Mon May 12th, 2008 at 03:01:23 PM EST
I've been playing Cassandra here for some time, saying that Peak Oil is going to have a massive impact on our way of life. Not just in the obvious things we expect, but almost certainly in ways we cannot yet appreciate. I've already addressed these ideas in a couple of diaries as well as constant stream of comments.
Eastern Europe - Right-sized for the 21st Century
The Era of Globalisation is (almost) over
Indeed, the consequences of Peak Oil underpinned my diary London - Dying like a dinosaur where it seems obvious to me that, without cheap oil, most people cannot get to work and suppliers can't deliver their food. London cannot economically survive Peak Oil. It has been pointed out that right now most towns have about 3 or 4 days stocks of food and little opportunity to develop resilience.
So it now seems like I'm not the only person who is thinking that we need to move away from the cheap transport paradigm and create a new localised economic model.
Promoted by Migeru
Guardian - Natural Born Survivors
Aside from climate change, what underpins all this gloom is a belief that we have nearly reached, or already passed, peak oil - the point at which global demand for oil permanently outstrips dwindling supplies, causing prices to shoot up. And not just the price of oil, but the price of virtually everything else too, because our lives depend on ever-increasing amounts of cheap energy and synthetic petroleum byproducts.
The article mentions and then dismisses the American "head for the hills" loner survivalist mentality before talking about European co-operativist ventures, specifically the Transition Town movement. A group of towns which, recognising their exposure to Peak Oil difficulties, are trying to re-organise themselves to promote localism as an ongoing accumulative policy before it is too late.
Which is why we have put our hopes in a saner band of survivalists, who believe the answer is to work together. The transition town" movement was started by an Englishman, Rob Hopkins, after a stint working as a teacher in Kinsale, Ireland. After learning about peak oil, Hopkins and his traumatised students spent several months trying to imagine what Kinsale would be like without oil, some years in the future - then worked backwards to create an "energy descent" plan that, on completion, was unanimously endorsed by the local authorities
The key to effecting a smooth transition is rebuilding resilience and self-sufficiency at every scale - from the household to the wider community - all at once. To Hopkins and others, Cuba offers a great example of effective community-based survivalism at the national level. Many transition towns have been launched with screenings of The Power of Community, a short documentary showing what happened to Cuba after the breakdown of the Soviet Union led to oil supplies drying up, and the US embargo stopped many other crucial imports.
Faced with potential starvation or capitulation to the US, the Cubans gradually turned from heavy reliance on carbon-intensive agriculture: all kinds of urban spaces were cultivated, from window boxes to wasteland, and oxen were put back into use as there was no fuel to run tractors. The transition took several years, and for a while Cubans had to forgo the equivalent of a meal a day, but eventually even people in cities were producing half their annual fruit and vegetable needs.
Hopkins has started his own website Transition Culture which serves as a one stop reference site for all sorts of ideas and resources invovled in promoting localism. One of the things he notes is that the list of useful skills are what you might expect, survival skills are all very well, but it's actually things like sock darning that are actually crucial. He has a list of such unexpected ideas on the site.
I appreciate that many do not share my pessimism, but I do believe that if we plan for our present going bad, we can have a good future. But we have to plan now. So I don't think I'm being hopelessly pessimistic, I'm being optimistic about our ability to deal with it. But we have to start.