"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley
This webpage includes information and thoughts selected that I hope can be helpful in encouraging understanding and constructive action in response to Peak Oil, with links to explore more. There are many views on how to approach this very challenging situation, really unlike any other our culture has faced, and I don't think any of us have the perfect answer. Therefore, I offer this just as my perspective, and encourage us all to offer our gifts and work cooperatively, encouraging a variety of constructive approaches which hopefully will lead to better outcomes from our efforts.
NEWS: Sebastopol Peak Oil Report Released. CAP President Patricia Dines was Executive Editor & Report Coordinator of the report, "Charting a Path for a New Energy Future for Sebastopol," produced at the request of the Sebastopol City Council. This report summarizes energy supply issues (peak oil), suggesting some constructive ways to approach it, and analyzing how the City of Sebastopol can prepare. Click here to see an article Ms. Dines wrote to summarize this project, and to download the final report.
Patricia's EcoNews Blog - For ongoing information on this topic. "A totally personal selection of news stories that I think are especially relevant for those of us who want a better world for all. Topics include the environment, energy issues, peak oil, health, toxics, organics, the economy, true democracy, and community. Plus I include a little personal commentary along the way!"
* Peak Oil News Clearinghouse www.energybulletin.net
Current news as well as information broken out by category -- alternatives, geographical regions, related issues like agriculture. Just the overview topic list is helpful!
* Post Carbon Institute www.postcarbon.org
"MISSION: Post Carbon Institute's mission is to assist societies in their efforts to relocalize communities and adapt to an energy constrained world. We believe that production of oil and natural gas will peak soon, climate change is worsening, and the current global economic system is unstable and reinforces huge disparities. Our response is to promote drastically lower consumption, greater local self-reliance, and more cooperative and inclusive communities.
* More information www.autoinsurancequotes.org/2013/05/life-without-oil (Thank you Peter Miles for sharing that link with us!)
(1) The Problem: What Is Peak Oil?
* RESOURCES: For a basic overview of peak oil, see:
www.energybulletin.net/primer.php (includes charts and links and summaries of key websites and groups taking action)
* RESOURCE: Richard Heinberg, one of the leading experts on this topic is author/professor:
Three of his books are on the subject (The Party's Over: Energy Resources and the Fate of Industrial Societies; Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World; and The Oil Depletion Protocol).
His monthly newsletter includes this topic. For instance, "Threats of Peak Oil to the Global Food Supply," by Richard Heinberg, July 2005, www.museletter.com/archive/159.html
* ARTICLE: "Take a Peak: An interview with peak-oil provocateur Matthew Simmons," By Amanda Griscom Little, 03 Nov 2005
Author of the recently published Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, Simmons is founder of Simmons & Company International, an investment bank that handles mergers and acquisitions among energy companies, and counts among its clients Halliburton, General Electric, and the World Bank. A graduate of the Harvard Business School, he served as an energy-policy adviser to the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.
Conservative credentials aside, Simmons has been boggling the minds of people across the political spectrum with his recent prediction that the price of a barrel of oil could hit the high triple digits within a few years. To postpone economic meltdown, he says we should be drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other hotly contested spots. At the same time, he's calling for a massive shift in energy policy, including radical improvements in efficiency, as well as a return to local farming and manufacturing. With his unconventional opinions, he's single-handedly reinventing the image of the post-oil energy crusader.
Continued at www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/11/03/simmons
* ARTICLE: "The End of Cheap Oil," By Tim Appenzeller, National Geographic,June 2004, http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0406/feature5
* ARTICLE: "It's the End of Oil / Oil Is Here to Stay," Time Magazine, Oct. 31, 2005, By Kenneth Defferes, Peter Huber www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1122019,00.html
Discussion of, "Time magazine finally covers peak oil," By Shepherd Bliss, Energy Bulletin, Nov 3, 2005 www.energybulletin.net/10329.html
* ARTICLE: "Doubts Raised on Saudi Vow for More Oil," By Jeff Gerth, October 27, 2005, www.nytimes.com/2005/10/27/business/worldbusiness/27oil.html?th&emc=th (Thanks to Ellen Bicheler for forwarding this)
* There is also a little summary information plus resources at www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/
* ARTICLE: "The Big Chill: A winter fuel crisis of high prices and shortages could darken homes and factories," By Marianne Lavelle, US News, 12/19/05 (Thanks for Gary Abreim for forwarding this) <www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/051219/19energy.htm>
PD NOTE: This is the Peak Oil reality starting to hit. Note that people are starting to recognize the ripple effects, which will likely get worse. This not about Katrina, but that we are on the edge of supply vs. demand, without a buffer for any shortfall. Add that to the fact that demand is rising and I feel it's clear that the more we wait to act, the worse the outcome will be, near-term and long term. We need a transition to our new energy future now (really yesterday) or the impacts could be drastic.
* ARTICLE: "Rising gasoline prices spur thefts, violence. Many station owners switching to prepay policy to deter crime," Aug. 23, 2005, Associated Press www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9050231
* IMPORTANT NOTE: The Peak Oil issue is NOT about oil running out, but of demand out-stripping supply, leading to increased costs and shortages which then cause notable ripple effects throughout our society, because we depend on oil much more than we realize. This is also called the end of cheap oil. Likely scenarios (some already starting) include increases in consumer prices, especially food, and energy prices, including gasoline and heating oil, leading to people either freezing and starving in their homes or choosing violence to get what they need. Katrina showed how this type of mob violence can escalate to being nonsensical. Oil wars are also a predictable outcome of these dynamics, with elitism and rebellion, loss of liberties and dictatorships. I also think that great harm to the environment will likely occur, especially if people do whatever it takes to try to maintain the same energy usage and disregard the costs to the environment. (For instance, shifting to more coal usage, oil sands, nuclear, etc.)
For me a key point is to recognize the potential dark scenarios, then act to reduce the harm. I am concerned about people on both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand are those who either consider the negative outcomes unstoppable and just try to plan for individual survival; I think this is foolhardy, both because there are too many scenarios to plan for, some suggesting opposite tactics; and because our survival will be tied together. Instead, I feel that our personal survival will depend on us acting to prevent the shared harm that we can. I recognize that our culture is late in taking action on these things, and thus some harm is likely not preventable. However, the future isn't written yet, and I believe that we can still take actions to make outcomes better than they would otherwise be.
I also know that people can be cynical about getting "the masses" to act, and I know there's some basis for that concern. However, in any domain, some people see things first - the first responders - and we can serve by thinking ahead, making plans, and engaging people in the conversation. We don't need all people to respond right away to impact outcomes. There are people taking action. Let's focus on the constructive.
At the other end of the spectrum, I'm also concerned about those not taking action. I empathize with many of the reasons. We're busy, it's a lot to just make a living and maintain a family. However, so much of what we have, so much of our daily lives, is determined by the structure we're in, and we are in fact headed for an iceberg. Therefore, to take care of our well-being, we need to look beyond our limited daily scope and take action.
I also do believe that this could help some positive outcomes, but I think we will need to help these outcomes along, not just assume they will show up by themselves. It is oil that has empowered the machine that has destroyed many ecosystems and more. Slowing down the machine is probably good - although it will keep trying to find power, and be willing to harm the ecosystems more in the process. I'd love people to step forward to try to impact this. For instance, we can prioritize developing power sources that work collaboratively with ecosystems. And, if we want people to shift to using less power in their lives, help them make that shift; don't just assume they'll do it without resistance unless given positive suggestions and encouragement.
(2) Debates and Issues
* There are also those who debate the Peak Oil theory. For instance,
"Limitations of the Hirsch report on peak oil," August 9, 2005 www.econbrowser.com/archives/2005/08/limitations_of.html
To hear this perspective, Zeno Swijtink also recommends "The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy," by Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills. New York : Basic Books, 2005
* There are also those who say that Global Warming will hit us first, though it seems to me that both are a problem and we don't know the exact timing of each, so to be smart, both should be addressed. Therefore, our solutions for energy should also reduce global warming, not worsen it. (This is my concern about the very likely shift to coal, for instance.)
- "What Part of 'Global Warming' Don't We Get?" By Bill McKibben, Prairie Writers Circle, October 25, 2005 www.alternet.org/story/27034 (Thanks to wildflower for forwarding this) This offers key evidence that Global Warming (Climate Change) is already happening, not some future theoretical risk.
- "Earth Headed for Global Warming Catastrophe," October 4 2005,
by Michael T. Neuman
* When I hear this debate, I want people to read Donella Meadows work on source and sink - that for any resource, there are issues with source (problems in lack of supply) and sink (limitations in the ecosystems ability to absorb our waste from using this resource. Donella is co-author of the classic, The Limits to Growth, recently re-released in a 30-year update Beyond the Limits. She was an incredible thinker, really making complex things clear, open to both logic and the mystical, and I highly recommend her writings. She founded the Sustainability Institute. Another key concept to keep in mind is overshoot - why we often can't wait for price signals with ecosystems, because the harm has been irrevocably done, and even then it takes time to change direction.
(3) Exploration of Solutions
* "A Proposal for a Post-Peak Oil Community Development in Yellow Springs, Ohio" www.communitysolution.org/agraria.html
Reduce energy usage
PERSONAL: Can you drive less, carpool, use public transportation, use a bike, walk more? It also helps to live near where you work, shop, go to school, etc. By shifting your life, you'll save money and prepare yourself and all of us for our shift to a different energy future.
Also, reduce the energy used in your name, for transporting goods, etc. - i.e., buy more local food and other products! That will help that survive and flourish, as we will need them more and more, and it's better to keep what we have, and encourage new, then try to suddenly create local suppliers from scratch.
COMMUNITY: European Green Paper on Energy Efficiency and
Recommendations on community actions etc. (Thanks for wildflower for
Shift to alternative energy sources
* IDEA: Create a network of local energy farms
* SOURCE: Veggie oil
"The Biofuels Research Cooperative is a community-based organization that provides participating members with waste vegetable oil to research its use as a clean, renewable biofuel. The coop educates the general public about the benefits of renewable fuels and is a model for the creation of other such local "green fuel" coops." www.vegoilcoop.org
* SOURCE: Methane from cows
Town to turn stinking hog manure into power, Sept. 13,
A creative and offbeat example of how a whole (very small) town is thinking creatively about the alternative energy sources literally in their backyard. Where else can this approach be applied? What other creative ways can we use resources we already have in our communities.
The local organic Straus dairy is using methane gas from their farm to power their farm. For more information, see <www.strausfamilycreamery.com/?title=greenhouse%20gases>
>> ACTION IDEA: Could we encourage other local dairies to adopt this methodology for powering their dairies? This would support their energy self-sufficiency and reduce their need to take from "the grid"? Side benefit: It also reduces cow methane going into the atmosphere and adding to global warming.
* SOURCE: Biodiesel
"The Biofuels Research Cooperative is a consensus and community-based organization that provides participating members with waste vegetable oil to research its use as a clean, renewable biofuel."
Shift Our Food Supply
One of the key ripple effects of increased oil prices, and insufficient supply, will be on our food supply. Petroleum products are used intensively throughout our current food system, from making petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers, to transporting food long distances, to processing food.
Thus mainstream food will get drastically more expensive, and even less available, and certain foods will be more valued and relatively most affordable: Local, organic, and less processed. There will also be an advantage to farmers that don't require petroleum for their farm equipment.
Therefore, a key strategy is to ensure our local organic food supply is there when we need it. Right now, small local farmers are being pressured by large-scale industrial farmers, many with government subsidies.
> ACTION: Buy local organic to ensure its survival, as we will need it more and more. This also brings wonderful side benefits - this food is often fresher, with more nutrients and better taste! Also, supporting farmers who work with nature and avoid toxics means reduced toxics in our local ecosystems and water supply.
* Permaculture will also be key, with their skills of working with nature and getting more from less land. Information and local sources are also in The Organic Guide.
Preparing for individual survival on this one is challenging. Different scenarios suggest different actions, some contradictory. And whatever you do, can be taken by others in survival mode. That's why I believe that we must try to reduce the harm at a larger level too.
* Some advise basic emergency preparedness advice, and I think this is sound - water and food supplies, warmth, first aid skills, radio, etc. Katrina shows that we can't assume society's usual functions will help us out, especially in the first few days.
* For one perspective, see www.survivingpeakoil.com/article.php?id=limited_budget
I think a key survival skill will be to prepare the community not to panic, which can lead to all sorts of madness.
How This Relates to Your Job
I know that we're all overwhelmed and it can be challenging to consider taking on one more thing. However, peak oil really is about losing the energy basis of our entire civilization, and thus to me it will trump much of what we've built if we don't respond constructively. Let's not just rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
One way to make a difference is to have your work not add to the harm and if possible add to the solutions. We spend so many hours at work, and if all our work hours were added together in constructive directions, we really could change the direction. Unfortunately, right now many of those hours are adding together to drive us off the cliff.
>> ACTION: How can you reduce harm and add to solutions in your work? That might be as simple as reducing energy usage (it saves your company money), or shifting products and services to better serve the upcoming future. Knowing something about the future, however daunting, can help in intelligent planning! Is your work part of the problem or part of the solution?
Some people are also looking at how the economic system might shift with these changes, and what would happen to their job then? Some are exploring developing different skill sets as a result, for instance bike repair mechanic.
Connecting With Others
"For individual "what we can do" ideas, I highly recommend the Postcarbon.org website. One idea is to show the DVD "The End of Suburbia" to your friends and neighbors and talk about it afterwards. Insert Margaret Mead quote here, the one about the small group of committed people." (Jeff Aitken)
Relocalization Network www.postcarbon.org/groups
The Swedish government embraces peak oil and looks towards
biofuels. The Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, has founded a
non-political committee with the intent of making Sweden fossil
fuel-independent by 2020.
* Senate Group to Unveil Oil-Saving Plan, Nov. 16, 2005, By H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press Writer. Bipartisan Group of Senators to Unveil Oil-Saving Plan
This includes real actual solutions (like alternative energy) and
tangible oil use reduction goals. Wow!
* LOCAL GROUPS
The Relocalization Network "is working with local groups of
concerned citizens to prepare their community for an energy
constrained future. The local groups are community-based extensions
of the Post Carbon Institute, operating autonomously while receiving
guidance and electronic infrastructure from the Institute. Local
groups work cooperatively in their local community with local
government, business, NGOs, and educational institutions to put
theory about living with less hydrocarbons into practice while
sharing knowledge and experiences with the global network of people
working on relocalization. Projects taken on by local groups are
experiments for a hydrocarbon constrained future."
San Francisco Bay Area groups include:
ARTICLE: Past the Peak: How the small town of Willits plans to beat the coming energy crisis www.metroactive.com/papers/sonoma/08.10.05/willits-0532.html
* Sonoma County
"The Climate Protection Campaign's mission is to create a positive
future for our children by inspiring action in response to the
climate crisis. We advance practical, science-based solutions for
significant greenhouse gas reductions....Sonoma County's target for
reducing emissions&emdash;25% below 1990 by 2015, the boldest of any
U.S. community." Download and read the white paper on local
"All nine Sonoma County mayors signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. For information about this agreement, go to: www.seattle.gov/mayor/climate"
There is much unknown about how Peak Oil will play out, and other crises are also a threat, including Global Warming, so I see value in the arguments, that building community relationships will help us respond cooperatively. Especially since it's likely that Peak Oil will drive activities local, and thus we will be depending on our neighbors much more than we have in a long time.
- Sonoma County Placemaking Project, Joseph F. Kennedy, Project Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Sebastopol City Council is also exploring this idea.
* Idea: Link with Neighborhood Watch Program
* Idea: Link with disaster preparedness folks
* Idea - mediation
EXERCISE: How you can make a difference
(Based on a dream I was given!)
(1) YOUR GIFTS. List your special gifts - skills, resources, characteristics - especially those you enjoy offering.
(2) POSSIBLE ACTIONS. Brainstorm about how you might apply those to help create more positive outcomes for the problem. Include ideas at three levels:
(3) LIMITING FACTORS. List your concerns about offering these gifts, and what you would need in doing so.
(4) MAKE A PLAN, using this as input. This can include investigative steps, such as getting more information and finding out what others are doing. However, make these concete so they don't take forever, and overwhelm you.
I also suggest paying attention to your mindset and how you can nurture it. I suggest looking at the facts realistically, both positive and negative, then creating a plan for positive outcomes. I suggest that there are risks both in surrounding yourself only with the negative, which can make you feel hopeless and take no action; or in ignoring the negative and expecting that magic will make if all better, which also can lead to taking no action. What I find most helpful is realistic constructive action. However bad it might be, create some actions that might make it better. And don't assume that it will turn out fine without you contributing your skills and wisdom.
For more information about organics and other alternatives to toxics, see our Toxics and Alternatives Resources Page.
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