What Will We Think Of Next?

When I was a boy, the question What will they think of next? was in the air, water and food.  I cannot recall a time I wasn't aware that clever people out there were busy preparing newness for us.  My family and its relatives, friends and acquaintances all anticipated next things, certain that innovation and invention behind commerce were to be continuous and endless.  Cheap fossil fuels were making so much possible, and it was fun to live as an almost care-free, autonomous sampler of developments.  It was freedom's new form, achieved through the climb out of the Depression and the victories over fascist imperialism.  At once students and fans of The Beatles, we looked forward to doing our part, which we would discover along the way.  Opportunities, of which the space program was symbolic, seemed unlimited for us, though not yet for all, as the civil rights and antiwar movements, in parallel, made plain.

Something very significant happened in those days that was not brought to our attention:  peak production of petroleum in the United States.  As a result not commonly regarded as one, before I reached the age of 21, energy availability and cost had become issues of which all were aware.  The issues would not go away during my lifetime, despite various leaders' assurances that they, those clever and funded ones, would surely devise some means of continuity for all to adopt.  We did not need to devise a new form of freedom, the leaders insisted.  Thus, they encouraged and enforced complacency.

It's forty years later.  Global peak production of petroleum was recent or is imminent.  Post-peak, the price must rise, partly because the population of would-be consumers is growing and partly because the easy-to-get was gotten first.  Only politically-motivated manipulations can alter the outcomes of these dynamics.  As the manipulations become impractical and/or immoral, what has seemed natural, almost a human right, will become a luxury, remaining such until it leaves the scene.

Long before that happens, most people will need new ways of their own making.  I'm wondering What will we think of next?  I'm hoping we can think and make, after so many years of doing our parts while counting on them.