Saturday, July 01, 2006

Strange Bedfellows: Making Friends in a Post-Peak World

Part One

Jenna Orkin

One of the hallmarks of addiction is that you use escalating amounts of the substance you're addicted to. Our economy, which is based on interest, guarantees addiction. Not only is growth inevitable; it's essential. The substance which feeds that growth - energy - must by definition become addictive.

No wonder that when interest was introduced in the sixteenth century, it was forbidden by the three major Western religions. [See correction in Comment 1.] They knew that when you tried to get something for nothing - when you lent a hundred pounds and got back 105 without even sharing in the risk of the enterprise for which you'd loaned the money - something was wrong. They must have said to themselves, "Where will this end?" For, preoccupied though they might have been with loftier matters, they knew that on the earthly plane, things do end.

Because our economy depends on growth and therefore on the oil on which that growth in turn depends, we have become oil addicts. So what should we do now that it's heading down its post-peak production slope?

One option is, we can change drugs. We can build nuclear power plants, thereby switching our addiction from oil to uranium supplemented by ethanol, coal and renewables because suddenly, now that Mother Nature is striking back with a vengeance in the form of earthquakes and hurricanes, we care about the environment. That way we don't have to wean ourselves from addiction at all.

Or we could go into Rehab. That would take a real effort and severely cramp our style. It wouldn't be fun but we might be willing to do it as long as no one else was having any fun either.

Trouble is, everyone else is an actual or aspiring addict too. What if we go into Rehab but we're surrounded by crazed addicts? They'll get all the good stuff which will fuel them with a manic energy to grab even more.

That is the prisoner's dilemma that we're faced with.

The original prisoner's dilemma is this: Two suspects get arrested. The police don't have enough evidence to convict either of them and need testimony. If one prisoner testifies against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both stay silent, the police can sentence both prisoners to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each will receive a two-year sentence.

Each prisoner must choose whether to betray the other or to remain silent. However, neither prisoner knows what choice the other prisoner will make. For the best total outcome, a sentence of six months for both prisoners, each prisoner has to rely on the honor or shrewdness of the other prisoner.

That's the dilemma we face if we go into Rehab with respect to our energy addiction. If everyone goes into Rehab, fine. But if one country reneges on the deal, they get all the good stuff or in this case, resources.

Can we trust other countries to stick to the deal?

Only if it's in their own best interest.

Will they perceive it to be in their own best interest?

Only if they feel they need us.

Do countries need each other?

Not if they're at the top of the heap.

So that is what everyone has decided to do: To scramble to the top of the heap because they think they have a chance of making it.

Thus there's a lot of saber-rattling going on. Recently Iran conducted Holy Prophet naval exercises complete with flying boats to show their neighbors their "peaceful intentions." By way of response, the United States conducted naval exercises in the Bahamas in order to show our peaceful intentions towards Venezuela, which has sought closer ties to Iran as well as to our erstwhile pinko enemies, Russia and Cuba. And India sent a ship to the Maldives to patrol the Exclusive Economic Zone, a phrase which refers to fishing and seabed mining.

Certainly no one's putting brakes on their economy. Those U.S. wannabes, China and India, are obsessed with feeding theirs, like the doting parents of monster children who refuse to see that when those children grow up, they'll eat their parents too. Since neither country is endowed with the necessary natural resources, they're doing what anyone does who needs something: They're making friends.

China is jumping into the Free Trade Agreement fray with New Zealand, expects to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Austalia in two years and has pledged $374 million in loans to Pacific allies to boost economic cooperation. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said, "the loans would target various industries including mining, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aviation."

"China has funding and technical expertise," [Jiabao] said. "The island countries are rich in natural resources. Herein lie huge potential for bilateral cooperation."

Translation: "We'll provide the money to help you help us ravage your country."

Jiabao maintained that the agreement came with no political strings attached. But it included only those South Pacific countries whose governments have diplomatic relations with China -- the Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu and excluded six countries that have relations with Taiwan -- Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The One China Policy was also a feature of China's recent expressions of harmonious intent towards Malaysia and the Sudan whose army is getting 'cooperation' from Chinese forces.

This 'cooperation' may be the underlying reason why the United States has recently become preoccupied with the human rights abuses for which the Sudan is notorious. Our concern is ironic because, according to a Human Rights Watch Report of 2003, many of those abuses are the work of foreign oil companies.........


Dennis from Oregon said...

I only have one bone to pick with this article; that being that interest goes clear back to the sceming of the Babylonian Money Merchants. Its much older than the 16th century as any Bible or Quran reader will attest. Note that in all the New Testament and Quran this is the only situation that caused Jesus to lose his temper....

While your analysis does hold pretty true for the time being; perhaps we should all consider WHY we are hooked on growth, and this all goes back to interest. As Mike has said "you have to change the way money works".

The civilised world is doomed to ultimately collapse anyway; even barring peak oil; because sooner or later the limits to growth will force a collapse of whatever we are calling money, and this will be utter calamity. The only way out is to change the way money works ie; a interest free system. Gee, maybe when the founding fathers, the Bible, and the Quran all AGREE on something we should all pay heed.

The machine we call civilisation will eat more and more, with less and less returns, until it reaches the limits of growth, and then the collapse of money itself will usher in the greatest calamity this planet has ever seen. I personally believe that peak oil and gas will be the limit that starts the collapse, as oil and gas is the predicate function of so many other processes.

So, either give up now on participating in the monetary system or realise that we are all the problem, all hastening the train wreck we call modern civilisation. Its our choice, but do I dare say none of us are going to become the solution until calamity hits...

Thanks for the interesting insight, it IS a dilemma isnt it??

Dennis from Oregon

FTW admin said...

I've amended the article to refer to your correction. i thought Jesus got angry with 'money changers' which i interpreted to mean people changing from one currency to another but of course, now that you mention it, that seems unlikely for jerusalem, if jerusalem was indeed where that happened.

Dennis from Oregon said...

Well, yes, thats who he did get mad at. Somewhere I remember that the money changers, in addition to being dishonest and theiving the ignorant and trusting customers (who had to use their services to get coin of the realm)were involved in usury (interest). So the concept does go way back... However, the way I interpret Jesus dismay and show of force goes alot deeper than just usury and dishonesty; this was going on in a place where God was to be worshipped.

And yes, they did exchange coinage from other countries into the accepted coin of the realm. For example, Greek to Roman.

You dont have to take me to seriously, as Im not omnipotent, but I am overly educated and often see a different take on things..

When you have a usury based system in a static money supply, someone has to lose money. In an expandable money supply system like we have today you have to print more money...growth, or EVERYONE loses to inflation. This is just how money currently works and why it is doomed on a finite sphere. Sooner or later.. and I happen to believe that peak oil is going to be the underlying cause, and sooner than later.

Thanks for the good article...

Dennis from Oregon

FTW admin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FTW admin said...

if you google "Jesus" and "Usury" you get 254,000 cites, complete with parables. Below is the first. Interesting, however, how all three major Western religions managed to reconcile themselves to the notion of interest (Islam apparently less than the other two.)

Dennis from Oregon said...

So do you think its coincidence, or religion that has Iran holding the only gold and silver currency on Earth?? And of course you can see why its not just their oil that makes them a target of the neocons, but the fact that they have a very powerful reason to not recycle their petrodollars in the usury based American stock markets..

FTW admin said...

no coincidence. but i also wonder what's going on with their euro-based oil bourse.

in one of the other threads someone provided the link to mike's sept 9 2001 economic alert which in turn incorporated an adam hamilton article from le metropole cafe about the huge investment of jp morgan chase in derivatives and the plunge protection team which, among other things, manipulates the price of gold. the stories of gold and oil are symbiotic.

Leigh McKeirnan said...

Dennis from Oregon: I am looking for a place to move that might be sustainable-where did you pick to live?? A small town? Our area of Kelso Longview has over 60,000 for I think I need to move...SOS ideas anyone? Alos both kids work in Portland

Dennis from Oregon said...

Well, is this off topic?? Judging by the title of the article perhaps not...

First off I am no sustainability expert. I am owner of a gasfitting business in Medford Oregon and have been aware of peak oil since before the term was coined. I think this country is going to go thru major peak throes due to shortages of natgas before the diesel and gasoline problems hit...but there are problems everywhere.

BTW, my grandparents lived across US30 about 3 miles east of Rainier, OR, on the cliffs directly above the Trojan site. I watched them build Trojan, was there for Mt St Helens, and with my sister inherited the property. I attended junior high in Rainier and still have friends in Longview and know the town well...

Some thoughts... First, I would pick up Kearneys Nuclear War Survival Skills and pick an area that will get very moderate fallout. Your location sucks here, mine is way better. Note its not just a matter of surviving the fallout, its a matter of surviving the contaminated soil.

60k people is kinda bigger than I would choose, but Im writing from an area with over 150k population. In my opinion both areas are way over the carrying capacity of the land.

Proximity to Cities would be another criteria, there is gonna be huge problems with destitute survivors from the big cities, and yor proximity to Portland puts me in a way better spot.

That being said, Im not situated all that well either. As I said earlier the land is way above carrying capacity and there are lots of other problems here now.

Chief of them would be employment. With very few family wage jobs outside the construction industry and the hugely bloated price of real estate of any kind this place is gonna get abysmal really fast when the construction idustry folds, and there are plenty of signs its imminent. All the neighborhoods are in decline. That being said, its still doing better than Longview. Did Longview Fiber ever reopen??

Of course non of this matters if you plan to work the land... although I feel its safer to be on the outskirts of some type of town for safety, there still is some goog bottom land left that hasnt been planted in mini McMansions for Californians; but right now the holders of this land believe that in a few short years it will be worth 100k per lot, and its in big tax lots; mostly remnants of the original 80 acre land claims.

I gotta go do some yardwork before it gets too hot, but feel free to continue this if you want... I will give the best assesment Im capable of, but Im no expert..

FTW admin said...

dennis, that's not off topic. it's bull's eye. many thanks

murph said...


You might want to go back in posts and take a look at Freeacre's comments. We live in central OR, in a fairly low density population that is scattered some. \The biggest problem is going to be winter sustainability. We are working on it.

Dennis from Oregon said...


I was born in Prineville to a prominent pioneer family, grew up in Bend, and know the East slope well. Mostly Crook Co. Prines, Hunters, McCalls, French and Packwoods are still family friends.

While I dont know your situation it occurs to me that there are dmaned few areas East slope that are sustainable, just look at the thousands of abandoned homesteads. They simply couldnt make it, not enought water, not fertile enough soil. The only old timers that could live off the land had HUGE herds, with land very ruthlessly aquired. Im a greatgrandson of Bud Thompson, head of the Vigilantes, and he is reputed to have killed over 300 men to get his spread... He lived by making money, with cows, and making sure those that couldnt make it sold to him. He was very predatory for land he coveted.. he just killed you if you wouldnt sell... look up the history of old Crook County. My family prospered there, but I dont really want to embrace that lifestyle.

All you really need to survive winter is a real good sleeping bag, provided you have food and water. Do you have water with no electricity or can you get water with no electricity?? Enough for agriculture?? Got real good bottom land?? There are places, damned few places, that could work East slope though, and the people there are of a different breed than the Valley people. A lot more likely to pull together and alot more neighborly. Alot more practical skills. Of course this is changing I imagine, it sure has on my side of the hill.

I couldnt find "freeacre" on a google search of this blog, could you be a bit more specific??

Take care, Dennis

Leigh McKeirnan said...

The Powells from Eagleridge logging are listed in Crook county dept of licensing too.
Thanks for all the advice Dennis. What do you think of Manzanita???
What about down on the California/Oregon border-don't know hwo I'll get my hsuband to move there though and my kids are in Portland. So frustrating trying to figure it all out-will they be forced to move out of Portland if teaching and a comptroller.