A long way to go

A long way to go

20110313 Petrol pump robot 150x150 A long way to go

On Sunday evening last week I promised I would post five updates.  I knew it was a tall order, but with a few hours to spare I am pleased to say I have managed to keep my promise.  My office hole punch is a man of integrity and I try to live up to his standards.

I have written about the environmental impact of consumerism at length, but what about oil consumption?  Oil is still a major driving force behind our economy.  Everything around you is the product of oil consumption, whether as a raw material in plastics or as embodied carbon in the item’s manufacture and transport.  As petrol and oil prices increase, so does the price of goods.

We are addicted to oil and it has become a way of life.  Everybody wants it – nay, needs it – and oil producing countries are happy to sell it to us.  With every gram of the stuff burnt, more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere to the detriment of the planet.  Or is it?  From a metaphysical point of view it is not detrimental in the slightest.  The earth may heat up, sea levels may rise, but the Earth will continue to turn and the Sun will continue to shine until the universe ultimately meets its fate in heat death or otherwise.  The Earth is an inanimate entity and couldn’t give two hoots whether or not there are intelligent apes (humans to you and me) roaming its surface.  A rock’s a rock’s a rock.  It is therefore important to understand climate change in terms of the human cost.

Everyone is aware of the perils of burning oil, yet we continue to use it as if there were no tomorrow.  We know it’s bad for us but it feels so good.  It’s like a crack addict mugging a little old lady for money to get their next fix.  But in fairness, the average person (you and I) doesn’t really have much choice in the matter.  Some clever people invented cars, ships and aeroplanes and sold them to us by the million and transformed the world in such a way that we can’t turn our backs on now.  I, for one, would not want to go back to living in a cave, as I would be cold and hungry and would live from day to day taking each day as it comes.  In a way life hasn’t changed that much.  Oil will run out, climate change is happening and in a similar way we are taking each day as it comes, hoping for a better greener alternative that is affordable – in that respect we are still living for the here and now.  What about combating climate change?  Mañana!  We invent tools to solve problems and in the process we create more problems to solve.  In some respects our problems have become more complex, yet at the same time nothing has changed.  We do not beat each other around the head with physical sticks like our caveman ancestors did, but be still fight.  Our sticks happen to be guns, bombs, missiles and so on.

The picture is one of a petrol pump, which my dad took.  It looks a bit like a robot, staring emotionless at the consumer.  The photographer said it was a metaphor for people turning a blind eye to the economic reality.  They happily fill up their gas guzzling cars as prices continue to rise.  Everyone is aware of it but is sticking their heads in the sand.  The expression on the face is one of, “I see nothing, I hear nothing – you see nothing”.  I think it is clearer in the blurred photograph below.

20110313 Petrol pump robot blurred 300x225 A long way to go

Until public transport is more comfortable and affordable and trains are fast and run on time, I can’t blame people for choosing their cars over buses.  I have a dream that one day trains will be as punctual as they are in Germany.  Several years ago I was standing on an island platform on the U-Bahn in Berlin and saw two trains arriving at the same time.  Commuters hopped across the platform from one train to the other and then both trains departed at the same time, all in one fluid motion.  We have come a long way but have a long way to go yet.

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