The Age of Oil Consumption and Our Oblivious Addiction
The less talked about side of our inconvenient truth
Iread a fantastic book about Donner’s party ill-fated journey to California from the east coast in 1846 — The Desperate Passage. This story is a harrowing, not to be missed American folk saga. But what caught my attention, and is relevant here, is how brave and capable men and women were in the past.
They braved uncharted trails and crossed the country on wagons pulled by bulls and horses. There were no guarantees whatsoever. No convenience stores, hospitals, phones, or GPS. They braved the perils of wild animals, diseases, and every other unexpected danger with their resourcefulness and bravery of spirit. The difficulties and challenges of their time shaped them into the brave and resourceful people they were.
Fast forward, and life has changed dramatically. Our existence is so comfortable we don’t even know how easy we have. But these conveniences have also changed us more profoundly than we can realize. It changed who we are as people.
We are complacent, wasteful, and nonappreciative of the wealth we have. We don’t value others; even though the earth is overpopulated, we live in isolation. The wealthiest nations have tremendous spiritual poverty. Drugs, suicide, and generalized discontent are so prevalent most people don’t even notice it.
We look at our cities filled with skyscrapers, airplanes, cars, and lights everywhere and think of normality, but nothing is ordinary here. Oil is the backbone of every service we enjoy, and modern civilization is an anomaly in our history charts.
We lost touch with our natural world because we no longer know what this natural world is, and we lost the basic skills to survive in it. We think we no longer need it. These modern changes and technological advances were brought to you by cheap, abundant energy from our petroleum slave.
Most people are unaware that our dirty oil is responsible for everything we consider normal. People prefer to think we live in a SyFy movie. Where there’s infinite energy available for us to enjoy. We haven’t even begun creating any other significant alternative energy to substitute dirty oil.
Oil is one of the most important commodities in the world. When transformed into petroleum, it is a key energy source used in vehicles, planes, heating, asphalt, and electricity. Outside of being a crucial energy source, petroleum is used in plastics, paints, chemicals, tape, and so much more. It’s hard to imagine a world without oil. (Source: Investopedia)
I get it. But what is your point, Sir?
And here is my point and, usually, I wouldn’t say I like to make my point so explicit, but here it goes:
We are the product of our needs; in other words, we are who we need to be in order to survive. The shape of our bodies and life in our communities is formed by the actions we need to perform to survive in the world. But what kind of humans are we in the world of cheap oil today?
If we urban dwellers were suddenly deprived of oil, we would perish quickly and in droves without any hope or survival. We would be wiped out like flies. A possibility of such a moment is coming closer as our oil reserves dwindle. Even though there are other forms of sustainable energy, nothing is as potent as oil, and nothing is being done to truly substitute the power of oil.
We have survived in a natural world for tens of thousands of years. Suddenly we discover cheap energy, and the oil age alters the course of our existence. Oil is also unsustainable as the by-product of burning fossil fuels heats our atmosphere, creating instability and devastation to our environment. Even knowing well of the dangers, our petroleum consumption is increasing at an alarming rate.
The artificial world
What kind of humans are we today? We are people who grew up and were trained to live in an artificial world powered by an artificial, unsustainable energy source. We cannot exist outside our golden cage. We are a direct product of cheap oil. And our way of life, as we know, cannot exist outside our overconsumption of cheap oil. Do we know? Have we ever tried to make it on natural sources of energy? The answer is no.
I have recently started biking to work, and even though I only live three miles from where I work, it takes considerable energy to perform this task every day. But by biking to work, I discovered something I couldn’t see before. If you will, I have begun to see the face of our complacency and laziness as people drive huge cars and are oblivious to the amount of energy it takes to accelerate these 1-ton hunks of metal up the hill.
The overconsumption of oil is also in our bodies. The vast availability of cheap energy creates an overabundance of food. We overeat. The result is metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes and systemic inflammation — the mother of all diseases. To care for these ailments, we consume more oil and produce mountains of plastic and chemical garbage.
The world of cheap oil brought a tremendous amount of mediocrity. Our cities are filled with dust, noise, and pollution from massive amounts of cars. Meaningful social life was disrupted.
Humanity is trapped in a feedback loop of its own making. The more we consume cheap energy, the less able we become to curb our addiction. Our rapid growth has created the idea we need growth to survive and make our economies thrive. Instead of valuing oil as a precious resource, we squander it as drunk binging on his last bottle. The explosion of oil is just like that — an explosion. A curve that goes up and down. Where are we in this curve?
The Donner’s party has made a grave mistake. They decided to take a dubious shortcut advice from a questionable character and paid a heavy price for their get-there-quick scheme. They perished in the harsh winter of one of the snowiest places on the earth — the Sierra Nevada. Most have died, and the ones who survived did so by eating the flesh of the deceased, enduring the most vicious ordeal. Is humanity's overreliance on cheap oil marching to a fate similar to the Donner’s party?
When Fossil Fuels Run Out, What Then? - MAHB
Our world economy is based on the capitalist system which assumes forever a positive Gross Domestic Product - GDP. At…
Get an email whenever Leonardo Del Toro publishes.
Get an email whenever Leonardo Del Toro publishes. By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don't already…
Subscribe to Medium for only $5 bucks a month! Get access to all articles and plus. Write and publish on Medium and earn money!