When Peak Oil Rips At Your Soul

July 2, 2007 at 9:56 am 20 comments

peak oil mime

If you are peak oil/earth destruction aware, I have to wonder how your relationships are going – with your family, friends, co-workers, just about everyone. Are you losing friends because you want to help stop the world from destroying itself? Are you an outcast because you realize our way of living is quickly taking us to oblivion?

I went for a long walk with my wife yesterday, and our discussion highlighted the soul-tearing realities of two different people’s perspectives on how we are supposed to live on this planet we call earth.

I would say my wife is an average Portlander. She recycles as much as she can, loves the farmers market, and wants a biodiesel vehicle. Her perspective on life is that we must live while we can, enjoy the moment, and do our part to be good citizens.

While that sounds good in theory, here are some challenges we are facing as a couple living on the cusp of earth’s cosmic conundrum. She’s talking about bringing a baby into this world while I believe I have a case in saying there are too many people on the planet as it is. I don’t know how much more black and white I can make it out to be… this is the issue of this generation’s lifetime.

After all – it’s perfectly natural for a woman in her late twenties to want to procreate. That biological urge is hardwired into our netherbits, and we are a species that likes to get it on. The problem is that humans have been easily popping out kids around the world because food has been readily available via oil, supermarkets, Taco Bell, and aid programs.

Because I think in abstract terms, I do little things like plug up the shower to gauge how much water I’m using to clean my body, then wonder what ways I could make use of the pool of liquid that normally just washes away down the drain. My wife, on the other hand, thinks in terms of me cleaning the shower tiles and sealing the small crack that’s growing some weird colored thing out of it.

I think in terms of us hanging a clothesline to dry our clothes, she thinks in terms of getting a more energy efficient dryer.

I could go on and on with this stuff, but here is the wall I’m banging my head into: I would love to be a father some day. It would be cool to teach a little rug rat how to play a synthesizer, grow carrots and learn to ride a bamboo bike.

My issue is that the exponential growth of the human population has already placed the future of that unborn child in dire danger – the danger we all live in at this very moment in time. Sure, multiple generations have lived with the threat of nuclear war, but it’s different now. It’s not just two Superpowers with them – the technology has spread around the world as we have bred and bred – and now we’re running out of the very juice that has sustained all those fast food outlets many people depend on for food. As the energy crash continues, I just can’t believe it will occur without big fights, from nations to neighbors. Not unless we change our living habits.

Population growth

So there it is – it’s pretty simple. She gets a baby, or we get a divorce. She hasn’t said that, but it’s implied. She will get her way (doesn’t every wife?), or it won’t work out. I can only make my case for so long before the friction would be overpowering – and I love her immensely.

So what’s a guy to do? I don’t want to part ways – but how am I supposed to make a logical case against a woman’s powerful biological urge? It’s not like most couples have had a “Peak Oil” chat before they got married.

I can’t be alone in this situation. The question is – as humans realize we have overpopulated the planet – can there be a transition to livable communities that relocalize and sustain themselves? Even if people in Arizona threw up enough solar panels to power themselves, they will eventually run out of water and need to relocate. So will people in Africa and elsewhere as the planet overheats.

Now don’t get me wrong – I think we can do it if everyone would just agree we are at this point and put down the guns so we can address racism, classism and property rights. Because as much as I’m willing to open up our home to have roomates, my wife enjoys our privacy.

I can only wonder how long that luxury will be a choice (here’s a nifty classroom tool on population crashes. Do your homework kids). The question is… Are we smarter than Thermal Dynamics?.

Entry filed under: future, Gardening, Global Climate Change, Living in Hell, Materialism, Peak Oil, Personal Preparation, Random. Tags: , .

How To Celebrate Independence Day Peak Oil Talk in the Corporate Media

20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. thedr9wningman  |  July 2, 2007 at 10:36 am

    What about adoption? Wouldn’t that be a natural happy medium? You can save the world via nurture and help those who rolled unlucky on the dice of nature.

    I think your wife’s main struggle though is the lack of prioritisation you may have. Every Leo I know seems to think that those things that they focus on (I just used 6 ‘th’ words in a row!) are at panic/emergency level. “It has to be addressed now! The sky is falling!!” At a certain point, to others, it comes off as crying wolf. You have to pick your battles, your emergencies, and you have to back up your claims with numbers and real data for people to listen.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the apathy of this planet will be its demise. I think quality of life, especially for the developed world and especially the US will decrease significantly, and I also think that energy is a top priority for all of us to think about globally. But the Chicken Little approach needs to be mitigated.

    As an aside, how can you marry someone without talking about children first?! That’s usually a deal-breaker before you even walk down the aisle. It isn’t fair for either of you to fight about this. If you don’t want to have kids, you can’t give in to that. The only real compromise, given your stance is adoption. You will regret a child if you aren’t ready for it, and that would ultimately lead to divorce as well because you’d be an absent father. So, do you divorce before or after the kid? May as well do it before.

    Either way, brow-beating when it comes to children is not cool. You need to stand your ground, whatever that may be. You need to be respected, because you’re a partner in the relationship, not the bitch-who-does-whatever-she-tells-me-to. That’s not a partnership. That’s a pussy-whipping, and I don’t mean that in a chauvinistic, masculine-centric way. You BOTH need to not be whipping anything and cooperate as a unit. How can you build community if you can’t even agree with your partner?! How are you going to work with even less-motivated people if you can’t work with your own wife. This is a serious cry for help, and we need to have a beer soon.

  • 2. Malva  |  July 2, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I think the post peak oil period will:

    1. Be pretty lonely without a partner; and

    2. kids make fabulous free entertainment.

    Think about it that way.

  • 3. freelearner  |  July 2, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    That’s funny… when I think about peak oil I think Damn, we didn’t have enough kids! (we have two, ages 7 and 3). About a quarter of the population will have to be involved in agriculture, and nearly everyone will have to grow something… and a family with a farm and 5 kids is more successful than a similar family with just 2 kids. I read “Farmer Boy” again for a glimpse of 19th century farm life, and there were any number of occasions where the number of kids became critical (e.g. saving the corn crop during a freeze by pouring water on every plant before the sun touched it; every kid meant another half acre salvaged). If you have kids and can collectively grow more food (or sew more clothes, knit more blankets, can more tomatoes, etc) than you need, you may be a net benefit to your community.

    Die-off is not likely to be a major event in Oregon. There are 2 billion people living in slums without any space in which to grow food, for whom I despair. There are millions in Africa who are already at risk of starving to death because of ethanol, and their plight will only get worse. Whether you have a child or not doesn’t alter the equation for these people. If you decide not to have kids because of overpopulation in the global, aggregate sense, you are making a gesture, but are you honestly thinking locally and in terms of your community?

    Of course, if you intend to raise kids in the usual school, soccer, dinner, homework fashion, this prevents them from contributing anything to the community. I am a homeschooler and my daughter (age 7) helps me plant, water, spread compost, etc, and knows more about plants than I knew only a few years ago. Even younger kids can feed chickens and collect eggs, shell peas, shuck corn, etc. Kids who are 7 or so can also knit, braid rope, weave baskets, hoe, milk cows, churn butter, and help watch younger children. You might check out John Taylor Gatto on how we have forced children to be, in a technical sense, community parasites, eating up our resources while stuck on a “campus” miles from anywhere. We don’t really allow them meaningful work until they’re a quarter of a century old, if they’re middle class, and even then the term “meaningful” is extremely dubious. I think part of the reason adolescence is so horrible is that by that age, biologically, you should be an adult who is doing real, productive work, and who has real responsibility. But the system (schooling, invented by Rockefeller; also marketing and advertising)… the system is excellent in teaching learned helplessness. This sort of modern kid is usually not useful to the community, but that is a cultural problem which will end rapidly when things get dire.

    The perception that a child is a resource drain — instead of a resource — is very 20th century and is a product of the Oil Age itself, and the overproduction which ensued. There was so much overproduction they had to make kids basically useless and keep them that way for as many years as possible. So… think 19th century when you consider the size of your family… and think locally.

  • 4. peakoilboy  |  July 2, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    All great points.

  • 5. M.Squirrel  |  July 3, 2007 at 4:52 am

    Kids do make fabulous free entertainment! As parents of three, we even find their worst of behavior to be humorous…maybe not at the time, but at least later it is something to snigger about. Some months ago, I told Sharon Astyk not to bother with those who rail against her because she has children, because one day her children and mine may be teaching every one elses’ how to live a more sustainable life. A freaky future, no matter what happens, is going to need people who know how to plant a tomato, bake bread, or even how to keep those funky things from growing out of the shower, even if today they dream of being a rocket scientist. And once you have that little person in your arms…there’s no way I can describe the love and hope my children inspire me with.

    As for friendships, modern life itself tore our friendships apart….everyone too busy, everyone moving away for this or that business opportunity in another city, state, and even country. But those friends that stuck around have seen the wisdom in at least one area of our progress. Whether its my environmentalist friend of 27 years who was inspired by me to plant her own garden, or our Rush Limbaugh-loving buddy who has no problem eating my home-grown and home-baked goods, or my brother and his family who have discovered the wisdom of living sustainably in order to save a buck or two. People today just don’t think its possible until they see living examples who make it appear easy, or just a better way to live.

  • 6. Richard  |  July 3, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I’m peak-oil “aware” (studied Petroleum Land Management at the U of Texas in the early 1980’s!) but I tend to side with your wife. Remember, the short-run is all we really have. As the saying goes, in the long-run we’re all dead.

  • 7. Kickaha  |  July 4, 2007 at 2:11 am

    I really don’t think I would be nearly as passionate about easing the planet into a post-oil world if I didn’t have my two wonderful chilluns.

    And really, one or two children per couple is not selfish nor going to ruin the world. It’s not up to you to make up for the people with enough children to field a baseball team. It’s OK to unload a little bit of the world’s problems from your shoulders.

  • 8. Erica  |  July 5, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Plus, we have to make sure the human race doesn’t die out, and that its general IQ doesn’t drop too significantly, either. What good will all this chaos have been, if for nothing than mankind to learn from (I have my fingers crossed)?

  • 9. peakoilboy  |  July 5, 2007 at 3:06 pm


    You are all making me feel better about not being a hypocrite when I advocate for population control – but am faced with the reality of nature’s way (read: My wife).

    Even if every couple had one child, exponentially isn’t that still a losing game? I shudder to think of how nature will reset itself.

  • 10. matt savinar  |  July 6, 2007 at 7:03 pm


    You have two options:

    Option #1: You have kids and then when the ass raping chinese pirates show up in 2030 you’ve got a son or two to help defend you.

    Option #2: You tell your wife no kids, she then divorces you and has kids with one of your bandmates.

    In option #2, you will have to face the ass-raping chinese pirates by yourself.

  • 11. M.Squirrel  |  July 7, 2007 at 3:05 am

    lol. You’re funny, Matt. Must be why I’m a big fan of yours, too.

    But Matt does point something out….Truthfully, population control is not in the hands of young men refusing to bring forth their own prodginy. That is the realm of the female. And as it only takes one male to fertilize 100 females, we women are simply going to do what we women do… For the male, population control is conducted via war. And with our “war on terror” and gang warfare, and we’re already knee-deep in that. Add to that the poor American diet, the lack of health care now and to come, and the lack of knowing how to keep oneself warm or cool without energy-guzzling environmental controls…I simply wouldn’t worry about population control for the future. The modern lifestyle and our “fearless leaders” (snark) have already started that for us.

    But if you are still balking, fostering or adopting is an excellent and most noble idea. A child already alive with no parent has a greater need for that love and guidance than a child yet unborn. You could also be saving a child from those abusive types of foster parents who only look at the paycheck they get from the government, not the child. You could ask your wife first if she’ll go “the noble route” and “save a child” already living.

  • 12. bookman  |  July 9, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    I agree with trying the ‘adopt first’ route. But the honest truth is that your potential one or two children aren’t going to significantly affect the population problem. So, get yourself in a safe situation where your food is grown on your land, clean water is independently available & your family’s security is as strong as possible under the circumstances & go for it. hopefully the smart (read ‘peak-oil aware’) ones keep their genes going (not an enjoyable nor peaceful way to look at it, but by default neither is the population problem a fun, humanitarian area of study)

  • 13. bookman  |  July 9, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    (looks like everyone covered these general ideas… but to sum it up, have some f-ing kids & do all that you can to make their life one of safe, sustainable forward momentum)

  • 14. Sarah  |  July 10, 2007 at 9:47 am

    I don’t have a long arguement, but would agree that adoption can be a beneficial choice, not just for you, but also for the child. Yes, there are too many people in the world, but there are tons of kids that NEED homes, they cannot help that their parents didn’t think about the energy crisis before getting pregnent :o) And I honestly believe that motherly instinct and “that feeling” and loving children can happen, even if you didn’t birth them. Try and convince the wife that it would be less havoc on her body too. Everyone wins!

  • 15. psignosis  |  July 10, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    totally in the same situation. except that the wife came down with a bad case of Grave’s disease, and now that it’s under control, we may very well not be able to have kids in any event. it looks like all of the commentators have made the point to basically go for it and have a kid (1, one!). i tend to agree. as a shirker generally, let me say that i think it’s quite easy to justify not having a kid for any number of reasons, political, enviornmental, and possibly otherwise… but justtifying why NOT to have a kid is somehow harder, eh? best of luck!

  • 16. psignosis  |  July 10, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    er, that was to read, why HAVING a kid… oh i’m sure you got the point. cheers..

  • 17. jade  |  July 11, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Two friends of my husband and I recently got divorced over this very same issue. It was sad, but since they weren’t on the same page, I think their disparity would cause lots more strain down the road. I know adoption wouldn’t satisfy the biological urge, because my husband and I have talked that through in our own case. When I was 20-something I decided that after 30 I didn’t want kids — too much genetic atrophy — so once I got that old it was easier for me to live without them. My parents have had a hard time with it as well, but more and more they seem to see our reasoning. I wish you luck in your case!

  • 18. GT  |  February 17, 2008 at 5:36 am

    A lot of relevant points there, but I guess it’s down to an individual choice, I already have 2 young ones but have only been involved in the whole sustainability, peak oil and economic collapse world for just over a year.

    If there is anything that may help is that the children of friends and ours are now starting to bring the message home to Mum’s and Dad’s who are “too busy” to worry about it, when your daughter comes home and asks you how come all the adults are wrecking the world and she is worried that there won’t be any trees left for her, that can be the best education a family can have who may not want to hear the “inconvenient truth” as the title goes.
    I know it is a simplistic veiw but our kids may be the best hope we have.

  • 19. Monica Peters  |  March 31, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Not only do I agree with you 100%, but I feel your pain immensely. I am a 28 year old mom with one child. I want more than anything to have one more child, but the reality is that I don’t want this future child struggling with PO like my son will have to already. We won’t be having another, although it’s soooooo hard to swallow.

    What people are doing is wanting children and remembering their own childhood, where energy was wildly available and cheap. This will NOT be the case in 5-10 years, so we need to change our outlook on reproduction.

    As much as I adore my son, a large part of me feels guilty for bringing him into this world. I hope he forgives me!

    I knew nothing about PO until I got pregnant with him. I am proud to say that I know more than the average person, and therefore I can prepare him and have a more appropriate lifestyle for our family. All his toys/clothes are secondhand (ours is also), we conserve energy like crazy. Clotheslines, cloth diapering and reusable products are the norm in my house. Our home is 1200 sq feet and we keep it at 65 degrees. I am going to teach him gardening and recycling and other things like putting on a sweater when cold. That’s the best I can do for him at this point.

    All I can say is I feel for you. I get so sad when I realize I will never bear another child. But I have one more than many people and I need to feel blessed for that.

  • 20. Monica Peters  |  March 31, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Two more things I forgot: 1. I had to laugh when I read your “plugging up the shower” thing. I have done the EXACT same thing! I always do weird things like that. Just yesterday my co-workers laughed at me because I take their lunch scraps home to compost.

    2. I get jealous of people that pop out muiltiple children because they don’t know any better… being pregnant with their second or third child and everyone is so happy for them. I feel it’s not fair that they “get” to have the kids they want because they aren’t informed of PO while I am being punished for educating myself. Adoption is not an option, since my husband doesn’t want to do it. That’s another story…


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