We Can Wean Ourselves off Oil
I attended the Global Green Millenium Awards last Saturday night. There I met Richard Heinberg, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and author of the books "The Party's Over: Oil War and the Fate of Industrial Societies" and, most recently, "The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism and Economic Collapse".
As a resident of Los Angeles, I am overly aware of our addiction to oil. Just look around us. Cars everywhere, no reasonable public transportation...
Our overly-paved city, populated by cars with human operators, is perhaps the most ugly face of the fact that we in the US consume 25% of the world's energy though have only about 4.5% of the world's population.
So, what do we do?
In our brief conversation Richard shared with me that he estimates that we as a civilization need to prepare for 3% less oil every year.
This is certainly a manageable prospect, yet we have to get on it right away.Although it appears to be a small amount, that means roughly ten percent in three years, etc.
We certainly have the technology, the money and power to downshift our use of Oil. And the goal of simply reducing by a measurable amount every gives us a pathway to deal with this situation.
Serendipitously, my friend and long time environmentalist Paula Daniels, who is on the Board of LA's Department of Public Works, was close by and I introduced Richard to her. We discussed the urgency of the situation and how she is helping manage the city's massive infrastructure to use less oil, energy and water. She was happy to meet him, and they intend to get together for lunch. This made my day!
Well, in the meantime the rest of us have to begin visioning the pathway to how we as a civilization use less and less oil.
I cut and pasted excerpts from the article to highlight the main points:
"1. Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. The bottom line of this is: start thinking beyond the car.
"2. We have to produce food differently.
"3. We have to inhabit the terrain differently. Virtually every place in our nation organized for car dependency is going to fail to some degree. Quite a few places (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Miami ...) will support only a fraction of their current populations. We'll have to return to traditional human ecologies at a smaller scale: villages, towns, and cities (along with a productive rural landscape).
"4. We have to move things and people differently. This is the sunset of Happy Motoring (including the entire US trucking system). Get used to it. Don't waste your society's remaining resources trying to prop up car-and-truck dependency.
"5. We have to transform retail trade. The national chains that have used the high tide of fossil fuels to contrive predatory economies-of-scale (and kill local economies) -- they are going down.
"6. We will have to make things again in America. However, we are going to make less stuff. We will have fewer things to buy, fewer choices of things.
"7. The age of canned entertainment is coming to and end. It was fun for a while. We liked Citizen Kane and the Beatles. But we're going to have to make our own music and our own drama down the road. We're going to need playhouses and live performance halls. [I don't know about this one!]
"8. We'll have to reorganize the education system. The centralized secondary school systems based on the yellow school bus fleets will not survive the coming decades.
"9. We have to reorganize the medical system. The current skein of intertwined rackets based on endless Ponzi buck passing scams will not survive the discontinuities to come.
"10. Life in the USA will have to become much more local, and virtually all the activities of everyday life will have to be re-scaled."
Heinberg's suggestion that we manage to live on 3% less oil per year, and Kuntslers' ten points provide a navigable roadmap to a post-carbon future. Together they underscore that it is actually possible to manage ourselves off of oil.
First then, each of us must simply allow that it is possible to live in a different way. From there we can actually get down to work of visioning and creating the new way.Tweet