ENERGIE no. 1 OLIE, 2016
Our economy is driven by two forces.
One of them is oil, the other greed.
The earth contains three natural reservoirs: oil, soil and ice. These reservoirs were build in the duration of millions and millions of years into a delicate balance. A balance which is severely disturbed through our economical activities since the Industrial Revolution.
The Garden of Eden, the original Paradise, was most likely located at what we nowadays call the Persion Golf: nowadays the most oil producing area in the world.
By Walden Collective, performed in the Boscombe Cliff Gardens on 15-09-2018
Two of our economy’s fuels are: oil and greed.
A thought on what we have and what we hold.
Greed, once a sin. Monasteries, monks, prayer, the unseductive silence, the stony chill of churches without adjacent shopping streets. The simplicity of the evening bread. The simplicity of an unnamed cell that will be equally hospitable to the monk living in my room after me. A bed, a table. A crucifix above the door to remind me of the time I have left. - I am walking over the promenade. I am walking into a souvenir shop. I am walking out of a souvenir shop. Opening hours above the sliding doors remind me of the time I have left.
I do not possess my body. I do not possess my thoughts. I do not possess the duration of my life or its path. I do not possess my losses. I do not possess my happiness. I do not even possess the faculty of understanding why I am here or how I got here. I do not have anything in life. Yet I desire to have, I want to hold what’s dear and precious to me. To have more actually means: to have more to hold on to. To not have is to die a bit.
Oil, crude oil or petroleum is a flammable liquid that consists of compressed organic plant remains. Areas that were once especially fertile and where large quantities of dead organisms ended up in the soil, are now important sites where oil can be found. This is the case right here, underground in Purbeck and under Poole Bay. The top oil producing areas in the world are the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. There, an estimated 11,1 million barrels of petroleum are being drilled up from the earth.
Oil is the main ingredient for among other things plastic, tar, asphalt, diesel, gasoline, kerosine. Our world economy and wealth are driven by oil because our factories and machines are driven by oil. Just like our aeroplanes and automobiles. Oil is in the bloodstream of our international politics. In the packaging of our food, in our cell phones and in the soles of the trainers on our feet. Oil powers nearly every trip we make.
Countless couples, from young and curious Victorians, to dauntless University students, to retired couples playing cards, had and held each other over the centuries in the gardens of Bournemouth. Their trips were and are infused with oil.
BP estimated the worldwide total proven amount of extractable petrol in 2006 to be twelve hundred billion barrels. Most probably in 2030 we will reach the moment when the supply of oil can no longer meet the demand. From then on it will be a downward curve. If BP’s estimate is correct, in 12 years time we will see the biggest economic crisis ever. And, as a result of the adverse effects of the large scale oil extraction, we will also see the largest ecological crisis. Never before has the relationship between economy and ecology been as strained as it is today. We could say that economy is about having. And then, maybe, ecological thought is about holding.
Modern capitalism, is it still my demand that dictates your supply? Or is it your supply that rules my demand? The sweet taste you create in my mouth, for more and more and more. Without me noticing, you make me thirsty. And therein consists your hold. You are the kind of hostage taker, that makes for thankful hostages. Devilishly, softly you play me. Devilishly softly, you command me. In all of your toils.
Humankind could theoretically go without oil, but not without ice. Ice, just like oil and minerals, has built up throughout millions of years and currently forms the largest freshwater reservoir in the world. Glaciers are the main water suppliers of our rivers, far exceeding the amount of water that rain provides. The more oil we extract and burn, the faster the ice on the polar caps and in the mountains will melt.
I hear the drops fall, far from here, like a clock’s hand. Tick, tick tick. The ice is melting, and we know it. Our fresh water is melting under the sun, under our eyes, and we know it. If we could, just like an almighty and all seeing god, be ubiquitous, we might act more wisely and more carefully. But we humans cannot be in all places at the same time. And the drops tick on. Few hear it. I hear it, sometimes. But it is too far away. Maybe if they were salt water drops, instead of freshwater drops, we would understand that the earth is crying.
When I was young I would sometimes have a wild fantasy that I was God. This was very nice for a very short time, and then very awful. One day I asked my father why the baby ducks that I had seen yesterday, today counted only seven. He told me that by the end of the month there might very well only be two, and that this was a very normal thing to happen. Nature often spreads its bets wide, so that at least some of it might remain. It gave me tummy ache. I would always end my fantasy with rejoicing that I was not God. With being happy that I could not help it. That I didn’t carry responsibility for all the humans, animals and plants on Earth.
I feel like my childhood fantasy, that slowly turned into a nightmare, today is repeating itself on a large scale. The situation, namely, has slowly started to shift. Because of the ever increasing technical and industrial capacities of humankind, we have garnered ever more influence on our natural surroundings. And, conversely, we have been ever more able to wrest ourselves from the suppressive and threatening force of nature. We have developed more power and influence. But at the same time this entails the opposite: that we carry more responsibility. And I wonder when or whether the moment will come that our species wakes up from our collective fantasy, and determines we have ended up in a nightmare.
Adam and Eve had and held each other in the Garden of Eden, a paradise on Earth. One of the most fertile areas that ever existed. It is supposed to have been sumptuous. In the Garden of Eden abundance reigned. Adam and Eve lived in abundance. And they could take from this abundance just about whatever their hearts desired. After their sins, they were banished from paradise. Humankind sinned, and God punished.
It is said that paradise was located in the area that we nowadays call the Persian Gulf. Precisely that area where the petrol is being extracted from the earth with 11,1 million barrels a day, and sold on the world market for the highest price. We are trading and burning the former paradise. On the stock exchange, at the petrol stations, in the tanks of our cars.
Adam and Eve were banished from paradise because they took the forbidden fruit. The question is, how long humankind can keep on taking from the fruits of the earth unpunished. It would not be the first time that humankind has brought banishment on itself. I do not think that the earth shall perish if humankind decides to keep on this collision course. I even believe it’s a fairly arrogant thought, to think that we could destroy the earth. Micro-organisms survive nuclear disasters. Humans do not. The question is if we are willing to find a new balance. A new balance between economy and ecology. A balance that knows when it wants more, but also knows when the point comes that it should say: I have enough.