March 13, 2019
Can you imagine putting on a Santa Claus suit, not to pull a fast one on the kids and deliver Christmas presents, but to protest Big Oil and climate change in front of your local gas station? That may sound insane, but given what’s at stake, it might be the sanest thing you could do on Christmas Eve (plus it’s kinda funny). In this first episode, Asher, Rob, and Jason explore how tough it can be to keep from going crazy as our society rushes headlong toward the cliff edge of environmental and social meltdown. Welcome to Crazy Town, where most of the inhabitants just want you to keep contributing to an economy already in overshoot, keep distracting yourself from the most important stories, and (most of all) keep your mouth shut.
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- The Reluctant Radical is the movie about Ken Ward, the guy in the Santa suit protesting climate change.
- The orangutan sanctuary in Borneo near Sandakan, Malaysia.
- Population estimate of all primates, including the Great Apes (orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees).
- Human population growth rate per year is currently about 83,000,000 (births minus deaths). That number divided by 365 days in a year is about 277,000 people a day, so every two days, human population growth equals total great ape population size. See data here.
- Current vs background extinction rate.
- The discussion that a barrel of crude oil is roughly the equivalent of 11 years of human labor is based on the following math: One barrel of oil has 5.7 million BTU, which converts to 1,700 kWh. A typical person can work at an output of about 70 watts for several hours. If you multiply 70 watts times 8 hours a day, you get about 600 watt-hours (or 0.6 kWh) of work per day for a human laborer. Divide 1,700 kWh by 0.6 kWh to yield 2,833 days. Since each work year is about 250 days, divide 2,833 by 250 to get 11 years of labor in a barrel of oil. Here’s a reference for the energy density of a barrel of oil.
- Bobby Woo, the 200 millionth American, is now an attorney in Atlanta.
Asher Miller 0:01
This is Asher and I’m here with Jason and Rob. Guys. If you had to describe this podcast and five words or less, what would you say?
Jason Bradford 0:08
I’m gonna go with “Wile E. Coyote guzzling gasoline.”
Rob Dietz 0:13
I’m thinking “climate change diarrhea hurricane.”
Asher Miller 0:17
Are you serious? Maybe I should do this thing on my own.
Rob Dietz 0:20
Fine. It’s a show about how to stay sane in a world where there’s too many people consuming too much stuff, and the planet can’t take it anymore.
Asher Miller 0:29
You had me at diarrhea.
Rob Dietz 0:34
Caution: if you’re allergic to four letter words, you might want to try a different podcast. Hey, Jason, Asher, can you guys imagine putting on a Santa Claus suit and going out to a gas station to do a protest on Christmas Eve?
Jason Bradford 0:53
Asher Miller 0:54
What would I be protesting other than Christmas?
Rob Dietz 0:57
Yeah, exactly. You probably should. But of course, you’re protesting climate change.
Jason Bradford 1:02
Asher Miller 1:02
Okay. In the Santa suit.
Rob Dietz 1:04
Well, it’s it’s Christmas. Right. Okay.
Asher Miller 1:06
So you’re being half festive and half, like, shut this thing down?
Rob Dietz 1:10
Yeah. And the whole idea is, as somebody drives up to fill their tank on Christmas Eve…
Jason Bradford 1:14
They’re just trying to go see their family that lives 500 miles away…
Rob Dietz 1:17
Right, yeah, but you’re giving them a pamphlet, and you’re talking to them saying how evil this Exxon station is.
Jason Bradford 1:24
Right? That’s a conundrum.
Asher Miller 1:26
No, I can’t really imagine doing that. To be honest.
Rob Dietz 1:28
Yeah. Well, this actually happened and the protester – he was just so upset by climate change that he’s grasping at straws. This is what it’s come down to. I’m gonna spend my Christmas Eve this way. And for climate change, obviously there’s some reasons to protest, but there’s all these other things that he could be doing.
Jason Bradford 1:50
That’s just a lead into maybe, I don’t know, 20 other things that are all related.
Rob Dietz 1:57
Things like what?
Jason Bradford 1:59
Oh, population, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, persistent organic pollutants. Did I say overpopulation?
Rob Dietz 2:09
Yeah. You’re like a veritable list guy here. You can just keep rolling these things off.
Jason Bradford 2:15
I don’t want to bore people, though, because they don’t want to talk about this.
Asher Miller 2:18
I mean, people protest economic stuff all the time. That’s probably the thing you see more…
Jason Bradford 2:22
Asher Miller 2:23
Yeah, sure. I mean, the protests of Bank of America, remember, Occupy Wall Street. I mean, there’s, there’s all that stuff, too, which actually hasn’t gotten any better.
Rob Dietz 2:34
Well, don’t even get started on politics these days. I mean, how many marches? I feel like we’re heading back toward the 60s or something.
Jason Bradford 2:43
Well, if you’re pamphleteering in a Santa Claus suit on Christmas Eve, obviously, you’ve probably reached some bottom right? You’ve tried other things I imagine. And it doesn’t seem to be working, right? So you’re hail Marying here.
Rob Dietz 2:58
Tried other things like what? Like mushrooms or something?
Jason Bradford 3:03
Yeah, come up with some new ideas.
Asher Miller 3:05
Maybe write your Congressperson,
Rob Dietz 3:07
Jason Bradford 3:09
Rob Dietz 3:10
Or do the dumbest thing of all – work for a nonprofit that’s trying to combat these problems.
Asher Miller 3:16
I don’t know – whoever does that – there’s something wrong with them.
Rob Dietz 3:18
Jason Bradford 3:19
Rob Dietz 3:21
Sorry, that’s us. You should know that Asher runs a nonprofit where I work and Jason’s on the board of it. That’s the Post Carbon Institute. So we’re all about these issues with energy and environment and biodiversity and politics and economics.
Jason Bradford 3:37
This guy obviously is committed. He’s caring, and something set him over the edge, maybe a little bit, but what do you do in this? We’ve probably all had moments in our lives where we’re just like, “Oh my god!”
Rob Dietz 3:54
I feel like you can look back on your life and find those moments where you’re asking, “What the hell happened? Why are these people acting this way?”
Asher Miller 4:05
Or why are things so wrong?
Jason Bradford 4:08
I got an example, okay? In 1996, I’m in Borneo, a big island in the Indonesian archipelago in Southeast Asia. It’s just one of the most amazing places on the planet. I used to be a biologist that would go around the world collecting plants and studying biodiversity and…
Rob Dietz 4:31
Let me just interrupt you and let our listeners know that Jason is a… he’s a brilliant dude. He’s a PhD conservation biologist, but I don’t I don’t want to pump you up too much. I’ll let you finish your story.
Asher Miller 4:45
You could pump them up, and I’ll knock him back down.
Jason Bradford 4:47
Yeah, it’ll all even out in the end.
Rob Dietz 4:50
What I didn’t say is that he’s also an idiot.
Jason Bradford 4:58
I kind of felt like… Am I doing any good, right? I’m a conservation biologist. You’re saying I’m studying biodiversity. And at some point you go like, “Can I make any difference,” right? This is probably what this guy is doing in front of the Exxon station. And so there are moments where it hits you. And so I was on Borneo, and Borneo has this big mountain called Mount Kinabalu, and it stands out relative to all the other part of the landscape. It’s this isolated massif of granite, and along its slopes, because it goes at high elevation there’s all these endemic plants and other animals – things that live nowhere else in the world. And so I was hiking up that mountain and staying there for like a week and a half and collecting plants. The forests there are just gorgeous, and it’s full of… Rhododendron diversity is huge, and these pitcher plants, and the lowlands have these dipterocarp trees, which are the tallest trees in the tropics.
Asher Miller 5:54
I want you to say that name again.
Jason Bradford 5:56
Rob Dietz 5:57
I think that’s a fish, dude.
Jason Bradford 5:58
God probably, but uh… I actually got a sinus infection up there, and it was all humid and cold. I had to get out and recover, and I decided that… I was with another biologist at the time, and we decided we would get out. We both had this infection in our heads, and we couldn’t breathe
Rob Dietz 6:18
It’s never left. You still have an infected head.
Asher Miller 6:22
So you went to Vegas?
Jason Bradford 6:23
Well, we we got a bus. We said, “Let’s go to the warm coast — Sandakan,” which is sort of like northeast on the coast. “And let’s just rest and figure out how to clear out here.” But we get on this bus on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu, which is a park with tourists there and we get the bus to Sandakan. And as we drive off the slopes when I’m in the National Park, you realize that everywhere else we are on this highway, at least as far as I can see, is just devastated, right? I’ve been walking through some of the most rich and beautiful forest landscapes and above treeline and getting these vistas of the world, and then it’s just deforestation and palm plantations.
Rob Dietz 7:14
So you mean for making palm oil?
Jason Bradford 7:17
Palm oil, right, which is going into cookies and crackers and shit and…
Rob Dietz 7:22
Pretty much everything that an American diet consists of.
Jason Bradford 7:24
Yeah. And then they blow it up for biodiesel, and so it’s just taking over. And it’s just this monocrop where I was in this paradise. And then we get to Sandakan, and there’s an orangutan reserve. Okay, so I recover a little bit and I can walk again and breathe.
Rob Dietz 7:25
You know you infected at least half a dozen orangutans. You’re probably responsible for wiping them out.
Asher Miller 7:52
That’s only because he was kissing them.
Jason Bradford 7:55
I was so close, I probably could have. So you’re walking through this little orangutan reserve and you realize that these orangutans had been rescued because their forest is being destroyed, and they end up on the edge of villages. And they get called up, and some orangutan reserve people show up, and they capture and bring them to this reserve. Then they’ve got to feed them like they’re in a zoo but, they’re in a forest. It’s frickin’ bizarre! And there’s little orangutan babies all playing and stuff!
Rob Dietz 8:25
Were they wearing those cute diapers that you see?
Jason Bradford 8:28
No, they could poop in nature at least.
Rob Dietz 8:31
Was Clint Eastwood there? Remember those Clint Eastwood orangutan movies from way back?
Jason Bradford 8:36
Shut up! This affected me!
Rob Dietz 8:37
“Right turn Clyde.”
Jason Bradford 8:41
Rob likes to go back to movie references any chance he gets.
Rob Dietz 8:44
I’m sorry – it’s a disease.
Asher Miller 8:45
Any Which Way but Loose.
Rob Dietz 8:47
No, it was Any Which Way You Can was the sequel. Every Which Way but Loose was the original.
Jason Bradford 8:54
All right. This is what I have to deal with – a culture that’s just got all this junk in the head. And the important thing…
Asher Miller 9:01
And you hear “orangutan,” and you think Clint Eastwood.
Jason Bradford 9:03
Rob Dietz 9:04
Clyde – it was great. He was wearing a diaper and a wristwatch like all orangutans should.
Asher Miller 9:10
Is that what you saw when you were there?
Jason Bradford 9:11
They were cute.
Asher Miller 9:13
Were they wearing watches?
Jason Bradford 9:14
No! Goshdarnit! But I felt bad because there’s this weird thing where you’re fascinated – there’s this amazing creature. They’re brilliant, they’re really smart, and they have this amazing lifestyle, living in the trees of these dipterocarp forests.
Rob Dietz 9:31
Say that again.
Jason Bradford 9:31
Dipterocarp. And they build these nests in the trees, like these nest-dwelling giant apes. They move around, they eat leaves, and they have these adorable babies that can swing from tree to tree. But you realize, what it was – we were the other great ape that was just destroying their homes for our stupid palm oil. Right now as of 2018 there are about 500,000 great apes left in the world. That’s not just orangutans. Those are orangutans and chimpanzees and gorillas combined. There’s only like half a million. And so the world of humans, the other great ape…
Rob Dietz 9:44
Can we be nest-dwelling, tree-bound great apes? That would be a lot of fun.
Asher Miller 10:32
We might get there at some point.
Jason Bradford 10:34
We lost our, we lost that…
Asher Miller 10:36
500,000 – that’s less than the city San Francisco.
Jason Bradford 10:40
Exactly. And so, but human population grows by about that much every two days. Like we’re adding to the planet every two days.
Asher Miller 10:49
Jason Bradford 10:50
New monkeys, new apes, new whatever.
Rob Dietz 10:54
So let’s say it’s Friday because that’s a great day. And you’re saying by Sunday?
Jason Bradford 11:00
Yeah, there’s another half a million of us
Rob Dietz 11:02
of us miserable palm oil swilling…
Jason Bradford 11:05
So none of this nature stuff has a chance! It doesn’t matter how much I study it or if you see the connections. How am I going to fight the economy and consumer demand and all that stuff?
Rob Dietz 11:21
Can you write a scientific paper about it? Wouldn’t that do it?
Asher Miller 11:24
Or dress up in a Santa suit out there. You might have sweated a lot in Borneo.
Jason Bradford 11:28
Well, I almost feel like the Santa suit. This is the thing. This is how insane it all is. The Santa suit may be just as useful as writing a frickin’ scientific paper that I spent six months doing and get peer reviewed and published, and have like eight people read it.
Rob Dietz 11:42
Right. Well, you talk about that population addition. And to me that brings up an experience that I had when when I was a kid. I had this best friend. Yeah. You never have a best friend like you had in second grade. You do the best stuff, like we used to hang out… we hung out in his dog house. He had this dog named Viking.
Asher Miller 12:04
You would kick the dog out?
Rob Dietz 12:06
We would get in there and read books and stuff. We would read books about climate change.
Asher Miller 12:12
Sure, you did.
Jason Bradford 12:12
Did you read The Lorax? I mean that.
Rob Dietz 12:14
No, of course. Yeah.
Asher Miller 12:16
They were waiting for the film to come out. They didn’t read it, they were waiting for the film.
Rob Dietz 12:21
Yeah, if The Lorax had been an 80s movie, I would have been all over it. But anyway, this friend of mine, he was a Chinese American. His mom had immigrated from China. And when you went over to his house, it was cool. They had these vases and scrolls and sculpture. I’m from is a suburb of Atlanta. It’s kind of a hillbilly zone. And, to see these things, I was like, “Oh, that’s odd.” But the weirdest decoration in their house was in the study. They had this room. It was awesome room. It had a cowhide and a TV and we used to hang out in there a lot. But they had this – up on the wall were photos of presidents, okay, from Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. That’s kind of weird, because you’d think you’d see that in your elementary school or something.
Asher Miller 13:11
Yeah, the post office…
Jason Bradford 13:12
Rob Dietz 13:13
Yeah, exactly. I digress, but when I worked for the federal government, George Bush and Dick Cheney greeted me every day on the way in.
Jason Bradford 13:23
Rob Dietz 13:24
Yeah, this Dick Cheney smile like, “Ayy welcome to work, you jackass!”
Asher Miller 13:29
Talk about driving you crazy!
Rob Dietz 13:32
So anyway, the weird thing about these photos is they’re all signed, too, with a little message.
Jason Bradford 13:37
Wow, big donors? To both parties? What’s going on?
Asher Miller 13:39
They actually got signatures from these presidents?
Rob Dietz 13:42
Yeah. Yeah. It was like, it was like, happy…
Asher Miller 13:44
The got a signature from Richard Nixon?
Rob Dietz 13:46
“Happy birthday. Richard Nixon. I’m not a crook, by the way.” So you gotta ask, “What the hell is that?” Well, turns out my friend’s older brother, this guy named Bobby Woo…
Jason Bradford 13:58
Rob Dietz 13:59
Bobby Woo. Nice, nice poetic rhyme. He was the 200 millionth American.
Asher Miller 14:06
Rob Dietz 14:07
Yeah, so there was apparently this little fure, furer, furor – how do you say that word? I
Asher Miller 14:13
Yeah, just don’t say “fuhrer.”
Rob Dietz 14:16
Okay, so there was a lot of energy around the idea of who’s the 200 millionth baby going to be? So Life Magazine was watching this. They had a count going. So a baby’s born, “That’s 199 million…”
Asher Miller 14:32
We didn’t do this with 300, right?
Rob Dietz 14:33
A little bit. A little bit. But so, the 200 millionth was Bobby. And so Life came and snapped his photo and there was this full-page spread on him.
Jason Bradford 14:38
Was it cute? Was he adorable?
Rob Dietz 14:46
Of course, you know, it’s a baby, not as good as the orangutan. So 200 million – that’s a big number, right? It’s kind of hard to conceptualize. But you just mentioned, Asher, the 300 millionth. Bobby was born in 1967. The 300 millionth American came along on October 17, 2006. So it took less than 40 years to add 100 million people to the good old US of A. So that’s like adding 10 more states the size of Georgia where we were, or like adding about 180 cities the size of Atlanta, in under 40 years. 180 cities! Atlanta is not a little place.
Jason Bradford 15:32
No, no, Atlanta is not.
Asher Miller 15:34
Did they all get really lousy baseball teams?
Rob Dietz 15:37
Don’t start talking about the Braves.
Jason Bradford 15:39
I loved the Braves back then.
Rob Dietz 15:41
Asher Miller 15:41
Right? That’s true – the 80s, they were America’s team.
Jason Bradford 15:43
Phil Niekro was incredible – this old guy, the knuckleballer?
Rob Dietz 15:47
He can probably still throw that. So worldwide, it’s even nuttier. At the time that Bobby was born, we had three and a half billion, which that’s an inconceivably large number. But now we’ve got seven and a half billion – we more than doubled that.
Jason Bradford 16:05
By comparison, the US is doing great!
Rob Dietz 16:08
Yeah, of course. Here’s the weird thing: we’re all about economic growth, growing the economy. And half of that equation means growing population. So if we have a goal of continuously growing the economy, then we’ve got to keep adding people.
Jason Bradford 16:24
And everyone should know that Rob literally wrote a book about this called Enough Is Enough – available in all fine bookstores?
Rob Dietz 16:33
Yeah, you find it anywhere, or in a trash heap somewhere.
Asher Miller 16:37
In a burn pile, right. Yeah.
Rob Dietz 16:39
It makes great kindling. I mean, yeah, you want to wait for the apocalypse? You can have plenty of these books and just light ’em up.
Jason Bradford 16:46
A page a day, I say.
Rob Dietz 16:49
That’s going to be kind of a light fire.
Jason Bradford 16:51
Yeah, well, it’s just to get started.
Asher Miller 16:53
Rob Dietz 16:54
Well, there’s not gonna be any trees. Maybe we can set some orangutans on fire.
Jason Bradford 16:54
The fur is burnable.
Asher Miller 16:54
There won’t be orangutans left by that point.
Rob Dietz 16:56
Only diapers – we can set the diapers on fire.
Jason Bradford 17:03
Plenty of diapers!
Asher Miller 17:04
We can set the palm oil plantations on fire.
Rob Dietz 17:10
That’s right. So yeah, it blows me away – the exponential growth that we’re seeing in the economy, both in the numbers of people and in the consumption. That’s probably the part that… it’s kind of hard to blame people for having sex and having babies, but Jeez, the amount of crap that we consume and the amount of palm oil that goes down or into our guts.
Asher Miller 17:36
Yeah, and all this comes back to energy. You’re talking about the the growth in human population? Well, energy – per capita energy consumption – since 1850, has grown 814%. That’s per capita, right? So eight-fold increase in how much energy we consume in that time.
Jason Bradford 17:57
Per capita – then multiply by the people.
Rob Dietz 17:59
So Great-great grandpappy – he lit a match a day. And now you’re running a nuclear fusion power plant.
Asher Miller 18:06
It’s not quite that extreme. But I mean, that’s just the per capita, so you total it together, and you realize we’re consuming way more energy. And for me, that is actually something that drives me crazy all the time, and actually has woken me up even in the course of this work. I started doing climate change work after doing other kinds of social cause nonprofit work, because I was really, really worried about climate change. It took understanding energy, I think, to really get the crux of the problem that we’re dealing with. Climate change is a symptom of the energy paradigm that we’re in. So is human population – it’s a symptom, the fact that these orangutans are losing, the fact that we can grow these palm oil plantations. The people in Borneo are not growing these palm palm oil, you know, planting these plantations just for their own consumption. They’re doing it for a world market. And that market is made possible by the fact that we’ve got all this relatively abundant, cheap energy.
Jason Bradford 18:26
I mean, they’re running chainsaws, they’re running bulldozers, they’re putting in roads. I mean, they’re not doing this with pickaxes.
Rob Dietz 19:20
They are doing it with teams of forced labor of orangutans, right? They’ve got orangutan chain gangs, right?
Asher Miller 19:28
Well, there’s definitely a lot of exploitation that’s happening of people, right? But it’s all made possible by the fact that we’ve found these abundant sources of magical energy. And I’ll tell you, even doing this work here at the Post Carbon Institute, being exposed to these issues and trying to probe them and think more deeply about these things… It was – I don’t remember how many years ago, but I was trying to run the numbers a little bit on thinking about the value of the energy that we have. And part of the problem is that we throw out these numbers, people talking about BTUs, they talk about kilowatts and kilowatt hours.
Rob Dietz 20:07
Well, let’s let’s be clear. Physicists and engineers talk that way. Most of us don’t know what the hell any of that is.
Asher Miller 20:15
Exactly. It doesn’t mean anything to most people at all, right? But when you actually start thinking about how much value there is, it really is magical!
Jason Bradford 20:24
You gotta put in dollar value, because that’s all people think about.
Asher Miller 20:26
Yeah, put it in dollar value or put it in human labor value. So I was trying to crunch these numbers, and I had to talk to people that were smarter than me, and were real experts just to confirm these numbers, right?
Rob Dietz 20:39
That’s not hard to find. Well, it’s not us, but again, you can go back to that trash heap and find plenty of people smarter than you.
Asher Miller 20:47
Well, that’s true. That is true.
Rob Dietz 20:49
I’m sorry, Asher is actually my boss, so any chance I can take to throw a dig in, I’ve got to do that.
Asher Miller 20:56
And the fact that we’re recording this disallows me to punch you in the face. No, so take a barrel of oil, right? A barrel of oil right now I think it’s selling for something like 80 bucks a barrel of oil. Well, so what does that barrel of oil represent? How much energy is in that thing? There’s 42 gallons of crude oil in a barrel, right?
Rob Dietz 21:19
I’m gonna go with 12. That’s my answer.
Asher Miller 21:22
Rob Dietz 21:22
Asher Miller 21:24
That’s it. Okay. I will say 42. 42 for Douglas Adams fans out there.
Jason Bradford 21:31
That’s a big number – that’s important.
Asher Miller 21:31
That’s a very important number, 42. I won’t digress into it, but so 42 gallons of crude oil -when they go and refine the stuff, they’re able to produce about 20 gallons of gasoline, about 11 gallons of diesel out of that. Which is great, right? So you put 20 gallons of gas in your car, and you can drive down the road for 400 miles, maybe if you’re lucky. But if you think about it, that that 80 bucks that you spent to get those 42 gallons of crude oil – when you do the conversion, you look at the actual energy value of that. That’s 5.7 million BTUs. Okay, BTUs, like we said, doesn’t mean anything to anybody, right? But that’s sort of the standard number that’s used.
Rob Dietz 21:58
That’s all that’s left to the British Empire, right? British thermal units.
Asher Miller 22:24
And there’s 5.7 million of them. So 5.7 million BTUs, if you convert that to electricity (running lights and stuff in your house), it’s 1,700 kilowatt hours. Well, think about that. I know that number doesn’t mean anything. I’ll put it in the context of human labor. Okay, so, Jason, you got a garden here?
Jason Bradford 22:44
Asher Miller 22:45
Right, in your backyard. We’re at your house right now, actually. You got a garden out there. You’re trying to rip out weeds, plant stuff, harvest, whatever.
Jason Bradford 22:55
I’m working, yeah, sweating.
Asher Miller 22:56
If you’re working hard, you might be producing about 70 watts…
That’s about right for me, yes.
…of energy, right.
Rob Dietz 23:02
In Jason’s case, I’m thinking 50 watts.
Jason Bradford 23:04
No, no, it’s 70. I’ve done the math.
Asher Miller 23:06
Okay, yeah, for you, it’s like 20, because you just sit around, right?
Rob Dietz 23:11
I can point at stuff. Hey, can you harvest that, please?
Jason Bradford 23:15
Feed me. Yeah.
Asher Miller 23:17
So over the course of a day, let’s say you work for eight hours.
Jason Bradford 23:22
I never do that. But that’s okay.
Asher Miller 23:24
Well, let’s pretend you’re a real productive part of humanity. Pretend and go with me here. So you’re gonna basically be producing six tenths of one kilowatt hour. Remember, I said there were 1,700 kilowatt hours in a barrel of crude oil. So you’re producing in one day, six tenths of one kilowatt hour.
Jason Bradford 23:47
Asher Miller 23:48
Working hard for eight hours. Okay. So if you actually try to take that – what you’re producing in the course of a day through your human labor, sweating your butt off – and you divide that into a barrel of oil? Well, that’s over 2,800 days of your time, working eight hours a day.
Jason Bradford 24:09
Asher Miller 24:11
It would take you 2,800 days, you know, that’s 11 years.
Jason Bradford 24:16
That’s a long prison sense.
Asher Miller 24:18
And if you if you think about it, you take the average salary – let’s take a salary of $45,000 a year.
Jason Bradford 24:24
Asher Miller 24:25
So $45,000 a year, and you’re working about 250 days, of course, a year. You got some vacation breaks. At Christmas, you dress up in the Santa suit, and you go and protest at the gas station. Whatever you’re doing on breaks, right?
Jason Bradford 24:36
I got a lifestyle.
Asher Miller 24:37
Jason Bradford 24:40
Asher Miller 24:41
You take that amount of days that you’re working – that’s 11 years of labor over that time, okay? That’s $500,000 of a salary if you’re paying somebody $45,000 a year. That is the energetic value of that barrel of oil, and we just paid 80 bucks for it. You think about that, and first of all, that’s why I had to double check my math. It’s gotta be wrong – it doesn’t make any sense. People talk about how rational the market is…
Jason Bradford 25:12
No, it’s not. It’s really idiotic. Right, it should be priced so much, but it’s a supply and demand and marginal demand/marginal supply.
Rob Dietz 25:22
And of course you left out the problems of actually burning the stuff and what happens. That’s not included in the price.
Asher Miller 25:29
People talk about externalities, right? Well, what about all the costs associated with consuming that resource? And you internalize those costs, right? So you’re going to increase that price, and people talk about different numbers for what you’d have to include. But those numbers don’t even come close to the energetic value of a barrel of crude oil. And what do we do with this stuff? We fart around with it. We get on airplanes to go to Vegas to roll the dice or whatever…
Jason Bradford 26:02
Did you ever waterski? it’s pretty fun.
Asher Miller 26:04
Rob Dietz 26:04
I like to just leave a leaf blower on nonstop, 24 hours around the clock.
Jason Bradford 26:09
Yeah, yeah, the neighbors love it.
Asher Miller 26:10
You might as well because it’s so cheap to do, right?
Jason Bradford 26:13
No, that’s exactly right. It’s complete madness. And you know what burns a lot of fuel? Airplanes.
Asher Miller 26:25
Well sure. Yeah.
Jason Bradford 26:26
Uh huh. I had a pretty scary but illuminating journey on an airplane, right? I used to fly around quite a bit to go places like Borneo and…
Asher Miller 26:38
There’s not huge botanical collections to be had in Vegas unless you’re in front of like the big hotels or their courtyard.
Palm – Isn’t there a Palms Hotel?
Rob Dietz 26:48
Doesn’t that Venetian have canals inside? There must be a gallery forest lining it.
Jason Bradford 26:57
I’m sure the biodiversity of Vegas has been enhanced by all the pumping of water and all the landscaping.
Rob Dietz 27:01
The plastic diversity in Vegas is incredible.
Asher Miller 27:06
…among the human beings and in their products.
Jason Bradford 27:13
I’m on this plane right and we’re we’re reaching cruising altitude, right? And I got a window seat kind of over the wing. I love window seats.
Rob Dietz 27:25
Except for the damn wing seat.
Jason Bradford 27:27
Well, that’s not the best, okay, I agree. But that’s the best I could do.
Rob Dietz 27:31
I do like smelling the fuel because it reminds me of all that stuff that you were talking about, Asher.
Jason Bradford 27:38
So I’m looking out, and it’s a nice view. I love looking at the earth from high up and seeing the patterns on the landscape and kind of nerd out. I can stare at that all day.
Asher Miller 27:46
And you could tell that the earth is flat right? I mean you go out there to prove it to yourself.
Jason Bradford 27:52
Why is there a debate? Well, there’s a little, like, engine explosion and there’s this…
Asher Miller 28:01
A little engine explosion?
Jason Bradford 28:02
Well, it wasn’t massive, like the whole wing flew off but something happened…
Rob Dietz 28:07
So wait, you’re on a plane and you see flames coming out of the engine?!?
Jason Bradford 28:10
Yeah, coming out the back of the engine. So, I do that thing where you reach up and you…
Rob Dietz 28:16
You turned on the light bulb?
Jason Bradford 28:20
No, I hit the little stewardess thing <ding>.
Rob Dietz 28:23
I thought maybe you’re gonna turn the little air thing on.
Asher Miller 28:25
You didn’t just scream?
Jason Bradford 28:26
Well, I’m calm. I’m calm, cool, collected.
Asher Miller 28:29
Was there a gargoyle-type of monster thing that’s out on the plane?
Jason Bradford 28:32
What movie is that, Rob?
Rob Dietz 28:33
Twilight Zone the Movie.
Asher Miller 28:35
Yeah, exactly. Yeah,
Rob Dietz 28:37
It wasn’t a gargoyle. It was a gremlin.
Asher Miller 28:39
Sorry, excuse me!
Rob Dietz 28:41
A gargoyle just sitting there frozen on the wing in stone?
Jason Bradford 28:44
But that was in a storm at night. This was a nice calm evening with good light and everything. So the stewardess comes over and I’m like, “Look out – the wing’s, the wing’s on fire.” And she goes, “Oh, yeah, okay, well, I’ll let the pilot know. Can you please lower your shade sir? We’re about to start the inflight move.”
Rob Dietz 29:11
Were they showing Twilight Zone the Movie?
Asher Miller 29:13
Exactly. Snakes on a Plane?
Jason Bradford 29:15
Rob Dietz 29:17
The inflight entertainment is going to be “Wing on Fire” tonight.
Jason Bradford 29:21
Yeah. What do you mean? It’s just like, “Calm down, sir. You know, I I’ll go I’ll go let… I’m sure they’re aware of this, but I’ll go let them know.” I’m a little amped up, but I have no control of the situation. And everyone else seems to just be like – their shades are down.
Asher Miller 29:42
Yeah. They’re looking at you like, “Why are you making noise?”
Jason Bradford 29:45
They’re sipping their cocktails. They’re waiting for their meal to get served.
Asher Miller 29:52
This must have been a while ago if they were serving meals.
Jason Bradford 29:55
It was a nice long flight. It was comfortable.
Rob Dietz 29:58
Okay, did this really happen?
Jason Bradford 30:00
I mean, I mean, it’s a good allegory.
Rob Dietz 30:06
All right, so where are you going with this?
Jason Bradford 30:07
Well, okay, I feel like I’m on this plane. I’m on a journey with everybody else on the planet. And I’m looking out, and I’m seeing the frickin’ wing’s on fire. And everybody else has got the shades down and is drinking booze and watching a stupid movie. And no one in authority is seriously handling the situation.
Asher Miller 30:37
Yeah, they’re just trying to placate, right?
Jason Bradford 30:39
Rob Dietz 30:40
Yeah, you got a problem with stupid movies? You want to throw down?
Jason Bradford 30:45
But I mean, it can drive you nuts. Right?
Asher Miller 30:49
Rob Dietz 30:50
Well, it can drive you so nuts that you’ll put on a Santa Claus suit and protest at Exxon on Christmas Eve, right?
Jason Bradford 30:58
I feel for the guy. I can totally relate to Ken.
Rob Dietz 31:01
Well, yeah, let’s talk about who that was. Yes, this guy’s name is Ken ward. He’s got a friend that lives here where we are in Corvallis named Leonard Higgins. So Leonard Higgins and Ken Ward they are what you would call Valve Turners. They got together with some others and colluded and decided we’ve got to do something about climate change. They’re like you on the plane with a wing on fire. Like, no one’s doing something. Fuck it, let’s do something. So they got together, and they coordinated an event where they shut down the pipelines that were delivering tar sands oil to the United States from Canada. Really incredible…
Asher Miller 31:45
Rob Dietz 31:46
Yeah, clearly criminal action. You’ve got to trespass. You’ve got to shut these valves down.
Asher Miller 31:53
Was this before or after he was at the gas station on Christmas Eve?
Rob Dietz 31:57
I think it was after, but I don’t…
Jason Bradford 31:58
Yeah, it was after. okay. This presaged him getting together with these people and doing something more.
Asher Miller 32:05
He sort of realized, “I got to do something more organized, maybe bigger scale.”
Rob Dietz 32:11
Ken, for his adult life – he’s been an activist all along, an environmentalist. “Hey, we got to do something about these issues.” He’s done it as a totally legitimate nonprofiteer. And I think like you were saying, Jason, as a professional conservation biologist, “What’s the difference? What am I doing?” And he just has gotten more and more into it over time, to where he’s done a lot more radical things. And there was actually a movie that was made about him called The Reluctant Radical.
Jason Bradford 32:46
Yeah, it’s a great movie.
Rob Dietz 32:46
And it chronicles his reluctance, all the way through this from Santa suits to actually getting arrested.
Jason Bradford 33:04
I found the part of the movie very compelling when he goes to psychiatrist. Remember that? Yeah, well, what do they do to him?
Rob Dietz 33:16
He’s actually wondering – he’s like you on the plane. He’s wondering, “Why isn’t anyone else worried about this? Why aren’t we raising alarms? Why aren’t we questioning? Why can’t we get this climate change issue the attention that it needs?” And so because nobody else is with him, he’s starting to think, well, “Am I nuts?” So he goes to see a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist asked him this very blunt question, “When you tell people how you’re feeling and what your your concerns are, what do they do?” And Ken answers, “Well, they kind of say, yeah, maybe that’s something, and then they go about their lives.” And the psychiatrist comes back with, “Well, when everybody else thinks one way, and you’re the one who thinks differently, that probably means you got a problem.”
Asher Miller 34:04
Right. You’re wrong, Ken!
Rob Dietz 34:06
“Yeah, so let me get you to get on this lithium for a while.” So Ken’s kind of like, “I think I’m right, but… all right.”
Jason Bradford 34:16
Yeah. Pull down the shade. Don’t look at wing on fire, and order a drink.
Asher Miller 34:21
Let’s all self-medicate, so this problem won’t go away, but we won’t be aware of it.
Rob Dietz 34:26
That’s right. Like a battery in a Tesla car, he gets loaded up with lithium.
Asher Miller 34:33
Does he catch on fire?
Rob Dietz 34:34
Well, he probably would. He didn’t like it. He realized emotionally he was tamped down. He just he didn’t like the way he thought, he didn’t like his life, and he went back to the psychiatrist and said, “I’m getting off the lithium.” And he really sat and thought about it. He actually went the medical route and tried it, but he really sat and thought and said, “No, I am right. We need to address climate change. And people aren’t doing what needs to be done.” So, he really explored it, “Am I crazy, or is what’s going on out here crazy?”
Asher Miller 35:15
That’s pretty remarkable because I would say most people – they’ve already got the shade down on the window, right? And if they get an inkling that the engine just caught on fire, they’re gonna maybe say something, but if other people are not concerned… I mean they’ve done these sociological studies that people were like… you show them two lines, and one’s clearly longer than the other, right? But if you put them with other people who are all like, “No, that shorter line – that one’s longer or they’re the same size.” Then you’re gonna be like, “Fuck, I guess they’re right – they’re the same size.” So it’s understandable where most people would be like, “Well, nobody else seems to be freaking out about the the engine having caught on fire. So I’m just gonna assume it’s all okay.”
Jason Bradford 36:03
Well, that’s the problem. We’re social creatures, and if we don’t get social reinforcement for our version of reality, then we feel nuts. And so often, in order to resolve that, we then will go along with the social norm, even if maybe deep down, you know, “God, there’s something wrong about this.” And I think this is creating tremendous problems, and there’s people that are anxious and upset, and they can’t talk about real things. So in order for society to become sane, again. And in order for the individuals who are aware, who are looking at the fires, to feel sane, we have to have honest conversations about this stuff.
Rob Dietz 36:48
Yeah. That’s why I wanted to be here. I wanted to have those kind of conversations with you guys, and laugh too! I can’t look at that fire and not feel completely messed up about it. And so it’s a weight – I want to talk about these issues, but I want to laugh, so that I don’t cry.
Jason Bradford 37:09
Yeah, I’d say laughter is a great way to process this and emotionally cope with this stuff.
Asher Miller 37:14
Mostly, I think, just to not feel alone. We’re lucky – we get to interact with people (not only in my case) that are smarter than me, but also people that have a shared sense of what reality is and can commiserate about how fucking nuts everything is.
Jason Bradford 37:33
And in the movie, Ken starts going on these these… he gets arrested. They sit on railroad tracks where coal is gonna come through…
Rob Dietz 37:42
Stopping a coal train?
Jason Bradford 37:43
Yeah, and these kind of things. And he gets arrested. And he’s gleeful because he’s getting arrested with 50 other people. And they’re going into the cell together. And he’s getting out and he’s all grinning. And he’s just like, “Well, this is this is great, because I know I’m not alone in this.”
Rob Dietz 38:00
Yeah, that was quite a transformation, because in the Santa Claus suit, he was alone. And when the police showed up, they’re like, “Well, you can either stay here and keep doing this, or you can leave. But if you stay, we’re going to arrest you.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I think I’ll just get arrested.” That’s way gutsier than doing these bigger things when you have others along for that same reason – we’re social creatures, right? Yeah, truly amazing. But it makes you question yourself, you know, am I nuts? Why is nobody else talking about this?
Asher Miller 38:43
Well, hopefully, this podcast not only will help us feel a little less nuts ourselves, you know, but others listening too. I think that there’s something – and we’ve heard this from a lot of people – there’s something refreshing and kind of a release when you actually can accept these things. It’s sort of the first step to say, “Okay, this stuff is real, and we’re so scared of acknowledging the reality of what’s out there.” But there is something cathartic about recognizing it, but it’s really hard to expect people to do it alone. I mean, Ken is, I would say, a rare bird.
Rob Dietz 39:19
Yeah, we’re all living in Crazy Town. We’ve just got to figure out together how to navigate it.
Asher Miller 39:24
Yeah. All right.
Jason Bradford 39:25
Let’s do it.
Asher Miller 39:26
Let’s do it. That’s our show. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe to the podcast and while you’re at it, rate or review it at iTunes – that really helps get it in front of more people. To learn more, visit https://www.postcarbon.org/crazytown/. And if you want to actually learn something instead of listening to us bozos, you should check out the Post Carbon Institute’s Think Resilience course. It’s four hours 20 bucks and will seriously change the way you see the world. Catch you next time on the mean streets of Crazy Town.