America’s tradition of anti-intellectualism puts a low premium on careful thinking, allowing the substitution of slogans for analysis. The current presidential campaign should be evidence enough of how true this is.
But there is another reason for resistance to careful thinking; it can be difficult and distressing, especially if it leads to conclusions that are uncomfortable or contrary to our current beliefs.
Common sense about our energy supplies and what needs to be done should not be among the shortages we’re going to contend with. A finite resource–magnificent to be sure—whose substitutes simply do not match the original resource in terms of its efficiency, availability, cost, and other essential criteria, cannot and will not last forever. No matter how optimistic one is about the still-available reserves of conventional crude oil, what’s left is now on borrowed time.
Just as critical is the realization that decades of progress have not occurred in a vacuum. What went in to the development of the countless technological marvels we’ve all come to rely upon—the measure and mark of our astonishing ingenuity and the expertise of countless others—creates output in countless other ways. To think that the technological processes, the industrial products, manufacturing, production, distribution, and transportation efforts, as well as the consumption of countless goods and services by countless millions in countless millions of ways have each and all have had absolutely no impact on our natural environment and atmosphere is quite the leap of faith!
‘Our research joins past research in showing that people in general tend to deny the problem when the cure to that problem is scary.’ – Troy Campbell
That same article explains it this way:
The authors blame this denial of climate science on what they deem ‘solution aversion,’ i.e., the proposed solutions are ‘more aversive and more threatening to individuals who hold an ideology that is incompatible with or even challenged by the solution.’
There is undoubtedly some comfort in thinking that one’s ideology will continue to ride to the rescue, thus avoiding all the unpleasant psychological contortions relinquishing such beliefs would necessitate if change is necessary. We get that, too. But, seriously….
Do we stand our ideological grounds until there’s no question at all what reality has in store, or do we start doing what good businesspeople and well-intentioned families and communities do: plan ahead? We want good solutions and plans for how best to transition away from a fossil fuel-dependent way of life and the consequences imposed on our climate and the environment because that is what facts tell us is necessary. Every legitimate environmentalist or peak oil advocate is no less distressed by the unforeseen consequences of our magnificent progress.
Forty years ago, Hardin (1968) observed that many people perceive an opposition between economic growth and environmental protection. Indeed, ecologically beneficial solutions demand extensive changes to the industrial process, such as switching to environmentally friendly means of production and altering pervasive practices of consumption that are associated with capitalism. They require rethinking the practices of dominating the environment and bringing the forces of nature under control through technology and human ingenuity—ideas on which much of modern Western civilization is predicated.
That’s a harsh pill to swallow, with tough choices to be made. But if we do absolutely nothing to plan an alternate route to get us to the destinations we all hope for—if not for us, then for our children—What Happens Then?
The harsh truth: Can we honestly allow ourselves to think for one more day that we’ll have more money, time, opportunity, and agreement ten years from now to invest even more into climate change adaptations and/or transitioning to society and industry powered by alternative sources? What laws of the universe are we going to suspend so that these problems do not worsen in the intervening years? We’re several trillion dollars behind as it is.
Is that the future we seek? Is that the environment and society we choose to leave for future generations?
Pushing these problems to a future with a smaller and still ever-declining supply of finite fossil fuel resources available to rebuild or sustain or repair even more than what’s now required of us—while battling the steady onset of an ever-warming planet with its cascade of unpredictable consequences is not a good strategy.
Our “system” has served us well-beyond history’s wildest imaginings. But that is not a guarantee of endless unimaginable progress. Facts make that clear.
Should we continue to march to a tune which suggests that thousands-of-years-ago climate consequences on a barely-inhabited planet supporting an ultra-simplistic lifestyle from top to bottom are every bit as relevant and applicable to what will happen in the 21st Century?
Ten thousand or fifty thousand years ago, whether the planet warmed or not as part of some natural geological cycle is irrelevant to what is happening now for one simple reason: we weren’t there, then! Our industrial society wasn’t there, nor were there seven billion other fellow travelers. NOW there are consequences … serious, impactful, enduring.
So now what?
~ My Photo: Reflections at Rockport Harbor © 09.11.10
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. Former USDOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari
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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