Sunday, October 7, 2007

People are asking - what can I do?

The Sunshine Coast Energy Action Centre (SEAC) has been lucky enough to receive some attention in the local media lately. We jumped on the bandwagon of a front page story in our state newspaper about peak oil and sent out a media release about what we are doing and the action planning already happening here.

Thankfully the journalist who was assigned our story had a good understanding of peak oil and the environment and we received some great coverage.

A cheesy photo didn’t hurt either - for any of you who saw it! [It was Janet and I in the garden at the Blue House with a basket full of eggs urging people “not to put all their eggs in one basket” when it comes to peak oil!]

The Sunshine Coast Environment Council, our local environmental organisation, also expressed an interest in what we were doing a couple of months ago and they gave us good coverage in their popular free newspaper Eco News, which happened to hit the streets in the same week.

I’ve since received a few calls and emails, some local, some from interstate, generated by the stories and I’m trying to really observe and listen to what people are saying and asking for.

I try to do the same thing at the Sunshine Coast Energy Action Centre every Saturday morning when we are open to the public and also in the Time for an Oil Change course.

What is it that people want to know right now about these issues?

We (those of us creating groups, networks, educating and communicating on these topics) will only succeed if we are meeting the needs of the community – and that requires good listening skills and some empathy and understanding of people. Otherwise we are only there for our own needs and that will no doubt lead to failure.

I’m trying to piece together bits of the public mood to get a picture of what’s happening.

Here what I think seems to be happening…

People want leadership – at all levels, they want someone to lead the way, someone they trust, someone who has already taken a few steps in the right direction (either tentatively or confidently). Someone who makes sense and offers them something tangible and practical, yet significant enough to move beyond the ‘change the lightbulb and I’ve done my bit’, the ‘I’ve got energy efficient appliances in my kitchen, so I have enough money to travel to Europe every year’ or the ‘someone else will do something about it’ mentality that I’m concerned is starting to set in.

Climate change & peak oil are issues of great magnitude and we must face the fact that life is going to change – a lot. We will experience a ‘death’ of our current lives and all the emotions that process entails.

To move toward the future, to be inspired and to truly grasp the great opportunities on offer, we must firstly let go of our ‘old’ lives.

Al Gore talks about moving from fear directly to despair and not choosing the action and empowerment path.

I’ve just sat through What The Bleep Do We Know? again, it’s such an inspiring film. It’s about quantum physics and it’s presented in such an engaging and interesting way, it leaves you pondering the meaning of life, but will a tiny taste of what might be possible.

What are the infinite possibilities of our minds and of our actions?

We create our reality and our thoughts, our actions all have consequences in creating that reality.

We are creating the future right now. Our choices either move us forward (hence the term ‘quantum leap’ perhaps?) or they keep us on the same old treadmill of repeating past mistakes (‘business as usual’ thoughts).

We can choose to be distracted by television, fear, sport, war, addictions, shopping, materialism, or the economy.

Or we can strip all that away and choose to take that quantum leap.

It’s not that hard.

So… what have I found out?

People are looking for a map, a guide, a pathway forward. Aside from permaculture we don’t have a lot and that requires making the leap of taking permaculture beyond food production.

Richard Heinberg offers solutions forward, and these parallel and complement permaculture thinking.

But, some people just don’t like the term ‘permaculture’. It brings to mind images of messy, weed infested gardens, ‘dirty hippies’, environmental disasters… Unfortunately, few people take the time to truly understand the nature of permaculture and to learn that it’s what you make it – you want a tidy, neat permaculture garden – then create one! It’s about observing and understanding systems, systems thinking and bio-mimicry design not weeds and being lazy.

Perhaps one of the answers to these problems of action (or inaction) is that…

…there is no map, no path for what you want to do. They are resources, ideas, support, networks and other ways people have done their thing, such as the relocalisation networks, but nothing that will tell you what you need to do; only you and your family, your community, your workplace and your society can work that out. No maps, no guidebook. Just start. Take the first step, but make it quick, we’re rapidly running out of time.

To move beyond the fear, paralysis and feelings of being overwhelmed that you may be feeling, you can choose to act.

It doesn’t matter what that action is – you will be guided by your time, financial and personal commitments and your skills, experience and expertise.

But there will be something you can do. Just do it quickly, as we are running out of time.

Try visualising what you would like your home, community, your street, your job, your life to look like in the post carbon future.

Keep it within a framework of sound ethics, morals and principles (permaculture has some nice ideas in this area) and you’re well on your way.

Understand that not everyone will be as passionate about, or understand what it is you’re doing. But I bet other people out there will grab hold of it and add their energy to it. Plus, you’ll learn a lot about community facilitation and governance along the way – guaranteed!

Build it and they will come. Lead and others will follow. Re-educate yourself. Don’t say ‘I will’, say ‘I am’ – bring the action into the present and make it happen.

It will take your time, your energy, your commitment and perhaps some of your money – there will be times when things go well and times when things go really well!

Start doing what needs to be done today – there is no time like the present (unless of course you discover those parallel quantum universes and can tap into them!)

Be Bold, Be Unique, Break the Mold. Start carving your path through climate change & peak oil to a better future – I bet people will be right behind you before you know it.

Local successful business owner Bob Cameron has created Australia’s first commercial sustainable building. It collects all its own energy and water. No water leaves the property, instead it is treated, reclaimed and then grows organic food for the staff. It’s become a tourist attraction with people flocking from around the world to see this amazing example of business success that is truly green.

Bob says; “People say there is a water and energy crisis… there isn’t. All we’ve got is a crisis of logic.”

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