Saturday, 3 September 2011

Progress, Pt. 2 aka Queen of the Stone Age

I've got so many new posts on my mind that I need to write, but this one has kept them all stuck like some sort of alphabetical, semantical traffic jam! The past two weeks have been busy, with what I can hardly tell you, it's just one big whir of my oldest starting school, my youngest being really sensitive, my mom visiting from the States with her new beau, my thesis starting to haunt my dreams, my body becoming really sore everywhere for no apparent reason, and of course, on the sideline, watching a huge display of civil disobedience and the seeds of an American Energy Revolution take place in D.C. at the site of protests against the Keystone Pipeline. It's pretty historical, turbulent and hopeful all at the same time. Ok, so looking back at all that, I seem pretty busy, but funny how you have to get all meta before realizing it!

I was discussing all of the pressing issues that this blog is about (if you're new: climate change, peak oil etc), at the daycare no less, with some of the other parents of the board, and one of the childminders who was there - she said to me, bluntly "so you want us all back in the Stone Age?". You know, I can see how one would draw that conclusion, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Let me break it down.

Right now, we are dangerously close to not fulfilling our goal of cutting carbon emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising more than the magic 2 degrees Celsius. Anything above 2 degrees Celsius, and the entire world as we know it will be washed away. Fungi, jellyfish and maybe even cockroaches will survive (totally unfounded, just thought it sounded good). Stone Age life sounds like a pretty good alternative. You know, lots of supple leather clothes, family get togethers around a roaring bonfire, simple living really - presumably with more fear and weapons, but still preferable to complete annihilation, right?

Now, as far as climate goes, stone age life is not really an option. We either wipe ourselves out completely, or we revolutionize everything, arguably bringing global living standards up with sustainable technologies that probably won't included mass consumerism as we know it, but will let us keep our planet.

Peak oil on the other hand...So science tell us that the world peaked in oil production in 2006. World markets tell us that the demand for oil is rising, exponentially. Imagine if you will, a chart where the one black line is on a rapid road of decline, and the other black line is on an upward curve - the spot on the chart where those two meet is very near in all of our futures. What does it mean? It means no oil for the masses. If you look around your home, I dare you to find one item that oil hasn't made possible.
And exatly how much energy are you getting from sustainable sources? And what about the wares in your home? Is there anything that was made using wind and solar? Shipped across the ocean only using sail? Anyone?

So what will happen when those to black lines on the chart cross each other, very soon, and we are very unprepared, won't technically be the Stone Age - but for people who are used to living in a world with easy oil as a supporting role in everything they've done, they might possibly feel that way!

Will people let that happen? We already are. When I've mentioned peak oil to people, there have been two reaction - one has been nodding in agreement, the other has been "what does that mean?". Half the people I encounter have long known that oil would run out. The other half have never given it a thought.

So, even though technological breakthroughs seem to fill the papers every day with how to make fuel from banana peels (pr algae, or poop), or a car that can run on air, or a cure for some awful disease - exactly how much of that is then implemented in our daily lives? Why? We all know why (powerful oil/pharmaceutical lobbies, in case you were wondering).

Is that progress? Is it really progress to keep technology back in a non-democratic way because of the capitalist paradigm? The same paradigm that is supposedly responsible for progress?

So what is progress then? Should we define it as something that is advancement of living standards for all, with the greater good in mind? Because, if that's the case - we are still living in the Stone Age.

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