My friend Brady has an outstanding new blog, and his most recent reflection on our abject dependence on oil as a civilisation was straight to the point, and really got me thinking along a terribly pessimistic trail of ideas.
The unfolding tragedy in the Gulf Coast states of this great nation of ours is revealing all sorts of terrible truths about our society, foremost among them how incredibly fragile the fabric of that society really is. We watch in horror as, within a brief span of days (hours, really), a major city in the most prosperous nation in the history of the world is transformed into a scene of squalor and despair that we are accustomed to associate with various ‘third world’ countries (if we are accustomed to think about such unpleasant scenes at all). How shockingly thin is the boundary between the American way of life and the bottomless horror of total loss and utter poverty.
I watch the scenes of empty, broken freeways dotted with empty, broken people: American refugees, homeless in their own land, walking from the overwhelming tragedy that is their lives toward some future beyond hope, beyond any reasonable expectation of hope. And as I watch it is easy to imagine this in any other city in the U.S. We wouldn’t even need a storm like Katrina to clobber us, really; if events elsewhere caused the gasoline supply to dry up, we would all be limping away from whatever suddenly-dead city we had been used to call home.
Have we waited too long to turn our national resolve, our passion as a people, to the development of real, usable alternatives to fossil fuels? Of course we have. We tremble on a brink of utter collapse; New Orleans is only a horrifying preview of what awaits the entire country in a future that is all too near.
And if we as a nation cannot even take care of our own people in their hour of utmost need, what are we doing trying to run the rest of the world?