Casaubon's Book

Beginnings

The first day of the ASPO conference involved a lot of smaller sessions, most of which I missed because I was speaking or at the press conference and congressional briefing. The congressional briefing was a wild success – absolutely packed. The press conference was smaller (we were competing with the IMF and several other events) but the press follow up has been pretty good. Since what I care most about is ASPO’s ability to extend the message out to the overwhelming majority of people who have no idea that their life is going to change, this was useful and interesting.

Day two (Friday) was everyone in the same room – and let’s just say I didn’t get out much. Hermetically sealed hotels are not a farm girl’s natural environment, either. But it was worth being there – because in many ways, it is as interesting and probably as important to watch the audience watching the speakers as it is anything else.

Best quote of the day came from the bone dry but very funny former Secretary of Energy and of Defense (at different times, not simultaneously) Dr. James Schlessinger. “Can we rise to meet the political challenge? I see absolutely no cause for optimism.” Best moment was Nicole Foss’s sleeper hit – I think the majority of ASPO attendees didn’t know what to expect from her. Most useful presentation to me was Art Berman’s brilliant assessment of shale gas.

The most useful moment of the conference so far, however, occurred at the congressional briefing when a fellow from some think tank stood up, after listening to a panel of six experts explain, sometimes clearly and succinctly, sometimes with perhaps a bit too much technical detail, over and over again, what energy limits we’re actually running up against. The gentleman then asked a question that had already been answered quite clearly by several other presenters – “but what about all these big Deepwater discoveries, isn’t their impact enough…”

Here’s a guy who came to a policy briefing to learn something, who was at least marginally open, and who was challenging their presentation, but not with hostility. It was a useful and important reminder of how many times people have to hear a story, perhaps told many different ways to have it connect. My take is that the gentleman in question was simply seeking to reconcile what he was being told and what he had been told and that that was going to take multiple repetition.

It easy on the peak oil end to get frustrated with hearing the same story over and over again. It is easy to think that because we’ve said it once, we shouldn’t say it again. I admit, I tend to get easily frustrated with saying it again Sam – I don’t want to sit down and explain the basics every time. But that’s the project here – because out of 310 million Americans, maybe 1 million (and that’s probably a high estimate, actually) really get peak oil. That means 309 million aren’t yet able to grasp why you would want local or policy solutions to address it. That means 309 million people have no personal preparations and not the faintest idea why you would want them. And 309 million people are out there banging as hard as they can into “solutions” to a situation that isn’t solvable and that are making things worse.

Some people are going to accept arguments from authority – having a former Secretary of Energy Stand up and quietly tell them that peak oil is real and present is how you tell them. Some people will need graphs and data and want to see for themselves. Some people need a storyteller. Some people need a fiery debate. Some people need anger or joy or even fear. Some people need a celebrity. Some people need persuasion. Some people will never get it. But I can think of few things more useful than trying to turn one million people into two million. It isn’t going to happen only here, but so far, in the net, I think it isn’t a bad beginning.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Stephen B.
    October 9, 2010

    Wow, one million might get Peak Oil? Maybe down in their gut they do, but they’re also very quiet about PO, at least from what I see.

    Interesting reading…..sorry I couldn’t make it to the conference.

    I wanted to get to the Topsfield Fair too, but couldn’t even manage that. I wanted to take some students, but the traffic and the admission price is just too much for my students and organization. I’m really beginning to feel physically pinned down by circumstances.

    Perhaps I should get used to it.

  2. #2 Brad K.
    October 9, 2010

    Sharon,

    About the repetitions. What came to my mind was – what about greetings? Once we greet someone, they aren’t well and truly greeted, never needing a greeting later after an absence, or the next day. Do we get bored with greeting someone we just saw yesterday, earlier today – or years ago?

    But a greeting is a gift, a recognition and act of respect that builds a bond, strengthens ties, and affirms our regard for the greetee.

    So we greet, and greet again. In person, in writing – some of us do in blog post comments.

    What a generous interpretation of the followup question. My take would be that the question came as setup for a sound bite, to make the after-event editing cheaper by tying the answer directly to the question. The ability to sell that bit of video to the new organization is probably greater than if the answer had to be drawn from earlier discussion without that clear question to frame the answer.

    Then again, maybe the person just needed video of them asking a question and getting an answer, as, you know, some kind of ticket to punch to stay employed. That clip of question and answer might be shopped around to various news organization, online – print – broadcast – who knows?

    If one person can sidetrack the entire event for the convenience of the eventual editing of the video about the question being asked – perhaps the individual mis-understood that at a conference one is expected to use questions to investigate information – not play amateur (paparazzi?) producer.

    So while asking the question, again, after the information has been presented, might be rude and discourteous to the forum, the attendees, and the presenters – that diversion might actually get enough publication to help toward the 2nd million.

    Even if the SEIU shill failed to disrupt the proceeding into chaos.

  3. #3 John Andersen
    October 9, 2010

    I too feel pinned down by circumstances, but am getting satisfaction in local volunteer work. So it’s not like I’m trapped, and everything is bleak.

    Getting people to understand peak oil is probably a process that requires a lot of patience, and when we succeed, we may not even be aware. Generally people don’t like to admit they were wrong about something. They just quietly adopt the new, correct stance.

  4. #4 Steve
    October 11, 2010

    Hm,

    just how do we get the message across? Everyone is self-selective. I’ve raised the issue with maybe 12 people.

    Only one (a depressive) started to research it and got into it (…is this so clearly a psychological process? Perhaps)

    The rest are careful to no mention it about me any more (don’t upset the madman).

    But they’ll tell me about how excited they are about their next car! Duh. At least I’m hearing them talk about mpg now.

    So. Anyone seen/got/can recommend ways to _effectively_ get people to hear??

    :(

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