Sunday, August 2, 2009

Intl. Energy Assn. chief economist: Oil peaks within 10 years

Hindenburg DisasterThe zeppelin is our economy. The photo is of our economy reacting once the implications of ever-scarcer oil supplies at ever-higher prices sink in and make the recent credit collapse look like a Sunday picnic. Image by via Flickr

Given the incendiary nature of the warning -- essentially an announcement that all global economic growth ends when its key ingredient starts becoming more and more scarce -- you can't fault him too much for trying to get in via sleight of hand of saying that it was still a future event foretold (rather than a recent event becoming more evident every day). We can expect all similarly situated experts to continuously sound the warning about the "impending" problem right up to the instant that they start saying that, "Wups, it appears we peaked a few years ago." At which point our economic bubble doesn't just burst -- it acts as if it was a Hindenberg-sized bubble of hydrogen all along.

This is going to have an effect on Salem (and everyplace else in the developed -- read, oil-addicted -- world) that is impossible to overstate. For starts, since all human activity starts with food, it means that distant food is going to quickly become an unaffordable luxury for most of us . . . a distant memory as it were. It also means that we have only a few years to invest real money and, even more important, a lot of time in learning to do agriculture without abundant fossil fuels, and to build soil health as much as possible wherever we are, because that is the true foundation of our economy.

It's time for us to act with dispatch and purpose, because it will be much harder to act when the economy is collapsing around our ears. Dmitry Orlov's prescient book "Reinventing Collapse" has much to offer here, based on the example of the collapse Soviet Union. We need to start preparing ourselves for having the props drop out from under what we think of as "the way things are." That phrase needs to be excised from our minds -- because "the way things are" is going to be undergoing a tremendous upheaval in the next decade.

One thing we very much need is to start reducing the resources that we're squandering on the military and start redirecting them towards enhancing our capability to feed ourselves using minimal or no fossil fuel inputs.

I propose that Oregon start by establishing an OATC (Oregon Agricultural Transition Corps) program along the lines of the Pentagon's ROTC programs: full ride scholarships + books + monthly stipend + summer internships to students who would major in low-input agriculture, horticulture, and animal husbandry and commit to serving some time (one year for each year in the program, for example) working in county extension offices supporting local farmers and gardeners throughout Oregon. Think of this as Master Gardeners on steroids, or "education as if eating mattered." Because we need a whole lot more people to be a lot more intimately involved with their food once we can no longer make up for our ignorance and disconnection from our land with fossil fuels.
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