Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Those Were the Days My Friend"

In the future, as we fight among each other for a place beneath abandoned freeway overpasses in which to huddle as a mass for protection against the biting cold of the freezing ice storm that night,under that same freeway that, during the day--if the sun happens to be shining, we lie prone atop collecting hints of the warmth absorbed within that tarry surface, we may curse and ponder why, before the end of the Petroleum Era, our leaders did nothing to prevent it from coming to this. (See yesterday's Always, always, my next car is my last)

Well, from "The Party's Over", a book I'm reading about what happens after we go beyond peak oil, I offer a couple of reasons as suggested by the author, Richard Heinberg, why no leader had the juevos to take actions that may have helped us transit through these bleak times a bit more painlessly. This will be a hot topic for the freezing, dying hordes struggling for a little warmth offered by an old bridge formerly designed for cars, now serving to incubate the weakened and vulnerable former passengers in those cars.

Our leaders chose to take us down the path of optimism by:

- planning "to meet short-term crises because that is the only kind we will ever face, and don't worry about future generations because they will have advanced technologies to solve whatever prolems we may be creating for them";

- forgetting "about efforts to impose improvements in energy efficiency since the marketplace will provide for improvements when and if they are needed";

- forgetting "about government programs to develop renewable energies because if and when alternatives are needed, price signals will trigger the market to turn in their direction";

- "continuing to use fossil fuels at whatever rates are dictated byt eh market since to do otherwise will hurg the economy"; and

- "treating population growth as a benefit rather than a problem, and do nothing to slow or reverse existing growth trends."

I might offer one note of caution here, however. While these points are bound to incite some hot debate among shivering strangers being crushed into intimacy from others struggling to invade their circle of warmth from the outside, be careful. For even as we today witness 1/3 of the American population displaying some throwback Neanderthal genetic tendencies rendering them incapable of recognizing Bush as the source of their problems and not the solution to them, there will likely be some of those in the post peak-oil horde as well. And they will disagree as to who is to blame for the loss of their Humvees; of them having to vie with the masses for enough warmth to survive another night.

If you suspect any of these folks among you, better not to bring up how you came to end up at this point. Better to make small talk of how you once shaved your face with a razor that had five blades. Or how you used to drink steamy hot Starbuck's Caramel Macchiatos at $5 a throw.


Anonymous said...

OK, now you've hooked me. I'll have to read The Party's Over, certainly before our next car purchase. Your description of the final days is reminding me more & more of "A Canticle for Leibowitz" (1959 classic sci-fi by Walter Miller) which asks "what if mankind is not redeemable?" and posits a grizzly demise of your under-bridge-huddling variety. If you've never read it, there's an excellent tutorial online at

And I liked maineiacs thoughts that at least we won't have to deal with the deafening jet skis, ATVs & other egregious assaults on the senses. Peace & quiet at last (at least before we all start killing each other over the last crumbs of food).

"Those were the days, my friend.
We thought they'd never end.
We'd sing & dance forever & a day.
We'd live the life we choose,
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young & sure to have our way."


dada said...

Hi DK: I have to confess here that my under the bridge scenario is my vision of the author's prognosis only half way thru the book.

(Who knows? It may turn out to have a rosy ending? Okay, okay, so I just awoke from a nap and am, perhaps, feelin' a tad less gloomy? So I really don't know how any of this plays out. Oh wait, none of us does, do we? Never mind. Maybe I'm still not awake.)

BTW, thanks for reciting the chorus of that lovely song. I don't know HOW I got the tense of it wrong in the title of this entry. (My favorite stanza being, "Just tonight I stood outside that tavern...." which always made me feel so sad for the singer, knowing that eventually I would more than empathize with her, I'd be that singer!)

And thanks for the link to the crib sheet, er, tutorial to "A Canticle....". I've D/L'ed unto my e-book for reading later.

You know, it seems to me, with each passing day reality seems more like science fiction ticking toward some unimagineable scenarios.

Anyway, I hope you're still planning to share a pic or two from your trip?

Anonymous said...

That Leibowitz link was more along the line of a brief overview & then chapter-by-chapter questions a literature professor would ask his students. I enjoy that kind of critical dissection. If you wanted to know about the plot, just google "Canticle for Liebowitz" & the various posts pretty much give it all away. D.K.

dada said...

"Oh," he says, after shaking his e-book furiously, "thanks! I don't think I can get that off my e-book for three days w/o overriding it's super-memory that safeguards info DL'ed therein from the kids deleting it." (We haven't any.)

"Okay," he thinks, "maybe I'll do that so I know how it turns out."

Anonymous said...

oops, sorry. see how technically impaired I am? mark your calendar to delete in 3-days. I just took my own advice & read some of the google posts for Leibowitz, incl an interesting one by a guy who ghosted the sequel novel. Wikipedia was pretty detailed, too. Now I'm gonna have to unpack my books, so I can re-read it (with my tutorial in hand). D.K.

some_maineiac said...

wow, DK, we really do read many of the same things!!! "canticle" is in my library as well as much other classic SF and stuff from the time when it was branching out into "speculative fiction" instead of sappy tales of war with aliens based on hard science...another addition to my "read it again" list...

ever read something called "where late the sweet birds sang" by Kate Wilhelm?? if I remember correctly, in that book, the native americans take back the continent after we totally succeed in destroying ourselves and only partially succeed in taking the planet with us...

i'm sure you've read "childhood's end" by arthur c. clarke??? a bit of a tonic for the doom and gloom...even though the planet gets destroyed in the end...

Anonymous said...

maineiac! I knew I wasn't alone in revering Canticle. It's a definite re-read. Now, I have a convenient habit of forgetting either the title or author of so many SF books (I used to eat them like candy), so can't say as I remember Kate Wilhelm. The plot sounds familiar. After I unpack all my books (maybe by summer?), I'll look & see. "Childhood's End" yes, I definitely read that, but now it will have to go on the re-read list too. Is that the one where the master being shows himself quickly from behind to the amazed earthling (and he's black, with saurian ridges & a forked tail)? Oh, I probably have it mixed up with other Arthur C. Clark, so I'll enjoy tracing that down. Thanks for reminding me. D.K.

dada said...

Gee I envy you guys. At my advanced age, I don't remember anything I ever read. But there is one advantage to that I can think of: if we ever move, unlike DK, I won't have lots of books to take with me. Sold all of 'em but my four very favorites. Just keep reading those same four over and over. By the time I've finished the fourth, I've forgotten the first.

some_maineiac said...

heeheeheee, I was stuck in a "re-read the same 6 books by HST" rut for's absolutely incredible to me that I can now remember at least the vague outlines of the plot of most of the books in my library...and i've been collecting and saving books I enjoyed reading for the last 30 years! the last few boxes were just brought up from storage in the basement last week

yes, DK, you have a good memory as well, the huge, black alien who looks exactly like the devil is from "childhood's end", but he's actually a facilitator for the true, benevolent masters of the universe...the theme of significant events from the future being "remembered" by the current-day human characters is explored a bit with that characterization...