Friday, August 19, 2011
No shirt, no shoes, no problem
Though we’ve had Transition Voice for almost a year now, last month was the first time I talked to Russian-American peak oil and economic analyst Dmitry Orlov, whose popular website, Club Orlov, offers both his own thoughts, and a vigorous community of like-minded readers.
Because Orlov takes a more skeptical, less forgiving look at collapse, I think I might have been tuning him out to a degree, considering myself not doomer enough for his club. Or maybe I had Panglossia when it came to him.
But my prejudices were upended when I took the time to read his book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects. Erik Curren just reviewed the book for us, but I have my own take, too, in fewer words; it’s awesome.
If you can call reading about peak oil and collapse “awesome.”
Infinitely readable — a page turner even — Orlov’s direct experience with Soviet collapse translates into an excellent historical perspective supported by research and a clear context. Yes, he’s pretty blunt, and doesn’t candy-coat things, but at the same time he’s efficient and even somewhat elegant in his writing. It’s a quick yet informative read and I highly recommend it.
Soon after I spoke with him and, still nervous about my perception of his intensity, I went into the interview not knowing what this guy would be like.
But like most tough guys, he turned out to be a big pussycat. Very nice, very approachable, funny, insightful, easy to talk to. Rather than finding a stodgy analyst of intellectual information — though he is quite sharp — I’d describe his approach as “moving with, rather than against, collapse.” That was one reason for the title for this article, “No shirt, no shoes, no problem.” Orlov’s is a view seasoned by experience, not just theoretical predictions. So there’s an insightful depth there that takes things seriously, while also operating from a deep sense that it’s “just life.”
Oh, and it was my first shirtless interview. Orlov, that is. He was shirtless. It was a very hot day and I interviewed him via Skype. He was on his boat. It was hot here, too. The heat wave of ’11. My shirt stayed on.