Monday, November 12, 2007

Oh, It's here.

For years, I’ve been talking about the coming peak in global oil extraction and postulating about what the aftereffects would look like. My wife once referred to that phase of American history as “the end of the world,” in a mockingly sarcastic toning. It’s become our running joke. The end of the world is coming we say. When in actuality it’s already here. Without any fanfare, without an official welcome, the post peak oil crash is on us.

And I bring this up not to be a Gloomy Gus but because this is really productive way to look at life in America in 2007. As long as we think that the future will be bad, we won’t get to the real work of making the present better. We must beginning doing it now and this shift in thinking has been enormously helpful to me and my decision making process. But maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you think that the escalator of material affluence is still going up. So let me stop and frame it for you.

Peak oil has come and gone.

The German-based Energy Watch Group will release its study in London today saying that global oil production peaked in 2006 - much earlier than most experts had expected.

The cost of gasoline is up 50% from four years ago and the government is doing something about it. It’s sending our children to die fighting over what’s left. There is virtually no other plan coming out of our government to address arguably the single largest event in human history.

I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war is largely about oil. –Former Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan

And when they get home they get poor medical care and a disproportionate number end up on the streets. Happy Veteran’s Day!

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States,

The cost of food is up while more than 10% of our population doesn’t get enough to eat.

How unhappy we’ve become.

Depression strikes about 17 million American adults each year--more than cancer, AIDS, or coronary heart disease--according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). An estimated 15 percent of chronic depression cases end in suicide.

The US has more people locked up than any other developed nation in the world.

While 1 out of every 142 Americans is now actually in prison, 1 out of every 32 of us is either in prison or on parole from prison, according to yet another report on Americans behaving badly from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In a related story, King, er, President Bush can now imprison any American and hold him or her forever without a day in court.

The president has now succeeded where no one has before. He’s managed to kill the writ of habeas corpus.

The U.S. government is spying on its consumers, er, citizens.

In an interview yesterday, [a former employee] alleged that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T .

But it’s this one that really convinced me. From our Deputy Director of National Intelligence,

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.

That is fascism plain and simple.

We can’t continue to talk about the coming of ‘the end of the world’ because it’s here. I like how Ran Prieur recently put it.

[T]he crash is not close -- we are in the crash. This is what the crash looks like -- not roving gangs storming your house to steal canned food, but trains breaking down and roofs leaking and unemployed people moving in with family and employed people cynically going through the motions. Ten thousand little breakdowns, and adjustments to breakdowns, will slowly build up until you find yourself eating dandelions and sorting out your pre-1982 pennies to sell the copper.

But on the surface it doesn’t look like we’re there yet. “Reality is a problem for the ruling class,” says Michael Parenti, and because of this, because of the reality of our situation: the pollution of our drinking water, the massive loss of topsoil, the devastation of our environment, the peaking of oil production, the warming of our planet and climate changes that are advancing at a rate much faster than even pessimistic scientists once thought, war, hunger, disease treated with sky rocketing health care costs- this is the reality of life in the year 2007 in America. But because this isn’t good for business instead we get circus.

Once I more fully recognized that the crash is already here, something interesting happened. Quite a lot of the fear went away. A good bit of anxiety went with it. It’s much less worse than anticipated. Also I’ve become even more serious about change but at a different speed. I talked in a previous post about ending my sprint and beginning my marathon. I now recognize that the shift in speed was part of a grander realization, the realization that we’re in it now. The crash has arrived and now we’re going to have to get on with living in it. Life apparently doesn’t stop for ‘the end of the world.’

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Very insiteful.
It seems that people are finally finding it very difficult to leave their head in the sand and act like everything is just fine without looking ignorant.
Our alternative energy biz was booming two years ago, then last fall it was warm and the oil prices fell (I blame price manipulation due to the election for a good part of that). If I had a nickel for every person tha said, "this happened in the seventies too" "there's plenty of oil" "they just want to make more money"... Sad, really.
Our industry (hearth) suffered one of the worst years on record. Major players have fallen, or are on the brink. It is only in the last couple of months that we have seen any signs of a turn-around... I hope people are beginning to take this seriously and start to look for alternatives before it is too late (which I fear it may already be...)