In the fall of 2008, I helped to organize “The Conference on Michigan’s Future: Energy, Economy & Environment” through my organization Local Future.

The purpose of the conference was to examine the risks and uncertainties facing our global culture, and in particular, the risks and uncertainties to Michigan. Over the compact 48 hours of the event, we heard from over forty speakers. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time publishing to YouTube a number of the videos that I found to be most interesting from the conference. Undoubtedly, more will come in the future, but for now, let’s take a look at what we have:

Richard Heinberg – Peak Oil & Our Energy Future
– HD, 48 m, 5 parts — This keynote presentation by Richard Heinberg was one of the most interesting. He told his story of how he became interested in the oil supply after studying the history of civilizations, and he goes on to lay out exactly what happened with oil, and how we got into the current energy-economy situation.

Tim Hudson – The Four Futures after Peak Oil
– HD, 19 m, 2 parts — This novel talk is unique, one-of-a-kind, as Tim Hudson describes four scenarios for the future after peak oil, and invites the viewers to consider their own probabilities for these four futures. This is a very useful exercise to do because helps a person understand their own reflections on the future, and in sharing with others, it helps to make the conversation about not only the future, but the present, more understandable.

Kim Hill – Impacts of Automotive Industry Collapse
– HD, 24 m, 3 parts — Kim Hill of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organization based in Michigan, details the results of a report that CAR published which estimated that up to three million jobs would be lost if the big three automakers were to fail. For Michigan and other automotive states, this would be a disaster, and for the rest of the US and global economy, the impacts would be quite severe. This is definitely a very timely talk.

Ellen Brown – Web of Debt: The Financial Collapse
– HD, 44 m, 5 parts — We brought Ellen Brown in from California to explain exactly what has been happening with the financial crisis (which is a direct result of oil prices rising from $10 to over $140 in less than a decade). Brown not only outlines how the collapse in the financial industry occurred, but also what communities and states could try to put their economies back on track. These ideas are essential to consider if we hope to take control of our futures.

Thaddeus Owen – Permaculture & Organic Farming
– HD, 41 m, 5 parts — Thaddeus Owen is a board member of Local Future and also trained in permaculture techniques. In this talk, he explains all about permaculture and how we can create a sustainable, ethical food system that provides for all of our food needs. This is most likely the wave of the future, and is a very well put together and cutting edge talk.

Wayne Appleyard – Passive Solar Houses
– HD, 19 min, 2 parts — This is another interesting talk about exactly how to build a very, very energy efficient home, one that uses 80 to 90 percent less energy than an existing home. Just imagine, instead of spending $3,000 per year on heating, cooling and energy costs, and instead only spending about $300. This is both the promise and reality of building a home to the passive house standard, for about the same price as a tradition home of the same size.

T.J. Brown – Weatherize Homes & Save Money
– HQ, 24 m, 3 parts — Here we have a very, very practical presentation about how we can all tighten up our homes so that our energy bills are less, by weatherizing, blocking air leaks, and adding insulation to all those places. This may sound like basics, but TJ Brown details all sorts of little places throughout the house that can be fixed and improved for a very low cost. This is such practical advice, that is can be used immediately to start saving money.

One of the nice features of these videos is that they were uploaded in high-definition to YouTube, so for people with VERY fast high-speed connections, they can be projected for an audience in high definition, which is better than DVD quality.

This selection both outlines the major challenges our global culture is facing, as well as showing some very specific solutions that individuals can start working on right now. This is certainly not a complete set or course, but it adds nicely to the universe of realistic solutions already available in books, videos, and on the internet. Enjoy!