[permaculture] Toby- Re. "Apocalypse Not" - How do you see it presently?

SArjuna at aol.com SArjuna at aol.com
Thu Nov 15 12:20:31 EST 2007

Dear Toby,

     A discussion group has spun off of a larger group on sustainability in 
SE Wisconsin (sustainable_se_wisconsin at yahoogroups.com).   We are presently 
discussing the decline of oil production, and your controversial piece 
"Apocalypse Not" is on our reading list.

     It's been a couple of years since you wrote that article, and it'd 
further our discussion to hear how your point of view is evolving, if you will 
kindly share a bit about that. 

     I have listed below the five points that you saw as false, followed by 
comments of my own in italics, as it seems that events between early 2006 and 
now have not supported the thesis that these points are false. 

1. Our demand for oil is unchangeable and is not significantly affected by 
price.  [It hasn't been so far, even though the price has climbed steeply.   The 
poorest countries, however, are already suffering plenty, as they can no 
longer afford the energy needed to support their infrastructures.]

2. We are so badly addicted to oil that we will watch our civilization 
collapse rather than change our behavior.  [Certainly no good news yet.    If the 
U.S. Dept. of Enrgy report that said we'd need a decade of flat-out nationwide 
effort before peak, "or the problem will be pervasive and will not be 
temporary" is accurate, we are in for it.]

3. Significant oil conservation is not possible in the time frame needed.  
[We haven't even begun to conserve.]

4. Even with conservation, demand will be more than oil plus alternatives can 
possibly meet.   ["Dampening" of demand occuring in poor nations   is the 
only factor lowering demand so far.    Alternatives have not added anything 
significant yet, but have threatened world food supplies.   Production has been 
flat since about the time you wrote the article.   Conservation is still just a 
gleam in the eye of idealists.   Only demand has increased significantly.

5. Society is so fragile that it cannot withstand large shocks.
[Previous complex societies have collapsed under multiple stresses, as 
outlined in   Tainter's book, The Collapse of Complex Societies.     With peak oil, 
global climate change, an economy running on fumes.... our society is facing 
more large stresses than others that succumbed to fewer. No complex society has 
lasted long, due to the fragility caused by complexity.   And no society has 
been as complex as ours.]

     As more time passes, with nothing constructive being done, it gets 
harder and harder to see a positive outcome.    

     How does it look to you now?

     Thanks for your thoughts.

     Shivani Arjuna
     Belgium, WI, USA

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