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Teeming Links – May 1, 2015

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Don’t say you weren’t warned: artificial telepathy might turn out to be a nightmare. “Will the next generation of telepathy machines make us closer, or are there unforeseen dangers in the melding of minds?” (Aeon)

What is the future of loneliness in the age of the Internet?  “As we moved our lives online, the internet promised an end to isolation. But can we find real intimacy amid shifting identities and permanent surveillance?” (The Guardian)

An Even More Dismal Science: “For the past 25 years, a debate has raged among some of the world’s leading economists. At issue has been whether the nature of the business cycle underwent a fundamental change after the end of the ’30 glorious years’ that followed World War II, when the economy was characterized by rapid growth, full employment, and a bias toward moderate inflation. . . . Today, a degree of consensus has emerged. There is no longer much point in questioning whether the glory days are over.” (Project Syndicate)

Astrobiology research scientist Lewis Dartnell considers a pertinent question: Could we recreate industrial-technological civilization without fossil fuels? (Aeon)

Weird realism: John Gray on the moral universe of H. P. Lovecraft: “The weird realism that runs through Lovecraft’s writings undermines any belief system — religious or humanist — in which the human mind is the centre of the universe.” (New Statesman)

George Lucas rips Hollywood and laments the digital dumbing of Internet culture: “George Lucas offered a bleak assessment of the current state of the film business during a panel discussion with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, saying that the movies are ‘more and more circus without any substance behind it’ . . . . The man who took bigscreen fantasies to bold new worlds said he never could have predicted the smallness of popular entertainment options on platforms such as YouTube. ‘I would never guess people would watch cats do stupid things all day long,’ said Lucas.” (Variety)

Arch-skeptic Michael Shermer writes about an anomalous event that shook his skepticism to the core: “[T]he eerie conjunction of these deeply evocative events gave [my wife Jennifer] the distinct feeling that her grandfather was there and that the music was his gift of approval. I have to admit, it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well. I savored the experience more than the explanation. The emotional interpretations of such anomalous events grant them significance regardless of their causal account. And if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious.” (Scientific American)

The Return of the Exorcists: “With papal recognition of an international group of exorcists comes a renewed interest in their ministry and role in the pastoral work of the Church.” (The Catholic World Report)

Case Study: The Horror Genre: “Unlike the western or gangster film, where there are a few fairly hard and fast rules in terms of the environment that the action might take place in, or indeed the nature of the characters that are ranged against one another, the horror genre can encompass an extraordinarily wide range of environments, characters, threats and subtexts. This is perhaps one of the major reasons that the horror film has remained popular — or has been able to reinvent itself when its popularity seemed to be on the wane. But what exactly does the horror genre consist of?” (Routledge, from the companion website for the textbook AS Media Studies: The Essential Introduction)

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Good news: Experts agree the future of Atlantis is bright

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From John Michael Greer, for the recent April 1 day of foolery, here’s one of the most entertaining — and insightful — pieces of satire you’re likely to read this year. Note his use of a rather delightful name-coding, which runs throughout. And don’t worry: Nacil Buper, Grand Priestess of the Temple of the Night, who is mentioned in the excerpt below, isn’t singled out for an unfair solo slamming. Later in the piece Tarc Omed, the Hierophant of the Priests of the Sun, receives equal treatment. So does the average Atlantean citizen-on-the-street. All are weighed and found wanting for their heedlessness in ignoring the warning signs associated with continued worship of the Lord of Evil, Mu-Elortep.

If you’re like most Atlanteans these days, you’ve heard all sorts of unnerving claims about the future of our continent. Some people are even saying that recent earth tremors are harbingers of a cataclysm that will plunge Atlantis to the bottom of the sea. Those old prophecies from the sacred scrolls of the Sun Temple have had the dust blown off them again, adding to the stew of rumors.

So is there anything to it? Should you be worried about the future of Atlantis?

Not according to the experts. I visited some of the most widely respected hierarchs here in the City of the Golden Gates yesterday to ask them about the rumors, and they assured me that there’s no reason to take the latest round of alarmist claims at all seriously.

***

My first stop was the temple complex of black orichalcum just outside the Palace of the Ten Kings, where Nacil Buper, Grand Priestess of the Temple of Night, took time out of her busy schedule to meet with me. I asked her what she thought about the rumors of imminent catastrophe. “Complete and utter nonsense,” she replied briskly. “There are always people who want to insist that the end is nigh, and they can always find something to use to justify that sort of thing. Remember a few years ago, when everyone was running around insisting that the end of the Forty-First Grand Cycle of Time was going to bring the destruction of the world? This is more of the same silliness.”

Just at that moment, the floor shook beneath us, and I asked her about the earth tremors, pointing out that those seem to be more frequent than they were just a few years back.

“Atlantis has always had earthquakes,” the Grand Priestess reminded me, gesturing with her scepter of human bone. “There are natural cycles affecting their frequency, and there’s no proof that they’re more frequent because of anything human beings are doing. In fact, I’m far from convinced that they’re any more frequent than they used to be. There are serious questions about whether the priests of the Sun Temple have been fiddling with their data, you know.”

“And the claim from those old prophecies that offering human sacrifices to Mu-Elortep, Lord of Evil, might have something to do with it?” I asked.

“That’s the most outrageous kind of nonsense,” the Grand Priestess replied. “Atlanteans have been worshipping the Lord of Evil for more than a century and a half. It’s one of the foundations of our society and our way of life, and we should be increasing the number of offerings to Mu-Elortep as rapidly as we can, not listening to crazies from the fringe who insist that there’s something wrong with slaughtering people for the greater glory of the Lord of Evil. We can’t do without Mu-Elortep, not if we’re going to restore Atlantis to full prosperity and its rightful place in the world order, and if that means sacrifices have to be made — and it does — then sacrifices need to be made.”

MORE: “Atlantis Won’t Sink, Experts Agree

Image by Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Teeming Links – May 30, 2014

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Remember America’s “new oil boom” based on fracking? Well, you can say goodbye to it: the Energy Information Agency just downwardly revised its estimate of the amount of technically recoverable oil in America’s #1 shale reserve by 96 percent .

Check it out: a straightforward business interview with Ilidio F. Santos, an environmental consultant for the Angolan oil company Sonangol E&P, suddenly turns all doomer when Santos says human civilization is done for: “The more you study, the more you read, the more you discuss the environmental problems of the planet and its inhabitants (be they human or other), the more you understand that this is a lost cause. The human civilization is doomed in the decades to come, as there is no way that the people who have the power to stop the suicidal path understand the urgency and nature of the problem. Those who do not know about it at least live oblivious to the horror that will come to this planet in a few decades.” The interviewer responds by saying, “You are scaring me, Ilidio.” To which Santos replies, “Be scared!”

Superbug threat as grave as climate change, say scientists: “Superbugs resistant to drugs pose a serious worldwide threat and demand a response on the same scale as efforts to combat climate change, infectious disease specialists said on Thursday.”

Adventures in the Land of Illness: A superb essay by Sam Harris, available in both audio and text form, about his recent experiences with ill health: “It has been interesting for me, as a proponent of science and skepticism, to experience the feelings of vulnerability and desperation that come with an illness for which science has no clear remedy or even a diagnosis. . . . As someone who will soon release a book about meditation, the illusion of the self, and the transcendence of unnecessary suffering, I feel I should offer some account of how my own mind has fared when tested in this way.”

CNN reports 50 percent chance of Armageddon-level asteroid strike in 2041. Or actually not. Seriously, not. (Maybe CNN should consider a name change and pay for the rights to an old HBO series title: “Not Necessarily the News.”)

Astronomer and astrobiologist Caleb Scharf explains why searching for extraterrestrial life yields enormous benefits here on earth: “[T]he cosmic sprawl can help us disentangle the complex terrestrial systems and histories of which we are a part. This is not a frivolous exercise. On the contrary, it could be the key to overcoming our scientific ignorance.”

The psychology of Soylent and the prison of first-world food choices: “Why are some repulsed by Soylent, but others desperate to receive their orders?”

The Internet as we know it is dying: Andrew Leonard explains how “Facebook and Google are killing the classic Internet and reinventing it in their image,” with nods to Amazon as well.

Dear graduates: A commencement speech for the mediocre: “Invariably, commencement speakers tend to be the lucky few, the ones who followed their dreams and still managed to land on their feet: Most of us won’t become Steve Jobs or Neil Gaiman, regardless of how hard we try or how much passion we might hold. It’s far more likely to get stuck working as a waiter or bartender, or on some other dead-end career path. Most people will have to choose between ‘doing what they love,’ and pursuing the more mundane promise of a stable paycheck and a promising career path. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the latter choice; in fact, I’d usually recommend it.”

It’s been nearly 90 years since John Maynard Keynes started predicting the rise of a technologically enabled leisure society. And yet life in today’s high-tech America is a plague of busyness.

The Rise of Nintendo: A Story in 8 Bits: “From ‘Donkey Kong’ to the NES — how a Japanese company took over the American living room.”

A Beautiful Man: On Peter Parker and the Amazing Spider-Man: “[I]t’s not so much that Spider-Man was the superhero who could be you, though Lee used that very phrase in the comics. Spider-Man was one of the few superheroes who was more interesting than the supervillains he fought. . . . In his New York, he could be a most beautiful man, like Don Quixote or Jean Valjean or Samuel Pickwick — Dostoevsky’s three famous examples of the archetype — a figure whose greatest creation, born out of neurosis and genius, is himself.”

The Survivor: On Magneto, Mutants, and the Holocaust: “Magneto stands as . . . a rebuke to everyone who wishes to contain the lessons of the Holocaust, to everyone who has a simple explanation for its occurrence, to everyone who wishes to valorize victimhood, to everyone who believes that survival is an unmitigated blessing. The X-Men movies and the comics tell you things you don’t want to hear, that Hitler won World War II, that the Holocaust never stopped happening, that it continues to happen and that it will keep happening.”

The Rosicrucian Vision: “Although the Rosicrucian philosophy was presented as a total package of religion, science, etc., it tended to divide into three different streams: first, there was the scientific, philosophical stream; secondly, the social and political stream; thirdly, the Hermetic-Cabalistic-Alchemical stream. . . .When we look at something like Rosicrucianism, or at the Templars or at Freemasonry or at the legends of the Holy Grail, we are looking at the tip of an iceberg. I believe that behind these phenomena lies a very ancient current. What precise form it takes I know not, but I believe that every so often in human history this current comes to the surface.”

The Elf Whisperer of Iceland: “The whole affair, from the cause célèbre behind the protest (Save the Elves?!) to the government’s eventual acquiescence, is indicative of the unusual and complicated relationship Iceland has with elves and other hidden people. Jónsdóttir was advocating for the lives of invisible tiny beings that most of us associate with building Santa’s toys . . . and the government listened.”

 

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teeming Links – April 25, 2014

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We’re entering an age of energy impoverishment. Richard Heinberg explains: “It’s hard to overstate just how serious a threat our energy crisis is to every aspect of our current way of life. But the problem is hidden from view by oil and natural gas production numbers that look and feel just fine. . . . Quite simply, we must learn to be successfully and happily poorer. For people in wealthy industrialized countries, this requires a major adjustment in thinking.”

A new stone age by 2114? Jared Diamond ruminates: “In this globalized world, it’s no longer possible for societies to collapse one by one. A collapse that we face, if there is going to be a collapse, it will be a global collapse.”

The zombies are already here — and they’re our digitally addicted children.

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Education is not the answer“It clearly is not the case that plausible increases in education quality and attainment will have a substantial impact on inequality. This will require much deeper structural changes in the economy.”

The secret history of life-hacking: The popular modern cult of self-optimization is, ironically, the descendent of Frederick Taylor’s much-despised “scientific management” of the early 20th century. But today instead of being “managed” at work by iron-fisted supervisors with stopwatches in their hands who enforce a faux gospel of maximum efficiency, we do it to ourselves, everywhere and endlessly.

The alchemy of writing: This recent Expanding Mind interview (click through or use the player below) features some great thoughts on the preternaturally inspired approach to writing from the Reverend Nemu, author of the Nemu’s End trilogy, a three-volume revision of the formerly published single-volume megabook  Nemu’s End: History, Psychology, and Poetry of the Apocalypse.

Jeffrey Kripal on horror and religion (from a great 2012 Skeptiko interview titled “Dr. Jeffrey Kripal on Science Fiction as a Trojan Horse for the Paranormal”):

It’s a common misconception that religion is about the good. It’s about being peaceful and good to each other and holiness is some kind of state of equanimity and all positive things. In fact, if you look at the history of religion, if you even look at the Bible, a lot of encounters with the Divine or the sacred are incredibly terrifying, often very dangerous, and some are actually deadly. So the sacred is not just for good; the sacred is both profoundly attractive but also often terrifying and destructive.

So horror, the modern genre of horror films and horror fiction, are calling up these ancient religious impulses. I think the reason that horror is so powerful is that to get a profound religious experience, you somehow have to suppress the ego function. You somehow have to do something pretty dramatic to the person. One way to do something really dramatic to the person to get them out of themselves, as it were, is to scare the living crap out of them because that’s a form of ecstasy. It’s a mild form of ecstasy. So horror fiction often has these religious qualities to it. I think that’s why some people, lots of people actually, like to go and be terrified watching a movie or reading a book.

 

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teeming Links – April 11, 2014

FireHead

Apparently, the whole of West Virginia has now become a sacrifice zone for the coal industry.

Did you know there’s an average of one train derailment every single day in America? This is why the oil transport industry is basically a giant, horrible, environmentally apocalyptic accident just waiting to happen.

You know all that propaganda in the past handful of years that scornfully dismisses warnings about peak oil and fossil fuels because of a “new oil boom”? Don’t be fooled: the era of world-changing energy transition is indeed upon us.

In light of the above, here’s a caution, clarification, and reality check: futurologists are almost always wrong, especially when they sound like techno-utopians and/or doomsday preachers.

Welcome to the new Gilded Age: “We haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.”

Welcome to the end of night: “An eternal electric day is creeping across the globe, but our brains and bodies cannot cope in a world without darkness.”

Beware modern medicine, which decreases our chance of a good death: “Death used to be a spiritual ordeal; now it’s a technological flailing. We’ve taken a domestic and religious event, in which the most important factor was the dying person’s state of mind, and moved it into the hospital and mechanized it, putting patients, families, doctors, and nurses at the mercy of technology.”

If you keep planning, but failing, to ditch Facebook and other social media, maybe this explains: “It is hard to resist a technology that is also a tool of pleasure. The Luddites smashed their power looms, but who wants to smash Facebook — with all one’s photos, birthday greetings, and invitations? New digital technologies, particularly social media, make money by encouraging us to spend our lives on their platforms.”

Worried about the rise of Big Data? Then good news! The whole field may be total bullshit: “At worst, according to David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge university, [the major claims about Big Data] can be ‘complete bollocks. Absolute nonsense.'”

Check it out: a fascinating examination of psychedelic, shamanic, and magickal themes in video game culture.

My first publication in print form came in the 2002 Del Rey horror anthology The Children of Cthulhu, where I was honored to share book space with many authors whom I had long admired. Among these was Alan Dean Foster, some of whose earlier work, including several of his Star Wars novels and the story basis he provided for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, played an important part in my science fiction education during adolescence. Then in 2011 I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and chatting with him at MythosCon.  So he’s always on my radar, and that’s why it’s nice to come across some high praise for his classic novelization of Alien, which is now out in a 35th Anniversary Edition.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

‘Sirius’: A film about the scientific reality of UFOs, ETs, and advanced energy technology

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Tonight will see the official premiere in Hollywood of the new documentary film Sirius, which promises to be one of the more interesting — and perhaps more starkly significant? — UFO-related film projects to emerge since, well, ever. The film brings together the enduring “UFO disclosure” meme with the equally enduring theme of our planetary energy-and-environmental crisis, and includes as a central element the famous/notorious “La Noria ET,” the tiny humanoid “alien” found in Chile’s northern Atacama desert region in 2003.

The summary/teaser from the official press release conveys the gist (with, alas, faulty orthography in the form of a dropped hyphen):

Inspired by the work of Dr. Steven Greer, directed by Emmy Award winning Amardeep Kaleka and funded by the highest documentary crowd-funding in history, ‘Sirius’ introduces a DNA sequenced humanoid of unknown classification to the world and sheds definitive light on the scientific reality of UFO’s, ET’s, and Advanced Alternative Energy Technology. ‘Sirius’ is narrated by actor Thomas Jane (HBO series ‘Hung’).

In more detail, and with a similar smattering of mild orthographical gaffes:

‘Sirius’ deals not only with the subject of UFO and ET visitation disclosure but also with the advanced, clean, and alternative energy technology that’s getting them here. ‘Sirius’ goes into eye-opening detail regarding how the disclosure of such technologies, some of which have been suppressed for decades, can enable humanity to leave the age of the polluting petrodollar, transform society and improve mankind’s chances for the survival.

The film includes numerous Government and Military witnesses to UFO and ET secrecy. It also explains the connection to Free Energy and provides not only the vision of contact with ET civilizations as regularly witnessed by the CE-5 contact teams featured therein, but also the paradigm shifting physical evidence of a medically and scientifically analyzed DNA sequenced humanoid creature of unknown classification found in the Atacama desert, Chile. Additionally eye-opening, are the credentials and pedigree of the science and medical team behind this potentially profound and historical announcement.

One naturally wonders what to think of all this. Hokum? Hoax? The Holy Grail of UFO exposés? Or something intermediate? One thing’s for sure: the trailer is quite compelling, both in content and in tone, and the convergence of the specific issues and concerns addressed by Sirius — I’m thinking specifically of the challenge it mounts and describes for the reigning paradigms of scientific orthodoxy and depletion-based energy production — couldn’t be more timely.

Be advised that after tonight the film will, as I understand it, be available for free, full streaming and viewing. (I read that somewhere but can’t seem to track down the source just now.)

Thank you to Jesús Olmo, video artist extraordinaire and lobber of philosophically and aesthetically dazzling email grenades, for the heads-up about this film.

Our “cognitive surplus” is temporary, just like the fossil fuels that power it

In his 2010 book Cognitive Surplus, released in hardcover with the subtitle “Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age” and in paperback with the subtitle “How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators,” Clay Shirky expanded his reputation as everybody’s favorite digital guru by arguing that “new digital technology” — primarily of the social media sort — “is unleashing a torrent of creative production that will transform our world. For the first time, people are embracing new media that allow them to pool their efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind-expanding reference tools like Wikipedia to life-saving Web sites like Ushahidi.com, which allows Kenyans to report acts of violence in real time. [The book] explores what’s possible when people unite to use their intellect, energy, and time for the greater good.”

Here he is expounding the idea in a popular TED talk:

Although Shirky can be criticized for an undue optimism, since it’s quite likely that his view of how people tend to use the freeing of their time and mental energy by technology is overly rosy, the fact that such a freeing-up has happened is incontrovertible. And now comes a paper written by two experts in digital communications and published in one of the longest-running online journals about the Internet itself that argues the cognitive surplus is a side effect of our massive exploitation of fossil fuels, and that its fate and future will therefore parallel the arc of fossil fuel-based civilization, which is, in the wide scope of things, a fleeting phase in human history, since “fossil fuels are not forever.” Read the rest of this entry

Recommended Reading 27

This week’s recommended reading covers Morris Berman’s diagnosis of, and prognosis for, the waning of our modern age of capitalism; the end of economic growth due to peak oil; a call from Jaron Lanier to recognize the wizard’s trick of delusion that we’re all pulling on ourselves with technology; a reflection on the soul tragedy of a culture of 24/7 digital connectedness; a report on the nefarious collusion of corporate funding in scientific research and reporting; a cool article by John Keel on the birth of flying saucers as a cultural phenomenon; an interview with the creator of a new multimedia project based on lucid dreaming and stretching the boundaries of conventional storytelling; a consideration of the enduring mainstream impact of occult/esoteric/”New Age” ideas on American culture and society; and words about Swedenborg and visionary mysticism and spirituality from Gary Lachman and Mitch Horowitz. Read the rest of this entry

Energy, food, and the upside (or not) of dystopia

 

This piece from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner is supposed to be about the upside of the fact that we’ve transitioned definitively to a new era of elevated food and energy prices, but the upshot that Warner arrives at sounds less like a silver lining than a recipe for a Promethean desperate-dystopian transformation of human civilization into something akin to Soylent Green:

[T]here are more positive ways of looking at…the apparently catastrophe of a current spike in food and oil prices…which don’t entirely fit with the present mood of declinism that has come to instruct all aspects of debate around the global economy … It seems that every time Western economies show some sign of climbing out of the mire, along comes another oil price shock to push them back in. Meanwhile, the most severe US drought in 25 years has sent grain prices soaring, adding to the already debilitating effects on world food supply of a poor monsoon season in Asia and a bad harvest in Russia and Ukraine. In our own neck of the woods, high levels of rainfall have wrecked the annual harvest from potatoes to wheat, apples and Brussels sprouts. Looking at the phenomenon globally, this is the third such food price shock in five years. Previous such episodes have spawned mass riots, and the last one is often cited as a major factor in the Arab spring.

… So where is the positive in all this gloom? Nobody is pretending that high oil and food prices are anything other than extremely painful. But by rationing demand, encouraging efficiency, incentivising new investment and driving the search for alternatives, high prices also provide an absolutely vital market discipline … Malthusian catastrophe is neither inevitable nor actually particularly likely given these pricing disciplines. At prices like these, previously untapped hydrocarbon reserves suddenly become economically viable, as do great tracks of under-exploited agricultural land. The era of cheap and plentiful may already be a thing of the past, but is that really such a bad thing?

— Jeremy Warner, “Best to get used to high food and energy prices — they’re here to stay,” The Telegraph, August 29, 2012 (emphasis added)

Regarding those “previously untapped hydrocarbon reserves” that have “suddenly become economically viable,” it’s important to remember that the reality on (and also under) the ground when it comes to “developing” untapped hydrocarbon reserves is profoundly problematic, as seen in, to name just one example, the growing problems stemming from the rise of fracking. And on the food side, there is of course no lack of problems with the universal adoption of industrial farming practices, including troubling effects on the food itself, the land, animals, and people: physically, psychologically, spiritually. The assumption behind Warner’s views appears to be the same one driving most mainstream thought and rhetoric on these issues: that our industrial-technological way of life simply has to be maintained. For an updated view of what the reality of a future unfolding in this fashion might well look like, switch from Soylent Green and see the human and planetary wasteland depicted by Paolo Bacigalupi in Pump Six and Other Stories, which, in the words of Publishers Weekly, “explores a post–fossil fuel future where genetically modified crops both feed and power the world, and greedy megacorporations hold the fates of millions in their hands.”

Meanwhile, note that despite all of the recent triumphalist rhetoric about the supposed end of peak oil as a viable theory, the estimable Andrew Evans-Pritchard pointed out just a few days ago in The Telegraph that “Peak cheap oil is an incontrovertible fact.” And that, of course, is what the practical reality of our present energy-and-economy predicament has always boiled down to.

To assume that things have to continue operating according to currently reigning principles and trajectories is both the height of unconsciousness and a surefire method for stumbling directly into a true disaster via our very efforts to avoid one. How much more challenging and rewarding it would be to approach the present circumstance conversely by using it as an opportunity for learning to see through the old agenda and its assumptions, even if only on an individual and personal level. To quote Jesus, the Buddha, The Matrix, and Rage Against the Machine: wake up!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dr. James Schlesinger announces “the peak oil debate is over”

This recent speech by Dr. James Schlesinger constitutes Necessary Viewing/Listening/Reading (depending on whether you prefer to read the text or watch the video). It’s also brief and easily digestible.

Schlesinger, in case you’ve forgotten, was the first U.S. Secretary of Energy, from 1977-79. Before that he was Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Secretary of Defense, and Director of Central Intelligence. As preserved and presented in this video, at this year’s ASPO-USA conference (Association for the Study of Peak Oil), he delivered a keynote speech in which he publicly stated the bald truth: there is no debate left over the reality of peak oil. It’s a simple, stark fact that oil production has peaked/is peaking/will imminently peak, and that this changes everything. What’s left uncertain is our political response to this fact.

His comments lay out cleanly and clearly the reality of peak in a series of “first, second, third” statements, and advance a point that’s very sobering, and that bears sober reflection:

Acceptance by knowledgeable people is not enough. The political order should respond. Nonetheless, our willingness, let alone our ability to do anything serious about the impending inability to increase oil output is still a long way off. The political order responds to what the public believes today, not to what it may come to believe tomorrow. It is also resistant to any action that inflicts pain, or sacrifice, or those who vote. The payoff in politics comes from reassurance, perhaps precluded by a rhetorical challenge. Still, the challenge is clear, in both logic, and in the evidence.

….Of course, there are uncertainties, which make timing predictions with regard to the peak risky: Iraq, which has been held back for a variety of reasons, may come along as one of those five new needed Saudi Arabias. Offshore Brazil and offshore oil elsewhere are promising. Shale gas, which is apparently coming in abundance, but is not of course oil, may somewhat alleviate the pressures on liquid fuels.

But in general, we must expect to get along without what has been our critical energy source, in expanding the world’s economy for more than half a century.

Can the political order face up to the challenge? There is no reason for optimism. We are likely to see pseudo solutions, misleading alternatives, and sheer sloganeering: energy independence, getting off foreign oil, and the like. All of that sheer sloganeering we have seen to this point.

The political order, which abhors political risk, tends to rely on the Biblical prescription, “Sufficient unto the day, is the evil thereof.”