Q: “Grandpa, why didn’t you help make the changes needed to adapt to energy decline 25 years ago?”
A: Well, Marion, it was just hard to do with everything else going on. We were watching TV, traveling, eating well, fighting wars against enemies both real and imagined, working hard at our old jobs, and planning for our so-called “golden years.” And then there were all the distractions: Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, funny videos, computer games, football, NASCAR, any and all kinds of entertainment; more than you could ever imagine right at our fingertips! Do you know we had over 120 video channels and something called the Internet for instant global communications? And besides, most of our leaders, the oil companies, economists and journalists said it wasn’t going to be a big problem for a long long time or they just didn’t talk about it at all.
Q: You believed them?
A: Yes, I suppose I did most of the time. Lots of people believed them. Either that or we simply took the easy route and ignored thinking about it at all. The rest I guess really believed that “green” technology would save us.
A: Why not? We wanted hope so we denied the warnings from the scientists and engineers and clung to our fantasies. Most of our leaders said those peak energy naysayers were just wolf crying self-serving environmentalists, they were wackos, or too pessimistic, or god forbid, socialists. Those leaders sounded convincing because we wanted to believe them. We were raised to think things would always be better for our children because, why, I suppose because they always had been! We thought everything they said was more likely to be true because they were in the positions of power so they knew best. Besides, no one likes a party pooper, you know.
Q: Do you think that was a little foolish?
A: In retrospect, yes, it was very foolish.
Q: What first made you think you had been misled or had made a terrible mistake?
A: I don’t know. Maybe when the price of gas went through the roof again… and again and again – when you could get it.
Q: Did you ever hear back then about Peak Oil and Limits to Growth?
A: Yea, I heard those things talked about a few times and even read a few books about them; but like I told you, we had our daily distractions and our leaders said it wasn’t going to be a big problem. Something would come along and replace what we needed, even if we weren’t exactly sure what that something was. We wouldn’t need to change much. We just didn’t realize until it was too late how unique the fossil fuel legacy was, how little of the good cheap stuff remained, how diffuse all the “green” energy alternatives were, and how ferociously nations would fight over what was left to maintain the way of life they had gotten use to, or dreamed of. Nor did we understand how all the ecological and resource limits came together as we hit 8 billion people on this crowded little planet, before things started to, you know, fall apart in all those waves of tragedy and loss.
Q: What are your greatest concerns now?
A: I’m cold….I’m hungry a lot. There are no jobs for me. I can’t afford the medicine I need now that I am old… and I desperately miss your grandmother and your dad.
With total thanks to the idea for the approach and considerable verbatim borrowed language from Dopamine’s original peak oil parable posted May 4, 2009 on the Oil Drum. Sometimes, he elegantly reminds us, it’s the stories that help us understand.