The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Peak Oil? What is Peak Oil?

I had a quite remarkable and sobering conversation a couple of months ago. I was speaking to an expat oilman, here in Kuala Lumpur. He worked for a major oil company. He had spent his whole career in oil. I did something, he did not expect. I asked him a question.

“What do you think about Peak Oil?”, I prompted, carefully, watching him very closely for clues as to what he did think.

“What,” he began, a little puzzledly, “is Peak Oil?”

Tactfully, I did not reveal my surprise.

“Peak Oil is the point of maximum oil production, after which production begins to decline year on year, thereafter.”

He absorbed this foreign concept as if I spoke science fiction.

“There is LOADS of oil.”, he countered, somewhat emotionally, “Only the other day, they found a huge amount of it…as much as all we have ever found, in Brazil (I think he said).”

I didn’t hide my doubts. “Really? I thought that finds had become smaller and smaller over the years, and ever more difficult to access.”

“They are always finding new stuff.”, he said, unwilling to acknowledge reality.

As a parting question, a rather teasing question, considering that he was no more than about 30 and had plenty of time left to the end of his career.

“What will you do when the oil runs out?”

He had clearly never considered it.

“I think it will last my career.” He had grown a little more sober, during our conversation, as if my message was beginning to sink in.

“What will the world do, when it runs out, though? There will be a lot less energy about.”

“I don’t know.”, he said, with a hint of a frown.

“Cars might only be for the rich…”


“Few will be able to fly…”


“Lives will be much more local, with much less travel…”


“Food will have to be grown locally…”


“The Internet might even go down…”


He looked then, out at his son playing outside in the garden. I could tell that I had prompted him to cast his thoughts forward to what his son’s world might be like. He seemed uncomfortable at what he was beginning to understand might come to pass.

I didn’t push the point anymore. I had set him thinking. The oil man who had never heard of Peak Oil, now had a pretty good idea of what that meant.

I hope you do too.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:36 PM 


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