Geologists and Engineers are Today’s Peak Oil Cowboys


Hello Penelope Trunk readers!  She’s a great consultant!

She “outed me,” though.  I don’t like to talk about my clients, but I do like to work with engineers, geologists, and those in the energy sector. However, I’d never name names.

These are men of action, and they know how to do things.  I have an ‘I-can-do-that’ envy.

Not all of these guys have woken up to the reality of Peak Oil.  The guy at Peak Engineering believes there are six reasons for this:

(1)  Everything still looks normal.

“Just look around you — there are no signs of Peak Oil”.

(2) Supply and Price

Older guys remember that when the price of oil goes through the roof, so do the investment dollars.

“For example, forty years ago the offshore industry in the Gulf of Mexico consisted primarily of small, four leg platforms in shallow water (less than 1000 feet). As production from these platforms declined and oil prices went up, so the industry was able to move into deeper and deeper waters, with considerable success.”

(3)  Technology- évidemment

(4)  Crying Wolf

“I heard this once before, and it all turned out to be exaggerated and misleading. Fool me once: shame on you; fool me twice: shame on me.”

(5)  Imagination

“We don’t serve neutrinos here,” says the bartender.
A neutrino walks into a bar.

(That’s an Internet physics joke)

Look at this great letter I got from a geologist in 2006:

Good Evening Peak Shrink,

I found your website a few weeks ago and have spent several evenings reading the stories and going through the site. After some debate while reading your website, I thought I might add a different perspective from a person that has the means and the past to deal with this issue in his own way.

First of all, I used to literally live in the oil field. I am a Professional Geologist by trade. I used to direct oil rigs drilling for oil. For many years I averaged 30 weeks a year in the field, babysitting drilling rigs. After a few years of gaining experience, I became a wildcatter with a fellow Geologist, started a independent oil company in [MidWest]and eventually found a nice oil field on the [MidWest] line. My partner and I found several other minor oil wells and we were eventually bought out by our rich [Western US] investors. I kept my royalties/working interest and now I find it most ironic, that I am spending my oil money in preparation for Peak Oil. I would add that I have watched my own oilfields hit Peak Oil and start their own decline curves, the same as they all will do worldwide, with time.

I learned about Peak Oil about 15 months ago from a wall street Market Watch article on stock investing, and since then I have dedicated a part of nearly every day in preparation for this event. I have read and own most all of the Peak Oil books. My library of books concerning Solar, Gardening, Root Cellaring, Organic Farming, Alternate Energy, etc., etc. has grown large enough to stock a small book case and I have read every one of them, several of them more than once.

I was divorced 16 years ago and raised my 20 year-old daughter as a single parent. Now that she is in college, I live alone. I have made several moves to prepare for peak oil. At first, I reacted as many of you have when learning and understanding the concept Peak Oil. I was in a daze for several weeks unsure of “what to do”. I overreacted by immediately purchasing a -40 degree sleeping bag, a water purification kit, a solar battery charger, a solar powered radio and a few other small items including a lot of ammunition for the several guns that I own. As I became more convinced that the books and articles were correct, I decided to make several moves that would enhance my country home and make me more self sufficient. I am in the camp of the early peakers. I think we are about there, but not quite. Mexico showed us a few things this year when they made up our lost Prudhoe Bay production (way to go BP). Now we have found what looks to be a major oil field producing from a new horizon in the Gulf. This all will help delay Peak Oil and give us time to get ready.

Fortunately, I live on 20 acres with lots of woods, a lake and a view, located in rural Nebraska. The house I built nine years ago is a very energy efficient home. I built this house to withstand the wind, cold and in general, the worst of Nebraska weather, 2X6 walls, R-50 insulation, triple pane gas filled windows, big garage protecting the house from the North winds, etc. Because I have a great job and with my oilfield money, I have taken some steps that many of your readers have wished they could do and some have. I feel very fortunate. Maybe I am still over-reacting, but these actions should make me more self sufficient and increase the value of the house, when the time comes for my daughter to sell it because I am not around. I try to take a conservative line just in case we are wrong about when Peak Oil will occur. If it’s later than sooner, she can sell this place and deal with Peak Oil in her own way. I have talked to her about it, starting to get her familiar with the concept. She and her boyfriend have been very receptive to the issue as much as 20 year olds can be. She thinks some of the stuff I have done is pretty cool and probably a little weird.

I have spent the last nine months designing and installing a 1.35 Kilowatt off-the-grid solar power system for the house. I was amused that the last time my daughter came up to visit, she headed directly downstairs to see how I was progressing on the project. She likes to look at the solar electrical equipment hanging on the wall in the laundry room. Not to mention the bright red Rolls Surrette batteries sitting in their enclosure being recharged each day. I have recently brought the system on line and hey, it’s not that hard to live with an all 120 volt solar powered house. My power company actually called me this week to warn me that I may have read the meter wrong because it was 1/4 of what is has been. I had to laugh and explain to her that the reading was right. The 220 volt stuff like the well pump is still on the grid and so is the fridge, the electric oven and the AC/Heating, but every one of those items can be swapped out for propane or wood and they will be soon. The only thing I can’t find a good alternative for is the well pump. My well is 450 deep and it takes a 240 volt pump to bring the water to the surface and pressurize a house. However, advances are being made even for that problem.

This summer I put in a 40 X 50 foot garden, importing the top 22 inches of top soil and removing same from the gardens location. Our soil here is pure clay so I overexcavated the garden area with a track Caterpillar and removed about 150 cubic yards of clay and replaced it with good black dirt. Since then I am growing veggies organically. No synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The entire garden is surrounded with multiple layers of solar powered electric fence to keep the critters out. It works well and the food is great.

The last project for this year is a high end wood burning stove installation. I am going to install a Vermont Castings wood burning stove. That little project is already underway as I am reinforcing around one attic roof truss that I must cut, to center the stove in the room. Once the truss work is finished, the stove installation will be easy. It will be in by the end of October. I have been cutting, splitting and selling all the wood from my acreage with friends for nine years, no more. The wood is now being stockpiled for me and the stove.

Last winter I purchased a Honda Civic that is currently getting 41.4 MPG, because I drive 97% two lane highway at 60 MPH, 20 miles to get to work. The Honda is not a hybrid. The car replaced my 3/4 ton Chevy pick-up that got 12 MPG.

My lake is stocked with edible fish and is self supporting with bluegills, catfish and bass. Fishing will be my retirement one way or the other. Either for survival or hopefully, for just the sport and an occasional fish supper.

So I have addressed several energy issues and self sufficiency issues the first year, and there will be more to come I would like an “on demand” water heater, a propane powered stove, high efficiency fridge (Sun Frost) and a root cellar. I would also like to add to the solar system to include 240 volt. We’ll work on that the next year. I don’t talk to many people about Peak Oil, when they see what I have done, especially the big solar array that sits beside my house and follows the sun, I just tell them it’s time to address the higher cost of energy and that I believe it will go much higher soon. I think they get the feeling that I am probably right, but little is said. Like the books say, everyone hates bad news. The one person that will talk about the future with me, is my electrician who helped me install the solar system. He thinks that I am doing the right thing and is making some moves himself. I have another friend who is well versed on Peak Oil, but has lived a sustainable life style for many years, way before we ever considered the concept of Peak Oil. He lives in a beautiful straw bale designed house on 20 acres that is heated solely by wood and grows and raises much of his own food. He has a wife and three kids. He is way ahead of me and I envy him. He has bees for honey, chickens for eggs and meat, goats for milk, an organic garden, a large greenhouse and participates in farming partnerships with his neighbors for other food items.

So in my first year I have enhanced the value of my home and my lifestyle. I feel nothing is wrong with that, and it gives me something to do during my free time. Are these things the right things to do? I think so but who knows really, Peak Oil has never happened before, and what will actually happen is anyone’s guess. But I do know the wolf is truly at the door and our Government as well as most people are doing nothing about this issue, and don’t have a clue that something bad is coming. Our railroads are in miserable shape and our government still protects the American auto manufacturer, so we continue to use oil for transportation at a ridiculous rate. Mother earth has had just about enough and soon we all will have to deal with reality, one way or another. The global economy is about to come to an end and as a guy with a degree in science, (geology) it will be most interesting to watch for as long as I can.

I am enjoying this evening writing this note with my computer running on today’s sun and it’s a great feeling. Makes me think that if the population as a whole will start to make some basic changes like I have, and many of you have, then we will be fine. We have just got to get started and that’s the hardest part.

Good luck to you all out there. I have enjoyed your articles. It’s interesting hearing from the folks across the rest of the country on this issue and what you are doing about it. Keep up the good work.

Former Wildcatter Eating Bass


He’s writing on his solar powered computer!

Or this engineer who wrote me privately;

“Keep in mind I am living in two worlds: in my professional life in a huge, conservative, fossil fuel extraction corporation, and in my private life in a small, liberal, renewable energy supporting community. My professional life is extremely lucrative and quite frankly boring, but it supports my personal life. Last year, I worked professionally on multimillion dollar work in coal mining and Canadian oilsands mining; but I also converted a car from diesel to waste vegetable oil which I drive regularly; installed a small wind turbine; installed a micro hydro plant and; took a course in photovoltaics.

Here is the thing: each world perceives the other world as a threat, so I am a threat to both, but the hard reality is that neither one can achieve their agenda without the other, and they are both in denial about that. I am sort of a bridge between both – I’m groping with what kind of bridge, but I guess one day I will figure it out.


This same guy cured his own severe diabetes through diet change, while traveling half the year on business trips.

These are the real tough “cowboys” in today’s world.  And these are men who’d like to think  that talking to a psychologist is in the same light as having their palms read, or signing up to compete in a high school popularity contest…but they know better.  Eating bass alone gets, well, lonely. They don’t like is to have to talk about their feelings or their fears. They prefer to fix and build stuff.  They like to solve problems, but maintaining a satisfying marriage is one of those things that they try to fix, but it just doesn’t stay fixed.  So being practical people, they look for someone who knows that we’ve got big problems AND can talk about the feelings stuff and specializes in fixing marriages.

And then they are shocked when I tell them I have to speak to their wives.

“Why the fudge do you have to do that?”

But I insist, and they are stunned that their wives are delighted to talk to anybody about how to get through to their husbands.  Even some psychologist who calls herself a “Peak Shrink.”  And if their husbands are willing to talk to a psychologist, they want to know how I did it.

How do you get him to talk to  you?

But that is secondary.  I tell her that that’s not the important part.  The important part is my teaching her how to talk to him. And visa verse.

I think part of the trick for why this all works, and they start really talking and cooperating with each other is that… I’m a groupie .

I admire the modern day energy cowboys.  I see them offering us hope for a better future.


Canadian Physician with Panglossian Wife

“Contempt is also the single best predictor of divorce. A husband’s contempt predicts the number of infectious illnesses his wife will experience in the next four years. ”  

Dear Peak Shrink,

I’m a family physician in Ontario, Canada, and I’m married with four children all under the age of 8.  I first heard the words “peak oil” in 2007, and began to realise the full implications (peak money, peak food, peak population etc) in 2008.  I’ve been preparing in a low key way ever since (more about what I’ve been doing below).  But my main problem from the start has been that my wife is absolutely not on the same page with this, to the extent that we are both now starting to be concerned about our marriage.

My wife is somewhat anxious, obsessive and perfectionist and has strong views on many things which makes her difficult to argue with.  She tends to dismiss me on medical things, for example, even though I’m a family physician (I don’t claim infallibility, but I do know a little bit about this stuff). If our views conflict, she tends to express her own view fairly forcefully and expect that to be the view that goes forward, rather than exploring why I take a slightly different view.

I tried to involve her at an early stage in discussions about peak oil and what we should do about it, strategies for saving for retirement and so on, but she has made it clear on every occasion when I have tried to raise the subject that she does not want to discuss it or even think about it, or look at the evidence.  She deflects all attempts at discussion with responses like “You’re just catastrophising” (is that even a real word?), “What makes you think you’ve got some special insight that other people don’t?” “Pensions are always safe”, “There’s nothing we can do about the economy so there’s no point worrying about it”, “Civilization has got along just fine for the last 300 years so it’s not going to change now,” etc.

Her unwillingness to grasp PO etc isn’t due to any lack of intelligence or education.  I think it probably has its roots in a general insecurity which causes her to need to believe that the world tomorrow will be much the same as it is today, except maybe slightly better, and there won’t be any unexpected or frightening changes.

I’ve looked at other forums discussing the psychological effects of peak oil, and there seems to be a consensus that you can’t tell people about peak oil until they are ready to hear it, and you can’t show people the evidence until they are ready to see it.  So every few months I make a tentative attempt to raise the subject again, I get rebuffed again, so I leave it alone for a few more months.

In the meantime I have been making what preparations I can.  We moved house last year to a 2-acre lot in the countryside surrounded by farms, which is a pretty safe place to be in the event of a fast crash, although I didn’t tell her my main reasons for wanting to be there.  I’m diverting small amounts of cash each month to peak oil preps like buying small quantities of silver, photovoltaic panels when they are on sale, and materials for making raised beds.  I’ve got the kids enthusiastic about planting seeds and growing food, although my wife needless to say is rather dismissive (“You know those watermelon plants are not going to produce any watermelons and the kids are just going to be disappointed, don’t you?”).  We’ll see about that.  And I’ve been networking with like minded people, particularly in my local area.

If she was “on board” with PO, the main change I would like to see is for both of us to work less hard and less long hours, earn less money and spend more time on leisure activities and with the children.  We both work full time plus, although she is cutting back her hours slightly from about 125%, to just full time.  We  juggle our time frantically 24/7 with some outsourcing to school, day care and babysitters.  I would like to spend half an hour a day in the garden showing the kids how to grow flowers and vegetables in raised beds, but I am lucky if I manage half an hour a week.

The reason we work these ridiculous hours is mainly because she is anxious about money.  I can see the sense in doing it until we have paid off the mortgage, and I have told her that after we have paid off the mortgage (in less than 5 years) I want to start running a bit less fast on the hamster wheel, but she is convinced that I need to continue working at this pace until I retire  so that we can build up our retirement nest egg.  I secretly agree with Dmitry Orlov’s thoughts about the retirement nest egg – it’s likely to be more like a retirement dried pea by the time we’re done – and I resent working so hard in order to (probably) see it evaporate away in recession and inflation.  I’ve tried to gently tell her that I have my doubts about this, but she absolutely will not listen.

We recently had a new kitchen installed, with a granite countertop.  That was her idea.  I was quite happy with the old kitchen.  The new kitchen and granite countertop look nice, it was what she really wanted, I don’t begrudge it to her and we haven’t argued about it.  I just think that the price of the new kitchen isn’t measured just in dollars, it’s the 200 or so hours that I spent earning the money, and maybe that time would have been better invested in going on long country walks, or teaching the kids to fly kites, or dipping for dragonfly larvae in the pond.  This is such a different perspective to hers, though, that it’s very difficult to convey it to her.

But I am starting to feel that time may be running out, both for peak oil and maybe my marriage.  The crude oil price is creeping up month by month and I’m anticipating a return to the oil prices of summer ’08 at some point not too far away.  My wife is complaining that I’m quieter that I used to be, I don’t talk to her as much, but it’s difficult to talk to someone who doesn’t want to hear what you have to say, even though there’s a lot we should be talking about and it’s very important.  We are sinking substantial sums of money into our traditional tax efficient retirement savings plans, and if she is expecting disappointment in the watermelon department, I think that will be nothing compared to her disappointment in the pension fund department in the long run.

I don’t expect remote control marriage guidance counselling, but any suggestions (from anyone) would be appreciated.



Canadian Medical Doctor with Panglossian Wife



I have to tell you that your letter stands out for its unusual themes.

Perhaps things are better economically where you live, and your family is financially well off.  Most of my readers struggle for energy and food independence, and if they are in debt, to pay it off.  They are wanting to build a more sustainable community and get to know their neighbors.  It sounds like these issues aren’t ones you share.

As far as your wife goes, I believe there are two kinds of people: those who don’t get it and those who don’t WANT to get it.  I think you put your wife in the second category.  ScienceDaily on Nov. 21, 2011 had an article that quoted new research published by the American Psychological Association that stated that the less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed:

 Participants who felt unknowledgeable about oil supplies not only avoided negative information about the issue, they became even more reluctant to know more when the issue was urgent, as in an imminent oil shortage in the United States, according the authors.   link

You are showing a tremendous amount of patience for what you think of as basically neurotic anxiety.  Your wife insists that each of you work a lot of hours to save for retirement, and then decides to spend a considerable amount of money on a luxury kitchen.  You ask that both of you spend more time with the children, but if falls on deaf ears.

What’s more, with your kids being under 8, the next 10 years are their childhoods and teen years, so if you wait until then to start spending time with them, they won’t appreciate it, I assure you.  They’ll wish you were still working, and would stop “bothering” them.  Someone else will have raised them already.  I’m not a believer that “quality time” is enough.  Kids are all “belly-to-belly” creatures.

You have shared a tremendous amount in your email, and your candor deserves the same from me.

“Quality” Kid Time

You are ultimately responsible for the way you spend your time during your children’s earliest years. They won’t accept “your mother made me do it.”

Would you?

You are ultimately responsible for how well you prepare your children (and the rest of the family) for the future you believe in your heart is coming.  They won’t accept “your mother didn’t believe me, so I didn’t do what I needed to do.”

Would you?

Contempt and Taking on the B*tch


“…the frequency of contemptuous exchanges among happy couples is nearly zero.”

Taking your wife on sounds like a Herculean task.

You’re a physician for heaven’s sake and she won’t take your advice about medicine!

Nevertheless, to do anything less is forcing you to sacrifice something precious to all of us:  an expectation of being treated with respect.

I spend a lot of time talking about contempt in my (hopefully) soon to be available book ‘I Can’t Believe You Think That!

Contempt is THE most damaging emotional expression in intimate relationships, and one of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” that indicates a breakdown in a relationship.   (The other three are criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling.)

From your email, it appears that your wife is demonstrating several seriously corrosive marital interactions, the foremost of which is contempt.

Statements like: “You’re just catastrophising” and “What makes you think you’ve got some special insight that other people don’t?” are all indications.

Contempt is also the single best predictor of divorce.

A husband’s contempt predicts the number of infectious illnesses his wife will experience in the next four years.  Contempt is also a direct attack on the value and worth of another human being, and frequently brings on depression.

It is also interesting to note that the frequency of contemptuous exchanges among happy couples is nearly zero.

Recognizing Contempt:  The Facial Eye-Roll

What is contempt?  Eye-rolling is one facial display.  Gottman defines it this way:

Contempt is typically a statement made to put one’s partner down by taking a superior higher plane than one’s partner, like maintaining the high moral ground. It usually arises from sense that one is better than one’s partner on any dimension, such as neatness or punctuality. People are very creative with contempt and snobbery; the usual method is an insult or calling one’s partner an unflattering name (for example, “you’re a jerk”). One of my favorites is interrupting to correct someone’s grammar when that person is angry with you.

Ekman and Friesen have identified a cross-culturally universal facial expression of contempt called “the dimpler,” which results from the unilateral action of the left buccinator muscle that pulls the left lip corner aside laterally and creates an unflattering dimple on the left side of the face. Contempt may be accompanied by belligerence, which is a provocative form of anger.


Contempt:  Spouse’s Angry Reactions to Peak Oiler’s Sadness and Despair

In couple’s work, we see the expressions of contempt as a response of reactive anger to the emotions of sadness and despair.  We see the display of contempt as creating distance to manage their own intense anxiety that one partner feels in the face of the other partner’s direct request for support, comfort, and nurturance.  It effectively kills trusting feelings, stifles dependency, and reduces the level of commitment and trust.

The message from the contemptuous spouse is “I know you need reassurance of my commitment and caring right now, but I can’t handle that pressure.  I’m going to distance from you.”  Each time  you say “I want to buy a small quantities of silver” or “I want to invest in photovoltaic panels,” and you express your worries and anxieties, she expresses indifference, disrespect, or contempt.  You are asking for  support, nurturance and caring, and she’s responding with criticism, belittlement, and sarcasm.  It is clearly the most corrosive form of relational problems.

We call the style of attachment ‘anxious’ when a partner, faced with sadness or despair, reacts first with anxiety that intensifies into anger.  How could your wife not see your sadness or despair?  Of course she sees it.  But in response, instead of responding to it by supporting you and exploring your concerns with you, she  responds to this sadness or despair with contempt, disgust, or domineering behavior.  She is escalating the negativity in your relationship in dangerous ways, and you are responding by understandable withdrawal.  In your case, a bit too “understanding.”  You do her no favors.

Why do partners react in such a negative way?  Why are partners who are suppose to be loving, act in a condescending distant or neglectful way?  What we have learned through research is that beneath this contempt lies deep feelings of anxious (as opposed to “secure” or “avoidant”) attachment.  For many, this contemptuous spouse is feeling hopeless about ever being truly loved, so they default to “spoiling” the attachment.

 She is exquisitely aware of your withdrawal, even through your “nice guy” presentation, and, most likely, she hates you for it.

The “as if I agree with you” attitude on your part has caused her to have given up trying to connect, really connect, to you.  She is  angry at being asked to be supportive and nurturing of your worries when she, herself, feels you are only giving ‘lip service’ to her deepest fears. She feels abused, tricked into loving a man who only ‘tolerates’ her, instead of deeply, passionately desiring and respecting her. Her hostility says “I won’t be fooled again.  Why should I value you?  You have disappointed me so!  I tried to reach you, (perhaps earlier in the marriage) but it was hopeless!  If I open up to you, you’ll just shut me down later, so the heck with you!”

This is hard for the “caring, patient husband” to really understand.  Why, despite his “endless tolerance” for her “irrationality;” his “acceptance” of her “blind adherence to conventional beliefs,” does she still fly off the handle and respond to him so negatively?  Why does she act so spiteful and belittling to his carefully and rationally delivered, carefully researched facts?

As one Mother wrote:

  • If I’m frustrated with a non-response, as I’m wiping the counters, I roll my eyes.
  • If I’m angry at an overreaction, as I’m walking away to do laundry, I roll my eyes.
  • If I’m tired of all the fighting in my car, as I’m driving along, I roll my eyes.

Marriages and families operate at a certain level of equilibrium normally.  A dance develops where the harder we try to change our partner, the more resistant they become to that change.  The more certain we are of our “rightness,” the more contemptuous they act toward our deeply held convictions.  There are families where one spouse isn’t allowed to even talk about some strongly held beliefs in front of the other, their friends, or their kids.  Those topics are ‘off limits.’  But these silenced partners are hardly helpless victims.  They are carrying out a “demon dance” that is bringing nothing but unhappiness to both of them.

When contempt is exchanged between couples, (or “contempt” and “long-suffering silence”), they have to decide whether to get help, or let it die a slow (or not so slow) relationship death.

While in this marriage, Dr.,  you appear to be more “understanding” of your wife’s spending on things you see as a waste of your earning hours, I’m sure that she has picked up on your attitudes.  The “nice guy” is seldom seen as “fully supportive” by the “b*tch wife.”  Marriage has a way of unwrapping even the thickest social “face” of the dutiful spouse.

Just because your perspective may be “correct” from my point of view, “giving up” to “keep peace” is seldom a useful marital strategy for keeping harmony, in the bedroom or in the kitchen.

Seek out someone who knows what they are doing in the marital therapy world and made TRUE peace, not this distancing stance you’ve adopted.

Good luck.

Peak Shrink

The Endangered Planet & Me

Here is a story Mike Monett sent and requested that I post on POB:

I began this bio on my 56th birthday, March 29th, 2010.

It is not about the events of my life but is the story of how my feelings about the world developed, written to make sense of the psychological struggles I am having in recent years thinking about the coming consequences of climate change and other environmental harm, peak oil, financial collapse, the decline of news media, the disintegration of politics, and the epidemic of denial about all of these…


Chapter One

My earliest years, the late 1950s and early 1960s, were relatively tranquil I now know, so I don’t remember being afraid about wars or other crises.

I grew up with a brother and three sisters in a safe and nice neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. I had bad allergies, and was very shy through my eight years of Catholic grade school, but I recall my childhood as pleasant and happy. I breezed through both grade school and high school with straight A’s but always lived for the beautiful summers between grades and never really liked being at school very much.

I think from the earliest age I was more attuned to reality and less prone to fantasy and denial than other American kids my age. (I never liked television as a child and preferred being outside.)

Chapter Two

I think my present feelings about the world started in my teens, when I began to experience depression for the first time.

The Vietnam war was like a dark backdrop that wasn’t there in my earlier youth.

Then, I remember a showing, on what I seem to recall was a bright Spring day, when I was about 15 or 16, to the students in my history class, of a black-and white movie. I now know this was the film, “Nazi Concentration Camps” from the 1945 Nuremberg trials, and I now know it changed my life forever.

The link in the previous sentence is to the same film, now easy to view on the Internet.  I know for sure if I were to click that link now, and see it again myself, I would probably cry for a long time, just like forty years ago. I remember having nightmares for days caused by the gruesome scenes and images, and by the terrible new realization of how vicious my fellow humans could be. Until that day, I had never known about the holocaust.

Somehow I connected the dots between this and the temporary fears I had when I was younger when I thought about the stories of Indians driven from where I live in the 19th century. I began thinking deeply and for long periods about things like this for the first time.

At this exact same time, the first Earth Day happened in the Spring of 1970 when I was sixteen.  I got a copy of the popular new paperback book, “The Environmental Handbook” edited by Garrett DeBell, and by the time I was finished reading it at the end of 1970, I knew I was an environmentalist, and would be for the rest of my life.  I next read “The Limits to Growth“, by a group called the Club of Rome which came out in 1972.  It clearly convinced me that the growth of the human race and of its resource consumption were not sustainable, although that word was not commonly used then.

The Limits to Growth made anyone who read it imagine for the first time a year in the future when energy would ‘peak”, although, once again, that word was not yet common.  I distinctly recall being most worried after reading Limits to Growth about oil. And I distinctly remember being convinced the time it would run out would be near the turn of the new millennium.  So, obviously, I was thinking a lot about the time that is now, and imagining the me of the present and his real fears in a year such as 2010.

Before I go on though, I need to point out that my fears now are worse than I imagined in 1972, because climate change was just a vague theory then, so it was not predicted by Limits to Growth to be among my present worries.  And, to continue the significant point that the present moment was consciously imagined in those times in the early 1970s, I want to emphasize that the 18-year-old me immediately became very concerned about the psychology of collapse.  I remember long contemplations of whether humans would respond properly during the thirty to forty years before it occurred.  I was quite pessimistic, and this pessimism set the tone for the rest of my life.

So, I embraced what was then called the “back to the land” movement, and I retained a small amount of hope, because then there was still quite a bit of time to prepare for what I now refer to as “collapse.”  Also, there was not yet an anti-environment political backlash in the 1970s.  There was a lot of distraction and widespread public failure to care enough about the environment, resources, and the future, but politics and the news media seemed to work properly then, unlike now.

Between the ages of eighteen and thirty, or the years 1972 to about 1984, my life was very lonely and stark because I was chronically depressed, and living in rural towns in northwest Ohio that attracted me but where I had no friends, and could not make friends because of the depression. (The depression and the loneliness became a cycle.)  I am still prone to certain types of depression, but before 1984 depression was severe and almost constant, because I had not yet sorted out the link between it and my physical problems (allergies, second-hand smoke in the places I worked, narcolepsy).

During these years in my twenties, my only pleasures were swimming in lakes in the summer and in exploring the back roads of Ohio and Indiana, and in visiting my family in Columbus many times each year.

I tried to build a meaningful life based on my concern for the environment and fears about the distant future, but for those twelve years, avoiding suicide was really my biggest accomplishment.  But considering the physical and mental problems I was battling, I now am impressed at how many useful skills I taught myself during those years:  I got a practical 2-year degree in Mechanical Design, learned how to fix everything on a car, learned everything about construction and every other technology, and so much about geography, and, finally then taught myself the most important thing of all -how to heal myself.

Chapter Three

When this happened, at the age of thirty, in 1984, I had no idea where things stood in regard to my fears about collapse from 1970 to 1972, and I had no understanding of what was going on in politics, because for twelve years all I thought about was myself, because I had so many physical and mood problems, that was all I possibly could think about.

During those twelve years, the luxury of paying attention to politics or US culture would have seemed as distant as becoming suddenly rich, or of dying and waking up in heaven.  But then, at thirty, I did get better, and I entered another twelve year period that was quite different.

From 1984 to 1996, I was healthy most of the time and had the energy to pay attention to the rest of humanity again.  I made friends and developed hobbies and free-time interests like other Americans my age. I read newspapers thoroughly every day and became well-informed about local, national, and world events.  I even continued my engineering education, and continued to learn practical new skills every year.  Although I was still an avid environmentalist, I did not return to a survivalist mentality for two reasons:  First, I thought during this period that politics and the news media worked the way they should, so I had significant amounts of hope that America was a progressive place with citizens who were becoming smarter and wiser each year, and so crises of the next century would be solved intelligently.  Secondly, I thought that the world was not about to run out of oil near the turn of the millennium, but more like sometime well into the new millennium. ( I thought the Limits to Growth was written before we knew how many new discoveries would push back what we now call “peak oil”.)

This third chapter of my life was more like the first chapter (my childhood and early to mid teens) because I had considerable faith and confidence in my country, the media, fellow citizens, leaders, and the world.

Chapter Four

Chapter four started though in 1996, at age 42, when I realized that confidence had started to crumble.  I decided that affluence in America was making it somewhat lazy and selfish, but that it could be put back on the right track if those of us losing faith started “speaking up” and “getting active.”  For the next six years, from late 1996 until late 2002, that is what I did, and my focus was on the unsustainability of suburban sprawl and the wasteful abandonment of our downtowns and core cities and towns.

I started a blog that gained some fame in those years, and in late 1999, I partnered with the Sierra Club for a successful fight against taxpayer subsidies for infrastructure to build a “corporate welfare” mega-mall between Dayton and Cincinnati. And from 1999 to 2002, we opposed other subsidized “private interchanges” along I-75 between the two cities, with meager success.

Chapter Five

But on a cold day in November of 2002, at a public hearing for the last of these proposals, I knew that this fourth chapter of my life was over too.  I knew at that moment I had lost all hope that there was enough will and determination among Americans to counter the enormity of greed and the power of money that I had seen first hand for six years.

So Chapter Five began, defined by my belief that our future would be dictated by these forces, not by an enlightened public making smart decisions.  After realizing my pessimism in others was back to what it was at the end of the second chapter of my life, I needed to assess what this implied.

Recall that I said this about that second chapter:

“…there was not yet an anti-environment political backlash in the 1970s.  There was a lot of distraction and widespread public failure to care enough about the environment, resources, and the future, but politics and the news media seemed to work properly then...”

But I knew in late 2002 that there were strong anti-environmental political forces, and I considered the news media to be ineffective at publicizing our most significant problems, and I was convinced money had corrupted our election processes.  And I also said about the second chapter of my life, “climate change was just a vague theory then, so it was not predicted by Limits to Growth“.

In this new fifth chapter beginning in late 2002, climate change loomed, not just the end of cheap oil, which the Limits to Growth had predicted.  And the final part of my assessment was to research exactly where we stood in regard to this end of cheap oil, because I had not educated myself about energy resources during the third and fourth chapters of my life, (or since the early 1980s).

I immediately discovered ASPO, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, on the internet.  I was then convinced that this fifth chapter of my life was defined by the arrival of the predictions of Limits to Growth.  Furthermore, it was obvious to me that several other things seemed to be collapsing simultaneously with cheap oil, among them the effectiveness of politics and news in the US.  Finally, because I was obviously choosing a survivalist style of reacting to these realizations, I also educated myself thoroughly about economic and financial realities, beginning in 2003.

A consistency was obvious in everything I looked at: the looming of collapse.  So it seemed this was ahead for the economy too, with the now familiar failure of the news media to acknowledge it.  And to make matters even more bleak, just at the time I entered this latest chapter in my life, the US embarked on two new futile wars, as well as on a broader absurd war the politicians call the “War on Terror”.

At the beginning of this stage in history, in 2002 and 2003, there were not yet online and intellectual communities of those of us who perceived all of these things clearly.  So, a bizarre loneliness plagued us, and still does, but we are sharing our feelings about this now and that is why I am writing this bio.

The thing that is strangest about the loneliness of we who perceive true reality is that it is a loneliness not caused by physical isolation from others but from a psychological disconnect from them caused by their denial to acknowledge what to us is so clear.  In the seven years that I have been feeling this, I have thought of some analogies to explain better to myself why this is so terrifying.

For example:

  • it can be compared to being in an insane asylum where not only are you the only one that is sane, but the inmates all share the same delusions.
  • Or, I imagine a very neurotic family where severe abuse is occurring but is never discussed and an elaborate facade of phony happiness is constructed instead.
  • I have also thought intensely about and done some reading about, the evolutionary reasons why denial is a built-in part of the psychology of the majority of humans.

But even though these actions have been helpful, the bizarre isolation was still so intense it triggered jarring secondary reactions in my mind that were extremely traumatic.  The most serious was the debilitating anger that Hurricane Katrina triggered in me, in September, 2005.  So much rage and heartbreak erupted as I watched this disaster happen and witnessed the way the government, the media, and the public reacted, that I even took a leave of absence from my job for over two weeks.

Part of this was the timing, because coincidentally I had just been educating myself in the weeks before about the Mississippi River levees, and reading predictions of how bad a Category 5 hurricane would be if it aimed directly at New Orleans. This was because I wanted to start “snow birding” in Louisiana in the winter, and so I was teaching myself as much about the state as I could.  Looking back on the almost five years since, it is now clear though that Katrina had some partly unexplainable significance for many, many others too.


There is a lot more I could probably think of to say right now about this fifth chapter in my life. But this is a biography, to emphasize how I got here, not the details of what it’s like to be here. Furthermore, I won’t fully understand this fifth chapter unless and until I move into a sixth. Maybe that is already happening but I just don’t realize it yet.

In any case, one thing that has begun is our finding of each other, at least on the internet. This means we are now thinking about collapse and the psychology of it collectively. We are now asking these kinds of questions to each other, but have no good answers yet:

  • Can peak oil be our salvation from climate Armageddon?
  • How many humans will be alive a century from now?
  • Will they still have all the knowledge that was perhaps the only real benefit of the fossil fuel age?
  • How violent and cruel will people be as denial becomes more and more impossible to maintain?

And these are our most important questions:

  • What is the best way I can live from now on to lessen the suffering for as many creatures as possible?
  • Or, is there really nothing I or the rest of us can do that will make any difference because it’s too late?
  • If we can influence the future, do we need to gather in new physical communities to protect and help each other?
  • If so, where will they be and how do we design them?
  • Or can we instead re-create community in the social wastelands that the cities and towns we now live in have become? If those around us change as things get worse this might be possible.

…These questions are part of what occupies my mind now, at the end of this autobiography.

Read the original post here.


Hi Mike,

I have a few thoughts in response to your post I’d like to share with you.

I think we all need to realize that it wasn’t that “the news media worked the way they should” back then, and now it doesn’t.  It was that a group of wealthy individuals recognized that popular sentiments were exceedingly Leftist in their leanings, and so they successfully sought to change around public opinion.  They paid college tuition to those who they considered of “right mind” and brought them to DC, gave them cheap rent in brand new high rises, and set up television and media studios.  They worked with them to become talented in handling the media.  They bought media time in some areas and protested media in other venues.  While some of us were planting our potatoes, others were constructing what we now think of as a completely ‘bought and sold’ MSM.

Depression is often a “normal” response when faced with a situation where the actions you are taking are not effective.  Some of us have a family history of depression which I think of as part genetic, part social learning.  In a sense, I believe the study that says that those who suffer from depression have removed the more rosy glasses that make the non-depressed more hopeful.  The rub is, the more we believe in the ‘hopelessness’ of it, the less we try the actions that might be rightly framed as “impossible.”  Those who aren’t depressed barrel forth and try these ‘impossible’ things, and are sometimes effective at them!

So, while those suffering depression may be actually seeing things “more correctly” than others, this accurate vision of reality works against them (in addition to making them feel horrible and sometimes suicidal…)  Is Panglossian Disorder the solution?  No, and in a sense, we all suffer some form of Panglossian Disorder anyway, to one degree or another.  The issue is whether it removes us from being able to tolerate some degree of realism.

We can consider depression a social form of a “help!” cry.  When we lived in tight-knit communities, everyone was needed, and no one could spend their lives in a hut and be left alone.  First, we needed them to DO stuff.  Go hunt!  Go gather food!  Go watch the children!  Go gather firewood!  The demand to “Do Something!” got them moving again and “Surprise!” they felt less depressed. If that didn’t work, they saw the person who’s job it was to exorcise them or treat them with food or herbs and this ‘cure’ often worked to get them going.

Imagine a person is walking into a wall, and hurting themselves.  But they believe they have to keep doing it, so they rub their wounds and keep going.  Smack!  Hurt again!  After a while, they get “depressed.”  They have to believe that (1) they should be doing it and (2) that they can somehow accomplish something, that they aren’t succeeding at doing.

When we also feel responsible for doing something that helps other people, and we can’t do it, we also get physically ill.  It is the plight of the “Executive Monkey” and bosses from all over the world are now suffering ulcers and heart disease and emotional disorders as well because they are forced to lay off or fire people when they’d rather find a way of keeping them working.  It gets worse when these same Executive Monkeys know that there are no jobs for these real people with real names and real families to go find.

Ambivalence or having simultaneous, conflicting feelings can also sicken us.  Do we want the end of cheap oil to slow the environmental destruction?  But if we have that, we’re going to see horrible things happen to people and their cultures.  But if we preserve the culture and the economy, we cause environmental destruction that kills people anyway.  What should we be rooting for?  Hoping for?  Wanting?

We can begin this cognitive loop that can freeze us in place, because either way we move, we’re “wrong.”  It is horrible to feel, and destructive to our wellbeing.

Loneliness, isolation, and depression increase in proportion to the amount of time we spend on the internet (except reading emails) as well, according to a 2005 Stanford University study.  It ramps up faster when we live alone and the more time we spend, the more lonely and isolated we feel.  Even television doesn’t isolate us as much, according to this study.  And you can imagine the loop it forms:  we feel lonely so we go on to chat rooms for companionship and comradeship.  We have virtual friends, but few belly-to-belly buddies.  And the more time they spend online, the less time they spend interacting with real people.  But our internet time leaves us feeling more lonely, so we go on even more.  Our internet use is going up, and our time spent with friends and family is going down.  More shocking, the US gov’t is telling us that we spend even more time online and other leisure pursuits than we spend reading or playing with our children–the main source where we develop human socialization skills.

Feb 2009 study by Forrester, tapping 40,000 people, found that teenagers spend an average of 31 hours a week online.   A third study (IDC) found that Americans  spend 32.7 hours/week on the internet, about twice as much time as they spend watching television (16.4 hours).  I think in some weird way, many of us become convinced that if we READ alternative news we are somehow DOING something.

My final three comment to  your thoughtful post is that we need to keep the notion of  time, location and specificity front and center when we are discussing all of this stuff.  As things change over time, it causes effects.  These (sometimes cataclysmic) effects offer opportunities to impact other sorts of change.

In addition, different locations will be impacted in different ways.  It is up to each of us to carefully assess the future viability of our location, and, if we have children, to project this viability out for several generations.

You are quite right that it is quite difficult to shift public opinion on a massive scale.  We don’t have the cash to buy media time like multi-national corporations.  But we can decide to live in a place we assess has a future, and we can begin to network with people in that same location to strengthen the long-term viability of the place.

Specificity means that in any group, you will have 5% who are “sociopathic,” (a much higher number if those “people” are corporations, because they are sociopathic by design…)  This means, if you study your history, that without the capacity for empathy, these sociopathic individuals can and will attempt to sway people to gain power, control and wealth.  They are often charismatic and their appeals are emotionally based.  They lie as easily as you and I take a breath.  When we don’t sort out those sociopaths (who when highly intelligent, do a great deal of damage) from the rest of us, we begin to talk about “human nature” in global and horrific ways.

Rage, intense sadness, hopelessness, and terror are all natural reactions to what we are facing, Mike.  These are feelings that make us human and tell us we are still alive and paying attention.  But so are feelings of joy, passion, curiosity and playfulness.  The key questions to ask ourselves is not “can we do the tremendous work we need to do to change things around?” but “do we love that ‘patch of land’ we are living on, and those annoying people around us that are living on it to, to try?”

It’s too late to be hopeless.  Things are much too dire and serious to ‘give up.’

Thanks for sending this thought-provoking piece.

Questions from a Texas Blue Jay

Dear Peak Shrink,

I love your website and what you do for people.

I have spent some time here reading the site and mostly I have been taking things in, but I have never expressed anything outwardly about my feelings surrounding peak oil, climate change, resource depletion, economic collapse, overpopulation or any of the many other ways I feel we are headed for decline.

I first heard about peak oil nearly 3 years ago after being bored and randomly watching a Netflix movie called A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. From there, the bottom of my world dropped out from under me and I was quite literally shocked, astonished, upset and obsessed with the idea peak oil and nothing being as it seemed.

At first I spoke out, who wouldn’t?  I spoke to husband and family – sister, mom, etc.  But then quickly learned like a slap in the face that no one wants to hear about this.  Everyone thought I was crazy – I was dismissed.  My sister rolled her eyes at me like she knew so much more than me and I was an idiot to fall for such “liberal media attempts” to control my thinking and that we are never going to run low on oil.  It was the most preposterous of suggestions; she wouldn’t even give me the time of day.  I’ve never really forgiven her for that, although she doesn’t know it because now I keep my mouth closed about my thoughts, beliefs, and world view around just about everybody.

Even my husband, who is pretty even keeled (if extremely traditional and not always open to new ideas) was turned off and completely shut out my alarmist freaking out at the thought of what is going to happen to us.  This was around the time when oil was hitting its all time high in 2008 and every day in the news seemed to creepily reinforce what I was learning about from the web and books, and mostly just extensive, extensive reading.  He wouldn’t even consider it.  I freaked out and put it away but never really forgot it.

But the issues brought forth and my new view of what we were really doing would not stay put away.  I secretly worried about a crazy collapse like everyone running around with no food or money and no clean water, crime (I live in the city), real mad max scenarios.   How would I take care of my now 6 year old daughter?  I continued to frequent website like for news about what I couldn’t understand wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper because this was seemingly the only thing that mattered.  Why wasn’t everyone talking about it?

I’ve gone through the most intense self doubt and feelings of absolute craziness – am I crazy for thinking something so counter to the world I inhabit or is everyone else crazy?  Basically ever since finding out about peak oil, I have experienced this low level sense of unreality, like how can we just go on like this? Uncaring? Unchanging?  And yet this isn’t very helpful because this describes me as well to an extent – I have not shown pervasive, broad changes in my life, although I dream about and worry about what we should do –where and how would we be safest?  Where/how do we establish ourselves in a community?  How come the whole idea of community seems so foreign?  I mostly resign myself to small changes and inaction on any large scale because how can we know what the future holds?  Where should we live?  Should we buy our own house?  We are living with my mother in her paid for home in [large city in TX], which is going pretty well, but I long to make bigger changes than just starting a small garden and it is understood that we are only staying for a while.  How do I get my family on board with me?  The issue has not gone away, obviously, my husband recently admitted in a huge blowout fight we had that this is the thing he hates the most about me – what he perceives as my unending negativity about the future.  He wrote to me in anger that no he does not want to watch another movie with me or read another article with me about how bad the world is.  He said it depressed him and makes him feel helpless.  He did say he would be willing to listen if I didn’t overwhelm him all at once.

I have been trying harder recently to climb out of my insulated way of worrying and thinking and come out to meet my husband where he is – our relationship is terribly important to me.  Although I have had at times felt like he was a hindrance to doing the things I thought I might do with my life without him, I no longer believe that to be so.

The hardest part is talking to him – I’ve etched away at him over the years – we have talked about energy and overconsumption, the damage we are doing to the earth.  (He brought that one up in a strange conversation in bed when he asked me if I ever thought the earth was like kinda trying to heal herself  – if that’s what things like crazy hurricane that kill so many people are all about.  We have hurricanes in our part of the world the last bad one was “Ike”).  We are of like mind on so many things – but not everything.  The heart of what I think and worry about is still mostly out of view, because it is so unpopular, so decidedly not mainstream, so radical.  What do you do with the knowledge that our way of life cannot continue – this is the message I carry at its most basic level. I hardly know what to do with it – the changes we’ve made are good but are really way, way too little.   Perhaps it is too little too late.

I feel this urgency to do something, to ready ourselves somehow, but I’m so fearful of making a stand and really getting to the heart of why I am a proponent for all of the simplicity I try for – for considering homeschooling, for, frugality, for considering farm life – which is a pipe dream for our family now.  It is something we all kind of think would be cool but have never really addressed seriously.  And is this even right for us?

I’ve never had that frank conversation with my husband; I so much prefer not to alienate him.  I like him when we are on the same side as we are now.  But at the same time it is painful and hard to live this way sometime – going to work and continuing the daily grind for what?  Why are we working so hard and for what?  Where are we going?  How do I sell my husband on the fact that we might not live in a bigger home than our parents and make more money than they did and be able to go on fancy vacations?  I know he just wants to be productive and useful – he’s said that to me a lot lately.   I know he just wants to enjoy life as much as he can as well.

So, how do you approach the end of growth?  How do we change our perceptions and wants?  Are we evil for putting it all away and watching Netflix?  For stuffing it with cocktails at happy hour?  For forgetting and diverting ourselves with insignificant externalities?  Should I be facing this more squarely?

The times I do face it, I run into so much resistance – there’s rancor between my husband and I.  I feel like we are in holding pattern – what is going to change soon?  Where are we going?  Where do we want to be going?  And how do we get there?  I think I need clarity more than I need harmony right now.  What do you think?

Am I too late in the game for it to matter?  What can I do?  How can I convince my husband and family to change with me?

I apologize for the length of this letter and thank you so much for allowing me the space to write this.


Blue Jay from Texas


Dear Blue Jay,

The questions you ask are value questions.  They are the kinds of questions everyone needs to  focus on right now.  What do you value in your life?  Where will you put your time and attention?  If you just accept what is currently being talked about by the MSM, you have a lot to be talking about, you and your husband.  And he’s told you something very important, which is that he, too, is thinking about how he can be productive and useful.  I think you need to keep that goal of his front and center, because he means so much to you.

So how does a person begin to sort all of this out?  Where do they begin?

Pragmatically, they have to start by taking out a map, drawing two circles around their home, one 5 miles out and one 10 miles out, and start to ask very very basic questions:

  • Where does our water come from?  Is there enough of it that falls every year?  Are there laws that prevent us from collecting rainwater?  Do I need electricity to get access to my water?
  • Where are the toxic dumps near me?  How do they impact health and food growing?
  • Are their ports or railroads?  Is there another way for products to get into my area other than trucks?
  • What does the government say about the quality of my land?  Is any of it designated as farmland or livestock land?  Is any of it fit for food production?
  • Who are my neighbors?  Do I know them?  Do I have any shared history with them?  Do we have any common problems we all live with (like speeding cars, poor schools or destructive teenagers or break-ins?)  How are they ‘like me?’  How are they different than me?  What skills do they have that I lack?  What skills do I have that are useful to them?
  • What family do I have?  How far away do they live?  What skills do they have?  What “hobbies” do they enjoy?  How many are within that 5-10 mile radius?
  • What raw materials and products are produced within my area?  Will these materials still be needed as we power-down?
  • What cooking skills does my household have?  Can I make food from scratch?  Do I have a basic cookbook that teaches me how?  (one that doesn’t say “take one can of mushroom soup”)  Do I cook like this at least once a week?
  • What basic homemaking skills does my household have?  Can we put on a button?  Sew a tear in our clothes?  Make a simple shirt or pants? Knit or crochet?  Do we know how to can or dry food?
  • What basic household skills does my household have?  Can they do basic carpentry, plumbing, electrical?
  • What basic mechanical skills does my household have?  Can we fix a simple motor?  Change the oil?  Clean a carburetor?  Do simple bike repairs?  Do we know how the machines we use every day work?
  • What basic emergency medical skills does my household have?  Has anyone taken a basic Red Cross Emergency Preparedness course?  Nursing classes?
  • Are we healthy?  Have we kept up with dental care or medical check-ups?  Do we follow the advice we’re given to maintain our health?

If  you start any of these projects, you are going to feel better emotionally, and  you are going to know that you are gathering important information and developing necessary skills.

Blue Jay, this is not an “all or nothing” project.  Enjoy your movies every once in a while, but if you like wine, watch wine making videos.  Choose which YouTube videos to watch.  Not this one, unless your husband wants to learn the song and the moves to sing to you when the electricity goes out.  Maybe outdoor stuff, if it’s alien to you.  It’s okay to have fun.  You have to live in your world as it is today, while preparing yourself for tomorrow’s changes.  No one calls someone taking a Red Cross Emergency Preparedness course a “nut job.”  Anyone on a hike would me mighty glad you did, if they needed you.  The issue is not “can I do it all today?”  You can’t.  The issue is whether you are starting to take responsibility for examining  your situation squarely and weighing what you need to do in what order.  If you are frozen, start where you just “feel like” starting.  You’ll quickly know if that works for you.

Your sister doesn’t have to “believe” in Peak Oil in order to help you learn to sew, if she can do that and you can’t.  Your husband doesn’t have to be a “doomer” to get interested in putting up emergency supplies for the next hurricanes.   There is so much to do, start anywhere.  But start.  Assess where  you are and where you want to go, and until you can do the big stuff, do what’s doable.

Thanks for writing!


“The Peak Shrink”

Wife’s New Job Offer Threatens to Pull this Peaker from Homestead Paradise

Dear Peak Shrink,

Not sure how I arrived at this point. All my life I have been “aware” something was wrong, but I was told to stop thinking that way…I was born in the early 60’s…I was adopted and had a sense of not fitting in. I just went on believing what was out there. The dominant culture took me over and won. I was part of the system. I have been through some very tough times lately, and have come to some very important places in my life. I took the red pill and feel awake while other around me are fully asleep. I found many that think like me, but only on the web. There are one or two people that have some understanding of what is going on, but are not being listened to here. I find myself very alone.I want to do the thing that resonates inside me for my family, but they don’t want to hear it at all. They give me that “look” that I know is not were they are listening but judging. How to I do what is needed? For them.

Homesteader in Paradise


Dear H in P,

The first thing you need is a plan. Don’t worry if it isn’t the “right” plan, because plans change. That’s a given. Write down a plan, then break it down into manageable pieces. Most people over-estimate what they can do in a year, but UNDER-estimate what they can do in 10 years. Lay out the pieces you want to accomplish in 2010, and assume you’ll make modifications along the way. Assess your current situation, skills, debts, resources, location, food storage, etc carefully. Look squarely at it, unflinchingly.

If you have few supports in ‘real life’ then accept this as a given for right now. You’ll probably be surprised to learn how many people actually think the way you do, but have been silenced by the same pressures you feel. Once you decide the types of skills you need to develop, you’ll have more opportunities to find those who share your worries and concerns. Get very concrete, and start conversations with the one or two that think as you do. Anticipate the sort of changes that you’ll see in your neighborhood, and ask yourself what you can do to impact those events.

Don’t assume that everyone in your family has to “be on board” for you to act. There are many things you can do, once you set your mind to it, that can be framed in a way that most people can understand. For example, storing food can be framed as “buying in bulk to save money.” Learning carpentry or gardening is a useful skill. Paying off debt can be “good commonsense.”

The most important lesson you’ve already learned, is that you can stand apart, be ‘different,’ and it won’t kill you. You can ‘think differently’ and everyone doesn’t have to agree with you.

When I pointed out that hard times were coming, almost 4 years ago, I didn’t make a big deal of it. I just said it, and said the kinds of things I thought would happen, then dropped it. Now, to those I told, they look at me differently, because they know I was right. No one has said “You were right!” but they don’t have to. Don’t try to push your agenda on them. Allow it to be enough to know you what you know, and begin to make the changes you believe have to happen. Take yourself “heart attack” seriously, but don’t insist that other people agree with you. And keep in mind the advice to put on your own oxygen mask first, and then attend to the people around you.

Does that make sense?

Dear Peak Shrink,

Thank You so much for the reply.

Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense to me. I have always been making our “little homestead” as efficient as possible without saying too much to those around. I have been saying things like those you suggest. I put in a wood stove a few years back to offset the cost of our gas bill. I have my grandfathers bow saw and many hand tools that no one else wanted. My problem is this: my wife (whom I adore) has a job offer in a large city) we currently have a house that is small 1000 sq ft, has 2 acres of land and a stream on it. Along with deer, many trees and a large amount of wilderness around us, we have managed to pay it off. We do have some debt but not a mortgage. Our city is about 100k with farmland and we live in a smaller community about 10 mins to the farmland area. If she takes this job we have to move from our possible safe little community to a large urban city.

I am wondering how to tell my wife that our best place to be is here, and to continue working towards less financial commitments. We have a good neighborhood of a few doctors and small hobby farms as well. Seems perfect for us. We also have the potential for a greenhouse on our property. I don’t want to give all that up. We already know how to preserve vegetables, do our own carpentry, electrical, garden, filter water.

Any suggestions how to approach my wife on peak oil and have her believe it is real?

BTW , You are the first person I have ever written to on the internet. I found your website through a few links (not sure what ones) and found solace in your words. I am truly grateful for the time you took to write back.

I only hope I can find the peaceful way to tell my wife (met in high school a zillion years ago) that we can find a new togetherness in this next quest in our lives.

She is an Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultant (yes, with and is truly a soul of the earth. She does not like bad news like peak oil. We have our teenagers, two malamutes and live in [Northern Canada]. I hope we can stay here and face peak oil and what it will mean for us, our children, and our community together in a real spirit of altruism.

Didn’t get back to him fast enough, so our contributor wrote again!

Dear Peak Shrink,

OK Christmas is over. Time to reflect on the latest. I wish for my wife to at least do some investigation into my belief in peak oil. Her father was a newspaper man and did very well financially. The kids believe he is some master at figuring out what to do financially because he did so well in the 80’s and 90’s. They don’t know it was because cheap energy allowed many to do well then. He has never once mentioned the possibility of anything changing. They (he and my Mom-in-law) still snowbird to [warm USA state].

I think he believes I am always worrying too much. If he was supportive, maybe his daughters would listen. I seem to be all alone in this. I know that there are tough times coming and want to prepare, but I am like a three wheeled car. Most people I know are moving out to work in the Alberta tar sands. Our economy has taken a big hit here (Northern Canada) already (we were once a thriving population built on wood products and paper mills). I have family in British Columbia and it is a very beautiful place to live. Toronto is where my wife is looking to relocate to. That means a big mortgage for us. We are in our 40’s. No time to pay it off now. How do i get my wife to believe me? I think we should stay put.

Hope you are doing well. I don’t expect a reply, just writing this out helps me put things into perspective.


Here are my thoughts:

Your wife wants to move to a place you don’t want to go, and buy an expensive house you don’t want to own. Forget the issue of Peak Oil. You have a legitimate difference of opinion right there! Moving and assuming a mortgage is a major commitment not to be taken lightly, and usually requiring mutual agreement.

How would things change for you, if your wife “believed” in PO? How would she act differently? What would she DO differently?

I’d get away from trying to convince anyone of anything, and focus specifically on what you want from her. If you want her to listen to you, even if it makes you and her anxious, and you know it is a lot to ask, say so. If you want her to stop spending money and save more of it, say that. And be prepared to give a listening ear back. Actually listen attentively to what she has to say about the move and the new home. See if you both can get behind the DREAM she’s aiming for, and see if it can be met another way. Many people can’t listen unless they feel really understood by the person. Her job sounds like it involves understanding people who’s behavior can be quite confusing, and learning how to influence it in a positive direction. She probably could use a bit of listening to, as well. The opposite of listening isn’t talking, it’s waiting to speak. Really listen to the dream behind her words, and articulate that back to her.

Sounds like a newspaper man knows how quickly a thriving business can turn around. Newspapers are dying left and right here. They’ve gone the way of the button, once the zipper was introduced. Don’t worry about trying to get him on board. Just talk to him about how smart he was to be in the right business at the right time, and how different it is for talented guys, just like he was, to be starting out today. Agree that no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, but that’s what most of us are required to do anyway, if we get a clear signal that change is demanded of us. He can probably talk about a time when he made a bold move that everyone else thought “wouldn’t work” but it did. Ask him about how he managed to pull it off, when his was the minority opinion, and he was risking a lot. All successful men, in addition to being in the right place at the right time (oil’s a given) also thought differently or were willing to make tough choices. Don’t try to convince him of Peak Oil, just hear him out about how a truly successful man must listen to and heed his own counsel, after carefully considering the facts. That will come in pretty handy to remind him of, later.

I guess what I’m suggesting to you is that you, too, are forced to be your own man and make your own choices that are of a minority opinion. Your father-in-law can tell you how tough that is sometimes, perhaps.

Everyone needs to have a dream. It sucks to struggle to find one in a time of collapses-economic, energy, and environmental ones…but we still have to have some, and they have to be grounded in the future we see happening, not one we wish for or one of exaggerated fears. Your wife knows, by the very changing area around her, that people can destroy the very natural world that provided them an income only a short time before. She perhaps can see that a doubling of the world’s population, at a time of dramatic climate shifts, spells trouble. You may agree with her that while eventually things will “straighten out,” they’ll be “winners” and “losers” before they do. The capacity to accurately assess the direction things are going in will make the difference which one your family ends up as, (although I doubt either of us would agree that “winners” are the best descriptive adjective for those surviving well…)

So, here’s a New Year’s challenge: Paint me an accurate picture of a future you’d want to live in, that includes your wife and kids. Make it 5, 10, and 20 years into the future, and describe what’s different and what changes are going to be required of you. Emphasize how you’ll get the basics, and how energy limits will impact you. The limitations on this requires it to conform to what you know about the three big E’s, and make it as specific as possible. How will the economy change? What environmental changes do you see happening around you? How are people getting around? Where do they get their food? Where are you living and why? Start out each story saying how old you and your family members are, just so you can consider their life span changes (you don’t need to send those to me, that’s just for your own figuring…) Throw in one or two items that would appeal to your wife on some level, and identify these.

Up for the challenge?

Dr. K
‘Peak Shrink’


I’m working, right now, on H.P.’s dream with him, helping him to clarify and articulate the details.

Stay tuned for the finished product!

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…

Sensitive Ten-Year-Old Depressed about Climate Change

Hi Peak Shrink,

After years of reading, processing, talking, thinking, feeling….about peak oil, global climate change, extinction, overpopulation, overshoot (which seems to cover it all), I thought I was in a pretty good spot. I was accepting the good with the bad, preparing in my meager ways, talking about it to anyone interested and mostly, again able to sleep at night.

Big drum crash.

My 10 year old. He’s starting the process, less healthily, and I living through it again with him. It started last spring when he wrote a book report on Thor Heyerdahl and read Thor’s warning about the state of the world. Thor had made ocean trips in his little Kon Tiki in the 40’s and redid them in the 70’s. The difference in the amount of pollution, trash, dead animals….astonished him and he wrote about how the oceans wouldn’t be able to survive such abuse. He then said something on PBS about habitat destruction and apes going extinct, then he learned about g.c.c. in school.

He’s anxious and saddened. He’s crying and is sometimes inconsolable. He said that it didn’t matter what happened to him, it was the planet he was worried about. Grandma’s little talk about “how what happens here on earth doesn’t matter, it’s what happens when we go to heaven,” really scared him. Now he thinks all Christians are crazy.

He’s a smart little boy and I am working on getting him into counseling but don’t want a counselor to downplay his fears. He has voiced that he fears the monkeys will be all gone before he can grow up and save them. I think it would be a mistake for him to hear that his concerns aren’t real or aren’t realistic. I live in that world, where some co-workers couldn’t care less about the environment and think it’s all nonsense to be concerned. I was recently told that peak oil can’t be true because “she never saw anything about it on t.v. and she watches a lot of t.v.” I don’t think that my 10 year needs to get into those differences yet.

What do I ask the therapist about possible treatments that could avoid some problems for him? Can I ask about her religion? Can I ask her how she gets her information? Can I ask her not to diminish his fears, but instead to try to help him cope with them?

I use to see my upcoming role as food provider, heat provider…..I now see that sanity might be a big call for the coming years. I need to keep myself mentally healthy so that I can help my children cope with their grief, sadness and fears. Scary times for us means scary times for them, no matter how well we think we are protecting them.

I’d love to hear thoughts.

Worried Mom of a Sensitive Child


Dear W.M.S.C,

Such a touching and thoughtful email, W.M.S.C. Thank you for writing.

We can look at your son from many perspectives, but perhaps the
developmental perspective is a good place to start. At ten, he’s acutely aware of the moral issues of right and wrong, and this age tends
to dwell on the wrong. They have a strong sense of justice and can have
a strict moral code. Your son has directed these developmental
challenges toward the Earth, and, being a sensitive kid, he feels very
deeply about it, as do you. You clearly have to intervene if his fears
are interfering with his eating, sleeping, schoolwork, socializing,
athletics, or friendship networks. As his parent, I would support the
feelings of injustice he’s articulating, and the depth of his capacity
to feel things as deeply as he does. And, I would want to expose him to
the types of social action that’s happening around the world to heal and
repair it. Greenpeace USA has some inspiring (and some are
silly/serious) videos about the work they are doing to stop the sales of
red list fish. is a great site. I’m sure you are letting him
know that people are trying to do things, so that he can take the time
he needs to grow up, because he’s going to be needed, too. The goal
isn’t to offer him false hope (you know that sickens me, if you read my
site…) The goal is to let him know that he isn’t alone–it doesn’t
fall all on his shoulders to take action. Does he have friends that
share his concerns? Do they take on kid-level projects?

As far as therapeutic help, I’d suggest you both go, and head to someone
who can teach you both stress management, relaxation training,
meditation and the like. Figuring out how to control anxiety and
overwhelming sadness is a skill we all could use getting better at.
Practice it together at night, or whenever he’s upset.

If you can’t console him when he’s crying, don’t try. Just be with him, and share those feelings of sadness with him. Help him to accept them for what they are –feelings that exist in his body, and reassure him that
expressing them is a good thing. He’s a strong boy for having such
strong emotions, and he’ll grow up to be a strong man who will fight for
the oceans and the apes with all of his might. He knows some things,
tell him, but there are other things still to learn. We know a lot
about a lot of things, but not everything.

Finally, I’d suggest having him do more research on groups like Roots
and Shoots
or related groups that direct his energies toward other kids who are doing things. If he doesn’t have a group of friends who think like he does, he can correspond with kids that do. Writing out his thoughts is great therapy, demonstrated to be so by research. Taking action is really important, even if you, as an adult, aren’t certain that a particular direction will ultimately “change things.” He’ll be learning important socialization and community action skills, if he’s not doing so already.

He has a part of the picture, but really not all of it. He said he isn’t concerned about himself, but he misses the fact that he IS a part of the planet, as much an animal as any other, and if other animals deserve a place here, so does he.

You’ve always been a sanity-provider, W.M.S.K. That’s what parents are. If you see a lot of symptoms I’ve described above, I’d suggest starting
with the relaxation training, and then get him more active with kids who
feel as he does. If that’s not helpful, check AAMFT and find a good
marriage and family therapist to go to, and take the entire family. I
prefer it, at least as a first step, to individual work with kids. That
way, if you are in the room, you can ask whatever you’d like (you can,
anyway, before you go in…) and monitor what’s happening.

I’m happy to offer other ideas, if you’d like to offer more details on
your situation. He sounds like a great kid. You’re lucky to be able to
parent him. And I feel lucky to live on a planet with him. We need
more like him.

Thanks again for writing, and continue to share if you’d like.

Best to you and yours,

Dr. K

Here’s a video to watch. Notice that this 13 year old girl mentions a world population of 5 billion. That was in 1992. She’s now 31 and today the world’s population is 6.7 billion…

Girl that Silenced the World

And this:

Cancel Catalog Campaign

Is it a waste of time to encourage children to be actively engaged in speaking out and direct their energies in these types of efforts? What do you think?

Do you have children who are deeply upset by the big 3 E’s? Write to me at Peakshrink AT peakoilblues DOT com

Life Questions of a 24-year-old Film Maker/Photographer

Hi Dr. McMahon,

First of all thank you so much for your website. There are countless resources out there about the troubles we face from climate change and peak oil. Yours is the only I’ve found that addresses what its like to be a compassionate, emotional human during such a crisis. Your website has really helped me.

Thank you.

I’m a 24 year old artistic type with lots of dreams for my life. As you well know the modern artistic lifestyle is completely dependent on the excesses of our current civilization (as are many other lifestyles). My working mediums are photography and film which stand almost no chance of survival. Art in general will most certainly be experiencing some difficult times ahead.

I’m not a religious person so I’m fairly accustomed to the search for meaning, but now that my career goals have gone away I feel like I truly have nothing. I’ve had life long ambitions that are now completely gone.

I’m not a hardcore survivalist and I understand that our society won’t completely disintegrate in a matter of seconds. But certainly it will be reduced to the point where I will become obsolete and my life might be in jeopardy if I don’t change who I am very soon.

I don’t want to take up too much of your time so my questions are these:

Is it crazy to try and pursue my artistic/career goals with the little time we have left? Suppose our current society really starts to break down in 5 years, that still leaves me some time. Is it stupid to stay on my current path Would I be living a complete lie like everyone else? Should I start hunkering down right now?

I realize how terribly selfish these questions are. It makes me feel sick and guilty that I want to turn my back on the truth. This is probably a feature common to those in my generation. If something is boring or scary then we just turn on the tv and ignore it.

I apologize if these questions have already been answered on your website. I’m certainly depressed about our situation but also hopeful. Assuming humanity survives our coming crises, perhaps we will be the better for it. Any guidance would be extremely appreciated.

Thank you again, Doctor.


Life Questions


Dear Life Questions,

Your letter touched me deeply, and I was reluctant to respond without thinking on it a while.

(1) Is it crazy to try and pursue my artistic/career goals with the little time we have left?

It is easy to get into an “all or nothing” mindset around these issues. Without your art, who are you? If you are like most artists, you create because you must. Artistic expression always has been a part of our culture, and always will be. You may choose to expand the types of medium in which you work, but it will stay a part of you. It must, if you are truly an artist.

There is going to be a lot to capture in the years ahead. There will be a lot to say that is best said in photography or film. I can’t comment on your skills and talents, and I don’t know the industry, but if you are planning to make a career out of it, you need to know it inside and out, and to know how economic hard times will effect it.

(2) Suppose our current society really starts to break down in 5 years, that still leaves me some time. Is it stupid to stay on my current path? Would I be living a complete lie like everyone else? Should I start hunkering down right now?

Again, these are not “either/or” questions. Focus on the decisions you must make WHETHER the culture breaks down in 5 years or NOT. You will find that even following this criteria, you’ll have plenty to do. I have no idea where you are professionally. I’m not sure if you are a student, or currently working in the field, and making a good income. If you are a student, I don’t know if you are yearly getting deeper in debt or have the resources to pay for your education. These are important questions that will direct my answers.

If you are currently making an income doing your art, by all means continue, until you have something equally lucrative to replace it. With an income, you can begin to experiment with developing other skills, and gathering some of the essentials you need, . Look to develop skills in central areas of life, and get physically fit. Learn techniques to manage your stress.

I’m not sure what you mean by “hunkering down.” You should evaluate where you are living, where you get your food, electricity, heat, water, etc. Each area is going to present special challenges, some more pressing in some areas than in others. You might live in a city, but have a huge extended family around you. This is going to be a different situation than a man who lives without family in a city, but has family in a rural area who will welcome him home at some point. Take yourself “heart attack” serious, LQ, and make plans, but don’t kill that humorous or artistic side. Lay it all out for yourself. Put it down on paper. Design a situation (in a movie script, if you want) and play out the possible logical consequences to each of the choices you make, that alters the scenario. Ask someone else, who doesn’t have your understanding of PO/Climate change/Economic collapse, to give you an alternate ending that’s believable. You need new ideas, where ever you can find them. In addition, you also need other people around you to validate your reality and who are actually doing things that you think are constructive. People on the internet aren’t adequate. You need real belly-to-belly interactions.

“I realize how terribly selfish these questions are. It makes me feel sick and guilty that I want to turn my back on the truth. This is probably a feature common to those in my generation. If something is boring or scary then we just turn on the tv and ignore it.”

These aren’t selfish questions. They are the questions of an entire world/generation. If you don’t answer them for yourself, you are expecting someone else to just “take care” of it, and that’s not smart. Watch the amount of time you spend doing “mindless” activities to distract yourself, and get a handle on it. Don’t expect you are going to know what else to do with yourself without trying new things. Never let your art drop completely, just integrate it into other things you are doing or learning.

Never give up dreaming, LQ. Just recognize that dreams can and do transform. Start somewhere, and do something every day. You don’t have to go from 60 mph in your artistic endeavors to 0 mph. Try to find a way to broaden your interests to correspond more closely to what you believe is coming. You, and your generation have to live it, live through it. If that reality makes most of you veg out and sink into escapism, that’s understandable. Temper that tendency in yourself, and create a new dream where you get to express that sensitive, emotional artistic side of yourself in ways that keep you on track for where you think the world is headed. Create options for yourself, instead of plans, because no one can accurately predict the future. Think in terms of “if this happens, I’ll do this. If that happens, I’ll do this other thing.” If you find yourself thinking in extremes, break the pattern. The ones that will best prepare for the future are the flexible people among us, and the ones that can handle the tremendous pressure and tedium of a slow grinding decline, combined with sudden downward spins. Expect things to change in unexpected ways, and stay nimble. Play ball on running water. Don’t commit too heavily to a future that locks you in, economically, time-wise, or skill-wise. Develop many ‘hobbies’ (the way some people prefer to refer to them to others…). Keep your options open, and diversify them as much as you can.

That’s my best advise, friend. If you want to share more specifics, I’m happy to offer you more detailed notions.

Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your efforts to heal and repair the world. We need you.

All of us do.

Fond regards,

Dr. K

Peak Oil Activists Cut off from Adult Daughter

9796482_sI got an interesting email from some of the sweetest people I know. These friends of mine call themselves “ecotherapists” and they devote their lives to helping people reconnect to the natural world and their truer place in it.

The email was a discussion of Elaine Kost’s article in Culture Change entitled: Mother’s Day Wishes During Peak Times. Kost is one of the Raging Grannies, a group of social justice activists, who do a lot of important acts of civil disobedience.

In this article, Kost tells us that she is estranged from her daughter, Jennifer, whom she hasn’t seen in two years. During that time, her daughter got married, and Kost celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary. She tells us: “We have so many memories without her and we don’t understand why.” Quickly, however, we begin to get clues:

She denies that things are as real as we tell her. She won’t begin to discuss the changes she might make to better prepare herself. Instead she would rather occupy her time by watching silly sitcoms, going to NASCAR races and most recently visiting Las Vegas for her one year wedding anniversary, where her My Space showed pictures of her with plastic gorillas.

Kost takes us through her political awakening, from politics, climate change, Peak Oil, and a rejection of media indoctrination. She began to grow her own food, scale down, pay off her mortgage, and, now retired, she lives on one car. She has, she tells us, “discovered a path to happiness, and it doesn’t cost money.” She raised Jennifer in the country, home-schooled her, “taught her what she needed to know,” and provided her “a strong foundation to survive in a world that’s as amazing as troubled.” “They [the children] questioned everything, but trusted our answers…We were honest in what we told her and felt this was our responsibility as parents, no matter what the outcome. I understand now it would have been much easier to tell her what she wanted to hear…As a mom I’ve tried hard not to enable, though at times I know I have.”

In an earlier article by her husband, David, he expresses a frustration familiar to many of us:

When we talk to people about peak oil/peak resources, climate and ecosystems collapsing, collapse of the financial system and our infrastructure, we find people think we’re nuts. Some are aware of these things, but they’re not concerned because they think they won’t be around to see it happen. Others know it but just won’t do anything and are too lazy, and then there are those who are in it for the money (capitalism with a smile).

Elaine’s children weren’t protected from an awareness of hardship. Both of Elaine’s parents lived through the Blitz in London during World War II, and spoke of it in detail to her grandchildren and “tears filled their eyes.” Her daughters, too, have acknowledged that “some of the best times where when we had the least.

Elaine loves her daughter, isn’t reconciled to this cut-off and finds it “hard to accept the relationship that I have with her now.” She states: “I wish there was a book on how to make my daughter talk to me, because I can’t learn from what I don’t know…I’m searching for answers to who my daughter is.” She attributes the cut-off to her candor: “I only hope that someday she will understand the reason for me telling her what I know. I believe we all gain from being armed with knowledge, as the earth will go on with or without us.

I would have loved a book this Mother’s Day on how to prepare our children for a very different future. Maybe if I believed she was happy, I could let her go. But my motherly instincts tell me otherwise.

I have much in common with this couple. I’m about their same age, and have had my daughter only a few years later than they did. We’ve read the same books, watched the same films, and I’m sure we both have bored our daughters to death with our “information.” Hopefully, I can offer this couple something they might find useful in their goal of reaching out and healing the disconnect between themselves and their daughter Jennifer:

Dear Elaine and David,

You’ve tried so hard to do right by your daughter. You’ve loved her, home-schooled her, taught her basic skills in a rural environment, and above all, you’ve been honest with her about the world she is living in, and she’s been touched by it. She’s listened, with tears in her eyes, to the stories of her grandparents hardship during World War II. She sounds like the smart and sensitive woman you’ve raised her to be.

You see her refusal to come around and accept how “real” things are, as the source of your cut-off from her, but I have a different idea I’d like to toss out. I’d like to suggest that, as hard as this is to hear, your own convictions about how things “should be,” and your own investment in wanting Jennifer to live the way you think she should be living, might be closer to the truth.

Elaine, you and I are both in our 50’s, and we’ve lived a life that we believed was going to work best for us. We grew up in a time of social optimism, and hope for a future that appeared full of possibilities. Your daughter is facing a future of dwindling resources, and increasingly limited life choices.

You decided to seek an alternative path in areas of child rearing (David was a “stay at home” Dad) and education (you home schooled). I hope you were able to get the support of your parents in making those decisions, because we all need support during those difficult early years. Jennifer’s living at a time when even deciding to have child(ren) might be seen as an act of selfishness on her part or cruelty to those child(ren.) My heart goes out to this generation, because we helped shaped the world we’re living in, and our generation took the best and biggest slice of the resources, leaving the next a breakdown historic in its proportions. It’s no surprise that they are looking for mindless distractions to relieve the enormous pressure they feel, coming from every angle.

It is clear that you’ve had a profound impact on your childrens’ lives, but now it is time to relax a bit and trust that whatever direction your adult children take, ultimately, they will never be separated from that loving education you provided. Because of that great dedication to that fundamental shift in your understanding of the world, (a vision I share with you, by the way), I can tell you, without reservations, that you are blowing it now. Perhaps I’m projecting my experience onto yours, so let me tell you about some of the mistakes I made with my own daughter, and see if any of it rings true.

One of the most difficult questions for social activist parents to ask their adult children is: “Do you want my opinion?” For a long time, I didn’t want to ask my daughter that question, because I knew what the answer was.

She didn’t.

She already knew what I thought, thank you very much, because I told her so often. I used to try and “sneak in” education by promising to “only play this tape for 10 minutes” or “only talk for 15 minutes” before I’d agree to change the subject (this worked best when she was in the car and couldn’t escape!). I knew she was listening with half an ear, and I knew she was resentful about it, too, but I told myself that this was “for her own good.”

She knew, however, what I refused to acknowledge: She had a right to her own opinion, even if she WAS my daughter.

I “woke up” when it got so bad, that I one day bribed her by offering to take her to dinner, on the condition that she’d listen to me “talk to her” (lecture at her) for some set period of time. She agreed, sullenly (…she wanted the meal out) but as I talked, I began to notice, really notice, the pained look on her face. Suddenly, deep in my gut, I realized that I had been a fool. What was I doing holding my daughter captive under the lure of a meal out? How effective did I believe I would be under this sort of “forced brainwashing?” Was this really the way to “win friends and influence people?” Of course not.

So I did an “about face.” I stopped my “educational seminar” short, and promised her that I’d never speak to her about any of it, again, unless she was willing to listen. I was losing “valuable learning opportunities,” but I solidified a different sort of relationship with my daughter, based upon more mutual respect.

Later on, a funny thing happened: She started hinting to me that she was following the doomer news. She’d be updating me about what was happening, and I could see she took great pride in “stumping the Peak Shrink.” She could see the delight I took in her, as well, but I still kept my mouth shut, unless she asked me. Later still, she told me that, despite her living in the city, and not “preparing” in any way, she fully expected that I would “keep a place” for her, at my house, should TSHTF. So THAT was her plan!

She totaled her car recently, and asked my opinion about what she should do, because she couldn’t afford to buy another one. Remember, she ASKED me, so I told her. She fought with me when I answered, and I reminded her that ultimately, it was her decision. She knew what I thought, but would have to make up her own mind, because it was her life.

She’s amazed herself by remaining car-free.

Later, she’s suggested some TV programs she thought I’d like, and you know what? She was right. They were enjoyable, (and yes, they were silly) and I told her so. Silly is sometimes good.

Elaine, trust yourself, and re-focus your attention on your relationship with your daughter, is my advice to you. The only way to know who your daughter truly is, is to ask questions, and be genuinely interested in the answers. Not the “Don’t you think you’d be better off…” kind of questions. Leave your judgments at the door.

In my opinion, nothing, including the “Big Bozo Carbon Footprint” (BBCF) Jennifer is leaving, is worth losing her warm connection to you and your husband. You had your chance to make your impression on her, during all of the years when you raised her, and now you have to trust that you succeeded, despite the “fossil fuel fiesta” she’s having now. I’m sure she “gets it.” I’m sure she “knows what you think,” and this might be a big part of the problem.

She knows you don’t respect her, Elaine, no matter how much you may love her. You’ve publicly ridiculed her, calling her interests “silly,” and despite the social approval you got for doing so, by people like me, who agree with you, you’ve also paid a tremendous price for your convictions. It isn’t a price anyone should have to pay. What kind of price?

You weren’t there to stand by her, and promise to support the couple when she married. She needed you to be part of her team, to knock down the door if you had to, and you didn’t. She needed you to congratulate her on surviving that first trying year of being married, and to laugh at, instead of mock that ridiculous gorilla picture. And she’ll need you a lot more, if she decides to contribute to our overpopulation problem in the future.

Your grandchildren will need their Grannie to show them how to raise crops, jump in puddles without caring, and keep their BBFP small. They’ll listen with complete rapture to your stories, and even tears, without ever judging you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to spend long vacations with them, to give the young couple a break from their parenting responsibilities, and everyone will have a blast–kids, grandparents, and (alone at last!) parents.

But before any of that happens, Elaine, you have to learn to bend real low, for a higher cause. You’ve made the greatest and most common mistake all parents of adult children make: You needed to be right, rather than to be happy.

Despite the fact that you are sure that your daughter is not happy, (and how could she be, estranged from her mother?) Elaine, you aren’t happy either. How could you be? Despite your clear and un-ambivalent declarations of love, I kept reading a stronger subtext of emotion: Pride.

“I only hope that someday she will understand the reason for me telling her what I know. I believe we all gain from being armed with knowledge…” In other words: “I did it for her own good (whether she likes it or not!”) You are certain of your rightness and that pride and certainty is hurting you, Elaine, and alienating you from your own daughter. Don’t let it block you from reaching out and taking a new tact.

Admit that you are a Bozo (we are ALL Bozos on this bus), and make plans to mend your ways. Look for areas where you can stretch and reach out to her. Leave long, apologetic messages on Jennifer’s line, telling her what a jerk you’ve been and telling her how much you miss her and want to make up. Maybe you’ll promise to go to NASCAR with her, drink lots of beer and digest hot dogs with nitrates. (Okay, that would be a lot to ask, I admit…) Get your sense of humor back, and ask your daughter to suggest the funniest sit com on television and watch it over a friend’s house, if you don’t own a television. If she won’t talk to you, ask your other daughter to find out what shows she enjoys. Leave her weekly messages about what parts you thought were the funniest. Tell her you were “lame.” Tell her that you love her more than you need her to save the planet. Tell her that you only have one planet to live on, and you’d rather live on it with her in your life. Tell her you’ll keep a place for her and her hubbie, even if you won’t ‘keep the light on’ for them. Chances are, you and your husband have more time and resources than Jennifer and her husband do anyway. You are part of the Boomer generation, and we’ve been deeply blessed. It might be helpful to acknowledge to her just how lucky we’ve been, and just how screwed that has left her.

Believe me, her “BBFP” isn’t going to bring the planet tumbling down, all by itself, but your “Bozo Pride” will bring your mother-daughter bond to a painful low. Don’t let it. Swallow your pride, make the connection now, and go see her, if the 3 dozen messages don’t work.

This is my belated Mothers’ Day present to you, both, and I hope you find it helpful. If you decide to try it, let me know what happens.

Fond regards from a fellow Boomer Doomer,

Dr. Kathy

How Should We Act?

by AntiGrav

As I look at the situation I’m in at this point in life and the world, I see a lot of people trying to find analogies for what is happening and looking for the right actions to take as their adrenalin gets pumped more and more with each day, with each hour of bad news, with every gust of wind that didn’t seem to be so strong LAST year….

We won’t find one. Oh, there are some similarities with previous
climate changes, previous civilization failures, previous culture changes and economic disasters, but they aren’t all together and they aren’t self-amplifying as the current compounded factors.

I’m a Doomer. Let’s get that right up front.

In John Michael Greer’s terms, I BELIEVE HARD in the Myth of Apocalypse. I don’t see any evidence that we are trying very hard to ensure it is only a myth, though, and I also don’t think that we as humans are generally able to understand the concepts of delayed instrument data and delay tactics combined with denial of our own science. We have now seen enough data to know that the CO2 is rising
exponentially, not linearly. The ocean acidity has changed measurably.
It doesn’t really matter what the actual quantification is at this point, because if we have dumped enough CO2 into the atmosphere to change the acidity of the entire ocean, and we are just now measuring it, then we are probably way beyond being able to remedy the massive impact of dumping millions of years’ worth of carbon into the atmosphere during a single century.

My life has been one of technological miracles. I am not so very old
(47), but I started on one of the last frontiers with a father who still believed in using animal power and hand tools and a plethora of free
labor (children) to farm the frozen rocks of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
I went from learning to rivet harnesses to operating machine tools and
overhauling engines to the military and electronics, aerospace and physics. As I moved out of government service to the private product
development sector, I started to feel something was going wrong with me or the world or both. The technology wasn’t working like it was
advertised. It wasn’t saving the world, it was eating people’s brains.
The new digital age which claimed to save time and make life easier
simply forced people to act in simpler ways on the job and follow
programs written by specialists in programming. Jobs became ‘positions’,
assembly areas became ‘stations’ with poke-a-yoke and other systems of
systems to keep people from making mistakes that normal people make. Our devices became so complex that they are no longer repairable, and thus, no longer understandable by someone of intelligent means with useful tools. The modern cellphone factory is an organism that produces fruit. That fruit can no more be repaired than an apple with a bite taken out of it. Humans are relegated to ‘facilitators’ of greedy wants. It is the consumer’s lot to transform the wants of the marketers into desires, while the moneylenders transform desires into products and debts payable against one’s future existence. We don’t go to jobs because we WANT to do those jobs. We go to those jobs because we have chains around our necks that have been forged with an imprint called “free choice” (Collect all five, trade with your friends!).

The world does not need everyone to have a job. It needs people to
maintain the natural systems that people chose to remove pieces of life
from. As we expanded the human population through farms, we interfered with the natural world’s systems of interaction. Humans have been part of those systems more significantly than profiteers want us to know. It is one thing to imagine we killed the buffalo and now we have to put some back and pay token tribute to the grasslands they roam, but it is quite another to admit that human beings created much of the grassland in the first place by spreading fire everywhere and keeping the
shrubbery cleared for the grass. In doing so, we would have to admit
that anthropogenic responsibility is much larger and deeper than we are
willing to purchase or provide to the world which we steal from. It is
one thing to allow a few buffalo to have some scrub land in South
Dakota, but impossible to believe we should tear up the freeways and
fences on the entire Great Plains, thus allowing the grass and buffalo
to grow and feed people who don’t need to drive.

We have a long way to go to reach reasonable levels of consumption
and become a Net Useful species in the eyes of nature. I don’t think
we’ll do so before we see our own destruction (already seeded and
fertilized). Perhaps this apocalyptic view is one born of my depression
and just an excuse to avoid the truth. That truth is that I am too tired
to fight the mobs anymore. To pretend that I can save the world is a
delusion I can no longer endure. “But you don’t have to do it alone!”
some will say. Perhaps that would be true if I was one of you, but I’m
not. I’m the fringe: the person who actually learned things instead of
memorizing the rote answers to pass the test. I UNDERSTAND THINGS. I don’t pay lip service to discussions of climate or alternative energy or
economic policy. I KNOW what needs to be done and I KNOW that the human race doesn’t have the ability or motivation to take the necessary steps to solve their problems. Our food and schools have made us stupid and lazy and now we’ll never find out HOW stupid and lazy we collectively are. It makes no sense to measure the parameters if nobody is going to be around to read the report or be smart enough to understand it.

Welcome to the Stoned Age, and good luck with that ‘recovery’ thing.
The problems we are facing are based on our giving up our senses in
exchange for imagination. There is not a way to give up imagination in
exchange for senses without direct situational evolution (catastrophic
population change). Imagination always imagines a world of more
imagination and perpetual growth of imagination. It’s a one-way ticket
to self-consumption.