Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Sunday, 01 May 2005

I slept well the past two nights. This isn't usually news--I always slept well. Noticing that I slept well these past two nights, though, suggests that I haven't been sleeping as well as usual lately. It's just work-related stress--I finished a task on Friday and my next task doesn't really have a deadline, so I'm not worrying about it. I haven't noticed feeling stressed lately, but I guess I have been. Perhaps that explains why I haven't been getting any writing done.

I've been reading a lot about the peak oil issue the past couple of weeks. One article in particular, that I'll link to in a moment, reads almost like science fiction (although not in a happy way).

Here's the thing. There's basically two possible responses to peak oil. Option one is the "powerdown" option, where you accept that everyone is going to be living in a world with a lot less energy, and take steps to mitigate the resulting issues: conservation, local power generation, reorganize farming to require less energy inputs for cultivating and transporting food, rebuild the rail networks (very efficient compared to trucks), etc. Then there's the "war" option, where you try to secure the lion's share of the world's oil for yourself, postponing the inevitable powerdown for a few decades. This article at a peak energy blog suggests that the US is obviously gearing up for the war option.

There's a lot of stuff in that article. It starts off talking about how the US has turned toward fascism (which is true, but kind of obvious and not really interesting or helpful). Then it talks about the powerdown versus the war options--great stuff and worth reading, especially about the different national strategies. (Countries like Ireland and New Zealand, who don't have much in the way of energy resources for other people to take, can safely go for the powerdown option without worrying too much that war will come to them.) That part is really worth reading.

Then, in the science fictiony part, it has this awesome (and really insightful) description of the obvious response of the elites (taken from this page at a site which I gather is no longer being updated). Either the powerdown scenario or the war scenario could easily lead to a breakdown in order:

If the anarchy scenario were to reach its natural conclusion, the global elites would be eliminated by the angry masses. Those who managed to escape would die more miserably than the poor since they are unsuited for day-to-day survival because they lived their lives like queen bees.

But when the above scenario seems inevitable, the elites will simply depopulate most of the planet with a bioweapon. When the time comes, it will be the only logical solution to their problem. It's a first-strike tactic that leaves the built-infrastructure and other species in place....

One thing he doesn't say, but which seems obvious to me, is this obvious issue: Once the global elites realize that a bioweapon that selectively depopulates the planet is in the cards, then it becomes a race to see which group of elites can deploy the weapon first, because you vaccinate yourself against your own weapon, and number yourself among the survivors, but if some other group deploys their weapon first, you're screwed. So, you can't wait and see if order can be maintained, you have to depopulate the planet before somebody else does it.

It's not a new idea in science fiction, but up until now I've usually seen it done by either rabid racist/eugenics kooks or "save the planet" kooks. Now, though, we have a new motivating factor: "I don't really want to depopulate the planet, but if we don't do it, someone else will do it first."

Personally, I don't think the powerdown option sounds so bad, especially if it happens reasonably gradually, and we can get the government involved in coordinating a response--rebuilding the rail infrastucture, providing a framework of laws so that the abandoned suburbs can be reclaimed for farmland in an orderly way, etc.

I guess I need to write some fiction.


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