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A few holiday-induced thoughts about peak oil

Alan Wartes, So Long, Hydrocarbon Man
Like a lot of people, when I think about peak oil, my mind drifts toward the things that are likely to go away: super-stocked grocery stores, cheap gas and easy mobility, push-button conveniences, exurban houses filling the prairie, and the techno-toys we stuff them with. Once the our present reality starts to sink in on you, it makes sense to think like that. After all, the key word that unlocks the post-peak oil cipher is “less.” Not just less hydrocarbon energy; less of everything.

I am particularly aware of the ghost of less during the holidays. It’s as if I become Ebenezer Scrooge, visited by a fourth apparition, determined to strip me of every illusion.

… this year I am delighted to say I’ve discovered a new way of looking at things that has renewed some of my holiday spirit. I can’t stop compiling the “list of less” containing all the things that will sooner or later be lost to us. That would be too much denial, even at Christmas. But I’ve decided to keep a second list as well, of all the things that will remain, no matter how much difficulty we face in a post-peak future.

My new list began last week at my daughter’s high school choir concert.

Item number one: Music.

…A list of such things could be endless.

Starting one for myself has helped me remember what the holidays are about in the first place: hope. Whether you celebrate the Solstice to mark the sun’s return, or Christmas to honor a sacred birth, or Hanukkah to remember a miracle of light, hope is the center of the story.

So I challenge you: this year as you celebrate, find a favorite poem (or better yet, write one) and read it aloud to your family. Sing songs. Tell stories. Listen to someone else’s story. Draw, dance, decorate your house with homemade art. Consider future holidays after peak oil, knowing we’ll have little use for an iPod or an electronic dancing yard Santa.
(21 Dec 2006)

How to have a green Christmas

Various, Guardian
I’m dreaming of a green Christmas
Can you still have a good Christmas – and be kind to the planet? Yes, says Aida Edemariam.

Fun, festive and fair
From environmentally sound invitations, to recycled leftovers at the end of the night, Rachel Dixon has tips on how to host a great, green party.

That little green dress
Sarah Phillips chooses partywear that combines style and conscience.

Christmas in Gaia’s Kitchen
You can still enjoy Christmas dinner, even if you opt out of the traditional turkey and trimmings. Julia Ponsonby has recipes for some festive alternatives.

Has the roast of Christmas passed?
Matt Weaver looks at some sustainable options for this year’s Christmas dinner.
(20 Dec 2006)

The debate over viable community size in a post-fossil-fuel age

Richard Embleton, OBSY
The vast majority of people who become aware of the peak oil issue soon begin to consider the question of what type and size of community they want to be part of beyond peak oil, which communities will be the most sustainable, self-sufficient, self-reliant and survivable in the future. The answer to that question is tremendously variable for a number of factors such as climate but most particularly depending on how far into the future one is thinking. The difference between community survivability at the moment of peak oil and fifty or a hundred years later will be considerable. And if one is considering long term survivability not only for themselves but for their children and grandchildren then one has to look well beyond peak oil which is likely to occur sometime in the next one or two decades.
(22 Dec 2006)

Skilling Up for Powerdown – course notes…

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I recently finished teaching a 10 week evening class called Skilling Up for Powerdown in Totnes. The course will run again in January and is already nearly full.

To accompany the course I prepared each week a collection of materials to accompany the course, from weblinks and books, to notes and presentations. You might be interested to have a look. At New Year I will be taking it down, so that when the course starts again it will build week-by-week again, as the course unfolds.

Any of you involved in education around energy descent/powerdown stuff might find it useful. I plan in the new year to write it up in more detail, as a course facilitator’s resource guide, but for now, I hope you find this interesting.
(7 Dec 2006)
Lots of permaculture material too.

Global Warming-era Parenthood

Katherine Ellison, Los Angeles Times via Common Dreams
How do you tell your kids about climate change when they’ve heard so much about it elsewhere?
Global warming is a bit like sex: Long before you think it’s time to explain it to your children, they’ve already heard the mixed-up details on the playground.

I asked my 11-year-old son what he knew. “The water is going to rise about 20 feet, and we’re all doomed,” he said matter of factly, before dashing off to slug his brother.

Two recent national polls, taken in the wake of “An Inconvenient Truth” and mounting news coverage of heat waves and hurricanes, show the majority of Americans now see global warming as a personal threat. And apparently, word has spread to the prepubescent set that they’d better see the San Diego Zoo while it’s still dry.

Apocalyptic fears have shadowed U.S. childhood before this. Who among us boomers doesn’t remember all that Cold War ducking and covering? But global warming is profoundly scarier. For starters, to trigger a nuclear holocaust, somebody has to be the first to bomb. To trigger eco-Armageddon, all we need do is continue to ignore leading scientists’ warnings.

Besides, quite unlike during the Cold War, there’s no evidence that Washington has recognized this crisis. That leaves parents – hard-wired, unlike politicians, to engage in long-term thinking, calculate risks and buy insurance – in a bind. Given our government’s glacial response to real-time melting glaciers, how can we help our kids cope?

…”The grown-ups are handling it far more realistically in Europe than we are here,” said Yale child psychiatrist Kyle Pruett, one of several mental health experts I consulted for advice about how to answer an 11-year-old who says “we’re doomed.” Their advice: Don’t push your agenda on your children. Try first to find out what they know, and whether they’re worried. If so, emphasize the things they can do, even if it’s only finding out more, or switching to fluorescent lightbulbs, or starting a climate-change club at school. “The combination of fear and helplessness is toxic,” Pruett said.

Katherine Ellison is the author of “The Mommy Brain.”
(23 Dec 2006)
Emphasis added. The advice also applies to peak oil, and to adults as well as children. I especially like the line, “The combination of fear and helplessness is toxic.” -BA

Henry Miller quote
“We clutter the earth with our inventions, never dreaming that possibly they are unnecessary–or disadvantageous. We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another? We move our bodies to and fro at incredible speeds, but do we really leave the spot we started from? Mentally, morally, spiritually, we are fettered. What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion. We may succeed in altering the face of the earth until it is unrecognizable even to the Creator, but if we are unaffected wherein lies the meaning?”
–Henry Miller, The World Of Sex (1940)
Via Rob Windt via