Risk Creep + Peak Oil = Big Trouble

Following on from Dr Bartlett’s seminal documentary, here’s another video report that should be mandatory viewing. Hell, this should be being shown on every TV channel every hour on the hour, so that even terminal couch potatoes get the message.

But then… we don’t want to do anything rash, something that might risk starting a panic, do we, Powers That Be?… or should that be ‘Powers That Quite Possibly Won’t Be For Very Much Longer’?

Ah, yes, risk. One message that I felt was slightly lost in this report was the impact of risk creep. The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster has brought to the fore the reality of the risks that are now being taken by the oil industry (not to mention the politicians in its pockets) as it struggles to maintain the fiction that peak oil isn’t already upon us.

How urgent is this? According to Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA):

“It would have been better if governments had started to work on this at least ten years ago.”

The phrase ‘between a rock and a hard place’ doesn’t even scratch the surface of the dilemma currently faced (or, rather, not being faced) by our civilisation. The horns are:

  • ‘business as usual’ — which, actually, isn’t business ‘as usual’ at all because business is actually a damn sight riskier these days — and those making the decisions on our behalf have lost sight of this reality.
  • admit there’s a problem — immediately put society on what would effectively be a war footing, complete with rationing, shortages, assorted freedom restrictions (oh, won’t the libertarians just love that idea?), miscellaneous assorted hardships…

The term ‘risk creep’ could well be reused as a derogatory reference to describe those who have placed all of us in this situation by their lunatic insistence that there’s no need to worry. Here, have a huge vote of thanks to complement your massively inequitable paypackets. Why not?

Welcome to Eaarth, humans.

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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10 Responses to Risk Creep + Peak Oil = Big Trouble

  1. witsendnj says:

    I was once not long ago quite sanguine about climate change, and more generally the exploitation of resources and pollution. I thought we should do more about it, but I didn’t expect it to impact my life directly, or at least not severely – and not my children’s either.

    But when I saw that the trees are dying, that’s when I began to explore those topics and quickly came to understand that our planet and the species that live upon it are in a very precarious position that is about to collapse, and probably violently.

    I will never understand how most people can not seem to notice the trees. We should be setting up greenhouses with filtered air to preserve their genetic composition until we can clean up the earth. Trees are noble and majestic life forms and we cannot survive without them.

    • pendantry says:

      Very much the same here on the ‘once not long ago’. For instance: I was the first in my family ever to fly (at the age of fourteen) — and now I’m the first in my family to have vowed never to fly again (for carbon footprint reasons). But I only did that two years ago; before then I didn’t realise there was a problem. I was a good little consumer sheep.

      Why I’m mad is that there are those in whom I’d (we’d) put my (our) trust who DID know there was a problem, decades ago — but they decided not to tell me (us), presumably because they thought they knew best. Damn egos.

      The more I investigate, the more it looks as though it’s too late. Too late to reverse climate change. Too late to change our society to deal with Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak Everything. Too late to save ourselves. And now I learn from your blog that it may also be too late to save the trees. Which means that whereas I’ve been thinking in terms of ‘so, ok, the current iteration of human civilisation is hosed but the next one may do better’ it may instead be a case of ‘we’ve fouled the nest so badly this time that we may not survive this one.’ (When past civilisations have folded, there were always others to continue; this time the ‘island’ encompasses the entire planet; there are no ‘others’).

      I do hope it’s not as bad as that…

  2. witsendnj says:

    You’ve packed quite a bit into one brief comment!
    It’s true that once one has peered into the morass that is humanity’s impact on the rest of the ecosystem, it’s impossible to look away and pretend we aren’t destroying it. (It also tends to make invitations to the traditional neighborhood Christmas party dry up.)

    There is good news and bad news on the survival of life on earth. I personally think at the very least, homo sapiens is toast – they don’t call me the Diva of Doom for nothing! (http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/07/diva-of-doom.html) But, if I am correct that ozone is the underlying causative agent for trees to succumb to other secondary attacks from insects etc., then that will stop and eventually reverse, if we are lucky soon enough, as soon as we stop burning fuel (in other words, when modern civilization collapses due to a combination of peak oil, resource wars and famine/disease.) This is because unlike CO2, ozone persists for a relatively short period of time in the atmosphere.

    Of course there will still be huge disruptions to the balance of nature from worsening climate change due to amplifying feedbacks, and many more species will go extinct, as they already have and continue to do so. The bounty and beauty of nature as we have known it is irretrievable.

    It is also a distinct possibility that there will be nothing left but microbes if we persist in burning all the fuel and/or provoke nuclear exchanges…never mind what will happen to all the nuclear fuel and weapons in the collapse of civilizations and the rise of the oceans. James Hansen has published papers warning of the Venus outcome as a real possibility. (See Dec. 2008 lecture: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/presentations.shtml)
    The entire earth is one big Easter Island.

    As far as blame, I think is was greed, stupidity and hubris as well as ego that conspired to lull people like you and me into a false sense of security, that we could travel down this unsustainable path indefinitely. There were and still are powerful people making obscene profits off the system as it exists, and they employ other clever people to labor away full time to convince us, through the media, advertising the consumer culture, the education system, the courts and legislatures and every other aspect of modern life to consume consume consume and not pay attention to those pesky scientists and their global warming hoax and the enviros being such downers complaining about silent springs and so forth.

    So I don’t give myself too hard a time for being oblivious for so long. But now that I’m not, I feel obligated to do what I can to halt our children’s march into the most horrific of ends. And I try to keep a sense of humor along the way.

    • pendantry says:

      Agreed on all counts, even the chrimble party problem. C’est la guerre (but hopefully with as little as possible of the ‘war’ bit).

      Presumably you’re familiar with the story of stuff? (thought I’d mention just in case you weren’t).

      Good to hear that the trees may yet survive, if we pull our collective fingers out soon enough.

      Your mention of the Venus syndrome reminds me of a short story I’ve been meaning to write; lately I’ve become so good at procrastination that I even put that off.

      Diva of Doom‘, eh? Very pleased to make your acquaintance! 🙂

  3. witsendnj says:

    Ha! Yesterday I learned of the term jamais vu from another blogger, in comments at this post: http://davidhortonsblog.com/2011/05/26/all-passion-spent/

    which is going to be very useful for me and now, c’est la guerre! Perfect, thank you!

    I have had my own mental phrase which derives from the idea of cognitive dissonance to excuse behavior that is otherwise irrational, counterproductive, and of questionable morality, which is “It’s the insanity.” I use it when I go to the grocery store and in a panic buy more food than I can eat, for example.

    From now on though, I will silently note, c’est la guerre instead. Everything is always more poetic when it’s in French.

    • pendantry says:

      Cool idea. I got some groceries myself last night and tried out “c’est la guerre” in this context, and found that it worked well. Thanks for the idea!
      P.S. Actually, I found that it had a certain je ne sais quoi — only, I don’t know what it is 😉

  4. esselsold says:

    No bad :), it’s I remember, to I come in handy

    • pendantry says:

      Glad to hear that you’re happy. I’d respond more thoroughly to your full comment, but I regret that we appear to be divided by the use of a common language.

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