Podcast

Charles Eisenstein: It's Time for a Better Narrative

Friday, February 10, 2012, 10:23 PM

Our actions are determined by our beliefs. And our beliefs are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves.

So what happens when the stories we tell ourselves are inaccurate?

The short answer is, we find ourselves engaging in actions that aren't aligned with our best interests.

Charles Eisenstein has made a profession out of studying the intersection of economics and philosophy. And he thinks that over the past several generations, enabled by an unprecedented subsidy of abundant cheap energy, our society has become so far decoupled from natural laws that it has adopted a paradigm of thinking (or "stories") dangerously irrelevant to the future we face.

As resource scarcity increasingly expresses the natural forces that applied to our grandparents' generation and those prior, we are still living under a mindset that assumes predictable, endless growth.

Think about it: Most people reading this and nearly all of our national leaders have come of age in one of the most, if not the most, extraordinary economic periods in history. The exploitation of petroleum fields ushered in a global prosperity never before dreamed of. Decoupling gold from the dollar has allowed those living in the US to increase debt much, much faster than GDP for the past forty years. This behavior is empirically unsustainable -- but to almost all of us, it feels "normal," because it's all we've known.

And it's coming to an end.

The power elite is very much trapped in their obsolete paradigms. Across the political spectrum, everyone’s solution is we have got to reignite economic growth.

So when housing starts rise, that's trumpeted as great news. No one really bothers to mention that we already have like double the housing capacity per capita that we did in the 1950’s. There is something like 19 million vacant units. As long as we are starting to build new houses then that is going to be employment and everything is going to be okay. They are trying to squeeze a little bit more growth out of the system. But as you mentioned, it comes at a higher and higher cost.

It's very much like an alcoholic. In the early days you can maintain the addiction quite easily. Maybe you will have to take a second mortgage out on your house, you will have to lie to your boss a little bit but you can kind of hold things together. Eventually, things fall apart. Eventually, it is your liver. And you can only get that next fix at greater and greater cost.

Now, to extend the metaphor to our system, we have gotten all of the easy oil. We have depleted all the easy resources and the ones that we can easily escape the consequences of. Up until now, or up until recently, if you are creating industrial pollution, radioactive waste, etc., etc. social turmoil, well you can move away from it. you can move to a gated community, you can escape it.

Well, today it is becoming impossible. The consequences are invading even the fortresses of the wealthy in various forms and if we want to keep growth going there is not that much more of nature that we can convert into product and not much more human relationship that we can convert into services. What we can convert comes at a much, much higher cost. You have to excavate the Alberta tar sands and devastate that Eco system. You have to clear cut the forests the fifth time or sixth time and they aren’t really recovering anymore, trees are dying everywhere and we just – the planet can’t take much more of that.

The other thing sometimes economists will say is we can grow the economy of services instead and we can actually have economic growth with less energy because of miniaturization and other technological innovations. So energy really isn’t a constraint and I think that to meet that objection you have to kind of extend the peak argument to include community as well and understand that a lot of the growth and services come at the expense of things people once did for each other and that technology -- just like in the material realm and the social realm -- technology has extended the reach of monetized services.

For example, people never used to pay for communication, now we pay for almost all of our communication. People never used to pay for entertainment but now we pay for almost all of our entertainment. Even when my father was a child he says that in his suburban neighborhood, his whole neighborhood, every Sunday, would get together with guitars and sing folk songs. To imagine that happening in my neighborhood today is ridiculous because we all buy all of our entertainment. There is almost nothing that we don’t pay for anymore.

What is happening is there is just not that much room for economic growth. We are never going to go back to the normal of the 50s and 60s when like there were years where there was like 7 or 8% GDP growth. No way. Now we are having trouble getting up to 2.5% and that is just not enough to allow lending. The banks would rather just sit on their money. Why would you lend it to build a widget factory when the market for widgets is flat.

The money is stagnating as excess reserves. No matter how much they create it is, as Keynes said, like loosening your belt in hopes you will get fat.

So, what to do about it? Change our guiding stories and, in many cases, look to historical models that have demonstrated success. And realize that 'wealth' will be increasingly defined not by the dollars in your bank account, but by social capital:

The only thing that you could invest in that can survive such a transition would be to invest in your community, to create a reservoir of gratitude out there -- to be someone who is valuable to other people, who has valuable resources, valuable skills which you share.

This interview makes a deep exploration of what we as a society value today, and how that perception may likely evolve in the years to come. It's heavy on philosophy, and touches on the spiritual, too. It's not our typical fare for these podcasts, but certainly a worthwhile perspective to consider.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Charles Eisenstein (runtime 55m:22s): 

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Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution.

His writings on the web magazine Reality Sandwich have generated a vast online following; he speaks frequently at conferences and other events, and gives numerous interviews on radio and podcasts. Writing in Ode magazine’s “25 Intelligent Optimists” issue, David Korten (author of When Corporations Rule the World) called Eisenstein “one of the up-and-coming great minds of our time.”

Eisenstein graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, and spent the next ten years as a Chinese-English translator. He currently lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and serves on the faculty of Goddard College.


Our series of podcast interviews with notable minds includes:

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50 Comments

jrf29's picture
jrf29
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Phenomenal

This is among the best CM podcasts that I've heard.

Jim H's picture
Jim H
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I will be really honest with you all....

I turned it off when he said that warlords are going to take my Gold.  I don't think he has ever seen a video of how fast you can unload 12G buckshot out the business end of a Benelli tactical shotgun.  I guess I will be a warlord... but I promise to be a really benevolent one, as long as your quest is only to beg a can of spam from me   : )  

I find myself getting fatigued with all this.. may need a break and just pretend things are normal for a while...        

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A Gem.

A  gem. Thank you both. A lot of food for thought. I will have to sleep on it and take notes.

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Progress.

I see it this way.

We are in the process of being born.

The planet is spawning and we are it. 

We have become alienated from the planet, and this is how it should be.

Dr Gerard K O'Neill has shown us how to leave. It is time to go. There is only one place for us to live and that is in the sky. This planet will always be special to us. It is our mother. But it is time to go.

This is going to be dificult. Birth is always difficult. It is also glorious. There is no going back to the womb.

It is important to realize the enormous power of the space-colonization technique. If we begin to use it soon enough, and if we employ it wisely, at least five of the most serious problems now facing the world can be solved without recourse to repression: bringing every human being up to a living standard now enjoyed only by the most fortunate; protecting the biosphere from damage caused by transportation and industrial pollution; finding high quality living space for a world population that is doubling every 35 years; finding clean, practical energy sources; preventing overload of Earth's heat balance.
—Gerard K. O'Neill, "The Colonization of Space"[25]
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Viability of America

The money no longer represents Wealth.  Because of this, persons have begun to question the money.   Since money is the facilatator of economic transaction, persons are doubting the economing.  And that means persons are losing faith in the viability of America.

Interviewee: "The planet can't take much more of that."  My God says it can!!!  Damn you!

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"how can

a man be born when he is old. Can he enter a second time into his mothers womb and be born?" Nicodemas

Arther, you made me reply.  Difficulties  are all births of some sort. Now I may be reborn but "I don't nonuthin''bout birthin no babies" Butterfly

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EXCELLENT!!!

EXCELLENT!!!

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I'd give it an 8 but "I can't dance to it"

liked some of this (notion of community building)

other parts too out there for me

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The expansion of self to include others . . .

[quote=Charles Eisenstein] [T]he expansion of Self to include others is almost a definition of love. [/quote]

I agree completely with Mr. Eisenstein.  I am not a hippie,  but it is this idea that underlies virtually all of the good things that come from humanity from time to time.

Doug Casey, the noted investor and gold-bug, recently spoke about this truth in practical relation to the markets (although it applies in all other areas of life):

[quote=Doug Casey] Let me say one more thing about the issue of selfishness - the virtue of selfishness - and the vice of altruism.  Ayn Rand might never forgive me for saying this, but if you take the two concepts - ethical self-interest and concern for others - to their logical conclusions, they actually are the same.  It's in your selfish best interest to provide the maximum amount of value to the maximum number of people - that's how Apple became the giant company it is.

Conversely, it is not altruistic to help other people. I want all the people around me to be strong and successful. It makes life better and easier for me if they're all doing well. So it's selfish, not altruistic, when I help them.

To weaken others, to degrade them by making them dependent upon generosity, as we discussed in our conversation on charity, is not doing those people any good. If you really care about others, the best thing you can do for them is to push for totally freeing all markets. That makes it both necessary and rewarding for them to learn valuable skills and to become creators of value, and not burdens on society. It's a win-win all around.

- "Conversations with Casey, Feb. 8. 2012." [/quote]

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The Most Captivating Podcast To Date

Chris has now just given Bill Moyers a run for his money.  I feel like this was another segment to "The Power of Myth" series on PBS, which blew my mind while just out of college searching for?...the meaning of life??  not really sure what I was searching for then!.  These two are circling in very close to some compelling "mystery", as a Catholic Mystic might say.

The late Joseph Campbell, in those interviews with Bill Moyer in the mid 80's, described those all to common events where a stranger would put their lives at risk to help someone...ie a cop holding the hand of a jumper on some roadside cliff in Hawaii and slipping himself off the cliff, NOT letting go of the jumpers hand, trying to save this dude.  When asked why he could not let go, a guy with wife and kids...he would just say. " It came from a deeper place"...maybe that he saw himself in this person.  We are all tied together in mysterious ways.  And during this time of OIL and GROWTH, we have grown danerously far appart from ourselves.  I am the first to admit that I'm one of them.  I don't know many of my neighbors.

Again, Fantastic Podcast Chris.  Food for thought galore!

Thank You!

Dover (in Portland, Or)

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Quote:If you really care

[quote=]

If you really care about others, the best thing you can do for them is to push for totally freeing all markets. That makes it both necessary and rewarding for them to learn valuable skills and to become creators of value, and not burdens on society. It's a win-win all around.

This Austrian sound byte sounds great until one understands that value is not created, but actually taken and transformed, from the natural world (the laws of physics and ecological energetics clearly stipulate this). Therefore, anything that diminishes the natural world's ability to provide value by extension diminishes the amount of value available to all of us. Since free markets internalize profits and externalize costs (regardless of whatever monetary system they may find themselves operating in), they therefore diminish ecological productivity and do not optimize overall value.

As the saying goes, "You can give a man a fish, and he will have dinner. You can teach a man to fish and he will be able to feed himself for a lifetime", or something to that effect. Well where do the fish come from? A hook? This old proverb was popularized when there were still ample fish in the world.

................

I really liked one of the last things discussed in the interview, about how if you prevent a pipeline from being built you are actually speeding up the collapse. This really hits home because up here in Canada we have an ideologically driven dictator for a prime minister who is determined to send all of Canada's remaining petroleum resources to China as quickly as possible in return for worthless pieces of paper (I'd rather use them to help out our friends to the south who will soon be in deep trouble), and in the process likely diminishing the productive capacity of the BC coastline and rivers from inevitable oil spills.

This pipeline epitomizes the situation we are now stuck in, why it is so difficult to transition to a sustainable economy. The existing system is designed to suck wealth from the natural world, until there is no wealth left to suck. If it can't do this then it collapses. But Canada still has enough resources remaining that it could continue to do this for quite a while before we'd run out.

Voluntarily ending the current cancerous system before it runs out of resources would imply some sort of a crash. Since people always tend to push unpleasant events as far into the future as possible (and no sane politician would challenge that), the danger is that our incentives are to continue propping up the existing system until it crashes on its own accord, after which we will have no resources left with which to build a new system!

Fundamentally, this is just the manifestation of the same pattern of growth / collapse that ALL biological systems go through when provided with ample new resources, coupled with a lack of predation or other suppressive factors. Despite all our wonderful technology and artwork and complex social systems, our current society is collectively no more intelligent than bacteria in a petri dish.

One silver lining offering some hope is that the global monetary system will collapse long before Canada has exhausted its resources (hopefully we won't have contractually signed them all over to China before then), because then we may retain something with which to rebuild a new system.

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Apologies...

to my CM.com brethren... I went against advice that I have proffered here elsewhere myself.. I shut down on Charles' messages because I don't agree with one of his own beliefs.. i.e. the future utility of Gold.  Too much work and stress accrued at the end of Jim's workweek had made him a dull boy.  

I listened to the whole podcast this time.. and there are many nuggets.  First off, it is so true that the separation of the spiritual and the material is artifice in the modern narrative we have adopted... if there is one singular message that quantum mechanics teaches us, it is of the convertibility of energy into matter, and vice versa.  There are threads that bind us in ways we don't understand... if the thought of a friend ever popped into you head, followed by a phone call from them, I don't think this is always coincidence... I think rather it is a peek into this deeper level of connectedness.  If you want a very approachable way to explore these ideas, you might try reading, "The God Theory" by astrophysicist Bernhard Haisch;

http://www.amazon.com/God-Theory-Universes-Zero-point-Fields/dp/1578633745   

One idea that was discussed that I have never heard before was the idea of, if I may use my own words, peak services, and the implications of this both to future economic growth (or lack thereof), and to how the growth of services has actually been one of the drivers toward the moment of "peak separation", the flip side of the "community minima"  we find ourselves at now.  I recall as a kid in Livonia, MI, probably circa 1970-ish, that on a summer weekend night one of the neighbors would set up a movie screen on their driveway, some folding chairs, and would have a movie night for anyone who cared to come.  Anyway.. ideas like gifting as a means to create community... and not just co-consuming, but co-creating as well, are important ones to grasp hold of.  

I will say that I inadvertently rejected some of the latter vestiges of the "wise advice" aspect of the services economy by making the decision at least 10 years ago to become my own financial advisor - without knowing it at the time, doing so opened the portal for me to the world of post-Keynesian thinking .. and this podcast was a very broad and helpful discussion of post-Keynesian positivism.       

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Hi Jim H.

Jim H. wrote:
I turned it off when he said that warlords are going to take my Gold.  I don't think he has ever seen a video of how fast you can unload 12G buckshot out the business end of a Benelli tactical shotgun.  I guess I will be a warlord...

Hi Jim,

I agree that the idea that a warlord would want to go around taking everybody's valuables from their houses is a bit cartoonish.  Gangs of opportunistic thieves, maybe.  Warlords, no.  I think its very unlikely that society breaks down completely during our own lifetimes, but let's assume it does.  Who are the community's lords?   Read this quote from Richard Heinberg:

Richard Heinberg wrote:
If you can figure out how to grow food sustainably, starting now, you are guaranteed to become a Very Popular Person. In fact, your biggest problem could be TOO MUCH popularity! Your whole neighborhood might want to start hanging out with you every day to share meals. Some neighbors might even want to visit you (or your garden) in the middle of the night. Cozy—maybe too cozy!  But if you plan ahead for all of this popularity, you could find ways to put all your new friends to work weeding, planting, and harvesting.  You could turn this into a system—a feudal system, to put a name to it—with you as the, um, facilitator!

-Museletter #219, August 2010

I think Heinberg is right that these are the sorts of people who historically became "lords."  They don't do it by stealing gold from everybody in sight.  They draw their communities around them, making other people dependent upon them in a mutual relationship. The lord takes a slice off the very top.  Those who choose to isolate themselves and not participate in this increasingly vibrant community will soon learn the meaning of "dirt poor."  Why rob a community when you can own it?  I don't need to steal your gold.

The lord will be too busy making money hand over fist to worry about theft.  Lords take the net economic output of a community or region.  At heart they are businessmen and community organizers. After all, money (and gold) does not have an absolute value.  It is simply a claim on the goods and services available in an economy at a given time . . . the economy that the local lord controls.

A warlord directly benefits by all economic activity in the community, regardless of who is selling or buying.  If I am the lord then I own the local economy -  so spend your gold.  Or hide it to spend later!  You have my blessing either way, because it benefits me either way.  You can even keep your shotgun.  In fact, I want you to have it.  As for the types of thieves who will come to your house in the middle of the night with masks on?  A good warlord will eliminate those sorts of people within a few years.  Warlords are not in the business of seizing personal property.  They will seek to control productive assets (water sources, land, large resource bodies). 

Why rob the community, when you can own it?  Unless you have a real Fort Knox buried underneath your house, what do I care?  That's how a successful warlord will operate.

~                     ~                     ~                     ~

Of course, if I am the warlord and you were getting on my nerves, I could take care you you easily enough.  Maybe I'd just tell my community that you are suspected of a crime (maybe robbing the community in some way).  You'll have to be brought before our court, fair and square.

The local officers who come to your house.  You going to shoot them?  Innocent people who are just doing their job?  Innocent men with homes and families?  If you do, even the most degraded society will call out the militia, who will fire a few artillery rounds into your house and call it a day (if that's even necessary).  Yes, if you're stupid enough to open fire on innocent members of my community, I'll let the local justice system take care of you.  My hands are clean.

If you're really getting on my nerves?  Well, I think the only way that you could do that would be to try and compete directly with me.  In that case I'll just have somebody shoot you in the back one day when you're walking down the road.  I'll enjoy hearing about how the man fell to the ground face-first with his "tactical" shotgun in his hand.  Or maybe I'll leave you alone and kill your grandchildren first.  Warlords are ruthless, dangerous people.

Back to the Richard Heinberg quote, above:  communities of interdependence are the best, and the only, consistent protection over long periods of time.  Throughout history, we never see either warlords (or groups indivdualistic hold-outs) who get by reliably with nothing but fortresses and guns, without getting along with their communities.

So this leads, in a rather roundabout way, to me agreeing with Mr. Eisenstein (but for different reasons).  Back to the Richard Heinberg quote above, to the individual and to the warlord alike, community is their most valuable asset.

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I posted that

. . . before I saw your new post, Jim, which I haven't read yet.

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I wonder....

I find it fascinating that Eisenstein can do all that talking and thinking about "spiritual" meanings without any reference whatsoever to ANY ancient religious perspectives.  At least I would expect him to dismiss them as meaningless or divisive.  Of course, if you have any in depth knowledge of one or more of the ancient religious traditions, then you realize Eisenstein has only "discovered" truths that people of faith have been thinking and talking about for 2,000 - 3,000 years, or more.  And not only is he talking about ancient truths, he's leaving out the absolute core beliefs/concepts of those traditions which are the indispensable foundations for the conclusions he is espousing.  Fascinating.

I wonder who's world this is?  Mine?  Ours?  Or someone else's?  Only AFTER you've come to a conclusion about that can you possibly answer who decides what is right and what is wrong, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy.

I wonder if anyone else before us ever took up this subject, "What is love?"  I wonder if people ever struggled with the questions, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"  

Well, if we're the first ones to tackle these issues we've got a lot of new, ground-breaking work to do.  And a 10,000 volume library to publish.

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Thanks jrf29...

For your thoughtful reply...   Indeed I have way more seeds stored than I could every plant on the cleared (now lawn) part of my 2 acre lot.  My intention all along has been to share them with neighbors when the time comes so that they can improve their resilience, and hopefully share some of the proceeds back with me.  I will be more Johnny Appleseed than fuedal war lord.  

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Jim, Mark

Thanks for the reply, Jim.  I love the image of the Johnny Appleseed!  I also think there is much wisdom in your post above.

Mark, I should narrow my comment above.  You're right that Doug Casey is talking about a net growth economy, which may not be possible in the future.  But I liked the quote because it makes a point that I agree with: at some level there may not be much difference between selfishness and altruism. 

For example, if being altruistic was a behavior not in the individual's self-interest, we as a species wouldn't do it.  Whether you want to argue spiritual or economic self-interest, the point holds.  If altrusim is a good thing, and good for you, then it is in some sense a truly selfish activity.  Avarice, destruction, and separation would be among the least "selfish" activities.

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Crime

There is one advantage to be gained from having an interconnected society that I never hear mentioned, and that is that it will have a dramatic effect on the crime rate. Today, we mostly live in our own little bubble. The relationship with our neighbours is mainly around status, such as the size of our car, house etc. or just how exotic our holidays are. There is no real society from which we can be ostracised, so when someone commits a crime the only punishment is that handed down by the courts (assuming they get caught, of course!).

However, if the society is cohesive, such as the entertainment being in the form of the guitar sessions mentioned in the talk, then if someone were ostracised from such gatherings, it would really hurt. Surely there is not a lot worse than seeing a group of people enjoying themselves and knowing that they specifically do not want you to join in with them. The prospect of such an eventuality would surely have a deterrence effect. It wouldn’t stop all crime, but I’ll bet it would stop a lot of it.

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Re: Crime

I think it depends very much on where you are.  I think big cities and many suburbs could see crime rates skyrocket and remain elevated for years.  Suburbs strike me as particularly unstable places.  Even if they are located near some kind of farmland, they will have to discover "community" from scratch.  Even the outlying rural areas in many places have little community to speak of, and will need to develop it slowly.

But there are many other places where you will be absolutely correct:  the crime rate will stay very low, and may even drop significantly.

Many Old New England towns (I use the example only because, as a New Englander, they are what I know.  I'm sure there are other examples) are true communities that have existed as independent government units for almost 400 years.  These towns - even today - are very tight-knit, inward looking communities whose streets and houses were mostly built before the age of gasoline.  Geographically they tend to be somewhat self-contained, and the sense of duty toward "Town" approaches a second-patriotism, and the common sense of duty toward fellow townspeople approaches the feeling one would have for aunts, uncles, and cousins.  These are communities that one often must be born into to be fully accepted.  "Inward-looking" can be a disadvantage, but places like this will pull together strongly.

What we could see is a nation of extremes.  Some places will have the critical mass already in place (combined with the appropriate architecture and local resource base - generally sited and built before the age of petroleum) and will tip toward complete (almost xenophobic) community.  Other places (San Fernando valley?) that don't have the critical mass will tip in the other direction and may have to deal with chronic instability and high crime for decades.  Even when those places (like the Valley) finally do reach an equilibrium point, I'm not sure I'd want to see it.  It could involve the kind of local lords that we were talking about above.

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Just Terrific and Scenic..

I absolutely enjoyed every second of this podcast. Ours is a future that is people, one by one paying forward good deeds that will slowly but surely change things. Why? It is our common nature, our biological similarities that will transition us to a symmetry with all of natures balances. It is the human being who will adjust or perish, and as the most gifted of all creatures we will get back to whatever center is. Internally I truly believe this. We are brothers and sisters of a singular race, I see our future as a camera on rewind, going very slowly. Hard landing, perhaps, for the ill prepared.

Our past is filled with fits and starts towards nirvana. The hippie generation, the cool cats before them, and the environmental movement after our moon shot. Not long ago warm ups to what lay ahead. An example of what our future may look like is reclaiming the past. For an example: Landfills will be reclaimed for all our productive waste buried as uneconomical. Now, maybe a thriving industry, where metals are mined at a fraction of the cost as roving recycling plants move from pile to pile. Adding to the grid its generating heat. Who knows but it's an example of a feel good scenario. 

Charles used "Capacity is Dormant", and man how I agree with this. "Level off", that represents balance, and yes I agree with that. "Cultural Conditioning", Chris used this, and man how true but we recognize this. So are unharmed by the attempt to condition. The whole Podcast was one gem after another.

The part about Gold in the basement, the logic of it all didn't get lost. There is always someone bigger and badder than you is the message. Risk/Reward. Frankly he could have said, corn, wheat, flour, campbell's soup. If conditions are ripe then everything is up for repatriation. Who knows really what our future brings but we'll get it right or create some balance. It doesn't mean utopia but the balance will be righted. I absolutely believe this, it will be communal, you won't be able to do it alone. You will need the assistance of others , and they you.

I have to ask a question of anyone who reads this. Is it more gratifying to give or to receive? I thought so, we would be great neighbors. Peace...BOB

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Those who aren't busy being born

Those who aren't busy being born
Are busy dying.

Bob Dylan

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Thanks for all the food for

Thanks for all the food for thought Charles, Chris, jrf and thc, and others...

I can see what thc is saying about how a lot of these spiritual principles have been around for a very long time, mostly fogotten or shelved in the modern industrial world in the name of consumptive rewards. I think a lot of these teachings have quite a bit to say about over-consumptive habits... Since our entire economic system that depends on consumption at its very core is falling apart, is it any wonder? I think we were warned about this long ago but have chosen to ignore it. If some ancient teachers were still alive today they may be saying "I told you so", or maybe they would have the maturity to not point fingers.

Charles and Chris talked about how many people who finally accept the uncomfortable facts we face go through a series of stages in their period of acceptance that shakes up their foundations, before moving on to adapt to the new narrative. I never went through that transition since I've always known things weren't right, having grown up in various resource consumption boom towns throughout Canada and developing a strong connection with nature. My epiphany / wake up moment instead came one day after I had been ruminating for a long time about what science is and how the scientific method works, and how it relates to spirituality. Then it just hit me one instant -- science works not by discovering what the truth is, but rather what the truth isn't. That is fundamentally how the scientific method is structured. From this I went on to develop a lot of my own spiritual principles / discoveries over the next year or two and of course came to the realization that a lot of these things have been explored by many people before me (the Eastern belief systems really intrigue me, and we may be requiring their services more in the future because Buddhism was developed as a way to alleviate suffering in times of great physical stress).

The structure of the scientific method allows for spirtuality because it is NOT reductionist by nature. An example is Newtonian physics. This was discovered by Newton a few centuries ago and it perfectly explained the observable world at that time -- things were neatly divided into either waves or matter, and a whole slew of logical mathematics was developed to describe observeable phenomena based on this. It all seemed settled. Some confident adherents went so far as to proclaim that the entire workings of our bodies could and would be explained in Newtonian terms (some of them still do, and write controverial and antagonistic books about it...) Newtonian physics had discovered the Truth!

Well, if so, that's a bit boring isn't it? The Truth is X. Move on. Of course, as our ability to observe the universe grew, and later great minds further investigated things, this thing called relativity came along which showed that the world isn't so straightforward as what Newton had postulated. It turns out that Newton's equations are merely limits of much wider equations that collapse down to Newton's simpler forms within the realm of size and velocity that we observe on a regular basis. And a little bit later on came quantum physics, looking at the very small, which showed that Newtonian equations are merely statistical averages of other bizarre things happening on a very minute scale.

So was Newton wrong? No. But did his physics explain the Truth? No. Rather than saying, "Newton's equations are the Truth", which allows for no further insight into the world, all the scientific method can really do is say, "Newton's equations aren't not the Truth". This is not just a semantic distinction, but it is actually an unavoidable limitation AND strength of the scientific method due to the sticky problem of subject / object duality (we are observers, not subjects, and can only interpret our observations within the framework of our previous understanding -- the observer cannot be separated from the observed). This then opens the doors wide for other exploration well beyond the initial confines of Newton's equations.

Our spiritual minds take all the accepted scientific non-truths and formulate our own versions (narratives) of what the "Truth" is, that are consistent with those accepted scientific non-truths. That's how Stephen Harper has decided that exporting and consuming away Canada's natural resources as quickly as possible, without any consideration of the consequences, is a wise path moving forward, because he has narrow-mindedly accepted only a small portion of the scientific data available which clearly shows that this is not a wise plan. His mind has contorted around the facts and found its own narrative which justifies his horrendous acts (likely founded in some chart in an economics textbook since he studied economics in school).

In this respect, science and spirituality are in no way incompatible. They go hand in hand and are really just different ways of approaching the same thing. This is why I am a firm believer in the marriage of technological / scientific advancement with spiritual "enlightenment" and our historical roots/wisdom.The problem now is that we are no longer putting technology in its righful place; we have embraced it as merely a tool to satisfy our economic requirement for consumption and growth. This of course will end soon and I hope we don't throw the baby out with the bath water because we need science if we are to continue going forward.

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Folks, in World War ll our

Folks, in World War ll our society banded together, and grew crops in their back yards, called victory gardens. People walked or road bikes, to and from. Gasoline or car driving was restricted except for to church or to work, and emergencies. They were given ration books, and neighbors who didn't use all their rations gave them to the bigger families. People shared bread who hand flour, and others who had butter shared that for the bread. It was a national pride mandate, the narrative, because their brothers or husbands were fighting a war in some distant land.

Rosy the riveter was born, and women became our equals, a place we all knew they belonged.

Everyone gave to the war effort what they had too many of. Keeping only what was absolutely essential.

This has all been done before, transitioning peacefully, at the end of a horrible depression where the world didn't cave, man didn't cave. We became better for our efforts. This too shall pass, everything will find its balance, and there are way more rational people out there than is given credit. I could have also mentioned some of the bad things that occured along the way but that's going to occur too. It is when we must all decide if what we have is worth taking a life. I suppose we have already decided the conditions where action would be taken already. We'll know when we see it I expect. 

Those who have to much are not selfish people, they will give their excesses too. The poor are probably the best survivors of all the classes but they too will require assistance. It may be just seeds to grow, or a shovel, rake perhaps.

"The only thing to fear is fear itself". Perhaps a silly phrase from a similar time in history but if history tells us anything it is, keep it simple stupid. I will quote my father once more as I heard him speak these words a thousand times, "Bobby a Man is only responsible for food, clothing, and shelter, everything else is a luxury". He lived  during the Great Depression and heroically in WW ll, The WAR haunted him his entire life but he persevered, Mom persevered. The human code. A code that every country, its peoples, around the world has as an implant that will NEVER leave them. I don't much care how we get from point A to point B, I just know we will... Regards BOB

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Thank you!

I am absolutely delighted that Chris has highlighted Charles Eisenstein here and the importance of the stories we tell ourselves! No one has articulated this transition from old story to new story better than Mr. Eisenstein has. Brian Swimme comes close, but in a different way. I very much appreciate framework of old story/ new story because it puts all of the prediciments we face, as well as our preparations, in a much deeper context which is often missing from the dialogue of even the most aware. I am fascinated by Eisenstein's work, because I can begin to glimpse, or maybe taste, the possibilities that exist on the other side of this collapse. And I am anxious to see if or how Eisenstein's thinking will influence CM over time. 

So I'm sending a big THANK YOU for this podcast. And it didn't go unnoticed that this one was free :) Go Chris! Go Adam! Go Jason! And by all means go Charles!!! 

You guys covered a lot of ground. Well done. 

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Good podcast but with some arguable points

Interesting podcast. I plan on listening to Charles at a permaculture gathering, here in New Zealand in April. So this has given me a taster. However, I have a few comments of this podcast which might give the impression I'm too critical but there were only three things I picked up on that I thought were questionable.

Chris Martenson: "on some level almost everybody I talk to has got the awareness that something is wrong, maybe desperately wrong"

Not me. Many people agree with me that things are looking bad and something is wrong but it seems like an almost superficial agreement, since there is no deep change envisaged in their own lives. It's frustrating and not like the picture Chris paints. If some significant change in their own lives isn't envisaged, I can't really see that there is awareness at any level, only a desire not to engage deeply in a discussion about what is happening, by agreeing, superficially, that there is something wrong.

Charles Eisenstein: talking about the "story of self" breaking down, "there is something of you in me where maybe you can even say that we are the same being looking at the world with two sets of eyes ... you read about a child in Haiti eating dirt because he is so hungry. It hurts. Why should that hurt?"

It hurts because we have empathy, which is a gene survival trait. Charles seems to think it's some deep spiritual meaning; it may be spiritual, in some sense, to realise that we depend, to a degree on the totality of biodiversity and the environment but I think he takes it too far. Bill Hamilton did a lot of work on altruism and it really is easily explained by a survive and propogate strategy (though unconsciously). Of course there is new work in epigenetics that is pretty interesting but I don't think there is cause for thinking there is some underlying real connectedness in the way that I think Charles is portraying it.

Charles Eisenstein: "with the young people, a lot of what is going on is they could be paying for entertainment but they are getting together and making films, putting it on YouTube or they are doing re-skilling kinds of workshops, teaching each other a new skills. They are doing things – reclaiming things from the money economy" Chris also offered a similar picture.

Again, I don't see this kind of behaviour myself, not as a real change. There has always been that type of do-it-yourself community but I don't see a revival of it in young people; it's still a pale reflection of community 30+ years ago and doesn't seem to be improving, to me.

Tony

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Re:Crime

@funglestrumpet & jrf29

I've lived in a few of those tight knit communities and usually there is one extended family that could care less what the community thinks of them. They steal anything not nailed down or guarded.

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Re: Good podcast but with some arguable points

sofistek wrote:

It hurts because we have empathy, which is a gene survival trait. Charles seems to think it's some deep spiritual meaning; it may be spiritual, in some sense, to realise that we depend, to a degree on the totality of biodiversity and the environment but I think he takes it too far. Bill Hamilton did a lot of work on altruism and it really is easily explained by a survive and propogate strategy (though unconsciously). Of course there is new work in epigenetics that is pretty interesting but I don't think there is cause for thinking there is some underlying real connectedness in the way that I think Charles is portraying it.

I think you illustrate the connection pretty well. If our survival depends on having those traits, then this information gets passed in our genes, or whatever, and that's a connection. We just don't usually consider it a communication channel, but if it "walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."

Samuel

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Speaking of New Narratives...

Although not entirely surprised, it was encouraging to see that Business Insider CEO & Chief Editor Henry Blodget recently penned a blog post entitled "We Can't Keep Growing Like This." (link)

In the article, Blodget references Jeremey Grantham giving a talk to a bunch of "super-quants" who, despite their mathematical prowess, still struggled with a good answer to the question - "Starting with only a cubic meter of physical possessions, how much physical wealth would they [Ancient Egyptians] have 3,000 years later at 4.5% compounded growth"? 

He shows the truly astronomical answer, and then goes on to demonstrate how even small fractional growth rates (ie. 0.1%) are, in the long run, unsustainable.  Grantham asks -  if the super-quants struggle with questions of exponential growth - how are we mere mortal supposed to fare any better? 

There seem to be more and more people honing in on perhaps the key issue of our time - the sustainability of compounded material growth.  Business Insider is obviously a pretty popular source for business, finance, and political info, so to hear the head dude over there asking these questions is at least somewhat encouraging. 

That nothing grows forever seems intuitiely true.  That being said, people say the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate, and so I don't know what the hell to really believe.  But, if I had to place my bets, I'd say we're at the end of the line when it comes to material growth.  Perhaps we will evolve and learn to place a higher value on psycholgocal and other forms of non-material wealth in the future, but for now, our current conception of wealth and growth seems unsustainabile.   

 
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The collapse of complex civilization is unavoidable...

Mr. Eisenstein is right.  Our political and economic elites have been operating under a consensus trance controlled by the psychology of previous investments since the 1960s.  Their ignorance about energy laws and the irreversible decline in global net energy are leaving us unprepared to make a "controlled crash landing" over the next several decades. It has been known since the early 1970s, thanks to scientists like Dennis Meadows and Jay W. Forrester, that the dynamics of our industrial civilization coupled with our belief in the necessity of economic growth,  would lead to collapse by 2050 due to over-population, resource exhaustion and pollution.  Dr. Meadows recently commented that the actual couse of events is ahead of  the scenarios generated by their models.  In other words, if we cannot figure out how to live without economic growth over the next 20 years, we are likely to be killed by war or by starvation.  We are in more trouble than we can possibly imagine.  Only extreme resource conservation and dismantiling the wasteful market system can buy us enough time to escape from the civilization suicide-machine we have constructed. 

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Good podcast but with some arguable points

sofistek wrote:

Interesting podcast. I plan on listening to Charles at a permaculture gathering, here in New Zealand in April. So this has given me a taster. However, I have a few comments of this podcast which might give the impression I'm too critical but there were only three things I picked up on that I thought were questionable.

Chris Martenson: "on some level almost everybody I talk to has got the awareness that something is wrong, maybe desperately wrong"

Not me. Many people agree with me that things are looking bad and something is wrong but it seems like an almost superficial agreement, since there is no deep change envisaged in their own lives. It's frustrating and not like the picture Chris paints. If some significant change in their own lives isn't envisaged, I can't really see that there is awareness at any level, only a desire not to engage deeply in a discussion about what is happening, by agreeing, superficially, that there is something wrong.
<SNIP>
Charles Eisenstein: "with the young people, a lot of what is going on is they could be paying for entertainment but they are getting together and making films, putting it on YouTube or they are doing re-skilling kinds of workshops, teaching each other a new skills. They are doing things – reclaiming things from the money economy" Chris also offered a similar picture.

Again, I don't see this kind of behaviour myself, not as a real change. There has always been that type of do-it-yourself community but I don't see a revival of it in young people; it's still a pale reflection of community 30+ years ago and doesn't seem to be improving, to me.

Tony

I agree with you Tony.... but I think things in NZ and AUS are still a lot different from the US.  Our housing bubble is just bursting now (I think), and out economy (at least on this side of the ditch!) is still cruising, even though there are dark signs of rising unemployment and rising interest rates making their presence felt.

Never forget this is mainly an American site.....

For anyone interested, we heard Nicole Foss speak the other day, I wrote it up on my blog http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/a-century-of-challenge/

Mike

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Look upward not inward

[Moderator's note: Religion.]

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Ascent of Humanity

Just finished "Ascent of Humanity" and it is both blowing my mind and connecting many dots.  

Charles Eisenstein is as radical a thinker as I've come across (that also make a pursuasive argument) and I enjoyed this book emmensely.  Among other things, Charles questions the entire Darwinian basis of our understanding of why we are here and what our purpose is (without getting caught up in religious dogma).  He connects an obviuosly well researched understanding of cutting edge biology and quantum theory with insights from anthropology and psychology - leading to observations that begin to address a fundamental disconnect that many of us feel in our daily lives.  His thesis is that humans have separated themselves from nature to such a profound extent that we are all suffering enormously, and that the coming crisis will cause all of us to reflect on this separation and to eventually find ways to reconnect.

For anyone who has read "Ismael" by Daniel Quinn, this takes some of Quinn's observations and expands them in both depth and breadth.  Highly recommended reading.

Eisenstein also has several other books that are similarly radical in their lateral thinking: Yoga of Eating on dieting, and Sacred Economics on alternative money systems (have't read this one yet).

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Science

Mark_BC wrote:
In this respect, science and spirituality are in no way incompatible. They go hand in hand and are really just different ways of approaching the same thing. This is why I am a firm believer in the marriage of technological / scientific advancement with spiritual "enlightenment" and our historical roots/wisdom. 

The problem now is that we are no longer putting technology in its righful place; we have embraced it as merely a tool to satisfy our economic requirement for consumption and growth.

  You are right about science: it never claims to be "the truth" since science (whether we mean the scientific technique, or the body of recorded observations accumulated by applying that technique) always assumes that there is an enormous amount about which we know nothing (otherwise, why keep working in the labs?).  And science does not discover truth: only observations.  Our understanding of truth has nothing to do with science per se: it is a theoretical construct relying on the art of logic, which predates the scientific method by millenia.  Science is simply a technique for making sure that our facts are correct.

At any rate, this theoretical construct is based on the available facts (proven by the scientific method), and nothing says it cannot change if the available facts change.    But there are many facts entirely beyond the reach of science, and none which can be known absolutely (beyond the single fact which Rene Descartes observed can logically be known with certainty: we exist).

Consequently, a thing can be proven correct a thousand times, like the lead ball and feather seemingly proving that heavier objects always fall faster than lighter ones, but these "facts" are never completely safe from being disproved in the future. 

Those who view current scientific knowledge as an all-encompassing and absolute truth don't know what science has always been about.  To think about science this way is to treat it almost like religious dogma, and that betrays the open and inquisitive spirit of science.

Also, the bit about technology is one of the most thought-provoking things I have read in a while.

jonesb.mta,

Hm.  Towns (and I suppose cities, to a lesser extent) develop personalities just like people: some are good, and some are not so good.

 

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WWII

robert essian wrote:
Folks, in World War ll our society banded together, and grew crops in their back yards, called victory gardens. People walked or road bikes, to and from. Gasoline or car driving was restricted except for to church or to work, and emergencies . . .

Robert, I'm sure you're right, we will get through whatever happens.  We always do.  I agree with your sense of optimism about the future, because I think there is a lot to be optimistic about.

Just the same, in 1941 the United States was a far more culturally homogenous place.  We have spent the past 40 years actively hacking away at the idea that a country even should be culturally homogenous. 

A lot of useless, alcoholism-inducing social strictures have been abolished since 1940.  We have co-ed dormitories now, and guess what?  The world didn't end!  In fact there is infinitely more equality and understanding between the sexes now, as you pointed out.  American culture itself has changed, and that's a very good thing.

But alongside changes in American culture is a separate phenomenon: the fragmentation of the culture, and our belief that this fragmentation is somehow good.  "Celebration of diversity" works best in times of plenty, when tight cultural bonds are not required.  Today there is not a single activity or ritual that everybody is expected to share or participate in.  "Merry Christmas" has turned into "Happy Holidays."

I don't mean to advocate the Christian religion by that statement.  Nor do I mean to suggest that it's OK to be intolerant of others and their lifestyles: that was a wonderful lesson of the past 40 years.  I only mean to observe that throughout history, all cohesive societies had a set of fixed traditions or beliefs in which the vast majority of the population participated, and which bound the people together as a single nation and served as evidence of their unity.  Certainly that was the case in 1940. 

Today I'm not so sure.  As long as the money keeps flowing, everything will always appear fine.  But this can mask unseen deterioration in the social bonds that hold a nation together.  Certain places will be fine.  At the risk of sounding facile, I'm not too worried about Maine, Nebraska, or Vermont falling apart at the seams anytime soon.  But Southern Florida?  New Jersey?  California?  Mississippi?  New York City?  How well will these places "pull together?"   I am honestly prepared to be surprized, because I have learned to never underestimate the power of humans to do amazing things.  But then I think about the Holocaust that happened in Germany, a modern industrial country where I myself have ancestors, and I wonder . . . .

Secondly, I'm glad (or maybe worried) that you picked WWII as an analogy.  It is not lost on national leaders that war unites a nation.  It's the oldest trick in the book when you have strife at home: find an excuse to declare war.  Not only does war (a) unite your nation against the common foe, and (b) ship the hotheaded youth far away, but it also provides the perfect cover to dramatically expand the authority of government through "emergency" measures and war powers.  I have no doubt that this trick will be used with regularity in the future, as it has been since time immemorial.

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jrf29, I see all that you do...

...and acknowledge that what you see as truths are my visuals too.

In listening to the podcast I was struck with something Charles referenced, and explained as "Capacity is Dormant". He referenced how a community of people when struck with a tragedy came to know one another's, neighbors helped each others in a common interest and goal. This was not evident to Charles until flooding occurred in his neighborhood. While this isn't evident today as it may have been 30 years ago doesn't mean we have lost this nature within ourselves. It just means that until we are attacked as a community will we react, in other words our good nature, common to all of us, will remain dormant. 

In addition the podcast also referenced national "narrative". It is my firm belief that if the politicians, and the President, in a unified bipartisan manner, disclosed to the American people the dire consequence of Peak Oil that this would rally Americans in a common purpose. If we then went on to build out our natural gas abundance, that jobs, and a sense of urgency would get this done. It may not resolve entirely the problem (it won't) of Peak Oil but would help by keeping our funds here working throughout our system, all because we managed the BTU, and used natural gas to replace oil, where it could, that this would then replace many barrels of imported oil. 

Certainly this would ease our national security issues related to the importation of oil. The free flow of oil costs many  billions to maintain on a yearly basis. it costs many billions of dollars just in borrowing and paying interest to our national treasure just having to import oil. So every barrel not imported makes us safer, benefits our treasury, and keeps funds here to be used within our system to create jobs, and benefits our capitalist system rather than a socialist system (which we appear to resemble more and more). Know this, Oil costs $100 dollars a barrel. To the American people it's more like $400 dollars a barrel if you factor our expenditures to protect the free flow of Oil (I have no data to show this now but I feel I'm not to far off from the truth). Hell, if we didn't need the Oil from the Middle East then we could close all bases, bring home all our kids, and just be mediators. Afghanistan and Iraq caused our treasury trillions of dollars! How badly could we use those funds now!? Chris wrote recently (I'm not quoting exactly) that our yoy import cost was $588 billion (?) dollars of which 60% was oil. That's in the neighborhood of $350 billion dollars last year alone. Lets eliminate 20% if we use the BTU of natural gas properly, and say we have built out the infrastructure in natural gas today. That would represent nearly $70 billion dollars of savings and not exporting dollars. Or represents a 20% savings in Oil barrel imports. That's a HUGE step forward. The spin off would be good jobs in the natural gas industry, taxes, savings in unemployment compensation, food stamps, welfare, etc...not including the spin off in other supportive industries. Huge, just HUGE. Natural Gas prices would rise but would still cost less than Oil. Natural Gas rising makes the fringe energy companies more competitive, like solar, and wind. More jobs, more BTU, and more spin off everywhere. This new narrative could be a galvanizing force. Instead of a, they have we have, bullshit story we hear every day by the talking heads, and our politicians. I'll stop here but this could play out all day here. The thing that's so disturbing is I am not connected at all with the elites, but I have represented a positive plan here, as many have here. So why the hell haven't our leadership?

Wars are generally resource driven, so the more we conserve, and the more BTU we save or utilize, lessons the strain on our economy, and thus national security. We negotiate now rather than fight because our national narrative is clear, beneficial, and goal oriented. Now we just hope for leadership, and in my opinion, is all that is lacking

I am positive by nature jrf, I believe in the 'can do spirit' within all of us. I am also a realist, and prepare for as many outcomes as may unfold so that I can be pro active, and not bothered by hunger pains distracting me from what really needs to be done now. Good Luck to you jrf, I wish you well...Bob

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PS: I wanted to add that all

PS: I wanted to add that all we get from our leadership is as described by our nutty Professor Chris is, "Cultural Conditioning". Enough already with that old and tired mantra, time we work again, I would like very much for the New Narrative to be "Honesty is the best policy", "you can't bullshit a bullshitter", "Competition is good, so lets compete", "Winning is everything" while used as a driving force, not a military force. I look for an "ease of transition", not an all at once, have to do it now ,Marshall Plan transition where  our freedoms and rights are trampled on. That's a power grab and we must resist. Regards BOB

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Thanks, Robert

Thank you for the long and thoughtful reply.

robert essian wrote:
In listening to the podcast I was struck with something Charles referenced, and explained as "Capacity is Dormant". He referenced how a community of people when struck with a tragedy came to know one another's, neighbors helped each others in a common interest and goal. This was not evident to Charles until flooding occurred in his neighborhood . . .

My instinct isn't to disagree with you.  I think you are absolutely right: there is an enormous well of charity, good nature, and community spirit.   I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of people are good at heart, and don't want to harm others or get any unfair advantage for themselves. 

The only note of caution that I would suggest is that a short emergency (month long, or even a few years long) could be much different then a multi-decade long slide.  As long as everybody is "in it together," things will be OK.  But I think that may not be the case (see my second post below).

I also agree that if the leaders were honest with the people, that would go a very long way toward restoring our national spirit and common purpose.

robert essian wrote:
  If we then went on to build out our natural gas abundance, that jobs, and a sense of urgency would get this done.

My first reaction is two-fold: (a) You are probably right: a major program of gas extraction is important.  (b) As Chris observes, in just 150 years we have burned through nearly 1/2 of our entire bequeathment of oil, built up over millions of years, and nearly exhausted many other resources as well.  Now we're going to work hard to see how quickly we can possibly extract all of our natural gas.  We're leaving future generations shivering in the dark.

But let me emphasize that I absolutely agree with you: natural gas is going to be a vital bridge fuel, and it's a crime that we're twiddling our thumbs instead of finding ways to use natural gas to supplement oil for critical uses.

robert essian wrote:
I am positive by nature jrf, I believe in the 'can do spirit' within all of us. I am also a realist, and prepare for as many outcomes as may unfold so that I can be pro active, and not bothered by hunger pains distracting me from what really needs to be done now. Good Luck to you jrf, I wish you well...Bob

In difficult times the true commodity is people like you who, in their minds, can see a path forward.  If there is one, only the optimists will find it.  Of course being optimistic doesn't mean unrealistic.  But it doesn't help anybody if during a crisis you're hiding in your basement, holding your head in your hands and sobbing, "It's all over!"  It's a real pleasure chatting with you Bob.  All the best to you, too.

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Capitalism in trouble

Bob, in response to your comment about preserving capitalism:

First, I'm no fan of socialism. It's an interesting idea: whenever you discover that you need money, you steal some money out of your left pocket and put it into your right pocket, while paying an army of bureauocrats (the real beneficiaries) a hefty salary for doing so.  Nevertheless, our capitalist system cannot survive in the very long term, I don't think, without some sort of modification.

Peter Schiff makes a good point about the wealthy today (he was responding to the idea that cutting taxes on the working class has a higher "multiplier"  effect because they spend a higher percentage of their pay): when you give stimulus money to the working class, they promptly spend it on products imported from China; basically we stimulate the Chinese economy.  But when wealthy people are allowed to keep their money, what do they do with it?  They don't bury it in the ground.  They invest it in companies and in banks, which provides the capital to lend to thousands of new businesses every year.

Very true.  Of course this only works in a growing economy, where most money borrowed at interest can be put to profitable use and then paid back (self-liquidating debt).  But in a no-growth economy this isn't possible.

Speaking of growth, the main thing that distinguished 18th and 19th century America from the stagnant Old World was that we had endless land and other resources just waiting to be exploited.  If you had the talent and motivation, you could find your own little corner of unexploited land and build a farm, a mine.  If manufacturing was your taste, there was a constantly increasing demand for new manufactories to process the raw materials.  And of course there was a steady growth in other fields (doctors, lawyers, architects, plumbers) to supply the needs of this growing complex.  Oil put this whole dynamic on steroids.  All it took was intelligence and drive, because the opportunity was certainly there.

People tolerate economic inequality because they know that there is always a chance for them to succeed.  Or maybe their children will succeed.  But in a negative-growth economy, social mobility is impossible.  Like feudal Europe, those who own some productive asset (like farmland) will be wealthy for generations, while those who are born poor are up the creek without a paddle.  In a negative-growth economy, the only way for somebody to advance to the upper class is if two people fall out of it.  This may happen from time to time, but not often enough to provide an generation of people with individual opportunity.

Under these circumstances, people will begin to wonder why the great-great-great-great grandchildren of the lazy wastrel, who by dumb luck owned land bordering a river, should be entitled by property law to draw an endless stream of income from their water wheel and also sell access to their water to the starving peasants who do not own property bordering the river -- for generation after generation --  while the great-great-great grandchildren of the man who owned an apartment should be condemned to poverty with no way of getting out.

That's what the New World was: fresh resources for those intelligent, motivated European peasants who probably could make better use of them than the lazy, landed aristocracy in the Old Country.

The decline of net energy makes all resources smaller.  American-style capitalism (born in an era of great opportunity for all) will have problems when people realize that brains and motivation are no longer enough.  When people realize that, in a negative-growth economy, those who inherit productive assets (or the Goldman Sachs executive who bought them with stolen money) will always be comfortable, and those without will only rarely have the opportunity to "break in" to that lifestyle.

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jrf29 wrote:Robert, I'm sure

jrf29 wrote:
Robert, I'm sure you're right, we will get through whatever happens.  We always do.

If, by "we", you mean humans, then obviously, our species has come through a lot, otherwise we wouldn't be here. However, that doesn't mean our species always will. Nor does it mean that all members of the human species "will get through" or that those who do will not suffer on the way through the bottleneck.

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US Site

Damnthematrix wrote:
I agree with you Tony.... but I think things in NZ and AUS are still a lot different from the US.  Our housing bubble is just bursting now (I think), and out economy (at least on this side of the ditch!) is still cruising, even though there are dark signs of rising unemployment and rising interest rates making their presence felt.

Never forget this is mainly an American site.....

For anyone interested, we heard Nicole Foss speak the other day, I wrote it up on my blog http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/a-century-of-challenge/

Mike

Indeed, this is a US site and it's slightly irritating (though that's still too strong a word) that most of the sites I frequent only tip their hats to the rest of the world occasionally. However, in this global economy and global civilisation, most countries have some impact on many others. But when I hear people talk of the positive changes they see, I have to shake my head (once I stop beating it against a brick wall). There is no cause for optimism at all, in my view, except a glimmer that enough people might get angry enough to wrench our societies back from the robber barons.

I think you're right, the housing bubble is bursting, but it's taking a long time, at least in NZ, where it's taking an undulating downward slope. The unemployment rate fell slightly in the last quarter (we only get data quarterly here) but the employment rate didn't budge. And part-time work is growing, within that fixed size pie, so the economy isn't really improving.

I always find Nicole Foss interesting and look forward to hearing her at the Australasian Permaculture Convergence in April, in New Zealand. 

Tony

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jrf29...Sofistex, I don't care where your from, I love you Man!

jrf, I like Peter Schiff but he does say things that I don't always get. For instance, he says on the multiplier effect that the rich create jobs, and the middle class spend allowing those funds to float about within the economy. All I can say is you have to have both.

I know this about business, banker loans, and corporate balance sheets. They go to the cheapest slave labor they can find world wide. No problem, and I understand completely. However, if you sell X amount of Nike's in American then as a government, representing the people of the United States, I believe we have every right to expect something in return for such a great business model. Whatever that combination entails it should be more than building a store front, filling it with shoes, and salesmen. I personally would like to see the chain of business expanded a bit more than, unloading cargo at port, transporting to store, stock shelves, and then sell shoes.

Here's what I would do. I have coal in the ground, I have food in my fields. I have a useful but aged electrical infrastructure that needs modernizing. I also have an abundance of natural gas, and it is CHEAP. I would not export coal at all, I would use it. I would of course export my excess at a much stronger price because of its scarcity, especially since I'm using more of it. I would use it to build out a steel manufacturing base to compete with any nation. Environmentalist would argue, "but the pollution". Well I would say that China for instance are burning it sooooo, your point is? Also, I happen to think we can burn coal with less pollutants than China is doing today, and that is a certainty. So win, win.

I would modernize the electrical grid using all the new fanged bells and whistles. I would capture as a goal the energy being wasted to the atmosphere at a rate of about 30% a day. We waste 30% of our electrical production each and every day!!! Lets capture it, and we would save a tremendous amount of BTU. So, we modernize, capture waste, and create an energy rich society. We then compete with slave labor (wherever that exist) with cheap electrical energy. We all understand that energy going forward will be in tight supply so we take the lead, put our best electrical engineers to work, and we compete. We bring manufacturing back by showing we are cheaper with our BTU, and can replace cheap labor, with cheaper electricity/ You hire here, and pay a living wage. Win, win. Entice the repatriated manufacturers to use what buildings have already been built so we can save the energy it would cost to use oil to rebuild a new manufacturing building. Plus the soils are fallow in the older manufacturing communities, and its use is better served for manufacturing anyways. 

We must lower the corporate tax rates also.

Remember, we are trying to create cheap energy, use conservation too, and our narrative is solid, goal oriented, with service to a better business model. We also use the private sectors cash, let capitalism do its job, and require only from the government (with fairness) eminent domain resolvement (I have no clue if this is even a word). Adding to this briefly would be a modernized transportation system. I have always felt that when energy gets too expensive that we would gladly take a train than drive a car. Especially the baby boomers of which I am one. The idea of taking a train to Yellowstone instead of flying or driving is real appealing to me. It has to make sense financially of course or our capitalist society will reject it. A malor benefit with electrical rail would be the savings from sitting in traffic, and burning the highest consentration of BTU, and that is OIL! Plus, people would be kinder and less stressed. Not as many middle fingers or F-bombs would be required. Medical costs would be lowered, etc...See, now we are going somewhere here I think. LOL

With food, I would say only that we feed ourselves first, and our excesses get exported. So subsidizing the food industry so that we have the calories to work is a good business model (we could argue this if you like, I'm not married to the idea). With what is left I would use as a feed the world mantra. I would also use it as a political tool. If China for instance doesn't want to sent us REE's (rare earth elements) then we don't send wheat. That's fair. I know this, you can't eat REE's. Then again we need REE's so back to my point, fairness. I would use wheat to subside Egypt for instance. If we have a need to disrupt their country with the exportation of our inflation then the least we could do is support the poor who make only 5 dollars a day there. They haven't any money anyways. Inflation is really to rob from those who have money. This way no riots, destruction, and terrorists in the making.

This is simplified I know but we haven't managed things so well (as a country in foreign policy) of late anyways so I figure I'll take some liberties here.

Regarding exporting inflation. Morally I really have no strong opinion/feelings on this. I know it hurts us but I also know the dollar is manipulated by those countries holding the most dollars. They buy these dollars to keep their currencies more competitive. So that's business, and you factor all consequences. Like the banksters should have had handed to them, you took the risks so you lose. The commercial banks who were prudent gets the spoils. Capitalism, ahhhh, how I long for the day again.

To wrap this up, these examples were just a quick and easy little to do list. Had no real research time put into this. It does however have some sense to it. I figure it makes as much sense as what I am witnessing going on in the world around me now. With one caveat: It would create hundreds of thousands of living wage jobs, melding technologies with labor.  Oh, about natural gas, we have already discussed this so I didn't see the point. All above examples are National Security Strengths which of course lessons the cost to our military. We need a commercial sized battery, so lets R&D the hell out of that. Please, do not hold me strongly to any position here, I am just typing quickly things I see could be worked on. Lastly, with electrical generation: I would export anything that may get wasted through power lines down to Mexico, and up to Canada. That way the foot print isn't so large....Regards BOB

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Sofistex...

...you said:  " Indeed, this is a US site and it's slightly irritating (though that's still too strong a word) that most of the sites I frequent only tip their hats to the rest of the world occasionally."

Brother, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is in all our bloods. It is only natural for us here (at Professor Martenson's site) to point the finger of disgust at ourselves first, it is what MEN do. Frankly, most here don't want to play the blame game at all. We are looking for answers so that we can export good will elsewhere. Unless of course you piss us off! LOL...BOB  

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Society in trouble

Interesting thoughts, Bob, and I agree your plan seems like a good one.  But I might suggest, very respectfully, that you missed my point in the last post.  Perhaps it would be better if I hadn't put in the Peter Schiff quote (now that I think about it, I don't know why I even did).

I was musing about the trouble that capitalism itself will run into once the economy stops growing on a net basis (as it must once energy availability begins to fall).  In a non-growth economy, creativity and motivation are no longer enough to allow a person to succeed, because the opportunity isn't there.  In a no-growth economy, there will be no chance for people to move to a higher economic class (e.g., as they could have in 19th or 20th-century America) without knocking somebody else out of that class.  While a few people may get lucky, there is no net opportunity because the total number of people who can be "successful" at any single time is not growing.

jrf29 wrote:
People tolerate economic inequality because they know that there is always a chance for them to succeed, also.  But in a negative-growth economy, social mobility is mostly impossible.  Like feudal Europe, those whose parent owned some productive asset (like farmland) will be wealthy for generations, while those who are born poor are up the creek . . . . Under these circumstances, people will begin to wonder why the great-great-great-great grandchildren of the lazy wastrel, who by dumb luck owned land bordering a river, should be entitled by traditional property law to draw an endless stream of income from their water wheel and also sell access to their water to the starving peasants who do not own property bordering the river -- for generation after generation --  while the great-great-great grandchildren of the man who owned an apartment should be condemned to poverty with no way of getting out.

To be clear, I am talking about a time in the future when we have tapped all the natural gas and coal that we can, and our net energy availability is no longer growing, but slowly shrinking.  I wonder how capitalism and democracy can both survive in that environment.

It seems to me that either captalism or modern democracy must eventually perish:

(1)  Traditional property law and rules of inheritance will be severely changed by a population overwhelmingly demanding relief.  Or else traditional property law is effectively bypassed by much higher redistributive taxes (a kind of back-door socialism), or,

(2) Tradtional property law and rules of inheritance are maintained, but at the expense of converting the government into something other than a democracy, or,

(3)  Voting requirements are altered so that only asset-holders (who would therefore naturally vote to retain traditional property rights) are qualified to vote, as was the case in 18th and early 19th-century Britain and America.  Really this is a means of creating a partial oligarchy, and therefore a subset of Number (2).

I would love to hear your own thoughts.

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jrf

...your point wasn't lost on me, and I apologize if I didn't address it properly. Here's how I feel on energy in the future. During this transition to what I believe will be to electric (30 years yet), and very painful. It will be painful because if I were an investor of a large sum of money into the building and transportation of the Oil infrastructure I wouldn't want Oil to be replaced just as I was really being rewarded for my investments. These are long term, and large sums of cash we are talking about. So that has to burn out first. Now, I'm willing to start the new energy economy but oil at these prices are just too rewarding not to drag my feet.

I believe some serious nerd will create the near perfect commercial battery. From his creation technology will make it just as powerful but smaller and even more useful. Certainly it is a real possibility that this new energy economy will not mature in my lifetime but I like the idea that it will be well under way. Just think, if you could store the energy of the sun how rich we would be as a world community. Short of this the United States has a tremendous advantage over many countries in that it has lakes, rivers, canals, and many in-ways, and out bound water ways that were used way back in the day to carry our productive goods. So we leave that to future generations should all else fail. While I visit here often, and write too, have opinions, I really don't stress too much about things. Don't get me wrong I wish we would move quicker, leadership would be adult like, and I scream at the words I read or may catch on TV, I just don't get to worked up. I try and let things come to me.

BOB

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The Next 20 Years

Bob, as is often mentioned on this site, the next 20 years will be nothing like the last 20 years. This isn't just because of some economic issue but for a whole load of reasons. I suggest reading Limits to Growth. As Chris has said, we have a predicament. Neither the US nor any other country will have an "energy rich" future, to use your term. We are reaching the peak of energy, if we're not already there (which could be why so many countries are having trouble getting growth going again). We need serious rethinking of the whole civilisation idea, not just tweaking a few things here or there to get one country back to economic health as measured by our outdated calculations.

And remember that 100% of solar energy is currently doing work for the energy systems and living organisms on this planet. So don't rely on solar being our saviour or on some miraculous new battery technology. Wishful thinking is not a good strategy, in my opinion. Personally, I'd be interested in a sustainable response rather than another leg up to a failed way of life.

Tony

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Tony...

Tony, of course, I do agree that the next 20 years are going to be different, and will be because of energy. I also believe that DEBT is unsustainable and our future tenuous. However, we are a people (all nationalities) with great resources that have not been used properly. I still maintain that if we invent a battery storage system, that is commercial, that a new electrical economy can replace oil. I believe that this technology will happen some day, and sooner than we might think. I refuse to be depressed at the unknown future. I will live my life as I have always done, and joyfully. See, I know I could eliminate at least 25% of my discretionary spending and live no differently. I know as a country we still have so much waste in the system. For example, and a small one: What do we spend on bottled water each year? We could easily remove that from the budget without any problems. It would add oil to the economy by not making plastic containers that end up in some landfill somewhere, as trash floating in the ocean, or as a recycling process somewhere. I know this, if we don't use what OIL we have left properly then building out a sustainable (large scale and world wide) new energy society will be impossible. We are not that stupid are my thoughts. Even though we have wasted the last 20 years being stupid by not addressing this problem. Jimmy Carter tried and was ridiculed. Go figure. If we ride our bikes or walk to accomplish many of our tasks on our honey do lists we would save a tremendous amount of energy collectively. Plus be healthier, and save then from the burdens of health care costs rising by being healthier. So, we haven't really even started yet on conservation, and it is the narrative that must change first from our leadership so the herd starts moving in a massive way (positively) forward. If not then a mass extinction event for humans, and wild animals roam the streets where sky scrapers once stood. We can't be that stupid, and if we are then nature will do what it do, and I'm OK with that too. Man is not above the natural order of things that's for sure. The EARTH will take control, and will balance things out, no question about that. I would add that this extinction event may occur anyways because with 7 Billion people now on the planet, that food to feed everyone is going to be a balancing act. Hunger, starvation, disease are real possibilities. However, I can't and won't spend much time on this because I cannot do anything about this but voice my concerns. Frankly, I will feed my family first with whatever means I have. I won't carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I won't. I'll just live life happily, with compassion, but it is, what it is.

Tony, some people have only a few hours of electricity a day to their homes. They manage around those few hours, very happily, because they have never had electricity. We have to keep this in perspective, we do, and change ourselves, and let others observe us, then decide for themselves. I am not going to change them with words that's for sure. People change when they see others doing something they too can see as a benefit to themselves first. Growing up we never had air conditioning, the house had one big window fan. What did us kids do? We slept on the hallway floor where the fan was on summers very toasty nights. We adjust is the point, and the fact that we all here know what is ahead then we quietly lead or we are fools, selfish, and are part of the problem. Capeesh?

BOB

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Tony

Tony, briefly now, I understand Peak Oil as well as is humanly possible. Have profitted from the understanding, and expect to in the future. I could use my whole day, and think depressing thoughts but what would I have accomplished? Instead, I look positively forward, making decisions for my Lady and I, and inform family members when approached. I'll be able to help, and they help me, when or if the shtf happens. What more can I do? I have read the book you mentioned, and many others. Janszen, Simmons, Rogoff and Reinhart, Schiff, Rogers, Fitz-Gerald, HIRSCH!, Leeb, and research with Martenson, Shedlock, Ross, and so many more. All great words, all good plans, but if a MAN like Hirsch or Simmons aren't responded too then what am I going to do? All I can do is prepare, over prepare, and react when the fateful time begins. Then do my part. Regards BOB

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Energy storage and optimism

Bob, thank you for your response.  I only pressed because I enjoy talking with you, and wanted to hear your opinion on the subject. 

Tony, good points about energy storage, I think.  In case either of you are interested, here are two very well-written articles by Tom Murphy, a physicist at UC-Davis (Ph.D. from CalTech), about the energy storage challenges facing our nation if we use renewable energy:

A Nation-Sized Battery

Got Storage? How Hard Can it Be?

Perhaps cause for some concern is the fact that the lead-acid battery pile, a technology invented in 1859, is still the best (balancing cheapness and efficiency) way to store electricity on a large scale. After 150 years of continuous research, that is not comforting.

Furthermore, building enough lead-acid batteries to allow the United States to supply all of its energy needs from renewables would require 60 times more lead than all of the known lead reserves on the planet (bearing in mind that this super-battery would have to be replaced in 5 years).  If we cut out 90% of our electricity demand, we would have to look for only 6x known world reserves.  The scale of the challenge is immense.

Might the big breakthrough come in the next 50 years?  Maybe.  The risk is that if we begin to fall too far behind the curve, the situation could deteriorate to the point that even if we eventually discover that new "super" battery, we will have already lost our capacity to build new infrastructure on a large scale.

The lessons I personally draw from all of this are:

(1)  Big breakthroughs are always possible.

(2)  But if I had to play the numbers, I wouldn't bet that we're facing an economic revival fuelled by new technology and new sources of energy.  It seems more likely, based on current information, that we're facing a long downhill slog.  To put it bluntly, if we get on the ball and work really hard, fewer people will starve over the next few centuries.

(3)  I absolutely agree with you that this does not mean one has to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.  As the saying goes, "Separate your problems into two categories: those you can do something about, and those you can do nothing about.  Either way, there's no reason to worry."  We should do the best we can, and don't allow our mood to be darkened by things beyond our personal control.

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jrf

...your lessons, 1 thru 3 are what most here agree with I think, anyways I like them. We control our own destiny to a point, and then we have to figure things out, and try and get ahead of the pack. In its rawest form it becomes survival of the fittest. Natures singular demand.

BOB

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So good to hear.

Thank you, Chris, for doing this interview.

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