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Peak Oil: Apocalypse or Promised Land?

I found it rather hard to tell what point of view Erik Curren is actually arguing for or against in "Peak oil risks becoming an apocalyptic cult." But it seems to be don't tell people the truth as they might ignore you, or even worse, laugh at you. So, let's browse through the sections of Curren's article.

First off, though, if we can't honestly admit that staying the course means slamming into a brick wall at high-speed before the wreckage sails over a very high cliff we won't make the necessary changes to do any more than stave off the inevitable--at best. The reality of the global situation today is that if you're not scared, you're not paying attention.

Predicting collapse becomes a pretty safe bet considering how far into the overshoot range we are--in the areas of population, consumption, and waste generation--and the fact that our "leaders" still believe we can get away with even more of what got us into our current dire straits, coupled with their insistence that we're not actually in dire straits, but even if we were, some whiz-kid will invent something to take care of it and we can all happily get back to the normal that created our dire straits in the first place. This is the type of optimism that makes pessimism redundant.

Curren starts out with a refrain that is becoming a bit too familiar. Mentioning the facts that the Industrial Growth Society is entirely dependent on cheap and abundant supplies of fossil fuels to power the growth necessary to pay off yesterday's debt, and since we've passed the peak in conventional supplies the global financial system can't survive much longer is somehow seen as equivalent to the American survivalist movement--and Curren throws Glenn Beck in as an additional bogeyman just for good measure.

Now, if one were to stop their inquiry into the peak oil movement at that point it would be easy to come to the conclusion that it's nothing more than bunch of doom-n-gloom misfits who can't adapt to civilization and are praying for the apocalypse. But being that superficial is generally associated with swimming at the shallow end of the gene pool.

The peak oil movement, pretty much since its inception, has always pointed out that there is an alternative--at least if we begin to implement it before too many tipping points are passed. Powering down, relocalizing, reconnecting, and remembering how to build mutually supportive community relationships are all mainstays of the peak oil movement. As well as of the global warming, social justice, and ecological integrity movements.

Communities are sets of relationships which operate at many scales. Curren says the guest post by Yevgeny on Dmitri Orlov's blog "deconstructs the idea of 'community.'" I'm at a total loss to see how he comes to that conclusion. Yevgeny does an excellent job of describing exactly what community is when talking about his father's village. The word itself may not be exactly translatable into Russian, but the concept is pretty universal. Who is rejecting the idea of community? I sense an attempt to create a straw-man, but I'm not sure who or for what purpose.

Nicole Foss does a good job of helping people realize our current economy is built on fairy dust. If Transition Norwich is an indication, I'm glad to see the Transition Movement waking up to reality, and especially their very mature response to it: "We didn’t have to be Pollyannas anymore." The end of affordable consumer goods would be a blessing in disguise, because none of them actually deliver on their promise of fulfillment. $225/barrel oil would help people discover they don't actually need the stuff in the first place.

By remembering how to share, build stuff to last, decentralize the grid with clean renewables, and a handful of other common sense changes that are technologically feasible today, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that we could have technologically advanced societies that are sustainable (and yes, there's a humane way to deal with the overpopulation problem). The only "downside" is that none of this supports economic growth. The main concept that changes is growth being necessary for progress and prosperity goes into the dustbin of history. The only suffering falls on bankers and insurance salesmen. But as Richard Heinberg says, we need 50 million more farmers anyway. The sunshine will do them good.

The collapse of an economic system that is based on debt, exploitation, and destruction is the opposite of an apocalypse, especially when relocalization/transition offers a positive alternative that actually can improve people's lot in life. Innovation and entrepreneurship can finally fully blossom because it won't be narrowly tied to only those products and industries that prop up the growth machine.

The fact is that we've been lied into our current perception of reality by the status quo, and it's not meeting the needs of everyday people, let alone offering anything approaching fulfillment. Cultural maturation beyond this story sounds much more like the promised land than the apocalypse.

Editorial Notes: From the author's website, http://www.attractionretreat.org: Dave Ewoldt, Executive Director, holds degrees in electronic engineering technology, computer science, software engineering, and psychology. He has done graduate level research in high-energy particle physics, manufacturing systems engineering, cognitive psychology and neural networks, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Ecopsychology/Integrated Ecology from the Institute of Global Education. Dave is a technologist, systems theorist, and psychology researcher who has been involved with virtual community development since 1985, and he has been engaged in research in how technology can be used as an adjunct to psychotherapeutic healing since 1990. Dave has experience in community mental health and in teaching at the university level. He uses applied ecopsychology in his counseling and life-coaching practice and when facilitating Reconnecting with Nature activities, workshops and seminars. He is currently engaged in community education on the issues of Peak Oil, global warming, corporate personhood, growth management, and how local communities can effectively respond to these challenges through a concept known as relocalization.

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