For those of you not paying attention to the news last week, here’s a quick summary: The United States economy nearly collapsed, taking the world economy with it. Only a quick infusion of cash by the Treasury Department prevented full-scale collapse. The problem: peak oil. The solution, such as it is: print money, sensu Weimer Republic. Ben “Helicopter” Bernanke is living up to his nickname.
Thus, I trace the demise of political parties as disparate entities to Reagan’s election in 1980. With the 1980 election, the United States embraced a single ideology: economic growth. Political party no longer mattered because the ideology crossed party lines. And this dangerous ideology absolutely required imperialism.
Yesterday I delivered a presentation to a room full of Honors College students, peppered with a few faculty and administrators. The response was overwhelmingly disappointing. Seems nearly everybody in the room — and in the country, for that matter — wants to keep the current game going, no matter the costs. They don’t view civilization as a problem at all, evidence notwithstanding, and they think the solution to our fossil-fuel dilemma is to drive less and bicycle more.
I admit I’m a doomer. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. To be a doomer is to recognize the tragedy of the human experience.
The increasing urgency of this topic demands frank conversation, but the human ego is stunningly fragile. As a general strategy, I would not recommend starting the conversation about relocating with a group larger than half-a-dozen people, primarily because you’ll need to create and maintain an emotionally, psychologically, and physically functional group of people, on short notice, to do things you cannot imagine doing. The future is funny that way: We don’t even know what needs to be done.
I underestimated the impact of high gasoline prices on our behavior. I thought $5 gas would be necessary to produce the type of impact we’re seeing at only $4. Demand destruction is so severe it’s overwhelming events in the former Soviet Union, where chess-master Putin is spoiling U.S. attempts to extract oil by going around Russia. Along the way, Putin has demonstrated exactly how impotent the U.S. has become on the world stage.
Civilization represents a grave threat to the existence of myriad cultures and species, including our own species. And we can do better.