Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Century of Challenges Ahead

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner with guest author Ruth Blaicher, where it was published under the title "Preparing for the move to self-reliance".

“Peak Oil” is an idea that has been drifting around on the edge of the mainstream media for a while, but landed with a thud this summer when the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that indeed the world had definitively reached what they designated as “Peak Oil” in 2006. Conventional oil supplies are now officially in decline. This may take a while to sink in due to the background noise of our hectic lives, but is shaping up to be a real game-changer.

Born and raised as fossil fuel consumers, our entire lifestyle, indeed, our culture is built around it. But the more pressing issue, now pulling ahead of the peak oil dilemma, is financial. “Finance is rewriting how the energy debate plays out,” says Nicole Foss, energy analyst and former editor of The Oil Drum Canada. Some readers will be more familiar with her as the co-editor of the website “The Automatic Earth” where she writes under the pen-name “Stoneleigh”. Foss has been travelling extensively throughout Europe and the U.S. with the message that due to ongoing credit market collapse, we are on the threshold of a long deflationary period. An energy crisis will follow, as the financial morass will stifle energy investment, exploration and maintenance. This means less affordable energy available to power an economic rally, a kind of chicken-and-egg scenario.

At her presentation, Foss will describe how our current financial system is an unsustainable credit bubble grounded in Ponzi dynamics, the logic of the pyramid scheme. She warns that most people are woefully unprepared for the consequences of devastating deflation.

Societies have gone through boom and bust cycles before — for example, Tulip Mania, the South Sea Bubble and the “Real” Great Depression of the 1870s — but most people in the Western world will face this crisis without the knowledge or means to provide the basics of their own survival. Our industrial system has nearly destroyed individual capacity for self-reliance.

A bright spot in the move to self-reliance is the constructive work of groups such as Transition Town initiatives around the world, designing what they call an “Energy Descent Action Plan” for their communities. Foss sees this as a good fit for her attempt to “put resources in the hands of ordinary people at the local level”.

Nicole Foss will be presenting her ideas in a talk called “A Century of Challenges Ahead” at Georgian College’s Rowntree Theatre at 6:30 pm, Saturday January 22nd. Hosted by student environmental group GEAR and Transition Barrie, a movement dedicated to building local resilience in the face of Peak Oil, climate change and ecomomic dislocation, it’s free but a $5 donation is appreciated. Please join us in learning and crafting solutions.

Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are local realtors and founding members of Transition Barrie with a passion for green issues and are directors of Living Green.

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