Sunday, April 22, 2007

If you think that global warming is a scary prospect, check out this movie, "The End of the Suburbia." I just watched it today and while it does have a bit of that propaganda-film doomsday thing going on, it really does address some serious issues that are on the horizon for the world and especially countries like the US.

Specifically, it's about the idea of "peak oil", which is a theory that eventually oil production in the world will reach a peak output before beginning a slow, permanent decline. As with any theory, there are differing arguments about when or even if this would really happen. But many experts seem to think that we may already be at peak oil or that we will be very soon.

This film shows how our society and economy is totally dependent upon not just fossil fuels but on relatively inexpensive fossil fuels. And of course, we are not just dependent on it to fuel our cars, which is the image that most people get in their minds about oil dependency. Our entire food growing and distribution system hinges on cheap oil (to drive farm machinery, to pump water for irrigation, to create pesticides, to send the produce to factories for processing, to get the final product to the grocery store). Heating, cooking, even a good deal of household electricity comes from oil or natural gas. Heck, just look around wherever you're sitting right now and look at all the items made of plastic. Those are all created from petroleum too. And these items are delivered by trucks fueled by diesel driven on roads made of asphalt (which contains oil).

So, if we do actually reach a peak in oil capacity we will begin to see a growing gap, year after year, between the ever-increasing energy demands of society versus the amount able to be produced. Obviously, this would put a severe crimp on economic growth and most likely would throw the country and the world into a pretty serious depression. The scariest part is that there is no known alternative energy source that could easily take the place of the fossil fuels. The film explains how the hype about hydrogen is completely ridiculous (hydrogen cells being only an energy-storage method that still needs a traditional fuel source to create), as is ethanol/biofuel (probably every square foot of farm land in this country would have to be dedicated to fuel production to make enough energy, and it still takes traditional fuels to refine plants into biofuel).

The movie concludes with some ideas for the future, mainly that we will likely have to return to a more pedestrian-based, urban lifestyle. It also appears that the producers of the film are making a sequel with more ideas on how to prepare for the possibility of peak oil. But, it is pointed out in the film that the political will simply does not exist for the huge steps that would need to be taken to prepare.

Many of the issues in the movie were ones I was already familiar with, as someone who works in the environmental field. But this movie laid out the peak oil theories in a clear and concise way that really captured my interest, and without being excessively dramatic (in my opinion). If you're interested in environmental and economic issues, I would recommend checking out this film and let me know what you think of it!


At 4:30 PM, Blogger Emma said...

That sounds like a really interesting film. Where did you find it? I checked Blockbuster online and they do not have a listing for it.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger lobstah said...

Hmm...that's weird...I got it on Netflix so I would have though Blockbuster would have it too. I don't think it's a brand new release or anything.


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