Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, June 16, 2008

I drink your milkshake!

Peak oil - coming to a theater near youI hate to steal a line from the movie, There Will Be Blood, but this post is about oil. And since the quote explains how one character has been sucking up the oil from another's land, it seems fitting. The question I want to pose in today's post is this: have the last few generations essentially stolen the oil resources from future generations?

I've started reading James Howard Kunstler's, The Long Emergency, and, although I haven't gotten very far yet, I've been struck by the thought that over the last 150 years or so our generation and the few ones preceding it have taken one of the Earth's greatest resources and completely squandered it. On the most inane crap.

Granted, the industrial revolution and the industry, discoveries and innovation that were fueled by petroleum have been phenomenal in a number of ways. And, it certainly can be argued that during most of this time it was unknown how much oil existed underground, so I suppose we should give ourselves just a tiny bit of a break. But, on the other hand, we have taken what took millions of years to create and used it for suchly highly laudable activities such as driving around in behemoth vehicles to purchase cheap plastic crap and generally indulge ourselves in whatever flights of fancy it afforded.

Well, party people, methinks the fantasy is coming to a close. The age of petroleum is on the down slope. Now, being Ms. Positively, I'm fairly certain that there will be some sort of energy replacement. We most definitely won't be living as high on the energy hog anymore, but I don't believe that destitution and civil unrest is a guarantee as a result. But, either way, it distresses me that the billions of barrels of oil that we had at our disposal was used (outside a few innovations) for such stupid means.

Why didn't anyone have the forethought to conserve this amazing resource? Of those who did, why didn't anyone listen to them? Why do we still not listen to them and blithely piss away what we have left on "gas efficient" personal SUVs and trucks (now getting an amazing 20 MPG!), pleasure travel, extra trips to the store, etc. etc. ad naseum.

It's as if humanity had been handed this most valuable and precious item and all we did with it was ruin our atmosphere, water and wildlife and got fat in the process. I suppose it just shows how ridiculously self-serving and short-sighted we are. It makes me angry that we've taken something that could have potentially lasted thousands of years and just drank it up with the same amount of greed and ambition and paranoia as the character in the movie I quoted from above.

Have any of you thought of peak oil in this context or am I just lagging behind?


Burbanmom said...

Yes, I've thought about it that way before. But as you said, the early generations did not know how much oil was available and certainly could not foresee our future lifestyles of overconsumption.

It's a shame, it happened, that's over, this is now. We can't change the past so, to me, there's not much sense bitchin' about it. We can only change NOW.

Let's start changing it.

Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go piss on my zucchini.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a bit like we are children who have fouled the pond they have been playing in. Now it is our job to fix it up. This will be a character building experience for humans who thought they were grown-up but, as it turns out, were not.

Joyce said...

I'm like burbanmom, let's not dwell on the past, or we'd have to think about the great eastern forest that used to cover everything from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, or, oh heck, even the wooly mammoths. Time to think of another way of doing things.

Hannah said...

Yup. I think it is going to be a really difficult road ahead as we try to decide whether to save what oil we have left for important uses (medical, emergency vehicles, etc.) or use it faster in the attempt to find some alternative. Yes, searching for the next energy source and figuring out how to make it widespread can even rob from the future, even as it could assure them an easier time of things....

Of course, I guess it is probably more likely that we'll continue buying sweat-shop-made crap until we kick the (plastic) bucket as a society.

Anonymous said...

Yes I have thought about it in that context. I have to honestly believe that it was not done maliciously.

More like a two year old who blithely picks all your freshly transplanted herbs to give her mom a bouquet not knowing that she just killed off all the basil for the pesto for dinner in a month or so.

jewishfarmer said...

Actually, I just wrote a whole book about this approach to peak oil. Which means everyone here is off the hook for reading it, since Crunch already did it ;-).

I personally don't agree that we shouldn't think about this too much, for a couple of reasons. The first generations using oil did indeed, not have a lot of knowledge about the nature of the resource. Most of them were a lot poorer than we are, too - right before WWII, less than half the US had electricity and only about 2/3 had indoor plumbing.

Where I think this gets problematic is in the 1960s and 1970s, when the beginnings of awareness of resource constraint appear, and we didn't pay enough attention. In 1979, Carter tried to get us to convert to a renewable economy, and was thrown out by Reagan, telling us this wasn't necessary and ripping the solar panels off the White House. The reason he was thrown out was that most people wanted to believe him. They wanted it to be true so badly that they were willing to deny the truth, even to themselves. And that's a betrayal of the future - to allow our wishing something was so, wishing we didn't have to face unpleasant truths, to betray our basic responsibility to the future, to our posterity.

The other reason to think about this is that not all societies have stripped the future. Some cultures have made other and different choices - to prioritize the long term well being of their descendents over their immediate gratification. Even without the complex measuring tools science gives us, Japan, for example, gave up the gun when it threatened to destroy them. Even when it might have been nice to allow everyone to get a little richer and more comfortable, some cultures have said "no, don't touch those trees, don't take more than this."

So yes, I think this may be one of the biggest of all questions - David Orr, the environmentalist writer calls it the question of "How do we live as though we really love our children." He claims we talk about loving our kids, and of course we do - but we find it acceptable to create a world that looks as though we don't care about them very much. Peak oil is just a part of this.


equa yona(Big Bear) said...

While bemoaning past excesses does not seem to solve any problems, focusing exclusively on the present, even in a pragmatic frame of mind, creates a naieve mindset that the past doesn't matter anymore. We all know the axiom about those doomed to repeat history, yes? Nearly every week we hear of a new potentially monstrous oil field being discovered or revealed. Without the insight into how greedy and uncaringly we squandered this resource and maybe destroyed humanity in the process, we WILL consume in like manner.

Chile said...

Why did humans squander it? A very good book, The Pleasure Trap, talks about the "motivational triad" that guides all life forms through their daily life. All three factors work simulatenously and go a long ways towards explaining personal choices:
1. Pursuit of Pleasure (food, sex, etc.)
2. Pain Avoidance (you know, like getting eaten by a predator)
3. Conservation of Energy

Combine this with concepts of the "selfish gene" laid out by Dawkins and you wonder why we still have any oil left at all!

Wendy said...

Yep. Thought about it. Fumed about it. Beat myself about the head and breast ... oh, wait. That was something else ....

I've read Kunstler's The Long Emergency, and as you continue reading, you'll find your thoughts swimming. It was a very good read - very thought provoking.

Personally, I don't think everyone agrees that the party IS over, and I think we're going to continue to squander what's left.

One popular television icon says, in effect, that a person's future behavior can be seen in his past behavior, and based on our society's past, we're going to continue using oil as fast as we can until it's all gone.

We're like kids with a bag full of Halloween candy. Most kids eat as much as they can stomach in a single day, and when it's gone, it's gone. Some kids are lucky and have mean old parents, like me, who put the candy in a high cabinet and eat it themselves ... er, dole it out in one-piece increments, which means it lasts until Christmas.

Unfortunately, I think our society has more of the former than the latter.

Which is why I'm trying to prepare for a future without oil. It may not happen in my life-time, but as a responsible parent, it's my job to teach my children how to enjoy life without the bagful of candy.

But I also think it's important that we don't forget what our society did to get to this point. As Edmund Burke said, Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it. If we don't learn something from all of this, it will truly have been a HUGE waste of resources. We need to hear about it, constantly, and not forget and not forgive ourselves or our ancestors. We need to remember so that we can make changes, and not repeat the same mistakes.

DC said...

Well, we may have wasted a large amount of the earth's resources, but I don't think that necessarily means that we've ruined future generations' chances for happiness and fulfillment. If having fewer resources makes people focus on conserving and preserving what it left instead of ravenously consuming everything in sight, it actually could be a good thing. Of course, there could also be a lot of problems if we keep the same attitude we have now about consumption as our resources continue to dwindle. There may be a very rough transition period, but I am hopeful that ultimately, people's attitudes will shift, and a consciousness centered on community will replace the existing consciousness of centered on selfish consumerism.

I know that this may seem like an extremely idealistic and naive viewpoint, given everything that's going on in the world today. However, historically speaking, deeply ingrained societal attitudes have changed. A couple hundred years ago, women and African Americans were treated as property -- next year, we may have an African American President and woman Vice President.

Granted, a lot of other things look pretty bleak right now, but I'm not willing to concede that we've passed the point of no return. I still have hope for future life on this planet.

Greenpa said...

"Why didn't anyone have the forethought to conserve this amazing resource?"

Oh, they did, indeed. Jimmy Carter even tried, and partly succeeded, in starting to conserve, when he managed to convince Congress to institute a nationwide 55 mph speed limit. Most "futurists" and science fiction writers clearly saw and stated this point. Many pointed out that petroleum should be reserved for creating durable/indestructible plastics; table, chairs, houses- etc. Future generations will be appalled at our incredible stupidity, they said.

Of those who did, why didn't anyone listen to them?

Ah. THAT is a much more difficult question- but a huge part of the answer is that those profiting from the status quo mounted huge advertising campaigns to prevent change. Scorn of Jimmy Carter's sweaters can still be found among the true believers in infinite waste.

For me, a big part of what you're asking is "how can we start acting like grown-ups, instead of 4-year-olds?"

Not easy. Long way to go. My own answer- try to act like a grown-up, myself. Maybe someone will eventually notice.

Michelle said...

Well, everyone is probably going to hate me for this, but I drive a SUV, and I love it. I'm a truck girl, I've driven a truck since I was 15. I tried driving a car for a few years, and I hated it! I don't think this makes me a person who wants to destroy our earth, I love it very much. There is so much technology being developed, I think everything is going to work out (well I know it is because I looked in the back of The Book and we win)! Farmers and such need to drive trucks for their jobs, ever tried to moved in a small car? Not everyone who drives big vehicles is out to destroy the planet, in fact I'm pretty sure that most of them are not.

Green Bean said...

It is pretty amazing that we've used up in a comparitively few years what it took thousands of years to create and all we really have to show for it but, as you said, being fat, poisoning the water, heating up the world.

I think we dwell on it only to the extent that we learn some lessons from it. Learn to take only what we need. Realize that we have enough already. It is time to share what is left and to switch over, as soon as possible, to a more sustainable way of being - that includes personal changes as well as governmental changes.

This is a terrible thing. Let us hope that we emerge smarter, more thoughtful and more in touch on the other side.

WILDBLUESbysus said...

No DO OVERs on this one. We can choose to change but we can't go back. If we lived 50, 100, or 150 years ago, we would have made the same decisions. The question is what will we do now?

Anonymous said...

Michelle aka truck girl,

I don't think your a bad person for driving an SUV. I do hope there are 5-6 people driving around with you though.

The sacrifices we're talking about making are laughable compared with the life people in third world countries have. Couldn't you, at the very least, notify the car company that you won't be buying another SUV until their mileage standards are greatly improved.

It's just ridiculous that my 1986 Volvo got over 30 mpg and the cars on the road today get such crappy gas mileage. If people didn't buy these vehicles and demanded better believe you me the manufactures would build them (they finally are!) diana

Theresa said...

I've had thoughts along these lines as well, and even included them in a letter I wrote to my provincial premier (Alberta's Ed Stelmach) last year.

Sadly, we're still doing it. Not with just what's left of the oil, but with world water supplies (just how green does a golf course need to be, and just how much water should Coke be sucking out of the aquifers in India?) and with the fertility of our soil/humus (NPK supplements just aren't the same as living, organic soil). I'll get on my usual soapbox and say that I think we do this kind of stupid stuff because as a species we have become totally diconnected and disengaged from our our place in the life cyle and the earth that sustains us all. This is about to change however, because, as another blogger puts it, nature is the home team and nature bats last.

Maeve said...

Have we stolen something from people that don't even exist yet? I wouldn't go so far as to say that. I don't accuse the ancients of stealing the cedars of Lebanon; nor the early pioneers and miners of stealing the gold. As if it were MY cedars or MY gold.

I wasn't here. It wasn't mine. They did what they thought best in their time, and some of what they did was incredibly short-sighted and stupid, but it was their time in which to do it.

Which is to say that we are in our time, and it is heartening to see some people making an effort to learn from previous short-sighted stupidity, and to pass on more Earth-wise ways of living to our young people, and hopefully to have that eco-minded sense fostered down through the coming generations.

EcoBurban said...

I agree with all the comments that say we can't dwell on the past. While I always recycled, I thought I was being a good human by putting the plastics in the bin. It didn't dawn on me until a year or so ago, that recycling isn't enough. All of those plastics are made from oil and even if we are recycling them, it's still energy used and oil consumed. By cutting out all plastic bottled drinks and snacks - WOW, what a difference. We are all learning as we go along. Now we just need to teach others the impact of buying 10 cases of gatorade on the cost of a gallon of gas!

Anonymous said...

Michelle with the SUV- sorry, but what you just don't get is- yes, your "hate" for driving a car- IS taking the food out of someone's mouth. It really is. Grow up a little, and think about it. Truth is, no, you CAN'T have just anything you want- just because you want it.

Yes, it's really connected. The gas you just blow away, because you can- means that some subsistence farmer in Africa can't afford the fuel they need to drive in to town to buy fertilizer they need- and the fertilizer is twice as expensive too. YES- your waste- makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad, I too drive an SUV. It was a necessity when all the kids were home and we camped from the car and took people here and there... now that the kids have moved out I can't really rationalize buying something else when the rig is paid for.

Also, I would like to think that my 10 year old vehicle actually pollutes less than some of the 20-year-old-plus vehicles out there. I had a woman rail about my SUV and how bad it was for the environment... when she started up her aging Volvo the grey smoke belched out as she drove off in her pollution-mobile. So each one has it's own problems.

Blasting SUV owners is often just a stance that people take without taking into account individual lives. Like they say "if this is good enough for ME, then it's good enough for YOU". Um, who's to decide... you or me?

Unknown said...

I have the sudden desire to think of the most inane plastic items out there. And right now I'm drawing a blank.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Stretch Mark Mama - Here's one for you.

Robj98168 said...

I think of it all the time. And it cracks me up that we don't start thiinking of alternatives to replace it until it's almost gone. GM Chevy wants you to think they are the green car company, they dome out with a hybrid. the problem- it's their hybrid Yukon- a hybrid version of one of their most inneffecient gas guzzlers. They had a good thing with the EV1 electric car, but didn't want it in production because people might wnt it so no effort was made to promote it, and it was only available in California and even then you couldn't buy one, only lease it which was a convenient way for GM to control it. And kill it. Imagine a car that goes freeway speeds, has a range of over 50 miles, you can fill up at home,(for pennies on the dollar) makes virtually no pollution, needs no major repair work. No OIl Changes! Wouldn't you buy one?

I am afraid if we don't look at our past, how can we do better in the future?

Erika said...

Until I came across Sharon's blog, I had heard of this "peak oil" thing, but had no clue what it was. Once I read about it, I was shocked, not because I couldn't fathom it, but because I hadn't heard of it before. Then I just thought Sharon was (sorry...) a way-crazy blogger. I read more and more about peak oil, and quickly realized Sharon is quite sane. That was the end of my "denial" stage. I think my version of the "anger" stage was asking why someone else had done this to "me"/my generation. I, too, realized it was most likely done in pure naivete. I think (hope) I'm past that point in the stages of grief, but some days, thoughts (and comments) along those lines certainly do come up.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I have thought about this too. Many times. Especially since I'm in the industry. In terms of using petroleum for inane products, it seems to me kind of been like a snowball effect over the past twenty years (in part an effect of capitalism). Petroleum has shaped our lives and we shape petroleum to fit our lives.

Petroleum has typically been "cheaper" to use and "safer" than alternatives. Here's maybe one dumb example that seems like a big improvement: disposable cutlery/plates, etc. Nowadays our "obsession" with cleanliness, safety, and convenience caused us to go from using reusable ceramic dishes and stainless steel cutlery to using one-time use plastic cutlery and dishes. On tv I saw a report about schools which now serve food on styrofoam trays to prevent potential bacteria growth on reusable trays and also to prevent food service worker accidents that occurred when reusable trays and plates were used. Great right? But studies have shown that placing hot foods on styrofoam releases chemicals into food. Can we say that the switch was an improvement? Is the use of disposable items an inane use of petroleum? Maybe so (I mean geez, what's so hard about just washing the dishes?), but maybe not.

Everything revolves around money, right? so once the price of petroleum becomes too great, we'll finally see a mass conservation effort, but until then it will be business as usual. However, the GREAT and most positive thing to focus on is that there are eco-minded people out there who have come to the conclusion that reducing their consumption is a good thing! It is important for these folks to become more involved, vote, etc. The number of eco-minded people is growing everyday, and if we can lead by example, then we may see a mass change in mindset sooner than you think!!

Kristijoy said...

I'd rather see all the oil in the world just evaporate. I wish we'd never discovered it could be useful.

It's not precious, it creates more toxicity than it does beneficial goods. It's created a huge unsustainable world economy and let us increase our carrying capacity to ridiculous levels.

I for one, will be glad to see the last drop drained and gone. But then , we, the voracious parasites we are, will just find somthing else to exploit. We always have, we probly always will, it's an evolutionary game we can't see ourselves playing, we think we have free will but the forces of nature act on us anyways.

I can't believe this 'resource' we have been using for a couple hundred years, this stuff that took MILLIONS of years to form, has done so much damage in so little time. We got along FINE without that sludge for oh, 10 thousand years or so. and now, after having it for maybe 2 or 3 hundred years we can't live without it. That's just not a good thing.

Melissa said...

michelle / anonymous - obviously everyone is free to make their own choices in this country. People are also going to judge based on choices you make. That's how society operates. I think the thing to consider when making a choice like driving an SUV is that there are simply not enough resources for everyone to behave in the manner you've chosen. The question for me would then have to be "why am I entitled to take more than my fair share?"

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

I think we have to at least acknowledge this anger because our children and grandchildren will be feeling it, big time. What will I say when they ask me "What did you do to try to save what was left?", or "Why did you and your generation just keep consuming even after it was so clear you were destroying our future?".

It's not going to matter to them what our excuses were for our personal environmental sins - whatever they may be - we all have them.

So it's important to acknowledge that anger is going to be out there, and then move on to try to have an answer for our kids.

Theresa said...

The question for me would then have to be "why am I entitled to take more than my fair share?"

I think we do need to remember that we ALL use more than our fair share here. If you're on a computer, reading this blog, I'm pretty sure that's the case. It certainly is for me. We're all taking steps, and some of us are further down the road toward sustainability, but even as I compost, conserve, grow my own food and flush with shower warm-up water, I'm still using way more than my fair share of the world's resources.

Michelle/Anonymous - now you know that there's something different you can do - go out and do it.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Sharon - I'm pretty sure that your book covers more than my meandering thoughts...

Crunchy Chicken said...

Michelle - can you please elaborate on what you mean by your statement:

"I think everything is going to work out (well I know it is because I looked in the back of The Book and we win)!"

I'm assuming that The Book you are referring to is the Bible, but who constitutes the "we" and what exactly are they winning?

Melissa said...

Theresa, you're absolutely right - most of us do use more than what this planet can sustain. To me, though, the important question is once we've recognized this, do we take steps to correct the situation? And I think it's important to recognize that there are changes that we all could make (and I certainly include myself here) that we don't because it would be too hard / inconvenient or whatever. But I don't think we can make unsustainable choices based on personal preferences and then argue that we're doing the best we can. Unsustainable by definition means we can't continue behaving this way, and we all need to start adapting accordingly. Thanks for raising that point!

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing I keep thinking about (I'm about exactly Sharon's age, and maybe yours too, Crunchy) - we ARE the children that keep being mentioned. The world is degraded, compared to the world our boomer parents grew up in, and the X-Y generations are now raising our own kids in an ever-more-impoverished world. My son is not out catching frogs & fireflies like I was at his age because they're NOT HERE where we live. My dad grew up 2 miles from here and they most decidedly were there then, as well as fish that were safe to eat and soil not yet completely saturated with lead.

And I know enough people my parents' age who did change their ways to know that knowledge was out there - just as I'm trying to change but most of my son's friends' parents are not.

But I'm not angry. My grandparents spent the first few years of their marriage harvesting a little drought-stricken corn by hand, walking behind a mule wagon. They thought air-conditioning and fabric that didn't need to be ironed were modern miracles and never thought about the possible downsides. My parents may not have taken advantage of all the information out there (and still aren't; they believe in global warming and live in an RV, talk about disconnect.) but it's not like the information was being pushed on them. My coworkers and friends are working out their own stuff as best they's just that technology has given us so much larger scope that our actions reverberate a lot farther than we can really imagine, emotionally.

That's why, ultimately, I believe in political change. People only have room for so much power and responsibility in their heads before it starts slopping all over the floor.

Heather said...

When I think about what we will do as the oil runs out, two things keep on coming up.

1. Almost all the energy on the Earth comes from the sun. The only exceptions I know of are tidal energy (which is the energy of the moon's gravitational pull on the oceans) and geothermal energy (the heat left over from forming the Earth in the first place). So in a year the energy we get to use is the energy the sun sends our way each year. Which is a lot, but is not limitless. 'Hydrogen' and 'biofuels' - the two alternatives I hear of most often - are just captured solar energy. And wind farms, hydroelectric power etc. are other means of capturing this energy. And so is food. The sun makes the wind blow. The sun evaporates up the water that falls as rain above the hydro station. The sun makes the crops grow.

We need to understand that there is no unlimited energy. We've just been living in a bubble these last 100 years or so. We now need to make grownup decisions about how to use the energy that the sun gives us. It's abundant and plenty enough to give all 7 billion of us a good life, but there's not enough to just all throw it away.

2. Oil is not just used for energy. It's also used for plastics (which are often wasted but have given us an amazing quality of life - just ask Crunchy Chicken about how dependent our medical system is on them), and fertilizer, and medicines, and lubricants and all sorts of stuff that greatly improve our quality of life. We need to be finding alternatives, and fast. These are the things I think of when I think of how precious oil is - it stuns me how freely we burn the raw materials of our civilisation just so we can avoid walking to the shops....


Anonymous said...

Before I lived in the tropics right near the sea I was pretty much against having plastics around, partly because of what they were made from, mostly because of the aesthetics. When I moved to the tropics in 1979 I underwent a conversion because the plastics for the most part don't break down, insects don't eat them, rust ignores them, they don't need paint, -- water, even salt water and the dreaded salt air have no effect, they are electrically insulated automatically, and they have so many qualities that make them apt for the local challenges.
Some of the plastics do break down in strong and long term daily exposure to UV, also known as solar radiation.
I have a tree and plant nursery and I use at least 35,000 plastic recycled pots at any given time, I demand that my clients return all the pots after planting, I collect water bottles, yogurt containers and even tetra-pacs and create plant pots out of them. Some of my standard 2hdpe black grower pots have been in rotating use since about 1994. I also have the plastic saran ground cloth on the base of the nursery so we do not weedwack or ever use herbicide {yoicks, Batman!}or petroleum product fueled devices, actually. So I defend my beloved plastic and I find it extremely useful for growing all those food trees for the public.
I am typing this on a plastic keyboard, not an ivory one.
About the SUV lady -- if you like trucks, why don't you get a 4 cylinder Ranger. That's what I did,
I sold my 8 Cylinder F-150 the week the Bush War started. It doesn't require revelations from higher powers to figure out that gas will cost an arm and two legs if a big nasty war is going on above where it comes from. I needed that bigger truck but I am making do with the smaller one and buying half the gas. By the way, the cost of even recycled plastic pots has risen 0ver 300% since 2002.
I also do extensive plumbing, water control on hillsides, French drains, and water storage and pumping design and installations.
It's mostly plastic, plastic that comes from oil. And it's getting more expensive every day.
I am not ready to go back to terra cotta pots yet, I can't afford them or the breakage, but can someone invent pots made out of recycled newspaper? Thanks. Remember, plastic is an honorable and noble material. The manufacture/use/discard stream we
have created for it is wrong, but the material is wonderful. Move to the tropics, you'll understand.

Anonymous said...

Answer to the first question is yes, in the 70s and 80s, people definitely thought about conserving this precious resource. Entertaining the thought of not leaving enough oil for our grandchildren to have proper health care... yikes.

Answer to second question is, well... it's not in the best interest of a capitalist economy that relies on the here and now. Advertising is a huge part of the problem, directly related to what we all want and don't want. And the political system we have certainly doesn't reward politicians who think beyond 4-8 years. The news media probably hasn't done it's part to help present information in areas of climate change nor peak oil.

One thing I know is that it's easier to ignore the problem, because then you get to be like your neighbors, buy what you want to buy, and make yourself comfortable. And you just blame others when the shit hits the fan.

Change, also, takes time. Especially when the activists who do care and do try to create awareness and positive change do not have a lot of money with which to do so. Are we even using the right tools, and trying to reach the right people? How DO you create society-wide awareness and change? And how do we address those issues, what way do we approach conservation?

There's a third question to ask (and one I've asked myself nearly every day for the last 20 years):

How do we activists spread awareness, create sustained change, within the American population?

What was the tipping point for climate change? (Or has there been one yet?) Was it An Inconvenient Truth, that put us over that tipping point?

Anonymous said...

Pushed "Send" before I was ready! To continue...

What was the tipping point for climate change? (Or has there been one yet?) Was it An Inconvenient Truth, that put us over that tipping point? Or a coincidence of several factors working together at around the same time? And can we find a way to emulate that model for peak oil as well? (Or is that model even working for climate change? Are we really changing our lifestyles?)

Greenpa definitely has one good answer, I believe: change our own behaviors, our own lifestyles, and hope others are watching and learn from us. Is that enough? Probably not - I think we have to do more. But it helps.

Anonymous said...

In response to: we, the voracious parasites we are, will just find something else to exploit.

Wow... such self loathing.

Although I suppose it is hip and trendy to "hate ourselves". Like the "do not procreate - zero population growth" people. While some of these groups don't advocate suicide, they definitely believe that it would be a good idea since "we" are so bad.

I just shake my head. We have people who paint all SUV-drivers as bad, yet unless these same people live in 700 square feet, off-grid, walk EVERYWHERE (not just most of the time, but ALL of the time), eat only local food (no coffee or salt for you!) then they are just as guilty as the SUV-drivers, except in a different way.

When we point one finger at the wrongdoing of others (based upon our beliefs) we point three back at ourselves.

It's a shame we take the time and energy that could be focused on making a difference in the outside and instead focus it on making others feel bad.

And for the record, I also drive an SUV. And if you think it's evil and the root cause of all of our problems, you should perhaps take a look at how your parents used power. At how your own home fits into the grid. At what clothes your children wear. What schools they attend. Where you invest your money. It would be great if we all could live this perfect life that the SUV-bashers have in their heads, but we all make changes where we can and do the best we can with what we have.

If your life is so unsullied, please give us a complete accounting of every bit you eat, every trip you take in a day, every flight to visit relatives... heck, every album you buy from (just an example) Sting, who uses more fuel getting his "vitally important" band from place to place.

Let's stop the infighting, encourage each other in our fight and not denigrate those who would stand beside you in this war.

Theresa said...

Melissa, yes, absolutely, once we become aware then we must act differently or otherwise we're just hypocrites! Which is why I said this at the end of my previous comment:

Michelle/Anonymous - now you know that there's something different you can do - go out and do it.

We can't substitute feeling guilty for actually changing our behavior. This is something I tell myself a lot, because sometimes I use my feelings of guilt and upset to paralyze myself into doing nothing more than I'm doing now, and I have to snap myself out of that!

Anonymous said...

I think our squandering comes about because of our almost complete separation from where things come from. How many people would happily pay $5 for a latte if they could see the man who grew it, standing right behind the barista, and knowing that he got paid about 12 cents for all his efforts? How many people would continue to eat meat every day if they had to go feed the poor pigs stuck in tiny cells, or the chickens who've never seen the light of day, etc.?

We're so removed from where our stuff/food comes from that it's easy to just not think about what we're doing. And when we are so removed, we cannot appreciate what "planning for the future" really means.

Cara said...

Sooo, what have I personally done to help the environment? Didn't have children. IF I never did another thing, that would mean I contributed a LOT. Americans consume MOST of the energy resources, and it's funny (almost) that NOT ONE of you have realized that just not breeding would be a contribution -- not a drain on the already limited planet's resources.

Just saying...

Anonymous said...

Oh, God. Another smug childfree. Why mention how perfect you are because you didn't have kids? You've basically told people they suck for having kids, which is pointless because they can't unbirth them. Way to go.

Crunchy Chicken said...

C.S. - First of all, I can't exactly speak for others reading this blog, but I'm fairly certain that those of us who have children realize the environmental impact each individual has on the Earth's resources.

That said... for those of us who became more environmetally aware after we had children, what are you suggesting? Infanticide? Isn't there more value in teaching and showing the next generation that we can live sustainably? I don't believe that anti-environmentalists or those who don't care will be passing on that torch.

Furthermore, for those of you who have not procreated, that doesn't give you free license to do "nothing else" and assume that you are living light on the Earth.

I can think of quite a number of childless couples who have enormous carbon footprints. I can also think of quite of few families of 5 or 6 who live extremely light - lighter than those couples.

So, you can't take that out of context and make grand assumptions.

Just saying...

Anonymous said...

For me, the frustration comes when I think about the oil crisis of the mid-70's. It was at that point that people should have really started pushing for fuel efficient vehicles and mass transit!! Although some of the recent city planning focused on building residential areas around walkable urban areas, not enough was done.

I'm hoping that as people cannot afford to drive, more/larger bike lanes are created to make it easier to get around without a car.

Anonymous said...

Also, Michelle, I assume you meant The Book to be the Bible. Do you not believe that God helps they who help themselves? Here's a joke for you:

A man tests his faith in God by going out to sea during a storm. He's hanging on to the buoy while the wind whips around him. A boat comes out and throws him a life ring. The man refuses. "Go away! I don't need you! God will save me!"

A little while later, a helicopter shows up and drops him a rope ladder. Again, the man refuses. "God will save me! I don't need your ladder!"

Soon the Coast Guard shows up and sends out a raft. The man refuses again, letting them know that God will save him.

He drowns.

At the pearly gates, the man asks God, "Why didn't you save me, God?"

God replies,"I tried! I sent you a boat, a helicopter and the Coast Guard."

If you believe in God, you should believe that He is giving us many, many, many signs that we need to change our ways. Why do you think you will be absolved for taking more than your fair share? I really must tell you that the most irritating thing is when people say they can do x,y and z because they have God on their side.

And I believe in God myself, but I also believe that we're supposed to figure out things for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

You should watch 'What a Way To Go - The End of Empire.' A very interesting poetic movie about peak oil, mass extinction, over population etc. I am not saying it gives you all the facts but very thought provoking and it explains why we only think about the immediate future and not the seven generations we are supposed to.

Kristijoy said...

Wow "Tired of Infighting" way to take what I said as a personal insult. You are mighty defensive, I'm sorry you feel that way.

I have no real problem with humanity, in fact, I was an anthropology major, I happen to think people and humanity is fascinating. I happen to be very happy with myself and how I live my life, thanks. And I don;'t tend to judge the lives of others, since my way of living is so radical, I get judged plenty, do unto others and all. We all make choices depending on our upbringing, life experiences, world view, means and motivations. No one is right. or better. we just are doing what we feel is best. We can devolve into complicated ethics theory, but I really didn't care for ethics theory.

As a privileged white member of educated society, I have some serious benefits to all the leisure time I have to debate these topics with you on a blog!

I know my place in the world as a 'have' and as a product of civilization, colonization, manifest destiny, industrial revolution and the tech age.

I would gladly go back to living a hunter gatherer or homesteading lifestyle if need be and am learning the skills to do so, just in case society collapses.

I hope it doesn't because I don't really WANT to change my way of life drastically. More than happy to build a yurt or cob house and get solar or just do without energy at all and homestead it, but then, that life appeals to me, it's definitely not for everyone.

I want my family to live comfortably and securely and I want my future children and my niece to grow up in an untroubled world (until they realise their world is larger than the neighborhood anyway.) free from hunger, poverty and war. So, I'm extremely lucky to live in the US.

Humanity may be fascinating and cool but,
It doesn't change how we act on our environment as a part of the web of life. We're pretty interesting in that way. We DO resemble how a cancer or parasite (etc.) acts. I didn't mean it as bad or good, just as a point. Parasites are an important part of the web of life, they belong just as any other piece. Semantics places a positive or negative on words, the word itself has no positive or negative meaning, you just assign it one.

There has been few points in time where humans have not outstripped our local resources. We used to be nomadic, so this behaviour fit in with an environmental dance. It was beneficial.

Then we settled down, and we changed our environment and we changed how we live within it. Humans are meant to be nomadic and omnivorous. Not settled and dependant on three food crops. We've only been doing that dance for about 10K years. Archaic Homo sapiens and modern Homo sapiens span 1.5 million years.

We haven't done a good job of making our behaviour patterns change to fit our new style of living of the environment and it's having an effect on our species as well as billions of others. We might adapt and right our selves and how we affect our environment or nature might right it for us. I am betting on nature.

These are not judgements on anyone, these are scientific observations. We have no real idea of what will happen next, but one way or another our activity will need to change or we will put our existence in danger.

Yes, there are way too many people on earth, nature will take care of that one way or another eventually without us lifting a finger.

My previous post was more a rant on the industrial age, and it's existantance. I can woulda coulda shoulda till the cows come home but it doesn't change history. I just wish we hadn't found oil, I think it's made us make some awful choices in the last 200 years. Consequences unbeknownst for sure, but consequences none the less.
If it hadn't been oil it just would have been somthing else though. We have voracious appetites, we do. =)

If anyone else is curious about rewilding or undomestication check out the wiki ( , or a local celeb of Portland's Urban Scout ( We have a school about learning native skills and life ways too: Tracker's NW (
this is a lot different than off grid living or homesteading, this is re learning hunter gatherer skills and stuff.

Rev. Peter Doodes said...

We in the west have trashed the planets resources and screwed the poor. We have passed peak oil and in the process also passed the environmental tipping point for the planet.

The future not simply for our grandchildren but for our children is not good. High energy prices (you aint seen nothing yet) and an unpredictable climate is not an acceptable inheritance to pass on unless we honestly believe that future generations have no rights at all.

There will be oil in the future of course, but certainly not as we know it today. In the London of the 1800's oysters fed the masses, then oysters were almost wiped out by overfishing and are now an expensive food for the well off, that is how oil will be.

We steal food from the world's starving by using grain to make bio-fuel and then justify our actions by saying that we like driving?

In another life I used to drive race cars. Michelle, I would still like to, but my conscience would not let me, I drive an elderly Peugeot Diesel that does 65mpg now.

Tired of infighting, sorry, but if you honestly imagine that buying a tin of Fairtrade Coffee is the same as filling your SUV's tank with fuel then the world really does have a problem...

Bleeding hearted tree hugging environmentalists like me and Jewish Farmer, Greenpa and the rest have been laughed at for a long while when we tried to flag up the future, but the environment does not have a lot of money compared to big business.

Change NOW, be the change you want to see.

Anonymous said...

Hi Crunchy--totally unrelated, but I got the book in the mail the other day. Thank you so much! Can't wait to get in deep with it.

Michelle said...

Hi Crunchy! Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday, it was a busy day! Yes, I was talking about the Bible, and the we I'm refering to are people that believe what it says. I guess that no matter what happens in this life, I'm comforted by the fact that I have a mansion waiting for me when I die. I don't think that means we should just not care about what we do in this life, we should be responsible. But if you use a truck for your job, that's being responsible. If you drive a SUV full of kids (and I do), then you are being responsible. I think that a lot of problems will be solved when our brilliant Americans work out new energy sources (that new car that gets 300mpg wow) and we do more drilling. I live in Texas and my brother in law makes his living in the oil fields, there's a bunch more out there! I guess I just don't care for the world is going to end, let's freak out! I have peace that my God will work everything out for me, because I live my life for Him, He is at the center of all that I do. I'm not perfect, but I'm working on doing better everyday. I want to be a better follower of Jesus, I want to be a better wife, I want to be a better mother, I want to be a better friend, and I want to take better care of our precious earth. Who knows, maybe I'll give up my truck one day, but I'd rather drive one that runs on corn LOL!!

Anonymous said...

This is a real dilemma. Hope there is a solution soon. There is deffinately going to have to be something alternative to oil pretty soon.

Sam said...

I don't think there is going to be any equal replacement to oil (unless aliens from the planet zong decide to send us some). And maybe it will all work out in the end with people being kinder to the earth and whatnot. But I am very worried about the bridge...when there will be some sort of collapse in my lifetime and there will be
some sort of sharp downturn in resource allocation. The population is a huge concern and I worry that there will be even more unnecessary killing than there is now. I also worry that the house of cards a.k.a. the economy will also collapse which will also result in some sort of downturn which won't necessarily be pretty.

I live in the ghetto and I keep imagining these riots when things start to get bad. And people are mean and inconsiderate enough already...I am afraid to think of what sort of monsters they will turn into.

I believe in the idea of not having children being the most environmentally sound idea. But also, my husband and I are very irresponsible and a child in our house would not be a good idea. I can barely keep it together right
now as it is. Baby poop and leepless nights would just push me over the edge. But there are my neighbors...who fuck like bunnies and litter out a brood of kids and then holler and scream at them every frickin' day. I don't think they should be allowed to have kids. But that is wrong and unethical and blah blah blah. But its cruel.

The kids will probably turn out fine, but if they don't who gets the blame?

Philly has ghetto everywhere (never more than a few blocks away from one). And I get so sad when I see the urban decay. The general cause seemed to be because some people couldn't stand to be around other people who had a different skin tone. So I hate to think of how its going to turn out with the resources running out.

Whew! That felt good to get off my chest. I edited heavily. But its still long so sorry. And thanks for the therapy session.

Unknown said...

I was watching this off tivo the other day and my roommate, who had already seen it but hasn’t seen There Will Be Blood, wandered in and couldn’t figure out why I was freaking out so much. It was because Bill Hader sounds EXACTLY like Daniel Day-Lewis, to a scary, scary, degree.

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