Thus our current dependence on oil is not an aberration, it is the norm. Every energy source has brought certain cultural values with it — think of slavery and coal as two of the most obvious examples. Art & Energy traces the entire history of these transitions. In a world without oil, renewable energy will take the place of oil and gas, and we will eventually become as dependent on the culture of stewardship of the earth and the body as we are today on consumption. Undoubtedly there will be downsides to the new culture that we cannot yet anticipate. We are going to be learning how to see ourselves and others as mutually interested collaborative stewards rather than essentially competitive consumers. The stakes are high: as the planet’s only species committed to learning, in order to save our habitat we now have to learn sustainability.
These predictions are generally consistent with the post-fossil fuel world that Ian Morris projects in the other book that Margaret cites, his Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve (Princeton University Press, 2015). Stewardship and sustainability will be supported by the greater equality (including gender equity) and the resistance to violence that Morris foresees. It is always exciting (and reassuring) when two scholars working from different assumptions and in diverse disciplines reach broadly parallel conclusions.
There is a trend here: the bigger and more developed societies become, the fewer of them there are, and the fewer chances humanity gets to work through its problems. In our own age, we effectively have just one global fossil-fuel society, and we only get one chance to shatter the ceiling over it. Failure is not an option.