Archive for August, 2008

Benefits of Descent: Celebrate the future

In the midst of dark and serious issues it’s important to step back into the light and celebrate some of the benefits of this descent that we will eventually all have to follow:

We can reclaim the roads for people – there will be no need for the dual carriageways that currently divide so many communities. We will all realise the true value of the communities we live in, and start to care again for our localities. We will once again gain our exercise as an incidental part of the day’s work, rather than spending hours of our lives “training”.  

Wildlife will return, the smogs will clear, and the Earth will start to recover.  

maybe . . .

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Resilience: Coping with the energy crisis at home

Resilience is one of the main themes in the Transition movement, focusing on how to ensure that your community is resilient and will be able to survive in a post-peak-oil world. In this post I’m going to take it to a more personal level though – looking at immediate solutions to ensure that we are still around to help our community achieve that resilience.

This post is therefore a little darker than most – it’s only just skirting the “head for the hills with a shotgun / close the door on the bunker” mentality that prevails over at Life After the Oil Crash. What I want to look at is how resilient our family is to the short-term shocks that many are forecasting we will see on our Gentle Descent. These shocks result in similar effects to the UK Fuel Blockades in September 2000 where after only four days of blockades the country had nearly run out of fuel, including for the emergency services:

“Some NHS trusts cancelled non-essential operations due to staff difficulties in reaching work, ambulances were only able to answer emergency calls in most parts of the UK and the National Blood Service reported difficulties in moving supplies around the country. The government placed the NHS on red alert. Supermarkets began rationing food due to difficulties in getting food deliveries through and there were reports of panic buying. Sainsbury’s warned that they would run out of food within days having seen a 50% increase in their sales over the previous two days; Tesco and Safeway stated that they were rationing some items.”

So the question is – how would we, as a family, cope with the impact of an extended fuel shortage – one that didn’t have a happy ending after six days? Or severe storms & flooding? Would some simple preparations now ensure that we would be able to help, rather be a burden to already-overstretched emergency services? This is a significant challenge I’ll have a look at in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

Background: The Peak Oil Media Guide

The learned folks over at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas have published a really clear, well thought-out Guide to Peak Oil by Chris Nelder. This differs from a lot of Peak-Oil stuff I’ve seen, in that it doesn’t immediately suggest arming yourself and heading for the hills. It takes a powerful message and delivers it in a calm here-are-the-facts way. Here are some of the highlights for me:

  • We are not about to run out of oil – it’l be around for a hundred years.
  • We seem to be entering a plateau in oil production, and oil production is unlikely to significantly increase from this point.
  • Following the plateau – within 3-6 years – less oil and gas will be available to feed, clothe, transport and support an increasing – and increasingly wealthy – world population.
  • New sources of “oil” – Tar Sands, Shale Oil etc. require significant energy to convert them into a relatively slow supply of usable liquid fuels. This means that they are not likely to reduce the current oil prices, and will only be economical at significantly higher prices, if at all.
  • Within 10 years we can expect to be living with 12% less oil-per-day than we currently enjoy.
  • 11 of the top 21 oil producing countries are already past their peak, and production from mature oilfields declines at around 4.5% a year. Any new discoveries have to offset this loss before they give a net increase in oil production.
  • Event the International Energy Agency, who are on the more optimistic side of energy forecasting, have dropped their forecast growth in supply, while acknowledging that demand for oil continues to grow at 1.5% a year.

It’s pretty sobering reading, albeit nothing I wasn’t already concerned about. If you’re just starting to think about peak oil, and it’s effect on you, your children and and your community then this document is a good place to learn the basics – read it and pass it on to anyone who might have an interest in the future.

Motivation: Lists of aims and achievements

I’ve just seen a great idea over at Eco ‘Burban: List of changes they’ve already made, and things that they’re aiming to do – nice, simple, and right in front of you! 

It’s an interesting blog too – looking at how to live an affluent, green, family life. Her other blog – Affluent People Living Sustainably – is also interesting, and a little more confronting. It raises the interesting point that with affluence comes responsibility – a responsibility that will become only more important over the coming years as those of us that can afford it will still be warm, well-fed and driving, while those that can’t will get colder, hungrier and sick of public transport. Maybe I’d better ensure that strong community involvement is high up on my new list of aims.

Inspiration: Buying nothing for a whole year

Well . . nothing but food and basic toiletries. And used items are OK, as they don’t directly contribute to new production.

What a fantastic challenge to set yourself – and a good preparation for a post-peak-oil world. I’m not sure I’d be up for it at this stage, but that’s the challenge that  Amber has set herself in Canada, and is documenting in her blog Unstuffed. This is one of the most impressive efforts I have seen to really make a day-to-day difference. Not only is she not making new purchases, she is doing a tremendous job of buying local produce, minimising waste and – just as importantly – letting everyone know that this is possible.

It’s a really inspirational example, and one that I’d love to follow – just as soon as we’ve got through the next twelve months of re-equipping our lives after our move 🙂

I really loved this recent post of hers – what a fantastic day, and a great way to slip in a new purchase. Well done Amber – I’ll watch the rest of your year with interest.

Benefits of Descent: Increased fuel prices save lives

Great reports in The Guardian and Independent recently talking about how rising fuel prices are driving cars off the road, and forcing people to drive more slowly and carefully. 

In the UK this has resulted in the first recorded drop in congestion, and an actual increase in average speeds as people sit in less fuel-sapping traffic jams. The really good news comes from the USA though, where traffic fatalities have fallen to their lowest levels since 1961!  They have fallen by 10% over the past year – saving thousands of lives.

A great vision of what we can expect as prices continue to rise . . and vehicle use and speeds drop further.

Preparation: Waste disposal post-peak-oil

An interesting post on The Oil Drum has got me thinking that, in addition to needing to be warm and fed, we need to work out how we’re going to avoid drowning in our own waste. Seems to me that weekly rubbish collections will be a service that will rapidly become uneconomic for councils to provide, and that sewage treatment may not be far behind. So what do we do?

First off I think we should look at this problem from the other side – any “waste” leaving our system (house & garden) represents a loss of energy, and in an energy-poor world that will be hard to take.  So lets see a lack of collection as an opportunity to ensure as little of our hard-won energy is lost.

I’ll have a look at how we can recycle as much of our waste on site, to ensure that we loose as little energy as possible – I’ll see what i can find about composting, and even compost toilets & “humanure” to see what preparations we can make without appearing to be complete nutters!

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