50. POWERDOWN AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION
The peak oiler theory seems to be this: Powerdown (whether intentional or unintentional) will have positive effects on the health of the environment, and thus is something environmentalists should welcome.
While this is certainly true in some cases, I would also argue for the opposite effect: Powerdown will make everyone increasingly poor, and they will assault the environment to compensate. For example, fuel shortages (or expensive fuel) will lead people to poach trees for fuel, and food shortages (or increasing poverty) will lead people to clear new land, poach wildlife, overfish, fish over the limit etc.
Cuba is often cited as an example of successful powerdown, but the evidence shows that Cuba has the same environmental problems as other countries:
Sufficiently is known from these and other sources to assume the presence of severe environmental problems in Cuba. One of the most significant and recent of these sources is Cuba's own "National Environmental Strategy," an official document presented in 1997 at the United Nations Earth Summit in New York (Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, 1997). It acknowledged an impressive list of severe and chronic environmental problems:
*Soil degradation, including erosion, acidification, salinity, compacting and poor draining, all of them directly caused or induced by long-term mismanagement.
*The deterioration of sanitation and the environment of human settlements, including water treatment standards and supply, decaying sewage systems, deficient garbage collection and disposal, increased atmospheric pollution, and unsafe treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes.
*Inland and marine water pollution, aggravated in the last few years by the poor treatment of waste waters (almost half of the contaminated outflow load in coastal environments comes from the sugar industry and one quarter from domestic wastes).
*Deforestation, an old problem for the Cuban environment (the Cuban government claims 19.8 percent of the territory covered by forests, versus 14 percent in 1959. This is most probably an overstatement (Portela, CubaNews, July 1998).
*The loss of biological diversity, such as the extinction of many valuable species of plants and animals, one of the most important assets of the island.Source(pdf)
North Korea, another country which has experienced a form of powerdown, also has severe ongoing environmental problems.