Monday, July 16, 2007

END OF CIVILIZATION...as we know it?

On a monday morning, about four years ago, I recieved a chain email. It was pretty short and went something along the lines of 'Peak Oil, have you heard of it yet?'...and then there was some plea tacked onto the end for me to forward the email to everyone in my contact book.
Well, of course I didn't. Not straight away at least. Curious, I googled 'Peak Oil'. And that was the moment my perception of the world changed. How I viewed pretty much everything in my life, around me, on TV, on every shelf in every shop in my town, county, country...the world, was changed by what I discovered throughout that monday morning as I followed a breadcrumb trail of websites and statistics that nearly turned my hair white. I discovered that there are hundreds of websites devoted to the subject, some sites screaming that the end of the world was nigh, others dispassionately discussing the idea. And thousands of people who are already 'in the know' and either panicking hysterically, or quietly preparing for the future.
So before I go any further, let me sum up what Peak Oil stands for.
It's the point at which the global apex of oil production has been reached, the point at which production begins to slide downhill - largely due to exhausted oil fields. Some say this apex or 'Peak' is still decades away. Some say we're passing the peak right now. Some believe we passed over the peak back in 2000-2001. If you take a position roughly halfway between the pessimists and optimists, then you're looking at a peak roughly about....now.
The ramifications of a rapidly diminishing supply of oil are actually quite horrendous. It's not just that you'll find it harder and harder to fill up your car. It's far, far worse than that. We're talking food production plummeting and bottoming out, power-outs, riots, anarchy. We're talking flashpoints between India, China, Russia and the USA over the final viable oilfields in central asia. It's not a pretty picture, and an argument can be made for this really being...the beginning of end of civilization as we know it.
Or put another way...the end of the oil age.
As a writer, this is the kind of stuff I'm always on the lookout for. Thrilling, frightening, sobering material. However, as a regular guy, a husband, a dad...it's depressing as hell. Knowing that there's nothing I can take for granted any more, really does suck the joy out of life. I knew, though, that I had to abandon the book I was planning to write and instead write a book about Peak Oil, and that I'd probably have to do it within the context of the classic thriller template:
  • A guy who knows what's coming and trying to tell the world.
  • Bad guys trying to stop him.
  • An exciting chase
  • ...and a thrilling climax, where the good guy wins.
But you know...I didn't want it to fully conform with that standard template. I didn't want it to end with the good guy thwarting the bad guys, the status quo restored, and everyone happily getting on with their lives. Instead, I wanted the end of this book to be chilling...not reassuring. I wanted it to end with everything falling apart, to be a crystal ball for what the future has in store for us, unless we seriously get our act together and start weaning ourselves off oil as soon as possible.

So...

The book comes out in the next couple of weeks, it's called LAST LIGHT. Of course I'm hoping for sales....a lot of sales. Partly, because for my own sanity I want to see Peak Oil becoming a phrase buzzing across news stations, headlining papers, being discussed in book clubs, in pubs and bars and to generally raise awareness of that ticking clock. But also, I want sales....a lot, because I need enough money to buy a remote island somewhere, build a bunker, stock it with food and bottled water, build a wind turbine or two and hunker down and wait for the end to come.
Right okay I'm joking there...or maybe not.


nb: I made a trailer for it. Which some people have found a little unsettling. And there's of course the obligatory Amazon link.

1 comment:

Petra said...

I have VERY briefly imagined the end of oil and been too scared to allow my imagination to go any further.
I think you are very brave to have done it, especially with a young son. Most people say its inevitable, we could die in any way at any time, so enjoy life.
Thats why I don't think I can bring myself to read your book. I will have nightmares. And there is a chance it may not happen. But its so small I can't bear it...