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MOVIE REVIEW OF ...
What a Way to Go
Life at the End of Empire

(Documentary)   Released: 2007

This What a Way to Go review written by Mark Jeantheau, Grinning Planet.

DVD cover for What a Way to Go - Life at the End of Empire This is a different sort of "Peak Oil movie." Rather than just focusing on the approaching decline in oil production and its likely effects on our petroleum-powered modern lifestyles, What a Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire, presents that issue merely as a symptom of a larger problem---modern society as empire. For those who thought the 20th century finally saw an end to empires, think again. The emperors only changed clothes, got new job titles, and swapped in "predatory economics" for slavery and overt domination. It's a Matrix-like nightmare that seems normal to us, even with all its chaos.

The film surveys the litany of collateral damage due to our entrapment in the empire:

  • environmental degradation, including the approaching disaster known as global climate change;
  • species facing a new mass extinction event---this one caused not by killer asteroids but by the march of "human progress";
  • dissociation from the details of how life's basic commodities (such as energy, water, and food) are provided to us;
  • our general ignorance of the technological wonders that we depend on;
  • the dominant use of violence (war) as a means of overcoming obstacles and expanding influence;
  • our Ponzi-inspired, never-ending-growth economic model, which logically must fail at some point.

These are all symptoms of a planet and people in serious trouble. We've been encouraged to live beyond our economic, natural, and spiritual means, and we've done quite a job of it. The film lays out the bleak truth for us in a surprisingly watchable package, nicely incorporating narration, interview clips, and strangely cool archival material. Elegant and almost poetic in tone, What a Way To Go gently takes us by the hand as it explains to us the harsh reality of how things really are, where they're likely to go, and how difficult the challenge is.

In the end, What a Way To Go leaves us with a choice: As the reach of The Powers That Be exceeds their grasp and things really begin to come unglued, will we citizens of empire shrug our shoulders and party on as the marble columns fall around us, or will we shake off the illusion and being to re-take control of what was ours to begin with?

See clips or get purchase info for this movie at the film's website

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Liner notes for What a Way to Go - Life at the End of Empire:
Categories: Peak Oil, Empire, Plutocracy, Collapse, Environmental Degradation, Animal Abuse. Produced by Sally Erickson. Written, Directed, and Edited by Tim Bennett. Featuring interviews with Daniel Quinn, Derrick Jensen, Jerry Mander, Chellis Glendinning, Richard Heinberg, Thomas Berry, William Catton, Ran Prieur and Richard Manning.

 

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Energy Slaves — Where past societies shackled human muscle with force and subjugation to create an energy surplus, beginning in the late 19th century we began using coal, then oil, then natural gas to create an unprecedented energy abundance. As the era of surplus energy comes to an end, how will our everyday reliance on energy slaves for mechanical and cognitive work change and adapt? Andrew Nikiforuk, author of The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, discusses ways of understanding our use and abuse of cheap energy. ~~ Also in this show, Chris Nelder talks about an energy-transition tipping point, clean energy in Germany, and the decline of the big oil players.
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GP comment:  The concept of "energy slaves" is essential. The combination of technology and cheap energy has freed us from most of the drudgery associated with past centuries. If the per capita level of available energy begins to fall—as it inevitably will on a finite planet with an expanding population—the average number of energy slaves each of us commands will also begin to fall.

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GP comment:  As with all corporate enterprises, energy companies will fight anything that detracts from their bottom line, regardless of whether it supports the long-term goals of society. The corporate shark relentlessly swims and eats, swims and eats. But I insult the actual shark with such an association.

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Peak Oil—Past, Present, and Future — Richard Heinberg and Mike Ruppert, two veterans of the effort to alert the public to the problem of peak oil, review the last decade from that perspective. Were the peak oil prophets right? Will peak oil mean collapse, or burning the last, worst dirty fuels, or merely transitioning to alternative energies? Who have been the most influential players in the peak oil movement?
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GP comment:  Good to hear these two guys talking.

Original Show Pub Date: 30.Mar.2014

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