Scare tactics don’t prompt action

Editorial Board

The theory of “Peak Oil” is the idea that the world is facing an impending energy crisis because of the massive consumption of oil by major world powers. This will result in economic meltdown and global wars because resources are so scarce.

The Web site explains the phenomenon this way: “ … this means that if 2000 was the year of global “Peak Oil,” worldwide oil production in the year 2020 will be the same as it was in 1980. However, the world’s population will be both much larger (approximately twice) and much more industrialized (oil-dependent) than it was in 1980. Consequently, worldwide demand for oil will outpace worldwide production of oil by a significant margin. As a result, the price will skyrocket, oil-dependent economies will crumble and resource wars will explode.”

They are interesting ideas to ponder, particularly for people who are of college age. If cars will become obsolete because gas is virtually impossible to obtain, why plan on traveling or living any distance from your family, as you might get stranded and never get back home? If global war is about to ensue, why even think about having children, as the world will be too horrible and sad to raise children in?

Or a person could pick the less troubling plan: choose to not think about it at all, and stick one’s head in the sand. After all, thinking about ideas like World War III and impending global disaster are about as pleasant and upbeat as chewing on glass.

Considering that it seems most people view environmentalists as little more than crackpots who live on exaggeration, it is obvious why theories like “Peak Oil” are ignored by the masses. People don’t trust the source because past claims have been so over-hyped that when the supposed crisis finally takes place, the reality seems paltry compared to the predictions.

Take Y2K, for example. “Experts” were predicting little less than Armageddon, and people were in a total panic. They spent their days stocking up on bottled water and canned goods as if they were going out of style, fashioning bunkers in their basements and generally planning for worldwide disaster beginning Jan. 1, 2000.

Then on December 31, 1999, midnight rolled around. And absolutely nothing major happened.

Thus, it’s easy to see why there is resistance to, or even outright preferential ignorance of, certain topics such as “Peak Oil.” Nobody wants to scare him or herself silly and worry about something that will never happen.

However, because of this, many theories that may have merit are ignored. And on the day that something such as “Peak Oil” happens, the resulting lack of preparation could be devastating.

In order for the public to receive ideas like “Peak Oil” and not instantly throw them into their mental trash can, the concept must be made palatable to the average person.

This means no messages of doom and gloom or imminent destruction. There is an implied condescension when the only way a proponent of a theory chooses to tell people about his or her ideas is by frightening the “unwashed masses” into a collective panic. Get the word out in a manner that educates people without scaring them unnecessarily or making them apathetic. Then, maybe they’ll listen.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.