Having just put another couple of logs on the fire on this chilly night, I am once again reminded of our total reliance upon winter warmth. As I mentioned before, we’ve developed an adapted hibernation strategy to get us through the cold months, but our dependency on fossil fuels of late has made us very vulnerable.
I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy though, & like most permaculture advocates, see a lot of opportunities in this situation for positive change & creative solutions. Permaculture was originally developed in response to the oil crisis of the 1970′s – looking at solutions that didn’t rely upon the availability of such easy energy. Since then our whole way of life has become more & more dependent upon the supply of oil & we are more vulnerable than ever to a reduction in its availability. Just think of all the things that we now take for granted & that rely upon oil in some form or another for its production or transportation.
Permaculture was always about looking beyond oil & as time goes on its solutions become more & more relevant to our lives.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Peak Oil, it puts forward the idea that we have now reached maximum production of oil (so from now on it will become much more difficult & expensive to extract). This would mean that everything using oil in any part of its production will become more expensive too (just about everything we currently spend money on!). Clearly our dependence upon oil has become completely out of control & we urgently need to take different approaches to meeting our needs (& responsibly cutting back on our unnecessary wants).
This is where I break ranks though with the popular permaculture line & I do so because there are things about Peak Oil that don’t feel right to me. Sure if it means people will cut back on their energy use, that is a positive outcome, but there are different ways of achieving any goal & I’m not comfortable with using the concept of Peak Oil to achieve this. Here’s why….
Fear, fear, fear…
Peak Oil is a strategy that motivates through fear; the fear of lack. What happens whenever a possible fuel strike is announced? Are people responsible & happy to share what is available, or do we see queues of cars at every petrol station filling their tanks & whatever spare cans they have? Are people really going to cut back or are they more likely to think ‘Well, I may as well use it up while it’s here’? I don’t like scare tactics & would rather use the approach of showing people what a wonderful life they can have without oil, using real life examples of people actually doing it & thriving on their new lifestyle…. Let’s instead coax people towards a positive lifestyle by showing them how much they would love a lifestyle where they were once again reconnected with the natural world around them.
We’ve already seen prices rocket earlier this year & although they have fallen again, they are still much higher than they were before. Only now we think that £1.06 a litre is cheap!. Oil prices rises will affect us all & so we must make changes in the ways we use energy. It is time for us to redevelop our local networks & build community again so that we can make a smooth & enjoyable transition into our future, free of the chaos that an oil dependent society might very soon find itself in. The strategies that permaculture offers us are as relevant as they ever were & we are the visionaries who have to start putting them into place.
I personally choose love over fear as my strategy & that proves to be a reliable gauge for me in deciding how to respond to any situation. I no longer blindly believe whatever I hear, but instead observe first how everything feels. I engage all of my senses, look beyond what I am being told & only act upon something if it still resonates with truth for me. You may find this to be a useful strategy to adopt for yourself too. Then instead of acting out of the fear of oil shortages, arrange to visit a local permaculture project & ask the people there how much they love their new found connection back to nature (& I think I already know what they will tell you). And maybe that will provide you with the best incentive to start making your own changes…