Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Earth Hour at a time of rotating brownouts and oil price hikes

Caracol 2012 - Sunshine Flower
It isn't even the height of summer yet and Metro Manila is bracing for rotating brownouts.  There's also a fresh round of oil price hikes and consequently, jeepney fare increase from P8 to P8.50.  This year's Earth Hour celebration is coming at a time fraught with ominous signs that remind me a lot of Paul Roberts' book, "The End of Oil," a cautionary tale about a world addicted to a fast-diminishing resource.

I just realized the other day how we are so absorbed in an increasingly-energy hungry lifestyle.  There's a whole slew of gadgets and devices that seem to be perpetually plugged in and tethered to us like an umbilical cord (online 24/7?  24-hour cable TV?  FB and Twitter round-the-clock?)

Earth Hour's recurring theme is going beyond the hour and it's interesting because on one hand, it's a step in the right direction -- how unplugging for an hour or two is a rather painless way to hopefully kickstart the habit of saving energy.  On the other hand, it offers a glimpse of a future when the oil wells run dry (let's not pretend they wouldn't) and the world becomes a very different (darker) place.  Moving from the industrial to the information age, the transition has been not only technology-dependent but also even more power-reliant.

Paul Roberts' book projects the Saudi Arabian oil wells to dry up sometime not during the next lifetime but this decade.  Meanwhile, moves to tap more sustainable energy sources (solar, wind, gas) have been slow to catch up.  Ditto, altering lifestyles and people's attitudes and habits when it comes to using/consuming (abusing?) oil and electricity.   It's sobering to even think how modern life can go on without power -- and we're not just talking about missing an FB or Twitter update on one's iPad which is trifling in the face of other repercussions (ever think how banking, trade and commerce are heavily reliant on electricity?) Anyway, thoughts to ponder for this year's Earth Hour.

Recommended reading: I'm a big fan of Paul Roberts.  His books, "The End of Oil" and "The End of Food," are not "scare-me-with-conspiracy-theories-and-urban-legends" stuff but rather well-written, well-researched, absorbing reads that offer solutions and provide readers with meaningful insights.  I got my copies at Booksale and I highly recommend them • The End of Oil, First Mariner Books edition 2005, ISBN 0-618-23977-4 • The End of Food, First Mariner Books edition 2009, ISBN 978-0-547-08597-5, both by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company


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