Contemplating Collapse: The Importance of Making Green Resolutions

The History Channel recently aired a program titled, Prophets of Doom in which six men discuss looming catastrophes, such as oil and water scarcity and financial collapse, that will befall the United States. The narrator begins by stating, “Change is inevitable. This most ancient truth has been illustrated time and time again as every great empire – no matter how powerful – eventually falls.”  The reasons for collapse vary, but resource mismanagement is often a leading factor.

Many believe we are close to peak oil production and that we should expect a very crude awakening. While there are doubters, it seems prudent to err on the side of caution and on the side of conservation.

Setting aside climate change and its potential to wreak more havoc than the scenarios proposed by the Prophets of Doom, what would happen if oil costs increased beyond our imagination? Our lives and our economic system are dependent on a cheap supply of oil. Everything from food production to transportation depends on a steady supply of oil to provide for an ever-growing population. In fact, we rely so heavily on the energy provided by ancient sunlight that a strong correlation exists between the population explosion that added 6 billion people in the past 200 years and our use of oil. But what happens when this resource is no longer available in the quantities and at the prices we’ve come to depend on? Currently, there is an inability to pay for such essentials as education, health care, and infrastructure. Add an oil shortage to our list of problems and things could get really ugly.

Oil scarcity is just one scenario that could lead to a U.S. dollar that is worthless. The world, especially China, has concerns about the dollar. With the U.S. debt at $135,000 per taxpayer our financial picture is not pretty. Even gold might become worthless in a SHTF Situation. If our economy is in the tank it will make it far more difficult to invest in green technologies.

This might be a Grinch-like observation, but holiday lighting seems to illuminate the fact that a large percentage of Americans do not recognize the gravity of the environmental issues that face us. Yes, most of us enjoy seeing the Christmas lights that line streets or those that adorn the insides of homes. Regardless, we should shift our use of energy to more frugal choices. Although the holiday lighting issue is not the most significant change we can make – it would be an important sign that we’ve begun to make sacrifices that will enable future generations to have a brighter future.

2012 New Year’s Green Resolutions

  1. Switch to an environmentally-friendly diet. Be greener by eating greens, not red and white.
  2. Convert your lawn into an edible garden.
  3. Become an electricity conservation hero; don’t burn our future. Turn off lights, unplug electronic devices, and kill the air conditioning which accounts for about 14% of electricity consumption. Over half of the electricity used in the United States comes from the burning of coal which contributes green house gases and adds mercury to our waterways and fish.
  4. Hypermiling is a must. Obtain your personal best gas mileage. Stop tailgating and accelerating into red lights, and drive most efficiently.
  5. Have fewer children and you might save the world.
  6. Be happy with 3 days of mail delivery. President Obama has suggested reducing delivery to 5 days per week, but reducing US Postal Service delivery by half – to 3 days – would save about 200 million gallons of gas per year. Finding additional ways to reduce junk mail will help to make this possible.
  7. Support a tax increase on gasoline. Within the past eight years the price of gas has fluctuated from a monthly average of $1.52 per gallon to $4.14 per gallon. Demand has been inelastic; price has not greatly affected demand. Why not add a dollar tax per gallon? The revenue would be used exclusively to subsidize the production and consumption of renewable energy sources. The arguments against such as tax include that it unfairly burdens the poor and could negatively impact certain business sectors. However, people and businesses adjust, and this measure would benefit the poor who would be least able to survive in a post-cheap energy world. It would also add about $138 billion dollars to the development of renewables (as the U.S. consumed 138 billion gallons of gas in 2010).

Adopting these resolutions, and adding many more actions to the list, will help to strengthen our economy during challenging times, and more importantly will buy us the time we need to develop alternatives to our current methods of transportation, heating, and food production so that we can delay a collapse of epic proportions.

Image Source: Bo Nielson/Flickr