There's no better time than the present to get serious about conservation.
Peak Oil has arrived, oil will soon be $100 dollars a barrel, meaning gasoline will be $7 a gallon soon, though not soon eneough.
Even so, the problem is not that there's not enough oil, there are just too damned many people on this planet! We're rushing into an era of steadily declining energy availability, in a "cilivilzation" based on cheap abundant energy supplied by oil and other fossil fuels. In this fantasy world, our population has skyrocketed and continues to increase exponentially, despite wars, disease and famine.
If we had begun a serious program of population reduction, as Paul Ehrlich encouraged in the late 60s, we would be in better shape now to ease into a world of reducing energy. As it is now, we have two options: begin a crash program of population control, or twiddle our thumbs until Ma Nature does it for us.
Our population growth is slowing, globally, though some countries and continents still have excessive growth levels. As energy levels decrease, population declines will accelerate, either by reduction in birth rate and survival, or increase in death rates, or, most likely, both. The trick will be to balance energy depletion with population growth slowdown as much as possible, such that we manage as soft a landing for our societies as we can.
This is where conservation comes in. During Word War II, the United States and Great Britain engaged in government programs to conserve energy, recycle all materials, grow "Victory Gardens," take care of family, friends and neighbors. It became a societal ethic that most followed with pride and for which considerable social sanctions were applied against those who did not comply. When the crisis passed, and the new economic era dawned, conservation was forgotten by most.
We can do it again, if the crisis is admitted, if the people are kept informed, if the politicians have the will to lead the people instead of going off in their own directions to make piles of money before the source drips dry. The individual ethic is paramount now, and we may not be able to marshall support for the necessary effort.
So it will be a bad fall, all clumsy limbs and bumped heads. It won't mean extinction, for humans at least. Many will survive amid the crumbled remains and continue some form of human society. It will be, of necessity, a sustainable society, if it will be at all.
A thousand years from now, human life will be stabilized in common with all life. Humans will live in small comuunities scattered esthetically about the landscape, living bioregionally in cooperative communities united by kinship and mutaul aid. Not a "cave man" existence, by any means, in fact, more than likely, quite a comfortable life. Too bad we won't live to see it arrive.