I am thankful for….fossil energy..(I think).

I was born in the latter ½ of the 20th century. When I was old enough to view my surroundings with any sort of awareness it looked like a smorgasbord of opportunity, novelty and consumption. And it was. Different than the Founding Fathers who used mostly current sunlight, hard work, and land to generate surplus, our largesse has been largely due to a gargantuan dollop of concentrated fossilized energy. My life certainly would have been harder without it. Would it have been better? An open question.  And what have we built that will last? An even bigger question.

Sitting around the dinner table today, replete with the latest novel versions of classic recipes, all easily purchasable for a fraction of a weekly wage, the thought that I/we live like kings of old entered my mind more than once.  I’m thankful for the experience. But good kings show temperance and fiduciary. Most of us, including me, have been lacking on that side of the ledger.  In that sense maybe we shouldn’t be thankful at all.  I wonder if we will have a ‘Pennance Day’ some year in the (distant) future when we realize what we had and what we destroyed?
I’m also thankful for the band of brothers and sisters I have engaged with on the internet for the past decade, together chipping away at the unfinished sculpture that is the supply and demand science of the human ecosystem.
The discussion needs to be stepped up a notch. More soon
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.


17 Responses to I am thankful for….fossil energy..(I think).

  1. Happy Thanksgiving Nate,

    Good to hear from you as it’s been a little while. Appreciate you and all that you have contributed on these important subjects the last ten years.

    I was born and raised in Wisconsin (Oshkosh) but living now in Hawaii the last 21 years. Sending lots of aloha back your way.

    Kind regards,

  2. I can’t believe it has taken me until yesterday to come across the oil drum. What a great resource.
    I’ve been examining many or our dilemmas. I’ve sorta formed some tentative conclusions.
    Is a collapse coming? I have concerns, but I am not in panic mode. I think the economy is downhill from here.. but will it be a gradual decline? I think it will be like what is going on in Japan. Attrition.
    Global population will bump up against the world’s finite resources and start to decline. Is this necessarily a bad thing? The Earth don’t care one way or another. The tree huggers will get what they want. Everyone will be consuming less and less and less. Fewer and Fewer people will be around. Carbon emissions are taking care of itself. We will one day run out of fossil fuels to burn.

    One of these days people really will be thankful on thanksgiving.

    Happy Thanks giving

  3. Hi Nate,
    Happy [American] Thanksgiving.
    Any choice edible fungi on the table this year to be thankful for?
    We found some morels this year which was fun – and tasty.

  4. While enjoying TG I was having similar thoughts. Isn’t it a paradox that the remnants of Earth’s simplest life form were used so creatively by the planet’s highest intelligence life form to cause the latters extinction?

    • A wry insight indeed. Similar to fighting a duel to the death over whether the narrative is a paradox or an irony! Go well.

  5. aidan harrison

    I have enjoyed reading Nate and The Oil Drum for years. The article in Financial Times just two days ago; ‘Oil Industry sums do not add up’ shows that Nate and his co-writers have been right all along. What is grabbing my attention now is Arctic methane. There are US, Russian, UK and other scientists up there who are begging for politicians and the world’s media to pay attention to what appear to be the beginnings of catastrophic methane release as the Arctic rapidly warms up. If you feel you can cope with the implications, take a look at the Arctic -news blogspot and AMEG sites – terrifying.

  6. Happy thanksgiving Nate! Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration!

    Even though we do not celebrate thanksgiving in Norway, I am grateful to be alive at this interesting moment in time where our species will be tested in a way (and scale) that we have never been tested before.

    It will be a pivotal time in human history and hopefully our descendants will judge us favourably.

  7. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Nate. Definitely a double edged sword, and I am so very grateful to be living at the summit, and watching the changes at both sides of the peak, which will continue to be fascinating. When I hear Americans carp about petty details with white whines, it makes me sad. How will it be when times really start to get tough. Our biggest obstacle is our expectations for the future.

  8. As I sat in the passenger seat of a 2005 Toyota Camry meandering through the western suburbs of Denver and then passed a full Walmart parking lot last night, I thought we are truly fooked. I hope I am wrong.

    • Ken, there are lots of themes at play. Last night, (not on my intent believe me), I went to Target w my step-daughter who wanted to buy some gifts. There were 500 people line the checkout line -I felt like I was a cow being herded somewhere. It was an intensely disturbing experience. The only good thing was she and I had an extra 45 minutes to talk about the world, human society, what matters etc. Even she thought all the people, consumption, etc was disgusting and couldnt wait to leave. As we were checking out I asked the clerk some questions about hours, # of shoppers etc. I then pressed her ‘do you see anything wrong with all this consumption for consumption sake, or is it all good?’ The Target clerk replied ‘its definitely messed up – not good at all’. I don’t think people are as blind/ignorant about excess, resources, etc. as the scout team (us) often says. Yes, some of the nuances (EROI is natures profit margin and is declining) are pretty complex, but observations of rampant obesity, being poor, and that our economy revolves around trying to make more wages so that we can buy more novelty/stuff that doesnt last or have any spiritual/health/posterity value is just under the surface in many peoples minds..

  9. Well stated. Makes one wonder whether Gaia developed our species to put in play as much ancient carbon as possible, for the betterment of the planet, after our suicidal race is run.

  10. I’m not sure what the evolutionary advantage is, but I’m thankful that we somehow acquired the ability to laugh at ourselves on the way down. Looking back at the last twenty years, especially the Oil Drum era, I’ve decided to not take all of this too seriously. There’s only so much one can do about it except for showing a little more “temperance and fiduciary” while keeping a sense of humor about it. We are what we are. Any changes, collectively, will likely require a lot of forcing , but perhaps laughter is the basis for sapience.
    Thanks, Nate!

  11. Funny that the funny link didn’t work. Let’s try this:

  12. Just now checking in and delighted to see you up and running. Always enjoyed your work and talks from here in Amherst. Presently reading Ishmael and Countdown at the same time. Now there is a fascinating look and an enlightened take on those 20 years.

    I gotta tell ya, from a Wisconsin point of view, that your taking of a monster puffball with a single shot form a long bow was epic. A photo worth a thousand words. Such a clean kill.

    Keep talking. Thought Robert Shiller’s comments at the Nobel award ceremony was telling.

  13. Hope the internet finds you rested and full of new ideas on how to push this debate on.

  14. Nate wrote – “I wonder if we will have a ‘Pennance Day’ some year in the (distant) future when we realize what we had and what we destroyed?”

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. I think it will depend in large part on the rapidity of collapse from the peak. If it’s slow enough only the old people will be able to remember how we live right now.

    Allan Savory has a profound anecdote from his work in east Africa. He tells of an incident where he was teaching a class and talking of the potential to grow large grasses and bring back tons of wildlife. The young people for the most part could not even imagine what it would look like if most/all the bare ground in their homeland was covered with grasses, while the old folks could because they’d seen it that way many years previous. It can be very difficult to imagine the world outside of what one has already seen.