The Future is Now – the end of cheap oil


 I – Introduction and Overview

 

This is one of the more difficult articles/reviews I have worked on.  I have been well aware of Peak Oil for a while, but never did I gather so much information in one sitting that simply spelled out doom and gloom. 

 

I live alternately surrounded by the incredible amazing flexibility and beauty of nature contrasted with the ever-present artefacts and contrived superficialities of humanity crafted on the basis of ample and cheap fossil fuels (as well as its benefits of agricultural wealth and medical advancements).  Since the 1960s environmentalists have been sending out warnings about the future of our environment if we do not care for it.  They have been mostly ignored until now, when global warming concerns have proved a direct threat to individual lives as well as possible future lifestyles.  At the same time, the industrial era based on cheap fossil fuels that created the climate change is rapidly drawing to a close – in what form humanity survives that closure is open to debate, but debate is not what is needed. 

 

What is needed is action, not the action of the Washington consensus and the free marketers who have chosen to act through their global war on terror as a pretext to harvest and protect the last remaining years of oil production thereby maintaining their position under the mantra that “the American way of life is not negotiable.”  What is needed is action that moves us towards new energy sources as quickly as possible, away from oil, towards an economy based on renewable energy and – choke on this all you industrialists and corporatists – an economy that does not grow.  This world is finite.

 

The end of cheap oil is happening now.  The economy is already suffering for it, and unlike the Great Depression, recovery will not be a simple matter of putting people back to work.  The Great Resource War is already underway, mainly in the Middle East, but also in smaller skirmishes scattered areas around the world, disguised to many as the Global War on Terror (or drugs as in the case of Colombia).

 

Depressing? Yes.  Optimism?  There is some room for it, but only if we recognize that the paradigm shift is already underway and that action to a more positive, minimalist lifestyle needs to start, before nature demands it of us in more dramatic fashion.

 

Overview.

 

Civilizations (as compared to empires which may arise within the same civilization as witnessed in western Europe in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries) have risen and fallen throughout the course of human history, overwhelmed by invaders, environmental change or destruction, loss of resources, simple political incompetence or a combination of these.  In 2003, Jared Diamond’s book Collapse was published, a book discussing these elements and how they affected many different civilizations from the seafaring peoples of the South Pacific to the Anasazi of the American Southwest.  The tone of the book is a stern academic warning of what may come to pass if we do not learn the lessons of the collapse of those other civilizations, but there was no real element of fear or a wake up call that the collapse of our civilization was imminent.

 

At that time, the U.S. economy was superficially booming, having recovered quickly from the dot.com bubble, and although there were warnings about the housing bubble, mostly in the alternate media, and although there was an understanding that the U.S. economy depended on debt and credit for its consumptive foundation, there were no indications of any significant downturn.  The housing market was still a few years away from the beginning of its mortgage-based decline and the dollar had not yet lost value of significant mention against other currencies, in particular the euro. 

 

As Diamond was writing, Afghanistan had been ‘conquered’ and Iraq had not yet been invaded and occupied, and the consequent entanglements in the greater Middle East had not had further destructive effects on the U.S. economy and its debt.  As for the weather, it was generally understand if not yet politically accepted that global warming was a reality; the Arctic ice sheet was still – almost – in one large piece across the Arctic Ocean.   As for oil, the concept of peak oil was certainly understood, but other than talk of controlling strategic sources (the Middle East, Africa) little consideration had been presented in the media about its timing and meaning, it was a topic out of context and without future consideration.

 

Only a few years later, Diamond’s book would almost seem prescient except that events have turned much more quickly and much more negatively than he might have presupposed.  The U.S. economy is in recession, and with its significant debt at every level, an economy based on credit based consumer consumption and military control of empire will not likely recover any time soon.  Iraq is now an occupied territory, with a puppet govern

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