My preferred solution to Peak Oil is to embrace other known, proven high-energy technologies and keep our sputtering drive to the stars from stalling out completely.
Others advocate a different approach.
Apparently for some, an energy shortage is the perfect opportunity to force us to embrace the lifestyle they’ve been preaching all along, which can be summed up as “get those damned serfs back on the manor where they belong!”
You think I exaggerate? Let’s go down his list:
1. Convert to organic agriculture and grow as much of our food locally as possible.”
Yeah, screw specialization of labor – local economies are much better off growing their own food. And making their own clothes. And their own computers. (Well, maybe those can be brought in on horseback for the two or three families in town that can afford it). We’ll get our “food security” by not being able to ship food in from anywhere if our particular town’s crops fail. And once our organic agriculture returns fertility to soil that’s been producing less and less abundant crops after decades of industrial chemical agriculture…. well, actually, they’ve been producing more abundant crops as the soil was supposedly destroyed, but it’s industrial (i.e, it doesn’t require enough people to spend 12-14 hours a day doing backbreaking “honest work”), so it’s bad.
2. Relocalize daily living, work and commerce
As he puts it “Do people still believe that the destruction brought to our communities courtesy of globalization is a plus?”
Well, I’d say that the people that got the Hell out of those communities as fast as they could when travel became cheap enough would consider it a plus. If you can’t leave, and your whole world shrinks to your little “community”, you spend your life at the mercy of the local bigwigs, your parents, your in-laws, and everyone else with the power to ruin your life (a surprisingly large number in these “local communities”), and “conform or else!” is typically the order of the day. Just imagine you had to spend the rest of your life in middle school, and that should give you a pretty good picture of what he’s advocating. All the worst stereotypes of ’50s (and earlier) life, and all the worst stereotypes of so-called “Red America”, come from people that grew up in these places, endured years of abuse at the hands of the people that they were tied to by the “bonds of neighborhood” and the “local economy”, and consoled themselves by counting down the days until they were legally free to enjoy the sight of that community in their rearview mirror for the last time.
Conservatives are sometimes accused of hating those misfits, and wanting to bring back the days when they were forced to conform or else. Bringing back “local economies” as the dominant form of economic life is the best way I can think of to actually accomplish this – if George Bush were every bit as diabolical as he’s accused of being, he couldn’t come close to the level of totalitarian micromanagement of every aspect of your life that the local bigwigs can do if you can’t leave and every last job you can get to can be closed to you with one well-placed rumor.
3. Vastly expand public transportation.
Because you’ll go somewhere when we’re damned good and ready to bring you. And you’ll go where we tell you you can go.
And while we’re imagining that bright new world of his:
“(Imagine high-speed trains between all major cities and compare that to a trip on an airplane.) ”
Well, first imagine that you need to be at the train station two hours before your train actually leaves to get through security. Then imagine the FAA regulating every last detail of your trip down to how many bags you can carry. Then it’ll come closer to being a good comparison.
And of course, he’s once again extolling the benefits of forcing people together for their own good. Gee, where have we heard that before?
4. Convert to non-polluting, renewable energy sources.
You mean breeder reactors? Of course not, don’t be silly!
“Even if we weren’t facing hydrocarbon energy shortages, the dangers of global warming are so great that moving to renewable energy sources is crucial.”
Yes, we’re facing a critical hazard of crop yields being too high and winters being too mild. Obviously no price is too high to prevent that horror from coming to pass.
5. Seek to stabilize and then gradually reduce world population.
As he puts it “Some economists fear that we aren’t having enough children in Western industrialized countries. This is because they believe that older people will simply not contribute enough to our economy as they age. That has proven to be a groundless belief. Many older people go on to second careers when they retire or work part time”.
Of course, they can do this because their jobs don’t involve manual labor, which in turn is because we’re not all doing local, sustainable, organic farming without that nasty “industrial” or “chemical” substitute for 12-14 hours a day of “honest work” that old people tend not to be able to do.
6. Vastly increase the efficiency of industry.
Industry’s already vastly efficient, in terms of human effort per unit produced. But, since labor is (or damn well should be!) cheap, who cares?
7. Lead fully engaged lives every day.
“We should attempt to enjoy what we have now as much as possible while working in the present for a better future.”
Yeah, that’s a good idea. Of course, what “working in the present for a better future” means depends on what you mean by a “better future”. If, like me, you think a “better future” involves greater wealth, safety, and happiness for even the least among us, then most of that work will involve deregulating the hell out of everything and letting people profit from exploiting anything that will produce lots of energy to keep civilization going and advancing. If, on the other hand, you think that kids leaving the farm for jobs that don’t involve 12-14 hour days of strenuous manual labor, and giving the finger to the local powers that be and the local yokels that think misfits were created to be abused and assaulted at will, and enjoying the lifestyle that should be reserved for their betters is the point at which our civilization started to go wrong, then I guess you’ll tie every nuclear plant in as much red tape as you can and cheer for the oil crunch.
But, if you successfully head off a nuclear powered future and bring us “back to the land”, I wouldn’t recommend gloating where the serfs can hear you, at least if you like your head attached to your shoulders. It doesn’t take an industrial civilization to build guillotines, or to decorate lamp-posts…