A review of Mason Inman's timely new book, The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future.


Build a wall and deport undocumented Mexicans? How else could the United States' (posh) way of life exist if not off the back of (indentured) Mexican labourers?

Book Review |
The Oracle of Oil

Living in highly technological civilizations that generally place the greatest importance and value upon the material gadgetry and inventiveness of our societies, it should come as little surprise that the luminaries and household names that we can readily conjure and associate with are those related to the technological aspects of our lives. For example, when one mentions the telephone, the light bulb, the automobile, the airplane, or nuclear bombs, it's likely that many a grade-schooler can rhyme off the names Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, and, perhaps, Albert Einstein.

But segue into more ecological matters and the fathers and mothers of these vocations are certainly not household names the way the aforementioned are. For what comes to mind when we think of organic farming, climate change, the environmental movement, or limits to growth? For most of those who flick light switches on and off as much as they eat food and depend on stable planetary ecological balances, the answers are probably little more than a shrug. While children can quite easily conjure up the aforementioned names, you'd be hard pressed to find even an adult who could easily slip off of their tongues the names Sir Albert Howard, Svante Arrhenius, Rachel Carson, and the team of Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jørgen Randers.

But while the topics of organic farming, climate change, and the environmental movement can certainly elicit recognition in the average citizen, the reality of peak oil quite often does not, with even less of a recognition expected in reference to the person that initially brought it to our attention. That largely unknown individual would be M. King Hubbert, the subject of Mason Inman's timely new biography, The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future.

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(photo by Gage Skidmore)

No doubt you've heard of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's infamous wall, the one ostensibly meant to keep out all those alleged Mexican "criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.," as well as to keep all those 8.1 million undocumented workers Trump intends to (somehow) deport from getting back in. On top of all that, while 3,200 km walls don't just pay for themselves, Trump had nonetheless promised to (again, somehow) make sure that the Mexican government ends up footing the bill for said wall.

After months of the now routine mockery and scorn laid upon Trump, Trump finally came clean with the method of how it was that he was supposedly going to force Mexico to cover the $8 billion tab for his pet wall – by halting money transfers from the nearly $25 billion that (underpaid, overworked) Mexican labourers send back home as remittances every year (a total that actually equates to about 2% of Mexico's GDP). As should go without saying, the vast majority of those 8.1 million undocumented workers are employed in the service industry as maids, cooks, and groundskeepers, as well as in the farming and construction sectors, earning some of the lowest wages in the country to send home to family members in need. In other words, Trump plans on paying for his infamous wall by extorting money from the Mexican government under the threat of confiscating money from the poorest of the poor. As would come as little surprise to many, that Trump "love[s] the poorly educated" was, and is, of course, nothing but a ruse.

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