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Doomsday nearer than you think

Nadine didn’t flinch when she acknowledged the inevitability of an oil shortage, which was remarkable because it would probably result in the end of civilization as we know it.

“Yeah, it’s going to happen,” said Nadine Appenbrink, a Westwood senior majoring in environmental science. While this didn’t make her an expert on the matter, it did make her a lot more informed than I was on the subject.

“I mean, of course, life won’t be anything like it is now,” she said with a fairly matter-of-fact resignation. “It’s pretty scary, isn’t it?”

Hell yeah.

It quickly dawned on me that no matter how successful I become, I may never be able to buy my mom that Hummer she’s always wanted. I’m not going to enjoy record rates of consumption, a complacent suburban lifestyle, a quarterly trip to the Cayman Islands, relaxed nights in front of the big screen and, most probably, any hopes of a “normal” future. Chances are I’d be dead by 40. If not, I’ll most likely be roughing it in the backcountry of the Ozarks living off small game and vermin or maybe my fellow human beings.

OK, so maybe I’m overreacting. But what if I’m not?

This whole fiasco started late one night on the Internet. Lazily clicking my way from site to site, I staggered across the threshold of oilpeak.com. Within a few minutes I perked up to the smelling salts of Kenneth Deffeyes, geology professor emeritus at Princeton University. He was going on about something called “peak oil.”

The scenario begins with some good news: Global warming will not kill us all. The bad news is that it’s because oil supplies will soon reach peak production. From this peak, oil will become a finite resource that is growing smaller day by day.

Oil prices will never become cheap again, even if we start pumping it faster or even miraculously end the occupation in Iraq peacefully and efficiently.

There’s got to be some sort of counterpoint. There must be some rational, realistic scientists who can stand up to this alarming train of thought. And there are, but most of them are funded by oil companies and the rest are from the current administration’s energy committees. Go ahead. Search the Internet for “peak oil.” I triple-dog dare you.

It takes a little common sense to realize that every link in the economic chain is powered by fossil fuels. Cars, airports, docks, factories, water treatment plants, food processing centers, basically all metals, plastics and most usable materials are all derived from fossil fuels.

Extreme estimates predict that between now and 2050, as oil reserves dwindle, various global assaults will take place in order to control the world’s remaining supply.

Take solace in the fact that these are the most extreme estimates. But even the most conservative estimates predict life will change considerably.

By the time Nadine had confirmed my suspicions I was wondering whether I should quit school, rent Quest for Fire and start emulating.

“Bad things will happen, but they won’t happen tomorrow. All we can feasibly do is to be smart about our future,” she said.

But what about that whole nuclear destruction and five billion people dying thing?

“Yeah, what about it?” Nadine asked. “What do you want to do?”

I guess she’s right.

The next day, trying to be smart about it, I was cruising peak oil message boards for more productive reactions to our impending doom when I came across this post:

“Hey, sucks to be you guys!”

Sure does.

Latif is a Lexington, Mo., senior in journalism

Editorial Notes: To anyone getting this down on the situation I can recommend doing a permaculture course (which I'm in the middle doing myself right now - much of the first day was taken up discussing energy peak) for direction on how to respond to the crisis in a literally productive way - AF

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