Monday, April 16, 2007

Day Off

We used to watch a great show which unfortunately was only on for 3 seasons, called Sportsnite. In my opinion it was one of the best comedy shows ever. One of the characters on the show had a great social conscience, but one day he decided to take the day off. Well, I decided to take yesterday off, and I did fairly well. We went fishing and Chris brought up Imus, but I didn't really consider that as breaking the day off policy. In the face of peak oil, climate change, and the end of civilization as we know it, Imus is nothing.
Anyway, I read Kunstlers post this morning, some times the commentary is as interesting as the post.One of the comments was that young people have the baby boomers to blame for the current situation. I'm not sure that I agree with that. I do believe that the boomers totally dropped the ball on pretty much everything, however, they were brought up as kids believing that resources were endless. They saw and ultimately bought into, the American Dream just like everybody else. During the 60's, while a very few people may have been aware of the fact that the American Dream was not going to be sustainable for all that long, most people had no clue. It was just the tiniest bleep on most people's radar. It wasn't til the oil shocks of the 70's that it began to get a bit more attention. I can remember Jimmy Carter sitting in the White House with his sweater on to encourage people to turn down the thermostats. And even then, once that little crisis was passed, people were told to go back to business as usual. No, it's not the boomers fault. I think there are a couple of reasons why this is something that doesn't get the attention it should. One reason is because a lot of people don't want to know. It is really one of the scariest things, ever. And maybe nuclear weapons are just as scary, but this is different. At the very worst, it means the end of the human race, total extinction, and while I don't believe that will happen, it's something that could happen. And, if it doesn't, how many people want to think that the life they are living is going to have to end? We truly live a life that at any other period in history would be considered magical. We have more of everything and an easier time of it than anyone else in the world ever has. Who wants to think that way of life has to disappear? When the ramifications of no more oil are really looked at, it's terrifying. The way it affects food production alone is bad enough. They say that the average salad travels 2100 miles, and for every calorie of food that are eaten, 10 calories of energy are expended in it's production. Any other species in nature that took 10 times the energy to hunt it's food as it got from eating it would become extinct rather quickly. Because we have had this bonus of fossil fuels we've been able to disregard one of the basic rules of nature. Most people don't want to look at the implications of that. I know I certainly don't. Major famines and starvation are not part of the rosy future I had in mind. And throw global warming in there with it's climate changes, and the situation gets even worse. Places that were once arable land and could be farmed may very well become unusable. And that's why ethanol isn't an answer. At some point I believe that the choice will have to be made: Do we feed people or cars?
Or what about not freezing in the winter? How are we going to deal with not having natural gas or electric run furnaces to keep ourselves and our families from freezing to death? I actually think if you can afford to put solar panels on your house you should do it now, not just for conservation, but because this may very well become a huge benefit in the future. I think a lot of people may turn to burning wood, which will still emit carbon into the air, plus will result in massive deforestation, which in turn will just make matters worse. Again, not exactly a fun thought.
Then there's medical advances. A lot of our medicines and health care depend on technology that is only possible with an easy source of energy. I think a lot of diseases are going to make a comeback, and we will not have the resources to deal with that. Who wants to think about that? Who wants to think that their descendants may die of scarlet fever or diphtheria, diseases that our kids have been vaccinated for? Again, this is not a comfortable line of thought.
I could go on and on, but I won't. But these are all really hard things to look at and while it's not right to not want to face those things, it's understandable. I know I stuck my head in the sand for a few months, and every once in awhile I still do because the implications are just too scary.
Politicians certainly don't want to be the bearers of such bad news. It would probably mean the end of their careers. Global warming is an issue now, and people are beginning to do things to reduce their impact on the planet, but it may be too little too late. And out here in suburbia, where I am, I would say that things really haven't changed much. I don't see many people walking or biking or riding the bus up and down Roosevelt. However, I believe that the current administration is totally aware that we are at or soon will be at, the world peak of oil production. As has been pointed out in almost all blogs and websites dealing with peak oil, Matt Simmons was the Bush families energy investment advisor. They know, which is why we are in Iraq. And in the future, we may very well have more resource wars to look forward to. The escalation of that scenario isn't something that's really easy to face, either.
I have to say that I believe we can come out of this and be better off for it. But we need to start planning now. We need to face that our lives are going to have to change, a species cannot use resources to the extent that humans have and expect to survive. But I think we can change for the better. We are going to have to go back to a much lower tech way of life. A lot of the busy-ness that we consider "work" and "leisure" is going to have to end. We are going to have to re-invent the way we do things, but we can have a better life by doing that. I think that's the message that has to be spread, and if it can be, people will be open to change. And if we start soon enough we can be ready for the end of the oil age. We can make a lot of new jobs with people working on solar and wind power, and people installing the necessary infrastructure for that. We can totally overhaul our railway system for transport, and it can be run on electricity. Some people say we may have sailing ships with GPS on board. And as the world becomes less and less globalized and more and more local, there will be jobs created right here as we re-learn how to make the things we need again. I believe we can still live a good life, and pass that on to our children and grandchildren. But we have to start now. I know it's hard to tell people, and while I have told some people, it isn't easy, and they don't always believe it.

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