Friday, 16 July 2010

Peak denial

"But let’s be perfectly honest: Any steps we might take to prepare for a potential environmental, societal, or economic disruption, no matter how grand, are nearly certain to be insufficient. Nevertheless, they are still necessary. They will be insufficient because being perfectly prepared is infinitely expensive. But actions are necessary because they help us align our lives with what we know about the world. In my experience, when gaps exist between knowledge and actions, anxiety (if not fear) is the result. So it’s not the state of the world that creates the anxiety quite as much as it is someone’s lack of action." 
-Chris Martenson in Resilience: Personal Preparation (The Post Carbon Reader Series: Building Resilience)

In 2006 I first came across the concept of 'Peak Oil', first from an article in National Geographic and then through 'The Party's Over' by Richard Heinberg. It is an excellent introduction to peak oil theory and I highly recommend it as a starting point. Where initially I had enthusiasm for preparing and reskilling for a powered down future, in recent months I have been steering clear of anything related to peak oil, climate change and financial meltdown. Quite frankly, it all got too much and it left me almost paralysed with foreboding and despondency.

It becomes hard to to ignore something when it goes mainstream. At the same time as I was trying my best to pretend the issues away, this report was launched, not from the usual suspects, but from some of the largest corporations and businesses in the UK. This was followed swiftly by dire warnings from the US military and the British governments former chief science advisor David King who was scathing about our approach to energy security. Still, I have persevered with my magical thinking.

Unfortunately my blue sky approach has just hit a storm front in the form of this report from Lloyd's of London. I haven't waded through it yet and I probably never will, but the fact it comes from the heart of La-La land (that'll be the City), it is a wake up call just for its very existence. Its existence, combined with the horrifying images coming from the Gulf of Mexico over the last few months; and the tales of financial woe coming from regular people on some of the forums I visit; has led me to re question my attitudes.

My wake up call was followed by a period of anxiety for the future. The quote from Chris Martenson (creator of The Crash Course) sums up my mood. I realised that as a family unit, we were not doing what we needed to do with the knowledge that we have. I wasn't entirely sure that my OH and I were even singing from the same hymn sheet - he is a total petrol head and is more likely to be found on PistonHeads (I'm not even going to countenance it with a hyperlink) looking for old fuel guzzling bangers than The Oil Drum looking for crude production statistics.

Yesterday we sat down and had a short chat. I started by asking him what kind of world we would be living in as Gus grew up. We agreed that we had probably reached, or were close to peak oil production. We agreed that the climate was changing and that food and political security were uncertain. We agree that the West's time as the global superpower was over and that whatever is left over will be going east. We envisioned that within the next 10 years, there will probably be oil shocks, blackouts and economic hardship for many people.  We agreed that people that "could never live without their hair straighteners/mobile/weekly nail appointment" would probably learn to. We agreed that technology would adapt, but the level of energy use and convenience provided by the oil binge we have been on would never be matched. Our vision of the future looks somewhere between the home front of WWII and the appropriate technology experiments of the 1970s, hopefully with the internet and progressive attitudes thrown in. We both agreed that the future was not destined to be apocalyptic.

I feel better, because I know that we both broadly agree where the world is going. Which means that we will be able to broach the subject (in all fairness, it will probably be me doing all the least until PistonHeads shuts down) with each other and make plans and changes as as and before the need arises.

I will document what we are up to in this blog, which is probably going to take a slightly different direction to the one that I was expecting. Simplifying doesn't necessarily mean powered down, but with a bit of extra thought it can be just that.

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