Precepts to use in everyday life

1. Think for yourself, 2. Be yourself, 3. Speak up, 4. Feel free to agree and disagree, 5. Be honest with yourself and others, 6. Be open-minded, 7. Avoid being judgmental and 8. Question everything - even your own thinking.

TOK Essay Titles Nov 2020

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ToK Essays 2010

We would like to send a message of thanks and our personal best wishes to all the Year 13s who are about to finish their essays over the next weeks. You have grown in mind and heart and we sincerely hope that all the experiences you've had in TOK over the last 18 months have helped to shape you into independent thinkers who are confident to speak your mind about the things that matter most to you. Having seen and assessed your recent presentations, we have great confidence in all of you - you are not the same people as the ones who started the course. And even if you do not see the transformations in yourselves, rest assured that we see them and that they are good.

Please take the time to read the following message:

1. Final deadline for TOK Essay: Monday 8th February 2010 at 12 p.m.

2. Come to the IB Office Rm 210 to hand in the essay

3. Please note that the essays and presentation scores are being posted away immediately after 12 p.m. so any latecomers will FAIL

4. Print off the formal essay cover sheet (from the website) and complete it in BLACK INK

5. Also bring your completed official TOK Presentation paperwork, also completed in BLACK INK

6. After Christmas there will be essay consultation sessions on Fridays P1 and Tuesdays P9 in the Lecture theatre - please do NOT come empty handed. A plan of ideas or a self-reflection sheet will suffice - we will not read through or discuss completed essays. Please look out for the booking form on the noticeboard and pencil yourself in - no more than SIX students per session.

Good luck to you all and have a splendid holiday!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Human Sciences (Psychology), The Arts and Ethics

As the festive season fast approaches, you'll no doubt be aware that some major national and global issues either are or have taken place to distract us from the general mayhem of Christmas consumerism and potential gluttony in every form imaginable (not the least in eating!). For instance, the climate change talks in Copenhagen (still taking place) and the final of X factor UK(already done).

In the context of recent posts on 'peak oil', consider the following statistics and make up your own minds:

1. Approximately 19.1 million people in the UK watched the final of X factor on TV on Sunday 13th December (see Marketing Week, December 2009) - that is 31 % of the estimated population of the UK (approx 61.4 million, Guardian, August 2009).

2. Approximately, 15, 000 participants (from a 192 nations) and onlookers are estimated to be involved in the Copehagen UN talks on climate change between 7th and 18th December (this is not counting the estimated 6, 500 police officers drafted in to supervise the event, or the anticipated 350 potential troublemakers for whom the Danes have set up steel cages, or the potential 1000 protestors who could be processed over a period of 24 hours in a former Carlsberg beer depot) (see New York Times, December 2009) - that is 0.02% of the estimated population of the UK.

What are the objections to this jusxtaposition of statistics?
  • X factor has nothing to do with politics - we're making a false comparison
  • The representatives at the UN conference are doing a job for which we elected them - to represent us, so we don't actually have to be there in person
  • We can enjoy our free time how we please - it's a free country

But think about this: who is taking what seriously? And whom should one take seriously? We should say: HUMANKIND, BLOODY WAKE UP!

Think about the whole issue of voting folks. According to last years figures, 16, 469, 064 votes were placed throughout the entire Series 5 of X-Factor. We haven't had the full figures for this year, although we know that the winner received 63% of the total votes cast on the night.

Now consider that in the last general election in 2005, 27, 110, 727 votes were cast (44% of the population). The winning Labour party received 35% of these votes.

Where are people when the voting really matters? Does voting matter at all? Perhaps we're all much too spoilt and self-satisfied to be bothered...

Imagine if the millions watching X-Factor last Sunday night had gathered instead in pockets at the Town Halls of the major towns and cities in the country, in honour of the UN climate change talks; imagine the impact that might have had...

Or perhaps these are just the vain fantasies of idealists - perhaps we should be grateful that the plebiscite didn't turn out in their droves in case they had to be taken in and locked up in 'bird cages' similar to those constructed for the protestors in Copenhagen!

Or perhaps we should use the same argument for X-Factor as people use to shut up extremist parties like the BNP: just giving it the time of day is to acknowledge its importance, so don't do it.

Oh dear. But don't you see that at some point we just have to give these things the time of day; we just have to think about them and then decide what to do.


Human Sciences (Economics), Natural Sciences, Ethics and History

Watch the following videos to sum up our excursion into the territory of 'peak oil' and the new world beyond. Richard Heinberg speaks extremely eloquently about the issue from a historical and economic perspective which has tremendous ethical consequences.

There are SIX clips in total, entitled "Richard Heinberg's 'Peak Everything' ", but we have given you the first and the last clip - fill in the gaps yourselves through the 'youtube' reference.

Finally, here's a reference to a website listing a range of towns and cities that are taking the message of 'peak oil' seriously and attempting to do something to prepare themselves for the aftermath in a post-industrial, post-oil era:

You might be surprised to see that most of the 255 listed towns and cities are in the UK.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Human Sciences, Natural Sciences and Ethics

Compare the previous interview with Michael Ruppert with the later interview above, then move on the the advice he gives about 'disengagement':

Towards a Method of Disengagement

What we should do to get out of the trap of an infinite growth-based econonmy is based on two assumptions, which are actually the key OBJECTIVES of any disengaging strategy:

  • We need to be able to make decisions about our lives on rapidly changing, fluid circumstances - we must be flexible enough financially, socially and psychologically to adapt to extreme conditions
  • There will be little or no help forthcoming from governments whose contingency plans are all geared towards preserving the infrastructure rather than caring for people, so do not rely on assistance from this source
  • There could be a nuclear solution to 'peak oil', but this could lead to further political and economic conflict with the added threat of global armageddon

So here's a rudimentary map or plan of action to help us to 'disengage':

1. Get out of debt

2. 'Balance sheet' : make an account of income and expenditure so as to know where to cut back on spending

3. 'Rainy day account': save a little every week and let it earn interest in a savings account or in a place where it's making something

4. Stay away from all forms of credit as much as possibe (even student loans!), but if you have to get credit, stick to short term, very low (fixed, not adjustable) interest rates

5. Stay away from investing in the stock market

6. 'Investment': Buy gold (and silver) - a tangible asset kept in a safety deposit box or a safe at home

7. 'The home': Do not buy a property, rent one

8. 'Sustaniablity': Find a small plot of land and prepare it for growing your own food - be self-sufficient

9. Insulate your home carefully to safeguard against rise of heating costs

10. 'Network': keep alive the social connections that you trust implicitly - consider re-locating to form a local group or community of friends and family who will take care of each other

11. 'Siege mentality': Avoid hoarding stuff in preparation for any further econimic meltdown, but certainly act prudently enough to safeguard yourself from immediate disruptions

12. If you are fully debt-free, be cautious about how you 'spend' your credit to prepare for short term disruptions (see point 4)

13. 'Liquidity': try to have as much 'cash-in-hand' as possible or something that is quickly transferable into cash (see points 3 & 6)

14. 'Currency': be prepared to use 'regional currencies', instead of the national currency, for exchanging goods and services actively build a local currency for trading things

15. 'Banking': use a small, local bank that re-invests locally instead of a national High St bank whose shares trade in the stock market and whose first responsibility is to their shareholders rather than you - stay clear of credit card accounts from these big banks

16. 'Spending': spend your hard-earned money on local produce and stay clear of the High St supermarkets

17. 'Ownership': create neighbourhood stock corporations - people have joint shares in the stock of the community as a means of determining the value of the stock and their standard of living

18. 'Personal growth': don't waste your energy on converting people who are closed to change - find people who think like you do and work with them to adjust yourself

19. 'Wake up call': educate the young to THINK about the issues of the post-oil era so that they can help themselves and make a good life

20. 'Media': think for yourself and critically assess everthing that you are confronted with through the TV, newspapers, Government initiatives, technological gadgetry...

Remember: this is NOT an exhaustive list. What else could you do?


Human Sciences (Economics), Natural Sciences and Ethics

Let's resume the discussion about 'peak oil' from the perspective of what to do when we run out of oil. The questions we'll be exploring here are these:

  • If you accept that oil energy is running out fast, then how do you adjust to the new reality?
  • How do you cope with the immediate chaos of not being able to rely on gas and electricity supplies and to live in a world that reverts into a state of pre-industrial order?
  • How do you deal with Governments and financiers that not only led us with open eyes into economic, political and military mayhem, but will not be there for us to help when we enter into the post-oil era?
  • And finally, to what extent do you want to continue to absorb yourselves in reality TV when the real world is on the edge of a crisis that could see the end of human society as we know it?

These questions are not put to you lightly. And it's crucial that at some point soon, you face up to them and answer them honestly.

Here are three clips of an interview with Michael Ruppert who neatly resumes our global oil depletion predicament:

The Global Economic Paradigm

Ruppert argues that we are hooked into a certain (debilitating) way of thinking about how money works in the economy and must tear ourselves away from it (listen closely to his theory about money). The features of this paradigm are as follows:

1. Fractional reserve banking (banks lend money to us based on its reserve requirement)

2. Compound interest (charged on mortgages, credit cards, student loans, car loans)

3. Debt-based growth (which works on the assumption of infinite growth)

Ruppert describes this economic paradigm as a 'trap' from which it is extremely difficult to extricate ourselves. So he proposes what he calls his strategy of 'disengagement', a list of things-to-do to prepare ourselves for the post-oil era.

You'll notice that he ends the interview on a really tragic note (however much he hides it in his flippant tone): 'We're all screwed; but not everyone has to go down...'

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Human Sciences (Politics & Economics), Natural Sciences and Ethics

Here are some websites devoted to the study of, and discussion about, 'peak oil'. We've tried to balance the sources, but you should look at the evidence yourself and reflect on it to make a decision about the efficacy of the theory. This is by no means an exhaustive list.


Dear Reader,
Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, bankers, and investors in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global "Peak Oil."

2. is a privately funded website, and has no affiliation with any group, business or other interest group. Publishing at this domain has two primary benefits:

1. The preferred Domain Name for what we feel will become the most important debate of humanity.
2. Building on online community to enrich this debate.

The supporting staff are 100% volunteers from around the globe, and receive no compensation of any kind.

Our agenda is as simple as our slogan: "Exploring the Issue of Hydrocarbon Depletion"


The Oil Drum's mission is to facilitate civil, evidence-based discussions about energy and its impact on our future.

We near the point where new oil production cannot keep up with increased energy demand and the depletion of older oil fields, resulting in a decline of total world oil production. Because we are increasingly dependent upon petroleum, declining production has the potential to disrupt our lives through much higher prices and fuel shortages. The extent of the impact of this supply shortfall will depend on its timing, the magnitude of production decline rates, the feasibility of petroleum alternatives, and our ability to curtail energy consumption...


ASPO is a network of scientists and others, having an interest in determining the date and impact of the peak and decline of the world's production of oil and gas, due to resource constraints.

Let's put it this way: the issue of 'peak oil' is arguably as important as is the problem of 'global warming' and must be given as much attention, if not more. Just as there are people who believe that the evidence produced to justify global warming is weak (see the Guardian, November 2005), so there are people who think that peak oil theorists are also wasting their time gathering so-called evidence to support their ideas.

Then there are those who think that time (and life) is too short to worry about those in denial about peak oil; that it is time to educate the people who accept that there is a pending collapse and are ready to face it and that it is best to embrace those who are petrified about the future and find themselves rooted to the spot in their fear.


Human Sciences (Politics & Economics), Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Continuing with our apocalyptic theme of the last few posts, we come back to the ideas of Michael Ruppert who refers us to the concept of 'Peak oil': the notion that the planet is fast running out of oil and that when the moment comes, the already crisis-ridden economies of the West are going to collapse and revert back to how things were about a hundred and fifty years ago.

This is an extremely bleak view of the future, pessimistic you might argue, but it is something that is hardly mentioned in the general news of the day so that you could be forgiven for not thinking about it. On the one hand, there is a suggestion, which we have pointed to, that we have been deliberately distracted from the peak oil issue in case it might jolt us into fervent action. On the other hand, this is exactly what we must do and Michael Ruppert neatly points us in the direction of those actions.

Before looking at the implications of 'peak oil', consider what it actually means. You can read articles in the Guardian (2005), the Independent (2007) and the New Scientist (2009) to familiarise yourself with the ongoing debate over the last few years, but the roots of the idea go back to the 1950s with the studies of the geologist, M. King Hubbert - look at the site devoted to Hubbert's ideas.

Peak Oil Theory

Here are the key points of the theory:

Premise 1: Oil is a finite resource.

Premise 2: Once the oil resource reaches its maximum production point (its 'peak' level'), it can never increase.

Conclusion: Therefore, production declines until there is nothing left of oil.

There are various speculations as to when this peak level is going to be reached. Different oil producing countries may reach it at different times. For example, the US, Hubbert argued reached peak production in 1970, whereas Britain's North Sea oil production reached it in 1999. When considering average world production, the speculative range is that peak production could be reached anywhere between 2003-2030 (see Guardian).

Now of course, Premise 2 may be disproved if more oil fields are discovered. We might then find that the 'peak' level could be post-poned to a point way beyond 2030. But the key phrase is 'post-poned': if you accept that oil is a finite resource, this means it will necessarily run out at some point - oil is not a renewable energy source.

And when you consider that everything in this modern twenty-first century is predicated on oil energy, then the implications are vast. The Industrial Revolution grew on the back of oil production, even the technological revolution of the last twenty years was fuelled by it (every microchip manufactured requires oil energy in its production and the internet requires energy to power it). Some argue that it's not just computers and mobile phones that are at stake, but the whole social and economic structure of the Western world.

Let's make one thing clear: the peak oil theory is not presented to scare people. Whether you accept that it accurately describes what is going on in the world is a matter of considering carefully the evidence placed before you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TOK Websites

This isn't a website devoted to TOK issues, but we thought that you'd be interested in reading the articles presented on the blog, as well as contributing your own thoughts to it. The site promotes itself in these terms:

"Young Freethought is an independent blog, open for anyone, but with the aim of providing young people with a way of getting out their ideas regarding issues such as rationalism, atheism, science and philosophy."

Now at first glance, you might be forgiven for thinking that the contributions are fervently anti-religious. Not necessarily.

Or at least, it's up to the contributors to balance the arguments...

Friday, December 4, 2009


The Arts (Literature) and Human Sciences (Economics)

In the light of what we've been discussing in recent posts - the idea that we are being nurtured to become consumers (food) and distracted from what's really going on in the world by technological gadgetry (games) - consider this little gem from Roald Dahl: 'The Pig'.

In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn't read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn't puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, "By gum, I've got the answer!"

"They want my bacon slice by slice"
To sell at a tremendous price!"
They want my tender juicy chops
"To put in all the butcher's shops!
"They want my pork to make a roast
"And that's the part'll cost the most!
"They want my sausages in strings!
"They even want my chitterlings!
"The butcher's shop! The carving knife!
"That is the reason for my life!"
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.

Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor…
Now comes the rather grizzly bit
So let's not make to much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
"I had a fairly powerful hunch
"That he might have me for his lunch.
"And so, because I feared the worst,
"I thought I'd better eat him first."

Apart from being so much fun, what can we learn from this piece of writing?

Unlike some of us, Pig wakes up to what is happening to him. And how? Well, it's really a tough thing to do, but it seems that he asked the right questions and thought deeply about the answers with that big brain of his. This is extremely hard to do when one is bombarded from all directions by distractions and compelled to consume. And why are we so bombarded and compelled? Presumably to avoid a scenario whereby we do exactly what Pig does: rise up against his conditions and the people that create them. So 'bravo' Pig for his epiphany!

Now, Pig's actions might appear to be somewhat extreme, but wouldn't you act in the same 'grizzly' way if you discovered the truth about what was happening to you? Wouldn't you want to think for yourself against everything else in the world and to resist being turned into (at the risk of mixing the animal metaphor) a sheep?