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9 Oct 2009

Whither Resilience and Transition? Why ‘Peak Oil’ Has Yet to Outlive its Usefulness

stress_city

It’s been a fascinating few days.  Early in the week, Nate Hagens and Sharon Astyk were suggesting the perhaps the term ‘peak oil’ has outlived its usefulness, given that we have almost certainly peaked, and that the peak oil movement needs to shift its focus.  It echoed something I wrote a while ago, likening ASPO and the wider peak oil movement to a Loch Ness Monster Society, dedicated to establishing the existence of this fabled creature.  They organise conferences, scientific searches of the loch, write papers and journals, and then one day, an entire, intact Loch Ness Monster washes up on the shore.  Then what?  They have no reason to exist any longer, their whole raison d’etre vanishes overnight.

However, I don’t think it is that straightforward.  For me, what we are seeing, taking a step back and looking in the longer time context, is a series of pulses.  Peak oil won’t go away as an issue, it pulses in and out of the collective consciousness and hopefully will increasingly come to underpin Government policy-making.  In July 2008, peak oil was pulsing as the oil price hit record highs, and issues around economics were in the background.  Now, economics has been the key pulse for the last year or so, and peak oil has been pushed off the side of the stage until the last few days.  If Colin Campbell’s original analysis, elaborated by David Strahan in his talk at the 2009 Transition Network conference, is correct, what looks likely is that the two will pulse alternately, as any kind of economic recovery increases demand, which raises the oil prices, which dampens economic recovery, which reduces demand and lowers prices, which increases demand, and so on and so on.  Until the connection between the two becomes clear, they will continue to pulse alternately.

ukercOver the last couple of days, the peak oil pulse has become most prominent, with two excellent reports which will hopefully give Ed Miliband a lot to think about, and dampen the complacency brought about by Malcolm Wicks’ dreadful and fairly pointless report on UK energy security.  The first report, by the UKERC, the UK’s premiere research establishment, sets out to answer the question “what evidence is there to support the proposition that the global supply of ‘conventional oil’ will be constrained by physical depletion before 2030?”, via. a review of 500 published papers on the subject. Its findings are striking (you can read David Strahan’s excellent analysis of it here).  It argues that there is a ‘significant risk’ of conventional oil production peaking before 2020, and brands those who argue that it will come some time beyond 2030 as being ‘at best optimistic and at worst implausible’.

It also contains a couple of striking stats which are great to include in your presentations on peak oil and which put the recent ‘giant’ oil finds into perspective;

  • that 2/3rds of current capacity must be replaced by 2030, even with an assumption of no growth in demand by then
  • that each additional 1 billion barrels delays peak oil by less than a week. To postpone the peak by a year would take 7 times what was discovered in 2007

Its policy recommendations basically echo what the peak oil and Transition movements have been saying for 5 years;

  • that we needed to have started responding to this a long time ago, you can’t wait until you know you have peaked before you start responding
  • that peak oil is likely to lead to increased demand for coal, and that climate change protection needs to be rigorously upheld and
  • that price volatility will reduce the ability of business and markets to adequately respond on their own, and that it will need government intervention.

You can download the report, and its more accessible Summary, here.  Speaking also as someone working within a University, it is great to see academics finally really looking at this issue, generally being incredibly slow to respond to such things.

ofgemThen today, Ofgem, which regulates electricity and gas markets in the UK, publishes its Project Discovery: energy market scenarios report.  It generates 4 scenarios about where energy prices might go between now and 2020, concluding that its worst case scenario means a 60% increase in energy bills.  In order to be prepared for the decline in UK gas supplies, the shift to low carbon energy generation and the phasing out of nuclear plants, the UK needs to be prepared to invest £200 billion.  Under all of its scenarios, fuel bills will rise, and interestingly, they note that the slower the economic recovery, the less steep the rise in prices.  It is a shot across the bows of what it sees as Government’s keeping of the issue on the long finger, and failure to invest (although it does put nuclear centre stage as part of the solution).

This morning on Radio 4′s Today Programme, shadow energy secretary Greg Clark and energy analyst David Hunter discussed the implications of the Ofgem report with presenter John Humphries.  It was a fascinating piece, mostly along the lines of “how has the Government let this slide for so long”, with Clark trying to make out that the Conservatives have been onto this for years, in spite of the lack of any evidence for this.  When asked what the Tories’ response would be, he replied ‘clean coal’, a technology which Humphries had to point out, doesn’t actually exist yet, a phenomena Clark had tried to sidestep by describing it as ‘pre-commercial’.  No talk, of course, of reducing demand, conservation, rethinking supply chains, of resilience.

So, now peak oil and energy security is pulsing, and the economic crash and disaster “is like so Summer ’09″.  Within weeks it will pulse back, and then in a few weeks, with Copenhagen, the climate change pulse will obscure the others (hopefully, although a peak oil awareness at Copenhagen might make solutions reached more useful and less prone to technofix responses).  Unlike Hagens, I don’t think that the term ‘peak oil’ has “outlived its usefulness”.  He argues that “the terminology is passe” and that “too many associate the term with gloom, doom and fundamentalism”.  On the contrary, I think that in the current situation, where the UK Government still holds to its official position that peak oil isn’t something we need to worry our pretty heads about until at least 2030, aided somewhat by Malcolm Wicks’ head-in-the-sand approach to energy policy, peak oil remains a very useful term.

Those of us in the peak oil community might have ‘got it’, and we may share Hagens’ assumption that we have passed the peak, but as we so often forget that most people aren’t there yet.  ‘Peak oil’ may no longer be relevant in a ‘look what’s coming’ kind of a way, but as a ‘look where we are’, and ‘when planning where we are going we need to bear this in mind’ way, it is still vital.  For those of us who have been onto peak oil for 4 or 5 years, it is clear that if we have peaked, it doesn’t look like we expected it to.  No blackouts (yet), no riots, no clear and present disaster, the economic crash having, ironically, cushioned many of its worst impacts.  While the peak oil analysis is correct, as Sharon observes, it is one element in a mix of issues converging simultaneously, each of which pulse with varying intensity.

upside of downThis is for me why the most important focus for the Transition response is on resilience.  Whether the current pulse is the economy, climate change, peak oil or any other of a range of issues, the fact remains that we are desperately unresilient at a time when that is really something you don’t want to be.  The point is that building resilience, moving towards localisation, building parallel public infrastructure, is the best response to all these challenges, and can be justified whichever issue happens to be pulsing the strongest.  In the wonderful ‘The Upside of Down’, which I have recently picked up again, Tom Homer-Dixon writes “if we want to thrive, we need to move from a growth imperative to a resilience imperative”.  Although he acknowledges that, in so far as society is currently configured, economic growth is critical for the world’s economy, “it must not be at the expense of the overarching principle of resilience, so needed for any coming transformation of human civilisation”.  I often argue that resilience is the new sustainability, a far more appropriate principle to underpin future planning.

Neil Adger, writing in 2003 (in an academic paper which is not available online unfortunately), wrote that “resilience also requires communities and societies to have the ability to self-organise and to manage resources and make decisions in a manner that promotes sustainability”.  It is this self-organisation and community empowerment that Transition focuses on.  Yet in doing this work, peak oil as a term and as an analysis offers a vital lens through which to view the world, as does climate change.  Peak oil offers a concise analysis of resource depletion in a visceral way that most people can really ‘get’.  Presented in the context of a historic-feeling, self-organising, positive, solutions-focused process such as Transition, peak oil begins to lose its association with ‘doom and fundamentalism’, instead being seen as a clarifying insight into what is afoot in the world.  Yet like all these other issues, it will pulse, one week being centre stage, the next week being overtaken by other issues, yet all the while, in communities across the world, the process of building resilience from the ground up continues, becoming more articulate, better networked, more effective and more able.  Ultimately, it will be that pulse that will be the strongest of them all.

nessieWhat we are seeing, I think, in the debate at the Oil Drum, is people who have given fantastic service analysing the data, assessing global reserves and analysing peak oil, looking up from their computer screens and wondering what is going on out there in the world now that, they feel, peak oil has passed.  EnergyBulletin got onto this first, moving beyond a focus just on peak oil and related issues, now covering the range of solutions emerging around the world.  Oil Drum has started to do the same, and this is great.  However, I don’t think that an awareness that peak oil has now passed negates the need for their skilled and insightful analysis, in the same way that the world still needs climate scientists in spite of the case for climate science being firmly established.  To return to our metaphore of the Loch Ness Monster lying on a beach, for many people, the questions have only just begun, and rather than finding themselves redundant, our Loch Ness Monster Society might just find that actually its work has only just begun.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

27 Comments

Joe
9 Oct 5:15pm

What the politicos et al have completely forgotten – fatally I believe – is just how the populations in Uk cities will get their daily food when the price of diesel becomes too high for the privately owned and therefore only-run-for-profit trucking companies pack up and in our “just in time” economy where we have no local stores of food. Aren’t rapid breakdown, chaos and mass starvation only a couple of days away from when the trucks falter?
Have you read “The Death of Grass” by John Christopher? How will hungry, angry mobs behave?

Joe

Tom A
9 Oct 6:57pm

“increasingly come to underpin Government policy-making”

LOL! – from a base of zero it won’t take much!

What I want to see is Totnes to be the first resilient community in Western Europe to live with an equitable and sustainable share of the earth’s resources considering there will be 7 billion people on the planet soon. To get a feel for what that will be like I recommend going to Gujarat.

Stu
9 Oct 11:42pm

You know, nothing changes until the average person in the street knows about peak oil and feels threatened by it. And average Joe knows nothing at this point. There can be all the blogs and reports and Oil Drum sites in the world out there. Average Joe don’t know shit, don’t believe shit, until some bimbo with a pretty face and big tits (who wouldn’t know shit) reads it from a script written for her (by others that wouldn’t know shit) on the national news. Then average Joe becomes an expert overnight, echoing whatever said bimbo told him. If she says, that someone else said…….there is 100 years of oil…..no probs…..then that is fact…..take it to the bank. IF she says, that someone else said….the world is going to run out next week and we are all toast…….then that is fact.

There are two people Joe average listens too. The media front people……and politicians. I have heard from time to time about all the noise about peak oil….in the media….and I’ve thought…what noise…….a mention every once in a blue moon…..and usually not in Joe average’s media……believe it or not…..Joe Average doesn’t read the Financial Reveiw…….or the Science Monthly or whatever other geek publication that Peak Oil gets a mention in now and then. I live in Australia, and I have never once heard a politition mention the term a single time….I have never seen it discussed on any of the main TV news or current affairs shows. I have read on the internet about some politition mentioning it in some speech or conversation with someone…….but have never seen this reported in any mainstream media. I have brought up Peak Oil with friends and associates at work from time to time……never have I ever brought up the subject with anyone who ever knew a damn thing about it…and when I tried to educate them a bit…..their reponse is always the same…..its a load of rubbish….because we are human beings…..the smartest creatures in the universe……and nothing is beyond us…..we can make petrol out of thin air if we have to…..technology will save our arses. They never think of the technology advances have always resulted in per capita increases in energy consumption…..technology uses energy……doesn’t save energy….or do you think someone living 100 years ago used more energy then someone living now. They don’t get it.

Wayne Goodwin
10 Oct 7:25am

Interesting article Rob and Stu your “down to earth” comment is spot on. I to live in the land of Oz. This week I organised two public forums to discuss peak oil taking an “opportunity” approach rather than the usual doom and gloom. Out of a community of about 2500 I got one person turn up. Disheartening? You better believe it.

Some comments from four people on the night who did not attend were “They should have done something about it 20 years ago”(Who is They?)
“I have my solution my malvern star(bike)” (Read I’m alright Jack). “We are all to busy doing our own thing to worry about it” (Just about sums it up)
and finally from the one person who did attend “What solutions have you(meaning me) got that will solve the problem” Oh and one other from the manager of the venue “You picked a cold night(I booked it a month ago)to cold for me I’m off home then out to play bridge”

Why would you bother?

Cheers (I think)
Wayne

Wayne Goodwin
10 Oct 7:27am

Oh and Stu it has made it to the main stream media. 4 Corners in July 2006, 60 minutes around the same time and Catalyst in 2005. Nothing in recent times though.

Lee Shelton
10 Oct 9:46am

Peak Oil has very much to still have its “15 minutes of fame”.
No one I work with knows anything about it. Hell, I have trouble getting them to talk positively about Climate Change – they still say its a load of old cobblers, the world is cooling and to hell with the polar bears.
Peak Oil is therefore way too complicated for them to grasp at the moment, although some of them are feeling a little pain in their wallets when it comes to filling their tanks on a Sunday evening ready for the week ahead.
As Stu says, we need some bimbo on TV to tell us we have passed peak oil, and then I’ll probably be the one telling them all to stop going on about it and just deal with it.

Shane Hughes
10 Oct 12:26pm

I’m in the “works just begun” camp. Not only have most not heard of it, they haven’t started preparing. On the flip side when PO gets some media and political airing it has a much faster traction with the mainstream than CC. The science and the argument is much simpler than CC; There are risks to our work, home and community life and we must understand them and change.

John Mason
10 Oct 2:33pm

I’m with Shane on this one, to the extent that the presentation I now use to introduce the need for community resilience is entirely about peak oil. The decision to go at it purely from this perspective came through long consideration of the situation we face here in the UK and by talking to as big a cross-section of the community as possible, both face-to-face and online.

To most lay people, Peak Oil is novel. Very few people understand fully what it means: few people outside of TOD/TT etc have even heard of it. It does not get daily media coverage. It is huge in its implications; it is not multidecadal but right now (i.e. its effects will become more and more obvious within the next ten years); and most importantly it is extremely simple to explain (I might have an advantage here having worked in economic geology). As Shane says, it will have much faster traction once it becomes more mainstream. This is simply because it will hit people where it hurts – in their pockets and lifestyle choices.

The approach I decided to take (the presentation had hundreds of revisions!) was to disembowel the Petroleum World and examine its entrails – i.e. to minutely examine the world we live in and take for granted. I’ll link to a few screengrabs of slides to give an idea what I have done – these are text slides but the presentation contains plenty of diagrams, images etc too. I’ve taken a rather no holds barred approach, and I apologise to the audience right at the start for assuming they know nothing about oil (many will not, a very few will is the usual pattern).

So after a brief look at what we use oil for and getting people’s minds focussed on what it means in terms of energy yield:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy1.jpg

I go on to explain what it is, how it forms and concentrates in economically-recoverable quantities (this really emphasises its actual rarity, something that people generally do not understand) and only then do I introduce Hubbart and peak theory. Once that’s sunk home with an explanation of how many days’ worth of consumption a 10 billion barrel oilfield discovery now represents:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy2.jpg

I use a “traffic-lights” type illustration of the potential effects of unmitigated oil depletion:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy3.jpg

By now, the audience are thinking of substitutes. So that is a timely moment to re-emphasis that peak oil is not about reserves, it is about flow-rate (the Athabasca Tar-Sands are a brilliant example to use to illustrate this).

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy4.jpg

And that leads to economics which leads in turn to EROI – which is an easily-understandable concept.

The way I introduce Transition after all those energy-related punches on the nose is by plotting its beginnings and then using maps to show its viral expansion around the world. This alone is a strong marketing tool as it shows straight away that it’s really catching on. Then to show it’s not some cosmic New Age type thing, I use a very simple slide:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy5.jpg

before going on to explore these things in more detail. I really believe that Transition boils down to these three “R’s” – recognition, relocalisation and reskilling – leading to the one big “R’ of Resilience. They are terms that are accessible, immediately understandable and emninently sensible, and each one embraces somewhere a number of the twelve steps without having to go into that in a step-by-step way. What I am trying to do here I suppose is to illustrate how severe this problem is and then offer a solution which is so obvious that I want members of the audience to go home thinking “why hadn’t I thought of that”? It’s far more complicated in real terms, of course, but with this approach, as a first introduction to peak oil and transition, I’m explaining the problem in considerable detail and then , Obama-style, finishing with a “Yes we can” message regarding the solution.

How the latest version pans out will be interesting to see – the local Town Council are booked for the end of this month so after that I’ll report back! But in conclusion, I think Peak Oil is a very much alive term, it’s extraordinary how few people understand it or have even heard of it, and we need to be out there disseminating information about it as much as possible.

Cheers – John

John Mason
10 Oct 3:31pm

Tried posting this once already but it seems to have disappeared into the system!!

I’m with Shane on this one, to the extent that the presentation I now use to introduce the need for community resilience is entirely about peak oil. The decision to go at it purely from this perspective came through long consideration of the situation we face here in the UK and by talking to as big a cross-section of the community as possible, both face-to-face and online.

To most lay people, Peak Oil is novel. Very few people understand fully what it means: few people outside of TOD/TT etc have even heard of it. It does not get daily media coverage. It is huge in its implications; it is not multidecadal but right now (i.e. its effects will become more and more obvious within the next ten years); and most importantly it is extremely simple to explain (I might have an advantage here having worked in economic geology). As Shane says, it will have much faster traction once it becomes more mainstream. This is simply because it will hit people where it hurts – in their pockets and lifestyle choices.

The approach I decided to take (the presentation had hundreds of revisions!) was to disembowel the Petroleum World and examine its entrails – i.e. to minutely examine the world we live in and take for granted. I’ll link to a few screengrabs of slides to give an idea what I have done – these are text slides but the presentation contains plenty of diagrams, images etc too. I’ve taken a rather no holds barred approach, and I apologise to the audience right at the start for assuming they know nothing about oil (many will not, a very few will is the usual pattern).

So after a brief look at what we use oil for and getting people’s minds focussed on what it means in terms of energy yield:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy1.jpg

I go on to explain what it is, how it forms and concentrates in economically-recoverable quantities (this really emphasises its actual rarity, something that people generally do not understand) and only then do I introduce Hubbart and peak theory. Once that’s sunk home with an explanation of how many days’ worth of consumption a 10 billion barrel oilfield discovery now represents:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy2.jpg

I use a “traffic-lights” type illustration of the potential effects of unmitigated oil depletion:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy3.jpg

By now, the audience are thinking of substitutes. So that is a timely moment to re-emphasis that peak oil is not about reserves, it is about flow-rate (the Athabasca Tar-Sands are a brilliant example to use to illustrate this).

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy4.jpg

And that leads to economics which leads in turn to EROI – which is an easily-understandable concept.

The way I introduce Transition after all those energy-related punches on the nose is by plotting its beginnings and then using maps to show its viral expansion around the world. This alone is a strong marketing tool as it shows straight away that it’s really catching on. Then to show it’s not some cosmic New Age type thing, I use a very simple slide:

http://www.geologywales.co.uk/editorial/energy5.jpg

before going on to explore these things in more detail. I really believe that Transition boils down to these three “R’s” – recognition, relocalisation and reskilling – leading to the one big “R’ of Resilience. They are terms that are accessible, immediately understandable and emninently sensible, and each one embraces somewhere a number of the twelve steps without having to go into that in a step-by-step way. What I am trying to do here I suppose is to illustrate how severe this problem is and then offer a solution which is so obvious that I want members of the audience to go home thinking “why hadn’t I thought of that”? It’s far more complicated in real terms, of course, but with this approach, as a first introduction to peak oil and transition, I’m explaining the problem in considerable detail and then , Obama-style, finishing with a “Yes we can” message regarding the solution.

How the latest version pans out will be interesting to see – the local Town Council are booked for the end of this month so after that I’ll report back! But in conclusion, I think Peak Oil is a very much alive term, it’s extraordinary how few people understand it or have even heard of it, and we need to be out there disseminating information about it as much as possible.

Cheers – John

John Mason
10 Oct 3:32pm

This page is malfunctioning – have tried to post a comment twice but it’s not appearing!!!

Cheers – John

Annie Leymarie
10 Oct 5:15pm

Re many comments above, couldn’t we form a consortium of green players such as Greenpeace, FoE, Alvaaz, 10:10, Transition Network, TED, etc. etc. to create a TV channel for Freeview (and equivalent outside UK) and share airwaves, with relevant broadcasts? Wouldn’t that be a good project for Franny Armstrong?

Max Oakes
11 Oct 9:20pm

I think peak oil may never pulse strong enough to gain wide public awareness. Economic impacts could always mask it, even if they are caused by it and follow after oil price spikes.

When enough people can’t afford modern life they will start looking for alternatives. Then Transition will be mainstream. And peak oil will be an intellectual curiosity.

Here in credit crunch Britain Truck sales are down 70%, cars sales down too, this huge cut in vehicle numbers has yet to show its long term impact. Oil demand is falling now (in rich countries). Mortgage defaults, and social unrest linked to unemployment all do a great job of contracting the economy, and keeping oil demand down. The unwinding of debt is just getting started-coming up are credit card defaults, commercial property losses, really big falls in house prices, and big derivative losses. RBS just had another bailout from a govt that is already broke, leaving less than nothing for investment in low energy infrastructure. After people have been buried under all this they may never hear of peak oil.

Gil Sanford
12 Oct 4:33am

Yes, I think peakers who are wondering what their role should be now that, in their estimation, peak oil is in the present tense, should look beyond the niche of their echo chambers and try dropping a red pill on someone else. The NYT article from Michael Lynch (seem my dramatization) has successfully reset peak oil awareness to zero after the Fatih Birol 2020 bombshell was about to maybe make some waves for a change. European awareness of resource depletion is way above and beyond what it is in the US. The best english language media coverage of PO is in places like The Independent or BBC News. The gulf between UK news and US news is wider than the Atlantic Ocean.

Jason
12 Oct 11:24am

Great post, one I’d like to send to a few people who would be interested. (It needs a proofreading though.)

As for me, I see peak oil not as a slogan but as a way of explaining information, and still a good one, since it’s still communicable and still relevant.

Greenpa
12 Oct 5:21pm

There is another problem here, which I think is almost never dealt with; the learning process is long, and stretches from 0 to 1000 (let’s say.)

Sharon Astyk is working up around 900. Joe Pub is around 5.

When a 5 manages to become a 400 (over several years) – they tend to forget what it’s like to be a 5, and they forget that there are still a zillion 0-10 folks out there- oblivious. You can even have Negative numbers- we have some Congressmen in the US who would be -8s, or so (actually know very little, and all wrong).

The concept of Peak Oil is still desperately important new information for anyone in the 10-400 range. They need it.

Sharon does an extraordinarily good job of making her blog accessible to anyone from 10- 1000; but, like any human, she can, rarely, get impatient with the need to feed the entire spectrum. “Can’t we just quit talking about X!! We’ve talked it to death already! Time to move on.”

I think everyone along the spectrum feels this way from time to time.

Maybe we need a certifyer for information. “This blog is rated 100-300.”

There would be a little less crankiness and miscomprehension in the audience.

I know, I know. Who is going to bell the cat? :-)

Jennifer Lauruol
12 Oct 6:49pm

It’s a moment of sanity every evening reading Rob’s blog and all your comments guys n gals. It keeps me from giving up entirely when surrounded by willful ‘don’t give a damn’ attitudes, even amongst local politicos who know about Peak Oil, and might be able to do something about some of the issues if they only had the courage to show some leadership. I know, we’re all leaders, have a role to play; but sometimes I just lose heart when those who actually have some political power refuse to care.

Wayne Thompson
12 Oct 8:56pm

As an initial introduction I tend to talk about “the end of an economic model based on cheap energy.” I find most people can get their heads around this concept quite simple as it impacts them financially. This is the way people are used to making decisions in our culture – Can I afford it or Can i get access to credit to “afford” it. Any other criteria in the decision making process – How was this product produced, What are the long term impacts of this purchase etc. do not carry as much weight in the mind of the consumer at present. The PO discussion has to happen when your audience is ready for it and that will be different for every individual/community. Approach people where they are at and prepare to hold their hand for the long journey to enlightenment.

Just did the T4T training in Los Angeles at the weekend. Very well thought out course. Great to see so many people on the same page and fired up and ready to go back to their communities and begin or continue transitioning.

joe
12 Oct 11:52pm

I totally agree that peak oil is far from ready to be deleted from the agenda – for most people it isn’t even on it.

This is just the same as with the economical crisis: There have been warnings of a considerable financial instability for years – due to which I sold all my shares two years ago. But even now many aren’t aware what is at stake. In Germany, two weeks ago exactly those two parties were elected into the new government, which were most fond of the laissez-faire capitalism, which lead to the current turmoil. But obviously people didn’t care. They simply gave the power to those with the most catchy slogan: “We have the power.”

Dave Dann
13 Oct 7:05pm

I’d say awareness of Climate Change is much higher than Peak Oil but the problem with both is one of ‘credibility’. At the moment the mass of the people does not feel threatened. (I’m with Stu on his view of this). I think that the majority of people will not change their attitudes until after they have experienced a crisis themselves. In the view of most people, anyone suggesting that oil supplies could peak is automatically a doomer. By definition there can be no such thing as joyful reduction in energy use.

Kamil
14 Oct 12:04pm

@DaveDann
‘I think that the majority of people will not change their attitudes until after they have experienced a crisis themselves’

That’s the worry isn’t it because the crisis will be overwhelming and early preparation is important.

When working with people in my community I’m informed by the addiction model from the handbook but the sad truth for many (most?) of hardcore addicts is that they only get on the change bandwagon after a crisis(es)/near death experience/loosing everything.

Translating it over to a community means that many people will change simply because TT (and other groups) have done the awareness raising and people see the benefits of change and what can be lost if they don’t. Other’s won’t change until it hurts.

I said translating but I can’t know for sure what will happen. I’m continuing to work with my community getting people (and myself) out of our lifestyle addiction – step by step, life by life working towards the tipping point of a community – oh where are you tipping point:)

Sharon Astyk
14 Oct 4:01pm

Rob, I appreciate the kind words in your essay, but I would observe that in fact, I didn’t say that we should stop using the term peak oil, or that it has outlived its usefulnesss. But while I quoted Hagens saying “peak oil’s day is over” I didn’t actually endorse that viewpoint. I said that peak oil was always a crappy, inspecific phrase for the larger problem of depletion. But that’s not quite the same either.

As I intended it (perhaps not as others read it), my essay *disagreed* in some measure with Hagens, and diagnosed the problem as being one of misperceiving how peak oil would manifest, and what its relationship would be to other crises. It is a minor point of disagreement, and apologies if I’m being churlish by insisting on correcting it, but I don’t think Nate and I quite said the same things.

Cheers,

Sharon

Rob
14 Oct 7:52pm

Thanks for the clarification Sharon!
Rob

John Mason
14 Oct 8:33pm

Hi Sharon,

It’s like a lot of things – they tend to need a rather non-specific yet snappy (crappy) term for the public to latch onto. Climate change is a similar example – there are obviously some parts of the world where the climate could change and thereby improve a lot for the people trying to exist there, via any cause, but nevertheless it encompasses a crisis into an everyday term of reference.

How peak oil will manifest is an interesting question because there are so many potential scenarios between the best and worst end-members: it’s probably a good stab at it to suggest that it will vary from nation to nation depending a) how governments address flow-rate depletion and b) how residents come to terms with the same, constructively or otherwise….

Cheers – John

Angel Dobrow
26 Oct 3:53pm

As a member of our town’s Transition Northfield initiating committee, I was invited to view the peak-oil movie “The End of Suburbia” with a college freshman writing class, and introduce transition ideas at the end of the movie. You could have heard a pin drop when the sound was turned off at the end…the class of 20 was stunned. Me too, actually, and I’ve seen the movie before. The group rallied, but I am convinced not one of those students had heard of or thought about peak oil and all it’s implications(or even any of it’s implications.) I propose the role of the ASPO be monitoring/countering oil industry lie-production-machines; and stay connected to the transition movement. People need to hear the range of forward thinking from numbers folks to social scientists, from concerned parents to food preservationists, from visionaries to worker bees.

Angel Dobrow
Northfield, MN, US

[...] this thread, three days later, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, offered “Whither Resilience and Transition? Why ‘Peak Oil’ Has Yet to Outlive Its Usefulne… Here, Rob playfully describes the peak oil movement as a “Loch Ness Monster Society,” [...]

Harald Wolf
16 Nov 10:59pm

I’d like to throw a twist into this debate. “Peak Oil” was only a small attraction for me to join the Transition Movement, despite my geological training and extensive knowledge of the subject. (What attracted me was the community building and resilience.)
In my presentations on Transition, I have all but removed Peak Oil as anything more than a historical trigger in founding the Movement. The reality is that if we actually follow the curve of depleting oil down, we are done for on the climate front! We must get ahead of the curve!
More importantly yet, is the way all but the enlightened react to the Peak Oil argument: “no problem, we’ll just find a technofix in the form of Clean Coal, Carbon-Capture (CCS), and unconventional sources.”
The mentality in Canada is quite different from that in the UK, were you are dealing with clearly declining North Sea oil production. Canada’s Conservative government is a huge cheerleader for the Tar Sands, assuring us that Canada is on the cusp of becoming an “energy superpower”. All “issues” with this production are merely small technological hurdles that are on the verge of being solved.
This promise of wealth and growth completely smothers those of us pointing to the environmental destruction, poor EROEI, and ludicrousness of CCS, especially at the Tar Sands. Some are even promoting nuclear-powered Tar Sands mining!
I agree with those that expect the “peak” to be a protracted and rough rollercoaster ride. Until the decline of global production is indisputable – which may be some years off – we won’t have much luck reaching the mainstream. In the mean time, urgent action on carbon emissions gets pushed further and further back.
Thoughts?