Peak oil doomster gloom

To paraphrase Waylon Jennings, Don’t you think this doomster bit has done got out of hand.

That’s what Paul Kedrofsky asked on Twitter, “are peak oil theorists turning into doomster defeatists?”, linking to a discussion on The Oil Drum.

Yeah, some are. Peak oil and global warming have become religion to them and deviations from the doctrine are not tolerated. Then there’s the positive delight they obviously take in describing the imminent collapse of civilization due to our profligate, sinful ways. How very Old Testament of them.

Well, darn it, I don’t want to live in a yurt and spend my days capturing small furry creatures to eat for dinner. Nor do I think that’s going to happen. Do we face serious challenges? Absolutely. But, hey, the Black Death took out more than 50% of the known population of the planet and guess what, the rest survived and a few decades later, positively prospered. (Because there were less people and thus more resources. Not that I’m hoping for a die-off.)

So, I think we’ll muddle through.


  1. So, if your way of life can be maintained, just how many people are you willing to kill to keep from changing? Why not answer the question in those plain terms? Would you be OK with, say 1 million more global deaths annually if US upper class lifestyles can stay the same? 300,000?

    That’s not defeatism…that’s the obvious conclusion any reasonable ethicist, much less an economist, would have to make from your ramblings.

    Acribing amoral delight to one’s argument counter-parties is one of the lowest forms of rhetoric. Grow up.

  2. “the Black Death took out more than 50% of the known population of the planet…”

    Many of the survivors lived on small furry creatures, and they would have loved to have a yurt.

    While I don’t consider myself a defeatist, I do recognize that our way of life is unsustainable, even if world population was reduced by half. Malthus’s math was wrong, but his premise was sound: either we can fix it, or nature will fix it for us. You choose.

  3. There seems to be a degree of flippancy in your comments, I also detect a sort of we will fix this in any way we can as long as we can continue with our American way of life. It is this degree of arrogance that the poorer parts of the world recent so much and creates a sense of bitterness. Coming from the world’s greatest polluters we would expect a degree more of humbleness and an awareness that they cannot continue with the same sort of life style at other people’s expense. As you said, it is unsustainable. If there has to be a “die-off” then perhaps the most logical and fairest answer would be that it should be the world’s greatest polluters.

  4. Not all peak oilers are doomsters (I may be one of the few exceptions, but I think I count as a peak oiler of long standing).

    For that matter, I think the PO world circa 4 years ago was far more gloomy and paranoid than the much larger community that exists today.

    Regarding the last comment, about the biggest polluters deserving to die first – while I reject the idea of dieoff wholeheartedly and think this line of reasoning will lead you to a bad place, I’ll nevertheless recommend reading John Brunner’s book “The Sheep Look Up”, which might be the first place that idea was raised…

  5. I also see a “die-off” as a possible answer as cynical and reprehensible. though those who see it as an answer somehow seem to imagine that they will be among the survivors, and this I believe is based on arrogance. You’ll have to explain where this bad place is?? One man’s bad place might be another’s delight.

  6. John, though I agree with you in principle of fairness, fair has little to do with reality. In actuality, it is sadly the poor who have the worst living conditions, the worst diets, the worst disease resistance, and the worst medical care who are likely to bear the brunt of our folly.

    I also recognize that the Empire could well come crashing down in my lifetime, leaving behind it some sort of “dark age,” though what that might look like (yurts with wi-fi is a real possibility) I have no certain idea. Hence my own emphasis on sustainability and self-reliance as well as reducing my own personal impact.

  7. If all the world except America make a massive adjustment to their life style it will still be to no avail, what can the poorest do? There are millions who already don’t have enough to eat what will their contribution be in reducing their carbon footprint? The world’s biggest polluter is the biggest problem and until the Americans accept that they will have to make a substantial change in their lifestyle, we will all sink with them. I am well aware of the unfair nature of the injustice in this world. my mention of the biggest polluters being the first in the “die-off” was more or less to emphasise that the real change will have to come from them. Hybrid cars etc. are a bit of an illusion, what industrial processes and materials go into the manufacture and maintainance of the hybrid as opposed to the conventional? Having agreed on the hybrid will we set about seeing that all the world can have its own hybrid car? It seems to be a case of change as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me too much.

  8. I’ve calculated that a sustainable, equitable level of CO2 emissions would be 2 tons per person per year.

    Much of the world is already far below this. But the U.S. and Canada are at 20 tons per capita, the UK and most of Europe around 10 tons.

    My wife and I have undertaken the challenge to reduce our household emissions to zero, and offset the 12 tons the U.S. economy emits on our behalf (with real offsets, not third-world projects that have no impact at home).

    Will you take the challenge?

  9. It is difficult for me to cut my carbon footprint much lower than it is. I live alone on a state pension, have no car, no TV, walk and cycle a lot and use public transport. I never throw away food and I don’t over eat, try to shop local for local produce, I re-cycle what I can and buy clothes from charity shops and what clothes and things I feel I don’t need I hand in to charity shops. Due to the miserable state pension, I have difficulty in heating the house during the winter and tend to heat one room for short periods at a time. However I consider myself a happy chappy and enjoy my life within those confimes with the wee dream that one day we will sort it all out and get rid of the corporate world and the greed that goes hand in hand with that philosophy.

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