[permaculture] Peak-oil scenario fuels "go local" campaign

Kaia Bronte kaiabronte at gmail.com
Sat Oct 8 02:46:48 EDT 2005

from link:

Back to the future: Peak-oil scenario fuels “go local” campaign

By Kathryn Casa | Vermont Guardian

posted October 7, 2005

BRATTLEBORO — Good news! The world is fast approaching the end of its oil
supplies. Their depletion will lead to a Malthusian catastrophe as
oil-driven economies crash, petroleum-linked world food supplies shrink,
transportation costs skyrocket, and industrialized urbanization reverses
itself, sending people fleeing their SUV-dependent suburbs for a rural

It takes a real optimist to see opportunity in such a dire scenario. But, a
handful of Windham County activists see the end of oil dependence as the
beginning of a better way of life.

“I believe that there are tremendous opportunities embedded in this whole
issue/crisis of peak oil,” said Brattleboro ecological engineer Tad

“I’m seeing a lot of people wake up. A lot of people who have wanted to
implement alternatives for years or decades finally are saying this is the
time to put up those solar panels or drive a biodiesel car. They’re
insulating their homes, riding their bicycles, growing gardens, and
preserving foods, finding self-reliance,” he said.

Montgomery is a co-founder of Post-Oil Solutions (POS), a group of about 10
people who have been meeting twice a month since the summer to brainstorm
ways to insulate and strengthen their communities against the potential
effects of an oil-based economy crash. Self-reliance is the POS watchword,
but so is interdependence: the ironic juxtaposition that community
interdependence will achieve independence.

What’s it all about?

The term “peak oil” refers to the gradual depletion of oil supplies. Because
oil has powered phenomenal economic and population growth over the last
century and a half, a decline in production is expected to significantly
affect societies like ours that are leveraged on cheap oil. According to
Energybulletin.net, “Without significant successful cultural reform,
economic and social decline seems inevitable.”

Peak-oil chatter re-emerged on the Internet several years ago, helped along
by what many see as an oil-driven war in Iraq. Add global warming and a
hyperactive hurricane season, and a Google search for “peak oil” on Oct. 4
netted more than 1.83 million hits.

Major publications like The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic,
Scientific American, and The Wall Street Journal have also picked up the

“Nobody says oil won’t peak,’” said Montgomery. “The question is when. The
U.S. Geological Survey says in 2040; the Association for the Study of Peak
Oil says somewhere between now and 2010. 
 But I think it’s really hard for
people to believe, and people really don’t want to believe the

On the sunny side

It can be scary stuff, and that’s where POS comes in. Like Montgomery,
co-founder Tim Stevenson finds infinite exciting possibilities in the peak
oil scenarios.

“The whole issue of peak oil is almost like the answer to the problems that
have beset progressive activism over the years, which has traditionally been
a negative practice, grounded in criticizing or protesting against something
that is happening in the world, directed against our government or
 politics,” said Stevenson.

“We can no longer afford the luxury of being critical of whoever is
responsible, because we’re all responsible,” said Stevenson. “We’re all part
of the global economy which is based on cheap, abundant oil; so our approach
is not one of blame or criticism, it’s: What can we do to help ourselves?”

First of all, POS volunteers are asking people to put their money where
their mouths are. No, not to donate — minutes of a recent meeting showed the
group has less than $100 on hand. POS simply wants consumers to buy locally
grown and made products, and sign a pledge to follow through.

Vermonters spend about $1.3 billion on food each year, according to state
figures. The pledge points out that shifting just 10 percent of those
purchases to locally-grown foods could add $130 million to Vermont’s

The group kicked off its pledge campaign on Sept. 20. Since then, POS
volunteers have gathered several hundred signatures, giving them the support
to take the campaign further, and increase awareness about the importance of
supporting the local economy. The group also plans to buy ads, and approach
restaurants and chain supermarkets with an appeal to offer local produce and

“Enjoying food products grown, raised, or harvested sustainably and
regionally provides great quality, boosts to our economy, protects our
farmland, enhances our local food systems, and keeps us and our environment
healthy,” the POS pledge states. “Therefore, we pledge to increasingly
choose independent, locally owned eateries when dining out, to encourage
chefs and owners to buy local, and to add more locally grown food to our own
shopping carts.”

Stevenson envisions menus with stickers next to dishes made with local
ingredients, and signs or decals that merchants can place in their windows
to signal to shoppers that they support the local economy.

Buying local is just the beginning. Still in its infancy, POS has a
considerable list of projects in the works. They include free workshops on
how to preserve food, and the establishment of community gardens. Montgomery
plans to teach a course on permaculture, a holistic system of sustainable
landscapes that provide food, fuel, and housing.

The group is working with the Windham County Sheriff’s Department to develop
a formal hitchhiking/ridesharing program along the county’s major arteries,
in which participants would be cleared through a background check to carry
laminated ID cards.

Discussions have also begun establishing a system of community currency and
bartering, which exists in several communities in Vermont already, as well
as community-owned and operated import businesses such as a co-op department

And if all that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

“It will require dramatic lifestyle changes and we Americans are addicted to
comfort — to sitting down with our beer and watching TV and pretending that
everything is fine,” said Montgomery. “But when the world reaches a point
when there is more demand for oil than there is oil there will be tremendous

Athens resident Treah Pichette, who runs the Putting Foods By workshops and
whose family shares a garden and chickens with the Stevensons, said the
changes only make sense.

“I was a back-to-the-land hippie in the 70s, so this is not a big change for
me in terms of my philosophy of living,” said Pichette. “I have always been
someone that grew my own food and put up as much as I could. I have a large
family — I come from a family of seven kids — so we had a community. It’s
just in my background to be this way. And these are skills that are going to
become really valuable now, given everything that’s going on.”

But Montgomery said that for many it will require not only a shift in the
way we do things, but also in the way we think about things: “At this point
many people in our culture really compartmentalize our lives. Our work, our
entertainment, our hobbies are all in different segments. But for a lot of
people who are enmeshed in alternative economies, those boundaries blend or

As an example, he cites the recent POS workshop on canning tomatoes. ”One
would think of that as drudgery — stuffed into a hot kitchen canning
tomatoes —but we had a blast. I can see a lot of people do things like that
as part of their entertainment.”

POS meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, at 7 p.m. at the
Brattleboro Selectboard meeting room. Meetings should be confirmed by
contacting Stevenson at bereal at vermontel.net.

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