Flying in America

SUBHEAD: Nearly arrested in Houston, no questions permitted, no return ticket necessary.  

By Jim Karger on 28 June 2012 for The Dollar Vigilante -  

 Image above: Hindenburg on the tarmac. The Nazis provided a better time flying than today's American carriers. From (
It all began last Sunday as a run-of-the-mill trip to give a couple of talks to an industry association in the States. I knew the travel would be grueling, but when I have the opportunity to talk about government incursions into liberty, I usually jump at the chance.

I flew United Airlines (formerly Continental) out of Leon, Mexico, near my home in San Miguel de Allende, and arrived in Houston without incident. It was when I boarded a United flight to San Francisco that things went south in a hurry.

I noticed there were several people on the flight with the same boarding pass numbers. One of those duplicate boarding passes turned out to be mine.

After taking my assigned seat 37F, a flight attendant (who we will call Linda, mostly because that was her name) walked over, looked at me distractedly, asked to see my boarding pass, and told me matter-of-factly, "You have to move to 21B." I wasn't keen on moving from my window seat to a middle seat and told her I was sitting in my assigned seat, and asked why I had to move, adding that the other guy with 37F not only came after me, but had arrived late.

Linda rolled her eyes and said she would check. I found it an inappropriate response. She returned a few minutes later with no answer to my question, but said firmly, "They say you have to move to 21B."

I told Linda that her response was "unhelpful," that I still didn't have a reason why I needed to move and that I didn't know who "they" were.

She disappeared again, clearly perturbed. When she returned, she wore a smile and said, "They want to help you with your seating assignment. Just go to the front and they will work it out for you."

I took the bait; my mistake. When I got to the front of the plane, several airline employees (not flight crew) were standing on the jetway. A 50-something blonde woman asked that I step out and talk to her. The second I stepped out of the plane she grabbed my boarding pass and said, "You are off the flight."

At this moment, I noticed another airline employee, a young male, shuttle a young kid by me onto the plane. I asked the obvious, "Why?"

"Because you are refusing to fly in 21B and you were late."

I replied, "Not right, lady. I was sitting in 37F, my assigned seat, when the guy who was late came with a 37F boarding pass, and I never refused to sit anywhere. I wanted to know why I was being forced to move. I have a speech to give in the morning and I must be there."

She snarled openly, "Well, that doesn't matter to me. You are being uncooperative. You are off the flight," the tensile haired Femi-Nazi repeated with finality.

A male airline employee then came up behind me and grabbed my arm. I jerked out of his grasp and told him, "Don't touch me, ever." I could see fear in his eyes and he instantly backed off.

We had a proverbial Mexican standoff, with me being the only one from Mexico.

By that time, my mind was racing. Should I wait and be arrested? No problem with that. It would be a good test of the system. But then I thought to myself, "You are working on a second passport (through TDVPassports) and they all require background checks. A recent trumped up charge of air piracy would not look good on your record." It would be a tough decision.

At that moment the senior flight attendant on the plane, Celeste, broke the mental tie. She had apparently watched the whole sordid affair from inside the plane, stepped to the door and said, "No, he was not late and I want him on the flight." She reached out of the doorway and literally pulled me back onto the plane.

Apparently, she had the authority because except for a scowl by the Femi-Nazi and her gang of uniformed-thugs, nothing more was said and they jerked the kid out of 21B and put me there. After we were airborne, Celeste announced on the intercom, "I apologize for the harsh treatment of some of our passengers by our boarding crew." I knew she was talking about me.

Image above: Interior photo of Hindenburg lounge area with free seatng. From (

Then, not once, but twice, she came to my seat and told me how sorry she was and how embarrassed she was for what had happened. She actually reached down and took my hand the second time, very emotional. I told her how much I appreciated what she did but that she knew what happened wasn't right. She said nothing. What could she say? She probably took personal risk standing up for me.

As I sat there in 21B, exactly what had happened and why it happened became clear to me. 

The tensile haired blonde holding court on the jetway had in her own mind, and perhaps in fact had, legal authority to take me off the plane, not for sitting in my seat but for not being a good sheep, one who lined up, sat down, did what he was told when he was told to do it, without question. And, I learned later, with a little research, she was one of those who had been given a little authority. This from the FAA website:

Passengers & Cargo
Unruly Passengers
FAA Enforcement Actions

Violations of 14 CFR 91.11, 121.580, 135.120 & 49 U.S.C. 46318

"Unruly Passengers" 
Interfering with the duties of a crew member violates federal law.

Federal Aviation Regulations 91.11, 121.580 and 135.120 state that "no person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crew member in the performance of the crew-member's duties aboard an aircraft being operated."

The FAA's database contains only those incidents reported to FAA. Reporting is at the discretion of the crew member.

Security violations are excluded. Those cases are handled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Updated numbers are posted on this web page quarterly.

The repercussions for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be substantial. They can be fined by FAA or prosecuted on criminal charges.

As part of the FAA's Reauthorization Bill (April 16, 2000) FAA can propose up to $25,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $1,100. One incident can result in multiple

Did I "interfere" with Linda in the performance of her duties? Not really. I believe Linda's duty is to get me a drink when I want one. Regardless, I merely asked a question of Linda and they didn't want to answer. But I am convinced that Linda and her blonde buddy on the jetway could have made a case that by sending her away twice for the answer to my question that I was being "unruly," as in not able to be ruled, which in the most literal sense was true.

In a Police State, given time, everyone becomes the police. People begin to act out what they see and feel themselves. Physical authority becomes more important than property rights and since authority is all there is, it is often used indiscriminate and harsh. Transparency ceases to exist, and the audacity to question authority meets with immediate and severe repercussions.

On occasion, a human being whose ethics depend on principles rather than situations, will intercede, but many will stand by idly and watch, and most will participate in the abuse if only because it makes them feel important inside a collective in which they have no importance at all.

Such is the problem with statism. The state is the ultimate authority. The state uses its authority to punish those who reject the party line, or even question it, which causes others to cower. People are afraid of the state rather than the state being afraid of the people, the latter necessary to have any semblance of freedom. The state carefully parcels out bits of authority to those who comply, to those who are "good soldiers", a euphemism for anyone who will do anything regardless of what is right, regardless of whose person or property is being violated.

Mine was an admittedly small but acute example of this dynamic. The state expects travelers to line up as many times as is necessary, to ignore the value of their own time, and show up two hours early for no good or apparent reason, and then be herded into a corral before being told to put their hands over their heads and be stripped naked by a high-tech scanner. The State assumes that anyone who would tolerate such abuse would surely give up their seat when told to do so by someone with the critical imprimatur of the state.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, waiting for my plane to Spokane, I witnessed not one, but two other abuses of passengers, one who merely wanted to board a plane that was clearly sitting right in front of her, and the other an older woman who dared to drag her bag into an area "reserved for airline personnel". They were both castigated bitterly and loudly.

Epilog: No word from United. I wasn't expecting any. The good news is that this, along with a myriad of other recent events, has convinced me that the light isn't worth the candle as far as humping airplanes to speak to audiences (the same realization Jeff Berwick came to) who oftentimes leave shocked, shaking their heads, but who rarely actually do anything to better their own conditions. So, United Airlines, I won't be needing a return ticket to the USSA if only because I have no intention of returning except as necessary to visit family and friends who I will strongly encourage to instead visit me here in much freer Mexico.

• Jim Karger is a lawyer who has represented American businesses against incursions by government and labor unions for 30 years. He has been the subject of many feature articles, including, "Outlandish Labor Lawyer Gets No Objections From Staid Clients," published in the Wall Street Journal, and most recently was featured in an article entitled, "You Can Get There From Here," published by the American Bar Association. In 2001, he left Dallas, and moved to San Miguel de Allende in the high desert of central Mexico where he sought and found a freer and simpler life for he and his wife, Kelly, and their 10 dogs.

Rant on Deception

SUBHEAD: We must view everything they say or do from the standpoint of being DECEIVED.  

By Ashvin Pandurangi on 27 June 2012 for the Automatic Earth -  

 Image above: Advice on deception can be deceptive. From orignal article.
It's the middle of yet another week in which yet another round of European wealth extraction (bloody rape) is underway... and yet another gaggle of speculating geese prove that they have no idea what the hell they're talking about or what the hell is going on around them... so... I'm just gonna take this opportunity to rant a little bit.

When the politicians, media pundits, corporate analysts and others start squirting out their verbal diarrhea about the economy, the financial system, the environment, energy trends, the political climate, the geopolitical situation, social issues and everything else that makes its way onto their teleprompters and scripts and reports, there is one common element throughout all of the incessant blather - deception.

That's not just a descriptive noun or verb I'm talking about, either - it's a Theory of Conduct. We must view everything they say or do from the standpoint of being DECEIVED with a capital D-E-C-E-I-V-E and D. None of those scoundrels can be trusted, because they either have a nefarious agenda of their own or are themselves being deceived by someone else with a nefarious agenda - call it a global circle jerk of deceivers and deception.

What these sheisters do is convince you that everything you thought you knew to be true can be substituted with their own MYTHS conjured up in corporate board rooms and hotel suites, bought and paid for with YOUR money. That's right - just like Joe the Dumbass and Jane the Lazy TOOL pay 100 bucks a month to watch no-talent ass clowns on America's Got an Infinite Number of Degrading Reality TV Shows every evening, they pay thousands of bucks every year to be convinced that their collective torture and rape is JUST ACES.
  • You thought that taking on debt was bad and should generally be avoided - THEY told you that accumulating debt is the ONLY way to become successful and respected in this world.
  • You thought that it was wrong to punish the victims and reward the perpetrators of a Class A Felony - THEY told you that it's the ONLY way to prevent an economic apocalypse and save your pension or your job.
  • You thought that austerity for the struggling masses and bailouts for the filthy rich bankers would destroy the local economy - THEY told you that local economies MUST be destroyed for the long-term greater good of humanity.
  • You thought that it was important for people to have sovereignty over their bodies and their own communities through elected and accountable representatives - THEY told you that sovereignty and democracy are obsolete artifacts of a stagnant civilization; a naive remembrance of things past.
You see, anything that you think is true about this world and your life in it can be snatched up like a glop of silly putty, deformed and reshaped into something that is 100% untrue. The only pre-condition to these timeless acts of deception is that your BELIEFS have to be flexible and undefined like... a fucking glop of silly putty. Your worthless brain has to be so mushy and so atrophied that a couple of douche bags in Sweden can tell you that Barack Obama deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, and you believe them!

A couple of Eurotrash Ministers can tell you that they have come up with yet another bailout plan to avert financial meltdown and fill your life back up with rainbows and happy thoughts, while emptying out your pockets and your bank account, and you immediately go back into a culturally-induced coma. That is, of course, until your 9 to 5 Boss tells you to pack up your shit and go home for good, or your financial advisor tells you that your net worth just cratered by 25%, or your trusted bank sends you a polite letter saying you're in default on your mortgage and the roof over your kids' heads has already been scheduled for auction to the lowest scumbag.

Then you wake up and realize the better part of your life has just been one pack of deceptions after another, all setting you up to ultimately do whatever you are told by your Slave Masters and accept your miserable fate without so much as a peep. And it's not just you who will end up SUFFERING for your lack of even ONE freaking ounce of critical thinking and due diligence in that malignant brain of yours - it will be everyone around you, including your family and your closest friends.

So take a deep breath... and re-learn how to read, and to comprehend, and to think critically and to be motivated for the Truth. Tell your family and friends that there is more to life than being endlessly DECEIVED, and more to life than being used like square of toilet paper by the DECEIVERS who just finished taking a massive dump on their heads. Take a shower... use a lot of shampoo and soap... scrub yourself down... towel off... and THEN get your mind right. And get very comfortable too... because the Truth can only win out over the Deceptions over the long-haul, and WE - me, you... all of us - are only just getting started here.


Cussedness of Whole Systems

SUBHEAD: The United States will achieve energy independence by 2050 if it successfully devolves into a 3rd World nation.  

By John Michael Greer on 27 June 2012 for the Archdruid Report - (

Image above: This is what happens if we miss achieving a acceptable 3rd world economy. Detail of painting by Jeff Gillette in his "Dismayland" series of Daisy Duck taking a dump in a slum sewer. From (

There’s an interesting divergence between the extreme complexity of the predicament that besets contemporary industrial civilization, on the one hand, and the remarkable simplicity of the failures of reasoning that have sent us hurtling face first into that predicament, on the other. Nearly all of those failures share a common root, which is the inability—or at least the unwillingness—of most people in the modern world to pay attention to the natural cussedness of whole systems.

The example I have in mind just at the moment runs all through one of the most lively nondebates in today’s media, which is about peak oil. I call it a nondebate because those who are trying to debate the issue—that is to say, those people who have noticed the absurdity of trying to extract infinite amounts of petroleum from a finite planet—are by and large shut out of the discussion.

Those who hold the other view, for their part, aren’t debating. With embarrassingly few exceptions, instead, they’re merely insisting at the top of their lungs that peak oil has been disproved by some glossy combination of short term factors, speculative bubbles, and overblown hype about the future, and can we please just get back to our lifestyles of mindless consumption and waste?
Behind the cornucopian handwaving, though, is a real debate, one that those of us who are aware of peak oil need to address. The issue at the heart of the debate is the shape of the curve that will define future petroleum production worldwide, and the reason that it needs to be addressed is that so far, at least, that curve is not doing what most peak oil theories say it should do.
The original version of the peak oil curve, of course, is the one sketched out by M. King Hubbert in his famous 1956 paper. Here it is:

That’s the model that underlies most of today’s peak oil analyses. It’s a good first approximation of the way that oil production normally rises and falls over time on any scale—a well, a field, an oil province, a country—provided that external factors don’t interfere. The problem here, of course, is that oil production doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and so external factors always interfere. It helps to rephrase that last point in systems terms: the production of oil takes place within a whole system and is always influenced by the state of the system.

That’s why at best, the history of oil production from any given well, field, oil province, or country only roughly approximates the ideal shape of the Hubbert curve, and many real-world examples stray all over the map in their wanderings from the zero point at the beginning to the one at the end.
It’s the failure to appreciate this point that has left a good many peak oil analysts flailing when global petroleum production failed to decline according to some predicted schedule. Anyone who’s been following the peak oil blogosphere for more than a few years has gotten used to the annual predictions—they tend to pop up like mushrooms every December—that the year about to begin would finally see rates of petroleum production begin dropping like the proverbial rock.

Tolerably often, in fact, the same predictions get recycled from one year to the next, with no more attention to the lessons of past failure than you’ll find in one of Harold Camping’s Rapture prophecies. Even among those who don’t go that far out on a limb, the notion that global production of petroleum ought to start dropping steeply sometime soon is all but hardwired into the peak oil scene.
The peak of global conventional petroleum production arrived, as I hope most of my readers are aware by now, in 2005. The seven years since then have given us a first glimpse at the far end of Hubbert’s curve, and so far, it’s not following the model. Conventional petroleum production has declined, and the price of oil has wobbled unsteadily up to levels that mainstream analysts considered impossible a decade ago; that much of the peak oil prophecy has been confirmed by events.

Overall production of liquid fuels, though, has remained steady and even risen slightly, as high prices have made it profitable for unconventional petroleum and a range of petroleum substitutes—tar sand extractives, natural gas liquids, biodiesel, ethanol, and the like—to be poured into the world’s fuel tanks.
It’s only fair to note that this was among the predictions made by critics of peak oil theory back when that was still a subject of debate. The standard argument economists used to dismiss the threat of peak oil was precisely that rising prices would make other energy sources economical, following the normal workings of supply and demand. For all its flaws—and I plan on dissecting a few of those shortly—that prediction was rooted in the behavior of whole systems.
The law of supply and demand, in fact, is one manifestation of a basic principle of systems theory, a principle pervasive and inescapable enough that it’s not unreasonable to call it a law. The law of equilibrium, as we might as well call it, states that any attempt to change the state of a whole system will set in motion coutervailing processes that tend to restore the system to its original state. Those processes will not necessarily succeed; they may fail, and they may also trigger changes of their own that push the system in unpredictable directions; still, such processes always emerge, and if you ignore them, it’s a fairly safe bet that they’re going to blindside you.
The law of equilibrium is what’s behind so many of the failures of technological progress in recent years. Decide that you can just go ahead and annihilate pathogenic microbes en masse with antibiotics, for example, and the countervailing processes of the planet’s microbial ecology are going to shift into high gear, churning out genes for antibiotic resistance that spread from one bacterial species to another and render antibiotics less effective with every year that passes.

The same is true of genetically engineered plants—one of the ugly little secrets of the GMO industry is that one insect species after another is doing exactly what Darwinian theory says it should, evolving right around the biotoxins released by Monsanto’s supposedly pestproof Frankencrops, and chowing down on the otherwise unprotected buffet spread for them by unsuspecting farmers—and of any number of equally clueless tinkerings with natural processes that are blowing up in humanity’s collective face just now.
The global industrial economy is also a whole system, and though it’s countless orders of magnitude less complex and sophisticated than the biosphere, it still responds to changing conditions with its own countervailing processes.

That’s what’s been happening with global liquid fuels production. As the rate of conventional petroleum production peaked and began its decline, the countervailing processes took the form of rising prices, which made more expensive sources of liquid fuels profitable, and kept total production of liquid fuels not far from where it was when conventional oil peaked in 2005.

The wild swings in price since then have provided the thermostat for this homeostatic process, balancing the ragged decline of conventional petroleum and the equally ragged expansion of substitute fuels by influencing the profitability of any given fuel over time. In its own way, it’s an elegant mechanism, however much turmoil and suffering it happens to generate in the real world.
Does this mean that peak oil is no longer an issue? Not by a long shot, because the economic shifts necessary to bring substitute fuels into the fuel supply don’t exist in a vacuum, either. They also put pressure on the global industrial economy, and generate countervailing processes of their own. That’s the detail that both sides of the peak oil nondebate have by and large been missing, even as those countervailing processes have been whipsawing the global economy and driving changes that seemed implausible even to most peak oil analysts just a short time ago.
The point that has to be grasped in order to understand these broader effects is that the higher price of substitute fuels isn’t arbitrary. Tar sand extractives, for example, cost more to produce than light sweet crude because pressure-washing tar out of tar sands and converting it to a rough equivalent of crude oil takes much more in the way of energy, resources, and labor than it takes to drill for the same amount of conventional oil.

Each year, therefore, as more of the liquid fuels supply is made up by tar sand extractives and other substitute fuels, larger fractions of the annual supply of energy, raw materials, and labor have to be devoted to the process of bringing liquid fuels to market, leaving a smaller portion of each of these things to be divided up among all other economic sectors.
Some of the effects of this process are obvious enough—for example, the spikes in food prices we’ve been having since 2005, as the increasing use of ethanol and biodiesel as liquid fuels means that grains and vegetable oils are being diverted from the food supply for use as feedstocks for fuel. Many others are less obvious—for example, as energy prices have risen and energy companies have become Wall Street favorites, many billions of dollars that might otherwise have become capital for other industries have flowed into the energy sector instead. Each of these effects, however, represents a drain on other sectors of the economy, and thus a force for change that sets countervailing processes into motion.
Those processes are a good deal more complex than the ones we’ve traced so far, since they involve competition for capital and other resources among different sectors of the economy, a struggle in which political and cultural factors play at least as large a role as economics. Still, one result can be traced in the unexpected decline in petroleum consumption that has taken place in the United States since 2008, and that precisely parallels the similar decline that happened between 1975 and 1985 in response to a similar rise in oil prices.

 To describe this process as demand destruction is an oversimplification; a dizzyingly complex array of factors, ranging from the TSA’s officially sanctioned habit of sexually molesting airline passengers, on the one hand, to shifts in teen fashion that are making driving uncool for the first time in a century on the other, have fed into the decline in oil consumption; still, the thing is happening, and it’s probably fair to say that the increasing impoverishment of most Americans is playing a very large role in it.
Thus the simple model of peak oil that dates from Hubbert’s time badly needs updating. Ironically, The Limits to Growth—the most accurate and thus, inevitably, the most maligned of the various guides to our unwelcome future offered up so far—provided the necessary insight decades ago. By the simple expedient of lumping resources, industrial production, and other primary factors into a single variable each, the Limits to Growth team avoided the fixation on detail that so often blinds people to systems behavior on the broad scale.

Within the simplified model that resulted, it became obvious that limitless growth on a finite planet engenders countervailing processes that tend to restore the original state of the system. It became just as obvious that the most important of those processes was the simple fact that in any environment with finite resources and a finite capacity to absorb pollution, the costs of growth would eventually rise faster than the benefits, and force the global economy to its knees.
That’s what’s happening now. What makes that hard to see at first glance is that the costs of growth are popping up in unexpected places; put too much stress on a chain and it’ll break, but the link that breaks isn’t necessarily the one closest to the source of stress. The economies of the world’s industrial nations are utterly dependent on a steady supply of liquid fuels, and so a steady supply of liquid fuels they will have, even if every other sector of the economy has to be dumped into the hopper in order to keep the fuel flowing.

 As every other sector of the economy is dumped into that hopper, in turn, the demand for liquid fuels goes down, because when people who used to be employed by the rest of the economy can no longer afford to spend spring break in Mazatlan, or buy goods that have to be shipped halfway around the planet, or put gas in their cars, their share of petroleum consumption goes unclaimed.
This process is, among other things, one of the main forces behind the disappearance of "bankable projects" discussed in last week’s post. The reallocation of ever larger fractions of capital, resources, and labor to the production of liquid fuels represents a subtle drain on most other fields of economic endeavor, driving costs up and profits down across the board.

The one exception is the financial sector, since increasing the amount of paper value produced by purely financial transactions involves no additional capital, resources, and labor—a derivative worth ten million dollars costs no more to produce, in terms of real inputs, than one worth ten thousand, or for that matter ten cents.

Thus financial transactions increasingly become the only reliable source of profit in an otherwise faltering economy, and the explosive expansion of abstract paper wealth masks the contraction of real wealth.

When systems theorists explain that the behavior of whole systems can be counterintuitive, this is the sort of thing they have in mind. It’s quite possible that as we move further past the peak of conventional petroleum production, the consumption of petroleum products will continue to decline, so that when the ability to produce substitute fuels declines as well—as of course it will—the impact of the latter decline will be hard to trace.

Ever more elaborate towers of hallucinatory wealth, ably assisted by reams of doctored government statistics, will project the illusion of a thriving economy onto a society in freefall; the stock market will wobble around its current level for a long time to come, booming and crashing on occasion as bubbles come and go; meanwhile a growing fraction of the population will be forced to drop out of the official economy altogether, and be left to scrape together whatever sort of living they can in some updated equivalent of the Hoovervilles and tarpaper shacks of the 1930s.
No doubt the glossy magazines that make their money by marketing a rose-colored image of the future to today’s privileged classes will hail declines in petroleum demand as a sign that some golden age of green technology is at hand, and trot out a flurry of anecdotes to prove it; all they’ll have to do is ignore the hard figures showing that demand for renewable-energy systems is dropping too, as people who have no money find solar panels as unaffordable as barrels of oil.

For that matter, the people who are insisting in today’s media that the United States will achieve energy independence by 2050 may just turn out to be right; it’s just that this will happen because the US will have devolved into a bankrupt Third World nation in which the vast majority of the population lives in abject poverty and petroleum consumption has dropped to a sixth or less of its current level.


Letting go

SUBHEAD: Learning of new skills outside my comfort zone, and the embrace of nature is something that I’m ready for.  

By Doug Hanvey on 26 June 2012 for Transition Voice -  
Image above: Sand escaping through your fingres. From original article.
We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature … dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go. – Ernest Callenbach
This summer, I’m on an odyssey to five unique intentional communities and ecovillages, including the original hippie commune, Virginia’s Twin Oaks, and two communities in Missouri, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and Possibility Alliance. The latter is so off-grid that it doesn’t even have a website.

I’m on a quest for knowledge and experience for my own personal and professional Transition project, the founding of EcoDharma College – which, if all goes as planned, will fuse a Buddhist meditation center, trade school, intentional community, workers’ cooperative, organic farm, and permaculture demonstration site into one organic entity.

The curriculum will blend Buddhist meditation with Transition-related reskilling in a community-building context. Given likely energy depletion, economic contraction and environmental collapse, it seems to me that any attempt to teach spiritual and practical lifestyle skills is worth trying. I also feel that the inner work of “letting go” central to Buddhist practice is an important and as yet unsung accompaniment to Transition and reskilling work.

I’m hoping that my journey will lay to rest one particular question: Do I personally have what it takes to transition away from my comfortable middle class lifestyle?

This is likely to involve much more contact than I’ve yet experienced with the challenges of agriculture and the outdoor life – physical labor, dirt, poison ivy, and my least favorite of nature’s plenitude, ticks.

Put another way, Do I have what it takes to let go?

Industrial civilization is here to stay, right?

Sometimes it seems that, like the evil dwarf Alberich who sets into motion Richard Wagner’s vast opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung, the movers and shakers of industrial civilization are demonstrating that they too are willing to forswear their own highest human potentials (love, compassion, justice) for power, control, and most of all, money.

For the rest of us, for whom stealing the Rhinegold and forsaking love for absolute world domination is not an option, the world that beckons us during these lazy post-peak oil days is ripe for our spiritual engagement.

In my experience, a spiritual practice can provide a sense of stability and tranquillity in the midst of an increasingly unhinged world. We clever humans tend to misperceive the world, because our perception is distorted by our concepts and beliefs – the shoulds and oughts and will be’s in which we invest so much emotional energy – and which are often at odds with the world as it actually is.
Worse, we become attached to our beliefs, even if it is those beliefs (and nothing else) that make the world seem a crappy, stressful, threatening place. For unknown reasons, it’s the human condition to cling to what we know, rather than to let go into the world as it is, without our beliefs about it, or demands upon it.

Attachment to our beliefs and our way of life defines industrial humans, as it has throughout human history.

What is new, though, is how rapidly our global civilization and natural environment is changing, and therefore how thoroughly we’re being challenged to let go of what we know and what we’re used to.
This, then, is the inner work of Transition: Questioning and letting go of the comfortable beliefs and unquestioned assumptions – conscious or unconscious – that we take as gospel truth, and that cause us so much stress (especially when the dissonance between them and reality-as-it-is becomes too obvious to ignore). For example:
  • Industrial civilization is here to stay.
  • Human progress is unstoppable; technology will save us.
  • For the economy’s sake we must continue to extract and burn fossil fuels.
There are the more personal stories to which we may cling:
  • I must find (or keep) a job in the money economy – if I can’t, I’m doomed and/or a failure.
  • My children need these advantages today, even if they may hurt their futures tomorrow.
  • Why waste time building community and getting to know my neighbors? We probably wouldn’t like each other anyway.
Other assumptions may keep us from changing course, or lead us in increasingly untenable directions:
  • I doubt I have the inner or outer resources it would take to change my circumstances to live more sustainably.
  • I don’t want to look like I’m falling behind, or getting poorer.
  • If I stick to the grind of my job in the mainstream economy, I’ll be able to retire comfortably, like my parents and grandparents.
Since, to anyone paying attention, these stress-provoking beliefs and assumptions are dubious and/or counterproductive to making useful changes in one’s life, might it not be worthwhile to become aware of them, question them (asking, Is this true? Can I really know this is true?), and let them go?

On the farm

It’s my first experience living on a rural, farm-based intentional community (or any farm for that matter). Over the next two weeks I’ll end up learning and working at a variety of mostly manual, sometimes repetitive, occasionally physically arduous tasks, ending up considerably sweatier, dirtier, and more uncomfortable than in work as I’ve known it.

Perhaps, I tell myself, I’ve been habituated by my middle-class existence to take for granted dirt-free floors, shiny bathrooms, and spending my days comfortably sedentary. Perhaps I can let go of my attachments to those things, and get used to considerable physical labor, discomfort, and indoor dirt (though hopefully less dirt than at this particular community!).

Like all industrial humans, I’ve been habituated to artificial environments whose boundaries are defined by how they keep nature (dirt, rain…and ticks) out.

I’ve lived in these environments all my life. What would it be like to relax these boundaries? To allow nature back into my human environment, and to let myself back into nature, as a farmer or even hunter-gatherer (if it came to that)?

The immense financial and material investment required to artificially separate billions of human beings from nature is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. How much letting go will be asked of us?

Transition is letting go

The practice of religion involves, more often than not, clinging to teachings, sacred texts, and interpretations, moralizations, and beliefs about life, what is good or bad, and what might happen to me after death. The essence of spirituality is much simpler – it’s letting go. One of the first spiritual books I ever read repeated this simple fact ad nauseum, which at the time I found difficult to understand, and unpleasant to contemplate. Wasn’t spirituality about cool transcendent states? Transcendent states were much more appealing than letting go, whatever that was.
Letting go is a scary thing to the mind, the ego, to me as I think of (or think up) myself.

This is peculiar.

We all know that we must let go, eventually, of everything and everyone we know, and finally, of the self we think we are. What are we to do with that knowledge?

The mystic-sages from all the world’s spiritual traditions tell us to let go now, rather than later. Yes, freedom and peace and transcendence – the kind of things I thought spirituality was about – are genuine potentialities within us, but they are only found in letting go.

There’s a common misunderstanding about letting go – that it means renouncing people, things, or lifestyles. We might think that, in Transition terms, letting go means that I must sell my car, leave a relationship with someone who doesn’t get it, or abandon a way of life, middle class or otherwise.
Maybe so.

Transition may require us to give up certain possessions and comforts. Relationships with those who are not on the same page may fracture; new relationships will be born. Yet the real work of letting go happens inside us. I may sell my car yet remain mentally or emotionally attached to it, thinking how nice it would be to have a car again, and of all the conveniences that having a car, my car, would bring me. But I can also do the inner work of letting go of my mental and emotional attachments to having a car before I sell it. Perhaps I’ll discover that it’s the right time to sell it. Or maybe it’s not. Either way, I’ll be a freer human being who has let go just a little bit more.

Can a civilization let go?

Spiritual work is usually perceived as individual work, and from a certain perspective, that’s true. But what if, collectively, enough of us were to let go of the beliefs, assumptions, privileges, demands, and expectations that conceptually hold together so much of our Earth-destroying civilization? What if we did this work together?

What if we questioned the assumption that a decline in material wealth and energy use must lead to a decline in quality of life?

What if we let go of our beliefs about climate change and allowed our body and senses to inform us instead: Does this weather feel normal?

What if, on a planet in which the sustainable carrying capacity for human beings was exceeded long ago (and in which possibly dozens of species are going extinct each day due to our domination of the biosphere), we relinquished the privilege to reproduce ourselves with no thought as to the impact?
What if we let go of the assumption that such a massive transformation can’t possibly happen in time?
What if?

Not for sissies

I’ve decided that life on a farm isn’t for sissies. Fortunately, I think that a life that demands more physical effort, the learning of new skills outside my comfort zone, and the embrace of nature in all its wonder, is something that I’m ready for.

Except, maybe, for ticks.

After two weeks here, I (not without a great deal of mindful caution) have not discovered a single unwanted tourist. My fellow participant, Nick, hasn’t been so lucky. Not only has he found several of the evil things on his body, but one of the bites has developed a ring, a possible sign of Lyme disease. Nick heads to the doctor and returns with a bottle of antibiotics. (Thank you, industrial medicine.)
I ponder my aversion to ticks. What is it about them that’s so disturbing? And then it dawns on me. Of all the creatures that I know – even more than humans – ticks have the hardest time letting go.


Time & Tide

SUBHEAD: They wait for no man - or for anything else. Produce - Consume - Collapse - Repeat  

By Mary Logan on 26 June 2012 for A Prosperous Way Down -  

 Image above: Locusts swarming in Africa. From (
A century of studies in ecology, and in many other fields from molecules to stars, shows that systems don’t level off for long. They pulse. Apparently the pattern that maximizes power on each scale in the long run is a pulsed consumption of mature structures that resets succession to repeat again. There are many mechanisms, such as epidemic insects eating a forest, regular fires in grasslands, locusts in the desert, volcanic eruptions in geologic succession, oscillating chemical reactions, and exploding stars in the cosmos. Systems that develop pulsing mechanisms prevail. The figure above includes the downturn for reset that follows ecological climax. In the long run there is no steady state (Odum, 2007, p. 54).

Image above: Illustration of locust population boom and bust from (
The aspect of resilience and panarchy that is most novel and significant concerns the “back-loop” phase when resisting structures and institutions start to break down or transform, releasing the chance for a renewed system to emerge. The many ecosystem examples are matched by many business examples where technology shapes products from sneakers, to automobiles, to electrical appliances.
At that moment, novelty that had been simmering in the background can emerge and be stimulated. And new associations begin to develop among previously separate innovations. The big influence comes from discoveries that, at that time, emerge from people’s local experiments at small scales, discoveries that can emerge at times of big change, to trigger bigger changes at large scales. That process highlights the keys for the future (Holling, 2009).

As a follow up to Dave Tilley’s article on renewable rhythms, and in celebration of summer solstice, I would like to discuss the idea that fossil fuels have allowed us to suppress or even ignore pulses of Nature and our own biorhythms. We have adopted artificial pulses of industrial production and consumption with attempts to create continuous growth.

Fossil fuels allow us to create a seamlessly, climate-controlled, homogenous monoculture that blurs night into day, and summer into winter. It even homogenizes trends, with everything always improving and going up without a break in the action. This separates us from Nature and creates the impression of invincibility. How does this invisibility present in our dominant culture, and what does it mean as our culture transitions into descent?

Up here in Alaska, the annual pulses are so great that it is hard to escape the reminders. Summer solstice is a special time in Alaska. In Anchorage, the number of daylight hours at solstice peaks at 18 ½ hours. Solstice is a reminder that the days are now getting shorter, and that we need to get a move on with things we plan to accomplish during the summer.

We begin to get 70 degree + days. The vegetables start to produce in the garden. Local markets are full of produce. It is a time of plenty, and comfort, and celebration. Picnics and potlucks abound. After solstice, the urge to go-go-go accelerates for some. Alaskans catch and put away salmon, and by late August the smell of high bush cranberry gives me a sense of restless urgency reflected in outings of berry picking and restless hikes in the high country. The Alaska State Fair in late August demonstrates the power of our summer sun and the prowess of our farmers. Brief fall colors, fall rut, and waning daylight bring the promise of winter. Seasonal pulses in Alaska are big, and there is no steady state. Excess light switches to not enough light very quickly, at a rate of over 5 minutes a day, and moods shift and behaviors change with the seasons.

Historically, seasonal pulses have been symbols of growth, fertility of death in multiple cultures. Older medieval cultures connected melancholy with a complex set of moral, religious, and emotional symbols and associations that created cultural order out of the seasons, and was even treated as a mark of distinction in 16th century Europe (Harrison, 2004). The seasons were connected to human behavior, moods, and rich symbolism regarding life and death in a number of cultures.

Winter was a season for rest, regeneration, and reflection. In the arctic and subarctic, Scandinavians and Alaska Native peoples have a much longer culture of adaptation to long winters than the dominant American culture, and they are much better adapted to the changes in light and the long winters. Diet adaptations to physical changes due to inadequate light include cod liver oil for Scandinavians and a diet of fish and muktuk for Alaska Natives. Calendars were oriented towards harvest, and seasonal harvest celebrations such as Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrated and honored seasonal changes with feasts, candlelight and storytelling. Stuhlmiller (1998) tried to explore Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in Norway, and found that Norwegians did not medicalize their seasons, and considered the behavioral changes that come with the seasons as normal.
Norwegians’ seasonal experiences are embedded in a tradition of specific activities and attitudes, which precluded viewing seasonal change as a potential disorder as some Americans do. Scandinavians accept a certain amount of moodiness and insomnia as a normal seasonal adaptation, for example, and treat it with the cultural adaptation of exercising outdoors in the winter. The joke that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet is accompanied by a “palpable peer pressure to go out in the woods fairly frequently otherwise one is not really Norwegian . . . . If you go on a skiing trip through Norwegian nature, you are a good person. The moral undertone is there and cannot be ignored” (Reed & Rothenberg, 1993, p. 21, in Stuhlmiller (1998)).
Some of that expectation can be seen in Alaska, as some cultural exchange with Scandinavia has occurred. Some of my friends nod in approval when I describe skiing activities outdoors in the winter. Our American fossil-fuel based culture not only smooths out the pulses using fossil fuel means, it medicalizes natural conditions such as seasonal adaptation, demanding that we SAD light our behavioral changes, or medicate them with antidepressants.

Is it prosperity to burn the midnight oil to finish work late into the night, in opposition to our nature? Do we then burn SAD lights or take pills in order to medicate our lack of adaptation to the seasons? Is sadness adaptive in some way, or must we always be happy? I have friends who can’t sleep in our sunlit summers without special darkening shades, eye-shades, and sleep medications. The sleep medications become addicting and can cause rebound phenomena, creating worse insomnia than originally experienced. And shift work is known to cause a number of physical disorders due to the alteration in biorhythms. Our industrial society creates unnatural patterns requiring unnatural treatment with strong medications. On our recent bike trip, headlamps were unnecessary. We naturally fell into rhythms of day and night without watches, alarms, or other digital reminders of sleep/wake aids (oh, except for the coffee).

Fossil fuels allow us to ignore in part the natural lunar, solar, and water driven pulses. Schedules shift from solar/lunar to corporate/quarterly or business weekly/commercial or even political/every four years. In the winter, we light up the night, and create many large heated spaces to carry on activities such as indoor tennis that are perhaps better suited to summer. We ship summer fruits and vegetables from the other hemisphere, or we grow them with the assistance of fossil fuels.

We go to great lengths to clear roads of snow, and cart off the excess to large snow dumps so that we don’t have to modify our winter behaviors in any way. School is morphing into a year-round schedule, without attention to the seasonal calendar. Hot climates are made cool, and cold climates are heated to a homogenous, standard 70 degrees. We control floods and we irrigate droughts. Advanced weather forecasting allows us to safely flee hurricanes and hunker down in tornados or blizzards. We create ski slopes and water parks in the desert, and transmit a mall-oriented homogenous consumer culture to just about everywhere, at least in America. Music, language, food, and culture become uniform to the point of blandness.

The general pace of life is different, too. Just in time supply chains supply our every need whenever we want, quickly and efficiently. Behaviors are transmitted globally via the Internet, causing loss of languages and globalization of corporate culture. The internet also smooths diurnal pulses, creating a never-ending stream of information, extended work days due to connectivity, and no down time/rest/leisure from information streams and digital excess. Speech patterns are rapid and courtesies may be dispensed with in crowded urban settings in comparison to slower, rural cultures.

We escape winter by vacationing thousands of miles away from home, avoiding hardships that might build relationships that could foster community cohesion. We rejoice in uniformity in cruise and jet travel. Fossil fuels have allowed us to live in large populations in places like Phoenix, Dubai and Anchorage using adaptations that allow us to exert high tech control over Nature. Historically, small populations of Alaska Native peoples migrated seasonally in order to adapt to low energy ecosystems with extreme pulses of weather. Now we just apply a dose of fossil fuels to our pulses and smooth them out. One can even wonder at our obsessive focus on climate as a symbolic failure in being able to control the weather.

So what does the importance of pulsing mean in adaptation to descent? Relocalization will mean reinvigoration of regional differences. Alaska will lose its box stores and malls, and will re-acquire local markets, diversified zoning, and better adaptations to winter that are not based on fossil fuels. Places will start to look different economically, socially, culturally, and perhaps also biologically. People who cannot adapt will migrate away or suffer or perhaps die. Areas that were historically sparsely populated due to low resources may lose their populations.

For example, the aged and the young in some of our extreme urban environments such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Anchorage who are dependent on electricity for cooling and heating will need to adapt in one way or another. As fossil fuels wane, we can adapt by recognizing and following natural pulses and responding to periods of growth, harvest, and regeneration appropriately.

Pulsing does not mean “end to growth” or “steady state” which is what is most often proposed as the alternative to growth. If our pulses stop, we are dead. What goes up must come down. Looking at a pulse and seeing only steady state is either optimistic cognitive dissonance or a bargaining stance of viewing the pulse through a narrow time window where Wile E. Coyote never has to fall. Natural ecosystems are organized around pulses of sun, rain, tides, wind, and storms. Pulses help to mediate predator-prey and host-parasite relationships, and may prevent overgrowth in systems by resetting feedback loops. These paired pulsing populations help to keep populations healthy. Pulsing maximizes power and is adaptive.

With the smoothing of nature’s pulses in industrial society comes complex bureaucratic structure that resists change. Forest fire tinder is allowed to accumulate for fear of fires, and we suppress wildfires because of overpopulated landscapes and the loss of natural ecosystems that would have absorbed these larger pulses from nature. We combat natural cycles such as spruce bark beetles. We channelize rivers to control for flood, and support unsustainable building of houses in floodplains and on barrier islands. We create just-in-time round the clock systems of operation that lack resilience.

We are intolerant of hardship and increasingly resistant to change, which creates more pressure on the existing system. Steady states are not adaptive—all systems pulse. Attempting to circumvent pulsing from systems prevents regeneration, lowers productivity, and creates rigidity and a lack of system responsiveness. We have incrementally added so much complexity while suppressing nature’s rhythms that we are vulnerable at all scales to the impact of large disorganizing societal pulses. Every move that we make towards more centralized, corporate control eliminates competitors and diversity. A system that promotes more and more growth creates overshoot that will be hard to dismantle without collapse.

Perhaps the most important meaning of the change that is required is the emotional acceptance of our renewed loss of control over Nature as complexity wanes in a lower-energy world. The control we have over our culture and the complexity that comes with it has created an obsessive fear of loss of control along with increasing intolerance for change. Our industrial society denies ecological and cultural roots of our behaviors, assigning biochemical causes alone to our behaviors, thus medicalizing what may be normal adaptive behaviors. Since we are separate from Nature, ecological connections and causation are denied. Many previous cultures used the image of the ouroboros snake to represent the cycle of life and the renewal that is necessary to sustain it. The All is One.

The end is the beginning–here is our chance for cultural evolution in our rebirth as we shed our old skins and rise anew. We’ve slid a long way from old cultural values that helped us to live sustainably within nature. We need a new compass to steer by for the dislocation that is to come. Chaucer was right, time and tides wait for no man. We need to regain and honor the rhythm of time and tides in new relocalized agrarian systems. Living in Nature’s pulsing paradigm will be messier, more diverse, less uniform, and more exciting.

Bring it on.


Rocky Mountain High

SUBHEAD: Anyway you looked at America from the vantage of Aspen, Colorado, everything we do and stand for looks out of kilter.  

By James Kunstler on 24 June 2012 for - 

 Image above: A view of a future Manhattan if global warming has its way. From (

The techno-narcissism flowed like a melted Slurpee this torrid weekend at the annual Aspen Environment Forum where scores of scientists, media figures, authors, professors, and policy wonks convened to settle the world's hash - at least in theory.

The trouble started Friday night when Stewart Brand, 74, impresario of The Whole Earth Catalog, and an economic cornucopian these days, exhorted the skittish audience to show a little goshdarn optimistic spirit about the future instead of just griping about climate change, peak oil, imploding global finance, and a few other vexing trifles. The audience's response was to not line up and buy a signed copy of his latest book.

The Aspen Institute is supported by a bizarre array of corporate donors and individuals ranging from the secretive, devious, extreme right-wing Koch brothers to Goldman Sachs, to Michael Eisner to Duke Energy.

The mission of the Environment Forum is divided about equally between publicizing the gathering horrors of climate change and promoting an ethos of wishful thinking that all the problems of mankind will yield to technological rescue remedies.

It's a very odd mix of hard-headed science and the most dismaying sort of crypto-religious faith in happy endings, tinged with overtones of corporate log-rolling and government propaganda. The basic message is: the world is hopelessly fucked up but thank God for technology. There is not even a dim apprehension that many of the aforementioned vexations originate in technology itself, and its blowbacks.

Alas, this is about the best that the American intelligentsia can do right now, collectively, and it explains why we have such uniformly impotent and clueless leadership across the board in America, from the White House to the CEO offices to the diploma mills to the news media and every other realm of endeavor where thinking realistically about the future might be considered valuable.

 Another strange notion permeating this forum - and probably the entire Progressive intellectual class in America - is the belief that if you can measure things, you can control them.

Thus, an endless regurgitation of statistics, which, after a while, resembles liturgical incantation and, pretty much, serves the same purpose, namely an obsessive-compulsive ritual aimed at calming the nerves.

If it was, after all, techno-magic that led us to poison the oceans and upset the calibration of the earth's atmosphere, then maybe fresh applications of magic can make all those bad things go away, fighting fire with fire, shall we say.

Speaking of fire, there was one burning up the valley from Aspen, which made the whole town smell like barbeque Sunday morning while six other wildfires blazed all around Colorado.

One of them, the High Park fire, has been going for two weeks and burned over 82,000 acres so far with no sign of petering out. Temperatures in the high Rockies soared over 90 degrees all weekend and there was practically no snowpack left up in the elevations - a spooky development this early in the summer.

The odor of empire's end also hangs over Aspen these days, despite the sheen of spectacular wealth visible around the little town and the emanations of glowing health in the buff and tanned population of exercise freaks.

Everything that makes the town tick is in danger of unraveling. The ski industry can't possibly survive the eventual effects of peak oil, and the collapse of commercial aviation will put an end to the conveyer belt of tourists.

The villas of the Wall Street and Hollywood kingpins that decorate the ridge lines above town give off a desolate vibe of futility, as if the foregone disaster of a global banking meltdown had already sent their once-proud owners to bankruptcy Palookaville. The place gave off eerie intimations of a ghost town in-the-making.

Anyway you looked at America from the vantage of Aspen, Colorado, everything we do and stand for looks out of kilter. Our intellectual resources look spent, our prospects seem grim, and our assets are going up in flames. Maybe there's some consolation that we're not Europe.

That said, I have never been to a conference in all my vagabond years where so many magnificent buffet spreads and overflowing gorgeous snack tables were laid in never-ending succession. It almost persuaded me that the old Right Reverend Malthus was too Malthusian..


We're Done!

SUBHEAD: Stick a fork in it. The Earth climate is cooked and so are we. Now's the time to live the life you intended.  

By Guy McPherson on 20 June 2012 for Nature Bats Last -

 [IB Editor's note: Don't read on if you are made anxious by gloomy pronouncements. This is a tough piece to read and come to grips with. Guy has concluded we are now riding a tiger we cannot get off or influence. However, that does not mean you shouldn't rebel and live the life you thought you should live.]

 Image above: A goodbye kiss. From (
British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) is well known for his views on monetary policy. The printing-press approach he forwarded is widely used today,
even asespecially as the world-wide Ponzi scheme nears its end. My favorite line from Keynes:
“In the long run, we’re all dead.”
As I pointed out in this space a few years ago, I concluded in 2002 that we had set into motion climate-change processes likely to cause our own extinction by 2030. I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. And then, shortly thereafter, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time. Like Pandora with her vessel, I retained hope.

No more. Stick a fork in us. We’re done, broiled beyond
hopewishful thinking. It seems we’ve experienced a lethal combination of too much cheap oil and too little wisdom. Yet again, I’ve begun mourning. It’s no easier the second time.

As always, I’m open to alternative views — in fact, I’m begging for them, considering the gravity of this particular situation — but the supporting evidence will have to be extraordinary. By the way, irrationally invoking Al Gore doesn’t count as evidence. Ditto for unsubstantiated rumors about global cooling. A small dose of critical thinking might be required, rather than the ability to repeat lines touted by neo-conservatives and their owners in the fossil-fuel industries.

Before you launch into the ridicule I’ve come to expect from those who comment anonymously from a position of hubris and ignorance in the blogosphere, I invite you to fully consider the information below. I recommend setting aside normalcy bias and wishful thinking as you peruse the remainder of this brief essay. (While you’re at it, go ahead and look up the word “peruse.” It probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. I’ll make it easy: Here’s a link to the definition.)

We know Earth’s temperature is nearly one degree Centigrade higher than it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. And 1 C is catastrophic, as indicated by a decades-old cover-up. Already, we’ve triggered several positive feedbacks, none of which were expected to occur by mainstream scientists until we reached 2 C above baseline global average temperature.

We also know that the situation is far worse than indicated by recent data and models (which are reviewed in the following paragraphs). We’ve known for more than a decade what happens when the planes stop flying: Because particulates were removed when airplanes were grounded, Earth warmed by more than 1 C in the three days following 11 September 2001.

In other words, Earth’s temperature is already about 2 C higher than the industrial-revolution baseline. And because of positive feedbacks, 2 C leads directly and rapidly to 6 C, acidification-induced death of the world’s oceans, and the near-term demise of Homo sapiens. We can’t live without life-filled oceans, home to the tiny organisms that generate half the planet’s oxygen while comprising the base of the global food chain (contrary to the common belief that Wal-Mart forms the base of the food chain). So much for the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise ape.

With completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as will be obvious when most of the world’s planes are grounded. Without completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as described below. Joseph Heller, anybody?

I’ve detailed the increasingly dire assessments. And I’ve explained how we’ve pulled the trigger on five positive-feedback events at lower global average temperature than expected, while also pointing out that any one of these five phenomena likely leads to near-term human extinction. None of these positive-feedback events were expected by scientists until we exceed 2 C warming above the pre-industrial baseline.

My previous efforts were absurdly optimistic, as demonstrated by frequent updates (for example, here, here, and here, in chronological order). Yet my frequent writing, rooted in scientific analyses, can barely keep up with increasingly terrifying information about climate change. Every day, we have more reliable knowledge about the abyss into which we have plunged.

Consider, for example, the International Energy Agency’s forecast of business-as-usual leading to a 6 C warmer planet by 2035. Malcolm Light, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, considers one of the many positive feedbacks we’ve triggered in one planetary region and reaches this conclusion: “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”

Please read that sentence again. Light is a retired earth-systems scientist. As nearly as I can distinguish, he has no hidden agenda, though he believes geo-engineering will save us (an approach that would take several years to implement, and one that we’d almost certainly FUBAR).
Forecasts by the International Energy Agency and the Arctic Methane Emergency group match the recent trend of increasingly dire assessments based on collection and interpretation of more data and increasingly powerful models. If these forecasts are close to accurate, we’ve only a requiem to write for human beings on Earth.

It’s time to modify Keynes’ famous line thusly: “In the short run, we’re all dead.” For those of us living in the interior of a large continent, much less on a rock-pile in the desert, I’d give us until 2020 at the latest. Carpe diem, reveling in the one life we get.

What, then, shall we do? As I contemplate the shackles we’ve created for ourselves, the words of Albert Camus come to mind: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” In terms of action, I hardly know what that means for me, much less for you. But I encourage any and every act of liberty and rebellion, particularly as the world burns.

I’m often asked why people living in industrialized nations shouldn’t relent to hopelessness and party like hedonists as the world burns. My typical response is to ask how our lives would be different if we suddenly starting acting like hedonists.


Shale Gas Scam Unfolds

SUBHEAD: The reality is setting in. This is an ideal set up for a supply collapse and subsequent price spike.  

By Nicole Foss on 24 June 2012 for the Automatic Earth -  

Image above: Idle equipment of Halliburton used for shale gas drilling. From (
It has long been our position at The Automatic Earth that North America is collectively dreaming with regard to unconventional natural gas. While gas is undeniably there, the Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI) is dramatically lower than for conventional supplies. The critical nature of EROEI has been widely ignored, but will ultimately determine what is and is not an energy source, and shale gas is going to fail the test.

As we pointed out in Get Ready for the North American Gas Shock in July 2011, the natural gas situation is not what it seems at all:

The shale gas bubble is a perfect example of the irrationality of markets, the power of perverse short-term incentives, the driving force of momentum-chasing, the dominance of perception over reality in determining prices, and the determination for a herd to stampede over a cliff all at once.
The perception of a gas glut has driven prices so low that none of the participants are making money (at least not by producing gas) or creating value. We see a familiar story of excessive debt, and the hollowing out of productive companies dead set on pursuing a mirage.

Many industry insiders know perfectly well that the prospects for recovering substantial amounts of gas are poor, and that the industry is structured as a ponzi scheme. Still, there has been money to be made in the short term by flipping land leases and building infrastructure to handle gas.
The hype is so extreme that those who fall for it contemplate, in all seriousness, North America becoming a natural gas exporting powerhouse, and a threat to Australian LNG producers, or to Russia's Gazprom.

This concept, constructed from a mixture of greed and desperation (at the lack of conventional gas prospects), is entirely divorced from reality. (See here for Dimitri Orlovs excellent piece on why Gazprom has nothing to worry about.)

Nevertheless, euphoric hype is extremely catching. Given that prices are driven by perception, not by reality, hype has the power to change the dynamics of an industry, exaggerating boom and bust cycles in practice. The hype has resulted in the perception of glut - that North America is drowning in natural gas. The inconvenient fact that this peception is completely wrong does not alter its power in relation to prices.

Natural gas companies gambling on shale gas have been facing prices so low - far below the cost of production - that all of them have been producing gas unprofitably. The financial risk has been increasing dramatically as the companies have been drowning in debt trying to ride out the rock bottom prices that have been the result of people believing the fantasy. Finally, casualties of the financial shenanigans involved are emerging. It is very likely that there will be many more, as companies that have tried to ride out the low prices go under.

Wolf Richter:
Alas, thanks to the Feds zero-interest-rate policy and the trillions it has handed over to its cronies since late 2008, the sweeps of creative destruction have broken down. Instead, boundless sums of money have been searching for a place to go, and they're chasing yield when there is none, and so theyre taking risks, any kind of risks, in their vain battle to come out ahead. 

The result is a stunning misallocation of capital to the tune of tens of billions of dollars to an economic activity drilling for dry natural gas that has been highly unprofitable for years. It's where money has gone to die. What's left is debt, and wells that will never produce enough to make their investors whole.

But the money has dried up. And drilling for natural gas is collapsing. Last week, there were only 562 rigs drilling for dry natural gas, the lowest number since September 1999...

...At $2.53 per million Btu at the Henry Hub, the price of natural gas is up 33% from the April low of $1.90 per million Btu, a number not seen in a decade. 

.But even if it doubled, it would still be below the cost of production. And if it tripled, it might still be below the cost of production for most producers. That's how mispriced the commodity has become.

More from Wolf Richter:
The economics of fracking are horrid. All wells have decline rates where production drops over time. But instead of decades for traditional wells, decline rates in horizontal fracking are measured in weeks and months: production falls off a cliff from day one and continues for a year or so until it levels out at about 10% of initial production. To be in the black over its life under these circumstances, a well in the Barnett Shale would have to sell its production for about $8 per million Btu, pricing models have shown.

...Drilling is destroying capital at an astonishing rate, and drillers are left with a mountain of debt just when decline rates are starting to wreak their havoc. To keep the decline rates from mucking up income statements, companies had to drill more and more, with new wells making up for the declining production of old wells. Alas, the scheme hit a wall, namely reality...
...The natural gas business is brutal. The peak in drilling occurred in September 2008 with 1,606 rigs. Then the financial crisis threw it into a vertigo-inducing plunge. After last years mini-peak, the plunge continued...

...Production lags behind rig count, and while rig count for gas wells has been setting new decade lows, production has been rising month after month to new record highs. But lagging doesn't mean decoupled. And someday.... Oops, it already happened. It has started. Production has turned the corner, and not just in one field, but across the US.

Its still just a little notch in the curve. But its a sign that the collapse in rig count is translating into lower production numbers. And when the steep decline rates are beginning to overlap the drop in rig count, production will head south in a dizzying trajectory.

Money has been thrown at the industry, but the notion is dawning that the game is up and that returns will never materialize. The ponzi scheme has reached its natural limit, and investors are waking up to the realization that they have been chasing a fantasy.

Ironically, just as the washout begins, natural gas prices may have bottomed. Conventional natural gas in North America peaked in 2001. Coal bed methane and now shale gas have been revealed to be massively overblown as an energy source. Producers are reaping the consequences of malinvestment and will be going out of business. Demand has been building with the transition from coal to natural gas for power generation. This is an ideal set up for a supply collapse and subsequent price spike.
North America is poised for a huge natural gas shock. Far from being an exporter, North America is going to experience a natural gas supply crunch. Prices will be rising at the same time as peoples purchasing power falls precipitously, thanks to deflation. The structural dependency on natural gas that has been cemented in recent years is going to guarantee maximum pain as prices reconnect with reality.


Fermenting Sauerkraut

SUBHEAD: Some make kraut by canning and heat-processing, but so much of the power of kraut is its aliveness.  

By Sandor Ellix Katz on 27 April 2012 for Wild Fermentation -  

Image above: A beautiful crock, a ceramic plate and a glass bowl filled with water used in fermenting sauerkraut. From (
[IB Editor's note: We have a permanent link to the Wild Fermentation website on our Reference Menu under "Self Reliance".]

1-4 weeks (or more)

Special Equipment:
  • Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, one-gallon capacity or greater
  • Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
  • One-gallon jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)
  • Cloth cover (like a pillowcase or towel)
Ingredients (for 1 gallon):
  • 5 pounds cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. I love to mix green and red cabbage to end up with bright pink kraut. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.
  2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. 3 tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds of cabbage. I never measure the salt; I just shake some on after I chop up each cabbage. I use more salt in summer, less in winter.
  3. Add other vegetables. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables I’ve added include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.
  4. Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage.
  5. 5. Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight (a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.
  6. Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and stir until it’s completely dissolved.
  7. Leave the crock to ferment. I generally store the crock in an unobtrusive corner of the kitchen where I won’t forget about it, but where it won’t be in anybody’s way. You could also store it in a cool basement if you want a slower fermentation that will preserve for longer.
  8. Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mold appears on the surface. Many books refer to this mold as “scum,” but I prefer to think of it as a bloom. Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don’t worry about this. It’s just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut can keep improving for months and months. In the summer or in a heated room, its life cycle is more rapid. Eventually it becomes soft and the flavor turns less pleasant.
  9. Enjoy. I generally scoop out a bowl- or jarful at a time and keep it in the fridge. I start when the kraut is young and enjoy its evolving flavor over the course of a few weeks. Try the sauerkraut juice that will be left in the bowl after the kraut is eaten. Sauerkraut juice is a rare delicacy and unparalleled digestive tonic. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the crock, you have to repack it carefully. Make sure the kraut is packed tight in the crock, the surface is level, and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below brine just add salted water as necessary. Some people preserve kraut by canning and heat-processing it. This can be done; but so much of the power of sauerkraut is its aliveness that I wonder: Why kill it?
  10. Develop a rhythm. I try to start a new batch before the previous batch runs out. I remove the remaining kraut from the crock, repack it with fresh salted cabbage, then pour the old kraut and its juices over the new kraut. This gives the new batch a boost with an active culture starter.
• Sandor Ellix Katz, has earned the nickname “Sandorkraut” for his love of sauerkraut. This is Sandorkaut’s easy sauerkraut recipe from his book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green, 2003). .