Sometimes I feel like Noah in the sunny days before the rains came, when the neighbors still thought he was crazy for building the Ark. It can be hard to get people to open their minds to peak oil and all the changes it could bring to industrial society.
So I can understand why some people who care about peak oil have decided to follow Noah’s example. They’re making their own preparations while just leaving the nonbelievers to their fate.
But unless you have the blessing of a Higher Power, I’m not sure it will work. And if you’re just an ordinary member of Creation, is it a good idea to try to build your own Noah’s Ark to survive peak oil?
While Pacific islanders worry that global warming could swamp their nations, people who care about peak oil also foresee a troubled future where many places on Earth will become less hospitable. But peak oil activists fear that refugees could be running as much from economic crisis and political strife as from climate hell.
And some of these activists believe that the collapse of various economies and societies is as inevitable as rising sea levels. So they’ve given up on helping their societies, and instead have started planning to save only themselves and their families.
Maybe they’ve moved from one place, like New York City, to another where they imagine people will suffer less in the future, for example, a small town upstate. (Full disclosure: my wife and I also live in a small town).
Or maybe they’ve decided to stay put but to fortify their home with firearms and supply it with water and canned goods to last ten years. Either way, these people may have decided to find or build their own Noah’s Ark, a place to shelter themselves when everybody else will be drowned in the Flood.
Après moi, le déluge, as Louis XV said just before the French Revolution.
Trying to stay dry
There’s just one problem. The whole Noah’s Ark approach is built on a very questionable assumption, to wit, that you and your’n can stay dry while the rest of us drown.
That certainly did work for Noah. He could load up his family and all the animals, two by two, and be sure that they’d be safe because God told him so. His well built ark just bobbed upon the seas until God called back the waters and revealed dry land.
But imagine if, in the hours as the water started to rise before the heavy laden Ark took float, that Noah’s neighbors finally realized he was not crazy, but was in fact the only guy who was prepared to survive disaster. Frightened mobs could have stormed the Ark to try to get aboard, wielding rope ladders with grappling hooks. Rich people could’ve sent archers to force Noah to let down the gangplank. Warlords of a neighboring tribe could’ve rushed in a catapult.
And even if none of them were able to board the ship, at least they could have put enough holes in the hull to ensure that the Ark would sink. For the doomed, sabotaging someone else’s escape plan can be a final desperate comfort.
Scuttling the peak oil Ark
Even if you predict that peak oil will bring the collapse of the economy, looting in the streets and the rise of neo-feudalism, are you sure that you’ll stay dry inside your Ark? Are you sure that those grappling hooks, archers and catapults won’t ruin your escape?
It may seem like the safest way to prepare for a scary future is to bring the family and the beasts aboard and then pull up the gangplank. But given how interconnected industrial society has become, this plan looks more and more risky.
Can you afford to forget about your neighbors, whether next door or across the continent? Can you risk writing off the news media, the political system and the larger culture? Can you ever amass enough gardens, guns and goats to feel safe in your Ark if your fellow citizens are not safe?
And unless you’ve heard the Voice of God as Noah did, then how do you know that the Flood is coming at all?