There is a vast amount of misinformation and misunderstanding when it comes to the term 'peak oil' and the topic tends to bring out visceral reactions from both sides of the argument. Try to set aside your preconceived notions and read with an open mind.
The topic raised here is what is known as Peak Oil. 'Peak oil' is mostly known as the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This can easily be seen on individual oil wells and the concept is easily broadened based on projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells. Peak Oil in a simple sense means that oil resources on the planet are finite and that there will come a point in time when one day less oil will be extracted than on the previous day. And the following day even less. And so on, no matter how much exploration is done, no matter how efficient the new extraction technologies developed. There will come a point when less and less oil is available for the industrialized societies of the planet. Oil production will have 'peaked'. In past decades there has been much debate about when global oil would peak, whether it already had peaked and we were declining already, or whether we were going to imminently hit the peak. Of course, all these people missed the point, and ended up getting much of the story wrong which is why so many have such varying opinions on the subject.
We are at the cusp of rapid and severely disruptive changes that will lead to widespread disorientation, anxiety, and social breakdown. As I've said before, we are facing the end of industrial civilization itself. The duration is forever. This is not akin to preparing for some small event like a hurricane or wildfire, or even one that we as a country would eventually come out of on the other side of - like a financial market meltdown, or even a civil war. This article will be the hands-on, practical how-to guide that so many have asked me to cover. This article will cover this idea of practical preparation steps. I doubt it will be popular, but it needs to be said - and enacted, at least by those who are serious about building resilience.
The narrative being pushed today is that renewables, particularly wind and solar, will save us. By “save us” they mean allow us to continue our way of life unhindered into the future, despite a lower (and eventually zero, they tell us) reliance on oil. This view is so prevalent, it seems, that reactions of denial, or even confusion, are met with indignation and insistence.
I know the claims of this hope-filled crowd for what it is: fantasy. Part of me wants to go through every piece (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear) and point out their individual flaws. But I have a particular ability to see the heart, or essence, of the issue, and I am compelled to make this simple.
My last post gave a bird's eye view of what the future will look like. How can we prepare for such a future? Preparing to face the end of industrial civilization is not an easy task mentally, physically, or spiritually.
The question is what positive program could be proposed to prepare for the coming scarcities. The answer is that the individual and local programs have to be worked out by those who recognize its importance. In this post my speculations about what should go into such a program might be used as a guide.
As I've said elsewhere, at this point it's pretty clear that we are going to experience a crash/collapse of "the way things are." Industrial civilization is crashing into limits. Once even slightly convinced, most people wonder what this means to our future on this planet. How will this play out? What does this mean? How will our lives change? This post aims to answer these questions in depth.
There are a few ideas that are foundational to understanding all this. The first is the most basic:
1.) Present trends will not continue into the future.
Those who are either unaware of or unconvinced by the evidence pointing to the massive changes we are facing in the very near future usually react with hope that it will effect some future where we have magical technology to fix it or dismiss it out of hand as conspiracy theory. Usually though these people will be more apt to listen if you give them mainstream credible sources. In this post I will give those people something to chew on: expert opinions and projections from the very highest levels of government. I will cite sources from the USGS (United States Geological Survey), the USDOE (United States Department of Energy), the NETL (National Energy Technology Laboratory), the US Joint Forces Command, and Presidential energy advisors. What follows is a relatively brief overview; it barely scratches the surface but is enough to prove my point.
I told someone that I will weep with joy when industrial civilization crashes. They said they might weep when industrial civilization crashes because "it's not going to be fun at all."
Yes, it's not going to be "fun" to get weaned off of our addictions. It's not going to be "fun" to stop poisoning our landbases and killing 200 species to extinction every day. It's not going to be "fun" to stop poisoning ourselves through our food and water supply. It's not going to be "fun" to start living within our means. It's not going to be "fun" to stop raping the land.
This kind of thinking is poison.
People seem obsessed with perpetuating the machine/system that brought us to this low point. To this place where we are killing off 200 species a day, where we are changing our climate for the worse, where we are adding 5 billion people in the last 100 years. This way of life is horrific, unequal, and killing us all. Yet they want to perpetuate it.
When we look at the world most have a tendency to unconsciously assume that "this is the way it's always been." When we take even a cursory look at history though, it becomes clear that what we mistake for normal is completely abnormal. The implications are stunning.
People do NOT want to recognize that they are utterly screwed.. and that their entire lifestyle is about to radically alter. We as a culture are way too addicted to our smartphones, cars, grocery stores, etc. To tell people that all of that is going to go away one way or another is to tell them the world is literally ending. They freak out. Too much cognitive dissonance.
Many times, the deniers shift the attention to those who talk about it. They accuse them of hypocrisy. Ecologically-minded people can’t complain, they say. After all, they use the internet, they have homes, they drive cars. According to these people, even writing a book about the environmental destruction is hypocritical, since books are written on paper and delivered by truck.
I’ve noticed that otherwise well-meaning people who are aware of and outspoken about these problems our world is facing have a habit of blaming the Christian creation story as the root cause of our issues. As a Christian who seems to think more unconventionally, I feel I should say something about this and explain my understanding of it.
It is the typical Biblical creation story. Genesis 1:28. "And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”"
The future is going to be far different than the past. The next decade is going to look vastly different than the last decade. This blog is about the transition.
Explaining Peak Oil
The Significance of Renewables
What Will The Future Look Like?
What Do The Experts Say?
Hope is Complex and Fragile
Personal Change Does Not Equal Social Change
Why Genesis 1:28 Doesn't Apply
It's Not About Running Out of Oil