Grim Newlywed Sees Scary Future for Those He Loves

Dear Peak Shrink,

Please don’t use my name in this post, if that can be avoided.

I learned about Peak Oil a few years ago, but it has only recently dawned on me that it is really for real, really happening, and really not good, especially taken together with all of the other peaks, and environmental degradation. I am fairly hopeless, especially as all of my skills are pretty standard tech civilizational, and because of the topic that seems to be third-rail on some of the more compassionate peak oil forums, which is to say: overpopulation and the inevitable struggle that will ensue between people who are now of good will, as things deteriorate.

This has really caused me a lot of pain, because it is so out of whack with everything I was raised to believe about life. I’ve also been reading some of the Reg Morrison stuff about the evolutionary basis of spirituality/mysticism, and this has left me feeling that the spiritual refuge, which is something I generally lean on, is just a bunch of lies. But I have ordered the book “Sacred Demise” and I’ll see if that has anything to offer me.

All of this is just about trying to cope with this intermediate time–dealing with the anxiety of knowing sh*t is coming before it’s actually hit the fan, but in a moment where you can still walk down the street, drink a bottle of wine, listening to a ballgame–all of the things I love.

I sometimes have moments of terror when I get an intimation of what things will be like when it actually starts to unravel full throttle. I have to confess, and maybe this is why I don’t want my name mentioned most of all, that it makes me wonder how I could kill myself with the least amount of pain and terror, rather than suffer things I can’t even imagine.

In the meantime, I don’t feel like I’m getting much joy out of life, nor to I feel I am either preparing for, or forestalling the inevitable. Some talk-backer on this site referred to this kind of conversation as being like scared ducks pooping in a lake, and that made sense to me. This kind of talk doesn’t seem like it’s building anything, but just trying help us manage the fear and uncertainty. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily.

It has also occurred to me recently that “feeling good” is a part of the problem–when we are feeling good, we think everything is a-ok. So I feel like I’m not allowing myself to feel good, and even wonder about the efficacy of sharing my feelings with a group like this, that seems like a support group, because if I feel supported then I’ll relax my guard, but then I wonder–why not relax my guard and just drink in some pleasantness while it can still be had? I’d bet anyone dealing with this stuff is familiar with this particular mindf*ck.

The hardest part might be that I got married a month ago, to a wonderful woman who I love very dearly, and who really wants to have children. I love her a lot, and she is the most important person in my life, and it is very clear to me that she has not begun the journey toward seeing how bad things actually are, and does not want to. I have mentioned my concerns to her, and she has found some fairly conventional ways to assert that they are unfounded, though at the same time she does seem willing for me to explore agricultural and foraging information and such. But it has already put a strain on our relationship, which is hard for me to bear. I think, in the end, if we are able (we are in our mid-to-late thirties) we will have a child, because I do not want to lose her, when it comes down to it. And, if we have a child, I will bear the guilt for as long as I live of whatever suffering comes to that child in these times we’re heading towards, because I knew better. So this feels like a crucifixion. I know everyone else must be going through similar shit. It’s all crazy, and feels very unreal. I think we’re going to get more experience of the feel of unreality.

Thanks for listening.

Grim Newlywed


Dear Grim Newlywed,

I never use names in my post. No worry.

Here are some of my thoughts on what you’ve written, and hopefully you’ll have responses to them. I prefer dialogue rather than monologue, anyway.

I guess I always ask myself specifically what a person is hopeful or hopeless ABOUT. If you are hopeless that the future isn’t going to be looking like the present, that’s sensible. But there is a lot of “bad stuff” that makes this present not so great, anyway. Something has to give, and Peak Oil looks like as good a thing as any.

Hope,as a general concept, is over-rated. If you take action, you need a lot less hope. Seriously assess your current living situation. What did your city or town look like in the 1850’s? How many people? How did they get their food? What work did they do? Then ask yourself whether that place will weather the changes poorly or not. Remember, your assessment is not simply for you and your current lifestyle. You have mentioned having a child. Think about how your grandchildren will live. And the grandchildren of those you love.

It is easy to think in black and white, all or nothing at all terms. Try to think about things over a time-line and to anticipate what changes are next. Your gift of knowing about PO and believing it will make you prophetic to those who either don’t know about this stuff or refuse to believe it. Put into action changes that are both simple, cost little or nothing, and solve multiple problems.

>>This has really caused me a lot of pain, because it is so out of whack with everything I was raised to believe about life.

Yes, the attitude adjustment is a long-ongoing process. I think it takes two years of knowing and believing it, to find a sense of equilibrium.

overpopulation and the inevitable struggle that will ensue between people who are now of good will, as things deteriorate.

GN, we will definitely see a shift as people get poorer, and those in the city are forced to move or die an earlier death, perhaps by rising sea levels. But I’ve been inspired by the writings on the Great Depression, and try to draw some lessons from them. I’ve read stories from people who said their parents gave them NOTHING for the holidays, and other stories where the parents gave their child a “dream gift” of refreshing an old doll with horsehair and flour sack clothes. Personal resources are going to be the turning point for how grim things get, I believe.

>>…especially as all of my skills are pretty standard tech civilizational

I can tell by your writings that you are an intelligent man, and what you need to develop new skills is a willingness, motivation (and PO should provide that) and time.

Ask yourself what your ancestors did generations before oil, and see if you have interest in any of that. Take up “hobbies” you enjoy. Pick something quite different than what you do for work. If you work with your mind, try working with your hands. That sort of thing. You may find it a big help to your mental health to learn something new and get physically moving.

>>…this has left me feeling that the spiritual refuge, which is something I generally lean on, is just a bunch of lies.

I don’t know his work, but I like what AA says about Higher Power: You don’t need to believe in a Higher Power, you just have to believe YOUR not IT! I find that tremendous hardship connects people to things that are more meaningful, while prosperity and wealth causes many to feel adrift. As I live among domesticated animals and birds, and grow a garden, I’ve come to believe that the entire planet Earth has profound wisdom and when smart men and women paid attention to it, they learned something.

When I lived in a city, I was so profoundly disconnected from the rhythm of life, and I still, having grown up and lived in cities most of my life, am recovering from civilization, as Chellis Glendinning says. If you feel no relief in your spiritual path at this moment, my hunch is that you are listening to your head and not your heart. The fact that you lay yourself down at night and rise in the morning is not a lie, but it is a miracle of sorts. This civilization we are all a part of is NOT life. It is a brief blip of time in the history of humanity. Our intellects as well as our emotions can remove us from deeper understanding.

I haven’t read “Sacred Demise,” (but I’d like to…) I’ve met Carolyn Baker. She comes from a Jungian background, that inform her politics.

There is a guy who’s been writing about the link between spirituality and evolutionary psychology. I found his writings compelling: Experimental Theology He’s a research psychologist trying to integrate theology with data from the experimental social sciences. He writes interesting stuff. If you do, scroll down the right-hand side of the page until you get to his section: Theology and Evolutionary Psychology. Those articles, to me, were most interesting.

>>it makes me wonder how I could kill myself with the least amount of pain and terror, rather than suffer things I can’t even imagine.

I think you should make a serious examination of your assumptions here, especially in light of the fact that you are considering having a child. You have many, many options available to you to mitigate the impact of what is coming in your own life and in the lives of those you care about. You can’t do everything. You aren’t a miracle worker…but you can make intelligent, rational choices based on what you know and what you predict is likely to happen. To not take action is insanity. If you remain frozen, and you don’t act on what you know to be true, you may feel increasingly bummed out. If you keep focusing on suicide, you need to get some help, GN, from someone trained to help you get some perspective. People who are unsuccessful at killing themselves are glad they didn’t do it. If that thought is bouncing around as more than an extremely occasional idea, please get some help.

>>This kind of talk doesn’t seem like it’s building anything, but just trying help us manage the fear and uncertainty.

Here’s the point of what I do: Yes, bad things are coming. Yes, it will be an extremely rough ride. Now, do you believe yourself and start doing something? Or do you ignore what you believe and feel anxious and upset? Managing the fear is not enough. You have to DO SOMETHING. You have to take ACTION. You have to take yourself as seriously as a heart attack. You can’t get caught up in whether this is the “right” or “best” thing to do. Start with small steps, and avoid drastic life changes without the counsel of people you trust.

And you have to have enough perspective to realize that things unfold, at varying rates. You have to have some clue as to what the signs and symptoms MEAN. If you ignore what you know to be true, you are going to feel crazy, and perhaps start acting that way. “Not acting crazy” in this sense, means removing yourself from the tracks when you hear the train coming.

As far as the ‘talk-backers’ go, 5% of the population are sociopathic or sadistic and they enjoy inducing paralyzing fear in other people. Besides, ducks and geese poop in the lake to lighten their load to fly. That’s why they digest things so quickly, to be able to take off when they need to. If you are scared, you might want to do make some movement of your own. Perhaps that’s what you are doing in writing to me. I agree with someone who wrote on the LATOC forum that we’re got mostly Armchair Doomers out there, and some have rather elaborate fantasy lives, filled with excitement, revenge, hot babes that they “get” with a can of beans and a toothless smile…that sort of thing. Don’t let them scare you.

>It has also occurred to me recently that “feeling good” is a part of the problem–when we are feeling good, we think everything is a-ok.

Now you are on to something. When we feel good, we can continue to act “normal” and continue to buy and get into debt and don’t notice how dramatically different things are now then they were 10 years ago. But feeling good isn’t actually the problem. We can “feel” good or “feel” gloomy, but these are just emotions that exist on a bodily level. Do we become brain-dead when we “feel good” or do we just enjoy the good sensations? Do we ignore what we believe to be true, deep down, or do we just go on auto-pilot? Feel good or feel gloomy, but take action, then self-correct. If you find that you just bought a lot of crapola over the holidays, return it! Or stop buying now!

>>So I feel like I’m not allowing myself to feel good, and even wonder about the efficacy of sharing my feelings with a group like this, that seems like a support group…

You can tell how serious you are by the people you talk to about which sorts of feelings. For example, if your mother was all happy about you getting married, and your father was against it, and you talk to Mom, it suggests that you want to feel better about the marriage. If you talk to Dad, you may be looking for the doubter’s take. Notice who you talk to about what, to get some clue about what types of opinions or support you might be wanting.

When you talk here, you are talking to people who are likely to share a particular set of stories and beliefs. They are a rare group, as groups go. If you said “It’s all going down!” to a group of dentists or engineers, you’d get completely different feedback, especially if they were expecting their first child! No one here is going to say “It’s crazy to worry about the future!”

>>because if I feel supported then I’ll relax my guard…

My friend calls that need to keep up her guard “fresh hate.” I think you mean that you need to stay motivated to actually DO something, instead of just talking about it, and YOU DO!

>>…why not relax my guard and just drink in some pleasantness while it can still be had? I’d bet anyone dealing with this stuff is familiar with this particular mindf*ck.

They are quite familiar with it, as am I. So what you might be missing is that right now, you can do everything you need to do the “easier” way (but not as easily as you might have four years ago). The longer you wait to start changing things, the rougher things will get.

Timing IS important. When resources are abundant, you can get quite a bit done. When gas is $4 a gallon, you start feeling the limitations…or when you lose your job. Drink in pleasantness, by all means. That is your right as a human being on this earth. But don’t just do that. Recognize that you are at a unique point in history, and next year you’ll have less to work with than you do this year. Just ask the person who was “thinking” of moving their stock portfolio, but didn’t. How do they feel?

>>The hardest part might be that I got married a month ago, to a wonderful woman who I love very dearly, and who really wants to have children. I love her a lot, and she is the most important person in my life…

I am very happy for you. Having a good spouse is essential in surviving what’s coming. But you have a big job to do. If she loves you as much as you love her, you must see eye-to-eye on this very important matter of the future. Your shared vision and goals for the future will bring your house in harmony. A divided vision and working at cross-purposes will bring nothing but heart-ache.

>>it is very clear to me that she has not begun the journey toward seeing how bad things actually are, and does not want to. I have mentioned my concerns to her, and she has found some fairly conventional ways to assert that they are unfounded, though at the same time she does seem willing for me to explore agricultural and foraging information and such.

It is scary to face what you have been facing. You love her and don’t want to scare her. But she must, if you are to have a harmonious life, be willing to investigate adequately. It is not enough for you to be the “preparer.” It isn’t enough for her to allow you to be the “eccentric.” On the other hand, don’t expect her to want to sign up for your future if you tell her “We’ll be lying on a gutter eating our own flesh!” She’d be silly to want to join you in that vision. So, your job, if you choose to accept it, is to outline what you see calmly and rationally to her.

Outline what the limitations and positives are, and what steps you think have to be taken to avert the bad things you see coming. In other words, you have to envision a future worth living in, but that’s only the first step: You have to figure out how to go step-by-step into that future WITH her. And you have to help her to understand that she’ll be giving up a lot to change her lifestyle, and that you understand and sympathize with that. And she will. And you will. And she is the other side of your ambivalence helping you to stay the same – frozen with indecision. I’ll have more to say about this stuff later.*

>>But it has already put a strain on our relationship, which is hard for me to bear.

This strain will, unfortunately, be the first of many. Be clear about how you want to be and act towards her when you disagree about something, and remain true to that way. But understand that you do neither her NOR you a favor by allowing her to be the bright side, while you remain the dark side. You need her optimism. All is NOT lost for those with the courage and wisdom to act. She needs your vision of a future that YOU find worth living in. She’ll be willing to tolerate the pain if it will lead to positive growth, not just more pain.

>>I think, in the end, if we are able (we are in our mid-to-late thirties) we will have a child, because I do not want to lose her, when it comes down to it.

That is a popular, but terrible reason to be a father. If a woman told you that she was going to have a child in order to “keep her man” would you applaud? I doubt it. You’d say any man who’d pressure her into having a child isn’t worth keeping. If you make a conscious decision to bring a child into this world of strife, you had better be fully prepared to provide a decent future for them.

>>And, if we have a child, I will bear the guilt for as long as I live of whatever suffering comes to that child in these times we’re heading towards, because I knew better. So this feels like a crucifixion.

It is a crucible, not a crucifixion. It is a trial, pressure that will either crack you or transform you. I hope the latter. If you believe yourself, if you actually DO know better, than I’m curious to know just what you plan to do. Is your plan to keep those children and grandchildren safe and happy, or face into your conscience and work with your wife on a different (childless or perhaps adoption) plan for the future and suffer her deep disappointment at not having a biological child?

>>I know everyone else must be going through similar sh*t.

You are definitely not alone in this,, and that’s why you want your story heard. You want to know that other people are dealing with this and are working through it. You want to know that this is something a person CAN work through…that it is something a marriage can survive.

>>It’s all crazy, and feels very unreal. I think we’re going to get more experience of the feel of unreality.

Actually, GN, I think the opposite. I think we’ll increasingly have the feeling of things getting very very real. The only “unreality” will be the stories they tell us on the television news. These will be increasingly out of whack with what our own lives and the lives of people around us tell us. That’s why we all need to Shut that TV OFF!

I am interested in your response to what I’ve written, and in knowing more about the details of your situation, if you care to share.

If not, I’ll thank you now for this most interesting letter. I’m sure it will resonate with many of my readers, especially the marital issues piece.

I wish you great wisdom and strength in the future.


Peak Shrink

P.S. Baseball doesn’t need fossil fuel. Are you on a team?


* I’m working on, what I believe to be, an important post on marriage between what I call “Convinced Spouses” and “Skeptical Spouses.” I will outline the types of issues that are common, to this type of marriage, but this post will do more. It will attempt to describe the sorts of emotional shifts that need to happen in both people for healing and reconciliation to begin. It will be directed at the general reader, as well as the professional couple’s therapist.

I’m inviting people who may be interested in reviewing my drafts, and commenting on them, to contact me. I’m particularly interested in reviewers who find themselves in that sort of relationship dynamic (Convinced/Skeptical). If you’d like to be a reviewer of this piece (and don’t worry, I’ll be hitting up the ‘usual suspects’) write to me at peakshrink AT peakoilblues DOT com.

Here’s a sample:

Strained Social Networks

The Convinced Spouse may now merely “endure” the “endless chatter” about “trivial things” that captivate the interests of their mutual friends. Social activities like new purchases, dining, vacationing, and other leisure activities now seem like a dreadful waste of time. If the Convinced Spouse does go along, the “false smiles” it may be obvious to the sensitive Skeptical Spouse. Obviously, one can’t ‘insist’ that the other enjoy themselves, but the lack of true pleasure often taints the fun of the Skeptical Spouse. Fights may follow. What was once an area of mutual pleasure and joint renewal and refreshment has now become filled with tension.

If new Peak Oil social networks are created, these prove to be equally “alien territory” for the Skeptical Spouse. If they found one person full of “doom and gloom” talk, now they must tolerate a hornet’s nest full of them…

About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.


  1. Dear GN
    Exactly 4 years ago, I was where you are with peak oil understanding. Although much older than you, being a professional contingency planner with many decades of experience, this strained my brain cells as I could see no solution, a condition I was not trained to handle. For 2-3 weeks I didn’t sleep well at night, running through all kinds of scenarios of what would happen to my wife and myself, but more importantly, our son and daughter-in-law and our 3 grandchildren, which ranged in age from 5 to 16 at the time. After many days of wrestling with this issue, I started sharing my concerns with my wife, right around our 40th anniversary. She tried to absorb the magnitude of what I was sharing, much of the time in disbelief, but after 4 decades of listening to me, she knew there must be a kernel of truth in this. I have always been the optimist, not seeing the glass half full, but maybe 2/3 full. I started researching all the information I could find and began to see the glass now more clearly as half empty. I had been a firm believer in the triumph of technology, having been on the team that started the computer revolution 45 years ago. Now technology had run into the brick wall of reality. The most innovative hybrid car will go no where if it runs into a brick wall. It will just be a pile of wreckage, but a person can take that wreckage and turn it into something else, certainly not the sleek smooth running hybrid it was, and possibly not even a means of transportation, but probably something useful to maintain and sustain life.

    That first year I began formulating a strategy for using the time we have now to prepare for later (saving for a rainy day) for not only my wife and myself, but our son and his family also. It was then that I stumbled on to Peak Oil Blues. Dr. Kathy has been able to unravel a lot of the mental spaghetti that I and others had encountered with this issue and give it some meaning. She and her DH have had to weed their way through this mental mine field and have been able to quantify the mental processes and decode them. This isn’t new territory for mankind, as their have been all kinds of threats over the centuries that seemed insurmountable, but this is the first instance I have found of someone trained to deal with human mental processes has been able to begin addressing the myriad feelings that arise from “peak oil”, the granddaddy of all disasters.

    So what advice can I offer you? First don’t neglect the spiritual part of your life, it will play a big role in your dealing with this issue. Secondly, you have taken a wife to be your helpmate. Part of your vows were in “sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” you were to honor and cherish her as she was to do the same for you. Nowhere in those vows was an asterisk that said “unless peak oil issues overwhelm me” at the bottom. Her survival, as well as yours, depends on the both of you clinging to each other through what lies ahead, planning together, thinking together, acting together. No, she may not see the big picture yet, two years from now she will begin seeing more evidence of what you are seeing today. Thirdly, you need to have a sense of history, in general, and of your own family. One hundred and thirty years ago, there wasn’t much of anything other than the printed word, clothing, some food, and a roof over their heads, that we have today as a family. Yet your great great grandparents were able to put together a workable life, good enough to have your great grandparents, so that one day you could have life too. Their future wasn’t too rosy then, retirement and vacations didn’t exist, they would work until they died on the job. Health care was virtually non-existent for most. But yet, they saw a future ahead as long as they could persevere.

    Fourth, when I learned to fly some 40 years ago, The constant instruction drummed into me time after time after time was “FLY THE AIRPLANE”. It doesn’t matter whether your radio or electrical system is working, the weather outside is causing all kinds of violent flight actions, the engine is sputtering, or there are visible flames coming from the engine, FLY THE AIRPLANE. You don’t have to land at O’Hare or Palm Springs for your flight to be a success, you just need to land somewhere and walk away. My advice to you would be “LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE FULLEST” while starting to gather the skills and tools needed to walk away with your family after you have landed, be that on a nice concrete runway or a rough clearing in the woods. “LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE FULLEST” is the equivalent of “FLY THE AIRPLANE”.

    Two of my personal mottoes that have guided me through most of my working years are “Expect the Best” and “Deliver What You Promise”. You and your wife had made promises to each other in your wedding, the only two people on this earth that can keep them are you and your wife. You should ask yourself are you delivering your best, or are you letting a process that will unfold over several decades rob you of the joy you two can share now? By the time you are my age (68), you can look back and say we did our best and we are still going on, no matter what the outside world is doing. Keep out of movies that are downers, they will just feed your anxieties, and as Peak Shrink has said, turn off the TV. Discover board games, work puzzles together (how boring—except it builds relationships, which will survive). Broaden your interests by reading (the lost art), not just peak oil stuff, but history, economics, spiritual guides, sociology, how-to,and humor to name a few. If you are a techno geek as I was, you tend to be a stick figure. By broadening your interests you can become more 2 dimensional and finally 3 dimensional. Good luck on your journey, it will be an interesting one for sure. Chuck

  2. Well…actually my take on the feelings I have/we all have about Peak Oil is THE way I can cope with this and do what I can to alleviate what I feel is en route for others is to know that I myself definitely wont be on the receiving end of any “shit” P.O. mean to our lives. Because I know that if things get too bad then i can “check out”. If I didnt have that option to “check out” then I really dont think I could handle it – knowing I had no option BUT to put up with whatever comes my way. I have “drawn my line in the sand” beyond which I will not go – hopefully I will never ever come anywhere remotely near that “line” – but if I find I’m thrown in that direction regardless – then I can cope because I can ensure I dont have to go beyond that line.
    I’m sure that I cant be the only one who has decided “Thus far – and no further” and set limits beyond which we would simply refuse to accept it any longer and “ship out”.

    I have often wondered why on earth prisoners-of-war in World War 2, for instance, put up with those conditions. It thoroughly puzzles me why they didnt just think “blow this – I’m outa here” – as it must have been possible for them to find “that way out” if they were determined enough. There are circumstances so bad that only a masochist stays and puts up with them – being a prisoner-of-war was one of them and having to put up with too high a level of “shit” from Peak Oil changes to my Society would be another.

  3. Well, Ceridwen,

    I know this is going to sound like a joke, but the worst time to kill yourself is when you are feeling depressed and suicidal.

    A funny thing happens to a lot of us when we actually have to live through the “horrors” that we imagine: We still want to live.

    My Dad was famous for saying, in his younger years: “If I get sick, just give me the Black Pill. I don’t want to suffer.” Well, he did get sick, and he did suffer, but not once did he ask for the Black Pill. Life gets precious when there’s less of it to waste. Starving people in blighted countries (like poor Haiti) also don’t develop eating disorders.

    Look, whatever gets you through the night, great. Everyone likes to know they have options…


    That was a really nice comment. It has been MY honor to call you my friend. You’ve done a bit of ‘decoding’ for me as well. Your knowledge is phenomenal, and you’ve always been generous sharing it here.

    Thank you.

  4. I would “check out” before winding up like Viggo and kid in “The Road”. So my personal line ends with the doomstead. I won’t be a wandering refugee.

    But to get back to the person in question… As a fellow techno-nerd, let me say, the problem has to do with being decisive and assertive.

    I am a very non-confrontational guy, and I have tried and tried again to get my family on board, because I am a single father and have a hard enough time managing things under BAU. I’m now unemployed and having a hard time deciding whether to go back to the cubicle or take this as my sign to start a more peak-oil-friendly career, with all of the short-term sacrifices that entails. Right now the only thing pulling me into a World Made by Hand direction is myself, my own heart. Everybody else around me is asking me to side with business as usual, otherwise I’m being a “bad father” and a dead-beat.

    This is a snapshot of the psychology of being peak oil aware at the 5 year mark, BTW. I’ve taken the transition training course and can’t find a single initiator other than me in a town of 30,000 people!

    My ability to cope with what’s gonna go down is all wrapped up in not being alone. I could have the best doomstead in the world but if I’m now considered the blacksheep of the family and the village idiot, then what kind of life is that??

    Likewise, I just don’t know how long anybody can live a dual life between being the model worker by day in a job that is unfulfilling, and then spend all the rest of your waking hours secretly prepping with the cover story that it’s a “hobby”, it is just dysfunctional. It’s leading a dual life. Like being a closeted homosexual.

    Call it “FLY THE PLANE” all you want, but you only go through life once. I’d be surprised if anybody dropping the red pill is the same person afterwards. The things that drove you towards career X may now seem quaint but irrelevant.

    So really what peak oil does, is cause you to stop living on autopilot and ask yourself what truly matters. If you’re gonna get eaten by the zombie horde in a decade, do you want to spend the last years of your life on the office worker treadmill just to maximize your income, just so you can keep paying for the daycare and the mortgage on the McMansion? Or risk the slings and arrows of ostracism and join an ecovillage or move to some hippie-ish town in Vermont?

    Staying on the fence, as I’ve been for some time, just can’t last. I can look back to a half a decade of anxiety and timewasting that I could have otherwise put towards making true lifestyle changes.

    Sorry for inserting my story so much into your story, but maybe you’ll find some commonality.

  5. Dan Treecraft says:


    Wow! I think you should do this for a living! Your advice to GN was, if I may judge it, sound in its content, and generous in its volume. Chuck’s six bits worth was also worth the effort.

    Having spent so much time reading all this… and otherwise having so little to add to it – I’d like to offer a tiny bit of advice.

    GN – what the doc says about negotiating the problem of bringing a kid into the world is pretty good stuff, methinks. For a woman, and a psychologist, she’s pretty high savvy.

    I’m soon-to-be 61 myself. I don’t have any kids, as far as I know. If I do, they never call or write. I came to the same conclusion about bringing children into the world as you have – back in the 70’s. Fathering a child didn’t look very smart then. Since it didn’t look like a “good idea” to me, I also didn’t think it would be very “fair” if I did. I have been careful about this – also lucky, to be sure. You must be on that same page, now.

    There have been times when I’ve had my doubts about my decision – seeing the richness that having a family can offer, and sometimes feeling left out. On the other hand, you know there have been plenty of opportunities to feel great relief at not having kids.

    Having kids seems (mostly) to provide, among other things, a tremendous opportunity for personal growth – emotional, spiritual… “maturation”. I’m sure I missed out on plenty of that. But, when I look around me, now, at the trajectory the world has followed, and where things are today, I am 100% certain and glad that I made the decision I did. If I have ended up a few clicks less mature than my peers who have kids, let me tell you: that awareness doesn’t cause me as much lost sleep as would the thought of having brought children into this world, knowing what I’ve known and felt in my head and my gut all these years. It would not be at all fair to have done otherwise.

    Take your cues on how to approach such candid communication from Kathy – I think she’s top drawer – but BE CANDID with your wife. It will never be so important to be fully open and honest with your wife as it is today. God forbid that she doesn’t deserve your complete honesty and integrity. The stress of wrenching honesty, today, will pass. The resentment of doing otherwise will last a very, very long time.

    I don’t know who should get attribution for this, but I love it:

    “There are two kinds of intimate relationships: those that fail, and those that are difficult.”

    Aye, that!

    You have lots of company, as far as feeling extremely depressed about the state of the world. Keep in touch with your cohorts here, friend. Don’t compromise your quality. Soldier on with this difficulty. You’ve got goods.

  6. Well, we’ve all been there :)
    You should watch the movie about Cuba and how they survived their mini peak oil (“The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”). Very good movie (of course there’s a little propaganda, but…), helped me a lot.

    I am newly wed as well, it’s a bit scary but I cannot do anything about it :) I would feel much better if I had my own place, unfortunatelly I dont (but I am saving and praying that money wont turn into worthless pieces of paper). It ties my hands a bit.

    I dont know what you mean by standard tech skills, I am a computer programmer so I decided to learn hobbyist difgital electronics – I think it will be quite good skill when everything will start decaying and turning into trash :> I am planning to do some small scale gardening as well – just to be able to grow my own vegetables if I have to (which is not very easy).

    Actually I am looking forward to see that big event, I hope it wont be earlier than 3 years from now. Think about it like this: it’s gonna change our lives forever, it’s gonna bring us closer to each other again, our grandchilder will remember it as THE EVENT. There will be more work for everybody (global companies will turn into local people), we will see the jobs which we would expect to see again. Everyone will be fit :>

    It’s gonna be fun, I promise 😉

    (sorry for my english)

  7. Harbinger says:

    Hey GN, I really sympathize with your feelings on your newly discovered challenge concerning peak oil. It is beyond just being an eye opener. It basically changes every feeling you’ve had about any detail in your life. You are now at the reprogramming stage of your interpretation of anything, really. But that is actually a good thing. Better being awake than in total sheep slumber, eh?
    Anyhow, my kids and their spouses (a son/daughter-in-law and a daughter/son-in-law) all in their mid-to-late twenties twenties, are dealing with the baby issue. Both my daughter and her sister in law really love children and yearn to have one of their own. Even though they are stable financially, and their relationships are solid, after seeing things unfold around them, jobs and friends predicaments, inability to finance houses, the economic downturn,etc. all thought it was in their better interest to postpone the child issue for the next few years. Instead both couples decided to get a puppy. They have been having a blast with that endeavor, having sleep over puppy parties, obedience school, and outings. In fact, most of their married friends are doing the same thing while they all hone down their skills with gardening, canning, basic carpentry, and small animal husbandry. I am proud of their decisions and they are proud of their accomplishments. They made a gradual leap into the peak oil predicament and not even under that title. They wouldn’t want to be accused of siding with Mom’s doomer insight. So they did it their way, even my son the engineer who designs jetliner parts for his firm and sits in front of the desk all week. There are people your age who are looking at the status quo through critical eyes lately because their immediate world is being impacted. People who are choosing not to see or are afraid to look and question will just not be prepared. With the right amount of infusion and a few women friends to share some of these hobbies, nothing would have to be done in the name of peak oil, but rather, self-sufficiency, sustainability, homesteading, etc and I believe you could get your wife to come onboard. If that fails, you may want to evaluate what her reticence may mean to you and the relationship. Is it just with this issue or do you see a pattern with other things? Even if it would be hard to imagine life without her, I truly believe that when you step out to consider alternatives in any arena in life and you disband the old notions you have been dragging around hoping things will change, all of a sudden the energy that held you down in the form of fear can now rise up and create a new space for something that fits your life better. It may be incredibly scary to consider not being with her especially as the situation unfolds. Damn, but when will you be courageous? It takes a lot of courage to step out without who you thought was there to support you. Maybe the support was all in your mind. A veritable mirage. You will only know this when physical challenges present themselves to you. Maybe this is the time. Believe me, sitting and waiting for people to “get it” wastes years of your life, figuratively and emotionally. Some people choose to stay children all of their lives and hope that you will be their savior. I say ditch them ASAP. You need an equal partner. Do not hesitate to look FEAR in the FACE and STARE IT DOWN!

  8. I love Kathy’s idea of joining a baseball team- good exercise, good community group, and a relaxer. Connect up with friends and keep physically active, which are great preps for the changes coming.
    Your wife’s willingness to support gardening and foraging are a good sign- these are practical and positive skills and (for the present) ‘hobbies’ which can be translated into good food and enduring life skills. Many women, in my experience, want to do something positive instead of talk about negative ideas. With this in mind, starting your garden, practicing foraging, perhaps doing a bit of camping (and picking up some camping gear at garage sales), going to a solar cooking event or a local transition town potluck, working with a local food coop (and going out to dinner at your local natural foods restaurant or in-store deli counter), and many, many other similar events can be fun and informative ways to spend good time together and explore alternatives without a huge negative load.
    This is all another way of saying “live life with happiness, and with a plan to explore skills and possibilities which will prepare your family to survive and thrive.” I wish you the very best.

  9. Gee you guys are mostly negative. There will be good things too. Look at the bright side. You who is getting married. After your kid is born, and a few year down the road, your wife is going to bored with you, she will seek out. She will long for the spark of lust again and start dreaming, or actually going off cheating. You won’t be able to compare the lust and excitment of the new guys. Then she will dump your arse. All the welfare benefits, the alimony and child support, the favorable property settlement, restraining orders to keep you out of her life…..while you help pay for it……thats the future bro…….but then comes Peak Oil…and suddenly…..she’s going to need you. Any women who has a good man after that, is not going to be navel gazing and day dreaming about searching for her true self…..and seeking out lust and excitment…..women will no which side the bread is buttered on again. She will know that a good man is the most treasured thing she can have…..the thing that makes her life possible….maybe even pleasant. Women have been able to live a world created and maintained by men, that enables them to believe that…..they don’t need men….and that men are useless…..this illusion will vanish.

    I see many benefits stemming from the collapse of our current civilisation. The opportunity for you to become what you were meant to be……a real man…..with real skills…….with a real family…..a wife that loves and needs you……children that are yours…….not merely your child support payments……the family unit will be the primary thing in life…..the community will be second…..and all the bullshit the passes for interests and life today will be exposed for what it is……just mindless consumerism and trivial distractions to stop you going crazy in our emotional and spiritual voids.

    If you look at how we live today….compare it to how say….people in the 1850s lived…….it would be like comparing us….to the dudes in the podes in the matrix. Why the hell would you want out of the podes when they provide everything you need….and you get a full virtual reality life while you get provided for nice and safe in your cacoon. Just one prob……it aint real……and everything you do in your life will not be real either……..because your not really doing anything……thats how we live. Now take that wake up pill and stop wishing you can go back to your pod and deal with reality.

  10. Fistasfast says:

    Hey Pete,
    I think you have some good points to make about the reality of men and women needing to live interdependently with each other in the future. And then, some women do emulate your ideal stone-buster existence. And that is sad, powerful and screwed up.
    But like every other reality in this life, there are other alter realities. Some women don’t take their ex-guys to the cleaners. Some women are THE wage earners in the family. In most families, there are now two wage earners. And in some families with kids there are NO guys.
    During the war women took over a huge percentage of the jobs available while their men were getting killed. Rosie the riveter?
    BTW, the only reason the world appears to be run by men and is supposedly MADE by men is because of their granted power in this misogyist culture. If you look up that word, and the history behind woman’s debased status you may get a clue as to why being female means being subordinated in this world. But that would take a woman’s history course. And an open mind.
    As far as actualizing this world MADE by men, who was doing all the grunt work behind the scenes? Who was cooking for him, cleaning his clothes, processing any food or farm stock? Bearing and raising his children for 18 odd years? Have you yourself done any of that? Do you know what it is like to raise children and work fulltime? With or without the child support, and especially with minimal amounts of child support , if any, could you have any clue as to how hard it would be to raise children and still take care of yourself, the house and the bills? If you haven’t walked a mile in anyone’s moccasins, then please do not pretend that you could ever understand. And I agree some men have lived an equally strife-torn life trying to keep up their payments for children they never get to see. Both parties are losing out here, albeit in different ways.
    I do agree that in the future when we return to a implicitly sexist world again, no doubt, in order for an ordinary women to defend herself or stay alive she will most likely do better having a man to defend her while she goes back to the gut-wrenching hardship women in the past have faced mainly because she may not have a choice. So, again, men will have a life-indentured servant and all the supposed “nothing life” women have now will “seem” so superfluous. But that is not saying much when one half of the population no longer has a voice or many choices. It doesn’t mean their dreams and aspirations had no meaning before that. It just means women are back to being brutally repressed again. What an achievement! Think about how that might feel to one of your sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers? Daughter? Have any clue as to why women in other cultures set fire to themselves when they are bonded at 12 years old to sixty year old men?
    I know it is hard to understand all of this but do try to put the pieces together.
    Oh yeah, believe it or not in this day and age some women even live a life without a man and find a man useless in this world “that is created and maintained by men” despite the evidence that much of the labor statistics indicate a fairly equal split of domestic and blue collar work being shared congruently between both sexes. Not all work is done in construction or the trades. A large part of the economy is comprised of other domestic labor in the service industry. The only way our system can run.
    And with or without the encouragement of video games and their own boot camp experiences girls and women are also the products of this brutal culture. Just check out the angst of any girl band lately. You may one day find yourself being sniped by a group of militant women keeping out of the clutches of those specific entrapments. Goood luck.

  11. I’m 59 and I’ve been PO since 2002 or so and its MUCH easier these days than it was then. So give it time. For all the talk about shifting paradigms, and they do shift suddenly) in the meantime they fester and patch and kludge for quite a while first.

    Right now the dying model in your system is filling it with toxic stuff and you just need to keep scooping it out while the new model is being readied to burst into life.

    The day it does you wont be able to remember what it was like before.

    Practically, I would engage your wife through her desire to have children. Take her seriously and expect to be taken seriously when you start really planning for that future child.

    When she makes an assumption about the school to choose or the insurance to buy etc,, take it on board and do the research. Make sure she is part of that research and don’t just look at past academic or social successes. I have friends who work in child psychology in upstate NY; their programme has taken a 40%+ cut in funding in the last 12 months and there will be more cuts to come. Check out the endowments for each and every school and ask how stable and sustainable they are.

    Same with the community. Many municipalities and even states are now on the verge of bankruptcy, cutting public work hours, reducing maintenance etc. Map them, ask what the implications of those decisions will be, use them to find the best location you can afford.

    Same with your work. You don’t say what your business is, but do some analysis of your prospects. My wife is our income earner and she has 2 years to run on her contract. I assigned a 20% chance she will renew with a raise, 40% that she gets downgraded, 20% that she is not renewed and 20% that her contract is bought out before it completes.

    Just doing that focuses the attention. Doing it in the context of planning for something that matters to your wife will give her good reason to take things seriously.

    Contemplating death is not a bad thing; we are going to have to do more of it as this rolls out and I already had a conversation with a mate about the possibility that euthanasia will be the most common form of death for the boomer generation as we choose between our own lives and those of our kids and grandchildren. He agreed.

    The other day while walking up my garden, the thought came up, “this would be a good place to die”. I’m not sick, I expect and hope to live at least another 15 years, mostly because I REALLY want to see how this plays out. But when the time comes, to die in my own garden, surrounded by productivity and vitality, by living things buzzing with energy in an environment that I have mostly built myself; that would be good. I tucked it away in the back of my mind but from now on, it will always be there. Its not frightening or morbid, but it is real and we need to understand it.

    BTW, I’m an atheist. It helps a lot if you have lived your life on the understanding that there is no magical pathway out of this and that this life, here, today, right now, is the only one you are going to get so make the most of it and don’t waste time keeping score or being eaten by guilt or regret or shame.

    Like you, I was a 20th century tech/business person, in media. Now I’m a gardener who spent the morning putting new chicken wire on the henhouse to keep the sparrows from eating the chickens’ mash. I got rained on and I’m still damp from it and it fells good, really good. I live in suburban Auckland NZ and I’m having a ball, preparing, learning, gaining new skills and realising that I CAN do this.

    I can’t change the world, I probably can’t change my street by argument or persuasion. But I can change myself and the way I live, I can, in Gandhi’s words, be the change that I want to see. My neighbours see it and when they need to know how to do it, I’ll be here ready to help.

    In the meantime I drive a 20 year old utility truck and a very small Opel derivative 1400cc 12 years old, I don’t have a big screen TV or shag pile carpets and I give away surplus eggs, zucchini, cabbages, rhubarb, whatever because if you have nothing much in the way of material wealth but can afford to give away food, maybe you know something worth knowing and worth preserving.

    PO, it changes your whole life, not just the bit between your ears.

  12. Rachel Roddam says:

    Great letter GN. I have been in equilibrium over peak oil for years now, and found that your letter eloquently expressed so many of the thoughts and feelings many of us experience on that journey. You have already contributed to improving our world by sharing your letter. Thank you.
    PS I am involved with the Transition Towns movement.

Speak Your Mind