Inconvenient truths and crude awakenings

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A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. 84 minutes. Rated: G. Directors: Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack

A Crude Awakening: the Oil CrashIf Al Gore’s global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth could be accused of being sensationalist, no such allegations could be levelled against A Crude Awakening.

This is a level-headed, but no less unsettling, documentary in which liberal and conservative voices — primarily scientists and politicians, rather than environmentalists — agree that there’s an oil crash coming, and it’s coming soon.

If you’re looking for pat answers, or even signs of hope, you won’t find them here. This film is bleak. It documents compelling economic and cultural arguments that add weight to the warning environmentalists have been sounding for years: when the oil runs out — and it has to, eventually — it will drastically, permanently change our world.

In fact, the only point on which some talking heads disagree is just how severe the fall-out is going to be for our fossil fuel-addicted world once dwindling supplies reach crisis point. Some suggest humankind will win the race to discover an alternative, sustainable fuel source. Others are less optimistic, and predict society as we know it will unravel.

While the film is geared towards the United States, which still consumes some 25 per cent of the world’s oil, there’s little doubt that there are global implications for the impending oil shortage, especially in westernised countries such as Australia.

And although the suggestion by one interviewee that "oil is the excrement of the devil" initially comes across as melodramatic, as the film goes on to portray the centrality of oil to the major wars of the past century, as well as its lack of long-term value as a natural resource, you may well find yourself agreeing with her sentiment.

A Crude Awakening: the Oil CrashFootage of towns now lying decrepit after having previously prospered on the back of local oil industries are emotive, and stand as a frightening allegory for what society could become once it has careened down the slippery slope beyond peak oil production.

Al Gore’s film ended with a call for each individual to make a change in their own life; A Crude Awakening, on the other hand, puts the responsibility for change squarely with politicians, although it points out that change won’t occur from a political level without the general public rallying and demanding that the issue be addressed.

If the documentary is somewhat dry, that’s because this is a serious issue that’s deserving of straight-faced discussion followed by serious, committed practical response.



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I've been rather hoping that the oil would run out sooner rather than later, because I would rather change course and sail, cycle, and ride a horse into the future, than continue as at present to the devastated, depleted future that is the certain destination.

david arthur | 31 May 2007  

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