What’s the biggest elephant in the room? I mean, the one thing looming over humanity that we barely discuss? Is it war? Poverty? The prevalence of cancer? Think again. Think computers, nappies, paint, plastics, motor cars, toothbrushes… What’s the common base here? Answer: crude oil. Oil is the chameleon resource pervading all the hues and forms that uphold and drive modern consumer society. Almost everything we make and run depends on it, in some way, as raw material or energy source. Even agrarian cultures need oil for fertiliser and pesticide, to fuel large-scale production. And the disregarded ‘elephant’ is that the age of easy oil has already gone. “Oh,” we say, if pushed, “we’ll switch to gas or develop sustainable energy. They’ll invent fusion reactors…” Really? Or will we cling to old habits, in apathy or smouldering panic? Will we mishandle increasingly difficult oil fields sited in ecologically vulnerable areas? Will we rage oil wars? Or turn instead to coal and uranium, embracing massive pollution and radiation risks? When Ezra Pound said literature is ‘news that stays news’, poets still had media power. But oil – not poetry – will soon dominate headlines. Perhaps then, in a way, oil will be the poetry of the future?
© Mario Petrucci, 2013