I'm fascinated by history. It's not so much that I think we can learn from history and avoid the same mistakes, but that it's fascinating to kind of step outside of the picture and start noticing the trends.
I've been doing the twenty-first equivalent of clipping news articles for the past two years (i.e. printing articles from online news sources and keeping them in a notebook), and the similarities to the 1920s and 1930s are stark. Worse, though, is the repetitive nature of the headlines. One month we're coming out of the Recession and the next there are massive job losses. In 2008 the headlines were "Oil over $80 per barrel!", which promised to devastate an already teetering economy, and, yet, today the price per barrel is $86, but no one seems worried.
The problem is that we seem to have such short memories, and we're so easily distracted. Sunday evening, due to a very intense storm, thousands of Mainers were without electricity. Some may still be. I was speaking with another homeschooling parent yesterday, who had lost power during the storm, and saying that we had oil lamps and "stuff" so that when the power goes out, for us, it's no big deal. And, I didn't say, in so many words, but the reason we have all of these things is because the power grid is unreliable. Her response was just about what I've come to expect, and basically it was something like knowing that she and her family should do some preparing, but .... This time the power was out for a few hours. A few years ago, we lost power for a few days. In 1998 there were a lot of Mainers who lost power for a couple of weeks.
I'm not making this stuff up just to scare you. (Sh)It happens, and the question is, do we learn from our mistakes, or do we keep reinforcing Einstein's definition of insanity.
In 1945 President Roosevelt warned that we had become a nation dependent on oil. It was he who pioneered our foreign policy based on oil, and he who first began negotiating with the Princes of the House of Saud of the Arabian peninsula (in the Islamic country we know as Saudi Arabia).
He was the first to warn us that we were growing too dependent on oil.
And we didn't listen in 1945, because we were too distracted and in a state of ecstasy after having just "won" World War II.
He hasn't been the last to express concern.
Nixon warned us in his 1974 State of the Union Address that we were in the midst of an energy crisis.
We didn't listen.
His successor, Gerald Ford, told us that we needed to achieve "energy independence."
And a few years later, the much maligned James Earl "Jimmy" Carter warned us that we were heading down a slippery slope with regard to our dependence on oil, and because he was the first US President to tell us, without mincing words, that we needed to wake up and smell the gas fumes, because they might not be around much longer, his whole Presidency was deemed a dismal failure. He told us what we didn't want, but very much needed, to hear. He even went so far as to install a solar hot water system on the White House, in an attempt to be a leader and show us what is possible, to lead the way down the path of energy dependence by, not just speaking the words, but doing the deeds.
And, even Reagan, who failed to take the same leadership stance as Carter (and actually removed the solar hot water system Carter had had installed - boo!), spoke the need to gain independence from our addiction to foreign oil.
Both of the Bush oil Barons and Clinton, whose Presidency they bookended, reiterated the message of the need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. And, like Carter, Bush the Second (sort of) led by example in building his off-the-grid ranch in Crawford, Texas (although it wasn't terribly well-publicized, and he, apparently, didn't do it as an example to the rest of America, but in response to what he knew was happening and in hopes that he could mitigate the ill-effects of resource depletion for himself and his family).
And, now, once again, we're being told by our current President that we need to stop depending on foreign oil.
I had a very interesting conversation with a family member a few days ago. He asked about my book, which is about ways to lower one's energy dependence based on the supposition that we have twenty-one days to prepare for a single TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) event that will destroy the "grid", and our conversation took some interesting twists and turns as we discussed current events and possible solutions.
I, of course, don't believe there is a single magic bullet that will solve all of our problems, and what I mean is that I don't believe that any one of the proposed energy-generating solutions will take the place of oil and allow us to continue living the way we are living.
For me, the key is that we can not continue living the way we are living, and if we hope to retain some modicum of our modern lives, we will need to voluntarily change how we live, because voluntarily making those changes is so much easier and so much more rewarding than having those changes forced on us by a world with finite resources that are quickly being gobbled up by our PacMan mentality. We can make changes to how we live now and learn to really appreciate how fortunate we are, or we can wait until the sh*t truly hits the fan and get caught up in the whirlwind of resource grabbing that will inevitably ensue. At that point, it will be a scramble to see who can live the longest, and a lot of people are going to lose.
For the past four decades every single President has warned us that we needed to stop our dependence on foreign oil. Every.single.one.
And we have, yet, to listen.
In his show this past summer, Jon Stewart provided us a short history lesson. As Jon quips, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times ...."