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Fight or Flight

Umbra Fisk, Grist
Dear Umbra,

Although I have always been one to conserve, recycle, etc., it is only in the last year that I have realized the extent of the catastrophe coming upon us in terms of climate change. I am 40-something, live in a city, own an older home with a sizeable mortgage that requires my husband and me to work, two kids, two cars, etc. I’ve done all the usual stuff: changed the light bulbs, we’ve each started biking to work when we don’t have to pick up our kids, and I’ve gotten politically active, writing emails and organizing my first event for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Part of me feels such panic, though, and thinks we should sell the house before it becomes unlivable due to power and water shortages and economic meltdown, and join a sustainable community off the grid with water catchment, etc., and devote myself to environmental activism. But I like my job, my friends, my neighborhood and don’t really feel like starting over and am not sure I’ve got what it takes to live self-sufficiently. So does it make more sense to stay here and try to change things from within, even while living more wastefully, or should we get out while we still can?

Laura Brown
Oakland, Calif.
(16 Aug 2006)

That’s enough oil – I’m going to make my own energy from now on

Matthew Parris, Times Online
I LIVE IN DERBYSHIRE in a modest stone farmhouse on a rocky, south-facing, south-sloping property extending to about sixteen acres of pasture and about five acres of woodland. It has for centuries been called The Spout because there is a copious and constant spring on the land. There is a reed bed below my septic tank. I compost much of my rubbish. In water and waste we are already self-sufficient.

Over a few glasses of wine with my electricity-boffin friend Andrew last Sunday, I decided to aim next — with his help — for self-sufficiency in the property’s energy use. Why? Because I think we actually could. It won’t be cheap; it won’t — yet — make economic sense. It won’t be something most Times readers could copy. Nor is it really my response to global warming: on this I’m still ambivalent about the science.

But I’m sure the world will run out of fossil fuels; and there’s a strong argument, at least, that their combustion may be hurting us; and I’m curious to explore the limits of what we can do to help. Where better to start than in my own life, my own lucky if atypical circumstances?

If the decision was driven by more by curiosity than by financial realism, still a report published this week by Chatham House encouraged me to think there is a longer-term commercial logic, if not for me, then for the market in which we are each one speck.

I must take care not to distort the conclusions of John V. Mitchell’s A New Era for Oil Prices, which you can find at Mitchell, who is Associate Fellow of the Energy, Environment and Development programme at Chatham House (an independent body), advances no moral imperative for individuals or governments. Indeed it is rather the point of his paper that sermonising and exhortation may prove irrelevant: what will shape the changing future of the world’s energy use will be price.

…I very well know that when it comes to experiments with “green” energy, few are as lucky as me. Many readers will lack the space, the land or the resources to try what I plan. But someone has to start somewhere, and some of the lessons we learn may be useful more widely. With your forbearance I shall be writing again about this. If David Cameron and Chatham House are right, it is time in our imaginations to start cutting the psychological ties with oil.
(19 Aug 2006)

Meditations on Deciding Never to Fly Again…

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
That’s it, decision made. Don’t know why it took so long really, but finally we have agreed that we won’t fly any more. I have one flight booked already for October that I am committed to, but beyond that, it is either our van, travelling by train with the Man at Seat 61, or staying at home. The reasons are legion, and I’m sure you know most of them already. For me though, what was interesting was the process by which we actually finally decided, despite talking about it and knowing all the reasoning for years.

MII often hear people say “people won’t change until it is too late”, or “people don’t change until they have to”, both statements I have always instinctively disagreed with but haven’t quite known why. One of the insights I gleaned from Miller and Rollnick’s book Motivational Interviewing is that this is nonsense, if it were true there would be no recovered addicts anywhere, they would all have died. What is argued in the book is that people change when they can no longer support the discrepency between their core values and what they are doing. What MI does so skillfully is to enable people to become aware of that discrepency.

I have written previously about Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners series, which is a great example of developing that kind of discrepency. When he says “this is the first generation that will die before its parents”, he shows that peoples’ core value that their kids should be healthy and live longer than them is wildly out of step with the reality of what is happening. You reach a point where you can no longer support a particular behaviour. So it was with flying.
(21 Aug 2006)

Third U.S. Conference on “Peak Oil” and Community Solutions
Beyond Energy Alternatives

The Community Solution
Friday, September 22 – Sunday, September 24, 2006
Yellow Springs, Ohio

This annual event is a key educational and networking opportunity for all individuals concerned about Peak Oil and climate change and who are working to make the necessary changes in their lives and communities.

At the conference you will:

* Learn the latest information on Peak Oil and how it will affect our economy and our lives.
* Discover the limitations of the proposed energy alternatives and how many could speed up global climate change.
* Hear about solutions for food and farming, housing and transportation.
* Explore the concepts of relocalization, sustainability, agrarianism, and more.
* Strategize with fellow Peak Oil activists, academics and community organizers in the largest gathering of the Peak Oil movement in the country.
* Learn about lifestyle solutions based on conservation, curtailment, and community that will lead to a sustainable and equitable future.

Conference Speakers

David Orr, a pioneer in environmental literacy and ecological design, author of Earth in Mind and Chair of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, will explore the twin challenges of Peak Oil and climate change.

Richard Heinberg, a leading educator and international speaker on the coming global “oil peak,” and author of The Party’s Over and Powerdown will explain the immense challenge of global peak oil production and its economic impacts, with an emphasis on relocalization strategies.

Vicki Robin, co-author of Your Money or Your Life and president of the New Road Map Foundation, will introduce voluntary simplicity as a viable solution for Peak Oil and climate change as well as a way to lead a more healthy, fulfilling life.

Julian Darley, author of High Noon for Natural Gas, director of the Post Carbon Institute, and co-author of the soon-to-be-released Relocalize Now! will address global relocalization and how communities can begin to prepare for Peak Oil.

Peter Bane, editor of Permaculture Activist magazine and permaculture instructor will talk about the permaculture principles and strategies to deal with energy decline and changes in food and farming for a post-Peak Oil society.

Richard Olson, director of Sustainability and Environmental Studies Program at Berea College, will share the example of Berea College’s Ecovillage (which he designed) as a way to integrate low-energy housing, local food production, and sustainable waste processing.

Sharon Astyk, a writer, activist and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer, will share her farming experience and extensive Peak Oil knowledge. She will address the role of women in the Peak Oil transition and the future of food and farming.

Jeff Christian, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Building Technology Center, will present his research on low-energy housing design and offer strategies for reducing energy use in existing homes.

Pat Murphy, executive director of Community Service, Inc. and the author of its New Solutions reports, will critique the popular alternatives designated Plans A and B. He will then propose Plan C – Conservation, Curtailment, and Community – and explore low-energy strategies for food, housing and transportation.

Megan Quinn, outreach director of Community Service, Inc. will explain The Community Solution’s projects and strategies to address Peak Oil and emphasize the opportunity for individual and community leadership to create a sustainable world for future generations.

Faith Morgan, director of Community Service Inc’s film, “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil,” will answer questions about the film and give an update on Cuba’s transition to sustainability.

Register online at
(21 Aug 2006)

APSP 5: Plan B – enabling relocalisation as a response to peak oil

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
I gave my talk near the end of the second day, and as far as I could tell, it seemed to go down well. It was called “Plan B – enabling relocalisation as a response to peak oil” and looked at scenarios and relocalisation, as well as exploring the area of addictions in relation to peak oil. I told the story of the Kinsale Energy Descent Plan and gave an overview of what we are hoping to achieve in the Transition Town Totnes initiative. I had some very positive feedback at the end of the event from a number of people, including the conference’s final speaker, Vittorio Prodi from the European Parliament, who cited my talk 3 or 4 times in his.
(16 Aug 2006)