Friday, September 3, 2010

Oil: the coming end of an era

"Oh my gosh. Do you know what you're wearing? Did you do that on purpose?"

These were statements made by me at lunch a day ago when I looked across the table at Edmund and saw the image on his faded t-shirt. At first Edmund smiled and denied having chosen that particularly bad looking t-shirt for any reason, but he acknowledged the obvious metaphor.

It was in effect a conceptual art or performance piece, because just seeing it across the table broke a window through my consciousness. There we were eating lunch. We were eating at a time when many other people up the Eastern seaboard were also eating. The proud tractor on Ed's shirt had shrunk in the sun. The little plasticky puzzle pieces were contracting onto themselves, tearing away from the cotton and falling off. The mammoth machine at the forefront of this model farm is fading into obsolescence as oil becomes harder to extract and less available (tractors may be the last mouths we feed, but the point remains the same- oil is not forever). But hardly anyone is talking about it. The only reason we were all eating at that moment was our indebtedness to fossil fuels. Seriously. They are the founders of the feast. We grew a good portion of what we were eating that day ourselves, but even so, the garden was plowed with a diesel powered tractor and the seeds we planted were shipped to us. It is endemic. There is hardly anything I can think of that does not arguably rely on it in some way. Fossil fuels are dense with energy and have been the arbiter of this marvelous global interconnectedness we rely on. But why are we counting on a continued stream of energy like that when it is becoming increasingly apparent that it is not reliable? A report compiled by the German military reviewing the risks inherent in the face of peak oil was just leaked and posted at The Oil Drum. I am comforted that people are taking the severity of the situation to heart and preparing for that day now, but mostly I am at a loss about what I can do. I don't know a different way yet. I don't know many people who can remember one. The last century has made us helpless in a way, but it also brought us a vast amount of knowledge that will inform our decisions in the coming challenges. We'll need the help.



  1. well said Allana and the shirt metaphor is beautiful in an eerie way.

  2. Thanks Allana.

    Timely Post, as usual. I think what you Are doing is something!

    Practicing the artisan craft of farming, using the available "diesel help" now, and learning how the whole farm works, is a very important something. When the time comes, when cheap fuel is over, we will have the courage and knowledge to complete our transition...with animal power and/or more of a world made by hand.

    I am preparing my children for that day, they are stronger and more prepared than I am in some ways.

    Re-localization is under way, thanks to folks like you. I count you folks as brother and sisters in arms, building a better more resilient tomorrow. When I contemplate what the "oil party" has done to the human soul, I look forward to a future at a more human pace--with more time working and just being together, less time driving to some where buy something we don't need. More time to be.....

    Great Post, thanks for that-best-P & P

  3. Today in Lincoln, NE, I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt that said, "got corn?" on the front. I smiled wryly, thinking that it was perhaps a more accurate statement than the well, known, "got milk?", as most of this country's milk comes from cows in feed lots who are fed corn silage. But on further reflection, I realized that the truth could be even better represented by a T-shirt reading, "got fossil fuels?"