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Q: “Grandpa, why didn’t you help make the changes needed to adapt to energy decline 25 years ago?”

A: Well, Marion, it was just hard to do with everything else going on. We were watching TV, traveling, eating well, fighting wars against enemies both real and imagined, working hard at our old jobs, and planning for our so-called “golden years.” And then there were all the distractions: Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, funny videos, computer games, football, NASCAR, any and all kinds of entertainment; more than you could ever imagine right at our fingertips! Do you know we had over 120 video channels and something called the Internet for instant global communications? And besides, most of our leaders, the oil companies, economists and journalists said it wasn’t going to be a big problem for a long long time or they just didn’t talk about it at all.

Q: You believed them?

A: Yes, I suppose I did most of the time. Lots of people believed them. Either that or we simply took the easy route and ignored thinking about it at all. The rest I guess really believed that “green” technology would save us.

Q: Why?

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Conference Overview

This conference, sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Public Health Preparedness, will address the linkages between peak oil, climate change, our built environment, and the public’s health. Special focus will be paid to identifying the consequences as well as envisioning solutions and building resistance to what will be a great threat to public health.

Featured Speakers

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett ‐ Congressman Bartlett has demonstrated his leadership and his concern about peak oil by becoming a founding member of the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus. As one of three scientists in the Congress, Dr. Bartlett is also a senior member of the Science Committee and specifically uses his science knowledge on the Energy and the Environment as well as the Research and Science Education subcommittees.
Howard Frumkin, MD, MPH, DrPH – Dr. Frumkin, Director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, considers Peak Oil a major threat to the public’s health. He recently coauthored a comprehensive article on the topic in the January issue of Public Health Reports titled Energy and Public Health: The Challenge of Peak Petroleum.


Registration is free, but required. Please visit the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness (CPHP) to access the conference agenda and online registration. You may choose to participate in this event “in‐person” or via “web cast.”

Editors Note: This essay was written by Michael W. Foley (TOD user greenuprising), a former professor in the social sciences. He wrote the following for The Oil Drum and we thank TOD for permission to post it here.

A sizable subset of what some on this site call “doomers” are convinced that the demise of the petroleum economy will bring social breakdown and a violent struggle of all against all. Some are even preparing for the chaos to come. I’m convinced we have to take end-of-affluence scenarios, including the scarier ones, seriously. But it can help everyone confront these possibilities if we try to think more intricately about how people might respond. In particular, we need to face head-on the question whether social breakdown and violence are inevitable.

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Editors Note: The following excerpt is from an interview published on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Website. The full article can be accessed here.

Tim Parsons, director of Public Affairs, discussed the “peak oil” theory, or the point at which the maximum production rate for the world’s oil is reached, with Brian Schwartz, MD, professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences and co-director of the School’s Program on Global Sustainability and Health. Once the peak is passed, oil production is expected to decline continuously. (Learn more about peak oil here.) Schwartz explains how future demand for energy could impact on our society and our health.

Question: What will be the impact of peak oil on our economy and our daily lives?

Answer: Petroleum and other fossil fuels are essential to all aspects of our daily lives. It is a very unique source of energy that cannot be replaced. Oil does work for us. It moves us around in automobiles and planes and it powers heavy machinery. The transportation sector cannot currently function without it. Oil is heavily used in food production and distribution including everything from fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation to agricultural machinery, transportation and refrigeration.

Access full interview from original website

Editors Note:  The following two articles appeared in Public Health Reports / January-February 2009 / Volume 124. They appear here through the kind permission of the Journal. Mainstreaming articles discussing these issues are an important step for education and acceptance.

Energy and the Public’s Health: Making the Connection (PDF) – Michael T. Osterholm and  Nicholas S. Kelley

Rarely does a scientific article come along that begs to be read by a much broader audience than the subscribers of a niche journal. Frumkin and colleagues have achieved such a feat in this issue of Public Health Reports. Their article, “Energy and Public Health: The Challenge of Peak Petroleum,” should be required reading for every public policy leader, business executive, health-care provider, and general public health professional. It makes a connection between an old world where the use of carbon-based energy was largely related to wood burning and simple crop production, and a current world that is growing closer to exhausting the fossil fuel stores created by many millions of years of geologic processes. Frankly, it’s quite hard to imagine that we have largely cannibalized the “easily obtained carbon-hydrogen bound energy” that is as much a part of our planet earth’s history as is evolution. But the depletion is happening, just as Frumkin and colleagues have detailed…

Click for full article

Energy and Public Health: The Challenge of Peak Petroleum (PDF) – Howard Frumkin, Jeremy Hess, Stephen Vindigni

Petroleum is a unique and essential energy source, used as the principal fuel for transportation, in producing many chemicals, and for numerous other purposes. Global petroleum production is expected to reach a maximum in the near future and to decline thereafter, a phenomenon known as “peak petroleum.” This article reviews petroleum geology and uses, describes the phenomenon of peak petroleum, and reviews the scientific literature on the timing ofthis transition. It then discusses how peak petroleum may affect public health and health care, by reference to four areas: medical supplies and equipment, transportation, energy generation, and food production. Finally, it suggestsstrategies for anticipating and preparing for peak petroleum, both general public health preparedness strategies and actions specific to the four expected health system impacts…

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Editors Note: The following article by Peter Goodchild is reprinted with permission from the author’s blog, The potential for four billion people succumbing to famine is certainly a symptom of poor health.

“Of all the humans who have ever lived on the Earth, most were born in the last 50 years.”

Around the beginning of the twenty-first century, there began a clash of two gigantic forces: overpopulation and oil depletion. The event went unnoticed by all but a few people, but it was quite real. As a result of that clash, the number of human beings on Earth must one day decline in order to match the decline in oil production.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to get those two giant forces into equilibrium in any gentle fashion, because in every year that has gone by for the last few thousand years — and every year that will arrive — the human population of Earth is automatically adjusted so that it is roughly equal to the planet’s carrying capacity. Like so many other animals, human beings always push themselves to the limits of that carrying capacity. The Age of Petroleum made us no wiser in that respect, and in fact dependence on fossil fuels has led us to a crisis far greater than any in the past…

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Nov 20, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A new report from the University of Minnesota warns that an influenza pandemic could disrupt the coal industry, thereby endangering the nation’s significantly coal-dependent electric power system and everything that depends on it.

“Despite regional differences in coal usage, a pandemic is likely to break links in the coal supply chain, thus disrupting electrical generation. This has the potential to severely endanger the bulk electrical power system in most of the United States,” says the report from the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), publisher of CIDRAP News.

Read more…

Editors Note: The following links to an article by Judith D. Schwartz appearing on published on November 10, 2008.

Some industries are obvious energy hogs: airlines, autos, office buildings. Others, like health care, are stealthier consumers. But the U.S. health-care infrastructure is one of the country’s hungriest users of energy.

Medical procedures, for instance, rack up massive energy tabs – especially surgeries, emergency services and pathology laboratory tests. “Enormous amounts of energy are required to build and run high-tech systems in common use – MRIs, CT scans, etc. – with many running 24 hours a day,” says Pamela Gray, a trustee of the Transition Network, a U.K.-based organization that supports community-level initiatives to improve sustainability and combat climate change. Further, nearly all pharmaceuticals are made from petroleum derivatives, and so are medical materials (think rubber gloves and intravenous tubing). And then there’s transportation: transferring equipment, supplies and lab samples, or getting patients to the right facility, sometimes by ambulance or helicopter. (See TIME’s A-Z Health Guide.)

Square foot by square foot, hospitals use twice as much energy as office buildings. Health care is the second most energy-intensive industry in the U.S., after food service and sales, with energy costs of $6.5 billion a year – a number that continues to rise. As the nation’s 78 million baby boomers age, their need for medical services will dramatically increase. Meanwhile, the steady effects of a warming climate, say epidemiologists, will lead to an increase in infectious and chronic conditions, such as allergies and respiratory disease.

Forward-thinking medical institutions are taking a hard look at their energy portfolio. “I’ve seen a huge uptick in hospitals exploring and investigating” ways to reduce fossil-fuel dependence, says Nick DeDominicis of Practice Green Health, particularly since 2007 when World Health Organization and U.N. reports suggested that climate change due to fossil-fuel use and CO2 emissions could threaten public health. Hospitals, such as the California-based Kaiser Permanente and San Francisco’s Catholic Healthcare West, have gone greener by swapping out old equipment for more energy-efficient systems of heating, cooling, lighting and dehumidifying. DeDominicis says a typical hospital could reduce energy waste 20% to 25%, with corresponding decreases in cost and emissions. (See TIME’s special report on the environment.)…

Read full article at

Editors note: The following article is reprinted with the authors’ kind permission from It addresses with a true anecdote how energy cost influenced state and local budget deficits are impacting now on state and local public health agencies. To get an idea how these cuts specifically affect a public health agency, see the Seattle King County 2009 Public Health Budget Report. The website also contains the Crash Course, an excellent 20 chapter online multimedia instructional course that eloquently explains the links between what is happening with the economy, energy and the environment… and ultimately our capacity to keep public health and health care systems operating as they should − or not.

Monday, November 17, 2008, 4:02 pm, by cmartenson.

I had a most pleasant weekend off – the first in a very long time – and spent some of it pondering an unusual recent event.

We are raising turkeys, five very large, gorgeous bronze birds. Last Thursday they started making their alarm sounds meaning that something was not right. Rushing out I saw that “Skunky McGee”, our ancient resident neighborhood skunk was in their pen toodling around. He’s nearly all white and we know his habits quite well, and his appearance at 9:30 in the morning was a bit late for him to be out and about.

It took me far too many beats to realize he wasn’t toodling around looking for errant food scraps, he was chasing our turkeys in an unbalanced, tippy version of the skunk waddle. As I stared in wonder he caught one and began, well, chewing on it. You see skunks are not predators usually of anything larger than a lawn grub so he was incapable of really doing much more than begin a long process of gnawing. He started near the tail.

It was at this time the word finally popped in my head; “rabies”.

It’s at times like these that having a .22 is a must and I sent skunky McGee off to the great beyond and immediately called the local animal control officer to come and test the animal for rabies.

Imagine my shock when the town official who answered said, “We don’t have an animal control officer anymore – the budget was cut. Do you have a shovel? Maybe you could bury it.”

So here I am, in full possession of the knowledge that trillions of dollars are being lavished on a defective banking and financial services industry while my locality was unable to contend with a dangerous communicable disease.

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by Oregon Office of Environmental Public Health

Notes from Energy Bulletin: This letter was submitted by the the Administrator of Oregon’s Office of Environmental Public Health by invitation from the Oregon Department of Planning and Development and is their response to a review of the “Big Look: Choices for Oregon’s Future” draft report.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your department’s “Big Look: Choices for Oregon’s Future” draft report (Report). Oregon’s Public Health Division is charged with “protecting and promoting the health of the people of Oregon” within the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) mission to help people become independent, healthy and safe. The Big Look report holds promise for furthering that mission and we greatly appreciate your commitment to solicit feedback to build a shared vision of Oregon’s future.

Toward that end, we offer the following comments on the May 30, 2008 draft report for your consideration. In addition to some broader statements, this letter provides more specific comment on individual sections of the draft report.

Overall, we encourage the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) and the Big Look Task Force (Task Force) to identify and address the very real connections between land use and human health. Such recognition can begin by re-stating the overarching principles to specifically include protecting and promoting human and community health. Ensuring people are aware of the adverse human health impacts from unplanned or poorly planned land development can protect both the land and the people of our state.

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What we're reading:

Turner, Graham. "A comparison of limits to growth with thirty years of reality." June, 2008.

Korowicz, David. "Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production." (From the Feasta and the Risk/Resilience Network). March, 2010.

Heinberg, Richard. "‘Searching for a Miracle. Net Energy’ Limits & the Fate of Industrial Society." Post Carbon Institute & International Forum on Globalization - September, 2009.