In the dark ages as a lad, I attended many of the “horror” or “monster” movies of the time. There were such notables as “The Thing”, “Them”, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, “Godzilla”, “The Blob”, “The Tingler”, “Kronos”, “The Creature from Beneath the Sea”, and many others. Today’s audiences would consider those movies more comical than horrific because of the crude special effects of that day and time. Today’s audiences require several gallons of fake blood and body parts before the movie can be even remotely considered as a “horror” movie.
But one common ingredient between those movies of yesteryear and today is the same. That is the background music. It alerts our minds that something really sinister is about to happen. The background music is not itself notable, in fact it is notable in that it isn’t really noticed during the movie. Still it is there. As the tension builds in the plot, the music becomes louder and louder, causing us to sit on the edge of the seat, afraid to look, but afraid to turn away. The music tells us subconsciously to stay alert something horrible may happen. Our inner voice wants to yell “Don’t open that door!”, “Don’t get out of the car!”, “Don’t go see what made that noise”. Common sense tells us this is time for flight, not mere curiosity. In the movie world, an expendable actor or actress ventures forth to investigate the noise or phenomena that is just off screen( usually at night). The background music rises almost overwhelming the senses. Then the expendable character sees nothing and the background music goes silent, allowing us to let down our guard. As players begin to return to a place of safety, the monster strikes. Then the music begins to rise again as the previously unknown monster now goes after the stars, who miraculously escape to spread the alarm.
So what does that have to do with “Peak Oil Blues”? Last fall we were being treated to a lot of daily background music that kept rising in volume. The music accompanied some of the visuals we saw in the media. Some was anecdotal about a layoff here, a business closure or failure there, a neighbor whose house was foreclosed, or who lost a job. The music in our minds kept us on the edge of our seats. It seemed like we couldn’t open the newspaper or turn on the TV without some ominous image or story seeming to suggest that a horrible economic or energy monster was about to strike us in our prime. Suggestions of countries collapsing, whole economic systems evaporating right in front of our eyes, leaving us victims of this unfolding horror movie, were daily occurrences. These visions drove the background music to an even louder intensity. You could almost feel the tension in the air tapping you on the shoulder. Anxiety levels were rising along with the background music. The Occupy movement gave evidence that something was wrong.
Then in mid December it happened. What? Nothing! We looked around and the background music had gone silent. No longer was the music rising to the stories of diesel shortages in the northern plains and Canada. No longer did the music accompany the stories of Eurozone collapse, or Chinese economic problems. We breathed a sigh of relief and coasted through the holidays feeling free of worry over what might be out there in the night.
But did the economic and energy monsters really decide that our politicians, technology, and media were a force too formidable and slink off into the night? I don’t think so. Just within the last week noises have begun emanating from the bushes out in the darkness of the future. And the noises were not made by rabbits looking for food. First we heard the noise of the World Bank forecasting that 2012 would make 2008/2009 look like child’s play. Then another bush rustled and we heard the noise of the Nigerian oil industry on strike. And the bushes around the Middle East still continue to rustle. All we can hope for is the monster rustling in the bushes isn’t as large as the sounds it is making in the dark. Perhaps it is a really clumsy monster!
I don’t think the economic and energy monsters have gone back to hiding to plan a new strategy. I think they still remain in the bushes nearby, waiting to pounce at any moment. The old saying over the centuries has been “the calm before the storm”. I think we are now in that calm right before either or both monsters re-emerge to confront us. If you are preparing for this oncoming storm, that is great, you need to redouble your efforts. If you aren’t preparing, you need to start. You can’t effectively battle “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (was the “Black Lagoon” an early reference to a lake of oil??) with a set of car keys and a bunch of nifty cell phone apps.
The silence of the background music during this brief calm should provide incentive sufficient for us to begin or continue to prepare ourselves for less energy, less money, less security, less food, less mobility, less comfort, less convenience, to name a few.
Those who fail to prepare themselves will be the expendable actors in this drama.