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It's the End of the World as We Know It

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Let's all hope that director Gregory Greene and his film, The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream, are wrong. Because if they're right, we're really, really screwed.

The film, released in 2004 and available for purchase at www.endofsuburbia.com and other sites such as amazon.com, is a documentary focusing on "peak oil." That's the belief held by a lot of exceptionally smart people that we're rapidly approaching the time when the world's fossil-fuel demand will exceed supply.

I admit I have not seen The End of Suburbia yet--it may be the only movie made in the last half-century not available at Casa Video--so for some insight, let's turn to Orlando Weekly film critic Aaron Sagers, who discusses how the film lines up experts and commentators, one by one, to theorize what could start happening when that magical "peak oil" day arrives.

"Author James Howard Kunstler is the best of the bunch, delivering a knockout punch of reality laced with dark humor," writes Sagers. "As we near the end of peak oil production in the next six years, he predicts, each barrel of the stuff will literally cost more than the last. The resulting scarcity will kill the suburbs, increase the prices of food and goods and cause a series of wars over the 60 percent of oil that remains recoverable in the Persian Gulf--sort of a Mad Max-meets-Iraq scenario, Kunstler says. Such gloom-and-doom humor is prevalent in the film. Director Greene almost takes glee in pointing out how dire our situation is and why alternative sources of energy won't work. And if oil is on its way out, so is normal life as we know it."

So, um, yeah. Sorry for ruining your day there.

If you're curious to check out this documentary without shelling out the cash to have it shipped to you via various modes of fossil-fuel-using transportation, now's your chance. The End of Suburbia will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, in the community room at Bookman's, 1930 E. Grant Road. Admission is free. For more information, call 829-7552. (A word of advice: The community room at the Grant Road Bookman's is fairly small, and things spotlighted in this space often end up getting substantial crowds, so you might want to show up early.)

The showing is being sponsored by Abolish Corporate Personhood/Reclaim Democracy, a small group of folks concerned about the unchecked power and immunity from responsibility that corporations enjoy, says member Joey Moncarz, who set up the End of Suburbia showing. Moncarz says that while everybody knows oil won't last forever, most folks are confused about when the serious problems are going to begin.

"A lot of people think the problem will be running out of oil, but the problem's going to hit when supply can't keep up with demand," he says, adding that some feel the recent spike in oil prices is a sign this could be starting even sooner than expected.

The film makes the argument that other energy sources expected to help end our dependency on fossil fuels--like ethanol and hydrogen--are destined to fail, as they'll never be as cheap and abundant as fossil fuels. So, what can we do?

"The government would have to take immediate action," says Moncarz. "But our government is interested in using all its resources to protect what's left. Regardless, it won't be enough to maintain our current lifestyle. There's going to have to be a change, a retraction."

More on this, from The End of Suburbia, comes from another film reviewer, the OC Weekly's Greg Stacy: "We may be on the road to disaster, but at least we're still in the driver's seat. A few sensible ideas for how we can possibly save our selves from our gristly fate are presented. These ideas do involve a lot of hard choices, sacrifice and self-control--things we Americans seem to get worse at all the time--but there's still room for optimism."

Whew. We'll just shut up now and end this on Mr. Stacy's minutely-positive note. In the meantime, to learn more for yourself, and to decide whether this "peak oil" talk is paranoia or prophesy, check out the film on Aug. 3 and visit www.endofsuburbia.com.

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