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.