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Part One

The People of the New Society

Michael Kane
Staff Writer

© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications,  All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.

"We pray for warm weather (this winter). We have a prayer chain going."

Diane Munns, President of the NARUC, as quoted in THE BIG CHILL, 12/19/05

“The solution is to pray. Pray for mild weather and a mild winter. Pray for no hurricanes and to stop the erosion of natural gas supplies. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it's a certainty.”

Matt Simmons, Energy Investment Banker, Interviewed by Mike Ruppert, 8/21/03

May 3, 2006 1200 PST – (FTW) - Matthew Simmons’ prediction that the price at the pump could have risen to $10 during the winter of 2005/2006 did not come to be for only one reason—warm weather. His prayers back in 2003 for “no hurricanes and to stop the erosion of natural gas supplies” were clearly not answered.

What does it tell us when the world’s most prominent energy investment banker and the president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) are both turning to prayer as their plan of action for dealing with fuel shortages?

It tells me it is time to find a community of conscious people, and fast.

This raises at least two important questions. First, as we enter the “summer driving season” that involves increased stress on the grid from gluttonous air conditioning use, has anything significantly changed so we don’t have to rely on prayer as our national energy policy? Second, and most important, are we praying for the right turn of events?

Has Anything Changed?

No, nothing has changed. The energy reality has gotten worse—keep praying.

Natural gas supplies are under severe stress due to a ferocious hurricane season that damaged pipelines leaving 20% of the Gulf of Mexico’s gas production shut-in. That is equivalent to 4% of the entire nation’s gas supply. Pipeline damage remains a secret of the industry and of the state—no one is talking. This is the case still to this day. On February 18, 2006, in Denver, rolling blackouts were implemented due to a record cold front coupled with short supplies of natural gas—and this during one of the warmest winters ever. The price at the pump is racing past $3 per gallon, which should be considered cheap. Conservative estimates put gasoline at $4 a gallon by Labor Day.

But perhaps there have been some changes: On the Hill, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has taken on the task of educating his colleagues about Peak Oil by co-chairing the House Peak Oil Caucus; the Department of Defense (DoD) is now having monthly “inter-agency conversations” about energy and oil; and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has publicly declared, “There has to be a crisis, a big crisis,” in regards to energy before our elected officials can (or more accurately, will) do their jobs.

If that’s not enough to make you feel warm and tingly on the inside, once again President Bush proved just how on-the-ball he is by stating the obvious: “America is addicted to oil.” Immediately following this he fired researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) while blocking oil conservation efforts.1

What a leader.

Honestly though, in defense of the Buffoon-in-Chief, no matter how many researchers we have at the NREL they will never come up with a 1:1 replacement for light sweet crude before the effects of Peak are felt. And at this point in time, such an impossible achievement would be the only miracle that has an even fractional shot at delaying the inevitable decline of industrial society. It’s no wonder why Bush has made exactly this desperate promise to the American people to wean America off of foreign oil.

Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton, a geologist who worked closely with M. King Hubbert, has released his figures showing Global Peak Oil occurred on December 16, 2005, after using the same formula and method Hubbert used to accurately predict the peak of U.S. oil production in 1970. The Army Corp. of Engineers has recently admitted that Deffeyes is probably correct in their Peak Oil report from September of 2005 titled, Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations.

So I lied—plenty has changed, but nothing that will alter our current national energy policy of desperate prayer. It is unlikely that we will face only one day of rolling blackouts in one major American city next winter or this summer.

During the winter of 2005, I was on assignment for FTW contacting state and local officials to find out what plans were in place in case of likely fuel shortages. On December 22, 2005, I was carbon copied on an email from Mike Ruppert that Matt Simmons quickly replied to, wherein he wrote the following:

The big deal over the next ten weeks is the possibility of a harsh winter across the Midwest and North East. If we get an extended arctic blast for as long as ten days, the odds of a major gas curtailment, which then triggers winter blackouts through New England, which then causes a massive use of emergency power generators run by propane and diesel that could end up creating oil shortages would be the tipping point into a major energy crisis. 

Luckily the likelihood of a major "winter of discontent" is not 90% this year. Merry Christmas to all of you as next year might not be very merry.


This summer may not be very “merry” either.

Are We Praying for the Right Turn of Events?

Is it better if the inevitable is delayed? FTW’s position on this is emphatically: NO!

This is not because we want to see a horrible crash of industrial society, but quite the opposite. The longer the inevitable is delayed, the harder the fall will be. At the first DoD “inter-agency discussion on energy” in March of 2006, a professor working for a private-sector military-industrial corporation told me Peak Oil is a “technological imperative.” We do not know when the crisis will hit, but there is absolutely no question that it will. Peak Oil is not a theory.

We must stop living in denial. To address a crisis, we must first embrace that crisis for what it is, not for what we want it to be. For this reason, it is essential that those of us who understand the problem find one another quickly and begin to plan what our future will look like before the Pentagon and private industry decide our future for us.

The best resource we have is each other: good people.

Those who became knowledgeable about Peak Oil late in the game (such as myself, in 2002) are different from those who have been aware for many decades, but this group of people in-the-know are all very different from those who say, “Peak what?” when first hearing of the concept, even though they are already living nearly-sustainable and often rural lifestyles. You never have to explain Peak to these folk for more than ten seconds; this includes many (but not all) organic farmers, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and those exploring both rural and urban sustainability among others. They all understand the problem is over-consumption, even more so than Peak.

At Peak Oil conferences—such as Petrocollapse and Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma—some of these diverse groups are starting to share knowledge with one another. It’s a start.

Indigenous Cultures and People of Faith

It is unfortunate to note that indigenous peoples and their practices have not been included as much as need be at Peak Oil conferences. The one possible exception is the practice of Permaculture, which is often credited as having been created by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren (white, Australian men), but it is actually a rehash of indigenous agricultural wisdom passed on through oral tradition and experience applied with common sense. Indigenous peoples have much to offer the new society.

We must never forget it was the indigenous natives who selflessly showed European settlers how to survive on the land we have since stolen, ravaged, and raped. When it comes to prayer, their perspective is entirely different than that of energy investment bankers, public policy makers, or Peak Oil educators.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Tiokasin Ghost Horse interviewed Willard Pipeboy on First Voices, a Pacifica Radio broadcast on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York. Pipeboy is an elder of the Lakota Nation located in South Dakota as is Tiokasin. When Tiokasin asked Pipeboy (without invoking Peak Oil) what people should be doing as these hard times fall on Turtle Island, Pipeboy responded:

“Everyday we must pray and ask Mother (Earth) for forgiveness.”

This is quite a different perspective on prayer than the desperation I often hear from those who understand Peak Oil from a Western perspective. When having discussions about what the future has to offer the young children of my family, relatives have told me, “Just pray that there is enough oil.” This is startling and frightening, and it factors in to why I have no children, nor plans to have any before finding a community that has a real future. Suburbia has no future.

“Just pray that there is enough oil” is a selfish and delusional outlook that is not going to help us now. Selflessness, understanding, compassion, community, comradery, and sacrifice will all be needed to move forward appropriately—not desperate prayer that over-consumption will hang on for just one last season.

Think indigenous.

The Hopi, an Indigenous Nation located in Arizona, believe in a prophecy that says after both World Wars there was a chance to achieve world peace if all nations would come together. With the natives of this land we call America not being included in the U.N. (likely due to U.S. pressure or veto), attempts at bringing peace failed. After World War III, according to Hopi prophecy, there will be no need for indigenous peoples to seek out the nations of the world to call for peace—everyone will be coming to them.

Might Permaclture be a sign of such a return?

Regardless of one’s perspective on the oral tradition of indigenous prophecy, there is no question that a return to indigenous ways in all aspects of life is essential at this critical moment in history.

As Tiokasin Ghost Horse has so often stated during his radio broadcast, “Socialism, Capitalism, Marxism, Communism – none of these ‘isms’ will solve our problems because they are all foreign to Turtle Island (North America).” The answers we are looking for transcend centralized power systems.

For those of us planning to stay on Turtle Island Post-Peak, we must build bridges with the indigenous nations and communities here, especially those that have held on to their traditional practices: they are obvious and necessary allies. For those planning on settling in communities abroad, you should first do your homework and find out what indigenous communities were once there or still are, and what practices they use(d) to maintain the land.

Spirituality can, and should, play a significant role in forming the new society. A very close and dear spiritual advisor to my family recently described the lifestyle of Khadampa Buddhist monks in the following manner: they own two sets of robes as their only clothing, live on $300 a month, spend much of their day in silent meditation reflecting on self and inner peace, live in communities that rarely travel, and consume only what they must producing minimal waste. If everyone had such an outlook on life the world would certainly be transformed.

Witnessing what over-consumption and a disconnection from nature has done to Turtle Island can make it difficult to see any good qualities brought to this land by the European Settlers, but there are some. The Amish, and some other Christian Mennonite communities, have maintained a humble tradition of simplicity and hard work. Many of these communities still live off the grid and are far better prepared for Post-Peak survival than the average American.

Many Mennonites are socially conservative and seemingly quite different than the other groups mentioned in this essay. Cultural differences are one of many obstacles confronting the new society, but the challenges of culture change should be embraced to foster a diverse community. Diversity increases the likelihood of survival. It will be interesting to see what happens when gay environmental activists start learning trades in Amish Country!

It is sadly common to see individuals insulate themselves with only those they entirely agree with. While navigating the terrain ahead of us, maintaining such a rigid mind state is a death trap.

So yes, the Amish are socially conservative, and we may not agree with or understand all of their practices and beliefs, but that does not invalidate the traditions they have maintained which are closer to the true indigenous roots of Europeans than I-Pods, McDonalds, MTV, or air conditioners. We must do our best to think clearly and holistically.

On the other hand, conservative Christians who manipulate their purported faith to justify a god-given right to over-consume are delusional at best and dangerous at worst. Any individual or group using religion to support a claim of superiority or entitlement over others is equally dangerous.

Direct Action

Finally, there is another group among those already mentioned who fall into what I am calling “the sustainability camp,” and by some measure they have come to define it: these are the anarchists who consider themselves to be at war with civilization.

This perspective lines up with that of many indigenous peoples. Viewing  industrialization as inherently destructive is quite common amongst indigenous peoples, and the reasoning behind this belief is hard to deny.

War, the atomic bomb, non-stop degradation of the biosphere, prisons, and an overall disconnection from—or feeling of superiority over—nature, are all direct results of civilization or industrialization, or both.

Because of this, many anarchists view industrial civilization itself as an ongoing violent act against nature. Therefore, any act against civilization is justifiable on the grounds that one is defending the biosphere from violence. Taking direct action in defense of nature or natural order is a strategy of many seeking justice.

The scope that defines direct action is broad. Everything from boycotts to sit-ins to blowing up a dam in hopes that one day the salmon run will return to the river can all be called “direct action.” FTW does not advocate violence, but we also don’t advocate for stopping debates and discussions that might help foster understanding among those who have similar objectives yet hold different opinions and beliefs.

Direct action does not have to be violent to be profound. On December 10, 1997, in Humboldt County, California, Julia “Butterfly” Hill climbed into a thousand year old Redwood she had given the name “Luna” to prevent it and the surrounding forest from being destroyed. She didn’t come down until December 18, 1999, after striking a deal with Pacific Lumber to spare Luna’s life (along with a three-acre buffer zone surrounding her).

Indigenous peoples, among others, have said that now is a time for action, and they are correct. But what actions are we to take?

Should we be “raging” against civilization? If so, what does that mean? When is violence appropriate? Are peace and justice achievable through violent means? How do we achieve re-localization on a large scale and is such a large task achievable?

Is it better if the inevitable is delayed long enough for the biosphere to be destroyed by over-consumption, or would a fast-paced collapse of industrial civilization foster a healthier biosphere in both the short- and long-term? How do we prepare our mind, body, and soul for the inevitable?

What should we be praying for?

Part two of this essay will delve deeper into these questions, and more.

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