Archive for the ‘Peak oil’ Category

The reality is that fossil fuels will no longer be available to power our civilization.We will have to go back to relying on the sun for energy. We can’t be sure exactly when or how this inflection point will take place, but it will take place.

Energy becomes more expensive; conflicts over energy become the norm.

It’s wishful thinking to imagine that photo-voltaic cells, hydrogen or any other technology can take the place of petroleum. Natural gas, coal, and uranium will make a dent in the downward curve, but but they are limited and there will be no going back to cheap energy.

(Nothing original here. The foregoing is the position of Richard Heinberg and his school of Peak Oil thinkers. The same ideas were circulating in the 70s. See Peak Oil Links for details on this argument. See especially the Die-Off site.)

If we are going back to solar energy, how do we do it? For the most part, through gardening. Gardening means harvesting the sun’s power through vegetation to produce food, drink, medicines, fabrics, dyes, fuel (biomass), and building material. Gardening is intensive and intelligent, de-centralized and local.

But Gardening Needs a Culture

Eventually (after centuries), we will recover the knowledge and attitudes necessary for good gardening.

What a waste though. The technical knowledge is available now. Now, it would be easy to develop techniques and infrastructure to get us through the hard times to come.

What to do?

Here, now. Struggle to earn a living, meet family and other obligations. How to start the new culture? Well, be patient. // I want to get gardening away from the specialists. They keep the information alive, but as a special group, they have habits that make it difficult for everybody to join. And it’s critical that it be open to everyone.

Trying to read 200 pages of dense text on fruit growing. (Calif MG Handbook). It’s a good reference, but it is irrelevant to the job of creating a new culture. For that, need stories, meaning. How frivolous and superficial seem our gardening texts, compared to the central role gardening and farming had in previous centuries. Here we talk about the colors and textures of landscape plants. The Bible uses gardening imagery for the most profound of ideas.


I had a strange feeling reading about trees, fruit trees, and pruning. Trees are more imposing presences than herbs and vegetables. More of a personality. An imposing presence. A greater emotional relationship to them. Fig tree in our back yard. The cherry trees. Redwoods, eucalyptus. Tape on plant amnesty, crusading against bad pruning. // Trees are there… but do we write about them? Do we think about them? There are bureaucratic, technical, and legal approaches, but these aren’t satisfying. They are just the silly response of an overly developed culture. // Walk among them. They are beings. Long-lived. // a sick, guilty, feeling… of my own superficiality and inconsequentiality. // remember trees wrapped up in my memories, relationships. took place. Quote from Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. Beginning of first chapter:

To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall. And winter, which modifies the note of such trees as shed their leaves, does not destroy its individuality.

Beginning of last chapter:

The point in Yalbury Wood which abutted on the end of Geoffrey Day’s premises was closed with an ancient tree, horizontally of enormous extent, though having no great pretensions to height. Many hundreds of birds had been born amidst the boughs of this single tree; tribes of rabbits and hares had nibbled at its bark from year to year; quaint tufts of fungi had sprung from the cavities of its forks; and countless families of moles and earthworms had crept about its roots. Beneath and beyond its shade spread a carefully-tended grass-plot, its purpose being to supply a healthy exercise-ground for young chickens and pheasants; the hens, their mothers, being enclosed in coops placed upon the same green flooring.

All these encumbrances were now removed, and as the afternoon advanced, the guests gathered on the spot, where music, dancing, and the singing of songs went forward with great spirit throughout the evening. [wedding takes place here]


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Discussion with a Peak Oil (PO) activist about whether drilling for oil in ANWR is relevant to Peak Oil. (See Conoco deals ANWR drilling a blow.)

B: ANWR is a key oil vs environment issue, one we’ll see repeated again and again. Not just in the US, but worldwide.

L: Yes, which is why i feel need to focus on the donut not the hole, the disease not the symptoms.

B: Pressure on the oil companies seems to have paid off. Other groups may want to imitate these tactics

L: For how long tho, has ANWR been saved? Do you really think most ppl will give a stuff about beasties 100s of kms away when their heat goes off, or will they then say drill/dig/stripmine whereever the stuff is? Saving bits now, without stopping the culture of consumer capitalism, only means those bits will go last. Its like waking up to discover house is on fire, grabbing yr fav memento’s & running upstairs – no point if the house is still on fire, got to put the fire out.

B: Would it be accurate to say that you see PO as a spike, a relatively sudden event that will cause panic and disruption? If so, it would make sense to focus on the underlying problem (“consumer capitalism”) and fix it, presumably through small low-energy communities à la Ted Trainer.

I see PO instead as a set of interlocking crises … environmental, political, economic, cultural… that will manifest themselves in different places and different times. The mindset and infrastructure have taken hundreds of years to build up; unwinding the fossil fuel society will be a long, bumpy, multi-faceted process. For me, the important things are to make connections and establish alliances.

Thus, ANWR is an opportunity to understand the inter-connection between consumerism, oil, and environmental destruction. I recently saw “Oil on Ice”, a documentary that made these points. (Also see a page on the relationship of ANWR to energy). I talked to one of the filmmakers, who told me they were aware of PO and their next film would emphasize it. I said I would try to write a review of the film… maybe the discussion with you will prompt me into going ahead with it.

I don’t necessarilly share the recommendations of the film — for example in their emphasis on hybrid cars as a significant solution. But for me, the question is not whether I agree with them 100%, but are they going in the right direction and can we work together?

L is a smart guy with a gift for incisive criticism, so I await his next reply.

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