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You Be the Judge: Huffington Post Censorship?

In attempting to challenge some thoughts from a reply to one of my comments on an article in the Huffington Post, I encountered immediate deletion. I didn’t even receive the standard ‘Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.’ Here is the thread:

The article I commented upon can be found here.

My original comment:
Orwell would be so proud of our Western ‘leaders’ who live in a world where the unelected ‘officials’ (but Western supported) are legal but a referendum of the people is not.

Reply from Cam D.:
The West isn’t the one with the 30,000 strong occupational force on the ground forcing the issue, “protecting citizenry” while at the same time not allowing in UN monitors. Have you seen the ballot of the so called referendum? There isn’t a choice to stay with the Ukraine. How is that not rigged?

My reply that is not making it past the HP moderators:
First, the Russian troops in the Crimea have been stationed there under treaty for some time. Second, supposed shots fired at the monitors could very easily have been false flag attacks (just as the chemical weapons Assad supposedly used in Syria but were in fact Saudi-supplied and used by the anti-Assad rebels). Third, are you parroting the corporate media take on the referendum question? It seems so. I trust none of them; East or West. However, our leaders are so blatantly hypocritical it’s embarrassing. Remember Iraq? Libya? etc.. The US was born and expanded through violence and occupation, and it continues to use the same approach for hegemonic control of the globe.

Problematic? I think so. After a career as an educator, I know that correcting misperceptions is perhaps one of the strongest teaching tools that can be used to help students learn, question, and think critically. Deletion of such information does nothing to further conversations or ‘enlightenment’.

Guaranteeing a Housing Market Crash in Canada

The following image depicts an advertisement that came within our local community’s newspaper, The Stouffville Sun-Tribune. It is a perfect example of the type of market behaviour that will ensure people who cannot truly afford to own a home, that already are experiencing financial distress and should not be seeking to go further into debt,  will be caught in even worse financial straits when the most-overvalued housing market in the world collapses. Canada’s own subprime mortgage fiasco in the making…

image

Have I reached my personal limit?

Just a quick post this morning with some thoughts on the latest geopolitical mess in Europe over the Ukraine. The following is my online comment to a HuffPost article:

*****
It’s interesting how many people have taken the role of the judge, jury, and executioner so soon into this latest geopolitical crisis. It is impossible for any of us to truly understand all the complexities involved. It is also impossible, except in hindsight usually, to develop a reasonable and balanced perspective on events. We have our own leaders involved in creating and selling a narrative that supports their actions. We know they have lied to us about many things in the past, so why would anyone trust them now? The West is so blatantly hypocritical it is embarassing. How quickly we forget the recent invasions of Libya or Iraq. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am tired of the elite (all sides) using the planet’s depleting resources and ‘wealth’ (that is always confiscated from the masses in one way or another) to fight their wars. Not to mention the fact that it is always the children of the general public (very rarely, if ever, the elite’s children) that are sent off to fight these wars. A pox on all their houses!
*****

Hell in a Hand Basket and Why We're Going There, Guaranteed (sort of)

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

[My love of music has me suggesting that a song be played in the background while you’re reading this. There are a couple I’d like to suggest: Talking Heads-Nothing but Flowers; Blue Rodeo-Lost Together (must have some Canadian content); or, given the Ukraine/Syria/Iran/North Korea/Venezuela/Congo African Republic/Senkaku-Daiyou Islands/etc. situations, Frankie Goes to Hollywood-Two Tribes. Enjoy:)]

The ebb and flow of societies is well documented by historians and archaeologists. It seems every society rises in complexity to a zenith of some kind and then falls. There are an increasing number of people who contend that this sociopolitical transformation is fast-approaching for our globalised, industrial civilization, and of those some believe that this shift will be a long drawn out affair of slow decline[i], while others suggest it may be more of a sudden shift[ii], or collapse[iii].

Whether this change takes generations or is much more sudden and dramatic matters not (unless you’re living through the latter one, I suppose); one’s perception of this depends upon the temporal perspective taken. For example, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the oil-dependent, industrialized society of humans lasts 400 years, 200 years up and 200 years down (I think I’m being overly generous here on the demise side).

A 200-year decline may, given normalcy bias, not be perceived as a significant shift at all by those experiencing it. However, if we can step back and view this rise and fall in larger historical terms, say on a 10,000-year basis, this ascent/descent scenario may be perceived as quick and calamitous. I think perspective is everything here. (Note that I’ll continue to refer to the impending change as ‘collapse’ because I tend to believe the change will come quickly, especially once the power grid fails.)

That being said, the antecedents of such collapse are varied and complex. They range from declining marginal returns[iv] to environmental collapse[v] to psychological shifts[vi] to overshooting local carrying capacity[vii] to Peak Oil[viii] to population growth[ix]. Humans don’t require artificial intelligence that perceives us as a threat, a viral pandemic leading to a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion for our resources to push us over the cliff; we don’t even need a nuclear war. We have our own non-military, sociocultural peculiarities to accomplish it.

As with any complex, dynamical system, the variables that lead to collapse interact in ways both knowable and surprising (such are the emergent phenomenon that arise from complex systems). Feedback that might provide clues to the coming demise tends to be ignored, delayed, or misinterpreted, resulting in dismissal of clear signals. In fact, oftentimes, the actions taken by players can expedite the process of collapse. To this end, I believe that our economic system, with globalisation efforts and its underlying foundation of infinite growth, may be the catalyst that pushes our industrial civilisation over the impending cliff of collapse. But, who really knows? My guess is about as good as anybody else’s[x].

What are some of the components contributing to this collapse endgame? I offer a few: exponential growth of population; dependency on fossil fuels; human hubris; economic credit/debt obligations; climate change; peak resources (especially oil and water); delayed feedback; corrupt political/economic systems; misperceptions; accumulation of toxins/pollutants; misleading information; and just plain, old ignorance (some purposeful I believe). And, don’t forget the black swans.

To me, population growth seems to be the factor that we have pushed in the wrong direction but the underlying variable to this is energy. Populations do not grow if there is not enough energy to support such growth. This energy may take the form of domesticated animal and plant life, or long-stored, concentrated energy (i.e. fossil fuels), but at its base is solar energy and how it is exploited. For tens of thousands of years human population was held in check by limited energy exploitation. The ‘Agricultural Revolution’ certainly gave a boost to human population, especially within new villages, towns, and cities erupting all over the globe. However, once fossil fuels began to be exploited our population took off in a global, exponential explosion. It is this exponential growth of human population that has put us in this bind we are in.

To better understand what is happening, I believe one of the fundamental pieces of information to get a grip on is, in fact, exponential growth. Exponential growth is a concept well-known (think compound interest) but whose consequence has been lost on many. The late Dr. Albert Bartlett was perhaps one of the leading authorities on the implications of such growth and spent much of his professional career attempting to educate people about it. In a presentation he gave thousands of times and was viewed many more times on youtube (viewed more than 1/4 million times; not bad for an old guy lecturing about mathemtics) he outlines the importance of it and its consequences.

Entitled ‘Arithmetic, Population, and Energy’[xi], Bartlett argues, among other things, that zero population growth will happen whether we wish it to or not, it is a mathematical certainty. In the words of others, if something cannot grow forever, it won’t. However, as Bartlett points out, we hold near and dear to our hearts many things that are contributing to overpopulation: education, healthcare, immigration, sanitation, law and order. On the other side of the ledger, however, are forces that counter these: war, famine, disease, accidents, murder, abortion, and infanticide. His point is that we can either deal with the issue of overpopulation by changing our behaviours (and attitudes) or nature will do it for us; the choice is ours (or is it?).

_______________________

…here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.
Dr. Albert Bartlett

_______________________

A burgeoning population and its implications for human sustainability on a finite planet has been around for some time. Thomas Malthus’s treatise on the subject in 1798 being perhaps one of the most well known. Had Malthus known of the incredible boost to global carrying capacity that was about to be unleashed by the exploitation of a one-time windfall of concentrated and easily-transportable energy, petroleum, he may not have been so adamant in his conclusion that the end of growth was near-at-hand. But such are the chances when one attempts to foretell the future.

My own biases, prejudices, predilections, observations, and experiences, suggest this human experiment we are a part of will not end well[xii]. I believe that there is too much momentum, too many people with a sense of entitlement, too many sociocultural myths, too many elite protecting the status quo, and far too much ignorance for us to avoid a global collapse. Unless, of course, Zemphram Cochrane’s trans-warp engine test on April 4, 2063 at 11:15 am, after the Third World War (aka Eugenics Wars), is seen by a Vulcan survey expedition and makes First Contact, saving us from ourselves[xiii].

What typically follows social, political, economic collapse is a ‘dark age’ of some kind and is perhaps best known (at least within Western history) by the years that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. But more on this in another post.

Despite all of the above, there are a variety of other variables that could push a teetering globe into a collapse scenario, particularly geopolitics or a natural disaster. No one knows. Prediction of the future is for meteorologists and economists, neither of which is very good beyond a couple of days for the former, and much less for the latter. I must admit, however, that Marion King Hubbert’s prediction of the coming demise of industrial civilization[xiv], along with the seminal text, The Limits to Growth[xv], are pretty good guesses in my books.

The one thing I am sure of, the more I learn, the more I am finding that I am ignorant of. Although I spent a career as an educator[xvi], I continue to be a student…and perhaps this diatribe is all just an elongated justification of my belief system, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”[xvii]

Olduvai (aka Steve Bull)


[i] Greer, J.M.. The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age. New Society Publishers, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-86571-609-4)
Kunstler, J. H.. The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Grove Press, 2009/2006/2005. (ISBN 978-0-8021-4249-8)
[ii] Diamond, J.. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books, 2005/2011. (ISBN 978-0-14-311700-1)
Orlov, D.. The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit. New Society Publishers, 2013. (ISBN 978-0-86571-736-7)
Ruppert, M.. Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Oil World. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.  (ISBN 978-1-60358-164-3)
[iii] I use the following definition of collapse, as proposed by Joseph Tainter (see footnote below): “[It] is fundamentally a matter of the sociopolitical sphere. A society has collapsed when it displays a rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity….To qualify as an instance of collapse a society must  have been at, or developing toward, a level of complexity for more than one or two generations…The collapse in turn must be rapid—taking no more than a few decades—and must entail a substantial loss of sociopolitical structure. Losses that are less severe, or take longer to occur, are to be considered cases of weakness and decline.” (p. 4)
[iv] Tainter, J.A.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9)
[v] Diamond, J.. Ibid.
[vi] Orlov, D.. Ibid.
[vii] Catton, Jr., W.R.. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1982. (ISBN 978-0-252-09988-4)
[viii] Ruppert, M.. Ibid.
[ix] Malthus, T.. An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. J. Johnson, 1798.
[x] Take a good, long critical look at the world and its leaders. Do you have faith, enough faith that you would risk your own life and that of your family, in the leaders of this world to be capable of circumnavigating successfully the various crises that are erupting with greater magnitude and frequency, from climate change to geopolitical stresses to resource depletion to economic collapse? If you have that much faith in them, well good luck to you. Quite simply, I don’t. I believe they are incapable of managing these dilemmas and cascading failures of the various systems of industrialised civilisation will occur some time in our future. NO, I have no idea when.
[xi] Bartlett, A.. Arithmetic, Energy, and Population. (Transcript: http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_transcript_english.html).
[xii] I must admit that my particular pessimistic perspective makes for an interesting dynamic between my spouse and I, for she is the eternal optimist who, as a practising educator, believes in the successful implementation of social engineering to prevent many of the negative consequences (I’ve just retired from the profession but have always been a ‘little’ critical of it, and authority; the latter, in no small part, likely the result of being the child of a police officer).
[xiii] Star Trek, First Contact. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_First_Contact
[xiv] Hubbert, M.K.. Energy from fossil fuels. Science, Feburary 4, 1949. v.109, pp. 103-109.
[xv] Meadows, D., J. Randers, & D. Meadows. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004. (ISBN 978-1-931498-58-6)
[xvi] 9 years as a classroom teacher (grades 6-8), 13 as an administrator (K-8 school).
[xvii] Shakespeare. Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 26-28)

 

Hell in a Hand Basket and Why We’re Going There, Guaranteed (sort of)

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

[My love of music has me suggesting that a song be played in the background while you’re reading this. There are a couple I’d like to suggest: Talking Heads-Nothing but Flowers; Blue Rodeo-Lost Together (must have some Canadian content); or, given the Ukraine/Syria/Iran/North Korea/Venezuela/Congo African Republic/Senkaku-Daiyou Islands/etc. situations, Frankie Goes to Hollywood-Two Tribes. Enjoy:)]

The ebb and flow of societies is well documented by historians and archaeologists. It seems every society rises in complexity to a zenith of some kind and then falls. There are an increasing number of people who contend that this sociopolitical transformation is fast-approaching for our globalised, industrial civilization, and of those some believe that this shift will be a long drawn out affair of slow decline[i], while others suggest it may be more of a sudden shift[ii], or collapse[iii].

Whether this change takes generations or is much more sudden and dramatic matters not (unless you’re living through the latter one, I suppose); one’s perception of this depends upon the temporal perspective taken. For example, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the oil-dependent, industrialized society of humans lasts 400 years, 200 years up and 200 years down (I think I’m being overly generous here on the demise side).

A 200-year decline may, given normalcy bias, not be perceived as a significant shift at all by those experiencing it. However, if we can step back and view this rise and fall in larger historical terms, say on a 10,000-year basis, this ascent/descent scenario may be perceived as quick and calamitous. I think perspective is everything here. (Note that I’ll continue to refer to the impending change as ‘collapse’ because I tend to believe the change will come quickly, especially once the power grid fails.)

That being said, the antecedents of such collapse are varied and complex. They range from declining marginal returns[iv] to environmental collapse[v] to psychological shifts[vi] to overshooting local carrying capacity[vii] to Peak Oil[viii] to population growth[ix]. Humans don’t require artificial intelligence that perceives us as a threat, a viral pandemic leading to a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion for our resources to push us over the cliff; we don’t even need a nuclear war. We have our own non-military, sociocultural peculiarities to accomplish it.

As with any complex, dynamical system, the variables that lead to collapse interact in ways both knowable and surprising (such are the emergent phenomenon that arise from complex systems). Feedback that might provide clues to the coming demise tends to be ignored, delayed, or misinterpreted, resulting in dismissal of clear signals. In fact, oftentimes, the actions taken by players can expedite the process of collapse. To this end, I believe that our economic system, with globalisation efforts and its underlying foundation of infinite growth, may be the catalyst that pushes our industrial civilisation over the impending cliff of collapse. But, who really knows? My guess is about as good as anybody else’s[x].

What are some of the components contributing to this collapse endgame? I offer a few: exponential growth of population; dependency on fossil fuels; human hubris; economic credit/debt obligations; climate change; peak resources (especially oil and water); delayed feedback; corrupt political/economic systems; misperceptions; accumulation of toxins/pollutants; misleading information; and just plain, old ignorance (some purposeful I believe). And, don’t forget the black swans.

To me, population growth seems to be the factor that we have pushed in the wrong direction but the underlying variable to this is energy. Populations do not grow if there is not enough energy to support such growth. This energy may take the form of domesticated animal and plant life, or long-stored, concentrated energy (i.e. fossil fuels), but at its base is solar energy and how it is exploited. For tens of thousands of years human population was held in check by limited energy exploitation. The ‘Agricultural Revolution’ certainly gave a boost to human population, especially within new villages, towns, and cities erupting all over the globe. However, once fossil fuels began to be exploited our population took off in a global, exponential explosion. It is this exponential growth of human population that has put us in this bind we are in.

To better understand what is happening, I believe one of the fundamental pieces of information to get a grip on is, in fact, exponential growth. Exponential growth is a concept well-known (think compound interest) but whose consequence has been lost on many. The late Dr. Albert Bartlett was perhaps one of the leading authorities on the implications of such growth and spent much of his professional career attempting to educate people about it. In a presentation he gave thousands of times and was viewed many more times on youtube (viewed more than 1/4 million times; not bad for an old guy lecturing about mathemtics) he outlines the importance of it and its consequences.

Entitled ‘Arithmetic, Population, and Energy’[xi], Bartlett argues, among other things, that zero population growth will happen whether we wish it to or not, it is a mathematical certainty. In the words of others, if something cannot grow forever, it won’t. However, as Bartlett points out, we hold near and dear to our hearts many things that are contributing to overpopulation: education, healthcare, immigration, sanitation, law and order. On the other side of the ledger, however, are forces that counter these: war, famine, disease, accidents, murder, abortion, and infanticide. His point is that we can either deal with the issue of overpopulation by changing our behaviours (and attitudes) or nature will do it for us; the choice is ours (or is it?).

_______________________

…here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.
Dr. Albert Bartlett

_______________________

A burgeoning population and its implications for human sustainability on a finite planet has been around for some time. Thomas Malthus’s treatise on the subject in 1798 being perhaps one of the most well known. Had Malthus known of the incredible boost to global carrying capacity that was about to be unleashed by the exploitation of a one-time windfall of concentrated and easily-transportable energy, petroleum, he may not have been so adamant in his conclusion that the end of growth was near-at-hand. But such are the chances when one attempts to foretell the future.

My own biases, prejudices, predilections, observations, and experiences, suggest this human experiment we are a part of will not end well[xii]. I believe that there is too much momentum, too many people with a sense of entitlement, too many sociocultural myths, too many elite protecting the status quo, and far too much ignorance for us to avoid a global collapse. Unless, of course, Zemphram Cochrane’s trans-warp engine test on April 4, 2063 at 11:15 am, after the Third World War (aka Eugenics Wars), is seen by a Vulcan survey expedition and makes First Contact, saving us from ourselves[xiii].

What typically follows social, political, economic collapse is a ‘dark age’ of some kind and is perhaps best known (at least within Western history) by the years that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. But more on this in another post.

Despite all of the above, there are a variety of other variables that could push a teetering globe into a collapse scenario, particularly geopolitics or a natural disaster. No one knows. Prediction of the future is for meteorologists and economists, neither of which is very good beyond a couple of days for the former, and much less for the latter. I must admit, however, that Marion King Hubbert’s prediction of the coming demise of industrial civilization[xiv], along with the seminal text, The Limits to Growth[xv], are pretty good guesses in my books.

The one thing I am sure of, the more I learn, the more I am finding that I am ignorant of. Although I spent a career as an educator[xvi], I continue to be a student…and perhaps this diatribe is all just an elongated justification of my belief system, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”[xvii]

Olduvai (aka Steve Bull)


[i] Greer, J.M.. The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age. New Society Publishers, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-86571-609-4)
Kunstler, J. H.. The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Grove Press, 2009/2006/2005. (ISBN 978-0-8021-4249-8)
[ii] Diamond, J.. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books, 2005/2011. (ISBN 978-0-14-311700-1)
Orlov, D.. The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit. New Society Publishers, 2013. (ISBN 978-0-86571-736-7)
Ruppert, M.. Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Oil World. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.  (ISBN 978-1-60358-164-3)
[iii] I use the following definition of collapse, as proposed by Joseph Tainter (see footnote below): “[It] is fundamentally a matter of the sociopolitical sphere. A society has collapsed when it displays a rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity….To qualify as an instance of collapse a society must  have been at, or developing toward, a level of complexity for more than one or two generations…The collapse in turn must be rapid—taking no more than a few decades—and must entail a substantial loss of sociopolitical structure. Losses that are less severe, or take longer to occur, are to be considered cases of weakness and decline.” (p. 4)
[iv] Tainter, J.A.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9)
[v] Diamond, J.. Ibid.
[vi] Orlov, D.. Ibid.
[vii] Catton, Jr., W.R.. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1982. (ISBN 978-0-252-09988-4)
[viii] Ruppert, M.. Ibid.
[ix] Malthus, T.. An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. J. Johnson, 1798.
[x] Take a good, long critical look at the world and its leaders. Do you have faith, enough faith that you would risk your own life and that of your family, in the leaders of this world to be capable of circumnavigating successfully the various crises that are erupting with greater magnitude and frequency, from climate change to geopolitical stresses to resource depletion to economic collapse? If you have that much faith in them, well good luck to you. Quite simply, I don’t. I believe they are incapable of managing these dilemmas and cascading failures of the various systems of industrialised civilisation will occur some time in our future. NO, I have no idea when.
[xi] Bartlett, A.. Arithmetic, Energy, and Population. (Transcript: http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_transcript_english.html).
[xii] I must admit that my particular pessimistic perspective makes for an interesting dynamic between my spouse and I, for she is the eternal optimist who, as a practising educator, believes in the successful implementation of social engineering to prevent many of the negative consequences (I’ve just retired from the profession but have always been a ‘little’ critical of it, and authority; the latter, in no small part, likely the result of being the child of a police officer).
[xiii] Star Trek, First Contact. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_First_Contact
[xiv] Hubbert, M.K.. Energy from fossil fuels. Science, Feburary 4, 1949. v.109, pp. 103-109.
[xv] Meadows, D., J. Randers, & D. Meadows. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004. (ISBN 978-1-931498-58-6)
[xvi] 9 years as a classroom teacher (grades 6-8), 13 as an administrator (K-8 school).
[xvii] Shakespeare. Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 26-28)

 

Contribute (content) to the site

No, this is not about contributing money. It is about contributing content in the form of a website suggestion or post. I am not involved in this ‘journey’ to make money; although it would be nice to sell enough copies of my book to fund its publication and the website, but that is not my main motivation. I tell myself that the main motivation is to share information so we can better understand just what the hell is going on in this world.

Whether you ‘believe’ the information that is shared is entirely up to you. I make no claim as to sharing the ‘truth’. I firmly believe that the narrative we believe is based on many things, not least of which is how it aligns with our personal preconceptions, observations, and biases. Thus, the category term ‘Cognitive Bias’.

That being said, I open the floor to others to contribute to this site. No, there will no be remuneration in the monetary sense.

If you are connected to the suggested link somehow, I would simply ask that you include a link to my site as well.

I alone am the arbiter of what content the site contains (see this). I will judge based on how it ‘aligns’ with the topics/issues/perspectives of the site as a whole, but I will try to hold my own prejudices in check during such decisions.

To suggest a site or offer a ‘post’ for my new ‘Cognitive Bias’ section (to which I’ll be moving my previous ‘Musings’ posts), please email olduvai at rogers dot com.

Steve
March 1, 2014

Welcome to the Grand Delusion, come on in and see what’s happening…

Welcome to the Grand Delusion[i], come on in and see what’s happening…

We live in a state of delusion, not merely illusion. As Wikipedia[ii] points out, “A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.” The fact that a belief persists despite ‘superior evidence to the contrary’ is what makes the difference. This is why the majority live in a delusional state, not just one of illusion.

Sure, this delusion is aided and abetted by various ‘agents’ (i.e. corporate/mainstream media; government; bureaucrats; academics; corporations; etc.), including our own thought processes[iii]; however, despite growing, incontrovertible evidence to the contrary the majority persists in clinging to specific, unfounded beliefs.

Another aspect of our Grand Delusion is that the majority of us don’t want our fantasy to end. We are ‘benefiting’ from the lies and deceptions being perpetrated upon the world. The benefit may come in the form of unsustainable social services, a global economic Ponzi scheme, power and privilege, or something as simple as a ‘safe and secure’ position in society. We know deep down inside, however, that something is wrong with the world: that it is inequitable and violent; that the people in charge are corrupt and psychopathic; and, that greed and money rule the day.

We avoid reality. We tell ourselves that problems exist somewhere else. We persuade ourselves to continue living in the delusion. Don’t make waves. It’s safer to be wrong with the majority than stand out from the crowd and yell the sky is falling, especially if the-powers-that-be are doing all they can to keep the Grand Delusion alive just a bit longer.

Here are just a couple of the delusions that we hold:

1)    The banking/financial/economic system is sound.
The foundation of the banking system is built on a fraud, there is no other way around the scheme that is fractional reserve banking. When an institution can create money from air by hypothecation and rehypothecation ad infinitum, we have what is essentially a pyramid scheme. When these very institutions grow to the point where they are too big to fail, or the perpetrators of the scam too big to jail, then it is time to recognise that the system is not sound, despite it being legalised and legitimised by our politicians.

2)    Governments serve their citizens.
Edward Snowden joins a list of ‘whistleblowers’ who have shed light on the shadowy world of politics, and the power that is wielded in the name of ‘security’ and ‘nation building’. How many more lies and deceptions do we need to catch politicians in to realise that we are being fed a load of horseshit almost every time one of them makes any statement about anything. I quote economist Murray Rothbard in his essay, Anatomy of the State, when he summarises what the State is: “…the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of force and violence in a given territorial area…[it] provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society…[and] the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise, and, at least, inevitable…ideological support being vital to the State, it must unceasingly try to impress the public with ‘legitimacy,’ to distinguish its activities from those of mere brigands.” The State, mere brigands of a parasitic caste who get their revenue through force and depend upon support through the manufacturing of consent. It’s difficult not to view the government in this light given daily events.

3)    Economic growth can continue forever.
Our current economic system is built upon growth and not just any kind of growth but exponential growth. Such growth, however, is impossible on a finite planet. Economists defer to the belief of substitutability and market forces to assume it can. This is perhaps the most disturbing delusion because the mathematics to show it cannot is irrefutable. Yet, the consequences of this are ‘assumed away’.

4)    Civliisation is not threatened by energy issues.
Energy is the foundation of everything. Without it there can be no banking system, no governments, and no economic growth. Here is the biggest delusion, that our civilisation will continue unabated even as we come to the end of a one-time windfall of cheap, easy-to-retrieve, and easily-transportable energy. Ignoring the devastating consequences of mining, producing, and using vast amounts of energy (coal to nuclear), we must face the very real wall that is quickly approaching. Peak Oil is a geologic certainty, it is not a theory and it is not going away. Finite resources are finite and there must come a time when we confront this reality.

The world appears to be crumbling in various ways as we attempt to squeeze the last remnants of long-stored energy from the planet in order to sustain what is unsustainable. In what is likely to be a classic example of ecological overshoot and collapse, we race towards the cliff, hearts pumping knowing that the end is close but afraid to try and change directions. But that is what is needed. We need to change direction, as of yesterday, to avoid the continuing trap of the Grand Delusion.

SB

 

Styx: The Grand Illusion

Welcome to the Grand illusion
Come on in and see what’s happening
Pay the price, get your tickets for the show
The stage is set, the band starts playing
Suddenly your heart is pounding
Wishing secretly you were a star.

But don’t be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they’re just someone else’s fantasy

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you never win the game
Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.
We’re all the same…

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because your neighbors got it made
Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.
We’re all the same…

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder what on Earth’s this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are

The Grand Illusion lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group


[i] Apologies to Dennis DeYoung and Styx
[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delusion
[iii] Reduction of cognitive dissonance having one of the strongest impacts. As social psychologist Leon Festinger has stated: “Humans are not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one.”

 

Directing Conversations, Censorship, and Propaganda

Amerikan Democracy

Amerikan Democracy (Photo credit: Saint Iscariot)

One of the books I read recently is the classic, Propaganda, by Edward Bernays. I don’t recall what post or website I was on that referred to it but I thought it worth the read. I wanted to explore the concept of liberty and how manipulation of information by the elite could be weaved into my next book (Olduvai 2: Exodus).

As the writeup on Amazon states about Bernays and his book: “A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon. Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.”

On the advice of my marketing consultant for Olduvai, I have been more active in attempting to develop an ‘online personality and following.’ One of the ways I have been doing this is to comment on various news articles or opinion pieces that tie in to my book’s major themes (i.e. geopolitics, economy, energy, environment, liberty, etc.) via online comment sections of a limited number of media and theme-related websites, using my book cover as my avatar and adding my website address as a ‘signature’ at the bottom. It has proven to be remarkably effective in attracting readers to my website.

What I have noted is that a relatively small portion of my comments do not get past the ‘moderators’ at the two websites where I have done most of my posting, The Huffington Post: Canada (HPC) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

When you sign up to participate in such online discussions, your comments must meet certain criteria (CBC’s policy here; HPC’s here). Some of the criteria are fairly specific and not really open to much debate as to what is acceptable and what is not. For example, you may add up to three external links to your post or use French if responding on Radio Canada’s site. Other criteria are open to some disagreement over what is acceptable and what is not. Comments may not be threatening, harrassing, or sexually explicit. Some, however, are open to such broad interpretation that almost any comment could be deemed to be in violation. You may not make repetitive comments, for example. But what defines repetitive? If you interpret the world through a particular lens, for example Christainity, you will very likely bring the concept of God or Christ into your comments. Or, as I tend to do now, your global schema may consider the concepts of exponential growth and energy depletion as fundamental to how you view events. Regardless, my point is that the latitude that is given to moderators allows for personal biases and interpretations to direct the online discussion of many of these websites. I have found that CBC ‘disables’ my comment but continues to show it via my personal profile. The Huffington Post simply ‘loses’ it in the internet ether somewhere, no online record of the comment is visible.

There appears to be at least a couple of different methods used by these corporations to steer conversations. The comment can be entirely ‘disallowed’ or it can be held in queue for an extended period of time while others get through and  then are posted far down the list, buried several pages in.

I also believe that some commentators are ‘blacklisted’ in the sense that their comments are not posted automatically but held up so that they may be moderated/censored more assiduously. I am certain that I am one of those whose comments have been flagged for greater scrutiny. I have sent communcation to both websites enquiring as to the process that is used, yet I have received no response to date (several weeks now).

The HPC’s flagging is quite interesting/humourous. For virtually every one of my posts, I get the message “Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.” It does not matter what the topic of the article is; apparently all articles have a ‘potentially sensitive nature’, even those in the sports section. Today (Jan. 30/14), I have been quite frustrated at not being able to challenge an article penned by Conrad Black in the HPC who argues that JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, has become a rich man due to his merit. I attempted to point out several instances of Mr. Dimon’s bank participating in market rigging, fraud, and corruption in order to boost their bottom line, but none of the posts got past the censors.

The conclusion I have reached is that these two sites  work to direct the online conversation, especially when certain assumptions are challenged. To be fair to CBC, often my comments are disabled due to me adding my signature (website address) to the bottom; when I resubmit without the website, the comment is usually posted. However, there is absoluetly no consistency here as many of my comments with my website address are posted. And, every once in a while one does not get posted regardless of the presence or not of my website address.

Bernays himself states the following in the book: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” [An interesting sidebar to Bernays is that he worked with the American government to control the narrative of at least one government coup organised by the CIA: Guatemala (1957), where he worked with E. Howard Hunt a CIA operative associated with both the Kennedy assassination (eerily similar to the Guatamalan assassination) and Watergate.]

As Alex Jones’s website, InfoWars.com, suggests, there is a war on for your mind, and the corporate media is a large part of the propaganda campaign waged by the elite. Challenging biases, prejudices, assumptions, facts, opinions, etc. is important if we are to better understand the world and its complex isues. Disallowing such challenges through censorship serves only the status quo. As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed states in his introduction to Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution, it is important “to uncover and showcase news stories, in the public interest, that have been ignored, misreported, or simply censored by the  so-called ‘mainstream,’ but more accurately, the corporate media.” It seems it will only be through independent media and bloggers that people will gain a broader perspective of world events and narratives. It will not be through the elite and their corporate media.

Why is this so? I defer to Murray Rothbard in his essay, Anatomy of the State: “…the State is that organization in society which
 attempts to maintain a monopoly of force and violence in a given territorial 
area….[it] provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of 
private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the 
lifeline of the parastic caste in society…[and] the majority must be 
persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise, and, at least, 
inevitable…ideological support being vital to the State, it must unceasingly 
try to impress the public with ‘legitimacy,’ to distinguish its activities from 
those of mere brigands.” (emphasis added)

What do I believe about the world complex? Or, why I think a collapse is inevitable.

Last evening (January 12, 2014) I sat down to create a compilation of beliefs I hold about the world complex. The first twenty that popped into my head were pretty easy with the last few (I only went as far as once through the alphabet) requiring a little thinking. In no particular order I offer this quickly composed list with some links to articles/websites to support them:

ECONOMY/FINANCES

a)     Economic markets are rigged.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-11/are-markets-rigged
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-12/summarizing-known-rigged-markets
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-11/wmreuters-busted-latest-market-rigging-and-collusion-scandal-foreign-exchange

b)    Gold has been moving from the West to the East.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-world’s-gold-moving-west-east
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-19/chinese-dont-want-dollars-anymore-they-want-gold-londons-gold-vaults-are-empty-why
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-08/chinese-gold-imports-soar-monthly-record-insatiable-demand

c)     The world’s primary reserve currency never lasts forever.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-10/todays-reserve-currency-tomorrows-wallpaper
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-07-06/bundesbank-warns-chinas-currency-its-way-becoming-global-reserve-currency
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-13/guest-post-how-much-longer-will-dollar-be-reserve-currency

d)    Central banks have been coordinating their monetary policies from interest rates to ‘money printing’ to ‘forward guidance’ that is resulting in currency devaluations

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/here-comes-mother-all-rumors-g-20-sources-say-central-banks-preparing-coordinated-action
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/goldman-todays-coordinated-central-bank-bailout-it-isn’t-enough-save-anyone-or-solve-averything
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-03/guest-post-rise-and-fall-monetary-policy-coordination

e)     Central banks have been monetizing sovereign debt through increased holdings of government bonds.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-01-07/japan-may-or-may-not-mint-quadrillion-yen-coins-it-will-monetize-european-debt
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/ecb-monetizes-another-€10-billion-piigs-debt-trichet-says-prudent-ecb-not-fed
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-10-20/presenting-all-us-debt-thats-fit-monetize

f)     Sovereign nations are in extreme debt.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_debt
  2. http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock
  3. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/country-list/government-debt-to-gdp

g)    Private households are in extreme debt.

  1. http://www.oecd.org/std/fin-stats/
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-04/debt-nations
  3. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/06/focus-1

h)    All fiat currency experiments eventually end.

  1. http://dailyreckoning.com/fiat-currency/
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oql8CTy6AcA
  3. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.ca/2011/08/average-life-expectancy-for-fiat.html

i)      Robotic technology is replacing increasing number of jobs.

  1. http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/robots-to-replace-almost-50-per-cent-of-the-work-force/story-fn5fsgyc-1226729696075
  2. http://robotswillstealyourjob.tumblr.com/post/48210312400/robots-are-taking-our-jobs-and-we-will-take-their
  3. http://www.amazon.com/Jobocalypse-Human-Jobs-Robots-Replace/dp/1482701960

j)      There exist trillions of dollars of IOUs supporting the financial system.

  1. http://demonocracy.info/infographics/usa/derivatives/bank_exposure.html
  2. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-coming-derivatives-panic-that-will-destroy-global-financial-markets
  3.  http://moneymorning.com/2011/10/12/derivatives-the-600-trillion-time-bomb-thats-set-to-explode/

k)    Unemployment has skyrocketed across western nations, especially for the young (under 25).

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/14/youth-unemployment-wreck-europe-economic-recovery
  2. http://business.time.com/2012/11/05/why-the-u-s-has-a-worse-youth-employment-problem-than-europe/
  3. http://www.workopolis.com/content/advice/article/study-why-youth-unemployment-in-canada-is-here-to-stay/

ENERGY

l)      Production of conventional oil has begun to decline.

  1. http://www.oildecline.com/
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession
  3. http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0412/The-decline-of-the-world-s-major-oil-fields

m)   New technologies and dirtier sources are being increasingly required to sustain fuel production.

  1. http://www.peakoil.net/future-oil-production-in-canada
  2. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d005f176-4ad8-11e3-8c4c-00144feabdc0.html
  3. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/10017

n)    Fuel production barely sustains demand.

  1. http://omrpublic.iea.org/balances.asp
  2. http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/06/oil-production-and-consumption
  3. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=12891

o)   The Shale Oil Revolution is not.

  1. http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/
  2. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-21/major-study-projects-no-long-term-climate-benefit-from-shale-gas-revolution
  3. http://mondediplo.com/2013/03/09gaz

p)    Models of future fuel production rely on significant ‘yet-to-be-discovered’ sources.

  1. http://www.abo.net/en_IT/publications/reportage/togo/togo_1.shtml
  2. http://seekingalpha.com/article/236162-iea-forecast-economy-depends-on-yet-to-be-found-oil
  3. http://www.jeffrubinssmallerworld.com/2010/11/24/even-the-international-energy-agency-forecasts-peak-oil/

q)    Fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and use have polluted the planet with numerous toxins.

  1. http://www.ec.gc.ca/energie-energy/default.asp?lang=En&n=1F4E5D8A-1
  2. http://www2.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-fossil-fuels
  3. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil.html

ENVIRONMENT

r)     Climate extremes are increasing in frequency, duration, and magnitude.

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/18/2013-extreme-weather-events
  2. http://www.climatecommunication.org/new/articles/extreme-weather/overview/
  3. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srex/SREX_FD_SPM_final.pdf

s)     Polar ice caps are melting.

  1. http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/qthinice.asp
  2. http://www.dw.de/polar-ice-sheets-melting-faster-than-ever/a-16432199
  3. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/what-if-the-world-s-icecaps-melted-overnight–120351663.html#PK3eE9D

t)      We are experiencing peak water.

  1. http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/16-05/ff_peakwater?currentPage=all
  2. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-06/peak-water-the-rise-and-fall-of-cheap-clean-h2o.html
  3. http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/article/20130606/PRINCEGEORGE0304/306069987/-1/princegeorge/peak-water-limiting-energy-production

u)    Deserts are expanding.

  1. http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0909/full/climate.2009.84.html
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/desertification-expansion-of-the-sahara-desert/1498.html
  3. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/131211/waterless-world-inner-mongolia-desert-wasteland

v)     Sea levels are rising.

  1. http://pri.org/stories/2014-01-10/sea-levels-rising-uk-starting-let-go-some-its-coastline
  2. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/
  3. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/adaptation/sea_level.html

w)   Honeybees have been decimated by human chemical use.

  1. https://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/24/9177
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6
  3. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/honeybee-population-decline-and-its-devastating-effects-are-topic-of-vanishing-of-the-bees-82364717.html

LIBERTY

x)    Governments are spying on their citizens.

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/02/revealed-australian-spy-agency-offered-to-share-data-about-ordinary-citizens
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/02/revealed-australian-spy-agency-offered-to-share-data-about-ordinary-citizens
  3. http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=dae581de-2490-45f8-90c7-919d01fbd4f4

y)    Governments are spying on each other and themselves.

  1. http://www.globalresearch.ca/nsa-spying-on-congress-to-manipulate-intimidate-blackmail-top-government-and-military-officials/5364273
  2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/new-snowden-docs-show-u-s-spied-during-g20-in-toronto-1.2442448
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/21/world/nsa-dragnet-included-allies-aid-groups-and-business-elite.html?_r=0

z)     Governments are manipulating the data they provide to the public.

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/government-data-manipulation-pricestats-argentina-inflation-2012-10
  2. http://www.wealthdaily.com/articles/unemployment-data-manipulation/4767
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-11-19/government-investigate-government-over-jobs-manipulation-report

I know many people would prefer to hear a message of hope but when these ‘realities’ exist I can’t help but be fairly pessimistic about our chances of a ‘sustainable’ future or a ‘soft landing’ for our economic woes. Unless some unforeseen miracle can save us from ourselves, I can only conclude that the day of reckoning is quickly approaching; it’s a matter of when, not if. Some event, minor or major, will be that snowflake that begins a cascading collapse of our interrelated, complex world. And by collapse, I mean a sudden, devastating drop in the standard of living (similar to Dimitry Orlov’s Five Stages of Collapse) OR an elongated, slow contraction (similar to James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency or John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent); to me, these are not too dissimilar and require simply a change in time perspective to interpret the change as either ‘sudden’ or ‘lengthy’.

To quote William Catton Jr., from his book Overshoot: “…the pressure of our numbers and technology upon manifestly limited resources has already put out of reach the previously acceptable solutions to many of our problems. There remains steadfast resistance to admitting this, but facts are not repealed by refusal to face them. On the other hand, even the ‘alarmists’ who have been warning of grave perils besetting mankind have not fathomed our present predicament…” (p. 5).

Update 1. January 17, 2014

1.  Far more ‘paper’ precious metals exists than actual ‘physical’ metal in existence (a type of ‘fractional reserve’ banking):

2. Large Western financial institutions (i.e. U.S. Federal Reserve; Bank of England) have sold/leased their gold holdings and misled their clients about this:

3. The United States government and/or people within it have carried out domestic assassinations of numerous leaders:

4. The Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Plant disaster is far worse than the corporate media is letting on:

5. ‘Democratic’ countries are becoming more secretive and totalitarian through ‘legislation’:

Interesting thoughts: Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State (ISBN 978-80-87888-43-8):
“…the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people…Briefly, the State is the only organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue …by use of complusion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonnet. Having used force and violence to obtain its revenue, the State generally goes on to regulate and dictate the other actions of its individual subjects…The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society….The State has never been created by a ‘Social Contract’; it has always been born of conquest and exploitation…”

Feel free to offer some further ‘beliefs’, and three ‘credible’ links, in the comments. I will update the list periodically.

Cheers,

Steve

Peak Oil responds, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Peak Oil responds, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

my_tombstone

A recent post entitled The Welcome Death of Peak Oil by George Koch on the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada website begins with the following optimistic comment: “Improved technology and more efficiency mean North America could eventually become an oil exporter.” [i]   The author goes on to argue that technology has placed the theory of Peak Oil in its grave and that energy independence for North America is just around the corner. That Peak Oil is a mistaken and buried theory has been argued recently elsewhere,[ii] and the idea of North American energy independence is one that has been and continues to be widely disseminated by the corporate media, the oil industry, and investment firms.[iii] There is one significant problem, however. The statement is based on an unsound foundation.

The notion that hydraulic fracturing will result in American energy independence appears to have been debunked.[iv] In fact, just recently Faith Birol, president of the International Energy Administration, has stated that the increase in American oil production is simply a surge, not a revolution.[v]  To put it simply: the bold assertion of energy independence is predicated on early production numbers of shale oil wells; unfortunately, these production rates cannot be sustained for very long except through an exponential increase in the number of wells drilled.[vi] This only serves, however, to increase the speed at which the resource deposit is drawn-down, quickening the arrival of the day that the wells will no longer be economically viable. It is interesting to note that a number of companies have already lost money investing in shale oil and others are actively looking to get out of the business.[vii]

If an argument’s underlying foundation is faulty, then it is axiomatic that the conclusion drawn from it is also flawed. To paraphrase that classic movie, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Peak Oil is ‘not quite dead yet’. In fact, I would argue that it is alive and as pertinent as ever, perhaps more so. I offer the following evidence to support that view.

While the American government was not interested in the topic of Peak Oil when Marion King Hubbert first proposed the model for petroleum resource depletion in 1948, by 1974, shortly after his prediction of US oil production peaking became reality, Hubbert was asked to provide written testimony to a Congressional committee writing the National Energy Conservation Policy Act as to the impact of Peak Oil on the monetary system.[viii] Jimmy Carter’s administration was driven by the concept of finite resources, creating the Department of Energy and prompting the president to present the issues in a televised speech in 1977.[ix]

More recently, the secretive National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG)–that was created only ten days after George Bush defeated Al Gore for the 2001 presidency and placed under the direct authority of Vice President Dick Cheney–brainstormed for ten meetings over an nine week period from January to May 2001 about Peak Oil and other energy security issues; issues that would significantly shape American government policies for the next few years. Although agendas and minutes of the meetings have been classified, seven pages were released after two lawsuits. These pages show that the group was reviewing how much oil remained in the world, where it was located, and who controlled it.[x] The public report from the NEPDG made dozens of recommendations based on the underlying belief that oil resources were finite and securing them were in the national interest of the United States.[xi]

The picture has not changed. The shale oil ‘boom’ is a short-term blip in a long-term trend that has been known to the American government for decades. The fact is the previous American administration perceived the issue of energy security as one requiring immediate response by all levels of government. I think most would acknowledge that the geopolitical tensions and military interactions in the Middle East over the last several decades have been centred upon one main objective: control of the oil and gas in the region. The idea of Peak Oil was very much driving American policy, especially foreign policy, less than a decade ago and it’s naïve to believe it is no longer a driving force in the current administration’s geopolitical strategising. Despite assurances and rhetoric, the current administration has not drawn down the number of military personnel in the Middle East and has actually become involved in additional conflicts in the region (e.g. Libya, Syria).[xii]

Leaving North America for the moment. It was only three years ago that the Future Analysis Branch of the Bundeswher Transformation Centre, a branch of the German military,[xiii] carried out its initial study for the German government’s Federal Ministry of Defence on the impact of Peak Oil.[xiv] As taken from the report’s Forward: “…the purpose of security-related future analysis is to acquire knowledge precociously and scientifically based in order to refine conceptual specifications and objectives without making predictions…[and] to enable the Federal Ministry of Defence to identify long-term issues with relevance to security policy at an early stage...” That Germany focused this branch’s first research on the topic of Peak Oil and its security implications speaks volumes as to the seriousness of finite oil resources and how they will impact the globe.

But back to the idea that Peak Oil is dead and buried. Here is what the report has to say: “It is a fact, however, that oil is finite and that there is a peak oil. Since this study is mainly focused on understanding cause-effect relations following such a peak oil situation, it is not necessary to specify a precise point in time…. Depending on the development of globally relevant factors, we cannot rule out that peak oil could have serious security policy implications within the review period of the 30-year investigation perspective” (emphasis added). So, the German military and the German Federal Defence Department not only believe that Peak Oil exists, but that the country must begin to prepare for the implications of Peak Oil sooner rather than later.

I think one has to take a step back in temporal perspective to get a good view of Peak Oil and to understand it and its implications for our global, industrial world. After about 200,000 years of low energy existence, humans happened upon a one-time windfall of energy-intensive resources and it has taken us less than two centuries to reach the production peak of this resource bonanza. On the way up the curve we have used the easy-to-retrieve and highest energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) resources first, leaving us the less energy efficient (lower EROEI) and much more difficult-to-retrieve and expensive dregs; much of which may never get extracted.

Small ‘successes’, such as that of the American shale oil industry’s, are seen as minor deviations or perturbations in the long-term picture that emerges. For example, discoveries at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, bumped up American oil production for a few years in the late 1970s and early 1980s but by the mid- to late-1980s the country resumed its journey down the Hubbert curve that began in 1970. The same pattern seems to be emerging with the ‘shale boom;’ a slight blip in the production numbers for a couple of years beginning in late 2009 and then it will be back to the downward slide of Hubbert’s Peak in the not-too-distant future.

alaska and shale

This is not just true of the U.S.. It is true of every oil-producing country. Peak Oil is factual and based upon geologic patterns observed in every finite resource extracted to date. In fact, M.K. Hubbert predated his work on petroleum resources by studying extraction rates for various minerals that mimic the Hubbert curve.[xv]

The implications of Peak Oil are sure to be extremely upsetting to many. They range from James Howard Kunstler and John Michael Greer’s argument that the transition from fossil fuels will be a rather gradual fall from grace that will take generations, with possible spits and spurts of crises[xvi], to Michael Ruppert’s more apocalyptic and quick-moving collapse scenario. The reality of it, however, cannot be denied. But denial, of course, is the first stage of the Kubler-Ross model, also known as the five stages of grief, that psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross uses to argue that when faced with impending death or some other horrible fate, a person will experience a series of emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.[xvii]

We won’t know when we’ve actually passed the peak of the Hubbert Curve with respect to oil production except in retrospect, and there are not likely to be any apocalyptic scenarios emerging as a result when we do; the truth is we may have already passed the point–global production rates of conventional oil have not moved above the levels reached in 2005/06.[xviii] There are many who have learned to accept it as inevitable but there are also a great many people still in the denial stage about Peak Oil.

Until more people arrive at the last stage of acceptance, we are destined to hear and read more stories with the theme reflected in Koch’s post. That Peak Oil is dead, technology will continue to save the day, and it’s time to move along, there’s nothing to see here. Unfortunately, I believe that the longer we maintain policies based on a denial of its existence, the less likely we will be able to prepare ourselves adequately and the more dire of the consequences will emerge.

What will befall an energy-dependent society as it begins its trip down the global, post-peak curve of Hubbert’s model can only be imagined. Will it reflect the brutal world of the television show Revolution where the power grid has failed due to wayward nanites?[xix] While failure of the grid in this science fiction series is not the result of Peak Oil, grid failure is a real possibility in a post-Peak Oil world, as pointed out by Richard Duncan in his Olduvai Theory.[xx] Will there be a massive die-off of humans as some predict?[xxi] Nobody knows.

One thing is sure though.

Peak Oil is dead, long live Peak Oil.


[i] G. Koch. The Welcome Death of Peak Oil. http://mises.ca/posts/blog/the-welcome-death-of-peak-oil/. November 9, 2013.

[ii] R. Wile. Peak Oil is Dead. http://www.businessinsider.com/death-of-peak-oil-2013-3. March 29, 2013.

B. Walsh. The IEA Says Peak Oil is Dead. That’s Bad News for Climate Policy.

http://science.time.com/2013/05/15/the-iea-says-peak-oil-is-dead-thats-bad-news-for-climate-policy/. May 15, 2013.

D. Blockman. As Fracking Rises, Peak Oil Theory Slowly Dies. http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidblackmon/2013/07/16/as-fracking-rises-peak-oil-theory-slowly-dies/. July 16, 2013.

K. Smith. No Peak Oil Really is Dead.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/modeledbehavior/2013/07/17/no-peak-oil-really-is-dead/. July 17, 2013.

[iii] G. Smith. U.S. to Be Top Oil Producer by 2015 on Shale, IEA says.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-12/u-s-nears-energy-independence-by-2035-on-shale-boom-iea-says.html. November 12, 2013.

P. Domm. Ship, baby, ship! Calls come for U.S. to export oil. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101087815. October 4, 2013.

R. Plank. North American Energy Independence Now Possible. http://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/North-American-energy-independence-now-possible-4007354.php. November 4, 2012.

D. Burney and F.O. Hanson. Pipelines are the ticket to North American energy independence. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/pipelines-are-the-ticket-to-north-american-energy-independence/article8952216/. February 22, 2013.

C. Assis. North America energy independent by 2020, but still tied to markets: report. http://blogs.marketwatch.com/energy-ticker/2013/09/27/north-america-energy-independent-by-2020-but-still-tied-to-markets-report/. September 27, 2013

Wood Mackenzie Press Release. Wood Mackenzie: Global Geopolitics Reshaped by North American Energy Independence. http://www.woodmacresearch.com/cgi-bin/wmprod/portal/corp/corpPressDetail.jsp?oid=11572576. September 26, 2013.

S. Arsenault. U.S. could reclaim role as net energy exporter. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/08/2013831142514713250.html. August 31, 2013.

[iv] W. Koch. Could fracking boom peter out sooner that DOE expects? http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/03/fracking-boom-bust-us-energy-independence/3328561/. November 3, 2013.

T. Whipple. The Peak Oil Crisis: The Shale Oil Bubble. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-30/the-peak-oil-crisis-the-shale-oil-bubble. October 30, 2013.

R. Heinberg. America’s natural gas revolution isn’t all it’s ‘fracked’ up to be. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2013/1023/America-s-natural-gas-revolution-isn-t-all-it-s-fracked-up-to-be. October 23, 2013.

M. Mushalik. The U.S. will always remain a crude oil importer. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-31/us-will-always-remain-crude-oil-importer. October 31, 2013.

S. Kelly. Could California’s Shall Oil Boom Be Just a Mirage? http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/11/07/could-california-s-shale-oil-be-just-mirage. November 7, 2013.

M. Lardelli. The propaganda campaign against peaking fossil fuel production. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-11-05/the-propaganda-campaign-against-peaking-fossil-fuel-production. November 5, 2013.

J.D. Hughes. Drill, Baby, Drill: Can unconventional fuels usher in a new era of energy abundance? http://www.postcarbon.org/reports/DBD-report-FINAL.pdf. February 2013.

[v] K. Cobb. Will the real International Energy Agency please stand up? http://resourceinsights.blogspot.ca/2013/11/will-real-international-energy-agency.html/ November 16, 2013.

[vi] SRSrocco. The coming bust of the great Bakken Oil Field. http://srsroccoreport.com/the-coming-bust-of-the-great-bakken-oil-field/the-coming-bust-of-the-great-bakken-oil-field/. November 16, 2013.

M. Katusa. U.S. #1 in Oil: So Why Isn’t Gasoline $0.80 per Gallon? http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/us-1-in-oil-so-why-isnt-gasoline-0.80-per-gallon. October 29, 2013.

[vii] K. Sloan. What’s next for oil shale? http://thebusinesstimes.com/whats-next-for-oil-shale/. October 8, 2013.

G. Chazan. Shell write-down bad new for US shale.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/cf41cc36-fab2-11e2-87b9-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2jdcgNfoR. August 1, 2013.

G. Chazan. Peter Voser says he regrets Shell’s huge bet on US shale.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e964a8a6-2c38-11e3-8b20-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl. October 6, 2013.

[viii] M. King Hubbert. On the Nature of Growth. http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/OnTheNatureOfGrowth.pdf. 1974.

[ix] J. Carter. Primary Resources: Proposed Energy Policy. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/carter-energy/. April 18, 1977.

Miller Center, University of Virginia. Jimmy Carter. http://millercenter.org/president/carter/essays/biography/print.

[x] M. Ruppert. Collapse. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1503769/. 2009.

Wikipedia. Energy Task Force. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Task_Force

On the Issues. Dick Cheney on Energy and Oil. http://www.ontheissues.org/celeb/Dick_Cheney_Energy_+_Oil.htm.

Haliburton Watch. Energy Task Force. http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/about_hal/energytf.html.

Sourcewatch. Cheney Energy Task Force. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Cheney_Energy_Task_Force.

[xi] Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group: Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America’s Future. http://www.gcrio.org/OnLnDoc/pdf/nep.pdf. May 2001.

[xii] T. Dokoupil. Who’s the War President? http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/05/president-obama-president-bush-and-the-march-of-u-s-soldiers-abroad-where-they-are-and-why.html. August 5, 2011.

D. Degraw. Obama Far Outdoes Bush in Escalating War–The Numbers Will Surprise You. http://www.alternet.org/story/144449/obama_far_outdoes_bush_in_escalating_war_–_the_numbers_will_surprise_you. December 8, 2009.

P. Woodward. More US troops deployed overseas under Obama than Bush. http://warincontext.org/2009/10/13/more-us-troops-deployed-overseas-under-obama-than-bush/. October 13, 2009.

[xiv] Future Analysis Branch, Bundeswher Transformation Centre. Peak Oil: Security policy implications of scarce resources. http://www.jpods.com/JPods/004Studies/PeakOil_StudyEN_GermanArmy.pdf. November 2010.

[xv] M. King Hubbert. Future Ore Supply and Geophysical Prospecting: Mineral Properties Now Entering a  New Epoch. http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/FutureOreSupply.pdf. January 1934.

[xvi] J.M. Greer. The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age. http://www.newsociety.com/Books/L/The-Long-Descent. 2008.

J.H. Kunstler. The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. http://www.amazon.ca/The-Long-Emergency-Catastrophes-Twenty-First/dp/0802142494. 2005.

[xviii] M. McDermott. IEA chart says conventional oil production peaked in 2006. http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/iea-chart-says-conventional-oil-production-peaked-in-2006.html. November 11, 2010.

D. Biello. Has Petroleum Production Peaked, Ending the Era of Easy Oil?  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=has-peak-oil-already-happened. January 25, 2012.

[xix] Wikipedia. Revolution (TV Series). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_(TV_series).

[xx] R. Duncan. The Olduvai Theory. http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1602/article_1362.shtml. Winter 2005/06.

The Olduvai Theory: Terminal Decline Imminent. http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1602/article_1362.shtml. Spring 2007.

America: A Frog in the Kettle Slowly Coming to a Boil.

http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1602/article_1362.shtml. Fall 2007.

The Olduvai Theory: Towards Re-Equalizing the World Standard of Living. http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1602/article_1362.shtml. Summer 2009.

[xxi] M. Savinar. The Peak Oil and Die-Off. http://www.unicamp.br/fea/ortega/eco/traducao-DieOff.pdf

J. Siman. Speaking very gently about die-off. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-10-10/speaking-very-gently-about-die. October 10, 2006.

N. Hagens. Jay Hansen and Dieoff.org. http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/7/13/21018/2121. July 24, 2006.

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