Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who Ever Said Life is Supposed to be Easy?

I actively monitor and participate in several Yahoo Peak Oil e-mail groups. On those groups there is a constant stream of teeth-gnashing over the impact that peak-oil, global warming, and whatever else are going to have on our easy, comfortable lifestyle. There is incessant discussion of what parts of our lifestyle we want to hold on to as we slide down the energy downslope on our way to a post fossil-fuel age. Even on these groups of people who are supposedly fully aware of the implications of peak oil there is constant discussion of ways to hold on, and a corresponding lack of an ability to visualize a lifestyle devoid of the energy inputs we now have.

Okay. I understand that change is traumatic. I understand how difficult it is to figure out how to incorporate such massive change as we have ahead of us into your personal life program. But whoever said life is supposed to be easy? Life is a struggle, very often downright brutal. Get used to it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. We in the industrialized world have rapaciously frittered away the energy resources of this planet in building a truly decadent lifestyle that we, over the course of these past few decades, have come to believe is our birthright. It's not. Get used to it. No other species on this planet that lives within the limits imposed on it by nature (and man!) assumes that life is easy. A female wildebeest drops a calf on the African savanna and within minutes it is up and ready to run, ready to keep up with the herd. If not it is liable to end up as some predator's lunch. That's life. No matter how massive our intellect in comparison to other species it in no way guarantees that we can continue to abuse the natural world that our man-made, virtual world still ultimately relies on.

I don't know when peak oil will occur, or peak natural gas or peak coal or peak uranium or whatever other peaks our species is bringing about this century. I don't know how rapid the decline will be on the other side of the peak. I don't know how governments and business and industry and individual people will adjust to that new reality. I am, however, very certain that our lifestyle fifty years from now will be far different than it is today. And not, by most people's definition, for the better. For all I know, you may be driving the last car you will ever own, living in the last home you will ever buy. Or we may find ways to extend the peak into a long plateau and not have to pay the full price for our profligate energy use for another several decades. The longer we extend that plateau, however, the steeper and more dramatic will be the decline when we can no longer hold it off.

I don't expect everyone to voluntarily give up the lifestyle they were born into or have built through their own efforts. That would be nice but it's not going to happen. Most people will hold on to as much as possible for as long as possible. I won't say that is human nature. That is such an over-used rationalization and cavalier excuse for the unconscionable ills we inflict on the life-supporting environment of this planet. I will concede only that it is an all too common way that people deal with adversity. They get so locked into dealing with the now that they can't or won't see that it is wiser, in the long run, to deal with the future before it is inflicted on them.

We are, so far as we know, the only intellectually gifted species on this planet. That intellect also imbues us with the unique gift of foresight. So far as we know, no other species on this planet can understand that it's actions may destroy the very environment on which they depend for life. We can! If we do not it is because we choose not to. The ability is there in that brain we were given. It's time to start using that gift of foresight instead of continuing to sleepwalk toward the species disaster of our own making.

Man is the only species on this planet intelligent enough to foresee his own extinction, creative enough to bring it about, stupid enough to allow it to happen. A fitting epitaph for what is arguably the most promising species to ever walk this planet.

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