Peak Oil Perspectives
Peak Oil Perspectives

How to drive through a brick wall

By Roger Diamond

There are two ways to drive through a brick wall. One is to stop driving, get out the car and go and be all physical, engage with the wall, bash it, break it, explode it or use whatever you can think of to level the bugger. Then get back into the car and keep on driving. The other is to carry on driving and hope, oh so badly, that some earthquake will shatter it or some kindly citizen will see you driving and bash it down for you, or some divine miracle will lift you up and levitate you and your precious car over the obstacle.

In other terms, the first method is to acknowledge the problem and try and fix it, while the second method is to try not to think about it and hope it will go away. Pragmatist versus denialist. Most of the world’s major players, be they corporations or governments, or even powerful individuals, are in the denialist camp. To have risen to their positions of power, they clearly know something about the world, yet they are ignoring the obvious signs of environmental collapse, resource depletion, unserviceable debt and so on. Why are they then not doing anything about it? Why are they driving themselves and us, along with them, into the brick wall?

I do not think there is any one answer to this problem but I feel one important idea is the following. The crisis that is coming is global and although some areas will be less hit than others, the fallout will be on us all. To prove this, the wealthiest nation on earth is already the site of few public holidays, double jobs, working weekends, high imprisonment rates, massive public debt and tornadoes, to name a few ills that wash across the US. On the other hand, the poorest countries are awash in corruption, HIV and violence. I’m not sure which is worse, but it goes to show that being in LA is not necessarily all that much better than Lagos.

The global nature of the crisis means that unless everyone, or a very significant portion of people, change, your own personal crusade to reduce energy usage, recycle all your garbage or ride a bicycle to work will not save you in the end when global grain prices soar and electricity networks blackout. Similarly, a country with total renewable power generation may have power but no light bulbs to burn as the light-bulb factory in China is closed due to public rioting over having a 70-hour work week or unbreathable air. Globalisation has created a situation where we are all spiders in the same web and although you can strengthen the few strands around you, ultimately there are a few big strands that connect us all to the tree of life. Energy is one of these and dwindling fossil-fuel supplies threaten to cut one of those strands to a tiny fraction of the strength it now has.

It seems the major players do not want to take the risk of sacrificing some short-term profits and investing in renewable energy, population control or cradle to cradle product stewardship, knowing that unless everyone does the same, we’re all going to suffer the same fate. So it looks like a headlong rush to the brick wall, with nothing but a few prayers to the east and some buckling up of seat belts in the face of an obvious collision.

  • Andrew Slaughter

    The global problems of resource depletion, environmental collapse, changing climate and debt on top of our own localized problems of incompetence and corruption within government, unemployment, poverty and violent crime is enough to make the most optimistic person slit his wrists. But I guess one must have an optimistic view point, and be prepared to work towards change, otherwise what is there to live for?

  • Perry Curling-Hope

    The current so called ‘renewable energy’ industry stands firmly upon an industrial infrastructure with a fossil energy base.
    This is besides petrochemicals being the primary feedstock for manufacture of tens of thousands of items upon which our modern life depends, not to mention being the source of secondary energy transfers (fixing of nitrogen via Bosch Haber process) critical to industrialised agriculture, without which half the planet would starve.

    Bottom line is, when ALL inputs are considered, ‘bio fuels’ are ultimately energy negative, and other forms of ‘renewables’ will neither sustain the industrialised world, nor survive the ultimate demise of the fossil energy base.

    The need for energy by a growing population did not drive the exploitation of fossil energy….it works the other way round.
    Population growth was rendered possible by the transformation of pre industrial society by an expanding energy base.

    Once the available energy base begins to contract, so will the global population and with it, the industrial economy upon which it depends.

    This process has already started, which has arrested in it’s tracks the old paradigm of the last 150 years (with the advent of energy dense fossil exploitation) of governments flying now and paying later…where today’s spending is to be financed by future generations living through better times when energy has gotten even cheaper.

    It’s pretty much a case of “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
    ‘Wealth’, prosperity and per capita energy availability are all much the same thing.

  • MLH

    I get that feeling that the driver is drunk and I only a passenger.