Human labor is worth far more than a gallon of gasoline. Are fossil fuels undervalued? We will pay for the costs in which these fuels inflict upon the environment and our food web. Do we take energy for granted? The Great Squeeze, a locally produced and award winning documentary on sustainability addresses how our consumption can lead to a global collapse.
Would you pay $1,000 for a gallon of gasoline? The Great Squeeze revealed at the beginning of the film that we have replaced human labor for cheap fossil fuels. It wasn’t that long ago when we depended on the labor of men and animals for transportation.
The Oil Drum adds that if we were to figure out how many human hours of labor it would take to produce the same amount of energy in one barrel of oil, that would take approximately 12 ½ years at 40 hours a week. If we look at the math and pay a laborer $7.00 per hour the cost, it would cost $182,000.00 for one barrel of oil. The current cost of a barrel of oil (5/3/10) is about $86.00 and the number of gallons in a barrel is 42 gallons, which once refined it is much less than 42 gallons.
Do we have a skewed worldview around oil? Do we take it for granted? Another documentary that helps us better understand the history of our country’s dependence on fossil fuels, is The End of Suburbia, which looks at our consumer based economy and how our lifestyles are built around consuming fossil fuels.
In The Great Squeeze, James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, stated that a consumer based economy is a dangerous way of looking at life and that unending consumption is not sustainable.
As the film points out, humans lose sight of the amount of resources it takes to produce the many products we consume. This leads to declines in minerals and nutrients in the soil to produce food. In addition, we lose perspective on the sources of our energy and products from extraction to disposal (See Clean Energy 101 series). As our population continues to skyrocket, (population expected to almost double from 3.5 billion to 5 billion by 2030), will we have enough resources to go around? Many of these resources are non-renewable.
Lester Brown, an agricultural economist, stated that China and India are striving to live like Americans, by consuming large quantities of resources. At China’s current population growth, by 2031, they will consume 2/3 of the world’s grain harvest and they are facing huge droughts and lack of food resources within their country. They will need to rely heavily on the U.S., which produces 1/3 of the world’s grains. If China continues this “western lifestyle”, global forests will be largely destroyed and by 2031 they will be consuming 99 million barrels of petroleum a day to fuel their vehicles.
Many Americans are currently concerned about the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its impact on the fisheries. However, humans have already either fished out or destroyed the habitats for 97% of the big fish species globally to extinction.
Are we repeating history on a global scale? Christophe Fauchere, director and producer of the film and resident of Colorado, explored the demise of ancient civilizations like the Ancestral Puebloans of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. The film explained that they believe that a lack of resources drove the people out of the Four Corners, due to drought and they could no longer maintain the lifestyle of agrarian farming in a drying climate. Many cultures like the Mayan and the people of Easter Island wiped out their forests to build temples, statues, dwellings, and to fuel fires for cooking. Are we all creating a global collapse by using fossil fuels?
While some Americans speak to boycott fossil fuel companies, have they given any thought to how they live everyday by using fossil fuels? What about this “western lifestyle”? Is this sustainable?
Fauchere would like to continue the story by creating a second documentary regarding global population. Yet many fear to fund it, according to Martin Voelker (cinematographer of the film). Zero growth is something people, particularly Americans, don’t want to talk about and many refuse to face the idea that population growth is directly affected by fossil fuels. This in turn may be leading to not only to extinction of many plant and animal species, but the extinction of all humans. Are we in peril or can we think our way out of this?
The film left the audience with many heavy-hearted questions. Can we change? Do we have the will? Can we produce truly clean energy and reduce our consumption of so many natural resources? These are the fundamental questions facing human beings worldwide.
The year 2030 is only 20 years away. The children of tomorrow will be facing a much different world than the one we experience today. Should we give up? Should we live in denial? Should we stand on the sidelines? How can we stand on the sidelines when every single living thing, especially humans, is playing in the game?
Will we continue to blame or will we make a change?
Check out this examiner’s other articles to learn more on how you can get involved in a green future.