Sunday, March 13, 2005

More on "The End of Suburbia"

As I said in a previous post, I have just seen the video "The End of Suburbia." To those familiar with peak oil theory and its implications, the video will not break any new ground. But as a compact and compelling presentation of the peak oil problem and its effects, it is dynamite. I saw it with a group of college students who are members of a campus environmental group. These are well-informed and committed environmentalists. From their questions I could tell that while they were aware of that we face energy challenges, they had not perceived the energy problem as this great, nor had they imagined that the consequences could be this bad if we are not up to the challenge.

Emotionally, "The End of Suburbia" is a shocking movie. Whether it can shock the public and awaken them to our nascent energy crisis is an open question. Notably, the The New York Times covered a recent showing of the film on Long Island. Mostly it was those already committed to doing something about energy and sprawl issues who showed up. But, even some of these people seemed not quite to grasp the message as they spoke about "running out of oil."

This is, of course, not the issue at all. It's about running out of cheap oil. Somehow the public needs to come to understand that we don't have to run out of any of our energy sources to face deep and abiding problems. We have only to suffer mildly declining energy output to destabilize the entire economic and social system. The public has been so brainwashed into thinking that technology will save us and that we'll always figure something out in time that even some of these true believers couldn't quite make the leap.

Unless the peak is 25 to 30 years away, we won't have the luxury of reworking our entire energy infrastructure to sustain our current way of life. Each day new information points to a peak much sooner than this. Why wait to act when the stakes are so high?

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