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

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Mon Oct 10 13:35:15 EDT 2005

On 10/9/05 2:41 PM, "Gryphon Danu" <gryphon at tripleaspect.com> wrote:

> After all , it was energy
> from coal and oil that made life in the big cities possible.

Ancient Rome (the city itself) had over a million occupants; medieval Paris
was almost as large. Big cities are a very old and successful pattern. Coal
and oil just increased the number of them by upping our food supply, and
raised the upper limit of cities' size with fast transportation.
> Yeah, living completely rural outside of a community as you once did is
> probably a bad choice -- but leaving cities for small, progressive towns

Yes, I should clarify my language. By rural, I don't mean living in a town,
I mean "in the countryside," on acreage. Many of the people I hear talking
about peak-oil catastrophe say they will move to some land with some friends
and be self-sufficient. I know a lot of people who've tried that over the
last 40 years and not one has made it work. Plus, intentional communities
mostly fail (i.e., it's a new and not well worked-out pattern that has
built-in difficulties); throw in resource scarcity and the problems

I think some well-located modest cities and towns (close to rivers, most
likely) will do well as oil supplies dwindle. Unfortunately, most small
towns, like the one I grew up in, have been strip-malled and are just as
dependent on imported goods and cars as any city. The task for them to
return to a local economy will be just as challenging as for any large city,
but without the political clout, shipping hubs, manufacturing base, and
talent pool found in cities.

Robert Waldrop wrote
> I tend to think the situation is going to play out
> as a long, slow grind and general impoverishment
> (in terms of energy and financial resources).

Exactly how I see it; probably not an overnight crash. I agree also with
Gene that a big set of disasters could serve as a tipping point into a
crash, but then, that's always been the case with every civilization,
famine, plague, or oil shock. One thing we know about the future:
predictions about it are almost never right. If we've got 10 or 40 years to
make our culture sustainable, the best move is simply to get on it, right
where we live.


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