Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the peak oil blues

Do you have the Peak Oil Blues? I experienced my own period of anxiety followed by a nice bout of depression after my realization that a peak in global oil production will dramatically affect the remainder of my life and the future of mankind. I feel better now thanks as I've found several outlets for emotion release on the topic. I've also started to make real changes in my life and the direction of my living. The great part is how natural and reasonable those changes seem. The idea of living more locally and of investing in my own skills is very rewarding. The plan to provide a future for my family that steers clear of the false promises of consumerism feels more like waking up then losing out. At first though it was a bit harrowing.

I find it interesting to observe the ripple effects of peak oil beginning even before the big stone is dropped in our pond. There are plenty of people out there already responding in their own ways.
Recently I discovered a website devoted to the study of the life-altering realization that occurs when someone stumbles across peak oil. describes itself as,

"a small but growing group of professionally trained psychotherapists who know the stress the dawning awareness of Peak Oil brings. We invite our readers to contribute to the growing body of knowledge regarding the unique social and emotional challenges we face in a post-petroleum age."

This website recently won second place in a contest hosted by The goal was to write about post petroleum scenarios in which "Things Might Get Better" after oil peak. The hosts of the contest weren't looking for pollyanna situations. They were just tired of the gloom and doom. I found reading the contest winners an excellent exercise for envisioning possible positives; especially useful when considering such a momentous shift in paradigm. I am reprinting part of the second place essay below. For the essay in its entirety please visit Beyond Peak.

For more information contact the author
Kathy McMahon at or visit to learn more about the psychological effects peak oil is having on us silly humans.

The Silver Lining
By Kathy McMahon

It's 2050 and Grandnana and Leah, her teenaged granddaughter, are talking about what life was like when everybody found out about Peak Oil

Leah: Thanks for helping me with this assignment, Grandnana. I'll read you the questions I have to answer, and you tell me as much as you can remember, okay?

Grandnana: Okay, Honey, I'll tell you as much as I can.

Leah: Okay, I'll look up the rest, later. First question: "Were there any people aware that the planet was running out of fossil fuels, and, if so, what did they do to prepare?"

Grandnana: "Oh, my. That's quite a big question. Let's put it this way, the people who ran governments all over the world knew it. They had to know it, because scientists kept telling them over and over. I don't think they wanted to believe it, because it was such a massive problem. They knew they had to make big changes, but they didn't want to 'rock the boat.' You see, Honey, everything back then was run by huge corporations. They ran the world, really. They paid big money to the politicians to help them run their campaigns and so the politicians were indebted to them. And the corporations had just one focus: Profits."

Leah: But Grandnana, if they didn't take care of the fossil fuel depletion and come up with alternative sources of energy fast, they wouldn't have profits.

Grandnana: I know, it's hard to describe. It was like the people in power were on a fast moving party train and they wanted to stay on it as long as possible, because they were having such a delightful time. Even when someone said "That train is going into that wall up ahead," they would say "Yes, maybe, but not for a long time yet, and right now, we are going to keep partying!"


Leah: Question Two: What were your worst fears? What was the most difficult period for you, personally?

Grandnana: My worst fear was that nobody would have any interest in being in community with me. I was afraid I would just remain isolated with your Grandpapa, your mother, and grandmother and life would just get harder and harder. Of course, before you came, my biggest fear was that you wouldn't get out in time. Thank God my daughter finally started to listen to me. I just wish the rest of my extended family had. At least for their children's sake.

The most difficult period was when I started to realize that a large percentage of people were not going to do anything until it was too late to be effective. They were so used to what they were doing; they couldn't imagine a world where they couldn't keep doing that anymore. They just couldn't imagine it. And they paid with their lives for their lack of imagination.

Most of them died of the so called "pandemic flu," in the relocation camps. I think a lot more just starved to death waiting for the next shipment of food to hit the grocery shelves. For me, having a community by then, the worst of it was not knowing how the entire world was going to turn out. We were alright. We knew we would be, ten years before. It was those "good citizens" who "waited for direction" that got the worst of it.

Leah: Question Three: What items of the fossil fuel age do you miss the most? Which types of things do you think the Post Peak Generation missed out on by being born later?

Grandnana: Oh, that's a great question. Let me think: I guess overall I'd say it wasn't just "things," as much as it was the feeling that life was easy. It took no effort to have what you wanted. We never thought about how much electricity we used when I was a girl. You flicked a switch, and paid your bill, and there it was. We used to take "joy rides" for hours.

Leah: A "joy ride?"

Grandnana: It meant that you just got into your car with your friends and drove as far and as long as you wanted, until it was time to go home. If we were moving in a car, we thought we were getting somewhere. We had such a great variety of everything: isles of soaps and shampoos; ice makers built into these gigantic refrigerators, and you could just put your glass up and get all the ice and water you wanted. We used to give the dogs ice water too. Items from all over the world available every day: spices, cloth from India, bananas and other tropical fruit all year round, as many as you wanted.

But short of that, what we gave up in consumer goods we got back in community. Not everyone has ipods to listen to individually, but we have instruments we can make music on together. We don't have rock stars, but we have sparkling stars over head, now that the night sky is seen so clearly. We don't have a lot of things, but we have a lot more time to be with our families. Working together for the common good. We never had that before the threat of Peak Oil. We were never challenged to learn what the true meaning of brotherhood and sisterhood�real participatory democracy, really meant. Now we do.


Kathy McMahon said...

Geepers, I was so grateful to be mentioned in your blog, but I couldn't help but correct one point: My story won second place, not the website, which is still very much under construction. However, I'm quite proud of the blog that's attached to it, which is evolving nicely, thanks to the input of people who are offering their stories of finding out and living with the P O realization.

Thanks so much for mentioning me here in your fine blog, and for the great work you are doing through it.

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