Path Beyond Petroleum:
By Peter Goodchild
25 October, 2006
"Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou
in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."
1. Oil production in the year 2025 will be half that of the year 2000.
If we combine those figures with those of world population, we find
a ratio of 5 barrels of oil per person per year in 2000, but only 2
barrels of oil per person per year in 2025.
2. Alternative sources of
energy have been a failure because of an extremely insufficient energy
return on energy invested (EROEI).
3. Because the entire world
economy is tied to petroleum for manufacture, transportation, and communication,
there will be an increasing problem of high prices and low wages. Such
economic struggles could in turn result in a lack of investor confidence,
and a sudden collapse of the currency market and stock market.
4. The shortage of oil will
continue to result in warfare, which will be increasingly global in
5. The above events - and
their further consequences, such as pestilence - will cause considerable
mortality. Population expansion, in other words, will be followed by
6. The conventional news
media and the politicians will not state the problems. It is bad business
to deliver bad news, and always has been - e.g., during the Great Depression
of the 1930s.
7. Solutions on a global
scale are impossible, because there is no responsible governing or decision-making
body for all those billions of people, or even for a large segment of
those people. There are no Illuminati. Nor can one hope for a great
deal in terms of more-subtle or more-indirect influences from the scientific
or academic community, since there are about 5,000 languages, and most
people are basically illiterate.
8. Nevertheless, planning
for post-oil survival must be on a scale larger than that of the individual
person. Anthropological studies indicate that the working group (i.e.
the group that collectively performs most daily activities) in most
societies is about 100 people. Groups of that size may be impossible
at first, of course, but the number provides an ideal to be kept in
9. Since the Industrial Revolution,
most people in developed countries have increasingly lost touch with
the concepts of home town and family. They have not "followed the
plow" but rather the factory, which is built or rebuilt wherever
the owners find it convenient to do so. Returning to those earlier concepts
will therefore be difficult, but it will be necessary.
10. Survival in the country
will be easier than survival in the city, because cities require the
importation of food, water, heating fuel, and other materials.
11. The modern world has
been characterized by an elaborate infrastructure (transportation, communication,
etc.) and an elaborate division of labor. The basic skills for providing
food, clothing, and shelter have therefore been largely forgotten, but
they must be relearned.
12. Present texts on country
living contain a great deal of misinformation, because of decades of
cribbing: much on the topics of permaculture, organic gardening, and
intensive gardening fits into this category. Relearning will therefore
be largely a matter of getting one's hands dirty and doing much experimentation.
The simple life is, for most people of the modern world, not simple
at all: even a supposedly simple task may require, for the uninitiated,
an apparently infinite number of sub-tasks, which will often require
methods of learning beyond that of following written texts.
Ashworth, Suzanne. Seed to
Seed. Decorah, Iowa: Seed Saver, 1991.
Bagdikian, Ben H. The Media
Monopoly. 6th ed. Boston: Beacon, 2000.
Bailey, L.H. The Principles
of Vegetable-Gardening. New York: Macmillan, 1921.
Blainey, Geoffrey. Triumph
of the Nomads: A History of Aboriginal Australia. Woodstock, New York:
Bradley, Fern Marshall, and
Barbara W. Ellis, eds. Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.
Emmaus, Pennyslvania: Rodale, 1992.
Broadfoot, Barry. Ten Lost
Years 1929-1939: Memories of Canadians Who Survived the Depression.
Toronto: Doubleday, 1973
Brown, Lauren. Grasses. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Bubel, Mike and Nancy. Root
Cellaring. Pownal, Vermont: Storey, 1991.
Campbell, Colin J. The Coming
Oil Crisis. Brentwood, Essex: Multi-Science, 1997.
Carter, Vernon Gill, and
Tom Dale. Topsoil and Civilization. Rev. ed. Norman, Oklahoma: U of
Oklahoma P, 1974.
Catton, William R., Jr. Overshoot:
The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Champaign, Illinois: U
of Illinois P, 1980.
Davis, Adelle. Let's Eat
Right to Keep Fit. Rev. ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.
Deffeyes, Kenneth S. Hubbert's
Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001.
Ellis, Barbara W., and Fern
Marshall Bradley, eds. The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect
and Disease Control. Emmaus, Pennyslvania: Rodale, 1992.
Emery, Carla A. The Encyclopedia
of Country Living. 9th ed. Seattle, Washington: Sasquash, 1994.
Faust, Joan Lee. The New
York Times Book of Vegetable Gardening. New York: Times, 1975.
Gardner, Sandra. Street Gangs
in America. New York: Franklin Watts, 1992.
Gever, John, et al. Beyond
Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades. Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Gibbons, Euell. Stalking
the Wild Asparagus. New York: David McKay, 1962.
Goodchild, Peter. Survival
Skills of the North American Indians. 2nd ed. Chicago Review Press,
Gowdy, John, ed. Limited
Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader on Hunter-Gatherer Economics and the
Environment. Washington, D.C.: Island, 1998.
Greenwood, Pippa. Pests and
Diseases. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000.
Guillet, Edwin C. The Pioneer
Farmer and Backwoodsman. Toronto: Ontario, 1963.
Hopkins, Donald P. Chemicals,
Humus, and the Soil. Brooklyn, NY: Chemical Publishing, 1948.
Jacob, Jeffrey. New Pioneers.
University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1997.
Kaplan, Robert D. The Ends
of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia - A Journey
to the Frontiers of Anarchy. New York: Random, 1996.
King, F.H. Farmers of Forty
Centuries, or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan. 1911.
Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Organic Gardening, n.d.
Klare, Michael T. Resource
Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.
Langer, Richard W. Grow It!
New York: Saturday Review, 1972.
Lappé, Frances Moore.
Diet for a Small Planet. New York: Ballantine, 1971.
Logsdon, Gene. Homesteading.
Emmaus, Pennyslvania: Rodale, 1973.
-----. Small-Scale Grain
Raising. Emmaus, Pennyslvania: Rodale, 1977.
Mack, Norman, ed. Back to
Basics. Montreal: Reader's Digest, 1981.
Meadows, Donella H. et al.
The Limits to Growth: a Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the
Predicament of Mankind. 2nd ed. New York: Universe, 1982.
Nearing, Helen and Scott.
Living the Good Life. New York: Schocken, 1982.
Niethammer, Carolyn. American
Indian Food and Lore. New York: Macmillan, 1974.
Pimentel, David, and Carl
W. Hall, eds. Food and Energy Resources. Orlando: Academic, 1984.
Rifkin, Jeremy. The End of
Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market
Era. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1995.
Scher, Les. Finding and Buying
Your Place in the Country. 4th ed. New York: Collier, 1996.
Schumacher, E.F. Small Is
Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. New York: Harper & Row,
Seymour, John. The Guide
to Self-Sufficiency. New York: Popular Mechanics, 1976.
Solomon, Steve. Water-Wise
Vegetables. Seattle: Sasquatch, 1993.
Soros, George. The Crisis
of Global Capitalism. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998.
Tresemer, David. The Scythe
Book. Brattleboro, Vermont: Hand & Foot, 1981.
Vivian, John. The Manual
of Practical Homesteading. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale, 1975.
Weatherwax, Paul. Indian
Corn in Old America. New York: Macmillan, 1954.
Widtsoe, John A. Dry-Farming.
New York: Macmillan, 1920.
Peter Goodchild can be reached at: email@example.com
Share Your Insights