Predicting the Psychological Response of the American People to Oil Depletion and Declining Energy Return on Investment (EROI)
Oil has played a crucial role in the United States’ continued but increasingly tenuous economic prosperity. The continued availability of cheap, high energy return on investment (EROI) oil, however, is increasingly in doubt. If cheap oil is increasingly constrained, how might that impact the American psychological sense of personal and national well-being? We employ general systems theory and certain key paradigms from psychology and sociology to predict the possible societal response to global peak oil and the declining EROI of whatever oil is produced. Based on these frameworks, the following three defense mechanisms seem likely to be employed by individuals and groups within society if and when confronted with stresses associated with declining oil availability. These are: denial of one’s passive helpless state, desire to establish a scapegoat, and arousal of affiliative needs and increased subgrouping. A group’s “survival” is a function of its unified sense of direction and the stability of necessary interdependencies and linkages. We suggest that the ability of the U.S. society, taken as a whole, to adapt to the stresses derived from the declining EROI of oil will increase during periods of moderate stress, and then decline after reaching its maximum ability to cope with stress. The integrity of interdependencies and linkages—power, communication, affect, and goals—must be preserved for continued social unity. Americans will need to acknowledge the reality of biophysical constraints if they are to adapt to the coming energy crisis.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Ayres, Robert U. & Warr, Benjamin, 2005. "Accounting for growth: the role of physical work," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-209, June.
- David W. Conrath, 1973. "Communications Environment and its Relationship to Organizational Structure," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 20(4-Part-II), pages 586-603, December.
- Bentley, R. W., 2002. "Global oil & gas depletion: an overview," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 189-205, February.
- Hecht, Jason, 2001. "Classical Labour-Displacing Technological Change: The Case of the US Insurance Industry," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(4), pages 517-537, July.
- Belk, Russell & Painter, John & Semenik, Richard, 1981. " Preferred Solutions to the Energy Crisis as a Function of Causal Attributions," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(3), pages 306-312, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:11:p:2129-2156:d:14703. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (XML Conversion Team)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.