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Oil Removes the Toil – Sustainability in Castlegar

This is a continuation of the article – “A Question of Progress

The way we’ve lived is not sustainable, from the distances we drive, where our food comes from, how we build our houses, how we holiday, and what we do with our yards – all of these require massive inputs of fossil fuels, which, if you haven’t worked out yet, are exhibiting a decline of availability, often referred to as Peak Oil. This is not some wing-nut  commie plot to overthrow the corporations, here’s an official quote from Shell:

At Shell, we think of this complex energy and climate challenge as a set of three hard truths. The first hard truth is that surging energy demand will continue for decades; the second that supplies of “easy oil” cannot grow at the same pace as overall energy demand growth; and, third, that increased use of energy means rising greenhouse gas emissions at a time when climate change looms large as a critical issue.

These hard truths make structural change in the energy system both necessary and inevitable. Equally, they place limits on the scale and the speed of change. The three hard truths need to addressed in an integrated way.

Once again, I question whether we should be leaving the response to these problems in the hands of the people who’ve caused them. Those responsible include the oil and energy companies, government in various capacities, and the generation who decided that buying more stuff was more important than looking after the world.

Innovate or Die

If we take Peak Oil as a fact that needs solving, we should be inspired to innovate. And to some degree this is happening with wind farms, offshore wave farms, hybrid vehicles and the plethora of “green” inventions. Unfortunately, most of these are transitionary inventions that will get us through a generation or so following the “peak”, but the power of oil is far superior to any other source, and we will find that we cannot do, build, play, travel, grow, or produce as much with diminishing supplies. Thomas Homer-Dixon’s latest book “Carbon Shift – How the Twin Crises of Oil Depletion and Climate Change Will Define the Future” is reviewed with the following introduction…

globeandmail.com: Canada’s reckless carbon habit

Here’s the situation, and it’s a dangerous one. In the past 150 years, the human tribe willingly became eager slaves to oil and got teenage-drunk on the fumes. But carbon is now the insidious master of our house and garden. Man-made volcanoes of CO{-2} have wrecked the climate thermostat, dried up water supplies, killed forests, shrunk glaciers and made farmers as insecure as artists. And that’s just the beginning of the oil hangover. Can Canada remain strong and free without ice, journalist Ed Struzik asks in his mind-boggling exposé (The Big Thaw) of the Arctic meltdown.

Yet oil, the elixir of growth and Viagra for the species, has left Canadians fat, lazy and flummoxed. We can’t imagine a world, as writer Ronald Wright puts it, without “speed, mobility, headlong economic growth and an array of dazzling consumer goods.” Oil removes the toil.

“Oil Removes the Toil” is the reason why mediocre businessmen can live like kings, even blue-collar workers sip lattes made from shade grown organic coffee beans grown in some far away jungle and drive SUV’s and pickups with 350 horsepower engines. Just think about what that means – the engine, fueled with oil, is equivalent to the pullling power of 350 horses.

globeandmail.com: Canada’s reckless carbon habit

[Jeff Rubin] reminds us that oil consumption is rising in Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia, thanks to crazy subsidies. He suggests that many oil producers will soon cannibalize their exports to desalinate water or placate citizens in authoritarian petrol states. North American motorists, like the car industry, may be an endangered species. Be warned.

So Canada has become both a narcissistic oil hero and a dark carbon villain. We can’t find the brakes because ugly bitumen has seduced the driver. Every day that we “deny, delay and dissemble” about carbon, our children will suffer. We are guilty of massive risk-taking and generational theft.

We have been seduced by the power and riches that oil has afforded us. The baby boomer generation would have you believe that it is because of their hard work, and that of their forefathers that our societies are so affluent. The harsh reality is that, quite simply, without fossil fuels, the world would be a vastly different place.

More on this tomorrow. Subscribe to UrbanWorkbench here to stay up to date.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

2 thoughts on “Oil Removes the Toil – Sustainability in Castlegar

  1. Once again a great post — I thank you so much for putting the info together with such clarity.

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