Houston, we have a problem…

A great analogy for our (America/Earth) current predicament was presented on Bill Moyer’s Journal on PBS last Friday by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson.  Their analogy was to use the movie (and real life event) Apollo 13.  (The “Houston, we have a problem!” movie.)

Metaphorically, the argument is that, today, our “ship” (country/earth) is adrift in space, venting gas, in obviously desperate straits with no way to accomplish its original (overly optimistic?) “mission.”

So we have a choice: either we  a.) get the ship safely home (by switching modes/models in favor of survivability/sustainability) OR  b.) fail ugly/screaming (Mad Max and Soylent Green were cited as likely/possible futures under our current failed energy policy – A K A Peak Oil).

Bittle and Johnson describe the issue in essentially Manichean terms – i.e. there is no possible “completion” of the “mission” because its “success” (as originally and unrealistically defined by our falsely optimistic White, Christian cultural/economic traditions) is today eliminated from consideration.

Like all participants in an addiction recovery program, we must admit we are at/near bottom;  that our (reasonably primitive, fossil fuel powered, technology/economy and its individualistic and self-aggrandizing goals) has failed and is leading to outright catastrophe.

Now, like those NASA engineers, we must cooperate to get our “capsule” home (to survival and sustainability), we must empty the “box” (containing only the materials onboard our capsule – no God; no false optimism) and repurpose ourselves toward an evolved definition of “success.”  We must admit that either the whole capsule gets “home” with all of us safely onboard – or we all fail (decline and perish) equally.

Apollo 13 is a fabulous analogy.  And while Bittle and Johnson use it only as a metaphor for Peak Oil, as an engineer, I see it as analogous to nearly every “modern” human/living resource problem: economy, energy, food, water...

Bittle and Johnson cite Cuba as an example of our inevitable peak oil future.  In the late 1980s when the Soviet “empire” essentially collapsed, Cuba was crippled economically when the USSR stopped subsidizing its consumption (as one day China et al will stop subsidizing America’s debt-based consumption).  But Cuba survived, politically and economically, despite little/no outside help (e.g. no Haitian-style “aid”) from the corporatist West.  Cuba has been embargoed for decades by wealthy nations, the IMF, World Bank, etc.  But it survives.  And so can America -- as soon as its abandons its failed consumer (debt) dependent, corporate led and Washington enabled capitalism for the poor (e.g. high unemployment and zero return on cash savings) and socialism for the rich (e.g. insufficient upper income/inheritance taxation and “too big to fail” bailouts).