Archive for August, 2010

Peak Oil, Part Three

August 19, 2010

Here is my response to Peak Oil theory:

From its beginnings, America has been torn between idealist and materialist urges. I came of age in the late-1960s and early-1970s, the most recent era in which idealism carried any weight within American culture. It was an exciting time. Millions of people, to varying degrees of sincerity, were actively seeking answers to questions about the nature of existence and the right way to live. I was convinced that the nation had taken a turn from which it could never retreat. But I was wrong. Americans got tired of the constant questioning and upheaval. So we elected Ronald Reagan, who told us that it was okay to go after money again. He spoke as if it were a moral virtue. And people responded. Thirty years later, we live in the most materialistic age that humankind has ever seen. I’ve lived through this period with increasing dismay. With the growth in our level of material comfort, there has been a simultaneous, requisite decay in our ideals and spiritual vitality. I’ve tried for years to picture what might reverse the trend, but I’ve seen nothing that will do the trick. The economic system has seemed immune to stock market crashes, bubbles, massive debt, scams, and corruption. But I believe I see now what’s going to stop the machine: It’s going to run out of gas. I think we’ve already entered the era of decline. A lot of people feel it. And just as the last 150 years–the era of fossil fuels–has represented a tremendous historical change, so will the period we’re entering. I have to say that I welcome it. And I know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to others who see the same thing and feel the same way.

The thing is, it’s impossible for us to turn things around so long as the money machine remains at the center of our day-to-day life. “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” That’s an uncompromising statement, and it’s a truth, a universal truth. The money machine depends on people not questioning the frantic lives they’ve been leading. Keep up! Keep up! Otherwise you’re gonna get thrown under the wheels! It’s nuts. As the machine continues to break down, we are going to be facing huge issues on how we survive. We can work it out, though. There are people working on it now at a grassroots level. The good part in all this is that, regardless of the difficulty, life will at least be real again. We live in an age of tremendous delusion, propaganda, and shallow thought. All the stands of the so-called conservatives and liberals have hardened into a mindset that is dysfunctional. I don’t mean to frighten people. It doesn’t frighten me. I see it as a great opportunity—the only one we have. The alternative is to go over the cliff with the current system.

This is just a tiny scratching of the surface. For a more thorough introduction to Peak Oil, I recommend Richard Heinberg’s book The Party’s Over. Also his website. The Post Carbon Institute’s website is another good source of information and links. I’m seeing in the mainstream media more and more references to Peak Oil, as well as a constant stream of articles that, while not mentioning them, bear out its theories. It’s going to be a common topic in the near future. People need to educate themselves about it. Finally, I should add that there are issues of greater importance to me than Peak Oil. I’m not a “Peak Oilist.” Since I was a young boy, my primary concern has been enlightenment. But we can’t be enlightened so long as we’re chasing after money–there is no such thing as “enlightened self-interest”–so I see Peak Oil as a great ally on the path.

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Progress Report #39

August 16, 2010

I finished the second pass through Chapter Nineteen of Draft Two. I’m leaving for Germany and Greece in three weeks, so I’m going to spend the next stretch preparing for the work I intend to do there. I’ll be working on third-draft-level material that’s takes place in late 1969, when, at the age of seventeen, I went to Europe and spent four months hitchhiking and taking trains. Although I’m taking the laptop, I’ll be writing by hand. Before I leave, if I’ve finished all my prep work, I’ll make a start on the second draft’s Chapter Twenty. The events of that chapter show up in the first chapter of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It tells the story of my moving into the back of a friend’s VW van, then being forced out, and ending up, at long last, on the street.

Before I go, I’ll finish and post “Peak Oil, Part Three.”

Progress Report #38

August 15, 2010

The tides have taken me away from writing and blogging. I’ve been doing research for the book (something I love to do) and working on the structure, the outline, for the third and final draft. The actual writing of the third draft won’t begin for another year yet, except for a few sections I’ll be working on in Europe just three weeks from now. I’ve been feeling that I need to have an idea of the outline for at least the early sections of the book so that the work I do in Europe can correspond to it. I’ve been moving away from long chapters and toward shorter chapters. In the current conception, some will be very short, some will be like the shorter chapters of a regular book. I’m doing this primarily out of aesthetic considerations, although I often think that, given the shortening of attention spans in general, it might be a good idea on that basis alone.

I have a question for anybody who cares to respond: When you read a book, how do you feel about short versus long chapters? I’ll end up doing what I end up doing, but I’d like to know what others think.

Progress Report #37

August 6, 2010

I finished the first pass through Chapter 19, which came in at thirteen pages. I’ve started the second pass. This one is resisting a title.

I was entering some ideas for the book into a file on my computer, and as I was reading through some previous additions I’d made to the same file, I realized that I often don’t see the notes once I’ve made them. I’ve got folder upon folder stuffed with notes that I seldom see! The ability to create and store large numbers of files is supposed to be one of the computer’s virtues. But I find it a hassle to switch between several different files at once. It’s ungainly. Seeing this clearly for once, I went right out and bought a cork board. Up until now, my writing room has been a pleasant, aesthetic environment. But that all changes. I took down the photos. Up go the notes—handwritten notes. I want to be swimming in notes. It’s still my intention to write the third draft by hand and to enter it into the computer only at the end of the day.

Last night, I started work on Part Three of my Peak Oil essay. I’m seeing more mentions of the Peak Oil theory in my news reading. Awareness is spreading.