When Giants Fall – Listening to Future Echoes

whengiantsfall.JPGWe just listened to an interview with Mark Panzner based on his new book When Giants Fall: An Economic RoadMap for the End of the American Era. We were inclined to listen carefully because in Panzner’s March 2007 book with the sensationalistic title of Financial Armageddon, he presciently foresaw the world on the cusp of a devastating global economic meltdown — and wasn’t believed.

In this audio interview with Financialsense.com host Jim Puplava, Panzner sketches a bigger picture colored with a succinct, packed set of wide-ranging observations of what’s swirling around us at this historic moment. Topics include the end of the American era, when the US’s loss of standing – economically, politically, socially, militarily, metaphorically – will be the catalyst for an array of changes. He talked of the imploding global financial system; geopolitics, including potential resource wars especially for oil and water; a lower standard of living and the return of frugality; reduced American military spending as foreign creditors no longer hold U.S. treasuries; the end of globalization (based as it is on cheap oil and cheap credit); population pressures on human and natural systems; possible social unrest even here in the U.S., as in Europe and elsewhere; American state secessionist movements and much more.

He’s not optimistic. Even we, pretty accustomed to hearing raw dark news from the likes of Carolyn Baker‘s daily news links, were pretty stunned by his observations of symptoms of the capital D Decline (and probably capital D Depression). Most of his observations weren’t new to us, but he puts together the isolated stories into a broad-brush picture that shows the decline happening gradually. Robyn said it jolted her out of another layer of denial.

And of course there are layers of denial for us, even as much as we attempt to be clear-eyed realists. As boomers, we have bred-in-the-bone optimism, because life has pretty much gotten better for most us for most of our lives. Certainly the myth of eternal upward progress proved more-or-less true for our first four or five decades. Or at least it has been spun that way, although cracks have certainly been appearing and widening in the past 25 plus years or so. My hope is that knowing what’s possible or likely to unfold will help us all prepare and adapt.

Take a listen and let me know what you think. If we were to tape a Peak Moment Conversation with him, what would you want to ask?


  1. Dear Janaia and Wanda,

    The only good news coming out of Washington, DC, is the sizable portion of the “stimulus” plan that will fund renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. I guess Obama read Thomas Friedman’s book “Hot, Flat and Crowded” in which Friedman claims our energy consumption (and CO2 emissions) could be cut dramatically if our electrical appliances would operate more efficiently and we would insulate more. He advocates having a small computer in every house which would allocate electricity to the appliances based on optimal efficiency. The book is not really a Peak Oil book, but it does focus more on the problem of climate change. The spending on enhancing efficiency, insulation measures and renewable energies is supposed to create jobs precisely in the construction industry which has been hit so hard in the housing bubble implosion. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t know if it will fly.

  2. Wanda, I find the same problem with Jim Puplava’s perspectives: he includes the end of oil but he ignores climate change — (his media associate Jim Leffler has actually presented why climate change isn’t happening.) Unfortunately, Big Money from Big Oil to pay scientists to provide a dissenting voice to climate change is well-documented by Bill McKibben and others. I hear similar things from respected oil scholars we heard at ASPO-USA — the notion that climate change is 30 years off but oil decline is now, and that’s what we need to deal with.

    And maybe that’s because climate change is outside of control. Industrial civilization’s control. You can’t easily factor it into a financial picture like a declining resource. Easier to ignore it, perhaps, since chaos is a wild card.

    Yes, Transition and Relocalization activities are really important. I hope you saw our recent conversation with Jennifer Gray about Transition Initiatives coming to the US – a good introduction to these localization activities. I’ll bet you’re involved in your community!

  3. Wanda Ballentine says:

    Panzner is absolutely correct in everything he says regarding the economic situation. He does at least, which many economists – certainly not mainstream – don’t – is include the effect of the end of the oil era. However, he does NOT mention the other huge crisis facing us – climate change – which is intimately intertwined with the oil situation. The end of oil is great for climate and we should stop using it yesterday. However, we need both money and oil to develop the renewables needed to fill our energy needs – though they will NOT, even if fully developed, fill all the uses for which oil has been used.

    What he describes as the future is, of course, the heroic development by Transition Towns UK and the Post Carbon Institute’s Relocalization Projects in the US, which have now joined forces. These movements are the only possible ones I see possible – and were certainly foreseen by Jame Howard Kunstler and Richard Heinberg, in their many writings.

    People must organize locally to meet basic needs and re-create community in our fractured “me first” society.

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