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The Oil Experiment

obama day
Image by wvs via Flickr

Note this is not just another post about the inauguration speech – it’s about oil.

The Obama inauguration speech gave hope to millions of Americans who are concerned about the sustainability of the culture we live in – but the question that remains unanswered is whether the economic and social experiment of the past hundred years is coming to an end?

There will be those who take offense to the suggestion that it has been an experiment, they’ll say that it is the natural course of progress and innovation, and there are still others who will whole-heartedly agree with the idea that it is coming to an end in an old-fashioned Armageddon sort of way. Neither of these ideas follow the patterns of history, societies do reach zeniths often framed in depleting resources or other “limits to growth”; and the fall of previous civilizations has typically taken centuries, not decades.

The experiment has taken us to the heady heights of consumption, where almost everything is disposable and of little value once the next widget comes along. We have become the epitome of a consumer culture.

[ad#200-left]Municipalities across North America are slowly waking up to the reality that there is limited resources for ever increasing social and infrastructure needs. The oil is running out, the capital is running out, yet the demands of the population are ever increasing. How will this experiment play out? Will the participants, that’s you and I folks, happily give up the luxuries we’ve come to enjoy during our life? Will we sit around hoping the government will bail us out like it has done for so many mega-corporations? Or will we see the experiment as having pushed the limits and back off to something more sustainable?

Unfortunately, even if we back off, the rest of the world is still trying to play catch up. This is a major concern for climate change and peak oil, or as one author put it, “Peak Everything”. Are we at that point? Are we at the end of the suburban cul de sac?

The speech is good, Mr President, the hard part is the action. Thank you for saying it, now lets do something about it.

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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.