Did you get your daily dose of oil today? You didn’t?
Well, just between you and me, I think that you may be in denial and you have had a hit of some of the “black” stuff today. Let me show you what I mean and how oil permeates the very fabric of current our civilization.
Oil is all around us
Did you brush your teeth this morning? Guess what? Most commercial toothpastes are derived from oil based products, as is most shampoos. Not to mention the plastic containers they came in and the toothbrush you are brushing with. The water that washed your mouth out with was transported to you by infrastructure made by machines powered by oil in the form of diesel or petrol.
Did you turn on the light to see what you were doing? Powered by coal fired generators, you say. That’s not oil. Too right it is not, but how do you think they dig it out of the ground. That’s right, with machines powered by diesel. The transmission line infrastructure is repaired by people driving vehicles powered by oil and keep the energy flowing. But I have GreenPower I here some of you say. How were the wind turbines made? At least some of the manufacturing process used some form of oil based material and in the transportation of the turbine to its current site. You just can’t get away from oil.
Did you have breakfast this morning? Did you buy the cereal or bread from the supermarket? How did it get to the supermarket shelves? That, right friends, it was transported by oil powered vehicles, with your cup of coffee probably travelling many kilometres from some exotic location on the other side of the planet. How far did your milk travel? At least 200km I’m betting.
How did you get to work? Beside the obvious use of petrol/gas in your car, somewhere along your journey, you would have used oil to get there. Even your bike has plastic parts that are oil based!
Not convinced yet? I shall continue.
Did you use your computer today? If you are reading this, you must be. Loaded with oil based plastics and components. No oil means no PC’s, and no PC’s means no Internet. Oh dear.
What was for lunch? A nice salad sandwich maybe? Those lettuces and tomatoes (if not home grown or organic) would have been grown with the assistance of natural gas based fertilisers and kept pest free with petroleum based pesticides and herbicides. They would have been transported long distances to your plate via truck or train all driven by oil.
Do you need to take a daily medication. There is a good chance that the pharmaceutical company made it from a hydrocarbon derived from oil.
I could go on forever, but in the interests of not shocking you any further, I think I have made my point.
Oil = Civilisation as we know it
So now that we know that “Oil = our current way of life“, what happens when we can’t get enough of the stuff? Yes, I am talking about Peak Oil. I am not talking about going cold turkey, but a slow and probably bumpy decline in cheap energy. We can still get our daily dose (for a while), but it will get very expensive, very quickly as oil prices begin to rise again and demand outstrips supply. Some experts believe that global oil production has already peaked in 2007, but others believe we still have a few more years. Either way, there is no fuel known to mankind that can rapidly replace oil as a cheap energy source in such a short space of time.
Civilization as we know, it has become so reliant on the stuff that the only way to wean ourselves off will be by way of a sudden shock to our collective system. What sort of emotions do you think the average global citizen will feel when they find out that there is not enough oil to go around like the glory days. Duped, I reckon, and possibly very angry. So much so, that civil unrest may become the norm. I bet this issue is not on many peoples radar. Most are just coming to terms with Climate Change, let alone another king hit like this one. The video below might describe it better than my attempt at documenting the issue.
How can we prepare ourselves for this issue? Some say we can’t, and that we should stock up on food, guns and ammunition. I personally believe that is crazy talk. The “Survivalists” as they are known, will survive of course, but only for a while. History has shown that humans survive better in collective groups and have more meaningful lives (unlike our current state of affairs!).
I believe that a community that lives locally has far more resilience than those individuals who go it alone. A single person or family cannot possibly learn all the skills necessary to survive for a long period of time without outside help.
So, building local community is probably the best way to combat the onset of an energy decline. One proposed way of preparing ourselves is via a Transition Town initiative. According to the TT site, a Transition Town kind of begins like this;
“It all starts off when a small collection of motivated individuals within a community come together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?They begin by forming an initiating group and then adopt the Transition Model with the intention of engaging a significant proportion of the people in their community to kick off a Transition Initiative.A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:
- “for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”
So building resilience in our local community, we have to embark on a social experiment on a massive scale. The creators of the transition process are convinced that;
if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late
if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
I believe that they are spot on. Reskilling for the future is what will be necessary. Cuba were forced to do it after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s. They survived Peak Oil, by changing they way they did everyday things, but now they are getting hammered by nearly every hurricane that enters the Mexican Gulf each year. Have a look at this clip from the documentary “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”. It is simply amazing what a determined community managed to achieve.
As you know I am very vocal in this blog about both Climate change and Peak Oil. How do they go together? Well think of it this way;
Climate change makes this carbon reduction transition essential
Peak oil makes it inevitable
Transition initiatives make it feasible, viable and attractive
I like the sound of TT so much that I am attempting to gather a few good people in my local area to kick it off. If there are any local readers who are interested in helping to start up a TT initiative in Melton, Victoria, please drop me an email. I am meeting with some people from our shires Environment & Sustainability department in the next few weeks, and am going to ascertain what their reaction is. With a lot of determination we can all have a go in our own towns, villages, or cities and become resilient against these two major problem that we have brought upon ourselves. We don’t want a repeat of these behaviours, now do we?
Let just hope we can all act fast enough.
That was a great post, Gavin.
I find that most people I know are more than in denial, they look at you blankly if you mention anything to do with peak oil and climate change. Yet they will be the ones to jump up and down the most demanding to know why it was all allowed to go pear shaped.
Good luck luck with the Transition Town, I look forward to hearing more about it.
Cabbage Heart says
That is one eye opening video. Really gets you to wondering how long It will be before it happens to us. I have never thought of Australia as a third world country, but if we don’t smarten up our act, we will be!
Andrew and Heather says
Great post re Transition Towns. Apart from the issues raised, there are a myriad of other benefits. Social relationships in neighbourhoods/suburbs/small towns will be strengthened. Feelings of responsibility to one’s community will hopefully reduce the disconnectedness so obvious at the moment and perhaps lead to less antisocial behaviour. If people shop locally, businesses in the area will flourish, returning money to the local community. Also small businesses are likely to employ more people in aggregate than large department stores. (One reason these companies have cheaper prices is because they “screw” suppliers, decrease labour input and offer minimal service.) When people feel connected to their community they better understand issues faced by their neighbours (tolerance) and are more likely to volunteer for community activities eg CFA, aged care, etc.
In the Yarra Valley several groups are exploring TT type concepts. In 2004 the Yarra Valley Permaculture Group established the weekly Healesville Organic Market (at the old railway Station) to promote the supply of local organic produce to the area. Local growers are small scale (some are backyard gardeners) and have become a major source of organic food in this area. We will post details on our blog (http://www.tenderbreak.blogspot.com) soon. There are also Community Supported Agriculture Schemes and Local Community Organic Food Box deliveries in some areas.
The Community Harvest Project (http://communityharvestproject.org.au/) aims to help individuals and groups grow or access healthy, sustainable, affordable, locally produced food. They are working to connect individuals and groups to share skills, knowledge, resources, and create a vibrant, cooperative and resilient community.
Your blog serves a powerful role in raising awareness of the issues faced by our society. We eagerly look forward to each post.
Andrew and Heather
@ Nevyn. Very eye opening and sobering isn’t it. You are so right. It is always the people who don’t want to know about the issues who complain the loudest when it finally happens. Thanks for the vote of confidence regarding the TT. I have to find others in my area before I make a start.
@CH. I thought you would like the Cuba video. Don’t think of it as a step backwards, think of it as an improvement. The nation of Cuba is now the healthiest in central America!
@ Andrew & Heather. Great addition to the post. I agree with each and every benefit that you listed. If I ever in your neck of the woods, I will look you up at your stall. Glad you got through the fires OK.