Patrick D. Murphy's Home Page


Background Information, Vita,

Ecological Literary Criticism, Climate Change, Peak Oil


Background Information

I was born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1951, and grew up in the small town of Wilmington, seventeen miles south, population between 4000 and 4,500. I attended St. Rose Catholic elementary school in Wilmington, spent 1 and 1/2 years at the St. Charles Borromeo diocesan seminary, and then finished up at Joliet Catholic High School. Both the seminary and high school have closed down (not my fault). During senior year, I played bass guitar in a garage band, Milton's Revival, which occasionally fronted for professional bands at the high school.

In the fall of 1969, I loaded my bass guitar and amplifier, along with my father, into my 1965 Mustang and drove to Los Angeles to attend UCLA (my father flew back to Illinois). I didn't have very good high scholol grades, but I was a Natonal Merit finalist and, apparently, in the hope of receiving some prestige from that, the university admitted me despite the rest of my academic profile. I graduated four years later with a B.A. in History.

From 1969 to 1981 I lived in greater Los Angeles and worked at various jobs, including convalescent hospital orderly, assistant manager of a pizza place, clerk at a drug store, stock clerk at a supermarket near MacArthur Park, and manager of a small book store, was married and divorced and went through bankruptcy.

In 1981 I returned to school and in 1983 earned an M.A. in English at California State University, Northridge. In 1982, I married Bonnie Iwasaki, and we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary in June of 2008. From Northridge I went on to the University of California, Davis, and earned my Ph.D. in three years, graduating in the summer of 1986.

In the fall of 1987 I went to work as an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in Jimmy Stewart's home town of Indiana, Pa, which is down the road from Home, where Edward Abbey was born, and his family for years had a rock shop. In 1991, our daughter Mariko was born. She is now in her senior year of high school. In 2002 I left IUP for UCF and served my first two years here as department chair.




Ecological Literary Criticism (Ecocriticism)

My interest in representations of nature in literature and environmentally engaged writing developed in the late 1970s. Taking one of four required undergraduate literature courses in order to get admitted to the M.A. program in English at Cal State Northridge--to make up for my having a B.A. in History--I was introduced to Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. I became immediately intensely interested in the person behind the character of Japhy Ryder, Gary Snyder. One thing led to another and I wrote my M.A. thesis as a comparative study of themes in the poetry of Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry, from which I published two critical essays.

My work in ecocriticism has led to my teaching a wide variety of nature-oriented courses and a range of critical writing on literary works and cultural studies issues from science fiction to books on hurricanes and their aftermaths, from John Burroughs's naturalist essays to Frost's nature poems to Carson's Silent Spring, from Florida mystery writers to German novelists, from Native American poets to Indian storytellers. These are listed in my c.v., which you can access by the vita link above.

I have a new authored book forthcoming in 2009 from Lexington Books/Rowman and Littlefield, tentatively titled Ecocritical Explorations in Literary and Cultural Studies.

The key organization for the development of ecocriticism has been the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), . Since its inception, similar organizations and affiliates have been formed in Japan, Korea, the UK, Europe, Canada, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, and India. ASLE has a major conference every other year during the odd years and smaller symposia in the even years in various locations in North America.

As ASLE was being organized, I founded ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment,, with support from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Nevada, Reno. It became the official journal of ASLE after its third year of publication and was moved to the University of Nevada, Reno, where it has remained, with Scott Slovic as editor. ASLE has recently arranged for ISLE to be published by Oxford University Press, a major achievement for ecocriticism.


Various Items on Climate Change

I began to investigate the issue of human induced global warming seriously around 2002. At the start of my research I did not have a settled opinion on the matter. Rather, I chose it as a good topic for my students in honors composition courses to read about, debate, and research for essays, since the subject has so many facets.

My reading, however, has led me to conclude that global warming is occurring, it is causing climate change, it is human induced, and the body of supporting evidence is not only quite substantial but growing more detailed and explicit every day. Further, none of the alternative explanations proves persuasive and cannot account for the phenomena we are witnessing.

The evidence does not come from computer models, but rather from field work of all kinds. The computer models provide projections of likely scenarios if we do not curb geenhouse gas emissions. Even the most benign of these spells trouble for our descendants, if not significantly for ourselves.


Useful Web Sites



Climate Change Science Program (CCSP)

The following reports are from the Climate Change Science Program of the U.S. Government. Although required by law to produce these reports, the Bush Administration attempted to delay publishing them.There are additional reports on the site and new ones are being published on a regular basis.

1. Climate Projections Based on Emissions Scenarios for Long-Lived and Short-Lived Radiatively Active Gases and Aerosols

2. Analyses of the effects of global change on human health and welfare and human systems

3. Scientific Assessment of Effects of Climate Change on the United States

4. Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate


Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University

5. The Caribbean and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction

6. Climate Change: Costs of Inaction for the United States

7. Florida and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction


International Energy Agency

8. Energy Technology Perspectives 2008


The National Acadmies

9. Understanding and Responding to Climate Change: Highlights of National Academies Reports 2008 Edition


United Nations

10. United Nations Development Programme, Fighting Climate Change.  Human Development Report 2007/2008.



Position Statements by Various Scientific and Environmental Organizations



Archer, David. The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate. Princeton: Princeton

University Press, 2009.

Broecker, Wally, and Robert Kunzig. Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat—And

How to Counter It. New York:  Hill and Wang, 2008.

DiMento, Joseph F.C., and Pamela Doughman, eds. Climate Change: What It Means for Us, Our Children, and Our

Grandchildren. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. New York: Bloomsbury, 2006.

Lovelock, James. The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. New York: Basic Books, 2006.

Lynas, Mark. Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2008.

Nordhaus, William. A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies. New Haven: Yale University

Press, 2008.

Pearce, Fred. With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change. Boston: Beacon, 2007.

Romm, Joseph. Hell and High Water: Global Warming--The Solution and the Politics--And What We Should Do.

New York: William Morrow, 2007.

Speth, James Gustav.The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to

Sustainability. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

---. Red Sky at Morning: American and the Crisis of the Global Environment. With a New Afterword on

Climate Change. 2004. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005.

Volk, Tyler. CO2 Rising: The World's Greatest Environmental Challenge. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008.



Boyle, T. C. A Friend of the Earth. New York: Viking, 2000.

Herzog, Arthur. Heat. New York: Signet, 1977. (rpt. AuthorHouse 2003)

Ready, Kevin E. Gaia Weeps: The Crisis of Global Warming, A Novel. Prescott, AZ: Saint Gaudens Press, 1998. 

Robinson, Kim Stanley. Fifty Degrees Below. New York: Bantam, 2005.

---. Forty Signs of Rain. New York: Bantam, 2004.

---. Sixty Days and Counting. New York: Bantam, 2007.

Spinrad, Norman. Greenhouse Summer. New York: Tor, 1999.

Traviss, Karen. Judge. New York: EOS, 2008.

Turner, George. Drowning Towers. 1987. New York: Avon, 1996.

Tushingham, Mark. Hotter Than Hell. Saint John, NB: Dream Catcher, 2005.


Peak Oil

One aspect complicating efforts to address the anthropogenic factors in climate change, especially increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, such oil and coal, is the heavy reliance on the automobile for transportation. While relatively few electricity generating power plants utilize oil, due to its expense even when oil dips to $50 a barrel, virtually all of the American transportation grid relies on it.

Whether it is in the form of gasoline of diesel fuel really doesn't matter except in terms of the release of sulfur and solid particulars. Only a very small portion of American transportation runs on electricity and most of that electricity comes from coal fired power plants. As a result, even electric trains and plug-in hybrids contribute to global warming through the coal being burned to produce the juice.

Regardless, then, of whether we use gasoline, diesel, or electric powered transportaton in the U.S. at this point in time, we continue to contribute to the buildup of inceasingly dangerous, climate tipping, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphered with its attending global warming and all of the short term and long term effects that creates.

Ideally, we would want to move away from the use of coal and oil as rapidly as possible. Of course, there are other reasons to move away from reliance on them for energy as well. The latest annual report from the International Energy Agency indicates that over the next two decades an increasing percentage of global oil demand will be met by the production of fewer and fewer countries, mainly members of OPEC, as non-OPEC oil production peaks and then declines.

At the same time, the IEA's projections suggest that, short of a global depression that significantly depressed demand for several years, we will reach peak world oil production from all sources somewhere between 2030 and 2050.

Already, global demand is being partially met by the production of synthetic oil from tar sands, mainly those in Canada, which appears to have the largest reserves. In the near future, Canadian production will be matched by production in Venezuela, with smaller supplements from varous African countries. Unfortunately, conversion of tar sands into oil suitable for producing gasoline generates far greater CO2 releases than just producing conventional oil.

It also requires enormous amounts of natural gas and fresh water. Before oil prices plummeted this year, there was talk of building a nuclear power plant in western Canada to provide the electricity needed for the Alberta tar sands projects. As conventional oil production proves less and less capable of meeting globla demand, pressure will build to enlarge the scope of non-conventional production with attending increases in pollution and environmental degradation, either through adding shale oil production or through coal liquefaction, on top of the expansion of natural gas liquids utilization.

Despite all of the talk about offshore drilling in the Gulf and opening ANWR, drilling in the Chukchi Sea, and the like, the amount of recoverable reserves in such areas has already been factored into the IEA's equations. Often people forget that the current oil fields don't just keep on producing while new fields are brought on line. Rather, an increasing amount of the relatively small amounts of new oil being produced go to replace the loss from depletion in older fields.

Countries such as Indonesia, Norway, Mexico, and, possibly, Russia have already passed the point of peak oil production and their declines will have to be replaced just to keep even with current rates of production before any new oil produced actually raises total supply. Before the current global recession, virtually every oil field in the world was producing flat out with little margin of reserve. The ability of OPEC to cut production this fall, then, has not been the result of their being plenty of oil to meet demand, but rather the result of a significant decline in demand.

The reality of peak oil, which has either already arrived globally, or is imminent, is reason enough to move away from reliance on conventional oil for so much of our transportation energy. At the same time, transportation's contribution to global warming is an even more compelling reason.

But, right now, the forced move away from oil reliance due to global demand exceeding global supply, especially as more and more developing countries attempt to develop their economies through promotion of a car culture, as China is doing, comes at a time when available alternatives to conventional oil predominantly produce more pollution than oil does.

Climate change, then, complicates the potential scenarios from moving away from reliance on conventional oil, while peak oil intensifies the need to find renewable, non-carbon based sources of energy as rapidly as possible to avoid even greater increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide intensification from using the wrong energy sources as oil substitutes.


Peak Oil Resources



Internation Energy Agency

World Energy Outlook 2008, executive summary,


U.S. Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy

Report on limited effect of offshore drilling on total U.S. oil production,

"Annual Energy Outlook 2008 with Projections to 2030"


Association for the Study of Peak Oil,

Basic explanation of Peak Oil,

Review of the 2008 IEA Report by Figenschou and Simmons,


From David Strahan, investigative journalist and author of The Last Oil Shock

"The Limits to reserve growth,"

"Why Oil Production Will Not Top 100 MBD,"

"Oil Reserves Over-Inflated,"


Energy and Capital Newsletter,

[You may need to register for free to receive the newsletter and access the archives]

November 21, 2008 article, "What's a Cubic Mile of Oil?"

October 22, 2008, "The End of Globalization"

October 16, 2008, "ASPO 2008 Conference Highlights"


Peak Oil Debunked and Peak Oil: The End of the Oil Age

Two Very Different Blogs

The title of this blog is somewhat misleading, since the author is a proponent of developing eneregy alternatives to oil. The author does not dispute that peak oil will occur and that it is on the horizon. Rather, he disputes that it will cause a cataclysmic crisis. His main argument seems to be that once oil peaks it will decline slowly at only about 2% per year, which supposedly will enable countries to accommodate the decline in their main source of transportation energy.

The ability to accommodate appears to be based on conversion to nuclear energy, although I have not discovered how the author has reached the conclusion that there is plenty of uranium to go around or that nuclear power plants can be built fast enough to replace the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil per day, once oil production peaks.

This site may be the counterpoint to the previous one. Note its first paragraph about how many existing fields are in decline. Has some nice layouts of the standard charts and graphs, as well as links to videos and books.


Energy Bulletin

Clearly supports the basics of peak oil. Carries articles and blogs from various sites as well as other resources. Also has a primer on peak oil in clear language.



Blanchard, Roger D. The Future of Global Oil Production: Facts, Figures, Trends, and

Projections. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005.

Deffeyes, Kenneth. Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak. New York: Hill & Wang,


---. Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. New Edition. Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 2008.

Goodstein, David. Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil. New York: W. W.Norton, 2005.

Heinberg, Richard. Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines.

Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Pubishers, 2007.

---.Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World.

Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2004.

Leeb, Stephen, with Glen Strathy.The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive

When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel. New York: Warner Business Books, 2006.

Mills, Robin. The Myth of the Oil Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion,

Geopolitics, and Global Warming. New York: Praeger, 2008.

Roberts, Paul. The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World. Boston: Mariner

Books, 2005.

Simmons, Matthew. Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World

Economy. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2005.

Tertzakian, Peter. A Thousand Barrels a Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and

the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World. New York: McGraw-Hill,