Monday, June 30, 2008

We are just starting phase two

Stages of Oil Depletion Grief

1. Denial. "Peak oil? Baloney! There's lots of oil left. No worries, mate."

2. Anger. "It's the damn ________'s (oil companies, governments, OPEC, etc.) fault that oil prices are going up. They're gouging us. The bastards!"

3. Bargaining. "But what about new oil discovery technologies? What about biofuels? I can keep my SUV, right? Someone, or some new discovery will save us ...right?"

4. Depression. "Damn... no renewable energy source is as energy dense as oil, or quickly scalable... Holy crap. We are _________ (in for a rough ride, doomed, etc.)"

5. Acceptance. "Ok, even if we are in for a rough ride, what I can do? What can I ask my government representatives to do? How can I make a difference? How can I prepare? How can we support research into potential technological breakthroughs?"
From here (H/T Sam). If you're still at stage 1 – or 0 (ignorance) – then check out the whole page, which is a good introduction to peak oil and why it worries lots of intelligent people.


Michael's getting fed up with blogging - and nutters.

Jason is pondering prayers for the dead.

Boxologies links to a Presidential selector quiz.

Eric is trying to remember something. I think it is who he is.

And Ben's thinking about pornography - and worship.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The future is expensive

Following the success of their Climate Clever-er campaign last year, GetUp are hoping to soon run this ad on prime time TV (to make it happen, donate here).*

Both ads use humour to make their point; in both cases the government's proposed solutions are ludicrously inadequate when compared with the magnitude of the issue. High petrol prices are here to stay. There's no point cutting excise, whether by 5c or 10c, nor will knowing tomorrow's high price make it more affordable. We need to change our assumptions and behaviour, to discover that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
*Notice that GetUp are criticising Kevin and the ALP (not for the first time!). This is no Labor front.

Into the Wild: a review

When I first saw previews for Into the Wild, I must admit I was quite skeptical. I thought it looked like a Kathmandu ad, promoting adventure holidays and the rugged romantic individualism that seeks to find in nature either a beast to be conquered, or a god to be worshipped (both goals requiring suitably sensible hiking equipment at a reasonable price).

However, having watched it last night on the recommendation of my personal film critic (isn't it great when you come to trust the judgement of certain friends and so are willing to give apparently unlikely flicks a go on their so say?), I stand corrected. Managing to criticise both the shallowness of consumerism and the destructiveness of individualism, what it offers as an alternative is grace - forgiveness, covenant and the slow healing of memory and desire through the sharing of life with others.

Based on a true story from the early 90s, the film traces the journey of a young man who renounces society and comfort and ends up living in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. Family and finances, career and college degree are all left behind for a battered copy of Thoreau and pair of sturdy walking boots. "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." On his exodus appear many potential surrogate family members, who offer companionship, understanding and love, but these are all rejected in the pursuit of purity.

Predictably, enlightenment takes a tragedy: "happiness [is] only real when shared". In this, Into the Wild echoes the best impulses of early monasticism, where flight to the desert was not to abandon one's neighbour, but to learn how to love him better.

The explicit theology of the film is good: "When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God's light shines on you." The implicit theology of the narrative is better: "When God's light shines on you, you are loved and learn to love. And when you are loved and learn to love, you are forgiven and can forgive."

Four out of five.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In the news

My surprising wife has just sent me this article from today's SMH. Worth a read, especially if you know Jess.

While I'm giving some personal news, we now have a departure date for Scotland. We'll be leaving Australia on Monday 4th August, which is a little earlier than we expected, but gives us a chance to visit some good friends on the way.

I think my posting might continue to be a little less regular than usual until we are there and all set up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eight years

Back in 2000, Sydney was gearing up for the Olympics, I was still studying philosophy, we'd all stopped worrying about Y2K (and those who cared were instead dealing with the dot com bubble bursting), the US was trying to decide between Gore and Bush (who had defeated McCain, amongst others, in the primaries), eventually needing some help from the Supreme Court, UK lorry drivers engaged in a series of crippling fuel protests over soaring oil prices (which had hit the outrageous sum of US$30), world population had just passed the 6 billion mark (we're now at over 6.7 billion) and on a sunny June day in Waverley a young couple were married.

Happy anniversary, Jessica!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The good oil: oil and the common good

One point where the rubber of individualism really hits the road is transport. We love our cars. What an amazing ability we have: to select a destination that would take hours to arrive at on foot and get there in minutes! But this has become so normal that we think we have a right to get anywhere we want in a minimum of time and without reference to others. Perhaps that's why we get so angry at traffic. Or high petrol prices.

Yet rising petrol prices are good. Because rising prices are a signal telling us that, as a society, we are using petrol faster than we can produce it. If there's not quite enough to go around, then prices will rise until demand falls to the level of the available supply. Of course, rising prices might be telling us something else: that petrol companies are ripping us off, that there has been a brief disturbance in the global oil supply due to political instability or natural disaster, that the government is unfairly taxing a useful commodity, that speculators are pushing the price up in order to make a quick buck. But sustained global price rises (the cost of oil has doubled in the last year, quadrupled in the last six) tells us that whatever other short-term causes there might be, something very basic about supply and demand is probably going on behind it. And that is something worth pondering.

Oil is a finite resource. There is only so much of it beneath our feet and so far we haven't worked out how to make any more any time soon.* This means that at some stage, we will reach a point where we can't get what's left in the ground out any faster than we already are.** If not now, then within a handful of years, most geologists think that the world will hit that maximum possible oil production. And from there the only way is down. And that means more price rises.

At least, that's what companies like Ford, General Motors, Toyota, British Airways, American Airlines, Dow Chemical and United Airlines - all of whom whom rely heavily on oil - are assuming, based on their recent moves to start radically reshaping their activities. They don't expect prices to significantly drop in the medium to long term and so are working out how to adjust as a result.

But it's not just companies. There are all kinds of implications for governments and individuals too. The end of cheap oil will affect all of us and not only when we fill up. Readily available oil has been one of the basic assumptions upon which our modern society is built. But higher prices are a signal that it's time for a re-think of many things.

For a start, we'll need to re-examine the way we build our lives around the almost ubiquitous use of cars. And one thing that might mean is working out how to live more locally. Another might be a greater reliance on public transport (for instance, you might like to support this campaign).

For the last six months, Jessica and I have been blessed with a car on loan from a friend who has been overseas. He returns this weekend, which will force us to be more deliberate about our transport options again - a good thing! The habit of believing I ought to be able to go anywhere anytime is hard to shake. Cars can be a lovely luxury, but they are also one of the primary sacramental experiences of an individualist culture. In my car, I feel I am master of my own destiny, able to negotiate a path through life to where I wish to go. The only community consists of paying just enough attention to one other's movements such that we might avoid bumping into each other. Perhaps rubbing a few more shoulders on the bus will be good for our soul.
*I realise that it is possible to turn coal and natural gas into oil, but this process is currently very polluting and in any case both coal and gas are likewise finite, and so even massive investment in this technology would simply postpone the issue a little.
**I realise that I'm simplifying here too, but not - I hope - irresponsibly so.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Diamonds are forever...

...other carbon-based mining resources may not last quite so long.

Do any of these headlines sound familiar?

• Oil at all-time high
• Consumers demand relief from rising petrol prices
• Oil closes at another record
They were front page news back on 28th September 2004 when the price of a barrel of West Texas crude (the standard used to talk about 'the price of oil') briefly passed US$50. In 2000, during his first presidential campaign, Bush criticised the Clinton administration for shamefully "allowing" the price to skyrocket to $28 a barrel. This morning, I woke to hear it is now at US$138.54.

When will we wake up and smell the coffee?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Going green: rituals and repentance

Philip Freier, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, warns against superficial change in responding to ecological crises. True care for creation begins with repentance, not recycling.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Plato on strategic inexactitudes

Socrates: "Lying is a task to be entrusted to specialists."

- Plato, The Republic, 3.389b.

Winners and losers: individualism and the common good

At the deepest level, what individualism gets wrong about the world is that life is not a competition. We often think that we live in a world of competing desires and it’s dog eat dog, sink or swim. In a world like that, the strongest or cleverest or quickest or richest will get the best toys and the devil take the hindmost. But the good news of Jesus is that this is not in fact the case. What is best for me is what is best for you. And what is best for you is what is best for me. God wakes us from the nightmare of self-obsession to discover the wonderful news that there is such a thing as the common good. It may not always be easy to find; it may well require that we deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Jesus. But it is not the case that the only way I can win is if you lose.

Monday, June 02, 2008

June points table

Well, I've now had twelve monthly points tables and we're back to June again. May's table was quiet, but then so was the month as a whole. Ten bonus points to One of Freedom, five to Jonathan, and three each to Doug Forbes and Sair. There are 547 points currently on offer.

June points table

15: Peter J
12: Anthony
10: Jonathan

Ten points for guessing the blogger who appears in this image.