The two biggest challenges facing humanity this century are climate change and peak oil. Most people now know about climate change but few are aware of peak oil. Our lives have become highly dependent on cheap oil – in fact, from food production to transport to pharmaceuticals, almost every aspect of our lives is dependent on cheap fossil fuels. Without cheap oil our lifestyles will be completely changed. James Machin looks into a post-carbon world.
Peak oil is the name given to the point when we have extracted half the oil available from world supplies, but can also be applied to individual wells. After peak oil, what remains in the ground will become increasingly harder and more expensive to access, and worldwide oil production will enter continual decline. Coupled with ever-increasing use of oil in developing countries like and , the gap between supply and demand will grow and the price of oil will rise sharply. The result will be the end of economic growth, which will inevitably bring about great changes to the way society functions. This is not a drill, we need real solutions today, but many people are either ignoring or not addressing these issues. Unfortunately most people, when introduced to the reality of oil depletion, go into denial. However, when one makes a balanced assessment of the situation, one finds that there are actually likely to be many benefits. So much so that in the long run many of us are going to find our lives quite considerably enriched. And as it will happen anyway we really ought to be looking at a ‘positive energy descent model’ rather than an apocalyptic one. Health and lifestyle will improve as we grow better, organic food and we have more active life styles – no more driving everywhere and more cycling, gardening and walking. Our economies may change beyond recognition but we can revitalise the local economy, increase autonomy in food, goods and services.
Our communities can also be revitalised moving from competition to cooperation, and the environment will benefit from a reduction in pollution, increase in forestry, soil enhancement, and an increase in biodiversity. How we enter into the post-carbon era will dictate how many of these positive benefits emerge.
A number of towns in the , including some quite big ones like Nottingham, Bristol and Brighton, now have a plan for transition to a low energy economy. The primary objective of all these communities is to create a ‘Resilient Community’- a community that is self reliant for the greatest number of its needs. Each community will face its own particular challenges, be it an apartment block, an urbanisation, a town or a city. However, whatever the community size, the first step in embarking on an ‘Energy Decent Strategy’ is to ask the following three questions…
- How will we experience oil shortfall in our community?
2. What does our community have that will work for us in a future with less oil? (resource audit + assessment of opportunities)
- What can we do as a community to prepare and respond?
When this process is complete, the next step will be to create an Energy Decent Action Plan for your community, and we will be running support online for anyone interested in getting involved.
This post is also available in: Spanish