21 May 2008
It’s Not That Bad, Is It? The Changing Role of the Peak Oil-Aware
I enjoyed Sharon Astyk’s recent piece about energy descent “Our Tails Get in the Way”, and its use of Winnie the Pooh as a metaphor. I am similarly reading Winnie the Pooh to my youngest at the moment, and rediscovering what wonderfully written books they are. As I read last night, I found a bit that illustrated something I have been musing on over the past couple of days. Pooh and Piglet are out walking one a very windy day….
“Supposing a tree fell down Pooh, when we were standing underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.
This quote resonated with me after watching James Howard Kunstler on Glenn Beck’s show on CNN. It was also something I was thinking about after Monday’s You and Yours show and a couple of talks I have given recently. Kunstler has always, as far as media appearances go, been the bearer of bad tidings, the Writing on the Wall, taking the role of persistently breaking the bad news about peak oil and the end of affluence to a population that really doesn’t want to hear.
Things are moving so fast at the moment as we stand on the cusp of $130 a barrel oil and the impacts are starting to bite on everyday lives, and it feels to me like our roles are changing. In the CNN clip, it is actually the presenter who is in peak oil panic mode, and Kunstler finds himself more in the role of “whao, slow down, deep breaths now…”. The presenter has clearly either just had, or is having live on air, his End of Suburbia moment, his peak oil revelation, and is turning to Kunstler for some support.
It left me wondering, as did the You and Yours programme, about how those of us who have already undergone our peak oil moments, who have sat in the dark place already, and who have re-emerged with our daily lives underpinned by an awareness of the great impermanence of our industrial surroundings, are finding our roles changing as the rest of our friends and neighbours catch us up.
I find that with more and more people my role changes from saying “do you know what, this is really, really serious”, to saying “well yes, given that it is really serious, don’t panic, let’s explore this…” Clearly there are times when a peak oil fire and brimstone talk is appropriate, but I am finding more and more as I travel and give talks that audiences are catching up very fast and need clarification and the placing of their work in the context of the emerging responses, of which Transition is one. No-one seems to have mentioned this to Bob Hirsch though…
PS. Scintillatingspeck (presumbly not the name on his/her passport) has just written a really good response to this post here.