I used to talk, and write, about peak oil with considerable urgency. But my enthusiasm is waning. Perhaps it’s time to throw in the proverbial towel, give up the proverbial ghost, switch proverbial horses, or … well, insert your own tired cliché here.
After all, as Nietzsche said, there are those who know and those who will never know. Or, in this case, there are those who get it and those who will never get it. Why bother?
And you don’t have to be a damned genius to get it. Need evidence? I get it. Need more? It’s pretty simple, really: (1) Oil is a finite resource that is (2) the lifeblood of civilization for which (3) there are no comprehensive substitutes. And if you haven’t observed the economic consequences of expensive oil, you must be living in a news-free zone.
Discover magazine declared peak oil the #1 story of 2008. In a rare stroke of reporting based on reality, they claimed: “By the end of the year, though, dreams of a sustainable, domestically produced fuel that could help end our addiction to oil had deflated.” Sadly, the story claims we’ll simply use technology to solve the problem, instead of even hinting we might be in for hard times.
From politico.com comes “Four really, really bad scenarios,” although those of us who actually care about the planet — and I’m sure there are at least five of us — beg to differ with the headline (I agree with the author that a terrorist attack would be bad, but I disagree with him about the “badness” of the other three scenarios).
The bastion of American conservatism, the Wall Street Journal, seems to have caught on, quoting a prominent Russian spook who predicts the United States will fail by June 2010.
And then there’s Tom Whipple writing for the Falls Church (Virginia) News-Press: “Of all the world’s nations, America is probably the worst prepared to deal with deep, prolonged economic hardships, for more of us have disconnected from 19th century, rural, somewhat self-sufficient, lifestyles than in most other countries. In the 1930’s many found that they could still return to the family farm, where food, shelter, and meaningful work was available. In 2010 that option exists for very few; we have become dependent on a complex infrastructure fueled by oil for our food, water, clothing and warmth. Start reducing the flow of oil and increasing numbers of us are going to become increasingly desperate.”
The San Francisco Chronicle claims we’re taking our last road trip in a nicely written piece: “Are you kidding me? A buck seventy five? For premium? WTF? It is the frightening rule du jour: the cheaper gas gets right now, the more completely screwed you know we are.”
There’s enormous sad news at the personal scale, of course.Consider a few snippets from my email in-box:
“I give up. I’m leaving my church to eat itself alive as its members seem to enjoy doing. There’s so much blackness in the human heart, and sadly, I now find it creeping into my own. I give up. I’m just a tired outcast … in a society that’s accelerating toward a brick wall. Good luck with the mud hut. I can’t afford a mud hut, but I don’t have the energy to defend one, either. So, it all works out. To hell with all of it…. I pray it all comes crashing down, even if it means we suffer, I’m so sick of the bullshit in this world. Being shuttled quickly to the next, even if there is no ‘next’, is surely better than slogging through this existence for one more year.”
“Though I repeatedly tell people in my house that I have no interest in either christ, holiday consumption, or even some loose interpretation of pagan shenanigans, they put on christmas carols and mock me. It is the conservation vampires that haunt me though. An inept conservationist is a toxic thing because they prevent someone else from doing a good job. That seems to be an integral part of our social promotion scheme. ‘Ok, we’ll give you a
livelihood if you don’t say anything that offends big money interests.'”
And don’t even get me started about my colleagues who teach about limits to growth while failing to recognize they might actually exist. After all, as the math books say: In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.
All in all, I’m close to the edge. I’ve managed to irritate most of the administrators at my esteemed university, as well as — and this is far more important, depressing, and unintentional — a few of the former thoughtful commentators on this blog. Seems I really am an equal-opportunity offender, however inadvertantly. Much as I’ll miss writing and interacting with people who get it, perhaps it’s time to move along and spend my limited time preparing for a post-carbon future. Perhaps it’s time to live in one world — the real one — instead of trying to live in the fantasy world of Empire even as it crumbles to its inevitable rubble. As much as I enjoy my research on energy depletion and its economic consequences and my teaching with Poetry Inside/Out, it may be time to move along.
Happy new year, everybody. May 2009 bring you joy even as — or in a few cases, because — American Empire crumbles.