Young professionals and peak oil
Young professionals may well be more aware and engaged about Peak Oil than other age groups. We may also find it easier to be more frugal, have a recent broad education about the opportunities (and shortcomings) of technology and efficiency, and be able to see through the hype about hydrogen, biofuels and other alternatives which capture the attention of politicians, the media and others.
Young Professionals are vulnerable to the shocks that Peak Oil will bring to our society, but we are also well equipped to tackle energy descent, perhaps more realistically than others who simplistically advocate alternative fuels and vague technological fixes.
- Accustomed to frugality (student lifestyle)
Many young professionals have recently been students, perhaps living less materialistic, cheaper and less resource intensive lives. This "frugal-student" mindset is very valuable if it can be maintained against the pressures of materialism and resource consumption. Students generally don't bother with (or can learn to live without) expensive flash clothes, new cars, and some of the other trappings of the broader world.
- Potential to “be part of the solution”
- Whilst young professionals may typically hold junior positions in their organisations today, those who find themselves moving into more senior roles within the next 5-10 years can strive to effect change and reduce their organisation’s oil dependence.
- Young professionals possess sufficient enthusiasm, imagination and energy to positively embrace career and lifestyle changes necessitated by Peak Oil
- Less “tied down” to a location
Young people may not be committed to a mortgage or other heavy location-dependent expenses, and hence may be able to adapt to lifestyle changes more easily, or move to where work is available.
- Not necessarily locked into a career
Although probably already on a particular career path, young professionals should be able to change their career direction if required, without incurring an enormous loss of income.
- Potential to make preparations for the event of a late peak
If the optimistic projections are correct (peak in 2020-2030) then today’s young professionals may have the opportunity to spend the next 15-20 years establishing a frugal lifestyle that is of low oil dependence.
- Vulnerable to late peak
Supposing the more optimistic predictions (2020-2030 peak) are valid, today’s young professionals will typically be in the 45-55 age group when Peak Oil occurs. Of all the age groups, today’s young people should be the most concerned about Peak Oil because it will happen in our lifetime.
- Relatively low income
- Renting or buying a house close to the city (close to reliable and convenient transport) to reduce oil dependency is often too expensive to afford on a graduate/junior salary. Common responses are to over-commit financially (get into too much debt), or buy in outer suburbs with inherently greater car-dependence
- A graduate with a low income may have a reduced capability to absorb increased costs of transport, as well as housing and general goods and services that may go up in price in response to Peak Oil (i.e. high inflation due to high transport costs)
- Job & income security
Certain goods and services may become redundant or unviable in a world of increasing transport costs, leading to more lay-offs and greater competition between job applicants (and potentially lower wages for those who are employed)
- Junior career position
- Pressure to focus only on “core business” and individual career advancement
- Effecting change within an organisation is difficult from the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, so preparing one’s company for Peak Oil (and hence improving job security) may be difficult
- Lack of capital assets
- Mitigation strategies such as buying a more efficient car are beyond the reach of most young people
- People who do not own their own homes are somewhat less well equipped to opt for more self-sufficient lifestyles
- Young families
Couples or single parents with young children may have high transport needs and/or generally high living expenses, meaning they are doubly vulnerable to all of the above
- Travel aspirations
Overseas, long-distance travel is a goal of many young people and may become prohibitively expensive due to increases in fuel costs and/or rationing
- Social life
Often involves driving to places that are poorly serviced by public transport, and/or at times when public transport is unavailable
- Entrenched perceptions & negative “green” connotations
The dominant point of view may need to change before people will seriously consider taking what are traditionally considered “alternative” transportation such as cycling and public transport
- Young professionals often have peers, mentors, elders and family who all deny the importance of Peak Oil, creating a very strong social incentive to ignore the issue
- The social impact of having aspirations threatened or dreams shattered should never be underestimated
- According to ASPO-Australia, aside from the high-priority action of raising public awareness and community engagement, the priorities for individuals or organisations preparing for Peak Oil should be:
- Frugality (highest priority, e.g. learning to use less transport),
- Efficiency (e.g. using smaller cars and car-pooling), and
- Alternative fuels (lowest priority, e.g. running cars on ethanol).
Young professionals simultaneously face significant threats and great opportunities due to Peak Oil. There will be many new opportunities for innovation and problem-solving, especially in terms of improving the efficiency and viability of various activities in the face of declining oil production.
Housing affordability in a climate of steeply increasing transport costs and associated economic effects (e.g. inflation leading to interest rate rises) will present major threats to young professionals and especially young families who are trying to buy their own homes. However, in some ways young people may be better prepared for frugal living (and may have less to lose) compared to affluent middle-aged professionals, and therefore the lifestyle changes may not come as such a shock.
Many young professionals will be faced with uncertain future in their current career, but there may be entirely new career paths opening up that are unexpected. An ability to change one’s career direction and adapt to new markets will be essential, as well as a general willingness to accept lifestyle adaptations. Above all, there is always room to hope: an attitude of cautious optimism is highly recommended!
For further information about Peak Oil, please do not hesitate to contact ASPO-Australia:
Bruce.Robinson@ASPO-Australia.org.au (Convenor, ASPO-Australia)
James.Ward@ASPO-Australia.org.au (Young Professionals Working Group)
There is a wealth of information and misinformation coming from both sides of the Peak Oil debate. The following websites may be helpful:
Energy Bulletin, www.energybulletin.net
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
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