Even President George Bush admits we are addicted to oil. But what does that really mean?
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ADDICTION
Dr. Bruce Alexander, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University in Canada, is a pioneer researching addiction. His ideas are so unconventional, he won the Stirling Prize for controversy. Bruce Alexander is currently writing a book titled “The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in the Poverty of the Spirit.” – coming out this summer.
“Addiction is a democratic disease, affecting both the rich and the poor. Sadly, scientific medicine has made no progress on addiction.” In addition to addictions to tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, Alexander reminded attendees that other addictions that will increase with globalization include gambling, pornography, and shopping.”
Dr. Alexander’s recent study for the Centre for Policy Alternatives, “The Roots of Addiction in Free market Society”, is available online, as a .pdf file.
In our Radio Ecoshock interview, we pick Dr. Alexander’s brain, on the addiction that could change our climate, virtually forever – fossil fuels.
PEAK OIL AND ADDICTION
I’ve been listening to a talk given by Nate Hagens, at the 6th ASPO Peak Oil Conference, in Ireland. Nate is completing his PHD at the University of Vermont. There is a video of his speech online – and Hagens goes into great detail about our brain formation, and the importance of neurochemicals that determine, he says, our actions.
Rather than using our relatively recently developed neo-cortex, to making rational long-range decisions, Hagens says science repeatedly shows, we use older portions of the brain, to ensure a continuing dose of chemicals like dopamine. He suggests this inability of the brain, to let thinking dominate decision making, is one of the reasons humans are unable to make better choices for the future, like alternative energy. Instead we just keep sucking up oil, which rewards us right away, today.
Nate Hagens is perhaps unique in his experience. In his twenties, he was selling big investments, covering hundred of millions of dollars. In that world, there is a big discount for future risk, instead of taking profits now.
Hagens claims psychological tests, in monkeys for example, seem to show that novelty and reward are absolutely necessary for our brain functioning. This could lead to an explanation, of why his rich clients needed to keep making even more millions, or why the suburban housewife must buy yet another pair of expensive shoes. The more expensive, the more the charge card is loaded up, the better the chemical hit in the brain. It makes me wonder…Is our whole society really in a state near overdose?
By now almost all of us know the oil society is killing us, in many ways. We know exhaust is poisoning our lungs, deadly car crashes, the foreign wars, and now horrible prospects of climate change. And yet we still go like addicts to the gas pumps, and fill up. Why, why, why? And what can we do?
Everyone likes to laugh about the hippies going back to the land… but are those people seeking a more natural environment, where their addictions to things like television, shopping, and lottery tickets can subside? Could that be part of the answer, making our living arrangement more suitable, for the mammals we really are?
How can we apply what you’ve discovered, about the myths and realities of addiction, to really kick the fossil fuel habit, before it kills us?
RADIO PLAY “ECOVENTION”
While addiction is very serious, we just had to poke fun at ourselves as oil addicts. In this Radio Ecoshock show, you hear our new radio play “Ecovention.” It is a parody of the A & E program “Intervention” which deals with addictions to drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, gambling and so on.
Four people helped out with this radio drama:
Matt Codrington is an up and coming Canadian actor, playing the role of “Gordon” the SUV-driving oil addict. His wife “Annette” is played by Colleen Kimmett – who in real life is a tech and science journalist. Colleen may be producing some pieces for Radio Ecoshock in the future. Sister “Ginny” was played by an anonymous radio industry personality, and Gordon’s buddy “Norman” was none other than “The Simulator” – who hosts the wildly popular video podcast “It’s The End of the World As We Know It” found at submedia.tv.
The play is fun, and can be downloaded to pass around, from our web site at ecoshock.org.
ADDICTED TO OIL SONG
We also got permission from Loose Bruce Kerr to play his parody of the hit “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer. Now it’s “Addicted to Oil” – and the lyrics are great. Bruce Kerr, who is a lawyer for Sun Microsystems (good thing I got permission first!) says he is now working on a video for the song.
A BUFFET OF AUDIO CLIPS
Then we play a collection of short clips on oil addiction, and our hopes of overcoming it. You hear a snatch from a speech given by Terry Tamminen, formerly green advisor to Gov. Schwarzenegger of California. Terry wrote “Lives Per Gallon” – one of the definitive books on oil addiction. I recorded his book tour speech in Vancouver over a year ago.
You also hear a short clip from the new speech given by Tim Flannery in Toronto, also available in full from our web site. This was recorded and passed along by John-Paul Warren. Flannery describes new developments in Denmark to replace oil burning cars by all-electric ones. A company will make the new cars, and another group will make one in every six parking spaces in Copenhagen equiped with re-charging posts. You drive up, park, and plug in. The system recognizes your registration, and charges you for the power you use.
Not enough juice? The new system will also have hundreds of “refilling stations” where you can quickly exchange for a new battery. This is supposed to be faster than filling up at an old style gas station, because the cars are designed for it. Neat, eh?
We end up with a few sample quotes from Al Gore’s recent (April 2008) presentation at TED, the Technology, Entertainment and Design folks. TED has some great talks, and you can still find Al Gore’s new video there. Highly recommended.
In the end, I hope we all think deeply about this oil habit. It’s in our lives, in our brains. But just like tobacco, or heroin, we can kick the habit. We must – of face a ruined climate, and continuous wars – not to mention empty wallets!
Good luck – and let’s get clean together.