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Another Green Issue

By PAM BERNS

    This is our annual green issue. Our magazine has been publishing editorial on sustainability and the environment long before it was fashionable. We have interviewed such key figures as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jane Goodall and John Robbins, going back as far as the ’80s.
....Today it seems that everyone has jumped on the environmental bandwagon. Industries that pollute and endanger our health and the environment even claim to be “green.”
   Sustainability is the word that is the key to preserving a quality of life for all. Oil has transformed the world in merely a few decades. We have built civilization around this important resource, but we are on the precipice of a catastrophe of global proportions.
   A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, an award-winning  documentary by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, covers the many-faceted viewpoints of scientists, oil executives, public servants and geological experts on the history and future of oil. The film, available now on Amazon and Netflix, charts the peak of oil exploration and availability of oil and projects how quickly we are going to reach an oil crisis of monumental proportions. This film is riveting because it explores the viewpoints of experts on all sides of the issues, not just those leaning left or right. In fact, the unbiased filmmaking is what makes this film so powerful.
     For decades, environmentalists have been sounding the alarm that oil has peaked and therefore we must conserve our resources and explore sustainable sources of energy. Efforts to find alternatives have given many of us reason to be hopeful. However, A Crude Awakening points out that using compact fluorescent light bulbs, driving hybrid cars, nuclear energy, ethanol, biomass and wind power will only put a tiny dent in the amount of energy required to fuel our needs. A Crude Awakening describes why these options to crude oil are insignificant in our quest to replace the billions of barrels of oil that we use to fuel our cars, trucks and planes, fertilize our fields, transport our food to cities, power our homes and farms, cook our meals and run our factories. Many household and personal products and building supplies that we use every day are also made from petrochemicals.
    Given the enormous growth of industry, transportation and population in countries like China and India, the demands put on energy will be impossible for us to maintain. The population of the world—now at 6 billion—is expected to reach 10 billion in a few decades, and unless we can develop alternative energies, the human race will be unable to continue to function with the same standard of living that we now enjoy. If food cannot be grown within a short distance of urban centers, there will be no way to feed urban dwellers, nor will it be possible to transport everyday necessities to those who need them. The film points out that those who could cope in the world of tomorrow will be those who can live in a sustainable Western world, much like the Amish do today.
    We are dangerously dependent on crude oil. Despite gas prices at the pump, the film points out that the price of oil is very cheap—in fact, it is cheaper than bottled water or coffee. Other alternatives to oil are expensive, and there is no infrastructure to make them readily available to the masses. Options such as ethanol require other fuels to produce them and are diverting costly corn crops to dubiously expensive fuel. Our own oil fields in the United States pale in comparison to those in other countries, especially in the Middle East. The film’s camera pans the oil fields of yesterday—in Texas and Baku—and the sights of barren wasteland of deserted derricks, rusty barrels and toxic pollution are haunting.
      Despite the warnings of experts from the diverse perspectives, no one can deny that the big business of oil has contributed to the instability in Nigeria and even war in Kuwait and Iraq. The question begs, do we want to maintain our reliance on a dwindling supply of crude oil as we continue to go to war to delay the inevitable? This current administration of  “oil men” no doubt had an agenda to preserve our country’s supply by any means. Would Cheney’s energy meetings have remained top secret if there weren’t discussions of invading Iraq in 2000?
     The decision to remain dependent on crude oil forces our country into political positioning with corrupt rulers in order to have access to the last drop of their oil and remain in perpetual war to secure the last reserves of oil in countries that don’t want to sell to us.
    Middle East officials interviewed in this film describe virtually the same situation—that we will need a miracle and the best minds in the world working together—to find a solution to the problem of what to replace oil with when our reserves run dry and our financial markets crumble. The experts interviewed in this film describe a terrible scenario in which we may approach the end of our oil supply as early as 2020.
    This countdown is in our midst. This is an election year. It is up to us to wake up before it’s too late and to vote to put leaders into power that will fund research for alternatives to oil and stop propping up corrupt dictators and regimes in other countries that supply oil. We are merely extending the inevitable.
    We must think about what kind of world we are leaving for our children. Do we continue business-as-usual as we approach the point of no return or do we invest in scientific research before it is too late? Do we hold our representatives responsible for the decisions they make with our future? What kind of message do our “oil men” leaders send the world when we continue to flex our military muscle to threaten the oil-producing countries and fail to support the Kyoto Protocol? Why are we giving away tax dollars to the oil companies and corn producers? Are we so accustomed to living and spending beyond our means that we are blind to the impact we are having on the earth? We over-consume, over-fish and pollute our air, with no end in sight. If we don’t reverse our habits and invest in new technology to solve our addiction to oil, modern life will collapse as early as 2020.
    Don’t miss this film. It will leave you feeling that we all must take action immediately. We don’t have any time to spare.

Published: April 06, 2008
Issue: 2008 Spring Green Issue