Saturday, September 30, 2006

a call to action; a call for help

This was my to-do list before attending the Third US Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions last weekend. There was no room for phone messages so my wife took a picture of it and wiped it clean. After this past weekend she figured there was no way I was going to be able to make positive progress on the list- it’s growing faster than I can check things off.

So I thought I’d take some time to jot down some of the ideas that need more attention. They are in no particular order and this list is as much my way of organizing my thoughts as it is a call for help. Fell free to grab a topic and report back. There is so much to do.

  1. More than 100 million homes exist in America today. Only 1.5 million new homes are built here each year. Building green is great but what sort of system(s) can we put in place to help with the massive retrofit spiraling energy costs will demand?
  1. How can we over come the black and white perception of instant consumers and guilty producers? I think there are a few questions embedded in that one.
  1. A decrease in energy availability is one thing but what about the chaos it will create?
  1. The square as a way to graphically represent the 4 major destabilizing effects peak oil will have on our culture: decreased agricultural production, increased geopolitical conflicts, a contracting economic system currently based on growth and an overall reduction in transportation.
  1. Personal, local, state and national adoption of the Oil Depletion Protocal.
  1. Restructuring the family unit- how to rebuild agrarian families by unconventional means. This is based on a conversation with Peter Bane about the need for tribe-sized units of about 25 humans as the building blocks of the reagrarianization (my spell check just had kittens) of America in response to the failure of the “green” revolution in post peak petroleum America.
  1. Powering down as a “fascinating optimization exercise”. Got this one from Sharon Astyk. In other words, for those of us that like a challenge just how much of modern America can we give up and still be happy? I dare you to make it fashionable.
  1. The real benefits of electricity. I’ve long considered appliances like electric can openers to be insanely stupid. Imagine mining coal (this is dangerous remember) and then burning it (releasing pollution that is bad for our health and changes our climate) in an effort to generate electricity that is transported over many miles at an extreme loss of efficiency so that I can press a button to open a can. Opening a can with a manual can opener is incredibly easy and takes about 3 seconds for the vast majority of the population. The marketing of electric can openers leads me to believe that modern ad agencies could convince Americans to hit themselves with hammers if only someone were willing to pay for the ads. Which leads me to another thought…
  1. Agitprop as possible means towards affecting the change necessary to deal with energy descent. I’m not especially thrilled about the idea of agitating propaganda as a way to motivate change in human behavior but perhaps something useful could come out of a hard look at propaganda and how it’s used by the corporate media currently to keep change from happening. If you learn the language you don’t have to use it but you can at least recognize and avoid its message.
  1. Carrots and sticks. Motivating change with positive and negative feedback loops. What are they and how do they work together?
  1. Peak oil as a justice movement. This is another idea I am borrowing from Sharon. I have audio of some of our conversations and plan to make available the most embarrassing- I meant to say most enlightening portions of that soon. Back to the idea though which is that the biggest instances of change in this country during the previous century came about as a result of justice movements. As a southerner, I can say with certainty that this part of the country is nothing like it was 25 years ago. The idea that a black man and a white man are different in meaningful ways has been rejected by a large portion of the younger population. This didn’t happen because it was a mandated change in thinking by the government or because someone made money from a new product sold to reduce bigotry. It came about largely because people stood up and were no longer willing to accept unjust treatment. What can we learn from that?
  1. Imbedded in that last rant was the idea of focusing a larger portion of our education efforts (meaning our earth community/ life skills education) on the youngest part of our population. One of the very few disappointments of my conference experience was the average age of those attending. I was happy that everyone there was committed to learning more and affecting change but it seems to me that if you can raise and teach a child to be open-minded and objective and if you can raise and teach a child the skills necessary to shrug off dependency on corporate dominance you will have affected more change than if you convert those later in life to these practices. THIS IDEA IS NOT intended to marginalize the participation of older Americans or older humans from all countries, in the movement to reclaim our Earth. The wisdom of those who are older continues to amaze me. They are and will increasingly be crucial to the success of the great turning from industrial society to one of earth centered and community centered existence. That is to say I don’t wish there had been fewer older Americans in attendance but that there had been more young folks there. How can we increase their numbers. How can we structure education practices (home schooling is growing like wildfire) so that children and young adults learn more than how to read & write, how to do basic math and some general facts about the history of white people from the middle ages on. These are important topics but there are other topics that are also important and we aren’t teaching them. Now there is a can of worms…
  1. Why is it that American presidents seem to do their best, most public centered work after office? Would someone please put that question to Jimmy, George and Bill so as to begin a more public dialog about the phenomenon; or perhaps as a way to restructure the discussion of how to fairly finance election campaigns?
  1. Hybrid cars make up less than 1% of the automobiles on the road. Continuing to talk about them as the saviors of our way of life could be dangerous in that it might delay necessary, immediate change. This is not to say that they aren’t better than average cars but talking about them puts average America back to sleep.
  1. The stall of human develop put in place my corporate media, specifically the television. The result of on-demand everything is that many Americans never develop beyond the childish ideas that: everything is possible, there are no limits and, “I can do whatever I want”. Fully formed adult humans seem to understand that some things are impossible, the natural world does have limits that humans most obey, and the rights of others temper our own rights. Can we please talk about how to get rid of the methods by which many Americans are trapped into this lack of development?
  1. Peak Oil meet Climate Change. Climate Change meet Peak Oil. I thought you two might be able to work together, being the flip side of the same coin.
  1. The idea of thresholds. I doubt we need to convince 100% of the population that our species is threatening our very existence. I doubt we even have to convince a majority to get the ball rolling. I bet we only need a small, critical mass to affect change. How many? Who are they- the ones who don’t know yet? How can we reach them?
  1. Victory Gardens. I have written about this before but let me try a new catch phrase. The revolution won’t be televised but it will need to be fed. Food is one of the few, true basic necessities of human life. How about we start by removing our dependence on others for this most basic need? Because of its importance, food has become a central configuring factor around which our cultures have developed. In other words, home grown community potluck dinners are powerful forces in the face of domination by ADM and those other bastards.
  1. In this movement we could all stand a bit of non-confrontational communication training. Apparently there are people who can help us learn to speak in non-threatening ways to others about what we’re doing. This could further the cause. Eric, I think this one has your name on it.
  1. Top down thinking. Bottom up action.
  1. Hispanic immigrants retain much of the wisdom of community that will be vital to thriving in the coming age of energy descent and rapid climate change. Could someone please tell me the best way to involve these people in what we’re doing? Funny to think that right now the nation is talking about the problems of immigration and in fact their sense of community could be a stabilizing factor post peak oil.
  1. The coming movement of population. The Hispanic community is moving north into American society. I see only increased migration of people who can't make a living where they currently live. I spoke of the benefits the Hispanic community could offer but what about the stress put on existing communities as more people are forced to move? In other words, where will those Americans currently living in the Southwest go when air conditioning and pumped-in water both dry up? How will they be received? What has happened historically to large migrating populations who were forced to move because of environmental or economic reasons?
  1. Inspiration and Information as the twin faces of Peak Oil awareness.

Whew. If anybody knows how to write grant proposals or if anyone would like to pay me to quit my job and tackle some of these crucial questions raised at the conference please feel free to contact meJ If not, please weigh in on any of them yourself. They are by no means my own ideas but rather items I heard about and have become interested in having attended this year’s Community Solutions Peak Oil Conference. Take a few and research and write about the implications of these issues in light of what just might be the most exciting period of human history.


jewishfarmer said...

When you get all that fixed, let me know, because I've got some more ideas for you ;-).


baloghblog said...

getting to work on it now. Let me know if you come up with the year's worth of pay/living expenses...

fatguyonalittlebike said...

That's a long list. We should talk about how to use GG to get some of those thoughts out.