PARADIGM IS THE ENEMY: The State of
the Peak Oil Movement
at the Cusp of Collapse
A Speech by Michael C. Ruppert
Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference
New York City,
at Cooper Union
[This is the most important speech
of my life. If you read anything I’ve written this year, read this – MCR]
April 28, 2006 1630 PST –
- As a
matter of necessity, in the course of a turbulent and often very difficult
life, I have developed a pretty warped sense of humor. As most police officers,
nurses, ER doctors, paramedics, and military combat veterans know, the best
time to find humor is when things are at their worst. Sometimes the humor that
emerges from these situations is strange, to say the least. And yet sometimes
it remains the most memorable humor of a lifetime—humor that can actually
sustain you in tough times. Humor is energy.
Peak Oil activism reminds me of a statement that I found a long time ago in a
book of famous quotations. In the section containing the last recorded words of
famous people I found a quote that has stayed with me ever since.
was simply, “We’ve got them now.”
person who wrote those last “recorded” words on a dispatch to his commanding
officer, General George Crook, was George Armstrong Custer.
the course of this conference I have heard precious little attention paid to
events in the world around us indicating that Peak Oil is about to have its
global “coming out party” and what that might mean. In almost every nook,
cranny and corner of the planet, stress points are beginning to fracture. For
the past five years I have argued, emphasized, and repeated endlessly that
perhaps the biggest mistake of all time was made on September 11th 2001, when the only real global operational plan to deal with Peak Oil was put
into effect. On September 11th we began a war, now infamously known
as “the war which will not end in our lifetimes,” to decide who will control
the last remaining oil and gas reserves on the planet.
In Crossing the Rubicon I wrote, “Events in
the five-year period that began on September 11th, 2001 will
determine the course of human history for several centuries to come.” We are
just months away from the end of that five-year period. What has been
painful answer is: not enough.
we in the real world and how do we judge our current activities in light of
real-world events? To sum it up in the words of one of the most senior members
of the Peak Oil movement I know, Jay Hanson, “I see my worst fears unfolding
right in front of my face.” Jay wrote those words just about a week ago.
started the first Peak Oil website in the 1980s, almost even before there was a
web. We should listen to Jay, and I could not agree more with his assessment;
my worst fears are unfolding right in front of my face.
the greatest flaw in the Peak Oil movement’s current operating paradigm is
that, a part of the movement at least, instead of building lifeboats in the
face of an immediate disaster, is delusionally focused on trying to build
alternative-powered luxury liners that operate just like the paradigm we as a
species need to be abandoning. Not only is this a futile effort, it may well be
responsible for killing or destroying the lives of people who at least
partially understand Peak Oil and who are trying to find the best courses of
immediate action for themselves and their families.
of this movement however—and tonight I intend to honor two men who are leading
the way—have seen the writing on the wall and are independently taking
appropriate courses of action that demonstrate both the kind of incisive
thinking and leadership that will be needed in very short order.
tell you about these men I think it’s a good idea to stop for a minute and take
an inventory of the world in which we live today—right now.
THE STATE OF THE
observed that almost every Peak Oil conference, whether this one, or the
Association for the Study of Peak Oil, or ASPO-USA, makes only the most
superficial attempt to evaluate geopolitical and economic conditions. These
conditions, more than the rate at which supplies are depleted, will determine
how Peak Oil and collapse manifest in our lives.
• The Times of London on April 8th ran a story that should
have pre-empted every other major story that day. Headlined “World ‘cannot meet
oil demand’”. The story’s first sentence read, “The world lacks the means to
produce enough oil to meet rising projections for demand for fuel, according to
Cristophe de Margerie, head of exploration for Total.” Later the story quoted
Margerie as saying, “’Numbers like 120 million barrels per day will never be
reached, never’ he said.”
• In the last year we have seen the
super-giant field Burgan; accelerated decline in the world’s second-largest
Cantarell; and an overall global decline rate approaching 8%. We have seen
fail to increase production while at the same time finding it more difficult to
hide deteriorating reservoir conditions in all of its mature fields, including
Ghawar. As of tonight, more than 30 of the world’s largest producing nations
have entered steep decline.
• Discoveries continue to fall off a
cliff. Over the last four years the world has been consuming 6 barrels of oil
for every new one found. Publicity stunts, such as the recent attempt to
reclassify Venezuelan tar as oil – even when applauded by dilettantes like
Gregg Palast – are having no impact on markets, prices or public policy. I
think we can safely say at this point that we will soon see an end to the
influence of charlatans and schemers like Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy.
(Now there’s at least one bright note.) At this point, the Peak Oil movement
should avoid expending needless energy on any arguments about whether Peak Oil
is real or not. That precious energy is needed elsewhere. We have won that
• Soaring commodity prices for
everything from copper, to uranium, to cement and steel are not only hampering
needed infrastructure investment, they are also making it almost impossible to
build new drilling rigs, especially deep water rigs. Commodity scarcities are
the result of overpopulation, hoarding, over consumption and nothing else.
Drilling rigs themselves are in extremely short supply around the world and I
believe we should also stay away from any debates about whether new oil supply
will even make a difference. It will not and we need only continue to breathe
in and out to see this position vindicated also.
government continues an unwinnable war in
while building massive
permanent bases and the largest embassy compound ever built. Not only does the
have no intention of leaving
Iraq, it has
committed—whether under Republican or Democratic leadership—to staying forever—whatever
that means. The Empire’s position is clear, not as a result of what it says,
but as a result of what it has done.
’s primary plan to deal with
Peak Oil is to fight or intimidate for energy supplies wherever it deems
necessary. That, of course, has forced the rest of the world—with a few notable
to the same sheet music. As a result, I would estimate that of every ten units
of energy (or money) expended preparing for Peak Oil today, nine are spent
preparing for war while only one is spent building lifeboats and teaching
people how to survive. This is sheer insanity.
government is playing a bluff hand over an attack against
, which in spite of being both
unlikely and risking a global nuclear holocaust, has resulted in massive
increases in military spending all around the planet. A global arms race is now
using up energy and commodities that should be used rebuilding railroads,
enhancing mass transportation, and building renewable infrastructure to soften
the coming blows.
• In the face of this, the entire
world, and especially
hundreds of billions of dollars of investment into
. This is one of many sure
signs that the American Empire’s weaknesses are becoming visible. There is
blood in the water and blood in the water usually leads to a fight. The world,
at least as far as its pocketbook is concerned, is betting on
Tor M1 anti-aircraft missile systems and cruise missile and high-speed torpedo
with advanced military systems.
has stepped up deliveries of
weapons systems and military advisors to oil-producing regions around the world.
This has been matched by similar deliveries to the same regions by
and many other countries. A
best-selling novel in
, The Battle in Protecting Key Oil Routes,
has the Chinese navy destroying a
carrier battle group. The
popular book documents a bloody contest over control of the Straits of Malacca,
that narrow channel through which most of
’s Hu Jintao, clearly one of the
world’s only major leaders with both plans and choices, is making direct calls
George W. Bush haplessly points to hydrogen fuel cell cars as a solution. Don’t
worry about how many American people will buy into such Bush nonsense. Worry
about how many world leaders are watching these same clips and asking, “Is that
the best he can do?
is in deep shit.”
• In Nigeria—the US’s fifth largest
oil supplier and the world’s eighth—groups of well-organized and supplied
rebels are using high-tech email, bombs, bullets and kidnapping to terrorize
major oil companies. Production is threatened on a daily basis. In a world
where there is no place else to go to replace even 50,000 barrels a day—out of
the 84 million needed—the totally corrupt regime of Olusegun Obasanjo is
besieged by rebel and dissident groups on many fronts. I have no doubt that
several of these groups are being financed, trained, led and supplied through
covert arms of the US, Chinese, Russian, British, Saudi, Pakistani and/or
• In nearby Chad—which is the
source-country for the Chad-Cameroon pipeline delivering 160,000 barrels a day
into the global mouth—as he attempts to ward off an aggressively hungry World
Bank, President Idriss Deby is literally holding oil hostage. Knowing full well
that to shut down the pipeline would cause an estimated $10 jump in the price
of oil, he is literally telling the west, “Come any closer and I’ll shoot the
• At the same time,
is beset by rebel insurgents from neighboring
, which is
fifth-largest oil supplier. Both the
are hip-deep in
covert operations in
• On April 18, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice met with one of Africa’s most brutal dictators, Teodoro Nguema
third-largest oil exporter, calling him a good friend of the
institutional memories as short as they are, few remember that Sir Mark
Thatcher, son of
Margaret Thatcher, was nabbed last year in the middle of a coup intended to
• All of Africa, especially West
Africa—exactly as I predicted in 2003,
in Crossing the
Rubicon and in last year’s lecture series which became our newest DVD Denial Stops
Here—is exploding with armed insurrections from the Western Sahara
West Africa where I believe we will see
proxy wars likely intensifying this year, which could trigger a global nuclear exchange
in very short order.
• But murder, far more callous, is
about to be perpetrated by the Democratic Party as it enters the 2006 midterm campaigns
with what is surely—barring a miracle—going to be one of its major planks in
2008: “Don’t worry,” they will promise, “the Democrats will restore cheap
gasoline for all and find a no-pain answer to all of our energy woes. High
prices are the fault of greedy oil companies and price gougers, not a lack of
supply.” I can promise you now, Hillary Clinton, that if the Democratic Party
adopts this approach it will find in me an enemy that will make FTW’s editorial posture towards the Bush
administration over the last five years look like abject friendship.
• American mainstream media has
become absolutely and certifiably schizophrenic on the issue of Peak Oil.
Within the space of an hour, one can watch segments acknowledging Peak Oil and
Gas and the insoluble problems they bring, and segments assuring us that there
is no problem at all if we just fix a few little things.
• On April 11th The Financial
Times reported that Russian production is falling and expected to
decrease—rather than increase—rapidly over the next four years.
• On April 21,
’s giant, Gazprom—for the second time in
less than a year—threatened to shut off
only major source of natural gas. Just a month previously, a desperate and
its energy sovereignty to the European Union in the hopes of getting better
energy prices at the end of
long natural gas supply line.
• On April 24th, just a
few days ago, during his state visit to
, Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a series of
accords in which
in exchange for a larger portion of Saudi oil exports, agreed to transfer
high-tech weapons and other technologies to the Saudi monarchy in exchange.
• At the same moment that George W.
Bush has announced that he will stop refilling the US Strategic Petroleum
Reserve in an ill-conceived attempt to lower pump prices—a completely shortsighted
and self-serving gesture—China is in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to begin
filling a new one.
• Climate Change and hurricanes not
only continue apace but have accelerated. Now that we are just weeks away from
a new hurricane season, fully 23% of
Gulf of Mexico
production remains shut-in after last year’s hurricanes. Recently the
Department of Energy acknowledged that most of that would never be rebuilt due
to high investment costs at mature and post-mature reservoirs. Aside from the
fact that it’s not cost effective, this is also because of rig shortages. This
is what FTW warned you about almost a
year ago. When and if we ever have a chance to look back we will historically
mark Katrina and Rita as the singular moment in time when a true
military resurgence became impossible; the moment when the Empire began its
collapse. In other words, that was the moment when the Empire passed from decline
to terminal status.
• On April 4th, Dow
Jones’ MarketWatch reported that $6
to $7 gasoline might be coming this summer. Is there anyone in this room
tonight who does not believe that $6-$7 gasoline would be an unmistakable sign
• And let me add an observation
here. I think a good part of this unseasonable spike in American oil prices is
both caused by the switch out from MTBE to ethanol and a classic political
strategy which is to create a bad problem and then appear to solve it so that
people will accept an otherwise unacceptable solution. This is an election
year. The elections are not for seven months. I for one do NOT think we will
see $6 or $7 gasoline this summer. I think gas prices may reach $4 or even $5
for a short period, after which the Bush administration (say sometime between
July and September) will again tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and his oil
industry base will—they hope—be able to find a few million barrels to
temporarily drive prices down, give Republicans a desperately-needed electoral
boost, and feed another dose of valium to the increasingly worn out American
• But to assume that the current
high prices are solely caused by the MTBE/Ethanol switchover is to miss the
fact that Britain is now experiencing its highest-ever gasoline prices
averaging more than $8 per gallon or that Japan—according to the news agency
Chugoku—has now reached its highest-ever price for diesel fuel at almost $4.00
per gallon. These countries do not have MTBE rules to be concerned with. Peak
Oil is here.
an enormous risk lurking in all this. I mean a potentially deadly risk.
effects of Peak Oil intensify there is less and less wiggle room on the planet
for any miscalculation. Worse, there is less and less room to recover from or
adjust to any “surprises” that might come along.
some of these possible surprises?
one more major hurricane
major earthquake in any oil producing region or pipeline corridor from
’s far east, to
one of a dozen possible side effects from global warming, whether from melting
tundra that might sink pipelines, to rising sea levels that might endanger
unrest in any oil-producing region that gets out of control and damages more
infrastructure than can be quickly repaired
Chavez to redirect just 10 or 15% of his
exports to other customers
successful attack on
’s Abqaiq terminal
unrest in our second-largest oil supplier,
unrest in the Caspian basin – another region where covert operations are now
probably the second- or third-largest GDP component for several nations.
As I speak tonight,
is moving to supply MiG 29s to
at the same time that
is threatening to revoke permission for US bases. This is a building vacuum
(all nuclear powers) are eager to fill. Add
to the list of nations seeking increased influence in the
of many reasons why the
cannot and will not attack
is that—unreported by the major media—the
military has undertaken quiet but significant military build ups in both
West Africa and in the Caspian. US military personnel
have been dispatched to
and NATO and the US Navy have begun moving into to the
This is pulling ever tighter on the already over-stretched rubber band holding
military together as
it experiences a continuing, unmitigated and unprecedented defeat in
many more possible precipitating events that could push the first dominoes in
the chain of collapse. Any one of them could trigger a massive and sudden
descent into chaos that would catch all of us by surprise. My position is that
we cannot afford to be unprepared for surprises. And it’s probably an event we
haven’t thought of that will ultimately do it. These are only a few
THE STATE OF THE
AMERICAN AND WORLD ECONOMIES
Motors, as it stands on the brink of bankruptcy, has announced that it lost
$10.6 billion last year.
and Daimler Chrysler are teetering not far behind GM as
is poised to become the largest auto maker in the world, bigger in terms of
Big Three combined.
• As US News told us last December 19th,
800,000 jobs were going to be cut last winter. The final numbers aren’t in yet,
but it looks like that happened.
to an MS-NBC story dated April 24, “The Housing Bubble Has Popped” as
inventories swell, sales decline, prices soften, lenders are raising rates and
the first signs of panic start to appear. For those who have followed the
housing bubble closely, you know that this is a global housing bubble and that
these trends have become apparent from the
with falling house prices and a drying up of credit, over-stretched consumers
now face very difficult choices as they are forced to decide between driving,
eating, paying their bills, or having a place to live. This particular collapse
is just beginning and the world economy must follow its lead.
stories are reporting that some Americans are pawning precious objects for gas
debt continues to skyrocket as the
trade deficit continues to
are at an all-time high.
Reuters told us on April 22, the Finance Ministers of the G7 nations have just
announced after their recent meeting in
that the dollar is going into decline.
announced that it will begin diversifying out of dollars and into Euros.
April 4th, according to Reuters, the Vice Chair of the Chinese
parliament urged that
reduce its holdings of
February 22, the director of
stock exchange recommended that
drop out of the London Petroleum Exchange (priced in dollars) and open an oil
trading bourse priced in Euros.
• On January 12,
’s Independent announced that
had begun preparations for a global environmental and economic collapse. The
story reported that “
has revealed a plan to build a ‘doomsday vault’ hewn out of an Arctic mountain
to store two million crop seeds in the event of a global disaster. The store is
designed to hold all the seeds representing the world's crops and is being
built to safeguard future food supplies in the event of widespread
• In a sign of pending inflation,
the Federal Reserve last month stopped telling us what the M3 money supply was
in a surefire indication that inflation is on the way. This came conveniently
after further inflationary indicators were hidden by removing the cost of
gasoline and food from the Consumer Price Index.
• On March 28, Al Jazeera warned that
be prepared for an imminent dollar collapse.
moved to relax all currency controls for the Rupee. This suggests that
knows a dollar crash is coming and hopes that the Rupee will enjoy the bounce.
has made another adjustment
re-evaluating the Yuan, accelerating the dollar’s decline.
Asian Development Bank has announced plans to develop a regional currency index
as a preliminary step in the creation of a Euro-like currency for
dollar has lost six cents against the Euro in the last six weeks.
• Gold, which I have and still
devotedly endorse as a safe haven for either rich or poor, has broken through
to highs not seen in 18 years. I had not expected gold to break $600 an ounce
until at least this fall. It happened weeks ago. Notwithstanding the
predictable price corrections that we will see, as a failed and broken system
of gold price suppression loses control, I think the path is now fairly clear
to $800 gold within two years or less. When Peak Oil becomes aggressive, within the next five years, I think
$1,000 gold is a certainty. As always, I encourage FTW subscribers and anyone who will pay attention to continue to
invest in gold. To be precise, I encourage them to invest in physical,
tangible, gold bullion or bullion coins like the Maple Leaf or Krugerand that
can be kept close to home and hearth. Small gold purchases can be made for as
little as a few hundred dollars. All of the struggling FTW subscribers who have made even tiny purchases have benefited by
seeing even their meager investments double in four years and increase by 50%
in value in just the last 18 months.
Stanley’s Stephen Roach – who last year warned of an economic Armageddon is now
warning, “I continue to believe that the American consumer is the weak link in
the global daisy chain. The combination of rising long-term interest rates and
higher oil prices puts an unmistakable squeeze on discretionary income – the
last thing overly indebted, savings-short US consumers need…”
then has the Dow recently reached six-year highs? It’s simple, and I know that
my good friend and colleague, Catherine Austin Fitts will agree, that the DOW
Jones Industrial Average has absolutely nothing to do with measuring the
quality of American life. I am reminded of one of the most important quotes I
have ever obtained for a story, that of Dutch economist Martin Van Mourik who
told the Paris ASPO Conference in 2003, “It may not be profitable to slow
ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the point where every increase in the Dow
will mean that life has actually gotten worse for Americans and riskier for the
world as a whole. I described the endgame of this irony in one of my favorite
essays of all time Globalcorp.
As M. King Hubbert wrote, and as Catherine Austin Fitts teaches, and as I have
said for so long, “Until you change the way money works, you change nothing.”
It is a
shame that much of the Peak Oil movement that understands this problem is
foolishly trying to change the way money works systemically, instead of trying
to change it in the only way that time and circumstance now permit—individually,
locally and regionally. The first and primary requirement for that to occur is
for people to disengage from the global paradigm.
TWO LEADERS POINTING
eight-month hiatus from public speaking, I have watched the Peak Oil movement
morph from its general status as a “lunatic fringe” group to acceptance and
even recognition and honor as an “influential special interest group.” (That’s
what they call groups like us on Capitol Hill and in the mainstream press).
Many members of congress, business leaders, and even the major media listen to
us now. To the organizers of this conference and to all of us who have labored
on the Peak Oil field for years—like Jay Hanson, Richard Duncan, Walter
Youngquist, Ken Deffeyes and Colin Campbell, for decades—there is some relief
in seeing growing public (and even governmental) acknowledgment of Peak Oil. Of
course, most of us have known that all we had to do was keep breathing in and
out for a while and we would be vindicated on the issue.
continue, let me stop and acknowledge that the backbone of this section of my
speech tonight was derived from a series of original From The Wilderness articles published almost a year ago. Our then
Science Editor, Dale Allen Pfeiffer, brought to my attention a brilliant
Russian writer named Dmitry Orlov who—having experienced the collapse of the
Soviet Empire—thought that there might be some lessons to learn if rational
minds compared what looked to be the ever-more-certain coming collapse of the
American Empire. After listening to Dale and corresponding with Dmitry—who
presented here yesterday with my good friend, and a great Peak Oil leader, Matt
Savinar—I instantly commissioned a three-part series for FTW titled Post-Soviet
Lessons for a Post-American Century.
series is probably the single most eloquent and cogent piece of writing FTW has published in its eight-plus
years. And if you are familiar with FTW writers like Stan Goff, Jamey Hecht, Carolyn Baker, and Michael Kane you know
that’s a heck of a compliment. You can still read Dmitry’s stories on our site
and if you have not, I beg that you do.
So let me
acknowledge right now, that our next important lesson tonight was first
articulated by Dmitry—Dmitry, if you’re here, please stand up. I’m going to
quote Dmitry quite a bit as I add my own observations and updates about the
biggest challenges lying in front of us and how we might deal with them.
start of his series, Dmitry observed that when he started looking for stories
connecting economic collapse to Peak Oil in October 2004 there were 16,300 such
documents listed on search engines. Less than a year later, by April 2005 there
were 4,220,000. He pointed out correctly that the reason why such stories had
not been discussed in the media was attributable to only one cause: denial.
take a look at just a few of the most important quotes from Dmitry’s essays.
You really need to read the entire set. And even though these quotes are
clipped from disparate sections, when strung together they speak for themselves
admirably and paint a deeply-moving picture.
there is much discussion of policy: what ‘we’ should do. The ‘we’ in question
is presumably some embodiment of the great American Can-Do Spirit: a
brilliantly organized consortium of government agencies, leading universities, research
centers, and major corporations, all working together toward the goal of
providing plentiful, clean, environmentally safe energy, to fuel another
century of economic expansion. Welcome to the sideshow at the end of the
• “The next circle of denial
revolves around what must inevitably come to pass if the Goddess of Technology
were to fail us: a series of wars over ever-more scarce resources. Paul
Roberts, who is very well informed on the subject of peak oil, has this to say:
‘what desperate states have always done when resources turn scarce… [is] fight
for them.’ Let us not argue that this has never happened, but did it ever
amount to anything more than a futile gesture of desperation? Wars take
resources, and, when resources are already scarce, fighting wars over resources
becomes a lethal exercise in futility. Those with more resources would be
expected to win. I am not arguing that wars over resources will not occur. I am
suggesting that they will be futile, and that victory in these conflicts will
be barely distinguishable from defeat. I would also like to suggest that these
conflicts would be self-limiting: modern warfare uses up prodigious amounts of
energy, and if the conflicts are over oil and gas installations, then those
installations will get blown up, as has happened repeatedly in
. This will
result in less energy being available and, consequently, less warfare.”
have far more goodwill around the world than the Soviet Union, the ‘evil
empire’ gap has narrowed since the
disappeared from the scene. Now, in many countries around the world, including
Western countries like
ranks as a
bigger threat to peace than
In the hated-empire race, the
is now beginning to look like the
champion. Nobody likes a loser, but especially if the loser is a failed
superpower. Nobody had any pity for the poor defunct Soviet Union; and nobody
will have any pity for poor defunct
is now facing a current account deficit that cannot be sustained, a falling
currency, and an energy crisis, all at once. It is now the world's largest
debtor nation, and most people do not see how it can avoid defaulting on its
debt. According to a lot of analysts, it is technically bankrupt, and is being
propped up by foreign reserve banks, which hold a lot of dollar-denominated
assets, and, for the time being, want to protect the value of their reserves.
This game can only go on for so long. Thus, while the Soviet Union deserves
honorable mention for going bankrupt first, the gold in this category (pun
intended) will undoubtedly go to the
, for the largest
• “Both countries replaced family
farms with unsustainable, ecologically disastrous industrial agribusiness,
addicted to fossil fuels. The American ones work better, as long as energy is
cheap, and, after that, probably not at all.”
have to paraphrase Dmitry on race and violence. But in that section he noted that
not only was race not an important stress line in the collapse of the
Soviet Union, there were also virtually no firearms in
private hands. His advice for minorities in America was to find either an
ethnically homogeneous community “while the rest would be well-advised to look
for the few communities where inter-ethnic relations have been cemented through
integrated living and intermarriage, and where the strange and fragile entity
that is multi-ethnic society might have a chance of holding together.”
key difference between the
: in the
Soviet Union, nobody owned their place of residence. What
this meant is that the economy could collapse without causing homelessness:
just about everyone went on living in the same place as before. There were no
evictions or foreclosures. Everyone stayed put, and this prevented society from
• “One more difference: the place
where they stayed put was generally accessible by public transportation, which
continued to run during the worst of times. Most of the Soviet-era developments
were centrally planned, and central planners do not like sprawl: it is too
difficult and expensive to service. Few people owned cars, and even fewer
depended on cars for getting around. Even the worst gasoline shortages resulted
in only minor inconveniences for most people…”
people in the
cannot survive very long without an income. This may sound curious to some
people—how can anyone, anywhere survive without an income? Well, in
post-collapse Russia, if you didn't pay rent or utilities—because no-one else
was paying them either—and if you grew or gathered a bit of your own food, and
you had some friends and relatives to help you out, then an income was not a
prerequisite for survival. Most people got by, somehow.”
collapsing economy is especially hard on those who are accustomed to prompt,
courteous service. In the
Soviet Union, most
official service was rude and slow, and involved standing in long lines. Many
of the products that were in short supply could not be obtained even in this
manner, and required something called blat: special, unofficial access or
favor. The exchange of personal favors was far more important to the actual
functioning of the economy than the exchange of money. To Russians, blat is
almost a sacred thing: a vital part of culture that holds society together. It
is also the only part of the economy that is collapse-proof, and, as such, a
valuable cultural adaptation.”
finally, Dmitry wrote, “In all, I expect drugs and alcohol to become one of the
largest short-term post-collapse entrepreneurial opportunities in the
along with asset stripping, and security.”
wrote in his series, the collapse of Empires, as with
Rome, has in the past sometimes taken centuries.
In the case of the Mayans it happened in a much shorter period. But Dmitry was
quick to observe that the first stages of collapse are often the most
dislocative, painful, and demanding because that’s when the first psychological
and physical shocks hit hardest. And I would argue—along with the likes of
Joseph Tainter—that the collapse of modern, highly-complex empires is both
accelerated and far more aggravated than what happened 1600 years ago in
Soviet Empire collapsed and disappeared in less than four years and the
devastation for the Russian people was both profound and deadly. I have been to
and I will never
forget a little piece of Russian humor left over from the siege of
Petersburg) in the Second World War. I told my Russian
hosts that I wanted to get a little outside of the cosmopolitan center of
Moscow and see some “real
thing they said was, “If you go into a restaurant, don’t order chicken.”
hesitated and then asked, “Why?”
they said, “ever since the Germans laid siege to
Leningrad, chicken is what we have called it
when we had to eat our comrades to stay alive and in the fight. In some parts
one is still never sure.”
dare assume that Americans are special and somehow exempt from all the
vicissitudes that have befallen every other collapse of empire in history?
of you who chided me last year for predicting an American economic collapse
this last winter, which some argue—in spite of this evidence—failed to materialize,
let me point out that—and we will talk about it tonight—there are strong signs
that collapse has already begun. I never said the collapse would be over last
winter, I only said that it would begin. That collapse will most certainly be
here—in emerging bloom and for all to see—this summer. No one will remain
unaffected by it. Whenever it ends, it is not going to end prettily.
is preoccupied with survival, anything beyond survival becomes an imponderable
luxury. And to mistakenly label a luxury a necessity makes it impossible to
survive. The Peak Oil movement needs to ask itself now: what are its
necessities and what are its luxuries? There is precious little room for error
now. These decisions will be hard but they must be made.
Latin scholar had predicted the day that the barbarians would sack, loot, and
occupy Rome and missed it by only four months, he or she today would be regarded as a prophet.
I am content tonight, to just be the same asshole many of you have come to know
and love—or hate—over the years. I’m just doing my job as I see it needs to be
done. That is all I have ever done.
we come to the second man I would like to honor tonight, Julian Darley of
Global Public Media and the Post Carbon Institute.
simply, the Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to save lives. Put a little more
succinctly, the Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to work with local groups
North America and the world to
facilitate their construction of their own lifeboats, specifically tailored to
the strengths and weaknesses faced by each unique locale that presents itself
facilitate this, the Post Carbon Institute has adopted a unique approach.
Rather than dictate top-down policies or provide cookie-cutter solutions which
may or may not prove helpful as collapse accelerates, the Institute facilitates
relocalization by insisting that each Post-Carbon “outpost,” as it calls them,
operate autonomously while receiving only guidance, support, and updated
information and news from the Institute itself. Each outpost then has only one
mission, to focus on immediate improvements to its community such as, but
certainly not limited to: local farming, car sharing, local currencies and
event organization. As Julian puts it, “the stakes are the survival of this
project we call civilization.”
beginning its work in the second half of 2003, the Post Carbon Institute has
fostered the creation of more than 90 local groups all over the US and Canada,
as well as in the UK, Australia, Sweden and even Yemen. It has grown
explosively as small, aware groups of citizens have seen the wisdom of Julian’s
approach which begins with one of the first rules in any survival situation:
Let the people on the ground make the decisions according to their own
judgment, in their own place.
of 90 Post Carbon groups around the world there should be 9,000. These are the
kinds of numbers we need to see if we are to really make a difference in
helping to decide who eats and stays warm, who lives and who dies.
have not yet visited the Post Carbon web
site, you must.
conference has motivated you to start preparing for the challenges that lie
ahead, you need to begin by accepting the head start that the Post Carbon
Institute has given you. Richard Heinberg—another great hero of this movement—has
said, “The Post Carbon Institute is clearly the first medic on the scene—the
first organized response to Peak Oil.”
year and a half ago, seeing what was coming, I looked around and saw a crying
need for someone to take the lead on this challenge. Before that, my expertise
and that of From the Wilderness had
been geopolitical and economic analysis. I had precious little experience or
training on issues of sustainability, agriculture, water, alternative
construction, and all the other things we need to learn.
I was willing to take FTW and my
writings in that direction even though I knew that there had to be others far
more capable than I was. I am happy to report to you tonight that I and FTW no longer need to go in that
direction. An expert—and I know Julian will protest that label—has arrived and
this has made a huge difference for us. It is now vastly more effective for me
and FTW to say that on the key issues
of relocalization, downsizing and sustainability, we encourage everyone to look
to the Post Carbon Institute for guidance and leadership. Julian has invented
that wheel for us. We only need a few more and we can make a wagon to take us
down survival’s path.
result, I and FTW are free to return
to what we do best: geopolitical and macro-economic analysis. Since our recent
Oregon, we have hired three new staff. We
have increased our production of original stories by more than 50% and we plan
on doubling our output within the next four months. In this way FTW can work as a strategic partner with
the Post Carbon Institute and all of the other great groups that have come here
to New York to provide what no one else can: an early warning system and the
kind of analysis that will identify hot spots, key issues, trends, and pending
crises far enough ahead so that each locality can prioritize its own efforts
according to its own needs in light of a rapidly changing global map.
the way in which those who see Peak Oil for what it is can plan, prepare, and
respond as needs dictate. This is the way in which true leadership, whether it
be visionary and analytical as is the case with Dimity Orlov, or organizational
and educational as with Julian Darley, can make a difference. This is the
living embodiment of Catherine Austin Fitts’ maxim that “No one is as smart as
all of us.”
and gentlemen, I would like to present to you my good friend, a man who I
respect and admire, Mr. Julian Darley.
well-known Peak Oil activist has already moved into a post-oil paradigm. He has
no car. He has no cell phone. He travels only by train to avoid leaving a large
energy footprint. Yet at the same time he tries to organize conferences around
the country, leaving people who depend on quick responses and decision making
to operate at levels not seen since the 1940s or 50s.
anyone here believe that Dick Cheney or Hillary Clinton or Fed Chairman Ben
Bernanke or any of the world’s business leaders are making such self-sabotaging
choices now? They may have to, someday. But for now they are taking every
possible advantage, using whatever energy is needed, to prepare and position
themselves to stay ahead of what are now certain coming events.
I hate to
say it, but perhaps we should take a lesson from our enemies here.
not forget that in order to get to the Post-carbon world that is inevitable we
must first survive the collapse and the die off that is inevitable. The
challenges of the transition period will be completely different from the
challenges of living in a world without cheap energy.
It is the
almost complete failure of the Peak Oil movement in the United States—and
around the world—to grasp, ponder or even acknowledge these transitions that
are pointing to a needed evolution in our approach to education, research,
networking, and organizing. Psychologically it is always easier to plan along
the lines of a single challenge rather than to try to prepare for chaos on a
fluid, multi-dimensional field where serious challenges may be completely
different from one day to the next. But the easiest path is not always the best
that I live by is that what we need today, right now, is not a plan, but
options. Plans do not bend well. They tend to break. And with breaks in plans
come break downs in function. The only plan that I live by today—the only plan
that I recommend to our subscribers—is to increase one’s options as much as
possible and to selectively choose those options based upon what is happening
in the world now and what those developments might mean for the future.
submit to you tonight that perhaps a more important question that needs to be
answered first is: “How do we get from a civilization where collapse and
dislocation is just beginning to a place where we can prepare to transition
away from oil and gas when the time is appropriate”?
Lennon once wrote that “Life is what happens to you while you were busy making
other plans.” This movement needs to reflect on that.
friend of mine, Dr. Faiz Khan, once said that a paradigm is what you think
about something before you think about it.
global economic paradigm that we live under dictates infinite growth, then we
must disengage individually and by community from that paradigm.
activist paradigm that we live under says that we must slow down the process of
reform and planning to make room for all and offend no one, no matter how much
they may slow down or confuse the process, then we must disengage from that
paradigm. This is no longer about protracted—and almost always ineffective—social
change. This is about survival. I refuse to die, and I refuse to encourage
anyone else to risk death or to slow down for or argue with people who are
either incapable of understanding, too lazy to do the necessary homework, or
too tightly wedded to old ideas.
old ideas and cherished values and principles now luxuries or necessities? We
will each make our own decisions, and in a world that will give us near
instantaneous feedback. We will suffer or prosper, we will stop or continue, we
will live and die accordingly.
philosophy teaches us that life is suffering. It is amazing how much joy and
liberation can be achieved from that viewpoint. It has to do with lowering
expectations so that little pieces of joy and cause for celebration are more
accessible to our hearts and minds.
as practiced in
tends to make us all believe that if we are spiritually and morally correct, we
will be rewarded with abundance. As Dmitry Orlov observed, Christianity in
other parts of the world teaches that the path to salvation and redemption lies
through suffering and denial. Which is it then?
spiritual or religious paradigm that you live under influences your thinking in
either direction, then that paradigm is your enemy and my enemy. What is it
that you think about before you think? Find it, identify it, and discard anything
that is not a survival necessity.
thing that the universe is offering the human species now is the opportunity to
change—to evolve…or to perish.
there is a new understanding of God awaiting those who survive. I have long
held the personal belief that religion is for people who are afraid of going to
Hell and that true spirituality is for those who have already been there.
What I do
know, because I have faced many survival challenges in my life, is that the
less baggage one takes into any survival situation, the more likely one is to
this philosophy is best summed up by one of my favorite quotes of all time. In
his classic science fiction novel Dune,
Frank Herbert wrote:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to
pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone
past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
When the fear has
gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
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