The following remarks were addressed by Stuart Heady, an Arizona activist, to Snohomish County (WA) activist Don McManus, on the political dimension of the peak oil problem, and are reproduced here with permission.  --  Heady writes: “The American public is living in an unprecedented condition of mass illusion. This has to be dispelled.”  --  UFPPC’s June 2 statement on peak oil and the media is a small step in this direction....

By Stuart Heady, Tsaile, AZ
June 2, 2005

It was amazing how relaxed everyone got as prices backed down just a little, even though they remained higher than ever.

The media messages seemed to flow from an assumption that price hikes were a temporary phenomenon mostly due to emotional futures market speculators who were spooked by their own shadows.

We saw a response being trotted out as the crowd that wants to get rich off of building nuclear reactors got in some press opportunities.

Very little about the big picture was even in letters to the editor.

I think the political strategy problem is that the press does not take initiative to get out front even when it is an obvious situation. This means there is a need for public pressure on both the media and political leadership.

The problem if you are running for office is that you probably won't be perceived very well if you run on the Peak Oil problem. If you are in public office, you can't talk about it without losing the credibility that is so important to getting other policy issues taken care of. The problem is that there is no predicate, that is, the understanding that the public needs before an issue can even be discussed, has not been developed.

There is a political logjam in effect. At the head of the jam, is a confluence of constipated and stuck thinking.

Successful politicians see their success in the same light that political consultants see it. This is dependent on a reading of public attitudes and media attitudes. The media keys on what primarily is good for the bottom line, and conversely, what might threaten it. The grand perception is rooted in constant worry about the consumer confidence index. Media organizations have, over the years, been severely punished for not paying attention. A dirty little secret of the media industry is that newspapers or other organizations that stray too far from paying attention to this get punished. Lines of credit can be pulled. The whole organization can go out of business and people employed by it can lose their jobs. This is very painful. The reason that Peak Oil has to be treated as if it were too hot to touch is that oil is connected with the entire economy. Bad news or even thoughts about potential negatives are therefore very likely to be avoided.

The problem is that this is not about the rising of prices at the gas pump. This is about a paradigm shift for both the general economy and society locally, nationally, and on a planetwide scale.

The energy conservation movement has been politically viable for about thirty years, motivated by a core of activists concerned about the future, but supported by conservative voters concerned about utility rates and looking for thrift in local government. The present oil price crisis opens up the possibility of enlargement in this base of support.

People are already looking with renewed interest to buy energy efficient cars and to trade in their SUVs.

The problem is strategic, as well as tactical. But the predicate for policy based on the big picture needs to be laid.

What a small group of activists can do at this time is to write letters to public officials and to the public via blogs and letters to the editor. The basic problem is to define terms and to connect the dots.

We aren't just complaining about the rise of prices at the pumps.

We have to be calling attention to the fact that there is a paradigm shift in the works and that it is time that our political leadership move their butts in a new direction.

In foreign policy, we need to be working to create cooperation among the entire human race that offers the best chance that the largest number of humans will survive into the twenty-second century.

The "bottleneck" proposed by E.O. Wilson in his book The Future of Life ought to be repeatedly referred to. This is the graphic way of getting across the probable survival threshold for all humans and all other species on this planet that we are facing due to a convergence of conditions.

The cover needs to be ripped off of the way the consumer/entertainment matrix has eclipsed any sunlight that might be shone on the true state of our situation. The fact that it is so pervasive should be a really scary indicator of just how much is at stake for the corporate interests. Because the press is under bondage to these interests, and because political success for all political candidates is so fundamentally tied into this, it is therefore up to individual activists to get the message across to others on whatever basis it can be.

We aren't really looking for a little press coverage here or there or some verbal encouragement from a person elected to office, we have to be looking for a paradigm shift.

Otherwise, nothing will change.

The American public is living in an unprecedented condition of mass illusion. This has to be dispelled.

Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership seems to be as much under the spell as the public and the media. This has given rise to Bush, since he is a product of the effort that has been in effect since the rise of the media age to get control of the psychological environment to the extent needed to sell consumer products and the entire economic paradigm based on consumer growth.

Peak Oil cannot be addressed as a separate concern in the public arena, but the paradigm is in very big trouble and there needs to be honest debate about the reality of the situation and what the alternatives might be.

In particular, the Democratic Party cannot be allowed to weasel out of addressing this, no matter how scary it is.