In order to grow the numbers, however, we have to produce more stuff, and to do that we need more energy.
Enter Stage Left, a key protagonist in the fairytale of continuous growth: Cheap Oil.
Oil has worked incredible magic on human affairs, and now we depend on it totally. Our entire food and farming system is based on oil. So is our transport system. The banking and financial systems and pension funds are built on investing in industries that are built on oil. Oil powers our cities. Literally everything we make, use and throw away, needs oil.
But oil is finite. It’s a once-off legacy of evolutionary events that happened millions of years ago, under conditions that will never happen again. Never. And in a mere hundred years or so, a blink of an evolutionary eye, we have managed to use half of all that ever was.
And what have we done with it?
Well, mostly we’ve set fire to it. Burned it up in cars and trains and planes and factories and power stations – the engines of our growth economy and the foundation of western civilisation. In the process, we have dangerously degraded life’s vital support systems to the point that our addiction to fossil-fuelled growth is literally killing us.
When you look at the whole picture – the exponential increase in population, degradation of land, depletion of resources, accumulation of waste, pollution of all kinds, the destruction of biodiversity, and the big one, climate change – it is clear our way of life is perceptibly affecting our planet home, like a disabling disease.
Our Story is pathogenic.
But western culture, like a chronic alcoholic pre-AA, is in a mess, and in denial. Establishment ‘experts’ confidently assure us that the cure is more of the same medicine, and that our future well-being and prosperity depends on exporting our Story right across the globe, to the four billion humans who haven’t yet learned to be as clever as we are. We have to keep growing to keep going.
Watch… the… watch.
It’s hard not to see our intrepid leaders as monkeys chattering high up in a tree while the trunk and the roots are dying.