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The Impending Psychological Avalanche

Dozens of oil wells just off the coast

A “psychological avalanche” of unimaginable, global proportions is dawning on us. We have woken to a new reality, one where the future of the economy, commerce, food security and transportation are likely to be radically different. Seth Godin points out how much time and effort is expended in dealing with the immediate issues of the economy and housing crash that North America faces today – with little regard or attention being paid to anything beyond these immediate problems and how we as a society will deal with them.

Seth’s Blog: How far away is your emergency?

It’s amazing that people have so much time to fret about today’s emergency but almost no time at all to avoid tomorrow’s.

Seth Godin is well read, one can imagine he is not immune from imagining a future situation where the climate, energy and the economy are different. In another article I read this weekend, the inextricable link between food and oil is once again stated…
Oil, Food, and Agrotherapy | World Change Cafe

A radically different future than the oil-energized twentieth century is dawning…

Industrial agriculture will be one of the many aspects of human life on the planet hit by the dwindle/demand oil trend and the related peaks of other fossil fuels, such as natural gas. Industrial agriculture depends upon petroleum in many ways – to run tractors and other machines, to make chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and to fuel the trucks that transport food an average of 1,500 miles from field to fork. Oil is the most important ingredient in most of conventional food. As the dwindle/demand rate intensifies, food will be less available and more expensive. Famine is likely…

In the past, it has usually been possible to ride out any disruption to world oil flows – whether from accidents or hostile acts – by pumping more oil from the ground. That spare capacity has now all but vanished, as oil producers cash in on soaring prices by extracting as much of the stuff as they can. “There is absolutely no slack in the system any more,” says Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington DC-based think tank specialising in energy security. It is this lack of wriggle-room that has brought us to the brink.

The majority of efforts of mankind today, as I write this, are futile in the face of such a problem. We are worried about the type of light bulbs we are using, the cost of a movie rental, the value of our stocks, whether we recycle more than our neighbors and what flavour of pizza we should order tonight.

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Our greatest concern amongst the barrage of bad news streaming 24/7 at our headspace is barely registering in the media or in any level of government. The ability for a civilization to be considered sustainable must be based on it’s ability to feed itself among other things. The Club of Rome‘s report – the Limits of Growth published some 45 years ago examined the relationship between population, resources, energy and pollution. They discovered that there is a tipping point on the continuum of “growth” where the ability for the earth to carry the population, the extraction of resources and the increasing pollution will drop relative to human expectations. It is possible that these issues are going to be the next ones facing our societies in the future.

Seth’s Blog: How far away is your emergency?

So I wonder…Where are the groundbreaking reports about how this device or that organization are wasting so much energy today, when we can still do something about it? Why not shine a light on the holes we’re digging today as opposed to the canyons we’ll have to deal with years from now?

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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.