Pumping oil out of the ground and burning it. Living off of savings. Pushing the limits of a friend’s hospitality or generosity. Eating seeds needed for planting.
All of these are examples of a resource that won’t exist for future you, or future humanity, due to their use. It can be a good thing, a one time boost or expenditure of resources to get through a hard time or jump ahead. However, there seems to be a lack of awareness about when, where, and how people and societies choose to make those expenditures.
Hollowing out the Past is the phrase that’s stuck with me to describe this phenomenon. It feels like it emotionally communicates the cost of the behavior as well as labels and describes the issue broadly enough to not constrain it to only apply to a specific field, such as renewable energy or building relationships.
One of the most poignant examples for me is the semi-retired guys that work at home depot. Getting paid 10-12 bucks an hour, but have 30+ years of knowledge and experience to share and assist with helping people find what they need (and don’t need), how to accomplish projects a bit over customer’s heads, and a variety of other information. Home depot didn’t invest all of the time and resources for that employee to have that expertise, and the compensation isn’t anywhere close to the benefit provided by that expertise.
The most important part of this whole issue is awareness, so proper planning for the future can be done. We’ve been doing forest management for thousands of years, with the lots of experience both with successful sustainable forests, and the horrendous costs and long build-up periods after chopping it all down for some extra wood now.
I’m not a Peak Oil doomsayer in the conventional sense, and I’m confident their crying wolf greatly harmed the effective planning and use of fuels that required millions of years to produce. I also know that physics means easily accessible concentrated fuel *will* run out someday, and that the total replacement time for the US energy infrastructure is roughly 100 years. I’m sure we can do it significantly faster if necessity requires, but its not something that I’d want to leave up to an economy that frequently has trouble looking past the last quarter’s profits.
It applies to relationships as well. Very long time to build up, and can provide huge and wonderful life improvements for years to come. Also easy to take advantage of in a way that you get more *right now,* but at a significant cost to the future.
This isn’t to say don’t hollow out the past; like I said, it can be a good thing; with fuels specifically its certainly the reason for our civilizations’ insane rate of progress. But it should be *intentional*; disregarding the costs means something taken for granted might be expensive or completely unavailable in the future, from cheap experts to work your retail store to friends who will bail you out of a jam to enough cheap energy to build the next generation energy production.