Oil And The Vision In The Mirror
you don't know what peak oil is, then, first of all, you are not alone.
Most people don't seem to have a clue about it. And, even some that
do, don't seem to get the full implications. Let me lay it out for you
as succinctly as I can...
nothing. Energy is everything.
supply has been growing for many years. So has the food supply. So has
when the energy supply stops growing, but the population continues to
what happens when the energy supply begins to decline, as population
continues to grow?
of course, is things we would generally consider very bad. Keep in mind
that the Great Depression happened. World War II happened. Famine and
starvation have and do happen. Civilizations themselves have (and probably
normally) collapse. In general, bad things do happen on a national and
that we live every day is that we are immune from these things. The
Great Depression couldn't happen again, could it? We couldn't really
get into another World War, could we? Most certainly, our civilization...
in other words, the high-energy-consuming industrialized world... it
couldn't have a bad ending... could it?
are movies out there, and undoubtedly books, that talk about these bad
things and explore what happens, so we do think about these things...
but probably not all that seriously.
on the other hand, is serious. In a nutshell, we humans are reaching
the all time maximum rate of oil extraction from the planet. In fact,
we very well may be at the point where the extraction has simply stopped
growing. Some time in the near future, as in either now, or next year,
or perhaps a few years hence, the oil extraction rate will begin to
decline... and will continue to do so forever, no matter what we do.
You see, oil is a non-renewable resource, and we have consumed perhaps
as much as half of all that we will EVER get out of the ground.
I don't want
to go into the details (which are many) but oil is essential to everything
we do: making food, electricity, water, heat, moving things around (transportation)
and more. A world without oil would be bad, very bad. If it happened
suddenly, we would be in bad, bad, bad shape.
you do if all the gas pumps ran dry? What do you think would continue
to work? Could you get to the store for food? Could the food get to
the store in the first place? Could you get heat for your home? Could
those that deliver the heat get to their jobs? Could you get to your
job? Could you get to money to buy things? Would the ATMs and the credit
cards work if the power plant operators couldn't get to work? What if
the new loads of coal couldn't get to the power plant, what then?
I don't think it is going to happen this way. I mean, I can't be sure.
It might happen. Let's just say that there is a 10% chance of it happening
that way within three years of now. That means, it probably won't happen...
but I for one don't want to be caught unprepared for something that
would be that catastrophic.
What is likely
to happen? Now this is the part that a lot of the peak oil folks don't
quite understand, so allow me to enlighten you... The problem is that
people don't seem to understand supply, demand and price. People forget
that price is part of the supply and demand formula.
In the recent
past, the oil extraction rate has not increased (that is, not like it
did in prior decades). So, did people want less oil? No. Did they use
less oil? Yes. Why did they use less? Because that is all they could
afford to buy. Why? Because, via a string of events, they bid up the
price. Instead of being able to buy 1,000 barrels of oil for $30,000
they were only able to buy 400 barrels. Perhaps they found some more
money, and were able to buy a bit more... but some people (companies,
countries) simply could not buy as much.
For us in
the industrialised world, that doesn't mean a whole lot. We still are
buying the same amount. The USA, for example, is still using up 20 million
barrels per day. It costs two or three times more than it used to, but
we have the money, and so we are buying it.
is impacting those that don't have the money to buy the same amount.
Those countries that can only afford to buy a certain dollar amount
of oil are stuck trying to figure out how to live with that. In turn,
their companies and people are, in turn, trying to figure out how to
buy more expensive fuel, services, and products (yes, that would be
inflation). The governments are trying to decide if they need to fix
the prices of the fuel (like gasoline, diesel, propane, etc.) or to
start rationing. For these nations, these companies and businesses,
and these individuals, peak oil is already having a big impact.
For us though,
we are watching... watching the price go up... watching the supply stay
the same... wondering if it will go down... wondering how high the price
will go... wondering how it will impact our economy... gas prices...
foreclosures... unemployment... medical costs... retirement savings...
and etc, etc, etc... Although most of us don't realize that ENERGY is
what wags the dog, not dollars... so most don't see the connections
between peak oil and everything else.
What is a
person to do? First off, they have to deal with the fact that this is
something totally new, and in most cases, unexpected. It is a seachange,
a paradigm shift, a lifechanging event. All those emotions and actions
common in the grieving cycle will come to play... I've already felt
the anger, dispair, bargaining, and etc...
have half a clue are trying to come up with ways to produce more energy,
to keep the energy flowing. What they fail to realize is that there
is no way to make that much energy. The fossil fuels are simply incredibly
energy rich, and we are using them up as if they were infinite, which
of course, they are not. So, all sorts of things get tossed around...
"energy independence", "ethanol", "CAFE standards",
"renewable energy portfolio standards", "hybrid cars",
"tar sands", "deep water drilling", "wind",
"solar", "biomass", "cellulose"... the
list goes on and on and on. What these folks fail to see is the big
picture... there will NEVER be as much...
are the solutions... easy... each and every one of us needs to live
absolutely on our own, growing food for our own family, providing our
own water - heat - shelter and etc. Well, I hope not quite that extreme,
but much closer to that than now. Look at that series of questions up
top again... those are the things we should all be attempting to find
solutions to in our own lives.
you get food if the stores were empty? You need to have an answer to
this. Where would you get water if the electricy was gone? You had better
have an answer to that. What about heat? What would you do if your heating
system was gone?
peak oil, peak oil... it is not a good thing for those of us who are
unprepared. It is quite possible that there will be very bad times...
super fast inflation... famine... rampant diseases... war. Our population
is probably bigger than we will be able to support without a growing
supply of oil. There will likely be widespread famines that begin...
and then continue, worsen, and spread... as the oil supply declines.
could probably support all of the nearly seven billion of us humans,
but not spread out the way we are... in hot deserts... in snowy winter
lands... in huge cities and suburbs... in dried out and soil depleted
countries. How will food get from where it is grown to where all the
people are? Will the people be able to move fast enough to get closer
to the food? Will the decline in the fuel supply mean less food is grown?
Will everyone eat less, or will we simply say that there is a shortage,
so some will just have to starve? Will we try to throw money at the
problem when money means nothing compared to energy?
On the other
hand, peak oil is a good thing... for the planet. I can practically
hear it speaking.
the Universe, they won't have the energy to deal me the finishing blow!
Sure, I'll probably lose most of my biodiversity and biomass. I'll probably
even have decimated areas where the humans have striped me clean like
a dog to a bone. But at least their numbers will diminish, and they
will have less and less ability to destroy me."
I wish this was not what I heard, but I have only to look out the window
to see what we have done... and yet, the enigma, we are the earth...
the past. The earth formed... then life formed of the earth... then
more complicated life formed of the simple life of the earth... and
after many millions of years, here we all are... and humans are one,
just one, of the many living species which are part of the earth.
We are part
of the earth.
think we are not.
we are apart. We dream that we are more. That we are more than water
and dirt and sunlight. But that is all we are. We are part of the earth.
A thousand years ago, every bit of your body was part of the earth.
In a thousand years from now, every bit of your body will be part of
the earth. And this very moment, you are part of the earth. You are
a part of the earth... a very, very, very tiny -- almost microscopic
-- and lightning short lived, bit of the earth.
beyond peak oil... I'm not sure how far beyond, maybe three generations,
or maybe a hundred... the world beyond is one where we recognize that
we are part of the earth. We "belong", so to speak, to the
earth. We will live in harmony with our surroundings. We will realize
that there is no such thing as waste, only a stream or cycle of matter
and energy. That there is no such thing as an escape from death, but
that it comes, often without warning, no matter what we do. That we
are one of many thousands or millions of other living species that are
also part of the earth. And that there is no good or evil in the world...
(A culture or society without concepts of "good and evil"
is so beyond our current sphere of comprehension that I can't even articulate
a description for it.)
But how do
we get there from here?
I have a
vision of this future of our grandchildren, and the grandchildren of
all the species, where all live together following only the laws of
nature and the universe. That humans recognize and respect all species
and strive to follow the same rules that the others follow, to be in
balance and in harmony with the rest. I have a vision of a garden planet,
lush and green, with deep blue seas and rushing streams, and that humans
would be there, in the garden, not seperated from, but integrated with
all the rest.
be the perfection of Eden or paradise? Will our grandchildren have shed
the remnants of "civilization"? Will we be few in numbers
or many? Will we be living together as tens or thousands? Will we be
altering the earth to grow food, or will we eat from the perpetual garden?
Will we repeat our species current extreme cycle of growth and decline?
Will we have accepted that evolution can only take place when those
best adapted thrive while the rest decline?
I wish I
could see this far. I wish I could see the ultimate and final fate of
our species, and indeed all species, prior to the universe's curtain
call to earth's habitibility. I wish that I could be the ever-man that
could live to see it all pass. But I am but a bit of the earth made
consious and aware for a moment... and while the atoms of my body will
be here, the continuity of my consious thought and mind will not.
What I can
see from here is that we are the destoryers.
was a garden not so long ago. The garden stretched from shore to shore
and from highest mountain to deepest ocean trench. And now, much has
been destroyed. It continues to be destroyed. By both our individual
action, and our collective action, we continue to destroy the living
earth. This is due to not only our instincts and our innate behavior,
but also due to belief in good and evil, right and wrong, and our mistaken
belief that money does not inherently lead to destruction. It is due
to not only our dominant values, virtures, principles or beliefs...
but also due to our ignorance about the mechanisms we have created and
employ in the world.
best of us falls prey to the misconception of money.
the most intelligent of us goes ahead and buys food from the grocer...
who in turn pays others (via a string of intermediaries) to chop down
and grind up nature to grow that food.
most keen of us goes ahead and buys clothing from the shop-keep... who
in turn pays others to rape the land and poision the seas to get this
clothing made and to the sale rack.
most peaceful of us goes ahead and asks the library to buy books on
MLK, Ghandi and Tolstoy... that money which, by and by, goes into taxes
which pay for "defense" a.k.a. government sanctioned murder,
cruelty and torture.
are limited only by the almost uncountable number of different transactions
that are made with money thoughout the world, for indeed, every dollar
spent will continues to change hands, practically forever, and this
money gets spread out to motivate the sum total of the behavior of our
This is a
difficult concept to grasp. Even though energy is the thing of true
value in the world, money is the mechanism which determines how, when,
and where that energy will be consumed. This energy, in our hands, is
an individual do to escape participation in this monstorous, destoying
choices, and for fun, let's list them...
Die - (I imagine there must have been at least one person who has done
this... although I don't know who or how often.)
independent of everyone else, live as part of the earth, and swear off
independent along with others, all live as a community which is a part
of the earth, and swear off the global money system
become 100% independent, and work towards this everyday, in everyway,
so that when things do get "bad" that you can take that last
step towards sustainability and harmony with nature... and work with
freinds, family, neighbors, and community to do the same... and to be
ready to work together when the time comes.
It is not
enough to be green, or an environmentalist, or a conversationist, or
a good person, or a pious person, or a happy person... if we participate
in the system then we are guilty, so to speak, of the torture and cruelty
that we as a species are inflicting on the rest --- that is, on that
which we all are... the earth.
I know that
I participate. I know that I am as guilty as the rest. It is not good.
It is not evil. Neither exist. But it is causing killing. It is causing
pollution. It is causing destruction. And I feel guilt and anguish that
I continue to participate... and yet I continue. And as I seek for a
rationalization, I think it is because I am comfortable... or because
I have innate drives to survive, and I cannot allow myself to see survival
apart from participation. This could be considered weakness... I certainly
consider it such in myself... and yet, I participate... I continue my
part in the destruction and decimation of life.
is not simply an issue of learning to conserve or finding ways to do
more with less. It isn't simply about the possibility of economic collapse,
war, starvation or global pandemic. It isn't just about changing our
behaviors or our beliefs. It is about turning ourselves inside-out,
and not only surviving the transformation, but also being and living
equal and in harmony with all the rest.
Forward by the Author
this to the end so you would read the article first, so I guess this
is more of an epilogue, reflection, or explaination.)
Lots of thoughts
have been spinning in my head for the past week, month, year... and
it is sometimes difficult to get them all out... trying to figure everything
out is interesting, but also upsetting, and confusing, and (sometimes)
seems a bit impossible.
A month or
so ago, I wrote a journal entry, which was a rambling mind-walk through
these thoughts... It was long... hours upon hours of stream of thought
writing... going deep into philosophy and religion and self... I didn't
publish it. I don't know if I want people to know the places that my
thoughts can go. I have yet to complete it, although I may revisit it
have a need to share... a feeling akin to admitting something aloud...
a disclosure of sorts... or perhaps a confession.
I am still
trying to work everything out. I feel like I am closer. But if you ask
me about this writing in a week, or a month, or a year, I may have an
entirely new perspective on everything... Which is to say... everything
writen here is simply a snapshot in time, at this instant, of my thought
stream... and I can not know what thoughts and beliefs might or will
change between now and any point in the future.
If by some
odd series of events, you are drawn to quote me, or to refer to my ruminations
to others, to me, or even to yourself, make it clear that this was the
why and the when and the where... this, after all, is a journal entry...
an exploration of one individual of his own thoughts and feelings.
This article was Originally published at...
Local Future Network
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