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John Michael Greer - A Window of Opportunity

by: Heather on 11/06/2008
Posted in: Peak Oil

John Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age has allowed us to share his presentation from Plan C: The Fifth U.S. Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions. It's quite long, so I'll post Part One today and Part Two tomorrow. It's well worth the read.

Thanks John!

I'd like to start by thanking all of you for coming to this conference, and the conference organizers and the sponsoring organizations--Community Solutions and the Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center--for making it happen. We have a lot to talk about this weekend. There's some good news to share, some good ideas to exchange, and no shortage of major challenges that we need to confront, together and individually; and a conference like this offers possibilities for all those things.

It's an auspicious date for such an event, too. In the faith tradition I follow, the Druid faith, sunset today marks the start of the festival we call Samhuinn, the feast of the ancestors. It's a time of endings and beginnings, the end of the harvest, the beginning of our new year, and endings and beginnings make up a great deal of what we have to talk about this weekend. The way of life nearly all of us have grown up with--a way of life founded on the extravagant use of irreplaceable fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources, and on the pursuit of unlimited economic growth at all costs--is coming to an end around us.

That's the rarely mentioned driving force behind the economic convulsions of the last few months; behind the political crisis under way in this and many other countries; and also behind the very widespread feeling nowadays that our lives and our societies have gotten onto the wrong track, that something has to give--something has to change. And that realization, uncomfortable as it often is, is the place where endings give way to beginnings, because it's the willingness to face change that's really been lacking in the mainstream of the industrial world for the last quarter century or so; and that willingness has begun to spread, in recent months, to an extent that might have been hard for any of us to imagine, say, ten years ago, when today's peak oil movement was first beginning to coalesce.

I don't think it's irrelevant just now to glance back for a moment at that earlier time. I think it was '97 or '98 when I first encountered people online who were talking about the end of the age of oil. The concept wasn't new to me; I spent my adolescence in the 1970s reading The Limits to Growth, Roberto Vacca's The Coming Dark Age, that sort of cheerful literature; at the time, for a variety of reasons, the future they portrayed made a good deal more sense to me than the bland pronouncements of business as usual forever being retailed by government and the media. I somehow managed to miss finding out about M. King Hubbert and the Hubbert Curve during those years, but his prediction of a global petroleum production peak sometime around 2000 wouldn't have surprised me at all.

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Sharon Astyk Responds to the New York Times

by: Heather on 10/28/2008
Posted in: Peak Oil

Last weekend Sharon Astyk, author of Depletion and Abundance was featured in a New York Times article that treated her desire to reduce her family's carbon footprint as pathological, even coining the term "carborexic" to imply that her commitment to the environment is unhealthy to the point of being a mental illness. Those who know Sharon, are familiar with her work, or have read her book will recognize this for the completely ridiculous and unfounded accusation that it is. The best response is in Sharon's own words:

Just for one moment, I'm going to pretend that instead of a silly article diagnosing a pretend disease in the New York Times, I was given a chance to speak on the Op Ed Pages of the Times, that this is my one shot at the huge audience that the Sunday Times has. Ignoring, for a moment, how unlikely that is, here's what I would have said.

Last weekend my family and I appeared in the New York Times as victims (or perhaps purveyors) of a new mental illness, "carborexia." Apparently this is the pathological inability to produce sufficicient carbon, an environmental mania so extreme that it transforms ordinary lives into obsessive madness.

The article began with the fact that my son Simon is deprived of the great American pasttime because it is a half-hour drive to a league that doesn't have games on the Jewish Sabbath (poor kid, he has to play catch with his parents and pick up games with his friends and brothers - in fact, he and one of his friends actually broke one of our front windows yesterday with a particularly nice hit). The language of the article included the term "huddle together for warmth" to describe the fact that my young kids sleep together in both warm and cold weather. All of this operated to implicitly imply that I'm abusing my kids in my pursuit of a lower energy life. And since even implied accusations of child abuse and mental illness are a potent weapon in this society, I wouldn't be shocked if you did think I was crazy and a bad Mom.

My first inclination was to fire back with the accusation that instead, most Americans may be suffering from a pathology called "carbulimia" in which they gorge themselves on energy - twice as much as Europeans, who often have a similar or higher standard of living and level of happiness - and then effectively vomit up the excess, deriving no benefit and often actual harm to their health and hope for the future. But this doesn't quite get at the issue either - it just continues the Times's trivializing of real eating disorders and their sufferers, and adds another dumb and uneuphonious faux-disease to the cultural lexicon. Definitely not what is most needed. Moreover, most of us don't take in huge quantities of energy for its own sake, we use it because that's how our society is structured, and how we've been taught to meet our needs. We use most of our energy because we're not sure how to do anything else.

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Peak Oil Facts with Richard Heinberg

by: Heather on 08/26/2008
Posted in: Peak Oil

Richard Heinberg is the author of a number of Peak Oil books published by New Society, including his most recent book Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines. This clip features Richard giving an introduction to Peak Oil, and is from a series called "Why are Things Falling Apart?" from the producers of What a Way to Go: Life at the …

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Matt Simmons video

by: Heather on 07/17/2008
Posted in: Peak Oil

Matt Simmons is an Energy Investment banker who has been speaking out for years about curbing our fossil fuel addiction. The video below appeared on CNBC last week - interesting to see this point of view getting some play in the mainstream media. Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Thinking about how to …

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Heinberg on NAFTA and Canadian Oil and Gas Production

by: Heather on 02/13/2008
Posted in: Peak Oil

Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything, The Oil Depletion Protocol, The Party's Over and Powerdown, has written a fascinating (and from a Canadian perspective somewhat frightening) analysis of Canada's fossil fuel export obligations to the US under NAFTA. It's yet another example of how Canadian politicians sold Canadian interests down the river under the terms of this "agreement" and over the protests of thousands of Canadian people.

This entry is reprinted with permission from Richard's blog.


There is a strange clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that applies to only one country--Canada. The clause states that Canada must continue to supply the same proportion of its oil and gas resources to the US in future years as it does now. That's rather a good deal for the US: it formalizes Canada's status as a resource satellite of its imperial hub to the south.

From a Canadian perspective there are some problems with the arrangement, though. First is the fact that Canada's production of natural gas and conventional oil is declining. Second is that Canada uses lots of oil and gas domestically: 70 percent of Canadians heat their homes with gas, and Canadians drive cars more and further than just about anyone else. The problem is likely to come first with natural gas; as production declines, there will come a point when there isn't enough to fill domestic needs and continue to export (roughly 60 percent of Canada's gas now goes to the US).

That point is not decades in the future, it is fairly imminent.

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