Friday, 9 September 2011


Ok it seems like an odd title but you would be surprised just how deep the oil is in our homes & in our lives. I am surprised that we are not slipping around like mud wrestlers in the stuff.  If this is all sounding a little odd to you & you are unaware of the implications of being oil dependent, let me try to quickly bring you up to speed without baffling you with graphs and figures.

Oil is a finite resource. This means that there is only so much of it and when it's gone, that's it. Now so far we have used around half of the oil that is recoverable. This is what people are calling "Peak Oil." The bad part about this is, that it has been a slow rise up to the peak, with oil being reasonably easy to recover at the beginning. As we reach the peak then it is a Helter Skelter ride down to 'Oil Defecit' at the other side as it becomes less economical to recover.

The social implications of life, 'post peak oil' are extremely worrying for us all, not least the people at the bottom of society. Things are going to get more and more expensive at a frightening speed. We are seeing the signs now as I am writing this. Nervous financial sector, twitchy retail industry, country's leaders starting to talk about financial collapse, police forces being beefed up to prepare for civil unrest.

Ok well you get the picture. If you are still with me then thank you because now I want to swallow the doom and gloom and talk to you about doing something positive to slow down the process and to prepare ourselves voluntarily for what will be mandatory if we don't.

First we have to look honestly at our food shopping trolley & try to look at it wearing "Oil Goggles." Unfortunately you can't buy these over the counter so you will just have to imagine them & train your brain to spot an oily product before you put it in your trolley.


A word that keeps buzzing around my head when I am oil spotting is "Logistics." It's a word that affects just about everything but is also a word that we don't use much. We just turn a blind eye to logistics. In reality it's the life's blood of our efficient consumer society. Everything that we eat, drink or buy to amuse ourselves with has to come from somewhere, via aircraft, ship, truck and van. It also has to be harvested, recovered or manufactured using oil as the principle fuel, so you see even something as seemingly innocent as a pear may have made it's way into to your shopping trolley from New Zealand via all of the above.


I will just pick one thing to demonstrate the folly of over use of packaging materials. SOAP. I have to my shame, a little plastic bottle of "Antibacterial Handwash" sitting in my kitchen next to the sink. This seemingly innocent little bottle is just one of many such things that we have become increasingly likely to buy for our short term convenience. The trouble is that it really is only a convenience for us in the short term.

 Inside the bottle there is simply a liquid soap. I only have the product because I am too stupid to just put a soap dish in the same place & stick a bar of cheap, ethical soap in it's place and I am willing to bet that there are millions of you out there who are doing the same. Toiletries and vanity products count for an incredible amount of unnecessary packaging in all of our lives and it is one place where we can start to make changes with very little inconvenience to ourselves. I am going to take my own advice don't worry, the bottle is going.

Oh dear, that's the problem isn't it, where exactly is it going? "Ping!" A light goes on in your head. "Recycling!" Ah! Yes, of course, the good old conscience savior comes to the rescue but here we go again with the logistics. It is carted off, melted down & turned into another plastic bottle which is popped onto a truck and taken to another soap company to be filled with anti bacterial soap once more. Oh and did I mention the few gallons of oil it used on it's way? Look around your houseand you will see that almost everything is soaked in oil.


Well how oily is our food? Is a loaf of bread oily? How about a chicken or a pint of milk, a joint of beef even? Well I am afraid the news is bad at the start but positively terrifying by the time we get to the cow.

Wheat is grown on large swathes of land. The land has to be ploughed, harrowed raked, sown with seed and then fertilised and if it's not organic it's sprayed with pesticide. Then you wait several months before you harvest the wheat, transport it to be processed, milled into flour and then transported again to the bakery and then the shop and finally to your home. Lots of oil there eh?

Now onto the cow of doom. Last century a Sunday roast was a treat and for lots of good reasons. People lived in a realistic economy. When I was a child during the sixties the true cost of rearing a cow was understood by people. We weren't throwing oil at the cow as if there were an endless supply. We lived in a time when farms were small, fields were small and the farmer new the butcher and many of the final customers of his produce, both dairy and beef. The feed didn't have to travel far at all.

Today's cow is a totally different animal. It costs an astonishing five tons off wheat to produce one ton of beef and as far as milk is concerned, my own local farm supplies me with organic milk after it has done a round trip of two hundred miles to be bottled.

We can all do something about this spiral of self destruction but we have to believe that it is real. Look around your home and ask yourself honestly if your lifestyle can be adjusted, because what we are doing is no different than if we were sucking the blood from our own Grandchildren.