Thursday, June 10, 2010
Mad Max Meme and Peak Oil
For those unfamiliar with the idea, companies have been around for a while, hawking "survival seed banks" that you can purchase and hide in your bomb shelter for the coming economic apocalypse. Now, this idea has spread to the people who believe that, when we run out of oil, the economic infrastructure will completely collapse and we will be reduced to a Mad Max world of survival of the fittest.
You can tell I'm a little skeptical about this, and it angers me when usually calm people start getting obsessed with this doomsday scenario of an America when there is no more oil to power our cars, computers, and pool filters, such as this New York Times article reports. It makes me think that people really want us to fall into a chaotic abyss; in fact, this article on the Earth First (not the organization) site discusses this exact point. The shorter of this article is the philosophy that many radical environmentalists hold, which is that any cataclysmic disaster (such as a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) will ultimately be good for the earth; once we kill off a few billion humans to plague and pestilence, the earth will have a fighting chance to recover.
Part of this, I think, comes from the nagging realization that we have reached our zenith of growth as a society; growth in this context meaning growing larger and more bloated on stuff. I look at the small pool I bought for my son and his friends to enjoy over the summer months, and think, "this might be the last summer we can have a pool like this; water might become more scarce or so polluted we'll have to forgo daily showers and stick to drinking filtered water." This is my own doomsday scenario-type thinking, but I'm not stocking up on seeds or bottling water for the coming water apocalypse (other than the usual hurricane season supplies, that is). I feel the same way about oil; this might be the last few summers that we're able to enjoy an air-conditioned house and years with non-stop computer-surfing, not to mention going on long car trips.
The old man and DJ had this discussion about peak oil, because DJ asked me just yesterday about the prospect of running out of oil. He was pretty upset about the whole thing (even though he liked the idea of the Mad Max society), but I tried my best to assure him that civilization is not going to collapse; it's just going to shrink. I also explained that humans have been on the earth for thousands of years and we did just fine before the Industrial Revolution; we will do just fine beyond it.
To that end, I heard Bill McKibben speak rather eloquently on on this issue the other day when I was listening to Alternative Radio, in a show entitled "Earth to Humans: Enough Already." I bought the program to listen to as I drive to pick up DJ, but McKibben's basic point is that we won't collapse into a chaotic world of survival, we will adapt to a post-oil future. I encourage folks to listen to this program or get the transcript; it is a bit of sanity in an unsane community we're living in right now. I can only hope the folks come to their senses and soon; the sooner we work together to get real energy reform, the better it will be for all of us and our descendants.
Got the photo from Stephanie Rogers' article on Earth First