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This chapter is the final integration of all the prior chapters and attempts to provide clarity around the question of, “What should I do?” Let me rephrase that. What should WE do? The changes that are potentially coming are not solvable alone.

Chapter 20 is not going to be a simple list of things to do. Instead, it will reflect my goal of each person assuming responsibility for their own actions.

Chapter 20 is going to provide a framework for action. This is a way of structuring all the myriad things you COULD do, into the prioritized list of things you WILL do. Consider it your personal risk-mitigation plan.

Our individual challenge is to accept the possibility that the future may be quite a departure from the present.

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You are at the part of the Crash Course where everything you learned comes together into a single chapter. Chapter 19 contains a comprehensive view of how all of our problems are actually interrelated and need to be viewed as such or solutions will continue to elude us.

We will review the key trends, which appear to be converging on a very narrow window of the future. Here is a two-second recap of the key issues. If you have watched all of the videos until this point, you will undoubtedly see how they are connected:

Money, credit, growth. Exponential growth. Debt, future, history. Failure to save. Assets, housing, bubble, financial panic. Demographics, wealth, boomers, falling values. Fuzzy numbers. Energy, oil, growth. Peak Oil. Environment, resources, exploitation, change.

This chapter will connect the dots and beckon us toward the future.

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In Crash Course Chapter 18: The Environment, Chris Martenson explains how multiple essential resources are being depleted at ever faster rates. Our money system requires continual economic growth, but energy depletion will run headlong into dwindling resource returns to limit future growth options. Overpopulation will increase competition and demand for fossil fuel energy sources such as crude oil and coal, as well as for natural gas and sources of alternative energy.

In this chapter, Peak Coal, Peak Uranium, and copper extraction are explored as illustrations challenging long-held assumptions about the inevitable certainty of continued global economic expansion. This chapter makes it easy to understand why careful management of our natural resources will be necessary for our economic and environmental future.

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In theory, there’s nothing problematic with living in a world full of exponential growth and depletion curves – as long as the world does not have any boundaries. However, exponential functions take on enormous importance when they approach a physical boundary, as seems to be the case for oil in the very near future. Both discoveries and production indicate that we could be at oil’s exponential boundary already.

We can make a very strong case that both population and our money system are utterly dependent on the continued expansion of oil energy. But what if our exponentially-based economic and monetary systems, rather than being the sophisticated culmination of human evolution, are really just an artifact of oil? What if all of our rich societal complexity and all of our trillions of dollars of wealth and debt simply are the human expression of surplus energy pumped from the ground?

What will happen to our exponential, debt-based money system? Is it even possible for it to function in a world without constant growth? These are important questions, and they deserve answers.

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In the next section, we will discuss the intersection between Energy and the Economy, and I will make the point that it was no accident that our exponential, debt-based money system grew up at precisely the same moment that a new source of high quality energy was discovered that proved capable of increasing exponentially right alongside it.

Now we embark on the precise line of thinking that completely dominates my investing and purchasing habits. I call it energy economics.

With sufficient surplus energy, humans can construct remarkably complex creations in short order. Social complexity relies on surplus energy. Societies that unwillingly lose complexity are notoriously unpleasant places to live. Given this, shouldn’t we pay close attention to how much surplus energy we’ve got and where it comes from?

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Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. But when an economy is based on an exponential debt-based money system that is itself based on exponentially increasing energy supplies, the supply of that energy deserves our very highest attention.

Oil is a miracle, working tirelessly in the background to make our lives easy beyond historical measure. Oil represents over 50% of US total yearly energy use, while oil and natural gas together represent over 75%. How easily could we replace the role of oil in our style of consumer-led, growth based economy? Not very.

Peak Oil is simply a fact. Peak Oil is NOT synonymous with “running out of oil.” But the most urgent issue before us does not lie with identifying the precise moment of Peak Oil. What we need to be most concerned with is the day that world petroleum demand outstrips available supply. It is at that moment that the oil markets will change forever - and probably quite suddenly.

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In this Crash Course video chapter called Fuzzy Numbers, you will learn how our official economic statistics are based on deeply misleading, if not provably false, data. Our economic recession, and possibly depression, can be partially explained by the extent to which we have chosen to provide ourselves with misleading economic data. Certainly if you share my concerns over stocks, bonds, and 401K holdings, or are a serious investor of any sort, you owe it to yourself to listen to this explanation of how wrong our measures of inflation and GDP really are.

In Fuzzy Numbers, we will examine the ways that our measures of inflation and Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, are flawed, using charts of inflation and GDP as well as other easy-to-understand graphics. This chapter will help you understand inflation and GDP and how our national obsession with misrepresenting them to ourselves has led us to the edge of a recession and possibly depression.

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Along the continuum of irrational financial behavior, it can be tricky to tell the difference between a bubble, a mania, and mere touch of exuberance. A bubble is reserved for the height of folly, and history is rich with folly.

So how would we know that we’re in an ‘asset bubble’? What do they look like and what can we expect when one bursts? The Fed famously likes to claim that you can’t spot one until it bursts. But actually you can, and the definition is pretty simple.

Bubbles used to happen once every generation or so, because it took time to forget the pain from the damage. Today we are facing the bursting of a second major asset bubble, housing, spaced less than ten years from the bursting of the dot-com bubble. This is simply astounding and thoroughly unprecedented. It is the largest bubble in all of history and will probably be the most destructive. And it is happening right now.

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Our nation has a historic, never-before-seen level of debt and a historic failure to save. Along with debt and savings, one also has to consider assets. After all, does it really matter if you have no savings and a million dollars of debt, if you have assets worth 10 million?

An asset is an item of ownership that is convertible into cash. Assets comprise the total resources of a person or business, including such things as cash, notes, accounts receivable, securities, inventories, goodwill, fixtures, machinery, and/or real estate.

Debts are fixed, while assets are variable. When you take on a debt, there it placidly sits, growing larger until you make payments on it. Assets, on the other hand, are variable, sometimes gaining and sometimes losing value.

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If you’ve just seen the previous chapter on debt, then you might be wondering if either our savings or our assets are of sufficient quantity to make those levels of debt perfectly manageable. In this chapter I will present evidence that the United States has failed to save money at virtually every level of society and make the claim that the United States government is insolvent.

A personal failure to save has been reflected by a state and local failure to save, which are mirrored by a corporate failure to save, all dwarfed by a failure to save at the federal government level. And capping it all off is a profound failure to invest. All of these deficits lie before us and lead me to conclude that the next twenty years are going to be completely unlike the last twenty years.