Biosphere destruction due to human activities threatens life on the planet, human and otherwise. The problem is systemic: business as usual presages catastrophic climate change, extreme species extinction, fishery depletion, untenable body burdens of toxics, not to mention largely unhealthy disconnected lives along the way. Human civilization is egregiously far from a steady state and is (literally) driving in the wrong direction. There are no easy solutions.
The imminent peaking of global oil production and the fact that natural gas production has already peaked in North America could be the catalyst for positive transformation of industrial society. It could also be a recipe for disaster. Essential systems that form the foundation of industrial civilization depend on unfettered access to cheap oil and natural gas. As supply begins to drop and is no longer able to meet demand, less work will be done – which means less materialist economic activity. Alternative energies, conservation, and new energy carriers such as hydrogen will undoubtedly play a role in future energy systems, yet collectively they will not be enough to preserve industrial society as we know it. The possibility for largely positives outcomes demands significant preparation, action, and enduring behavior change.
Without unprecedented preparation and cooperation, however, oil and natural gas depletion will precipitate massive disruptions to essential systems such as food, energy, transportation, security and health care, and almost certainly, a major decrease in the earth’s carrying capacity. If mainstream awareness of energy peak occurs during a crisis, we will find ourselves well along the amoral path of endless war for control of dwindling resources, black hydrogen fueled by coal and a reemerging nuclear industry, further restrictions on citizen and human rights, and increasing concentration of wealth through globalization and the money system. During a period of draconian governance in the midst of a permanent energy crisis, all of the gains garnered by environmental and social justice groups in the past 50 years are subject to roll back at best. At worst, recent history is full of examples of what happens when humans with powerful weapons get desperate – they reach for demagogues, Fascism and war.
Though no panacea exists for dealing with the peaking of energy supply, clearly Global Relocalization is a building block; other important parts of the foundation are peace, equitable distribution of a portion of Earth’s bounty, and social justice. Relocalization is the process by which communities localize their economies and essential systems, such as food and energy production, water, money, culture, governance, media, and ownership. This process will require that we rebuild our cities to severely reduce transport needs and support localization of essential systems – ecological city design provides as framework for this transformation. To effectively address energy scarcity and curtail biosphere destruction, relocalization must occur globally and with some degree of integration. Essentially human civilization needs to prepare itself to do less materially with much less energy and fewer natural resources, with the ultimate goal living within what is left of a reasonable carrying capacity, however reduced that may be. Any other approach can be considered a form of assisted suicide – with nature doing the assisting.
It is urgent that localization begin now. Yet how many times have we heard and ignored such urgent calls? Everything still seems to be going alright though. At least for those in control of the economy and the media. But energy peak will change that, even before climate change, which is tending to affect higher latitudes first. Energy peak will affect the heaviest energy users the most. At first they will use their control of the money system to stave off disaster, but as Britain will soon demonstrate, that will not last long. If or when the US suffers a severe enough dollar crisis, it will find itself catastrophically exposed as the world’s largest energy importer. It will be completely vulnerable to the desires of the energy exporters, all of whom will have good reason to bring the reign of the American Empire to a swift end. The American military have presumably understood this. They may not be willing to stand by as they are emasculated by energy and economic constrictions. Both those living inside and outside should realise that if global oil peak happens within two years as now scheduled by a growing number of energy analysts, then they must start taking measures to rebuild their own communities now. This is a quite different kind of urgency from the usual calls to save the planet, or the koalas, or the Yangtze, all of whom are in deep trouble, but none of whom directly affects most of us in the insulated, industrial world.
Another reason for urgence is that the amongst the dominant forms of globalization, the trend towards fewer family farms and the continuing loss of infrastructure, knowledge and wisdom about locally sustainable living gathers pace almost with each passing day. Thanks to this, there are ever fewer working examples and models that can be applied to a given locale. To fill the void, communities must begin localization experiments to discover out what works and what does not in a given locale. This knowledge must be gained before the crisis – if experiments don’t work now, that can be counted as useful information. If they fail in conditions of crisis, people are likely to suffer grievously. It has happened before, not just in the last one hundred years, but in the last ten. To save precious time and resources, communities will need to share experiments, outcomes, and lessons learned.
Communities will also need to integrate in appropriate ways the experience and knowledge developed by existing organizations and individuals working on localization on both the policy and community levels, including science that supports localization efforts, and the practices of those indigenous peoples that have not yet been wiped out by empire and its latest incarnation, globalization.
We are seeking like-minded organizations, volunteers, and activists to create a coalition to support community relocalization projects and experiments, as well as online database access and community tools that can help streamline the relocalization process. We are also organizing conferences and creating a speakers bureau with energy, biosphere, and localization experts to help spread the word.
Join us in this call!
If the statement above resonates with you, here are some steps you can take:[See original article for specific steps.]