A Deeper Question
Few people on the planet cannot now feel the vibrations. At first they were superficial. Now they're subterranean. Even as China, Silicon Valley, and oil producers considered themselves immune, now they feel the seismic movements of a vast economy grinding into recession -- and taking the rest of the world with it.
Whether we are in economic recession is no longer the issue. Will the situation become a depression? Where is the epicenter? How deep is our mess? What are the causes, and when will our remedies work? Are we missing critical information? Is this an isolated earthquake or a tectonic shift which may subduct or replace entire continents?
If the answer to the critical questions is anywhere close to yes, then we are failing to understand the deepest causes of our crisis, and it is not only possible, but highly likely, that even if the proposed financial remedies do start to work, any beneficial effects will be short-lived and in the longer run will make matters worse.
We are beginning to understand that already we have multiple problems coming to a head at the same time, so that our paths of action must take account of and not worsen climate change, a host of environmental problems, droughts and food shortages, not to mention a broad array of social problems.
Surely we are looking hard for economic and financial causes of the crisis and trying for pecuniary remedies that will reach and quell the epicenter. First a little consumer stimulus was applied, then some bigger bank bailouts, then a $700 billion injection for Wall Street, of which everyone would like a cut. Bloomberg News now suggests the rescue package may cost 7.7 trillion dollars, yet so far nothing seems to be working.
Is the epicenter really 700 billion or 7 trillion dollars or euros or rubles? Is this perhaps some other kind of problem masquerading as a financial disaster? I believe yes -- this is really an energy crisis.
The Energy Secret
It is generally accepted that money makes the world go around, that our economic systems depend on the flow of money. Superficially this seems undeniable, but underneath, energy moves everything. Energy makes the planet and everything on it live. Energy is the real flow of the economy; money is merely a clever way of controlling that energy.
This is the Energy Secret. It is blindingly obvious, but somehow our economic systems ignore our total dependence on energy and its flow, treating energy as just another commodity and hoping that the market will solve any shortage. However, the market is a blind watchmaker, and now we need to see clearly. As long as we don't understand that energy is the real cause of life -- the nearest thing to an 'unmoved mover' -- and that energy is the real cause of economic activity or lack of it, we'll keep misunderstanding the plight we are now in. We'll do the wrong things and apply the wrong remedies, wasting precious time and resources and risking rising social unrest and planetary breakdown.
Because of the complex systems we have built, the energy secret has many aspects that need deep and careful analysis. The problems exposed will in turn need careful strategic and infrastructural change -- most of our transport, food, and communications systems depend entirely on fossil fuels, oil in particular. In total this transformation will take many minds many years to achieve, starting with the most immediately pressing part of the energy secret, namely the need to publicize and understand the implications of peak oil.
Peak oil is a term used to describe what happens when the rate of oil production depletion overtakes the rate of new production, first leading to a peak and bumpy plateau of oil supply followed by an undulating terminal decline.
Increasing evidence suggests that we may well have just entered that terminal decline phase. Declining oil supplies will change how everything in modern industrial life is done, and will be compounded by the eventual decline of the other fossil fuels.
It has taken decades for climate change to be accepted by world leaders and still we are arguing about what to do about it, with most proposals being hopelessly pusillanimous and procrastinating. But at least the climate secret is out and we are talking about it in public places. Peak oil is still not generally known, discussed, or understood in any high level policy arena. The mainstream media remains steadfastly silent about it. This is all part of the energy secret which includes and perhaps stems from a poor understanding of science and how things really work.
One of the earliest and most important fruits of understanding the energy secret could be policy changes and technological and social developments that could address both climate change and the decline of oil, to the great betterment of a sustainable economy, society, and planet.
I will in the coming weeks explore the many seams of the energy secret in depth, but ultimately the aim is to expose the real importance of energy and bring a much deeper understanding into the discussion of our economic plight so that we turn this unfortunate time into an extraordinary opportunity to rebuild systems that will be truly sustainable. It is clear that, though we shall have to abandon some obsolete technologies and practices, we must vigorously help and incubate the green and clean technologies even as we rethink some key aspects of society, culture and economics.
Ultimately seismic activity helps keep the earth alive by bringing new land to the surface, but another of the energy secrets is to know which plate is rising and which is falling so that we choose the right path.