Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Haven't Abandoned Peak Oil!

Several readers have recently asked me why I stopped writing about peak oil? I could simply say that I turned my writing energy loose on novel writing; already having finished one and now half way through another. But I am accustomed to balancing multiple different writing projects, especially when they are in totally different genres.

What really happened is that I got tired of banging my head against the wall. Nobody is listening, and certainly not the people who need to; politicians and industry leaders, business executives and media pundits. The primary objective of all of them is perpetuation of business as usual. And that business as usual is the problem, not the solution.

I doubted whether my voice was needed any longer. There are, after all, many other voices out there still talking peak oil, most much stronger voices than myself. They seem content to carry on the fight even in the face of endless losses, all in the belief that no matter how many battles they lose they will eventually win the war. I can't do that. I'm much too pragmatic. I see no redeeming value in continuing to fight a battle which I know I will lose in the end. It is better, in my mind, to walk away and live to fight another day.

I have not abandoned peak oil. I can't. It is, in fact, the primary backdrop to the first novel I mentioned above. It is also the defining issue of our time for humanity, even if humanity thus far refuses to see that. But when you are faced with overwhelming opposition, the only way to carry on the fight is to go underground. And that is what I have done.

I have done a lot of thinking about why people refuse to face the reality of peak oil, all in an attempt to figure out how to force them to face it and deal with it. On the surface it appears that the answer is simple. People are afraid of what peak oil will do to their lives and, therefore, hope that it is not true and hope that by not accepting it, it will simply go away so they don't have to deal with it. It's an odd form of denial.

On the other hand, however, it is possible that the majority of people simply do not know about peak oil, are not aware that there is a very serious crisis ahead, do not yet understand that their lives are going to be turned upside down and they will be faced with a battle just to survive. That would be understandable.

Government, business, industry, and the mainstream media are all declaring that there is no problem, that we have more than enough oil and other energy to keep the lights on for millennia to come. Every new oil discovery, no matter how small and inconsequential, is touted as undeniable proof that there is an endless supply of oil and that all we have to do is find it and extract it. Who cares if we destroy ANWR as well as the Gulf and virtually all of Northern Alberta and wherever else we pursue a major oil play. From time to time they still trot out that old, totally discredited chestnut of the Russian abiotic oil theory that claims oil is being constantly generated in the earth's mantle from inorganic material and will never run out.

It leaves one to wonder, therefore, not why people are in denial or ignorant of the issue but, rather, why is so much effort being made by government and industry to keep people in denial, to keep them ignorant of the looming disaster? It's like not going public with the news that a one-hundred-mile-wide asteroid is headed directly for the earth. Better to let the masses enjoy their final days in ignorance. But as long as that much effort is being lavished on denial, a critical mass of people who understand and accept peak oil will never be achieved. And that is the real tragedy here, that that ignorance robs people of the option to prepare for what is coming.

Why, you may ask, should it matter? So people are kept ignorant of the looming crisis. So what? One very simple reason.... Peak oil is survivable, with knowledge and proper preparation. Even more importantly, however, is this reality. The worst impact of peak oil on global society could be prevented if we acted now with a radical change in direction in the way human society operates.

Preventable! If we change course!

The corollary to that, of course, is that if we do not change course and persist with business as usual, the entire human population will face the most extreme consequences of peak oil when it arrives. Guaranteed!

That is why, to me, it has always been a no-brainer. If we change course, we can prevent the worst impact. If we don't, we'll face the worst head on. Duhhhh! Let me think. Do I want to stare death in the face, with a one in ten chance of survival, and see if I can survive it or do I want to change direction and avoid it?

That's right! I said a one in ten chance of survival.

The human carrying capacity of the earth following the depletion of the planet's fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) is generally estimated at between .5 and 1.5 billion people. We currently have a global population approaching 7 billion and if the population trend continues for the next 40-50 years it will top 10 billion. Even if the carrying capacity is twice the estimate, which is very unlikely (it has been estimated that in the 2-3 decades immediately following depletion of the fossil fuels the population could drop to under 500 million) that would still mean that 3-4 out of every 5 humans alive at that time will not survive. Are you willing to gamble that you will be one of the survivors with no advance preparation?

In case you haven't heard, or have heard and still refuse to believe, peak oil is not, as some professional denialists would have you believe, some radical, fringe theory put out by a bunch of wacko conspiracy theorists. And it is not, as some of those conspiracy theorists suggest, a con job by the oil, coal and natural gas industries to keep the price of their products high. It is, in fact, in my opinion, not a theory at all. It is an inescapable reality that is unfolding even now.

The peak oil philosophy is supported by, taught about, lectured on, and written about by college professors, former energy industry executives no longer beholden to an industry paycheck and free to speak openly, some current and former national leaders, several major entertainers, a plethora of writers, a variety of reputable energy industry analysts, many leading economists, some brave, outspoken serving politicians, and a few brave mainstream journalists.

So why aren't people hearing the message? Noise! There are simply far more promoters of denial, pushers of business as usual, salesmen of the American dream, peddlers of happiness, all hawking their wares at maximum volume for any note of reality to possibly squeeze into the public consciousness. Who wants to hear about some threat to the good life when they can buy a car that parks itself? Who wants to hear about a looming disaster when American Idol is there on our high-definition, dolby stereo, flat-screen 64" plasma TV to entertain us? You mean The Osbornes and Survivor aren't really reality? You mean we aren't in Iraq to bring them democracy and freedom? And yes, Virginia, there really is no frickin' red-suited Santa Claus!

Wake up people! Before it's too damned late! You've got some changes to make! Turn off the TV. Park the Hummer in the garage. Turn off the damned air conditioner and open the windows. Boycott MacDonalds and WalMart and everybody else who's pushing the American dream of cheap and fast. Walk to the damned convenience store next time you need a quart of milk. Trade in those damned gucchi loafers for a pair of cheap sneakers. Sell all that expensive jewelery and buy a year's supply of rice and dried beans. Turn that 1/2 acre of grass in front of your house into a garden that produces stuff you can actually eat. And get the hell out of that 5000 square foot Mcmansion that you can't afford to heat and into something practical.

I don't know what to tell you, and I don't think it's my job. You have to educate yourself and decide what is the best way for you and your family and friends and community to survive. Every case is different. All I know is, if you are an average American, you're going to have to change a lot. And there's no time like the present. So don't wait. Get on with it. And if there are hurdles in the way, like zoning laws, work on changing and eliminating them now rather than later. Once we have passed peak oil, which I honestly believe has already happened but has been disguised by the prolonged economic downturn, it will become increasingly difficult to get your preparations done in time. You have to be prepared before things reach the critical stage.

I don't believe we will ever recover from the current global economic downturn. But we will, unfortunately, try very hard to recover. And those attempts at recovery will likely push us ever faster toward that post-carbon world and leave us wholly unprepared to deal with it.

I am glad that my age any deteriorating health make it unlikely that I will have to deal with that. It's not going to be pretty. But if you are younger, especially if you are still in or have recently left school, for God's sake do yourself a favour and stop listening to CNN and Fox and reading the mainstream daily for your news. They aren't going to tell you what's really happening until its too late. Don't let them keep you in the dark. You've got to get ahead of the game because it's all going to come apart in your lifetime.

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