This is a post meant for people who follow resource depletion, simplified for the group think as “peak oil.” But you might enjoy knowing more about the three groups now thinking about the way this society will crumble – or transform.
I’m having a problem. I need some help differentiating the types of thinking in the peak oil movement. I know we have names already, “cornucopians” and “hopium–smokers,” and “doomers,” but I think I want an update, offering some subtlety.
Can we make things easier by perhaps declaring whether we “believe” that:
1. Industrial civilization will not entirely or at all survive the 21st Century;
2. That hope and technological innovation will allow a “hot swap” of things like “molten salt reactors, thorium, or fusion” for our petro-society?
3. Or, that nothing can be done and everybody is already dead, and just don’t know it?
Can we start our conversation by admitting the bias with a simple designation? It’s for purely selfish reasons, as I’m exhausted by hopium smokers. And they may be exhausted by non-hopium smokers. So, in fairness to all:
I am of the belief that all of human history and pre-history are the actual guides to our future. That is, we will experience non-uniform collapse and non-uniform re-formation as tribes, then towns, then perhaps, low-energy, slave-owning small, warring states. Geology, geography and resources play an important role. But “technology” will be too interrupted by resource depletion and the interruption of long-distance ‘assembly lines’ (from Asia and Africa to Europe and the Americas).
Call that “H” for historical perspective.
If you believe that technology will fix our predicament, you could do the service of making conversation easier by admitting that you’re a “T.” A “T” is a believer in the thought that technology will somehow help us out of the collapse … caused by our reliance on technology. For example, if you find yourself wanting to talk about “thorium reactors” or “molten salt reactors or batteries,” or if you have no doubt that the “solar revolution” will replace our ugly “carbon” society – then you are most certainly a hopeful “T” believer.
Then some of you are pure “extinctionists” who believe that we’ll not only get rid of excess materialism and large numbers of people – but that we will, in fact, wipe out all people, period – and much life on the planet. For example, some global warming people are extinctionists, more generally than are peak oilers, and you can often feel their internal excitement (“boners of self-righteously arrogant sadness”) at the notion that we’re all going to die – and that we frankly deserve it.
We’ve got “H” for people looking to the report card of human history for a guide to probable behavior of groups of people.
We’ve got “T” for people who believe that technology will save us – or some of us, and allow us to “swap” one “paradigm” for another. (Oil, by the way, is not a paradigm, it’s the structural basis for every single damned thing we do – which is why I’m not a “T”).
And finally, the pure, unadulterated doomers, who I’ll affectionally call “E”s for extinctionists.
Play along. It’ll be fun!
Many of you know I’m writing this during an extreme health crisis. You can support my writing and out-loud philosophizing by buying a book or donating on Paypal. While it exists.
Please support American Heretic by buying a book:
Or donate $5 to $20 on Paypal: