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INDUSTRIALIZATION
Let us pray for pestilence

By Avery Walker | RAW STORY COLUMNIST

I would like you to join with me, friends, in a little prayer. Let us fold our hands, close our eyes, open our hearts, and ask whatever God, force or deity we pray to for what the world needs most in this, our time of distress. We need a plague. A really big one. Or a famine. Or, perhaps, a really, really big natural disaster. You see, it seems that the world’s resources are about to get a tad scarce, and since birth control is an unacceptable option to the pious, all we can do is simply hope that somehow, some way, a large portion of the world’s population is wiped from its face before it comes to a question of them or us.

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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 pestilence.

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 dry?

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.

Avery 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].

 



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