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By Renán Vega Cantor
In a scenario of scarcity of natural resources, and especially taking into account the decline of the unipolar order that emerged at the end of the Cold War, how do you see the next scenarios in geopolitical terms?
The theory has always caught my attention by Olduvai by Richard Duncan, although some may consider the author who proposed it to be a lunatic. If one looks at things rationally, this theory is very consistent. We live in the oil civilization, a fleeting exception that began in a certain place and time, in the United States in the 1920s, and is going to last, says its author, almost exactly a chronological century. In this century there has been an abundance of oil, in the sense that the resource can be accessed and this capitalist way of life is guaranteed for a significant number of the population. Duncan tells us that this is going to last exactly a century.
And then what will happen? Well, the return to the traditional history of humanity: when the oil energy bubble has ended, the return to the Olduvai cave, a cavern in Tanzania where the oldest human remains have been found, and where they are believed to have lived. the first men. And how did they live? In the dark. Of course, saying that today in the reign of light and energy waste, can sound lunatic and apocalyptic. If you look at how modern industrial society works, the announcement is not illogical.
Energy consumption is increasing more and more worldwide, and it is logical that it increases because, after the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the imposition of the capitalist market worldwide, its productivist and consumerist logic became general. , as well as their lifestyle, then the world became an immense supermarket in which you have to consume everything that exists.
In energy terms, this is expressed, for example, in the generalization of the automobile, because the number of automobiles that roll in the world today is historically unparalleled. There are also extreme cases such as that of China, and what happens in Beijing, which can be considered as a daily ecocide. Authors like Thomas Friedman, of whom one would not doubt in this sense, because of the cult of consumption, say that in Beijing a thousand new cars circulate every day.
And if we compare what Beijing is today with what it was 25 years ago, we observe a transformation that would normally take much longer to explain how a city is transformed to the point that, from being the bicycle capital of the world, where there was no cars, no congestion, no crashes, or anything like that, today is a place with thousands of cars, traffic jams and pollution produced by cars. This is the model that is being imposed worldwide in all cities, with an intensive consumption of cars with all that that implies.
Under these conditions, what is happening in capitalism is something like the one that knows that there is an abyss ahead, and instead of avoiding it accelerates the flight forward, which is also typical of economists. Instead of delaying the approach to the abyss, it is accelerating through all these forms of consumption, saying that the warnings are catastrophic announcements, because at other times similar announcements have been made but capitalism has managed to find the necessary energy alternative and now things they will not be different. That is, more or less, what is said optimistically.
But there are two geopolitical aspects that must be mentioned: one thing is public discourse and another is internal discourse. In public discourse, sold by multinationals, politicians and many academics, it is argued that it is not true that oil is running out, and today that has gained strength again, because in the United States oil production has increased.
Accordingly, it is said that it is not true that oil is running out. Even the English journalist George Monbiot, who wrote a book on global warming, has said that the theses on peak oil were false and that we are talking about a person close to the environmental movement. He considers that it is not true that there is peak oil but, on the contrary, there is so much that we are going to roast like sardines in oil, due to these supposed new discoveries.
Those who deny peak oil affirm the same, what is said and written to misinform and deny the magnitude of what is at stake, and to continue with the same capitalist logic. But in the internal, encrypted speech of politicians, completely different things are said. Specifically, what do the multinationals and the political leaders of the imperialist states affirm, starting with the United States?
They are clear that oil is running out, and not just oil but many resources. Even the US Department of State and Department of Defense have produced systematic studies in which a record of metals and strategic minerals appears and a record of their needs is established. They even make a characterization: there are strategic resources on which the United States has a total dependence, 100 percent, that is to say that everything must be obtained abroad. And then comes an analysis of the natural resources that the United States depends on as much as 50 percent.
And all the strategic resources are in that strip. They even make an even more precise categorization of those resources that they consider to be national security, that is, it is mandatory that those resources be provided to the United States economy. And some of these reports ensure that in the event that this is not the case, the United States reserves the right to use all military means, including atomic bombs, to access those resources.
Obviously, that is not in the public domain, neither the politicians, nor the academics, nor the spokespersons of the multinationals speak that way. This is information for internal consumption, which is related to the geopolitical and geostrategic control of the world. They are clear that material and energy resources are running out and, as they are clear about, they have mapped the planet in vital areas, in strategic areas, and in some reserve areas. A world war for resources is unfolding in world geopolitics.
It seems to me that it is a very important thesis that Michael Klare raised in several books: an undeclared war for resources, never recognized as such, a conflict that has been accentuated by the entrance of new actors, mainly China and India. Because what is significant about the Chinese miracle and the Indian miracle lies in the fact that we are witnessing more of the same, the formation of a capitalism similar to that of the English industrial revolution of the 18th century.
That is what is emerging in the countries mentioned. And to make it possible, you need what is inescapable in physical terms: matter and energy. What the Chinese, and to a lesser extent the Indians, are doing is looking for sources of energy and materials. The Chinese are already moving into Africa, and the territorial division of Sudan is a first consequence.
Here in Latin America, the Chinese have made agreements with most governments, including so-called progressive governments, to ensure control of important sources of minerals, starting with oil. As it is the same civilizing pattern, it works with the same energy source, with oil. In this way, what is certain is the depletion of oil. One wonders, if China unfortunately embarked on this capitalist path, how is it going to do afterwards to maintain it?
What we are proposing is by no means popular, nobody supports it because the Chinese model is applauded, which is presented as the alternative, as the maximum in terms of growth. Even, many applaud that China can become the hegemonic country and is promoting another type of capitalism and things like that.
There is a geopolitical dispute over the appropriation of resources and the great conflicts that exist in the world are related, directly or indirectly, with the control of energy sources and mineral resources. And another thing that is beginning to be seen in relation to Olduvai's theory is that in many parts of the world it is already a terrible reality and, perhaps a small-scale example, is what happens in Haiti.
It is a country that should be studied, because it is a preview of what awaits the rest of the world: an environmentally devastated country, which only has 2 percent of the vegetation cover that it had 200 years ago, where the ecosystems; the land is practically a desert; Energy can only be accessed by a small minority, while the rest of the people live in complete darkness, dying of hunger and misery, and, in addition, the territory is militarily occupied by the UN and the United States, in debt and subjected to adjustment plans.
It is a foretaste of the return to the cave of Olduvai. In reality, Haiti is present in many countries of the world, in regions where the main energy source continues to be firewood or charcoal. This indicates that there is an energy segmentation that is also a class segmentation, because, ultimately, class differentiation is manifested in energy consumption, that is, in the standard of living of the dominant classes that have access to swimming pools own, to comfortable houses, to various automobiles, that consume microelectronic products, all of which is ultimately energy consumption.
At the international level, there are parameters on the level of vital minimum consumption of energy essential for a human being to live and comparisons are made between the calorie consumption of an inhabitant of Haiti and an average inhabitant of the United States, and the differences are impressive .
Saying these things is not popular because the situation is very hard, and nobody likes bad news, people like to exalt themselves with triumphs or with the great achievements of humanity and individual triumphs. But at some point these things must be considered, even if the people who do so are like the evil doomsayers of the contemporary world.
Southern Petroleum Observatory