This article was published in the Hinterland Voice, an idiosyncratic local paper for the Noosa Hinterland people
I won’t and cannot claim to have any or all the ‘solutions’. Before you read on dear reader, you must realise that everything in your life is about to change.
The growth we have experienced in the last 150 years has only been possible because of ever growing amounts of cheap, very dense, and abundant energy. The population we have today is only here because we have all this cheap and abundant energy to keep our food supply going, and, I hasten to add, very little to do with technology. Did you know it takes 16 calories of oil and gas energy to produce 1 calorie of grain cereal? Think about that when you next buy a loaf of bread. And next time you buy a steak, remember that every calorie in that gladwrapped polystyrene tray took no less than 60 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce!
So when the crunch arrives in about 4 or 5 years, what will you do? This is what the history of fossil fuels looks like:
So why am I so confident ‘the crunch’ will occur so soon? Peak Oil does not mean running out of oil, in fact it ‘only’ means we have reached the point where half the entire oil endowment has been extracted. So there’s plenty left, right? Well there is, however, the first half that was extracted was the easiest and the best. It’s like picking mangoes. You always start at the bottom of the tree, then you have to start climbing the tree to get more, only to discover that the bats and the birds have got at them, and by the time you reach the top they’re all rotten.
Furthermore, the real problem emerging now is another phenomenon called Peak Export.
Nations that export a lot of oil normally have the largest wells. The USA was such a country, swimming in oil in the 30’s, unable to even think it could all end. Its production peaked in 1970, and within two years was importing oil to cover its growing demand. The UK went through exactly the same process, exporting vast amounts of its North Sea oil until it peaked out in the late 90’s, and is now importing again.
Now consider an Arab nation collecting close to $100 a barrel. Like our resource based economy, theirs is booming too. As a result, they’re building lots of infrastructure, like oil fired power stations, and importing lots of mostly 4WD cars, plasma screen TVs, just like us really. And it’s hot, so they aircondition, everything. Consequently, their own oil consumption is increasing exponentially, whilst AT THE SAME TIME their production is falling exponentially. The result of that, according to some interesting modeling that can be found at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2767 is that no exporting nation will be exporting any oil at all within around twelve years. At least willingly, if you get my drift!
A new modeling study has now been done for Australia which can be viewed at http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/3657#more
The only adaptation to ‘the crunch’ is austerity. So is it any wonder governments are doing nothing? When was the last time people rioted in the streets demanding austerity? Worse, governments are lying to us. The economy and the current ticketing system (where 110 tickets are sold to accommodate 100 bums on seats in the hope we’ll soon have 110 seats) can only operate in a climate of confidence. If we all believe (myself totally excluded!) that everything’s perfectly OK (because that’s what they tell us on the tube) then we continue buying tickets, and voila, everything continues to be OK! Trouble is, NOTHING is OK. A depression is actually just around the corner, and it could make 1929 look like a picnic in the park. Don’t believe me? Then read this http://www.kitco.com/ind/Ruff/ruff_dec072007.html
Just consider this little scenario. You have just bought a $50,000 4WD. In next to no time, petrol gets to $3 a litre, and what’s more, it’s rationed so you can only get 30 litres a week. So you decide to sell it. Trouble is, nobody wants a shiny new 4WD anymore, and even at $10,000 you have trouble selling it. Hmmm, Houston, we have a problem.
Don’t expect governments to come to the rescue either. They are part of the quasi-conspiracy to make everyone feel good about the ticketing system I call ‘the Matrix’. I use the word conspiracy because I find it hard to believe that I know these things are going to happen, and governments do not. If they do know, they’re guilty of criminal acts, and if they don’t they are stupid beyond belief.
Now let’s look at what those in charge are doing instead of reining in growth:
building desalination plants
building more roads and tunnels
building more power stations (just when we should be closing them down)
telling us to change our light bulbs
telling us to run our fridges warmer
I call this clutching at straws. They have no idea whatever on how to deal with the coming crises. It’s like a Minister of religion suddenly discovering there is no God, and trying to find a way of telling his congregation. So the things I would do in government are just as sacrilegious as a Minister telling his flock the truth, there is no God, in this case the God of Growth and Affluence. Therefore the things I would do will seem extreme to you dear reader, but I will put them past you, because we need to think about these things, such thinking being actually well overdue.
The cause of Global Warming is consumption. Make no mistake, every time you buy a beer, an ice cream, or a CD, you, are partaking in Global Warming. We could get away with this if only the world population was under 2 billion or preferably even less, but there are way, way too many of us to be able to afford such affluence. The planet is literally dieing of consumption. This consumption is also the reason we are fast running out of the critical resources we need to ‘fix’ the problems. At this stage, I need to ensure I don’t mislead you into thinking we can actually ‘fix’ the problems, because now, we only have damage control left. The time to ‘fix’ things was way back in the 1970s when the Club of Rome first warned us there would be terminal limits to growth midway through the 21st century.
So, if I were in charge of the Matrix, I would do the following things:
Currently, we are wasting our most valuable resource on trivial things like running to the local store to hire the latest DVD, and driving our kids to school when they could walk, cycle or bus it. Such a precious resource needs to be commandeered for essential services like farming, ambulances, fire brigade, and police. There may be others. All airports should be shut down.
TAX ALL ADVERTISING OUT OF EXISTENCE
Local papers should be the only allowable form of advertising. We will soon need to know where we can get things done locally. The way multi-national corporations deforest entire countries to fill our letterboxes with junk mail is simply gobsmacking. It will end anyway, now is as good a time as any!
FORGIVE ALL DEBTS
Debt is one of the major reasons we all work. Debt is the new slavery. First they make you believe you need a shiny new car or McMansion, then they lend you the money to purchase these things. If you earn too much they’ll even consider marketing a plasma screen TV to you, or a new computer which is really no more useful than the last one, but hey, it’s NEW!
Imagine if tomorrow your credit card(s) no longer existed, your mortgage was gone, and that personal loan on your 4WD had disappeared, would you still drive to work? I’ve driven to work twice this financial year. By choice, and I borrowed a car to do it. The feeling of freedom from the Matrix is extraordinary.
CLOSE DOWN ALL THE BANKS
I told you I was going to be extreme. We don’t want banks repossessing people’s homes because they can no longer buy tickets through no fault of their own. The only bank we need is the Reserve Bank of Australia. This is how it used to be 200 years ago. That is how it should’ve stayed. Besides, all the people who now work in banks are going to be far far too busy growing their own food to bother driving to work in a bank. In the long run, only local trade will occur.
The way things are going in the US with their sub-prime fiasco, not to mention how it is now impacting non-sub-prime borrowers, banks may well simply shut their own doors without us having to do anything.
STOP ALL ROAD BUILDING
When access to oil basically ceases in 4 or 5 years time when we in this country run out, we’ll be lucky if we can continue running buses on the roads we now have. Then consider this: roads are made OF oil! How will we be able to even maintain the roads we currently have without oil? That turkey who poses as Mayor of Brisbane should be shot at dawn. He told me, to my face, we’d continue running cars even if we had to burn old tyres and carpets. No bull!! And you wonder why we’re in trouble……. By the way, if you don’t already own one, buy yourself a good quality bicycle.
CRASH BUILDING OF ELECTRIFIED RAIL AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
We could run lots of electric trains on the current infrastructure, especially if we all tightened our belts and stopped wasting so much energy. Trains could even be run on renewable energy, at least right up until we have so little fossil fuel left we are no longer able to make any more solar panels and wind turbines. Make no mistake, building solar panels and such will require huge investments of fossil energy up front, and it would take some fifteen years of dedicated effort to have a system whereby renewable energy could make more renewables.
The money saved from not building roads could be spent on electric locomotives. QR has no money to do this and is currently running 4000 class (diesel) locomotives on the Blackwater coal system under wires, a total disgrace
INSTIGATE CRASH COURSES IN PERMACULTURE
Currently we have a system where resources are collected and taken to factories to manufacture food, energy, and goods for our consumption. All the waste from this process is dumped into the biosphere causing Global Warming and pollution. The consumption of all these ‘goods’ not only creates the depletion of mostly non-renewable resources, but also adds to the waste stream, and the greenwash surrounding the fantasy of recycling is not helping us formulating solutions either. Sure some stuff is recycled, but that recycling requires oil for collection, and more energy for the actual recycling. Then, those recycled products are typically re-used just once, like toilet paper. This is an open loop. Permaculture closes loops.
The essence of Permaculture
Waste is not waste, it’s a resource in the wrong place. Just think of all those fossil fueled calories that went into the aforementioned breakfast cereal and steak for your barbie. Where do they end up? Down the toilet, that’s where! Which then ends up in the same place as all those wasted farm chemicals/chemical energy: our creeks and rivers.
And all that sewage has to be treated using even more energy before it’s dumped into the biosphere.
Here, humanure is collected and used as fertiliser. NOTHING should leave your place unless it’s not compostable (like plastic wrapping). Remember the days when NOTHING was wrapped in plastic? I do. Those days will return, plastic’s made with oil!
Furthermore, Permaculture ensures everything has at least two uses, preferably more. So chickens and ducks, for instance, not only provide eggs and meat, they also fertilise your gardens and kill all the weeds. Fences are used to grow things on as well as keeping unwanted animals in or out. Land is shaped to retain water and windbreaks used to divert flowing air to where it’s wanted. Houses are heated with the sun instead of electricity, and kept cool by controlling when the sun enters your house, ie not in summer.
Instead of relying totally on imported European foodcrops, permies grow perennials and food forests which require far less work and energy to grow. It means new recipe books to be sure, but it beats driving to work so you can buy increasingly more expensive food in the supermarket. Food forests should be everywhere, footpaths, parks, and on any unsettled land. Trust me, it beats getting hungry, and the way things are going, starvation just might become the norm. Unless we act.
Will governments do any of this? I doubt it. WE, my dear readers have to do this. Instead of relying on the Matrix supplying us with all our needs in exchange for slave labour, we need to work for ourselves, and we’ll need to do this at the local community level. So get to know your neighbours because one day you’ll need them as much as they will need you.
It’s taken us five years to get to where we are here in Cooran. Australia has no more than that to get its act together. Governments are well known for being reactive, and so little will be done until it’s all too late. I’m just hoping it’s not too late now. Action is now urgent.