127. PEAK OIL: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
In my opinion, this is the best argument against peak oil causing the collapse of modern civilization: it's too good to be true. The idea that we could be magically released from the stifling, inane rat race which governs our lives is appealing -- so appealing in fact, that we should be very suspicious of it.
The post-peak utopia is not going to arrive for the simple reason that it is a utopia.
Read the above sentence again, and let it sink in. Both the hard doomers and the softer relocalization peakniks like Heinberg deceive themselves by failing to fully appreciate the weight of that statement. They are allowing their hopes and their dreams to color their sober judgment.
Here's a case study, killJOY from peakoil.com:
I don't hate America, but I do hate the government. I can't wait for it to collapse.Naturally, killJOY is damn sure that peak oil will collapse the government. By an amazing coincidence, reality is going to obey his wishes.
My thinking is that the government is not going to collapse, because it's too good to be true. Think about it carefully and see if you don't agree. It's a very strong argument -- a sort of wisdom, something an old man would say to you.
I get skeptical when people start talking about the "good side of peak oil" -- like my friend bart who (understandably) longs for: "healthy, delicious food; beautiful, hand-crafted tools and homes; satisfying relationships and communities. "
It's a chapter out of Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents. Industrialism, crass consumption, debt-based fiat money, the rat race, the gubmint, environmental devastation... Whatever your peeve with the modern world is, peak oil is going to wipe it off the face of the earth, and lead us (after the "Tribulations", of course) into the New Jerusalem.
It's a form of wishful thinking, and that's why the rejoinder "too good to be true" is such a good argument. It's like cutting the Gordian Knot. It's an argument without arguing, and it's effective.
Look at killJOY. He said " I can't wait for the government to collapse" months ago, and it's gotta be demoralizing now, what with Colin Campbell pushing peak oil back to 2010. Waiting for peak oil to lay waste to industrialism, globalism and government is like waiting for Godot, or Jesus. He never comes. What makes you think you're so special -- that you'll live to see The Endtimes?
It's like a child with a lottery ticket, telling his mother. "I'm gonna be the winner, Mom! I Just know it!!"
There's no argument to prove to the kid that he's wrong. He's just having a hyper, emotional response, and you have to help him calm down. You can't reason with him about it, because he'll just keep confabulating.
The best approach, of course, is to tell the kid: "You're not going to win. It's too good to be true."
The message: You're over-excited, son. It's better to calm down. The world doesn't work neatly like that. It's messy, and sloppy, and full of friction and tenacity and delay. The "good guys" don't win.