

In his 2005 book, The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler outlined the connections between peak oil, the housing bubble, debt-fueled consumer spending, and the financial gimmicks underlying much of the economy….

We are so heavily dependent on oil, and no credible replacement is on the horizon. …

…So while we appear to have entered Kunstler’s “Long Emergency,” an era that David Korten calls the “Great Unraveling,” the question before us is this: will the “Great Turning” follow? Korten maintains that this transition has already begun, and that the first stage is a cultural and spiritual awakening. As Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma brought the industrialized food system and even the Whole Foods revolution into question, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle brought local eating to the mainstream, and Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy fundamentally challenged the growth economy and his “Step It Up” rallies sparked unprecedented grassroots action on climate change, 2007 did mark an awakening of consciousness. Could a cultural and spiritual awakening be far behind?
(17 December 2007)

The Best Books About Nearly Everything – Part I
Books to Help Us Understand Where We Are Now

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
I know a lot of people are holiday shopping right now, and as much as I’m for keeping our budgets down, I know some of us are going to be buying.

For those of you who want to pass on a useful message, or just have something to curl up with on those long winter evenings, I’m including my own personal list of best books on peak oil, climate change, economic connections and other issues. It is a long list, so it will come in two parts.

The first one (the depressing but useful part ;-)) is books that help us understand the present situation. Next will be books about what we can do about it. This list is necessarily limited (only so much space on the blog) but I think includes a good introductions and more in-depth materials for a lot of areas.
(12 December 2007)
UPDATE (Dec 18):
Sharon just posted the next part of her list of recommended books – these ones are the more hopeful ones. -BA

The real answer to climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground

George Monbiot, The Guardian
All the talk in Bali about cutting carbon means nothing while ever more oil and coal is being extracted and burned

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart, I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called … leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

On a filthy day last week, as governments gathered in Bali to prevaricate about climate change, a group of us tried to put this policy into effect. We swarmed into the opencast coal mine being dug at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales and occupied the excavators, shutting down the works for the day. We were motivated by a fact which the wise heads in Bali have somehow missed: if fossil fuels are extracted, they will be used.

Most of the governments of the rich world now exhort their citizens to use less carbon. They encourage us to change our lightbulbs, insulate our lofts, turn our televisions off at the wall. In other words, they have a demand-side policy for tackling climate change. But as far as I can determine, not one of them has a supply-side policy. None seeks to reduce the supply of fossil fuel. So the demand-side policy will fail. Every barrel of oil and tonne of coal that comes to the surface will be burned.

Or perhaps I should say that they do have a supply-side policy: to extract as much as they can.
(11 December 2007)