I know it sounds cruel,
but this seems more likely a request to be granted
than a sudden change in the hearts of men—and
frankly, right up God’s alley. As Penn Jillette
once said, “The Lord works in mysterious, inefficient,
and breathtakingly cruel ways.” The tsunami
was a good warm up, but I think it’s time to
get serious. Every firstborn son serious.
But, remember: we are respecting human life here,
so birth control is never the answer.
Two weeks ago, a study supported by 1,360 scientists
from 95 countries should have been received as a giant
wake-up call: a full two-thirds of the world’s
resources have been used up by man. The findings announce
in no uncertain terms that the human race is living
beyond its means. This is a statement of the obvious
to anybody who lives in a developed country and has
command of any three of the five senses. But to those
poor bastards in the Third World who are fighting
malnutrition, disease, and the Sally Struthers poor-parazzi,
it will be quite a shock in forty years to discover
they got the party just as the tap ran dry.
Oil production, we had been told, would be reaching
its peak sometime around 2006. At the end of last
year, several experts sprung a bit of a surprise on
us: It turns out that production would be peaking
a bit sooner than expected. As in, it already had.
Last year probably marked the highest point in oil
production we’ll see for another several million
years. By then, it will be made out of us. That is,
if biogenic petroleum theory is correct. If it isn't,
we're not entirely sure how it comes from.
Since oil production works on a bell curve, oil
production in 2014 will be roughly the same as it
was in 1994. And that in 2024, oil production will
be about the same as it was in 1984. With all our
newfangled hybrids and electrical cars, we should
have just enough of time to wean ourselves off of
the oil habit, provided of course that we get serious
about doing so. Hell—maybe by that time Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s Hydrogen Highway will be a
reality, as opposed the smog screen that now distracts
from his frequent sellouts to the auto industry.
But, as usual, there is a problem. I know that it’s
really difficult for us, as Americans, to comprehend,
but we are not the only people on the planet. Other
countries are industrializing, and next thing you
know, they’ll want Hummers, too. Well, maybe
not Hummers. But every Prius they buy negates one
that we traded a Buick for. By 2025, world wide demand
for oil is expected to be about 121 million barrels
a day, compared to the 80 million consumed now. And,
remember, we’ll be producing oil at 1985 levels.
If you’ve filled up your tank in the last
week or so, the fuel in your car is probably worth
more than the car itself. With prices expected to
continue to soar into the Summer, it won’t be
long before one can approach a pump without an exhaustive
credit check and two forms of collateral. Imagine
2025, and pray with me for divine intervention through
But, then, what do industry experts really know?
Just last May, the Wall Street Journal reported that
the price for a barrel of oil would fall 40% in 2005,
to a measly $27. They predicted that around 2015,
price per barrel could reach as high as $45. Crude
oil prices hit $57.27 last Friday. If WSJ writers
were Moscow weathermen, they’d be eligible for
the death penalty.
Still, it seems likely that Asia will soon be demanding
its share of world oil. China’s over-population
and scant exploitable resources have long lead Academics
to believe that if history is any indication, China
would remain the world’s workshop for another
generation. Little did they realize that China has
a rather queer companion in her journey toward Capitalism:
Communism. The government’s control over industry
has allowed it to move toward efficient capitalism
far more smoothly than previously thought. For the
last 25 years, China’s central government has
been working with about seventy thousand local authorities
to push the nation to a more modern, and profitable,
economy. Even Communists, it seems, can’t resist
the siren song of the Dollar. Or the, um, yuan
Renminbi, as the case may be.
China is moving to a free market so quickly that
democratic nations are actually beginning to complain
about losing market share as 30-year-old trade restrictions
are lifted one by one. By selling to China, perhaps
they can recover the cost. Mary Kay, Rainbow vacuums
and World Book are lined up outside the Great Wall,
and China is already pulling out its checkbook. But
first thing’s first: something has to be done
about all these bicycles. No self-respecting Mary
Kay Lady from any continent would be caught dead on
a pink Pashley.
Meanwhile, India is taking all those outsourced
American dollars and saving up for shiny new SUVs.
While wealth does not seem to be trickling down in
India (shock of all shocks,) new jobs are pulling
more and more people out of poverty. And though no
other industrialized nation wastes or pollutes as
much as we so unapologetically do, it’s a safe
bet that as other nations industrialize, it will more
than offset whatever amount we are finally willing
to cut back.
Really, we’ve been lucky so far. When I was
a child, I was told that the world population was
supposed be peaking right about now—hitting
the largest amount of humans the earth can theoretically
support. Luckily for those of us in industrialized
nations, birth control became more prevalent and AIDS
came along. We can rest comfortably, know that AIDS
is eliminating the competition. Until, of course,
heavily armed regimes start to fall because of the
disease, and weapons end up in the hand of dictators
who are more than a little angry about what we didn’t
do while their homeland crumbled.
Whenever it happens, if things keep going the way
they are, it will come down to a question of us versus
them. And the stakes, my friend, are very high.
Look around you, and think about how the objects
in your home actually made it there. How were the
raw materials procured? How were they produced? How
were they shipped? How did they make it from raw natural
resource to consumer product? The food you eat, the
pipes that carry water into your home, even your home
itself all required oil, and lots of it, to come into
your possession. Can you imagine what’s going
to happen to the value of oil over the next twenty
or so years—or what will happen if the tap runs
It is not an understatement to say that without oil,
our society would come to a screeching, squeaking
halt. All four horsemen rolled into one, that is.
And that’s just one of the resources that we’ll
soon be warring over, unless we change our hyper-consumptive
ways or are visited by an earlier, less devastating
plague. If a significant portion of the world's population
dies early enough, it may spare us the apocalypse.
And there is evidence that we might just luck out.
Can you imagine what would have happened to society
if AIDS had been airborne? Well, good news—you
might not have to! Deforestation will have temporary,
though somewhat lengthy, effects, many of which include
faster spread of disease and perhaps the unleashing
of newer, perhaps even deadlier plagues. We can hope.
And then there are the already apparently effects
of global warming working in our favor. Whether you
agree that the huge amounts of greenhouse gases we’re
spewing into the atmosphere are causing a greenhouse
effect, or you’re from the school that believes
if you turn on an oven and stick in a pie, you can
remove it two hours later and logically insist that
there’s still a strong possibility that it was
actually baked by the sun or spontaneous combustion,
there is one indisputable fact: the average temperature
of the Northern Hemisphere is warming rapidly. Indians
may be more apt to buy a canoe than a Tahoe when Calcutta’s
nose deep in the Indian Ocean. So there is a silver
lining, after all.
Whatever the future brings, one thing is certain:
If we aren’t consuming a lot less than we are
now, forty years from now nobody is even going to
remember what Social Security was. It's either everyone
consuming a lot less of the world's resources, or
a lot fewer people in the world. So, we can either
do as some of us have long argued, and make a massive
effort to change our habits of consumption, or…
Pray that somehow, some way, there are a lot fewer
people in the world in the very near future.
Walker is a weekly contributor to Raw Story and is
currently serving as a Managing Editor. His blog may
be found at avery.bluelemur.com,
and he can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].