A Community Response to Peak Oil

Last week we reported on the greening of Chew Magna, now it looks like another small English community is mobilising for a more sustainable future, this time motivated by the threat/opportunity of peak oil. Peak oil, the idea that oil production will peak and thereafter begin an inexorable decline, is a controversial subject. Whilst nobody doubts that it will happen, there is a huge amount of debate as to when it will happen, and as to what the consequences will be. Treehugger has previously reported on the subject here, here and here, and we've posted the Grist interview with ex-US government energy advisor Mathew Simmons here. But what can ordinary citizens do to prepare for the peak? Local groups, such as the Portland Peak Oil Group, are beginning to spring up around the world, educating the public on the issues, and exploring community responses to energy descent. One of the latest groups to emerge in the UK is Transition Town Totnes, based in the Southwest town of Totnes, in Devon. The group aims to develop "an Energy Descent Action Plan for Totnes, designing a positive way down from the oil peak It will strive to be inclusive, imaginative, practical and fun."

One of the key players behind this group is permaculture teacher and peak oil activist Rob Hopkins, creator of the Transition Culture website. Rob has already worked with the community of Kinsale in Ireland to develop a similar vision for a prosperous, post-peak community (the resulting report can be downloaded here). Whilst many in the peak oil community tend towards doom mongering (or "disasterbation", as I once heard it called), Rob Hopkins is intent on building positive, workable community solutions to create a post-oil society, as can be seen in his excellent essay "Why the Survivalists Have Got it Wrong". Whether you believe the peak is imminent, has already past, or is still some way off, given the already pressing challenge of climate change, most of what Rob advocates just makes good, old-fashioned, tree-hugging sense. [Written by: Sami Grover]