(And no, this is not about this weekend's Yankees-Red Sox series...)
Happy Earth Day! Earth Day was once considered a weird hippie thing. No longer. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, not exactly a granola kind of paper, says Pittsburgh needs to prepare for peak oil. And even the Houston Chronicle, paper of record in Big Oil's home town, is publishing stories like 8 ways to save the planet if you live in Texas. (Maybe the prospect of Houston under water due to rising sea levels has something to do with it.)
Sports is also getting greener. (And no, I'm not talking about the Red Sox's green jerseys.) "Green" stadiums are all the rage.
Then there's this article, by Bill Henderson: The Relocalization of Sport. It argues that sports as we know it is unsustainable in the light of peak oil and climate change:
Hundreds of pro and college teams criss-cross the continent by plane, play in huge stadiums lit at enormous energy expense, in front of fans most of whom have driven miles to the game.
I'm a jock and a fan; I live and die with my beloved Canucks (we're just starting the playoffs). I empathize with Man U fans, Cowboy fans and Sonic fans. But the dangers from climate change and peak oil are so serious that we must reduce our use of fossil fuels radically and immediately.
I'm not sure things will get as bad, as quickly, as Mr. Henderson thinks. Still...he raises an interesting point. Is pro sports as we know it sustainable? We tend to think that the future will be more of the past, only more so. More teams, better athletes, more luxury boxes, better cable packages, bigger salaries, etc. As Jared Diamond points out in Collapse
, people have short memories. We tend to assume, incorrectly, that what has lasted a few decades will always be. But if people like Jim Kunstler
are even partly correct, this "fossil fueled fiesta" is a brief aberration of wealth and ease that will not last.
No, I don't see us collapsing into Mad Max
-like anarchy. I suppose it's possible, but I think a longer, slower decline is more likely. Rising energy prices will cause economic problems, resulting in people cutting back on spending and many losing their jobs. They won't be able to afford sports events, or even cable TV, putting downward pressure on athlete salaries, etc.
In any case, it won't be the end of sports. I read a book once about the history of the Yankees. Some of the older players fondly remembered the three-day train trip to play St. Louis. They played poker nonstop all the way down, and felt that it created a bond that modern teams don't have.
And speaking of energy issues...one of my favorite energy sites is The Oil Drum
. To be honest, I don't understand half of what they're talking about over there; they are card-carrying geeks, and I mean that in a good way. Many of them are oil industry professionals, engineers, nuclear physicists, and yes, even a rocket scientist or two. But I enjoy the enthusiasm they have for their subject. In a way, it's very fannish, though their obsession is for oil production numbers rather than OPS or ERA. In particular, the time, energy, and ingenuity they spent trying to figure out how much oil is left in Saudi Arabia
was amazing to behold. (No, I don't understand that entire article. You'd have to be a reservoir engineer to understand it all. The takeaway: expect record high gas prices this summer, maybe even actual shortages.)