Naomi Klein and the Letdown of the Leap Manifesto: Energy Depletion Dismissal is Just as Bad as Climate Change Denial [part 1/4]

Over the years I've had the pleasure of chatting with Naomi Klein on a few different occasions; there was that first Prairie Festival at the Land Institute in Kansas that we both happened to attend in 2010, that second Prairie Festival which she spoke at in 2011, and the opening night talk she gave at the Toronto Reference Library the day before her latest book (This Changes Everything) was released – not to mention all those other times I've seen her speaking in Toronto (where we both used to live for several years). And although I've only very briefly spoken once to Klein's filmmaker-husband Avi Lewis (at that second Prairie Festival), there was that time in Toronto that Lewis and I stood next to each other for about half an hour and managed to say not a single word to each other. But I'll get to that in part 2.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Is this amount of negativity really helpful? See my comment at

Editor’s note: Upon updating their WordPress system comments from previously-posted articles (using Disqus) on Resilience disappeared. You can however still see the comment thread on Disqus itself here, which was much more lively than what can be read here on FF2F.

As I responded to you on Resilience:

To start off with where you finished off, if you look again at the first few paragraphs you’ll notice that I said that I’ve had the pleasure to speak with Klein on several occasions, and that The Shock Doctrine was one of the three books that floored me upon first reading them (the other two being by Wendell Berry and Andrew Nikiforuk, high company I would say). Without having gone into specifics, I think it’s still fair to say that I’ve established some common ground there.

To answer your first question, it seems to me that energy depletion is a non-issue to Klein, at best. Problem with that, as I explained in the post, is that I think it limits one’s understanding of various economic factors that are at play today, austerity being one of them.

Regarding your second question, I almost get the impression that you’re inferring that just because Klein has written many great things (which she certainly has) on climate change and much else that she then gets a free pass to err on other issues. I disagree. Moreover, I think Klein’s dismissal of energy depletion issues have consequences that she would be adamantly against (as per The Shock Doctrine), but I’ll have all those thoughts collected for part 2 next week.

While pushing peak oil as a cause for everything might work among the acolytes, that does not mean that the word of others is less valuable because they are smarter, or perhaps less gullible, than the acolytes.

On this blog the words “energy depletion” aren’t even used correctly, the same kind of self-reference material so common among peak oilers.

Energy depletion happens at the solar level, and has been going on for billions of years, but isn’t bothering anyone much. Oil depletion began officially in 1859 but actually began earlier using surface seeps (sourced from below and therefore just as much oil depletion as Ghawar), natural gas depletion has been going on for so long that natural gas plumes, long term leakage from reservoirs leaking hydrocarbons, can be found in seismic reflections, fossil remnants of gas fields long since purged to the atmosphere. All are types of energy depletion that has been ongoing for millennia, but suddenly, because a blogger somewhere just found out about it, it must be the cause for…everything!! Sort of like the unified field theory for bad economic ideas, because the economists, they are the ones who knew that peak oil a decade ago was a crock. How? Because they, unlike the acolytes, had the ability to examine the resources known and remaining, calculate the prices at which it was economic to produce them, and knew that there was plenty of room left to run. This applies to the geoscientists who provided them with that information as well.

As for the peak oil unified field theory folks…well. Few are left, and of the few that are left, none of them have any credibility after what happened AFTER their holy event. Can’t even use the bell shaped curve anymore without giggling and laughter from an audience drowning them out.

You’re back! For a while there I thought you’d disappeared forever. You commented, of course, on my review of Inman’s book on Hubbert, but we haven’t heard from you since. I was quite happy to see that you had nothing to say on my post on transgendered restroom access, even though I mentioned peak oil in it. So while I’m glad to have learned that you aren’t offended by transgendered people, it’s a shame to see that you’re still offended by peak oil. But don’t worry, I have faith that you’ll grasp it one day, and in the meantime there will always be a place for you here at FF2F. Keep up the good work Johnny!

I read what you post, but the last 3 part series just didn’t do it for me. Speculating in the political realm lacks the rigor of the physical sciences, and can change as fast as the US decides to get involved, or someone dies, or a bunch of citizens get ***** and decide to throw the bums out.

I doubt transgender bathrooms have any more to do with peak oil than energy depletion in general, in the sense that you use it, which is to say poorly, with zero historical or scientific context, but as just the next boogie man coming down the pike.

And peak oil doesn’t offend me in the least, those who don’t take the time to understand the terms, figure out the history or scientific context of peak oil do.

Hope you have been well in the meantime, and keep tilting at those windmills! If there is one truism related to oil, it is that the cure for low oil prices is low oil prices, and sooner or later the Church of Peak will begin to sing in tune again as the cure arrives. Malthusians are nothing if not predictable!

Why We Will Run Out Of Soil And Water Before We Have 100% Renewable Energy

Okay, I see where you’re coming from in regards to not commenting on those posts. Nonetheless, and I hope I’m not being too pushy here, but do you think you could try a little harder? I mean, without all your obfuscation, things over here at FF2F can get a little, well, lonely.

I do see some problems for renewables due to our economic situation as well. Part 2 will cover that. And to be fair, Klein does call for a more ecologically-based agriculture, and she is well aware of The Land Institute’s work with perennial polycultures to preserve the soil. However, I don’t see how we can do that without a higher “eyes to acres ratio,” as Wes Jackson puts it, but I’ll get to that in part 3.

A lot of bright people are in denial and agree with Klein.

Klein has no need for denial because she’s not very bright.

Yeah, there’s a lot of people in denial. But to say that Klein isn’t very bright is completely incorrect. She’s got a lot to offer, of which I think could be improved with a few clarifications. I recall seeing her sitting at a picnic table while having a personal conversation with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson at that Prairie Festival in 2010. That’s no small company she was sharing there, and I don’t think those two would have gone out of their way to chat with her if they didn’t feel similarly towards her. (And man was I wishing that I could be a fly on that table!)

To be honest Allan, it isn’t obfuscation on my part when others just don’t get the technological, geologic and economic history of what peak oil was, is, or might be.

For you it is just a cool idea that you relate to random current events, assuming causality because you don’t know any better. Nothing to be ashamed of, you just don’t have the requisite understanding in the sciences involved, let alone history of this neo-malthusian/luddite wet dream.

Wait a second, who told you about my wet dreams?

Klein’s book is mainly disappointing in its conclusion, which deflects questions of precise understanding of the social change necessary to combat climate change.

There is an almost exclusive attention to supply side issues and how these might be addressed (which is extremely comprehensive), whilst there is almost no consideration given to demand side issues.

A parallel can be drawn between the war on fossil fuels and the war on drugs. Both these types of pixie dust have immensely useful and damaging properties which we humans find highly addictive and almost impossible to resist. Attempts to limit the production of fossil fuels are likely to be as ineffectual as the paramilitary efforts to halt the production of cocaine and heroin without a major and unlikely change in human nature.

We are truly addicted to the magical properties of coal, gas and oil, which, amongst many other highly desirable things, allows us to effortlessly travel vast distances. Irony upon irony I notice that Klein herself, with no apparent trace of irony, refers to her own frequent flier (celebrity) status acquired from traveling hundreds of thousands of miles by air…

I hear you. We hear survey after survey where the results state that people overwhelmingly want governments to take action on climate change. But how can we expect governments to change their policies and such when besides the occasional token gesture the people themselves don’t want to change?

You might like part 3, out next week.