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Powerdown


johnshuck
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I would like to start a new topic. I put a post on my blog today entitled Powerdown

 

My concern is how progressive Christianity can be more than speculative but can help us deal with the issues that face us. I wrote the following:

 

A theology for the 21st century needs to take seriously our context. I am reading Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World by Richard Heinberg.

 

This is the sequel to his earlier book, The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. Both are sobering works. I recommend reading his latest book first. He summarizes The Party's Over in the first chapter of Powerdown and offers options for responding to this reality.

 

His thesis is that we have reached or will reach within the next few years, peak oil. I have discussed this in an earlier post. In Powerdown, he writes that we have four options:

 

1) Last One Standing: the path of competition for remaining resources. (This appears to be our current administration's plan to control the remaining oil reserves militarily).

 

2) Powerdown: the path of cooperation, conservation, and sharing. (This would require all nations of the world to name the issue, change drastically our way of living, and work for justice so that all people of Earth may have access to basic needs).

 

3) Waiting for a Magic Elixir: wishful thinking, false hopes, and denial. (This appears to be the option of most of our population. We think that in the nick of time we will find some magic technological advance to replace fossil fuels and be able to continue our way of life).

 

4) Building Lifeboats: the path of community solidarity and preservation. (This involves working with our neighbors to sustain small communities (gardens, energy sharing, etc.)

 

Heinberg suggests that a combination of Powerdown and Building Lifeboats are the best options for our survival. This book is an important read. It is a book for those who are not afraid to learn the truth about what we are facing.

 

What does this mean theologically? Where is God in all of this? My prediction is that when we begin to feel the crunch most theology will revert to option three: Waiting for a Magic Elixir. That will take the form similar to the Left Behind books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In this scenario, our crisis will lead to the magic return of Jesus who will save us (at least save the true believers). Throughout history, this type of theology has emerged during times of crises only to leave the believers disappointed. It is in my opinion, less than adequate theology, to put it mildly.

 

I believe there are other options. There are other ways to conceive of God's activity in the world and our response to God that are more realistic and more healthy and hopeful for Earth and its inhabitants. Options two and four, powerdown and building lifeboats need to be understood theologically as the way the Holy Spirit can prepare humanity for a sustainable and peaceful future. This is at the heart of my theological project. I don't pretend to have the answers. I am simply one voice among many calling for us to wake up and respond.

 

John

East Tennessee

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John:

 

I'm wholeheartedly with you on this one, but as you pointed out, the rapture and miracles crowd have the podium at present, and it will take some miracles for saner heads to prevail, IMHO. Right now, this year, human demands upon this planet's resources are 25% in excess of the planet's ability to provide. It is a situation that cannot be sustained much longer.

 

It's too bad that it takes so long for some people to recognize a problem when it comes along and hits them in the head with a large and heavy hammer. Those of us who had the great and good fortune to be employed at large research universities twenty and thirty years ago saw a lot of this coming, but aside from publishing research papers and starting local movements, not much real was done. Most politicians just laughed at you when you tried to talk to them about it.

 

Perhaps the best assessment that I ever read in lay language was an article in Forbes Magazine a short time after the first OPEC embroglio in the mid-70's. The late Malcom himself did the honors I recall and he advised slapping a $2.00 a gallon excise tax on gasoline and other combustible petroleum products right then. And Malcom Forbes was a very conservative fellow, not a radical crazy.

 

First, this would have brought us into line with our European brothers who are still paying about three times as much as us for fuel. Second it would have provided a new revenue stream for research into alternative energy sources that we could be utilizing as I write this. ( Keep in mind that fuel cells were first used in space travel in the 60's and still haven't been developed for general use on the earth.) And third it would have gotten us used to paying real prices for what we were doing, rather than letting the great American political subsidization machine soothe our pain until we HAD to start paying the piper, and perhaps it was also too late to do anything meaningful about the problem.

 

I agree that the powerdown and lifeboat options seem to be the most sensible options these days as the abyss seems to be yawning before us. But then Western Civilization, and particularly Americans, never has had the will to do much of anything about looming problems until they become too intrusive upon our hedonistic lifestyles to ignore any longer. Compassion seeems to be seriously lacking among those who "have" as opposed to those who relatively "have not".

 

Now we are cursed with a proliferation of urban sprawls that are mostly out of control, and that force us all to waste vast amounts of time, money, and energies just to drive around and try to live our lives. I am among those who have always thought that there had to be a better way to live than that concocted after WWII by urban planners who were dominated in their design plans by greedy developers and greedier politicians. Let's hope that this book, Mr Gore's movie, and other meaningful popular information transfer activities will wake enough people up to what's really at stake here so that together we might take some concerted positive actions. It's only about the future lives of our children.

 

There are a few positive glimmers such as Sir John Brown, the Chairman of British Petroleum who sometime ago mandated that the sulphur content of the deisel fuel that his refineries produce be virtually eliminated. His company is also pursuing alternative energy sources as more than a lip service gesture just to silence tree huggers such as us. BP's long range planning activities actively include scenatios for the replacement of traditional energy sources with alternatives over time. Not many other Corporations that I am aware of have gone this far.

 

flow.... :(

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Thanks Flow,

 

This is very good. I think it will take a crisis for us to wake up. Your idea of a gas tax is a very good one. If we simply conserve, prices will go down and we will use more. A tax with revenues going to alternative energy resources would stop overconsumption. Thank you as well for the positive glimmers. In the end, I put my trust in human creativity and compassion to help us through all of this. But as I said, it will probably take a crisis and a big one to wake us from our slumber.

 

John

 

John:

 

I'm wholeheartedly with you on this one, but as you pointed out, the rapture and miracles crowd have the podium at present, and it will take some miracles for saner heads to prevail, IMHO. Right now, this year, human demands upon this planet's resources are 25% in excess of the planet's ability to provide. It is a situation that cannot be sustained much longer.

 

It's too bad that it takes so long for some people to recognize a problem when it comes along and hits them in the head with a large and heavy hammer. Those of us who had the great and good fortune to be employed at large research universities twenty and thirty years ago saw a lot of this coming, but aside from publishing research papers and starting local movements, not much real was done. Most politicians just laughed at you when you tried to talk to them about it.

 

Perhaps the best assessment that I ever read in lay language was an article in Forbes Magazine a short time after the first OPEC embroglio in the mid-70's. The late Malcom himself did the honors I recall and he advised slapping a $2.00 a gallon excise tax on gasoline and other combustible petroleum products right then. And Malcom Forbes was a very conservative fellow, not a radical crazy.

 

First, this would have brought us into line with our European brothers who are still paying about three times as much as us for fuel. Second it would have provided a new revenue stream for research into alternative energy sources that we could be utilizing as I write this. ( Keep in mind that fuel cells were first used in space travel in the 60's and still haven't been developed for general use on the earth.) And third it would have gotten us used to paying real prices for what we were doing, rather than letting the great American political subsidization machine soothe our pain until we HAD to start paying the piper, and perhaps it was also too late to do anything meaningful about the problem.

 

I agree that the powerdown and lifeboat options seem to be the most sensible options these days as the abyss seems to be yawning before us. But then Western Civilization, and particularly Americans, never has had the will to do much of anything about looming problems until they become too intrusive upon our hedonistic lifestyles to ignore any longer. Compassion seeems to be seriously lacking among those who "have" as opposed to those who relatively "have not".

 

Now we are cursed with a proliferation of urban sprawls that are mostly out of control, and that force us all to waste vast amounts of time, money, and energies just to drive around and try to live our lives. I am among those who have always thought that there had to be a better way to live than that concocted after WWII by urban planners who were dominated in their design plans by greedy developers and greedier politicians. Let's hope that this book, Mr Gore's movie, and other meaningful popular information transfer activities will wake enough people up to what's really at stake here so that together we might take some concerted positive actions. It's only about the future lives of our children.

 

There are a few positive glimmers such as Sir John Brown, the Chairman of British Petroleum who sometime ago mandated that the sulphur content of the deisel fuel that his refineries produce be virtually eliminated. His company is also pursuing alternative energy sources as more than a lip service gesture just to silence tree huggers such as us. BP's long range planning activities actively include scenatios for the replacement of traditional energy sources with alternatives over time. Not many other Corporations that I am aware of have gone this far.

 

flow.... :(

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