Blog: John Batdorf

New Michigan motto: "If you seek a green peninsula, look about you." On April 22nd over 1 billion people worldwide will celebrate our green planet. John Batdorf, co-founder and manager of the MI Earth Day Fest, sounds the wake-up call. We're on the verge of "peak oil" he says, and the next 20 years are crucial to kicking our oil-aholism.

Post 2: Johnny Come Lately - Part 2

I have always been, as my brother Tim generously put it, a "truth teller".

Others have been less kind. Growing up in a country club setting, my curiosity about the underside of the American Dream didn't always have the most receptive audience. Still, I had this nagging suspicion that my feeling of disconnection with the suburban car culture was not just a personal problem and that society itself was disconnected from something important and somehow obvious - but what? I was dimly aware that our affluent lifestyle was causing problems for other people and the planet; but these problems were in far off places like Iraq and the Arctic. I couldn't put my finger on the problem until I heard about peak oil. I felt like I had finally put on a pair of glasses and read the bold letters on the page: "SUSTAINABILITY"!

The problem now seemed important and obvious: our society and its economy are not sustainable. We consume finite resources ravenously and spit out toxic waste and climate-changing emissions on a massive scale.  One of the clearest examples of this is our addiction to oil. Pretty much everyone agrees we will run out eventually, but most have assumed that this is a long way off and we will find alternatives in plenty of time. The repeated experience of regional and national oil peaks in the U.S. and around the world tell us a completely different story:

By definition, we will reach global peak oil production at the point that we are extracting the most oil we ever will. We will be awash in oil and its detritus the moment before we can no longer produce any more to keep up with exploding demand (think China and India). Upon reaching peak, we will have immediate and serious problems including resource conflicts (wars), shortages, and rapid price increases – it will not be the end of oil that causes havoc, it will be the end of cheap oil and the competition for the remaining supply. If that is not at least part of the reason we find ourselves bankrupting our country to engage in two simultaneous wars in an oil-rich region, I don't know what is.
peak oil occurred in 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day – exactly as predicted by the concept's inventor, Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbard, and with his predicted results: an oil conflict (the Arab embargo), shortages causing long lines, and a 400 percent price increase. Global peak oil is predicted, by a variety of experts, to occur between the years 2010-2030, with many experts feeling we have already hit peak extraction. For the next generation, it hardly matters when. At the present rate of development, no oil alternatives will come even close to replacing oil within that time frame, and some of the leading alternatives offered (i.e. hydrogen, tar deposits, "drill-baby-drill") are not realistic solutions regardless of lead time.

In a society with a serious addiction to oil, we are all addicts – call us "oilaholics" – and why not? 

The machines we have created to harness fossil fuels have made pharaohs of us all.

How many slaves would it take to haul you, your friends, the dog, your clothes and your toys up north for the weekend? We like to think that our wealth is due to our technological wizardry and that our next big technology fix is right around the corner. Could it be, instead, that we have simply borrowed the power of sunlight from the past and are willing to allow future generations to pay the price?

Despite the well-financed deniers, there is now scientific consensus that our collective activity is causing global climate damage and the issue is now one of magnitude. We are like an irresponsible borrower, enjoying our newly purchased lifestyle, while pushing our kids towards the bill collector banging at the door.

To be continued…