Peak Oil and Exponential Growth

Hopefully you, dear reader, know about peak oil by now.  If you don’t know about peak oil, arm yourself with this knowledge.  Oil is a finite resource.  We have been sucking it out of earth for well over 150 years now.  It is running out.

The geo-physicist M. King Hubbert was the first to do the math on the global oil supply.  He determined that the production and supply of oil would look like a bell curve if it were graphed.  The ascension to the top of the bell curve would be a long, arduous process.  Then we would reach the peak production of oil and the supply would be essentially half empty.  Then from there we would skid down the other side of the slope – possibly completely out of control.

Many of the numbers that I have seen have dated global peak oil to occurring in 2005.  So that means that we are currently six years into the skid down the slope.  Perhaps it need not be a skid – but instead – a roller coaster in which we can joyously descend.

Of course, our economy is intrinsically connected to our oil supply.  So as the oil depletes, the value attached to a dollar diminishes as well.

Now, consider that our human population is growing exponentially.  I recently heard an interesting explanation of exponential growth using lily pads on a pond:

A fisherman lived on a pond of which was his livelihood.  He would fish everyday and share the fish with his friends and neighbors.  He was aware that lily pads can take over entire ponds if they are allowed to go unchecked.  So every day he would paddle around in his boat and pick out a few lily pads.  He would add the plucked pads to his compost pile to add to the necessary biomass of his garden.  Eventually the fisherman wanted to take a little holiday so he began planning.  But in his planning he forgot to be regular about his lily pad plucking.  So when the day came for him to leave on his holiday, he looked at his beloved pond and trusted that it would be there when he got back in ten days.

But when he got back after ten days, the lily pads had taken over the entire surface of the pond, thus hogging all the sunlight necessary for healthy fish.  So the plants that the fish ate began to weaken.  And so the fish began to weaken.  Since our fisherman didn’t take into account the exponential growth of the lily pads he came bak to discover a pond under cover.

So the fisherman jumped into his boat and began scraping the lily pads off the pond.  After hours of work he had to return to shore empty out his boat.  And it practically sank on the way to the shore.

Now consider that our human population is currently on a trajectory of exponential growth.  Our population has exploded in the last 50 years.  And yet the oil is already in decline.  One need not be a rocket surgeon to know that our world’s population, and our world’s natural resources are massively out of balance.

So we need to course correct.  We, as a human species, need to revolt against this past life of consumption and greed and self-interest.  We need to move into a new era of humanity that embraces the true value of human life over any other physical commodity.

If we are able to do this, collectively as a species, then we will be able to ease ourselves gracefully from our dependence on oil or any other fossil fuels onto truly sustainable energy sources.

You can start today by selling your car.  You won’t have to worry about the price of gas any longer.  You won’t have to worry about insurance companies.  You won’t have to worry about polluting.  And you can use the money you earn from selling your car to buy some solar panels or something.

The gas companies can (and should) simply begin charging $15 per gallon of gas.  This will discourage constant drivers from being so attached to their cars and their autonomy (thus increasing the need for community and unifying people).  This is a preventative measure in order to conserve oil for when we as a species may need it in the future.  We’ve been told all our lives to “save for a rainy day.”  Doesn’t it make sense to do the same with our finite resources on a global scale?

One comment on “Peak Oil and Exponential Growth

  1. […] Of course, I’m not quite as fancy free as I’ve previously been.  If you’re anything like me, you might feel similarly.  There are a number of heavy issues that have been bouncing around my brain.  Perhaps most urgent is that of “peak oil.”  I firmly believe that there is far too little honest conversation going on about our oil consumption in the corporate political news game.  I’ve blogged about peak oil previously and you can read it here. […]

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