Community Solutions - July 10
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Greensboro urged to prepare for oil crisis
Editorial, News-Record (Greensboro, N.C.)
If reporter Morgan Josey Glover's "Peak Prospects" series wasn't enough of a wake-up call concerning America's shaky future with oil, take a look at what happened when Hurricane Katrina affected energy supplies in North Carolina.
Similar disruptions could occur during "peak oil," the time when global demand for petroleum products exceeds supply, creating higher prices, shortages and other instability. Many energy experts think we are already, or will soon be, at peak oil.
... Most public agencies haven't made any peak oil plans. Few U.S. cities have planned how to handle disruptions that may come about because of fuel shortages. Few have looked at how to stay economically healthy when the price of petroleum products remains high.
Some think it's alarmist to make such plans. Others argue that more drilling or alternative technology will fix the problem. But these stands are naive.
Oil resources are finite, and, even if drilling does occur, new fields will take years to get online. Even the International Energy Agency warns that, long term, the global demand for oil looks to be outpacing supply.
Production of an affordable, mass-produced alternatively powered vehicle isn't a given and can't be accomplished quickly. We will still face years of energy volatility even if more areas are opened for drilling and an alternatively powered car becomes viable.
Local, regional action needed
Greensboro is taking a step in the right direction by allowing a briefing on peak oil to the City Council. The city's environmental committee then needs to put peak oil preparation front and center. A good place to start would be to contact Portland's peak oil task force. It produced an extensive report for the way its city can best weather the problems peak oil will cause, examining issues such as planning, transportation and agriculture.
(6 July 2008)
A British town's attempt to kick the oil habit
Nancy Durham, CBC (Canada)
Two years ago, British teacher and permaculturist Rob Hopkins came up with a plan. He wanted to help communities prepare for the eventuality of a world without oil. That's how the concept of Transition Towns was born.
... One believer is businessman Peter Ryeland. When his building company went bust in the late 1990s, he went on a life-changing journey to India and reinvented himself as an importer of Indian goods. The most interesting object he's brought to Totnes is the motorized rickshaw. He owns two of the vehicles, running them on recycled cooking oil. His dream is to turn them into a local taxi service.
Driver Lizzy Hyde takes rickshaw owner Peter Ryeland and reporter Nancy Durham for a ride around Totnes, Devon. Driver Lizzy Hyde takes rickshaw owner Peter Ryeland and reporter Nancy Durham for a ride around Totnes, Devon. (Kyla Pearson/CBC)
Ryeland knows his rickshaw project is not the solution to the town's transport problems, but he hopes it will inspire people to get involved in making the transition away from oil dependence. However, he has yet to get his taxi licence, which is proving as elusive as an insurance policy for the vehicle.
(9 July 2008)
Vancouver debates zero waste
Julia Steinberger, World Changing
Recovery Parks, Free Geeks and Plasma
Can we imagine a day when, having sorted out our recyclables and compost-ables, then responsibly earmarked our "still perfectly good" stuff for reuse, we'll have no trash left to drag to the curb? What are the solutions that will take the developed world from our current rates of over-consumption to zero waste?
British Columbia, one of Canada's most progressive provinces, faces some difficult decisions. Estimates warn that the Cache Creek landfill, where Vancouver sends about 1/3 of its garbage, will fill to capacity and close by 2010; current disposal rates will also fill the Vancouver landfill by 2038.
... In response, Vancouver is pursuing an ambitious citywide zero-waste goal. Last week, I attended the annual conference hosted by the Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC), one of the hardest-working groups out there in the realm of waste solutions, to learn more about the region's plan.
The strategy encompasses a lot of programs, and over the course of the conference, analysts, city officials and guests from successful organizations like San Francisco's Bay Friendly Landscaping and Gardening offered ideas for ramping up recycling compliance from businesses and individuals, and increasing composting of organics.
(2 July 2008)