Post Peak Medicine


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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: When did you start the Post Peak Medicine project?

A: The Post Peak Medicine website went live in May 2010. This was two years after I became aware of the implications of peak energy and the impossibility of infinite economic growth. This 2-year period was no coincidence. After discovering peak energy, it takes most people a couple of years to get their head around the implications, unlearn all the mainstream narratives which they have believed all their lives, get to grips with the new narratives and figure out how they, as individuals, want to respond. One of my responses was to start writing this book.

Q: Why did you decide to produce the book?

A: Mainly two reasons. Firstly, I may end up practising as a post peak family physician, I would like to know how to do it, and as there are no books about how to do it, I am writing one for myself. I find that writing helps to clarify my thoughts. Secondly, I wanted to do something useful to help my colleagues who may have to make a similar journey.

Q: When do you expect to finish the book?

A: That depends on a number of factors. Personal factors include constraints on time. My time priorities are: first, family, second, my day job as a family physician, third, personal prepping, and fourth, finishing the book. So when I'm busy (which is most of the time) not much work gets done on the book. Another important factor is when society in general will be ready to receive the book. At present, people who talk about peak energy, resource scarcity or (heaven forbid) dieoff are generally either ignored or ridiculed by the majority of the mainstream media and the public. This will change, and the time to release the book will come, but it's not yet.  And yet another factor is finding enough peak-aware specialists to write the various specialist sections.

Q: Why haven't I heard about Post Peak Medicine in the mainstream media?

A: Because I'm doing my best to keep it out of the mainstream media until the appropriate time: see "When do you expect to finish the book?", above. That includes the medical and nursing journals.  So I haven't issued any press releases about it or sought any mainstream publicity for it. And if you're a journalist reading this and you are thinking about asking me for an interview, don't bother. For an example of how the mainstream media can make a good person look stupid, see Chris Martenson's account of his interview by the Boston Globe.

Q: Why isn't Post Peak Medicine on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites?

A: See "Why haven't I heard about Post Peak Medicine in the mainstream media?", above.  Also a couple of other reasons.  Firstly, this isn't a beauty contest and I'm not interested in collecting "likes", "friends", "followers", potential employers, paying customers or whatever all else people collect on social media sites.  In fact, I view them as mostly a waste of time.  Secondly, sites like Facebook are a miniature mirror of the problems faced by our declining industrial civilization on a macro scale.  They consume large amounts of energy (for example, coal-fired electricity), metals and other nonrenewable resources, they don't produce anything useful, they are parasitic on the productive sectors of the economy by creaming off part of their profits in the form of advertising revenue, and they encourage unsustainable economic growth and consumerism (no consuming = no advertising revenue = no Facebook).  It's difficult to be part of the solution if you're also part of the problem.  For further information, go to the Wikipedia page about Facebook and scroll down to the section on "criticisms and controversies":

I am also rather spooked by the fact that, if I go to Facebook and pretend to want to open an account, it asks me "Do you know these people?" and then reels off a list of people who I actually do know.  And I wonder how it knows so much about me when I don't even have an account, how much more it knows about me which it isn't saying, and how it would know even more about me if I actually did open an account.  So, no thanks.

Q: How do you see the future unfolding?

A: I see the 21st century being defined by scarcity: of energy, water, food and land. Globally, we are running short of all of the above while the global population is increasing. The apparent abundance of food and energy which we currently enjoy is an illusion created by massive, unprecedented, global use of non-renewable resources which cannot and will not continue. I cannot see any way in which this is likely to end well. Access to these resources will be patchy, and the small number who have them may need to defend them from the larger number who don't. The present human population of the planet is unsustainable and will have to decrease until it is in balance with what the environment can provide. Total human numbers will decrease during this century, although it is impossible to say at this time whether this will occur through rationally managed reduction (preferable) or war, famine and disease (the usual suspects). The burden of resource scarcity will fall disproportionately on those who have few resources to begin with: poor people in both developing and developed countries.

Q: Why is it so difficult to convince family, friends and others about the seriousness of our situation with regard to peak energy and finite growth?

A: When people discover peak energy and finite growth, often one of the first things they try to do is share this knowledge with others. Regardless of how well they try to present the facts, the usual responses from others are blank looks, scorn, ridicule or worse. The facts are self-evident: use of non-renewable resources has to stop at some stage, there are no adequate substitutes, and you can't have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. The reasons most people have difficulty accepting these facts are not because of lack of intelligence or information, but because the mainstream narratives of infinite growth and infinite progress are deeply embedded in Western culture and people find it hard to let go of them. Whether a person accepts or denies the reality of peak energy and finite growth probably depends on their willingness to accept or challenge mainstream cultural beliefs, and this in turn is probably influenced by genetic factors. Most people will cling to the familiar mainstream narratives in the face of all the evidence for as long as they can, encouraged by the mainstream media and politicians who will tell them "don't worry, everything will be fine". This will be a significant barrier to doing what needs to be done.

Q: You refer to peak energy. What is the difference between this and peak oil?

A: They are related, but it is probably more helpful to talk about peak energy. To a limited extent, different forms of energy are interchangeable; for example, a form of synthetic oil can be produced from coal and tar sands, natural gas can be converted to liquid fuel, coal can be burned to produce electricity, the same automobile can run on either gasoline or electricity from a chemical battery, and so forth. This has led many people to believe that when the availability of oil declines, we can substitute other forms of energy, for example wind or solar energy, and carry on as before with little disruption to our lifestyle. Unfortunately this is not the case, because the quantity, energy density, reliability of supply and ease of storage of alternative energies are far inferior to oil. Peak oil is therefore likely to coincide approximately with peak energy, and on the downside of the slope after peak oil, we will have progressively less energy available to us in total.

Q: Surely someone will invent something to fix this?

A: Human beings are very ingenious and have invented a great many things.  However, the optimists who believe that "someone is sure to invent something" have two major problems to contend with.  Firstly, inventions are technology, but what we are about to run short of is energy.  Technology and energy are different; they are not interchangeable.  Secondly, if someone was going to discover a new source of energy, and invent the technology to exploit it, the time to do this was probably in the mid-20th century.  We would then have had half a century to build out the infrastructure needed to support the new energy source well before peak oil occurred.  We think that global peak conventional oil occurred around 2005.  To date, there is still no sign of anyone discovering any new energy source or inventing any new technology which will come anywhere near to replacing our dependence on oil.  We are out of time for "inventing something to fix it".

Q: Aren't your views rather pessimistic?

A: I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I think of myself as an actualist or realist: someone who examines the facts and tries to predict the most likely course of events.