FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS, I have been trying to make sense of what[TEXT ILLEGIBLE]
1. The crisis has yet to achieved [WORD ILLEGIBLE] form. It remains hidden in the future.
2. The crisis has to do with money, not with rawmaterials. Even the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] projectors of ruin say there is an abundance of oil in the World, probably [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to sustain present levels of extravacaut use [WORD ILLEGIBLE] several hundred years ago also is there an abundance [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] coal, natural gas, water and sunlight [WORD ILLEGIBLE] covery of these materials inposes [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] political, environmental, financial), and so they might as well not exist.
3. The crisis appears much more terrifying to the rich than to the poor. During the week when President Carter asked everybody to suffer the minor inconveniences he advertised as "sacrifices," a Yankelovich poll showed that the energy crisis failed to achieve much recognition among people earning less than $12,000 a year. Apparently, they figured that, when the dark night closed down, they would do whatever was necessary or possible to stay alive. If they couldn't afford to pay for gas and oil, then they would burn wood, light candles and roast animals in deserted football stadiums.
But among the affluent classes, the news carried the weight of Biblical judgment. Only the rich can afford to be so frightened of things unseen.
Like the inheritors of great fortunes, the present stewards of American government and opinion feel themselves dependent upon a mechanism that they, do not care to understand. They resemble passengers on the [TEXT ILLEGIBLE]
The [WORD ILLEGIBLE] listen to talk of dying seas, the more clearly I [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of an old man in an old house, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that, if he must die, then the world must also die. He [WORD ILLEGIBLE] man's creativity, always [WORD ILLEGIBLE] dangerous, with the intolerable stupidity of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] who threatens to interfere with the status [LINE ILLEGIBLE] but also the [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] forbid that the world might change. Every [WORD ILLEGIBLE] every invention [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] energy crisis the [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] conservation; on keeping what we've got rather than taking [WORD ILLEGIBLE] evils we know not of.
Two or three days [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Carter delivered his message to Congress I had occasion to listen to several New York editors talk about the "moral imperative" of energy conservation. Everybody present had acquired a stable inventory of possessions; they had read Cousteau, and they worried about seals. And yet, suddenly, here were all these wretched poor people, not only in the United States but also in the Godforsaken harrios of the Third World, corwding out of nameless slums, taking up space on the roads, having the effrontery to want things they ought not to want. Costly and unnecessary things that required precious energy to build and maintain. Why couldn't they understand how much better off they were without portable radios? Didn't they know that automobiles don't bring happiness?
The man who grows up with the wilderness knows with [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that there is a time to live and a time to die. But the urban environmentalist, accustomed to the wonders of modern technology, thinks of the natural world as if it were a complicated machine. He worries that, if too many people mess around with it (particularly poor and illiterate people), then the machine will break down. If the machine breaks down and nobody knowns how to fix it, then he will die.
I sometimes think that the authors of the reports and studies mean to tell me of their lost childhoods. Somehow they find themselves less rich than their fathers before them, and so they assume that the whole world must be failing apart. Nothing will ever be so good again as it was that summer at the seashore before the war. If only they were rich enough to pay for all the means of recovering energy from the earth (rich enough to make solar engines the size of Los Angeles), why, then, there would be no reason to be afraid of death.
As presently constituted in the national conversation, the idea of mortality resolves itself into the prospect of being uncomfortable. To be mortal is to spend $1.50 for a gallon of gas, to wear a sweater at home in winter, to go to Europe for three weeks and stay in a second-class hotel. What a small-minded view of man. How is it possible that a nation that holds such a view also can imagine itself omnipotent? The same people who tell me that they can destroy the universe, that they have the power of life and death over all created things. They fear the intersection of lines on a graph, and yet they proclaim themselves immortal.