Saturday, January 8, 2005

Peak Oil and Local Soul

Humanity has reached Peak Oil production THIS YEAR. What this means is that the world can no longer produce more oil next year than it produced this year. This means that the world economy can no longer grow. Think about this. All that the consumer economy depends upon is about to change. Growth will stop and in fact, over time, we cannot sustain our current lifestyles.

Reaching Peak Oil is a profound event. We in the U.S. may not feel the effects right away because we have elected an administration willing to take energy and resources from others by force and unwilling to level with our people that our very lifestyles are unsustainable. They are not doing us any favors in the long term. We will have that much farther to fall.

In the days and months ahead, I will write about what I am doing personally and what I believe our local communities and groups need to do to prepare themselves. We need to have a plan. The sooner we begin the better. We have little time to lose.

I have already begun working on my personal plan. A summary:

(1) Live somewhere where I will not have to use a car every day in order to eat, shop and work. There are two options I considered: live in a walk-able city with a thriving local merchants or live in a rural area with locally grown food and town centers for gathering, trading, and shopping. I chose the latter because I also require rural beauty to sustain me spirtually.

(2) Look at how I use energy and either eliminate energy use, or find sustainable substitutes. This is a tough one, no matter what it involves tradeoffs and/or cash.

(3) Begin growing my own food and shopping locally. This is a lot of work and I am hoping to find others who will join me in this effort. Farmers markets and community supported gardens would help here.

(4) Over time, find a local vocation--one that requires little or no travel (except perhaps to local markets). I must put some more thought into this. My computer and web skills are ok initially. Perhaps I can run a local newspaper? Perhaps I can make pottery and fire the clay in a wood kiln? I will think about this some more.

Fortunately, Lake County is ideal because it beautiful, rural and has potential for the necessities of food and water and solar energy and potential for a thriving local community that can be bonded to place. In a sense, Lake County already has less distance to fall, it has not been overrun with sprawling development (yet) and has community centers.

As for the communities, the plan will need to include not buying into the corporate box stores, or out-of-area markets and sprawl. Local communities must further develop their town centers, creating centers that are alive and thriving. We must find local markets, particularly for our food, perhaps sponsoring local farmers markets and community-supported agriculture. Local communities must look at securing local energy (bio-diesel, solar) and water sources, developing barter systems, and most importantly, preserving their natural resources and beauty. We must not allow these to be sacrificed and stolen by the desperate outside interests, especially as the economy inevitably begins its collapse. We must not sell our soul.

Both individuals and communities need to ask ourselves: How will we invest our wealth now, for a time when we are not awash in easy and inexpensive energy?

I see the decades ahead as desperate for humans, yet in some strange way hopeful, too. To become more bonded to place, to become more more local, must happen. This is good for the planet and all her creatures. May we care enough about beauty and quality of life that we are willing to preserve that which gives us joy and life.