Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Fool's Paradise

All of the fussin' and fightin' we've been doing here in the USA about the finances of Social Security and Medicare in 2035, whether Jesus wants us to spend a million bucks to keep the bodies of dead people breathing, whether rich people pay taxes or only the little people do, and most of the rest of it, might just turn out to be beside the point.

Our world runs on petroleum. Not just our cars, our whole world. We live where we do, mostly far from where we work and shop, because we can burn petroleum to move ourselves around. The food we eat is fertilized, pesticided, planted, harvested, processed and shipped by petroleum. Most of our stuff is actually made out of it and if not, it was mined or grown, processed and manufactured and shipped, by petroleum. We go to WalMart in our cars, to buy stuff that is made from and with petroleum, and brought to us from China in petroleum powered ships. We heat and cool our houses with petroleum and natural gas.

No, we aren't going to run out of it, exactly. But we will extract less and less of it every year, starting about now, even as the Chinese and the Indians want to be as rich as we are and use as much of it as we do. The world is going to change. Drastically, and starting yesterday. Our political leaders, corporate news media, and as a matter of fact a lot of our very smart, independent political thinkers, are either ignoring the problem completely, or just scheming how they and their friends can do well while the rest of the world falls into turmoil. GW Bush and Dick Cheney are in the latter category. They know damn well what's going on, but they certainly aren't about to tell us. That's why they invaded Iraq, and made up a tissue of lies about their reasons.

How we go about staying alive is going to change. There is, of course, a conventional wisdom about this situation. It says that there won't be massive social disruption because market forces will gradually bring about technological and behavioral adjustments that will get us through. There is also an unconventional wisdom that petroleum is at the very root of our economy and our society, and when the roots die, the plant has to die. In other words, the transformation will be radical, probably very unpleasant, and will render completely irrelevant all of our present obsessions.

Here's one perspective. Of course this guy is reading his own crystal ball, but he's got a case.

I'm curious, as always, what others think. I'll say more about my own perspective (and my crystal ball is cloudy) later.

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