Many responses to peak oil urge individual and community solutions, ignoring government. They argue that since government hasn’t done anything to address the problem, citizens and businesses must take matters into their own hands. Some even argue that government is part of the problem, particularly federal and state governments.
This attitude is shortsighted.
Government is an orphan—few people, it seems, support it. Over the past few decades Americans have become increasingly cynical and jaded about their government. They complain about taxes. They complain about poor service and government waste. They want government off their backs and out of their lives.
And yet, they still expect government to be there when it’s a service they want or need.
…While it may be true that government has been slow to respond to peak oil and climate change, it nevertheless has a vital role to play. There are many things a government can do that an individual or community cannot do. As Abraham Lincoln said: The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities.
There will always be a need for the things government does. Rather than walk away from government, we should work toward ensuring that it serves our needs.
About The Post Carbon Reader
How do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.
Contributors to The Post Carbon Reader are some of the world’s leading sustainability thinkers, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Gloria Flora, and dozens more.