My Take on Someone Else's Peak Oil Article


Posted on : 5:39 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

I was just reading an article by author James Kunstler on 10 ways to prepare for the peak oil crises.  Now it may seem like gas prices are so low that peak oil can't possibly happen, but it's more of an issue than ever.  There seems to be some dispute over why gas is so cheap right now, but the best explanation that I have read is that oil prices are actually based on stocks and oil speculation.  The stock market is down, so the price of oil is down too.   Demand is a little low too, which means supply is up, but there is still more oil being used than can be adequately supplied for into the future.  We're still using more than we should.  One thing that bugged me about the article is that it's not a list of actual practical solutions, but rather a list of 'shoulds'.  A solution is a how, not a why:

1. Think beyond the car.  I think that this is part of a major paradigm shift from the global to the local.  Working close to home, or moving your home close to work is a necessary step.  People will be biking, walking and taking trains and buses.  Back in the old days housewives didn't leave their homes much - things were delivered, like milk, ice and other necessities.  Support local delivery services such as Spud, local food co-ops and CSA's (community supported agriculture) rather than running errands all the time.

2. Produce food differently. Urban farming and small local organic farms will become the norm.  There are so many resources for urban farming now... and unlike traditional farms they are local so transportation is cut down.  Buying local food is one of the most important steps to decreasing oil dependence.  Every person, regardless of location, can grow something, and I highly recommend these resources: City Farmer News and it's info site Urban Agriculture Notes, Path to Freedom and their 100 foot diet challenge at Freedom Gardens.  One great example of a concentrated city project is a youth project called Vancouver's Urban Agriculture

3. Redistribute the population. I'm not sure if this is as likely to happen as the rest.  People hold on to their homes as bad as they may be.  In places like Detroit which has about half the population that it once was, there is a huge urban agriculture movement.  They are reclaiming abandoned land for organic agriculture and contributing thousands of pounds of fresh food every year.  All those people left for other cities to look for work, not return to a more agrarian society.  I think redistribution may happen, but small towns can't handle it - if anything a city will just become more sprawling and green as people begin to look to their own backyards.

4. Move things and people differently. This is similar to #1 except that it is talking about mass transit and shipping.  We do need an infrastructure of electric trains and buses much bigger than what we have now.  Things are marginally better in Europe and Japan, but North America is woefully behind on this.  They barely passed a vote allowing the California high-speed rail, and I was quite surprised that it was such a struggle considering that it's (1) California and (2) how innovative it was in using existing tracks.  People really need to support these kinds of measures and keep trains going.  Kunstler in his article also mentions people using sailing ships again but doesn't mention who... he's probably referring to CTMV, a French company that uses old sailing ships.  Right now they are shipping only wines - I suppose there is a marketing angle in saying that your wine got to its destination by sailing ship, especially since it's good that wine is aged.  It takes a long time to cross an ocean that way.  I think more and more ships are going to be fitted with Solar Sailors, huge solar panels that are currently being used by Chinese and Japanese cargo ships.

5. Transform retail trade. The buy handmade and local campaigns have only made a little dent in the Wal-Mart market.  50 years ago housewives prided themselves on making their own linens, clothes, home decor, and everything else.  Really stores basically sold staples - fabric, food staples like meat and vegetables and grains, tools, needles and thread.  We've become a society of instant, manufactured, ready-made, cookie-cutter items.  We need to value handmade things and ignore the convenience of the convenience store.  Actually the irony of the term 'convenience store' is that it's an illusion... the moral, environmental and human rights cost of these items is the very opposite of convenient.

6. We will have to make things.  lol I didn't even realize this was the next one when I wrote #5.  It just goes to show that all of these solutions are interrelated and dependent on each other - and they are simple.  Kunstler says in his that we don't know how we will make things, but I have a pretty good idea.  People will demand better, sustainable products and business will find a way to capitalize on that.  They already are, slowly.  More and more homemade products will find networks like Etsy and local co-ops.  As far as things like computers and phones and other items that we can make ourselves, if things get to that point we may be using older and older stuff and recycling until alternatives are found.  These things won't die, but I'm pretty confident that business will adapt.  How long that will take is another thing.

7. The age of canned entertainment is over. I'm not sure if this is an electricity problem.  I think this may be simply a time when there's nothing good on TV and people are sick of commercials.  Less and less people watch television... I actually only know one family that has cable.  Everyone in my family and all of my acquaintances just watch movies.  If the electricity goes out, you will be looking for other entertainment and it's so much better if you know people who like that sort of home-made fun.  Homemade music, board games, and plays are so much fun. :)

8. Reorganize the school system. More people might homeschool, but I think that people won't have time.  If you think about it, the reason public school was created was to provide an education to families who worked so hard that they couldn't do that for their kids.  If you are having to farm or make your stuff by hand and chop wood, your kids would benefit from a small school. That's why we have summer vacation - so that farm children could come home and help during the growing season.  I think that parents would do well to take more control over the public school system and create small parochial schools, and find ways to get more teachers.  Back in the old days teachers did not have a college education - they were just the smartest and brightest students.  They had the knowledge necessary, and they taught only the basics - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  Their educational model was vastly more successful than what we have today in equipping students to be thinkers.  We have become obsessed with well-roundedness and it has compromised all kinds of necessary skills.  They had older children teaching younger children as well, and it worked.

9. Reorganize the medical system. Living in Canada I'm not sure that this is such a necessary thing, but in the US it is.  Canadian doctors make less, and the corruption of the US system hurts us in that Canadian med students end up wanting to work in the States.  They can make more money there.  Doctors need to become doctors to be doctors, not because they can make lots of money.  I think that alternative medicine that is not dependent on corrupt drug companies needs to become more accepted as well, in conjunction with modern medicine.

10. Life in the USA needs to be local. This just reiterates all of the above.  Local food, local work, local business, local medicine.  I think we've seen that globalization just unequivocally doesn't work. Can we all agree on that?  lol

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