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An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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25 Feb 2006

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a Post-Apocalyptic Utopia

wg1*A couple of months ago at **Transition Culture** I explored the fact that I and others had been unable to think of a movie that showed a positive example of how a post-peak world could be. We could think of plenty of Matrix-style nightmare scenarios, but nothing that looked at how a low-energy future could be in such a way as it might be both achievable and desirable. I was delighted therefore to read **Albert Bates**’ article, which he has kindly given permission for me to reproduce below. I finally got to see the film in question the other day, and concur with Albert’s take on it, as well as thinking what a great film it was… .*

**The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a Post-Apocalyptic Utopia – by Albert Bates**

Its not easy putting together a vision of the world after petroleum. When Jimmy Carter did, 3 months into his too-short hire as President of the United States, it looked a bit too much like the world during petroleum.

Carter’s historic speech began with dire predictions if we failed to make 1977 our turnaround year:

wg2*”If we do not act, then by 1985 we will be using 33 percent more energy than we do today. [In 2005 the USA will use nearly 100 quads, up 35% from 1977.] We can’t substantially increase our domestic production, so we would need to import twice as much oil as we do now. [In 1977 the USA imported 35%, today it imports 56%.] Supplies will be uncertain. The cost will keep going up. Six years ago, we paid $3.7 billion for imported oil. Last year we spent $37 — nearly ten times as much—and this year we may spend over $45 billion. [In 2005 the USA will spend approx. $90 billion.]
Unless we act, we will spend more than $550 billion for imported oil by 1985 — more than $2,500 a year for every man, woman, and child in America. [Today it is roughly $320 per capita; $980 per person per year in 1977 dollars.] Along with that money we will continue losing American jobs and becoming increasingly vulnerable to supply interruptions.*

*We will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more offshore wells than we will need if we begin to conserve now. Inflation will soar, production will go down, people will lose their jobs. Intense competition will build up among nations and among the different regions within our own country. If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions. But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.”*

Hiking up the sleeves on his cartigan sweater, Carter then proceeded to run through a 10-point plan to cut oil imports by two-thirds, insulate 90% of US homes, and put solar panels on millions of roofs, beginning with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But he warned people that it wouldn’t be all peanuts and Billy Beer.

*”I am sure each of you will find something you don’t like about the specifics of our proposal. It will demand that we make sacrifices and changes in our lives. To some degree, the sacrifices will be painful—but so is any meaningful sacrifice. It will lead to some higher costs, and to some greater inconveniences for everyone. But the sacrifices will be gradual, realistic and necessary. Above all, they will be fair. No one will gain an unfair advantage through this plan. No one will be asked to bear an unfair burden. We will monitor the accuracy of data from the oil and natural gas companies, so that we will know their true production, supplies, reserves, and profits.*

*The citizens who insist on driving large, unnecessarily powerful cars must expect to pay more for that luxury.
We can be sure that all the special interest groups in the country will attack the part of this plan that affects them directly. They will say that sacrifice is fine, as long as other people do it, but that their sacrifice is unreasonable, or unfair, or harmful to the country. If they succeed, then the burden on the ordinary citizen, who is not organized into an interest group, would be crushing.
There should be only one test for this program: whether it will help our country.”*

—”The President’s Proposed Energy Policy.” 18 April 1977.

Carter was hinting at cultural changes, and he was definitely pissing off the Muscle Car generation and Big Steel by taxing gas-guzzlers, but fundamentally he was hoping to preserve, rather than reverse, the consumer way of life. Carter was a Green Consumer. He was rearranging deck chairs.

Carter also said, “We need to shift to plentiful coal while taking care to protect the environment, and to apply stricter safety standards to nuclear energy.

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Jan Lundberg
25 Mar 6:29pm

Albert Bates has written so well once again. I love the CO2 Hangover concept. And he really nailed Carter — given the times then, Carter can almost be forgiven for his limited vision. Yet, the usefulness of seeing the nation’s failure to act in the 1970s is today’s benefit to awareness.
I don’t know the figures, but the China paragraph didn’t mention all the coal and nuclear power plants planned there — not that they’ll necessarily be built. When China’s big customer the U.S. hits the skids, the Chinese Economic Giant may unravel too.
Jan Lundberg
organizer, DC Petrocollapse Conference

Derek Gunn
24 Apr 12:45am

We have much to thank Jimmy Carter for. Most of all his focus on the energy problems of the future which have possibly saved the planet 10 years worth of oil (from the Long Emergency – Kunstler.)

The Chinese have sensibly started investing in nuclear power (20 pebble-bed reactors) as they realise there are no alternatives with as few complications.
Recently they tested one to extremis by removing all the helium coolant; it self-reduced the reactor temperate exactly as predicted.

The contribution to climate change from China is large and rapidly growing.
Far greater use of nuclear power and renewables at the same time as reducing our CO2 output is desperately needed now.

I was very sorry to read Albert Bate’s prejudiced (very anti-nuclear) and mostly patronising review of “The Revenge of Gaia”. It’s as though he didn’t like a house because of it’s doormat.

In the above article too his nuclear prejudice prevents him telling the whole truth e.g. that Germany is using more nuclear power than ever – it’s just that they import it from France and (ironically) Russia.


Diamond Geezer
3 Nov 1:00pm

I come from a place not far from Preston, Lancashire home of Nick Park and the regional model for setting ‘… WareRabbit’. I saw the movie at the Big-Screen as soon as it came out, as I always do. Unfortunately local people will not be in a hurry to return to the standard of living so accurately depicted in this wonderful animation. The 2-up, 2-down terraced house with a tiny back garden is how people lived in Edwardian and Victorian days.

” … WareRabbit” portrays it well as an unfortunate lifestyle for people damned to be predated upon by the mysterious ghosts of the past & creatures of the night.

However, when I was young, Preston was already ‘Post Apocalyptic’ in my opinion.

But realistically, can any of us go back there, to this UTOPIA?

It’s Lancashire for Heaven’s sakes and as such is the very home to the Industrial Revolution, the necessity for the adherence to strict timekeeping and the exploitation of cheap and imported labour. I come from there. It’s a hard place that no doubt people are by force of necessity seeking to modernise.

I haven’t been back to see the cobbled streets of the old mill towns of ‘dark satanic mill’ fame according to some, but I’m sure there are plenty of SUV’s roaming the highways around there. Everyone is on the make, out for himself or herself. Selfishness remains our greatest dilemma, from there our effect upon the environment inevitably stems. ‘Change your heart, it will astound you, look around you’

Best Wishes & Kind Regards,

Diamond Geezer.