The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Donal's picture

    Good Grief

    PBS is running a BBC show centered around an English town called Kibworth. History of England's host narrator Michael Woods flits between an archeological dig, nearby fields and local archives to illustrate stories about British history. It's informative, but also funny to watch, because when an archivist or archaeologist pulls out some old parchment or bit of bone, Woods' enthusiastic gushing sounds much like the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow. "That's a really nice tibia, dear." It is also clear that Brit reenactors have a lot more history, and costumes, to work with than Americans.

    In Episode Four, Woods talked about Henry V putting down an insurrection of Lollards — heretic peasants led by Henry's old friend Sir John Oldcastle (a probable model for Falstaff). Henry's forces were alerted, dispersed and executed the insurgents forthwith, and years later Oldcastle was slowly burned at stake, but Woods blithely reassures the audience that the government eventually granted the religious freedoms they and their predecessors who followed Wat Tyler had wanted. So it was all good.

    I'm wondering how our age will be described in a few hundred years. Will it be an age of revolutions, or failed revolts? A dark age, or an enlightenment? Will some future Woods allow that a lot of folk died protesting the oligarchy, but that the world is much better off because the oligarchy eventually relented on a few policies? Will he note that fracked water doesn't taste bad to those who have grown up drinking it?

    John Michael Greer has been on a roll about empire this summer, but in On the Far Side of Denial, takes time to opine that debates over peak oil indicate that the US pundit class has finally arrived at Kubler-Ross' denial stage.

    Over the last few weeks, a number of my fellow peak oil writers have expressed worries about this outpouring of counterfactual drivel. Myself, I find it a very hopeful sign. What we are seeing is the shattering of the consensus that has excluded any discussion of peak oil from the collective conversation of our time. Plenty of pundits who refused to talk about peak oil at all are now talking about it incessantly.  Even though they’re screeching at the top of their lungs that it can’t happen, and scrabbling around for any argument, however feeble or blatantly false, they can use to back up that proposition, they’re still talking about it.

    It is simplistic, but I'm throwing various camps into various stages to see if they stick:

    Denial: Republican Party, Democratic Party, Wall Street, Mainstream Media
    Anger: Tea Party, Green Party, Occupy movement, the Working Poor, the Underemployed
    Bargaining: Locavores, Cleantech, Alt Energy
    Depression: Survivalists, the Unemployed
    Acceptance: ?

    At Econbrowser, bargainer James Hamilton addresses denialist Maugeri's counterfactual drivel that we have plenty of oil, or at least stuff like oil.

    I agree with Maugeri that new production from places like the United States and Iraq is going to be very helpful. But I think he substantially overstates the case for optimism. If we are counting on sources such as shale/tight oil, oil sands, and deepwater to replace production lost from mature conventional oil fields, the days of cheap oil are never going to return.

    In Technology Races Depletion, bargainer Tom Whipple doesn't mention LENR or cold fusion this time, but thinks we'll get along:

    Experts in efficiency tell us that here in America we could get along with a third less energy and never miss it. The Europeans burn half the oil we do in the Untitled States and seem to get along.
    Off the radar screens for most of us, however are insights into the pace at which technological developments impacting our future are taking place. One of my favorite websites is the one run by the Green Car Congress which catalogues all the developments announced each day relevant to better efficiency and less polluting energy. Every month there are dozens of announcements from all over the world of new products or claimed technical breakthroughs that could be useful in getting us through to the latter half of this century.

    I read GCC, too, but I wonder how much it will cost to maintain and repair all this new technology.

    Dmitry Orlov is probably as close to acceptance as anyone. In Unlearn, Rewild, Orlov suggests that we escape to the fringes of society, but be able to "act white" when necessary to stay out of trouble with the law.

    There are entire shelves of books full of talk about “preparation,” “survival,” “sustainability” and so forth. Just about all of them avoid the real issue. And so I was very happy to come across one that doesn't: Unlearn, Rewild by Miles Olson, which is just going to press as I write this. Miles is not a theorist but a practitioner: he and his group of friends have been living off the land as squatters for many years. He doesn't mince words: we “civilized” humans are living in a “human monoculture” prison; we have fallen into a technology trap.

    Back in denial, the wife tells me that the Altoona Mirror is filled with stories for and against pulling down the statue of JoePa, the death penalty for Penn State football and even newly revealed victims of Sandusky. On cable I watch the Tour de France, and get to know cyclists Wiggins, Froome, van Garderen, Evans, Pinot — fantastic athletes, some of whom will be accused of doping in a few years. The Olympics starts in a week, and they seem to have enough condoms to allow for other thrills than victory. I'll be concentrating on swimming and tennis (Nadal has withdrawn!), but I also enjoy track and field, and other than rhythmic gymnastics, there are a lot of sports I can be persuaded to watch.




    Nice work, Donal.

    Any idea on how much energy is consumed staging the Olympics? We just used to throw a ball against the side of a barn.

    The older I get the more I think of my relationship to the earth. I am comforted by the fact that Mother Earth will survive the human race, and if it takes 6000 years to repair her desecration by the human race, that's o.k. too. 


    Those in Denial. Desperately attempting to rationalize maintaining the Status Quo™ (which I have written diaries on) by any means necessary.  A system of government financed and  maintained military armaments and control.

    "We have more than enough energy to keep our delusional way of life going for years to come. So stop trying to change it...etc, etc."


    And manipulating the finance system to hide the consequences of this delusion.

    You left out the best part of Orlov's piece, Donal.

    How can you get out of this trap? Miles does not mince words: escape is illegal. If you want to escape, you have to break the law. “As soon as you begin to act outside the system, you are breaking its rules... Red handcuffs or blue handcuffs. Anything too far outside this culture’s mandate is not accepted; non-participation is not a legitimate option... Really, if we are all forced to work as part of a death machine, with no other viable alternative, where is the possibility for a sustainable future? The answer is obvious: in breaking the rules. Or, to put it more accurately, breaking the ridiculously insane rules.” [p. 48] Need an example of “ridiculously insane rules”? “It is illegal to salvage roadkill in many places, so learn your local laws and act appropriately. Whether that means following them is up to you.” [p. 107]

    Just FYI, Ontario allows harvesting of roadkill. My brother-in-law, a hunter (so he knows competent game butchers), always stops to aid any driver who's fatally encountered a deer. After helping to call CAA and the local cops, he asks, "You gonna eat that?" Few people say yes.

    Much food for thought--in fact, I'm dizzy from it.  I'll give it a lot of thought if you'll answer a question for me:  Is anyone else bothered by the disregard Michael Woods has for centuries-old manuscripts as he handles them with ungloved fingers???   Good lord, somebody STOP him!  (I admit I haven't been glued to the TV every moment of every show, but I've only seen him put on gloves once.  I hope there were more times and I just missed them.)

    Sorry to go OT but it really does bother me.

    I noticed that too, Ramona. But what's he supposed to do when the custodians and curators of those documents are also handling them without gloves? Embarrass them on international TV? The inks and vellum seem to be standing up pretty well after half a millennium or so, though. Way better than the acid-based paper of later decades anyway.


    I wondered the same thing when Niall Ferguson did the same thing in his Civilization documentary.  Some scenes he wore gloves but not in others.  I also wondered if maybe they used hand coating aka liquid glove instead.

    Perhaps they were using props.

    Now there's a thought. 

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