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Peak Oil and Gender
Jon Lebkowsky, 17 Sep 07

Kurt Cobb at Energy Bulletin wonders whether peak oil is a gender issue or, as he says, a "guy thing." (Thanks to Paul Robbins for the pointer.)

For the men the answer was as confrontational as necessary. By this they meant speaking directly and forcefully at public meetings and gatherings about the need for an urgent response to an approaching peak. It meant dispelling notions that 1) the fixes would be easy and 2) once these fixes were complete, we would be able to return to business as usual. These men feel that their families and community are in grave danger, and it is their responsibility to warn others and to take the steps necessary to protect those families and the community. How could one disagree with that?

But, for the women this approach seemed unnecessarily harsh. Shouldn't the group be emphasizing the positive results of necessary changes? Shouldn't it try to be inclusive and friendly rather than critical or confrontational? In other words, shouldn't the group be trying to put an optimistic face on a necessary transition to make it attractive to as many people as possible in the community?

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Comments

There's an interesting point in there somewhere. But saying it's a "guy thing", and all guys are being too negative and confrontational about it... Isn't that exactly the kind of divisive, negative attitude this is ostensibly trying weed out? Does the Peak Oil debate really need some kind of outdated simplistic gender politics to muddy it even further?

Let's get post-Aristotelian. We need both a rugged assessment of the pitfalls if we carry on business-as-usual and the seductive lure of where can go instead. Men and women are in the same boat on this, if any, issue. Fudging our approach with pointless either/or debates serves no one.

(Kurt does conclude that the gender thing is generally a red herring, but I thought I'd respond here like this in case people just read this extract and don't read the full thing...)


Posted by: Gyrus on 17 Sep 07

It may have no gender bias for those who are already convinced, but for others, I would say that women have their head in the sand more than men. At my church singles group, almost every woman in the group drives a huge SUV - alone all the time (They are NOT marriage material for me). The men drive Honds Civics. Women who are married like SUV's too. I see them all the time (alone) at the grocery store loading up Hummer H2's and Ford Expeditions. Those women probably give no thought whatsoever to where anything comes from, including their husband's paycheck. When the oil is gone and bread costs $15 a loaf (if we have bread) they will be the first and loudest to complain.


Posted by: OBEWAN on 18 Sep 07

Kurt has his own site.


Posted by: SP on 18 Sep 07

But, for the women this approach seemed unnecessarily harsh. Shouldn't the group be emphasizing the positive results of necessary changes? Shouldn't it try to be inclusive and friendly rather than critical or confrontational? In other words, shouldn't the group be trying to put an optimistic face on a necessary transition to make it attractive to as many people as possible in the community?

Back in the early days of Sydney Peak Oil the smartest member of our group was a Phd student, and SHE was way cool, and very positive. Her Phd looked at developing an eco-Sydney and the steps necessary to do so. She blitzed any of us guys at having a more holistic approach.

Sydney Peak oil has been through some changes, and is mainly an online forum now. (With occasional relapses into manic awareness campaigning activity — we try not to fall off the wagon too frequently though! ;-).

But back when meetings drew in a small crowd, the ladies certainly made some welcome contributions... even if some of us men were a little boorish.


Posted by: Dave Lankshear on 18 Sep 07

I notice there don't seem to be any women in this discussion, so I thought I'd jump in. I belong to a Peak Oil group in Toronto (although I've moved to the country to learn to grow food since I think it may be something to know how to do in the future). Some of the organizers and most active participants in the Toronto Peak Oil group are women. There's no problem with the men of the movement working to set the world straight on the facts. That's hard enough to do in a world that simply doesn't want to hear bad news or stop consuming. And since the majority of people who are insiders in the oil and energy business seem to be men, this is no problem. Looking at the positive (nurturing) side of this predicament may be a place where women have a key role to play. We don't all drive SUVs (I share a Toyota Tercel with a friend) and many of us are working hard to educate people about local food, the perils of disposable lifestyles, renewable energy, water conservation, species loss and climate change. And the need to, in Heinberg's phrase, 'power down.'
I do think people need a jolt, like the one they're getting on the symptoms of apparent climate change. It could be brownouts, high gas prices, but it needs to be felt, not just learned intellectually. Facts that don't jive with people's realities (full stores, blue skies, pleasant weather, still-affordable [why isn't the price of gas going up with the price of oil?] gas) aren't welcome.
Go find those peak-smart ladies, guys. They're out there.


Posted by: Elise Houghton on 18 Sep 07

Nice to hear from you Elise, and keep up the good work. I have to admit to being one of those "get the facts out there" guys that can't bring myself to make the personal lifestyle big decisions you have. Well done.


Posted by: Dave Lankshear on 18 Sep 07



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