Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No Country For Energy Descent

They say that a prophet is never loved in his own country.  Taken to its logical conclusion, that must mean that he's despised by his own family.  I am not a prophet - no Galileo in these halls - but I am doing my best to pay attention to and practice the advice of the real prophets, folks like John Michael Greer, Richard Heinberg, and Dmitry Orlov.  Oh, and that guy Kunstler, too.  He's a rabble rouser, and my participation in his comments section has always been as a permacultural voice of reason and patience.  As it turns out, however, simply giving credence to the (ostensibly false) prophets is enough to get you tarred and feathered, at least by the people who are supposed to love you the most.

I had a day like that on Sunday.  I worked my normal farmers market in Grant Park (Atlanta) until 2 pm or so, then retired to what has very happily become a Sunday lunch ritual with my paternal grandmother and her husband of 30+ years.  For anonymity's sake, let's call him Jow, pronounced just like Joe, but different of course. 

So I walked into the house after the market, and he pounced - no hello, no how'd it go, just "do you know what the Dow Jones Industrial Average is?" 

"What is it?" I asked, fishing for a numerical value in the 13,000-14,000 range, potentially a little lower if all was going right. 

"It's a measure of the economy's strength, and it's driven by consumption," was the response.  If I'm not mistaken I think it was followed by the term 'dumbass'. 

"No, I meant what is the Dow Jones' value that has gotten you so worked up?"

"Seven hundred," he responded.

Now for those of us who actually keep up with these things, that was intense news.  I don't believe that "the Dow" is  anything more than a mechanism for making ordinary people think that they are important, or at least informed, to keep them invested, that it actually represents something meaningful to "Joe Six-pack."  Or to Joe beach-house-owner for that matter.   That's where they get you.  They make you think that since you own a handful of properties and equities the Dow DOES mean something to you, even if it doesn't to lowly Joe Six-pack (who is obviously a desperate alcoholic and despotic child abuser).  And for the moment it might.  Play it for what it's worth.  You don't owe "them" anything.  Take what you can.  It's the American way after all.  (Tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

"Seven hundred?" I asked, dumbfounded.  "That IS news.  Tell me more."

"It's people like you, 21st century hippies, that unplug from the economy that are bringing it down."

"Really?  So I'm a dumb-ass AND omnipotent?" I replied snarkily.

I won't bore you with the rest of the "discussion."  It basically boiled down to "they will fix it, while ideologues like you fiddle while Rome burns."

Fiddle while Rome burns?  You think it's easy to live the way we do?  Every simple action of our day-to-day life takes 4 times as long (at least) as it did with cheap fossil fuels at our disposal.  I'd be glad to trade places with you, and let you show me how to play that fiddle.  But then, you didn't leave us that option, did you?  Not that I'm blaming you.  Roles reversed, we would have done the same thing to you.  Unknowingly, of course, just like you did.  It's no one's fault.  Energy drives activity for humans, just like it does for yeasts, oaks, and rhinos.  And there is nothing Obama, or Romney, or Ron Paul can do about it.  The solutions they are banking on are aimed at sustaining the unsustainable, even Mr. Paul's.  The other two are just corporate derivatives.  Maybe Obamacare would have worked in 1930, financially if not socially, when we were getting a 100:1 return on our energy investment, and could subsidize such foolishness, but in 2012, when global oil returns are in the neighborhood of 15:1, this idea is obtuse at best.  Can't afford "health" insurance?  No problem, we'll just fine you more money you can't afford until you can.  Makes sense, right?

Never mind that I make my living making, selling, and promoting the kind of accessible, democratic medicine that the people have used for oh, 100,000 years or so.  The kind of medicine that will sustain our species for the rest of its tenure on Earth after toxic industrial medicine is long gone.  The kind of medicine that poses such a threat to swollen, over-cooked allopathic medicine that the latter feels like it needs to formally demonize such harmless constituents as comfrey and sassafrass, prohibiting the future from knowing effective, non-toxic skin and bone repair, oh, and real root beer taste.  Surely lab-created corporate substitutes are just as good.  (Tongue, cheek, yes?)

Good.  Western medicine has its place.  They do triage like no other.  Surgery?  Check!  We got that.  But health?  Nah.  Eighty percent or so of the problems for which we prescribe drugs could be handled with the whole plants that are still, to this day, largely the basis of the overly-specialized industrial medicine in question.  When pills are given credence where greens are not, something has gone terribly wrong. When we promote televised opinions over first-hand observation of the world around us, calling people ignorant for not watching the boob tube more closely, we have officially lost our marbles.  That's what this year (and Sunday afternoon in particular) has been like for me.  And everyone is saying these things!  Even the smart people.  That's how I know things are in a dismal state of affairs.  There is very little first-hand thought anymore, even among the intelligent classes.  Even among those who pretend to not pay attention to the mainstream.  Make a comment at any blog on my list and I'll probably be able to tell you if you watch TV or not...and it won't be because you sound so much more informed than the ones who don't, I'm afraid.

Show me prescient systems thinking and you'll be showing me someone who's most likely not watching TV, not reading the newspaper, and not praying for the stock market to recover.  You'll be showing me someone who is probably trying to find their way back to the Garden, where humans belong.  But talking about it with people who think they're informed because they watch TV and read Consumer Reports is a very bad idea...


  1. I was out with Ms. Dog today and the radio station she had on was pushing a clip by a blue haired woman who said she was going to watch the 'Obama/Romney debate tonight so she can get 'informed'. If I had heard that in person I'd have wanted to ask the woman what she could learn from hearing two professional liars talk but I would have suppressed that urge and asked her what the important issues in the country were as she saw them. I might also have had the wisdom to keep my mouth shut.

    But grandma says watch the debates to get informed and I'm sure many will feel informed when they do.

    Be afraid, be very afraid. Fear is driving the nation and all have lost their minds.

  2. Blah, blah, blah, pimpin' for Big Pharma.
    Blah, blah, blah, pimpin' for Big Energy.

    Did I miss anything? Did either of them even approach the subject of unavoidable and permanent energy descent, and how profoundly it will affect, already is affecting, the "non-negotiable" American way of life?

  3. "You would think that the question of what we will do about all this might be at issue in the current election - how we might deliberately face the tasks of reorganizing farming, commerce, transportation, banking, schooling, and all the other practical matters of existence. There is an awful lot to talk about, and much to be done, but nobody is interested. Instead, we've mounted a foolish campaign to keep all the old rackets running, and there is no fundamental difference between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama on that. The empty pageantry of these debates dresses this dangerous madness in the raiment of clowning.

    All of this has consequences, of course, but in a society that has ditched all sense of consequence nobody can pay attention to that either. The poet W.H. Auden called his time "a low, dishonest decade." Bad as the 1930s were, the stakes are even higher now, and our clownish inattention conceals darker falsities that could make that terrible era seem quaint."
    -James Howard Kunstler

    1. And even JHK tends to ignore the larger issue of climate change...
      BTW I love your house and the forest is beautiful. Hope autumn is progressing well for you.