I’ll confess that I hesitated before starting this series. It was too easy to again just dive into mockery and sarcasm over pieces written several weeks ago by those who refuse to give credence to the concept of peak oil and/or its implications. [It’s also the gateway to yet another round of verbal grenade lobbing which generates a lot of high-five’s with fellow ideologues, but little else.]
I’ve contributed my share of mocking on numerous occasions, to be sure. It’s just part of the ongoing Left-Right hostilities….Tiresome. Pointless. Embarrassing. Damaging … always.
That exercise would have been gratifying to me, but only me. I need to have a more enlightened response to the question posed above. Doing more of the same will produce more of the same, and few of us seem to be benefitting from that strategy these days.
At first glance the subject matter of this series [Friday-only, and for a number of weeks to follow] may seem to be yet another opportunity to take down yet another [two, actually] light-on-facts, right-wing Happy Talk offerings generated for public consumption. Like so many others of similar content and intent, they played well to the far reaches of the Right, judging by most of the comments, and they were consistent with the messages offered in opposition to all things Obama and/or progressives.
Neither those comments nor the material offered by the two writers for their respective conservative publications [American Thinker and Townhall, to be discussed later in this series] were much different than countless others supporting the same essential message: but for President Obama, America would be great, yadda, yadda, yadda; and we have more than enough energy resources available to us for almost forever, yadda, yadda, yadda.
From my decidedly left-leaning perspective, it’s not especially useful; it’s barely truthful; is filled with bold assertions and statements supported by … well, not much, and as for its informative value to the public? Nada. The comments by and large reflect an unfortunate lack of understanding and appreciation of the energy challenges ahead. The commenters, like the authors, have also consumed enough of the right-wing Kool-Aid to suggest that nothing offered in this series is goings going to matter at all. But that’s no reason to avoid avoid the attempt.
Maddening, to be sure, but if I followed my initial inclinations, I would be doing little to advance the cause and primary purpose of this blog and the efforts of others urging greater awareness about Peak Oil. I’ve been guilty of getting away from that intent on more than a few occasions….
Those of us concerned about the implications of peak oil have assumed a mantle of responsibility to better inform the public about all of the facts regarding fossil fuel production and supply … a flawed effort at times, no doubt—good intentions notwithstanding. But there are facts and realities about current and future energy production and supply which aren’t offered to the public nearly often enough. Likewise, the reliance on limited snippets of pseudo-information from the more vocal opponents to our message is both puzzling and worrisome.
Their contributions are instead clearly intended to reinforce a Cornucopian point of view which can only be supported by readers if what’s offered contains as little genuine factual information as possible. Those tactics substantiate [as do the comments themselves] what a great body of research consistently confirms about the characteristics of the conservative personality: an avoidance of any ambiguities; little appetite for nuance or broader discussions; a need for closure—demonstrated most often by strict Manichean thinking while simultaneously hanging on to the first reasonably valid piece of evidence supporting one’s viewpoint as the beginning and end of a dispute—and the expected vitriol directed at those who disagree, regardless of the reasons or rationales.
It’s the standard MO for those on both the Left and the Right, although [subject to my own biases] the rancor and dismissive treatment of those on the other side of the ideological divide seem much more pronounced when directed at progressives. There are occasions when I’m convinced more intelligent and reasoned debate could be found among a random group of fourth-graders.
But to do nothing and take no steps to challenge the misleading nonsense which continues to dominate public conversation is the greater abdication of social responsibility. Powerful interests and entrenched beliefs make a difficult challenge that much more difficult. An intensely polarized electorate is not eager to pause for even a moment to listen to what the “enemy” has to say. It’s a game we’ve learned to play well, but at what cost?
Massaging a few facts while ignoring a great many more is a tactic that has worked well for those organizations and individuals whose interests do not match those of the consuming public. It’s also done for political gain, of course. And there’s no question that certain industries have benefited greatly by keeping the general public mis-, under-, or un-informed on matters of national/international significance.
There is actually more than one side to the energy supply story.
The narrative of energy abundance is certainly more appealing for any number of reasons, but we have some issues to deal with in the not-too-distant future. Knowledge is the first order of business, disquieting as the facts may be. Finding ways to persuade those resistant to the information is of vital importance, but that may be the most challenging aspect of all.
With knowledge comes an awareness of what we’ll be facing. A deeper understanding of all of the relevant facts leads to a broader perspective on both the positive aspects of our impressive technological gains and the sobering realities. Dependence on finite resources has its limitations, and there are unpleasant consequences ahead if we just continue to continue doing the same. Being wrong about this would be ideal, but we—I—have serious doubts about that outcome being the likeliest.
It’s a much more attractive choice to focus on nothing but good news, of course. But when the good news is propped up by a script light on the realities, heavy on both the qualifiers and bold assertions intended to be accepted as gospel truth [they’re not, by the way], the Happy Talk loses a lot of its initial appeal. Postponement of discussions and/or obstruction just to obstruct and oppose are not ideal problem-solving strategies—not when the stakes are as high as they are as regards climate, public policy, and energy supply.
Making the public aware is crucial. Learning all of the facts a day [or two] early will be a much better option than a day late on issues of such critical importance and widespread impact. [Actually, a lot more than just a couple of days advance notice is the goal … a lot more days….]
Worse still, as the articles I’ll be discussing make clear, there are still legions of fellow citizens who take great delight in coughing up hot-button phrases and clever insults [not always on point, of course], both as the sum total of their involvement and as indicators of their awareness and understanding—or, more accurately, lack thereof. Will there be a time when just scoring points for the team—without concern for outcomes, rules, or facts—stops being the only objective? Ignoring, trivializing, or mocking the potential consequences [or the messengers] does not afford “the opposition” a shield from unpleasant outcomes. Ideology affords few such protections.
It might be gratifying to be correct about the message we peak oil advocates are compelled to deliver, but it is much more important that we all understand and prepare for the energy supply challenges ahead. Outright rejection and mockery are the instinctive responses over most contested issues of the day, but we can only hope that sooner rather than later enough of the participants start wondering What Happens If…?
That would require accepting the fact that the other side actually has some valuable, truthful information to share. Ideological noses might be bent out of shape as a result, but if that’s the worst outcome, we’ll all be grateful for having made a more determined and honorable effort to work together.
Conflict begets conflict. When is enough, enough?
To be continued next Friday….
~ My Photo: a Boston MA sunset – 03.09.16
We face a choice going forward. There’s a kind of false dichotomy, a false choice that we’re being presented between policies on the left or policies on the right. It’s not left or right, it’s forward or backward. It’s a choice between investing in the future, leaving a better future for the next generation just like parents and grandparents did for us, or ignoring these hard choices and sentencing the next generation to a lower standard of living, to fewer opportunities, and a future that we could do better by. Michael Brownlee
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Peak Oil Matters offers observations and insights about the realities of declining fossil fuel production, and its impact on our future well-being