Facing the Terminal Illness of Industrial Civilization.

"The U.S. is desperately dependent on the availability of cheap, plentiful oil and natural gas, and addicted to economic growth. Once oil and gas become expensive (as they already have) and in ever-shorter supply (a matter of one or two years at most), economic growth will stop, and the U.S. economy will collapse."

- Dmitry Orlov

This essay is about trust. It is written because I see a lot of friends, family and acquaintances placing their trust into falsely publicized ideas regarding the landscape of our future. My concern is that people are trusting in an economic system which is ultimately going to fail them. It also serves as an apologia for my stance in current affairs.

Many of the things we have faith in are presented by government and corporate media as being sound investments. People often think of investment only in terms of surplus money they've earned and saved. The primary, and often unconscious, investment activity for most people is going to school or work every week believing in a future that will mostly resemble the past, with an added measure of "progress" to keep things interesting.

In direct opposition to what is being promoted in the marketplace, evidence is presented here that our political/financial system is swiftly approaching the end of its life. Due to the nature of the economic forces leveraged, the devastating consequences are likely to be both abrupt and severe. There is an economic tsunami approaching; it is very real and a lot of people are going to get hurt. Yet, we are not entirely trapped in the prevailing system. There is an alternative form of currency which has lasting value, where we are all intrinsically rich; our time, attention, creativity, labor, care and cooperative efforts constitute a wellspring of enduring wealth which can stand entirely apart from the present debt and commoditization economy. Hopefully the information shared here will help you identify some places to avoid, and some places which are ideal, when investing your real wealth and trust.

- Travis Jordan

1. Preface: some helpful notes on content and candor.

2. The end of the oil age and its speculative economy.

"The global paper currency system is very young. It depends for its continued functioning on the belief that the debt upon which it is based will someday be repaid."

- William Buckler

The financing of the American debt-based economy is predicated upon promises of future economic growth. This growth presupposes the existence of an immense supply of liquid hydrocarbons for the expected operation and expansion of our cities, states, nations and the trade routes between them. Department of Energy quantitative assessments of actual resources indicate these liquid fuels and all their possible renewable replacements simply do not exist in the necessary amounts to even continue current activities. The U.S. Army is already strategizing autonomously for energy crisis readiness, reporting publicly in summary, "World oil production is at or near its peak and current world demand exceeds the supply." In its recent 2007 report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office has warned the social and economic effects of peak oil will be both severe and permanent.

Our large cities are essentially complex machines which run on converted fossil fuels. From municipal water delivery to supermarkets to transportation to schools & workplaces to sewer systems, it all depends on a constant flow of expendable fuels. Yet, the energy sources and their transmission systems are already severely overtaxed and have little elasticity remaining. It does not seem likely these machines will survive another ten years given the physical resource issues.

Talk of increased growth can help keep markets stable and manufactured wars can help distract people from local realities . . . for a while. Eventually the truth will be faced: we've built an infrastructure and generational lifestyle on fossil fuels that cannot be replaced with the resources and time we have remaining. Our economy requires growth and this growth requires increases in consumption. Despite efficiency increases and technological innovations, a civilization dependent on growth within a finite system is necessarily terminal.

3. The scale of our hydrocarbon integration precludes replacement by alternatives.

"Ladies and gentleman, the ship is sinking. I suggest that we set aside our immediate plans and consider how best to proceed, given the facts."

- Richard Heinberg

When a homeowner or business is contemplating installing solar panels they usually just look at what the hardware will cost and how long it must operate for the financial investment to be recovered. What they do not investigate is how much energy went into the mining, refining, manufacturing and transportation of the given products. For any alternative, such as photovoltaic solar, to be expanded to a level replacing even 20% of U.S. fossil fuel use there must be abundant source materials and it must have a positive EROEI - all the way from the drawing board to its eventual dismantling. None of the renewables which could be substantially scaled can meet this challenge.

People purchase hybrids, which recycle braking energy, by looking at the savings in gasoline expenses and the reduction of personal exhaust emissions. What they keep in their blind spot is the total energy involved in the generation of these very complex machines. When analyzed from "dust to dust" it will take less energy to manufacture and run five Jeep Wranglers for their entire lifecycle than just one Toyota Prius. This is merely one example of myopic solutions which appear fantastic until we look beyond the ads. Hybrids appear to be clean models of the future because "the energy demands and pollution are exported somewhere else." And this is the source of our problems - we want to continue a lifestyle where the resources come from, and effects take place in, lands we never see.

No amount of public relations campaigns will change the reality that hydrogen is, like electricity, an expensive carrier for generated energy and not a replacement source of energy, like liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons - it will never solve our energy crisis. And even if we were to return to burning coal on a massive scale for the generation of electricity and the production of synthetic fuels, our environment is not likely to remain an adequate habitat for the majority of Earth’s population.

4. Presuming future stability is a high-risk activity.

"If one day the world's largest oil producers allowed, or worse demanded, euros for their barrels, it would be the financial equivalent of a nuclear strike."

- Bill O'Grady

Examine how the empire/colony functionality of U.S. currency is internationally disintegrating and the time horizon for collapse may be more appropriately measured in months rather than years. Iran's revolutionary exchange in Euros was scheduled to open in mid-2006. This was quietly postponed, possibly in sober recognition of what happened when Iraq attempted this in 2003 - they were destroyed in a "shock and awe" military campaign and occupation that continues to this day. The Congressional Record is filled with presentations which clearly establish Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, had no connection to al-Qaeda, and had no "weapons of mass destruction"; the country remains as a devastated example of what smaller nations seeking monetary independence can expect from a military superpower. Shanghai set an unassailable precedent here and Moscow has announced more ambitious plans in the future; consequently, Iran's important bourse is back on track. All of these are directly defying the global monopoly of dollar-based oil and gas exchanges installed at the end of WWII. This American monopoly is a modern form of imperial tribute - when the imperial currency is displaced, the empire is finished. The value of U.S. dollars will eventually nosedive and/or a much larger war will begin in a do-or-die attempt to preserve unrealistic American standards of living.

Markets do not react to unexpected shocks in a "calm and orderly" fashion - they respond to crisis with self-interested panic. Internally, when people realize the imminency of our energy predicament, there will be a flight from investing in "futures" and an attempt to redeem these paper instruments (stocks, bonds, savings accounts, Federal Reserve notes, etc.) so practical commodities can be secured. Things are very fragile with fractional-reserve banking practices and stocks at 15-80:1 P/E ratios. A mere fraction of the population liquidating their investments or redirecting their cash flows will tip the futures-leveraged economy into a nosedive and subsequent crash.

Any business which yields massive daily losses for investors is eventually liquidated. The United States government currently requires a 3.5 billion dollar injection/donation of foreign funds every 24 hours in order to finance the federal budget deficit and the Department of Defense's global resource wars. It is widely accepted the Treasury bonds sold to these investors can never be repaid; they are simply another form of imperial tribute by those who profit from, or fear, U.S. global dominance. However, when it becomes clear public consciousness is awakening from the delusional projections and mesmerizing valuations, or when the scale of investment losses incurred is greater than the anticipated reprisals, the international community will cease its financing of our terminal economy. These holders of American debt will then simultaneously increase their liquidation of U.S. dollar reserves and U.S. Treasury securities while buyers can still be found. International actions will inevitably send the economy into a nosedive and subsequent crash. History has proven national market crashes can transpire in one day. With electronic trading, this can now happen in globally in a matter of hours.

5. The contest for the control of resources is very serious.

"Official pronouncements are not designed to represent the truth; they are designed to gain the public's consent for pre-determined courses of action."

- Stan Goff

Before the Industrial Revolution fewer than two billion people found equilibrium with the planet's resources - we've more than tripled this number and damaged the very environment which could host sustainable populations. The diminished agrarian infrastructures which allowed people to survive the Great Depression are no longer here. We trade paper or electronic dollars for the imported precursor of all our food production - fossil fuels. When the dollar is not a viable means for international payments, or when petroleum products are not allocated or available for agriculture and its regional transport, people will go hungry. When people start starving we'll see martial law and residential looting.

A deeply-indebted nation that has five percent of the world's population while consuming over twenty-five percent of world's resources is either destined for unprecedented recession or endless international bloodshed. An enforcement agency has been tasked with preemptively defeating any potential challenge to these structural inequities, misleadingly-labeled as "national interests." This agency, the U.S. military, is pursuing full-spectrum dominance across the entire planet, ". . . in all domains - space, sea, land, air, and information." This global subjugation is clearly not representative of the will of the American people. It is also a foreign policy which can only result in World War III.

6. We are in a global war right now.

"War criminals occupy positions of authority. The citizenry is galvanized into supporting the rulers, who are 'committed to their safety and well-being'. Through media disinformation, war is given a humanitarian mandate."

- Michel Chossudovsky

War. Pause for a moment and think of what this term really means. It means destroying other human beings, usually by shredding the bodies of these men, women and children. War is possibly the most serious of any word, in any language. Leaders in Washington D.C. speak of treasuring peace and liberty while simultaneously placing our national treasure into a war machine that is larger than the next 42 nations combined! This is the antithesis of a path to peace - recognize the deception. These war-bent leaders are refusing to accept a massive natural recession and seem set on preserving their unconstitutional power and empire at any cost.

If the justification for sending our patriotic soldiers and officers into war has been based upon documented lies, as many distinguished officers and professors have established, we are faced with the fact that key players in the federal government are actually seeking wars. They are intentionally and systematically deceiving us - we are told whatever will evoke the intended response of remaining supportive of policies which serve the interests of a very intelligent, powerful and elite group of people.

Global weapons systems commanded by these clinical psychopaths , who do not share the citizens' honest desire for peace and equality, endanger life itself on this planet. In any given hour a single Ohio-class submarine, with one command, can shower our fellow human beings with 192 Mark V nuclear warheads, each exploding with thirty times the devastation of Hiroshima. The character and history of executive decisions by those wielding this colossal power today is cause for grave concern.

Yet, computing power has increased by a factor of 109 [one billion times] over the vacuum-tube computer in use when atomic bombs were revealed to the public in August of 1945. The weapons deployed in the next world war will not just be improvements on 1940's technology - expect a new type of weapon which eclipses all previous forms of warfare. Troops are deployed. Reserves are deployed. Certain leaders are actively provoking international conflicts and the stakes now are exponentially higher than anything we've witnessed before.

7. The time to prepare for a very different future is now.

"Everything that deceives may be said to enchant."

- Plato

Courses of action are best chosen from vantage points of truth and clarity. My purpose in writing here is to highlight some critical deceptions propagated by those whose interest it serves for people to believe in, work for and invest in a future which is largely a fantasy. If you've read the linked articles, which should take many hours, compelling facts should be clear.

Trust is better placed outside of fiat currencies and related, dollar-denominated assets. U.S. dollars are entirely instruments of faith; they are in fact certificates of U.S. Treasury indebtedness which are issued by the Federal Reserve, a private corporation owned by private banks. Every single dollar is loaned into existence based upon future promises to pay. These promises can never be fulfilled due to the nearly inconceivable magnitude of current debts, deficits, unfunded obligations and the lack of natural resources necessary to continue operating, let alone grow, our cities. When people realize there is nothing behind the paper instruments (their very future) except networks of irredeemable assurances, or when imported foods and goods stop arriving in our ports, or when a few fuel/energy supply lines fail to deliver, there will be terminal reactions in the markets.

We are already in a war the federal government has said "will not end in our lifetime." Personal insulation from the frontline conflicts in this global war cannot last. The civilization our families live in will soon experience severe and irreversible changes on a near-term horizon - facing this very uncomfortable truth is an essential prerequisite for navigating some important options temporarily present.

In the midst of all this genuine peril is some valuable time we have to focus on what is most meaningful and to care for . . . well, that is the story here to come.

8. Illuminate and name deformed structures so they're not involved in solutions.

"When we talk about peak oil, then we must either hope for a technofix or head for the hills armed for survival. But when we realize that peak oil is only a symptom of the true problem, then we also realize that neither technofixes nor personal escape will really solve our problems. So let us state once and for all: the problem is not peak oil or energy depletion, nor global climate change, nor overpopulation. The problem is the collapse of a complex system due to fundamental conceptual flaws."

- Dale Allen Pfeiffer

This essay is a work-in-progress, currently about 40% complete. Writing will continue soon if some sensible admirals and generals succeed in "putting the crazies back in the box" and a war with Iran is averted. California attorney Matt Savinar has authored an excellent Peak Oil website in question-and-answer format, which may address any immediate questions you have.

Travis Jordan lived in Berkeley for many years with his amazing wife Hedy, fourteen freshwater fish, one disappearing turtle and a book of Edward Lear's children's poetry. He studied Ancient & Modern Philosophy, World Religions and Philosophy of Science for far too long. The completion of his manuscript, tentatively titled Epistemology, Scientism and Public Policy, intended to be a companion to Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, was placed on hold with the arrival of his beautiful daughter Tovah. He now resides in Southeast Alaska and is quite busy with photography and learning about sustainable living. He's also a frisky member of: