Saturday, February 2, 2008

Coming to Grips...

Sharon Astyk has been writing prolifically recently, and this post of a couple days ago provides a very well reasoned demonstration of why the attempt to “solve” climate change is misplaced, in “The Cure is Worse than the Disease.”

Also, her most recent piece, “Economic Self-Stimulus: Ideas for One Last Financial Orgasm,” offers some good insights into the impending financial meltdown.

And for another perspective, take a look at Carolyn Baker's review of The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future (by William Kotke).

The above are poignant postscripts to our three days with Sally Erickson and Tim Bennett (What A Way To Go), where 35 brave souls sat together to consider the implications of "Life at the End of Empire." It was an extraordinary experience, and somehow I will find a way to write about it in the next few days. Meanwhile, hopefully the posts above will be, well, stimulating...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How To Boil A Frog

A great new site popped up yesterday, How to Boil a Frog. Actually, it's not exactly new. But what drew attention to it now (via is a new page on peak oil. This is a stunning and highly creative presentation, laid out as a game board, with embedded links leading to a number of well-produced video interview clips with key experts, along with essential articles, books, websites and documentary films. What it amounts to is the best multimedia introduction to peak oil we've seen.

I spent an evening sifting through the entire site, watched all the interview clips, and took notes. The hand-drawn graphics, light humor, and well-produced video segments all make the medicine go down very nicely. A brilliant piece of work, combining .

But I could find anything about the creator of this masterpiece. I did find a a feedback link and fired off a query with kudos. Here's what came back:

Jon Cooksey is a writer/producer who generally works in TV, creating and running drama series (he's currently in development on scripts for a new drama series based on the Marvel comic "Moon Knight", as well as two series pilots for the CBC, both involving action, romance and comedy.) In 2006, he decided he was going to have to take personal action to make sure his daughter didn't end up living on a raft with the last polar bear, and set out to make the documentary "How to Boil a Frog", which has evolved into an eco-comedy about overshoot, and its various symptoms (global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, the war on nature, income inequality, and so on).

In the process of making the documentary (which is still in progress), Jon has interviewed dozens of experts in climatology, sustainability, economics, energy, journalism and many other areas, and also started the movement to save civilization online with the How to Boil a Frog website, at In addition to offering up youtube-sized mini-documentaries and chunks of his interviews, the website offers a variety of entertaining resources and a chance for people to participate by sharing their own feelings about the mess we're in and what they think our chances are.

The process has also led Jon into various kinds of activism; at present he's focused on getting Vancouver prepared for peak oil with the formation of the Vancouver Peak Oil Executive (, and has just put up a peak oil page on the website ( that he hopes will be a unique destination on the web, both funny and informative, for video and other links about the subject, its ramifications for society, and how it feels to recognize that life as we know it is about to change.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Economic Chaos Spreads

Also see Jim Kunstler's latest post, "Fullblown Panic." He concludes:
This is going to be a rough week. Fastening your seat belts may not be enough for this ride. Better superglue yourselves to the floorboards and pray for God's mercy.

Last week, in "Disarray," he wrote:
Prepare psychologically for the destruction of a lot of fictitious "wealth" -- and allow instruments and institutions based on fictitious wealth to fail, instead of attempting to keep them propped up on credit life-support. Like any other thing in our national life, finance has to return to a scale that is consistent with our circumstances -- i.e., what reality will allow. That process is underway, anyway, whether the public is prepared for it or not. We will soon hear the sound of banks crashing all over the place. Get out of their way, if you can.

Prepare psychologically for a sociopolitical climate of anger, grievance, and resentment. A lot of individual citizens will find themselves short of resources in the years ahead. They will be very ticked off and seek to scapegoat and punish others. The United States is one of the few nations on earth that did not undergo a sociopolitical convulsion in the past hundred years. But despite what we tell ourselves about our specialness, we're not immune to the forces that have driven other societies to extremes. The rise of the Nazis, the Soviet terror, the "cultural revolution," the holocausts and genocides -- these are all things that can happen to any people driven to desperation.

Great waves of change ahead!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bush Questions Saudi Arabia as Swing Producer

George Bush raised eyebrows this week with a suggestion that the Saudi's may not be able to higher levels of oil output, something long suspected by analysts such as Matt Simmons. That Bush is publicly questioning their ability to increase production is significant. Here's an excerpt from the PRWeb press release:
On January 15, Terry Moran interviewed President Bush in Saudi Arabia on ABC's Nightline. When asked what he might say to the King of Saudi Arabia to lower oil prices, George Bush responded, "If they don't have a lot of additional oil to put on the market, it is hard to ask somebody to do something they may not be able to do." Nightline Presidential Interview

According to Gail Tverberg, writing as Gail the Actuary of, "If Saudi Arabia doesn't have that much additional oil to put on the market, the veracity of what Saudi Arabia has been saying about extra capacity is brought into question." More importantly, it starts raising questions about Saudi Arabia's true long-term oil production capability. Can Saudi Arabia really ramp up oil production in the future? Are the high reserves posted by Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries really indicative of high future production capability? The Oil Drum Article

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Peak Oil Changed My Life

Aaron Wissner, a frequent contributor to Energy Bulletin, has provided us all a valuable service with his brutally honest post about how his life has changed as a consequence of becoming informed about peak oil.

"Peak oil changed my life by altering my expectations and hopes for the future," he says. "I recognized that I was going to have to change myself. I needed to prepare, not only for the possibility of a rapid collapse of the system, but also for the possibility that this descent would take place gradually, over many years, or even decades. To prepare for a rapid collapse, I started doing things and buying things that would help me live apart from the global system, at least for a time: a new pantry stocked with food, containers for water, extra gasoline, extra heating fuel, insulating the windows and door, preparing a large garden, etc. To get ready for a slow decline, I started planning a zero-energy home, to be built on an ample piece of fertile land, near a stream or lake, away from the huge populations of the cities."

Here are some of the resultant changes he reports, many of them familiar to us here:
Peak oil now informs everything I do. It tells the story of a future of great challenge and difficulty, for which I must be prepared.

Peak oil shortens my time horizon. No longer do I worry about my son's college or my own retirement. Now I worry about being able to provide him with the bare necessities. And I wonder, will money be worth anything at all by the time I reach retirement age?

Peak oil informs all of my purchases. I always ask myself, would this be useful during a rapid collapse? How about during a slow decline? If neither, why buy it?

Peak oil alters the way I think about the future. It makes me scoff at the rosy prognostications of our many societal sages; well-paid, kind of heart, but tragically uninformed.

Peak oil drives me to share what I know, and to go further, to illuminate the fundamental failure of our global culture to plan and prepare for its own future. The bleak reality is this: peak oil is not really about the decline of our most precious energy resource. Peak oil is one symptom of our civilization’s inability to find and follow a cultural vision of sustainability.

The Denial Thing

It's been suggested of late that in order for people to be motivated to respond to The Long Emergency (the convergence of global crises such as climate change and peak oil), "it's time to stop blaring dire warnings about the perils... and, instead, start enthusiastically proclaiming solutions." In other words, people are tired of bad news and want to hear the upside.

But, as John McGrath says in a Gristmill post, "I hate to break it to anybody who hasn't been paying attention, but things aren't good, and they're not getting better. Things are bad, and they're getting worse. When the UN releases reports saying 'humanity's survival is at stake,' things are ****ing bleak. I don't see why the green movement should respond to that kind of news by putting on a happy face, or by trying to sidestep the issue. "

He continues: "The core of any advocacy has to be a clear-eyed appraisal of what we're doing. That includes, in this case, the extent of the damage humanity is doing to the earth and to our future. Anyone who says we should downplay that, or sidestep it, is saying we should lie to the public, loudly and consistently, about the most important issue facing us today."

McGrath has a point. Part of what has gotten us to this place of converging global crises (which, after all, has been created by the way we live) is denial. We don't look, and if we don't look we do not see, and if we do not see and know we will not be sufficiently motivated to change course.

Looking and seeing deeply, and formulating incisive actions based on reality is a usually very challenging and uncomfortable process. These days, where that process leads is to the inevitable realization that our demand for solutions is based on false hope and ill-informed idealism. We have unleashed such great and devastating changes in our world that there are no solutions for them. That is, what we are faced with in The Long Emergency is not a problem to be solved, but a long-term consequence of our own actions to which we must now adapt. The frantic effort to develop solutions, then, keeps us from facing the obvious: We must radically change the way we live on the planet. And we must do it quickly.

Next week, a handful of people are planning to sit together for three days to consider all this together. Inspired by Tim Bennett's and Sally Erickson's extraordinary film, "What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire," and the dialogues they've led with audiences around the country, we invited them to come to Boulder to facilitate a "Summit for Leaders, Catalysts, Activists, Therapists, Educators and Facilitators" in the relocalization/transition/sustainability movements.

We sent out invitations to about 120 people, many of them out-of-towners, with this explanation:

We are being called together in this Summit to open up new pathways of response to the imminent Long Emergency of rapidly-converging global crises. Our intention is that in the company of peers we will go deeper than we have ever gone before to break the bonds of denial and inertia, to challenge ourselves to discover what is most urgently needed, and to propel ourselves into unprecedented levels of action and effectiveness.

What we envision is this: Together, we will allow ourselves to more completely face our collective situation—the painful realities and implications of resource depletion, global warming, economic chaos, species extinction, and population overshoot—rooting out the last of our denial, owning our complicity in contributing to this devastating dilemma. We will allow all our guilt, shame, fear and grief to come up to the surface where we can feel them, acknowledge them and process them out in the open with compassion and wisdom. We will get down to the bedrock of our humanity, connecting with our deepest inner resources, where we can begin to see more clearly what must be done and specifically what we must do at this crucial moment in human evolution—and find the direction, inspiration and courage that will enable us to move forward. Then with new clarity we will make sustainable commitments to ourselves, to each other, to our communities, and to the greater community of life on the planet.
I am delighted to report that so far about thirty people are joining our entire staff to share this experience. I think we have an opportunity to create a breakthrough together for relocalization everywhere. I'll do my best to write about this event, what we learn and what the outcomes are.

It'll be a rigorous weekend. Sally has insisted that the process will take three full days, and the schedule on Friday and Saturday is daunting: from 9:00 a.m. to 10: p.m. Sunday is only a little less so, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Some people of course squawked about the schedule. In response, Sally wrote:

"This is a rare opportunity. We are talking about the end of life as we know it. We are talking about wanting to create a major shift for each of us personally and for the gathered group, and perhaps for 'the movement,' putting our lives on hold in order to enter into a mystical state with one another for the sake of ourselves, our children, the planet. We are encrusted, all of us, in shells of a culture that will need to be shed. That takes time. We are up to a really big thing here. We need to dive in wholeheartedly."
When she says "mystical state," she's not talking about some "altered state" of consciousness or religious experience. What she's referring to is the opportunity to look and see and know together. That's something that happens very rarely in our lives, and it's what is needed now. Later, she clarified:

"With some kind of grace we will sit and listen to one another and perhaps become vulnerable enough to drop our personas and care deeply for each other. That's what I'll hold out for."
That's what I'm holding out for, too.

Perhaps you'd like to join us for this very intense weekend. If so, please send us an email.

I'll close this somewhat rambling post with something from Joanna Macy, in her very important book, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World.

“To be conscious in our world today is to be aware of vast suffering and unprecedented peril… The feelings that assail us now cannot be equated with ancient dreads of mortality… Their source lies less in concerns for the personal self than in apprehensions of collective suffering - of what happens to our own and other species, to the legacy of our ancestors, to unborn generations, and to the living body of Earth… That pain is the price of consciousness in a threatening and suffering world. It is not only natural, it is an absolutely necessary component of our collective healing. As in all organisms, pain has a purpose: it is a warning signal, designed to trigger remedial action. The problem, therefore, lies not with our pain for the world, but in our repression of it.”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Culinary School of the Rockies Goes Local!

This story appeared in today's Boulder County Business Report's BCBRdaily, an encouraging indication that a renaissance of local is indeed unfolding in our midst:

Culinary School of the Rockies, a private cooking school based in Boulder, has launched a Farm to Table curriculum.

The program will provide students with a thorough understanding of ways to source and use local ingredients.

"Farm to table is not a passing trend in the culinary world. It is a lasting cultural shift," said Joan Brett, director and founder of the school, in a statement. "We want our students to respect and understand the intricacies and challenges of sourcing and serving local, seasonal food."

The school, founded in 1991, believes it is the first private cooking school in the country to teach a locally grown program.

Brett's long-standing colleagues, local farmers and food producers will play a mentorship role in the program teaching students about Colorado's agricultural richness firsthand. The five-week externship provides experiential learning opportunities on-site, at area farms and facilities. Highlights will include foods grown in the North Fork Valley, including wild game in addition to fruits and vegetables.

Once the five-week farm portion of the program is complete, students will apprentice at local restaurants with a strong commitment to sustainable practices such as The Kitchen and Frasca Food & Wine, both located in Boulder.

Peak Soil!

Another great local weblog is Peak Soil by Eric Johnson:

Peak Soil is a slogan that came to mind when I started thinking about local food self-sufficiency. Relocalizing food is about turning away from the fossil fuel era, but more importantly it's about turning towards local self reliance. A key element in local food security is improving and protecting the soil. In fact, the better the soil, the more productive the farm or garden. So, the way I see it, peak soil is a good thing -- it's a peak of abundance rather than impending scarcity. In all of our relocalization work, whether the topic is energy, local economies, food security, or something else, let's cultivate an attitude of opportunity, and expand our vision of what's possible.
Be sure to check out his terrific article on Kipp Nash's Suburban CSA.

There is something really exciting happening in the local food scene in Boulder...

...Personally, my take on the project is that it's one of the most inspiring and innovative things I've run across in years. I follow garden goings-on pretty closely in Boulder. I really think this concept is poised to take off, both because it builds community and because of the stunning visual display and high quality of food.

Ecoyear: Supporting Household Ecological Transformation

At an EAT LOCAL! Thanksgiving potluck at the Altona Grange, I met Myrto Ashe, who said she was involved with a group of about twenty Boulder mothers who are becoming locavores. That was exciting to hear, a very encouraging sign that people are taking the ideas we've been promoting and running with them!

Since then, Myrto has begun her own weblog (Ecoyear) about transitioning her family to a 100-mile diet. She writes:
I am a 45 year old married mother of three little boys and a practicing family physician. I have dabbled in environmentalism all my life and was a vegetarian as a young adult for reasons of saving planetary resources. Though I try to use recycled paper, lower our thermostat, buy energy-efficient appliances, generally be conscious of our carbon footprint, I have mostly been busy raising my kids and working. However, since viewing Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth", I have been feeling that global warming is now such an emergency that I can think of no higher priority, in each of our lives, along with keeping a roof over our heads and (local) food on our table. So I am making 2008 our "ecoyear." If I can inspire, support, encourage other families - as many as possible - I will have succeeded.

Congratulations to Myrto for her great work!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why We're Doing This

There are some things that perhaps need to be said about what's behind the work we're attempting with relocalization, things that might make some people feel a bit uncomfortable. But for the record, just to be as clear as possible:

This work arises from a deep calling in response to an urgent need. Relocalization is not based on some simple idealistic urge to create a better world or a better way of life. Instead, relocalization is a carefully considered strategic response to converging global crises—including runaway global warming, the global demand for oil outstripping supply, and impending economic chaos—which together are producing rapid and profound changes in our world, changes which are seriously damaging our biosphere, undermining human freedom, and making life unsustainable on this planet. We must recognize this situation for what it is: a planetary emergency (aka The LONG Emergency). Our decisive response is urgently needed.

It’s now undeniable that we must quickly learn to reweave the fabric of fundamental connections and relationships that have been at the heart of human civilization from the beginning. We must learn to reconnect with the earth, with the seasons, with our biosphere, with each other. We must rebuild our relationships with those who live in our neighborhoods, with those who grow our food, with those who produce and sell the goods we need, with those who supply the services we require. And we must do it all locally as much as possible, rebuilding local living economies, regenerating community. Only through profoundly local living can we curtail our profligate consumption, end our contribution to global warming, and restore balance and sanity to our planet.

The most valuable and most essential resource on this planet is community. Through the process of economic globalization, and the advent of a culture of profligate consumption, community has now become our scarcest and most threatened resource. Peggy Holman once said, “The opposite of war is not peace, it is community.”

A fossil-fuel based culture of consumption—and the economic globalization that it spawns—destroys community. Only by building community self-sufficiency in energy, food and economy can we preserve what's most important about the human species and ensure the future of human freedom.

Our only viable alternative is to learn how to provision our essential needs locally. This means developing community self-sufficiency in energy, food and economy, strengthening our local economies so as to not be so vulnerable to national and global economic volatility.

We are not creating a community here. Instead, we are restoring community in Boulder County. That's what this work is all about: we are rebuilding the most basic foundation of human civilization, even as human civilization as we know it is on the brink of collapse. This is our charter.

We are regenerating or rebuilding community right where we already are. This is a process of transformation, not of building from scratch. We're remodeling the house, not bulldozing it flat and starting over. We're not moving to the country to begin again. And we're not heading off to another planet because this one is beyond hope.

It's a long process, which begins with understanding our strengths and our vulnerabilities here in Boulder County. It requires strategic planning like our lives depend on it—planning for the challenges and opportunities of rapidly-converging global crises, planning to gracefully and ethically ride down the long curve of an energy-constrained future.

A handful of us have already begun, but the biggest challenge will be to engage the entire population of our communities in this process—along with existing infrastructures of government, economy and industry—so that the goals and plans of relocalization are actually adopted, implemented and achieved.

Your comments are invited and welcome...

In Transition, Again, Still

Well, we've said it before, that we're an organization in transition. And it's beginning to look like that might always be the case.

If it seems to you that we've been pretty quiet since A RENAISSANCE OF LOCAL! in September, you're right. We've spent a lot of time rethinking what we're doing, reorganizing, exploring new alliances, considering reinventing ourselves again.

The RENAISSANCE, by the way, was a seminal event for us. About 900 people participated in the three-day county-wide festival, conference and expo at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons. Which is great, but we were actually looking for a far greater turnout. Many people told us they felt that Lyons was too far away, or that the admission fee was too high. Should we have been surprised? Others said they weren't sure what it was all about or why it was important, so opted to do something else that weekend.

The feedback told us that we need to do a much better job of communicating and engaging people in what we're attempting to do. Back to the fundamentals. And that realization has shaped much of our planning over the last few months. In the next few posts I'll be sharing some of the thinking that's been going on behind the scenes, some of the realizations we've focused on to help define next steps.


For instance, we've come to more clearly define our mission, goal, role, vision. Here's what we've gotten to:

Our mission is to be a catalyst for relocalization—i.e., developing local self-sufficiency in food, energy, transportation, media, systems of care, and economy—while regenerating community.

Our goal is to prepare our communities for the local impacts of climate change and peak oil through county-wide adoption of integrated, inclusive approaches and concrete actions that will dramatically reduce our collective carbon footprint and lead to ethically and gracefully making the transition to a more sustainable, localized economy in a carbon-constrained future.

We serve as a transition team, initiating a county-wide process of relocalizing all essential elements that our communities need to sustain themselves and thrive. Our role is to provide inspiration, empowerment, education, training and support of individuals, businesses, organizations, communities and local governments, uniting them together as we consider and implement a collective vision of a relocalized future.

Our vision is a future where life is more socially connected, more meaningful and satisfying, more sustainable, and more equitable in a greater community of relocalized communities; where production and consumption occur closer to home; where long and fragile supply chains—now vulnerable to surges in oil prices and economic volatility—have been replaced by interconnected local networks; where the total amount of energy consumed by businesses and citizens is dramatically less than current unsustainable levels.
More to come...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Illumination of Consent

Sharon Astyk is a self-described "writer and subsistence farmer" we recently met at Community Solution's peak oil conference in Yellow Springs ("Planning for Hard Times"). Her work is inspiring and appropriately disturbing. She's currently completing two new books for New Society Publishers: PEAK OIL AND CLIMATE CHANGE--DEPLETION AND ABUNDANCE: LIFE ON THE NEW HOME FRONT and A NATION OF FARMERS (AND COOKS). We're looking forward to both of them.

She posted a particularly thoughtful piece a few days ago that inspired me to finally take concrete steps towards the creation of Transition Times. Sharon speaks deeply to the uncomfortable question, "Who are we to be doing what we're attempting to do here?" For instance, she writes:

How do we change our food systems so that what we eat and what we grow keeps justice in mind? How do we put new systems in place that maximize food production and minimize inputs? How do we do this quickly, but with minimal destruction?

Those are incredibly hard questions to answer in many ways. And while we have some ideas and solutions for some of those questions and a host of others, we don't claim to know everything. A lot of times, we feel like we don't know anything at all. Which is why I will be writing a lot about food over the coming months here, throwing ideas out to my readers for comment and critique, thinking the questions through with your help.

I know this feeling well. At times it seems that we don't know anything at all and that we are woefully ill-equipped for the awesome challenges ahead.

Sharon writes:

I like very much the notion that consent can illuminate us. I think sometimes simply consenting to do the work may be the big transition - we go along thinking hard about ourselves as one sort of person, doing one sort of thing, and suddenly, we have to find a new way to understand ourselves.
Please read her post see what comes up for you. And if you feel moved, please comment below.

Home Grown Colorado

Here's a new blog by Rebecca Winning, who happens to be president of the board of Denver Urban Gardens. Her goal with Home Grown Colorado is to serve as a clearing house for news and information about the local foods movement, and to spotlight local growers, producers, retaurants, grocers, and other food related businesses that support local farms. Rebecca also wants to help build momentum for creating a safe, sustainable local/regional food system in Colorado. Worth keeping an eye on!