Christopher Martenson, MBA '98: Preparing for a Limited Future
By Mark Rader, MFA ’02
Eight years ago, Chris Martenson radically changed his life. At the time, Martenson was vice president of the life sciences division at SAIC, a Fortune 300 company; owner of a five-bathroom house in Connecticut; and reliant on a broker to handle his investments. Deeply dissatisfied with his returns in a bear market, Martenson, who had spent over ten years in corporate finance and strategic consulting, began to look into the underlying rules and practices that drive the global economy. What he unearthed convinced him the system was broken, and prompted him to voluntarily leave his job, sell his house, move his family to a rented house in rural Massachusetts, and begin what he calls his “mission work” — preparing others for a not-at-all-distant future he believes will be characterized by “increasing volatility and scarcity” and which will look “quite different from what we’re accustomed to.”
A trained scientist — he holds a PhD from Duke in neurotoxicology — Martenson says that his message is driven entirely by data, not beliefs. And the data, he says, is deeply troubling. Our country’s financial system is saddled with $52 trillion in debt, yet requires growth to sustain itself. Simultaneously, oil, the driver of our economy, and hundreds of other minerals vital to industry, are already years past peak production, and rapidly running out, even as the world’s population skyrockets. As Martenson explains, “It was when I connected those two parts that it truly hit home.”
In 2008, Martenson authored the Crash Course, a three-and-a-half hour presentation in which he shares “the new lens” through which he now views the world. Thus far, he’s received almost 2 million views online, sold more than 30,000 DVDs, and his argument will come out in book form this March. A fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, Martenson now devotes almost all of his time to running his Web site, ChrisMartenson.com, where he provides his interpretation of world events concerning the economy, the environment, and energy.
Martenson says that he’s offering not merely his perspective, but a new narrative about the future and articulating a new concept of wealth — one that values rich land, sustainable energy sources, and strong community relationships over money and goods.
"Change is coming, and not the garden-variety kind,” he says. “What I want to do is help give people time to prepare, so they can manage this change by design, not disaster.”