Peak Oil: Aids, Addiction And Opportune Infections
By Bill Henderson
19 January, 2006
So what do we know now about peak oil at the dawn of 06?
That we're peaking and presently in the end of cheap oil phase. That energy prices will continue to rise or that we will enter a phony war period of improved supply. I'll leave it to the experienced geologists, economists and business futurists to forecast supply and prices, and hopefully detail the probable shape of the peak. Instead I'll use AIDS as an analogy for how we should be reacting:
"You've got AIDS."
"Oh no Doc, I'm going to die from AIDS!!!"
"Not necessarily. There is now a proven treatment regime to treat AIDS. But the real problem is your lifestyle and your wider health. And the immediate danger isn't AIDS but a range of opportune infections and cancers that will take advantage of your weakened immune system and could kill you long before AIDS will."
Americans (and citizens of developed countries) have a lifestyle problem.James Kunstler has articulated it in one sentence " It is a living arrangement which has no future. It represents the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."
It's not just oil. Read E .O. Wilson's Bottleneck chapter from THE FUTURE OF LIFE. Americans have a monstrously huge ecological footprint as the growing human population - a hundred times the biomass of any previous animal species - pushes against the constraints of a finite planet. The end of oil is just one serious resource depletion to be expected as everybody in the world attempts to live an American lifestyle.
The American lifestyle is an addiction. A costly, unhealthy addiction.
"You're addicted to toys. You eat terribly; you consume mindlessly; you smoke and drink; you watch football or wrestling or celebrities pretending to fuck. You have to turn off the TV. Turn off all the advertising you can. And quit eating all the franchise food and learn to eat healthily. And get outa the car and ride a bike or walk.
"And you gotta get outa debt. Debt is the equivalent of fat and your present obesity was a building problem even without peak oil."
Well OK - NewNoah has gone overboard with the lousy lifestyle analogy, but ultimately surviving peak oil must mean a lifestyle change akin to kicking an addiction. A change of attitude, the conviction to beat the addiction is the vital first step.
There is a high quality - low material impact, meaningful, fun and healthy lifestyle that is possible just as your IPOD replaces tons of costly vinyl.
And we will have to get on a health regime if we want to survive. Managing dollars and consumption properly would have probably left us in much better shape for the treatment regime, for an accelerated conversion to a post-fossil fuel economy.
Lester Brown's revised PLAN B - PLAN B 2.0 - is one example of a potentially successful treatment program. A wartime-style coalition government provides governance innovation to allow change of the scale necessary to mobilize American and global government and business resources to get to a lifestyle that has a future.
But we have to watch out for those opportune infections.
War in Iraq was the Bush Admin choosing the resource war path for everybody on the globe. Instead of providing leadership in a cooperative, scientific innovation, American ingenuity approach to peak oil, the neocons tried to grab all the oil, putting us all a hair trigger away from a final nuclear war.
"(t)he people around him (Bush) are the most dangerous administration in American history. I think they're driving the world to destruction. There are two major threats that face the world, threats of the destruction of the species, and they're not a joke. One of them is nuclear war, and the other is environmental catastrophe, and they are driving toward destruction in both domains. They're compelling competitors to escalate their own offensive military capacityRussia, China, now Iran. That means putting their offensive nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert." Noam Chomsky
We need justice in Iraq - acknowledgement that war in Iraq was a criminal mistake - in order to get back off the resource war path so that a cooperative, peaceful solution to the end of cheap oil is possible.
And peak oil promises famine and pestilence as well as war. The increasing price of oil is a rising tide drowning poor economies around the world. Post green revolution, a large percentage of the world's agriculture is totally dependent on oil. Famine and resulting societal breakdown and infectious disease can not be kept outside of a Fortress America. We have to be proactive in developing alternative, sustainable lifestyles as well as alternative energy sources for citizens of the Third World or we could die of a new virulent flu, terrorism or plague.
But immediately we must take action to prevent the severe economic dislocation, this years potential Great Depression, that threatens chaos and paralysis. Sometime in 06 oil may spike over $100 a barrel and bubbles will start to burst.