Men would liefer meet a tiger in the road than hear the
The concepts of sustainable economy, agriculture, and future are seldom uttered in the more common media expressions. Few people are aware that our present ways of living upon the earth are perilously unsustainable. The magnitude of the changes required in our way of being to assure that the future of humankind continue to be possible without greatly increased suffering, is very little comprehended. Such changes are contrary to the continuation of traditional economic growth as experienced throughout the last two centuries of industrial evolution.
Virtually all the infrastructure that exists and is being built within modern America depends upon a continuation of inexpensive petroleum-derived energy for transportation, either directly or indirectly. After a quarter century since the experienced warning, there is still no demonstrated substitute for this labyrinthine and extensive dependence, only fanciful technological solutions that have been proposed then discarded when reality became confronted, or that ever await the supposed sufficient market incentive. Yet, we continue to build higher the towering structure with no fear of precariousness.
It is unrealistic to believe that there will not be an unending contraction of petroleum supply when economic systems presently so depend upon growth in production of goods and corresponding exhaustion of energy, and when the physical earth does not increase in size. The question of when it will commence is debatable, not whether. To proceed as if the resolution to the dead-end of our present course had already been found, when it has not so been, is to risk on a massive scale beyond prior human experience the fools' reckoning.
With disregard for the time involved in the creation of the gift of good soil, for the generosity of climate, we sacrifice our local agricultural capacity, in the faith that somehow it will always be cheaper and possible to haul with great trucks from great distance. We see nothing wrong with living a cultural way in the desert which pits the human use of water against agricultural the one taking from the other, the modern convenience of the flush toilet obliterating the ecological wisdom of organic cycles.  The loss of carrying capacity, the diminished ability of the earth to sustain man without end, when golf courses are preferred over food potential; the erosion of the hillsides as sand into the widening river bottom, begotten from imposition of flatland designs and automobiles upon the valley slopes; the increasing long distance commutes whose continuing possibility is only assumed.
None of these momenta can be considered in a direction toward greater sustainability. They are the opposite, the diminishment of capacity of the earth to support humankind, sought because they render a greater immediate profit, calculable as such because they do not consider any loss of greater term potential, cost shifted onto others and the future, or impossibility of persistence. The sustainability of our existence is not yet a social goal. So intoxicated with growth, we cannot conceive of deviating from it to pursue sustainability. ¿Where is the builder with vision to propose development of a truly sustainable creation with a potentially larger population as opposed to the fantasyland of golf courses in the desert; to endeavor the intelligent integration of human dwelling with persisting agriculture and the radical diminishment of dependence upon fossil-fueled transportation? More importantly, ¿why is there no incentive to so do before immediate necessity does become the brutal master? ¿Have we grown so ignorant of our dependence upon the earth, and its resources?
To try to imagine current society in the declining phase of petroleum production is terrifying and quite beyond the social imagery that has been given unto our imagination not knowing how to confront the inevitable most governments and people prefer to ignore it. In all probability, we will repeat on a global level the experience of the late sixties that occurred in relation to continental US production levels. Predictions of imminent decline in supply will be heard but will commonly be disregarded in the faith that the cleverness of man will prevail against the wise and powerful finitude of the earth. Suddenly, from one day to the next, the inexorable ending of the age of petroleum will have begun, regardless of our degree of preparation.
The degradation of human carrying capacity at Canoa Ranch, one of the last potential areas for a sustainable collective endeavor in the Santa Cruz Valley, is now being planned. Expert opinion on petroleum exhaustion places the peaking of supply as early as within three years, assuming that global recession does not extensively prevail and that the Caspian Sea region ultimately yield some 50 billion barrels, rather than the present spate of exploratory drillings which find only gas.[2,3] With the lowest oil price in decades, nothing seems more improbable than that we could actually be about to begin to run out of oil. Accordingly, most will continue to believe in the impossibility of our having already tragically overshot limits to the way of life that the earth will long support. Those now seemingly more profitable endeavors of selling fantasyland to those with sufficient wealth and idle time will likely be yet pursued in the holy name of growth, at any cost.
We are wagering the very future of humanity that some miracle technology will
be discovered to essentially convert water into gasoline. If this miracle does
not quickly occur, and the hand of reality becomes heavy upon humankind to learn
us that our interdependence is paramount, the earth indeed round and finite,
then at Canoa, where halted building will testify to failure of vision, bankruptcy
would be only one among legion.
 Gray, Elizabeth Dodson, Green Paradise Lost, 1985, Roundtable
 Campbell, Colin J, The Coming Oil Crisis, 1997, Multi-Science Publishing Company & Petroconsultants, S.A., ISBN 0 906522 11 0
 Gever, John, Beyond Oil: the Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades, 1980, University of Colorado Press
I once assumed that humankind had evolved beyond the dangers of it's own ignorance, that the lessons to be yet learned would be small and welcome.
17721 S Placita Mayo
Green Valley, AZ.
[Delivered to all members Pima County Board of Supervisors; January 8, 1999.]
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