As you may or may not know, I’ve been a big fan of Chris Martenson, so much so that I’ve posted the link to his site under the economic links section to the right and have quoted him in in previous posts.
Chris has put together “The Crash Course” which I blogged about last year (Saturday, July 11, 2009: One Year Anniversary of “Peak Oil Day” Makes it a MUST to Watch “The Crash Course”). At that time, you could hear zip about some of the topics he has woven together. Now, I’m beginning to see others mention things like “peak oil” and “sustainability” when I flip through the channels…rarely, but it’s a start.
Well, it seems like things have picked up a notch. Last Thursday (January 28) in Sonora, California, Chris spoke to 400 people and people had to be turned away. Tomorrow (February 2), Chris will be speaking at the U.N. on the topic “After Copenhagen: Understanding the Energy Trap for Policymakers.“ Along the way, Chris has lectured at colleges, meetings, been interviewed on smaller radio stations…but it seems the venues are getting to be more high profile.
For example, on January 26, Chris delivered a talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. I thought I’d share some of it with you.
Tonight I want to examine the obstacles that stand way of a full and lasting economic recovery and to illuminate the connection between economic growth and energy.
But before we delve into the details and explore the possibilities for alternative outcomes, let me share a little bit about myself and how this information has radically altered my life, and the life of my family.
Six years ago as a married, 42 year old professional with three young children, I lived in a suburban, five-bathroom house on the coast of Connecticut, had a secure position as a corporate Vice president with a very large company, and a twin-engine fishing boat in a slip.
I loved that boat.
Today I live in house that is less than half the size of my prior one, now located in a semi-rural location, I have a strong local community, and a kayak.
A small one.
Perhaps I could summarize my journey that way; I went from twin engines to a double paddle.
Yep, that about sums it up.
Now, why did I do that?
For the past 6 years I have been combining information and trends in the Economy, Energy and the Environment into a single comprehensive story.
Instead of delving deeply into any one of these subjects, I discovered that there’s immense value in looking across all three at once.
Instead of being like a blind man trying to describe one part of an elephant, I chose to be like a blind man examining the whole elephant.
Okay, this took me a few years, I’ll admit, it was a big elephant, but it was worth it.
This exploration altered my investments, my work, where I live, who I know, what I value and the things I choose to do.
The results of this exploration were put into video form which I made freely available to everyone on the internet about a year and a half ago.
It is called “The Crash Course” and has been viewed more than a million and half times and translated into numerous languages.
I have to say that I’ve made some changes as a result of watching “The Crash Course.” The biggest is a mental change…a fierce desire to break away from “the system” as much as possible in terms of protecting my assets. For example, I’m not listening to the financial crowd that, once again, is back to the old “buy and hold” mantra. No, it’s time to take more control of my money and to that end, I’m in the midst of studying technical aspects of the market. I want to make money, not get if siphoned off by handing over control to the “experts.” I’ve also yanked money out of the “big banks” and it sits now in the local banks where I’ve known the folks who run them for years.
I’ve stored some food and started using a solar oven for some of my basic cooking. The thing costs nothing to run and can purify water and dehydrate fruits as well as baking the most fantastic sweet potatoes you’ll ever taste! I figure I save cooking gas that way and don’t heat up the kitchen and then have to run the A/C as much, either!
I keep up with my vegetable garden and have planted two more grape vines. I plan to plant a couple of more fruit trees.
In short, in my small way, I’m trying to be more self-sufficient!
Here’s an example of how I connected the dots for the current economic crisis at a very high level.
While the entire narrative of this crisis is riddled with strange acronyms, unfathomable derivatives, and complicated regulatory lapses, my view is that these were just elements of the story.
The main plot line can be summed up in just three words; “Too Much Debt.“
The big picture view of our difficulties is nothing more complicated than the fact that from 2000 to 2008, eight short years, the total amount of debt in this country doubled.
You heard me right, it doubled.
Meanwhile no net jobs were created and median incomes actually went backwards.
When it comes to owing a debt your options are to either pay it back or default on it, and I don’t care if you are an individual, a family, a town, a state government or a corporation, the same basic rules apply.
As we all know, in order to pay your debts back you’ve got to have earnings and cash flow. If debts are growing but earnings are not, then sooner or later a debt crisis will result.
Which is exactly what happened, and was utterly predictable.
I’d love to take credit for having had a keen insight here but I really don’t consider this extraordinary.
It was common sense.
Common sense. Gee, how creative!
So, where are we?
A very large credit bubble developed right before our eyes and it was completely obvious to anyone who cared to see it for what it was.
My view is that we’ll be living with it for some time yet because I do not believe that it is possible to “solve” a crisis rooted in ‘too much debt’; by going deeper into debt.
And that is exactly what we are doing.
I think it’s like trying to cure an economic heart attack by feeding the patient a few more tubs of greasy debt.
So my assessment is that we’ll face an even bigger fiscal and maybe monetary crisis in the future.
We are compounding our mistakes.
But you know what? We’ve faced economic problems before as a nation and solved them, and if this were the only problem we faced, we’d solve this one as well.
However, even as we’re attempting to recover from our self-inflicted economic wounds several vital facts stand in the way of a full and lasting recovery.
Let’s discuss a few of those facts:
Fact #1: There are 70 million more people on the surface of the planet this year than last year.
Fact #2: Each of these new humans consumes some amount of resources such as food, oil, air, soil, water, copper, coal, or timber.
Fact #3: Someday, perhaps already, maybe a little later, the global flow rate of oil coming out of the ground will peak and then decline inexorably thereafter.
Fact #4: Every dollar in circulation was loaned into existence, with interest. We’re going to get back to this one in a minute.
Fact #5: During the industrial revolution, humans have consumed vastly more energy each decade. During the lifetime of a 22-year-old, humans will have burned more than half of all the oil ever consumed throughout history.
Fact #6: Oceanic fish stocks, ancient aquifers, and topsoil are all being depleted at unsustainable rates.
When I review these facts I come to this opinion – within our lifetime and that of our children, these disparate facts will coalesce into the greatest economic and physical challenge ever faced by our country, if not humanity.
Then, Chris takes you on an imaginary journey:
Let’s get back to those pesky facts.
Each one was tied to all the others by a single common feature.
In each case the thing being described was tied to exponential growth in some way.
Now I know that most of us aren’t accustomed to thinking about exponential growth, so before you start counting the ceiling tiles, let me see if I can bring the dynamic of exponential growth to life.
Suppose I had a magic eyedropper that could dispense a drop of water with a most unusual trait – this drop of water will double in size every minute – and I place a drop of water in your hand.
At first you’d just have a lonely drop of water sitting there, but after one minute it would double in size, and after six minutes you’d have a blob of water that could fill a thimble.
Do you have a sense of that growth?
Good. Let’s go to a Major League Baseball Park and start over.
To make this interesting, let’s assume that the park is water-tight, and that I’ve handcuffed you to the highest row of bleacher seats.
Now imagine that it’s tomorrow at twelve O’clock noon, you are manacled to a bleacher seat and, way down there, on the pitcher’s mound, you see me bend over to plop down a magic drop of water so small you could not possibly see it from where you are sitting, and it begins to double.
My question to you is, at what date and at what time would the park be completely filled? That is, how long do you have to escape from your handcuffs? Do you have days? Weeks? Months? Years?
The answer is this: in only 49 minutes the park is completely filled.
You have only 49 minutes to escape from your handcuffs.
Now let me ask you this, at what time do you suppose that the park is still 97% empty space (and how many of you will appreciate the seriousness of your predicament)?
The answer is that at 12:44 pm the park is still 97% unfilled. The first forty four minutes filled just three percent of the park, while the last five minutes filled the remaining ninety-seven percent.
It took from all of human history until 1960 to reach a population of three billion people; but only forty years to add the next three billion.
Forty four minutes for the first three percent, five minutes for the final ninety-seven percent.
And because we are surrounded by exponential growth we need to appreciate it.
For quite a while, everything seems just fine, but a few minutes later your park is overflowing.
MMM …do you feel wet yet?
The next section of the talk addresses our future path that exists if we don’t start making adjustments to our lives:
An energy crisis rooted in resource limits will quickly translate into an economic crisis unlike any other.
What follows next will be a disappointing string of associated crises starting with a food crisis, progressing through a profound fiscal crisis that could even result in a dollar collapse, before proceeding to a population crisis.
But you know what? If we choose, we can avoid that future.
Feeling overwhelmed? Chris Martenson has decided our challenges should be met with a sense of optimism and adventure. But, there IS a sense of urgency, too.
In the past, with extremely abundant resources at hand, we had the luxury of making bad choices without really suffering any significant consequences.
But the stadium is now mostly filled, the water is rushing up the stairs, and our margin for error has shrunk considerably.
The longer we fiddle around the more our options shrink.
Today our wrong choices will be magnified many fold by virtue of where we are in our resource depletion curves.
And so will the good choices.
We must be intelligent and creative stewards of what remains.
The best news? I know we can do this.
We need our bright and shiny kids in the next generations to know that they’ve got an important role and that we’ve got their backs as they wrestle with the challenges now laid at their feet.
Change is not easy, but sometimes it is necessary and we find ourselves in a time of need.
How the future turns out is up to us. We have this responsibility at this time.
I don’t have all the answers and I can barely conceive of all the things that need to be done, let alone imagine their details.
But I do know that the first step begins with a proper understanding of the issues and that we are now in an era where it is the very largest picture that will serve us best.
There’s an elephant in the room, and we need to put our hands on it and describe it fully and accurately.
The alternative is to somehow miss seeing the next most predictable crisis in all of history coming towards us.
In closing, I am not all depressed by what I see coming, or exhausted by the thought of all the work laid out before us.
Truth be told, I am excited to be alive at this time – to be in the game when the entire trajectory of humanity may shift course.
You really can’t ask for more than that.
I have a proposal: Together, let’s create a world worth inheriting.
I again enthusiastically refer readers to ChrisMartenson.com. Check out the great community for the latest REAL news and the forums that discuss many of the ideas and suggestions that Chris has proposed.
And start taking control! Every little bit each of us does is part of reinventing our world…
Filed under: Current Politics, Life | Tagged: Chris Martenson, ChrisMartenson.com, credit bubble, debt, decline of the dollar, dehydrating food, dollar collapse, energy, energy crisis, exponential growth, financial control, finite natural resources, food crisis, fruit trees, peak oil, population crisis, resource depletion curves, solar cooking, solar ovens, storing food, SunOven.com, sustainability, The Commonwealth Club, The Crash Course, the economy, the environment, the U.N., vegetable gardening, water purification | 12 Comments »