Adaptation For The Peak

I mentioned a while ago that I would write about what I thought may be some solutions for the Peak.  I researched high and low, near and far, and I came to one single conclusion.

There is no single, scalable solution to replace crude oil in the way that humanity currently uses it!

The massive amounts of energy from fossil fuels that we use to run our way of life is simply unsustainable and the energy descent which is upon us will cause a paradigm shift in our lifetime.

I know that this is a big statement, but backed up by the mountains of research that I have performed over the last two weeks.  The previous posts titled ‘The Peak‘, ‘Myths For The Peak‘, and ‘Education For The Peak‘ showed that this issue will affect us all in ways that we dare not imagine.

Now that humanity is in energy descent, we do not have the energy resources nor the capital (aka 2nd Global Financial Crisis) to transform our energy mix into one that directly replaces crude oil.  Sure, there will be local solutions that will soldier on, but there is probably nothing in our technological tool box that exists today to solve the issue on a global scale.  You can debate it until you are blue in the face but there is no miracle solution that I can find that will enable us to continue with this “growth economy” including our present population overshoot without crude oil, coal, and natural gas.  It just is not possible.

So now that we have established that, how do we adapt to the situation?  I mentioned education as a tool to begin to understand the inevitable crisis which will go a long way in helping people prepare mentally.  People who have an inkling of what is happening around them are better prepared for making informed decisions and choices.  One can never fully fathom the full impacts of energy descent, however with a little action now, the brunt of it should be less difficult to handle.

Localisation is the key adaptation strategy that will help ease the transition of a low energy future.  I believe that as it was before, it will be again.  This is the way that groups of people, communities, towns or cities will live.  Without surplus energy to grow and ship food and materials around the globe, except for the reintroduction of sailing ships, and without the means to maintain the global agricultural industry in its present form, our society will be forced (finally) to live within its means.  We will not be able to borrow from the future any more!

So what does localisation look and feel like, and what tools and ideas will help us get there?  Well I suppose some of the solutions are the same things that I bang on about day after day on this blog.   As a prompter, here are some practical tips that I believe will help with this process.

1.  Ignore the consumer culture.  The consumer culture of the west which was created by corporations to enable them to continuously grow profits and to assist in Globalisation.  We need the opposite if we are to use resources more wisely.   We don’t need advertising and marketing to tell us how to feel or act. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy crap that we don’t need.  All imported with oil or made with the use of the ever dwindling supply of crude oil!

2.  Grow your own food organically.  Remember that Food = Oil.  Hey, if Cuba can change to mostly organic agriculture and feed the majority of their population after loosing some 70% of their oil supply, then the rest of us can as well.  Look up the documentary “The Power of Community, How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” to check out what I am talking about.  If you don’t have the space to grow stuff because you live in a flat or apartment, then check out Landshare and see if anyone is offering space for a food garden in your area.  If you are determined enough, there should be no obstacles.  Grow with only organic inputs i.e. without chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides as these will not be available in large quantities.  Try learning about Permiculture for a holistic approach to growing your food.   If you can’t grow your own, then try buying locally.  All of this may not be a choice but a necessity.  Prepare now by starting to grow something or draw a 100 mile / 160 km circle around your home (on a map of course) and do a bit of research about what is available.  You will be amazed as we were at what local food sources there are nearby.  This quote is from the book, “The End of Food”.

“The next time you come home from the supermarket or grocery store with bags of food, do a mental inventory of all the items that, if the modern food system were temporarily turned off or disrupted, you could replace locally, or even produce in your own backyard?” – Paul Roberts

3.  Try powering down at home.  A bit radical, but what a better way to experience energy descent than to practice it for a day or two.  During this experiment you will soon find out what you need to adjust to meet your reduced daily demands.  We found that our daily demands on energy became minimal, in fact what we previously thought were needs turned out to be wants!  You soon find that the daily or weekly trip to a supermarket is just not practical if you live in the ‘burbs or country without copious amounts of oil.  All of a sudden growing your own food becomes a whole lot more practical than the alternative i.e. starvation.

4.  Relearn old skills.  Nana technology (not nano) are the sorts of skills that still exist in some cultures.  For example, how to mend clothing, how to cook from scratch, how to make things, how to preserve surplus food, how to feed a family frugally, how to nurture community.  Of course don’t forget the Grandpa skills as well, like how to make things by hand that actually last, how to grow food, how to make do with things you have on hand, and most importantly how to make beer!

There are many more things that you can do to localise in your area, and there are many great resources available on the net.  Whatever you do, do not go into a flat spin and panic.  Take a deep breath and start to plan.  You could do no better than having a read of Future Scenarios by David Holmgren to gain further insight into the issue, and his ideas about the four possible outcomes.  Or if you have the bandwidth take the time to watch this episode of Peak Moment.  It helped me understand what to do next in the grand scheme of things.

If you doubt that you can adapt, then take solace in the fact that our family has managed to change our behaviours over the last few years with a view of preparing for this very issue and its partner, climate change.

To end this post, I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes;

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  – Albert Schweitzer

Note:  This post took me two weeks to write.  Not because I found so much material, but simply the lack of material and the dire information that I did find.  It took a while to compose myself and my own emotions.  Please understand that the opinions above are my own except where cited.   


  1. says

    Hi Gavin,

    I was watching one of those “Massive Building” shows on channel 7 a while back and it was about the tar sands in Alberta. Seeing what goes into the whole process all I could think of was how bloody stupid we are. The energy that has to be used from start to finish must be phenomenal, possibly using more oil than they produce and all because society doesn’t get that they need to reduce not consume more oil.

    They’re just not getting it.

    Another great post.

  2. says

    yep definately mind blowing. Even though I see you’ve done your research, I have to think that with all this ‘technology’ we have, that with all the minds in the world we have that there isn’t SOME option…

    I always disagreed with the idea that it was ‘cave days’ or ‘high-tech’ you know, either or. Surely there’s a middle ground at least – we may not continue along the same speed we are now (which isn’t not a bad thing at all imo) BUT we don’t have to go the other extreme either. Look at all the options there are… but then yes, almost every single one of those options requires fossil fuel in some way – the energy to make the PV panels, the energy to transport the solar ovens for sale etc

    On the skills front, my Mum and Dad were big on this and came from a background of ‘do it yourself and make do, think creative’ so I’m not doing tooo badly, and my children are at a Steiner schooling learning all manner of life skills along with, and interwined in, the adademic.

    It’s hard to have hope but I gotta have some, somehow.

  3. says

    I think you are spot on Gavin. One of my greatest fears is that we are going to have a change that will see an end to all this overuse of fuels isolating us into local pockets. That is not my fear actually, what I worry about is that we will not have learnt and taught enough of the old skills to go on with. It feels a bit like cycling into a Dark Ages again and having to re-learn skills lost. No wonder it took you so long to write, I feel that I am not explaining myself very well. *sigh* Anyway, I think your break down points are very valid and important. It can be done though and I know that even looking back over the last couple of years I can see how much we have learnt. People smile indulgently at us and our store cupboard of food but I know that should the world turn upside down, we won’t be the ones falling off.

  4. says

    @ Kristy. Indeed mind blowing. Excuse my bad spelling, it is definitely the latter.

    @ Shirley. Thanks, and it is the young ones that need the reskilling. Keep up the good work.

    Gav x

  5. says

    Excellent article, Gavin. When I did my own research I came to the same conclusions which makes me wonder/mad/nonplussed that politicians/people in power that can make a difference either ‘DONT SEE IT’ or are IGNORING IT. My older children are still waiting for the technological discovery that will enable us all to go on as or better than we are. The younger ones have got used to the idea that this most likely will be their future and maybe Mum is crackbrained after all. They are all learning Nana and Grandpa skills. Thanks for your blog and practical help in learning those skills. Much appreciated.

  6. says

    It’s a bit … mindblowing really isn’t it. The thing is, where we are now ‘locally’ is NOT where I want to be when the poo hits the fan… But, I’m working on all areas as I can… which is better than not at all, yes?

    Thanks for sharing links.

    eta Gavin is it ‘energy decent’ or ‘energy descent’ ? I’m guessing the latter but then there’s all sorts of terms coming out these days that I couldn’t be sure! :)

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