Peak Oil, Peak Art

Reading the announcement for artist Heath Bunting’s ‘festival of not-surviving’ (see below), which highlights the crisis in energy, economy and ecology and suggests that since c.2007 we’ve been living in a strangely different post-peak world, it might be worth mentioning that there are also implications here for contemporary art, which in a way also ‘ended’ at the same time as cheap oil production peaked, with a tempering of enthusiasm about the global and the bursting of the unsustainable art-hype bubble.

festival of not surviving
2012 nov dec 2013 jan
bristol

the meaning of life for individual human beings can be defined as:

‘compulsory individual survival, with optional social reproduction’

currently, humanity is faced with three simultaneous challenges, each of which alone is enough to end life as we know it:

1. energy crisis

since 1950’s, our societies have been based on cheap oil

this oil took 120 million years to create and 60 years to deplete

we reached peak cheap oil production in 2007 and (with careful management) will now return towards 1900 energy consumption levels (a contraction of a factor of 20)

careful management doesn’t appear to be in action though

2. economy

since the 1950’s, our societies have been based on cheap money

this money took thousands of years to create and 60 years to debase

we reached peak money value in 2007 and (with careful management) will now return towards 1960’s money value levels (a contraction of a factor of 25)

careful management doesn’t appear to be in action though

3. ecology

since 1950’s, our societies have been based on unsustainable resource extraction

if we ignore climate change, for us to return to sustainable relationship with nature (with careful management), the extinction rate should drop from 50,000 species to 5,000 species (a contraction of a factor of 10)

careful management doesn’t appear to be in action though

if we consider climate change, then we are facing an species extinction event (a contraction of a factor of at minimum 6)

extinction events occur in factors of roughly 60 million years

with these challenges combined, we are facing the extinction of the human species and any land mammal larger than a squirrel

individually, we generally die alone, but we are now facing the prospect of dieing with our species

the death of our species should be a moment of reflection and peace instead of delusion and panic

without a firm link to nature, our descent will be far from graceful

festival of not surviving intends to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to fully experience the death of themselves and their species

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One response to “Peak Oil, Peak Art

  1. I agree with all of the above except that there is nothing we can do about all this.
    Humanity arrived at this point by self determination and design.
    With the largest brain of any species we need to apply it. Collectively and cooperatively re-imagenining a future in which human systems are aligned with natural systems. I have been making and publishing environmental art and communications internationally on this subject since 1992. Many solutions to the worlds ecological unsustainability have been spread by scientists and activists for many decades. Changing our thinking to focus on planetary systems instead of personal and national issues is one requirement.
    I am interested in hearing other peoples views on weather art can help this shift of thinking towards sustainability.

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