5 Jan 2006
You Think Peak Oil is Bad…
Just came across this the other day, and it brought back memories of my early teens. It is the Protect and Survive manual that was distributed to every household in the UK to tell them what to do if the bomb drops. Totally useless advice for what we proles are meant to do while the powers that be that caused the mess in the first place are esconced in their underground bunkers (no doubt thumbing through their copies of that extremely useful book, ‘Wake Up! Survive and Prosper in the Coming Economic Turmoil’ by Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi). Compared to threat of nuclear obliteration, I must say, peak oil has a significantly more vivid silver lining.
I remember watching the film ‘The War Game’, the film that the BBC commissioned about what a nuclear attack would be like, and then were too nervous to actually show, when I was 13, and being deeply traumatised by it. I had this book I bought in a second hand shop which was the official report of the atom bomb tests in Nevada, full of black and white photos of buildings before and after atomic blasts. I was also rather partial to a song by Crass called ‘Nagasaki Nightmare’, which had rivetting sleeve notes all about nuclear war. I had nightmares of my family being reduced to radioactive ash, I was really terrified. This was my daily reality round that time, the huge CND marches in London which were amazing things to be involved in and all manner of anti-nuclear protesting. I went to bed every night not knowing if I would wake up again in the morning (I exaggerate not). It was a scary time. It was very real.
Now, with peak oil, I don’t find myself going to sleep terrified as to what I will find when I wake up. I find myself nodding off thinking about strategies for local gardens, private wire energy grids and cob buildings. Peak oil might lead to huge profound changes for civilisation, and it certainly isn’t going to be pretty and will lead to much suffering that I don’t wish to diminish, but I’d rather be 13 now going to sleep thinking about peak oil than 25 years ago thinking about the nuclear holocaust. I don’t know quite what prompted this posting, I guess it was rereading the Protect and Survive booklet and feeling again the sense of rage I felt then about how insulting this ‘advice’ was, and wondering how the people who offered it to me could sleep at night.
6 Jan 8:30pm
Although your memories of teenage sleepless doom certainly ring true for me as well, I’m not sure I’m able to suspend belief that nuclear weapons aren’t still among the cards being played close to the chests of those who would ‘maximize’ their holdings of ‘liquid gold’. They’re still there in various places lying in threat, aren’t they?
At the start of my growing awareness of peak-oil issues, I suffered more than a few restless nights of worry over what the future might hold. It was only after a few weeks of non-stop research and discussions with others that I was able to muster any of the kind of hope you express. I want to believe, too, that there is a chance for the world to experience the silver lining you speak of, but it’s not made easy when neighbours who prefer ‘not to know’ react with incredulity to even the mildest considerations for powered-down community solutions. I’ve even been admonished for frightening people!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally a positive and resourceful person; I do relish visions of a cleaner, sustainable future and don’t doubt that many of us will be able to adapt and arrive at that point. It’s the ‘in-between time’ that I’m still more than a little wary of – particularly when I see how world powers (with nuclear weapons) have reacted thus far to impending oil scarcity. Even if their use is never ultimately intended, it’s hardly encouraging that geo-politics are still in thrall to the implied threat. The risk of someone, somewhere, pushing the ubiquitous button of our teen-years’ nightmares, hardly seems mitigated in the context of world resource competition.