Peak Oil Ping-Pong and Dodging the Consensus Trance

Dear Peak Shrink

I’ve devoted today to exploring the Peak Oil Blues site. As part of that, I’d like to share with you and other readers my trip down that road. There’ll be commonalities and differences.

I stumbled across the peak oil issue earlier this year, probably eight or nine months ago. It seems that a lifetime has gone by since. I was Net-surfing, following up on my then current interest – velomobiles. I was reading up on fuel efficiency, when I saw a link that warned it would lead me somewhere scary. It did. It took me to Life After the Oil Crash. (not a Neil Young album)

Instantly I was convinced – no denial, no doubts, no dilly-dallying. Rather, I was dismayed that I hadn’t seen the writing on the wall much earlier. It all clicked. I grokked it. How could I have been so blind! Another emotion I felt at the time was exhilaration. Some ‘doomsters’ refer to their visits to P.O. sites as a peak oil pornography fix, and I can understand why they would do so!

I underwent a period of frantic exploration, tagging sites, half-reading articles, joining groups, meeting up (online) with others and viewing documentaries. Like a ping-pong ball, my state of mind bounced to the tune of whatever the predominant psychological slant of the author was. And yet . . . what about those advertisements they posted for books and devices that would help you weather the apocalypse? What were the webmasters’ vested interests? I had to weigh up, evaluate and sift through information that was not always impartial. (one site had a link that led to a spiel which urged me to invest in Uranium!)

To cut a longer story short, I tumbled a turbulent ride for a spell. Luckily my wife came aboard quite soon – in contrast to another writer to Peak Oil Blues. I’m extremely relieved about that. You see, I haven’t the knack of explaining and convincing other people. My best guess is that I have a highly-functioning form of Asperger’s Syndrome which ain’t all bad – in fact; on the whole I am glad that I have it! But it does mean that I have to put up with quite a high level of free-floating anxiety. You get my meaning? Peak oil doesn’t exactly help with that!

At this stage there are specific preparations that I can make (I have the ability, opportunity, know-how and our mortgage is almost paid off). For all of my life I’ve been interested in voluntary simplicity and self-sufficiency. I can live off the smell of an oily rag (ha-ha) and have kept myself in excellent shape (I’ve walked one hundred miles non-stop). In 2008 I’ve elected to work part-time only, so as to allow me to research and effect further changes to my lifestyle.

I live in one of the few regions of the world that is not in population overshoot, and within a year or two we’ll move to that part of the country that I’ve ascertained will probably be best in terms of climate, resources and population. I’m convinced that community is the key factor to consider.

As with Asperger’s, peak oil comes with – or it did for me – many positives. That may sound surprising, but after having read over two dozen books by people like James Howard Kunstler, Richard Heinberg, Jared Diamond and others, I have a much better understanding of global economy, geopolitics, history, civilization etc. I’m very stimulated by the ideas of Daniel Quinn, Dimitry Orlov and Ran Prieur, and that has vastly expanded my world. I’m glad peak oil has brought me into touch with minds of their caliber.

On the other hand, I am determined not to let peak oil take over my life. On the universal scale it is, according to my perspective, a trivial matter, ultimately.

I see life quite differently to most other people. Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch and maybe a few others also have an inkling (think “What the Bleep Do We Know?”) but I’m trying to extend their thinking further. I feel it is of the greatest importance not to seek the meaning of life, but to live personally according to the implications once you’ve discovered that meaning. Peak oil spurs me. It has jerked me out of the consensus trance.

At this point you may well wish to pass me over to another shrink . . ! Sorry for going off on a tangent. What I’m trying to say here is that I’ve dealt, or am dealing, with peak oil and that now I’m trying to maintain a balance. I refuse to let it dominate my life, and I guess that this is the message I’d like to leave for others here, that you endeavor to live your life in spite of, or in the face of, or within the confines of that problem.

It’s funny, but I haven’t looked at a velomobile website for ages!

Stabilizing Balance

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Dear S.B.

If I could emphasize two points from your story, it is the importance of balance, and finding one’s own moral center in all of this transition. For months now, I’ve been increasingly concerned that as things get economically tougher here in the USA, there will be individuals or groups offering various forms of “salvation,” whether it be spiritual, economic, or cultural. Miracle “solutions” will be offered for a price. The simple, cost-free, step-by-step, boring, incremental answers may be disregarded if we’re promised a chance to “help the world AND use our fuel!”

Consensus trance can also occur among alternative communities, as well as mainstream ones. Even on the Earth, upheavals come in different forms–drought in this place, downpours and flooding in that one. Many people will offer “answers,” but if they offer “universal” answers, run, don’t walk the other way.

Thinking for yourself is difficult, that’s why so few people do it, as a great wit once said. However, thinking for yourself, investigating your own circumstances, learning all you can that relates to your own values, locale, climate, crops, family life, is not only important to do, it will allow you to come to an answer that fits you better than any book, guru, or website can promise. It will be the answers you’ve developed, after struggle and confusion, that fits you AND your family, with their input. It will be the solution you’ve reached, after listening to the critics, the ones you strongly disagree with, the ones who’s values you reject. Allow yourself to be exposed to all of it, and from it, let a complicated, unclear, confusing, “good enough” solution come out of it that you are willing to live with.

And what you say is usually a good rule of thumb: Cui Bono–follow the money. This is not to imply that anyone who is making money is “bad,” but just that as money comes rolling in, there can be an investment in continuing to make that happen, even in the face of contradictory information. That is human nature. I have met very few people in the Peak Oil community who have “cashed in,” because of their involvement in Peak Oil. Nonetheless, it is useful to ask yourself whether there is a vested interest in promoting a point of view. I’d be particularly skeptical of those who refuse to even offer you their name, while asking you to accept their advice. “Fancy Pants” might have valuable things to say, but you have no idea who he or she is and who they work for. What’s more, that handle tells you that they choose to keep their true identity hidden (sometimes for very good reasons.)

None of us have “the answers.” Each of us have our own answers, or our piece of the puzzle that we can put together with other people to see a broader view. Thanks for adding your own piece.

Kathy aka “Fancy Pants” Peak Shrink