Life and Peak Oil09 Oct 2008 12:01 am

Oh, man… I just read something scary but very real, written by Alice Friedemann way back in 2006.

I have been aware of peak oil for almost a year now, and modestly doing what I can to prepare for what is coming in the next several decades. But every once in a while I come across something — like this paper — that knocks me off my feet.

When I first blogged about peak oil back in January, I asked whether in 50 years we would still be manufacturing electronics, and whether the internet would still be around. After reading Friedemann’s paper, I think 1) the relevant timeframe for my questions is more like 20 or 30 years, not 50, and 2) the answer to my questions may well be ‘No’.

This is a great paper, well worth 20 minutes of your time to read. Friedemann wanders around a bit in the beginning, citing plenty of alarming but relevant facts about the upcoming energy descent, but she finishes with a very strong argument that computers will not be with us for much longer, and that we should be thinking now about non-electronic preservation of knowledge for future generations. Even many of the books that are around now will not survive the century.

It can be frightening to think about a world without all of the things we take for granted: plenty of food, easy transportation, cheap electricity, relatively affordable housing, plentiful clothing, corrective lenses for our imperfect eyes, medicines to address many of our common ailments, electronics to keep us entertained, informed, and educated. But all of those things (and a thousand more) are the direct result of the nearly-free energy stores we discovered a while back (~1860) and have been burning up at an increasing rate.

We are currently living our lives at the top of an enormous house of cards that will soon be tumbling to the ground (and the house may come down much faster than it took to be built). Enjoy your computer and your ATM and your cable box and your router while you can. By the time my generation leaves this world, those will be things of the past.

So shouldn’t we spend some time and money figuring out how to pass on some basic learnings to future generations?

Older peak oil blog posts here, and lots of bookmarked articles here.

One Response to “Living at the Top of a House of Cards”


  1. [...] little less than a year ago I wrote about how the imminent energy descent will likely mean the end (over the next couple of decades) of [...]

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