Peak Oil and The Illusion of Invincibility

Here’s an extended quote from this week’s Archdruid Report by John Michael Greer.  Worth reading in its entirety.

…Over the last six weeks or so, I’ve fielded emails and comments from many sources insisting that peak oil has been disproved conclusively by the recent fracking phenomenon. This is hardly a new theme—in recent months, the same claims have been repeated almost daily at earsplitting volume in the mass media—but there’s a difference of some importance. The people who are sending these claims my way aren’t trying to claim that everything’s fine and the future of perpetual progress promised us by our culture’s most cherished mythology is on its way.  No, they’re insisting that because peak oil has been disproved, I and other peak oil writers and bloggers need to get with the program, stop talking about peak oil, and start talking about the imminent threat of climate change instead.
It’s a curious claim, all things considered.  For well over a decade now, predictions based on peak oil have proven far more accurate than predictions based on the conventional wisdom that insists resource limits don’t matter.  A decade ago, cornucopian theorist Daniel Yergin was loudly proclaiming that the price of oil had reached a permanent plateau at $38 a barrel, smart money was flooding into exciting new ethanol and biodiesel startups, and everyone other than a few peak oil writers out there on the fringes assumed as a matter of course that the market would provide, ahem, limitless supplies of energy from alternative sources if the price of oil ever did rise to the unthinkable level of $60 a barrel.
Meanwhile, those peak oil writers out there on the fringe were garnering almost universal denunciation by predicting a difficult future of triple-digit oil prices, spiraling economic dysfunction, and the failure of alternative energy technologies to provide more than a very modest fraction of the vast energetic largesse our society currently gets from fossil fuels. The conventional wisdom was that this couldn’t possibly happen. A decade on, it’s not exactly hard to see who was right.
As for the claim that the fracking phenomenon has disproved peak oil, it’s worth revisiting two graphs I’ve posted before. The first one tracks oil production in the United States between 1920 and 2012:
 US oil prod plain_edited-2
See the little bitty uptick over on the right hand side of the graph?  That’s the vast new outpouring of crude oil made possible by fracking technology. That’s what all the shouting and handwaving are about. I’d encourage my readers to take a long hard look at that very modest upward blip, and then turn to the second graph, which should also be familiar:
This is the diagram of peak oil from M. King Hubbert’s original 1956 paper on the subject.  Those of my readers who are paying attention will already have noticed the very large area on the right hand side of the curve, more than two and a half times the size of all cumulative production and proven reserves  shown, labeled “future discoveries.”  The Bakken shale?  It’s included in there, along with many other oil fields that haven’t even been found yet.
The current fracking phenomenon, in other words, doesn’t disprove peak oil theory.  It was predicted by peak oil theory. As the price of oil rises, petroleum reserves that weren’t economical to produce when the price was lower get brought into production, and efforts to find new petroleum reserves go into overdrive; that’s all part of the theory.  Since oil fields found earlier are depleting all the while, in turn, the rush to discover and produce new fields doesn’t boost overall petroleum production more than a little, or for more than a short time; the role of these new additions to productive capacity is simply to stretch out the curve, yielding the long tail of declining production Hubbert showed in his graph, and preventing the end of the age of oil from turning into the sort of sudden apocalyptic collapse imagined by one end of the conventional wisdom.
Pick up any decent book on peak oil, or spend ten minutes of independent research on the internet, and you can learn all of this. Somehow, though, the pundits whose heated denunciations of peak oil theory show up in the mainstream media nearly every day don’t manage to mention any of these points. It’s not the only noticeable gap in their reasoning, either:  I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve seen media stories insist with a straight face that kerogen shales like the Green River formation are the same as oil shales like the Bakken, say, or duck the entire issue of depletion rates of fracked wells, or engage in other bits of evasion and misstatement that make our predicament look a great deal less challenging than it actually is…

Communicating Sustainability: Lessons from Public Health

Hat tip to the Health After Oil blog for alerting me to this excellent article by Steven Johnson at The Guardian.

Experts in public health have struggled with enabling behaviour change for years. The sustainability sector should learn what it can from their experiences

Consumer behaviour change is the challenge of our time. As governments and brands are beginning to realise, upstream improvements are relatively easy to make compared with the herculean task of shifting consumer behaviours downstream.

While the sustainability community is just beginning to get to grips with the gravity of this challenge, our colleagues in public health have been wrestling with it for decades. Great progress has been made, but hard lessons have been learned – costly, time-consuming lessons that we can all learn from…

Read More at The Guardian

NVC and Social Change: Alan Seid’s Telesummit

My friend and colleague Alan Seid is starting a telesummit tomorrow. This looks really exciting, and worth checking out. I think NVC (Non-violent Communication) is an amazing tool, both for personal communication skills, and for social change, and I’m looking forward to hearing how these different practitioners are applying it.

Last November I wrote a post on The Importance of Good Communication Skills, and introduced Alan Seid’s Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program.  That program is still up and running, and I recommend it. Yes, I did sign up to be an affiliate. And there are a number of totally worthwhile and totally free training videos.

Today, however, I want to share info about the free telesummit mentioned in the opening paragraph.  Here’s the blurb from Alan himself…

Alan Seid

Alan Seid

I’ve been working really hard on this project and I’m SO excited to tell you about it!

We already have about 250 1300 people signed up from 30 countries!

I’ve pulled together an all-star team of CNVC Certified Trainers who deal in the convergence of NVC and Social Change.

This is a FREE event in which I will interview trainers such as Dominic Barter, Robert Gonzales, Miki Kashtan (and 15 others!!) to find out their views and accomplishments in various arenas such as positive social change, leadership, and the evolution of both consciousness and systems.

A Path With Heart: NVC & Social Change Telesummit

NVC & Social Change, Rock Stars

If you’re on this list, you know that Marshall Rosenberg’s process, Nonviolent Communication, is a world-famous, proven, time-tested methodology for
– preventing and resolving misunderstandings and conflicts,
– offering compassionate understanding to others (and knowing when & how to ask for it ourselves),
– speaking our truth in a way that is more likely to lead to harmony than conflict, as well as
– creating exceptional interpersonal relationships – personal and professional.

NVC as it is applied to creating positive social change is both my passion and an area I would like to see emphasized more, so I’ve brought together this amazing group of trainers specializing in social change. (Did I mention it’s free to sign up?)

The event takes place:
Tues, Wed, Thurs for 3 weeks
March 19, 20, 21
March 26, 27, 28
April 2, 3, 4
Two calls per day
11am and 3pm US Pacific Time
Each call is 90 minutes long, including Q&A
*Space on live calls is limited to 75 people
**48-hour replay is included with your FREE registration in case you can’t make a live call
– Recordings, Transcriptions, and Opportunities to Learn and Deepen in NVC will be inside the site

Join us here.

Please pass this along to others who might be interested so they can enjoy these interviews.

Also, if there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.


~Alan Seid,
CNVC Certified Trainer,
Founder of Cascadia Workshops and the
Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program

PatternDynamics (TM): An Article, and More Workshops in the U.S.

David and Tim

me on left, Tim on right

Tim Winton, from New South Wales, Australia, recently visited the west coast of the U.S. and Canada, and I had the privilege of organizing one of his PatternDynamics (TM) workshop presentations.  Following that, I had the privilege of co-writing an article about the workshop for Integral Leadership Review, for the March 2013 issue, which is now available online.

PatternDynamics has been described as “a tool for integrating multiple perspectives,” and the blurb on the PD website calls it “a ‘Sustainability Pattern Language’ – that will help you understand, communicate and design solutions at the systems level.” Here’s an excerpt from my portion of the article, Tim Winton’s Pattern Dynamics™ Workshops in USA and Canada, January/February 2013:

One of the major “ah-has” for Tim during his 20 years of working in sustainability was the realization that the major problem was not in finding technical solutions, but rather in working with the social dimension. “Our challenge is complexity,” Tim says, “how we come to terms as humans with organizing ourselves so that we can actually steward this planet and have a sustainable civilization.”

PatternDynamics grew out of what he calls “perspectival systems thinking:” self, culture, and nature. Things get very interesting when we begin to look at the “integrative systems view that can be applied to at least those three perspectives.” We’re talking about a broader level of systems thinking than is usually presented, which tends to focus on the biosphere and neglect the noosphere.

Nature has sustained thriving systems for hundreds of millions of years, and has demonstrated that integrating multiple patterns of organization is the key to sustaining those systems. Borrowing patterns from nature and applying those principles to human organizations, and then learning to balance and integrate them, can contribute significantly to the enduring health of those organizations. Tim has created pattern diagrams that represent those principles in an attempt to create a language that can be used to communicate systems thinking. This language can then be used to facilitate organizational sustainability.

Tim sees complexity as the major challenge in human living, and he observes that living systems handle complexity really, really well. “The key to complexity is systems thinking, and the key to systems thinking is patterns. The key to patterns is using them as a language – an idea I borrowed from architect and mathematician Christopher Alexander’s book Notes on the Synthesis of Form.”

Click here to read the full article.

I am also very excited to report:

Tim is returning to the west coast U.S. in May for more PatternDynamics workshops at a deeper level.

Tim tells me in an email:

We have pencilled in a One Day Workshop and a 2 Day Level II Training for the 18th, 19th and 20th in the Bay Area (San Francisco/Oakland) and we are planning a One Day Workshop on Saturday on the 25th in Seattle and then a 2 Day Level II Training in Bellingham, WA on Sunday the 26th and Monday the 27th.

So if you have any interest, email me: miles58 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

PatternDynamics™ One DayWorkshop

Collaborative systems thinking for thriving in a complex world

Sat. May 25th in Seattle

PatternDynamics™ is an Integral Sustainability Pattern Language. It’s a smart, accessible, and fun way to learn collaborative systems thinking.

At the 1 Day workshop you will gain essential 21st Century skills:

  • Learn to see the Patterns that help you thrive through simplifying a complex world.
  • See holistic solutions to personal, organizational, and social challenges.
  • Become one of those people who can ‘connect the dots’ and explain why systems thinking is important.
  • Build a new set of communications skills based on ‘collaborative systems thinking’.
  • Learn a tool for creating ‘mass collaboration’ to harness the power of collective intelligence.
  • Discover a whole new approach to creative design.
  • Learn a new way of expressing principles of sustainability.
  • Gain an introduction to a high level method of building organizational effectiveness.
  • Experience the ‘Source’ of deep meaning that facilitates high levels of self-organization.
  • PD One Day Workshop serves as a prerequisite for Intermediate, Level 2 Training for PD Workshop Facilitators.
What will I experience at the One Day Workshop?The PatternDynamics™ Workshop, led by founder Tim Winton, is a participatory group process that includes introduction to the Patterns, group discussions, workshopping of participants’ organizational challenges, and a simple set of movements related to each Pattern. In learning to use the Patterns participants collectively embody, discuss, and experiment with the organizing principles that sustain complex dynamic systems and experience the collective awareness and deep meaning generated through participating in a highly unified organization.For More Information

Learn how to become a more effective change agent – and contribute to personal, organizational, and planetary thriving in a complex world! Visit the Pattern Dynamics website.

Level II: Train to become a PatternDynamics™ Workshop Facilitator


Sunday and Monday, May 26 & 27 in Bellingham


*  Personalized, facilitated small group (5-9 participants only), cohort based training.

*  Co-facilitate PatternDynamics™ Workshops with your facilitator and cohort.

*  Learn the 49 Second Order Patterns: focus on communication using the Patterns.

A prerequisite for PatternDynamics™ Advanced Training.

Tim Winton

Born James Timothy Winton. Tim’s background is in the sustainability sector. Over the last 20 years he has worked in sustainability in various capacities: as a hands-on contractor within the reforestation industry, organic farmer, not-for-profit founder, co

mpany director, educator, designer and consultant.

He developed PatternDynamics™ as a method of understanding natural systems and for leveraging those understandings in managing complexity. Translating natural patterns into sustainability tools is his life’s work and overriding passion.

Tim is an independent Integral scholar-practitioner who has published articles in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, as part of the proceedings of Integral Academic Conferences and Practitioner Seminars and as a contributor to the edited volume, Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Critical Perspectives on the AQAL Model (in press). He speaks and writes regularly on sustainability topics. Tim holds a BA in English Literature, a Diploma of Permaculture Design and a Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment. Tim posts on sustainability, systems thinking and organisational complexity at his blog