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Our "end of the economy" moment

This past week at the Transition Network Conference 2010 in the UK, the speaker Stoneleigh rocked everyone's paradigm with her talk "Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil"  An audio of this talk is available online, but at this time, regrettably, her slides do not appear to be available.

Within growing Transition Initiatives, we are accustomed to showing paradigm-rocking films such as "End of Suburbia" and holding a community discussion of people's reactions.  Hopkins even describes the "End of Suburbia Moment." (page 83, The Transition Handbook)

How might one best manage the feelings of overwhelm, devastation and defeat that can accompany your 'End of suburbia moment.' the point when your really 'get' peak oil and its implications?  The first point is to realise that feeling like this is natural, indeed it is far more natural than feeling nothing or blanking it out.  It is a healthy response. ...

We often remind Transition leaders not to simply send someone off to watch a film like this alone; we show it in a group and get the discussion going so that people can begin to process their inner feelings.  Group leaders might channel those feelings into positive outlets such as the Post-It Note tool (page 155, The Transition Handbook)  Perhaps we should consider staging similar events for people to listen to Stoneleigh's talk in groups so that people can talk about it, begin to process their emotions, and direct their initial reaction into positive channels.

...seek to generate what Chris Johnstone calls 'Inspirational Dissatisfaction,' where the feelings generated motivate you to make changes in your life. Acknowledge that the change you want to see starts with you, and see the feelign that your life has been turned on its head as a precious opportunity to rethink some basic assumptions. ...

When we work with peak oil newcomers, we help them understand the significant role that oil plays in our life (page 118, The Transition Handbook).  We invite them to imagine what life might be like with far less oil to fuel our transportation, far less oil to move ourselves and our goods around the planet. 

Stoneleigh's talk about the economy invites us to imagine what life might be like if you had 1/10th or 1/100th of the buying power you do today.  Whether that be from deflation or scarcity of goods, what would life be like? The exercise in our "End of the Economy" gathering could go like this:

Think of all the things you currently purchase with money.  These would be all the things you don't make or grow yourself, all the things you can't barter for within your community.  Which of these are absolutely essential, and which are something you could live without? 

Of those things that are absolutely essential, how could you possibly go about obtaining them without money? If you could redesign your habits and your community so that you COULD make, grow locally, or barter for these essentials, what action might you take right now?  What systems would you put in place?  What skills would you personally need to acquire?  What tools and supplies would you need to have on hand?

And after hearing Stoneleigh's talk, what's stopping you from putting those things in place right now?

... within [this new awareness] lies, as in the bleak opening chapters of most adventure stories, a call to adventure.  You will come to look back on this as a major, but positive, transition in your life.

--Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook

Within the Transition movement we are no strangers to the idea of reskilling, preparing our communities, or rallying action.  Stoneleigh's talk simply reminds us of an additional "why" for virtually the same process we have already been pursuing.  Her talk does perhaps give us more urgency, with a shorter timeline (but the recent detail diagrams of the peak of oil production don't give us much time, nor do James Hansen's climate forecasts).  And the process is still the same:  raise awareness, reskill, build physical projects, grow local resilience, build community.

We encourage our local communities to think about powerdown -- how we would accomplish the various aspects of our lives (food, water, clothing, education, etc) without oil, and with far less energy inputs.  Stoneleigh's talk reminds us that we must also plan for how we will accomplish these with far less money inputs.  Things like local reskilling, local resource base, and local production -- coupled with local bartering networks -- become critical parts of the solution.

After the credit collapse, Stoneleigh points out, there will be far less money pursuing the same amount of stuff. Right now, while you still have money (and the ability to transport stuff), make every single purchase count toward preparing you and your community for what lies ahead.  Gain the new skills.  Bring the water barrels, the vegetable seeds, the mechanical/power-free tools into your community.  Apply this to each and every one of your spending decisions: whether to buy the new cell phone, or whether to buy an additional rainwater harvesting barrel.

Right now, people who still have intact finances still wrestle with the dilemma of time.  Even within Transition circles, we still hear people saying "I don't have time for that."  Stoneleigh's talk reminds us to get down to basics.  There really isn't anything more pressing to do with your time.  Design your local "End of the Economy" gathering so that individuals face this issue squarely, provide tools/exercises which help them make a commitment, and provide plenty of opportunities for them to plug into the forward motion of the local Transition Initiative.

Other tidbits from the Stoneleigh talk:

  • Turn virtual communities into real ones, because virtual won't do any good in tough times.
  • Dependency is vulnerability -- The more things you can do for yourself the better off you are
  • Face uncertainty with flexibility -- ex: How many ways can you cook things?  You don't know what you will have to work with.
  • Become responsible for your own health
  • Be a model of preparedness for those around to follow
  • Building local connections with people now, because trust will strengthen in hard times.
  • Big picture stuff is really, really important at this time.

I'll add one of my own:  Make sure your local Transition Initiative is situated to continue to operate with far less money inputs. (see "Resilient Nonprofits" on Transition U.S.)

But no visit to Stoneleigh's audio is complete, within the Transition movement, without this beautiful little (8minute) video of Rob Hopkins and Peter Lipman talking about their personal responses to Stoneleigh's talk.  Heartfelt and uplifting, Peter speaks of examining the "why" behind his own fears, and shares the question Stoneleigh's talk prompted within himself:  How do we take our money and use it for communities?

Resources:

MP3 of Stoneleigh's talk "Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil" at the Transition Network Conference 2010

Since we don't have her slides, here are a few images which are probably similar to what she would have been showing:

Video of Rob Hopkins & Peter Lipman responding to Stoneleigh's talk (8 min)

"Resilient Nonprofits" on Transition U.S.

Community-based finances resource page from one of our local Transition pods in Los Angeles

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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