Sunday, June 04, 2006

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.


Blogger Daniella said...

i really liked yoour post, it was powerful and relateable. My father is also fairly skeptical of the government, which why i do not understand why he isnt taking the issue so seriously. I'm not sure he's really letting himself understand the issue, or maybe their just pretending to listen when i talk to them? I am not the only child, and though there are just tw of us living in the house hold right now our seem to have more important things to worry about regularly. I think being consistant about talking to family members would be very important though, If you hadn't kept bringing it up to your mom she might not take the issue as seriously. If i were you i'd try to get your father to look into permaculture farming intesively before moving, because if he starts farming
'incorrectly'it will be harder for him to change.

Your very right about peak oil being fairly logical. There should be no reason why someone wouldn't want to accept except that they do not want to face an 'ugly future' the problem is, if more people faced it it wouldnt be so ugly. Being unprepared for it is whats really going to make things ugly.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Juggleandhope said...


Its interesting that the people you talked to want to do the research for themselves, but that it required your personal intervention to interest them - despite the increasing media attention.

Will you be staying in touch with them through the research process?

11:22 AM  

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