peak oil

2005-05-29 00:43:56 -0700

I've certainly read a lot of interesting things in the course of my days, and some have had gradually come to influence my thinking and way of life over time. But the last time I read something that dramatically and abruptly changed my worldview, it was Kant's Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals. Before reading it, I had been unable to conceive of an ultimate end to human endeavor other than Happiness; every last activity consciously initiated by any sentient being was in one way or another a means to this end. How could it be otherwise?

Kant's presentation of Duty as an ultimate end shook me deeply, if only in its delivery of a first cogent alternative to Happiness. The profound novelty of the idea resembled the effect of non-Euclidean geometry or Abbott's Flatland, except that the subject addressed here was something that I grappled with intensely almost every day. I had to carefully reconsider the fundamentals of every meager scrap of tentative certainty I had managed to forage up to that point. This experience proved alternately gutting and exhilarating, all depending on the amount of psychic energy I had available at the moment to wrestle with the dichotomy.

Last week, I finished a book that has had a similarly overwhelming psychic impact, James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency. Now Kunstler is neither as rigorous nor as thorough as Kant, and it's hardly fair to compare the content of their works, but the profound impact of each on my thinking is undoubtedly comparable. Each has significantly altered my perception of innumerable phenomena I had previously taken for granted or had missed altogether.

In short, The Long Emergency presents a compelling exploration of the events likely to accompany the imminent end of the fossil fuel era. Kunstler convincingly argues that almost every aspect the way of life that we have come to take for granted has been a brief historical anomaly that is about to end. And that end is not likely to involve a calm and orderly acquiescence of amenities. It could be violent, brutal, shocking, chaotic, etc., but regardless of its exact characteristics the key is that it will be dramatic and it will happen within our lifetime. It could be argued that it is happening right now. There is very little in the world currently familiar to us that will not be affected greatly by these inevitable changes.

Rolling Stone published an article adapted from this book. You should read this article.