Many people would agree that the central desirable end of economic activity is a high quality of life for this and future generations. Conventional economists argue that humans are insatiable, and therefore economics should focus on endless economic growth and ever-increasing consumption. Considerable evidence, however, suggests that humans are in fact satiable-there is a point beyond which increasing consumption does not make us better off.
Money and energy have always been linked. For example, a gold currency was essentially an energy currency because the amount of gold produced in a year was determined by the cost of the energy it took to extract it. If energy (perhaps in the form of slaves or horses rather than fossil fuel) was cheap and abundant, goldmining would prove profitable, and a lot of gold would go into circulation enabling more trading to be done.
Living now in relative abundance, when the whole world is a shopping mall and our appetites are no longer constrained by limited resources, our craving for reward–be that for money, the fat and sugar of fast food, or for the novel gadgetry of modern technology–has become a liability and a hunger that has no bounds. Our nature has no built-in braking system. More is never enough.
Humans may pride themselves as being the best evidence for intelligent life on Earth, but an alien observer would record that the (un)sustainability conundrum has the global community floundering in a swamp of cognitive dissonance and collective denial…
The year 2008 will be remembered as a major turning point in industrial history, for it was the first year when the world got a taste of the unpredictable price spikes that come from inadequate oil supplies.
The key question is, "Where in our current educational system is it possible to develop an institutionalize the kinds of education needed to prepare people for work in the post-carbon economy-and to do so relatively quickly?"
Whatever carbon-management system the world adopts, farming methods will need to change, and the efforts of hundreds of millions of people will be necessary to get the carbon out of the air. We, the residents of the world’s industrialized countries, should not expect our lives to continue in much the same way.
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.
Relocalization also brings ecological advantages. Local production for local consumption often has the potential to restore, at least partially, the integrity of local human-dominated ecosystems.
My grubby little town was full of young men in big trucks and muscle cars who had come north to make their fortunes in the oil fields. During oil booms they kept the bars hopping and the hookers busy, dropping hundred dollar bills like candy…When the wells ran dry the young men disappeared, shops shuttered their windows, and the town shrank. New oil discoveries brought them back, with all of the goldrush excitement and disarray that accompanied them.
The ability to create artificial environments (air conditioning, heating, lighting) and chemically alter natural materials (processed food, plastic) perhaps gives the illusion that humans are capable of meeting their needs with minimal imputs from nature. The flawed logic suggests that if humans are only tangentially dependent on the natural world, functioning ecosystems lose importance.
The sheer scale of our dependency on nonrenewable, energy-dense "fossilized sunshine" is often lost on those who believe that renewable energy sources can supplant hydrocarbons at anything like today’s level of energy consuption. Thus it is prudent to examine the prognosis for fossil fuels within North America, as they will make up the bulk of our energy consuption for many decades to come…