Wednesday, July 19, 2006

An analogy on Peak Oil optimism

The peak oil community love their analogies. Although analogies are generally overly simple and often highly inaccurate ways of looking at things, given that the peak oil community seems to respond so well to obscure references to things such as setting suns and shrinking pies, I thought I’d write a little analogy of my own that might help describe the peak oil situation from my point of view; that is, an optimistic point of view.
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Modern civilisation is like a chronically over-weight fat man who has just found out that if he keeps going with his way of life, he will die well before his time, within 10 to 20 years. His doctor tells him that his lack of exercise, poor diet and over eating is going to kill him. The fat man is obviously concerned and asks his doctor what he can do about it. Unfortunately, it seems his doctor is a phoney, because the doctor informs the fat man that there is nothing he can do to avoid an early death. The doctor insists the man is doomed.

The fat man then suffers through a period of depression, believing that his life is certainly about to end. However some friends of his try to encourage the fat man. They tell him that there are options, and that he could survive. They tell him about a range of high-tech solutions that could extend his life span, such as liposuction and weight loss pills.

And so the fat man goes back to his doctor and enthusiastically asks about the techno-fixes to his problem. Unfortunately, his hopes are soon dashed by the doctor who tells him that liposuction is not a safe option, and that weight loss pills will only ever remove a tiny fraction of the mans excess weight. And all the while, the doctor points out, the man’s weight is continuing to increase as he continues to eat more and more junk food.

“Face it fat man, your doomed.” says the doctor. “Oh, and before you leave, I suggest you purchase a copy of my latest book, which outlines your condition in more detail. And I’ve got some weight loss pills you should buy, which might delay the inevitable a bit longer.”

At this point the fat man begins to suspect his doctor of having a hidden agenda, and he begins to question his doctor’s competency. And so the fat man decides to go and seek a second opinion.

The second doctor comes to the same conclusion; the fat man will die within 10 to 20 years if he keeps with his current way of life. But the good news, the new doctor informs him, is that obesity is a completely curable condition. The doctor writes up a plan for how the fat man can turn his life around, involving a change to a healthy diet, and regular exercise, and through the help of the fat man’s family and friends, they force him to make the necessary changes in his life.

But the fat man doesn’t want to change. He’s fine with the way he looks, and he hasn’t thought too much about the future – 10 to 20 years sound like a long time to him. But most of all, the fat man really doesn’t want to stop eating all the unhealthy foods he loves so much, and he especially doesn’t want to start exercising. Ugh, the effort!

But he no longer has a choice. His family and friends don’t want him to die, regardless of the fat man’s wishes to keep on living his unhealthy way of life. And so his family develop an alternative diet for him to eat, and his friends develop a training regime that will get him on the path to a healthy and long life.

At first the fat man finds the transition unbearable. He’s lived his entire life on unhealthy food, his body is accustomed to it, and suddenly eating a healthy diet is something he not only finds repulsive, but his body doesn’t initially respond well to the strange new foods. At least that is what the man tells himself over and over, effectively making himself sick.

“I need soft drink with this!” he cries, as his family gives him more water to wash down the nutritious meal. But with all his kicking and screaming, his family who love him do not give up on him, and they maintain the healthy diet.

While the fat man thinks the new diet being forced on him is painful, he doesn’t yet know the meaning of pain as his family hire a personal trainer and force him to exercise for the first time in his life.

Between the healthy diet and the regular exercise, the fat man is in a world of pain. He bitches and whines constantly, he is frequently sick, he is unhappy and sometimes angry, and he wants nothing more then to go back to his old way of life. He even attempts to maintain his old habits, but fortunately his friends and family care too much about him and force him to keep up with his new lifestyle for his own good.

And so, several years later the man returns to his original doctor, the hack that told him to give up on his life because he was doomed. But now he is no longer the unhealthy fat man with a drastically reduced life expectancy, but a fit, strong and healthy man full of life and energy. He’s no longer the depressed SOB who once spent all his time sitting around in front of the television eating junk food, but a happy and productive individual with a highly active and healthy lifestyle.

The man’s old doctor is amazed at the improvement the man has made to his life. He estimates that the man should now live to a ripe old age. The now fit man smugly asks the doctor; “So, what was all the garbage you told me that I was doomed and had no chance to live a full and healthy life?”
“Oh, that.” says the doctor.
“Well, uh, you know, I was actually just saying that to give you a wake up call. Of course it was possible to change your life around, but you couldn’t do it without the proverbial splash of cold water in the face. Oh, and now that your fit and healthy, would you be interested in purchasing a copy of my latest book about living a fit and healthy lifestyle?”

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Civilisation facing peak oil is like an over weight man facing death, and getting civilisation off the fossil fuel and automotive drugs are like the fat man adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise. It may be a painful transition at times, but ultimately it will be a great thing.

Oh, and along the way we will have to deal with people with hidden agendas, trying to sell their ideas so they can make an easy buck. But what else is new?

4 Comments:

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your are Nice. And so is your site! Maybe you need some more pictures. Will return in the near future.
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