Sunday, June 04, 2006

Comment to Doris

Doris:
I am heartened by you're efforts to get your parents and sister to take peak oil seriously and to be less wasteful when it come to energy and water. You try to convince your parents, turn off lights throughout the house, switchc the air conditioner etc. Because it doesnt seem like your parents are being that receptive, you could use the economic factor, which is that it is cheaper to use less electricity. When it comes to peak oil I am the same way. I used to leave my computer on all day and night, but I started thinking about the waste of energy. Its funny because before I didn't even think about electricity being a limited commodity, and while it isnt, the methods of generating it are. I really like how you cleverly got your sister to take showers. You could also talk about what living during the black out was like. Maybe if you left some books about peak oil around, your sister might pick it up. Its strange that people will not listen to things that are in their best interest, which is the same perspective as people who want others to convert to their religions.Your post was very to the point and I liked some of your phrases "Convincing my family about peak oil is as complicated as trying untie the Gordian knot." Thanks for your post.
Eugenia

Comment to Henry

Henry:
When I have spoken to adults outside of my family about peak oil, it seems like a huge proportion of them are skeptical about the peak oil theory, just as the adults that you approached were. You mentioned that a lot of them think that because of their experience with the 1973 crisis in the U.S. that they are troopers and they can handle any other energy collapse. Maybe, to help them really comprehend, you could bring up the notion that peak oil is a permanent situation. Once oil peaks, there won’t be any turning back; there won’t be any reserves left. Peak oil isn’t the result of some messed up market price gouging. It’s ironic that the same generation of people who are responsible now for the policies that the U.S. makes towards energy efficiency and the environment are also skeptical about peak oil, it compounds the problem. It is also a very American mentality to just rely on the governments influence on the world market to make changes. Americans think they are untouchable. Your post is the only one I have read so far that addresses that those in power have this notion of invincibility due to their age and experience.
With regard to “I do not know whether or not other countries had the same amount of issues with oil as much as the U.S. has in the recent past.” I think the U.S. is the biggest consumer of energy in the world, and in turn, the largest emitter of green house gases and other forms of pollution, so while I think other countries do face some difficult transitions into other forms of energy and lifestyles, I do not think anyone will have the same scale of hardship.
Throughout your post, I noticed a sense of inevitability, in two senses. The first sense was that peak oil will happen, soon. Is this something that you believe beyond any shadow of a doubt? The second way I perceived a sense of fatalism was that you seem to have given up on explaining peak oil theory to your parents and convincing them. You are usually pretty good at convincing people, so this is strange. You should ask what it would take for them to believe in the theory, what their threshold for belief is.
“While I have been holding onto the idea that we will not have such a hard time with peak oil I feel that this is showing me that it will not be easy and in fact will be towards some of the worst case scenarios. As we have talked about in class the level of which we will collapse depends on how soon the preparation starts.” People’s receptiveness to peak oil does affect our preparation for the crisis. It does affect whether peak oil will be a crisis at all. If people ignore it and deny it much longer, we will be at mercy to the forces of nature that occur when global warming and peak oil hit simultaneously. This general mentality of ignoring the negative seems to be a society – wide illness, and maybe we should try to address that as a class, or as individuals. “The truth hurts”.
You’re post raised a lot of issues that I have come across myself, and others that were interesting to consider.
Eugenia

Introducing People Around Me to Peak Oil:

The first time I mentioned peak oil to my mom was at the beginning of the year, when the incoming 12th graders were assigned Powerdown to read for a summer assignment. I brought it up, and I don’t recall how, but we both sort of shrugged off any of the uncomfortable possible implications for our lifestyle. When I started the Social Science class, I have been eating, drinking, sweating and sleeping peak oil, so I subject my mom to the theory on a daily, if not hourly basis. She seems to be pretty receptive; maybe because it doesn’t seem outlandish to her, or maybe because I’m her only daughter, and she likes to indulge me. I think the fact that I am her only child and we have a really good relationship makes her more receptive to things I find interesting and viable. At this point, I have been discussing peak oil with her so much that she has been taking it into consideration when contemplating her plans for retirement. I never had a full length explanation of what peak oil is, because she’s been learning about it gradually just as I have been, because I discuss it as I learn new bits of information.
I think the second person I discussed peak oil extensively with was my dad. He has plans to move to Italy and start some kind of laundry business… After he and my step mother have become established, they want to have their own farm and estate. My immediate reaction was “grow enough food for you to live sustainably”. But growing the right amount of food is not enough. Farming practices have to be changed, so that you are growing that food sustainably. With oil’s production peak imminent, it is not possible to farm the way we have since the industrial revolution, or even in more ancient situations. We have to farm sustainably so that the land can be reused, and so that energy is not wasted. I told him all that too, after I explained what peak oil meant, in depth. He seemed receptive as well.
Both of my parents thought that peak oil was likely and did not think that our current lifestyle was sustainable. Other people have told me that their parents do not take peak oil seriously, and I don’t know exactly what the difference is between my parents’ reactions and their’s. I think my family is just naturally distrustful of the government, so we are more likely to believe “subversive” information.
The next person I told, the first person out side of my “biological family” was Suzanne. She’s practically my family, since we’ve lived together for a year and are very close. She is an architect and she works for a firm in Phoenix. They have one major project, a resort in the middle of the dessert in Arizona. When she was talking about the project, I asked her about what they were doing to make the project energy sustainable. She said not very much, the structures were designed to take advantage of as much light with out absorbing so much heat, so the structures are oriented with windows not facing the north sun, which is evidently the strongest. I went on to discuss what peak oil was. She did the expected “what about alternative sources of energy” mechanism. I didn’t say “no I’ve already thought of that”. I made the discussion less personal and phrased it “well, some all the sources I’ve read have mentioned that there is no source of energy that is as convenient and cheap as oil, and that there is not one single source of energy to transition into, because nothing is as versatile as oil.” She had doubts about it, but she was willing to research the matter further, and she listened intently throughout the whole thing.
The peak oil theory is not unfathomable. It makes sense, unless you believe that oil is produced by microorganisms. If oil is finite, and we know how much we rely on oil and how that dependence seems to grow continuously, how could the production of oil not peak? Other non-specialist people who are skeptical of peak oil probably are in denial and do not want to face such an uncomfortable and ugly future. The people I discussed peak oil will are very much into researching information for themselves.

Skills that I believe are Necessary for a Post Peak World:

1. Being knowledgeable in Permaculture is essential for anyone in a post peak world for three reasons. Permaculture involves growing numerous crops on the same land at the same time, with different crops creating different niches in a mini agricultural eco-system. Permaculture enriches the soil, and repairs soil erosion. The first reason is our current farming practices are not sustainable for the planet; they create erosion, pack the soil, and are based on oil and natural gas technology, fertilizer and pesticides. Current methods of farming require massive amounts of energy, and harm the soil. The second reason is food is transported around the world using oil-powered planes, trucks, boats etc. After oil production peaks and declines, food will become scarce (which is the third reason) because of the above reasons. To produce food in a much more energy and effort efficient way, Permaculture is required.

2. Being knowledgeable about gathering food is just as valuable as Permaculture, for the short term immediately following a decline of oil production. For those lucky enough to live near forests and other natural environments, knowing what to eat and what is not safe for human consumption is invaluable. Mushrooms, for instance, are not all edible. Some can be fatally poisonous. One should know which are safe and which are not.

3. Learning how to effectively use and administer herbal medicines, first aid and other non-western medicine practices is truly essential in a post peak situation. Hospitals will not be as accessible for many people as they are today. Hospitals require a lot of energy, and transportation to and from medical facilities might not be available. Herbal medicines, first aid and non western medicine, using knowledge of what grows in the area you are located, can be a huge service to the community you belong to.

4. Long distance running may be a useful skill for a post peak world. I don’t know how many people will have access to other forms of transportation, but you can always depend on your own two feet. Training should be started now, and distances of 10 miles or more should be the goal.

5. Learn how to build water distilling or purifying systems. This is important because in a post peak world, many people won’t have access to clean water systems, the water system in New York for instance, is purified using electricity which is most likely generated using non-renewable resources. A billion people today already do not have access to clean water, but if we implement water catching devices, and purify or clean the water for our selves, we can avoid any water issues.

6. Knowing how to start a fire is obviously a skill needed for a post peak world. I expect that living in a post peak world will be similar to camping, except it would be permanent. There might not be gas supplies or electric stoves, so we need to learn how to start a fire, the same way our ancestors did, with sticks and nothing else.

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