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There were quite a few dropped jaws by the conclusion of StoneLeigh's Cautionary Presentation of Current SocioEconomic Trends and how they'll forecast... She scared a bunch of us.

Fortunately she also confirmed to many, that we are on the right track with our Transition Movement, Victory Garden Initiative and Time Exchange. Hopefully she energized more of us to participate in growing and linking our efforts to form a more balanced community to meet the impending challenges.

Her extremely thorough culling of data to project such a dramatically sudden collapse of credit, finance then infrastructure is hard to deny... but are there any in the group who went home to challenge her statements?
What say?—

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Are you asking if there are any of us who went home and started down the path of denial anyway?
naw, I was asking what everyones thoughts were... denial, fight, flight, engagement, disgust, emboldenment, empowerment, hope, fear... in order to take the next steps, its good to know what you're stepping into... I'd like to hear what people are thinking.... anyone else?
Honestly, listening to her last night provoked an on again off again fit of despair that has not yet finished recycling itself. I think that perhaps more emphasis on practical things that we can do would have been a helpful, more productive, balance to the "frighten-the-pants-off-of-everyone" approach that she took in her presentation. I cut her some slack for this considering the circumstances surrounding the taping of that video presentation.
despair is not necessarily bad if it can serve as a means to identify and embolden hope. For to not entertain the realities she elaborated is to miss an opportunity to make corrections in our own game plans.... to not take heed of her forecast is to not attempt to harvest crops for winter, while seeing the changing colors of trees and the abundant signs of harvest time around us. She's merely said, winter is near, time to place increased focus on becoming prepared. Thankfully so many in the room are already beginning to form the infrastructure and harness the resources.... I find it not despairing, rather encouraging, that what we've been feeling, that's driven each of us to manifest, is going to be just what is needed... did anyone think this part was going to be easy? I'd rather face winter with eyes wide open... wouldn't you?
Charlie,

It isn't as simple as whether or not one wishes to approach the coming season with eyes wide open or closed. Winter comes every year so you know you should have a warm coat, boots, gloves, a hat and maybe a shovel if you own property with a public sidewalk. I think if you gather all of the information pointing toward complete upheaval or doom together in one place that you also have a responsibility to gather together and share all of the information that points to effective solutions as well. Otherwise you have merely frightened people into some sort of action or response. Fear based decisions or actions rarely manifest the intended outcome which is to reduce or mitigate the perceived threat. I am always suspicious of others who wish to frighten me or others into adopting their view or assessment of things. One other thing about the presentation: it assumes that the viewer is of a particular socio-economic class which enjoys a level of prosperity and education that is far above the actual norm. For those who are on the lower rung of prosperity, or live in perpetual anti-prosperity, it is less than useful to be told to look down and notice that the rug is moving from beneath their collective feet and that they had better act now to save themselves. It is, in fact laughable. "What rug?," they are thinking.
I am not saying that the information should not be available only that it is less effective when it is packaged as a fear-bomb and maybe even detrimental.
Some cycles come far apart, Charlies metaphorical winter is not a easy seasonal thing to plan for but a long hard cold spell. I wish many more had their eyes wide open or even partly open. poverty is not an excuse, I know a number of people on welfare that still spend what in my eyes is plenty of $ on toys, cloths even travel and none on future stability of any kind, or others that have been suckered in what I now see as a pyramid scheme of " higher education" I wish they were scared so that if there is a crash they will have something to offer in as opposed to coming to me and wanting anything i may still have. Would I not feed my neighbor and my sons best friend with my bag of potatoes? There is still a rug under the feet of a lot of us which is being taken for granted.

I think the issue that fear works right now for some of us but for others turn them away is a challenge. how to we get more people to take our risk seriously is a big issue as our lives are interwoven with theirs.
fear is a gift that we need to relearn to understand. hunger is a real issue for animals. we are animals. Most westerners need to understand these facts again. that does mean that we live in fear but that we understand our place in life and self responsibilities.

The talk sacred the shit out of me. I have little doubt that our lives are going to change and since we are not ready I can not see it not being painful. I have had lots of these moment and yet when they come they feel new and alive. I hate being scared but fear helps me act and i think some times it can even help you do things you are scared of, which could be a good or bad thing. I just tried to sell hazel nuts to 3 different people that I didn't know at all. the 3rd person bought 5. my fear of being stuck in this neighborhood with no food growing helps me feel bold as I approach these people. who knows if I will even really benefit from these attempts at food security but someone might.
The talk also made me think how important it is to have a healthy spiritual movement and connections. we will need beliefs that help us through.
I've been researching this stuff so I guess I was already innoculated. The fact that there is an ongoing dialogue out there with agreements and disagreements by informed people changes it all a bit.

The thing that does need a huge reaction, I think, is the general principle of economic growth and its ultiimate demise and I think that although people have been saying this since Hubbert, it feels more imminent now. But I think its important not to act as though she is the first and only to discuss such issues.

Part of not losing our heads (as she nicely put it) is not to assume after a single very compelling lecture that she must be right and that the scenario she paints is upon us. Maybe. Maybe hyperinflation. Maybe 10 more years of insane borrowing. I don't have the skills to determine which is more likely, but I do have the skills to know that there are many competing opinions, even within the Peak Oil community. See Energy Bulletin for a daily stream of them.

Here's some other questions she railsed for me:


I think some economists might question the notion that our whole economy is a bubble, and it seems like that is what she is saying. Aren't bubbles always when people over-invest and thus overprice a certain item or group of items, whether stocks, homes, tulips, etc. What, in her scenario, is being over-priced? The entire economy? In the Great Depression, wasn't it overpriced stocks, which fell and then caused a bank run and then a giant liquidity trap? (as an aside, with Peak Oil, it seems different n ow: their problem was the velocity of money and the inability to connect buyers with sellers, workers with jobs. With the immense amount of oil coming on line, at the time, productivity or net energy itself wasn't being challenged)

I agree that we have a lot of illusory wealth, but since all wealth is the amount we produce after we eat and house ourselves, it can't be entirely illusory, as we (mainly) continue to eat and house ourselves, and buy all kinds of excessive crap. This might be pointless and destructive economic growth or activity, but it is activity that extends beyond the basics. You can borrow money or luxuries from the future (sort of), but you can't borrow food from the future. Yes, our pensions and stocks and home values may be illusory, but if we all are buying new TVs, phones, and computers every year, these cannot be entirely illusory: i.e., these are products that are produced after food and housing has been provided (more or less) to the producers and the consumers. This is NOT an ascent to continued economic growth or to following that model.

I also didn't like her answer about what other economists would think about her view. The fact that they are monetarists, just kicks the question down the street a bit. How, then, would monetarists defend a monetarist view point against yours?, I would ask. What would they specifically say about your views and how would you respond?

This goes to the issue of her entire confidence, it seems, in her prognostications. If I were pressed about Peak Oil, I could name the conditions under which I might be wrong, what sorts of factors might show the downside of the curve to have a different shape that I would project. I could explain what Daniel Yergin would say and how I would respond to that. I'd like to hear how she would answer that sort of question. Layout the debate between she and Krugman. "I tell him he doesn't consider energy or the debt load and he responds by saying___________ , to which I note__________, to which he explains____________ ."

More on her confidence in her prognostications: economics are awfully hard to predict. She spoke as though the path she was foreseeing has, in essence, already been determined. Real economics, though, is so full of reactions and counter reactions, and reactions to that, that our course has not at this point already been entirely set, I think. If, for instance, everyone listened to her and changed their behavior accordingly, the outcome would be far different than if Palin becomes President, and Palin could become President if, for instance, on camera her rival laughs and has snot come out of his nose at an inopportune time. An untimely fart could likewise change the course of our economics.

This is not to say that I believe that economic growth can continue (though I could name the ways in which that belief might be questioned), but that I wouldn't be so sure that the end of economic growth is going to look more like this than that.

Let's start with what we are most sure about and respond, and then respond more flexibly to the things about which we can't be as certain.
I was also alarmed by Nicole's talk but for me this is necessary. I tend to "fall asleep" after some time has passed with regard to these subjects, so I appreciate the wake up call to keep me on track. I can't figure this stuff out myself....not by a long shot!

I feel Nicole fills an important niche for me in the Peak Oil / Transition dialogue because she talks about the short term issues we will face. I think many others tend to look out just a bit farther than she does i.e. more than 1 year and the natural tendency I think is for us to want the long term advice, right? It's scarier to face short term advice because, omg, that could happen like, right now! ....but really just 1 year could undo you in this crisis, I think, so I see Nicole's position (short term focus) as very relevant.

Now getting to the accuracy of her message is another matter. Once you sort out your aversions to short versus long term answers (and in her talk this plays out something like... why are you saying deflation when we always hear hyper inflation? ) then you have the matter of whether to believe in deflation/depression at all and if her antidotes to it would even work. When I explained her points to a coworker, he replied that "many an economist finds opportunity in predicting some sort of down fall ! " All cynicism aside, and the question as to whether she even has an economic background to begin with, hearing the word deflation on public radio last week, as well as comments from my neighbor about serious falling home prices on their block, I'm already convinced deflation is coming. In fact, I think Nicole's message is probably a little late.

To me the real question is what do you do about it... in the short term. My takeaways from her talk were economic suggestions (since the gardening and gathering are already obvious to us Transitioners) and I heard two things there: get rid of debt and cash out (or convert to Treasury bills) of any risky investments - which she deems as anything in a bank and anything in stock or other "virtual money" schemes. At first it sounded like simple advice that boiled down to whether you even had cash and if so whether you believed in it and act accordingly. But after a week of pondering, my conclusion is that, it is not so simple.

If you believe the advice you have to start doing some calculations and those just aren't a neat affair. To sort it out, I had to begin a (re)exploration of my value systems around money and around the things in my life and what they do for me / what i have to do to earn and keep them and will it be "worth" it in times ahead. This has definitely caused me to think more critically about debt than I thought I was doing even when I thought I was doing a good job there. It also put me down this path where I'm learning about all the things banks and mortgagers and credit card companies DON"T want to help me do... to a point of slight paranoia. So, my advice is, follow Nicole's advice in theory, if nothing else, because the trip is well worth it.
Here's a thought based on some of the below comments. One expects different things out of a speaker if that speaker is to be the one and only one we'll hear, as opposed to one of many. If we listen to many voices, we then expect things from various people according to their strengths, and don't expect one person to do everything (theory, history, diagnosis, prognostication, practical advice, spiritual and emotional uplifting) and then don't feel cheated or unnecessarily critical of the speaker for not doing everything. This is an argument for a wide and ecumenical approach to the future; listen to one person or view or school of thought at your own peril! Go to Stoneleigh to hear a scenario of dire crash, Martensen for a historical understanding of monetary policy and the Fed, to Hopkins for enthusiastic hopefulness, to Greer to be reminded about what even "we" might be too afraid to acknowledge, to Heinberg for analysis of alternatives, etc.......
good points... though I would like to elaborate that if one merely responds by seeking for diverse opinions, or gives fair and balanced time for the opposition opinions... one risks getting overwhelmed with static and white noise. There is an inherent responsibility of the listener to research and verify rather than simply listen to a broad spectrum and decide... isn't that how we have a debate on Global Climate Change, Peak Oil and this pending economic collapse? Trouble is most of us do not have the luxury of time and resources to properly research everything... because we're busy on our hamster-wheels. And isn't that Stoneleigh's message... the hamster wheels have driven us to this brink?

I agree, simply listening to her assessment isn't wise, but is seeking ways to dilute it therefore wise?
I have been listening, reading assessment for a while, and when a logical chain is seen I then use my our brain to trust it. I was 8 when I mom read that Hydrogenated oil was bad for you, but it also made sense to her, we evolved eating oil that separated, have it whipped in a chemical reaction just sounds like a bad idea. 30 years later the news came out officially that it was "bad " for you. some information mixed with common sense made it so we did not need to wait for 30 years of research. I need no more research , we are over capacity, some energy crises is coming, I already felt sure that our economy is a bubble, just look at it how many people do you know that are doing something real? I know life goes in cycles. she does reinforces what I see and although frightening It feels right, There is no guarantee she is right, there is also no guarantee she is wrong. That is why I said we need to re-understand life has no guarantee, we live in risk.
This is written, of course, in the spirit of friendly and, I hope, useful debate. Here's a counter-example to your mother's intuition about fake butter: The very notion of EROiE and Net Energy were introduced into the analysis of energy suprisingly recently. This way of looking at things is only a few years old. Yet it is, I believe, crucial to our analysis and part of the reason, at least for me, why I am in Transition rather than the local solar energy or biodiesel club (only part, though). If energy analysts in the 70s had simply said, well that's enough debate and information, obviously we're running out of oil and need to put all our faith in solar panels, this concept would not have been developed and then be introduced into our energy literacy. We have benefitted from their nerdly preoccupation with numbers and concepts that may, at times, seemed not to be all that useful.

The flip side is the argument that if everyone had gone solar in the 70s, not wasting time with debate and research, we'd be far better off than we are now. But I don't think the two (action or experimentation, and research) are mutually exclusive nor that those low net-energy solar panels would really have helped us ALL that much, even if we had an early start with them.

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