Mary Halling, hallinml@muohio.edu

I recently did a group presentation in one of my international studies classes about Peak Oil. Proponents of the Peak Oil theory say we achieved the highest oil production in 1970. After 1970, oil became (and is still) harder to find, leading to offshore drilling in places like the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Africa. Good relations with the countries in the Persian Gulf became increasingly important, as they have the largest oil reserves. This topic got me thinking about the future of our generation. Our world is running out of easily accessible oil and we have not developed adequate alternative energy to replace oil as the main fuel source. How will we handle this responsibility that will fall squarely on our shoulders? We need to be catalysts of change.

I want to think positive, I want to believe we will rise above the predictions that we will be the first generation to be less well off than our parents. I want to believe we will be the pioneers of energy alternatives that actually work. Growing up during the shift from the prosperous 90s to the beleaguered 2000s should inspire us to work harder and not expect someone else to fix things for us. Insert Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech here. In my opinion, the surge in gas prices in 2008 should have been the perfect thing to shock us into changing. People were driving for necessity instead of convenience. According to a CNN survey, SUV and truck sales, many of which get as little as 12 miles to the gallon in the city, dropped 25 percent in 2008. The general public noticed an increase in advertising campaigns with the words green or recycled in them.

There is still a high concentration of the latter, but after gas prices went back down at the beginning of 2009, SUV and truck sales picked back up, and those beasts are back on the roads. In the long run, it might have been better if gas prices had stayed outrageously high because it would have had a more lasting effect on our generation, the way the Great Depression affected our grandparents’ generation. They always push us to finish all of the food on our plates or to only get new clothes or shoes when we really need them.

If our grandparents belonged to the greatest generation because of their ability to come back from adversity and if our parents’ generation is characterized by rebellion caused at least in part by the Vietnam War, what will define us when future generations look back? Our parents’ generation remembers exactly where they were when JFK was assassinated. We remember where we were Sept. 11, 2001. Our parents remember the Vietnam War, we will remember the wars in the Middle East. We will be affected by the economic downturn, which has followed us into adulthood. We are constantly reminded of our economic malaise every time we hear Jay Sean’s lyric “And honestly, I’m down like the economy.”

Let’s hope we rise to the challenge of our generation and learn from past mistakes. Without a secure fuel source, we cannot do anything. We need to expend more resources on research of alternative fuels rather than alternative ways to drill for oil and be more conscious about cutting back on our fuel consumption.

John Mayer observed “one day our generation is gonna rule the population and we keep on waiting for the world to change.” We need to stop waiting.

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