Sunday, March 27, 2005

Deck Chair Arrangement on the Titanic

For a creative writing class, I created an 8-page short story on the parallels between driving and intimately getting in touch with people’s characters. I entitled it Truth Serum At 89.9 Cents Per Litre. As you might be aware, the title is now out of date. Time sensitivity is something that writers of fiction must be aware of, as to avoid dating their material. But, what you may not be aware of is the fact the story was written less than two months ago. Even worse is the fact that the price of gasoline was actually less than 89.9 cents a litre when the story was written.

Gas prices have seen a huge spike in recent weeks and motorists are getting their collective underwear in a twist over this. For some, it is a simple matter of abandoning the gas-guzzling SUV in exchange for a bus pass. However, in a metropolitan area where public transit is extremely lacking, this is problematic, especially if your job happens to take you everywhere. However, that’s just the beginning.

A quick glance around you will reveal the byproducts of a society heavily reliant on fossil fuels. The medium from which you are reading this (most likely a computer screen) has been made with energy from fossil fuels. The clothing you are wearing required energy to manufacture and transfer, and if it has any form of plastic in it (eg: the plastic buttons or the polyester fibers), then it was derived from petroleum based products. What you ate for breakfast was probably grown with the use of factory farming, which requires energy derived from fossil fuels to create. The insulation, wiring, and casing from your DVD player, MP3 player, computer, cell phone, and car are all derived from petroleum products. There’s also a good chance that you aren’t reading this by candlelight or sunlight. Therefore, more fossil fuels were involved. And then there’s our healthcare. Medication requires energy to manufacture and transport, hospitals require energy to run, and machines require energy to keep people alive.

Now, imagine if all of those things were taken away.

The thoughts of civilization set back about 200 years is a frightening one, as suddenly a lot of the things that we have become used to will become a thing of the past. While current research on alternative energy sources shows much promise, many of them require a boat-load of energy to produce, and none of these can be used to create plastic based products.

While no one has publicly gone out and admitted it, we are on the brink of an oil crisis, if we aren’t already. Many indicators are already in place, and this is not limited to declining oil production and rising gas prices. The general public seems to be generally unaware, as they blissfully drive their SUVs through suburbia and contemplate what they’ll buy on their next trip to the mall.

Sadly, no one bothered to realize that this would be inevitable at some point in time, so the safeguards to prevent any sort of societal collapse were not put into place. So, the theorists predict that we can expect to see more wars over energy based resources in order to hold out for an unsustainable rate of consumption. Following economic and societal collapse, we can see severe civil unrest, America becoming a society similar to modern day Iraq, severe food shortages, and a severe drop in population.

I'm curious as to what legacy we'll leave for the next civilization.

Things like this should be shaking alarm bells, but for various reasons, it’s not happening. Why is this? Is it because “they” know the collapse is imminent and blissful ignorance is the only thing that’s keeping people from rioting in the streets?

As it is, the only ones who would be unaffected by this are those completely detached from society, living in the bush and living off the land. I haven’t quite decided if I’m ready to start living like the Amish yet. And that's provided that the global wars over oil don't annihilate us all.

Additional resource:
Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash: A highly detailed description of the scenario at hand. Be prepared to not sleep after reading this.

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