When the Music Stops

Last week my wife and daughter flew down to California to spend a week looking at colleges. She’s a junior, so this is about an event that’s more than a year away. Yet, despite all that’s happening in our world, we’re still trying to plan as if life then will be the same as life now, so all that matters is: does she like the campus, can she get in, and can we afford it.

In the ten days that they were away, four airlines went out of business (Aloha Airlines, ATA, Skybus, and Champion Air), two of the remaining large airlines (Delta and Northwest) announced a desperation merger, and two others (Southwest and American) were embroiled in money-losing maintenance scandals. As this was happening, the lifeblood of the industry — oil — got ever more expensive, while the major providers of that lifeblood, for a variety of “shoulda seen it coming” reasons, showed increasing reluctance to deal with America as a priority trading partner.

So, though my daughter does not want to hear it, my firm and fixed contribution to the “where should I go?” question is, “Any place that doesn’t involve air travel.”

Americans are playing one huge game of musical chairs — everybody flying and driving from this place to that, travel-nation, America-on-the-move — all fueled by ever-more-tenuous and no longer cheap oil. It seems inevitable that a tipping point will occur and most all the travel (except for the very rich) will STOP.

When that happens, wherever you happen to be is your new home. Chances are the locals in your new home will be woefully unprepared for global economic collapse and not at all happy adding the care of strangers to their mounting problems.

My daughter’s not listening — she’s always seen herself going to an East Coast school, and is especially taken with the prospect of living in New York City (that sound you heard was her mother’s head exploding). So we’re all in “wait and see” mode — I would love nothing more than to be utterly wrong about all of this and smiling wide as I put her on a plane to embark on her exciting new life.

Doesn’t hurt to dream. Until the music stops….

Michael Sky

3 thoughts on “When the Music Stops”

  1. I just ‘stumbled’ across this website and was surprised to see this posting about the years following peak oil, from an American. Well I’m delighted to see you’re not all ignoring what’s happening. Too many people all over the world are just turning a blind eye to three grim realities.

    One – that we are in the process of rendering our planet uninhabitable, what a legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren. Oh sure – some ‘scientist’ will jump up and say “It isn’t proven.” and if you dig deep enough you’ll find s/he is being funded by the oil companies, or the airlines, or the coal miners. All serious science now admits that global warming is happening – the only debate is how fast and every time a new piece of evidence comes out we are surprised to find it is happening faster than the last estimate.

    Two – we continue to burn oil as if there is an unlimited supply whereas by some estimates peak oil has already passed and by others it is only a few years away. So oil at $120 a barrel will seem cheap next year – I’m already paying almost $10 a gallon for diesel for my car (in the UK), next year that will seem cheap too and the point will come when I can’t afford to drive it at all, and I won’t be able to sell it either because no-one else, except the Super Rich and they drive Bentleys and Ferraris, will be able to afford to drive it either. And are we planning for what will replace it? Hell no! That would cost someone money. The money to invest, for example, in using solar power in Africa to produce hydrogen from sea water (well that could make some African countries rich and make us dependent on them – well we wouldn’t want that would we?). Oh – and you can’t depend on oil running out to solve the global warming problem – they have already started building new coal-fired power stations.

    Three – that free-market capitalism has squeezed the poor until the pips squeak and now they can’t screw any more out of them they are starting on the middle classes, because when those Chief Execs screw up and get fired it’s only fair they walk away with their multi-million severance packages. Actually when I say they are starting on the middle classes – they are pretty well down the line already. Who is really going to pay for the sub-prime fiasco? The banks and their overpaid directors? – no way! The people who lost their homes and everyone else with a bank account who is facing higher charges and higher interest rates? – you betcha!

    There isn’t a politician you can turn to – they all spend more time listening to and kowtowing to big business who handed over the money for their election campaigns than they do listening to the people who actually elected them, they’re the guys who want the wars, they’re the ones who persuade western governments not to sign up to new World Trade Organisation agreements so they continue to get huge subsidies for their farms while dumping produce at prices lower than production costs on developing countries (thereby screwing the local producers) while complaining about those governments giving their farmers tiddly little subsidies.

    The wourld has gone mad, and it’s too late to do anything about it. And it isn’t the fault of the Chinese! We accuse them of producing lots of pollution when the reality is we just exported our manufacturing, and the pollution that goes with it, to those guys. Jeez – the per capita production of CO2 in China is still a fraction of the per capia level in America or Europe. And as it’s all down to personal responsibility it is per-capita production that counts, buy George W doesn’t see it that way.

    You think you’re into the ‘doom’ thing!

  2. Just randomly going through Blogs via Stumbleupon and this one came up. Your style of writing and the sincerity of your message merited pausing and thanking you for posting it. Very, very good writing.


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