Chris Martenson’s Crash Course

A reader asked me to comment on Chris Martenson’s Crash Course. In preparing to do so I tried to find other critiques and reviews of the course online and didn’t find anything worthwhile. If anyone knows of any, please send them my way.

According to Wikipedia Chris Martenson is “an American scientist who has done research in biochemistry, neurotoxicology, applied pharmacology and in vitro techniques.” He has been Vice President of Pfizer, Inc. and Science Applications International Corporation.

In recent years Martenson has developed a video seminar series called The Crash Course. The course proposes ways the economy, the environment, and energy are inter-related and questions their sustainability. The course concludes with suggestions for how to prepare for the massive changes to our way of life that Martenson believes could occur and may already be underway.

The Crash Course is nearly 3.5 hours long, though broken up into chapters that are between 3 and 20 minutes in length. Martenson is a talented presenter. He is easy to listen to, and the content of the course is simple to follow.

The more of The Crash Course I watched the more I liked what Martenson was trying to do but the less I liked about how he did it. His broad goal is to introduce and describe some of the more challenging sustainability problems we may face. These problems are serious and worth contemplating. If nothing else, The Crash Course provides an overview of them. Perhaps it is a good place to start learning about the issues of inflation, demographic change, peak oil, and others but it should not be the last.

That’s what I like. What I don’t like is that the presentation is one-sided. Though Martenson makes it clear enough what is his opinion and what (he believes) is accepted fact,  he does not tell the “whole” story pertaining to any of his claims. He’s lined things up and shaded them to support his point of view. That is to say, though his words and ideas are compelling, he does not and cannot present an airtight case for every claim. However, if you keep this in mind you may still obtain some value from his course.

What I think Martenson is absolutely right about is that the future will not and cannot look like the past. But this has always been true. Human systems and institutions have evolved and will continue to do so. Just because something is not sustainable or scalable does not mean a crisis will occur. But it doesn’t mean a crisis won’t occur either. No doubt, as Martenson suggests, we will at some point encounter severe economic, environmental, and energy-based crises. When will they occur, and how severe will they be? Nobody knows. It is therefore wise to consider such possibilities but not be overcome by them. It is wise to be reasonably prepared.

For me that and that alone is the full value of Martenson’s Crash Course. Therefore, I recommend The Crash Course to anyone who has not yet read a great deal about the sustainability issues he discusses. If nothing else, the course is a reasonable introduction from one perspective and may motivate viewers to pursue the topics further and to prepare for changes. Even if one does not fully agree with his perspective, Martenson at least surveys some important issues of our time and in a very accessible way.

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