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The decline of oil has already begun

In 1961, when I was 14, working on a science fair project, my father – a geologist and petroleum engineer – explained oil depletion to me. To grow production, oil companies were drilling deeper and deeper wells, developing technologies to extract more oil from spent fields, and would one day tap into shale rock and the Canadian tar sands to extract the dregs.

Oil Spill and Burnt Forest Action in Brazil. © Adriano Machado / Greenpeace
Greenpeace activists protest oil in front of the Palácio do Planalto, in Brasília. © Adriano Machado / Greenpeace

Oil, he explained, was a finite store of condensed organic matter from the bottoms of ancient seas. The industry had been extracting the highest quality and least expensive oil, but over time, the quality of oil would decline, the cost of finding it would increase, and decades in the future, perhaps in my lifetime, oil would no longer be economic to produce.

Although we would not technically see the end of all oil on Earth, the cost/benefit ratio would begin to favour other forms of energy. He told me then, in 1961, that oil companies should be developing other energy sources, that they should consider themselves in the “energy business,” not just the oil business.

Since my father knew all this 60 years ago, I suspect that virtually every engineer and manager in the oil industry knew the same facts. They knew oil was a finite resource, and would eventually run out. They also knew that burning oil created carbon emissions, which would heat the planet. In 1965, the American Petroleum Institute warned that CO2 pollution could “cause marked changes in climate” with “catastrophic consequence.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What can we do?

What can we do?

Rainbow over the Tapajós River in the Amazon © Todd Southgate / Greenpeace

At the University of Minnesota Dr. Nate Hagens teaches an honours course called “Reality 101: A Survey of the Human Predicament.” Hagens operated his own hedge fund on Wall Street until he glimpsed, “a serious disconnect between capitalism, growth, and the natural world. Money did not appear to bring wealthy clients more well being.” Hagens became editor of The Oil Drum, and now sits on the Board of the Post Carbon Institute and the Institute for Integrated Economic Research.

Reality 101 addresses humanity’s toughest challenges: economic decline, inequality, pollution, biodiversity loss, and war. Students learn about systems ecology, neuroscience, and economics. “We ask hard questions,” says Hagens. “What is wealth? What are the limits to growth? We attempt to face our crises head on.”

Some students feel inspired to action, and some report finding the material “depressing.” One student shared the course material with a family member, who asked, “So what can I do?” The student struggled to answer this question, and the listener chastised her: “why did you explain all this to me, if you can’t tell me what to do?!”

A fair question. One that, as environmentalists, we often get asked. At the request of Dr Hagens, here is my list:

What can we do?

I have been asking this question all of my adult life. As I’ve witnessed the crisis intensify, I’ve experienced feelings of panic, anger, and helplessness. Nevertheless, I also feel at peace. I love my family and friends, I enjoy life in my community, and love my time in the natural world. Here are some of the ways I believe we can deal with anxiety about the world and take action:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What can we do?

At the University of Minnesota Dr. Nate Hagens teaches an honours course called “Reality 101: A Survey of the Human Predicament.” Hagens operated his own hedge fund on Wall Street until he glimpsed, “a serious disconnect between capitalism, growth, and the natural world. Money did not appear to bring wealthy clients more well being.” Hagens became editor of The Oil Drum, and now sits on the Board of the Post Carbon Institute and the Institute for Integrated Economic Research.

Reality 101 addresses humanity’s toughest challenges: economic decline, inequality, pollution, biodiversity loss, and war. Students learn about systems ecology, neuroscience, and economics. “We ask hard questions,” says Hagens. “What is wealth? What are the limits to growth? We attempt to face our crises head on.”

Some students feel inspired to action, and some report finding the material “depressing.” One student shared the course material with a family member, who asked, “So what can I do?” The student struggled to answer this question, and the listener chastised her: “why did you explain all this to me, if you can’t tell me what to do?!”

A fair question. One that, as environmentalists, we often get asked. At the request of Dr Hagens, here is my list:

What can we do?

Tapajós River in the Amazon © Todd Southgate / Greenpeace

Rainbow over the Tapajós River in the Amazon © Todd Southgate / Greenpeace

I have been asking this question all of my adult life. As I’ve witnessed the crisis intensify, I’ve experienced feelings of panic, anger, and helplessness. Nevertheless, I also feel at peace. I love my family and friends, I enjoy life in my community, and love my time in the natural world. Here are some of the ways I believe we can deal with anxiety about the world and take action:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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