Saturday, August 04, 2012
In particular, I can see no one in a position of power in our society making a case for reduction in consumption of hydrocarbons. The discussion is all about more digging (in whatever form that takes with today's extraction technology), energy company tax breaks and removing whatever constraints might be in place to protect our environment from the consequences of this activity. Politicians are pointing to all of the jobs that are generated producing "harder to extract" oil. No one has pointed out that all of those new jobs and industrial activity is what is making oil more expensive. We are locked into this mode of thinking and I really do not think it will ever change in time to provide any sort of relief from resource depletion's worst case scenario.
Time is not on our side. If we wait until it hurts, there will be no relief. The crazy weather has already begun. Probably most of the political unrest in the Middle East and economic upheaval going on in Europe today is related to our unrestrained consumption. A few years ago when I became aware of the resource depletion issue and the Peak Oil/Climate Change dilemma, I was convinced we would recognize the dangers and modify our behavior towards its moderation. I am no longer so convinced. There is no real pathway to that outcome. Any discussion towards that end should probably be categorized as fiction or maybe even fantasy.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Monday, February 07, 2011
As a statement of society’s plight at this time in history, this article is about as succinct as you can get. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t (squared). I believe the human race will survive this dilemma but I don’t think we will solve it. The trajectory of human society has reached its apex and we should all now relax and enjoy the ride down to the third act which, I fear, will be very much like the first.
Monday, December 13, 2010
According to Ms. Lappe the organic farmers can match crop yields for most crops and do so sustainably and in a climate friendly way. Along the way she suggests many ways we can make changes to our lifestyle to minimize the climate threat. For instance, she strongly suggests that we need to get rid of our need for meat as it is a primary source of methane, one of the worst chemicals in the climate change battle, and a very inefficient use of our arable land. I was looking for a bit of a warning about the need for organic farming in a world of reduced availability of hydrocarbons. There wasn't that kind of a message but it was clear that organic farming is a much lower consumer of hydrocarbons and therefore should be better positioned to weather the peak-oil storm.
Ms. Lappe is clearly a strong advocate for the organic farming revolution. I hope that she is successful in her quest. I am pessimistic, however, as I think there are far too many corporate, big money interests in play for this kind of effort to take place peacefully. Eventually, all farming will be organic, there is no other long term option. But until we have run up against the wall of hydrocarbon scarcity, we will be stuck with the system that is preferred by the power brokers.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I accept peak oil as a fact. Having done that, I am forced to concede many other consequences that must surely follow. One of those consequences is a future of significantly reduced consumption for everyone. That follows both because the production of consumer goods will be limited directly by energy constraints and also because we will be spending a greater share of our resources in acquiring the energy sources and thus will have less to direct towards the consumption of other things. Here in the U. S. that reality will be particularly jolting since our per capita level of consumption is so high compared to the average world consumption and is treated as a social entitlement.
No matter how much we grumble, however, as energy limits are reached we will be forced to retool our thinking and behavior with regard to consumption and sustainability. I have spent many an hour imagining how I personally, and we collectively, might approach this new reality. One of the realizations that I came to was that we have developed some pretty bizarre assumptions in our pursuit of profit in a world of “unlimited” resources (that itself, of course, is the most bizarre). One such example, is the notion of “planned obsolescence.” This, to me, is the bi-polar opposite of sustainable behavior. Intentionally designing a product to have a limited life cycle (presumably for the purpose of increasing production/sales/consumption of the product) screams out idiocy in a rational world of real world limits.
Overtly planned obsolescence is a particularly vile example but there are many, more subtle, examples of essentially the same idea. Consider the intent of fashion or style. Fads are the epitome of this construct. This is really planned obsolescence as well, however cleverly it is woven into the social fabric. Nothing should become “so last year” in just a year. Even the marketing concept of trading off quality for price (think of post-war Japanese fare) feeds this insidious cycle of consumption. If you really think it through, you realize that we have structured our entire economic existence on a doctrine of non-sustainable behavior. Harmless enough, and surely profitable, but only in a surreal world of limitless resources.
What would product design look like if we were really interested in sustainable behavior. Let’s try “planned permanence.” A truly sustainable world would use non-renewable resources as if they were precious artifacts. A product that was produced in such a world would be intended to last forever or for as long a possible. These products would be perfectly functional, durable, repairable, maintainable, upgradable and in the end completely recyclable. There would be no economics of scale. Only those that were needed would be made. Finally, when you obtained such a product you would expect to keep it for as long as you had a need for such a product. Imagine inheriting your grandfather’s toolkit and having the builder’s grandson tune it up for you. Until you can accept such a way of life you won’t be happy in a truly limited resource, recyclable world.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Population, consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow until we either face up to the fact that there are limits on our finite Earth or we are confronted by a catastrophe large enough to turn us from our current course.
I have written about population before. Most mainstream media sources still won’t touch the subject but it finally appears to be a subject worth approaching in some quarters. I have a feeling the “population question” will become more loudly discussed in the future.
Most of us don’t want to worry about population. If we can afford to raise a child, or many children, that should be the end of the discussion. Why should anybody care? I live in, and love, America. In America we are free to make those kinds of personal decisions. I don’t want to think that it is anybody else’s business either.
But there are other concerns if we care to think about ourselves as members of the human race. In fact, living in America means that our babies are going to be using up an enormous share of the resources available to all of mankind. We like to think that we are free to do that too, if we can afford it. If everyone in the world consumed as we do in the U. S., however, worldwide consumption would have to increase by nearly an order of magnitude. It is somebody else’s business I’m afraid.
At some point the unbridled growth in population and the cultural need to consume ever more resources as a mark of the good life will run headlong into the absolute finiteness of our supply of resources. At precisely that point we will have to answer the “population question” or we will be handed the default solution. It would be nice to think that we might find a cultural or social way out of this dilemma. I am not optimistic.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
New government and BP documents, interviews with experts and testimony by witnesses provide the clearest indication to date that a hodgepodge of oversight agencies granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate and made a disaster more likely on the rig, particularly with a mix of different companies operating on the Deepwater whose interests were not always in sync.
I haven't said anything about the oil spill yet. I couldn't really decide how I felt about it. I was shocked of course. I was saddened. I was mad. But most of all I was scared.
I have accepted the reality of hydrocarbon depletion for a long time now. I don't think I have, however, fully accepted the consequences of that until now. I know that there is no way BP would have been drilling in this incredibly risky environment, a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, unless we were running out of easy places to find oil. This behavior, and others like it, is a direct result of our impending hydrocarbon depletion. But suddenly, I have come to the realization that there is a face to that risky behavior. The end of the oil age is going to be ugly.
The bottom line, of course, is that we must have our oil at any cost. We, the industrialized world in general and the United States in particular, have become so enamored of the joys that hydrocarbon consumption can bring to our lives that we will no longer tender any thoughts of an alternate approach. That is not hard to understand since we are so populous now (thanks to all that oil BTW) that we would only be able to support a fraction of our present consumption without it. So we will continue to drill. We will drill until we have nowhere else to drill and you and I will pay whatever it costs to see that it happens.
Now we know, all of a sudden, what that means. It means things like giant oil spills. Look for more of these kinds of things to happen. Look for them to happen in spite of the increased regulation and additional fortunes spent on keeping it from happening. This is where we are. The rest of the oil is out there hiding somewhere. And we are going to find it. No matter how ugly it gets.