robyn's blog

Friday, June 09, 2006

Andy brought up the subject of delusional disconnection in class as the illness of which peak oil is one of the many symptoms. This seems to be a very large part of it; people ignore all of the problems that they know are around but do not act. We all know that global warming is a big issue affecting our world today and even though we are enthusiastic about issues affecting the survival of humanity it seems that very few of us are actually doing anything about it. Granted we may use spray hairspray and not aerosol, or take public transport so reduce pollution (if that is the real reason) and maybe we do not consume meat or rice products that release green house gases when farming but that is not really a large effort. Very few people are actually trying to actively stop green house emotions and look at the wider picture and curb the reasons those gases are needed. Instead of changing the big problem we find replacements. It seems to me that people are not facing the problems that await them: they are not accepting nor working towards better a future.
This is a very good point that Andy brought up and I may be misunderstanding it but I do not think that it is the way things ended up like this. Ignoring them increases all of the problems that we face and not acting to fix them, however, negligence cannot have started the problem. Not thinking about something cannot cause it to happen. Instead, the problems stemmed from previous actions and instead of cutting them down from the get go, the delusional disconnection allowed them to flourish. Not considering the outcome of actions may have been started from the very beginning, for example the Easter islanders, when they first cut down a tree they probably did not consider what would happen by taking it away and killing it. Nor would they really think about the outcome if all trees were to be removed. If the had they probably would have ignored this feeling and continued sawing. This is all very good and escalated the problems to the level of actually being problems, but I think that what started the whole problem began when they thought that they could or had the right to cut down the tree and use any of the organisms around them to better themselves. This places a human’s life above all else. This kind of mentality that humans are better and entitles to all else is where I believe the source of all problems affecting us lies.
I am, well now was, taking the environmental science elective and in that class we kind of touched on different ways of living. We read this book called Cradle to Cradle, which talked about changing our practices to become “greener” and more environmentally friendly to produce less waste. At the end of the book it brought up the idea that humans should not continue in their current ways but instead look for a new niche. That is to find a better way to fit into the environment. This way they thought humans could survive. The book did not exactly argue for this point and focused on smaller scale things we could do, or replacements, but it did suggest it. I believe that this is true, that humans need to learn to better fit into the environment and not continue the mentality of take. To do this we need to get rid of the hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil way of life and accept all of the suffering we are causing the earth as a species. Maybe then a solution can be found that no longer put us at odds with the environment around us and we can give back to it as much as we take. This requires changing our attitudes completely about human superiority and the avoidance of issues and finding a new role for ourselves. If this is possible, I do not know, but for all of our sakes I hope it is.


Woo hoo the end of the year!

As I was writing the above comment that comment, “but it’s not the end of peak oil!” went through my head. I have learnt a lot in this class, as I am sure many others have but it is important to know that the problem does not end with this class. We need to continue our studies and plan for the future. I am sure a lot of will but for those who get distracted by piles of work in college, trips to Miami and so forth I think we need to also consider that there is a bigger problem and must not try to pass it over just because we are not forced into it three times a week. I doubt this will happen just because after the topic has introduced or expanded on, our lives have become all about peak oil and its implications on our lives.
I also find my words kind of hypocritical. I mean here I am typing away on my brand-new, gorgeous computer on the eve of our big Miami trip (it’s so exciting) and figuring what I need to take while saying that we must not forget that peak oil is a large looming threat. And as much as we love to say what we think and what we plan on doing in class but we are all kind of slow to take in into action. If anything, we are going against what we said we would do and are not curbing our use of oil but buying into the whole oil economy. If this is a good thing or not I am not sure.
No matter what happens I am really glad that I took this class. It was very informative about things that will actually happen soon in our life time as opposed to past events (history is still incredibly interesting and can help us predict the future, and that is often the argument given for teaching it, but we are never really taught the skills of how to apply it as we were in this class.) And I know this sounds corny, but the feed back from classmates and blogs made sure that we all knew what each other was thinking and we could grow from that more than we did individually. I found doing the entries to be quite annoying but reading what others said was very insightful and I think helped me to grasp the situation a lot better. I guess it is kind of the bandwagon technique. The concept that our lives will change is quite frightening but knowing that others are feeling the same way and are also having trouble coming to grips with the issue while they accepted it, really helped me to realize and understand that peak oil will change our lives and not try to avoid it.
Another aspect of the course I really enjoyed were the books that Professor Schnider suggested. I particularly like Ishmael. However, they were all books that I would not have ordinarily picked up and thus were eye opening. Also, all of them were useful and had a very important point, which is a refreshing change from other classes when I have been left with the feeling, “Why did I read this?” They presented new ideas and were all different enough that nothing seemed to be really repetitive.
Finally, the conference that I went to was really amazing. I think it was one of the key points in my understanding of peak oil. Not just the concepts, but actually accepting the idea and that the changes that we are facing are very real and unavoidable. There were many different speakers all who had slightly different approaches, such as Kunstler and Jan Lundburg who started with a song and others who presented ideas about solutions to the energy crisis such as water turbines. A few even spoke of their own efforts in growing their own food. It really opened my eyes and made the problem real to me. I am very interested in attending more conferences like that one because just the people who speak have such an abundance of knowledge about all different fields that most likely will be useful to us in the future. For all of those who did not attend that one or any one for that matter, you missed out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Greater Problem

As discussed in class there seem to be many issues affecting society today from global warming to peak oil to even our culture’s mind-set of smash and grab. These, of course, are all connected. One popular idea amongst all of this is that the world revolves around humans and that humans can shape the world in which they live. This was brought up in Ishmael, a great book that I would recommend to all, and it seems like the source of this thinking began when humans started agricultural practices to store food. This seems like an ideal time for humans to start thinking that they were better than all other species because they could survive times when food was hard to come by and other animals could not. I think it also has to do that they could shape their own fate as mentioned above. This seems like a benefit to their lives but it is also a point where they defy the laws of ecology. I think from here people could live by their own rules (to a degree) and shape their own future and this spread into the world as we face it today. Also the whole agriculture revolution was supposed to make life easier and more convenient, how they did this I do not know. The quest for convenience also led to industrialization, which led to the multitude of other problems.
Religion, as mentioned in class, gave the feeling of entitlement. I think that this feeling stemmed from humans watching other societies not be able to survive while they could. Religion seems like an explanation to why humans should be entitled and better off than all other species and to further develop that sense of entitlement.
I do not know how this problem can be solved. If the problems lie deep in a mindset created millenniums ago how can we change it completely? I am sure some people could curb it to a degree but the feeling of speciesism could never really be lost because it seems like a thing that is carried down through the generations.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Strategies on Peak Oil Awareness Spreading (but not with a knife)

I attempted to get my family to do something about this whole peak oil crisis that we have been discussing in class by using a life connection. I began discussing it around the dinner table and attempted to use various opening from our conversation. My sister is training to become a lifeguard for the summer and was talking about how she was learning to deal with certain medial problems (something that I consider to be helpful after oil production peaks) and complimented on her for learning the skill and then mentioned how useful it would be after oil peaks.
I then had some trouble smoothly converting the conversation to peak oil. As soon as I first mentioned it my mother was quick to dismiss it and change the subject to something else. I then tried again but a lot less subtly and asked them what they were planning to do after oil peaks and the resource we rely so heavily on is depleted. (I think my family basically understands that oil is finite and we are running out so I did not really need to go over that.) I also tried to have the conversation a conversation and not be telling them so much what was going to happen but ask how they were preparing. This worked to a degree. My family has a rough plan (I guess) but I am not sure if it will work and we talked about that for a while. It seems that they have considered oil for transportation, heating and even food to a degree. These were all “solved” by moving to Australia (though getting there was not really considered because flying will become ridiculously expensive before it became impossible. My family did contemplate this and for a moment my mother looked concerned about when we need to go back). There we used to grow some vegetables, we had chickens (for eggs) and also grew fruit trees. My sister did not take the conversation seriously at all and after suggesting that we could survive pointed out that the “citric acid would burn our tummies” jokingly. This is a valid point; we may be able to grow some food but probably not enough to get a balanced diet. Not to mention that getting enough water to water them may be impossible if oil peaks (I had not thought of that. Damn!) Transport would be solved by walking and bicycle riding (we could learn to make wooden bicycles, a suggestion my sister made showing that she still did not take this seriously.)
My family had the approach that it will happen and there was nothing they were going to do about it. My mother made the comment that if something was going to happen why not just accept it and help it happen with the analogy of fuel. “If it’s going to run out, why stop using it if it's still going to happen?” This is an interesting point that I am sure more people agree upon. It seems like a lazy attitude and I do not know how to change their minds until after the peak oil crisis occurs.
When the topic was first mentioned everyone kind of rolled their eyes and did not want to think about it. To a degree I think they all kind of felt the same thing as my mother, that it would happen and we had somewhere else so go where things would be better. Perhaps when using this method the group needs to be smaller so that people can be addressed one on one so it relates to all of their lives. Like mentioned in class people generally agree with the majority so maybe if I spoke to my family members individually it may have been more effective because they would not have had each other to roll their eyes along side of each other. It was also difficult talking to them and showing that perhaps what they were expecting to happen would not actually happen (kind of proving them wrong) because they were my parents. I did not want to undermine them and it felt weird teaching them after they always had the control and taught me things.
As I mentioned above my sister could not take it seriously. She is not much younger than me so I cannot blame it on age. Perhaps it was more of a safety mechanism. She did not want to consider the situation and so avoided it by cracking jokes at it. I think she appreciated it that it was related to her life but it was not a string enough connection for her to really appreciate the extent of the situation. Her reaction also showed that people need to be willing to know about peak oil and want to do something about it to actually do something about it. The reaction of our class was different probably because we all wanted to be there where as at home when it was kind of thrown on her, my sister did not want to consider peak oil and how it will affect our lives unless it is really thrust upon them.
My attempt to get my family to really consider what would happen when oil production peaked was not really successful. They already had a plan to a degree, which is definitely a good thing, but it was not well thought through. There was a lot of hesitation to understanding the severity of the situation but I hope to try again perhaps one on one in a slightly more serious setting.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My Peak Oil Awareness Experiment

I was talking with my mother on Saturday when I was struck by how little she cared about the peaking of oil production. We were discussing my summer plans, which involve flying, and traveling perhaps even to Australia and she mentioned postponing them until after college. I did not really like this idea and mentioned that flying then may not be possible if oil peaks and there is no fuel to run the huge jets economically. I may have been exaggerating the point but her response was that would never happen. Basically she believes that her way of life will remain even though she knows that oil in a finite resource.
This situation sparked me to consider that maybe awareness alone is not the only obstacle to getting people to change their way of life and seriously consider the oil peak. I decided that would ask the people in my family (initially, but this could spread to random people I find on the street or school) how much they know about peak oil and then compare their reactions to before and after they are enlightened. I can ask them to read several of the readings that we have covered in class including the most recent one by Kunstler. By presenting to them the concept of peak oil in a way that shows how it directly impacts their lives I think that I may get a slightly different reaction. Though it is difficult to grasp the idea that everything that we know will change and possible end in many deaths, I think it is important for people to actually understand what is going to happen.
I will then record the results of how they see peak oil affecting their lives and if they have any intentions on changing their life and post them online. I am very interested to see if others conduct the same experiment or a similar experiment and see what the results are. I wonder is younger people are more enthusiastic, like our class, because we have not been living as long and so have not been exposed to the same customs as long as our parents or grandparents and are therefore more likely to change and adapt. I could be totally wrong but it would be interesting to find out. Also if awareness is enough to spark action then obviously awareness should be spread but if something more is needed then those techniques need to be adopted.


The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

Though there are many interesting points brought up in this article the main idea was not extraordinarily new. That peak oil will drastically affect our lives I think has become common knowledge to our class. There is still a reason for reading these articles, aside from the new ideas it suggests, the article forces us to really consider and at least not forget the coming of an oil peak and why it is happening. Honestly, over the weekend with Prom and all I did not think about peak oil for at least two of those days, at least not deeply anyway. I avoided the subject because it is not an easy one to consider because as Kunstler points out it will change everything about our lives. These changes are scary and mind-blowing especially since most practical scenarios involve the death of many people from things that are often prevented in our society and so avoiding the topic of thought means that I do not have to come to grips with this reality. Obviously this is not a productive method of dealing with the changes peak oil will cause. Rereading this article brought my attention back to the coming doom (change this big is often portrayed as bad but it could also be a good thing) and made me consider what actions we need to take. If more people are aware of the peak oil issue then they maybe inclined to do something about it.
Here are the main ideas that really struck me. Alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are not completely alternative fuel sources; they require oil to make the parts needed. After the oil peaks and oil is not as readily available, as it is today, making these parts will be even more costly and difficult to make. This means that soon after the peak if not before all energy sources need to be made. Obviously today not enough parts are manufactured to support the population at present. So many people believe that alternatives that do not involve fossil fuels will support us years to come but for that to happen they need to be made now in the quantities that will be able to support at least some of our needs. However, if we are trying to lower the amount of oil we use, oil consumption in another area such as transport will need to lower to allow for a significant rise in oil use to make alternative energy sources. Also if we are to use other energy sources such as nuclear we need to get out acts together as well or they will not be ready to survive the peak oil crisis.
The government now seems like it needs to build many things from wind turbines to railway lines. What is stopping it? To survive we need positive action that is productive and not action that leaves us meddling in other country’s affairs. If the USA can do this what else can it do that is also unethical? Obviously something will have to be done but if the government and people (they are very important in this as well) ignore the problem then they will not set themselves up for later and be forced to carry out alternative processes.
Something that was talked about in class was the idea of concentration camps in the USA to house many people who have been affected by a disaster. I considered this point after reading that the Nazis had slaves create synthetic oil out of coal. If the USA became that desperate to continue their standard of living (well a few powerful rich people) and there had been a disaster that put people into concentration camps what would stop them from demanding that the people being housed earn then keep by turning the coal into oil? This is probably unlikely considering that the effects of coal and its pollution are fairly well understood and people would probably not profit that much off of such actions, but this is a possibility. It also forces me to consider if people will be taken advantage of if they are unable to prosper in their former homes and need to move into other people’s locations if this is even possible with food shortages. Not to mention who will have the power? Will the government, farmers or rich have it? Things will change but with some preparations maybe the changes will be more gradual and not so deadly.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Revision of Five Point Plan

1. Acknowledge the problem of peak oil and spread awareness to the public in a way that it is truthful but will not make the hysterical.
2. Remove all government officials with ties to oil production to remove any conflicts of interest.
3. Develop a system like the Ithaca system of money.
4. Force people to eat foods they produce. This can be done by growing at least 3-20 percent of household’s food on the roof or garden of the building and by stopping the manufacture of processed food.
5. Stop all funding, aid and conflicts internationally.

The first point is so the public is actually aware of the problem that we are all facing. Currently even though Bush has been briefed many times on peak oil he has not shared the information with the people. If the people do not know about it then they will not act about the looming peak oil disaster. Also without the people’s support and understanding the following policies will not work.

The second point was one brought up by Katrina’s group which I thought was very good. This would also help the government-spread awareness because the oil companies can no longer prevent them (either directly or indirectly) from telling the public about the threat of peak oil. It would also free up the government to make more alternative choices and not be so focused on oil alone.

The third point is to help people all become equals and to help remove some social classes. By doing this people may be inclined to help each other more and thus after the oil peaks start more community action. It could take more power away from the government and prevent them from having enough money to employ people and teach people various skills that they will need in the future. But this can be prevented if a lot of tax is taken.

The fourth point is in preparation for the stop of transported food and more localized food production. It will allow people to learn how to grow and prepare their own foods and not let other factories do it for them.

The fifth point still remains that the USA needs to become focused on its home front and not focus on other nations. By preventing death in other countries by giving them food and medicine, the USA is only helping them reproduce and have more mouths to feed. I know this is harsh but no country will be able to be self-sufficient after peak oil and importing and exporting goods will not necessarily be practical. To prepare the USA should help its own citizens learn better farming techniques that do not involve oil and do not produce a surplus.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Government Responses

There were a couple of issues with some ideas that both groups generated. One of the problems or my misunderstandings was the proposal for relocating people. I think that this may work to an extent but isn’t the USA population too great for all of these people to survive on the land that we have? The government could “relocate” people to permanent homes where they would no longer need resources but for the current population it seems that there is not enough land that people could live off of. The example of California was brought up and how they currently import water. If oil peaks and that water can no longer brought to them, that land is not suitable for humans and those people will also need to find homes. This means that the amount of people in search of new homes will exceed the amount of land available to them and so relocation may not necessarily be the best option in all cases.
Another concern I have about the solutions reached by the desirable group is that the switch to the desirable actions requires accepting a policy of isolation and that probable requires going into debt. If the USA pulls itself out of foreign affairs around the world and thus decreases the size of its army into nonexistence, it would be an easy time for other countries to demand that the USA pays off their debts to them. The government would then lose a huge amount of money and thus would have less money to spend on keeping the country in order with its various programs. Also, it is often said that many technological developments are arise in the defense department therefore if this department is closed down then the technological developments may become stagnant. This could be not be a bad thing but on the other hand, research into alternative fuels could possibly decrease (if the defense department has anything to do with them today.)
One of the larger problems I had was that I was wondering if the Federal Government would be able to stay in charge of the entire country. We have gotten so used to national communication and the government can have many different offices to maintain control. If the oil peaks and communications are lost, how will the government be able to stay in control of such a huge country? When I mentioned this is class I was hit by the counter arguments that the government remained in control before electricity and when the fastest way to communicate with each other was by express horse. These are genuine arguments but there is something I would like to add. If people panic will they be able to sit tight while they wait for the Federal Government to save them or will they try to act and have a different leader? Making the switch could also be challenging and any struggle could be seen as a sign of weakness which could lead to the collapse of the whole USA. However, the lack of communication may help the government stay in control as they can tell a group of people one thing and tell another something else and neither groups would be the wiser. It also allows them to not have to explain their actions if a group of people needs to be exterminated or treated poorly.
This may all seem rather negative but there were many points that I appreciated. One of these was the counter productive action in the desirable response, was to continue with capitalization of goods in local communities. The USA public in general has adapted to living in a capitalized community and it would be challenging for them to change. The likely responses group mentioned that class systems were likely remain. Both of these seem true (at least for the beginning) because community spirit and interconnectedness is still not often practiced extensively today. Some people may, but mostly not to provide all of the communities needs. Changes will have to be made but I believe it is wise to expect some stubbornness to accept these changes.

Government Responses

There were a couple of issues with some ideas that both groups generated. One of the problems or my misunderstandings was the proposal for relocating people. I think that this may work to an extent but isn’t the USA population too great for all of these people to survive on the land that we have? The government could “relocate” people to permanent homes where they would no longer need resources but for the current population it seems that there is not enough land that people could live off of. The example of California was brought up and how they currently import water. If oil peaks and that water can no longer brought to them, that land is not suitable for humans and those people will also need to find homes. This means that the amount of people in search of new homes will exceed the amount of land available to them and so relocation may not necessarily be the best option in all cases.
Another concern I have about the solutions reached by the desirable group is that the switch to the desirable actions requires accepting a policy of isolation and that probable requires going into debt. If the USA pulls itself out of foreign affairs around the world and thus decreases the size of its army into nonexistence, it would be an easy time for other countries to demand that the USA pays off their debts to them. The government would then lose a huge amount of money and thus would have less money to spend on keeping the country in order with its various programs. Also, it is often said that many technological developments are arise in the defense department therefore if this department is closed down then the technological developments may become stagnant. This could be not be a bad thing but on the other hand, research into alternative fuels could possibly decrease (if the defense department has anything to do with them today.)
One of the larger problems I had was that I was wondering if the Federal Government would be able to stay in charge of the entire country. We have gotten so used to national communication and the government can have many different offices to maintain control. If the oil peaks and communications are lost, how will the government be able to stay in control of such a huge country? When I mentioned this is class I was hit by the counter arguments that the government remained in control before electricity and when the fastest way to communicate with each other was by express horse. These are genuine arguments but there is something I would like to add. If people panic will they be able to sit tight while they wait for the Federal Government to save them or will they try to act and have a different leader? Making the switch could also be challenging and any struggle could be seen as a sign of weakness which could lead to the collapse of the whole USA. However, the lack of communication may help the government stay in control as they can tell a group of people one thing and tell another something else and neither groups would be the wiser. It also allows them to not have to explain their actions if a group of people needs to be exterminated or treated poorly.
This may all seem rather negative but there were many points that I appreciated. One of these was the counter productive action in the desirable response, was to continue with capitalization of goods in local communities. The USA public in general has adapted to living in a capitalized community and it would be challenging for them to change. The likely responses group mentioned that class systems were likely remain. Both of these seem true (at least for the beginning) because community spirit and interconnectedness is still not often practiced extensively today. Some people may, but mostly not to provide all of the communities needs. Changes will have to be made but I believe it is wise to expect some stubbornness to accept these changes.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cuba: The Special Period

This movie was extremely upbeat. I do wonder if things were so positive or if the makers passed over any opposition or hostilities the Cubans faced to encourage more people to change their communities in the same way. Or perhaps, if people need to work together to survive maybe they are capable of it without many problems. I am not sure if it just me, but it seems that our society is based upon the individual and their own striving. In situations it is accepted that people can hold you back and that you are more productive when you work on your own. This is not always the case but for a community to really come together and work together to become self-sufficient they need to overcome this thought. Cubans may have been more able to do this because of their economic structure and thus not being broken up into many different classes, which often promote animosity between different levels.
In Cuba the government allowed people to buy/own their own land and farm it. This works there when it previously did not belong to anyone. I am not sure if this would be able to happen in the USA. After an oil peak, land will be a precious commodity and being a capitalistic market, will probably be sold off for the highest price. This would mean that only the rich could afford the land. Another thing to consider is that if cities were able to produce a lot of their own food the farmers would initially begin to lose a lot of money. They would have huge transportation expenses and less people to see to. They would then have to switch to farming multiple crops to feed themselves with a diverse diet. Eventually they may sell off the excess land as mentioned above.
One of the difficulties that the USA will have becoming less reliant on oil and more on the community at hand is that it has the culture of buying things. That how could something run out if we buy it? This seems reasonable. That the USA is so commercialized it does not understand the processes of getting a finished product in front of them. I am not even sure if I have ever seen something that I could wear or eat that did not come from a factory or involve tools made from machines. I first considered the sweaters my grandmother used to knit me but that wool came from a shop and previously went through a chemical process to color and comb it. I also thought about the food I used to make from my vegetable garden but even then the soil had been enriched with manure and fertilizers brought in from far away places. Currently it seems we, people from New York and Australia do not have to mind set to necessarily survive the peak and adapt to a new way of life. Of course there will be exceptions and they will most likely be the ones who survive.
Finally in New York City alone I am not sure that we would be able to grow our own food. When talking about the redesign of the green roof one of the ideas that came up was growing vegetables. We were told that to do this we would need special systems to keep pollutants from the soil out. The quality of soil and air in this area is so poor (though not as bad as in other places) that growing things in it could be dangerous and harmful to out health.
This has mainly been a negative blog about how Cuba’s efforts would not work in the USA. I certainly hope that something similar does happen here and there has been some proof of that with local green markets and such. However, a much bigger effort needs to occur for anything to really happen. Maybe when people fear their lives they will make more of an effort, but as their (a lot of ignorant people who make up the majority of this country and perhaps even world) mindsets are not ready to accept the change, this does not seem like it will happen yet. I wonder is Cuba is still living in the same way today or if more oil became available they changed their lifestyles? From the movie, it certainly seems like a nice way to live.