I just came across an intriguing blog entitled "Peak Oil Debunked".
The author, JD, argues that peak oil is a non-event and that the transition from oil to whatever follows it will be no more tumultuous than previous transitions (this is where I pipe up: previous transitions were actually quite tumultuous, thank you very much).
In a recent post, the author draws a correlation between the popularity of so-called peak oil apocalypticos and the deeply-embedded Christian notion of the End Times, something he noticed once he lived in a coherent non-Christian culture (Japan) for awhile:
Due to their resourcefulness, the Japanese were one of the few peoples on the earth to resist the onslaught of Christian missionaries, and preserve these old rites [the world famous penis festival at Tagata Jinja in Aichi]. But in ancient times, they were practiced by all peoples. ...
Now, the U.S. is ostensibly a country of religious freedom, but what would happen if (say) some neo-paganists marched a giant pink penis down the streets of Chicago as part of their religious observations?
He ends with a reference to Horyuji, a 1,300 year old wooden building and the observation that in such a context, "the idea that 'everything must eventually collapse' doesn't seem so convincing."
Setting aside the fact that everything really does eventually collapse (it's called the second law of thermodynamics), I think his ideas have merit. The peak oil hypothesis is certainly in danger of being overrun by apocalyptic passivity.
Michael Ruppert of From the Wilderness, for example, fairly wrings his hands with delight at the prospect that everything will collapse soon. Similarly, Jim Kunstler warns, "we Americans are these days a wicked people who deserve to be punished" - and this from an atheist who takes a fundamentally tragic view of life.
It also explains the slowly growing attraction of the right wing to the peak oil camp, starting with Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. Unfortunately, an approach to peak oil that assumes it will herald the end of the world is an approach that can easily slide into passive acceptance and even encouragement.
I have in mind conservative evangelicals who drive full-size SUVs because they believe it will actually hasten the end-times. This kind of out-with-a-bang approach is horribly counter-productive, not only because it denies the possibility that humans can respond to challenges, make conscious choices, and take responsibility for our decisions, but also because it produces a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If we simply accept that peak oil is the end of the world rather than a complex socioeconomic transition that will involve shocks and discontinuities to ride out, then we will help to ensure that we fail to prepare for it, address it constructively, or survive it with our civilization (in all that the word implies) intact.
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