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End of Empire

I've gotten involved a bunch of young people who are putting on an event called UniverseCity, it's a week of free workshops/lectures/film screenings/life drawing classes etc. in an unused building nr. Picadilly, from 5th-11th of Jan.

I'm planning a seminar on the economic/energy crisis called 'End of Empire' for Sat 10th at 3pm... if anyone else wants to get involved, pm me for contact details or pop down! I'd be particularly interested in getting a speaker down who can promote permaculture.

Anyway I've just been putting together some notes and wondered if anyone has any comments or suggestions - I'm aware that I probably have too much here already and need to pare down / focus the delivery. Planning to start it with the intro from "A Crude Awakening".. Planning to flesh out the rest of it with some ASPO graphs and some Powerpoint slides.


End of Empire presentation

Crude Awakening intro - first 17min

What is Peak Oil?
Hubbert's curve - U.S. Peak in 1970 / Initial estimate for 2000 -slipped due to 70's Arab oil embargo, and the price spike and heavy recession that followed, destroying demand
Current thinking - summer 2008 was peak? due to the:

Economic crash-
Destroying capital that could have made further drilling possible

Why did it happen?
Some blame the oil price spike - crippling businesses, trade etc. (Kunstler)
Epic buildup of credit
USA / UK switching to being energy importers not exporters
Derivatives / sub-prime mortgages / MASSIVE risks inbuilt and ignored by 'risk experts'-
Taleb's "Black Swan" events discounted / ignored
Banks systems fundamentally flawed - they never made a profit. Banks were bailed out 82-83, 91, and lost everything they EVER made! - Nicholas Taleb


Economic outlook now FAR WORSE than the 1930’s 'Great Depression' - as global, highly 'optimized'(consolidated) systems go down together.

MASSIVE bailout spending, still rising, systemic breakdown (graphs). Huge cracks in U.S. economy now becoming visible as ‘pixel money’ evaporates. Western countries crippled by huge debts, trade deficits and lack of productive capacity – after 25 years worth of off-shoring industry to places with lower labour costs and less restrictions on pollution.

Chances of major recovery - as with the U.S. in the 50's, very slim as the huge energy reserves are now mostly gone.
Money may become worth far less, or even become essentially meaningless-

Germans burning cash for heat in the 30's... Argentina, Zimbabwe
Pensions and savings disappear.
If any recovery is possible, further energy crises resulting in further levels of collapse are inevitable.
Global political unrest - protests and riots with potential regime changing effects have already begun in Greece, China, Thailand, Russia. In Russia, jury for state crimes is to be abolished.
Exports already down 20-30% across Asia in ONE MONTH. Commodity shipments down 90% in 5 months.


If oil contracts at rate suggested by the IEA, we could be looking at our economy shrinking at the same rate - about 9%, or HALVING IN SIZE every 8 years. Even WITHOUT energy crises, the depression we are now entering holds very clear dangers.

Governments often collapse along with economies, making civil and international wars more likely. -
"The last great era of globalisation peaked just before 1914. You know the rest of the story. " - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph.

Fascists / extremists tend to do well in desperate circumstance -
Rise of Fascism in the 30's. - BNP already aware of Peak Oil issue and preparing to take advantage of it.
Systemic breakdown - Economic / fuel crises leading to problems with power generation, food production / delivery, water treatment / sewage.
Martial Law- Troops already being pulled back to the U.S. to deal with civil unrest.
Your guess as good as mine for 2009.
Some predict currency collapse and civil war in America by 2010 (Professor Igor Panarin, ex-KJB)
If oil shocks kick in again, first casualties will be the auto-industry (witness Detroit / the ‘big 3’) the airlines (BA alone posted 90% drop in profits last year-several airlines went bankrupt) and international trade based on cheap shipping costs.

Greer's description of the 2 linear cultural myths that drive modern thinking - the drive to utopia or apocalypse, where we may face something much more like the decline of the Mayan or Roman civilizations - a gradual, 'catabolic' collapse where a series of crises take us to progressively lower levels of organisation and societal complexity.

Greer - This may be the beginning of a series of collapses lasting 150-300 years, eventually taking civilization and population back to pre-industrial levels - 7billion people to 0.5-1billion.

A predicament, not a problem to be solved
Even provided we could solve the fuel problem, a host of other environmental limits are being reached.
Trying to maintain business as usual is not a good idea.
Techno-solutions are unfortunately insufficient - biofuel is a good example. If you turned over the entire arable land of North America to crop production for biofuels, you would still only provide about 1/4 of the energy needs for transportation. Other proposals are equally flawed or only exist in vague possibilities.

Cultural diversification
Dmitri Orlov- Various forms of capital become more important than the 'financial':
Physical Capital – the tools, objects and land that you own or have access to. Perhaps a friend has a garden you can collaborate on growing some food in? Do you have a decent set of tools that can be used even if the power is out? Or a generator?
'Social Currency' - the quality of your relationships, good friends that you can trust, the strength of your community, skills that will be useful to yourself and others?
Opportunities for change
Hopefully, a collapse of Imperial ambitions as economies collapse and energy supplies dwindle
Relocalized economies as transport and refrigeration become problematic.
Less of a gap between the rich and the poor.
The end of 'something for nothing' - and the satisfaction that comes from real work.