Peak to Pool

Peak Oil – once you are familiar with the term and what it means, you can’t think the words without picturing Hubbert’s Peak, the graphic bell curve showing oil use as a blip on the timeline of human presence on Earth.

And you worry over our response – will we manage our energy descent to ensure the softest possible landing? or suffer the sharp shocks of a run-away descent? or worst of all possibilities, suffer collapse and die-off? You want to help to ensure the soft landing, but it is psychologically difficult – it’s hard work and the danger of despair is always a shadow over your shoulder.

Rob Hopkins has come up with a simple change of perspective that gives us a much better way to look at it in The Trasition Handbook.

It’s simple, he says. Just turn the bell curve upside down and change the Peak to a Pool.

So in 1846 (the year we started using kerosene in lamps) we dove in head-first – and a great adventure it was! There is no denying we did some great things. But we made mistakes too – and over the years the consequences of those mistakes have become harder and harder to deal with.

We now know that (beyond a fairly modest level of money and goods needed for a comfortable life with a bit of disposable income available for fripperies) the consumer life does not make us happy. Nor is our life made better with the stresses arising from trying to cope with the gigantic problems created by enormous systems far beyond the human scale. We have let our technologies outstrip our wisdom and our institutions outstrip our capabilities. We live increasingly isolated and out-of-control lives – no wonder we are unhappy.

So now we are deep down in a sticky hellhole and (most of us) no longer enjoying the swim.

Thus our task is to swim for the surface with all our might – back toward sunlight and pollution and toxin-free fresh air. Swim toward a sunlit surface where the future is healthier, happier, less stressful – a future abundant in community, in time for joining our friends, neighbors, and families in learning new skills for living a rich and convivial life on far less energy.

Looked at like this our new direction becomes “an instinctive rush to mass self-preservation, and a collective abandonment of a way of life that no longer makes us happy.”

If the Transition Towns movement interests you, check out the networking site started by Michael Brownlee of Boulder, Colorado for the U.S. Transition Towns movement:  http://transitionus.ning.com

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Transition Towns

The ‘Twin Peaks’ of peak oil and climate change are looming. To find a successful way forward, we need to develop policies that deal with both of them.  Adopting solutions to ease one while making the other worse is obviously a bad idea. The Transition Towns movement meets this reality square-on –- and with a great deal of optimism.

Transition Towns (www.transitiontowns.org/) takes a new approach to grassroots activism –- aiming always to be inclusive and wholistic, and to act as a catalyst for changes as directed by local people, rather than advocating particular programs or solutions.

They use an assortment of newish social tools, including ‘Open Space’ (www.co-intelligence.org/P-Openspace.html) and ‘World Cafe’ (www.co-intelligence.org/P-worldcafe.html) public meetings and psychological change enablers developed in work with addictions, along with effective group facilitation techniques. These are put together with more traditional networking skills, education, and publicity skills, — and an emphasis on celebrating at every possible point.

They work from “four key assumptions:

  1. Life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and it is better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.
  2. Our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the severe shocks of peak oil.
  3. We have to act collectively, and we have to act now.
  4. By unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected and more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of the earth.”

Given that energy descent is inevitable, and that we must do all we can to stop increasing climate change, the real question, as the author of The Transition Handbook Rob Hopkins says is not “How can we keep everything going as it is?” but rather “How can we learn to live the good life within realistic energy constraints?”

The Handbook’s general answer is “By relocalizing (www.relocalize.net/) the focus of our lives, and by increasing the resilience of our local communities to make them self-reliant (not self-sufficient).” To deal with climate change we must reduce our carbon footprints; to deal with peak oil we must build resilience into our relocalized community economies. A self-reliant community has a diverse and lively economy that produces most of what it needs to survive and prosper, and then trades for extras.

The genius of Transition Towns is that each community brings its own people to the table. Using tools like Open Space meetings, they work together, inspiring each other, and come up with a dynamic consensus of what needs to be done, and a timeline. They produce (and continually update) a plan to move their own community toward the vision they develop (which may be totally different in its practical details from that of other communities, in other places, with other people).