When Jeremy Leggett spoke to Transition Town Lewes about peak oil and climate change a year ago, he told us that when peak oil hit, the economy would take a nosedive, recover temporarily and then go into a terminal decline. I never understood the reasoning behind that; surely markets adjust slowly and evolve to new ways of doing things?
I’m not an economist, but I’m starting to put the pieces together. Nobody’s spelling it out, but could the soaring price of oil and the collapsing economy be linked? Oil keeps hitting progressive price milestones, and just going up, which is what Leggett said would be a sign that Peak Oil had come in to the traders’ consciousness. If something is likely to be in shorter supply in the future, its price will go up, right? Meanwhile, our economy is, like a pack of cards, based on debt on the assumption of future economic growth. That assumption is based on ever increasing supplies of oil and other natural resources which, we all know, is the fatal dream that we’re starting to wake up from.
So if we are indeed witnessing the beginning of a systemic collapse, as many commentators are saying, the prevailing culture can either Keep the Show on the Road at any cost (including building runways and nuclear power stations and invading countries with the remaining fossil fuels) or Live within our Means. This will mean a radical although probably life saving rethink of all the assumptions of the Western Empire. As Richard Heinberg, who is talking in Lewes on 25 March, writes, ‘Economic contraction may be bitter medicine, but it's part of the cure for what ails our planetary home. However, we can manage this contraction either foolishly or intelligently.’