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By Robert Rapier on Apr 21, 2008 with no responses

Letter to My Children

Tags: peak oil

Given that we are preparing to make another move, I recently wrote my two oldest children a letter explaining why I felt like Dallas is a good place to be (for us) in the near future. Basically, I see some difficult times ahead. I don’t believe gas and oil prices are going to ease. I believe that we are near a peak in oil production. It is not clear to me how this will all play out, but I see some potentially dangerous waters ahead. Do I believe that things will play out according to the horrible scenarios? No. Do I understand that the possibility is there? Yes. So I have to prepare for the possibility, even if I think it is remote. It’s like having homeowner’s insurance. Most of the time you don’t need it. But when you do, you are glad it’s there.

I spoke to my children after sending them this, because I want them to be clear that while I am not trying to scare them, I want them to develop an appreciation for possible pitfalls in front of us. I want them to understand that the possibilities are what I am trying to position us for. In short, I am trying to educate them so they don’t grow up to be the mall brats that are so common in our society. I also didn’t want them hearing these things from someone else.

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Not Trying to Scare You

I don’t want to scare either one of you, but I do want to have a frank discussion. There are some very key reasons for us to move to Dallas that we haven’t discussed before. So, I want to discuss them. Obviously, being closer to your grandparents has advantages. But a very important factor – called Peak Oil – has an impact on the decisions that are made in this family. I think about the possibilities surrounding Peak Oil every single day.

There is a chance – and again I don’t want to scare you – that the world is headed for some very difficult times. But it is my job to protect you from bad things in the world; bad things that could be on the way. So I have to look ahead to possible scenarios, and try to prepare for them.

I want you to read this news article by a professor at the University of Arizona:

End of the world as we know it

He says some pretty scary things. Here are a few:

Peak oil spells the end of civilization. And, if it’s not already too late, perhaps it will prevent the extinction of our species.

Within a decade, we’ll be staring down the barrel of a crisis: Oil at $400 per barrel brings down the American Empire, the project of globalization and water coming through the taps. Never mind happy motoring through the never-ending suburbs in the Valley of the Sun. In a decade, unemployment will be approaching 100 percent, inflation will be running at 1,000 percent and central heating will be a pipe dream.

In short, this country will be well on its way to the post-industrial Stone Age. The death and suffering will be unimaginable. We have come to depend on cheap oil for the delivery of food, water, shelter and medicine. Most of us are incapable of supplying these four key elements of personal survival, so trouble lies ahead when we are forced to develop means of acquiring them that don’t involve a quick trip to Wal-Mart.

I think the man’s views are too extreme, but do I understand why he concludes these things? Yes, I do. And while I don’t think things will really turn out like this, there is a real chance that oil prices – now at record highs – will cause serious suffering as prices continue to climb. You really can’t appreciate that cheap oil is the heart of American society, and oil isn’t cheap any more – and I believe won’t ever be cheap again. This may have serious consequences. We may see major unemployment, not enough food as it becomes more expensive to grow and transport, and people just struggling to feed their families.

This is one reason I am working hard to find solutions. I don’t want to leave a world like that for you. But in case no solutions come – and things do turn out badly – the best possible thing we could have is farmland to be able to raise food. We have that at your grandparents’ house – along with an extended family. And I want to spend time with you, teaching you about growing food and how life can go on without Walmart. I think it is unlikely that you will be in a position where you have to grow food to survive, but it is a good skill to know. And you may be in a position to teach others who do need those skills.

So, there is a lot more behind our move to Dallas than may be obvious. It is an “escape hatch” to see us through hard times if needed. You are both old enough now to know these things, and why I didn’t really see living in Montana as a long-term option. Things may turn out just fine, but if they don’t we wouldn’t have had a lot of farmland to fall back on.

Let me know if you have questions about all of this. There are two different views: One is that there is going to be major disaster, and many people will die of starvation. I know many smart people who believe this. The other is that technology – and these are the kinds of things I am working on – will provide a solution. I lean toward the view that things will be tough for a while, but we will figure things out. But I also recognize that there is a chance that the gloomy scenario will play out – and I can’t ignore that.

Love, Dad