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Entries in peak oil (38)

Wednesday
Jul182012

The Model Moral Dilemma

The mind of a young man can be co-opted by the wrong stuff. And then it takes a lifetime to shake some of it loose. And furthermore, things may be things but they aren't just things.

When I was about 11-15 in the late 1980s, I was completely enthralled by military aircraft. A couple major reasons include the fact that my house in San Diego was just a scant few miles from the outer fence of Miramar Naval Air Station, the location of Fightertown USA, the home of TOPGUN. A certain famous movie by that name, released just before I entered eighth grade, was a kind of pornography, drug, and rock and roll all in one, at least to this boy just on the cusp of adolescence that summer of 1986. Even before that, I used to be able to sit on my roof or go a couple blocks to my middle school, or just ride the canyons on my bike and I'd see F-14 Tomcat and other jets doing laps around and around for hours at a time. Most flew within a mile or so, and sometimes, nearly overhead. The base was a naval air station then and the pilots were doing their touch and go exercises to rehearse the kinds of landings they'd need to make on the aircraft carriers.

Extending that interest in watching the Tomcats and other planes do laps, my retired Navy chief grandfather indulged me sometimes and took me to Miramar and let me take binoculars to the fence just outside the Fightertown USA hangar, where I'd just observe the activity, or the planes on the tarmac. In a similar way, the stretch of empty space along Kearny Villa Road, on the east fence of the base, just at the end of the runway, felt a little like holy ground where I could be right under the planes as they landed. Of course, there would be military security goons that would come and dismiss anyone watching from that perspective. That made it all the more interesting.

Watching the Blue Angels and getting to the airshows was akin to high holy days. The spectacular six-point convergent move that is done just over the audience (or nearly so since those things have proven disastrous) was sort of a 12 year old's religious experience. Back at home, I'd pore over the Blue Angels' show program with an eye to every detail, getting to know the pilots and everything else.

Passion for Plastic

All this fed a need to build plastic models with more and more accuracy and detail. I'd been at building models since about 11 years old—about 1985 or so—and I'd been developing the craft with each model I built. My favorites were Tomcats, but I had several F-16s, F-15s, and A-4s. There were several other types but I kept gravitating toward those Cold War stalwarts. By the time early 1987 rolled around, as a 13 year old, I was introduced to the International Plastic Modeler's Society, an organization that is comprised of hobbyists, car and military buffs, fantasy figure painters and other types. I went to monthly gatherings and quarterly contests.

The Command Post business card from when I actually worked there. It wasn't the same as the place I hung out at. They had moved three stores into one and the vibe and character was different. By the time I worked there, I was over half a year from having built any models.The knowledge of the planes and the building of the models fed each other in symbiotic relationship. I routinely shopped at a store called The Command Post, a place where I later worked (interestingly in 1990 after I got out of the hobby). There I not only bought my models and supplies, I also endeared myself as the kid who knew all the product numbers and actually got into helping out, receiving product, stocking and labeling, and running errands for the guys. I was doing this at the age of 14. They would reward me with product. That Hasegawa F-14 kit was a pretty hot item when I got it.

For about eight months during 1988-89, I rode one of my bikes over there two times every weekend, taking a long and convoluted path to the store so that the old man could be satisfied I was safer as I crossed the 805 freeway. Each of those days I rode over there, I stayed the whole day, or near that. I got into a habit of staying five hours on Saturday and the entire four hour day on Sunday! I'd usually learn all I could by listening to the real staff guys (one of which, Ross Shekelton, turned me on to music, most particularly Rush, but also with the band that launched my interest in drumming: Def Leppard), and after a while, I'd even be talking to customers about how to use this product or that, and often, fans of one type of plane or another would break into enthusiastic conversation about sightings, air shows, and the like. I'd read the books, study the pictures of aircraft, learning all about them. I was the runner boy for rolled tacos over at the neighboring Roberto's taco shop in the next mall over.

Refining the Craft

Taking all that to my bedroom or my grandparents' patio (at Quapaw/Hog Heaven) during the summer, I'd spend hours at the craft of building plastic models. It was the first craft that ever commanded that much energy and focus of me. It paid off when I got my models entered into the local IPMS contests and was egged on to greater success and technique by the help of an enthusiastic group president, Darrel "The Big Salami" Killingsworth. I learned the finer nuances of flat sanding parts taken off the plastic molding "sprue"; the vastly superior qualities of liquid glue; the optimal filler putties available from automotive suppliers (NitroStan) how to prepare your surfaces for priming and painting; airbrushing; applying decals without bubbles or yellowing. Creating dioramas or maybe how to use clear acrylic mounting rods bent in boiling water so that an aircraft model could be mounted "in flight." And so on.

My A-4 Skyhawk that won two awards, and the plaque and six ribbons from the other winners, all on the same night. I swept two categories by default.The April 1989 sweep

I had been plugging along at the local contests and each was a chance to get familiar with others, learn techniques, get feedback, egg each other on. There weren't many juniors so there was a pretty predictable "competition" between me and a guy named Jeff and a couple others. Or sometimes not at all. One contest in April 1989, I got seven awards for six models, I think because no one was there and I swept the categories of Best Junior/Aircraft and Best Junior/Armor and then got the Best Junior perpetual plaque. It was a rather pointless victory, but good for the teenage ego, especially because my female friend Traci Flint (more of a tomboy/engineering geek of two years my senior) was in attendence and saw it all. At the very least, it did make for some victory chatter and my stuff was seen and the night was memorable.

Award certificate, 1988.One of the certificates accompanying the Aerospace Museum winsOther competitions were a bit harder. In the county-wide contest held by the San Diego Aerospace Museum (sic, that's what it was called then), I did have to come up with the goods. On two consecutive yearly contests, I did win against bona fide competition, placing an F-14 (that had won a few contests) and subsequently, an A-4. The prize was good for the ego: my stuff was on display before the tourist public within the main museum hall for one year for each win, with my name beside it. It was a thing to take my church group and other buddies to. (I think it failed to inspire Shelby Duncan, but she's a freak anyway.)

IPMS National, 1989

One last IPMS contest was a national one where it just happened to be in San Diego. It was during this very week of 1989 (23 years ago now) when I got four awards for three models. I had just started building armor models earlier in the year, and one of them was literally painted the day before entering. Because it was a bona fide national contest, there were other Juniors in the competition, but of course, since few can ride their bikes across the nation with plastic models in a saddle bag or milk crate on their rack, the competition was still not as stiff as among the adults. At any rate, I did get four awards, one for a wacky alternative take on an F-14, the "F-14E" as I called it. (There really were people who asked about it, especially since I came up with a tech sheet that featured the new developments of the airplane. All were contrary to the F-14's longstanding, voluptuous design. It was a total joke but a well done one.)

The three winning models with their award plaques. Abrahms tank, my hoax F-14E, and a Sgt. York tank.The spoils of model building war... the F-14E got the two middle awards

That contest was my last, even as it was my best showing ever. In fact, by October, I had a change sweep across me that was sufficient to put an end to my model building life. I began to play drums just weeks after the contest, and by the fall, all my model projects were brushed aside and forgotten about. I was getting into music. I got all the Def Leppard albums, and at the start of the school year, I was getting into Jethro Tull and bought one tape a week. I also was getting deeply into the life at church [scan of a letter from one of the adults praising that], where I had just returned to active life in June. I was so enthralled by this new life. Schoolwork suffered. Only when I actually was called to work at the Command Post did I engage in the hobby at all, but I doubt I finished even one model. By the time I got the gig at Command Post, they had moved the store (did that in summer 1989) and it was not the same. The personalities I liked had moved on. I worked extremely part time there for about five months or less and never connected again. The money I made was paid me from the cash register, and I promptly walked across the road to Music Mart and bought drum gear there once they had moved into the location. Out with the old, in with the new.

My stuff in the national magazine following the contest.Two of my models listed in the IPMS magazine following the convention

Dawning of Moral Consciousness: 2001

Going to church then in the 1989-1991 period was not the thing that led me to the change that I actually wish to write about now. But it was an early period of church life that later on did affect a lot of change of heart and consciousness. I'd have to skip ahead to 2002 and onward.

I returned to church life in January 2002, one week after it became apparent that Kelli and I were entering a whole new phase of life. We'd sort of moved past "just friends" and at that time, she was like a candle in the window to me, and I found that in the post 9/11 world, I'd need some clues of how to progress. I was 28. Family upset about a year before left the landscape of my life changed forever. My grandmother died in April of 2001, and as you've all no doubt read before, the dynamic changed drastically with the struggle between me and the old man.

I became a quite devoted pew sitter that year and by the end of the year I was recording the sermons and by 2004 was working on the website, and was on the trustees. I was seemingly mature and stepping into adult roles in the congregation. But my favorite part of the new era at church was the sermons and the great pearls of wisdom that I gleaned from the relationship with my pastor Jerry Lawritson. There I learned more about human struggles, nonviolence, liberal theology, and a bunch of stuff that excited me. Names like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Elie Wiesel, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and others were the names I was surrounded with. They all pointed to a deeper life that was tugging at me.

Around that same time and in a parallel universe at Mesa College, an English essay assignment I worked on pondered the direction of American style growth-based economics. That led me to knowledge of peak oil. And that shocked me. By early 2005 I had started a website called EONSNOW and was showing a documentary called The End of Suburbia. I had some idea that all these new things were going to intersect, but they were not yet doing so in my mind.

Booted from Eden: 2005

Awareness like that began to seep into my consciousness. Being troubled by these kinds of thoughts, I set about trying to share them and find others who might be troubled in a similar way. EONSNOW was literally just getting launching three days prior to the day when I got evicted from my dear house seven years ago. That was a galvanizing event as you all know by now. All of a sudden, the focus had to shift from being world-aware to getting a bunch of personal affairs in order. One thing that had to happen was vast reductions in material stuff. I was cutting through the house trying to figure out what had to go. Up in my closet were a couple boxes of plastic models. Many were in some state of brokenness as it was. Landing gear, tail fins, missile rails... all that was broken and not likely to be glued up. The decals were yellowing. The glue was brittle in places. Was there ever any chance I'd put these on display again? The newest of them was 16 years old! The Cold War came to an end AFTER my model career ended. Yet here I was, so many years later, still storing all this?

Techgnosis

Detouring for a moment here, it seems honest to say that I still find the technology fascinating. It can't be argued that any of these planes are impressive at some level. Defying physics and the laws of nature is indeed impressive. If I were into all this now, I'd be gushing about the F-22 Raptor, a plane that can do things that my beloved F-14 could never dream of. I'd be building models of it and talking about its thrust-vectoring exhaust nozzles that allow it to do some of the most unusual stuff a plane has been seen doing. But the pursuit of all this development is what I have to draw a box around: they are all weapons of war, and such things as building models is a safe way of objectifying that, and forgetting what human ruin comes either from the firing of the weapons or the very stockpiling of the weapons, and equipping a standing imperial military. The budgets that are shaped with the "defense" of the nation in mind are completely out of whack, with "defense" being half the government's spending for years and years now. And, as I researched this entry using my cursory trip to Wikipedia for reminders of terms and other figures, the F-14, as powerful as it was, was never really put to much use in war. Apparently two Phoenix missiles were launched in Iraq in 1999 for the purpose for which they were intended, and both missed. Those things are a million bucks apiece! That's pretty steep a price to pay for something that can't accomplish what it set out to do. Pointing to two failed missile shots should suggest that with all the massive expenditures the Department of Defense makes, it's clearly going to overspend on waste, fraud, or outright failure. How many people could be fed for the price of just one of those missiles? How much student loan debt could be struck from the books for that sum? How many neighborhoods could be resurrected into thriving communities? How many blocks of blight could be turned into community gardens? And yet, back in the early days of the Cold War, old Ike himself, not a stranger to the military as a victor among the victorious, warned against all this military buildup.

Air shows and other times when military buffs and supporters get together, a saying that accompanies a jet flyby is "That's the sound of FREEDOM!!!" but now I am more likely to mock that with "That's the sound of FASCISM!!!" Did any F-14 or any other piece of 20th Century military gear get made without some cooperation of corporate industry and government that now are bound up like a double helical strand of DNA? Yeah, I thought so.

It was one thing to be technically enthralled by statistics and specs alone, but it took a more mature mind than my teen years could provide before I understood and felt the wrongness of all this. Knowing how much the national "defense" budget requires is a shocker and is far from the concerns of a young kid who thinks it "cool" that a plane can fire missiles or drop bombs to stunning visual effect. Even from my family, I did not get too firm a message to remember that all those stats mask the real power to destroy life and community, and even environment. To a teenager, it's all a game. After hearing Jerry's sermons for a couple years, and hearing them again as I edited and posted them to the church site, I was poised to make a decision about the models.

July 1, 2005: From Plastic Model to the Plastic Bin

In a kind of visceral disgust at myself for keeping them long past their useful dates, I heaved every one of those models into the big black trash bin in my garage. Most I smashed into the sidewalls of the bin. I felt I had to repent for being so blind. Another layer of concern was the fact that all these plastic models were made of petroloeum—oil—and I just happened to be launching a crusade to remind people the oil age is coming to a close and life will have to change. For my immediate future, I had to concern myself with that giant amount of stuff I had inherited, bought, and otherwise gained in transactions ranging from trades to getting married and bringing Kelli's stuff into the mix. It was all hell. Smashing the models was a spontaneous act but something that was brewing for a while. I've never missed them since.

Simplifying: 2012

Skip ahead to the present day. It's 23 years after the most recent awards at the national contest. It's seven years since the models themselves were destroyed. Kelli and I have moved together five times in those seven years. Every move, we cut back some items, but invariably some get added and the feeling of being on a treadmill persists. In recent months, I've been working with Gerald Iversen, a committed peace activist and practitioner of voluntary simple living. We've been working on podcasts for JEM and for the upcoming one, it was just the two of us (Lee was off for good behavior) and the topic was the power of STUFF over our lives. While I didn't tell this story about models and worldviews during that recording, I have indeed been grappling with STUFF, in part because I do not have total say about the STUFF that occupies the house. It might be like pining for a lost innocence, but before I was married, before I inherited a household of STUFF, and before I had a studio space dedicated to the craft of recording, there was a time when things felt manageable, and moving house might have been a two or three truckload thing because it was really just a bedroom with some drumsets.

The recent move to Escondido did pare back a number of items but it still feels overwhelming, and after a bit of a period of considering our option to get a garage at $50 additional rent, we found that we had still too much stuff and that it warranted that extra space, if only because some things are just dirty items and awkwardly shaped: old bike Kelli doesn't use, lawnmower of no use to us at our previous house with a rockscape now with wood chips and no lawn, washing machines we didn't sell before we moved, etc..

my shipping boxes full of stuff, filling plastic tubs of more such stuff from over the years

I keep personal archive tubs of photo albums, boxes or folders of documents and little things to remember, all classed by year or certain other criteria. Those get combed periodically, but such a thing as the collection of awards shown in the video above has escaped scrutiny. The shipping boxes I was able to bring home from a job a few years ago have been handy for making tidy packages, but at the last house, there was no garage and the closet spaces were filled pretty completely. Shit like this just isn't that important anymore.

Of course, there is nostalgia about things like this. All the awards I won at the contests have enough of a reminder to say what model and what contest, but the rest of the story is in my head. No one would be able to put much of it together except from some journals scattered across this last quarter century. And, like everything else you can read on TAPKAE.com, no one really cares. The awards are not going to matter to anyone. They don't particularly matter to me at a great level now that I've felt drawn to another set of values. I do think of the fun I had doing the craft of it, and there are times when I realize in certain moments when I am drawing upon a kind of skill that was learned in those days. Some of those skills proved to be transferable to other things I've done in life. Maybe I bombed algebra and the critical thinking skills that was supposed to teach me, but the mechanics of shaping things with tools and sandpaper, the thought process of moving from step to step from opening a box to airbrushing and placing decals, and the pride of looking upon my creation is all stuff that sticks and appeared in the myriad experiences since, and will do so here on out.

Well Founded Immortality

All that is my experience and my perspective, but will do no one any good in the physical form of award ribbons and plaques. Curating a collection of models of the machines of war is a pointless exercise when you don't any longer believe in the value of war. Retaining a collection of pointless plastic artifacts made from oil is of no purpose to a person who for years has been critical of the abuses of the oil consuming culture. Retaining the synthetic and chemically-drenched awards that celebrate a proficiency in all of those things is particularly useless. The plaques can't even be burned, what with all the chemicals that go into presswood and the veneers. They can't be too well repurposed except as a flat surface onto which maybe a picture can be mounted, or perhaps turned into a hotplate for the dining room table. Attributing any value to these particular items is not transferrable; children I am committed to not bringing to this world won't care, will they? From here on, my generation and several preceding it will have some 'splain' to do why things are the way they are. The least most of us could do is break ranks with some the minor fetishes we have with STUFF, needless technology, and that unthinking love of the military as the defender of much of anything except the stuff that's killing us.

I will not have attained immortality for the keeping of this stuff, and if anything will aid in the immortality project, it will be some evidence of an enlarged consciousness and heart for those I meet and the things I do.

To quote Gerald Iversen, "It's just STUFF!"

Thursday
Feb122009

World

It dawned on me that a number of DVDs that I have seen in the last year tell a great story when viewed in series, and all of which is fascinating to behold. I didn't particularly see them in the order I am about to propose, but when seen together, it is an interesting look at history from the formation of the earth through geologic history, and a wide sweeping look at human history and possible destiny, topped with a cherry on top in the form of Jesus as the model human to put right what has gone wrong.

All this stuff I got from Netflix, so the links will be to the pages where you can find these videos. Watch in this order for maximum narrative impact.

  • Miracle Planet (five part series). This one takes a look at the long history of the planet Earth and is built on an argument that life is seemingly a stroke of luck that has somehow lasted for billions of years despite radical shifts in climate and terrain and so forth. It ends with the advent of the homo sapien and its edge over Neanderthals due to the former's power of articulate speech as its defining feature, something that paved the way for communication of increasingly complex and abstract information and ideas. Which is a good set up for:
  • Guns, Germs and Steel (three part series). A National Geographic series built on the themes in Jared Diamond's book of the same name. Diamond asks how it was that the Eurasian branch of humankind was able to thrive, innovate, and spread its kind to all manner of places, and to dominate human history. He credits geographical advantage of fertile lands as the basis for early civilization that surged ahead of other hunting and gathering peoples, and innovation that arose out of that advantageous circumstance. Such things as exposure to domesticated animals secured our resilience to diseases that later were fatal to vulnerable New World populations. High technology and well developed use of horses helped the history of domination wherever Eurasian peoples went. It is all a great look at how domination is essentially foundational to civilization and violence is a major tool by which it spreads. Other civilizations had not the advantages of such successful agricultural effort, and perhaps lacked the resources or literacy that Eurasian peoples had, and so never progressed in the same way.
  • What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire This comes out of the Peak Oil "doomer" camp from which I sort of consider myself. This takes a brutally honest look at the world situation (peak oil, global warming, food shortages in the face of overpopulation, etc.) and its foundations in our mythologies of progress and love of technology. Consider it the extended tale of what Guns, Germs and Steel is talking about. (Diamond is well known for a book called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.) It too reaches back into the roots of civilization and shows how the whole system is set to somehow succeed to the point of failure eventually. It concludes wondering how life would look if exploitation, domination and violence was not the leading paradigm, and if life were lived more reverently and in tune with what the Earth is able to provide.
  • A Crisis of Faith: The Series (four part series). This covers a few different bases in each of the different films but it comes back to the role of how we've lost touch with the mythic universe that keeps us as characters within a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first one is somewhat like Life At The End of Empire in that it takes a look at our present situation and its roots in the myths of progress, and Enlightenment materialistic thought. It asks why in the age of moon landings and nuclear technology we are losing our way as people with a sense of meaning. The second one examines economic injustice in America, particularly how it affects blacks here. The third looks to the story Percival and the Holy Grail and how it narrates development into a fully human being. The fourth episode is a great "portrait of a radical" and shows how Jesus of Nazareth was the ideal human who lived a remarkable life of service to fellow humans and how he exposed the systemic injustice of his time and place—something not at all too different than today. The last two videos of the series are meant to illustrate how domination-rooted human mess can be pushed aside by lifting up our compassionate humanity in the face of the devastation the world brings. The emphatic message is that we need to turn inward and downward for our wisdom and not outward for external gratification and acceptance. That would pave the way for more genuine enlightenment ala what Jesus demonstrated.

The theme that comes up repeatedly is that our problems are rooted in the very civilization we wish to save with all our valiant efforts. Technology heaped upon earlier technology has done a lot to forestall the problems associated with earlier strides in civilized life. Social arrangements such as division of labor have allowed us to fall into traps of some being better than others, some working like dogs, and others living as kings. In some ways, one might say that Jesus was an anarcho-primitivist with his talk about the Kingdom of God and the notion that everyone was equal in the eyes of God. It seems that there hasn't been a time during the civilized world that has been adequate for the coming of the Kingdom; a lot of what Jesus was talking about was trusting that life would go on just as well if we didn't set up shelter, hoard food, or have fancy clothing. He spoke of relinquishing the trappings of the material world so that we could get down to the business of living. Well, perhaps his words and civilization would clash forever until one or the other falls to nothing, but which would fall to nothing first? If you subscribe to the thesis of What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, then maybe we're seeing the fall of not just another civilization but the fall of the most advanced one we've known, back to something simpler and more in touch with reality. Maybe the overly complex arrangements need to fall apart so we might discover why we wanted to get civilized in the first place: to put to use our elevated thinking and speech to better ourselves. As Crisis of Faith says, we're awash in information, but not so in wisdom. We're in love with quantification, but we don't know what it means or what to do with it. That's because we move too fast and don't know where we want to go.

Thursday
Jun052008

Six-Five Redux

ed's letter to the editor in the san diego union tribuneOn this day in 2005, I had two rather notable things happen to me in my oil-awareness pursuit that defined that period for me. On that day, I was told at church that my letter to the editor was published. I was delighted not just for that, but for the timeliness of it all. Later that same evening, I was about to do my first film showing of The End of Suburbia, and to hold a discussion on that topic. At that can be read about in that day's blog. Around that time, gasoline was maybe in the low $2 range, which had been around for about two years or more. At that time though, it seemed like no one thought that life would change much if gas got more expensive.

Well, that didn't last, did it? Maybe it took another few years but now it seems that you can't avoid the topics of gas and food costs on the rise and the sacrifices that result, going green, lowering emissions, carbon footprints, and all that. As I speak today, that gas price from 2005 has doubled again, and now it seems the panic is setting in, compounded with housing crashes, credit wipeouts and all that. People thought that The End of Suburbia was far fetched but now some of that has begun to happen just as the movie laid out. Talk now is that it is harder to afford to shift over to whatever new "solutions" there might be, because lots of money has evaporated. This too the movie warned of.

People still scoff at the idea of making any real change. But here are some things that I contend should be made. Some are meant to go in an act of voluntary "demand destruction" if we are to make any more measured change in our lifestyles. Others are meant to help fill voids that current methods will leave. Most call upon willful restraint, and not a new technological gizmo. These are also geared to allow individuals and families have a greater share of dignity while eliminating waste within commercial activity.

  • Eliminate such fuel wasting activities such as air shows, boat races, auto racing, military displays, mobile advertising, and other utterly worthless bullshit activities that are nothing but wasteful. One thing that sticks in my craw is seeing trucks driving around with only a billboard upon them. They carry nothing of worth, move no product, and tie up space in traffic, all while getting pathetic gas mileage. This is stupid and must stop. I've seen some now that have diorama type glass walls with elaborate displays within.
  • Turn off 80% or more suburban shopping center lighting meant to advertise places that are themselves closed for business overnight. To extend this, there should be a progressive pressure put on businesses to be open during daylight hours only, or limited night hours. People will no doubt bitch that our economy will be hurt by this. But that is what we face one way or another. The question is whether we will face it willingly or not.
  • Heavy rail should be implemented to remove trucks from the road along major corridors. Certainly more passenger rail should be called upon in like fashion. The airlines are hemorrhaging and it is their time to die, at least with regard to the widespread public consumer use. Not everyone can live like kings.
  • Civic zoning needs to be relaxed intentionally (or people will just ignore the law when desperation sets in), but urban agriculture needs a chance to thrive, even if it means allowing animals which enable people to live (I mean survive in some cases) without being slaves to jobs or even joblessness. Landscapes need to be made more edible—fruit trees, gardens, even herbal ground cover. Enough with the bullshit tropical yards and grass lawns. People talk about getting more local in their food choices, but there needs to be an alternative to the entire supermarket system, at least in part.

Those are but a few things that would transform things for the better, and don't require wishing upon a techno-messiah to save us from our sins and to wipe out our enemies. Yes, some do hearken back to another time, but what I think we need to face is that we have overshot our ability to have high technology work for us. We have also answered to the needs of the economy for long enough, and that will doom us at the rate at which we are going now. If the worst of the predictions of the global warming and peak oil theories were to come true, you can just forget about the economy as we know it. Survival will be the order of the day, and that won't allow most people to even think the way we think now. Forget the sarcasm and irony we know. Forget the abstractions which we distract ourselves with now.

In 2005, I was beginning to find my topic of concern, but really after months of that pursuit with four video showings and discussions, I had to deepen my quest for what the real problem is. I find it isn't the fuel we use. Or which type of engine we have. It isn't even the president we have. The real matter, in this nation in particular, is expectation versus reality. But even that reaches back to a larger human issue of insecurity that there is not enough to go around, and therefore, one must claim all one can before someone else does. Our national mythology is such that we confuse acquisition and consumption with our assured right to pursue happiness. But that is in direct conflict with most of the timeless religious wisdom, which says that the goal is not "out there" but "in here." I think maybe our society is breaking apart because that external thrill seeking activity is proving itself to be unrewarding and the whole thing is collapsing in on itself. It is rather like an addict that needs more and more of his drug of choice to get the same sensation as before. Well, it ultimately won't last that way for ever, and I think this is what peak oil has to show us. I contend that it is a necessary and good thing ultimately—the great disappointment that ultimately can bring us back to our senses somehow. People have been able to enjoy trashing the religious wisdom that encourages rejection of material distractions, as long as ever more material distractions were forthcoming and exciting. I don't think we have that option anymore. I think we need to find our answers deep within our humanity, and not within our economy or any other external structure. I think this is the key to a soft landing, as much as is possible given our lofty position now. Where else can we hear a message of relinquishment and self-moderation? Advertising doesn't offer that. Peer pressure doesn't suggest it much in most circles.

Tuesday
Mar132007

Jesus Camp

the apocalypse now poster. a custom thing with intense explosive imagery and mangled shapes seemingly stemming from a nuclear explosion. all with the dorky face of George W. Bush looking like he just pressed the red button in a bunker somewhere.Kelli and I just watched this movie and thought it was pretty much scarier than anything Hollywood can come up with, particularly with its implications for the future of our nation. Consolation comes in the form of my reading of American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, who said that no European empire of the last 500 years or so has successfully withstood the religio-nationalistic partnership of church and state (speaking of the experience of the Dutch, Spanish, and British) without collapsing, followed by the church hemorrhaging membership because of all the broken promises of "God on our side" sorts of sentiments. It is hard to get enthusiastic about the solution to all our problems because Phillips also speaks of the other death knells of failing and failed empires: movement from a manufacturing economy into one built on increasingly abstract financial manipulations; the inability of an empire built on one energy source to move successfully to another energy source and carry on as before, and finally, the religious and nationalistic fervor mentioned above.

So, here we are today in America. The housing bubble is blowing out partially because it made loans to people who have no business getting them; we have an economy that is founded more and more on information and service (on the whole, not making anything of real worth); we have peak oil and no real prospects for an alternative to oil, but war mongering to capture access to the remaining supplies is now our primary national export product; and then, the utter nutjobbery of what this film portrays. Raising kids to believe in creationism at the expense of scientific education, to idolize George Bush and his project of deconstructing the classic liberal (in the true sense of the word—free minded) American beliefs and progressive policies that helped more people enjoy liberty, at least socially. This generation of kids and others of that mind will be the ones who strip America of its essence and replace it with reckless and narrow minded policies meant to exclude and limit. I agree with Bill Moyers that it wouldn't be so scary if they were the fringe, but they have growing power behind their mission to "claim back America for Jesus", and are driven to gain actual political power, media power, cultural sway. How can you argue that the world should be preserved when they think they are doing right by Jesus, driving the world to chaos so that the end times will be put into motion? I find it disgusting. Phillips' book reminds us that religion never had the power it once had in Holland after that empire collapsed, or after the Spanish Inquisition, or after Britain finally retreated from its claim of being the empire over which the sun never set. I guess we can hope that this religious radicalism will be brought to an end and put in its context. The problem with wishing for such a thing is that it will mean the end of the nation as we know it. But maybe that is just growing up.

Thursday
Feb012007

Life Is All A Cruel Joke

So here I am, Mr. Peak Oil Boy who usually has been down on car culture for a few years now, and has been quite critical of self and other in regards to senseless use of fuel for needless transport. I've also uttered a harsh word or two about the failings of the suburban landscape, ala my hero James Kunstler. And I really do feel that way about a lot of things. But I am only human, not above hypocrisy or contradiction. While in 2006 I did do a good job of living some of the stuff I talk about here in this journal, some of that was done on borrowed time while I lived in a favorable situation. But that is coming to its anticipated end before the next few months are out, and it will be time to go out and get a new place to live, and by all estimation, it will be at "real" rent prices for this town, which has me downright depressed because it pretty much means my quality of life will fall because of the work that it will require to pay for a shack that is bound to be way overpriced. So the month of January was spent whoring myself out for some interviews and doing the banner hanging work that I have done on three short seasonal bursts since this time last year.

So then whattaya know but that my leading prospects (and the job I actually did score) were driving jobs? I crafted a few types of resume to whore myself out for various types of work—driving was one, audio tech boy another, social services and volunteers yet another, and some required a combination of the above. The two leading jobs that had favorable interviews were for printing shops, and their work spanned countywide. The shifts were both full time, with only a small wage differential (I got the lower one, grrrrr). Both were reasonably close to home, both within about 7 miles, and I scored the one that was only a bit more than four miles out and actually may be bikeable. I was holding out to the end for the better job, only troubled by the fact that it started two hours earlier at 7:30. They had a day they were going to start someone and the other place let me call my start day, so I set it to be after the first place, should I get that one and their better offer.

But anyway, back to the sad irony of economics, and that is that Peak Oil Boy is out there hitting the streets for about 130 miles a day, trip after trip, all day long. (At least the car is a very efficient one.) And, the other "gotcha" of it all? The primary clients tend to be architectural firms that design all this suburban garbage that I love to hate! One after another, I get to firms of all sizes, all designing a lot of the same shit, cookie cutter style. Many of them have slick offices with these sassy looking 20 something chicks who front the office but who all appear to be too good to be true, too phony for me. Many offices have that slick stainless steel/glass/birch look that everyone in that industry seems to like at once. But no matter what the details, Peak Oil Boy is driving around the county for these fucks, helping them do what they do best. Or worst, as I see it.

Man, I really ate it on this one, didn't I?

But seriously, it does actually depress me to think of it that way. This is, in its own way, worse than what I was dealing with at AV Concepts where at least I was admittedly linked to the industry somewhat from past experience. I have no interest in architecture, printing out their documents, or driving. It's just economics, man. Just that I need something, and despite combing the Craigslist ads for a month, nothing else seemed to be reasonable enough to just have me start, without having a huge list of some sort of credentials. The fact is, I really hate the prospects of most types of work out there. I wish I didn't have to get the one that puts me so at odds with myself.

This internal dilemma is heightened by the fact that I am "fighting" a losing battle at my church to reject a parking lot renewal project, and I know it's doomed. But I have other points to make with regards to how the church spends its money, and who it serves. But I am losing interest in all that since there is less and less there to do as a person who just wants to be in the "church" space to get out of the world. But my activities there of late have all led me into the "real" world while doing things for the church, making it so that the worship and educational experiences, the transcendent stuff, have been pushed aside.

So getting a job in a field that ostensibly I am opposed to just adds to the conflict within. It is depressing. And for my church situation to be in a state of meltdown over the course of the last several months adds to the strife, because there is little it seems beyond the business of doing the work I do there. So I am worried about just being able to do my job to get the money to move house this spring, and hope to sustain it, but also while realizing that what has been a long term support system is now a liability, it being a central part of my current conflict with myself. It just aint happymaking the way things add up.

Thursday
Jun082006

Reply To KickTheOilHabit.org

I sent this reply to KicktheOilHabit.org when their mass mail ended up in my inbox today. My comments revolve around the belief that there is a need to stop thinking of solutions in terms of mass-produced technological solutions. Indeed, our present dilemma arises out of mass produced technological solutions to earlier problems (the Machine Messiah). I am not anti-technology per se, but I do regard the technological solution to be a problem when it moves toward mass production. If a small group of people or a local region can craft a new device to solve their problems, and make only what they need, I think that is great. This way, what is needed is made and put to service by those who need it. Hopefully its a minimal energy expenditure and a maximum return. My point is that we need to think in total-terms, how much energy is used to create or implement any of these ideas that people hold up to be the new hopes for the future. I think its folly to create a solution that digs us deeper into the bottomless pit of technological addiction. I think the secret to kicking the oil habit is to use what we have more sensibly.

Hello,

I found your site today from one of your mailings. I do applaud any effort to get people at least aware of the oil-rooted crisis of our time, but after two years of reading about peak oil and the more dire and extended problems that surround oil, I have come repeatedly to a conclusion that our energy issue is broader than just the fuels we use. I think we have this idea that another machine messiah will save us, when in fact, our industrial-produced machine messiahs of the past have been the things that have driven us to the outlandish and unsustainable demands that push us up against the upper ceilings of world oil production.

For example, while there are lots of compelling reasons to kick the oil habit, I am not convinced that the best way to do it is create more "solutions" that are based in heavy industrial production. Sure, a few gallons might be saved on this hybrid or that E85 blend, but really we need to make those cars using the industry of today, and the massive industry of today is really our enemy. I've heard that 90 barrels of oil energy go into making just one car, and it won't matter if its a combustion engine that runs on gasoline, E85, or chocolate milk, if those numbers don't change. The industrial process is still going to be tied to either the nastiness of coal-fed plants, or the equally unsustainable natural gas fed plants.

With the fickle and changing nature of industry and either planned obsolescence or the obsolescence that comes from progress, the lure will be for people to continually buy more cars just the same as they do now, maybe every couple years, whether they need to or not! If those cars are each being made with 90 barrels of oil energy, and being shipped and trucked to points of sale in the states or abroad, then we are still using massive amounts of oil energy, or coal, or natural gas, each of which is poised either to decline permanently, or is harmful to the world. Also, the roads which allow cars to drive are tremendously expensive to maintain, and require more trucks and tractors and other machines which continue to use oil and gas.

So then, why do we insist on the machine messiah, and not do the things that actually cost less and do more to conserve fuel? Why not rebuild railroads? Their cost-per-mile construction costs are far less than freeways and other roads. With a few powerful engines, a train can tow a mile-long load.

Or, why can't we finally get down to enacting conservation laws? CAFE standards for our age? This was proven to work before. Why not a progressive tax on gross vehicle weight for consumer vehicles instead of tax incentives on Hummers? Why can't we strip such excessive vehicles of their charm through awareness campaigns and tax disincentives?

Why can we invest almost a half-trillion dollars into the infrastructure of war each year, but can't use that to rebuild railroads, invest in mass transit, or other things which consolidate wasteful practices into less wasteful ones? Why can't people be challenged to combine trips, and to be offered a tax break for reduced mileage per annum? Why can't schools eliminate bussing, and return to just teaching the kids who surround their campuses?

Why can't NASCAR be banned as the wasteful, utterly stupid use of motor fuel that it is? It glorifies recreational use of fuel in a way that surely gives people an idea that doing so is somehow good, even in the age of depletion and war.

I don't subscribe to ethanol being our savior because its own production requires extensive use of industrial machinery, and lots of energy that goes into the production of the fuel. I  think ethanol is a joke because it hasn't proven as lucrative as oil in terms of energy returned on energy invested. It might be a stepping stone, and that is within reason, but I don't think we should bank on it, or any hydrogen, or anything else that remains tied to the existing oil/gas/coal fired industrial processes we now use. There are many ways consumers can shape their lives around conservation. These are ways that don't require them to buy one more car, or require them to go into debt more. They are however, ways that I don't think will be brought to their attention by any top-down campaign simply BECAUSE they do not somehow keep industry in on the action. I don't think the solution to a problem of an industrial process is to add more industrial processes. I think your site would be more useful if it encouraged people away from their daily habits of redundant driving, useless driving, and by leading a charge against such habits on the level of commerce and industry. I think that is the real solution to kicking the oil habit, at least as it relates to consumers. Forget politicians. They don't care enough. Forget industry, it just wants to sell us more stuff that will be "outdated" in three years, so that we might buy again.

I also believe we have a cultural dilemma that surrounds car use. A car running on E85 is just as dangerous as a car running on regular gasoline when it is piloted by a drunk. It is also equally useless to a driver who spends an hour or more in his commute each day. It doesn't matter what the fuel is. I think America needs to break the car habit, not just the oil habit. In post communist Cuba, the cars were not just scrapped in favor of new technology. No, they were used, still on gasoline and diesel, but used smarter. Laws were made that governed their use. People turned any vehicle into ultra efficient work machines—any vehicle serves as many uses as possible in order to justify its existence on the road. No one-person-one-car commutes were allowed. I really don't think America will be ready for peak oil, but I don't think that people will all be able to run to new cars and new fuels. The old stand by is to drive less, put more people in cars, and make any vehicle do more efficient work.

I'd like to get behind your cause, but right now, it has too many holes in its philosophy for me to take it seriously. I don't think you have a complete enough solution to our crisis. Thinking about how to actually change our lives is a solution.

Tuesday
Apr252006

It Happens To The Best Of Us

Well, it turns out that even Peak Oil Boy had to bite the bullet and pay over $3 for a gallon of gas, or about $35 for a tank. Yep. Today was the first time I ever paid that out of my own pocket. Even my trusty cheap gas Thrifty station was up at $3.18. The lowest price I saw today was $3.15, just about a mile away from where I filled up. Grrr. I could have saved about 33 cents!

Oh, then I came home and heard on the news all sorts of talk about gas prices. One person even ventured to say that maybe we all need to use less to reduce demand. Can you imagine that? Isn't that un-American?

Sunday
Jan012006

2005—Weaving A Fabric

There is so much I want to say about 2005.

It could be the misery of the ordeal of moving from a place I called home. It could be activist/educator stance I took regarding energy related matters and a culture of materialism. It could be that Glenn and I connected musically, and that he became a new best friend. It could be that I turned 32. It could be that even before my first anniversary, my marriage seemed ready to fall apart. It could be that I rejoined the world of event production. It could be that I lost my studio of seven years. It could be that I regularly went to counseling sessions for self and couple. It could be that I drove up to northern California twice in two weeks. It could be that I was laid off from my favorite job and spent six months unemployed. It could be that I didn't wash my truck once in the calendar year of 2005. It could be that I went to Florida for Christmas.

It could be a lot of things because a lot of things happened to me. But what really resonated for me across all this and more is that I have come to know love more and more, and have come to find I really like the things that can't be weighed, measured, or counted. I've been utterly savoring being married. I love my dear wife like nothing before. She keeps astounding me in ways I hardly imagined possible. But so does our relationship, because for our relationship to amaze me as much as it does means that maybe I have something to do with it, and frankly, it feels good that maybe I've contributed something.

Kelli has always been a light in the window for me. My return to church activities after about a decade off in my personal wilderness fell about two weeks after we started up the relationship we now have, and that date began in earnest on the first of January, 2002—exactly four years ago now. But for years before that, she had been one of a few people who was there to remind me that the church existed and that I would be welcome when it was time to come around. So, my relationship with Kelli and my relationship with my church is really intertwined. They feed off each other. Both of us fill different roles within the church. This year, she started seminary after almost 20 years of pondering such a move. Her grandfather was a minister in our denomination, and she drew a lot of inspiration from him early on. Right now, just standing in her shadow as she goes to seminary is amazing to me. Part of it is just that she is in her Masters program, but by far it is so much more inspiring that she is on her way to self actualization in a very noble field, and one which she has envisioned herself in for more than half her life.

But it's more than that. For me, being in her "zone" of influence, it's really amazing to absorb a lot of things from her studies, either as I am one of her proofreaders or that we just hunger for a lot of the same things and find ourselves in fabulous discussions about a great range of topics, theological and not. Just yesterday and today we sat and watched DVDs that just struck to the core of what we both want to be a part of. We watched films on The Underground Railroad and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We also watched one on Miguel Pinero. The common theme really was something that we find ever more irresistable: redemptive action in a complicated and harsh world. The Underground Railroad and the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer of course are almost the same: struggles to do justice at any and all costs because justice is just what needs to be done. The Pinero story is one of defying pain and injustice and maintaining a sense of self in the hardest times, and the redemptive quality of art to lift the soul out of prison, either the concrete one or the abstract ones.

Kelli and I are fueling up on the start of a journey. We are filling up our reserves with all manner of stories of people who stand in defiance of injustice so that dignity and humanity can reenter the world. They take all forms and come from all walks of life. In fact, our role models come almost exponentially to us; we follow a few we know of and find more, which leads to many more. Bonhoeffer is one tremendous model. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are huge. But the master is by far Jesus. The more I find out about him, the more amazed I am at what a radical he was, and how necessary it is for him to haunt modern hearts. Bonhoeffer called him the "man for others" and established that Christ was really community itself. And, in this fractured world, I find it hard to believe that we can fix the mess with anything less.

It dovetails nicely with my peak oil and consumerism concerns. Really. I came a long way in settling my heart about the traumatic future peak oil will probably bring us when I realized that community relations are what will be the answer if one exists at all. Not divisiveness. Not more individualism. Not escaping to the country to live as hermits with a stockpile and a 12-guage. No, the secret to the worst problems that could ever come is in community. And Jesus exemplifies the notion. Bonhoeffer was a modern echo of that sentiment. Peak oil activist (and my hero) Richard Heinberg provides an even more modern refrain of that theme. As I flew to Florida for my Christmas holiday, I read Joseph Campbell's interview with Bill Moyers The Power of Myth and had this reinforced still more. Humanity knows better than to split itself off from itself—we've failed miserably when we've done so. The themes in our various mythologies all speak to the benefits of community, self-restraint, and giving. These notions span clear across eons of human history, but we still insist on trying to live outside these parameters, only to find their truth magnified in our failures.

It's said that marriage is the cornerstone of society, and I am starting to know what it all means in a very personal way. I find that marriage is just that. I come from a small family that fell apart in a big way such that I feel little or no relation to anyone to whom I am related by blood. Not one of my blood relatives attended my wedding. I've known pain. I've been suicidal. I've feared. I've hated. I've tried to solve problems by creating more. I've lied. I've stolen. I've lived out of balance. I've tried to justify all this, rather erroneously. I've missed the mark. In religious language, missing the mark is known as sinning—in fact, that is what it really means. Fine, then I've done that. But my relationship with Kelli is one that has provided me with a chance to be redeemed, and to work to build community in its smallest unit: between two people. Kelli has been a catalyst for growth and redemption for almost all of the time I've known her, which this year will be 16 years, and as I said, four years in our current relationship. From the practice I get in relating to another human being, accepting failure on both our parts, and revelling in success, it's the stuff that prepares us to take that sort of thing to the world. We consider the Bonhoeffers, Gandhis, Tubmans, Kings, and others of their sort as saints and prophets who lead the way for what will eventually be our world to make better in any way we can. Kelli will find her way in ministry as an ordained minister one day; I find that my work to change minds about consumerism and to prescribe community effort in the face of our energy crisis in the making is where I must be right now. Those are our lofty big goals, but we also try to do the smaller things that matter as often as we can, given that we must still struggle to make a living, and must conduct our lives in a world that would just as soon leave us dead by the road if we let it.

One of our favorite biblical quotes (and one of the very few that I can rattle off at will) is Micah 6:8 where we are told what is asked of us by God: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. All else is subservient, really. It foreshadows what Jesus would come to model for us. It speaks to me like few other things in this age of confusion, dissonance, tumult, pain and suffering. It's a recipe for stewardship of society and environment alike. It strikes out hatred and greed. It demolishes egotism and brutality. This is the basis for community living and success in the face of everything. It's love of self and neighbor. It's the anti-war statement of anti-war statements. It's a prescription for success of the human project. It comes for free but not without a price. Bonhoeffer made a distinction between cheap grace and expensive grace. The expensive variety is demanding. My heroes are people who speak truth to power, who are spanners in the works of corrupt and unbalanced society who speak what they speak or sing what they sing so that redemption may occur.

The things I endured in 2005 are pretty insignificant in their own way. I don't think any of it is unique. I guess I can only hope that what I do with these experiences is somehow for the good. It's hard to hang on to hatred and fear. It is terribly unhealthy. In 2003, the experiences of 2005 might have snuffed me out or would have called out the worst in me. But this year it's been easier to take it in stride while I've decided that all of it must happen for some reason, and that it's all easier to cope with if Kelli is there to help with the load, and the same in reverse. The mission of marriage as one to redeem and heal old wounds is one that we've been working on because I think we both know the world will be a demanding place that needs people who have enough of whatever it takes to cope, and I think we are both just savoring the things we have to draw on, either in the stories of the saints and prophets, or the great thinkers, or the people around us.

On reflection, this is the stuff that mattered in 2005, no matter what the details were. I feel compelled that 2006 will be an improvement upon all that.

Friday
Nov252005

Letter to MoveOn.org

I think it is time that MoveOn finally be the hero in the progressive movement that picks up the matter of Peak Oil and what its effects on our oil dependent society really will be, unflattering as they might be. Can we finally be straight with ourselves that our relationship to energy use is not unlike a heroin addict and his junk, and that we are doing ever more desperate things to stave off the obvious?

We need to break the addiction before it finally kills us.

What we've been seeing here in America is the desperate attempts to lie to ourselves despite so much evidence that the time has come to give it a rest. If you don't think our war and 9/11 are symptoms of all this, it's time to wake up. There has been plenty of pussyfooting around on blood-for-oil issue. Can we finally admit that Peak Oil is here whether we like it or not, and that the only way to move on is to be straight with ourselves? Peak Oil is not a partisan issue; it's just that the Dems and progressives are closer to confessing the truth than the other side, but still hold back.

There are a few congressmen who are quietly meeting to discuss this stuff. It's a start. But it's too little too late. Yesterday (Thanksgiving) brought one of the first dates offered as an oil peak date. This is real, folks. It is now. We need to stop the silly battles that the other side picks. Forget the guns, God, and gay battles. They are just distractions to keep you and me from being able to get Peak Oil on the table for discussion. It's the only topic that truly matters, and it's already at work in our world, and America has a lot to lose by not understanding it. The current administration doesn't want the cat out of the bag.

We need a leadership who can tell it to us straight, and who can lead Americans to a life with less overall consumption, while still retaining our political ideals we all cherish.

Monday
Nov212005

Message To EONSNOW List

I sent the following to my email list after having a great turnout at my showing of the WalMart Movie by Robert Greenwald. The part of this message about Thanksgiving and peak oil falling on the same day, only to be followed by business-as-usual is especially bittersweet and poignant for me. I plan to have a great dinner with the closest thing to a functioning family that I have: Kelli and I are going to spend the holiday with some family friends who have adopted us and made our lives richer for the time we've been together. It is interactions like these that show me the promise of the community that I think is critical in the near future when a lot of promises and hearts are broken because of energy scarcity. We already see problems of large operations in entropy—the response to Katrina is one such instance that our government is unable to meet our needs, and should not be counted on. The only anything that will matter is our determination to cooperate and share what we have.

Some have rightly noted that most of what I present is not all cheery. It lacks the Hollywood ending. I leave the Hollywood endings to Hollywood. What we have before us in Peak Oil is a huge issue that no three living generations of humans ever had to cope with before. The implications reach across all sorts of human activity and our civilization itself. Huge question marks are popping up over all sorts of minds when the topic comes up: how does a global society that is addicted to cheap and abundant oil deal with the time when that is no longer possible? What is at risk when the very lifeblood of our elaborate systems of agriculture, transportation, economic growth, finance, and technological development is in peril of peaking and declining steadily (oil), or altogether crashing (gas)?

We got problems.

One thing I can't stress enough is that the range of things that I am talking about are not partisan issues. They are everyone's issues. There is some need to get partisan because we do have a lopsided "balance" of power in this nation, and these people are distracting us with petty nonsense that is worthless in the face of what our real enemy is: the end of the oil age, and the fact that it will up and smack us in the face with an utter lack of media attention. So, folks like me who find the time and will to give a damn are the ones who are saddled with the chore of spreading the word. I guess I am the liberal media.

People often ask what the solutions to these things are. The answer is simple: it's not simple. However, I do offer a few things like:

Take stock of your motivations for what you do. Don't take things for granted. Have you let the quasi-official state religion of consumerism get the better of you? Challenge yourself to break habits that keep you in debt, or that keep you from engaging in good relationships with family, friends, and community, or following your God. Why do you work 60 hours a week?

Trust your own abilities. A lot of consumerism comes as a result of people who have been trained to doubt themselves, which is just the sort of people who will have to shell out money for all sorts of goods and services that might be unnecessary. A lot of us like to "leave it to the experts" when we don't even need to. What you can't do yourself, maybe your friend can. And vice versa.

Ask yourself if there is any simpler solution to whatever problem you face. Or can you be any more resourceful than the last time you faced the same problem?

Value things that can’t be bought. One day not everything will be for sale. If we are looking to devices, knick-knacks and other junk for comfort, then someday when this system fails us, we are going to have a nightmarish depression that a world of psychiatrists can’t fix. Consumerism is not a substitute for the fundamental joy we should derive from real life, in all its complexity and beauty, and yes, tragedy. You’ve heard it before—you can’t take it with you. After a century of economic growth predicated on disposable everything, and predicated on insecurity, it is only up to us to decide to claim our lives back. We’re headed for a time when there will be a permanently declining amount of fortune. Either we can be invested in disposable artifacts of our present, or we can be invested in the community life that will do the work of sustaining us when everything else falls away around us.

There are no for-sure things to tell you. But my time researching all this for the past two years has led me to doubt most of what passes for the name-brand media, and to doubt rosy-sighted economists that tell us the future will be better when we just get this technology or break through the regulations that hold the market back. Nonsense. What we have is an overly complex civilization that is ready to fall from its own mass. Hurricanes can’t be dealt with by our inept government. Corruption is rampant, but is business as usual. Marketism is the official religion that keeps us scared—stop consuming and the economy will collapse. And of course, the hijacking of at least two of the world’s major religious faiths by radicals who can’t be called fundamentalists because they really don’t get what the fundamentals of their respective religions really are! What we have is a system that is already in the process of crumbling. It is usually a fate that any large system can look forward to. Would we not be fools to think that our turn would never come up?

I want to reiterate some things that were mentioned briefly at the meeting on 11/20.

Kenneth Deffeyes says that peak oil is due to take place on Thanksgiving 2005. The day after that is the day that Adbusters.org has dubbed “Buy Nothing Day” as a deliberate attempt to jam consumer culture on the highest of high holy days for the retail sector. Hmmm. You folks, and others like you might be the only ones who can appreciate this point in history. It is a microcosm of the world’s dilemma-at-large. One day we will have peak oil (whether or not it really is on Thanksgiving 2005), and the next day, people will continue on with life as usual because no one will have told them about the day before, and what it means. Life as usual of course means that people are spending themselves silly, flying in airplanes just to play the slots in Las Vegas, and generally living like there is no tomorrow. Well, I have news. There IS a tomorrow. But if we don’t stop this madness, it will be in the dark, in the cold, and we will all be watching as our precious world gets torn asunder under the stress of figuring out how to live differently, while still clinging for dear life to the old ways— easy motoring, something-for-nothing, and in a consensus trance that everything is goingalongjustfinethankyouverymuch. (I just ripped off Jim Kunstler in a big way.)

For Thanksgiving this week, promise me you will take a moment to understand where we are today. And where we look to be going. Imagine your Thanksgiving in the absence of cheap and abundant oil and gas:

How would you get your family together from across the continent?How would all that food get to your table?How would it be cooked?How would you be able to heat your home to a pleasant 70º F?How would your veggies be grown without the natural gas based fertilizers and the pesticides and herbicides that keep them looking like prize entries in the local fair?

Whether or not this Thanksgiving turns out to be the momentous point in human history when we have successfully used up the first half of our ancient sunlight endowment, it will probably be the last when we can operate in “business as usual” mode. But I hold that this is actually a good thing.

I wish you all a good holiday. I’m taking December off from annoying all you folks with such stuff, so stay tuned in 2006.