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Eco-Primitive Woody: Christmas Encyclical

In response to this entry, Dmitry Orlov wrote:
I don't know how much of a response this sort of thing calls for. But,
since I am too tired to do anything actually creative, I might as well
ramble on a bit about this.

I have a question about the phrase "Peak Oil fantasies." I suppose
it's fine in the sense of fantasizing about what happens after the
economy crashes. I am more of an observer who draws analogies than a
fantasist, and I would like to guide the imagination of those who do
have to resort to fantasy to see the future, rather than to the past.

The other way to take it is to mean that Peak Oil is a fantasy. That's
more a question of figuring out whether or not global conventional oil
production peaked in 2005, and, if it did, figuring out if and for how
long non-conventional sources can cover the shortfall. I have to go by
what other people say, but maybe it did, and maybe the other stuff
won't hold up for very long. Do your own research.

Now, I wholeheartedly agree that just quietly preparing to watch a lot
of people die once their life support system goes on the blink is
monstrous. Those who see it coming have to do their best to raise an
alarm, no matter how belated or ineffectual, but they should certainly
stop just short of sounding like they are crazy, because that won't do
anyone any good.

Finally, I have a word of admonishment for those who go around saying
"We must do something!" When you say "We" in this context, I expect to
see a list - names, addresses, phone numbers, skill sets and
availability/allocation. When you say "do" - I want to see a Gantt
with dependencies and milestones. When you say "something" - I
want to see a list of deliverables. And I want to see a budget for the
whole thing, and an environmental impact statement. Got it? If not -
then go eat lunch.

Another non-starter I often run into is the strange notion that in
order to point out a problem (say, suburban drivers stranded and
starving due to lack of gas) one must also propose a solution to it.
It is not stipulated anywhere that all problems must have solutions. I
think the knee-jerk reaction of trying to solve every problem that
comes along is somehow instilled in college students, especially in
the sciences and engineering. Often, it is counterproductive to try
solving a problem without addressing its root causes (suburban sprawl,
car-dependence) because it helps perpetuate them, making the eventual
catastrophe even worse.

Underlying all of this nonsense is the notion that you can do anything
through diligence and hard work. My reading of history is that with
diligence and hard work you can pick a lot of cotton. But to strike
gold - like the Spaniards did in the Americas - requires viciousness
and dumb luck. The viciousness is never in short supply, but the luck
often is, and, without the luck, the viciousness is useless. And since
there is only so much luck to go around, on this Christmas eve, we
should all try to be a bit less vicious.

How's that for a Christmas encyclical?


Dmitry Orlov is the author of the forthcoming Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects.

I interviewed Dmitry for episodes 20 and 21 of the C-Realm Podcast.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 6th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Would you mind if I quoted Dmitri in my journal? With attribution, of course.
May. 6th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
Quoting Dmitry
Have at it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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