Are we peaking yet?
Most of us are aware, in a sort of wooly-minded, I’ll-think-about-it-later kind of way, that many of the resources that sustain our economy and our “way of life” are finite and nonrenewable. The supplies of cheap oil, cheap paper and cheap labor that currently allow us, the free-weekly-newspaper-reading-public of the United States of America, to enjoy the pleasant diversion of glancing through a free paper while enjoying a morning cup of coffee or an inexpensive lunch are, according to many statisticians, drying up.
For some, the impending doom of the oil-based economy is a frightening specter looming on the horizon, and Culture Vulture sympathizes with those fears. If the supply of oil that currently drives every aspect of our culture were to be suddenly cut off, the consequences for society would be catastrophic beyond our wildest speculations. With no way to move goods except by horse- or cattle-drawn wagons or by carrying things ourselves, it would be physically impossible to transport the quantities of food and other goods necessary for maintaining a city-bound population. For that matter, mechanized farming would become impossible, and there would not even be enough food available to supply the cities.
A dismal scenario to be sure, best depicted by the films that made Mel Gibson a star, Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. If you have somehow managed to avoid seeing these masterpieces of apocalyptic cinema, Culture Vulture recommends The Road Warrior as the best of the three.
Fortunately for those of us who enjoy the creature comforts, the dissolution of the oil-based economy will most likely be more of a slow decline than a catastrophic collapse, and thanks to the boundless avariciousness and economic resources of those who live at the top of the economic food chain, the development of alternative forms of energy and transportation will no doubt proceed apace so that no truly wealthy person need ever suffer the inability to enjoy a meal of farm-fresh food in his or her city penthouse or remote mountain mansion.
Of course, more worrisome than the depletion of petroleum as the basis of our economy is the environmental damage already wrought by the overuse of petroleum-based products. We can see, based on even a superficial study of the fossil record, that the recuperative and adaptive powers of Earth’s life forms are nearly infinite, but reducing the world to a shambolic globe inhabited by nothing but cannibalistic radioactive cockroaches and anaerobic bacteria hardly seems like a fitting final goal for the human endeavor.
We sincerely hope that the lessons learned while recuperating from our petroleum addiction will result in the development of technologies based on sustaining and improving life rather than depleting and despoiling the planet.