Saturday, June 07, 2008

Ooops, our oil reserves are finite - what a surprise

Quite funny, the Green movement has told us (well, at the time I was a very active part of it) some 20 years ago that we're running out of oil, and that - among other things - we need to reconsider our predominant modes of transport (a 1 ton vehicle to transport a 70kg body to the supermarket around the corner; academics like myself flying frequently to a far-flung corner of the world to give a 15-20 min presentation that could have been presented just as well by audio-videolink - but hey, what else do we have to feel good about ourselves :-).

It goes without saying we Greenies were variously called tree-huggers, stupid, romantic, naive or a combination of these things. Well, we were right, of course, our resources on this planet are very much finite (hence the idea that we need continuing economic growth to be happy is so remarkably and so obviously silly, yet it drives everything that we do).

So, fast forward to mid 2008. The oil price has reached breathtaking heights, and while we should be mostly concerned about the impact this will have on the affordability of food products, if you watch TV (presumably on your giant flat screen TV, which happens to have replaced ovens in many homes because they're emanating so much heat) you will be forgiven for thinking that the oil price issue is really about airline survival and the Hummer (the ridiculous GM car still produced for the Homer Simpson types of the real world - reportedly men with really really small penises). There is some good news, though, airlines shut down plenty of planes; here is hoping that Air Canada might fall by the wayside altogether, but things are not looking promising because the airline has long since begun to treat its customers particularly badly, so it might survive longer than some of its better behaved competitors.

There's also some huha about GM shutting down car factories in various countries. The truth is, of course, that this is a small reason for celebrations as it will bring us closer to keeping much-needed energy reserves for longer. Of course, for some bizarre reason, those in power (let's call them our 'representatives') do not seem to bother about putting efficient public transport systems in place. I live currently a lot of the time in Kingston, a medium-sized city in Ontario. The public transport system does arguably not even deserve the name system. The bus stops don't display information as to the route of the buses that happen to stop there on the odd occasion, indeed, even information about when buses can be expected to stop there (it's called a timetable in Europe) is not on display. Surely it can't surprise then that people take their giant American car out for a ride to the supermarket. So, decades after we knew we couldn't go on like we did, we chose collectively to stick our head in the sand and voted for GM's Hummer, Chrysler's 300C (incidentally a car driven by Barack Obama the supposedly so clever US Senator trying to become the next President of the USA), and my all-time favourite car, the Maserati Sedan.

Ok, I'm getting off my soap box now. Guess all I'm saying is, ask yourself more often what the impact of your action on the environment and future generations is. If your action is incompatible with a high-quality environment and existing future generations of people, don't do it unless you really have no choice (slight inconvenience isn't the same as saying that you really have no choice).

Conflict of interest declaration: I can't drive, so decent public transport would make a big difference to my life.

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