Thursday, November 25, 2010



It has come to my attention that last week's show was a bit of a downer, leaving some listeners depressed.

A scientist showing a savage economic collapse in a red-hot world by 2100. And a food expert predicting global famine. Come on.... is the future depressing?

The Management has asked me to read the following statement:

"Everything is fine. The future will be fine too. The scientists you may have heard are just egg-heads with a horrible agenda to enslave us all.

There is plenty of oil for all of us. Plenty of cheap food, eat your fill.

Just relax and go to your job, if you have a job, or stay home, if you have a home.

There is nothing to worry about. I am sorry if the future frightened or offended anyone.

Alex Smith

According to a pseudo-scientific study, as reported by the Washington Post and the New York Times, alarmists - like Alex Smith! - are causing more people to disbelieve in claims of global warming, (or Peak Oil, they might have added). The Post's headline: "Gloom and doom on climate can backfire, new study says."

Actually, as Joe Romm points out in the climateprogress blog, the study doesn't say that, and the testing was on just a small sample of college students.

But the study by UC Berkeley does show most people believe the underlying narrative of life on Earth is positive, essentially that God is Just.

In the program, you hear a clip from Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, speaking to a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing in March, 2009. He first quoted from Chapter 8, Verse 22 of the Book of Genesis:

"Never again will I curse the ground because of Man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done."

Speaking of rising seas, Shimkus said the Bible shows "The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood."

On carbon Shimkus said: "Today we have about 388 parts per million in the atmosphere. I think in the age of dinosaurs, when we had the most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet - not too much carbon."

More here from the Daily Mail. Hear the full audio in our Radio Ecoshock program.

Science shows the contrary. We are already entering a time of mass extinction, like the five previous great extinctions. And there may be no force to stop heating of the planet, once we give it a big kick-off. Science conflicts with, and loses out to, this deeply held religious belief.

Therefore, the mainstream media and climate doubters tell us, we should limit our talk to the positive side of the story.

I'll take a shot at it.

What a wonderful world it will be, lit up by LED lights! You will enjoy the ocean more, now that it's closer. Most people will save on clothing, now that Summer lasts most of the year.

How am I doing?

[The radio program has some funny clips about a future that sucks, taken from Bobs Slacktime Funhouse: BSTF 840 - "The World Of Tomorrow Will SUCK!" as broadcast on WREK Atlanta.]

But let's say, just as an act of imagination, that fossil fuels do run out. James Howard Kunstler has brought that future into print with his latest book. You'll hear that interview next. And we have Tracy Mayor on the program, the self-styled "Armageddon Mama", with the age-old problem: how to talk to your friends and family about the coming Apocalypse.


Authors and artists often express the future, years too soon for our own comfort. James Howard Kunstler is like that, and worse, he's one of the best American writers of the day. Some people love to read his articles, while hoping he's wrong as Hell.

I was honored to have James Howard Kunstler join us, to discuss his new novel "The Witch of Hebron" - and what it means for our future. It's a look at life in the post carbon age. How will we survive without oil?

As Kunstler points out, this is not another total doom story, like Cormac McCarthy's book "The Road". Jim Kunstler thinks humans will work out some new ways of living. In some ways, life may become more real and enjoyable than our complex, corporate, globalized high-stress experience. Local food, community and cooperation share the stage with a return to agriculturalism, and likely male-dominated hierarchies of local power. That last projection doesn't go down well with some of the ladies, and we talk about that too.

In his 1994 book "The Geography of Nowhere," Kunstler describes the modern landscape of strip Malls, anti-social architecture, and badly functioning suburbs. Perhaps we more ready to dream along with him, into a simpler world, precisely because we feel so little love for our present surroundings.

In 2005, he made a new mark in Peak Oil prediction, with his book "The Long Emergency". That began a movement. The International Energy Agency finally just admitted Peak Oil may have occurred in 2006, - and that may push more people into taking post-carbon novels seriously. Jim talks about Peak Oil and the economic disaster, in this interview.

We discuss how imagining the future can help us prepare for the many difficulties facing our economy and society now. Personally, I see a fairly long-drawn out series of shortages and Depressions, with some recovery now and then. James Howard Kunstler sees a devastating crash within the next 10 years. I ask him why. His answer is so well spoken, you have to hear it.

Stimulated by a question from a San Francisco city planner, I ask Kunstler how we can remold existing institutions, toward a softer landing. Jim talks more passenger rail, of course, but also localization, and new expectations.

I read James Howard Kunstler's blog at every Monday morning. You should too.


Kids today learn gaming skills for play, and keyboard skills for jobs. They'll all be virtual workers - unless the world doesn't turn out that way.

Under the shadow of ever-rising oil prices, an unstable climate, and an economy held up by magic balloons, - how should we prepare our kids?

Tracy Mayor is a parent who writes for a living - her work appearing in such diverse publications as Salon, Computer World, and the Boston Globe. Her latest book, "Mommy Prayers" captures the humorous desperation of motherhood.

I found Tracy through the New York Times, under the headline "Preparing Kids for the Apocalypse". That was kind of a steal from Tracy's original work in Brain, Child magazine, which she edits, - titled "Armageddon Mama, Parenting toward the Apocalypse."

Helpful comments on the article are here.

With my own family, I often wonder, what the Hell should I tell the kids about all this? Should I try to aim them toward college, or learning to make their own shoes?

Tracy's article in Brain, Child magazine wasn't the puff piece we so often see. She did the homework, and tracked down some useful information. For example, I didn't know about Sean Brodrick's new book "The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide."

We also discuss the persistent narrative about the coming breakdown. Brave men, followed by their hard-cooking women, take off into Montana, to defend the compound, with high-powered guns. Is that what really happens, when society goes into a period of stress? Not likely, not for most of us.

We talk about the best survival strategies, used by families in the Great Depression of the 1930's. And new developments of community-building and localization, today.

Another good resource is Rebecca Solnit's book, "A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (2009)".

At Kathy McMahon's recent talk about Peak Oil Blues, I was surprised to find so many women in the audience. They were quite educated about our dependence on oil, and the fact it will run out some day. I asked Tracy Mayor, "How is your family taking your conversion to 'Armageddon Mama' - and how do you handle the relatives, fixed in what McMahon called, 'pathological optimism'?"


There is some savage financial news out there. I've linked to just a half dozen stories you might have missed. (With a hat tip to the blog Automatic Earth) Consider these your homework assignment.

"Road map that opens up shadow banking" - by Gillian Tett of the Financial Times . You won't believe what these geniuses were up to.

The extent of the fantasy and fraud. Which leads up to a piece from the Wall Street Journal: "U.S. in Vast Insider Trading Probe".

The best may be an excellent expose by Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger of Pro Publica. The title is "Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis." It is a long piece, with a complete explanation of the fraudulent Collateralized Bond Obligations, the CDO's, trillions of dollars of fantasy money stashed away in bank vaults as "assets." The Federal Reserve, on orders by George Bush, and then Obama, has purchased up to 40 billion dollars worth of these worthless papers from the banks, and they are still sunk. As the truth comes out, banks world-wide will collapse, in my opinion. It may take years, or it may take just days.

Here are the rest. Read it and weep.

Prime U.S. Mortgage Foreclosures Hit Record as Unemployment Hurts Finances
by Kathleen M. Howley - Bloomberg

U.S. Homeowners Drop Out of Foreclosure Program Amid Record Defaults
by Lorraine Woellert and Clea Benson - Bloomberg

Unemployment benefits to end for 2 million Americans
by Steve Nuñez - KGUN9


Shed a tear for the Irish people, who just found out what a bank crash looks and feels like. A scallywag named Sean brought the Allied-Irish bank from just 8 employees, to a giant empire of debt, which just collapsed. Seventeen percent of the banks deposits were withdrawn in the past two weeks alone.

A foolish or corrupt Prime Minister guaranteed all the Irish bank debts, with the people to pay for a generation or more. When the cupboards ran dry, the German and British debt holders brought in the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union, to enforce the debt. Now the poorest people will pay, as the government slashes social programs, while keeping taxes high.

Look at Ireland, and watch, for that is the future of many countries, a ripple of consolidation of the remaining oligarchs, unless they tumble as well.


There are drops of good news. Despite the collapse, some of the world's largest solar plants are now starting operation. SunEdison claims the largest single solar facility in Rovigo, Italy, at 70 megawatts. Germany has the largest over-all, with several linked solar farms. In fact, Germany and Spain lead the world in solar power.

Here is a web listing of the largest solar plants installed - and check out the photos.

Canada seems to have set a new record, opening an 80 Megawatt solar farm in Sarnia, Ontario.

The U.S. is way down the list, with the largest being a 25 megawatt solar plant in Arcadia, Florida. But Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced approval for what will be the world's largest Solar-Thermal plant, the Blythe Solar Power Project in the Mohave desert.

As fossil fuels run down, and as the public experiences their climatic danger, we will operate the remaining civilization on whatever cleaner power we have installed. That does include nuclear, but in the long run, the sun, the wind, the tides, and geothermal will provide.

We have taken the first baby steps.

But the road is long and dangerous. The U.S. government reported recently that nearly one in five Americans experienced some form of mental illness in 2009. Modern, disconnected life, with it's giant fears, has taken a brutal toll on us all. Check out our recent Radio Ecoshock programs on the psychology of climate change and Peak Oil awareness.

GARDENING TO SAVE SANITY (and maybe your life)

Part of the great healing is to re-establish our relationship with growing food. The process is good for us, as is the organic produce.

Like a great ice field cracking open, the impregnable icon of the lawn is starting to fall. In just one example, the City of North Vancouver is encouraging residents to tear out their lawns, and plant food gardens. City Councilor Craig Keating has raised bed gardens in his front yard.

The City even allows commercial farming of home yards. One company, "City Farm Boy" leases yards, and even roof-tops, to grow vegetables. Homeowners get a share of the fresh goodies, as do 38 shareholders, paying an annual fee for their weekly basket of veggies, from May to October.

This is Earth Shaking. People can stop poisoning their lawns, start composting their waste, and begin tasting real vegetables, that didn't travel thousands of carbonated miles.

I'm going to play you a clip from the radio show Unwelcome Guests, hour two of #523.

It is an interview of critical mass biker and 'Frisco life-changer Chris Carlsson. He is talking about his book "Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists and Vacant Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today."

We tune in as Chris explains the urban gardening scene in the United States.

Find Chris Carlsson's blog at, and read more in the zine "Processed World."

Growing food helped save me. It can help you too. Start small at home, find a community garden, find a community, right where you live.

We're going out with a music mix that's hard to beat. The famed Gospel Singer Mavis Staples, produced by master musician Ry Cooder. "Let My Little Light Shine" gets rocked, on the album "We'll Never Turn Back".

I'm Alex Smith. Don't tell me you are down and out. Not when you've got the light inside. Let it shine.

Radio Ecoshock

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