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Richard Heinberg, author of "The Party's Over" and leading peak oil educator, talks about the future of our 'growth' society.
Here’s the situation in schematic. As economies in America and Europe stagnate due to high oil prices and too much debt, China’s exports to those countries dry up. Which means China needs less iron ore and coal from Australia.
No one is immune; the world is a system. And the system is undergoing a historic “correction.” Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid gave a bracing summary when he suggested the western financial world might be “totally unsustainable.”
If policy makers continue assuming that the ongoing global reset is merely another turning of the business cycle, then we lose whatever opportunity still remains to prevent financial crisis from becoming social crisis.
Unfortunately the idea that growth has limits is still a minority view. After all, in the “real” worlds of politics and economics, growth is essential to creating more jobs and increasing returns on investments. Questioning growth is like arguing against petrol at a Formula One race.
There is no formal blackout, but there is indeed an informal one. Peak oil is one of the defining
issues of our time, yet it is treated as if it were either an esoteric controversy among petroleum
engineers, or a conspiracy theory. This much is axiomatic: fossil fuels are finite resources, and
we are extracting them using the “best-first” principle. We have bet our future on the continued
availability of cheap oil, gas, and coal, but that is quite obviously a very bad bet. So where are
the in-depth television, radio, and newspaper discussions of this? Very few programs and
articles appear. I think that’s partly because commercial media outlets depend on the fossil
fuel industry for advertising, and partly because the peak oil message is threatening to
people’s sense of social equilibrium—it makes them start to question the basic premises
of consumerism, among other things.
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