Peak Choice For Civilization

Peak Oil Wars or Global Permaculture Solutions
Extinction or Ecotopia
Globalized Police State or Planetary Consciousness

How will we use the rest of the oil: solar panels or fighter planes? The answer determines our future.

Civilization's future depends on our using some of the remaining oil as a "bridge" toward a sustainable society that re-emphasizes local production (especially of food). Solar panels, windmills, many energy efficiency technologies, and other components for a different paradigm will require some energy input during this transition.

"I'd put my money on solar energy… I hope we don't have to wait til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
-- Thomas Edison, in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, March 1931

"We stand today at a crossroads: One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other leads to total extinction. Let us hope we have the wisdom to make the right choice."
-- Woody Allen


Energy has always been the basis of cultural complexity and it always will be. … the past clarifies potential paths to the future. One often-discussed path is cultural and economic simplicity and lower energy costs. This could come about through the "crash" that many fear – a genuine collapse over a period of one or two generations, with much violence, starvation, and loss of population. The alternative is the "soft landing" that many people hope for - a voluntary change to solar energy and green fuels, energy-conserving technologies, and less overall consumption. This is a utopian alternative that, as suggested above, will come about only if severe, prolonged hardship in industrial nations makes it attractive, and if economic growth and consumerism can be removed from the realm of ideology.
-- Joseph A. Tainter, Complexity, Problem Solving, and Sustainable Societies, 1996

Scientist Richard Duncan has created a model that has so far gone unrefuted. His model states that technological civilization cannot outlast its resource base, particularly its energy resource base. Once this resource base is exhausted, technological civilization will be forever beyond the grasp of life on a particular planet. Duncan makes his model readily available to anyone who wishes to test it in the hope that someone will be able to successfully refute the model. To date, no one has done so. (See "The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to Olduvai Gorge"
You see, there is a lot more at stake here than just a continuation of the Cold War or U.S. imperialistic greed. There is enough energy remaining in the world right now for us -- the people -- to take control and ease ourselves into a democratic, egalitarian, stable-state society. Or there is enough energy for the elite to build a feudalistic, fascist, police state with themselves at the top. This is the choice facing us right now, and this is what is truly at stake.
-- Dale Allen Pfeffer,

Durandal on July 22, 2008 - 12:16pm
Typically humans, when faced with a shortage, have three options:

1. Everyone makes a sacrifice, and all survive.
2. Nobody makes a sacrifice, and many perish.
3. Kill those who want you to sacrifice, and thus have plenty.

People tend to choose option 3. There are still people who choose 1 and 2, however.

Consumer on July 22, 2008 - 12:30pm
It doesn't matter if you choose option 1 or 2. If somebody else chooses option 3, you're f**ked.   

"When the amount of net energy available in society begins to shrink it is harder to harness the resources necessary to manufacture the solar panels, the wind mills, and the other equipment needed when we begin the inevitable task of creating a large scale alternative infrastructure."
Making the Transition to Sustainability
By Francis de Winter
September 8, 2000

"For the next few decades humanity must work very hard to make a successful and peaceful transition from a fossil fuel powered economy to an economy based on sustainable energy. ...
"The energy transition can only be made peacefully and successfully if government addresses the needs of the public, and is not excessively influenced by the demands of existing industry and commerce. If government tries to perpetuate private sector activities that society no longer needs, it can only lead to waste and misery. If the energy transition is mishandled, the outcome could be disastrous: it might well be the worst case "Olduvai Gorge" scenario of Dr. Richard Duncan, with ignorance, intolerance, terrorism, oil wars, destruction of civil liberties, epidemics, famine, population collapse, and environmental disaster. If things are done right, there is however every reason to believe that a sustainable world of the future can be better than the consumerist world we have now."


how much renewable energy equipment can we make with remaining cheap oil?