25 Feb 2006
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a Post-Apocalyptic Utopia
*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:
*”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.