Sometimes I think of all the ways I am connected to the oil industry and I just feel like stripping down to my birthday suit and running wild-haired down the street until I reach a destination that doesn’t use fossil fuels. I never do it because usually I realize that I’d be running forever; and I’d be cold. As Amanda Little does such a great job of pointing out, everything we do is connected to the mining of crude oil somewhere in the world. America’s petroleum addiction has created an entire universe in which everything is connected via fossil fuels and their byproducts. There isn’t a place left to hide on this tiny planet where the dominating shadow of our fossil fuel use has not left its mark.
Ervin Laszlo wrote a book called “The Chaos Point” that seeks to illustrate his idea the “the end of life as we know it” is rapidly catching up to the current moment. As outlined in JD’s presentation, Laszlo has determined four stages that have brought us to the obsession of fossil fuel that we contribute to in our every-day lives. With the advent of the Industrial “Revolution” spanning from the early 1800s to the mid 1900s, the way humanity lived on the Earth went from “reaped” to “raped.” As a species, we began to take more than ever before; and faster too. Our resource consumption skyrocketed, and so did our population worldwide, further adding to the drive of this major problem.
Several parallels that are indirectly made between many of Amanda Little’s expressions and the chaos theory developed by Laszlo are the fundamentals of the breakdown we as a species are very probably going to experience in the very near future. These fallacies will be fatal if we continue to subscribe to them; (and most likely even if we DON’T.) A big mistake we often make in choosing to live as we do is thinking that the world’s resources are inexhaustible.
On page 21 of “Power Trip,” the people of Beaumont cheer and revel as gallons of crude oil explode from the ground to cover them. It must have seemed to America as if god had looked favorably upon us, akin to the miracle of manna in the desert. The rate at which the oil spewed from the crack in the ground must have made it seem infinite and unrestricted as a source for potential energy. This is the mentality I used to have of money when I was a little kid. I used to actually think that there was an unlimited supply of funds in that little metal box. I often wondered why my mom didn’t simply slide her pass card through the slot and get some green paper out so we could buy stuff. I just didn’t understand the complexities of spending and earning money. Around the same time that I woke up from this financial disillusionment, I realized that other things had limits as well.
The image of dozens of people being coated in thick, greasy black crude petroleum honestly doesn’t seem like such a blessing to me. A scene such as this brings the malevolent being “Venom” from the Spiderman comics to the forefront of my mind. More powerful than Lee or Ditko could possibly have imagined at the time, this all-consuming force has integrated every fabric of our global human society in as little as the past 100 years. Every single thing we do is linked to the petroleum industry. As Little puts it on page 113 of her wonderful book “Power Trip,” “most of us come into contact with more plastic every day than we do human skin.” Doesn’t that strike you as just a little bit wrong?
However, the idea of conscious consumerism seems to be an even more daunting task that requires some serious consideration. Laszlo’s dangerous belief that “the more you consume, the better you are,” is difficult to overcome even by the simplest of us. Amanda Little shows this by sharing the story of her “organic salad [being] a globetrotting energy boondoggle” (Power Trip 179.) Even by choosing to eat more naturally, we are faced with the nearly insurmountable obstacle of either acknowledging that this fossil-fuel driven existence isn’t working or blindly going along with it until we all cease to exist for some reason or another.
As the title of Amanda Little’s new book “Power Trip” implies, the human race seems to be on an embarrassingly lengthy public power trip over the rest of creation. When we made the bold decision to view ourselves as separate from the rest of nature, that’s when this whole mess seems to have really taken off. We’ve cut ourselves off and boxed ourselves in to a safe and unchanging technology regulated environment. The temperature can be controlled as well as the lighting and sound. Our choice of foods on hand is also unlimited in terms of our capitalistic possibilities. Why go once a week to the Farmer’s Market for fresh local fruits when I can shop at Costco once a month for a surplus supply of fruits that survived being transported vast distances overseas? Clearly – this is saving me gas and buying in bulk helps in the reduction of packaging materials. Wow – knowing what we know now about food miles (Amanda Little, page 180) that seems incredibly short sighted.
Perhaps the old system of hunter gatherer communities that took care of each other and lived in a personally connected society wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe planting a small garden in your yard would be a better use of space than having a perfectly manicured lawn. Would individual appreciation of specific fruits and vegetables increase if we followed the changing seasons of our local climate instead of shipping them thousands of miles overseas? So many questions…so many factors to consider…how could one person as small as me possibly make a difference to this enormous giant of oil consumption smearing our species in its thick black invisible tar? It would seem that the first step might be to return from our global power trip. Humanity as a whole really has checked out for quite a long time; is it time to return to reality?
Want to join the discussion? =D
Check out Amanda Little’s new book, Power Trip, available in any bookstore and Ervin Laszlo’s The Chaos Point, also widely available if you look for it. =)