25 June 2011

Time flies ...

It has been almost a month since I last posted. Deary me, a bit slack. Well I have been reading and getting a little obsessive about the Oil Crisis. Most would say there is no crisis yet but you know it depends how you look at it. One interesting aspect of the human mind is that it allows us a kind of time-independent sense of things. We see the past, and we extrapolate to the future ... and we sense Time: past, present and future. This seems to be a pretty advanced kind of perception which may be unique to humans (Note: this kind of species arrogance has a bad track record) so perhaps it would be a good idea to actually use it. Our culture has become a willing slave of the Cult of Instant Gratification. We replace debate with sound bytes, essays with 140 characters of twitter 'wisdom'. We are letting our sense of Time atrophy by the narrowing of our sense of the Present.

Hollywood once gave us disturbing and motivating work, not just the light stuff. Now we seem to be deluged by fluff that has brainwashed us into thinking that tough problems are easily solved. That some small victory in a movie means everything is OK. And now, when we need to think clearly and far ahead, we are at our weakest. Many people are already waking from their American (or Australian or wherever) Dream to a harsh reality. It isn't really their fault, they didn't ask for it, they just worked hard and wanted some good things for themselves and their families. But the real world doesn't care about intentions it only cares about what happened. We have used too much energy too quickly it has acted like irrigation in the desert ... society and civilization bloomed ... but there was only so much water, when the pressure starts to drop the plants will wilt, the soil will get dusty. Flowers will no longer bloom and the oasis will start to stress. See this for an example.

Perhaps that is the analogy I have been looking for recently between our civilization and its dependency on oil: an ecosystem and its dependency on water. A rainforest is an amazing thing it creates its own weather and recycles water through itself. It conserves water and retains its integrity like an organism. When a drought occurs water levels drop in streams, then streams disappear. The density of the forest drops and some leaves etc are lost. Eventually trees start to die and the forest thins out. The forest is now very vulnerable. If a fire comes by it will sweep through the forest, destroying it and possibly enabling a different new permanent ecosystem. Not all of the forest will face this fate however because not all of the forest will suffer the same water levels. Some areas will be more blessed, others cursed.

Likewise, our global civilization will find that the reduction in the flow of oil will likewise cause a lot of gradually mounting distress until something like a forest fire comes by. It could be war, there are a lot of nukes still about. But I would lay my money (it will be worthless anyway :) on Disease. People will be hungry for awhile and the result will be that their immune systems will not be in an optimal state, then in the unsanitary conditions (no garbage collection, no sewage system) in cities especially, here and there will reappear old scourges: cholera, typhoid, plague. And some newer ones also I would bet. How to prepare for this? Well I guess knowing some basics of medicine and first aid wouldn't hurt. In fact we probably need to relearn the skills of the early 20th century illuminated by the knowledge of our own time.