Alternate Energy – It may be closer than you think

It is obvious reading all the MSM articles on energy that they still are counting on technology to ride to the rescue of the declining oil age in the form of alternate energy on a white horse.  I wish I shared their optimism, but the facts don’t seem to support that rosy outlook.  I do believe we are closer to the alternate energy that no one wishes to think about.  It is time proven, inexpensive to implement, useful for growing crops, building or repairing houses, transporting you 10-20 miles, but nowhere as efficient as what we use today.  Where is this miraculous alternate energy?  Why it is in your very house.  Get up and go to the bathroom. Take a look in the mirror.  You are looking at the alternate energy of the future that you, your family, and neighbors will have to depend on—-you.

That’s right, you, that miraculous machine that takes in food energy and converts it into useful work.  Wait a minute you say, I am a pencil pushing paper shuffling e-mail dynamo, how is that going to be useful alternate energy in the world unfolding before us?  Well, in a few words, it won’t.  One of the mantras we have heard repeated during this economic downturn, is that to stay employed you have to constantly re-invent yourself.  Welcome to the biggest re-invention you will ever experience, the world’s newest (and oldest!) alternate energy source.  This alternate energy source already runs on bio-fuels without any need to convert its inner workings.  It will work in extreme heat or cold, just not as well as in moderate temperatures.

Uh oh, I think I hear the term physical conditioning coming.  Is this some kind of New Year’s resolution thing?  I don’t do well with those.  Well, those of us who have been to a Dr. in the last 10 years have already heard the speech, so I will dispense with it here.  What I would like to focus on is how we can make better use of this age old form of alternate energy in the future.  If one looks at a copy of an old Sears catalog from the late 1800’s, you will find all sorts of tools to multiply one’s ability to accomplish work.  Some are simple and still in use today, the crowbar and the pulley being two such items.  Others are a little more complex, such as the bicycle.  In order for these to be useful to you, two things must be in place.  First, you must understand how to use these tools in a manner for which they were designed, and their limitations.  Secondly, you must possess or have access to these tools when they are needed.

There is a second way to multiply this alternate energy when needed, recruit other alternate energy supplies to assist you with your task at hand.  This may be the biggest challenge to the new alternate energy.  We have lived several decades, at least one full generation, with the notion that to ask for help is a sign of weakness.  Our pride can be our undoing.  In order for this alternate energy of the future (and the past) to be effective, it will have to be a collective effort in many cases.  Unless you live in a very small community, calling your friend on the other side of town to assist may not be your best idea.  Instead, you will need to start cultivating the fields of neighbors right around you.  The sooner the better.   Not only can you acquire different skill sets by doing so, but you can come up with a way to multiply your tool access in the process.  It will usually be sufficient for there to be only one or two sets of certain tools among your group to accomplish most tasks.  It is very inefficient for everyone to have a copy of the same tool set, if it isn’t used very often.  Part of the process to break the ice, is to have an inventory of your own tools and skills  which you pass to each neighbor with the understanding that they are available if needed, and ask them to add anything to the list they might be able to make available if needed.  This is an early step in making “community” right where you live.

Up to now, this seems to be a “me and mine” or “you and yours” type of arrangement.  There is another group you need to realize your alternate energy will have to be used for.  In your “community of neighbors” will be those whose alternate energy has decreased to a barely functioning level, either by age or physical infirmities, who will have to depend on you and your neighbors to assist with, or in some cases completely take on a task of theirs which is beyond their capability.  In the future, giving them a phone number of a United Way agency or telling them to call an out of town relative for assistance will probably not be an option, and will not discharge your obligations to the “community”.

All of this prepping for the new alternate energy takes something all of us try to hoard, TIME.  Some of your neighbors today will see no reason to invest any of their time in any endeavor of this sort, because they don’t see a problem they can’t solve themselves or with a phone call……..yet.  I’m reminded of times when a strong hurricane is approaching shore, and the population has been put under a mandatory evacuation order, there are still those who want to do it all themselves and stay put, their pride won’t allow them to be anything but completely independent.  Unfortunately, they put others at grave risk trying to rescue them later.  You probably won’t be able to convince a large portion of your neighbor community to work at mutual assistance initially, but seeing it in action can be a powerful incentive.  Somebody from the city or the state is not going to come in to set up the kind of “community” you need, it will have to originate with YOU.  Will you start using your alternate energy productively today?  Let’s hope so.  It may be all we have available in a few years.


Chuck Willis

written by Chuck Willis on 1/9/11


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

I Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Transition Was in: Part III – Rejecting Survivalists?

In Part II – Context, I wondered whether there were distinct cultural differences we needed to pay attention to, between the UK and the US. In this post, I spell out one of them that I see as pertaining directly to the Peak Oil community: the perspective on ‘Survivalism’ as a philosophy.

I had initially thought it was just a matter of personal prejudice on Rob Hopkins part, when I disagreed with him so vehemently in his September 4, 2006 piece entitled: “Why Survivalists Have Got It All Wrong.” He displayed pictures of pseudo-cavemen, and made reference to selfish survivalists hording lifeboats on the Titanic and an “every man for himself” behavior in a house fire. He was responding to Zach Nowak’s piece that had earlier posted in Energy Bulletin. He wrote:

    “I have very little time for the survivalist response to peak oil…”

I couldn’t imagine how he could so easily dismiss such a large group of people who were not only savvy about Peak Oil, but were also, in my community, among some of the most active members of our sustainability group.

My response:

“I read what you wrote with interest, but I’m afraid your photos and tone might be undercutting your message. It may be easier to stereotype and point to extremes in a community than it is to look more carefully at what wisdom their philosophy might offer to all of us. If we are interested in building community, we may need everybody, including those who have chosen to keep the basic arts of preparing for difficult times a living, breathing art form. These same people teach others how to hunt or butcher or breed animals; how to can or grow or harvest food; how to weave or sew or preserve fabric. While we may not choose to do all of these things, a move toward greater self-sufficiency might be the unifying message we can all embrace.

Survivalism, in its more moderate form, is also social commentary that requires the adherents to “walk their talk.” When we teach our children at home, it is commentary on a loss of faith in public education. When we choose to grow our own food, it is because what is sold as ‘food,’ is often tasteless and lacks nutrition. When we slaughter our own animals, it is because we know they haven’t eaten hormones and chemicals, have been raised with care, and slaughtered gratefully.

There is also an implicitly political message in making a caricature of the “survivalist,” as it suggests that there is nothing in our environment that we need to adapt to and “survive.” If we embrace any notion of having to “power down,” we may want to consider a different message.

Such ridicule isn’t deserved by many people I could label ‘survivalists.’ A true survivalist has gone into that ‘dark night’ and realizes that the notion of isolation is an absurd one.

One final point: when the fire breaks out, the true survivalist has already taught their families to prepare for it, which exits to use for escape and to crawl, not walk to them if the smoke is heavy. And also, I doubt you’d get most survivalists to buy the notion of an “unsinkable” ship. The best would have taught their families to swim, and what to do in the event that there was no room on the lifeboats. That event happened because of a lack of planning. I doubt a ‘survivalist’ was to blame.”

What Survivalists Got RIGHT

The Transition Handbook has a chapter highlighting Post Petroleum Stress Disorder. Here Rob mentions the “irrational grasping at unfeasible solutions.” Also included is a single paragraph that continues to create a caricature of nihilists and survivalists. Hopkins drags out stereotyped examples designed to ridicule these movements, suggesting that, unlike his own, they have no real contribution to make. As I mentioned in my response to his article, my experience is distinctly different. Far from having nothing to contribute, many people in these movements strongly embrace not only the need for community, but offer preparedness skills, insightful, and valid criticisms of our culture, and its predicament. It was difficult for me to understand, then, why in a book filled with encouragement to reach out to the widest possible audience and teach tolerance in community-building, he would stereotype and reject potential allies, who shared his concerns. In addition, overlapping communities with some differences appeared to me to make a movement MORE resilient, not less. It was disappointing to read.

I also wondered why he would be so hostile to the very same folks who will be some of our most skilled community members in the future. Why a parody promoting intolerance for those who “think differently?” Was the goal to “brand” TI as a more “mainstream” movement that’s “not like them?” At the time, I saw such derisiveness as mean-spirited, and marginalizing the dedicated efforts of those who identify themselves in this way.

I’ve come to look upon this as yet another cultural difference.

Fighting off Invaders with a Shake of the Fist!

While I could find dozens of US sites that covered many different perspectives on Survivalism, I could find only one UK site devoted to the same theme. In one of them, a humorous response by one reader was this:

“In the event of the world turning upside down, I think most folk in the UK will dig trenches behind their privet hedges and be prepared to fight off invaders with a shake of the fist and a harsh letter to The Times…failing that, Capt. Mannering and his brave brigade will restore order and justice from GCHQ at Walmington-on-Sea

…as long as we have tea, we will prevail!! “

Capt. Mannering is a character from a popular British sit-com about a military official who keeps order in the UK during WWII.

The only other item about “Survivalism” in the UK, spoke of a 1975-1977 TV series, about a small band of survivors who emerged from a pandemic that wiped out more than 95% of the population. In sharp contrast to our own more recent gun-toting holocaust TV series “Jericho,” the protagonist here, Abby Grant, and her ad hoc group, remained reluctant to arm themselves, even after being confronted by armed adversaries on numerous occasions.

Guns have traditionally been shunned in the UK, and even police did not carry them until recently. One person attributed the spread of hoof and mouth disease to the fact that UK vets aren’t allowed to carry guns, and therefore could not kill the animal on the spot, when they learned they were diseased. As previously mentioned, the UK has, what “is believed to be some of the strictest gun legislation in the world” while the US has some of the most lenient.

Guns and Butter
The very notion of a “survivalist” evokes a distinctly American image of the Wild West, or Appalachian folks with shot-guns in the hills with hidden moonshine stills.

This pervasive spirit of individualism, or the more poetic sentiment that “good fences make good neighbors,” is much more uniquely American. Like the automobile, that allowed us to ‘take in the wide open spaces,’ a majority of Americans believe that they have a right to own a gun. About half of the U.S. population actually live in households with guns, but there is a broad geographical difference between these folks and those who do not. The bulk of gun owners generally live in rural areas and small towns, while the strongest advocates of strict gun laws tend to live in large urban areas.

These rural areas and small towns also enable other features embraced by survivalist thinking, such as raising livestock, farming and creating root cellars. Far from being isolationist, these areas recognize the inherent need to rely on others. Our urban cousins (sometimes referred to as “city-zens”) might have less interest in these arts, given their limited space, zoning restrictions, and easy access to shopping.

Natural Disasters
In a fairly mild climate, like the UK, it is more difficult to remember that there exists in the US, and many other countries around the world, a need for preparations as protection against “the weather.” This winter, my neighbors and I were without electricity for a week or more. My preparations allowed me to have light, keep warm, and to cook hot meals from food storage for my family. We were both the givers and recipients from neighbors, of food, water, and other necessities. We checked up on those that might be facing problems. These preparations are part of our rural lifestyle. Like many of my neighbors, I have pets and livestock to care for, and can’t allow a little ice storm to threaten my life or theirs.

Many survivalists I know have become so, after they’ve lived through a variety of natural disasters or climate conditions such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes or blizzards. Some have had to survive the more mundane problems of unemployment that required them to live off their food storage when money was in short supply. A weeks worth (or even three months worth) of preparations doesn’t make you a wacky reactionary, or anti-social when you live with such threats. It makes you sensible.

These preparations can be as simple as following Red Cross and FEMA recommendations by keeping a first aid kit, shovel, and extra clothes in the car, or maintaining a small kit of emergency supplies in the home and car, containing food, water, a space blanket and other essentials. A “bug out bag” can enable your family to preserve precious photos, medicines and a few non-electric toys, when you are forced to flee in a wild-fire. Basic skills, such as knowing how to drain your plumbing, or shut off your gas, can leave you with a home to return to, once the danger has passed.

Preparation: Community AND Individual Solutions

But still, unlike our ancestors, who simply assumed that it was smart to be skilled in basic arts such as canning, preserving, chopping wood, raising livestock, and yes, even killing an animal that posed a danger to your children, these are lost to a great many of us. They aren’t required of urban dwellers. Even those who should take an active interest in “surviving” presenting dangers often do not. They simply assume that government officials will rescue them when the worst happens. This is a decidedly “non-community” focus, that taxes the common resources of all of us. Hurricane Katrina is a teaching tale in this regard.

More worrisome, those who were well-prepared during this disaster experienced the hostile attitude Rob typifies, and were often looked upon with suspicion by relief workers, when they preferred to stay put, after the initial danger had passed. One writer believed that the relief workers assumed that these inhabitants must have stolen what they had, so rare was this notion of being “well prepared.” He believed that these officials were convinced that public shelters were automatically a better solution, than remaining in one’s home, and some homeowners reported being threatened when they refused to go.

I would like to suggest that in the US, we should be emphasizing the need for more of our neighbors to be well-prepared, rather than mocking those who are.

Beyond Cliché: Toward Embracing Commonality
I, therefore, would ask that we, here in the US, take a more sober approach to our writings and our attitudes toward those who might identify themselves as survivalists. We can begin by promoting sensible books like Kathy Harrison’s now classic “Just in Case.” Such books make basic notions of surviving a wide variety of disasters, whether you live in the city or the country, good common-sense.

The current edition of the Transition Handbook is a manual now being regarded as the blueprint for the future. Unfortunately, his prejudice against survivalists is now officially part of the TI perspective. It is unfortunate that Hopkins is incorporating this second-hand cliché of the American survivalist movement, as a truism. Having no first-hand experience of how large and diverse a community it is, he is doing a disservice to spread this bias. I attribute this to another example of how dangerous cultural blinders can be, when we seek to transplant a set of ideas from one culture to another.

American “Survivalist” movements straddle a vast array of attitudes and opinions, from deplorable notions of white supremacy, to accepted wisdom of community self-sufficiency that bear a great resemblance to the best aspects of TI. They do, however, emphasize skills, stores, and self-defense, whether on an individual or community level. “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” could be said by a survivalist, but this does not automatically mean an individual approach. This preparation often encompasses the community; advocating notions of generosity and charitable giving, while simultaneously stressing individual responsibility.

The single most popular and widely read blog of its kind, SurvivalBlog, emphasizes the values of community, sharing knowledge, the necessity of faith, and the importance of charity, while stressing the need for “bullets, Band-Aids and beans.” It has approximately 124,000 unique visits per week, 208 million+ hits since it was founded in August of 2005. “Survivalism” is a growing force in the US Peak Oil movement, and might be the dominant American collapse- preparation paradigm, currently having a far greater number of adherents in the US than the TI movement.

We can all have a good laugh pointing out their “folly,” or we can be sincere in investigating where we share common ground. The choice is ours.

Odd Man Out

This letter had a lot of “back and forth” communication, and I tried to reconstruct it here, for ease of reading. I hope Odd Man Out doesn’t mind…


Dear Peak Shrink,

I found your site very recently, via a link off of one of the peak oil forums, though the name of it escapes me. I’m glad I did, however. I’ve heard about peak oil many years ago, when I was in my teens, and it terrified me and shook my world. Panic took over, and then somehow I got my mind off it and went back to normal life and forgot I ever came across it.

And then with the current economic issues and oil prices, it crept back into my mind and I started to research it more and more again, until I was spending more or less every spare minute of my time researching it. I still thought about it constantly, even when I couldn’t research it.

That was a week ago. I’ve gone from panic, to outright hysteria and now? I’m not quite sure what sort of state I’m in. I suppose I just feel very numb, and now I can’t look at anything in the same way. Everyone else seems to be blissfully unaware of what might as well be the coming apocalypse.

It’s confusing in a way. I think the worst part of it all, though, is knowing that I’m very likely to die in the coming crisis. Death has always terrified me, more so because of psychological problems I suffer from. I also have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, though I am on the upper functioning end of the scale.

I require lots of support to live even in today’s world, though I’ve always been fascinated with the goal of trying to live as independently as possible. I often see lots of uproar about benefits, or welfare as I think it’s called in America. I am currently on it, though I have been trying my hardest to become a fully functioning member of society so that I can support myself. But it makes me think, if people don’t like it now, then what will it be like when economic collapse happens? I will be dead weight for everyone, as the main skill I’ve taught myself all my life is computers, and nobody will need someone who knows about computers around. Learning new skills is very hard for me, with I guess some kind of learning difficulties.

I see all these people preparing on peak oil forums, some more so than others, and I feel overwhelmed by the effort needed and then I think that I can’t do it. Although it sounds really morbid, I’ve started changing tack now (I think I really must be a ‘doomer’), not trying to prepare for survival, but to prepare for death. My fear of death largely comprises the fact that it will most likely be painful, slow, or both. I still haven’t quite figured out how to work my way around that. For now, it just sits in my mind. It’s become a case of not ‘if’ I’m going to die, but ‘how.’ Other people are figuring out how to stockpile supplies, and I’m figuring out how to stockpile sleeping pills for an overdose when the collapse finally comes.

I guess all my babbling says I’m confused. I read all these survival guides, and I think, is this for me? It almost feels like I have some kind of concussion, like I’ve just been smacked over the head with something hard, because I honestly don’t know if I can ‘make’ it if I tried. Feels more comforting knowing my fate is certain, even if its death, than having that little shred of hope only to have it snatched away at the last moment.

I think my big hope is that I can some how handle this like another situation I faced. At one point I tried to turn a working relationship that was going to end at some point into a friendship, and it didn’t work out, so I backed away and just tried my hardest to enjoy things the way they were. The person left eventually, as was intended, but I had managed to have such a nice working relationship that it didn’t really feel so bad that we couldn’t be friends when they left. Things had taken their course, and I had enjoyed it to the best of my ability, and I still look upon that time fondly.

Maybe that’s the right course of action? Live my life as enjoyably as I can, working on my novel and paintings, even though they’ll just be trash sooner or later, without excessively destroying the planet or driving up the price of oil (I’ve been trying to cut back on more or less everything non essential at the moment), enjoy things the way they are, so that when that painful death does come, I can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I made the best of things.

But as I said, that’s my big hope. It might not matter that much, if I’m lying in a ditch, having been mugged for my small bit of food and left starving to death. I’m praying, however, that it doesn’t come to that. There’s one thing I am coming to accept, and that’s live or die, the world is going to change. I just hope that the change is gradual, and doesn’t become a total collapse. Even if I die, I don’t want to see everything humanity has worked for go to waste.

The idea of change is a big thing for me, especially for someone with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, I suppose. I have difficulty adjusting to simple things like transport running late and the like, so the logical extension of that for me is to think that if I have difficulty with that, then how difficult is adapting to the future going to be?

Odd Man Out


Dear OMO,

It usually is not the best time to assess your situation when you are in an upset state. Give yourself some time to consider your skills, what you might like to do, and what you are drawn to. Talk to friends about what they see as your strengths and weaknesses. Are you in good health? Have stamina? Eat well? These basic things will be important to focus on for the future, and are a good place to start.

I’d suggest you consider the “in-between” times, the times between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ times, because these “in-between” times may be much of your lifetime. How will you make enough money to pay your rent, increased heating bill, food bill? It is one thing to worry about the “golden hordes” stealing your stuff, but the concerns you should be focused on may be much more immediate.

Try to expand your options in your current job, and ask yourself what aspects of your work will still be needed in the next 6 months, 18 months, 5 years. No one, no matter how certain they sound, can predict the future. A willing, helpful attitude, a strong body, and an openness to learn (even if it comes slowly) is a valuable asset. Also remember that many of the skills we’ll need in the future may be a great deal LESS complex than the ones we need now. I feel certain that if you can make it in this crazy environment, you’ll probably do fine in the next one, as long as you stay helpful and willing.

It is easy to get grim when the full impact of Peak Oil hits you once again. These are only feelings, and they will wash over you in time, I promise.

I’d be delighted to dialogue with you more, if the spirit moves you.

“Peak Shrink”

Hi Kathy,

I hadn’t thought about the period between the good and the bad, and that’s an interesting point. I guess if it’s a slow decline, then maybe that period is going to comprise the majority of the time. It’s harder for me to envision an in-between than a good and a bad, for some reason. At the very least, I think I’m starting to calm down a bit now, though I’m still very anxious about the future. I’m hoping I can make the shift to a more positive attitude, regardless of whether I’m preparing to try and make it in the world or not. I feel that going through a phase of self pity and feeling sorry for myself is probably a natural process, regardless of how weak I might appear to the more macho survivalists, but it’s not a healthy feeling like that all the time, and it’s not constructive.

I’ve started trying to make some kind of plans for the future. They’re very simple at the moment, such as seeking advice from my mother about plants and growing food and deciding to stockpile a little bit of emergency food just in case things got really bad. I guess if I try to look on the bright side, I’ve got a few little things going for me, in the sense that, while not being in athletic shape, I’m not physically handicapped in anyway except for my hearing. People say I can be very determined, as well, so maybe that will count for something in the hard times ahead.

I tend to swing, much like my mood, from deciding to prepare for my own death, which is inevitable at some point or another, to clinging to the idea that I want to live. I’ve been talking to my mother about the situation, and I think she agrees that the current situation is not sustainable, but we tend to differ in our views of what will happen. She seems to be an extreme optimist, perhaps believing that technology will save us or we’ll all power down slowly and safely, while I envision “Mad Max.”

I think I’m still in some state of confusion to some extent, though. There’s so many conflicting views, and some people hold to their views with so much conviction, saying that peak oil isn’t real and that growth can continue forever, but then I look at the scientific evidence and it seems so clear and obvious. And yet people still seem to ignore, perhaps conveniently, all of that stuff. I kind of wish in some ways that I could simply bury my head in the sand like most of the other people around me, but then the shock would be even worse and I am very dependent on preparing for things in advance, so I guess that’s an advantage not being able to hide from it all.

In some ways, I kind of want to get the collapse all over with, even though there’s still time left to enjoy what we have. It’s… draining in some ways just having it on the mind all the time, kind of like mental exhaustion. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been trying to read practically every article on the internet that I can find vaguely related to peak oil, regardless of whether it has been on sites promoting political ideas that I just can’t agree with.

Thanks for listening, anyway, and I apologise if my last email was whiny in any way. I tend to whine and then try and get it together. Might just be my method of coping with all the anxiety as I try and cling onto life as I know it, rather than what life is going to be.

Still waiting for some peak oil theorist to slap me in the face and say “haha, fooled you!” But I think I’ll probably be waiting until I’m on my death bed for that.


Dear OMO,

It is easy to feel overwhelmed, regardless of what difficulties you have. We all feel that way. We all have a very tough time learning new skills, or knowing what direction to turn in, first.

Well, whatever difficulty you have just doesn’t come out in your writing. You sound like you are dealing with the kinds of issues I hear from everyone who writes to me. Emotionally, you are on the same page, as well. Mood swings are common. Going from “preparing” to goofing off is common. Wishing you “didn’t know” is common too, but also being glad that you do know. Try your best to think practically whenever possible and do things piece-meal.

One suggestion: Give yourself “news break” days, although I know it is hard when so much is happening. Get outside, grow something, get your hands dirty, and hang out with friends drinking beer (or whatever) and cracking juvenile jokes. This is life. This is YOUR life, and you get to be happy living it, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.

If you’re putting up food, put in a “smore’s” box with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows, or whatever goofy thing reminds you of being a kid.

Hey, I don’t know…you could be a creepy person in real life, but I doubt it. From your emails, I’D want to keep you alive in a downturn. My hunch is other people feel the same way, not the least of which is your mother.

“Peak Shrink”

Dear Kathy,

I think over the internet I can come across like anyone else, and perhaps that’s what I really like about it. My difficulties in functioning in environments with other people is mitigated in the sense that even though I’m communicating with people I’m still safe in my room. People say I’m very intelligent, even though I didn’t manage to complete much schooling because of my difficulties in functioning in a ‘normal’ situation. Most things I’ve learnt have been self-taught because I wanted to learn, but I didn’t want to go to school because people would hit me and make fun of me because I was different and odd (Amongst many other reasons). Maybe that might be helpful in someway, being self taught in a lot of things, because it might make it easier for me to learn things on my own outside of a formal educational environment.

I think there can be a bit of confusion about Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and even I get confused sometimes. My experience has been that people seem to think that a lot of people on the Autistic spectrum are like Dustin Hoffman in the film “Rainman,” but I don’t think that is really the case. I am lucky, in some ways, that I am on the high functioning end of the spectrum, which I think they call Asperger’s Syndrome. People with Asperger’s Syndrome can be quite bright in some cases, but there are also those who are just like the average person in terms of intelligence.

It’s reassuring to know that other people are experiencing similar things to me. I guess it’s trying to get the right combination of living the life that I have now, and preparing for what’s coming, whether that be death or somehow surviving.

For me, one of the strange things coming to terms with peak oil has brought along is something of a shift from being a die hard atheist to Christian beliefs. I don’t think I can really call myself a Christian, given that although I’ve started trying to follow the beliefs and teachings, I’m not feeling like I’m doing a very good job. I see all the work other religious people are doing, and the self-sacrifice and I feel rather petty, then. I think, even if I’m not good enough to be saved, it still provides me with a sense of comfort, trying to have a relationship with God.

I expect will be or are a lot of people with similar feelings to that, when material things start to loose their value because they’re useless without energy and things. Yet I don’t think it’s a simple fix to all the fears as some people might make out. What happens if people are starving, and you only have limited supplies? Do you share it all out and essentially kill yourself? Do you hand a little bit out, in which it might then be the case that nobody gets enough. Or, do you horde it all for yourself? These I suppose, are some of the questions that I have really been pondering, and I don’t think I’m any closer to having a good answer. Maybe it’s something that I’ll have to just wait and see on, even though I don’t want to see anyone perish.

I think part of what has made me turn to faith, despite my prior convictions is taking a look at things in the past. I have a really big interest in the Medieval period, despite all the horrors and brutality in it, and I was often curious as to how people managed to cope back then, when death was so near. I guess I came to the conclusion that it was faith that saw them through it all.

I like the idea of a news break, by the way. I think I could really do with one right about now. That quote about people only being able to take so much reality springs to mind.


Dear OMO,

Being self-taught in a lot of things, and having the capacity to learn things on your own, will definitely make it easier for you. Definitely. (smile)

“I have a really big interest in the Medieval period, despite all the horrors and brutality in it…”

If you like to write, I’d suggest writing your own story, after researching what life was like pre-fossil fuel. Figure out who you’d be, if you lived back there. Do you have any good novels about that period that describes life? Even if it sounds corny now, make yourself a hapless hero of sorts in your tale, someone who might not realize how important he is in the lives of other people, not realize that he’s making such a vital difference to them, in their hopefulness about living, in their trust in their own ability. As they do, consider what I said about writing your story, in future time. Notice the parts you like about your hero the best. These may give you comfort and guidance about how and where to proceed.

“I’m worried that my problems in fitting into society and communicating with people face to face will spell the end of the line.”

Yes, I understand what you mean, especially if you’ve been physically abused and taunted in that “normal” environment. I think it might help to appreciate that your capacity to DO SOMETHING USEFUL will be more important than how you’ll socialize. Your capacity to hyper-focus is also a definite advantage. There is a guy in my community who doesn’t interact much with people. He doesn’t like to socialize and doesn’t talk too much. He can fix anything, and I mean ANYTHING that is broken. He’s brilliant at what he does, and I like him a great deal, although he’ll probably never come over to my house or socialize with me in any way. I wish he would, because he’s smart and has a great wit, but I’ve come to accepted the fact that he really doesn’t really like people all that much, and tolerates me to the extent that he’s willing to fix stuff for me.

OMO, that’s enough.

It will be even more “all right” in the future, when he’s the guy who can help you do stuff you can’t otherwise afford to have anyone else do. That’s what I mean by being helpful. Just learn to do a few practical things that no one else can do or wants to, and just be willing to do them without expecting something in return (at least for now.) It is a “favor bank” world out there, where you don’t want to hurt or alienate the guy in your neighborhood who can really help you. Few of us are THAT stupid.

I also think some communities are more tolerant of people being loners or odd or what have you. I know that’s true where I live. If you wear purple and carry an umbrella, they’ll say “That’s Joan. She wears purple and carries an umbrella,” and if anyone should say “What’s wrong with her?” the answer is likely to be: “I guess she likes that color and umbrellas.”

I like Bob Dylan when he says “you have to serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” The right church will be a very important thing to be active in, OMO. Find one where you like the people well enough, and the preacher, especially, and then do stuff to help out, over and over, even if you’d rather not. The right church will make you feel like family. That’s how you’ll know. And a place that never brings up the question of whether you are even good enough to be saved… just my opinion.

Keep the faith,

“Peak Shrink”

Do you feel like the “Odd Man Out”? Have you felt a sense of hopelessness and helplessness after reading all of this stuff? Have you been listening to people tell you that you were “crazy” for worrying about Peak Oil, now that the price of a barrel has gone down? Do any of these letters resonate with you? Write us at PeakShrink AT Peakoilblues DOT com, and share your story.

Body-Awareness Response to Peak Oil

Hi Peak Shrink

Congratulations on a great idea for a website! Peak oil blues are a reality. I know because I live it almost on a daily basis, wavering between denial and acceptance, immobility and action, pessimism and hope.

It was heartening to hear the recommendation in the latest blogpost that one way to deal with stress is to bring awareness to the body, to feel how the body responds to stress in the here and now and, in doing so, activating the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

After having taken a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course recently I have become much more aware of the tension in the various parts of my body and how the awareness of the tension just naturally leads to its release. After the eight weeks of the course and faithful daily practice I am a significantly healthier and happier individual. I have chosen to make mindfulness a way of life and not just a course that I took. I recommend Joh Kabat-Zinn’s books (especially Coming To Our Senses) for an accessible introduction to mindful living.

I was excited to notice that biofeedback was also mentioned in the blogpost. I have experimented with both Wild Divine’s Healing Rhythms and Heartmath’s Emwave Personal Stress Reliever and have been amazed at the positive calming effect that their use helps facilitate.

Maybe with the use of tools like these we can learn to be healthier and happier in our own bodies. Perhaps we would be less reliant on the surrogates for happiness like our often mindless consumption that is so wasteful in terms of time and energy. Imagine large numbers of people so satisfied and content that they no longer need the monster home, the yearly vacation, the large SUV at 65 miles per hour and the long commute. Now there’s energy efficiency!

Just some thoughts. Thanks!

Learning to Wake Up and Take It Easy


Thanks WUaTIE!

I used to teach biofeedback years ago to people, and they were amazed at what a little attention could do to impact their bodies and experience!

Learning to relax and “vacation at home” is not just going to be a good idea, it is going to be a necessity for many people in the upcoming years. Learning to establish daily or even hourly rituals of relaxation or meditation, even for a few minutes a day, will bring new clarity and focus to life for many. How we do this will vary, won’t it? From prayer, meditation techniques (there are many out there…) a walk in ‘nature,’ reading or even cooking or ironing! Those few minutes you stop, clear the clutter and chatter in your brain, clean out the commercials that replay over and over endlessly, or the songs that torture some of us as “mind musak” (“‘Hey, there Georgie Girl, swinging down the streets so fancy free…’ ‘Hey wait…I HATE that song!!!'”). For some of us, our mind runs our thoughts, and it feels like The Invasion of the Mind Snatchers. Where the thoughts come from, always an area of interest to psychologists, play second fiddle to whether we can control how much real estate they take up in our minds at any given time, without paying rent.

People write to me saying “I can’t stop thinking about these things…” and this means that the thoughts have become repetitive and intrusive. They wake up in the morning thinking of them. They wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them. The thoughts have stopped operating a part of their consciousness, and have begun to consume every bit of it, where love, happiness, contentment, enthusiasm, or pride could be, to name but a few.

How can you be happy knowing things are “as good as it gets” and the future is going to be grimmer tomorrow? According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal recent poll, 65 percent say they feel less confident that life for their children’s generation will be better than it was for them. And among those who believe that the nation is headed on the wrong track, a whopping 81 percent believe it’s part of a longer-term decline and that things won’t get better for some time. Just 12 percent think the problems are short-term blips. So isn’t it delusional to feel positive energy in times like these?

A bit, yes. But the human animal has always benefited from a bit of self-deception, a deliberate focus on one set of assumptions, in favor of another. It is what makes for happy marriages and families. Take this for example: The number one coping mechanism families use to survive difficult times is ‘reframing.’ An example of this would be: “‘Oh no! You’ve gotten laid off from your job!’ ‘Well, this is good because I’ll have more time to do household repairs, and I’ve been thinking of looking for another job, anyway…” “‘Frank is an incredibly selfish boy, look how he refused to share his candy with his brother.’ ‘Well, he’s got a sweet tooth. He isn’t that way with his vegetables…'”

In marriages, the way one views the “chronic points of contention.” that happen between couples, will determine whether they are “happily” or “unhappily” married. The happy ones, even with the exact same set of complaints, can joke about these chronic fights, neutralize them, by not personalizing them, or otherwise put them within a wider context.

Personally, we’ll need to adopt these skills in assessing ourselves, as well. It is a difficult lesson to learn that we really DO need to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and latch on the the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” Such focus on what we have been able to successfully accomplish keeps us trying, instead of giving up. Focusing on what we’ve accomplished so far, instead of what we’ve failed to accomplish, keeps us motivated. It really does matter to your peace of mind whether you are acting out of fear or acting out of a genuine desire to live more frugally, using less energy, and being more self-sufficient. Moving toward something rather than away from something. Sometimes it starts as fear, however, and transforms as it progresses.

But extenuating the positive isn’t the same as being blinded to what’s happening or what’s coming. It is the firm believe that whatever is thrown at you, you can handle it, and they’ll be times when only one member of your group believes that, when others are feeling hopeless. Stick with it, and share that optimism. Talk about the positives that you all have going for yourself, until someone else in the crowd picks up on it. We aren’t talking “cheer leaders” here. We are talking about a genuine belief that living in a colder house, or moving from a house to an apartment, or eating more grains because you can no longer afford meat, has a ‘good’ side. As one of my friends once said “We aren’t poor, we just don’t have any money.” That sort of ‘delusional’ thinking keeps people looking around for what’s happening and how to get money again (something “poor people” will never have).

But the first home, of course, is our bodies, and the capacity to live comfortably in them as WUaTIE points out. You can control that crazy monkey brain of yours, freaking you out, scaring you out of your wits, making it difficult to eat or sleep properly. You can learn to control it, and still be fully aware. We can learn to live comfortably in our own skins, if we make that a priority. Sometimes, it is learning to recognize and accept the deck of cards we’ve been given when born into that skin. This one has chronic pain they need to learn to manage. That one is prone to depression. These are the “hand” you were dealt, and you can learn to play an interesting game of life with those cards, or not.

Sometimes the first step is just “noticing.” Make a list of each thing you do, from the moment you open your eyes: How you get out of bed; your feelings when you toilet; the pleasure you take in showering; if you smell the soap; if you’ve left enough time for breakfast, and whether you gulp or actually enjoy that cup of Java. These moments, and how you react to them, will make the difference between being “happy” and being “miserable.” The human mind has an incredible elasticity when it comes to accepting and adapting to “what is.” If you’ve learned to enjoy the smell of that fancy soap, you can find a perfectly good (and enjoyable) cheaper alternative. If you can really be happy with that Java, you can find a mellow local alternative. Beyond the truly basic needs for survival, all else is ‘negotiable.’ This minute is your life, not some imaginary tomorrow or a yesterday you can’t possibly re-live. This minute is what makes you glad you are alive, or painfully sorry. Figure out the ways to get your monkey brain working FOR you, and what works for you in accomplishing that ‘relaxation response.’

Thanks for writing.


Are you expecting a grim financial future? Are you expecting your children’s lives (or your life) to be more difficult tomorrow than today? How have you gone about reconciling yourself to this reality? Have their been benefits to “scaling down, cutting back, re-using, re-tooling, making do or doing without”? Has mindfulness helped? Write to PeakShrink AT PeakOilBlues DOT com and let us know.

Canadian Electrical Engineer Ponders Water-Wars w/ US

Please note: I dug out this 19 month old letter and response. Notice how I was worried about the “sub-prime” mess back then…

Peak Shrink,

Each day I find your website more and more valuable. Heck, I’m an engineer and I rarely have the emotional skills to help people dealing with Peak Oil information, so I point them to your site. Go to the professionals when applicable I always say.

I came across the link to your site from my work with Citizenre, the upcoming solar power system provider. I’m sure you have heard about them and are supportive. I enjoyed the recorded interview on Reality Report. But, my story with the Peak Oil scenario started some 25 years ago with a novel. I’ve been reading through a lot of material today and it is mind blowing. What I see in those that are making adjustments to deal with a society without fossil fuels is the same scenario laid out in the sci-fi novel by Poul/Andersen, “Lucifer’s Hammer”. In the novel a large asteroid hits the earth and wipes out the L.A. basin as one of the catastrophes. What I took away from that novel is, “You better have a redeemable skill that is important to a low tech society.”

Your description of one of your stories about the lady who starts to store books is ironic because one of the characters in the book does the same thing. He buries his book collection so he could have a repository of knowledge after the calamity. There are salient points in the novel for those that foresee the Peak Oil world. I am an electrical engineer, but I try to keep up with my other jack-of-all-trades skills as well.

My second point is more dark and probably a very predictable result given the historical actions of the U.S. Not only will oil availability decline but so will water. The projections for the SW and Midwest U.S. is not good and there is an increasing population in these areas that are relying on a very fragile water source. I expect the U.S. to be “knocking” on the Canadian border within 25 years. Canada has the oil reserves, the water and the minerals, and the U.S. will take them by force.

1812 all over again.

This will be the darkest days for the U.S. and will probably cast the nation as a pariah in the global community. The path of the War on Terror , (which I see as a pretext for the defense industrial complex to propagate business indefinitely), is the way for a continued state of war with ever changing opponents. Life imitates art.

Finally, we do have to do something about it. To sit by and rub the worry beads to the string ensures an early demise. I believe you are about the same age as I and we will live long enough to see these changes. As the old Chinese curse goes, may you live in interesting times.

These are some of my recent thoughts in no particular order:

As I observe the society around me it’s as if I was one of those ghost characters that get dropped into a scene and everybody goes about their business but cannot see or hear you. Or, its like your are on a slightly different dimensional plane. It also makes me question the inevitability of disruption caused by Peak Oil as I see everyone going about their normal business. Is there a rabbit hole somewhere?

I’ve been reading up on the Athabasca Oil Sands lately since I am Canadian and have some personal experience with the project. My brother and past co-workers have worked up there over the years. I’m thinking there are trillions of barrels of oil up there so what are the benefits and limitations? Using current methods the oil sands are very energy intensive to extract, process and refine. We would have to use up our remaining natural gas supply to get all the oil processed into liquid fuel. The real limitation is water supply. So the forecasts for daily oil production seem accurate enough. I thought the Oil Sands would the white knight on horseback, but it turns out this hero has clay feet.

There may be the reserves, but it will be extremely difficult and time consuming to get the production anywhere near the current U.S. demands – not to mention the huge impact to GHG’s. Therefore, depending on the Oil Sands is a suitable for long term minimal sustainability of the North American fuel supply and may be just enough to get us over the hump to sustainable energy sources. I think it will dampen the harsh impacts of Peak Oil. I don’t believe the U.S. will invade or try to overtly control these resources. The Americans like dealing with the Canadians, as they do in existing joint ventures, and know that whether Canada has the resource or the Americans the costs to produce and distribute the product will be the same. To take aggressive action would be a large net loss. However, water may be a different issue. There the two nations can be quite a distance apart on the distribution of that resource.

The graphs and data give us indication of trigger points but who can really predict the impacts. The best way to describe this situation as I’ve told others this is like forecasting an earthquake. I can tell you its coming and approximately when, but I don’t know if it will be a 5.0 tremor or a catastrophic 9.2. We’ll just have to keep our eye closely on the ball and act accordingly. My sense of the matter is that it will probably fall somewhere in the middle. It won’t be the way it was, but there will be a mix of our current technological infrastructure and an agrarian way of life – say 1890 to 1910ish. Well, that would be after all the s**t has hit the fan and the dust has settled.

My wife seems to be taking the news rather well although she is still reading books on long term wealth planning. We have put moratorium on major purchases and have a good idea of where to relocate. She is really on board with my realization of stopping the spending and paying down the debt a.s.a.p. since that’s what she has always wanted to do. The one point she doesn’t seem to grasp is the post Peak Oil way of living. She said she had no problem with our location and a move to more self sustainability but she still wants the convertible BMW (we used to have one). I said so long as it runs on a biomass fuel product, no problem. But I had to inform her that the road infrastructure would start falling into serious disrepair and a BMW convertible may not be the best vehicle for that environment – although you may get them real cheap at that point. I’m thinking an Argo eight wheeler with a light 3-cylinder diesel engine modification. This is the ideal survival vehicle.

The Word.
Sometimes I want to tell anyone I can. But I realize that you just can’t drop a bomb on people and have them say O.k. thanks a lot, now I’m going to restructure my life, goals, and expectations. I’ve been working on ways of trying to introduce it slowly and painlessly – kind of like giving a colonoscopy probably (o.k. a little graphic, but not a bad analogy). I don’t want to come off sounding like a zealot. I find its always easier to refer to a third party source like the documentary The End of Suburbia and then start with the information flow after that – I think. My parents seemed to be quite accepting of the information. They had to get over the “work for one company and retire with a good pension” paradigm a while back so I guess they are ready for anything new now. I’m going to start a discussion group in our area and I hope that will help us as much as it helps them.

Thanks for listening,

Canadian Electrical Engineer



Thanks for writing. I haven’t heard about Citizenre, but we surely need solar power system providers in large numbers.

I agree with what you are saying about the disconnect. I feel it internally as well as externally, even though I’m now in a large sustainability group in my area that is excited and anxious to start action. Our primary source of family income is as a builder-distributor, and as the news of a 37% drop over the last quarter by the largest home builder in the US, Toll Brothers, washes over me and I see our own numbers dwindling from a once and recently very successful business, I find myself shocked once again that I wasn’t just “playing at disaster,” and that the wolf is actually knocking on the door. Ultimately, the depression will be felt very personally, don’t you think? Someone you love loses their job or their homes, your local real estate market dries up and stores start to close…

How much our minds want to tell us that what we are experiencing every day–the media, the glitter, the booming stock market–IS reality, and we’ve made up all the rest of it. I often find myself, like your wife, thinking along a particular line, and suddenly realizing “Nope, that just isn’t a possibility without cheap oil.”

In the US, there are just so many ways to social collapse, and the mortgage companies are just one of them. You can also pick the falling dollar or rising energy prices. Jim Rogers, an investor who’s work I’ve read and appreciated, believes that the mortgage sub-prime market will be heading us quickly downhill, and he’s planning on moving his entire family to China, and selling his Manhattan condo. This guy has taken several trips around the world by car, (a modified Mercedes) and has a good grasp on the pulse, I think.

I can’t comment on the oil sands, except to say that I read somewhere that Canada is expecting the companies that mine there to pick up the cost of the social programs to the tune of some huge amount. It seems to be all a matter of scale. We only get 15% of our natural gas from Canada, but it’s 50% of what Canada has! It all feels like a choice between a rock (Iraq?) and a hard place. We get coal, we get climate change, etc etc etc. And yet, we still have people, who, after hearing someone voice the need for sacrifice said “I don’t believe anyone should have to sacrifice.” Give up? Cut back? Why should all of us, the special few at the top of the world heap, have to give up anything? Let’s all eat cake, if we run out of bread!!

And, of course, ultimately, it will come down to a few uber-rich doing quite well no matter what happens, although no one will truly “escape” when the world tumbles.

As far as the “word” goes, I’ve taken to looking at those around me as potential lifeboat buddies. I look at character, now, and things like dependability and pragmatic good sense. I think that anything that gets people interacting more with each other, helping each other out on a regular basis, thinking community thoughts together, whether in a town meeting or a religious institution, all of these things are “Peak Oil relevant.” One foot in front of the other. I’m trying to get a friend of mine who is very handy building things to be interested in building wind turbines from car alternators. I’ve purchased the detailed instructions and handed him the book. He said he’d give it a shot if we’d supply the equipment. I see a business growing out of it, as we’ve got lots of wind here. Just throwing a lot of seeds around and seeing which ones grow on what kind of soil.

Thanks again for your thoughts, and drop me a line anytime. I appreciate the mind of an engineer, as I think it has a unique perspective that psychologists miss. We need all kinds of ways of thinking, don’t we?

Best to you,

“Peak Shrink”

Postscript: I’m even more convinced now, that building a local community, something I’ve spent a lot of time at over the past few years, is vital to surviving any sort of calamity. Lifeboat, also, is not a good analogy, because we can’t survive in a boat on the water, waiting for someone to rescue us. We need to ground ourselves in the Earth, and invest in a patch of soil, linked by geography to a group of people, intent on living a lifestyle that will sustain us for the millennium, not weeks or decades. We simplify as a choice for the way we live, not in “preparation” for some future disaster.

After the US gets through this next election, expect (…pulling out my crystal ball…) that those new oil rigs coming online will seem like a distant (happy) memory, and the price of a barrel of oil, maybe sinking as “low” as $70, will begin to creep back (-breakingly) up to the $250 range. You may have a bit of a respite, in gasoline prices folks. Use it wisely, because the rest of the US economy will not be so kind to you. Here’s where you get involved in your (radically local) politics and decide the direction of public spending now. Here’s where you practice your gardening and food saving skills, as you watch the cost of food rise, in a step-wise fashion. Here’s where you can still afford to pay for and drive to that class in carpentry or permaculture or first aid. In this period, you work on getting a home business off the ground, serving your local community. Cut expenses, save money, build your skill and reduce your energy costs by insulating, localizing, getting up those heavy curtains, sealing those door and window jams. Don’t be the grasshopper, lulled by a few warm days, convinced that winter will never come. I’ve looked back and seen just how much “free time” I had 19 months ago, as the decline housing industry slashing my family’s income. This change has forced me to work more and left me less to learn new skills, volunteer, etc. My advice to you is not to wait until you are personally impacted dramatically by what’s happening. If you haven’t, so far, make the changes to live a different sort of life now, when it is a voluntary lifestyle choice. If you give it up, as I’m fond of saying, it can’t be taken away from you!

Consider what things were like just 19 months ago, and take action today. I’ll check back here in 19 months and see how predictive this post was!

Bigfoot Heads for the Hills

Dear Peak Shrink,

I am a fifty-year-old single guy who finds himself washed up on the shore of peak oil. “Washed up” is a pretty good description because I’ve never been one to look for disasters and such. I stumbled upon the concept of peak oil a couple years ago while searching for ways to explain the political and economic deterioration I was encountering. I was stunned I could have been so blind that I did not see this earlier! It made me question my mental faculties, When I did, it seemed as if my whole life had been engineered to keep me from understanding the reality of peak oil.

At first, I tried to disprove the idea. This didn’t work. However, perhaps advanced forms of nuclear energy would be developed, I thought. Perhaps scientific geniuses would find new and unknown sources of energy. Perhaps Martians will land and teach us their secret of universal power. I still hope some way to mitigate the energy and social crisis we face will be found, but I don’t think I should bet my life on it. The conclusion I am forced to come to is that human civilization is facing its most serious threat since the last ice age–and I find this very depressing. I believe it is totally ‘off the scale’.

How can I be a normal, happy guy anymore, when it appears to me that most of the people in the world are going to die? My emphasis here is not to argue the exact nature of the peak oil event, but to explain its affect on me. However I do not see how people–who aren’t even paying attention–can possibly survive. The political and social realities associated with peak oil are going to sweep them away like a tidal wave that drags the hapless vacationers from the beach.

At first, I tried to tell people what I was discovering. I showed the people I worked with charts and evidence. Even though I was worried sick for my friends’ well being, they would often respond that they were not willing to change their lifestyles, and they didn’t want to hear about gloom and doom. Others said they understood what I was talking about, but there was nothing they could do to protect themselves. In fact. so many people indicated to me there was nothing to worry about, that I began to doubt my own sanity. Somebody, I thought, had to be crazy! I often think to myself–if only I were just insane–the doctor could give me a pill, and I would wake up and everything would be OK again.

Well, unfortunately, I don’t think I am the one who is crazy. My response–so far–has been to quit my job and isolate myself from my old friends. I have made a decision not to go down with the ship. Because I am single and I don’t own a house, or have debt, I am in a good position financially. I have converted my savings into gold and gold shares–in an effort to survive the crisis that appears eminent. And I am researching ways to move to a sustainable piece of land located away from the city.

Between studying organic farming techniques, and trying to get in really good shape, I am keeping myself busy. Luckily, I really like gardening and the wilderness. Because of social concerns, I have never invested much in “the American Dream”. There is a chance I might make it through this mess! However depression hangs over my head daily. The old world is gone. I feel a great loss, guilty and responsible, but mostly a profound disappointment that my friends are going to let themselves be washed away.

I hope my story will be of benefit to others. Perhaps, if they read that some are moving to protect their lives, they will consider doing the same, in their own way. It is sad, but when t he storm surge comes in, only the strong will survive.



Dear Bigfoot,

I’d like to remind you that even as you “run to the hills,” you will still “need somebody on your bond” as the old song goes. We crazy monkeys are social animals, and we need the very same relationships that drive us crazy at times. You love your friends, that’s why you are upset and worried about them.

I know you wrote this letter to me some time ago. You may, emotionally feel like “everyone is going to die,” but keep in mind, as you have said, these are just emotional reactions you are having. You can’t “change the world” but you can focus your attention on your little piece of it.

It may be time to go back again, and check in with your friends on their current attitudes. Conditions and consciousness may have changed among your them. You may have company in your wilderness retreat now, or maybe you will in several years. Prepare extra places at the table, my friend. Put up extra food. These are not times for the solitary creature, the loner. You are fit and in good health now, but this will not always be so. Keep checking in with those you care about, and keep the invitation open. Invite them for a “gardener’s week-end,” or to help you plant or harvest the crops. Show them how the life you are leading gives you pleasure and satisfaction, not misery.

Let me know how your plans have developed over the past 17 months, and whether your friends remain so skeptical still. Thanks for writing.


“Peak Shrink”


Sorry, all. I have not forgotten Bankruptcy: The Board Game. Life has intervened, as have “broiler” and “fryer” chickens that have lived a good life eating grass and bugs and now will become future dinners. After this sort of “real life” is behind me, I will return to assembling the rest of the game for your playing pleasure. Believe me, it’s all here!! It just has to be organized, so it remains fun! fun! fun! So stay tuned!

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


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

Talking Points: There Ought To Be A Plan

The first half of 2008 demonstrated how fast rising energy costs can cripple operating budgets, business plans, livelihoods, and lifestyles. Job creation stopped. Cheap fuel and cheap food disappeared. Even when energy prices fell back, they remained at levels higher than what we had. The expectation remained that energy prices would rise again.

There’s been talk about what measures should be taken. Drilling for oil in ANWR and on the continental shelf, releasing oil from strategic reserves, helping oil companies develop contracts for Iraqi oil – these measures miss the point. Fossil fuels are so over. Among the recent recommendations offering alternative approaches:

• The Institute for 21st Century Energy issued an open letter to the next President and Congress telling them that America is facing a long-term energy crisis. The institute, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, proposed a 13-point plan to deal with the energy crisis. The open letter was signed by notables including former Senators Spencer Abraham, George Allen, Howard Baker, and William Cohen as well as Henry Kissinger, Robert McFarlane, George Schultz, and Colin Powell.

• Al Gore, speaking at Constitution Hall, challenged America to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within ten years. He said the answer to our energy crisis is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

• Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens unveiled the Pickens Plan to decrease our reliance on imported oil and announced a $2 billion initial investment to build the world’s largest wind farm in Pampa, Texas. Pickens said, “Our country is in a deep hole and it’s time to stop digging.”

These recommendations all seemed to have lofty goals with long time-lines stretching out toward distant horizons. It was as if, someday in 2030 or 2050, life would be peachy keen and totally green. What was missing was discussion of the immediate future. Of course, it’s wonderful to imagine that our long-term future will be rosy but how do we get through the next two decades?

We know what’s in store. We face a period of hard times like no other. This time, we are confronting real limits – struggling to adapt as we run short of vital resources and can no longer afford business as usual. We need to engineer a new way of life while enduring the ever increasing impoverishment of the system we live in now. We are moving from abundance to scarcity, from consumption to preservation, from debt-based-growth to living within our means, from more-is-better to just enough. How do we make a living while we change the way we live?

General Motors is wondering pretty much the same thing. So are the rest of automobile manufacturers, all the airlines, package freight delivery firms, and just about everybody doing business in our society today. That’s what has changed. Energy costs at the level reached in the first half of 2008 taught an irrevocable lesson. Business-as-usual is over. Suddenly, all of us are in the business of learning to live without fossil fuels and petroleum feedstock.

Even so, folks learning that lesson don’t necessarily stand up and shout, “Peak Oil.” At a press conference last November, when President Bush was asked about the price of oil approaching $100 per barrel, he said:

    “I believe oil prices are going up because the demand for oil outstrips the supply for oil. Oil is going up because developing countries still use a lot of oil. Oil is going up because we use too much oil, and the capacity to replace reserves is dwindling. That’s why the price of oil is going up.”
    —President Bush Participating in Joint Press Availability with President Zarkozy of France, White House News Release, November 7, 2007.

That’s a pretty good operational definition of peak oil, but I doubt if the President wants to call it that. He’s not alone.

The point is: The first half of 2008 succeeded in making a mighty big change in perspective. For the first time in a long time, a great many people now believe that there ought to be a plan – call it an energy transition plan. That development alone is tremendous.

Now that there is collective acknowledgment of the need for a plan, we face a new set of questions. Who is developing the plan and who is it for? What’s involved? Who is included? How does the plan help you and me? These questions take on special significance on November 5.

Brian Merchant

PO Psychologist Ponders: Have I Gone Off the Deep End? Living with Mass Denial?

      We’ll return to “

The Bankruptcy Game

    ” on Monday, after we hear from Brian Merchant tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Today, another fellow PO Shrink sends in thoughts:

Hello Peak Shrink-

I heard your interview on C-realm* today. It was heartening to hear you talk about how those who acknowledge PO are marginalized. It is a very strange feeling to be certain that in a relatively short period of time, no part of my life will be the same- yet to also be aware that very few other people are thinking the same thoughts. I have to constantly ask myself if I have truly gone off the deep end. Furthermore, I can’t talk about PO with many people, even my husband, without imagining some sort of snickering in the background. If it were not for KMO and forums like yours I would feel much more isolated.

In order to understand our times, one must absolutely understand mass denial. However, I have found in my practice as a psychologist- yes I am a clinical psychologist too, that my clients are much more willing to discuss their thoughts about how to survive post PO than I would have expected given the atmosphere of ridicule that seems to follow PO proponents. Could it be that most people are really thinking about PO, and what to do about it on one level and on another level denying the possibility that it might occur?

Perhaps in the context of a healing interaction, folks are much more able to put the denial aside- as long as there is no one else in the room to hear their views. Could it be that under the right conditions, there could be a breakthrough of the denial and a shift to the much more proactive consciousness in a relatively short period of time (like one year?)?

I agree with you that it takes a stretch to get used to the idea of PO- what helped me was hearing Mike Hagen talk about his experiences with magic mushrooms and how he has detected a Presence that is guiding the current convergence of emergencies. Since I have been in touch with similar presences, perhaps not as strongly, I can envision the notion of GAIA protecting herself through effecting changes in mass consciousness..

Thanks again for the opportunity to connect with you, for your forum, and for your healing messages.

Another PO Psychologist



Thank you for your letter. It is an amazing state of denial our culture lives in, isn’t it?

Even when the president of GM says “We are running out of oil so we need electric cars” we can still marginalize PO folks. When oil hits almost $150 a barrel, then drops down to $120, we can marginalize the very same people, when, just a year earlier, we mocked them for suggesting that it would ever get above $100 a barrel. The mocking also appears to intensify as the economic conditions here in the US continue to worsen. This is noteworthy to me, as a psychologist.

That’s why I wrote “Do You Have a Panglossian Disorder?” to turn the entire issue of “who’s seeing reality clearly” on its head. The PO community loved it because of the affirming humor. We’ve learned something about “mass delusion” and the power of the “norm” to allow people to believe that the “unthinkable” has to be “impossible.” Oh, if only that were true. I wrote the companion piece, Three Types of Doomers and Fantasy Collapse to let us know that we can still be living in a dream world by imagining sudden horrors, instead of the slow, insidious sort we are experiencing her in the US. Like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, what’s coming might be quite “in-between.” It will still be very, very nasty.

I’ve been waiting for more psychologists to step forward and contribute to the discussion, and I welcome your input. In isolation, we can be ridiculed. As we unite in a common viewpoint, a common understanding of what we see is happening and the impact it has on people, we’re taken more seriously. It is powerful to be the listening psychologist, having gone through the experience, and affirm your client’s perspective. It doesn’t make them “sane” but it does make their vision rational. Psychological Terrorism does just the opposite. It calls a perfectly logical reaction “nuts.” I started this site to fight that very phenomenon.

Thanks for writing, and I look forward to hearing more from you.


“Peak Shrink”


      Are you an aware PO clinician? Do you bring up the issue of PO with your clients? Do they bring it up to you? Have you written down your thoughts on this topic?


    Write us at PeakShrink AT Peakoilblues DOT com.

* You can listen to the Peak Shrink on the C-Realm Podcast Episode 73 Cui Bono (and hear the tail end of James Howard Kunstler), Episode 74 Big Hat No Cattle, Episode 110 A Crash Course in Burning Bridges (with my fellow Doomer Zach Nowak), and Episode 112, Stop Digging