In a few short years, the United States will have virtually no access to oil and its derivatives, which include coal, natural gas, uranium, solar panels, and wind turbines. The last time that happened in this country, fewer than 30 million people populated the United States; about 10 percent of them were slaves. Life expectancy was 46 years; if you were black, you could expect to live to the ripe old age of 23. Surface water was abundant and clean enough to drink.
My talk to archaeologists focused on peak oil and the associated collapse of civilization. Turns out archaeologists love to study the collapse of civilization, with a minor exception: They aren’t particularly keen on hearing about the collapse of their own civilization.
I’m starting to understand the many peak-oil deniers out there. It’s tough to wrap our hummingbird-sized intellects around these pterodactyl-sized numbers. Our ability to power down with all the peace and tranquility of Buddhist monks seems a little far-fetched (we are, as pointed out by Nietzsche, “all too human”). It’s easier to deny the impending collapse of empire than to deal with facts. On the other hand, as Matt Savinar points out, you’d better “Deal With Reality or Reality Will Deal With You.”
Yep, there are two sides to the peak-oil story. The side we go up (which ended a couple years ago), and the side we go down. We’re on the downhill side of world oil supply, and the slope’s about to get a helluva lot more slippery.
Now that oil is on the verge of the magical $100/barrel mark, the laughter is starting to die down. Seems the readers of my dire writings — which merely echo the thoughts of people far more intelligent than me — are starting to think the Empire might fall, after all.
Regardless where you choose to spend your post-carbon years, a few things are necessary: water, food, shelter, and community. Piecing together an existence that supplies each of these elements will not be easy, but I think creative people will be able construct a life worth living. A few people will even thrive, helped along by the knowledge that the collapse of American Empire is wonderful news for the many species and cultures with which we share the planet.
We have, to the maximum possible extent allowed by our intellect and never-ending desire, consumed the planet and therefore traded in tomorrow for today. And we keep making these choices, every day, choosing dams over salmon, oil over whales, cars over polar bears, death over life.