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Rajiv
01-10-08, 10:37 PM
Why Is this Apocalypse Different than All Other Apocalypses: Making the Case for Peak Oil and Climate Change Now (http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2008/01/why-is-this-apocalypse-different-than.html) by Sharon Astyk


A lot of what I write works from the assumption that we all agree that peak oil and climate change are happening and going to be life-changing events. And yet, some people who read this blog don’t necessarily agree on this subject, or they don’t see the effects has being as profound as I do, or perhaps the idea of peak oil or climate change is fairly new to them, and they are struggling to grasp the implications. So sometimes, we need to back up, and make the case for something that is always new to some people. The truth is that if my writing is to be anything other than preaching to the converted, we have to answer the skeptics.

That’s why I was so delighted when I got an email from Frazzlehead who asked me why this particular energy crisis was different than the one of the 1970s. She observed that she’d been reading 1970s back to the land texts, and finding the exact same narrative in them – that we’re running out of oil, that soon the economy will crash and we’ll need to go back to farming. Why, she asked, is it right this time?

“I look at the date it was written and think, see? They’ve been saying this for ages – and it hasn’t happened. Still, something in my gut tells me that it’s different this time, that this isn’t just a robot waving it’s silly arms saying “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Danger!” … that something really is wrong and things will change dramatically.
What I can’t quite put my finger on is the evidence for *this* time being the *real* time.
Is the Boy just crying wolf again? Or is there really a wolf?
Can you help me see why *this time* it is for real?”


This is an extremely important question – the fact is, ever since the beginning of the 20th century, when we recognized we really can have “World” wars, since the advent of the military capacity to destroy the lives of billions, since we recognized our impact on the earth, we’ve been afraid we’d destroy it. How do we know that this time, we really are?

And of course, this is a good question for climate change as well. Because, there’s a small grain of truth in the oft-repeated claim that in the 1970s, climate scientists were predicting an ice age – only a small one but still. The fact is, many people remember these predictions of the end of everything, and remember Y2K as well, and then think “the evidence is against those who say things are going to change.” This is a reasonable critique, and one that requires a good answer – or a series of them. That is, it isn’t enough to say “Well, this time we’re right.”

The reason we want multiple answers here is that there are several questions. The first one is this “What are the differences between the scientific and technical cases for peak oil now, and climate change now, vs. then.” But that’s only part of the answer. Because most of us aren’t climate scientists or petroleum geologists, and we’re not going to read every single bit of information on this subject, so to some degree, we have to rely on our own analysis. We can weigh the credibility of the technical analyses to one degree or another, but we also need grounds for distinguishing between those analyses.

The ideal grounds would be that we completely understand everything the scientists are saying, but since that’s not true, we need another set of analytic tools.

So the next question we have to answer is this – what present day evidence do we have for each case? How can I see this with my own eyes? And how do the various available accounts I’m being offered match up with both the scientific evidence and the evidence of my eyes? That is, both the “disasters are coming” and the “it’ll never happen” crowds are telling stories – they are giving an account of the past and the future. Picking the right story depends on our being able to match up evidence with the narrative being provided to us.