Monday, 23 May 2011

Oil Oriented Ontology

I particularly enjoyed this object-oriented litany from David Strahan’s (2007) The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man.
It’s amazing how relatively little oil makes so much stuff: not just surfboards but cameras, telephones and gadgets of all sorts; anti-freeze, pipes and plumbing supplies; car tyres (each contains seven gallons of oil), and asphalt to build the roads they roll on; polystyrene insulated cups; X-ray negatives, catheters, stethoscope diaphragms, oxygen tents and medical gloves; packaging (2 million tonnes in Britain alone); window frames; nappies; furniture; paints, dyes, inks and solvents; acrylic fibres for sweaters, acrylic resin for lenses for lenses and light fittings; PVC for raincoats and toys; plastic bottles (11 billion a year in Britain alone); food colouring, stabilizers and antioxidants; detergents; golf balls; shoe soles and entire trainers; TVs and computers (not just the plastics but also – ironically – flame retardant chemicals); bathtubs and shower curtains; parts for fridges, cookers and washing machines; tights; carpets; rubber gaskets, seals and hoses; plastic bags (17 ½ billion in Britain alone, 100 billion in US); bedding; electrical cable sheathing; pharmaceuticals; adhesives; cosmetics and hygiene products; Wellingtons; paddling pools; polyurethane foam for cavity insulation; CDs and DVDs (20 billion a year the legal market alone); rope and twine; footballs; the fleece I’m wearing now; and – my favourite, this – the chemical they sluice around the inside of wine bottles to make them shiny before the wine goes in. In fact, most ‘man-made’ materials you can think of are nothing of the sort; they are ‘oil-made’.
Oh yes, by the way, the entire economy runs on the stuff; it’s a finite resource; it’s likely to pass peak production between 2006 and 2015 (yes, most of those years are in the past); and we have no equivalents or good replacements. Enjoy.

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