Heinberg on 'resilient communities: paths for powering down'
... After doing our packing, it was off to the Universal Hall for Richard Heinberg’s talk, ‘Resilient Communities. Paths for Powering down; an exercise in strategic thinking’. Once again the Findhorn blogger has done a wonderful job of creating an accurate record of this, so I will instead offer my reflections.
His talk was underpinned by 8 assumptions. The first was that global oil production are nearing an all time maximum and will begin to decline within the next 18-24 months, with gas and coal peaks not far behind. The second was that the consequences, as identified in the Hirsch Report, will be severe.
Assumption 3 is that there will be no technofix, no silver bullet that will mean that business as usual can continue. Therefore, Assumption 4 continues, we will have to power down. Assumption 5 was that in the meantime, climate change poses thorny policy challenges where everyone wants to be seen to be doing the right thing, but enormous economic interests stand in the way of enforcing effective global agreements, which without China and the US will be ineffective.
His sixth assumption is that Climate Change makes global Powerdown necessary, whereas Peak Oil means it is not only possible but unavoidable. The seventh is that the powering-down process will be complex, lengthy, and perilous, and his final assumption was that these are not the only looming crises –nor even necessarily the most imminent. It may well be that a financial crash, already beginning, will affect us first.
He gave an overview of the emerging responses, the bottom up approaches such as Transition Initiatives, Relocalisation Outposts, and so on, and of the top down responses, such as Post Carbon cities and local government plans such as the Oakland Peak Oil Task force, of which he is a member.
Richard then unveiled a concept which he has been evolving and of which this was the first public airing. He calls it the Resilient Communities Action Plan (a careful assembly of those 4 letters that could so easily have gone horribly wrong). The idea is that it is something that is a companion to the Energy Descent Action Plan, but it is different, it is, in effect, an emergency response plan, a Plan C to the EDAP’s Plan B. It would be created by a working group within a Transition Initiative or a Post Carbon group, and would sit alongside the main plan as an emergency response that could be taken off the shelf when required.
While crisis can equal opportunity, he argued, it may not necessarily yield the kind of opportunity we are talking about here. In the past, crises have produced Hitler, and the kind of insidious undermining of economies that Naomi Klein set out in her (enormous) book Shock Doctrine.
This plan would involve many of those who have relevant knowledge and would be made very visible to the community at large. He unveiled, with a tip of the hat to the 12 Steps of Transition, his 10 Steps to a Resilient Community. They were;
1. Form a working group
2. Identify people and organizations with something important to offer post-peak
3. Ask their help and participation
4. Work with them to develop a contingency plan in their field: how to scale-up quickly?
5. Seek input from disaster management officials
6. Contact mainstream organizations responsible for water, food, power, fuel, health care, etc.
7. Assemble a coherent Resilience Plan
8. Present the plan
9. Implement the plan
10. Work with other communities to create a national plan: repeat steps 1-10 at higher levels
Most response groups, he argued, cultivate an upbeat, hopeful tone, which is essential. In contrast, creating this kind of disaster management is a sobering activity–but it is strategically and practically necessary. Somebody’s got to do it!
As with many things that arise from hearing Richard speak, one often needs time to go off and digest these ideas for a while. My initial thought is that this could be possible as a subset of the EDP process, and could be something that could emerge from the material gathered. However, it felt to me, from what Richard said, that it involved the creation of a panel of experts, and that the danger with that approach is that the community feels no sense of involvement in the plan itself.
I can see his argument that, in effect, our Energy Descent Plans need to maximize their resilience as it were, as in they can be as robust in the face of a rapidly onsetting breakdown as in a more gentle transition. My initial sense is that rather than having a separate process, that the creation of an EDP should involve the continual assessment as to how its recommendations would hold up in the face of a sudden shock. I guess that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as in in a couple of months when we begin the Totnes EDAP process formally, we will bear that in mind and see how it might fit in. Richard was, as ever, authoritative and passionate, clear and forward thinking. ...