ASPO-USA Conference LiveBlog!

Well, we've finally got a mostly-complete ASPO Conference schedule. The problem is exactly the sort of problem you'd really like to have when running one of these - that there are just too many serious thinkers who need a spot. It is really tough to finalize the conference schedule when every day you are receiving calls that say things like "This is Bianca Jagger, Chair of the Human Rights Foundation, calling to say that I'd like to speak at your conference on the connection between Climate, Energy Depletion and Human are the texts of my UN speeches if you'd like to see them." Or "The Rear-Admiral would be delighted..."

What we're seeing is that the scientific debates about peak energy are really over - the IEA, the US Military, the Department of Energy - all of them have had to admit that we are facing instability and supply constraints, coming upon us very soon. Former Secretary of State Dr. James Schlesinger has come out in the mainstream media to point out that the discussion is over - and now we have to deal with the realities.

The heartening thing (on an issue that obviously doesn't have a lot of heartening things) is that this is so far a non-partisan issue, so much so that ASPO's scheduled Press Conference and Congressional Briefing can actually bring together people who simply don't appear on the same stage together. We've got Anti-poverty Activists and Billionaires, Right-wing Congressfolk and Left-Wing Presidential Candidates, Human Rights Campaigners and Military Folk, and even me. They don't agree on anything - except that Energy Depletion represents a fundamental threat - and it isn't controversial anymore.

ASPO is changing fast with this new reality - we are leveraging this new understanding as hard and fast as we can. Because even though we know that the boat isn't going to turn around fast or in time, we also know that policy changes on the state, federal and local level can make huge differences in quality of life and basic security for thousands and millions of people. It isn't an all-or-nothing game here.

My presence on the board is part of another change - once upon a time, Energy Depletion was primarily the territory of Geologists and Scientists, who spent a lot of time discussing the detailed parameters. All of us who know about peak oil now are deeply enriched by that work. At the same time, however, now that the basics are fully established, the territory of peak oil extends to everyone who has a stake in the future, and investment in their security and the hope for their posterity. And while technical responses have a role in the future, so do everyday actions by ordinary, engaged citizens.

ASPO brought me onto the board in the hope of building a new balance between supporting the research and technical knowledge and bringing the message to the mainstream and supporting social change. In some ways, my presence, as a writer and small farmer, is a challenge to what ASPO has been in the past, and an investment in what it can be in the future - an investment in the ties between the technical and personal ends of this quest for a way forward.

So I need to ask several things of my readers. First, if you can attend the conference in Washington DC, please do - the more of you who are present, who have something to add to the discourse, the more we build that connection between the people who have technical answers and those who have answers about what they want for the next generation. Come to the conference. Take part. Ask questions. And make sure that you are seen as the face of this issue. Make sure that when the media comes through, they don't just see the faces of scientists talking to each other, but of parents, thinking of their children and of community activists engaging with the scientific and technical knowledge.

For those who can't come, I'll be liveblogging the conference as much as I can. There's simply too much valuable knowledge there for it not to be transmitted as far and wide as we can. But I can't do it alone - my responsibilities as a board member and a press liason, as well as the fact that I'm speaking twice during the conference means I'm going to miss a lot. So if you will be attending, email me if you'd be willing to help blog the conference - I'll put your posts up here (with full credit, obviously) as the conference progresses. If you tweet, consider tweeting the conference as well. Email me at if you'd like to be part of my blogging team!

If you can attend, please take time to visit your congressional office and let your congressperson or their staff know how concerned you are that peak oil planning get on the agenda. ASPO is organizing visits, and will give you talking points and strategies. If you can't attend, you can still email and phone your congressperson and the White House and let them know that you care about this issue.

This is our opportunity to get stories in the major media as well that aren't "Here's a crazy person and her pile of MREs" ;-). The reality about this conference is that the aggregate of the experts here simply don't allow you to sustain the idea that this is a marginal or highly debatable idea. So if you have ties to media - national or local to the conference, encourage them to write a story. Everyone who knows and understands can do something to help their community - we're that much richer for every opportunity.

The more you distribute the liveblogging I and others do, the more you circulate the articles, and draw your neighbors' attention to the reality, the closer we get to a moment when we can say "look, we have to deal with this." And even if it doesn't happen to everyone, every person you engage makes a difference. So spread the word. We don't know how many more chances like this we'll get.

There's no way the ASPO conference alone can turn the tide of denial about peak oil - but the reality is we aren't alone. There are thousands of you - I know that each of my posts gets read by thousands of people, and they in turn can pass the stories on, lend a hand, raise a voice. I'd be grateful for your help.


More like this

I'm really excited about the ways that ASPO-USA is evolving. ASPO's role has been to raise awareness about Peak Oil, and it is serving to expose the issue in new ways. I joined the board of an organization that I'd once criticized publically for being elitist and dominated by old white guys…
I'm about to go out of town for three days to a conference on dealing with poverty issues, energy depletion and climate change, and I'm a little nervous. We've had no babies born since Meadowsweet's appearance two weeks ago, and I have three does due in the next week - not only am I a little…
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…
1. To hang out with me, of course ;-). 2. To make your voice heard in Washington about this issue - because we don't have much time to begin to act, and every person here who says 'I care deeply about this' helps reinforce our message of the centrality of this issue. 3, To hear Wes Jackson talk…

..the scientific debates about peak energy are really over -

The scientific debates have been over for a long time. It's only been vested economic interests that have kept the debates alive for the sake of propaganda.

They don't agree on anything - except that Energy Depletion represents a fundamental threat -

The really fundamental threat would be if reduced carbon resources weren't being depleted. This would mean that climate warmed to the point where humans & other animals couldn't lose heat to the environment at night and the pH of the surface ocean dropped to the point where marine environments went septic. This is likely to happen as things stand but would be absolute certainties if we weren't rapidly depleting the easily extracted portion of these resource bases.

if you can attend the conference in Washington DC, please do -

One of the things people are going to have to do is refrain from traveling across continents & oceans. I have made a personal commitment to never flying again. I guess that it would be possible for someone like me to travel to DC on Amtrak - not that I would want to - but rather difficult for Bianca Jagger to get there from the UK by train. People like her need to set an example for others by staying home. Actions really do speak louder than words.

..what they want for the next generation.

Maybe the next generation needs to decide for itself what it wants.

That moment was in the past. Now the only thing that can be done is to attempt to accommodate to the changes that have already occurred and are in the pipeline. The harm that's already been accomplished can't be remediated on any timescale relevant to a human lifetime. The best that can be done is to attempt to compensate, on a personal level, for the anthropogenic environmental damage already inflicted. I hope that the take-home message of the APSO conference will be that resource depletion is a good thing; the only thing, apparently, that will check human population growth and slow the pace of environmental carnage already threatening ecosystem integrity worldwide.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

DD, I think you are being unreasonably narrow in interpretation. Of course the question of whether oil would peak has been over forever, but the dates have been up in the air for some time, and really weren't resolved until recently - presumably you know that. Hubbert's linearization projected earlier, etc... Just because people aren't arguing about what you want them to argue about doesn't mean that there's no point to talking. And just because you know this doesn't mean most people do. Believe it or not, you aren't my only reader ;-).

I agree with you about climate change - but there's absolutely no question there's enough carbon to cross the critical tipping points, so that won't help much.

Like you I don't fly - period. That said, however, a substantive portion of the US lives in easy train travel of Washington DC - a lot of them can take the Metro.

In fact, Bianca Jagger was going to be in Washington already for another event - and I gather she resides there part of the year. We aren't flying her over - and wouldn't. Would it be better for the planet if she didn't fly - yup, but I'm not personally responsible and neither is ASPO for why Bianca was in DC already. In fact, we've made a considerable effort to bring in people local to that area, and get people *not* to fly. But I'm betting I've got enough readers in the I95 corridor that can ride Amtrak, just like me. Plenty of them live and work in and around DC or in the nearby population centers.

As for the last, to put it bluntly, bullshit. The next generation is my kids and all the children and babies in this world. They are 10, 8, 6 and 4. They will face all these problems, but we have to do what we can now to soften the blow. My parents put this problem off in the 1970s. Their parents put it off in the 1950s. Their parents put it off in the 1930s...and so on. The buck has to stop somewhere. To the extent I have the power - and that isn't very great, but I'll do what I can, it stops with me and my generation. We take as much of the hit as we can, do as much as we can to soften the blow. We don't leave it to the next generation.

Every single person speaking at this conference knows that we have to do what we can to deal with the crisis that is coming. And they also know that every single person they can engage is one more body in the great project of making this disaster less awful. I understand what you hope for - but that's not going to happen. But the moral return on a thousand blows softened - disabled people who get a safety net, forests that don't get cut, kids who get to grow up in a world that's a little less hot, and who have something to eat, old folks who don't get left in the cold - that's worth shooting for too. It is a failure. And it is the most worthwhile failure on the earth.


Well, I don't know about a substantive portion, as I live nowhere near the 95 corridor. (Midwest FTW)

I digress though.
I was commenting to say that I'm most interested to hear what the rear-admiral has to say. I have a bunch of conservative-type relatives who watch way too much Fox and I'm hoping that hearing something from a military type might sway their thinking. So, if you're taking requests for the live-blogging, there's mine. :-)

I hope that the take-home message of the APSO (sic) conference will be that resource depletion is a good thing; the only thing, apparently, that will check human population growth and slow the pace of environmental carnage already threatening ecosystem integrity worldwide. - DD

I understand what you hope for - but that's not going to happen. - SA

Interesting! So you're saying that the ASPO people would prefer that reduced hydrocarbons were even more abundant than they are, or have been historically, even knowing that their oxidation is poisoning the atmosphere & surface ocean? The problem, then, as the ASPO crowd sees it, isn't environmental degradation so much as it's liquid fuels depletion impacting the affordability of flying around the world to attend conferences - along with more mundane things like heating a home or cooking a meal, of course? You're saying that the ASPO conference is going to focus exclusively on "PO awareness" and a broader ecocentric perspective is "not going to happen"?

DD, I think you are being unreasonably narrow in interpretation. - SA

Sharon, I think that a bit of projection is going on here. (Sorry, dewey, for my continued psychologizing.) It's okay, though. I understand that youthful involvement in the iustus quod optimus causa will look good on a CV later in life, and that smoozing with the jet set can be fun. I wonder where ASPO-Europe will be held. Saint-Tropez?

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

DD, you can kiss my ass - you want to put the harshest possible interpretation on everything I say, have your fun, but you are the elitist here. As far as I can see, you are only are interested in this if everyone says and undestand everything you want, just the way you want to hear it. If it isn't perfect, it doesn't count. Well, fuck that.

Awareness is what we're shooting for - not masturbatory, self-satisfying perfect awareness of our terrible state, but the kind of functional awareness that penetrates enough that people who aren't ecologically aware, who don't know what a white pine is, and who are just plain ordinary people who don't think about energy and ecology much, begin to grasp how their worldview has to change. They can get to your worldview from there - and I might even try and help them get part of it. But first they have to know there's a problem and what it is and where to start.

In a country where out of 320 million people, maybe 1 million on a good day even know what the words Peak oil mean, or have the faintest idea that their lives depend on a lifeline of resources that is fragile and subject to disruptions that will kill them, victory is getting 2 million people to know what the fuck is going on and maybe do something in their community to protect themselves. In a country where half the population thinks that climate change is a leftist conspiracy just getting people to talk a little about basic data is a victory.

So no, we're not going to stand up and offer the harshest possible "you'll all be extinct soon" worldview at a press conference designed to get a message out to those 319 million people who have never thought about this in their lives. We're not going to tell them they'd be better off with no fossil fuels, because it would save the planet. We're going to talk about the basics - why they should pay attention, and what you can do at the personal, community and political level. And yes, this should have been done by someone else long ago - so? You do what you can when you can.

And for that, we're going to use any celebrity power we can get, and any political power we can get, and any other power we can get - I don't give a fuck about the moral high ground, I want people to have shelter and food and not freeze to death. Because the reality is that those extra million people talk to other people, and they might at least get themselves a little coverage, or start building up the kind of community resources that can protect someone else.

That is quite literally the only goddamn hope we've got, and I'm sorry, I'm violating my own comments policy, but fuck you and the horse you rode in on for pretending you get the moral high ground for sitting on your ass and keening the death of the white pine and taking the death of people as a given, without doing fuck all to stop it. I'm going to fail at stopping it - am failing now, and so are all the other people - some of whom are probably in it for themselves. But I'll use them and any other tool I've got if it means that there's a little less suffering. You want to take the long view, in which we're all dead, and take that suffering as a given, go ahead. All I know is that when I've been suffering, even a little amelioration made all the difference.

You want to accuse me of whoring myself - fine with me, everyone has a price, I'm no different. But as I keep saying, I'm not a cheap whore. If I were going to prostitute myself for a "jet setter (not very rewarding to a woman who doesn't fly)", it wouldn't be for someone who got famous for wearing clothes and marrying an aging baby boomer who pretends he was born on a delta instead of Liverpool. Or I suppose I could be persuaded by someone really hot, maybe - elderly stick-thin fashionistas just aren't my type.

If you want to know the truth, I'd rather stay home and have sex with my husband, dig in my garden and play with my kids than go to ASPO - it is a royal pain in my ass, frankly. Eric teaches and I've got to find childcare and I'm going to miss my synagogue harvest festival and the visit of a wonderful friend of mine, and I've got shitloads of stuff to do at home. You've simply got the wrong girl if you think my dream is to hobnob with anyone if it means I have to wear something that isn't jeans - this is three full days of fucking dress shoes and that alone sucks enough for me to long for my pjs, my blog and my husband in anticipation.

I may be a self-aggrandizing jerk, but I'm also a really lazy one - I'm not going to San Tropez since I don't fly, and you can't raise goats and jet set. But I do think that this is the chance to make the difference between 1 and 2 million people - a chance, it might fail, but it is there. And that's worth a lot to me - even if it isn't worth anything to you.


Alright Sharon!

Now you're showing some of the spunk you're going to need if you're to be even the least bit effective. Good show! ;)

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

Oh, how I want to go to this! But I can't really afford to, and don't have the vacation time available. : {
And it would require flying ...
Will help to spread the word for you, instead. And thank you, thank you, thank you, for the work you do.
The most worthwhile failure on Earth ... Yes. It is. We are so very fortunate you are here, failing so valiantly.

I think the reference to Liverpool was wrong, surely you meant Dartford (which is near London)?

By Cornish_K8 (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

Wow Sharon -- that's for the "spunk" and the great program. Unfortunately I can't be there. Looking forward to the liveblog.

By Susan in NJ (not verified) on 22 Sep 2010 #permalink

DD, I was all set to come back this morning and write an apology for responding so harshly - instead, you cracked me up. Thank you.



I have a suggestion for you and ASPO. I don't know if you read Andrew Sullivan at all or what you think of him. But his blog is very widely read, and won a Webby a year or two ago for best blog. He's an intelligent, sincere, humane, wide-ranging and thoughtful writer, and curious about a lot of subjects. Peak oil is among the many, many topics he covers -- though not, so far, in a very in-depth or focused way. He has linked to items on the Oil Drum a few times. He identifies as a conservative, but he's a very unconventional conservative, with positions on a lot of issues that most people would call liberal. So, he's open-minded and intellectually flexible. And he has readers from all over the political spectrum, all over the world, and all walks of life.

I think ASPO should make an outreach effort to Andrew Sullivan (and to similarly widely-read, influential bloggers -- especially those who aren't doctrinaire, have a diverse readership, and might be somewhat open to the message. Who are some others? Ask your readers and other people to suggest some). Invite him to attend the meeting -- and/or to send one of his assistants. Try to schedule a meeting with him and some of the speakers.

He is based in DC.

These days establishing connections with such people is at least as important and useful as getting coverage by conventional news media, I think.

i'd love to attend the meeting, but can't do it this year -- maybe next year!

By Mike Cagle (not verified) on 23 Sep 2010 #permalink

i really like to attend this will be a great experience for i will like u to send me more information about the here waiting for your respond.take care wish u all the best......