Friday, January 05, 2007

Crazy Folk

There's a good bit of crazy in my family. Now it has come to my attention that a not-insignificant number of my relatives actually read this blog, so I'm not going to mention who it is who is nuts. Because that way, all the ones who read it will understand that I am not in any way, shape or form referring to them, but to some other crazy relative who shall remain nameless ;-).

I mention this because my mother recently mentioned that my Uncle Jon reads this blog (Hi Jon!), which really surprised me. My Mom said that he thinks my numbers are wrong (I assume that "numbers" is not a euphemism for "brain function" ;-) but actually means my assessment of the proximity of peak oil), but enjoys reading. Now I don't know what Jon thinks of me - he's a very nice and kind man and probably wouldn't say so even if he thought I was strange. But being fixated on peak oil is a little weird, compared, say, to talking about the Oscar nominations. And my immediate thought was "oh lordy, I bet he thinks I'm nuts." And my second thought was "well, I come by it honestly." And it is true, there are crazy people of all stripes in my background. And maybe I am - I'm told that crazy people usually can't tell they are nuts. Who knows, some screws may have fallen out along the way. It isn't that I believe I'm a little loony - it is just that there's really no good way for me to tell.

And lots of people think that peak oil advocates are nuts. For example, the Cambridge Energy Research Associates report that came out this fall comes down to basically that conclusion (I can't link you to the report, because it costs thousands of dollars, but here's a summary There have been quite a few compelling rebuttals, available here (, and the journal Nature has just issued an account of the differences. Again, they charge for Nature online, but here are some excerpts For those of us who are not petroleum geologists (that is, most of us), the data are complicated to parse and the subject is alien, and it makes a good deal of sense to resist the notion that the way we have been living is going to come to an abrupt end.

But nuts or not, the interesting thing about what I believe about energy is that it actually doesn't matter whether you think I'm out of my mind or not. Because if you don't believe in peak oil, maybe you believe in global warming, and its potential for serious damage. The world estimate of the costs of global warming over the next century is in the many trillions of dollars. Or maybe you believe in aquifer depletion, or currency instability, or in creating greater economic justice among the world's poor (if only so that they don't bomb us, although I can think of better reasons). In all those cases, the reasoning, the debate, the insanity, the numbers are all different, but the appropriate response is to a large degree the same, and there is enormous unity on this. That is, fix globalization. Stop consuming so much. Stop driving so much. Reduce national debt. Store food for hard've all heard it before.

Personally, I think the odds are pretty good that I'm at least a little on the weird side. I don't *think* that I've fallen over the edge yet, and started getting as squirrely as my late great aunt Helen, but you never know for sure. But regardless, don't let that put you off researching peak oil, and forming your own opinion about what to do in the future.

Oh, and if you are wondering if I am a little whacked, I can only recount this. We recently began renovating our old kitchen, and when we pulled out a couple of the appliances, we discovered huge holes in the sheet rock and plaster, with very, very large gnaw marks on them. I do not mean little mouse nibbles - I mean holes that go up as high as my knee and have good sized teeth marks. The kind couple that are doing the work for us launched into a lengthy discussion of what animal it was that lived in my house. I cannot describe this discussion, because I immediately considered my options and decided that serious denial was the way to go. The word "barn rat" when conjoined with "my kitchen" caused brain spasms (let me note that the fact that my cats and dogs have full run of the kitchen and weren't even remotely interested leads me to believe that the creature preceeded my tenure in the house, but still...ICK!).

So I have constructed a helpful theory of how this happened. The only animal that my mind will permit me to consider that was large enough, tolerable enough and has sharp enough teeth is...The Koala Bear. They are cute. They look cuddly (I've heard they are actually not, but I don't allow facts to interfere with my denial). They mostly lie around. So here is my working theory. A koala bear became lost on her way back to Australia, and unused to the climate and local vegetation, wandered into my house, because someone had recently spilled oil of eucalyptus on the walls behind the stove and the fridge. Lacking its favorite food, it rested and recuperated cutely while nibbling at the eucalyptus scented walls, and then, when things had warmed up a bit, departed on its merry way home.

See, that works just fine (3 year old Isaiah suggested there might be some problems with my reasoning, but who are you going to believe, him or me ;-)?). We had a small infestation of cute little koalas. No big deal. And like I said, there's a good bit of crazy in my family.




Cheryl said...

You are hilarious - I almost spat my tea all over the computer when I got to the part about the koala. A little warning next time please! :)
We're about to pull our kitchen apart too, I hope there aren't any Australian refugees hiding in our walls.

Unknown said...

I just read your terrific Omnivore's Dilemma review (referred by the com food listserv). I also help run a CSA, and write the weekly Victual Reality column for Please contact me at I have a question for you.

Lillian said...

Have you met the guy who uses the signature line "I do not suffer from insanity....I enjoy every moment of it"?

I agree wholeheartedly!

And long live the kind of insanity that produces both the excellent logic you display, and the rampantly hilarious (tho just as logical in construct)process of your discourse on denial.

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