Petro-subjectivity is something that each of us experiences constantly. It is a sense of self and the world that shapes who we are and how we think. It stems in part from the fact that the use of oil is present in every thing we do. It has shaped the concepts that govern our thinking. Our use of language and the basic concepts that structure our existence are breathed through the logic of oil relationships and form the metaphoric universe we bathe ourselves in when we speak to one another about who we are, what we do and what the world around us consists of.


This illustration was made to accompany an essay in the book Petro-Subjectivity: De-Industrializing Our Sense of Self.

Diagrams like this are useful for mapping out the presence of oil in our lives. This mapping exercise is derived from the permacultural resource mapping done by Bill Mollison, in the 1980s, to compare such things as a single egg produced by an industrial process versus a single egg produced through a permacultural process. Permaculture is a process that Mollison and others helped develop. It shows where large amounts of waste exists and gives a way to visualize how to cut them out and make systems that do not rely on them so heavily. This map only tells a small fraction of the story when a much more detailed and nuanced account is possible; each node on this map—food, energy, transportation, work, health, shelter, clothing and environment—could be the center of its own inexhaustible mapping exercise. This kind of mapping helps to more easily visualize how oil permeates all our activities. What this map shows is various aspects of a life and how they interrelate. They all either depend on oil in their manufacture or in how they operate and come into our lives. When you look at this map and think about how oil impacts your life, please give consideration to how many of these things others do for you and how much you do for yourself.