Y2K All Over Again?
Michael Ruppert, a former Los Angeles PD Detective, with a bloodhound nose for the truth, has developed an important web site, From the Wilderness, which has proven to be a prescient resource for those interested in what is really going on behind the facade of official rhetoric. This is where I have found the work of Dale Allen Pfeiffer, who has written a number of articles about oil and the role it plays in every aspect of our lives. He is a meticulous researcher and a careful analyst of obscure data. His work makes a persuasive case for what is called "peak oil", a situation in which no new supply can be developed while demand continues to increase. Petroleum is not a renewable resource, as we well know, and for more than 30 years critics of nonrenewable energy have been saying that we're running out of oil. Industry has always responded that there are plenty of new discoveries to be made and no need to worry for many years to come. DAP makes the case that the time to worry is finally here. We're running out much sooner than industry has predicted.You are encouraged to visit FTW and read DAP's article, "A Call To Action". At the conclusion of this article, he makes this proposal:
I dutifully responded to DAP's call and sent him the following:
An End to Business as Usual
Business as usual can no longer be allowed to proceed. To go on with business as usual is to promote the collapse of civilization, the destruction of ecosystems, the death of billions of human beings, untold suffering and impoverishment for those who survive, and just possibly the extinction of life on this planet at a level to match or exceed the end of the Permian Era.26 And all this to ease our consciences, as we allow the end play of unbridled greed and ignorance.
We cannot trust our elected leaders to do the right thing, much less our corporations. There is very little time left, and it could very well be impossible at this point to redesign our entire civilization. But we can possibly restructure our own lives and our local communities to survive the transition. This is our duty to generations to come, and to the rest of the biosphere.
But we need options and advice. We need practical suggestions which can be undertaken by individuals, families and small communities. We need guidance on what can be achieved at a local level with limited means. And we need advice on how to achieve this in the most democratic and egalitarian manner possible.
To aid in this, I am here soliciting advice from specialists in various fields, such as permaculture, social ecology, progressive labor, and other disciplines. And I am putting out a call for articles from anyone who feels that she or he has some advice to offer. The topic is: Given the conditions set forth in this paper, what measures can people of limited means undertake to ease their transition into a post-technological world?
The resulting suggestions will be collected, along with this essay, and published. Any profits from this project will be used to educate people about the changes ahead, and hopefully to offer grants in order to help people prepare for the transition.
Dale Allen Pfeiffer
Geologist, Science Journalist, Novelist
Holly, Michigan, USA
April 26th, 2004
Dale Allen Pfeiffer’s transition.
A Brief Recipe For Transition
“Given the conditions set forth in this paper, what measures can people of limited means undertake to ease their transition into a post-technological world?”
Temporary solutions to an impending oil crisis are currently available and relatively easy to implement, given the political will. Conservation of the existing global oil supply can be achieved by increasing the fuel efficiency of automobiles. Fuel saving devices exist that can be retrofitted in most cars to reduce fuel consumption by 50% or more. One such device, called a “fuel implosion vaporization system” or FIVS, has been road tested by a Massachusetts inventor with impressive results in efficiency and reduced emissions.
In the short term, reducing demand for fuel use in the internal combustion engine buys time for the deployment of new electric powered transportation technologies, such as the “whispering wheel”, already developed by the Dutch. The electrical output requires the input of a small internal combustion engine; nonetheless, energy savings of 60% or more are achieved, with concomitant reductions in pollutants.
The long term solution to the energy crisis will be achieved by tapping into the electrical energy potential present in our environment itself, in the ionosphere of the planet, and in the so-called “quantum flux”. Nicola Tesla developed a method for taking electrical current from the ionosphere, and numerous inventors have made claims for “free energy devices”. A device in which more energy is out put than put in, a magnetic fan, is being produced by a Japanese inventor, even though according to official ideas of science, this “over unity” should not exist. The end of an age of petroleum use does not imply the end of a technological age. Unlimited energy is available to power a new technological civilization. What is required is new insight into the nature of the physical universe, a new physics. Our current mindset is entrained by the current limitations of our established theory and our technology. We cannot therefore recognize or take advantage of existing potential, just as people could not take advantage of petroleum in an age of wood and coal simply because they didn’t recognize its value.
The development of new technologies has not occurred because of the failure of market capitalism to resist its inherent tendency to monopolistic concentrations of wealth and power which then conspire to limit and suppress research and innovation. The oil companies and the automakers work together to suppress the market tendency towards energy independence and fuel efficiency in order to maintain profits. They form a cartel to control the market and guarantee optimal levels of consumption of their products at minimum cost to themselves. An economic system dominated by oligarches is not a free market capitalist system. Such a free market system cannot exist without careful regulation to prevent concentrations of wealth and power. Capitalism, regulated and rationalized according to the common interest to achieve a just distribution of wealth and protection of the global commons, is the only economic system this writer can imagine that can comfortably coexist with the primary political value of individual liberty. Without political freedom, human life has little value and innovation is scarce.
Our impending energy crisis and our misbegotten market capitalist system do not constitute the primary source of our latter day discontent, however. We stand at a turning point, or transitional point, between a familiar way of life, and an unknown future way of life because our current way of life is unsustainable. We’re running out of oil. Our mindless exploitation of planetary resources threatens to unhinge the global ecological balance. We have overpopulated the planet with our own kind, driving other species into extinction. And so we then define our problem in terms of oil, plunder, and excessive copulation. But these are symptoms, not causes. We cannot hope to make a transition from this moment of crisis into a more desirable condition unless we begin to define ourselves as something other than economic beings in a competitive struggle for limited resources. Our current unsustainable way of life is founded upon an erroneous notion of who we are in relation to our environment. We must change the view we have of ourselves. It is not essentially an energy crisis we face, it is an identity crisis.
A person is considered to be mad, or insane, if their behavior is so inappropriate for quotidian conditions of life that they cannot function normally and pose a danger to themselves and others. Examples of collective insanity are numerous in history. A classic tome on the subject would be Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay, first published in England in 1841 and still available. Collective insanity in the 20th Century has manifested on a larger scale with more lethal consequences. An example would be Germany's megalomania in the Third Reich. Perhaps the crown jewel of 20th Century madness is the arms race and the policy of "mutually assured destruction", or MAD, which still prevails and is generally thought to be a rational policy for the deterrence of war simply because we haven't blown each other to smithereens, yet. By this definition, we suffer from a collective functional insanity because we pose a danger to ourselves, to every other species, and to the environment in which we live. Our understanding of who we are is so inappropriate that not only have we created for ourselves a situation that is unsustainable, we also can’t see that our understanding is delusional. This incapacity for self-reflection is the most intractable characteristic of madness. There is no escape from this dilemma without intervention from without, a deus ex machina, so to speak.
That intervention which can penetrate the self-enclosed confines of our madness, is a rude shock, a collective disaster that will expose to us in stark relief the nature of our self-delusions.
What are these self-delusions?
The mother of all delusions is the idea that we are separate from our environment. Science has endowed us with the capability to alter the natural world, and to briefly escape from the planet entirely, but it has also destroyed in the process our sense of ourselves as creatures. We have forgotten that we are creatures of our planet in the same way as every other mammal and creepy crawly thing. We belong to the earth as a child belongs to its mother, and yet our science and our religions have programmed us into thinking that we do not, that we are somehow separate and distinct from all else in the natural world. We are in it, therefore, but not of it. We are now becoming just vaguely aware of planetary ecological reality. Even many defenders of the environment who call themselves environmentalists view the environment as a “resource”, a vast warehouse of raw materials that must be managed wisely, and themselves as “human resources”. Planetary ecological reality is a mechanism, like a vast computer charged with complex algorithms. The idea that the planetary system is a living entity, in the same sense that we are living entities, is considered naive, superstitious, mystical, aboriginal, and just plain stupid and irrelevant.
This divorcement of our identification with the natural world has led to the loss of any sense of place within the ecological system. We are no longer a species among species in a web of relationship. There can be no relationship if there is no common identity, no bond of shared creaturehood. As we vivisect, dissect, poke and prod our fellow creatures, we are greatly surprised to discover that dogs can understand words, or that chimpanzees can conceptualize. We habitually think in terms of bad behavior as being “animal”, when in fact no animal is capable of the horrendous behavior of the human species. Our species lacks even the most basic courtesy, which is to allow sufficient lebensraum for other species to thrive. We are the “fittest” among all creatures, yet we lack even the ability to limit our own numbers and have overpopulated to the extent that the breakdown of the ecological system itself has become imminent.
The transition out of an oil-based economic system into a sustainable technological system will not be easy for anyone because a global shock, a disaster of proportions difficult to imagine is inevitable, even necessary. To ease the transition, one needs to undertake the effort of understanding why it is happening. Difficulties are so much easier to bear if one understands why. Concern about survival in the event of the collapse of our way of life have led to the development of a survivalist school of thinking that counsels an awareness of the basic knowledge and skills required for unassisted living, so to speak. The transition will be easiest in areas where access to clean water and land for the growing of food is available. Cities, with large and incompetent populations are to be avoided. Cultivate community with peers. Develop competence with machinery and so forth. But above all, pay attention to the natural world, feel its implacable energy and power and realize that survival is not a matter of competition, but cooperation. Gradually we will become sane again. It may take a generation, but eventually we’ll get the hang of it. We will then express ourselves with technology that would seem like magic to us today. At that point we will be free to travel to Mars if we wish and we will have a better understanding of who we are and the nature of the world we live in.
DAP acknowledged receipt of my contribution and in an e-mail he said:
From: "Dale Pfeiffer"
To: "Joe Danison"
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004 6:13 PM
Subject: RE: A Brief Recipe for Transition
This is interesting, but it doesn't really offer practical instructions
for people with limited means. We are looking for hands-on instructions
on permiculture, greenhouse technology, home renovation and that sort
of thing. This is more of a general perspective piece. Sorry.
I answered, peevishly:
I do appreciate your analysis of the energy situation, but I do not share your view that the emerging crisis has no solution other than survivalism. Survival tips and strategies are available in abundance from the most recent Y2K scare. I'm tired of reading that sort of thing, myself. I smell a dogmatism in your perspective, with which I am very familiar. It is not objective, nor is it humane. It is self-serving. We are not moving towards a "post-technological" situation, but I think that is your wish. You are promoting your own private grudge against capitalism. What I hear you saying is:"You're either with me, or you're going to perish in your ignorance and incompetence!" What you're after is not a solution, it is more a species of retribution.
Thanks to e-mail, my response was a little too spontaneous and presumptuous. After all, I'm sure Dale is a compassionate man whose intentions are above reproach. His work is very important and should be read by anyone trying to envision a future for our way of life. The reader will never again be taken in by oil industry rhetoric. His conviction irritates me, however, because it suggests a refusal to consider a perspective other than his own. DAP seems to be invoking a righteous judgement against that which he does not like. Renewable energy is not an insurmountable problem, though he assumes it is. The end of a period of cheap oil is the beginning of a shorter period of expensive oil which is also a time of powerful incentive for the development of alternative sources. We are now entering into that period of expensive oil and witnessing a brutal war in Iraq for control of a diminishing resource. Our collective insanity is fast approaching a crisis.Should anyone doubt that renewable energy sources are available, they are invited to investigate the examples given in my recipe. We are not the victims of terminal energy scarcity, we are the victims of closed minds. Dale Allen Pfeiffer is doing nothing to open those closed minds. He is, on the contrary, helping to keep them closed through an appeal to fear. We know very little about research carried out in secret military/corporate operations hidden behind the veil of "national security" and yet billions of dollars of public money is invested in such research conducted in "unacknowledged special access" programs. To investigate such programs that do exist even if no one dare acknowledge them, the reader should visit The Disclosure Project and become familiar with the work of Dr. Stephen Greer, a former emergency room doctor right here in Asheville, NC, and an indefatigable campaigner against government secrecy. The technology of the future does exist today, closely held and carefully hidden. Dr. Greer would like to assert the public's "need to know" and cause these "special access" programs to be openly acknowledged.We need to educate ourselves about the potential that does exist rather than making plans for survival in a world without light bulbs, a post technological world, a dark age. The approaching crisis will no doubt be a fearsome and bloody period in the history of the world, in which many millions of lives are lost, perhaps billions! We seem to have learned nothing from the carnage of WWII, which is a characteristic of madness. We will not escape the consequences of our own behavior. However, we cannot afford to adopt an attitude of fearful expectation. Courage and a clear eye are called for, not despair over our situation and a craven capitulation.Pity poor Cassandra! She had the gift of knowing the future, but the the curse of not being believed. Troy was destroyed just as she said it would be. Latter day Cassandras, such as Dale Allen Pfeiffer, and myself, can only hope the curse has been lifted and dire warnings will be listened to and dire outcomes avoided. The potential for disaster represented by the Y2K crisis was avoided when voices were raised to warn against the legacy code infecting our systems of computer controls. Just four years ago, the pied pipers of Y2K catastrophe, such as Gary North, were preaching the gospel of fear as DAP is now doing with respect to the issue of peak oil. The warning is appropriate. The fear is not. It blinds us to the potential solutions that do exist. Within our unsustainable way of life is the basis for a sustainable one. We should be preparing for the emergence of new technology and a new spirit of human cooperation on the planet. The future may be fearful, but the trick is to be fearless as we consider it with eyes and minds wide open.