Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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28 Jan 2009

‘The Crash Course’: essential viewing

We are often asked whether the Transition model should be adapted to explicitly reflect what is happening in the global economy at the moment.  This is an ongoing discussion, and one I will return to in subsequent posts, but of course, the intertwining of what is happening in the economy and the peaking in world oil production have been explored by others, as well as the recent observation that peak demand seems to have arrived in advance of peak supply, although peak supply is, of course, not far behind.  One of the tools that I personally have found extremely useful over the last few weeks in terms of really getting my head around how economics works, has been Chris Martenson’s ‘Crash Course’

The Crash Course offers an essential educational tool for Transition Initiatives (and others…).  It is a series of narrated powerpoint presentations which is a condensed form of a presentation developed by Chris called ‘The End of Money’.  Form a study group around it.  Meet to work through it, take a few chapters each week and watch them together.  In total it runs to just over 3 hours, but watched end to end in one go it can be a bit overpowering… I found watching 5 or 6 chapters (it is divided into 20 chapters) is about right at one sitting.

Although it largely passes climate change by (a major oversight but given the scale of what he has done it was perhaps best to focus on what he has), his analysis of how the peak oil issue and resource scarcity link in with economics means that this is the first place I send people who ask how the economic issue ties in with the peak oil issue.

I think what Chris has created here is an essential tool, and he has that rare gift of an educator to be able to distill information into a clear and understandable format.  You can also, from the site, download the entire presentation as a DVD.  It is definitely worth creating a Crash Course study group, in order to really explore this issue of the interconnection of the economic issues and the energy-related ones.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Andrea Still
28 Jan 12:32pm

Thank you very much for recommending Chris’s Crash Course here. I feel it also need to be added, that Chris dedicates his life to this cause, and he’s one of the few that really tries to get the message out there to as many people as willing to listen. It already crossed my mind that the Crash Course should be shown along side with “The End of Suburbia” to wannabe Transitioners.

28 Jan 12:43pm

By chance I just finished the working through the course last week. I agree that Chris makes a very good job of presenting the what could be an incredibly dull subject in an interesting way (if occasionally laboured) and ties this in very neatly with Peak Oil. I can’t say I’ve read anything else that links the 2 issues so I was really glad to stumble across it.
I was a bit disappointed by the final chapter though. It contains some good pointers to start you thinking about what you might do differently as a result of knowing what you now know but doesn’t give you much concrete guidance. He seemed to hint that he’d follow up the course with some separate advice later, but I haven’t managed to find this yet.
I guess it’s up to each individual to choose what they do with the info, but digging around on the forums, the most popular reaction seems to be the ‘head for the hills with a gun’ option. All very scary when you’ve come to this via the Transition co-operative community response route!

28 Jan 3:49pm

Great videos, anyone interested in transition and permaculture should watch it. It will take some time, but it is uber-informative.

Dave Crossland
29 Jan 1:05pm is also a very high quality explanation of economic problems.

Don (dps)
29 Jan 7:46pm

I’m very active on Chris’ site. I’m a member of his “Brigade.” He’s busy doing a follow-up version of the DVD. His intended chapter 20 advise is VERY much in line with the Transition concept: learn self-dependence, build community, eliminate dependencies on abundant energy, move assets to precious metals, etc. … dps on Chris’ site
BTW thank you very much for the kind words about Chris’ unusually dedicated efforts for the sake of helping all of us! I’ll send him this text in an email to let him know what’s happening here. I’m sure he will be very pleased.

30 Jan 2:46am

I came across your site and the link to this presentation today and I was completely consumed by watching this whole crash course in one sitting. Although I had already known and believed in many of the concepts for a while with regard to peak oil and the environment it was the economic section that had a profound impact on me. I was heartened to see that Chris has a MBA education and his theories are grounded in solid economic teaching. As a graduate of a MBA program and institution often credited with establishing many aspects of modern economic and financial theory I should be the last person to subscribe to Chris’s thinking but what he proposed was very real and very moving. Never before have I had such a sense of anxiety when viewing a presentation. I think everyone should understand the current implications of our economic theory and how it ties to peak oil and the environment.

30 Jan 11:11am

@ Italian readers

We are translating the Crash Course in Italian (we are half way now) if you want to help go here:

[…] tempo di capire questa crisi By Cristiano Forse ha ragione Rob a dire che dobbiamo cominciare a mandare le persone alla “lezione” di economia […]

30 Jan 12:45pm

I graduated in Economics in 1977 and then spent then next 2 years planting trees for a living. (I’m one of the people who ‘head for the hills’). During the careers that followed I hardly ever bothered to read up any economic theory but in the last few months have read the material linked from Transition sites. This is the best I’ve found. It’s very comprehensive and I’m going to distribute it to friends.
Transition websites and Transition gatherings have linked to presentations giving brief descriptions of the fiat monetary systems without really making any conclusions and maybe just arousing some sort of indignation. The Crash Course goes right forward towards helping plan a course of action.
It was also good to see references to people such as J K Galbraith. Maybe it’s just my advancing age but I often feel that Transitioners are relatively unaware of events and people before the invention of the word ‘permaculture’. (Kropotkin’s ‘Fields, Factories and Workshops’ anyone?)

Peter Barber
31 Jan 10:11am

Thanks for the link. I watched the first three chapters when I was supposed to be doing some decorating in my sitting room, and ended up plugging the laptop into the hi-fi so I could listen to the commentary – and watched the whole lot in one go! Economics may be boring, but this certainly wasn’t. A mixture of revelation and horrid fascination with our species’ lemming-like march to the cliff. 🙁 But very clearly argued and convincing, I have to admit.

On a side note (e.g. to Louise):

I noticed that Chris Martenson donated $500 to Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign (I was curious that there were a lot of Paul fans on his forum, and Googled him. There is a donations search tool at the Huffington Post). I don’t have a problem with that per se – he is of course entitled to hold whatever political beliefs and donate to whomever he wants – but I suspect that Martenson realises how many people otherwise sympathetic to the main message of this course he might put off if he associated himself too closely some of Paul’s more, um, radically conservative views, and has therefore soft-pedalled his own particular vision of and strategy for the future. I think it was more useful to do what he, i.e. to explain how to prioritise alternative responses to various risks.

And anyway, the whole point of Transition Initiatives is getting together to work out local solutions to the problems of the three E’s – we don’t need some bloke in rural Massachusetts to help us on that score!! 🙂

31 Jan 2:57pm

It is also worth looking at ‘The Enigma of Captial’ by David Harvey. It talks about the Hows and Whys of economics systems, why they must grow or they hit crisis:

Linda S
2 Feb 1:22pm

I found The Crash Course to be an excellent description of the humongous mess the three E’s have become and how they got that way. I was disappointed, however, with his plea for funding in the last chapter. I believe he has every right to compensation for his considerable time and effort, but many skeptics will use his request for donations as an excuse to dismiss everything he has just said. I can hear them now, “Aha, so that’s his angle! He just wants my money!” I do wish Chris had left the donation plea out of the video and just posted it on the website!!

18 Feb 8:22am

“You can also, from the site, download the entire presentation as a DVD.”

Apparently not…

“As a reminder, there are also versions of the Crash Course videos available through BitTorrent and DVD.”

Seems like his site is getting so much traffic now he can’t afford the bandwidth.

8 Apr 2:10am

The DVD version has never been available as a direct download from the chrismartenson; it’s only been available via BitTorrent. There are a number of people seeding the ISO, so downloading shouldn’t be a problem. You can’t beat the price for this content, either!

You can also view the entire Crash Course at Chris’ site in high resolution as a free member. Otherwise, you still have the option to view the YouTube version embeded for all visitors.

Jason Kibbe
site volunteer

8 Apr 11:23am

And there are two versions on BitTorrent in different DVD formats: PAL and NTSC.

For the UK the PAL version is preferable though many modern DVD players will play both formats these days.

These are a great item to have on a Transition stall since many people aren’t familiar with BitTorrent (or even computers). And with blank DVD’s costing only around 16p each now it’s well worth burning a little supply of these.

22 Jun 9:58pm

For those who were disappointed at the lack of concrete suggestions for how to deal with the coming crash, the following suggestions are from Chris’s website:

“Systemic banking crisis: 50% probability over the next year
Everyone should be prepared for the possibility of a severe systemic banking crisis. You may see a higher or lower percentage probability than I do, but you’d certainly better have something higher than 0% in mind.

What this would look like is some sort of a serious warning, possibly the surprise bankruptcy of Citibank or a blow-up at a massive hedge fund. Within 24-48 hours, the stock market would be in pretty bad shape, the dollar would be spiraling downward, and interest rates would be shooting up, as foreigners dump Treasury bonds in a frantic bid to repatriate their money while some value still remains. To stabilize the situation, the President would come on TeeVee to declare a banking holiday and state that the banking system is in a crisis and that some time will be needed to “calm things down and work out some solutions.” During this time, banks would be closed, and it is highly likely that credit and debit cards would not work, since the interbank clearing system would be a mess. Rules against hoarding would immediately be put in place, and talk of rationing of certain staple goods, such as gasoline, would begin.

Before any of this happens, here are the things you should consider doing:

Tier I actions:

Have 3 months of living expenses at home, in cash. The idea here is to be able to buy things even if checks and debit and credit cards are temporarily inoperative. What you risk here is losing the miniscule interest that your checking account is currently paying.

Have 1.5 months of living expenses at home in gold &/or silver. This protects against the impacts of a potential dollar crisis. The more, the merrier, but 1.5 months is the bare minimum.

Make sure your bank accounts are with the safest possible banks. Use a rating service such as Veribanc (the Blue Ribbon Report is good).

Better yet, spread your accounts across several highly-rated banks. The idea here is that these banks will have the best chance of surviving and reopening first after a crisis. Stay away from big banks – they have the greatest exposure to the unknowable derivative risks.

Do a little extra buying every time you shop, until you have at least 3 months worth of food on hand. While the likelihood of a total shutdown of the food system is remote, not having to worry about this possibility if/when a crisis hits will free up an important part of your brain for other tasks. This means buying extra cans, jars, and packages of food (pasta, etc) that generally will keep for ~1 to 2 years. Buy only the foods you like to eat. Rotate the new food behind the older food.

Have any medicines you can’t live without? Begin accumulating and storing them, if this is an option. Again, this is so that you have one less thing to worry about later on.

Tier II actions – only undertake these after Tier I actions are complete:

Increase your gold exposure until you have 10% (minimum) to 50% of your nest-egg socked away.

Read the Buying Gold and Silver guide in the Take Action section at for types and tips on how to go about this.

Perform a self-assessment to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you could imagine arising during a systemic crisis.

Address any critical weaknesses or threats that arise in the exercise above.

Develop “buy-lists” that you can follow in the early phases of a crisis. Having a plan for obtaining last minute items will not take you much time to develop now, but will be a godsend if anything comes to pass.
Have a plan for what you’ll do.

Who will you trust for news?

What will you do first?

If you and your immediate family are separated by a significant distance, will you all know where to meet and who is responsible for what?

Could you anticipate other family members, or even friends, moving in with you (or you with them) as a possible outcome? I f so, does this change any of your other preparations?

Thinking these through is just good, common sense, and it is something that all mature businesses do as a matter of course. They call it continuity and/or disaster planning. If my local co-op bank can do it, so can you.

Know who your support network is. Begin cultivating local networks of people who can help you share the load and provide support.

Tier III – only after you’re done with I and II:
Prepare your home.

Water storage. What if the power went out during the crisis?

Make your home more self-sufficient with respect to heating and cooling

Store more food (for family and neighbors…be a hero!)

Think about your job. Will it be more secure/needed in the event of a financial crisis, or insecure? Build up your cash and gold/silver reserves. Eliminate debts, especially floating rate and secured debts.

What skills would be especially handy during a crisis? Do you have them? Is there anything you ever wanted to learn that falls under this category?

A bit of foresight and preparation will go a long way to mitigate the personal effects of a systemic financial crisis. What we believe shapes what we see, and what we see determines our actions – and therefore our future. We may not be able to change the game that the Federal Reserve is playing, but we can certainly take steps to prepare ourselves for the impact.”