Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Moses of a Post-Peak Oil World

Jenna Orkin

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

Peak Oil is here or close enough, thank you. Those of us who've been dreading this moment for years are now waiting for the other shoe to drop, ie: the shit to hit the fan. When that happens, who will be the leaders who will carry us kicking and screaming towards the sustainable way of life that we should have been leading all along?

Will he be a Clint Eastwood type, far-seeing (you can tell from his squint), a man of few words? Or will he be possessed of that elusive quality, charisma, an Obama-type to whom people naturally turn because of his easy, loose-limbed command of the facts combined with that facility that Joe Biden kicked himself around the block for noting, 'articulateness?' Will he be tall? Will he be a woman?

What is 'leadership' anyway?

As Justice Potter might have said, you know it when you see it (or hear it.) As in the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when The Leader speaks, the rest of the room falls silent. Sometimes this is because he's making sense. Sometimes it's because he's wearing a suit. Sometimes it's because he's the loudest.

Whatever the reason, people accord him authority. He's the closest thing around to Daddy. While everyone else is scared clueless about what to do, The Leader seems sure of himself so they figure his confidence must be based on something.

Maybe he'll be an actor who played a leader in a movie. Knowing how to act the part, he will bark instructions.

"Finally we're getting somewhere," the others will think, regardless of where Somewhere is.


A few years ago a band of New York City Peak Oil activists were discussing suitable crops to plant when they finally moved to their respective sustainable communities. Since New York City is in the Dark Ages when it comes to Peak Oil, these activists were, by default, leaders in the field.

But - and the activists were acutely aware of this - they were not farmers. They were novices, trying to scrape together what knowledge they could from the internet and the occasional bank-breaking weekend at an intensive Permaculture course.

So the conversation, while earnest and, by New York City standards, enlightened, fell short of providing useful information.

Until a young woman called Debbie spoke.


Her voice lacked the high-pitched excitement (the charisma factor) of the others, leaders all. And they seemed not to hear her.

But then a man who was sitting next to her said, "Potatoes! We forgot about potatoes!"

"Yeah, potatoes!" said another.

And so, by subliminal suggestion, Debbie's idea took over the conversation.

(A by-product of that evening is that I planted two potatoes on my windowsill in the hope of later writing an article called, "A Potato Grows in Brooklyn." One turned into a slimy mess; the other disappeared which must mean it morphed into soil. But that's another story.)

However, Debbie is not considered a leader either by the meet-up or by herself. She just happens, time and again, to have the information everyone's looking for.

The others know this. Sometimes they ask her for advice and she provides it, as when an adolescent ventures out on his own, only to turn back to ask Mom for money. The Peak Oil Leaders boldly go forth proclaiming Debbie's information, having incorporated it into their rhetoric and made it their own.


"We must change the paradigm!" goes the cry of the few brave souls who have for a long time seen what's coming and tried to warn those bits of the world to which they had access.

They're talking about infrastructure and the economy and other vital issues. But so far no one's addressed the assumptions on which we base our decisions, the notion that for the sake of simplicity and streamlined organization, there must be one person to whom we all look for instruction.

So it seems that when the world goes belly-up and the meek, if they know how to farm, shall inherit the earth, one thing shall emerge unscathed: that citadel, the grand social pyramid with drones at the base, some knowledgable folk in the middle and on top, the One, True Sun to whom all others turn for enlightenment; He or She who in Ancient Greece was a god, in 20th century America was a movie star and in the 21st century will be a Peak Oil activist - the Leader.


Los Doggies said...

where are the leaders?
we've been talking about different scenes and groups around where we live in new paltz, ny and it always seems they need a leader or leaders - the visionary who knows the way and can get more out of everyone and get more people involved. this is needed for anything to get going and really feel good - and work. it's cool to be laid back and give everyone a voice but so many scenes need a true leader or leaders to emerge to become great. i'm not talking about a king or dictator or any of that shit...just straight up awesomeness pouring out of the soul of some positive people with visions and strong wills. like hosting a drawing party and changing lives. the humble leader who knows how to affect the crowd and not be a jerk.

Rice Farmer said...

Yes, we need good leaders. Unfortunately, we hardly ever get them. When the excrement comes into contact with the rotating airfoil, governments will lose control over some or a lot of their territory. A power vacuum ensues, and people step into it. Regrettably, most are little more than tin-horn dictators whose only concern is self-aggrandizement. I guess we can only hope that the right kind of leaders appear when the time comes.

D! said...

I guess it is laughable for me to hear people speak of leaders. As if truly committing yourself to persevering through this age in time requires the guidance of some *anointed* being. Get yourself INVOLVED COMPLETELY in the processes of transformation and you will see doors open to places previously thought to be reserved for "someone else." You have got to get out there and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. What are you expecting? What situation requires your future leader to emerge and lead you to Paradise? It seems to me like everybody knows what to do or could figure out how to do it if they had to. Are you serious about your place in the post-petroleum world? Or are you paralyzed by the fear of having lost your IKEA furnished apartment before that last minute bail out by fantastic technological advances in all their mass produced glory?

You are the catalyst for change, organization, and progress. And yes, if you dedicate yourself to it you will be working your ass off. There is so much to be done, I can see why people are isolated and "waiting" for their "leader" to tell them what to do.

If your any sort of the sane type, you're planning on living out the coming inevitability in a nice little rural area. Go out to the vast open clearings overlooking your selected destination or something bearing resemblance. Observe for yourself. What does a leader mean to you out there? What can your "leader" provide that you cannot?

Be your own goddamn moses. Reject all imposed leadership and subservient indoctrination. The Pyramid must not exist... just the dungeon for the violent and dangerous.

olivier said...

Well, we should not look for leaders, because we will not find anyone capable of handling the chaotic period coming around the corner.
WE have to learn how to cope with less oil, less ready made food, less mobility, all at a higher price than ever.
Nowadays leaders won't help, they'll get us even faster face first in the stonewall !!
WE have to be the leaders, the ones who know how to produce local-based energy sources, how to produce food in a sustainable way, the way that it has been done in Cuba, for example.
It's not a perfect solution, but it has proven useful for a large part of the cuban population.
Do not look for answers, create your own, and spread the news around you.
I've been doing that since I began reading M.Ruppert wonderful site in 2003.
At that time, everyone looked at me as if I crashed in a flying saucer in Roswell, but now I get real attention from people when speaking about peak oil and its impact on our daily lives.
People will change when they'll have no other way to survive.
We, the activists, will be there with the information on how to do it.

Change comes from the people, not from politicians or CEO's. We don't need them, they need us.

Future is now, people, let's take it in our hands and build something beautiful for our kids.

Rice Farmer said...

I certainly agree that we should be our own leaders. Unfortunately, many locales will lack people with awareness, a plan, and leadership skills. They will get the petty dictators. You can see some good examples of them in Kunstler's book "World Made by Hand."

FTW admin said...

Tyler Havlin has left a new comment on your post "The Moses of a Post-Peak Oil World":

OPEC president rules out output hike

Tyler Havlin said... Do High Petroleum Prices Mean We've Reached 'Peak Oil'?,2933,369553,00.html

Chris XVX said...

Want cheap food: Grow your own:

Video on CNN for June 22, 2008

Tyler Havlin said...

Brokers threatened by run on shadow bank system

Regulators eye $10 trillion market that boomed outside traditional banking{FA23DF5A-918F-41DA-B794-7E553ADAFAA7}&dist=hplatest

"Unless radical changes are made to bring this shadow network under an updated regulatory umbrella, the current crisis may be just a gust compared to the storm that would follow a collapse of the global financial system, experts warn."

Rice Farmer said...

The Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan's three national mass-circulation daily newspapers, has begun a once-a-week feature called "After Peak Oil." This is very welcome, as the Japanese are particularly ill-informed in this area. The first installment points out the connections with transport, food, and other aspects of modern society.

Butch said...

I think it was Yeats who wrote "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity."

Rice Farmer said...

Airlines to cut supply of seats to force fare prices up

Just as predicted: Flying will in time become a privilege of rich elites.

Howlin_Dog said...

I would like an opinion on something. I may be adding up a bunch of random facts and inventing conclusions, or it could be that I am seeing the light.

In late 2006 several US aircraft carriers were in the Persian Gulf and the sabers were being rattled very loud toward an attack on Iran. That all ended when in January of 2007 China launched a rocket and blew up their own satellite. It always seemed to me it was a warning to the US and allies.

Well here we are again, Israel is making all kinds of noise including practicing long range missions. The US is trying to win support for more sanctions in the UN. Meanwhile, China is in a position where it wants to gain international recognition with the Olympics only 45 days away. Add to that, recently there have been many “Free Tibet” protests which at least one writer, Larry Chin, thinks is a CIA operation.

I know Mike Ruppert says even the neocons in power are not stupid enough to take on Iran, but these are becoming bad times, especially for the wall street bankers, the ones really running the show. Bad times lead to extreme actions. Besides, it would not really be us picking the fight, it would be Israel, we would just be coming to their aid.

So.. if I am thinking right, it is less than 45 days until the smelly stuff hits the fan.

Opinions anyone?

Rice Farmer said...

Howlin Dog -- There is room for speculation on this, I think. In his most recent communication, MCR stuck with his position that there will be no attack on Iran. Certainly MCR's position carries weight in view of his excellent track record. Nevertheless, I think this is partly contingent on what Russia and China (which have considerable stakes in Iran) do. When push comes to shove, will they have the intestinal fortitude to issue a stern "hands off" warning, publicly or through diplomatic channels? To back it up with action? Of course there are non-military actions they could take to deter the US. For example, China could dump dollars.

There are other important questions: How much leverage do the Russians and Chinese have over Israel? Can we count on the neocons and the Israeli leadership to act rationally? (I have serious doubts.) Do the neocons intend to declare martial law before the year is out?

Lots of variables, endless room for speculation. Any other takers?

Rice Farmer said...

Interesting. Here's Daniel Yergin cautioning against blaming speculators for high oil prices.

okc.onsiterepair said...

I thought about potatoes too,
then I remembered the potato famine.

So I opted for carrots.

My choice for a veggie lies in
two directions.

What can you store long term
in a root cellar.

What will rabbits like.

The rabbit reason is this simply,
rabbit meat is leaner than
chicken, and they breed faster
than just about anything.

Also I found 8,000 carrot seeds
on Ebay for $4 and they are
non genetically modified.

Some ppl may end up with GM
seeds and find out that they
go sterile after a generation
or so and find themselves in
a big bind.

The seeds went in my bug out bag.

The cities riots will be far worse
than anything like Watts, or LA.

Rice Farmer said...

The key is diversity. Grow carrots and potatoes, and some other things. Tip on preserving carrots: bury them in sand, keep in a place that is just above freezing.

gaelicgirl said...

OKC: If you want rabbits because they are leaner, have you not heard of "rabbit starvation"? That's what Native Americans called it when they were forced to eat too many rabbits in a bad year. Rabbits don't contain *enough* fat to support a human life (animal fats provide very valuable nutrients, such as the fat-soluble vitamins, essential for healthy function).