Last night, Spot read this:
The end, in any case, is that part of the human experience most often mistaken for something else. Everything is at its most sophisticated, most organized, most stable. The very sophistication of the organism marks the divorce of those ideas which were reasonably clear and simple when they were first embraced from the marvellous, remarkable structure which has been built over and around those same ideas in the course of living with them. That structure becomes the superficial celebration of the ideas, which it also invariably crushes. This simple-truth is hidden from us by the reassuring sense of stability which the structure creates. But stability is the most fragile element in the human condition. Nothing seems more permanent than a long-established government about to lose power, nothing more invincible than a grand army on the morning of its annihilation.
John Ralson Saul, Voltaire's Bastards, page 31, Vintage paperback ed. 1992.
Then, this morning, Spot read this:
Go anywhere in America, among any class of people -- from the Nascar morons to the Ivy League -- and one expectation is pretty universal: that technology will only bring us more wonders and miracles, and it will certainly save-the-day where our energy problems are concerned. This would seem natural for people living in an age when a simple cassette SONY Walkman is superceded by an 80-gigabyte iPod in one generation. But what if this assumption is off? What if peak technology occurs roughly in the same wave as peak energy?
Of course, another nearly universal expectation is that we will go through an orderly transition between the end of the oil fiesta and whatever comes next -- implying, naturally, that some new sovereign energy resource is out there in destiny's green room, getting prepped up, waiting to be sent on-stage. The confusion about this, induced by strenuous wishing, is such that most people expect the next energy resource to consist of technology itself.
This has been the heart of my beef with the rosy future crowd. Energy and technology are not the same thing, not interchangeable or substitutable. If you run out of one (energy), you can't just plug in the other (technology). I certainly believe other energy resources exist besides oil and methane gas, but I maintain that we will be grossly disappointed by what they can do for us, given what we are currently running in society. Nor am I categorically against the idea of using these other things: solar, wind, bio-fuels, what-have-you. I can even be persuaded on nuclear with its many hazards, if that's the only way to keep the lights on. But all of these things will not preclude the extreme necessity to make severe changes in our manner of daily living -- and to do so rather quickly.
In other words, boys and girls, we're in the process of getting caught napping, big time. Although Spot doesn't have a link for you, it is also one of the themes of Jared Diamond's book Collapse. And Joe Bageant's web essay The Ants of Gaia.