By Alexa Minichiello
CBERN Outreach Assistant
Our growing dependence on “mechanical slaves” has fundamentally changed our understanding of work, economics, urban planning, gender and science argued author Andrew Nikiforuk to an audience of 200 at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 16, 2012.
Nikiforuk, who presented the third and final presentation of the series “The Elements: Ethical Uses of Our Resources: Food, Oil and Water”, presented by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs, maintained that North America has become a society enslaved to the production and use of oil. The presentation entitled: “The Master Resource: Oil and the New Servitude” previewed work from his forthcoming book: The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude detailing how we have created a society no longer dependent on human slaves to fuel growth but, rather, oil and coal.
To what do we owe this dependence? Nikiforuk argues it is oil’s versatility, portability, and affordability which have made this natural resource the resource of choice for the last 150 years. He maintains that industrialized agriculture, urban sprawl, rising rates of obesity, and “big” government are all related to our use of oil.
Towards the end of the presentation, Nikiforuk asked the audience to consider what changes the end of cheap oil herald and he cautions that the future is one of economic and social contraction which may result in endemic conflict. On a hopeful not, Nikiforuk concludes that as a species we once lived with far less energy and had been quite happy doing so.
Watch the video presentation: