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War effort, behavioural change and the importance of duration

by mel starrs on November 11, 2008

in Opinion, Theory and Comment

A popular theme amongst the darker green contingent in respect to the behavioural change needed in order to survive peak oil and/or societal meltdown harks back to WWII prudence.

There is a general optimism that we did this once before, and we should be able to do it again. Usually I applaud such optimism but I have some reservations in this case.

I mentioned before how the war wasn’t all roses for everyone. An important point, but something else has occurred to me since. There was an end in sight for the war – the war effort, especially in regard to women undertaken “unfeminine” duties was “for the duration”, with an implicit intention that this state of affairs would not continue, and things would return to normal in the future.

Behavioural change in this context is a sweeter pill to swallow (no matter if the change becomes entrenched or not). Women continued to fully engage in the economy post 1945 but prior to 1939, this would not have been envisaged in such a short timeframe.

Perhaps a short sharp shock with a perceived end in sight is what we require? Peak oil does not have an easily perceived end in sight. However, what occurs to me, is that a temporary rationing (for some other reason than peak oil), with the promise of extraction from oil sands etc at some future date when it may be technologically and economically more feasible may be a useful vehicle.

The key would be society learning to live without oil in the interim, realising in the meantime the ecological value of the land which would otherwise be destroyed by the future oil extraction?

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