I’ve been giving a lot of thought to peak oil lately and what it means to human civilization.
Combine the projected impacts of peak oil with the worldwide failing environmental indicators and you have a sure-fired recipe for global disaster (as far as humans are concerned).
The trends, as it were, seem to be a knee-jerk reaction to this long term catastrophe. I’m reading a slightly dated article (Outside Magazine, August 2005) that deals with the “Where to live now”.
They don’t get it. Not even close. Of course, Outside magazine has been yuppiefied for years now, but that’s still no excuse.
Same with the headlines found over on PeakOil.com – great site for finding factual information and discussion on this all important subject. But they don’t get it either. Example:
“At their home, Wissner and his wife have installed new window treatments and new lights and are planning to add solar panels.”
Like that is really going to help. What they are really saying (by their actions) is that they believe that they can hold onto their present way of life by simply making a few small changes.
But I see this as far too little, too late and (almost) a complete waste of time.
Here’s another knee-jerk from Oregon:
According to the peak oil hypothesis, world oil production is about to top out and gasoline prices will soon rise above $20 a gallon. Oregon land-use planners use this theory to help justify programs that make life difficult for Oregon families who get around by automobile. Though Oregonians drive for nearly 90 percent of passenger travel, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) has told the state’s major cities to somehow reduce per-capita driving by 10 percent.
In response, Portland and other cities are increasing traffic congestion by promoting higher-density housing, reducing roadway capacities and making parking difficult. Reducing congestion, planners say, would simply encourage more driving and decrease the number of people riding expensive light-rail trains.
First off, if gasoline hits $20 per gallon (or even approaches this price), the entire economic infrastructure is totally screwed. Forget jobs, forget transportation (all of it), forget food, forget everything, because its over.
So assuming this is hyperbole, let’s examine this quote further. Portland in particular, is planning on “reducing roadway capacities and making parking difficult.” Fine. But what does that have to do with the price of apples?
What this means is they are seeking to punish Oregonians for driving, thereby conserving (some) fuel and hopefully, postponing the worldwide crisis.
This is akin to saving an ice cube because the polar caps are melting… it won’t work.
Not only is this too little, too late, and being done by too few, but it doesn’t even begin to go far enough to forcing people to live differently. Instead, the city (and perhaps the State) will save some money by building fewer roads, but spending any and all savings on light-rail while still trying to perpetuate the status-quo.
The underlying message here is again the same. Life goes on, the suburbanite living and present culture and society does not really need to change, just take a train to “work” instead of driving.
But this techo-fix is most definitely not a solution. It’s a patch at best to a humongous global problem. It presupposes that the resources to continue our present way of life will continue to exist (despite all of the evidence contrary to this), which means ongong worldwide exploitation of materials, the ongoing viability of a production base, jobs to commute to, the ongoing food production and worldwide distribution, the energy grid to support the suburban home and light-rail and city lights and worker cubicles continues to exist and on and on.
At $20 a gallon? Gimme a break. Not going to happen.
Too little, too late.
Returning briefly to the Outside magazine article, the average price of a home they were “recommending” was $200,000. In my mind, this sum is not only absurd, it’s unachievable. Why pay $200,000 for a house made from $30,000 in sticks (or less)? The dirt they sit on is nearly worthless, surrounded by other overpriced and overbuilt homes, paved streets, “covenants”, intrusive police, nosy bureaucrats, congestion, overpopulation, pollution, noise, lights and on and on.
What happens to this “modestly” priced home (that’s what they called it) as energy prices skyrocket? Look around and see what’s happening now. How do you propose to continue to afford this bloated home as city planners increase your taxes for real estate, light rail increases your taxes and your job (continues) to fail to meet the increasing cost of living due to energy prices skyrocketing?
This disaster is happening right now, all over the country. Jobs simply aren’t keeping pace with the increasing costs of living. We’re all getting by on less and less. The ebb and flow of mobile workers frees up cash in one place, so that they can buy something someplace else, but the locals that live there are watching the prices of their land go through the roof (we often call this the Californication).
So these locals are economically displaced. Seeing the high prices, they sell out (creating terrible tax burdens on themselves) and go elsewhere, seeking even cheaper land, displacing those locals and the process continues. How long can this insane process go on?
As the land keeps getting divided up into smaller and smaller chunks (new developments), this process becomes increasingly more difficult (and expensive) for everyone. This has been going on in this country for 200 years. What private land remains is now highly leveraged (prices do not reflect real values).
Do we really want to pave over all the land? Because that is exactly what the above describes. And how do we propose to live if we do that? Ah yes, Oregon wants to build more highrises… No thanks. Not only is this a dumb idea, but it still fails to address the real problem.
Nothing is being done to prevent this or plan ahead (assuming unending growth and expansion will continue, thankfully, peak energy will put a stop to all of this).
Personally, I don’t see any of the things that have been offered so far as “solutions”. They are nothing more then desperate ploys to continue the status-quo by any means possible, (including deception) irregardless of the long-term consequences. City planners and state representatives obviously do not get it but then, neither does hardly anybody else.
To few people seem to realize that once the tipping point is reached (costs), that energy and everything else that depends upon that energy will simply become unaffordable. It might as well be $200 per gallon. No food will be produced, no distribution of trucks, trains, planes, ships or carrier pigeons will run, no houses will be built, no material goods or supplies will be transported, high energy costs mean our civilization is done for. Kaput (which is a good thing imo).
What I am not seeing, anywhere, is the realization that ‘localness’ for living, production, economy and sustainability is the only viable solution (that I know of). A tiny few (too few) are working towards this goal with the sustainable living concepts, but even they are failing to plan adequately for the collapse.
But I submit that it is now impossible to attempt to achieve this on a wider scale. In other words, it cannot be done beyond the small town (a very small town). There is too much resistance and too much momentum to try and preserve the status-quo for them to do so.
Which also means that these idiots who are preserving ice-cubes will waste the world’s remaining resources in a desperate attempt to continue the status-quo.
This practice then (beyond all of the other things going on in the world today) absolutely positively guarantees a massive die-off, because they will do everything that they can to maintain their present population levels and energy requirements, thereby consuming whatever is left and doing very little towards meeting the sustainable needs of that population. In other words, they are still going to be dependent upon energy inputs (all kinds), apparently, right up to the end, when they finally realize they’ve taken the wrong path. But it will be far too late.
I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near one of these disasters in the making.
I had already commented upon the “horde” which is soon to arise when they finally realize that they are totally screwed, that their politicians and leaders let them down (they let themselves down, but that’s another article I should write). They will have to abandon their death traps and go elsewhere seeking sustenance.
No community is adequately planning for this fact either. They will simply be overrun. How do you repel a million hungry mouths? You don’t. You can’t. The truth is, nobody can. Not even the military. Katrina showed just how horribly prepared this country was for a local disaster. What do you think is going to happen when it’s worldwide?
In the case of communities (intentional, ecovillages, etc.) too little is being done, and it’s too late and far too few people are making the preparations for any of this.
I have not yet seen a single viable plan to cope with these problems. Even on a local scale.
Am I wrong regarding the inability to sustain hundreds of millions of people without cheap energy? Are we really going to be able to pull this off using coal? Will the energy still remain cheap, so that food production, transportation and the job base continues to provide and meet the needs of the millions?
Or is this house of dominoes about to crash with a resounding thud the likes which the world has never seen before?
I’ll go ahead and just keep talking to myself…
You know, we don’t “need” alternatives (energy alternatives) like coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydrogen, solar, wind, etc. What we need is obvious, but nobody wants to talk about it.
If alternative energy was economically developed, we would only continue the status quo of resource destruction, exploitation, massive overpopulation, manipulation, control, wars, governmental malfeasance and political gerrymandering (to name just a few). In other words, this house of cards would continue to be built up ever higher until a good stiff wind blows it all down.
Alternative fuels would keep all this (and more) going. For a while. But not forever. Let’s not forget plague from overpopulation, pollution, wider spread (if that is even possible) environmental destruction, global warming, species destruction and ultimately, pretty much guarantee the elimination of most,if not all, of the human race.
In the end, we destroy ourselves.
Why not? We’ve done a damned good job of destroying the planet we live on. It only stands to reason that we would finish the job.