Nov 272010

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Mark Twain

Michael Brownlee, co-founder of Transition Colorado says, “There is just a markedly greater degree of denial here in the U.S. with things like fossil fuel depletion and climate change and economic decline.” Probably not surprising in a country where 5% of the world’s population uses 20% of the energy.

Denial is a defense mechanism  postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.”

Denial is why Transition movements in the U.S. have difficulty gaining any real traction. According to Mr. Brownlee, again, in an article  in the Fall 2010 issue of Yes Magazine, “There’s much less a sense of community and connectivity here. It makes it more difficult for people to think in terms of self-organizing as a community around these issues.”

But even where efforts towards energy descent have made marked progress, denial raises its ugly head. In the last four years New York City, under Mayor Blomberg, has added 250 miles of bike lanes to facilitate the uses of bicycles for urban transportation. Anyone who has spent time in European cities such as Copenhagen, where huge posses of bike riders dominate the streets, might think this was a great leap forward. Not the motorists of the Big Apple. “Surging bike ridership has created a simmering cultural conflict between competing notions of urban transportation. Many New Yorkers object to bicycle lanes as sudden, drastic changes to their coveted concrete front yards.“He’s taking away my rights as a driver,” Leslie Sicklick, 45, said of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.”

We want our cars. We don’t need no stinking bike lanes.

Nobody wants to think about what might happen if the “peakers” are right. Writer Jim Quinn lays it out again here “The US Military, the German Military, and the UK Department of Energy have all done detailed studies of the situation and come to the same conclusions. Social chaos, economic confusion, trade barriers, conflict, food shortages, riots, and war are in our future.”

Chris Nelder descibes reaction to Peak Oil using the Kubler-Ross stages of denial:
1.    Denial: “There’s plenty of oil out there, and we can drill our way out of this.”
2.    Anger: “Why aren’t those bastards drilling our way out of this?”
3.    Bargaining: “Well maybe ANWR, the continental offshore, the tar sands, and slightly more   efficient cars will fix it.”
4.    Depression: “Oh man, we’re screwed, it’s too big a problem for me, I might as well give up.”
5.    Acceptance: “I’m ready for the second half of the Age of Oil and I’m going to find a way forward.”

Or Kubler-Ross as applied to the Lummi Island Ferry:
1. Denial: We’ve had a ferry for 100 years and should have one for 100 more.
2. Anger:  Gosh dang County is incompetent and the Lummis are greedy.
3. Bargaining: More people would ride if the County reduced rates but how about only $2 more?
4. Depression: They’re going to raise the rates anyway and the Lummis aren’t through dicking with us.
5. Acceptance: Maybe we should come up with some kind of realistic, sustainable, long-term plan for island transportation.

“Denial — is the only fact
Perceived by the Denied,”
Emily Dickinson


  5 Responses to “Denial”

  1. I would put us at stage 3 in the above scenario on our ‘ferry fiasco’, and soon to be stage 4 when the puffs of smoke start rising from the Lummi Casino, where to my dismay, mediation is taking place.
    I’ve suggested to the County Council that it’s time to call the Lummi’s bluff, if in fact it is one. Give them the bottom line, or show them the door. That’s what Cagey did a year ago, and it really shook things up, enough to get a temporary (ha, ha) huge rate increase, and a Council willing to sell us down the river.
    My only two personal experiences with negotiations reinforce the Kubler-Ross stages of denial:
    1. As an Air Traffic Controller, shown the door by President Reagan in the’70’s, our union crumbled after stage 4, and the reality of having to find other means to support our families led to some pretty horrific stories from fellow strikers. Nearly all got fired, with no option of returning to the bargaining process.
    We found out the bottom line the hard way.
    2. As a manager of a steel operation in Houston, when the Teamsters shut us down for several weeks, I replaced all the workers on strike with ‘scabs’ and started from scratch (at least I learned something). With trucks moving goods in and out of the plant (mostly a charade), and workers missing out on pay checks, they told the union to take a hike, and began bargaining in good faith. A deal was reached, and things returned to normal.
    The Lummi Business Council has yet to face the prospects of ‘pissing away’ a pretty good thing, and the Islanders have yet to face stage 5, where we come up with a different model for sustaining our transportation needs.
    I think the passenger only ferry to Fairhaven, with public transit and shared vehicles on the mainland, is both a good short term ‘show THEM the door’ statement, and not an unbearable long term solution, IF they really do want us gone from their shores.

  2. Or, as Tip Johnson suggests, let the Lummis run a ferry.

  3. Regardless of who runs the ferry, I believe it’s going to Gooseberry. The details will get worked out, and we will pay more. Time to move on IMO. The fares will never be lowered, only maintained at the soon to be designated rates, and open to escalation as resources become scarce down the road. If you do an audit of the County books, you might as well do an audit of all government books…municipal, county, state and yes….the Fed/US government…….you will find the same thing every time. I would be surprised if Whatcom County was singled out as a violator, and the rest get a free ride. The rising tide floated all boats on the back of creative accounting, and the falling tide is now in full force. The convenience of quick, virtually non-stop ferry service accessing mainland goods and services makes the sustainability issue mute in most Lummi Islander’s minds. The Maine islands are more remote, and generally costlier to travel to and from. So out of necessity, they have built a self sustaining infrastructure including doctor’s offices, dental, senior housing, volunteer transportation committees, etc. As long as denial runs rampant on LI, there is no necessity, so it will be a long row to hoe to get to the 5th stage….and hopefully when we get to that final stage, there will be enough attitude, people power, and funds to make it so…’s the imminent 4th stage that will be interesting. The first half of 2011 will bring to the surface the real state of local governments. It will not be a pretty sight. But the herd is fixated on a pseudo improving economy, and the dreams of life as it was. Not going to happen. Fixing the transportation problem when we get to the 5th state of denial assumes there will be money and impetus to fix it, or there will be a population that still travels at will to and from the mainland like it was a trip to the Islander (which hurts due to the convenience factor, as well as the ailing economy)….we are in transition whether we recognize it or not…’s a matter of being prepared for it, or just keep staring at the light at the end of the tunnel, thinking it’s the returning status quo, when in reality it’s a train.

    “There are roughly 14.5 million unemployed in the US, another 9.4 involuntary part-time workers, and 2.5 million marginally attached workers. The latter category is basically people who would take a job if they could find one but haven’t looked in the past four weeks. Plus younger people who have gone back to school because they can’t find a job.

    For the part-time workers to get full-time jobs we need to create (guessing) at least 4-5 million full-time jobs to give them the hours they want. That is at least 11-12 million jobs we need to have to get back to the unemployment levels of 2007 (assuming that about 7.5 million jobs gets us to 5% unemployment).

    Now, we need about 1.5 million jobs every year to cover new people coming into the labor force – or that is what history and economists tell us. I am not so sure that number is not itself history. What group of people has seen its unemployment level go down? People over 55! My generation is not retiring as planned and indeed is going back to work. Retirement is somewhere in the future in a world where stocks have gone nowhere for ten years and housing values have collapsed.

    We may need more than 1.5 million jobs a year (125,000 a month) if Boomers aren’t going to quit. But let’s assume they do, for the sake of argument.

    That means in the next five years we need more than 19 million jobs to get back to under 5% unemployment. That’s almost 4 million jobs a year or more than 325,000 a month, each and every month. Or 27 million jobs to get back there in ten years, or almost 230,000 jobs a month each and every month.”

    From John Mauldin’s Frontline Thoughts

    Dmitry Orlov survived the Russian collapse, and writes about it on his blog….Club Orlov. Here are some thoughts from Dmitry:

    This is a trip down a long and winding road, full of land mines. Again….Ben Franklin….

    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

  4. I find myself looking forward to Transition Lummi Island. I have watched the process for a long time, and day dream about events returning aspects of the island back to my early memories. Back to the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. My family would arrive each summer, in the first week of August, and stay until just after Labor Day, at my grandparents cabin, near the Beach Store. We would ride over on the six car ferry, Chief Kwina. The fare was $1.00 for the car and $.25 for adult passengers. But if you went into the Courthouse, you could buy an annual windshield decal for $25, that would cover all the trips we made during the summer. Actually, we seldom left the island during our 3 week stay. The roads on the island were not paved, but were oiled gravel, and could become quite dusty between oiling. We didn’t have any electricity in our cabin, but had two pump-up, white-gas lanterns hanging from hooks in the living room, and a beautiful coal-oil chandelier hanging over the dining room table, with crystal bobs hanging around the edge. There were plain lanterns for use in the kitchen, and there was a propane stove for cooking. On the back porch was the “cooler” for keeping our milk and groceries cool. It was just a cupboard with window screen sides and door, but served well as our “refrigerator”. We didn’t make trips to Bellingham for groceries. We bought bacon and cheese from Harold Long, at the Beach Store. Eggs from Wad & Clara Dunn over in Legoe Bay, and Milk from Mac Granger. A lady up on Tuttle Lane churned Butter, and she supplied all we needed. The population of the island was around 300. Some of the men held off island jobs, and would commute, but most of the women stayed home to raise the kids, tend the garden, and home. Scenic Estates, and Isle Aire did not yet exist, and the road towards the mountain ended at Sunrise Cove. The island women generously shared their abundant vegetables with those who didn’t have a garden. Frank Adema ran a sawmill that supplied most folks lumber needs. Sandy Perminski did masonary work, and Ray Koneke did most of the handyman jobs people needed. If you needed nails or roofing tar, Harold Long would pick up whatever you needed when he would do his suppy runs for the Beach Store. My mom would bake black berry pies, and my dad would catch salmon or bottom fish. In my memories, life was easy, and Lummi Island was a paradise of warm summer days, searching tide pools, and building rafts. I guess I want Lummi Island to always be those 3 weeks in August. I also realize that at this stage of my life, I perhaps need more than what I needed then. I too am in transition. No longer the 5 year old boy, bounding up the path to the cabin, pausing to wave to Jack Miller as he pulls the Chief Kwina out of the ferry slip, but now a white haired old man, with aches and pains, sitting in an easy chair, watching the Whatcom Chief go back and forth. There is no denial, whether it is peak-oil, poor politics, bad decisions, or old age, there will be transitions in our lives. And then there won’t………

  5. Thanks Ed. I like the picture you painted for us. Nicely done.

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