The end of the world as we know it, and no one is talking about it . . .

The end of the world as we know it, and no one is talking about it . . .

Alan Kesselheim
Published: 12/30/2009

What's odd is that the real doomsday event, the end of cheap oil and the global infrastucture it enables, is the cliff everyone knows we are racing toward, and no one seems particularly worried.

Fact is, the oil peak is past, the recoverable reserves will last to 2040 at the outside, and well before that it will become untenable to recover and process cheaply, due to physical difficulties or political instability.

We all know this, and we all assume that some alternative matrix of technological responses will be in place in time to offer a smooth transition. Only, it doesn't look like that is very likely. The closer you look at alternatives, the more they themselves are predicated on available cheap oil for manufacturing, transportation, installation, and maintainence, or they can only supply a fraction of our current needs.

It's too comfortable going on like we have been -- jetting to Paris for the weekend, driving fifty miles to see a movie, living in suburbs far from work, depending on an energy grid and transportation network that will evaporate without cheap oil. When you really look at the options, from coal to better batteries, and from wind to solar, it becomes clear that we are utterly unprepared for the cliff we are headed for.

When we get there, all bets are off. Who knows how we will react when we can't drive, heat homes, feed families. Who knows what calamaties lie in store on a planet populated to five times its carrying capacity when it is no longer possible to sustain the unsustainable.

Not a cheerful subject. Which is why, perhaps, we fasten on the Mayan deadline rather than addressing the apocalypse we all know is on the near horizon.