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The real tragedy of the Oil Crisis

July 6, 2008

The earth has enough to satisfy our need but not to satisfy our greed.
– Mahatma Gandhi

So the price of a barrel of oil hit US$144 last week. That’s it, we’re pretty much screwed.

As I read the groanings in blogosphere, I’m left wondering: where the hell are the environmentalists? The people who screamed murder when the Exxon Valdez spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude off the coast of Alaska and who demonstrate at global warming conventions? Why is no one blogging about how higher fuel prices and the corresponding fall in its consumption is good for the planet?

Wait, are there any among us who think that reduced fuel consumption is good for our planet in the first place?

I know little about Gandhi but I like what I’m hearing so far. I guess the average human (myself included) is conditioned to look at his belly first before his environment, which is ironically the very attitude that led us to this predicament. I remember going to Ikea the day after the fuel price hike only to find a store FULL of people! Belt tightening… ha ha what a joke.

We use climate and our surrounding conditions to justify our consumption, not realizing half the world is doing fine under worse conditions.

What has this got to do with oil? Plenty. Every product we use is touched by oil – its materials, for energy used to manufacture it, and to transport it to you – and the tank’s running low. If we accept that oil is not a renewable resource, then we are fiddling as Rome burns. In the corner of our eyes we see what’s happening but we pretend that nothing’s happening. When it hits us, we insist that everything else must change but us.

Why do I believe higher prices is a blessing? Because it throws us into a state of panic and in an attempt to save our sorry asses, forces us look for alternative sources of energy. Only desperation seems to work. But I’m less interested in that than its outcome. If we stop burning fossil fuel, we stop treating the atmosphere like a dumping ground. And you know how that benefits us, our kids and their kids.

But I guess its easier to demand to know who’s spoiling the oil market than to let go of our addiction to oil. After all, nothing is more terrifying to us than losing our identity so we continue to insist on a lifestyle supported by more oil, forgetting what we will be leaving behind for the kids – a dead planet stripped of natural resources whose air is nearly impossible to breathe.

We’ve missed the point and that, I think, is the real tragedy of this oil crisis.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    July 7, 2008 9:07 am

    The money merchants will keep pushing the prices of food and oil upwards as high as they can go to get themselves richer. Whether it’s food getting scare or oil running low doesn’t seem to relate to the business deals, but both are dependent on each other to make things work. We need to find a balance, but nobody’s coordinating the effort to do that. It’s not profitable, I suppose.

    You need oil to transport food to to the area where there’s less food and you need food to feed those people in places where there’s oil. But still, it’s those with oil turned into money that win and they get the food. And they make the decisions, usually the wrong ones in their own favor. They decide to grow food to replace oil for fuel. Soon machines will be competing with humans for food. That’s the vicious circle that’s spinning out of control.

    You’re right. We’ve missed the point. And I’m highly suspicious of the purpose for missing the point. Self-preservation is one of them.

  2. LC Teh permalink
    July 7, 2008 10:41 am

    blrgrph!! ignore that rambling logic from me… blame it on monday blues…

  3. Damien permalink*
    July 7, 2008 4:00 pm

    Haha, no probs. But you do have a point. Whoever controls our food supply will be king. But seriously its not impossible for a community to grow its own food like the agrarian communities of the past. Its even more possible now with new technology like hydrophonics and biotech. But as always, greed will ensure we will find a way to screw up.

  4. July 8, 2008 11:52 am

    I definitely think that higher fuel prices (to better match the actual cost of fuel – in terms of environmental impact, scarcity etc) are good for us all in the long run.

    However, it would seem cruel and insensitive to actually write a blog piece about it, or to actually be black and white crowing about how great it is that fuel costs more – because it also equates to a very severe and direct impact on the lower income groups (not the middle class consumerists you saw in Ikea)

  5. Damien permalink*
    July 8, 2008 1:41 pm

    Maybe I should’ve put in a qualifier that I made this entry with the middle class in mind, i.e. ppl with time to read blogs and talk about food, fashion and entertainment. The article is about the tragedy of future life made by present choices, not about present hardship. Its unpleasant but I think it needs to be said. You’ll notice that post-hike, people are still insensitively writing about how great 5-star restaurants and the latest auto models are without a care of how the poor would react. I would love to survey how many blog readers actually think about how their current consumption habits impact the future life of kids who are 1-10 years old today. Or even if they care.

    And yeah I agree with you, life is tough for the lower income groups. The 100 million being pushed below the poverty line because of higher food prices. It’s a topic I was mulling to write about.

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