Q & A with Mat Stein
1. Question: A lot of people are now really concerned – or even hopeless – about the state of the world and what our future holds. Peak oil and climate change, the global food crisis, the War in Iraq, a weak economy, and a number of recent devastating natural disasters give us real reason for concern, but many of those things weren’t even on the radar – or were, but to a lesser extent – when When Technology Fails was first published in 2000. What was your original intent in writing the book?
My original intention was to provide a practical handbook to help people to plan for, and deal with, the difficulties that most of us will face as we pass the peak in global oil production and experience the consequences of escalating ecological decline exacerbated by catastrophic climate change. Even though the average person was not generally aware of these disturbing trends back in 1997, when I first received the inspiration to write this book, thousands of scientists around the world were already discussing the havoc that these trends were likely to wreak upon our planet if we were unsuccessful in our efforts to change the way we do business and generate our energy. In addition helping people plan and prepare for these impending world changes and disruptions in our way of life, it was also my goal to raise the conscious awareness of sustainable alternatives to “business as usual.” It is my hope that many millions of people will wake up to the realization that making the shift to sustainability is a matter of economic and ecological survival. If enough people awaken to this understanding, we will be able to force our governments into making the radical changes that are needed to change our course and avert economic, social, and ecological collapse.
2. Chelsea Green’s publisher Margo Baldwin asked you to update When Technology Fails for re-issue this fall. How does it differ from the first edition?
Answer: Since the first edition was written before 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the current record escalation in oil prices, I fully rewrote and significantly expanded the second chapter, Present Trends, Possible Futures to reflect our rapidly changing world and its current trends. It is becoming increasingly clear that if our civilization is to survive, we must quickly and radically shift the way we generate our energy, and do our business, into ways that halt the rapid degradation of those natural systems that maintain life on Earth. I wanted to end on a positive note and give people a realistic sense of how we could change our world to avoid collapse, so I added a new closing chapter, Making the Shift to Sustainability. After writing the first edition, I also became a licensed contractor and green builder. I drew upon this practical experience to significantly expand the Shelter and Building chapter. While building green homes in Hawaii, we had the misfortune to rent a home for ourselves that harbored three of the four most infamous deadly black molds. The wettest winter in 100 years brought this mold out. It nearly killed my wife and my mother in-law, while making my son and his friend quite ill. As a result of learning about mold “the hard way”, I have added valuable practical information and advice on dealing with mold both to the Shelter and Building chapter and to chapter 9, When High-Tech Medicine Fails. The resource guides at the end of every chapter have been updated to show the best and latest books, web sites, and sources for more information and materials pertaining to the subjects covered by their respective chapters. Additionally, the text of the following chapters was also significantly updated: An Introduction to Self-Reliance; Supplies and Preparations; Water; and Energy, Heat and Power.
3. Question: You write, “Emergency preparedness isn’t about a bunch of survivalists crawling around in the woods, preparing to fight off the starving hordes in some grim post 9/11 apocalyptic fantasy.” That stereotype does exist, but given a rising level of alarm, do you think more middle-of-the-road folks are beginning to think about emergency preparedness?
Answer: My book is quite unusual in that it appeals to eco-green types, survivalists, and all the average folks in between who simply want to be able to help their friends and families in times of emergency. Emergency Preparedness is kind of like car insurance—you hope you never need it, but when a real emergency does arise you thank God that you had the foresight to spend a few dollars and a few hours of your time on basic preparedness supplies and planning. Most people can’t forget those pictures of the suffering masses stuck in the New Orleans’ stadium, sweltering in the heat as the potable water ran out while they waited days for relief to arrive from the federal government. It has become quite clear that when a far-reaching disaster strikes, you will be pretty much on your own for several days, and maybe longer.
4. Question: When Technology Fails is – at its root – a comprehensive handbook of survival skills. Those skills range from building an emergency shelter and purifying water to foraging for food and dealing with medical situations at home. Obviously the future is uncertain, but can you give us a list of your Top Ten most crucial survival skills?
- Be prepared: I strongly suggest that everyone put together a basic 72-hour “grab-and-run” survival kit (see page 51 for full list of items). This kit should cover the basic food, water and survival needs for you and your family for at least the critical first three days after a disaster. Most of us could survive for a month without food, but a single day without water in extreme heat is enough to kill a person.
- Develop your intuition: Most survivors credit their instincts and “gut feel” with saving their lives. Natural selection has bred the most incredible survival mechanism into man. It is called “intuition” and primitive man has relied upon it for untold millennia to help him to make life-and-death decisions in a split second. Unfortunately, our modern society places most of its value on rational left-brain type of thinking, and for the most part ignores the intuitive right-brain type of thinking. On page 74, I teach the “Pit of the Stomach” exercise for intuitively testing potential options before making a decision. Best to practice these skills in your daily life, when the consequences of your decisions are not usually life-and-death.
- Disaster plan: See the Short-Term Preparedness Checklist on Page 50. Discuss a plan with your family for communicating and responding to a disaster when phone lines may be dead (select a predetermined local meeting area and out of town contact; know how to shut off your home’s gas and electricity supply, etc.).
- Learn First Aid: In the back country, as well as in most natural or man made disasters, knowing fist aid (including CPR) saves lives.
- Go camping and backpacking: Most people have not camped or backpacked since they were a kid, or perhaps never at all. If you are in this category, start with some car camping for a few weekends. I suggest you get comfortable with car camping before graduating to overnight backpacking trips. Backpacking will accustom your body to hiking several miles at a time and carrying whatever you need yourself. When you have to carry everything on your own back, you learn quickly what is necessary, and what you can do without. If you are an inexperienced “city slicker” and are thrust into a true survival situation, the experience will probably be quite painful, and possibly deadly. My basic outdoor gear recommendations start on page 59.
- Know how to start a fire: Being able to build a fire is important for cooking, purifying water, preventing hypothermia in cold climates, keeping wild animals away at night (in some areas), and signaling potential rescuers. Starting on page 76 my book gives illustrated instructions for building fires including: starting a fire with matches; using a flint-and-steel; starting a fire with a primitive fire drill; using a “fire plough”, etc.
- Learn how to find and purify water: Unless you are in a cold climate, a single day without water will make you quite miserable, and three days could kill you. Bees and birds can lead you to sources of fresh surface water. A primitive solar still can collect enough water for survival from plants and ground moisture (see most of chapter 5, Water). In this chapter, I also provide instructions for purifying water using common household chemicals, and offer my specific recommendations for portable water filters and purifiers. Over the years, I have personally designed some of these devices, so this is an area where I am truly quite an expert.
- Survivor personality: Developing the mental traits of the “survivor personality” will help you to navigate and thrive in spite of life’s challenges. The best survivors are flexible, tend to keep their cool in stressful situations, don’t give up, have a playful curiosity, have a good sense of humor, don’t tend to “cry over spilled milk”, follow their “gut feelings”, and are often “bad patients” and poor rule followers. Starting on page 71, I discuss these traits and how to develop your own “survivor personality”.
- Learn the “Plant Edibility Test”: Most people will not happen to have a guide to wild edible plants on hand when they are thrust into a survival situation. If you know how to perform the “Plant Edibility Test” (see page 81), you will always have a safe way to test local plants for potential edibility. The full test takes a couple of days to complete, but most inedible plants will be weeded out in the first few minutes (see page 81). In general, people who can forage for wild edible plants will be much better fed than those who have no modern equipment (like a gun or fishing gear) and must rely on primitive trapping and hunting skills.
- Learn how to make a primitive shelter: Learn how to make a “Scout Pit”, Squirrel’s Nest”, snow cave and other primitive shelters. In severe weather a shelter could save your life, and at other times it will make your life far more comfortable (instructions starting on page 82).
5. Question: Do you know how to do everything in the book?
Answer: I know how to do a surprising amount of the material in my book, but I would be lying if I said I had practiced every skill taught in every chapter. I grew up hunting, fishing, backpacking, rock climbing and mountaineering, so I have quite a repertoire of wilderness survival skills. At one point, we lived on acreage where we had a large organic garden, grew chickens and rabbits, and I installed a solar hot water system on our home. My mother taught spinning, weaving, sewing and knitting. The sewing part rubbed off on me, but not much of the rest. I have not brain-tanned a buck skin, but I have made my own leather sandals (several pair) and sewn numerous items of back country gear of my own design. I have made my own wooden patterns and sand cast metal parts in low tech foundry, but I have never made my own cupola furnace from scratch to cast steel from a bunch of scrap metal. I have never made a tipi, but I have slept in snow caves and crawled into a “squirrel’s nest” of my own making to help take some of the chill off of an unplanned overnight bivouac in the wilderness. I have pit-fired my own pottery, hand blown my own glassware, and at one pointing time I seriously considered dropping out of MIT to become a professional potter. On top of engineering, green building and wilderness survival, I also I have a great deal of personal experience with water quality, water treatment, renewable energy, and alternative healing.
6. Question: How did you learn these skills?
Answer: I learned a lot of them by doing. My grandmother and parents started taking me into the back country at age 5. At age 11 I took a weekend course in basic rock climbing from the Adirondack Mountain Club and was bitten by the climbing and mountaineering bug. I started climbing with some friends who had taken an “Outward Bound” type class. Luckily I survived some close calls and stupid mistakes over the years. No one could possibly know all of the information taught in my book, so I did a lot of research and relied on numerous experts in many different fields to fill in the holes in my own background and experience. Between the first and second edition, I purchased over $10,000 worth of research books, and devoted over three years of my own labor. Luckily my readers won’t have to go through what I went through in order to compile all of this great information into one thorough yet engaging and easy-to-read book!
7. Question: Some of the skills are really cool — like building shelters in the snow and spinning plant fibers into cord. Have you read The Dangerous Book for Boys and what did you think of it?
Answer: I have not read it yet, but several people have made the comparison and I have this book on order so I can check it out. I will say that adolescent boys love my book! When I have had a booth at a local home show, adolescent boys, and a smaller percentage of girls (about 3:1 boys over girls), won’t put my book down once they pick it up, and beg their parents to buy them a copy. Way cool stuff in my book for teenagers, both boys and girls!
8. What TV shows did you watch as a kid? And do you have any favorite superheroes?
Answer: I watched a lot of Star Trek, Maverick, Laugh-In, The Saint, The Avengers, and Green Acres. My favorite superheroes were Spiderman and the Fantastic Four. Also Green Lantern, Batman and Iron Man, to a lesser degree. When I was a young teenager, I had a pilot comic book for a super hero who was brought up in a Tibetan monastery. After his missionary parents had died, the local monks raised him and taught him to develop his mental and physical powers through intense discipline and mediation. I absolutely adored that comic book and read it over and over until the pages fell apart.
9. Question: Has your life ever depended on any of the skills in this book?
Answer: Yes, on a number of occasions. I used to enjoy taking solo back country trips through the High Sierra in the dead of winter, which required several of these skills. From extreme skiing, to rock climbing and mountaineering, to surviving avalanches, several times my body has reacted perfectly to potentially deadly situations faster than my mind could think of the proper thing to do (quite amazing to watch your body do things without your mind telling it what to do, as if your mind was a passive observer!). I have also used the “Pit of the Stomach” method to help me make a few critical decisions. I once kept the airway open for a woman who had fractured her skull in a mountain biking accident. She was gurgling and choking on blood, and may have suffocated before the ambulance arrived had I not intervened. On another occasion, when a little girl started screaming hysterically at a playground, I saw that she had cut her finger off by accident. I helped her control the bleeding and was able to properly collect and preserve her severed finger. It was successfully reattached by a surgeon later that day. On several occasions, I have used direct pressure and/or arterial pressure points to help control severe bleeding.
10. Question: Are there things that are not in this book, but that you want or think you still need to learn?
Answer: There are always new things to learn and I hope to never stop learning until the day I die. Many years ago, I had some rather shocking success performing metaphysical healing for a friend (my crippled friend regained full use of her legs), and I would like to rekindle and further develop my ability to be a conduit for that kind of healing. When I get the time, I would like to take a few classes on primitive living skills (brain-tanning buckskin, flint knapping, etc.) from one or more of the people I recommend in my book, so I can receive hands on instructions from true masters in their craft. I also wish to build a “ZeroPower” green home for myself, and not just build green homes for other people.
11. Question: At one time – and not really that long ago – it was considered impractical for a middle class college kid to want to learn to farm whereas learning computer skills was seen as critical for a young person’s future. Do you think that ideas about what is practical and impractical – good versus not-so-good investments for the future – are changing at all?
Answer: The truth is that if technology fails in a big way, your ability to do things with your hands, like grow food, make a shelter, and heal people without high tech pharmaceuticals, will be quite valuable. Your ability to work well with others, and to be well liked and personable, will also be quite valuable. The lone wolf will face a miserably lonely existence, and will be easy pickings for someone who is tougher, has more buddies, and is better armed. Strength will be in tight-knit communities with a shared pool of resources and skills cemented by strong personal bonds.
12. Question: You write that you doubt we will see technology fail completely. What do you think will fail and – if you don’t mind indulging your imagination – how do you think it will happen?
Answer: If we don’t proactively develop carbon-neutral alternatives to both oil and our current ways of burning coal for making electricity and cement, I believe that the dual threats of climate change and economic collapse will take our society down. We are shipping $1 ½ billion out of the country every day to purchase foreign oil, and spending another $1/2 billion a day on military expenditures in the Persian Gulf to protect our oil sources and keep the “Black Gold” flowing. We are already seeing huge economic repercussions from the past year’s record breaking oil prices, and I believe that this is just the beginning, because even though the world’s output of traditional crude oil has been dropping for the past few years, this drop has been offset by increases in production from tar sands and biofuels, which are much harder to process than good old “sweet crude” oil. In the next year or two, it appears that the declines in traditional oil will accelerate and the gains in bio fuels and tar sands will not be able to keep up with these declines. Adding to this problem is the fact that India and China’s rapid industrialization is increasing their appetite for oil at a rate of about 10% per year. The world’s declining oil fields just won’t be able to keep up with the demand for oil, so unless we hurry to develop and implement the technologies to get us off the oil and coal habit (burning coal contributes nearly twice as much greenhouse gasses per unit of energy as does burning oil), then our economies will collapse under the strain of escalating fuel prices exacerbated by horrendous global calamities due to climate change.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba’s supply line to foreign oil, consumer goods, and spare parts evaporated. Most Cubans lost at least twenty pounds of weight, agriculture switched from oil and chemical intensive methods to organic methods, and natural healing replaced most pharmaceuticals. Most people’s lives went on fairly well, so Cuba is a good example for how to make the best of a bad situation. On the other hand, as a result of the same Soviet Union collapse, the lights and the heat went out for most North Koreans, and many millions of people starved or froze to death in the harsh North Korean winters. In Russia itself, when the Soviet Union collapsed and their cash was not worth anything any more, public transportation continued to run, no one was kicked out of their homes, the heat stayed on in the apartment buildings, and the millions of “kitchen gardens” that people had grown for years to supplement what was available from the inefficient state run markets became the saviors of many families. In America, during the great depression, many thousands of hard working people were evicted from their homes when they could no longer make their rent or mortgage payments, and shanty towns sprung up across the country. So, do we proactively do our best to minimize the pain of our transition from “business as usual” and a fossil fuel based economy to a sustainable way of life, or do we just try to pump the oil faster, net the last remaining fish in the sea as quickly as possible, and cut down the last rain forests so we can maintain the illusion of a good bottom line for as long as possible before the depleted natural systems collapse all around us while we go out with a bang?
12. So, uh, what happens when our IPods won’t work?
Answer: We may have to learn how to sing, play banjos, and gather round the camp fire to entertain ourselves, much like our ancestors did.
13. Question: What is your vision of our world or our country in 10, 20, or 50 years?
Vision 1: We proactively manage the transition away from fossil fuels and make the shift to sustainability (see my twelve point list for how to do this, starting on page 460). In ten years time, global warming and natural catastrophes are significantly worse, but we have drastically reduced global greenhouse gas emissions. The world is united behind efforts to replace old inefficient and polluting industrial processes and machines with new green and efficient ones, and we are actively replacing fossil fuel based technologies with renewable energy technologies and other carbon-neutral energy systems. Mass transit systems help ease the transition from today’s inefficient private cars to new super efficient shared cars, commuter buses and trains. World population, including all Third World countries, is declining significantly under the leadership and financial support of the Western world. At twenty years, global warming effects peak due to delayed system response, and then the world’s climate starts to slowly return to normal. At 50 years there is a global renaissance throughout the world! All of this was brought about by the fact that sustainability and optimum ecosystem health have replaced maximum short-term gain as the number one goal of business and government. This all came about through a coordinated system of taxes, fines, global regulation, and rebates to support those businesses and processes that are performed in sustainable ways while penalizing those systems and processes that continue to do business in ways that deplete the natural world, pollute our air and water, or release significant amounts of greenhouse gases, making it financial suicide to run a business in non-sustainable ways!.
Vision 2: We continue along our current path of maximum oil drilling and military intervention to insure access to the world’s dwindling oil resources. Our national debt continues to accelerate and the value of the dollar plunges due to mounting debt in the US, lack of confidence from lender nations, and the need to offer ever higher percentage rates to entice other countries to finance our debt, which makes it absolutely impossible for the US to maintain its debt payments to the various lender nations. As our dollar plunges, OPEC drops the dollar standard and no country will finance our debt (we are too big of a risk now). With the declining dollar, the cost of oil climbs over $1,000 US dollars a barrel, and the cost of energy makes it prohibitively expensive to manufacture or transport much of anything inside the USA. Our dollar crashes so badly that we can’t afford to buy the raw materials from other countries to make the products we need within our own country to maintain our infrastructure (natural gas, freeways, electric power utilities, water utilities, etc). Most of the US economy collapses totally and it ripples throughout the world. Catastrophes brought on by climate change exacerbate economic problems in countries all around the world and the global economy collapses. Like Cuba after the Soviet collapse, we go back to animal and human powered farming, natural healing methods, and a local trade based economy because our dollar bills are worthless. The cities degrade and crumble without an economy to support city based jobs. Climate changes wreak havoc and there is no remaining centralized government (it went bankrupt and collapsed along with most of the US businesses). Starvation and plagues sweep through our cities and there is a mass exodus to the countryside. Land barons welcome people to work the fields as share croppers and serfs. Since the oil dried up, everything from tilling the fields to growing cotton and weaving cloth becomes very labor dependant and people basically go back to a medieval lifestyle. As the oil dried up and the ships stopped moving goods between the continents, massive numbers of people starved in areas that were previously fed by once healthy ocean fisheries and huge shipments of food from far away lands. The oceans were totally fished out with all major fisheries collapsing, and huge areas of once fertile lands turn into desert as a result of climate change. In the US, China and India, the heavily irrigated fields that once fed millions of city dwellers become desert again as aquifers are depleted, the electricity to drive the well pumps becomes too expensive to support farming, and the ships that once brought new pumps and spare parts stop sailing. The Earth experiences massive overshoot and die off, settling down to a population of roughly ½ billion people (1/16th of what it was at its peak).
14. Question: Are there positive aspects of technological failure?
Answer: In general, technology failures usually bring out the best in people. When the Cypress Freeway collapsed in Oakland CA during the Loma Prieta earthquake, homeless people became heroes risking their lives to crawl under tons of debris and pull survivors from their wrecked vehicles. I think the heroes in New Orleans outnumbered the looters and rapists by at least 20:1. Local catastrophes usually nurture a strong sense of community and the desire to serve others unselfishly. If technology collapses totally, we will probably take many of the earth’s eco systems down with us in our final efforts to keep business-as-usual running, but my guess is that most humans will die off after the collapse of technology and then nature will rebound quite well within a couple hundred years. Good news for nature—bad news for us!
15. Question: The first chapter of When Technology Fails is “An Introduction to Self-Reliance.” If an early American visionary like Ralph Waldo Emerson – who so championed the idea of self-reliance – could see our country now, what do you think his reaction would be?
Answer: “Wake up folks, turn off your TVs, go outside and take a walk in nature. If we don’t do something fast, this nature that surrounds you is going down, and when it goes down, you are soon to follow!”
16. Question: There is an emphasis in your book on self-reliance, but what about the role of community and family? Do you think that we might see resurgence in the roles of, for example, extended families in the coming years?
Answer: I believe that community and family, or extended family, is a major key to navigating a future filled with climate change and economic uncertainty. Just as the banks and mortgage companies are reeling from the economic fallout from people who are defaulting on their payments, utility companies will experience similar crisis as fewer and fewer people have the available cash to pay for escalating energy prices. Community based local energy co-ops, built on renewable energy technologies and locally grown and processed biofuels, will stand a much better chance than most large utility companies for making the rapid changes required to survive in the coming times. The synergistic combination of communal talents, skills and resources makes 1+1 equal to 3.
17. Question: You write a lot about the importance of intuition, particularly in life or death situations, but we’ve become a nation of people who spend more time in front of computer and TV screens and in our cars than we do outside bagging peaks and running rivers (to borrow from Edward Abbey). Do you think the amount of time we spend inside has a detrimental impact on the acuity of human intuition?
Answer: Yes, but it is never too late to change. Natural selection (survival of the fittest) bred into mankind an incredible survival mechanism that is capable of making critical decisions at lighting speed. We each have this built in “gut feel” and “internal radar”, whether we have used it or not. In chapter 3, Emergency Measures for Survival, starting on page 71, I offer suggestions and exercises under the headings of Developing a Survivor Personality and Intuition: A Survivor’s Powerful Ally. Several survivors of the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11 speak about a calm inner voice that directed them to do exactly the right action that led to their survival while most of the surrounding people died. These were city dwellers, yet they were able to hear the voice of their inner guidance. Your intuition simply knows the right thing to do. It is calm and unwavering, whereas the voice of the mind tends to go a hundred miles an hour as it rapidly flip-flops on its decisions and internal dialog.
18. Question: Okay, this is my last question and I’m sorry, but I can’t not ask you. Remember Y2K? Is it possible that you’re advocating preparedness for scenarios that will never happen except in the case of localized natural disasters? Is there any part of you that thinks that, actually, for the most part things will be just fine and mostly we’ll just keep on keeping on in the future pretty much the way we’ve kept on keeping on until now?
Answer: No. I never thought that Y2K would amount to much since it was all about a silly little computer glitch, and the private sector had too much at stake to not implement some relatively simple software fixes. This was a simple problem with a simple solution.
On the other hand, oil depletion, climate change, overpopulation and global ecological degradation are trends that have been foreseen by scientists for many years. These are real problems with difficult solutions. The implementation of these solutions will take major financial, resource, and time commitments coupled with huge shifts in public policies. Just because our scientists know this is happening does not mean we will be successful in changing our course and implementing the right solutions. Take a look at New Orleans. For over 50 years, engineers had been warning politicians that the levies needed replacing. They warned that there was no way that the city’s levies could withstand a direct hit from a storm like the hurricane that flattened the city of Galveston in 1900, killing an estimated 8,000 people.
Some people might ask, “Mankind has been on this planet for many thousands of years, so how could things get so bad so quickly?” The answer lies with global population growth exacerbated by rapid industrialization and consumption that has effectively multiplied the effects of population growth many times over. After some great prehistoric natural catastrophe decimated the population of humans on Earth, which was described in the Bible as Noah’s Flood and in ancient Sumerian tablets as The Epic of Gligamesh, it took mankind about 10,000 years to grow the first ½ billion people. It took another 800 years to double that number to make a population of one billion people. Fueled by the industrial revolution, improved agriculture and medicine, it took only 130 years to double this to two billion people. From the time when I was a kid in the 1960’s and the Earth’s population was three billion, it took only forty more years for the planet to double again to reach a population of roughly six billion in the year 2,000. It has been scientifically estimated that the global footprint of mankind exceeded the Earth’s biocapacity in the mid 1980’s (see page 453), and that since that time we have been operating in an “overshoot” mode (see page 20), meaning that we are consuming the planet’s resources faster than they are regenerating. Any scientist will agree that the continuation of this pattern is 100% guaranteed to result in collapse. So, if we do not change the way we do business on our planet, we will collapse and business will fail! Back in the mid 1800’s, many millions of people decided that slavery was an evil whose time had passed, and they put Lincoln in power to end it. The world never would have defeated Hitler if it was number ten on the priority list. Making the Shift to Sustainability (see list on page 460) will not be easy, but it is doable and it is much better than the alternative. Shouldn’t saving the planet be at the top of our world’s priority list?
19. Question: One more question. When do you expect Armageddon?
Answer: I don’t have the answer to that question. A friend of mine once said, “God works on a need-to-know basis”, and I can’t claim that God has provided me with that knowledge. I do believe that when the complete outline for my book, in the form of a graphical “story-board” type presentation, came to me instantaneously during my morning session of prayer and mediation in 1997, that this was some kind of “download from above.” I had simply made the rather generic request for “guidance and inspiration” and was quite frankly overwhelmed by what I received. A term paper in college was a major ordeal for me. I am just not smart enough to figure out an outline, in less than one minute, for a huge project like this book. The same source that provided me with this “assignment” indicated that huge numbers of people would need the kind of information covered by my book in the not-too-distant future. When Y2K came around, I was not very concerned and figured at most there might be a few computer glitch related power failures. In the case of Y2K, I knew that the private sector had too much at risk to not implement solutions to a simple computer problem. Many people are talking about the year 2012, which is the year that the Mayan Calendar ends. There is talk about Hopi prophecies. According to the Hopi Indian elders, mankind has been around for many millennia, and that we have blasted technologically advanced civilizations back to the Stone Age on three prior occasions (the last time being the great flood as recorded on Sumerian tablets and in the Bible), and unless we do the right thing, we are about to collapse our world again. I must admit that I have more anxiety about 2012 than I ever had about Y2K. Certainly, by 2012, I believe that the combined challenges of having passed the peak in global oil production, escalating climate change, and ecosystem degradation will be so “in-your-face” that mankind will be severely challenged. Hopefully, by that time we will begun to implement major proactive programs towards Making the Shift to Sustainability (see chapter 16), and not just keep trying to heal our planet’s gaping wounds with little band-aids so we can continue with business-as-usual!.