Here We Are At the Edge of the Energy Cliff

 WileyCoyoteCliff Edge

Here we are at the energy cliff, approaching the time we warned everyone about.  Wiley coyote is over the edge, legs wheeling in the air.

In California it’s warm and sunny, home prices are going up, Silicon Valley is booming again. Almost impossible to believe it won’t continue this way!  Not even after having studied this more than the average person.

I don’t dare talk about peak oil and resource depletion in my social circles.  At this point I’m told point blank no one wants to venture into my dark world, and I think some are hoping I’ll apologize about being wrong now that fracking has brought us energy independence (NOT).

What’s coming is so much bigger than any tragedy in history, than any war, epidemic — a 6th extinction event that may nail us as well.

So you could consider peak fossil fuels a blessing, a chance at not going extinct, since the remaining fossil fuels that are left are hard to get at, often stranded, and will take so much time and energy to extract that society will have to stop growing and start to contract, bringing on wars and social unrest, preventing us from getting every last bit of what’s left.

I often wonder how many people are watching ecological collapse approach.  A wild guess, given the membership at of 33000, America2point0 550, energyresources 2700, runningonempty2 7400, and another 60,000 in theoildrum, ASPO, transition towns, universities, non-english speaking forums I don’t know about, and local peak oil forums, minus a large overlap in membership, and further subtracting a third of the people on these forums who don’t get that solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels and so on won’t save us from a liquid fuels crisis, gives me a rough guess of about 50,000 actively watching the cliff approach.

Since Hubbert’s curve isn’t a symmetric bell curve, but rather a cliff because of net energy loss, is there any town, ranch, or farm in the world that won’t feel the repercussions?

Since the collapse will be seen as a financial crash by most people, and blamed on the government, Wall Street, and corporations – not carrying capacity hitting the wall of oil and resource depletion — it would be a shame if no one understood what really happened.

So with the coming collapse in mind I try to travel and see friends and family more often.  What my friends consider my “dark place” has its virtues. I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am to live at the peak of human civilization, to be closer to a Goddess than a Queen flying 40,000 feet above the earth in an airplane, zooming at 80 miles and hour through Utah salt flats with thousands of energy slaves at my service (Buckminster Fuller).

When I volunteer to take 4th and 5th graders on hikes at a nature preserve, I start by asking them to open their eyes and try to see everything, cup their hands around their ears to hear every sound better, to smell the aromas of flowers and the scents of the damp earth, to let all sensations flow in.  I give them hardware store paint samples with many colors of green and ask them to match one of these colors exactly with a leaf so they notice how many shades of green there are, which leads them to notice the textures and shapes of leaves as well.

The bright side of Post Carbon is not such a dark place, I expect that many of us share a more vivid appreciation of the beauty around us, the freedom to travel where we please, can even be more patient in traffic jams knowing we might be nostalgic about them ten years from now.

Perhaps our role is to be among the few witnesses who weren’t fooled by Business As Usual, and watched the approaching tsunami with eyes wide open.

Alice Friedemann

WileyCoyoteCliff Falling

Buckminster Fuller: “Energy slave unit = average output of a man doing 150,000 foot-pounds of work per day, 250 days per year. In low-energy societies, non-human energy slaves are horses, oxen, windmills, riverboats. Now, the average American has more than 8,000 energy-slaves at his or her disposal, and these slaves can work under extreme conditions: no sleep, 5,000° F, at 400,000 pounds per square inch pressure, etc”



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One Response to Here We Are At the Edge of the Energy Cliff

  1. Mark N says:

    I found your blog via your comment on The Oil Drum. I could not agree more with your analysis. I was initially surprised to see how many people on the Oil Drum feel that electric cars or conservation of oil will mean a stable future.

    I just do not think they understand the natural aging process of civilizations due to entropy as well as the fact that civilizations draw on natural resources like a virus. Civilizations that are out of balance with nature are naturally unstable; add in the massive overshoot from fossil fuel use and it is clear there is no chance for industrial civilization. Human ingenuity has just replaced “the gods” and economist the “high priest” of ancient civilizations.

    I agree that these are amazing times to be alive in. I just hope collapse comes sooner rather than later; everyday more of our mother nature is sacrificed in a pointless exercise in hubris. The end of the oil age will be dirty, violent and highly destructive. The low hanging fruit is gone and now industrial society endeavors to hack down the tree.

    The economic and financial systems are running on fumes and inertia. The plateau of crude oil has destroyed the growth based system needed for industrial civilization. Endless easing from the central banks is the new reality. Just wait until crude oil begins to decline; the whole thing will go up in flames.

    I like the Titanic metaphor best as it reflects the appropriate level of hubris. Water is pouring in yet the band plays on. The fact that the lights flickered and the ship listed (2008 crisis) seems only to prove that the ship will not sink to the few passengers who noticed. I meanwhile am moving to the lifeboats while no one is watching.

    By lifeboat I mean the most remote wilderness area one can find. I am spending the rest of the stable days left trying to learn skills of hunter gathers. Even if it is in vain the connection to the earth is the best thing I have found. Glad to have found your blog; I will be reading regularly.