Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears -

New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears -

One of the reasons I gave up car ownership in early 2006 was that I literally wanted to "walk the talk" in some small way, in moving toward a more sustainable way of living on this planet. I wanted to start to develop the skills that I thought would be necessary in the years to come. I was coming to a realization that what I determined to be a lifestyle dominated by promotion of over-consumption of material goods was simply not sustainable.

This has lead to interesting discussions in recent years with friends and neighbours. My sense is that most people viewed me as perhaps 'eccentric' in my take on life, but essentially harmless. I watched from my perch adjacent to the Vanier Parkway (an arterial road near central Ottawa), as untold thousands continued to commute back and forth to work, or simply drive their SUV to pick up a few groceries at the big box Loblaws down the street. In the meantime, I fixed my bicycle, and learned the local bus routes. I may have finally unwrapped my fingers from the steering wheel, but many in Ottawa stuck to the highway.

I also remember last spring, when gasoline prices started to surge, that there was considerable outcry fomented by many against 'gouging' by 'Big Oil'. "They are making too much money all ready!" was the rant, and the government should do something about it. I am no lover of big oil, but my take at the time on the matter was that it was essentially an issue of supply and demand. The supply simply was not there, irrespective of price. Prices stopped going up once demand was curtailed. This is backed up by the fact that world wide daily production of oil has remained steady in the 84-5 mb/d range since 2004, despite escalating demand for product, most notably from India and China.

Not many people were considering that perspective last year, but it may be starting to gain some traction. What had been mainly the writing of the the fringe is beginning to hit mainstream. This recent article in the Wall Street Journal is a case in point. Is Wall Street perhaps beginning to concede that there may be "Limits to Growth"? That would have been heretical speculation a few short years ago.

Where exactly will gas prices go in the coming months? Is this truly the beginning of the end of the Oil Age? If so, will people be ready? Just as importantly, are our governments ready, or will they bury their collective heads in the sand until it is too late? Do we have a Plan B other than hoping that we will find more?

It is time for humanity to get serious in developing a post carbon low-energy way of existence on this planet. The sooner we start, the less difficult the transition will be. The era of cheap energy is over and it is time we started to get used to that fact.

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