http://carolynbaker.net
Reprinted from MM NEWS

US-historian and author Carolyn Baker is a critical commentator of social justice and environmental events. In an exclusive interview for MMNews she discusses the connection between 9-11 and Peak Oil, the coming food crisis, Permaculture and the Sustainability Movement in the U.S.

Carolyn Baker holds a PhD in Counseling, has published four books, was Managing Editor for “From the Wilderness” (www.fromthewilderness.com) and for 11 years an adjunct professor of history and psychology. Furthermore, she manages Speaking Truth to Power at www.carolynbaker.net, a website offering breaking alternative news and options for navigating unprecedented transitions. She published in February of last year her latest book “Sacred Demise. Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse“, which is available at her website and at Amazon. She lives in Colorado, U.S.A.

 Ms. Baker, is it fine with you to kick off this interview with a little historical talk?

 

Certainly.

Okay, then seen from a historical point of view: are there similarities that you observe between the era of the Great Depression and the financial / economic crisis of our time?

 

Not only are there similarities, but in my opinion, we are in the beginning stages of the Second Great Depression. Anyone who reads the work of Ellen Brown, Chris Martenson, Kevin Phillips, Catherine Austin Fitts, Bob Chapman, John Williams, or Michael Hudson, knows that it is only a matter of time until the gargantuan debt bubble created in the past two decades will explode in the coming years or months, resulting in global economic cataclysm. In tandem with this collapse will be massive food shortages and an unprecedented crisis in food production worldwide.

One part of the problem is what Ellen Brown would call “the Web of Debt”. A massive chunk of the federal debt that the U.S. is accumulating is spent at the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), especially under the Administration of George W. Bush. May you tell us a bit about the genealogy of the MIC as part of American history in the 20th Century? How did it become so important for the U.S. economy and why did war profiteering became the career of choice in the Beltway? Doesn’t it mean that Anton Chekhov’s classic observation will fulfill itself: “If there’s a gun on the wall at the beginning of the play, by the end it must go off”?

 

We have primarily World War II to thank for the burgeoning of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). That war was fought in part to pull America out of the Great Depression and to establish the United States as the world’s number one super-power. Although Dwight Eisenhower, a five-star general in World War II, warned us in the last hours of his presidency in 1960 to “beware the military industrial complex,” it had already become a fait accompli for the weapons industry and those who were shaping American foreign policy.

The creation of the CIA in 1947 was ideal for fomenting conflicts around the world, overthrowing governments, and not only establishing the supremacy of the U.S. around the globe, but assuring massive profits for the weapon’s industry. After all, in this way we “kill two birds with one stone”, so to speak, as we extend our nationalist imperialist agenda and at the same time, help the weapon’s industry flourish.

Along this line, everyone should read, unpleasant as it may be, Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This brilliant tome provides superbly documented research on U.S. foreign and economic policy during the past 60 years that connects the dots and reveals how the “web of debt” and the MIC make perfect sense to the ruling elite.

 

Ms. Baker, I know that you pay close attention to the phenomenon of Peak Oil. Now there are different approaches one could deal with Peak Oil. The problem itself is not new to federal agencies in the U.S. like for example the CIA. In an article entitled “Smoking Gun”, Richard Heinberg documented that the CIA had an interest in Peak Oil since the 1970’s onward. 1 Nevertheless, it seems as if the US-Government in the new century wants to solve this long anticipated problem through warfare. Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied by American troops, Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Yemen seems to be next on the target list. Would it be still absurd to say that the primary goal of these wars exists in the plan to secure the crude oil supply for the U.S.A. in years to come?

 

Yes, I think that is entirely accurate. Michael Klare’s book Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict documents that essentially, almost all global conflicts will from hereon be driven by the quest for energy and resources. While to some extent this has always been the case, the reality of Peak Oil and the thirst for hydrocarbon energy as a means of maintaining civilization’s lifestyle, now guarantees increasing and widening conflicts worldwide.

The justification for going to war against Afghanistan and Iraq originated from the terror attacks that took place in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11th, 2001. As an historian do you see evidence that those terror attacks on American soil and the phenomenon Peak Oil are directly connected to each other?

 

Indeed I do see them as inextricably connected, and no one has researched this more thoroughly than Mike Ruppert in Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of The American Empire at The End of The Age of Oil. In Rubicon, the author in some 700 pages with over 1000 footnotes, documents that the attacks were orchestrated by entities within the United States government which were intimately connected with the petroleum industry. What we have seen in Iraq and what we are now seeing in Afghanistan confirms Ruppert’s hypothesis.

We know for example, that former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, stated in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, that the United States must direct its foreign policy and military muscle toward reinforcing that policy in Eurasia—the precise area in which Afghanistan is located and surrounded by a number of other oil-rich nations.1

Like Shock Doctrine, Crossing The Rubicon is an absolutely must-read for anyone endeavoring to grasp U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century.

The official narration of 9-11 was never put in doubt by the mainstream media in the U.S. Furthermore, the mainstream press does not discuss Peak Oil to the extent it should. May this have something to do with the inter-action between monopoly capital and monopoly culture as an entire social order? The media and publishing houses in the U.S. “are not”, as author Michael Parenti points out, “merely influenced by business ideology but are themselves profit-making corporate conglomerates”.3 That given, isn’t the truth always in danger if it doesn’t chime with the economic interests of the Big Money Boys?

Well, let’s start with Peak Oil. In the 1950s, M. King Hubbert, a petroleum geologist, introduced the concept to the America and the world and was taken seriously by no one. He had predicted that oil production in the U.S. would peak in 1970, and as a matter of fact, it did. The U.S. government has known about Peak Oil for at least 60 years and has done nothing about it because the United States is a corporatocracy in which it is virtually impossible to distinguish where the power of corporations ends and the power of the federal government begins. No politician who intends to get elected or re-elected is going to talk about Peak Oil. It’s not good for business, and politicians don’t like to bring bad news to their constituents. So until the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the energy issue was swept under the rug. Mike Ruppert points this out in his book (not the movie but the book) Collapse.

In the 1970s, Carter went on TV and told Americans that there was a deep energy crisis, that they must lower their energy consumption, drive 55 mph, and turn down their thermostats. He too was scorned, and was not re-elected to a second term. Many factors played a role in his defeat, but his insistence on energy conservation and a focus on developing renewables, was a part of his demise.

I completely agree with Michael Parenti’s analysis above. It is one reason why in 2006 I began publishing the Speaking Truth to Power website at www.carolynbaker.net, a site that operates on a subscription model and provides its subscribers 7 days a week with not only alternative news regarding the unprecedented transitions we are facing, but also options for navigating them.

In the year 2006 you went so far to call the government of the U.S. a “Godfather Government”.4 Can you tell us please why you came up with this conclusion? And do you see a significant change since Barack Obama is President?

 

Yes, I was one of few in 2006 who was naming the United States government what it is—a criminal enterprise. Again, Shock Doctrine and Crossing The Rubicon document the levels of corruption in government and the symbiosis between government and corporate capitalism as I also do in my book U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Doesn’t Tell You.

Here in the U.S. we have just lost one of the most remarkable historians in the modern world, Howard Zinn. Zinn’s historical analysis greatly inspired me to write U.S. History Uncensored, and that analysis greatly informed my book. One reader went so far as to call my book “Howard Zinn on steroids.”

Yes, there has been a significant change since Obama was elected, and that change is that the corruption has deepened and expanded exponentially! Goldman Sachs now virtually runs the U.S. Treasury. One need only Google the name Matt Taibbi and read his research regarding Goldman Sachs’ role in the financial collapse of 2008, and as you read it, remember that that corporation contributed more money to Obama’s campaign than any other.

A friend recently sent me a cartoon in which a young man approaches his father and says, “Dad, I’m thinking about a career in organized crime.” The father replies, “In government or in the private sector?”

Another thing that you pay close attention to is food production. In order to get to my next question, I would like to quote Marshall Auerback from an interview I had with him. Mr Auerback stated that:

“Oil is undoubtedly a very important component of the global economy and energy (along with food) is a key non-discretionary essential without which we couldn’t sustain our current standard of living.”5

Ms. Baker, can you connect the dots between both “key non-discretionary essentials”, please, by telling how hydrocarbon-intensive food production is in modern times?

 

Well, the best way to see this all in one fell swoop is to watch The End of Suburbia which superbly documents how hydrocarbon-intensive food production is.6 Another way is to read Dale Allen Pfeiffer’s groundbreaking article which was originally published as a From The Wilderness exclusive entitled “Eating Fossil Fuels.”7

All food products grown in the ground by way of factory farming, which has nearly a monopoly on commercial agriculture, use petroleum-based pesticides and natural gas-based fertilizers. Agricultural products are harvested with fossil fuel-intense machinery then shipped by truck to grocery stores. Both the transportation and refrigeration are totally dependent on petroleum. This system is extremely fragile, and it takes very little dysfunction in it to prevent food from reaching the shelves of your local market. When that happens, and it will happen within the next five years, we will see food shortages and skyrocketing prices.

Recently, Jim Rogers told CNBC basically the same when he said that a major food crisis is coming:

“Sometimes in the next few years we’re going to have very serious shortages of food everywhere in the world and prices are going to go through the roof.”8

First of all, is this crisis not already taking place in 2010? Secondly, what are the main causes for this dilemma? Will American pundit Paul Roberts be right with his book “The End of Food”, in which he wrote in 2008 that the death knell for “the world’s food system could come from any number of sources: avian flu, ‘a sharp spike in the price of oil, a series of extreme weather conditions, an outbreak of some new plant disease’”?9 Moreover, could this food crisis trigger, as Eric de Carbonnel argues in his superb analysis “2010 Food Crisis for Dummies”, the crisis par excellence?10

 

I absolutely agree with de Carbonnel and Paul Roberts. The food crisis isn’t just about Peak Oil. It is about converging crises that make so many of the gargantuan transitions in our current world unprecedented. Food production is inextricably connected with climate change and with Peak Water. Moreover, it is about the control of commercial agriculture by corporations such as Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and others which are producing genetically modified crops that not only lack nutritional substance but have been associated with many diseases and ubiquitous food contamination. These corporations are also affiliated with milk and meat production—both of which in the factory farming process are saturated with antibiotics which are producing disastrous consequences in the human body in terms of resistance to infection and carcinogen intake.

As stated above, I believe that within the next five years we are going to see dramatic food shortages and the prices of food skyrocketing. The sanest response to this, in my opinion, is the relocalization of food production and the growing of local, organic food, including organic dairy and meat products. Here in Boulder, Colorado USA, we are working to achieve the goal of growing at 10% of the food we consume locally, and we are providing significant discounts to merchants and customers who buy locally. Many communities across America and in the UK are making significant progress in this direction. But much more needs to be done much faster to make our communities self-sufficient in terms of food production and energy.

Obviously, we have to think in a different way about food. Therefore, Permaculture comes slowly to the fore.11 What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a design system which can be applied to almost any aspect of life—to growing food, designing buildings or other projects. The word is a blend of “permanent” and “culture” and is all about designing in cooperation with rather than against nature and natural systems. A brief, succinct definition can be found at: http://wilderdom.com/permaculture/permaculture.html. Permaculture has its roots in the concept of Biodynamic Farming taught by Rudolph Steiner. In Biodynamic Farming, the farm is perceived as an organism with its own individuality, and crops are raised organically with all that entails in terms of seeds, planting, cultivating, and harvesting.

Applying permaculture to any design system guarantees that it will operate sustainably and will be safe and supremely energy-efficient. To oversimplify, we might say that it is a means of producing much more by using much less.

Is the Sustainability Movement in the U.S. inter-connected to Permaculture? And can you tell us about this movement, that you are a part of in Colorado? Is this a positive alternative to the status quo of living that can serve as a good role model to others?

Some aspects of the sustainability movement in the U.S. are connected with Permaculture, and others are not. There is much that mimics sustainability but is really another form of what we call “greenwash” or “green consumerism.” Permaculture is a specific perspective that is about living simply and consuming less rather than making oneself feel good by consuming a lot of “green” products.

The best place to begin living with authentic sustainability is to study the practices of indigenous people who never needed to buy “green” products but knew how to live in harmony with nature in a manner that not only lasts but endures for at least seven generations. Permaculture is certainly grounded in the indigenous world view.

Here in the U.S. I am working with Transition Colorado which is one facet of Transition U.S. which emerged here in America in 2008 after becoming a powerful movement in the UK. Since then, Transition has spread around the world with viral enthusiasm. It is a movement designed to assist individuals and communities in becoming self-sufficient and resilient. It specifically addresses Peak Oil, climate change, and global economic meltdown—a phenomenon that some have called converging crises and which I have been calling for several years, “The Toxic Triangle”.

Essentially, Transition addresses these issues on three levels: 1) Awareness raising to help educate people about these realities. 2) Re-skilling which assists people in learning new skills that will be needed in a post-industrial world—skills which may not be new to our ancestors or to indigenous people, but are new to us because that wisdom has been eclipsed by civilization. 3) Heart and Soul which deals with the psychology of change and the emotional and spiritual issues we are facing and will be facing with the intensifying collapse of Western civilization.

Further information about Transition is abundant online and is most thoroughly presented in The Transition Handbook.12

How does your book “Sacred Demise” fit into all of this?

 

Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse is the perfect complement to the Transition Handbook—or not. Many people who are not involved with Transition have found it to be an invaluable resource, as well as people who are involved with the movement.

My book is now particularly relevant and necessary given the growing despair people are feeling regarding the Toxic Triangle and myriad other daunting challenges to our species. Most Americans, if they have an honest bone in their bodies, have had to admit that their Golden Boy, Barack Obama, is yet another corporate clone, planted in the White House for the purpose of maintaining control of the planet by transnational corporations. This past week I published my article “Your Disappointment In Obama Is Your Teaching Moment”, just after the U.S. Supreme Court had lifted all restrictions on campaign financing. While for the past 150 years in the U.S., it has always been true that corporations select Presidents, this ruling sets this reality in stone, and the United States is now irrevocably, in the words of Mussolini, a corporate state.

As you know, my website, Speaking Truth to Power, has been exposing Obama since 2007, and the publication of my recent article is the first time that I have had no negative responses to an Obama expose. In fact, I have received nothing this week but emails that agree with my assessment.

Yes, I agree on that: you told people to be very cautious from early on.

I say all that to underscore the despair at the core of the American progressive movement. And for those individuals who have been preparing for the collapse of civilization for some time, they probably have read and digested volumes on logistical preparation for collapse by way of food and water storage, survival skills, organic gardening, herbal medicines, and more, but almost nothing has been written about emotional and spiritual preparation for the end of the world as we have known it. My book is much more than a book of information that can just be read and put aside. It is a manual for navigating collapse emotionally and spiritually. At the end of each chapter are structured reflection exercises that provide tools for this journey—tools which can be utilized repeatedly.

Already with just the current economic crisis, we have seen a rise in suicides in industrial nations. When the collapse of civilization becomes blatantly obvious, and people realize that there will be no “return to normal”, there will be mass hysteria, rage, depression, and more suicides—unless there has been emotional and spiritual preparation for this reality.

In April, I will be teaching an online course called “Navigating The Coming Chaos” for the Post-Peak Living website. This will provide an opportunity for anyone, anywhere in the world to not only study my book, but have a place to discuss it with other people, and believe me, people are deeply longing to be able to have this kind of dialog.

One last question, Ms. Baker. In these days of Twitter-Messages with no content, could it be that a lot of our current problems have to do with this observation as put into words by C. Wright Mills:

“What people are interested in is not always what is to their interests; the troubles they are aware of are not always the ones that beset them…It is not only that (people) can be unconscious of their situations; they are often falsely conscious of them.”13

I certainly agree with Mills on this one. Of course people are interested in all the wrong things because of what they are fed by mainstream media. How can they be conscious of their situation when they are fed a steady diet of celebrity hogwash and lies about the current converging crises—if those crises are mentioned at all. That is why, Lars, websites like mine and yours are so desperately important—to provide an alternative to this drivel and to challenge people to think more deeply than the latest rumors about the sexual affair of some celebrity or politician. Our children are going to hate us for the ways in which we have fiddled while Rome burned and left them unconscionable economic devastation and environmental destruction.  

At the same time, I do believe that the present and coming chaos will provide us with many opportunities for re-making our world, whether we live to see the end result or not. For me, the collapse of civilization isn’t necessarily about surviving it, but discovering the most possible meaning in it, for myself and for the entire earth community. It is trying to tell us something—that the way we have been living for the past 5,000 years isn’t working and that we need to return to the wisdom and ways of our indigenous ancestors and live again in partnership with the ecosystem.

Thank you very much for taking your time, Ms. Baker!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts.

SOURCES:

1compare Richard Heinberg: “Smoking Gun: The CIA’s Interest in Peak Oil”, published August 15, 2003 at: www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/081503_cia_russ_oil.html

1 for Afghanistan’s own oil and natural gas reserves compare: “Afghan ‘geological reserves worth a trillion dollars’”, published January 31, 2007 under:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100131/wl_sthasia_afp/afghanistaneconomyenergyminerals_20100131124906

3 Michael Parenti: “Contrary Notions“, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 2007, page 245.

4 Carolyn Baker: “GODFATHER GOVERNMENT: THE SOPRANOS AREN’T LEAVING”, published June 12, 2006 at:

www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/061206_godfather_government.shtml

5 compare Lars Schall: “Marshall Auerback: ‘Many years of economic stagnation’”, published September 7, 2009 at: http://www.mmnews.de/index.php/200909063709/Rohstoffe/Marshall-Auerback-Many-years-of-economic-stagnation.html

6 “The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream”, Directed by Gregory Greene, Hosted by Barrie Zwicker, 2004, www.endofsuburbia.com.

7see further Dale Allen Pfeiffer: “Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture”, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, October 2006.

8 Antonia Oprita: “Food Shortages Coming, Buy Commodities: Jim Rogers”, published at CNBC on January 15, 2010 under: http://www.cnbc.com/id/34874608

9 quote from Bee Wilson: “Is this the end of food as we know it?”, published in The Telegraph on January 10, 2010 under:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/6958025/Is-this-the-end-of-food-as-we-know-it.html

10 Eric de Carbonnel: “2010 Food Crisis for Dummies”, published at Marketsceptics on December 17, 2009 under: http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/12/2010-food-crisis-for-dummies.html

11 for an introduction into “Permaculture” watch “Permaculture – Farms for the Future” by Rebecca Hosking under: http://www.viddler.com/explore/PermaScience/videos/4/

12 Rob Hopkins: “The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience”, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008.

13 quoted in Michael Parenti: “Contrary Notions“, page 181.