Sunday, January 29, 2006

Off on holiday


I'm away for a fortnight of R&R. In the meantime, take a peek at this; I found myself agreeing with every word. I look forward to reading part two when I return.

Keep safe.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The four meme

Four jobs I've had:
1. Cleaner of industrial spray paint booths (I coped with that for a week, which I still consider impressive.....)
2. Garage attendant.
3. Primary school caretaker.
4. Database programmer (DB IV+).

Four movies I can watch repeatedly:
1. Blade Runner
2. Pulp Fiction
3. Lord of the Rings
4. First Blood

Four places I have lived:
1. Alnwick, Northumberland
2. Beswick, Manchester
3. Oxford
4. Plaistow, East London

Four TV shows I like to watch:
1. Alias
2. Six Feet Under
3. Buffy
4. Battlestar Galactica

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Vancouver, Canada
2. Ulaan Bataar, Outer Mongolia
3. Jerusalem, Israel
4. Playa de las Americas, MAJORKER :O)

Four favourite dishes:
1. Venison casserole
2. Roast Beef
3. My own vegetarian lasagne(!)
4. Oven baked roast potatoes with Hellmann's Mayonnaise (other mayonnaise doesn't work)

Four websites I visit daily:
1. The Oil Drum
2. Football 365
3. BBC news (my homepage)
4. WaiterRant (technically, whenever it's updated. Another job I've done on many occasions)

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. My mother in law's house (where I'm going tomorrow)
2. Watching Chelsea
3. At the cinema
4. In bed, asleep

Four people to tag:
1. Kathryn (to provide another source of distraction for you)
2. Ian G
3. DBW
4. Preston

Thursday, January 26, 2006

One day

One day this will be true - he says, whilst grinning gleefully...

Interesting site

If you can cope with the California 'edge' have a look at this

"All of this I’ve-arrived-and-you-haven’t stuff is stupid. It suggests that life is about destinations and that once you’ve arrived, you’re done growing and can just relax and sip fruity drinks for the rest of your life."

Quite so. It's about the way, not the end.

A fully wired future

Much of the discussion in the Peak Oil community (eg in the Running on Empty discussion groups (ROE2)) is premised upon what is called a 'fast collapse', ie one where the various amenities of life on which we rely will rapidly fail. I am finding this less and less plausible as time goes on. My view is that the coming two decades will be very difficult, but that "civilisation" will continue through the crisis and that there is much to be hopeful for in the future. A recent post at The Oil Drum (by far the best detailed information on the oil supply) by the ever excellent Stuart Staniford states: "I continue to believe that all this modelling suggests the future decline rates are within the adaptive capacity of the economy -- it's a slow squeeze, as I put it last month. I'm not saying that there won't be major economic hard times, but it does appear to me that peak oil is something that society can handle for quite some time to come".

This makes sense to me. In graphic terms, Staniford provides this:



In his article, Staniford argues that the underlying trend of depletion (how quickly we run out of oil) will be in the green area, ie we will be able to adapt. I suspect it will be harder than that - the transition won't be smooth, primarily due to the effect of geo-politics (Iran etc) - but I am persuaded that the depletion rate won't have to be steep.

More particularly, I have been musing on the question of electricity supply. This was a comment from one poster on ROE2: "we must accept that all communication systems based on electronics and electricity will have a "rocky" future to say the least. We do not know what electronic parts will be manufactured in the future, their availability, and repair possibilities. We don't know if electricity in a readily accessible source and storage will be available."

I would make the following points:
- there are sources of electrical energy with significantly positive EROEI - as one example, see this article, which I've been thinking about a lot;
- there is therefore a capacity for a sustainable and reproducing industrial base;
- the only issue is how much of the world economy is lost before the system as a whole shifts onto the sustainable basis - how deep is the dip?

I keep on pondering the question 'What will Google do?' - what is to stop them, and companies like them, ensuring their own energy supplies on a sustainable basis, and thereby immunising themselves from the depression? It's massively in their interest to do so - and nothing to stop them, once they realise what is going on - so that is what I expect to happen.

Electricity is here to stay - the future is wired, irrespective of Peak Oil.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hmmm, Moltmann

You scored as Moltmannian Eschatology. J├╝rgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God's plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present.

Moltmannian Eschatology

90%

Amillenialist

90%

Preterist

50%

Postmillenialist

20%

Dispensationalist

15%

Left Behind

10%

Premillenialist

0%

What's your eschatology?
created with QuizFarm.com


Disappointed that Left Behind didn't get a big fat nothing, but not bad otherwise.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I disturb myself...

...because I think the BNP might have a point.

Fjordman has been blogging about this for ages, with respect to Sweden (Malmo in particular) and Australia; it's now being taken forward by Viking Observer.

Just because something is said by an idiot, it doesn't mean that it isn't true.

Good video on Peak Oil

Excellent, comparatively short (12 minute) introduction to what Peak Oil is about, from an Australian perspective here.

PetroDollars and the Iranian Oil Bourse

Good, hard headed and sober analysis pouring cold water on the conspiracy theory here; taking aim at an analysis here.

Since writing about this before, I've grown more sceptical - but I'm not yet completely convinced that it will have no effect on the exchange rate of the dollar.

As much as anything else, I see it as having a psychological effect - knocking the dollar off its pedestal - and along with many other reasons for dollar weakness, I can see it contributing to a more or less gentle decline in dollar value.

We shall see.

UPDATE: see also here.

Shockingly rich

(Sermon, Evensong 15 Jan 06 - Isaiah 60 & Hebrews 6-7)

We are shockingly rich.

I do not mean that as a criticism of any one individual here, but as something which applies to us all, as a community, here in West Mersea, in England, in the West as a whole.

Let me tell you a story which will bring out what I mean. A former tutor of mine used to work in Southern India, where he lived for seven years, before returning to England. On his return, on arrival in their new home, his wife went to purchase some basics - bread and milk. Yet she couldn't complete the purchase. When she looked at the prices for a pint of milk she couldn't help translating it into what it would have meant for her friends back in India - that this purchase of a simple pint of milk could have fed a family of four for many days. She was so staggered by the difference in wealth that she had to return home empty-handed, to give herself time to get over the shock.

We are shockingly rich.

So should we despise our wealth? I don't believe that it is as simple as that. The Scriptures are really very clear that wealth in itself is a good thing. The vision of the promised land is one of a place flowing with milk and honey; our reading from Isaiah is clear about the materiality of the good things promised from God: "Instead of bronze I will bring you gold" God has a very positive view of material wealth - indeed of materiality as a whole - that's what the Incarnation means. What he most emphatically does not have a positive view of is great wealth next door to great poverty. Think of the story of Dives and Lazarus, for example.

The Scriptures are crystal clear that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and that this means we are not to let anyone fall by the wayside, abandoned and deserted by the community. For the poverty which most shocks God is not the absence of possessions - hardly that - but social exclusion. The inability of one member of a community to share in the common life of that community. Scripture is clear that this is what offends God deeply, and Scripture is also clear about what follows when a society embraces that pattern of life: there is judgement, and calamity, and the walls of Jerusalem are broken down and the people of Israel are taken off to Babylon.

When I consider our shocking wealth, and the degree of poverty and exclusion experienced by so many in our world, I tremble at the thought of our coming judgement.

Scripture is also clear about what gives rise to social exclusion - idolatry. It is when the community ceases to worship the living God, and erects another idol in His place, that is when the right relationships between the members of the community break down. So what is the idol that has been worshipped in our community? I believe that the idol is wealth, or, more specifically, economic growth. What politician could succeed by saying 'we shouldn't concern ourselves with economic growth so much'? There are politicians who say such things - yet they are not listened to, for our hearts are fearful, fearful of a return to hardship and starvation and unemployment and breadlines and soup kitchens. So we do not trust in the living God, we trust in growth. Yet growth is an idol. Think of what it means to say that a part of our life (the economic part) must grow and keep on growing forever. That is not indicative of health, it is, in fact, the definition of cancer - a group of cells that just keep on growing irrespective of the needs of the whole. Our economy has turned into a cancer in our common life.

God says 'you will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts'.

We say 'gizza job'.

Those of you who came to my talk about oil the other day will be aware that I believe we are headed for a time of extreme economic hardship. I do not believe that we need be frightened of this. We need to be weaned away from our shocking riches and come back to the promises of the living God, who promises us life, life in all its fullness. The riches that God promises to us are the riches of a human community, made in His image, and sharing his likeness. That is what is promised to us, and that is what we can trust in. Not in our possessions, our accumulations of wealth, but the promises of the one who made us and redeemed us. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure".

So let us resolve to work together through whatever comes – trusting in the one who is faithful to his promises, and who will lead us to the promised land of Christ’s kingdom.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Father I place into your hands

It's been a much busier week than I was expecting - I have a 'backlog of blogging' to catch up on! which probably won't be done until next week, but never mind.

One thing though. Lovelock's comments induced another bout of doomer pessimism in me, which took a few days to shake off. Inevitable worrying, worrying, worrying, dog with his bone trying to crack the marrow....

And I remembered taking my grandmother's funeral a few years ago: a lady of profound and long-term faith (a church warden for fifty years!!) and one of the hymns she had chosen for the service was a 'children's hymn' - but it strikes me more and more profoundly as time goes on:

Father, I place into Your hands
The things I cannot do.
Father, I place into Your hands
The things that I’ve been through.
Father, I place into Your hands
The way that I should go,
For I know I always can trust You.

Father, I place into Your hands
My friends and family.
Father, I place into Your hands
The things that trouble me.
Father, I place into Your hands
The person I would be,
For I know I always can trust You.

Father, we love to see Your face,
We love to hear Your voice.
Father, we love to sing Your praise
And in Your name rejoice.
Father, we love to walk with You
And in Your presence rest,
For we know we always can trust You.

Father, I want to be with You
And do the things You do.
Father, I want to speak the words
That You are speaking too.
Father, I want to love the ones
That You will draw to You,
For I know that I am one with You.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Man comes around

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see."
And I saw. And behold, a white horse.

There's a man goin' 'round takin' names.
An' he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won't be treated all the same.
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up.
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter's ground?
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till Armageddon, no Salaam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crown.
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked and behold: a pale horse.
And his name, that sat on him, was Death.

And Hell followed with him.

Johnny Cash, who I'm also listening to a lot at the moment...

So you think I'm a pessimist?

James Lovelock of Gaia fame thinks we're too late: see here.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

PS


I use my blog as a pensieve.

Good to be reminded of that when I saw the film the other day - an example of Rowling's genius for linguistic imagery.

Long day

OK, end of a long day, enjoying my G+T (the taste for which was one of the byproducts of training in a theological college....) and musing on several things.

The first is that my study is way overdue for a tidy up - might get a chance for that tomorrow.

The second is that I'm seriously knackered - I've tried to minimise the number of 4 service Sundays I take, but I couldn't avoid this one - so 3 HCs this morning (1 sermon), then Evensong tonight (second sermon, written this afternoon!), plus funeral visits etc - January being peak-funeral season - I feel a little stretched.

Third: might post my sermon from tonight (tomorrow, not now). Links in with lots of stuff, but I'm particularly thinking about a former tutor at the moment, and the influence he's had on me (huge).

Fourth: the reason why I was thinking about that tutor was because of a conversation about Gandhi that has started in ROE-T - that's RunningOnEmpty-Theology, the yahoo group that I've established, please join!!! - and thinking that he really knew what he was doing. In a sense, the direction I'm moving in (see this post) is a 'reverse Gandhi' - trying to resist the imperialism of oil culture from within. Not sure what the equivalent of a dhoti would be for an Anglican Rector, but I'll keep thinking ;o)

Fifth: still want to write more about the books I read. There's a review of the Cluetrain Manifesto bubbling away, and one or two others. But in the meantime, I've put a 'Bookshelf' in the side bar - should be there if you scroll down - so you can see the sorts of things I'm reading at the moment. I'll try and keep it up to date.

Sixth: you'll also see the 'CD rack'. Ripping all my CDs onto my hard disk has allowed me to get plugged back in to music - it used to be absolutely central to my life, then other things kicked in, now it's coming back. I'm particularly enjoying Coldplay at the moment, despite an initial negative reaction, whilst in a car with my friend PB... who should note the whole list ;-)

Seventh: I dunno. That's about enough for one night. Time to veg out in front of the telly.

Sweet dreams!

World War Three, again

Good article by Niall Ferguson here.

Interesting to observe the issue of Iran climbing up the agenda of the news bulletins. It has higher to go yet. The trouble is that the world needs Iran (its oil and gas) more than Iran needs the world, so sanctions - even if they get applied - will be meaningless and cosmetic, further reinforcing Admadinajad's beliefs that the West is craven and that Allah will support him in his actions.

I'm more convinced than ever that the situation is fubar, but I'm a bit more optimistic that it won't lead to WW3, simply because I can see Russia and China benefiting more from sitting on the sidelines (possibly selling arms) while the US (and UK) get bogged down in very serious ground warfare, and while their economies go into meltdown.

So that's the good news....

The more I ponder it, the more I think an attack on Iran will be the same as the Titanic hitting the iceberg. There will be a big jolt, and then things will stabilise, and the powers that be will reassure everyone that it's all OK, nothing to worry about. Meanwhile, the ship of oil consumption begins to sink, and all that has been built on top of it will sink with it.

Ironically, it might make all the Peak Oil worrying completely irrelevant - the West shifts on to non-oil based economies (for global warming concerns as well, for example) - and by the time the oil supply situation has stabilised, we've moved off and away - and nobody cares that the oil supply has passed its peak. Oil will again be cheap, because nobody will want it.

Well, that's me trying to be optimistic!!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Edge


This was rather good, better than expected, but then I hadn't realised that it was a David Mamet script, and directed by Lee Tamahori. Largely sustained by a good Hopkins performance, and Baldwin wasn't too much of a plonker.

Not a masterpiece - too many incongruities and 'you can't really expect me to believe that' moments, especially the bearskin(!) - but a good evening's relaxation. Recommended if that's what you're after.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How to cope with your mother-in-law

The reading for today's communion service was Mark 1 29-34, and I got to thinking about what is making Simon's mother-in-law unwell. I have a suspicion it was what happened a few paragraphs earlier - Jesus comes out of the wilderness and calls Simon to follow him - and Lo! - Simon does just that.

Now if you're a good mother, and you see your son-in-law go off following some no-good preacher what's your first thought going to be? Who's going to look after my daughter and the family!? And in a situation where you have absolutely no separate power of your own, your world faces imminent collapse, and so you withdraw into yourself, you confine yourself to bed with a fever.

Which, of course, just makes things worse. Not only are you as a woman rather dodgy and untouchable, but now you are ill and you have all the social ostracism associated with uncleanliness to cope with. So nobody's going to come near you and your stuck stewing in unpleasant juices.

What is a good son-in-law to do? There is only one thing to do: bring Jesus into the conversation. Miracle of miracles - Jesus touches the mother-in-law - hey he's not such a no-good preacher after all - would you like a cup of tea my dear?

That's the solution to family problems. Bring Jesus into the conversation.

And pray :o)

Tesco starts to feel the pain

Story here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A good analysis of what is going on - and where it's going

This is an excellent article outlining both Russian strategy and Russian/Chinese strengths compared to US weakness in the changing situation.

I can't help thinking of the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, when decades of British advantage in Naval warfare were suddenly rendered irrelevant by the invention of the steel battleship. Something very similar is happening now. The problem is not that the US is a hyperpower, the problem is that the US is fundamentally hugely weaker than it thinks it is. It will therefore over-reach, and cause chaos. It may bounce back in a decade or two (I respect the Dynamic Quality of the US system) but getting there will be hard, and hegemonism is not going to happen.

Why so much about Peak Oil?

Teresa asked a question in the comments: "why so much on Peak Oil and not any other of the other world problems?" This is a good question, so I thought I'd give my answer to her in a post:

1. I'm currently interested in Peak Oil, and the blog is the place for my 'thinking out loud'. Long time friends are aware that I take up an issue, study it intensely until I grok it, and then move on - at which point it has either been absorbed into my view of the world and effectively becomes unconscious, or else I reject it and have sound reasons for doing so.

2. More personally, Peak Oil seems to be something of a 'seed crystal' for me - as the ripples from understanding it spread out further in my psyche, it seems to be a focus for integrating lots of things which had previously been separate, in terms most of all of theology and politics, but also the daily patterns of my human life.

3. Peak Oil can't be separated from all the other problems which afflict the world, most especially the nexus between the concentration of power in the hands of western governments and the immiseration of the majority of the world's population. It is the access to (and reliance upon) abundant and easy energy that gave western governments (specifically the US) the 'first mover' advantage enabling them to assert their values (for better and for worse) within the world. In terms of shaping our lives so that we a) live more humanely ourselves, and b) allow other people to flourish, we cannot avoid the issue of our use of a valuable and rapidly diminishing resource. It's a justice issue. This is something on which I expect to post more substantially in due course as I think it is at the heart of it for me.

4. Peak Oil is imminent and potentially catastrophic; even if our politicians act with wisdom it will necessitate a drastic change in our culture and lifestyle within the next fifteen years. Have a look at the powerpoint slides from my Learning Church presentation, where I indicate the sort of things that will happen in Mersea. The downside - if we don't get our act together - is what initially terrified me (and provoked your 'Chicken Little' comment!). The potential downside is real, even if I don't personally expect it to happen. I am by nature profoundly optimistic - and I do trust in God - but I think we shouldn't be 'naively optimistic'. Whilst I disagree with much of the die-off.org approach, I do think their motto is valid: "If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst". Acknowledging the fact that we are waltzing along a precipice is the first move in taking steps away from the edge.

5. I also now think that the link between oil supply and world affairs is more intimate than I had previously believed - and I expect that to be shown this year...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Learning Church update

I was very pleased with the response to the Learning Church session on Peak Oil, which went very well - standing room only at the back!!

I've set up a website with some links, including one to download my powerpoint presentation here.

I've also taken the opportunity to update the links for MS Word files on the talks last autumn - three on St Paul, three on mysticism (including Julian of Norwich) and one each on the four gospels. At some point I'll get round to doing the webpages for those as well. Link to the Learning Church homepage is here.

The Autumn season went well, on the whole. I was most pleased with the sessions on Julian and John's gospel; least happy with Luke's gospel.

Forthcoming highlights - I'm about to start a sequence covering three of my favourite theologians: Girard, Hauerwas, Milbank. From then through to May we'll be covering the creed, other faiths and fundamentalism. Should be fun.

Powaqqatsi



Just to prove that I don't only watch junk :o)

I have rather a lot to say about this tremendously thought-provoking film, but I have now ordered my own copy (along with the other two in the trilogy) so there will be more substantive musings in due course.

Wonderful.

Goblet of Fire


This was really rather good; I especially enjoyed the presentation of he who must not be named. Excellent tonic for an overtaxed brain - must get hold of a pensieve somewhere....

The Faculty



Enjoyably stupid. Interesting to see some comparatively big 'names' before they got going properly, including the director.

Fantastic Four



These things are done so well now that there is no astonishment at the 'powers'. If only the story was fully fleshed out. Good, but I hope that there is a sequel.

Thoughts on investment, January 2006

The impact of Peak Oil on the world economy has been on my mind for the last few months. I want in this post to look at the initial phase (say – five to ten years) and consider what it means as a context for investment. I also want to air some thoughts about specific investment strategies. I’m more confident of the first half of the analysis though – be warned!!

The context
The specific problem which the world economy faces is the constricted nature of the oil supply, ie there is now almost no ‘spare capacity’ within the system – and this is unprecedented. In previous decades the Saudi government in particular had the capacity to ‘turn on the taps’ to cope with short term fluctuations in supply, and thereby ‘smooth out’ any problems. They no longer have that ability. The Strategic Petroleum Reserves, especially of the US, has some ability to replace that spare capacity, but that is a ‘one shot gun’, and for the purposes of this analysis I consider it largely irrelevant.

Consider a piece of clingfilm placed across a bowl of food. If the clingfilm is loose then puncturing the clingfilm will simply produce a hole. If, however, the clingfilm is tight then a puncture will produce a significant tear. The same phenomenon can be seen in many other contexts: where a covering is taut and under strain, a small breach causes disproportionate adverse consequences. This is the situation that the world oil supply is now in.

Global production (extraction) of oil has not increased significantly for eighteen months, despite the high prices available for more production, and this has been the primary driver of the rapid increase in the oil price over the last few years. The impact of, eg, Katrina, Iraqi shortages, or lack of refining capacity, these are largely irrelevant.

The trigger
In this situation of unprecedented tightness, the question becomes: are there events which could act as the ‘puncture’, causing a disproportionate reaction within the system, causing an oil price shock and consequent recession? I think there are many possibilities; here are four:

1. Iran closes off the Straits of Hormuz in response to an attack by Israel;
2. Al-Qaeda succeed in an attack on Ras Tanura or equivalent facility;
3. There is civil war in Nigeria;
4. Saudi Arabia announces that the Ghawar oilfield has passed Peak production (compare with Kuwait).

I see the first of those as the ‘biggest’ puncture to the system, but any of them – and there are many other possibilities – could serve as the ‘trigger’ to a global recession. The pattern of that recession cannot be determined with precision, but is likely to have some of the following characteristics:

1. the rise in energy prices cause the closing of businesses and a rise in unemployment, thus reducing overall demand;
2. the rise in energy prices causes inflation in essential goods and services, thereby starving the market of purchasing power and reinforcing 1.;
3. the reduction in purchasing power and subsequent contraction of the economy trigger a collapse in the housing market, and that bubble deflates rapidly (esp US/UK);
4. those who have highly geared mortgages find themselves in negative equity; there is a major rise in house repossession; this induces a climate of greater fear and desire for saving – reinforcing 1.;
5. the cycle continues until a new point of equilibrium – probably temporary – is reached.

Investment directions
In this situation it is unclear whether deflation or inflation will be dominant – it is possible that there will be massive deflation in some areas (eg housing market) coupled with inflation in others (eg transport, food). In any case, these are my initial thoughts:

1. oil companies will make a lot of money; as their resource enjoys a relatively inelastic demand, especially as oil becomes scarcer, they will likely thrive in the initial stages (five to ten years) of the recession;
2. commodities, ie all those items which possess intrinsic value, will be ideal hedges against either inflation or deflation. Owning a home outright (ie no mortgage) will be a major determinant of financial health over the next ten years. Precious metals will also be prize investments, not least in the case of silver and platinum for their role in alternative energy systems;
3. some technological firms will be worth investing in: wind and solar, wind-up technology, probably coal also in the shorter term;
4. on the negative side, the housing market, especially new build, will contract hugely; retail will suffer terribly, the main supermarket chains may even fail; tourism and the airline industry will collapse;
5. in international terms, the US dollar is facing a ‘perfect storm’ in any case and will likely drop heavily in value, especially if oil sales become denominated in alternative currencies; consequently all US stocks are poor investments for non-US investors, at least until after the ‘correction’, by which time the opposite will probably apply, and they will be hugely cheaper;
6. alternatively, I see Japan – once the initial shock has passed – as being a better location for investment.

Clearly there are large uncertainties in the above. In particular it may well be the case that 2006 proceeds without interruption, and the ‘trigger’ event is deferred. However, I believe it inevitable that a trigger event will take place – perhaps many together in a short space of time – so these considerations are really directed towards those prepared to ‘buy and hold’, at least until some time has elapsed after the trigger event, and some of the dust has settled. I see no realistic alternative to a general economic contraction over the next ten to fifteen years. That does not, however, mean that all investment accounts have to contract. I do not believe that the economy as a whole will collapse – in that situation, the correct investment strategy would involve seeds and bullets rather than shares and bullion.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lucky he didn't ask about the Virgin Birth

Good quiz, written by Sven who's a good guy.

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

100%

Pelagianism

67%

Nestorianism

33%

Apollanarian

33%

Monophysitism

33%

Adoptionist

25%

Arianism

0%

Monarchianism

0%

Docetism

0%

Donatism

0%

Albigensianism

0%

Modalism

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Socinianism

0%

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

Gulp

One more thing to worry about here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Prophecy and Peak Oil

One of the central strands of Christian thinking is that of the ‘Prophetic Imagination’ (see W Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, Fortress Press 1978). The prophetic perspective centres on a distinction between the “Royal Consciousness” and the “alternative community”. Consider the experience of the Hebrew people in Egypt. The dominant classes established and promoted an ideology which allocated the Hebrews a particular role in that system – they were the slaves, and this denial of human freedom, this destruction of human nature, was a cause of tremendous pain and anguish – which the Lord hears. Brueggemann gives three elements of this Royal Consciousness, which he explicitly links to our modern life:

i) it is driven by an economics of affluence “in which we are so well off that pain is not noticed and we can eat our way around it” – we are fed sufficient soma to be tranquilised into acquiescence;
ii) the dominant politics are oppressive, “the cries of the marginal are not heard or are dismissed as the voices of kooks and traitors”; and
iii) the dominant religion is one of immanence – God made domestic and safe – “God is so present to us that his abrasiveness, his absence, his banishment are not noticed, and the problem is reduced to psychology”.

This is the situation in which Moses, the archetypal prophet, is called to serve the Hebrew people, and to lead them towards freedom in the promised land. This emphasis on freedom is crucial, as it is for a free life that the Hebrews have been released from Egypt. Brueggemann points out that at the centre of Moses’ ministry lies not a cry for social justice (criticism of the status quo – the ‘liberal’ idol) nor a reaffirmation of a familiar God (the idol of a comforting conservatism) but a radical call to become acquainted with the living God, who cannot be captured in our understandings but who is the only God who can set us free: “the point that prophetic imagination must ponder is that there is no freedom of God without the politics of justice and compassion, and there is no politics of justice and compassion without a religion of the freedom of God”.

Intimately woven in with this freedom of God is an acknowledgement of the pain of the oppressed, the pain which has been denied an outlet. Indeed, it is the explicit naming of this pain which generates the momentum for change, the avowal that something is wrong: “as long as the empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no serious criticism.”

So, rooted in this commitment of response to the living God, this acceptance of pain, the prophet Moses embarks upon the road of freedom, freedom for God’s people. This path begins with the imagination – setting the understanding of the people free so that they can discern that the Royal Consciousness, the status quo, is not permanent and given (is not God) and that it can be overthrown. Thus, as Brueggemann famously puts it, “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture”. This involves some element of prediction about the future, but those predictions have interest only in so far as they stand as criticisms over against the present; they do not stand independently of that context and are open to revision (eg Jonah’s message to Nineveh).

This alternative understanding first criticises the existing social arrangements, principally through attacking the ‘gods’ of the system, and then energises the alternative community through a promise of a different place, the promised land which is the living God’s intention for his people. In other words, through being rooted in a right understanding of God’s freedom, a new social community comes into being to properly reflect that sense.

It is in this context that the ten plagues must be understood, for the plagues represent the contest between the gods of the status quo, the gods of Egypt, and the living God working through Moses. To begin with, the powers that be are able to meet and match the actions which YHWH takes. Nothing changes and the power of Egypt remains intact – yet with the third plague the establishment fails: “The Gods of Egypt could not! The Scientists of the regime could not! The imperial religion was dead! The politics of oppression had failed! That is the ultimate criticism that the assured and alleged power of the dominant culture is now shown to be fraudulent.” The powers have been named, and in being named, they have been dethroned. Now that the dominant system has been unmasked as temporary, that its claims to divine eternity have been exposed, its foundations begin to crumble. “By the middle of the plague cycle Israel has disengaged from the empire, cries no more to it, expects nothing of it, acknowledges it in no way, knows it cannot keep its promises, and knows that nothing is either owed to it or expected of it. That is the ultimate criticism that leads to dismantling.”

Finally, once this has happened, the prophet comes into his own through the articulation of the new possibilities, which energises the new community. This is the exercise of the prophetic imagination – the conceiving of something new within the world. For it is this articulation that holds back despair as the old order breaks down. “It is the task of the prophet to bring to expression the new realities against the more visible ones of the old order. Energising is closely linked to hope. We are energised not by that which we already possess but by that which is promised and about to be given”. This articulation necessitates the development of new images and new metaphors with which to describe the Royal Consciousness, thus bringing it into open conflict with the claims of the living God. Ultimately, the alternative community is sustained by the highest form of language, doxology, the practice of its worship, for “Doxology is the ultimate challenge to the language of managed reality and it alone is the universe of discourse in which energy is possible.” Only worship sustains the hope which sustains the community, on its journey through the wilderness towards the promised land.

The analogies to our present situation, are, I trust, reasonably clear. We live within a Pharaonic system of oil based consumerism, and we are taught that it cannot be challenged, for to do so is to threaten the prosperity on which we all depend. It seems to me that the task of the Christian in this situation is to renew our prophetic imagination and to speak words of praise and hope which enable the development of a community which reflects the freedom of a loving God.

Specifically, I think we must:

i) identify the Royal Consciousness in all its aspects, not just Peak Oil, although that will inevitably be central;
ii) articulate the pain of the marginalised and oppressed who have no present voice or witness;
iii) challenge the claims to power made on behalf of the Royal Consciousness, with a view to demonstrating their emptiness;
iv) labour with confident expectation towards the dismantling of the present structures;
v) develop new communities which break away from obeisance to the Royal Consciousness, and which offer the opportunity of free life in the image of the free God;
vi) articulate a vision of hope, a promised land, on the other side of Peak Oil, which will sustain us through the transition period in the wilderness; and
vii) trust in God.

That is what I intend to spend the coming months working on.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Intriguing

"It's a very simple concept, the concept is God himself, is pure happiness, the closer you move to that, the happier you are."

Something I'll have to watch here.

Been a hectic couple of days - lots of posts brewing - more tomorrow afternoon, including - hopefully - a biggie on Prophecy and Peak Oil....

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Can you afford to keep warm in 2006?

Good article at the BBC: Can you afford to keep warm in 2006?

Even better article specifically on the Russia/Ukraine dispute here.

Jim Kunstler with characteristic acid describes the UK situation here: "England has managed to piss away all the former advantage of their North Sea oil bonanza and they now face a future of dependence on Russian gas plus the bankruptcy of their remaining industrial base."

Indeed. Gloomy bugger.

Monday, January 02, 2006

RunningOnEmpty-Theology

I have found the Yahoo Group 'RunningOnEmpty2' rather useful over the last few weeks - seems to have an outstanding moderator in Robert Waldrop, whose motto I shamelessly cribbed for a recent post. But religion being the problematic topic that it is, there was a request for a separate Yahoo Group to look at religious aspects of Peak Oil. So I've set one up, described as follows:

"A group designed to look at theological aspects of Peak Oil, in particular insights that might be gleaned from the main Christian traditions.

Members should have a) some familiarity with what Peak Oil means, and b) some familiarity with the mainstream of Christian theological thinking. Devotees of fundamentalist 'end-time' theologies, eg the Left Behind series, are unlikely to find the discussion congenial."


Described that way to try and inhibit the scary fringes of fundamentalism.

If you're interested, click below to join, or sign up with your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog.



Click here to join RunningOnEmpty-Theology
Click to join RunningOnEmpty-Theology

UK gas shortages

Excellent post of interest to UK residents at Vital Trivia here. The impact of North Sea gas supply dwindling will now start to be felt. Even if the author is wrong about this Friday, it's only a matter of time, and given the Russian/Ukrainian dispute, the chances of the interconnector between Belgium and the UK working to ameliorate our position are pretty low.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Good intentions

As we're all on the Road to Hell anyway, I thought I'd share some good intentions.

1. I will tidy my study more than once a month.
2. I will exercise more and lose weight.
3. I will use the car less.
4. I will write a review of every book that I read on my blog. (That'll make a big difference to how I read them!)
5. I will write properly on my book. A book. Any book!
6. I will try to stop worrying about Peak Oil and learn to love growing my own vegetables.
7. I will get to Morning Prayer more than ten minutes in advance.
8. I will take up a new hobby - electronics.
9. I will, at all times, pursue the flow.
10. And I shall exercise my sense of humour more than once every day.

So that was 2005

The year I discovered blogging.

I gave up the ghost at moq.org - MD Discuss - after about four years of way too much conversation about small things, and the occasional biggie. Blogging seems to cater to my need to communicate my perspective, and now if I want to be unambiguously Christian I just can be, and I don't need to worry about whether it is appropriate for the forum.

Gave up Fantasy Football after nearly ten years. I'm now just processing transfers for the lads.

Also gave up the Economist, but... I've started up a new subscription from January. (This Peak Oil stuff has switched me back onto politics.)

Oh yes, it was also the year I twigged Peak Oil.

Theologically, started to explore Girardian perspectives seriously. Also loosened up in terms of music style in worship (tho' I'm still an AngloCatholic devotee of sung liturgy at heart).

Honeymoon in the parish came to an end, but I look back on 2005 as a year of really solid progress, on various fronts.

Also started to pay close attention to Islam and the <Islamists.

First year for quite a while without major bereavements close by. Family life has definitely settled into a new shape, much calmer and more settled.

Put on weight.

Drank too much.

Enjoyed watching all these (amongst other things not worth mentioning):
Babette's Feast; Intacto; Breaking the Waves; The Village; Sideways; Seven Samurai; House of Sand and Fog; Saw; Powannaqatsi
Alias (series one and two); Firefly; Battlestar Galactica(S1); Six Feet Under (S1&2); 24 (S1&2)
(all on DVD)
Batman Begins; Serenity; Million Dollar Baby; Sin City; Crash (possibly best film overall) - all at the cinema, where I travelled to much less frequently than in the past (courtesy of some upgraded equipment at home and my LoveFilm account....)

Went on Clergy Leadership Programme, which was positive.

Changed Spiritual Director.

Preached 93 sermons within the benefice.

Took 31 funerals (less than normal - impact of having an extra member of staff, who is great :o)

Took five lovely people through the confirmation process.

About ten weddings; similar number of baptisms.

Read loads of books, which I can't now enumerate (some will get reviews).

Also enjoying Y: The Last Man

Settled into the Learning Church process, which I am really enjoying, and seems to be productive. (Need to catch up on that blogging-wise and website wise)

Also settled in to priestly role more, especially as Spiritual Director - finding that side of the work profoundly satisfying.

And I went with my friends to China and Mongolia. That was fabulous, thoroughly rewarding and worthwhile. Thanks, lads.