One thing I have learned from our endless coverage of Katrina, destined to become one of the worst humanitarian and political crises of our era, is exactly how fragile is civilization. Humanity is far more dependent on machines and systems than on its own muscle and ingenuity. We build systems upon systems and sit back and let them take vital power away from people. Then something comes along and wipes away the careful clockwork that we label progress, leaving behind tragedy.
Our dependency on foreign oil is our national Achilles’ heel. We are just beginning to feel the aftershocks. As oil becomes scarce we’ll see the inevitable slowdown of production across the board as our entire infrastructure depends on oil. In major cities, supply chains depend highly upon the availability of gasoline. A modern metropolis cannot exist without a system of logistics that bring in goods from without, and our means of doing so relies entirely on the oil industry.
We are also beholden to our medical and pharmaceutical industries, as is evident from the many horrible stories coming from the gulf coast; so many people owe their long lives to continual maintenance. When the system of medical procurement breaks down our old and enfeebled are the first casualties. Too, we’re subject as a society to our own caste system of entitlement, too often based on skin color, which determines who are the most likely to suffer during major catastrophic events.
The logistic systems of food and medical supply chains, the system of entitlements are all build on upon another; all rely far too heavily on petroleum. To understand what we call civilization, we must view the interdependency of systems that, in our immense folly, are all relying upon one factor. In essence, we’ve put all our eggs in the same basket. And this basket is fraying as we reach the tipping point in global oil consumption/production ratio, called Peak Oil. And if you don’t think this is a big deal, read this.
Civilization is a very fragile construct; it won’t take much to destroy it. Think on this as you watch endless recycling of the footage over-voiced by flatulent hyperbole. Think on this as you fill the tank and bemoan the cost; as someone I spoke to last week noted: “Soon we’ll have to choose between driving and eating.”