Mother Lode residents got a crash course in preparing for a world economy that will work very differently in the near future.
More that 200 people filled the Telele Lodge at Black Oak School in Twain Harte on Friday to hear a presentation from noted scientist and economic guru Chris Martenson. The two-hour town hall style presentation focused on ideas contained in his “Crash Course” video series and his 317-page book.
The next 20 years will look drastically different from the past 20, he said, based primarily on changes to what he called “the three-Es,” which are the economy, energy and the environment.
Martenson, 49, said the exponential growth the world economy has come to expect in the past several decades cannot be sustained. He said America’s debt has doubled five times in the past four decades, and that it is already impossible for the U.S. to get out from under its debt obligations.
He said the recent economic woes have already disproved long-held beliefs about real estate as a rock-solid investment that never loses value.
With a series of graphs and a PowerPoint presentation, Martenson predicted the next several years will hold several challenges for future generations. Rising populations and diminishing oil well discoveries will lead to food and fuel shortages. The international financial system will falter as banks and governments become unable to repay debt obligations, he said.
“Your ability to insulate yourselves from that is under your control, and it’s not that hard,” he told the crowd.
The event was organized by local businessmen Cooper Kessel and Bob Gelman. Some who attended the meeting were eager to hear advice to prepare for the changing economy.
“Some of us are scared to death,” said Matt de La Motte, of Tuolumne, during a question-and-answer portion of the meeting. “Where do you turn right now?”
Martenson said that he bought gold prior to the recession that began in earnest in 2008, but now he is investing in timber land and reducing energy consumption in his personal life. He said the key to maintaining a healthy local economy is to spend money locally.
Martenson’s resume includes a Ph.D in neurotoxicology from Duke University and an MBA in finance from Cornell University. He left a lucrative career with the Pfizer drug company to develop a series of videos called the “crash course,” which outlines Martenson’s theories about the future of the world economy.
It wasn’t the first time Martenson has visited the Mother Lode. In January 2010 he spoke to a packed house at the Sonora Opera Hall.
“When I was here two years ago, many of the things we talked about are happening,” he said. “The game is afoot.”
Martenson said the rising use of food stamps, stagnant job growth in the face of government stimulus and riots in Greece can all be explained by the way the modern economy attaches exponential growth to finite resources.
“Nothing is working quite right anymore,” he said. “It’s simply because our credit system of needing exponential credit growth year after year, decade after decade has stopped functioning.”
He said that the Occupy Wall Street protests are a response to the feeling that many people have that the current U.S. economic system just doesn’t make sense.
Columbia resident Cris Barsanti showed up to the town hall-style meeting on Friday after seeing Martenson’s presentation in person two years ago.
“It makes sense to me what he’s saying,” she said. “It’s just unsustainable the way we are living.”