Politics is a frustrating job. Most of the time you battle windmills and spend an indecent amount of time discussing what you know to be non-issues because they happen to matter to some faction you need to stay in office. It has its rewards, however, especially for those who, as I do, specialize in spreading ideas rather than in fighting for lofty but ultimately empty positions. A few days ago, my party released an energy plan for Brittany – the Alter Breton Plan – which got some attention from the local press. The Alter Breton Plan is basically a green tech plan, to use Holmgren’s terminology, but the most important thing is the way it came to fruition, for it tells a lot about the way we peak oilers can act in the world of politics.
As I said, the Alter Breton Plan is a Green Tech one. It plans to significantly reduce Brittany’s energy consumption – to 9.8 millions toe a year – while converting it to a relocalized economy based upon renewable energies. It quotes the Meadows Report – which is as sulfurous down here as in America – and envisions a long descent due to both peak oil and global warming. As such it is quite different from official plans, which are all about “Green growth”… even if, as often, the journalist missed the point.
I didn’t write this plan. Its author, Gwenael Henry, is far better at crunching numbers than I am, and he definitely works harder. He has also a better knowledge of history and was able to dig up an old alternative energy plan from the late seventies – just before the Plogoff nuclear plant was ditched under popular pressure.
What I brought was the idea.
A thing I discovered when entering the foggy world of politics is that political organizations – especially small ones – are hungry for new ideas. Of course, it is not true of all organizations. Marxist sects – and there are quite a lot of them around here – will gladly expel anybody who does not fit party line. Identity-based parties are generally more open and flexible – at least in western Europe. While they may favor a particular of societal organization – ours is some kind of very vaguely defined socialism – their core values are elsewhere : the defense of a particular culture and territory. It will be far easier for them to reconsider their vision of the future than for, say, a hard-line marxist or libertarian, or even a mainline european green whose job depends upon the continuation of the present system… with just a few more solar panels.
Another thing I discovered was that inertia could be your ally. Most political organizations, these days have little in the way of ideology. They have values of course, but their vision of the future is very vague. Even the extremists most often repeat mantra-like speeches about how evil the “system” is and how happy the world will be after “the Revolution”. That means that anybody with an efficiently told story can push forward his ideas without much resistance. Not, of course, that my fellow members of the political bureau believe in Greer’s long descent or Kunstler’s long emergency. I suspect a significant part of them view my predictions as the Trojans did Cassandras’. They are, however, willing to go along with the somewhat mitigated version of it defended by the ecological faction because it fits the general intellectual climate… and because they feel they have no other option.
What this means for us Peak Oilers who are so desperate to attract the attention of the powers-that-be is that it is totally pointless to write to such or such public figure. If you are not inside the political game, you are basically a non-player and your proposal will be dismissed. The only way you can make a difference, no matter how slight, is by becoming an insider, if possible in a small party.
I don’t say, of course, you should enter a regionalist party. Political opinions are intimate by nature. Any small organizations can do. What is important is entering the structure, becoming a player and spreading ideas. Hopefully, someone will pick them up.
Of course the Alter Breton is very unlikely to be implemented. It would be even if we were in charge of the country. The time is too short, the inertia of the society too big. Even a beginning of implementation could help, however, as would the realization by even a small part of the population that the glorious future they are still told to expect belongs to the past.
And if to get that you have to spend hours debating about jail libraries or modern art festivals… it is the price you have to pay.