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Global energy peak: threat or opportunity

The historically unprecedented peak and inevitable decline in global production of oil is imminent while the global peak of gas production is decade away at most. The implications for all people, nations and cultures are immense and arguably a more intense environmental limit on human options and capacity than global climate change.

While official response to climate change has been less than adequate, the issue is widely discussed and debated. Environmentally progressive policies and behaviour are almost always evaluated in terms of climate change.

In contrast, discussion of global oil and gas peak is only just now emerging from expert networks and a limited sector of environmental activists.

This presentation outlines the issue but mainly focuses on Permaculture as an integrated and
diverse set of positive responses capable of being implemented by ordinary citizens.

Permaculture is a design system for sustainable land use and living first articulated by the
author and Bill Mollison nearly 30 years ago. It has since become one of the most powerful
frameworks for positive response to environmental limits and global ethics. Permaculture has
influenced fields as diverse as home self reliance, organic agriculture, ecological building, environmental education and development aid (including World Vision projects and training).

The permaculture network span all continents and most countries. The eighth Australian
permaculture convergence will be held in Melbourne in April 2005 and the seventh international
permaculture conference will be held in Slovenia in June 2005

This presentation is aimed at informing teachers of the global energy peak issue and giving a
glimpse of positive and empowering responses which already exist in various forms in our rural
and urban communities . It aims to give teachers the benefits of the author’s thirty year interest
in this issue rather than provide a package ready to deliver to students.

Teachers with this knowledge will be better placed to deal with the re-emergence of the energy
debate as a dominant global issue and more able to help students make the links to issues as
diverse as war & geopolitics, refugees, food security, new technology, environmentalism,
community development, personal skill development and career planning.

[For full slide presentation ( ~ 2 MB), see www.holmgren.com.au/html/Writings/Writings.html. Click on the link to "GLOBAL ENERGY PEAK: THREAT OR OPPORTUNITY - Powerpoint presentation".]

[The slides contain many photos, including striking aerial photos showing energy use patterns reflected in the land.]

Selected Slides:

Environmental and Social Crisis (slide 2)

Environmental
* Climate change (already happening)
* Land degradation (continuing)
* Resource depletion (global oil peak)

Social
* Family & community breakdown
* Addictive behaviours

Economic & Political
* National & household debt (unprecedented)
* Robber baron capitalism, criminal economies
* Illusion and deception, neo-fascist solutions

=========================

Why doesn't crisis seem to hit home? (slide 3)

A rising energy base
* Fix problems (e.g. environmental protection)
* Send problems away (e.g., third world debt, global warming)
* Distract with comfort and consumption

============================

What if available energy declines? (slide 4)

* A falling energy base
- Expands symptoms (economic, social)
- Brings problems home (terrorism refugees, recession)
* Positives of energy descent
- Drive creative ecological design and innovatio
- Helps overcome obsessions and addictions
- Renew community spirit and solidarity
=============================

Opportunities for permaculture (slide 38)

* Rises in oil prices will flow through to all natural products (food, timber, etc.)
* Higher commodity prices will stimulate self reliance and organic farming
* Local products will be more competitive than imported
* Repair, retrofit and recycle will all be more competitive
* Demand for permaculture as life skills education
* Resurgence of community life, ethics and values

=============================

Threats to permaculture (slide 39)

* Goverment reduction in fuel tax and food production subsidies to agribusiness

* Economic and environmental crisis leading to social collapse

* Fascist politics blaming minorities, and those providing for themselves

Editorial Notes: Australian writer, educator, and designer David Holmgren is one of the co-founders of permaculture. His current book is "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability." He originally gave this presentation at the World Vision Global Education Conference (Melbourne July 2004). It is part of a series of talks he has been giving to a variety of audiences over the last six months. Australian writer, educator, and designer David Holmgren is one of the co-founders of permaculture. His current book is "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability." He originally gave this presentation at the World Vision Global Education Conference (Melbourne July 2004). It is part of a series of talks he has been giving to a variety of audiences over the last six months. UPDATE (March 26, 2006): A version of this talk with slides and photos is available as a 3.18 MB PDF. -BA

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