Saturday, March 25, 2006

Peak oil, fearism, and our future

Consider this article: Energy refugee fleeing $100-a-barrel oil .. "Around the time of the first oil shock in 1973, columnist Art Buchwald penned a satirical column about what life without cheap oil would be like in the 1990s. One day, a father and son go out for their first drive in weeks because fuel costs $8.50 a gallon. 'I feel like a steak,' says the father to his son. And the boy asks, 'Dad, what's a steak?' ... To many Americans, the approaching petroleum calamity remains invisible, but not to my pal John P. Like so many others, he rolled into Arizona from the Midwest a few decades ago bent on fleeing an assortment of ecological and environmental abuses in favor of adventure, clean air, cheap energy and abundant water.... 'You might say that I was an environmental refugee,' the steely-eyed, onetime congressional candidate and former big-time river guide said as he sipped some simple black coffee on the outskirts of Sedona not far from his hideaway in Rim Rock.... 'I always figured that I'd stay here until the managed-care guys came to take me away.'... But my pal has changed his mind. 'See that price?' he said, pointing to a gas station sign advertising fuel for $2.50 a gallon. 'There have been warnings galore, but we've to fix the energy levees, so to speak. That's the last time you'll see it that low; denial about our oil addiction trumps any 12-step program. We are out of here because here in the red rocks and in so many other places, inconvenient facts about energy and water are taboo; oil is headed for $100-a-barrel oil, just the least shock will do it: a tanker blown in the Persian Gulf, a refinery sabotaged.'..." And with that he's planning to move to Idaho to escape the coming fuel catastrophe.

This kind of story just reminds me of one thing. Survivalists. In the 1990's they were escaping the y2k problem. Earlier they were escaping nuclear war. Today there's scares about bird flu, terrorists, peak oil, etc.

Now, I'm very interested in this peak oil scenario. This scenario certainly looks very realistic and I am very concerned about when will it happen.

But ... let's consider the psychological/emotional/spiritual component to this.

What we have is a scary story. People like John P quoted above are taking the fear in that story, and living that fear as if its true, taking drastic actions out of fear.

Ask yourself, if you are having fear, if you are in so much fear you're terrified of the future, how does that affect the range of actions you can take? Doesn't this trigger the fight or flight reflex, causing it to become a survival issue? And, sure enough, there is a lot of evidence with the peak oil scenario that make it look like the survival of our society is at stake.

One of the things that is true about fear is it limits your vision. Your limited vision can see fewer possible solutions.

For example John P is missing out on all sorts of solutions being developed in the world. Instead he's escaping to Idaho expecting the world he knows to collapse into bloodshed. No doubt he's going to stockpile food and guns and be prepared to be killing anybody who wants to take his survival, represented by the food and guns, away from him.

But what about the development of biofuels, of better solar energy systems, better wind energy systems, more reliable nuclear systems, vehicles available from the car companies that can burn non-fossil fuels, and more. He's not seeing them, because the fear doesn't allow it.

If you find yourself in fear, what can you do? There's a range of possibilities.

For example if you're unaware of your fear, you have little ability to navigate out of the fear. Instead it's more likely you'll take rash actions based on the limited vision your fear allows you to have.

The key is to learn to be aware when you are in fear, and to recognize the effects to yourself that come from being in fear.

Next, having the awareness of the fear and the effects is when you can choose differently. What I recommend is a prayer I've learned from Ron Roth: Peace to my thoughts, peace to my emotions, peace to my body, peace to the world. You can also meditate upon the divine presence such as repeating to yourself, and embodying, "come holy spirit, divine holy spirit".

Those practices are not the only ones which will help you come out of fear. They are what I do for myself.

Another thing I've learned is there are many problems, such as the peak oil issue, where my conscious mind, my ego, has no clue how to solve the problem. However, the divine mind does know the answer. The divine, or if you prefer the name 'God', created this universe and surely must have an idea or two of how we in this culture at this time on this planet can resolve the problems facing us.

I don't know what that answer is, but I do know that whatever it is has to happen through us. For 'God' to act in the world 'we' must take actions, because we are God's agents in the world.

What this leads to is an idea. Taking the prayer concept I described above, here's how you might apply it to a world situation like the peak oil scenario, the Iraq war, the impending war in Iran, etc.

First spend some time meditating upon the divine as I described above. Then shift to a prayer like "come holy spirit, peace to the people of Iraq, peace to the soldiers in Iraq, peace to the countries surrounding Iraq, peace to the leaders in Iraq, ...". It helps to visualize inside yourself peace flooding through Iraq.

Now, I should point out that true peace is not the cessation of war. I think of true peace as it is exemplified by forests. A forest has a life of its own which manifests and protects the systemic organization that is the forest. Stuff happens in forests, there are animals hunting for meals, they sometimes kill one another, there are ant colonies having wars with each other, etc. All that stuff is going on, but whatever it is the life of the forest is completely intertwined with all that stuff that's going on. Anything that happens is swallowed by the life force of the forest.

Which was a long way of saying, you can pray for something but let go of attachment to a specific result. Your ego mind may have brilliantly come up with the supposedly perfect solution, but God may have a completely different idea. As the old saying goes, if you want to hear God laugh tell her your plans.