Why it’s ethical to pull oil out of the ground

Or ‘Why conservationism actually makes you chuck perfectly good stuff away.’

If you are a modern man, you will spend at least a little bit of your life worrying about where your energy comes from. One day someone will mention ‘peak oil’ and you’ll feel a slight twinge of guilt. You know you’re sucking the earth dry, that your life is unsustainable but that you are addicted to oil. Everything you do needs it. Maybe you wish you could buy an allotment, buy your own seeds and wear thicker jumpers in the winter. In the end of the day, you just can’t be bothered.

This is a deeply unhealthy guilt to have, and your methods of resolving it much worse. Could everyone have their own allotment? Of course not. It is only because you took the bus to your heated university every day that you’d even come up with this rubbish. And what about your computer? You know it’s a wonderful piece of machinery, but you just wish it didn’t use so many rare materials. All this is silly. In the end of the day, given all your days to live again, you’d go back and buy the same laptop, you’d go to the same university, live in the same flat.

The only other option then is to face up to the fact that you are using deeply beneficial things that suck the earth dry and think about what that means.

What was oil before humans got to it? It was the compressed, decayed remains of multitudes of dead creatures. One day, we found out it was flammable, portable, and could be used to power all sorts of things. Since then we’ve had cars, planes, space shuttles, Lego and exponential population growth. In short, oil was born out of prehistoric tragedy and has since been the greatest enabler of human life to date.

A lot of people seem to want to distance themselves from this. Population growth is one of the biggest problems facing the world, our lighting should be dim and our heating barely on. Apart from anything else, it’s damned uncivilised. What they are saying, effectively, is that the only things power can be used for without guilt are hospitals, Prius factories and the TED Conference.

Well, no. When I sit on a chair in a heated house reading a book, I am using North Sea oil in the best way it could possibly be used. It’s the hospitals that are wasting it. All this time treating sick people, it’s a waste. Most of these people shouldn’t even be getting sick.

Of course, that’s horrible, but hear me out. I am fully aware that it’s entirely natural for people to be getting sick and that what doctors are doing is wholly ethical. But it needn’t be natural for people to get sick. People don’t get smallpox any more and they don’t get plague any more. Frankly I don’t see why anyone gets ill any of the time at all. Some people go their whole lives without ever getting ill and then one day wake up to find they’ve unexpectedly dropped off their perch. I say demanding everyone use clean energy is much like demanding everyone live without getting ill. Sure, not getting ill is possible, but it’s an option generally only available to the wealthiest of societies (who got that way because they learnt how to harness oil). Is it better that the people who get diseases are never born or the opportunities of oil stay underground because the consequences of their coming into the world are too great?

In our bodies, the systems which allow us to have all our experiences, move the way we move and be who we are sometimes break down. Our energy runs out and eventually we die. Of course, most of us haven’t come to terms with that and spend our days faffing about like we’ll live forever. We throw away one minute because we’ve always had a minute after we could throw away in like manner.

It’s just like this with the earth. The earth has a limited supply of resources. It sounds obvious, but it’s true. The earth will die, pass away, just like us. We could have lived here for 100 million years lighting fires, chasing buffaloes, and not giving a damn, but that would have been lame.

In fact, I’ll go further, it would have been immoral. Eventually the sun would have run out and frankly we’d have had bugger all to show for ourselves. Sure, we’d have discovered hallucinogenics and probably had amazing sex with everything under the sun, but our overabundance of babies would have all been killed by the now self-conscious rabbit population. I refuse to believe that the indolence that these climate hippies say is beneficial is anything other than a delusion born of never actually having chased an animal with a bow.

Original nature is not good. The first nature is chaotic, even evil. We should not seek to return to that. All the time we distance ourselves from our origins and it’s good. We build tsunami warning systems and keep dogs removed from wolves by thousands of years of breeding. Our attitude to the earth should be the same as our attitude to our bodies. The earth will not last forever, but this doesn’t mean we are not careful with it. The earth does not cope well with the fun things we do, but we should practise these things and get better at keeping the earth safe while doing them. By no means should we chop down everything we’ve created just for the sake of making raw materials last a bit longer.

The 20th century was marked by many people being killed, but it was also marked by many, many more people being enabled to live. And that’s a good thing.

The age of cheap oil has come to an end. Now we understand the negative effects it had, we understand it won’t last forever. We’ve started looking to other energy sources. One day they’ll run out too. That’s fine as well. We’ve wasted a lot of oil on Nascar and flights to Ibiza, but can’t we just forgive ourselves for that and move on? The world is genuinely a better place now. The survival of coral reefs wouldn’t even be a concern to you if there wasn’t a way to fly to Australia.

I propose that rather that rather than being guilty about everything we use, we accept it for what it is. We should love the world, not as some mysterious ‘Gaia’, but as our home. Our home shouldn’t be somewhere we just keep the same, we should shape it to our own personalities and that involves occasionally digging stuff up.

Maybe we’d consume less if this was our attitude. We’re not wasting the materials we dig up, we’re putting them to a better use than they ever would have been put to before. The iron ore was just sitting there, we made it into a stapler. And maybe if we didn’t have this guilt to disassociate ourselves from the materials we use, we’d be more ready to value our possessions and reuse them, rather than just chucking them away like the earth could last forever.

On my blog being emo, and also the electric plug

My blog looks emo. It’s true.

I’m not too worried though, because I know that you all read it on buzz or google reader, and mostly you never get the chance to notice how carefully my sixteen year old self designed this frankly stunning single column layout with unsubtle influences from the White Stripes. Back then, the black roses looked so emotive. My blog was an edgy display of my personality with carefully placed saturated images. Scroll down and look at the section titles, ‘erratic’, ‘archaic’. Wonderful! These things convey so well my grasp of the English language and my ability to find adjectives describing the same ideas as the rather more lacklustre, ‘asides’ and ‘archives’.
Writing on this blog kind of feels like pulling out your high school diary and writing a new entry. Everybody knows that between the ages of 16 and 20, one changes so irreversibly, that memories of bygone days can only be recalled with a whimsical sigh.
*sigh* I was so crazy and genuine back then. Hormones, they’re wonderful things.

*sigh*

But as I was about to say, I have every determination to rebuild this blog. I don’t mean this in the sense of redesigning it, because I’m just too lazy for that. I’m too much of a perfectionist to use a theme, since I’m a web designer and all. I wish cyberspace could be more like physical space. In other words, I’d love a blog that could collect clutter in an untacky way. Maybe I should design a blog with no proper archives, so it just fills up after a while and you have to empty some of it into deep storage. That could be fun.

dwell

Source: Dwell

This brings me to my thoughts on modern interiors. You might thing my commenting on this is a little pretentious, but don’t judge me so quickly. After all, I have been to an exhibition on Dieter Rams at the Design Museum on Shad Thames, so I’m really something of an expert. I dislike modern interiors because they don’t react well to the things you own. I don’t like that you put something on your bare coffee table and it stares back up at you. Neither the thing you put on the coffee table, nor the table itself, have any personality at all. Were I the socialite type, I imagine the circumstance would be like introducing two people at a party and them hanging around each other but not talking. The problem is really that the things we have in our lives nowadays are simply too numerous. Back in Victorian times, there were a very limited variety of things one might put on a table. One might put ones hat on the table, or perhaps ones clothbound edition of a commentary on Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians. It is almost certainly the case that any Victorian thing could be put next to just about any other Victorian thing and it would look settled, contented and nonjudgmental.

The trouble really came with electricity. There have been so many design trends in the world’s history, but one design trend that has never occurred is the one of connecting everything with a wire. That is, before it was necessary. No matter where you put a wire, it looks terrible. Trying to hide a wire only makes matters worse, because it is still there, and you know it’s there. Bind it in a cable tidy all you want, it’s not going to go away. One day you will want to replace your keyboard, you’ll untie your cables, and you simply won’t be prepared to put them back together. Cables wait years for these days, but come they will.

chargepod_clutter
Source: Clever and Easy

We don’t have truly cordless appliances, and we won’t for a little while at least. What I propose in every house is a charging room. This is a room wholly dedicated to charging appliances. 50 years ago, there was the utility room to keep all the unsightly chores out of the way, and the most unsightly chore today is the charging of appliances. Restyle them how you like, charger plugs will always be annoying. The most judgmental of all clutter is the charger plug. It doesn’t look right anywhere. This is especially the case in the UK, because there is no way of placing a British plug on a desk and it not looking wrong. Anything you put a charger plug next to will look terrible, be it the Mona Lisa, a complete set of Calvin and Hobbes books or Salisbury Cathedral.

I am convinced the decline in interiors came with the introduction of the standardised plug socket. You can have your beautiful Edwardian interior, but you try stretching the plastic coated wire for your standard lamp across it, and plugging the hefty black plug into the stark white socket and you will discover that instantly the whole room is degraded. Surely it was this realisation of how easily the appreciation of their work was destroyed that lead designers in the modernist era simply not to bother with decorating things in the first place.

In fact, modernist design was a statement against the plug, and the appliance. At least old fashioned carpets hid wires to some extent, but designers decided this was less than ideal. In a conspiracy that has lasted through most of the last century, right up until the present day. Designers have created glossy brochures for their pristine, well placed furniture and in almost none do any appliances having wires appear. Once you have bought the white carpet or polished your concrete floor, your next impulse is to check your e-mail. You plug your laptop into the wall, and your cables stretch across the floor in a scrawl, as if the designer himself had written, “There! You did that! Screw you and your sheep like devotion to the work of Edison.”

Pointless Crap on my Coffee Table

Below is a picture of my coffee table. As you may notice, it is not a typical coffee table, in that it doesn’t have coffee stains or coffee table books. Instead, it has a large selection of pointless crap I can’t bear to admit I’m never going to use. Click on the image to see all the notes on flickr.
Every table I have ever used has a small selection of pointless crap that serves no purpose (the broken pens on my desk at home, the toy Austin mini my friend gave me when I was 13 and I’ve had on my desk ever since, a couple of change banks in the shapes of a pillar box and a Vauxhall Camper van etc).

Every self-portrait ever.

My Bedroom

Juvenile Labour Poster

labourvate

I don’t really care that much, but the attraction of doing this poster was too great not to try.

Blogging isn’t dead.

In which Peter revives the blog format. Not everything is a list of 7 things. He does this briefly, then moves on to more important matters.

As far as the internet is concerned, bloggers are the Tower of London’s Ravens or Gibraltar’s Barbary Macaques. You think we’re useless, but that’s because you’re still living safe under the wise governance of our Queen and her Government. If you have flown or swung away, it’s time to come back. The internet is in danger.

Bill Bailey

Bill-Bailey
Source: Brian Marks

This evening I went to watch Bill Bailey at the Leicester Square Theatre. The venue only had ~400 seats, which served to make the whole thing a whole lot more fun. It was small enough that anyone in the audience could (and did) shout anything out that they felt like (including a comment about having Chives with Barnacles). At the end, I met him, although I forgot to shake his hand and have a picture taken with him. Fortunately, my friend didn’t, so the encounter wasn’t completely wasted.

Apparently, the show had a theme. A couple of things were mentioned about evolution, although, it seemed, a little incongruously. His act didn’t seem to be one that reacted well to being linearised into any kind of a story. The highlights were definitely the songs. One was a two-step remix based around the sounds of a Tesco self-service checkout, along with a video that was pure genius. There were sing-a-longs of ‘La Bamba‘ and ‘California Dreamin’ ’. Apparently, the call and response involved in the latter made us look like 60′s zombies. (See below)

60s Zombie

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend at Rough Trade East
This time last week I went off to see Vampire Weekend at Rough Trade East. They have just released their new album, Contra. They put on a pretty good show. I can’t remember the exact order or content of their set list, but I can remember that, from their new album, they played:

  1. Horchata
  2. White Sky
  3. Holiday
  4. California English
  5. Cousins

And from the first album:

  1. Mansard Roof
  2. Oxford Comma
  3. A-Punk
  4. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  5. M79
  6. Walcott

Altogether it was a good show. Despite standing quite close to a pillar (the worst support acts of all time SWIDT), I got a good view of the stage. There wasn’t a whole lot that distinguished their show from the album. There weren’t any wild guitar solos or stage dives, but I guess if I wanted that, I’d watch some other genre than alternative rock. Probably the biggest thing to make this a ‘live version’ was the even more exaggerated screaming than usual that Ezra Koenig added to Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (“Is your bed MAAAAIED, is your sWET-eR oOOoon”).

The worst thing about the show was undoubtedly the fact that they turned up an hour late. Let’s just establish something right now…

You’re a flippin’ indie band! People aren’t seeing you because you define their teenage existence or something. They’re seeing you because they like the sound of your music. If you’re going to turn up an hour late and your audience isn’t jumping around and screaming when you arrive (which they weren’t), consider providing them with deck chairs.

New Spotify Playlists

Assistance needed to make great playlists!

Confused

(From ScienceBlogs. I look like this nowadays, but with a beard, and my jumper is yellow.)

I’ve been working on a new playlist of less taxing music. If you’d like to use it, or would like to add to it in any way, please do. I’ve made it collaborative. It’s supposed to be music that will be appreciated by people like me, but will not be hated by everyone else (so Panda Bear is out).
In addition, I’d like help on a Christmas playlist. At the moment it’s just Sufjan and ‘Fairytale of New York’, which is hardly a good mix or a good start. If you can think of any other Christmas songs that are good, put them on. I know I couldn’t.

The Playlists

erratic

Asides

  • Every blog says it’s the ‘random musings’ of Joe Bloggs. Come up with another phrase.
    That is all.

  • Christians use the phrase, “It’s great for witnessing,” in an almost identical way to how a lot of people use the phrase, “It’ll look good on your CV”: to make something they get no enjoyment out of sound good.

archaic
  • 2011: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  • 2010: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  • 2009: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  • 2008: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  • 2007: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  • 2006: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec