If you’re even vaguely familiar with my blog, you’ll be aware that I bang on about Peak Oil quite a lot. One of the things I repeat again and again (and again) is that since the mid-1980s we have been comprehensively lied to about the size of global oil reserves. I won’t go over the issues surrounding overstating reserves again, as I covered them quite recently (the second of those “agains”), but I will stress the incredible importance of this issue. Official reserve estimates predict production capacity will be unable to meet demand in somewhere between 20 and 40 years. Almost everyone who has tried to look beyond those official estimates comes to the disturbing conclusion that production shortfalls will be upon us pretty much any day now.
Today, as more Wikileaks cables were made public, comes confirmation that Saudi Arabia has been overstating reserves by as much as 40%. This is one of those cases where being proved right brings no satisfaction, but rather a deep sinking feeling. Especially since it’s worth pointing out that there’s very little doubt that this revelation also applies to every other member of OPEC. It’s very grim news indeed and pretty much puts an end to any chances of “a return to growth”.
Given that, in practical terms, economic growth is now a thing of the past*, we need to focus on three things. And we need to do so urgently.
- What resources remain need to be poured into sustainability projects. Renewable energy infrastructure, localisation of food production, radical scaling back of consumption;
- The replacement of a growth-centric economy and debt-driven financial system with a system that can cope with — even thrive in — an environment where economic activity is minimised rather than maximised;
- We must actively pursue ecological wisdom as an absolute priority — both in the obvious sense of environmental protection, but more importantly in the sense of understanding and acknowledging our place within the natural systems of our planet. The world is barrelling towards a crisis, and if we do not wake up to our grievously flawed epistemology, we simply will not survive it.
* which is not to say there won’t be anomalies and brief spikes on the downward trend.