Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Peak of Health And The Peak of Oil

The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) has published a series of articles that link The Peak of Oil with the issue of health care.

The Dredd Blog has pointed out the dependency of civilization on hydrocarbons (oil, gas, coal) to the point that it really is an addiction (some examples: A Closer Look At MOMCOM's DNA, A Peek At The Peak Oil Catastrophe, The Peak of The Oil Wars).

The AJPH articles indicate the serious threat to health that the peak of oil production, and subsequent decline, is bringing to civilization:
Petroleum is used widely in health care — primarily as a transport fuel and feedstock for pharmaceuticals, plastics, and medical supplies — and few substitutes for it are available. This dependence theoretically makes health care vulnerable to petroleum supply shifts, but this vulnerability has not been empirically assessed. We quantify key aspects of petroleum use in health care and explore historical associations between petroleum supply shocks and health care prices. These analyses confirm that petroleum products are intrinsic to modern health care and that petroleum supply shifts can affect health care prices. In anticipation of future supply contractions lasting longer than previous shifts and potentially disrupting health care delivery, we propose an adaptive management approach and outline its application to the example of emergency medical services.
(Petroleum and Health Care, AJPH, emphasis added). Since food is essential for good health, the publication also explores the impact of peak oil on food dynamics:
We examined food system vulnerability to rising oil prices and the public health consequences. In the short term, high food prices harm food security and equity. Over time, high prices will force the entire food system to adapt. Strong preparation and advance investment may mitigate the extent of dislocation and hunger.
(Peak Oil, Food Systems, AJPH). That journal goes on to explore the coming impact on other aspects of health care as the finite supply of oil runs out.

The Dredd Blog System has also explored ways to compensate for the decline of petroleum products with natural methods and products that do not harm the environment (some examples: A Methanol Economy Way Out of Here, Dandelion Farmers of the World Unite, A Green Way Out of Here, Someone Figured It Out, Some Way Out of Here, Another Way Out of Here, The Wind Is Not Just For The Birds).

Another positive is that as petroleum use declines, to be replaced with renewable energy, damage to the environment will also hopefully decline.

The response we take today, tomorrow, and thereafter will determine whether or not our civilization avoids the import of the words too little, too late.

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