Peak Moment meets Peak Shrink Kathy McMahon


October 10, 2010, part 3. Robyn and I transformed the RV’s living area into the Peak Moment studio, where we taped a conversation with Peak Shrink Kathy McMahon in the evening. I’ve wanted to tape Kathy since reading her tongue-in-cheek blog about Panglossian disorder several years ago. Right now she’s on a Pacific Northwest speaking tour. Great synchronicity for all to be here at the same time.

I love Kathy’s humor and authenticity, and her deft ability to be thoughtfully contrarian — questioning the way we approach or view things. She told me that for years she has watched her own and others’ responses to the devastating news of peak oil, climate change, and ecological systems collapse. Rather than pathologize people whose response is depression or panic, like labeling their responses as “post-petroleum stress syndrome”, she says we need to realize that such responses to this overwhelming, devastating information are totally sane.

What’s insane is the world around us that conspires to dismiss this information, to keep up the optimistic shiny face. Kathy has invented a fictitious psychological syndrome called “Panglossian Disorder” to humorously yet accurately characterize various flavors of “extreme optimism in the face of likely cultural and planetary collapse.” One subtype: MacGyverites who believe that we can use ordinary materials to get us out of this fix, like “pig dung will replace fossil fuels.”

Look forward to a rich and fascinating conversation with a thoughtful observer of what’s going on and whose focus is people, ordinary people. Stories about how the mind helps and hinders  survival problem-solving; rebuilding community within 5 or 10 miles of where we live; and a reminder that we’re all Bozos on this bus (ain’t no experts in how this collapse, and how the future, will play out).

Not on tape was her notion of peak-aware people having a nostalgia for the present: treasuring this moment as if seeing it from the post-petroleum future, when some of what we take for granted now will no longer be the reality. Her example: walking into the grocery story and being able to get bananas anytime. Not just once in awhile. Anytime.

Read Kathy’s blog Peak Oil Blues at and enjoy.

Watch Peak Oil Blues – We’re All Bozos on This Bus (episode 199), Seeking the Happy Story (part 1) – But What Do You Feel? (episode 233) and Seeking the Happy Story (part 2) – Reality Ain’t What You Believe (episode 234).


  1. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Hi Janaia,
    Another good journal entry with a great subject.
    A correction: The link doesn’t work, it should be
    Great stuff. You are providing a great service to the world.
    Regards, Ed.


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