Friday, November 02, 2007

Peak Oil - Believe It or Not

This post is inspired by a brief exchange I enjoyed with Dr. Cynthia Daniels over at the Assault on Black Folks Sanity.

The water crisis threatening Atlanta is tied to a dyad of climate change and unprecedented population growth in the Atlanta metropolitan sprawl. Sprawling, water and fuel-guzzling growth are anti-thetical to the sustainable models of urban planning and management that are required of us as a nation. Nevertheless, growth for the sake of growth remains an uppermost priority in the minds of uninformed or dissonant city politicos -
as evidenced by this gushng article about America's fastest growing cities.

It's a straight pass through of a hot fresh treatment of the subject of people's disbelief in Peak Oil that was posted today by Nate Hagens at the Oil Drum. You should click through to the Oil Drum and read it in its entirety.
Peak Oil is a very scary concept to get one's mind around. If there are arguments around the water cooler about finite resources, large depletion rates, Peak everything, etc., there very well be cognitive biases underlying these polarized opinions. In the first two parts of this series, we looked at some of the factual reasons why people disagree on the timing and importance of Peak Oil: gross versus net oil production, better technology vs depletion, productive capacity vs flow rates, differing definitions of "Peak", etc. This post will address some social and psychological reasons why the urgency of our energy situation may not be being addressed on an individual level and only at a snails pace on the governmental level. Among the phenomena we will explore are a) why we have beliefs and how they are changed, b) our propensity to believe in authority figures, c) our penchant for optimism, d) cognitive load theory, e) relative fitness, f) the recency effect, and several others. The fact is, even if the world's energy data was transparent and freely available to everyone, it would be an open question whether people would agree on any near term action to mitigate future oil scarcity. This post is a first stab at examining our cognitive belief biases. It's long, but I believe it will be well worth your time to read.
Of course I love the serendipity of Hagen's updated treatment of this subject and my recent meditations on group think...., enjoy.


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