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Peak Oil – Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture: Review

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In 2011, while working toward a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson began a study into the peak oil community. Approaching his subject from the perspective of a social scientist, he conducted his research by way of surveys, interviews, field notes and participant observation (the latter two gleaned through attending the 2009 Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas international conference in Denver). His book Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture is the result of this research. It investigates the ideology and subculture of “peakists,” explores how their movement was influenced by the ascendancy of libertarianism into mainstream American politics and the rise of Internet technology, analyzes peak oil-themed fiction, probes the reasons behind peakists’ political quiescence and discusses the peak oil subculture within the context of white masculinity and apocalyptic retrosexuality.

It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, it represents an intriguing and largely sympathetic glimpse into the early 21st-century cultural phenomenon that was the American peak oil movement. (Schneider-Mayerson writes about it in the past tense because he contends that it no longer exists as the “vibrant social formation” it once was.) On the other hand, the portrait that the book affords is incomplete. Schneider-Mayerson understands the core aspects to peak oil, even if he stops short of being able to recognize it as the predicament that it is rather than as a problem with a solution. He acknowledges the impossibility of infinite growth and grasps that we face not the complete exhaustion of oil, but rather the end of easy oil. His one big fallacy is his assumption that societal decline can still be averted at this point, and herein lies his misguided criticism of peakists as being politically quiescent. In addition, his review of the peakist literature, judging by both his discussions and bibliography, has significant gaps.

Marching Gas PumpsTo take one example, consider how he proves he hasn’t given more than a cursory glance to the work of one of the preeminent peak oil thinkers and authors, John Michael Greer. The only time he mentions Greer is when he includes the name of Greer’s blog, The Archdruid Report, in a list of sites culled from his surveys. If he had bothered to learn something about Greer beyond merely the name of his blog, he would have known that there’s another spot in his book that cries out for a reference to Greer’s ideas. The passage in question is one explaining how peakists held wildly divergent views about the likely shape of the future. Among the more dissident viewpoints, he notes, was that we face a slow, uneven decline unfolding over lifetimes, not the Hollywood-esque scenario of sudden and utter collapse. Greer literally wrote the book on this–coining the term “The Long Descent” to describe it–so introducing him into the discussion would not have been inappropriate.

In the introduction and first chapter, Schneider-Mayerson summarizes his methodology, theoretical framework and core arguments, and lays out some basic facts about the population under study. He explains that he chose to focus on peakists in America because this is where the movement had the greatest following, and he roughly estimates the total number of American adherents to have been in the hundreds of thousands. He dates peakism’s beginning and end to 2004 and 2011, respectively. As for his survey study sample, it represents the readership of two popular peak oil-related blogs, those of James Howard Kunstler and Kathy “Peak Shrink” McMahon. (In his acknowledgements, the author thanks Kunstler and McMahon for posting links to one of his surveys on their sites.)

Judging from this sample, American peak oil “believers” (to use Schneider-Mayerson’s term) tended to be educated, white, middle-aged men with liberal political leanings. For the most part, they met one another on the Internet but never face to face. At the heart of their shared ideology was the conviction that “impending oil scarcity would lead to the imminent collapse of industrial society and the demise of the United States.”

As one might guess from his use of the word “believers,” Schneider-Mayerson makes a case for peak oil being a belief system with religious dimensions–and to me this is entirely valid. Though some in the community may be offended by having their ideology likened to a religion, the fact is that it quite literally is one according to Greer’s notion of a secular religion. (Greer has argued that the two dominant secular religions of industrial society are the religion of progress and that of apocalypse; and while peak oil is nowhere near as prominent an example as these two, it nonetheless fits Greer’s definition of a secular religion.) The only fault I find with Schneider-Mayerson’s argument about peak oil being a religion is his assertion that “peakism lacks a conception of the sacred or supernatural.” What do you call a reverence for the inviolable laws of thermodynamics or the energy slaves that power our lives, if not a set of sacred tenets?

Continuing with his metaphor of peak oil as a religion, Schneider-Mayerson refers to Kunstler as “peak oil’s Jeremiah.” Kunstler’s blog, television appearances, speaking tours and 2005 bestseller The Long Emergency all served, in Schneider-Mayerson’s view, to “spread the peak oil gospel.” Again, I think it’s legitimate to make this religious parallel. The Long Emergency truly was the peak oil bible for many people, this reviewer included; and, just as Jeremiah was among the major prophets of the Christian Old Testament, so too was Kunstler one of the most famous peak oil prognosticators. Where the metaphor breaks down a little is that Kunstler was hardly the most pessimistic in his outlook. Far more Jeremiah-esque was conservation biologist Guy McPherson, who has been predicting human extinction within our lifetimes due to peak oil’s even direr cousin, climate change.

One of Peak Oil’s central arguments is that the movement took the shape it did largely because of the libertarian shift and the network effect. The phrase “libertarian shift” refers, in the author’s words, to the increasing tendency of Americans across all party lines and ideologies to “conceive of themselves and their citizenship in distinctly libertarian terms (individualistic and private)” Schneider-Mayerson argues that the use of Internet technologies has precipitated this trend. Though the author never explicitly defines the network effect, he uses the phrase to describe how the Internet has brought about our modern-day networked society. Because peak oil was predominantly an Internet phenomenon, with face-to-face meetings among followers being relatively uncommon, this is certainly a relevant point. In a nutshell, this chapter of the book argues that the libertarian shift and the network effect colluded to make peakists “alone together.”

It’s telling that Schneider-Mayerson chooses to address apocalyptic popular culture and the aforementioned political disengagement of peakists in a single chapter. As this juxtaposition suggests, the author attributes peakists’ dismissal of the efficacy of political activism partly to their having seen and internalized a lot of disaster films. What’s the point of activism, after all, if you believe that the world is about to end spectacularly as in some blockbuster movie? Seventy-eight percent of his sample of peakists had seen Independence Day and 75.2 percent had seen Mad Max (to give just two examples), and in their comments many admitted that such apocalyptic films had to some extent influenced their thinking about the future. One respondent implied that movie scenarios provide a convenient framework for such thinking because they’re so much less complex and nuanced than real life: “It’s difficult to avoid letting fictional portrayals influence your thinking about situations with so many variables.”

Yet it’s silly to conclude that peakists’ disinclination toward political action was caused by their exposure to apocalyptic fiction. While disaster films undoubtedly supplied plenty of ideas about what the world ahead might resemble, they aren’t what made peakists believe in a dystopian future. Rather, this belief was the result of their willingness to take the implications of today’s situation to their logical conclusions. The political disengagement bemoaned by Schneider-Mayerson should thus be addressed in the context not of fiction, but of the plethora of evidence supporting such an attitude.

Alas, the author isn’t disposed to think in this way. More than once, he betrays that while he may be decently read on peak oil, he hasn’t comprehended all that he’s read. Consider this statement: “Whereas most environmentalists now see resource scarcity as tightly bound to economic and social issues that are highly variable, peakists tend to hold fast to a simplistic version of the limits-to-growth environmental paradigm where economic and social issues are at the mercy of ecological limits.” This sentence would be spot-on if the word “simplistic” were replaced with “accurate.” How does one square this suggestion that social and economic factors are capable of magically bringing oil into existence–a standard folly of cornucopian economists–with Schneider-Mayerson’s otherwise solid handle on ecological economic principles?

The most interesting part of the whole post-collapse fiction/political quiescence chapter is its survey and review of the major peak oil novels to have been written to date. The eight books that the author examines range from Kunstler’s famous World Made by Hand to a number of lesser-known, self-published novels, such as Caryl Johnston’s After the Crash: An Essay-Novel of the Post-Hydrocarbon Era. While this selection covers only a fraction of the entire post-oil fiction canon, it includes all the most influential works. Where the analysis shines the most is in demonstrating the key ways in which post-oil novels differ thematically from traditional American post-apocalyptic narratives. The latter typically show diverse groups setting aside their differences to meet a common challenge, and, through their collaboration, bringing about a “collective national regeneration through crisis.” Post-oil novels, in contrast, are more likely to show the return of antagonisms among races, regions and ethnic groups, as well as the relegation of America to history’s dumpster.

Peakists believed that national governments and other large-scale institutions would prove ill-equipped to handle the crisis–since a world of scarce oil would favor small-scale, localized enterprises–and this is a primary reason why they generally forewent political activism in favor of individual preparation. Drawing on responses to his surveys and comments posted to online forums, Schneider-Mayerson gives a detailed account of the most common types of preparedness activities. He found that nearly 75 percent of survey respondents had stockpiled goods, one in five had changed occupations, 53 percent had curtailed the amount of driving they did and 32 percent had purchased more fuel-efficient cars. Some other common preparedness measures included purchasing land, investing in precious metals or long-term oil futures, getting in better physical shape and adjusting psychologically to the specter of harder times. Only 11 percent of respondents had done nothing to prepare.

It wasn’t, of course, universally true of peakists that they eschewed politics. Some notable outliers existed in this regard, the most famous being now-retired Republican House Representative Roscoe Bartlett, who in 2005 formed the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus along with Democratic Representative Tom Udall. Bartlett was ardently outspoken on peak oil, appearing in numerous documentaries on the issue and quoting at length from the preparedness site Life After the Oil Crash during speeches on the Congressional floor. That Schneider-Mayerson doesn’t mention Bartlett anywhere in this book is, to me, a mistake.

There was a great deal of support within the peakist community for those still processing their grief over the coming civilizational decline, and Schneider-Mayerson does capture some sense of this. However, he unforgivably omits an important figure from his analysis, Dr. Carolyn Baker. A trained psychotherapist, Baker has devoted the past eight years of her life to helping others transition, on an inner level, to a post-peak world. She’s done so by writing books, offering therapy and life-coaching services, hosting the popular radio show The New Lifeboat Hour and speaking at collapse-themed events. Peak Oil’s bibliography does list one of Baker’s books, so it’s clear that Schneider-Mayerson is aware of her work. He should have at least mentioned her somewhere in the main text.

On the other hand, this book properly acknowledges the contribution of clinical psychologist Kathy McMahon. Dr. McMahon gained international renown for her pioneering work on the psychological impacts of oil depletion, climate change and economic crisis. Peak Oil does a good job of recounting how she developed an alternative psychological model that upended the assumptions of most psychologists when dealing with ecologically aware patients. Chief among these assumptions was that people who exhibited an unusual level of concern over environmental issues, relative to most others, were either emotionally unstable or mentally ill, and thus in need of professional help. McMahon dissented from this by insisting that being distraught over environmental crises was an indication of good mental health, while adopting supposedly normal responses to humanity’s predicament, such as supporting resource wars or blindly trusting in human ingenuity, was a sign of pathology.

Besides giving a thorough, thoughtful account of McMahon’s work, Schneider-Mayerson praises her for walking her talk. “Judging from her frequent anecdotes,” he writes, “she seemed to have fashioned a rural life for herself that the woebegone survivors in Kunstler’s The Long Emergency would recognize and envy…She and her husband lived in a small town in rural Massachusetts where ‘people cut hay with a scythe, and build homes without power tools.’”

Psychologists weren’t the only ones to pathologize despair over peak oil. As every peakist knows, even the closest friends and family members of a peak oil-aware individual were apt to write off his or her concerns as irrational doomsaying. This book speaks pointedly to the social marginalization that resulted from this. Borrowing terms used by his survey respondents, Schneider-Mayerson reveals how those who made meaningful changes to their lives, rather than simply paying lip service to sustainability-related causes or buying “green” consumer products, were often ridiculed as “‘survival nuts,’ ‘hippies,’ ‘whackjobs,’ ‘tree-huggers,’ ‘kooks,’ and ‘crackpots.’” Consequently, many adopted the policy of never bringing up their views around friends, family or coworkers. Schneider-Mayerson says this state of affairs provided him with an unprecedented opportunity. Craving an outlet for their pent-up dreads, hopes and aspirations, many peakists eagerly shared their thoughts in the surveys, and as a consequence, this book “contains a level of detail about and analysis of the peak oil phenomenon that has not previously been possible.”

It always seemed to peakists that the ostracism they endured was driven largely by America’s unique culture of optimism, a suspicion that Schneider-Mayerson backs up with scholarly research. He cites in particular the work of historian C. Vann Woodward, whom he quotes as having called optimism a “national philosophy in America,” as well as that of social scientist Neil D. Weinstein. He also supplies citations for several cross-cultural studies that have corroborated Americans’ bias toward optimism. And he rightly declares that if American society is to effectively respond to peak oil and other ecological threats, it must break with its delusional outlook.

Given that peakism’s lack of female and racial minority representation was a major topic for debate within the community, Schneider-Mayerson’s chapter on the issue will be of interest to many readers. In seeking to understand why 75 to 80 percent of his survey respondents were men and 89 to 91 percent white, the author presents various possible explanations having to do with masculinity, metrosexuality and environmental inequality, as well as some ideas peakists themselves have promulgated. For me, the most compelling hypothesis he cites for the maleness of peak oil is one advanced by journalist Kurt Cobb. In a 2007 article, Cobb argued that the gender disparity reflected the fact that many peakists came from within the male-dominated oil industry.* As for the dearth of racial minorities, Schneider-Mayerson notes that peakism was a distinctly individualistic movement, and that individualism is a “raced and gendered philosophy.”

Peak Oil acknowledges, to its great credit, that while peakism has waned, the actual phenomenon of oil depletion hasn’t gone away and deserves our continued attention. “Whether it is imminent or two decades away,” the author writes, “the threat of energy scarcity should be taken seriously.” With his social science background, Schneider-Mayerson brings a valuable perspective to the issue, and I hope he continues to engage with it in his research. Let’s hope he also gets around to filling in the gaps that riddle this first book.

resilience.org



44 Comments on "Peak Oil – Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture: Review"

  1. Davy on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 11:28 am 

    You can describe peak oil and its people but that does not mean it is static or ended. Peak Oil dynamics are alive and well. It is just the case that these dynamics are lining up with a few others as profound and dangerous. Climate change, the decline of globalism, and the destruction of our planetary system all are conspiring to destructively change our modern civilization.

    Many of the best peakist have matured and are now more competent with the dynamics. These issues have been heavily discussed and analyzed. We are on the cusp of decline and peak oil is part of it. It is not the main cause we thought it would be but that does not mean it has not made itself felt. The worst is yet to come. Currently a dynamic of economic demand destruction is at work changing growth patterns and along with other dynamics gutting our oil productive potential. Soon we will be far too underinvested to ever catch up to what our civilization needs.

  2. Ghung on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 12:08 pm 

    I’ve never considered that peak oil would be anything more than a slow revelation of humanity’s extreme level of overshoot. The artifacts of overshoot are beginning to surface in many ways; political, environmental, societal, and emotionally on a personal level for many. Most folks simply haven’t acquired the tools to come to terms with the fact that the industrial age, (along with it’s 7.5 billion offspring) has reached its pull-by date.

    It’s primarily an ecological problem. Everything else follows as we no longer have the energy and resources to cheat nature on such an enormous level. When the inertia that continues to allow people to believe we can continue as we have been begins to wane, this too will pass. Modern civilization wasn’t created in a day…….

    Then, again, it could all very well end in minutes with the push of a button. No one sees the point in discussing that, it seems.

  3. onlooker on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 12:10 pm 

    It is quite unfortunate that some Peak Oil adherents jumped the gun somewhat in depicting near term catastrophe around 2005. Yet our energy situation meanwhile has continued to worsen. And the dynamic is NOT following the script of relentlessly increasing oil prices crushing the Economy. Rather the more subtle yet precise mechanism of society being starved of net energy as a whole even as the Oil Industry begins to disassociate from higher costs and lower returns. Both the Oil Industry and the Economy bringing each other down. And to keep in mind nothing happens in a vacuum. The downfall of Civilization will proceed unevenly both in time and space, so expect temporarily for some countries meanwhile to benefit from the demise of others. Globalism in reverse with vicious shrewd exploitation and opportunism

  4. paulo1 on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 12:47 pm 

    Great comments, folks. I guess I am a Peakist, but prefer to think of myself as a realist willing to accept the implications of overshoot and adjust my expectations and lifestyle, accordingly.

    And just what is wrong for being grateful for today and our comforts, but mindful of their historical context, and that our current lifestyle is a momentary blip for a minority of the Earth’s population? It just seems obvious.

    Sorry, but a change in our Western lifestyle of consumption is most defintely, ‘an option’.

    Davy, I have one disagreement with your comment, and that is ‘we are on the cusp’ of decline. I think we are most assuredly in decline, and that it is madly being papered over with debt and rhetoric. I understand people are afraid of change and carry a huge bag of expectations. All I know is that some of my best years were when I did not have a ‘pot to piss in’. There are worse things than living within one’s means.

    I have been part of this Peak mindset for at least 15 years. In our home we have changed how we view the world and how we live. My friends and family simply believe we have found a new home and lifestyle that makes us happy. And, I prefer to lead by example, and only talk about my ‘Peakist’ beliefs if asked. People have to make their own decisions and take responsibility for choices.

    If the modern consumption lifestyle is so great, why then is the rate of addictions and alcohol abuse so high, despite recent decreases in alcoholism? Looking at the economy it sure doesn’t seem like ‘spare time’ is the answer. This world of ‘stuff’ and hamster wheel living to pay for everything is very unsatisfying, indeed.

  5. onlooker on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 1:01 pm 

    Agree fully, that we are approaching the day(s) of reckoning when we we will not be able to live so deeply in overshoot of carrying capacity, Energy was instrumental in allowing us to do so. But even if we could count on a miraculous new source of unlimited energy , that only would mean coming up against even harder natural limits

  6. rockman on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 1:18 pm 

    paulo – “Great comments, folks. I guess I am a Peakist”. I also agree along with the looker. Especially with the often used term “dynamic” in the posts. So I here by baptize you (and any others that wish to join our new congregation) as no longer a “peakist” but as a “Podist”.

    Peace be with you, brother.

  7. Davy on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 1:28 pm 

    Paulo, when I say on the cusp of decline I mean in the vicinity. We still have growth and we are experiencing clear decline. I am not sure which is winning at the moment but I know who will win. This is a natural process and all the natural indicators are decline. I see and feel decline but chose to achnowledge this paradigm is bigger than my understanding. This is why I am leaving it vague but with clear direction.

  8. Revi on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 3:43 pm 

    I read this book when it first came out. While I appreciate that he studied our “culture”, I came away with a feeling that he thinks of us the way Napoleon Chagnon thought of the Yanomani. He really didn’t “get us”, and there was no attempt to “go native” with us. He was not interested in Peak Oil, and I think he chastises us a little too much for political inaction. I did get the feeling that he believes in Climate Change and in taking action on it, so he can get a chance to see how difficult it is to influence a culture. We had our heyday in the early 2000’s and Climate Change is having it’s heyday now. The culture that is using all this fossil fuel hardly noticed us, and is giving the Climate Change movement the cold shoulder now. Let’s see if that gives him a little compassion for our lost cause!

  9. Alice Friedemann on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 3:57 pm 

    I wrote a review of this book in 2015 at http://energyskeptic.com/2015/review-of-schneider-mayerson-peak-oil-apocalyptic-environmentalism-and-libertarian-political-culture/

    Just a few of my criticisms:
    It does not criticize Peak oil scientifically, but instead uses uses damning language to imply the “labyrinthine subculture of peakists” are evangelical cult members and selfish individualist survivalists.

    Before I start my critique, let me say that Schneider-Mayerson is not a “limits to growth” denier, understands why peak oilers believe what they do, and says many things I agree with.
    He thinks it is just another apocalyptic movement because he believes there are solutions to the oil crisis.

    Where’s the science?

    There is a notable absence of science and the scientists within the peak oil sphere. His thesis spends a lot of time on James Howard Kuntler and someone I have never heard of, “Peak Shrink” Kathy McMahon. Where are Charles A.S. Hall Colin Campbell, Walter Youngquist, Kjell Aleklett, Tad Patzek, David Pimentel, Ken Deffeyes, and so on?

    He describes “peakists” with political labels: 29% are liberal and 27% are very liberal with only 7% defining themselves as conservative.

    Science is not political. How people vote has nothing to do with scientific evidence and facts. Spinning “climate change” belief as “democratic” is a propagandist way of deflecting attention away from scientific evidence and making it appear as though any evidence that exists is “liberal” rather than scientific.

    In Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality”, he explains why liberals believe in scientific evidence and conservatives are less likely to do so. I can’t remember the exact number, but something like 85% of university science professors vote democratic, and the rest are mostly independents, because the essence of science is changing your beliefs as new evidence arises. Conservatives like fixed, unchanging ideas and on average do not do well at universities. If so-called peakists are mainly liberal, that may also reflect a higher scientific awareness of the earth’s problems than the average citizen. Whether they are liberal or not is irrelevant.

    Peak oil smeared as a religious cult

    “Peakists” are smeared with labels such as “Cassandra’s evangelism” or “peak oil Jeremiah James Howard Kunstler”. He describes people who become “peak oil aware” as converted, as if it were a cult. Or as having had “an ideological transformation”… and “Peak oil believers described their awareness of oil depletion and environmental crisis in terms that were strikingly similar to a religious conversion… Many believers found new occupations, purchased land, and sundered ties with friends and family.”

  10. J-Gav on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 4:06 pm 

    Yeah, I can only agree – good comments folks!

  11. Michael on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 5:51 pm 

    Great comments. My only addition is that I tend to view the attendees at ASPO meetings as the serious Peak oil people. I have attended 5 of them and talked to many attendees. My data is definitely not scientific, just observational. But I did not run into that many liberals, but a lot of pretty conservative thinkers, particularly from retired oil company people. So I am not sure where he got his data. And like Alice said, what has politics got to do with it anyway?

  12. Ghung on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 6:42 pm 

    What everyone said, especially Alice. I’m not a binary thinker, but saw a dividing line years ago between those who think we can fix this (believers) and those who know we can’t. No point in trying to fix people at this stage, which is why I’m apolitical on the subject, and most humans need to believe things anyway. They need their stories and the story of peak everything isn’t a happy one.

    I would love to hear the stories they tell about us,, if humans survive this thing. Prophets? Impotent visionaries? Assholes who blamed everyone else?

  13. makati1 on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 7:08 pm 

    Ghung, IF humans survive, I think they will be too busy trying to survive to think about us. After a few generations, they cause may ask, as they look at the decaying remnants of our civilization like we look at the remains of Rome or Egypt: What happened? Or, maybe they will not even bother to look. Food and shelter will be the driving force in their lives, not contemplating the past. Between our current warring mentality, and the war Mother Nature is unleashing on us, I doubt that there will be any humans left alive by 2100.

  14. Nony on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 8:52 pm 

    The Oil Drum is dead. Savinar is an astrologist. Staniford is avoiding the subject and his previous predictions. Hamilton has distanced himself from earlier flirtations with peaker movement. A lot of the peakers are older and are literally dying off. And there are no young people replacing them.

    But to me the killer chart is just the drop in google ranking of peak oil. Peak oil interest has…peaked.

    https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=Peak%20oil,Fracking&hl=en-US

    The other funny thing is to me that I have been around long enough to have seen this before. Remember Carter and synfuels and running out of oil by 2000? Ha.

  15. GregT on Tue, 14th Mar 2017 10:38 pm 

    Gas prices in Vancouver today, $1.36/L. That would be 14 cents from reaching another all time high. Pre-peak conventional oil, (at the turn of the century) we were paying as low as 39 cents/L.

    People have selective memories, and denial is running rampant. Not to worry though, Trump will fix everything that isn’t wrong with society. Much easier to blame the problems on something else, than to face the stark cold reality that modern industrial society is going down the shitter. Oh yah, and to hell with the ‘environment’. Who needs it anyways?

  16. brough on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 5:57 am 

    I’m a humble chemist who’s worked in the petroleum industry 30+ years and around oil-men like forever. Many of whom live with oil depletion and real-life thermodynamics every day. These are free-thinking, egalitarian people. Entering into conversation about their sexuality, ethnic origins and masculinity, would probably end-up in facial re-contruction.

  17. Cloggie on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 7:28 am 

    Excellent writer, this Matthew Schneider-Mayerson. Home run. Recognize everything.

    libertarianism, Internet technology, peak oil-themed fiction, white masculinity.

    Haha, very recognizable, although the author can stick his “apocalyptic retrosexuality” in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

    Schneider-Mayerson writes about it in the past tense because he contends that it no longer exists as the “vibrant social formation” it once was.

    Entirely correct. Peak oil is dead, but nothing that creative “white masculinity can’t solve”.lol

    About Libertarianism, wrote thousands of posts on the Dutch libertarian forum vrijspreker.nl (“Freespeaker”) but meanwhile have completely abandoned that activity. Never was really a libertarian, although I had clear sympathies and visited lewrockwell.com on a daily basis and supported Ron Paul.

    Regarding the internet… it has completely displaced MSM: never watch TV-docs, never read papers or magazines.

    His one big fallacy is his assumption that societal decline can still be averted at this point, and herein lies his misguided criticism of peakists

    It isn’t misguided.

    He explains that he chose to focus on peakists in America because this is where the movement had the greatest following, and he roughly estimates the total number of American adherents to have been in the hundreds of thousands.

    There is a reason why this sense of peak oil doom is so prevalent in the US, far more than in Europe. Because peak oil is the political correct acceptable form of discussable doom, that hides the sense of doom that can’t be discussed (in polite company): the demise of white standards and social collapse as a result of shifting demographics. For many here peak oil (and climate change) is a convenient fig leaf to be able to express fears about the fate of civilization in North-America. Europe is simply not there (yet).

    On top of that, for North-Americans oil is a giant success story that began halfway the 19th century and was the single most important factor to arrive at planetary pole position in 1945. Of the Seven Sisters, 6 are Anglo and 1 (Shell) is Dutch-British. Why abandon a success story?

    The Report of the Club of Rome made an enormous impact in Europe, early seventies and never left the discourse of the main stream. And since Europe has not many energy sources worth mentioning, the Europeans have been prepared for a “renewable future” decades earlier, where the Americans largely lost interest after Carter.

    Kunstler was hardly the most pessimistic in his outlook. Far more Jeremiah-esque was conservation biologist Guy McPherson, who has been predicting human extinction within our lifetimes due to peak oil’s even direr cousin, climate change.

    We have a lot of these Jeremiah’s here on this forum, we are not going to mention any names.lol

    Post-oil novels, in contrast, are more likely to show the return of antagonisms among races, regions and ethnic groups, as well as the relegation of America to history’s dumpster.

    Bingo.

    He found that nearly 75 percent of survey respondents had stockpiled goods, one in five had changed occupations, 53 percent had curtailed the amount of driving they did and 32 percent had purchased more fuel-efficient cars. Some other common preparedness measures included purchasing land, investing in precious metals or long-term oil futures, getting in better physical shape and adjusting psychologically to the specter of harder times.

    Guilty as charged.

    Psychologists weren’t the only ones to pathologize despair over peak oil. As every peakist knows, even the closest friends and family members of a peak oil-aware individual were apt to write off his or her concerns as irrational doomsaying.

    There is this desire to act like Nostradamus and expose knowledge the lesser Gods don’t have and terrorize your surrounding with your grandiose visions of doom. I was guilty of that as well (parroting Heinberg) and made some pretty stark remarks, even against clients, that in hindsight (ten years later) were completely wrong. Like “Jan Modaal won’t be drinving a car any more in 2015”. Hahaha.

    It always seemed to peakists that the ostracism they endured was driven largely by America’s unique culture of optimism

    Rooted in the fact that America got everything on the cheap.

    Given that peakism’s lack of female and racial minority representation

    Like in every other branch of human achievement/thinking. Don’t take it from me, read Camille Paglia.lol But that is of course beyond the pale for natural born egalitarians like Americans.

  18. Revi on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 9:55 am 

    We were examined and found wanting. I wonder what the book about us will be in the 2020’s? Are we a cult? I am old enough to remember the oil shocks of the 70’s and the way we thought then. Now it’s the 2010’s and we are still living the same way we did back then. When will the party end? I think it will be when we aren’t allowed to borrow 2,739,726,027 dollars per day from the rest of the world in order to maintain our lifestyle. When will that day come? Who knows? It could come tomorrow…

  19. Nony on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 8:14 pm 

    Revi: You are the Shakers. A cult that is dying out. No replacements. Hasta la bybye, old man.

  20. Hubert on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 8:25 pm 

    We my have 30 years of oil left. After that, it will be a different world.

  21. Boat on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 8:56 pm 

    greggiet,

    Your deep state Jews must be a different strain from the Jews running Texas. Gas here was $1.99 per gal on the last fill up.

  22. GregT on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 10:02 pm 

    Wow Boat,

    That works out to 52 cents a litre. No wonder you guys are in such serious financial trouble. Not to worry there Kevin, Trump is going to fix everything for you real good, as soon as he takes out the deep state. If they don’t take him out first, that is. Y’all keep those fingers crossed lil buddy.

  23. GregT on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 11:07 pm 

    “We my have 30 years of oil left. After that, it will be a different world.”

    I figure closer to 35, but not for the vast majority of us, and it’ll be a much different world for sure, a long time before oil ever runs out. The political, economic, and societal turmoil will pale in comparison to what we have already done to the Earth’s natural biosphere.

  24. Sissyfuss on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 12:19 am 

    You’re absolutely right, Greg, which is such the pity.

  25. GregT on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 12:56 am 

    The more people I meet Sissyfuss, the more I like my dog. Fortunately for him, he’ll likely make it to a ripe old age. Myself? I’m not so sure. My kids? I highly doubt it. Pretty sad that us humans, collectively, cannot get our acts together. A real pity indeed.

  26. makati1 on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 1:03 am 

    I su8spect that “different world” is coming a lot sooner than 30-35 years. I expect it before 2025, but maybe I will be wrong. We can only hope.

  27. Northwest Resident on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 1:30 am 

    “We my have 30 years of oil left. After that, it will be a different world.”

    We’ll never run out of oil of course. “We” being whoever is in the right geographical location with the capability to still extract oil, whatever that small and diminishing amount might be.

    We WILL run short of affordable oil however, in fact we’ve almost certainly reached that point some years ago. The shortage of affordable oil has been incrementally growing more acute since then and continues to do so every day we burn more of it up.

    The collapse in oil industry capex over the last few years is due to the fact that there just isn’t that much affordable oil left to go after. It has been a historic collapse in capex (Google it), and a historic lack of reserve replacements. We aren’t replacing what we’re burning, not even close. In a time period probably close to 2 – 3 years, the lack of oil “in the pipeline” to replace what we are burning today will lead to chronic and undeniable shortages. The impact will be huge. And probably catastrophic.

    Maybe I’m wrong. But I just don’t see how we get further than 2 – 3 years down the road without the monumental pile of predicaments and tension that are building around the world just blowing up on us. Just one spark could set it all on fire.

    30 years from now? No way to predict where humans will be that far in the future, except to know with absolute certainty that they will not be living the highly wasteful high-tech, energy intensive lifestyles they are now. And there will be a whole lot less of them/us. It will definitely be a different world.

  28. GregT on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 1:59 am 

    Highly intelligent post, as usual NWR. Questions, purely out of curiosity, what is your take on the Trump presidency? And what do you think about the huge divide in the US between the “right” and the “left”. Always valued your opinion, and I’d really like to hear your take.

  29. Cloggie on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 4:54 am 

    We my have 30 years of oil left. After that, it will be a different world.

    Absolutely: http://tinyurl.com/zbj93pq

    The more people I meet Sissyfuss, the more I like my dog. Fortunately for him, he’ll likely make it to a ripe old age. Myself? I’m not so sure. My kids? I highly doubt it. Pretty sad that us humans, collectively, cannot get our acts together. A real pity indeed.

    There is a personal angle to all this doom embracing: fed up with life and society and a desire for the end, unrelated to depleting resources or environmental damage.

  30. Revi on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 6:40 am 

    I wonder if we’ll make it to 30 years from now? There is no way we can continue business as usual that long. We need to figure out cold fusion or something in order to keep using the amount of energy we are using now in the US. Maybe it will happen.

  31. TheNationalist on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 7:49 am 

    Surely the main driver of all this is survival. Successful societies need people to question systems and prepare for the worst if said systems have failings and weaknesses.
    Europeans and men are better when it comes to challenging our lords and masters thats all.
    To be compared to religion is an insult.

  32. GregT on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 11:07 am 

    Enjoy the next 4 years of life in your ‘society’ Cloggie. Should be interesting, to say the least.

    Plus 14ºC here yesterday, and the snow has finally melted in most of the gardens. I think I’ll prune my raspberry canes this morning. This afternoon I plan on taking the dog for a walk up to the lake, and doing a bit of fly fishing. The trout can be quite ravenous this time of the year. Not sure if I’ll see anybody else up there, but if I do, I’m sure we’ll have a pleasant conversation.

    Cheers.

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