This is one of the more difficult articles/reviews I have worked on. I have been well aware of Peak Oil for a while, but never did I gather so much information in one sitting that simply spelled out doom and gloom.
I live alternately surrounded by the incredible amazing flexibility and beauty of nature contrasted with the ever-present artifacts and contrived superficialities of humanity crafted on the basis of ample and cheap fossil fuels (as well as its benefits of agricultural wealth and medical advancements). Since the 1960s environmentalists have been sending out warnings about the future of our environment if we do not care for it. They have been mostly ignored until now, when global warming concerns have proved a direct threat to individual lives as well as possible future lifestyles. At the same time, the industrial era based on cheap fossil fuels that created the climate change is rapidly drawing to a close—in what form humanity survives that closure is open to debate, but debate is not what is needed.
What is needed is action, not the action of the Washington consensus and the free marketers who have chosen to act through their global war on terror as a pretext to harvest and protect the last remaining years of oil production, thereby maintaining their position under the mantra that “the American way of life is not negotiable.” What is needed is action that moves us towards new energy sources as quickly as possible, away from oil, towards an economy based on renewable energy and—choke on this, all you industrialists and corporatists—an economy that does not grow. This world is finite.
The end of cheap oil is happening now. The economy is already suffering for it, and unlike the Great Depression, recovery will not be a simple matter of putting people back to work. The Great Resource War is already underway, mainly in the Middle East, but also in smaller skirmishes scattered areas around the world, disguised to many as the Global War on Terror (or drugs as in the case of Colombia).
Depressing? Yes. Optimism? There is some room for it, but only if we recognize that the paradigm shift is already underway and that action to a more positive, minimalist lifestyle needs to start, before nature demands it of us in more dramatic fashion.
Civilizations (as compared to empires, which may arise within the same civilization as witnessed in western Europe in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries) have risen and fallen throughout the course of human history, overwhelmed by invaders, environmental change or destruction, loss of resources, simple political incompetence or a combination of these. In 2003, Jared Diamond’s book Collapse was published, discussing these elements and how they affected many different civilizations—from the seafaring peoples of the South Pacific to the Anasazi of the American Southwest. The tone of the book is a stern academic warning of what may come to pass if we do not learn the lessons of the collapse of those other civilizations, but there was no real element of fear or a wake-up call that the collapse of our civilization was imminent.
At that time, the U.S. economy was superficially booming, having recovered quickly from the dot.com bubble, and although there were warnings about the housing bubble, mostly in the alternate media, and although there was an understanding that the U.S. economy depended on debt and credit for its consumptive foundation, there were no indications of any significant downturn. The housing market was still a few years away from the beginning of its mortgage-based decline and the dollar had not yet lost value of significant mention against other currencies, in particular the euro.
As Diamond was writing, Afghanistan had been ‘conquered’ and Iraq had not yet been invaded and occupied, and the consequent entanglements in the greater Middle East had not had further destructive effects on the U.S. economy and its debt. As for the weather, it was generally understood, if not yet politically accepted, that global warming was a reality; the Arctic ice sheet was still—almost—in one large piece across the Arctic Ocean. As for oil, the concept of peak oil was certainly understood, but other than talk of controlling strategic sources (the Middle East, Africa), little consideration had been presented in the media about its timing and meaning. It was a topic out of context and without future consideration.
Only a few years later, Diamond’s book would almost seem prescient, except that events have turned much more quickly and much more negatively than he might have presupposed. The U.S. economy is in recession, and with its significant debt at every level, an economy based on credit-based consumer consumption and military control of empire will not likely recover any time soon. Iraq is now an occupied territory, with a puppet government not fully to American desires; but that is irrelevant considering the major military bases that are being constructed there to help guard the expanding frontier of Middle East resource control vis à vis India, China, and Russia. Permanent Arctic ice has now receded to sixty per cent or less of its original area, with some forecasts predicting that permanent ice will be gone by the year 2013. While that opens up new frontiers for oil resources—admittedly unproven reserves that will be expensive and hard to extract—its testament to global warming is profound. Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, devastating the city and surrounding countryside and exposing the weakness of American society in its response to this major catastrophe—weaknesses caused by politics, militarism, economic favoritism, and racism.
Are all these signs of the coming collapse of western civilization as we know it? According to several newer books, the answer is yes. The reason for that answer in all the books is that human energy consumption of all kinds is now entering a phase in which demand is increasing while resources are decreasing, and like the climate now postulated to have a tipping point into a new climate paradigm, energy resources are reaching a tipping point (a “cliff” designation on some graphs) of forcing huge changes on our society in as little as ten years, the forerunners of which are already visible. At the base of all this—climate and weather changes, political antagonisms, corporate sponsored consumptive lifestyle, military engagements, species loss, environmental degradation—is the era of cheap energy through cheap oil. That era has ended.
The main idea expressed in all the more critical works is of the wonders of cheap oil (and its influence on the coal-based industrial revolution that it superseded) and how it lubricated an economic and technological expansion that allowed for huge population increases, a consumer-oriented lifestyle, and a presumption that the cheap, easily mobile life would be the norm forever. It ignored the environmental and societal consequences of all these activities. That applies most stringently to ‘western’ civilization, North America and Europe in particular; but with India and China now ‘rising’ in imitation of that lifestyle, it becomes a truly global problem of maintaining or developing an expected lifestyle based on a declining resource. All considered, oil has not been cheap, as it has extracted its price on the environment, has been sustained by the military, and has effectively been subsidized by government and corporations in order to keep the profits and wealth rolling in as the orgy of consumption continues.
Michael Klare’s latest work, Rising Powers Shrinking Planet is the ‘softest’ of the various books, using academic-political-corporate lenses to examine the situation. As such, it is a well-written but dry interpretation of recent current events, with a focus on the geopolitical manipulations that are ongoing, or that need to be considered in order to avoid the great crash. It is not a strident or scary work; it is readily acceptable to academia and the political corporate world, and sees a solution that in my thinking does not match the problem. It does not touch on the life of the consumer or on the changes that will be forced upon the economy and personal lifestyles by expensive oil and the changing climate. The solution for Klare is pretty much the status quo: the United States remains dominant militarily and politically, and the economy will continue its consumer-based ways and continue to grow. It has much too much of a Disneyesque happy ending to be realistic.
That solution arises from Klare’s examination and postulation of how the United States does and should interact particularly with China, but also with India and Russia. Klare does recognize that natural resources of all kinds, but in particular oil, are limited, but his only strongly-worded warning is quite modest:
To sum up, if global energy behavior continues along its current trajectory, the risk of crisis, economic trauma, and conflict on a staggering scale will increase....Averting catastrophe requires efforts to demilitarize energy procurement policies and radically speed the development of climate-friendly alternatives.
That sounds quite serious, but he does not develop the ideas much further than that, and in a sense contradicts himself somewhat.
Along with the possibility of a new Cold War, or even a new hot one (bigger or expanding if Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iran are considered in the equation), Klare foresees “a global expansion of the power of the state...to the detriment of democracy; severe economic trauma; and the acceleration of global climate change with its attendant disasters.”
Democracy is already being severely limited in many areas, including the changes to power by the neocon Bush executive that is unlikely to change under the next government, and the revival of Russian power under Alexander Putin. Global climate disasters are underway and severe economic trauma appears to also be underway (it has certainly been underway for the majority of the world, as the wealth of western society is strongly based on the extraction of resources from other areas).
Klare’s main fear is the destruction of globalization, and the decrease in American supremacy. He talks of swinging “the balance of power back in their [energy-poor states—e.g. the U.S.] favor.” Globalization in his terms means the survival of the corporation in its current form as a means of extracting wealth. That extraction, in the Thomas Friedman School of Economics thought, is protected by the ‘hidden fist’ of the military.
He is afraid that ”The adoption of statist measures...will occur at the expense of both corporate and societal autonomy.” To many, that would be the good news: corporate autonomy is what has brought us to this state in the first place, and corporations and their superstructures (the WTO, World Bank, OECD, IMF) are far from democratic. Societal autonomy could be considered a euphemism to allow the continued wilful ignoring of humanity's responsibilities to other humans through social services (medical care, worker protection, retirement benefits, women’s rights, education) and to the environment in which they live.
Most catastrophic to his argument (while speaking about catastrophes) is his final answer that incredibly continues to argue for growth. (Michael, if you have not noticed yet for all your academic arguments and intelligence, we live on a finite world with finite resources and far too many people wanting to use them.) Klare sees the “process of collaboration” with China as “spurring long-term economic growth.” He had better get started on that immediately, as China is currently allowing the U.S. a soft economic landing as it learns how to deal with all the American debt it owns. He continues with the idea of a “new industrial paradigm” that somehow will “consume fewer resources while stimulating economic growth.” Changing industry is one thing, but that new paradigm seems to ignore the actual economic pattern of the U.S., that of debt-laden consumption. It will not be possible to keep the “Chinese and American economies humming” as Klare wishes.
Klare then sees the world not quite as fraught with change as other authors do. His is an examination of current events and what might transpire within the next five to ten years in geopolitical terms, but not to the average citizen. His book calls for the maintenance of the status quo of American supremacy, corporate control, and a growing still-consuming economy (backed by the military’s still powerful but perhaps more discreet ‘hidden fist’). In a sense, Klare is concerned more about his survival and his class's survival than about the common citizen or the environment. His arguments become self-contradictory, when what is needed is a truly larger paradigm change, either by our choice (not likely) or by the course of events caused by increasingly more expensive and difficult-to-obtain oil (more than likely).
The other books that provided my summer holiday entertainment (as in reading the script of a horror movie) are much more strident, much more hard-hitting, much more pessimistic than Klare’s Pollyannish work. Their central theme, reiterated frequently, emphasizes how serious this change could be if positive action is not started now. Cheap fuel is over, and we had better become used to a more minimalist agrarian style of existence without the luxuries of today’s consumptive super-fest.
The hardest and most direct of the works is James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency. His statements on the seriousness of our future are very direct:
The long emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for the human race.
...a lot is at stake and the prospects are rather dark...the Long Emergency will be well under way and the United States itself may be in a state of political turmoil...
It ought to be pretty obvious that the social systems, subsystems, and institutions necessary to run advanced societies would be weakened, perhaps beyond repair, by the multiple calamities of the Long Emergency.
The moment that the world recognizes the passing of the oil production peak as a reality, globalism will be dead both in theory and practice. [NOTE: If Kunstler means Washington consensus globalism, then, hey, there is some good news among all this.]...
In the Long Emergency, all large-scale enterprises will have trouble operating in virtually every sphere of activity.
The cause of all this is, of course, the loss of cheap oil, the energy source that has fuelled everything that we take for granted today as being the normal course of life, life as it should be, life as it will always be—at least in its opulent, ever-increasing wealth, superficial-lifestyle sense. Much is being said of alternate sources of energy, but Kunstler develops two main ideas that limit their ability to replace the era of cheap oil. First is that to build the infrastructures for all or any of these alternates will take more time than we have until the effects of expensive/limited/no oil are already considerable. Concurrent with that idea is that the methods available to make all those alternates happen—manufacturing, transport, maintenance—are all based on the declining oil economy.
That dependence on the oil economy is an overall feature of any alternate energy sources. The infrastructure required to build the windmills, the batteries, the coal plant, the water generator, the solar panels are all currently dependent on oil-based manufacturing processes, from the acquisition of raw materials through to the delivery of the final product. Essentially our whole lifestyle is dependent on oil, “Everything characteristic about the condition we call modern life has been a direct result of our access to abundant supplies of cheap fossil fuels. The age of fossil fuels is about to end. There is no replacement for them at hand.”
The problems with large-scale alternate energies are well presented by Kunstler. It is not that they will not be available, but that they will be difficult to construct and operate, and even if fully successful, will not replace the mass transportation and mass agricultural production that cheap oil has built. As an example of his arguments, the idea of a hydrogen-based fuel economy is filled with problems. First, the procedure for using hydrogen as a basis for synthesizing fuel would “take more energy than the resulting compound would produce.”
Pure hydrogen continues other problems. Because hydrogen is a low-density fuel, it requires much greater storage capacity to contain the same level of energy as oil. In order to make that space smaller it would have to be stored under ultrahigh pressure, which could self ignite if leakage occurred (the heat of decompression—see your own air conditioner for the reality of this idea). Other problems are that it will leak “due to its extremely low atomic weight.” If it did not leak, it is “also extremely corrosive. It likes to combine with other elements and compounds.” In addition, the infrastructure required to make, transport, and store hydrogen does not exist and would have to replace the current systems used for gasoline. If it is a viable alternative, the development of that infrastructure should already have started, as it is dependent on the oil economy in order to do so.
The future viewed by Kunstler is not pretty. Lifestyles will be of a more rural, small-town, agrarian existence. Cities will fall into disrepair, suburbs will be vacated, and “industrial farming, dependent on massive oil and gas ‘inputs’ at gigantic scales of operation, can no longer be carried economically.” Economic growth will not even be a consideration. Life spans will become shorter. He paints a grim picture without recourse.
Warnings similar to those sounded by Kunstler, just as forcefully stated, just as strident, are found in Richard Heinberg’s Peak Everything:
...the recent fossil fuel era has seen so much growth of population and consumption that there is an overwhelming likelihood of a crash of titanic proportions. This should be glaringly obvious to everyone....
Realistically I think we can expect to see some of the worst excesses of human history....
The next few decades will be traumatic. The slow squeeze of economic contraction will probably be punctuated by dramatic weather-related catastrophes, resource wars, and regional instances of social collapse....
[Regarding global warming and carbon equilibrium in the atmosphere], if [carbon reduction] translated to a 60 per cent reduction in energy consumption, it could mean anything but economic ruin for the world.
Enough doom and gloom. Heinberg is at least slightly more positive in his presentation, but in the end he asks himself if he thinks a transition can be made successfully. His answer, after much thoughtful reasoning (in comparison to Kunstler’s much more dramatic presentation of future scenarios) is, “Frankly, it’s not likely. Is it possible? Yes, just barely.” "Just barely" does not leave much space or time for action.
Heinberg’s writing is more readily accessible than the first two works. The book is a collection of essays, each with their own theme—rather than chapters progressing through a theme—sometimes bringing in some quirky ideas (Urinetown?) that in hindsight actually make the work more ‘readable.' He is capable of very clear and concise summaries of the background material he needs to work with, from his history of farming, to the adaptations made by the neocons, to Straussian philosophy or a summation of the ideas of Malthus.
There is an underlying voice that says we can survive this—if we act now, and if we are prepared to make a paradigm change. Unfortunately, Heinberg sees that happening only if there is a mass mobilization of thought “based on empirically verifiable, survival-based necessity”; otherwise it would amount to “crass manipulation worthy of a Karl Rove or an Edward Bernays.” He believes that “we can shift behaviors in a matter of months or years,” but with the large caveat that “such an effort would require an enthusiastic participation of the advertising, public relations, and entertainment industries, as well as organized religions and all major political parties.”
Oh, great. Many religions institutions are not noted for forward-looking thinking, and those on the apocalyptic right are no doubt welcoming the hard times ahead as a sign of the coming ‘rapture.' Public relations and entertainment are in the hands of big corporations, and combined with our political institutions and their various entanglements are all what created the mess in the first place. Not very reassuring.
The final work in this series of horror stories, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, is a rather large tome on the theme of what really transpired with 9/11, not just the event of the attack on the towers, but all the manipulations that preceded it, and all the manipulations that followed. In short, Michael Ruppert’s theme is that either there were thousands of ‘coincidences’ within the people and groups concerned, or there has been and is a much larger plan:
“Although the apparent crisis is about terrorism, the real one is about energy scarcity....an incisive account of the energy issue also explains the real functioning of the world’s economy—and who controls it, and how this shapes so much of our daily lives.”
Knowing the history of Bush and Cheney in entering into the war in Iraq, Ruppert states, “No one can rationally say that the Bush administration is incapable of lying.” From that point, he asks, “Can we afford to not question the multitude of contradictions, lies, falsehoods, and cover-ups surrounding the events of 9/11?” Good question—and the writing that follows from it is well documented and covers most topics about 9/11 with equally discriminating questions.
What is significant, for my perspective here, is his starting position on
“...limits on the one resource that has propelled the human race to over-expand and upon which the species is now dependent: hydrocarbon energy....an increasingly rapid stream of data and experience is ushering in what may be the most significant event in human history; the end of the age of oil.”
Ruppert touches on the topic of economic growth within the capitalist system, “which is really something else...predicated on debt,” and other poorly understood financial systems, requiring that “there must be limitless growth into infinity for it to survive. Growth is not possible without energy....There is nothing on our horizon—other than wishful thinking—that can completely replace hydrocarbon energy.”
He touches upon common themes on oil supply: that “if demand remains unchanged...the world will run out of conventional oil within thirty-five years.” Given that demand for oil is increasing, “conventional oil is limited to perhaps 20 years.” His statements are succinct:
Oil pervades our civilization; it is all around you.
....Oil is critical for our food supply.
...currently [our society] committed to endless growth...One way or another, the have-nots must become customers [consumers].
...Peak Oil will likely turn human civilization inside out long before global warming does...
....The catastrophe made inevitable by these limits is beginning now.Says author Michael C. Ruppert, "Whoever controls the oil in the Eurasian continent, which includes the Middle East, the Caspian Basin, and Central Asia, will determine who lives and who dies, who eats and who starves."
....Whoever controls the oil in the Eurasian continent, which includes the Middle East, the Caspian Basin, and Central Asia, will determine who lives and who dies, who eats and who starves.
Ruppert discusses the lack of alternatives, recognizing as the others do that new technology may help but cannot fully replace the facility with which oil has energized our society. His main example is electricity, beginning with the basic idea that “electricity is not a primary energy source, but merely a carrier of energy produced by some other source,” and ending with the idea that “Electric vehicles are an illusory solution.”
America’s production of oil peaked in 1970. Global production has or will peak, by most best estimates, sometime between 2005 and 2010, but we won’t know for sure until it has already passed. The per capita production of oil peaked in 1979.
As seen by Ruppert, the future is now, and the end of cheap oil is upon us—as are the resource wars that will determine who is to be the last to turn out the lights on our oil-based civilization.
In all these works, except Klare’s more politically correct interpretation of events, the idea of civilizational trauma and catastrophe are frequent. The concerns around peak oil contain a system of worries—rising demand, lowering production, war, pollution and environmental changes, increasing population, a “non-negotiable lifestyle,” and—above all—agriculture. Without oil-based fertilizers and transportation and storage, how are earth’s six billion-plus inhabitants going to feed themselves?
In simplest terms, there are too many people and there is not enough energy to support them, particularly in a manner that sustains a growth-oriented capitalist society.
Malthus re-enters the picture two centuries after his “Essay on Population” postulated that food supply would be the check on population, with famine being the means of effecting that. Heinberg’s excellent summary of Malthus’ position concludes that
...taking into account the inevitable, now-commencing winding down of that brief incomparably opulent fossil-fuel fest, it may be better to say that Malthus wasn’t wrong, he was just ahead of his time.
He is fully supported by Ruppert, who remarks:
Malthus was certainly correct, but cheap oil skewed the equation over the past hundred years while the human race has enjoyed an unprecedented orgy of non-renewable condensed solar energy accumulated over eons of prehistory.
Even within that “opulent” era, humanity's problems of population, energy, and food were evident in many areas that suffered from regional famines, diseases, and wars. The era ahead of us is certainly bringing in a new era of globalization—an era of resource wars and energy wars, of trauma—that will see no winner.
Answers, as seen above are limited. There is no easy way out of an easy energy source that is rapidly coming to its end. If the American way of life is truly non-negotiable, as indicated by Bush and Cheney, then, as Ruppert says, “it most certainly is on life-support, and now being sustained by cruelty, brute force, and lies.” If the American way of life, and ‘western’ civilization are negotiable, then immediate action needs to be taken in order to prevent the worst of the trauma of transition to a new paradigm.
For years conservationists have been advocating many personal-level responses and actions that could help the environment. More recently, corporations are greening their image by supporting those ideas and other ideas that appear to help the environment, but are still heavily dependent on consumption and oil energy. Neither will be sufficient as we move into an oil-free energy era.
Responses need to be two-fold, at the level of the individual ‘consumer’ and at the broader societal level. But will corporations stop advertising for consumption? Will consumers willingly submit to a minimalist existence (forget Christmas shopping, holiday trips to the tropics)?
There are many considerations about what could be done which I will not get into here. It is painfully obvious that we need to negotiate and then act our way into a more minimalist lifestyle, while somehow maintaining a decent transportation and agricultural system based on new technology that can also serve to decrease the global population to a sustainable level in a humanitarian way (birth control), and provide a comfort level that is not at a survival-starvation level.
There are many current events topics that on the surface may seem to be distinct items, but most newsworthy events of a truly newsworthy status are all related to the capture of energy resources. Russia has already seen a part of this when their economy collapsed after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian population dropped significantly, as did the statistical life span and the quality of life. Only recently, under the tutelage of Putin’s watch, has Russia been able to stabilize itself for the short-term future. The many ongoing little battles around the world—the drug wars in Columbia, the famine in Darfur, the wars in the Congo and its neighbours, the rebellions and insurgent attacks in Nigeria—are all part of the resource wars. The whole of the Middle East is the centre of the resource wars: Iraq is occupied and several large-scale military bases are under construction; Afghanistan is undergoing its habitual battles with foreign occupation and interference; Pakistan, always an influence in Afghanistan, an integral part of the situation, is balancing precariously between American desires and its own ethnic relations with its neighbors.
Israel/Palestine presents a frightening mix of religious absolutism and imperial extension. Heinberg makes no mention of Israel, as his themes do not delve into geopolitics. In its political correctness, Klare’s work mentions Israel only in passing, leaving it without significance in the geopolitics of the resource wars (again significantly weakening his presentation). The other works are very strongly worded and give much more significance to Israel's role—its spy networks throughout the world, its clandestine arms dealing, its strong lobbying group (AIPAC in particular) that has U.S. presidential hopefuls kowtowing before it to try and ensure their election, and its military and economic presence in the Middle East.
Ruppert gives full credence to Israeli participation and awareness within the overall picture of 9/11 and the global resource wars. Along with many other references, two full chapters are devoted to Israel, one on “Israel” itself, with a follow up titled “Silencing Congress." His summary of Israel's role is strongly worded:
....Israel is positioning itself to occupy the position of executive vice-president in charge of Middle Eastern affairs. As it does so, the financial and military powers of what has become an almost openly fascist world order continue to drive humanity toward the brink of destruction.
Palestine is mentioned somewhat indirectly, with a paragraph on Ariel Sharon outlining his war crimes “for a 1982 three-day orgy of killing and rape at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps that occurred when he led an invasion of Lebanon,” his charges of “human rights violations in the Jenin and Nablus townships of the occupied territories in Palestine,” and points out that in post-9/11 incursions, “many were killed, houses were bulldozed, and people were left homeless and without food, water, or medical supplies in areas totally surrounded by Israeli Defense Forces.”
Kunstler sees the Israeli-Arab conflict as “a mask over the much graver contradictions of the West’s ever-growing dependence on the oil resources of...nations in the Middle East.”
The religious parameters of the conflict are not explored, although the human psyche, with the triad of religions each containing some element of apocalyptic futures, is quite capable of over-riding purely geopolitical concerns for a conceived larger purpose.
Ruppert stays with the “artificial prosperity of oil wealth,” saying that Israel,
being a creature of the industrial era and as dependent on oil as any industrial society, may not survive the fossil fuel crisis of the coming decades. The exploding Palestinian population itself might be the ultimate weapon that would overwhelm the experiment of a modern Jewish state, but as the oil runs out, the region will probably not support continued population growth by any group.
If any area is ripe for a self-fulfilling apocalyptic war, Israel and the greater Middle East are certainly well positioned for that. That would of course do no one any good, and the only twinkling of the ‘rapture’ would be the many molecular constituents of the bodies being turned to pure energy by nuclear weapons.
Leaving that grim scenario behind, the picture is—from the combined thematic emphasis of these authors concerning the end of oil—grim. Look at Gaza. Is it the future, present now? Will the West Bank soon look the same? What course of action will Israel take as the absolute end of oil nears? Reconciliation? Total domination? Accommodation? Genocide? Expand that outwardly through the Middle East, on to Africa, Asia, South America, and finally to come home to me here in North America.
The reader may be now as thoroughly negative about the situation as I am. I would be exceedingly happy if all these predictions were in error and that none of this would happen. It would be a cause for celebration if someone did find the techno-fix for the loss of oil that everyone seems to talk and marvel about without producing any concrete results. Unfortunately, there is too much valid information to deny the end of oil.
But the end of civilization? I would similarly be exceedingly happy if somehow, someone in a powerful enough position was able to look at what is happening and say enough is enough, instead of putting our last valuable resources into a bitter harvest without a solution, let’s turn those last resources—intellectual, scientific, humanitarian, religious—into an immediate search for an alternate society—a society that is often given lip service to—humanitarian, compassionate, existing within the bounds of the ecological limits of our finite planet, existing within a harmony that sustains life and culture without destroying the environment. We need to use our current knowledge and resources to deconstruct our current society and create something that will sustain humanity, before not only the technology, but the knowledge as well, disappears.
Parts of the world will survive, those areas still isolated enough that the oil-based technological society that gives the minority of us such wealth at the expense of others has not fully intruded upon—the meek shall indeed inherit the earth. Perhaps they deserve it more than the rest of us.
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This story was published on August 14, 2008.