July 6th, 2008

As our world grows ever more difficult, we must become ever more intelligent in our choice of actions, or we will not survive. When I wrote the following essay in July of 2002, the average price of gasoline in America was $1.43 per gallon. The essay is unchanged except for updated inflation statistics to 2007.

Why America Is Failing?

Timothy Wilken, MD

The American political economic system is is classified by synergic science as a neutral system. Neutral systems require unlimited resources to grow and thrive.

Neutrality means you don’t need help from others. You are so rich that you can survive all by yourself. And, we Americans have been very rich for the last 100 years. Now I know some of you will scream, RICH! I am not rich. But really you are. You see, we Americans have so much cheap energy we don’t even notice it. We modern humans have been sucking petroleum out of the ground as hard as we can for those 100 years. We don’t pay for that oil. We do pay for the straw, but not for the oil itself. The oil is a natural part of the planet.

In 1981, Buckminster Fuller calculated the real cost of that oil, if we were paying for the value of the oil itself, and not just the cost of sucking it out of the ground.

He estimated the real cost of one gallon of gasoline was ~$1,000,000. Correcting for inflation to 2007, that would be $2,821,000 for one gallon of gasoline. How many gallons of gas did you use this month? Then consider the fact that most of our electricity is generated by burning petroleum, so how many gallons did you use to heat your home, or cool your home, or run your electric appliances and cook your food, and pump and heat the water for your bathrooms and the laundry? And God forbid, if you travel very often on commercial airlines.

If you add it all up, you would discover that most Americans are billionaires, or at least use billions of dollars of energy in their lifetimes.

Now we humans can only continue to waste such great wealth, if that wealth is unlimited.

Guess what? Santa Clause is dead. We are running out of oil. The earth itself, and certainly the oil reserves of earth are finite. That means they are limited.

Lets take a moment to understand, how we got here.

There are three classes of life on Earth–Plants, Animals and Humans.

The plants are an independent form our life. Because they can directly convert sunlight into matter and energy for growth and reproduction. They have no need of each other. For most purposes, they have a neutral relationship with each other.

The animals are a dependent form of life. They depend on ingesting the bodies of plants or other animals to obtain the matter and energy they need for survival. They depend on each other. Animals survive by moving about in space and good space is limited. They must compete. They have an adversary relationship with each other.

We humans are an interdependent form of life. We share our body with the animals, and like them we depend on plants and animal food for our basic survival. But our human minds can learn and invent without limit, and we can discover new tools and new ways to work together to solve our problems.

We have the potential to develop a synergic relationship with each other. Synergy means we can work together. Sometimes you depend on me, sometimes I depend on you. The synergic way is the only way that will work for humans.

But along the pathway to synergic relationship, we humans got lost. Jesus of Nazareth told us 2000 years ago we should be synergists. We should love and help each other. But then humantiy got seduced by the the market place, and what seemed like an unlimited world.

When America was founded in 1776, the North American continent provided relatively unlimited resources.  The early colonists were in the right place at the right time. The right place was the nearly empty continent of North America. Millions of acres of arable land and forests, filled with abundant water in millions of steams, rivers, and lakes and stocked with uncountable numbers of wildlife. This was further enriched with enormous reserves of iron, coal, copper, aluminum, zinc, lead, gold, silver, oil, and much more – all available for the taking.

The right time was 1776, by then the collective power of humanity’s time-binding had discovered, invented, and developed the tools and knowhow that created the mechanism of the Agricultural, Industrial, and Transportational Revolutions. The level of knowledge and technology available to the American colonists coupled with enormous North American reserves, provided them with cheap food, cheap power, and cheap transportation. And, the greatest gift was oil. It began in 1859, when Edwin L. Drake drilled America’s first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Thus, conditions were perfect for the success of human Neutrality. America would have the equivalent of unlimited resources for the next 150 years.

However, today things have changed. The North American continent is getting full. In 1776, there were less than a billion humans on the planet, today we are nearly 7 billion. We humans no longer have a limitless abundance of natural resources available for the taking — not even those of us living on the North American continent. Our world of plenty is being reduced to a world of scarcity.

In fact, petroleum production peaked in America in 1971. The world peak of petroleum production is estimated to have occurred sometime in 2005 to 2007.

Recently, the electrical power crisis in California has drawn national and world attention to a shortage of crude oil and natural gas. These fossil fuels are currently the primary source of the cheap energy that powers our modern Industrial Civilization. If we are running out of crude oil and natural gas, as some of the best scientists and engineers in the Energy field are telling us, we have big problems

Think back for a moment to the year 1801, only two hundred years ago, that was a time when there was no gasoline, no refined oil, no natural gas, and no electrical power derived from oil and gas. As a thought experiment, try to  imagine what life was like at the beginning of the 19th century. If you were transported back two hundred years, how would the lack of petroleum affect your lifestyle?

While we might accurately imagine the loss of cheap energy from petroleum, most of us would overlook the 70,000 products that are manufactured using petroleum as a raw feedstock. This includes plastics, acrylics, cosmetics, paints, varnishes, asphalts, fertilizers, medications, etc., etc., etc.. Now, in addition to our loss of cheap energy and the 70,000 products that you and I have come to depend on, imagine our sharing that impoverished Earth with over six billion other humans?

When the price of oil reaches $2,000,000 a gallon. How much oil will you use? Listen at the sounds as your automobiles sit in the driveway without gas, listen as all your appliances and electrical pumps all go silent. Not even the sound of running water. Nice and quiet, huh.

Now think of the physical work you will have to do to suvive. Think you might need help? Perhaps you really aren’t independent.

As things start to get scarce, the humans lose their option for Neutrality. Soon they have to learn to do without. They go without owning their own homes. They go without higher education for their children. They go without free time for recreation as they are forced to get a second job. Or, they sidestep back into the adversary world – they steal, embezzle, or defraud.

Today, within the United States, the very center of human Neutrality, we see declining quality of life, declining compensation for all workers, deteriorating nuclear families, and declining numbers of humans able to own their own homes. We see increasing mental illness and child abuse; ever escalating health care costs, and more humans without access to medical care. Examining today’s youth, we see declining numbers of college graduates, mixed with increasing drug and alcohol use; increasing suicide; casual sexuality and unwanted pregnancy.

And there are even bigger problems facing Americans and the rest of humanity.

Acid rain, ozone depletion, water and air pollution, toxic buildup, strip mining, deforestation, erosion & topsoil depletion; greenhouse effect, ice age, nuclear winter, el nino, and even asteroids threatening the planet. These big problems are invisible to indifferent governments and ignoring citizens. Whose problems are these anyway? In Neutrality, they belong to no one. They are certainly not mine. Something is wrong in Paradise When we humans institutionalized Neutrality over two hundred years ago, it was a great advance over Adversity, it dramatically reduced the pain and suffering for humanity.

 In the 18th century, Neutrality was a major advance for humankind. The neutral system gave individuals opportunities for great economic success. The birth of capitalistic economics greatly enriched the human condition. Neutral organization was more powerful than adversary organization. Neutrality did work well in the free world for many humans who inhabited it two hundred years ago. But that was then. …

Today, it is up to us. You and me. Our governments can’t help us. They don’t understand the problem. Our corporations can’t help us they don’t understand the problem. We can only rely on ourselves. Individuals of integrity will need to join together to build a new model of society that depends on co-Operation and abundance. And, by abundance I am referring to an abundance of integrity, intelligence  and responsibility. Then we can begin restructuring our society in ways that will lead to a relative abundance even within the finite world we inhabit.

Wake up America! Wake up Humanity! WE must learn to work together, or we will die separately.

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