How to talk about the end of growth: interview with Richard Heinberg

Author Richard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg, author and lecturer on energy and the economy. Photo: Sustainable Guernsey.

Just after the release of his newest book, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, I sat down with Richard Heinberg via Skype to get his take on what needs to happen to shift the conversation on peak oil and peak debt. The interview follows.

LC: Thanks for taking some time to talk to me again.

RH: Sure.

LC: Did you consult an astrologer on the release date of the timing of your book coming out—

RH: Ha, ha, ha.

LC: Because it certainly was a little uncanny there?

RH: I don’t think astrology…oh, I’m not a big believer in astrology…

LC: Ha, ha, I was just kidding. But the official release date was this past Tuesday, right? (Ed: August 9.)

RH: Right. Correct.

LC:  And everything that happened last Friday and Monday, with the S & P downgrade on Friday August 5th. Just the kind of crisis mode that sent everybody into, and then the stock market. Sort of a good entree into a conversation on the growth paradigm.

RH: Yeah, I hope so. You know we haven’t gotten any hits from mainstream media yet. But we are working on it. We’re banging on doors and sending in op-ed pieces and doing everything we possibly can to get this message out.

LC: Well I hope people will start picking it up and we’ll certainly try to get this review and interview out on Monday or Tuesday (Ed: Ooops, it took us another week.)

RH: Great.

The End of Growth

LC: I do want to ask you, Who do you consider the audience for this book to be? (Ed. Review of Richard Heinberg’s book The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality on Transition Voice.)

RH: There’s sort of concentric circles of audience. Certainly the inner circle would be the audience for my previous books.

Frankly, I think this is my most important book to date. My first book along this similar line was The Party’s Over in 2003. And it sold quite well, it sold about 50,000 copies. It had a little bit of help back in 2005 from the New Yorker magazine which did a profile on Bill Clinton and asked him what books he was reading that summer and at the top of his reading list was The Party’s Over, so that sold a few thousand books right there.

LC: Yeah.

RH: Nevertheless, that book has done quite well. Frankly I think that anyone who read The Party’s Over and enjoyed it can and should benefit from reading this new book because it not only brings that entire argument up to date, but really broadens it and looks at the economic implications in a way that I just was incapable of doing back in those days.

I’ve done a lot of homework since then. I’ve talked to a lot of people and the book really reflects my conversations with a number of very knowledgeable people on financial and economic topics. As well as, of course, ongoing discussions with people with a background in energy and natural resources. So that’s kind of the main audience that we were counting on the book reaching.

But hopefully it will get out beyond that.

I would like it to reach opinion shapers and policy makers around the country. If we could succeed in getting a national NPR interview for example, I think the book could really help change the national conversation around the economy. And that’s the real purpose. It’s not just to give the peak oil crowd the next breadcrumb in the trail. It’s to change the conversation.

LC: So you’re hoping it will reach out to a general reader of non-fiction type books on economy and such?

RH: Yes. Absolutely. And it’s written for that audience. It’s certainly not written in such a way that only experts could benefit from it. A general reader can easily pick up this book and find their way through it with no problem at all.

LC: Okay. And what do you hope to accomplish? You said you want to help change the conversation. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

RH: Clearly our country, the United States, and the world are both headed into very hard economic times.

Back in March when the content of the book was finalized that was a bit more of a controversial statement because it looked as though we were in the middle of a recovery. But today I think it would be hard to find very many people who would really strongly disagree with the view that we’re headed into hard economic times.

But still, nevertheless, most economic commentators still see this in terms of the usual boom and bust business cycle. And they assume that one of two sets of strategies will work to flip us back into the economic growth mode.

Either you’re a political liberal and you think that more stimulus spending will get us back to job creation and consumer spending. Or you’re a conservative and you think the problem is too much debt — government debt — and all we need to do is cut down on government spending and private enterprise will kick into gear and create more jobs and get the economy back in its traditional growth mode.

I’m saying both of those arguments are wrong.

And I think it’s really important that that point of view be out there. Because if all we have are these two failed options — and they have failed; you know, we tried the stimulus and it produced anemic and transitory results.

And countries around the world are trying austerity packages and that’s not producing economic growth. It’s doing just the opposite. It’s causing economic activity to shrink for pretty obvious reasons. It’s causing people to lose their jobs and it’s just contracting economic activity altogether because the government’s basically the main game in town in most countries right now.

Private enterprise is pulling back. People are pulling back from consuming, they’re not taking on more debt. So government spending is really the main engine of the economy in the US and many other countries. It stands to reason if we pull back on that, if we have austerity, then it’s really not going to help.

So both of those prescriptions have failed. And they’ve failed for a reason. I explain why in the book. It’s not because these aren’t good people or smart people.

It’s because we have been relying on a fundamentally flawed paradigm: the paradigm of continuous economic growth on a finite planet with limited resources. The limits to those resources are catching up with us, very rapidly actually. And that means that there’s no more growth available in consumption of energy and goods.

So if we’re going to have economies that still support people, economies that don’t crash and collapse, then we’re going to have to start thinking very differently about how we organize our economies, and how we support people in what are inevitably going to be some pretty hard times.

Changing paradigms

LC: Well that gets pretty scary for people. If you’re talking about the people who make policies and are at the sort of national-level conversations — the opinion makers and idea shapers as you talked about — what is the difficulty there for them to drop a paradigm that isn’t working and start to shift the conversation? And what are the tools and ways that they potentially could, that could give them the cover that that level of people think that they need politically, relative to not “scaring the people” and that kind of thing?

RH: It’s very difficult.

Especially because we have such a bitter partisanship in our political system right now. Nobody wants to give ground. Nobody wants to admit that their prescription is not working because that might imply that the other side is right. So everybody’s digging in. Everyone is entrenched. And it’s really hard to get anyone to rethink their basic position.

However, that said, there is something that I think could be done that would help to send this in the right direction.

Right now everybody’s promising more GDP growth and GDP growth just isn’t in the cards. So it really makes sense for politicians to start to implement different kinds of measures and targets, economic measures and targets.

Throw GDP out the window.

Of course, this can’t be done overnight because GDP is embedded in governmental and economic institutions at all levels from local town halls all the way up to the World Bank.

However, we need to start the process of changing that.

We can deliver social goods. We can increase people’s satisfaction with their lives. We can make our towns and cities and countries more culturally rich, more environmentally sound without increasing consumption and that’s what we need to be aiming to do.

The first step in doing that is changing our indicator. And that’s something that I believe could be done tomorrow.

President Obama could go on television and say, “Look, you know, there was this commission set up by Nicolas Sarkozy (who is sort of on the conservative side of the spectrum) and they came to the conclusion that GDP is basically flawed and we need another indicator and, by golly, this now seems like a good time to start that process given the fact that our economy is weak and this could help us find our way toward a better future.”

I think it would really be in his interest to do that both as a politician and as a leader.

The writing on the wall

LC: I can see that. And certainly I think with how much frustration is out there, pretty much anything that could inject something truly new into our way of looking at and thinking about things could bring some fresh energy at a time in which things feel pretty stuck.

How realistic do you think it is for leaders, decision makers, policy makers, legislators and financial types to change their paradigm from growth at all costs to the end of growth? Or to adopt a steady-state model?

You kind of just now touched on that but I think one of the key factors behind that is sort of the greed element. Proposing that life can be better, like you just said, culturally and these kinds of things, oftentimes plays as soft to a certain kind of crowd.

What do you think could change that — besides the measurements which you just touched upon? Drill down a little bit more into that for me.

RH: The proposal for a steady-state economy has been around for three decades or so, thanks to Herman Daly. No one at the policy level has really taken it seriously. Of course the reason for that is that growth is — the expectation of growth I should say — is embedded in all of our financial and economic institutions. Even our monetary system.

So talking about the end of growth is really scary. We might as well be talking about a giant comet hitting the earth or something like that. It’s kind of a radioactive subject. Nobody wants to touch it.

But if, in fact, we’re there, and I think we are, and the evidence it seems to me is abundant that that’s the case, then we kind of have no choice but to start take this seriously.

And frankly it’s not just me saying this.

I mentioned Herman Daly, former World Bank economist. Paul Gilding, former head of Greenpeace has just written a book called The Great Disruption. He’s coming to exactly the same conclusion from the standpoint of somebody who’s really, really at the core of the environmental movements and [people] who debate about climate change and so on.

Then you have Jeremy Grantham who founded one of the world’s largest investment funds. And he’s come to basically the same conclusion from his point of view. The guy’s not, he’s not the former head of Greenpeace. He’s quite at home on Wall Street and with hedge funds and all of that.

You have more and more people who are coming to this conclusion. It can’t be ignored.

Even if politicians are still unable to come out in public and talk about it and say to their constituents, “Hey look, you know, don’t expect more economic growth.” That’s not going to happen anytime soon.

But, they’ve got to start talking about it behind closed doors. They’ve got to start discussing among themselves and coming up with some kind of Plan B. You know, “What do we do if, in fact, this is not just a business cycle? What do we do if the economy is not going to recover any time soon? We’ve got to have some kind of plan here.”

LC: It doesn’t seem, I think, to people like you and me who are looking at issues like relocalization and, as you talked about, quality of life, that difficult to not only find some of those answers but to message them positively if they’re willing to break with what I guess could be called these traditional measures of growth. Though I don’t really think they’re that “traditional” but rather are from a specific historical period.

First you cry

RH: Yeah, see that’s the next step. Once they’re convinced that there has to be a Plan B then they’re going to almost inevitably ask first, What are the emergency measures to keep the markets from crashing, to keep the dollar from crashing and so on?

Then the next thing is, What do we do to keep the people from rioting in the streets? Which is a real concern. It should be a real concern given what’s just been going on in Britain.

So you’ve got to give people some hope. You’ve got to give people some sense that there is a livable future. That there will be jobs and so on. And that’s where the quality of life comes in. It’s not just the indicator. We also have to start figure out how to actually deliver on these promises.

Understanding the limits of debt

LC: Back to the book and some of the elements of that paradigm.

Much of the information in the first two chapters of your book is very technical banking stuff as you attempt to convey just how abstractly banks and investment firms go in manipulating the debt economy, and in their own terms of how they trade. Are there one or two very simple sentences that can help the layperson grasp the economy of debt — and the perils of debt — very easily?

RH: It’s hard to do in a sentence or two. But, over the past century we have created a monetary and banking system that runs on debt. Without increasing debt it’s really hard to grow the economy right now.

And over the past few decades — one of the charts in the book that I use shows consumer debt, corporate debt and government debt over the past few decades.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately of government debt, but you know, look at that chart. Consumer debt has grown enormously. People using credit to buy cars. More people buying homes, taking out big mortgages, etc., etc. That has been the engine of growth. Right?

Well guess what? We’ve reached the limits to debt.

There are inherent limits to debt because as you pile up more and more debt that also means that the requirement for interest payment is increasing. So we get, with the government for example, eventually to a point where all government revenues have to go to pay interest on the existing debt. At that point, the whole thing just stops working. Actually, it stops working well before you get to that point.

The same principle applies to households. Once you’re loaned up to your eyeballs, nobody wants to loan you more money.

We can’t keep growing the economy with debt. And a financial system that requires that and assumes that is inherently self-contradictory. And that’s what we got.

LC: This might seem like a silly example, but I remember reading to my daughters the Little House on the Prairie books—which are not only great peak oil books for parents to show their children how people lived during another period in which they had many lovely qualities of life, but that they also worked hard. And the books teach restraint. These folks tended to work first and buy what you could buy once you had worked and saved up for it.

RH: Right.

LC: And they were very conscious about that. I remember that when Laura finally gets married the one thing she and her husband are willing to do after a long debate is take out a little loan to buy their house. For fifty bucks or something like —you know, way back when. But there was a very conscious conversation in that book about why they would never want to get into debt over anything less serious than their dwelling.

RH: Yes, well you see, this was not an accident how we arrived at an economy based on debt. It really started in the early 20th century.

As we had cheap fossil fuels with which to produce and transport stuff, we ended up in a situation of too much production capacity. It became possible to make automobiles and home appliances and so on in large quantities. But the problem was that people were buying stuff with cash. Economically they were still living in Little House on the Prairie terms.

And, let’s face it, a car for a person in say 1910, 1915, that was a luxury item. That wasn’t something you could just go out and pay cash for, not for most people. So, we invented the consumer credit industry. When I say “we,” I mean the financial system. And car loans were a big part of that. And then the mortgage industry really took off after World War II.

Again, these were ways of growing the economy. Growing demand for products. Growing consumption. That produced more jobs.

It was all good. It was all done with the best of intentions. But where we end up with that is levels of consumption that are unsustainable, levels of debt that are unsustainable. And the whole thing at some point hits the wall. And that’s kind of what’s happening now.

Debt versus the earth in a cage match

LC: Yeah, 17% credit card interest to go get your coffee is a little bit of a silly way for society to operate. Groceries, and everything else it seems, everyday things, that people buy on credit now.

Richard, you tie the end of growth to natural limits, the primary economy of natural resources, citing oil as a key factor for a world economy essentially driven for the last century by cheap, readily available oil. Yet as finance has become increasingly abstract, with economic disasters and near collapse seeming to come solely from Wall Street and economic bubbles, few visible or mainstream analysts or media commentators have rooted their analyses in natural resources. The best we get is the daily Brent Crude prices and comments on the prices at the pump. Do you expect this to change? Do you expect this part of the conversation to change? When do you see a conversation emerging that points again to the primary economy of natural resources on which the rest of the economic gambit depends?

RH: Well, I can’t tell you when that conversation will change. But I can tell you that that’s one of the main reasons I wrote this book. To change that conversation.

Paul Gilding has done much the same with his book. We see things almost identically, really.

So it’s not a single lone voice crying in the wilderness.

The whole peak oil movement — you know, go to any Transition Town and you’ll find people literate in resource issues. The whole Limits to Growth debate that goes all the way back to 1972 was about resource limits.

Also, let’s not forget the other side of this which is the limits to the environment’s ability to absorb wastes and accidents from industrial processes. That’s really the third leg of the end of growth argument.

In 2010 we saw record levels of costs from natural and industrial disasters led by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of summer 2010. I think the total level was something like $220 billion direct cost to society. Insurance companies were freaking out at that.

But 2011? $220 billion in costs — we got up to that before we even reached June of 2011!

So if this trajectory continues, if every year is setting substantially higher and new records of costs to society from natural disasters and industrial accidents, well, you don’t have to follow that trend very far out to see that as being a fundamental limit to growth as well.

We’re basically there.

LC: Well, those things happen, but as long as the paradigm stays the same, the conversation doesn’t change. It’s just basically, you know, “Okay, more debt and we’ll take care of that, and pile it on…” I get the idea that eventually no matter how much delusion one has about something they crash with those real limits.

We’re headlong towards that, but we haven’t shifted. I mean, I hear you talking about it, I hear everybody that I read talking about it, of course. And I run a Transition group and we’re all talking about it. The people are talking about it. This old, you know, “If the people will lead the leaders will follow.” It just doesn’t seem as if that shift has occurred up at the top. Not where our conversation about economy cannot just be about Wall Street and The Fed and the government budget. It really has to be about these natural limits and that’s a political hot potato too, because it certainly seems like, in the main, the right end of the spectrum doesn’t want to touch the environmental piece because of it being tainted by apparent restrictions to business operating.

RH: That’s right. And that’s an enormous, enormous historic tragedy.

That the climate change discussion, for example is politicized. So if you’re a Republican candidate you’re almost required by your party to deny that climate change is occurring or that it’s caused by human beings. I mean, you know, this is medieval.

And if it didn’t have impacts in the real world, if this discussion didn’t have such grave impacts in the real world, it would be great comedy. I mean Monty Python could have done great stuff with this. And maybe humor is one of our best weapons in helping change people’s minds. Just arguing facts, it seems like, doesn’t work very well any more for people who are so embedded in these political arguments. We have to somehow jar them loose from that thinking.

Of course, when something nasty happens in their own backyard that almost forces them to rethink. And when we see temperatures in the 90s and 100s throughout the South and Midwest for days and weeks at a time, well, I mean, that’s horrible. People are suffering and animals are suffering and so on.

But at the same time it’s like, “Okay folks, wake up time.”

LC: It’s tragic to think it has to be a disaster that gets us going, that catalyzes change.

And I agree with you about humor. Obviously, I think Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and people like that do a lot to ease those tensions and also get some good information out there. One of the best performing stories on our website was that Erik made up this Global Warming Truth Index and cited what the temperature was outside of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity’s houses. And if it was below the historic average then global warming was disproved.

RH: Ha, ha!

LC: People loved it. It’s just been huge!

Simple conversations with friends and loved ones

LC: But on to another question.

In your chapter on “Why Growth Won’t Return,” you list many compounding factors — fossil fuel declines/price spikes, water withdrawal and degraded quality, a strain on phosphorous and minerals affecting soil and food production, etc. This “Peak Everything” scenario, like your earlier book of the same name, describes these multiple stressors.

Given our current cultural climate here in the States, as witnessed most recently in the dysfunctional political debate over the debt, do you foresee an ability for our people to take on these challenges with any degree of seriousness? What kind of scenario do you imagine will take us away from demagoguery and into viable, responsible action?

Or are we at “peak sanity,” too?

RH: Ha, ha! Well, I hope not.

Looking back in history there are examples of these moments of profound change where the old rules stop working because the old rules were kind out of touch with reality to start with. And very often people do just kind of collectively go insane at moments like that.

They start believing in either religious or political ideas that are just completely divorced from reality. And yet they’re basing their whole lives and futures on these ideas. It’s not hard to see that happening right now in the US.

How to change that? I wish I had a surefire, easy answer.

Just throwing facts at people is not necessarily going to do it. Obviously I’m kind of doing some of that. I write books and give interviews where I try to give what I think are the relevant data and facts and give realistic weight to them and so on.

But ultimately it’s going to have to come down to us as individuals. I mean all of us having difficult conversations with our relatives and our neighbors. And when I say “difficult” I don’t mean pounding on them and trying to force them to change their minds. I mean just really engaging with them as people and then finding what we can agree on.

We all do want to see a better future. We all are afraid of the hard times that are upon us.

Those are two things we can start with.

I think we all agree that we want to see our communities come through this. And that we want to be good neighbors and we want to have good neighbors. So if we start there with the real, real basics maybe we can begin to rebuild some civility and some sanity in our society.

LC: Yeah and I think there’s a lot of areas of commonality too, at that real up close level. Seems like gardening is really taking off and that can be resilience without even articulating that it’s resilience if some people don’t want to talk about that. Or keeping chickens.

Or buying locally. It’s just a really happy idea. No one really gripes about, “No, I don’t want to buy from my neighbor,” unless maybe the prices are a little higher.

So in addition to those conversations — and I think you’re right, I think they need to be direct — there are fortunately some of these other things. Your award winning little film, for example, told the story in a very compelling and fun way. Didn’t it win some kind of people’s choice award? The Post Carbon film?

RH: We won a YouTube award for best non-profit short video. Of course YouTube put it up on it’s front page for a day. And we’ve had close to a million views now on that little short video.

LC: Yeah, that’s a good way of telling a story. The communication technology that’s available today to tell these kinds of stories. I hope that they’ll make a difference.

Technology won’t save us

LC:  But there are two areas that many people turn to when refuting ideas (and research) that point to the end of growth or the limits to energy. Both involve innovation. Either the “technology will save us argument.” Or that business will always find a way to adapt and reinvent itself. You look at this in your chapter “Won’t Innovation, Substitution and Efficiency Save Us?”

Why are you skeptical about these perceived miracle cures?

RH: Efficiency, innovation, substitution are all real phenomena. As we changed our light bulbs from incandescents to compact fluorescents and then to LEDs, that’s substitution and it’s increasing energy efficiency. It’s a good thing to do and we use less energy to produce the same amount of light. Great.

But efficiency, energy efficiency is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Now once we get to LED lights, we kind of got all the low hanging fruit. LED lights first of all are currently pretty damn expensive. Hopefully they’ll get less expensive, and we’ll be able to change out all our lights for LEDs at some point in the next few years. But once we’re there, there are inherent technical limits to how much electricity will produce how much light. And we’re certainly within those limits.

That wasn’t the case when we were using incandescents. Those were relatively very inefficient so that it was easy to increase the efficiency of lighting relatively cheaply. Now to get even another increment of efficiency is going to be difficult and expensive. That’s true in all areas of society.

Further, the kinds of innovations that we’re looking at — I think most people have too high expectations in that regard. We look at computer and cell phone technologies, it’s always changing. It’s amazing what we’re doing today in these technological fields. Communications, computing.

However that’s only one small sector of technology.

The technologies that we mostly rely on in our daily lives whether we think about it or not, are in the food system, and the transport system, and the energy sector. And the technologies in those fields are slow moving. They’re slow to adapt and slow to change and it’s very expensive to get fundamental technological change in those areas.

Yeah, we have electric cars now. But you know, how long would it take at current rates of adoption for, let’s say 50% of the US fleet to be electric cars? Well, it’s not going to happen next year, or the next, or even in a decade or two at current rates of adoption. It’s probably going to be more like 50, 75 years. Of course, by that time we’re looking at a post-, a deep post-peak oil world where it’ll almost be a moot question as to what’s powering our cars because we probably won’t even have cars at that point.

LC: Is that where people, perhaps in the popular mind — again because there’s failure of leadership to have these kinds of conversations — that your average person considers only the fuel that goes in to driving the car, but not what it costs to make all the other component parts of the car, to maintain the car, to pave the roads that the car drives on, the lights that the car stops at? And the energy that goes in to all that?

RH: Right.

LC: These multiple factors just for one aspect of our life, just the transportation piece of it. Is that not well understood by the average person?

RH: Right, right. We don’t encourage people to understand that because we want them to believe that technology can do anything. Again, when I say “we,” I’m really putting myself in the shoes of the managers of the economy.

Because there is profit to be made from new technologies, so there is also profit to be made from spreading the view that technology is capable of miracles. We’ve been sold that point of view over the course of decades.

When you go back to the 1930s and look at the covers of Mechanix Illustrated, and some of the other popular science magazines of that era, and it’s just absolutely blatant, it’s funny. It’s kind of cute and wonderful —

LC: Kitsch?

RH: Childlike. Yeah, right. This childlike faith that technology is just going to make anything possible. “We’ll live forever! Everyone will be the equivalent of a billionaire! We’ll have robots taking care of all of our needs!”

LC: Ha, ha.

RH: To a certain extent that’s happened. You know, within limits, the average modern American is living a lifestyle that’s the equivalent of a king or a queen in ancient times.

But there are limits. And we’re approaching those limits. And technology per se isn’t going to make that much difference.

Technology, innovation and efficiency will be ways of helping us to adapt to a post-growth economy. But they’re not going to forestall the end of growth.

Managing contraction

LC: And particularly troublesome for me — I just worry that the fantasies that are held out are another contributing factor that get in the way of people understanding what we’re facing.

I’m not big for the fear-mongering either. I think we should remain upright and engaged and adapt and move through this but, when technology is pushed so much as the language of how we see ourselves then I think it makes it that much more difficult to shake people from those foundations. I just think it’s a tragedy, as you said earlier.

But you have some ideas for managing contraction responsibly and with forethought. What are the most important of these for policy makers — presuming they will begin to change the paradigm of their thinking, and also for individuals and families?

RH: This extends to all areas of society. So it’s really a comprehensive shift. But one thing that I think is really important is to begin to rein in the financial system per se.

Our economy has become like an inverted pyramid in terms of the amount of capital that’s floating around on a daily basis just in currency trades and shifting of paper. It’s absolutely enormous. I think it’s something like $4 trillion a day just in currency trades.

We need to shrink the financial economy and support the real economy of production and jobs.

How do we do that?

Well, one thing we could do is to tax purely financial transactions like currency trades. Even a one percent tax. You know, what’s one percent of $4 trillion? I’d have to get out my slide rule.

LC: Don’t ask me, ha, ha, ha. (Ed: It’s $40 billion.)

RH: It’s a large number compared to how much we collect in say income taxes. We could reduce income taxes, help people by incentivizing their production and consumption of real necessities just by doing things like that. That’s the low-hanging fruit and we need to start there.

Then of course, there’s the military budget. We have in the United States, we have this huge welfare system for weapons manufacturers where they don’t even have to engage in competitive bidding and they’re guaranteed certain levels of profits all in the name of national security.

This is insane.

We can’t afford to do that anymore as a society. We can’t afford to be a war like country. Guess what?

LC: Okay.

RH: So that’s part of this economic transition that has to occur.

And then, of course, it’s going to reach into agriculture, transportation, our building standards, all the way through our industrial infrastructure. We’re going to have to think about how to do things with less energy. How to support that transition. How to put people to work, rebuilding that infrastructure. And how to pay for all of that. Again, it’s got to come from somewhere and I think the military and the financial sector are the likely targets.

LC: Sounds good. So is there anything coming up for you that we should let our readers know about? Are you appearing anywhere? Will you be at ASPO? Something online?

RH: I’m doing just tons of interviews right now so if people are listening to their radio they might hear me popping up from time to time.

LC: Is your schedule online?

RH: Yeah, it should be online.

LC: I’ll check there to see where our readers can see you or hear you and we’ll announce anything major on Transition Voice.

LC: Anything else you’d like to say to them?

RH Good luck!

LC: Okay, thank you Richard! I really appreciate your time today.

RH: Yeah, thank you Lindsay!

Ed: See when Richard Heinberg will be in your neck of the woods or on the radio or TV at TheEndOfGrowth.com.

– Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice

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Comments

  1. Auntiegrav says

    “This old, you know, “If the people will lead the leaders will follow.” It just doesn’t seem as if that shift has occurred up at the top.”

    Leadership is a generation behind. The current leadership is following what the people were doing in the -90’s and the -00’s: seeking cheap energy and easy money to buy solutions.
    The people in Transition are seeking solutions that come from local sources.
    Leadership transitions only after it fails. The current process of failure is only beginning to be seen at the top. It starts with the money, then moves to logistic failures, then to the failure of the ideology. As long as there are people who believe hard in Capitalism and Opportunism, then the ideology will hang on with its fingernails.
    People at the bottom already know that competition and cooperation cannot coexist philosophically, but they still believe that leadership and power come from outside their ‘team’, and that they don’t have to be The One that stands up and makes a decision to lead in a different direction than they have always followed. That’s where the next generation of leadership comes from: the bottom.
    It always has done so, whether in the form of Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Stalin and Hitler.

  2. Sunny says

    I like Heinberg’s idea of talking to friends and neighbors, but haven’t we all been doing that for several years now? I’m not sure that’s going to cut it if we want to start having public conversations about these issues on local, regional, and national levels in time to actually make a difference. How can we make peak growth and transition a hip cultural movement? That’s the question I’d like to see answered in the next book.

    • says

      We have a story coming out tomorrow that points to once channel, a group called Evolver. And of course there is the Transition Movement, whose growth has been phenomenal. But I agree that the “hip” factor isn’t always there, and that does make a difference in making those connection s and having them last.

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