Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler raises ethics questions

Kunstler's book asks "What's going to happen as we start running out of cheap gas to guzzle?". If you haven't been following the oil depletion thread this is a good place to get updated. (Link)

One thing I have been musing over: I quote the Rolling Stone article " The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class."

That's you and me probably.

As I see it there are some simple options open to us. But before we consider them we should maybe take a step back and consider, as we are going into a period where everyone will lose something, where we stand on equality.

If we could, given the dark prospects painted by Kunstler, chart a course out, would it be towards

A society where everyone competes with everyone for the remaining food

A society where everyone helps out to see at least everyone is fed, watered, clothed, sheltered and secure.

Society where the less fortunate are helped to the extent they are helped

A society recognising the sun shines on everyone equally aims for shared common standards .

Before you consider these different stands we could take the biologist's view. Given that the community will undergo resource stress, what is the attitude that will best ensure the long term survival of the community?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Max Wahlter's Journey to find cure for oil and happiness hits addiction

Preamble: Neil Crofts ( does not mx words. He says the modern person is working in indentured slavery and/or is addicted to temporary hits of happiness. “Happiness seems like the end of the rainbow.”

…the happiness we feel is usually fleeting and attached to events or things. In this way we develop and understanding that happiness is external and comes from the outside.

This then leads to a constant search for happiness in external events or things.

In fact like any addiction it turns into the spiral of diminishing returns.

Recently, people have been talking about a world addicted to oil. A lot of our “comfortable” life style comes from using fossil fuels. Some call oil “slave replacements”. And yet we are probably not happier for all the oil generated comfort.

I suspect, too, that the increase in burn outs could be because we seek more hits of happiness from work, and as the hits feel smaller as time goes on we try even harder at work.

Now, my quest is visit a place that provides an excellent service for people who have, perhaps though through lack of self confidence, got into addiction to hits of happiness and are feeling the need to break away from it. This place provides therapies and or treatments and a way to help people deal with and get off the addiction.

Tapescript: Journey to the cure part one.

I am in the departure lounge, sitting on a nice redwood polished bench. I look around for a lift. I seem to be recalling many past visits from this point. Behind me is a grey lift, one I haven’t tried. I get a feeling of hospital. A cream coloured lift is next to it.

I hesitate but take the cream one.

“Happiness hits addiction” is written on the sign near the button.

The lift goes up just one flight. It opens onto what looks like a hospital corridor. Beds on either side. Should I be here? I walk along this huge corridor that at last opens onto a shopping mall, lots of busy shops on two floors.

I wonder if you can get rid of this addiction by buying something.

Can you buy your way out? Sick if you can! But I realize it is not true. Shopping gives a temporary relief to this feeling but it never lasts.

If you are really sensitive you can go into a shop and feel all that excitement from all the things there, and how they will make you feel if you own them. But it is all about how you will fell about yourself. I mean, why do people not feel good about themselves anyway?

I enter into a waiting room on the right, and go in and ask for an appointment.

“Someone will be available shortly,” says the woman behind the desk.

It looks like a beauty parlor to me here, staff are walking around in white coats. I park my self in the waiting room and ask a person sitting next to me about money and costs.

“That is the last thing you should worry about” came the reply.

“Mr. Wahlter!” Someone invites me to their office.

I meet a man in his 50s, dressed in a dark suit. “How can I help you?”

“The addiction to happiness and all that follows from it. I would like to do something about it. A course of treatments, or a way of dealing with it. Can you tell me what you offer?” I ask.

It seems they offer retreats, physiological tests, treatments etc.

I get a self-test diagnostic on paper.

Tick if the following apply to you

? Can’t sleep

? Generally bad self confidence

? Shopping does' t makes you happy or work for you any more

? Nothing makes you happy

? Slight depression

? Stomach problems

? Generally lack of self-care on basic levels, heath hygiene nutrition and living space

? Love life affected

? Working life functioning poorly


I tick yes to all. Looks like I am suffering.

“What can you do for me- to help me get myself together?”

“Life Planning and retreats,” comes the reply.

Life planning is when you review your life.

Then we offer a series of treatments to help you relax and get in touch with yourself and a new eating regime and exercise regimen.

And something to do with water …spa.

They have everything it seems

“Well, we ARE a centre of well-being,” comes the reply and I link back to earlier quests.

I wonder; ”is there any special treatment just for the addiction like a step program or something?”

“We can’t do a step program. Human beings are so delicate and deep and sensitive, so in need of good experience. They are such incredible creatures; multi-faceted and complex emotionally. You cannot just apply any one solution.”

I ask the guy about his job.

“My job is to front the people who come here and help them make choices about the way forward.”

And about me?

“You are obviously suffering from the effects of happiness addiction - you can’t buy your way out. “

I go into borrowed genius mode. Looking through his eyes I see it is a clinic; they have everything- fitness and personal trainers.

I see the possibility for a doctor’s consultation.

Leaving the borrowed genius I ask for an appointment. A doctor is available immediately. I enter the examination room lie on the examination table. He connects a machine up to me to measure stress levels. Alpha and beta wave patterns can show extreme signs of stress, which appear when the body goes too far into addiction and stays outside the comfort zone.

Borrowing his genius I see the comfort zone concept includes all the factors mentioned before, your home, food exercise, relationships, work, etc. There is a zone to get into. When you get too far out of the zone it gets you showing effects.

“You are showing effects,” he says.

“You have to get yourself back into the zone. Life planning is one way, an exercise regime is part of that. Life planning is to get you into the zone. It’s about the addiction. When you get outside the zone it is as if you are stuck outside the fence and cannot get back in.”

I see posters on the wall explaining how it works. Addiction is in fact the result of a natural reaction that some how goes too far .. or you go “outside the zone”. You should be bounced back into the zone when you come to the edge. It’s natural you bounce back into the comfort zone. Humans are steered by the need for strong experience and feelings. But if you get outside the zone you can get stuck outside and can’t get back. You have to pull yourself back consciously. You have to learn to pull yourself back. And it needs a lot of effort.

The life planning exercises help you identify the boundaries of the comfort zones to create comfort.

I see that comfort zones are not really about comfort as we might see it. These zones are about remaining within levels of stress. Maybe I need another term for it.

If you are in the comfort zone you will still feel a thirst inside to be really happy. The need to be really happy is there and it is a good need as it will guide you onto your next steps of development. You should feel it. But not let it force you outside the zone.

If you are in the comfort zone you can take the next step. If your life is always outside the comfort zone you do not have the opportunity as long as you are being knocked around like a ping pong ball in the wrong place.

Their suggestion is to go on a life planning course, organize one and come back.

As I take my leave he tells me to work on my weight.

I say goodbye to the man on the desk. And thank him for his help.

I take the brochure for life planning. I’ll come back and go on a course.

A weekend full of treatment and exercises to get you going.

End Tapescript one Journey to the cure.


Alpha and Beta waves probably referred to EEG waves. According to the Web, Alpha are more like relaxed. Aware and creative waves, Beta are associated with doing things. A stressed person shows reduction in Alpha waves.

Alcoholics have successfully been treated with biofeedback where they learned to increase their Alpha waves, so the link between stress and addiction and brain waves seems viable.

An article in Newsweek talks about the latest research. Addicts shown pictures of people, for example taking cocaine show stimulation of the frontal parts of the brain. This stimulation is not demonstrated when they look at people in other activities. The theory is then that addiction is partly at least a kind of learnt reflex. Where the mind anticipates pleasure.

Other experiments point to how alcoholics who were given a new drug to suppress this reaction in the brain stopped their addiction, even being able to drink moderately – something no other treatment has been able to demonstrate.

Perhaps the most surprising result was that the alcoholics also starting eating less and stopped smoking. So maybe there is a drug to bring the whole of western civilization out of its addictive state.

People talk about mid life crises. Maybe that is when the addiction stops working as you require more and more “hits.”

Someone says that Feng Shui is about the same thing. I’ll look it up.

End of verifications part one for The Cure.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Peak oil warning underlined by simulation

A simulation sponsored by Securing America's Future Energy and the National Commission on Energy Policy, and involving former government officials, revealed how the US economy, and indeed world economy are vulnerable to oil shortages.

The simulation played out a series of accidents and terror actions which sent gasoline and oil prices through the ceiling, prompting a world recession. The main lessons: even a minor shortfall in oil supplies can crash economies. And there is little preparedness and infrastructure for alternatives.

The main conclusion: reduce dependency on oil before it is too late.

Read the article in US Today by following the link.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sustainability and economy do not mix on cheap oil

You need to understand that sustainability and economy do not mix when you treat energy as an endless resource like any other.

I know that we are preaching the balance between bottom line, environment, society and health but at the same time we recognize that the economic ideas society is based on are counter sustainable and that we are in a serious system fix.

Take this example: Suppose one day people decide to go for lift-sharing in a big way. I am sure commuting and other trips could be organized with say three – four people in each car, but for the sake of argument let’s say average two per car.

That would result in an overnight halving of petrol consumption.

That would mean a reduction in road maintenance costs and need for new road building.

It would also reduce the need for new cars, garage services etc.

That would bring about a reduction in tax income to the government.

At the same time oil companies, car manufacturers and sales and service companies would have an excess of staff and start to lay them off. Even less tax income to the government, and increased outlay for unemployment.

Possibly they could find new work in lift sharing Internet and mobile Internet application companies, but a lot of that could be done with IT.

These unemployed would spend less and government income would shrink even more bringing the need for higher taxes.

Now, if you double taxes on oil at the same time it starts to make sense. Still more unemployment but the government can afford it.

But then you need the government to create jobs. That’s hard when energy prices are up, as jobs start to get outsourced to nations with cheap labour and energy.

At the same time there is always a lot that needs doing in society.

Try to turn it any which way you can, you will see that as the age of cheap energy ends we need new thinking and a change of system.

If you ask us of course, we will point to the”go along society” we envisaged earlier. Click on the link if you missed it earlier.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Alternative currencies: the flight of fancy

The innovation quest:

Go forward in time to a society which has
  1. introduced alternative currency
  2. created a society where everyone helps everyone else
  3. created conditions for return to a non-oil consumption based community (weaned themselves off oil)
  4. created a standard of living for everyone at least at a level of 80% of the pre oil crash
I have changed tack and an now presenting the innovation stream as a "newspaper article form the future". Glad to hear your comments - image streamers and non-image streamers.

As he swipes his LETS card at the candy store English visitor John Oxley finds it hard to imagine his last visit to New York. Way back in 2006 the dollar was the only currency available. “People were spending most of their waking hours scrambling frantically for the Legal Tender.” He remembers. “It’s not the LETS introduction in itself, LETS is just a system” he says: “it’s the change in attitude – the way people look out for each other.” John is enthralled by the way LETS has spread. “Hey, I arrived here, got a LETS Card, a mobile terminal, entered my skills and terms, and within minutes I was getting offers to come and help out. I had fun washing up at the fast food counter one morning and then went and acted as adviser to a collaboration project the next day. I am practically one of you!”

For New Yorkers the change began earlier than 2006, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack. Says hot dog vendor Clark Smith ;”The way we stuck together, supported each other and pitched in made us realize that we had something special worth taking care of – a sense of belonging, and a sense of energy.”

As the first signs of what analysts started to call “Peak oil” appeared – rising gas prices, rising unemployment – drops in consumer confidence and spending - a group of five visionaries started working on the LETS scheme and software. Says founder Kelly French, “We just wanted to increase the amount of good in the world and realized that Peal Oil was actually one of the greatest opportunities ever offered to Man – to, within the given timeframe of cheap oil running out, focus on what was important, and create the good life – not out of consuming but out of how we treat each other.”

The first application was extremely simple: LETS clearing. Enter a debit for yourself as taker and credit the giver. The debiting system needed access to a computer, or you could do it on paper and get someone to enter it for you.

However, it was not the system itself that spurred growth. Kelly credits the “one on one” marketing approach as the key. “It would work like this: I went to people I know and told them I wanted to spread good in New York. Wholesome food started to be in short supply, I would grow vegetables on the balcony and bring them to my friends. I would explain what I was trying to do and get them to register in LETS and credit me for the vegetables.”

The important thing was not that it was LETS but it was Play it Forward. The vegetables had not cost Kelly’s friend anything, and Kelly asked him to Play it Forward by doing something similar for someone else. To finance the LETS system (and be able to credit LETS to someone else) the friend was required to pay a small monthly subscription.

The LETS exchange quickly followed, where you could advertise whatever it was you were offering or needed. This helped up the development of a more local economy. Transportation costs were rising, sending the cost of practically everything through the roof. All kinds of Local Sufficiency initiatives, including instructions and plans on the WIKI web site, and training courses at POST CARBON outpost centers, started using LETS partially to support their efforts.

LETS’ Marketing Manager and co-fonder Steven Tailor emphasizes that the LETS story is the story of the Play it Forward economy. “We simply told stories about Play it Forward, and LETS started to grow of itself.” The well known slogan DO GOOD BE GOOD FEEL GOOD appeared at that time. A lot of people wanted to “tell the story” so we arranged training in Play it Forward and introduced the agent system. Agents went out helping people into the system and were rewarded with LETS.

Of course, you can always give someone something without involving the LETS system. But when you start on the LETS route you instantly get rewarded by seeing your LETS points rise. SO the system contains a reinforcement for doing good. And that is exactly what we wanted to promote.

Says IT manager Kent Kerny: “The next stage in our IT development was to include the Agent bonus system. The more people you signed up and looked after, the more you got bonus on their transactions. These agents were key to the rapid spread of the system. Compensated in LETS bonus, they tirelessly went out spreading the message and getting people into the system.”

Kelly intervenes: “We concentrated on talking about FCASSH Food, Clothing, Accommodation, Security and Social belonging and Health. The ideas are as old as the hills – you can probably find them in Feng Shui, Malow’s hierarchy, religions even scouting handbooks etc but they had been suppressed during the Industrial Age’s “live for kicks” era. Quite simply, people want to feel secure - and as long as they feel they can get food, water, clothing, accommodation, health care and be part of society they can get on with the most important thing – enjoying being alive.

LETS transactions started to grow. People who were out of work started to see that as long as they kept participating in the system food, clothing housing etc could be solved for them. Now, you can only eat one meal at a time and wear one set of clothes. So people started using surplus LETS to support charities, and Charity Coordinators started to help these organizations use LETS with their charity takers. The voucher system appeared: print out a voucher with a unique number, give it to a needy charity taker. Charity takers took the voucher to their provider who processed the transaction.

The next two developments came fast: firstly, incorporating companies into the system. Around this time consumer sales were dropping, causing rising prices – and falling profits - everywhere. Abandoning the profit motive companies saw the opportunity to operate anyway and increase sales to charity takers and LETS users by crediting their suppliers in LETS.

Secondly, AMERICAN LETS introduced the now familiar terminals and created new Corporate Coordinators to help these organizations with their LETS development. Shortly afterwards, the mobile LETS terminal “One swipe and you’re in” card system appeared, the brainchild of Kent Kerny.

Says our English visitor “I always used to see New Yorkers as people with fast mouths and sharp elbows. I still do actually, but underneath it all there shines a heart of gold – or is it LETS?”

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