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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

How to Boil a Frog trailer

Jon Cooksey, YouTube

(12 September 2010)
Filmmaker Jon Cooksey says they are working on a DVD release of the documentary. -BA


Finding Common Ground at ASPO-USA’s Annual Conference

What do former Green Party Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader, Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice, former secretaries of defense and energy Dr. James Schlesinger, Human Rights and Environmental Campaigner Bianca Jagger, former CIBC Chief Economist Jeff Rubin, and Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett have in common?

It certainly isn’t their politics – they cover the full spectrum from left to right and everything in between. And it sure as heck isn’t their fashion sense. What they do agree on, however, is that the debate over an imminent energy peak is over – that it is time to get on with the hard work of addressing the realities of energy depletion. ASPO-USA is bringing together voices rarely, if ever, heard in the same place and all are speaking out to bring national attention to peak oil.

ASPO-USA is bringing its annual conference to Washington, and in a city where the word “non-partisan” gets tossed a lot, but rarely means anything, this conference is truly non-partisan and a represents a true big tent as people put aside their differences to preserve our future. Everyone there knows exactly what’s at stake – to echo founding words, “our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor.” All of those are put at risk by the fact that we haven’t addressed energy depletion.

The conference will take full advantage of the Washington location with a press conference bringing those many disparate experts together, a congressional briefing and 24-hour live blogging and tweeting by a host of influential writers. Attendees will be armed with talking points and encouraged to visit their own congressional representatives. Organizers, speakers and attendees will be working together to bring peak oil into the mainstream and to bring about real action.

The center point of the conference will be hard-hitting, cutting-edge presentations on the way peak oil will alter everything. Dr. Michael Klare and Rear Adm. Rice will speak about issues of national security and the implications of peak oil for global stability. Former CIBC Chief Economist Rubin will speak about the ways that peak oil will bring about the end of globalization. Inventor and energy adviser Robert Hirsch will speak about the post-peak future.

Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh of the Automatic Earth) and Chris Martenson (Crash Course) will talk about the implications of peak oil for the future of the economy. James Hansen (Ravenna Capital) and Charles Schlumberger of the World Bank among others will explore the implications of peak oil for gas and oil investment. Petroleum Geologist Jeffrey Brown and Mazama Science President Dr. Jonathan Callahan will consider the future of net exports and the implications for future supplies.

In a Saturday morning session a number of experts will explore the implications of the BP Gulf spill for the future of oil exploration. Climate Change and Human Rights Campaigner Jagger will speak about the environmental and social justice impacts of peak oil. Author John Michael Greer and CFP Dick Vodra Esq. will offer a session on scenario planning and personal preparedness. Former Green candidate Nader will talk about how to move policy forward.

Dr. Brian Czech will speak about the future of a steady-state economy and about the connections between peak oil and climate change. Art Berman, Dr. Tad Patzek and Charlie Maxwell will consider whether the optimism about natural gas supplies is warranted, while Kjell Aleklett (Uppsala University) and David Rutledge (CalTech) explore the same question for coal supplies.

These are just a small portion of the programs going forward, connecting the dots between science, policy, media and our future. The conference has the power to move us forward in new and important ways.

On behalf of ASPO-USA, we hope to see you at the conference.

Sharon Astyk, Jim Baldauf, Dave Room, Ron Swenson, Greg Geyer, Stephanie Martin, Carl Berndtson, Carol Lathrop, Kim Comart, Debbie Cook, Liz Longenecker, Max Wolf, and Tom Whipple
(27 September 2010)


Notes on Environmental Communication

George Lakoff, CommonDreams
Today, September 28, 2010, EcoAmerica is hosting an important environmental conference, America The Best, in Washington, DC, for a small group of specialists in environmental communication to see what ideas emerge. Because of the number of distinguished participants, I compressed my ideas to 4 pages. I have written about these issues at length in the journal Environmental Communication, No. 1, 2010, but since a 4-page version has a chance of actually being read, I thought I would send it out beyond the conference participants to see if it can get some discussion started on a national level.

An understanding of communication is necessary, as the communication failures of the Obama administration have made clear. The environmental movement as a whole shares such failures, which is why the conference is being held. The importance of communication in politics has not been recognized sufficiently by environmentalists, and by progressives in general.

When a huge number of Americans hear mainly from anti-environmental conservatives all day every day, they put pressure on their representatives in Congress. That effects voting on legislation. It is getting late to act on global warming. If the Republicans take over Congress it may be too late. The fate of the planet hangs in the balance. Here are a few pages to begin a conversation that should be engaged immediately.

These notes are about ideas that have to change in the wider public and how to change them. They are not about short-term slogans.
(28 September 2010)


"In the Face of This Truth"

Robert Jensen, Yes! magazine
It’s time to talk honestly about collapse–no matter how others may respond.

We live in the midst of multiple crises­—economic and political, cultural and ecological—posing a significant threat to human existence at the level we have become accustomed to. There’s no way to be awake to the depth of these crises without emotional reactions, no way to be aware of the pain caused by these systemic failures without some dread and distress.

Those emotions come from recognizing that we humans with our big brains have disrupted the balance of the living world in disastrous ways that may be causing irreversible ecological destruction, and that drastically different ways of living are not only necessary but inevitable, with no guarantee of a smooth transition.

This talk, in polite company, leads to being labeled hysterical, Chicken Little, apocalyptic. No matter that you are calm, aren’t predicting the sky falling, and have made no reference to rapture. Pointing out that we live in unsustainable systems, that unsustainable systems can’t be sustained, and that no person or institution with power in the dominant culture is talking about this—well, that’s obviously crazy.

But to many of us, these insights simply seem honest. To be fully alive today is to live with anguish, not for one’s own condition in the world but for the condition of the world, for a world that is in collapse. What to do when such honesty is unwelcome?

In June 2010, I published a short essay online asking people who felt this anguish to report on their emotions and others’ reactions. In less than a month I received more than 300 messages, and while no single comment could sum up the responses, this comes close:
(17 September 2010)


Stories That Light Up The Dark

Sanjay Khanna, Yes! magazine
The experiences of our ancestors offer us wisdom for surviving today’s crises.

… Stories, I’d argue, can help us to become resilient people.

When I realized, through my work as a futurist, that the global economy and climate were on an unpredictable path, I began searching for stories, personal and cultural, that can encourage all of us to band together and work in service of the common good as the civilized world runs up against ecological limits.

Through this process, I had the good fortune to meet some remarkable people whose oral histories go back thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years.
(17 September 2010)


Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted.

Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker
… The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism. With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns. When ten thousand protesters took to the streets in Moldova in the spring of 2009 to protest against their country’s Communist government, the action was dubbed the Twitter Revolution, because of the means by which the demonstrators had been brought

… “Without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy,” Mark Pfeifle, a former national-security adviser, later wrote, calling for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools. Facebook warriors go online to push for change. “You are the best hope for us all,” James K. Glassman, a former senior State Department official, told a crowd of cyber activists at a recent conference sponsored by Facebook, A. T. & T., Howcast, MTV, and Google. Sites like Facebook, Glassman said, “give the U.S. a significant competitive advantage over terrorists. Some time ago, I said that Al Qaeda was ‘eating our lunch on the Internet.’ That is no longer the case. Al Qaeda is stuck in Web 1.0. The Internet is now about interactivity and conversation.”

These are strong, and puzzling, claims. Why does it matter who is eating whose lunch on the Internet? Are people who log on to their Facebook page really the best hope for us all? As for Moldova’s so-called Twitter Revolution, Evgeny Morozov, a scholar at Stanford who has been the most persistent of digital evangelism’s critics, points out that Twitter had scant internal significance in Moldova, a country where very few Twitter accounts exist.

… Golnaz Esfandiari wrote, this past summer, in Foreign Policy. “Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran.” The cadre of prominent bloggers, like Andrew Sullivan, who championed the role of social media in Iran, Esfandiari continued, misunderstood the situation.

… As the historian Robert Darnton has written, “The marvels of communication technology in the present have produced a false consciousness about the past—even a sense that communication has no history, or had nothing of importance to consider before the days of television and the Internet.” But there is something else at work here, in the outsized enthusiasm for social media. Fifty years after one of the most extraordinary episodes of social upheaval in American history, we seem to have forgotten what activism is.

… What makes people capable of this kind of activism [the early lunchroom sit-ins during the Civil Rights campaign in the US South]? The Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam compared the Freedom Summer dropouts with the participants who stayed, and discovered that the key difference wasn’t, as might be expected, ideological fervor. “All of the applicants—participants and withdrawals alike—emerge as highly committed, articulate supporters of the goals and values of the summer program,” he concluded. What mattered more was an applicant’s degree of personal connection to the civil-rights movement. All the volunteers were required to provide a list of personal contacts—the people they wanted kept apprised of their activities—and participants were far more likely than dropouts to have close friends who were also going to Mississippi. High-risk activism, McAdam concluded, is a “strong-tie” phenomenon.

This pattern shows up again and again. One study of the Red Brigades, the Italian terrorist group of the nineteen-seventies, found that seventy per cent of recruits had at least one good friend already in the organization. The same is true of the men who joined the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Even revolutionary actions that look spontaneous, like the demonstrations in East Germany that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, are, at core, strong-tie phenomena.

The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.

This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information.
(4 October 2010)
Some good points. The author emphasizes small groups performing dramatic actions (e.g. lunch counter sit-ins in the South for Civil Rights). He rightly points out that that sort of activism requires hierarchy and close personal relationships. However, this is only one part of social change. It’s highly visible so people over-emphasize it.

Even more important, I would say, are the networks that roll the change out into mainstream society. And those networks are a combination of close and loosely-knit relationships. -BA

How to start a movement

Derek Silvers, TED Talk

(April 2010)
A nice counterpoint to the previous New Yorker article. Suggested by nephew Chris Dumas who writes:

I really like Malcom Gladwell’s writing and thoughts. I think the really important message/takeaway is that leadership or change doesn’t happen because of social media; they happen because of great leadership and community building. While social media can help facilitate this, it is really just a tool.