Thursday, October 2, 2008

Obama can help, but survival is up to us. FOOD NOT LAWNS.

After Obama gets elected, millions will blame him for the disastrous aftermath of Peak Oil. The Right will hallucinate the reincarnation of the Carter administration. President Carter’s name and image will be brought back into the media -- perhaps when Jesus takes him home (until then, as we say chez nous parmi le Yiddishkeit, President Carter should live and be well). In the niche media of the intelligentsia, like Harper’s and the New Yorker, Carter will be lionized and rehabilitated because as his 1977 energy speech makes unmistakably clear -- especially when read with the Hirsch report open on the desk -- he offered us a last chance to avoid exactly what we will be experiencing from 2009 to 2013 (i.e., Obama's term). In the larger media, however, Carter will be held up as a cautionary tale about how not to govern, since "on his watch" oil prices were high (for some forgotten reason -- Fox might as well attribute it all to Carter's/Obama's personal character) -- and because Carter tried to get the people to live differently and they mocked and rejected him (a bit like his hero from Nazareth). Hence, Obama had better not ask people to live differently. Any politician who fails to learn "the lesson of the Carter presidency" is simply a naif who didn't realize that you get more votes if you simply tell everyone it's morning in America while the planet dies.

It's like Kunstler's anecdote about the SUV with the "War Is Not the Answer" bumper sticker. Kunstler says yeah, war is the answer: so long as you keep insisting on driving that thing, somebody has to go kill and die for the gasoline to run it. That anecdote sticks a pin in the propaganda balloons of both the major parties ("drill, baby, drill" + Iraq is not about oil).

Whether we stop the war in Iraq tomorrow or in 2022 A.D., we'd better be prepared to grow food instead of lawns; meet and get along with our neighbors; get a local job even if it pays less; and drive less or not at all. Kunstler's bumper sticker story never did go viral, though I wished it would.


To me, the three key messages people need to hear and re-speak are:

1. Nothing -- no combination new of fuels, technologies, wars, drilling sprees, anything but miracles -- will allow us to keep running all the cars.

2. Go grow some vegetables.  Like a Hummer, a lawn is both anti-social and self-defeating. What a Hummer once meant was, "I am wealthy"; it now means, "I am either oblivious to what is happening all around me, or I am both self-destructive and contemptuous of other people's lives." A green grassy lawn once meant, "I am helping, rather than refusing, to use my square of dirt for the beautification of the community; in this, I am like you, my neighbors." It will soon mean, "I am wasting my chance to take some modicum of responsibility for my own food security."

3. All but a few core sectors of the contracting economy will be subject to contraction --- due to post-peak energy scarcity; climate change; and eventually, the end of the dollar (due, in turn, to Fed policy; the scarcity-driven dwindling of commercial activity; breakdown of the debt-based speculative finance economy that replaced U.S. manufacturing; and the end of the international petrodollar as a result of both geopolitics and Saudi depletion).

Mark Robinowitz , who created the square graphic above -- and built a smashingly good website on it, called -- suggested a fourth: "Renewable energy could only fuel a steady state economy. Growth is ending."

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