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Upcoming film and discussion Sept. 3: "To the Ends of the Earth," on the desperate quest for MORE oil, and its context

August 29, 2017


  1. On Sunday, September 3, 1:00 pm, at the Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, we are showing "To the Ends of the Earth," with discussion
  2. We are trying to catalyze discussions and actions at a more serious level than we usually see
  3. Ask your friends if they want to receive these updates. If so they should write us.
  4. We are looking for volunteers to help with climate and solar outreach
  5. We must now raise money

Dear friends,

1. On Sunday September 3, 1:00 pm, at the Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, we are showing "To the Ends of the Earth," with discussion

If you can, please come!

We gave a brief introduction to this film and why we are showing it in our last letter. Since Trump-bashing is so easy (and misses the point), let's hand the mic to President Obama now. Here he is, speaking at West Point in May, 2014:

The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation...From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us...The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how...America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos. (emphasis added or restored)

These rising middle classes in other countries -- which President Obama said were dispensable -- for what resources do they "compete with us"?

Centrally, oil. The U.S. and China are the world's largest oil importers. U.S. oil imports increased 7.4% last year. China's increased 9.1%. This cannot go on.

So what about our own middle classes, which are in clear decline? Candidate Trump said he would make them "great" again. This will not happen. Candidate Clinton simply cut off a great swath of the population from further serious consideration -- the "deplorables."

Why mention all this? Because "peak oil," as we will come to see, is a class phenomenon created by selective economic decline, not high oil prices. It's personal.

Meanwhile (and despite today's relatively low oil prices), there is a scramble for oil going on, literally "to the ends of the earth" as the title of this documentary has it. This scramble is leading not just toward environmental destruction but also, if not slowed and halted, toward more war -- not "just" today's proxy wars and direct U.S. "wars of aggression" against weak countries (the worst international crime, said the Nuremberg Tribunal) -- which together have produced millions of casualties and refugees to date -- but potentially between nuclear powers as well.

Please come if you can to the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque on Sunday, September 3 at 1:00 pm for a showing of "To the Ends of the Earth," followed by discussion.

For the record, here are some past essays on the oil-climate-economy-war-community-response nexus, from our blog.

  • Sustainability Requires Resistance (9/27/16). [ ...] And save our communities. We aren’t doing that. What’s stopping us? In emergencies citizens usually respond rapidly, with surprising selflessness and skill. But our biggest emergencies are hidden in plain sight. Even most committed activists don’t really understand the urgency of the crises we face, or how quickly they are unraveling our communities.
  • The Crisis at Hand, the Emergency Mode, and the Need for Full-Scale Mobilization (7/31/16).  A healthy response to the emergency we face means taking appropriate action and staying connected – with reality and to each other. Dysfunctional responses include endless distractions, despair, and any of the numerous policy fantasies available to us at little cost.
  • “We must triage the threats we face” (3/16/16). As for lesser priorities, which we could all name, we may or may not have time or resources for them. If they conflict with these goals or similar ones, if they distract us, we may need to let them go. That is triage, something we face in disasters and war. We’re there now. Now we can devise and carry out skillful treatments...
  • “What is to be done” (12/31/15)...Perhaps especially in the educated and politically-active professional classes, denial and hopeful fantasies are the norm. It is toward this group that the distortions and strategic silences of the elite press, and the misdirection and distancing practices that usually dominate academia, are especially aimed. We have to re-educate ourselves, and it has to be done in part bodily, through action, and socially, as well as intellectually.
  • Turning point for oil, and us (2/6/15). There are big things happening just now in oil, which will affect literally everything, including of course all human “best laid schemes.” If you don’t read anything else in this post, read Ron Patterson’s blog post “Why we are at Peak Oil Right Now“, Jeffrey Brown’s short commentary, and Matt Mushalik’s most recent post (“Peak…
  • Season of the Witch (7/4/14). "Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. We cannot avoid…" 
  • The ignored gravity of our civilizational crisis – and the majesty of a wholehearted response (2/9/14). "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be only?" Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”  … in The Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis (1924) [Freud] wrote the following: “Neurosis does not disavow the reality, it ignores it; psychosis disavows it and tries…
  • Perfect storm (4/4/13). Today I want to take up the theme of why assumptions of economic normalcy for the rest of the present decade are misplaced.  It’s a big subject and this is a long post.  Even so, much of the weight of the argument is carried by referenced articles. Cassandra had a credibility problem.… 
  • The submerged mind of Empire (3/27/13). “One thought alone occupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era.” J.M. Coetze, Waiting for the Barbarians. But things which can’t continue, won’t.  These include not just the U.S. empire but, looking to the whole developed world, our luxurious way of life…
  • Re: enraging desert (3/20/13). "So, the question of evil, like the question of ugliness, refers primarily to the anesthetized heart, the heart that has no reaction to what it faces, thereby turning the variegated sensuous face of the world into monotony, sameness, oneness. The desert of modernity. Surprisingly, this desert is not heartless, because the desert is where the lion lives..."

2. We are trying to catalyze discussions and actions at a more serious level than we see around us

Friends, we do not see sufficiently-serious discussions and actions taking place around us. The hopes and platform planks of progressive Democrats, for example, will not be fulfilled to the extent they implicitly rely on economic growth and do not incorporate the need to disinvest from the military. Theories that our society, at anywhere near present consumption levels, could be based on "100% renewable energy," as we see stated by various environmental organizations, are simply fantasies. There are now peer-reviewed papers to explain this in greater depth if you are interested.
"Simplify," said Henry Thoreau. First-world consumption levels must come down -- way down -- to be based on 100% renewable energy. We just aren't hearing that essential truth.  

Political and environmental fantasies, whether presented by sincere people or demagogues, are dangerous. They undercut our knowledge and sense of reality -- our con-science, what we know together, which is as the word implies the basis for moral action. It is the only basis for society that we have. Propaganda and partisan echo chambers cannot be the basis for our moral and spiritual life, let alone for our practical response to the existential crises we face, which involve and require participation by all of us. Now.

I am mentioning this because I am not sure we are being understood on these points. We here at the Study Group are not quite on "the same side" as today's environmental community, for example. Yes, we share many values, hopes, and concerns and will try to help with limited reform agendas whenever we can. But we want to catalyze thought and action at another level of seriousness altogether -- an emergency level. As we wrote to you at the beginning of the year,

We are living at the end of an age. A huge storm, bigger than any humanity has ever known, is barreling toward us. Already the wind is rising, the barometer falling. The first rain bands have arrived. We cannot see far into the dark clouds massed on the horizon. Everything we have known is starting to change, radically.

We live and work partly in one world that is vanishing, and partly in the brave new world that is taking its place.

Hurricane Harvey is not really just "over there." It's a hurricane and it's a metaphor. It's the world we are entering. Neither are our wars just "over there." A society addicted to oil and saturated in war, with the dams about to break, is incapable of prioritizing its own children, let alone those elsewhere.

3.Ask your friends if they want to receive these updates. If so they should write us.

We would like to recruit people to our mailing lists. Please ask your friends. We offer two levels of engagement. 

  • Our main listserve, which receives bulletins (roughly monthly) and press releases (also about monthly, apparently). Send a blank email here to subscribe. This list is open to all.
  • Our four New Mexico mailing lists (Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and everywhere else), which get less-formal letters like this roughly twice per month (increasing to weekly we hope, with more useful local information). To get on one of these lists, email Trish or Greg. Everybody who is on these local lists is also on the wider, main list.

4. We are looking for volunteers to help with climate and solar outreach

As explained in letters of July 20 and July 25 and in Bulletin 232 ("Nuclear power for your home and business." July 19), we seek climate and solar "ambassadors" who would like to work with us in reaching out to friends, neighbors, organizations, churches, and networks to galvanize discussions about the climate crisis AND to promote solar energy.

If you want to get involved, call us at 505-265-1200 or email Trish or Greg. Some of you are already involved -- thank you.

5. We must now raise money

Friends, now that our summer internship program is over and we have the freedom to re-focus somewhat, we must raise money. We really need your help. Our fundraising appeal of late 2016 is still germane; you can find more information about us and our accomplishments in similar end-of-year letters from 2015 and 2014.

There are many ways to contribute. See the header of this message for some. Call (505-265-1200) or write. We will be broadening this appeal, using not just via email but through social media as well. Any help you can provide is welcome. 

Thank you, and see some of you on Sunday,

Greg Mello, for the Los Alamos Study Group

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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200

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