Bike to work day? Maybe more...
The Long Emergency is a book about the end of cheap oil. It was published way back in 2005 when gas was cheap; you know - like, $55 a barrel. It's fascinating to read the Rolling Stone review of the book, an article that's now about 3 years old, because the opening paragraphs of the review chasten America for being in hard-core denial about the slow, yet inevitable drying up of this resource. In the subsequent three years, our thrist for oil has only increased as a nation. Throw in the rest of the world, and the increase has become exponential. People in the know are now talking about $200 a barrel.
What does this mean? It's important for us to realize that oil is used for more than just fuel for cars. Food, technology, medicine, military, education... name an industry that doesn't have utter dependence on cheap oil built into its infrastructure. Even 'alternative energy' elements such as wind, solar, or nuclear power, are all dependent on oil for the their manufacture and production. The statistics presently rolling in all point in the same direction - we've passed the peak production of oil, so that major indicators foresee a diminishing supply, year on year, for the foreseeable future.
Demand, on the other hand, continues to rise. Some of this is because India and China have grown wealthy through industrialization. Some of this, though, is because our heads are stuck, deeply stuck, in the proverbial sand (or perhaps oil tar). We're talking about building bigger bridges across Lake Washington here in Seattle. And Los Angeles? Well, don't even get me started. We're boasting about cars that get 30 miles to the gallon. We're thinking about the future as if agriculture, transportation and everything else will require, at best, 'a little bit of conservation', as if "Bike to Work Day" will addres the issue. It reminds me a bit of the church's tendency to forget about the 2nd coming of Christ, operating forever on the principle that tomorrow will be the same as today.
We need to, at the very least, consider the possibility that the oil keg, the beverage of choice at the industrialized world's party, is over half empty, and draining quickly. If this view is even a possibility, then we need to think about what it might mean for our world, because Jeremiah 29 invites God's people to work for the blessing of the world in which they live. What attitudes should we nurture in a world running out of cheap energy?
Here are some thoughts:
1. We should pre-emptively abandon our addiction to individualism and mobility, two things which we who live in the west claim as nearly divine rights. A commitment to the common good should infect the way we make transportation decisions. It seems that such a commitment should be led by Christians, but our addictions to personal freedom and mobility are just as great as surrounding culture. Maybe we need to change things up a bit.
2. We should learn to conserve, becoming educated about the energy that goes into our food production and transport, so that we can make more informed choices,buying locally more often for the good of all.
3. We should discover ways to find joys in simpler things, because it's conceivable that someday soon, simpler things such as good conversation by candlelight, laughter, friendship, walks, campfires, and enjoying creation, may be the only options available anyway.
So yes... ride your bike to work on May 16th. But maybe think about how you'll live differently on Monday as well.
Peace and Grace...