Sunday, February 24, 2008

New ideas...

I've added a video bar and a latest news feed on the right - all focussed on Permaculture. Now I have broadband I'll actually be able to watch a couple of those You Tube posts.

I've also started another blog - which IS different to this one.

This blog was started to explore the links and connections between Permaculture and Peak Oil.

The new blog is to explore the changes I'm making around my home, my garden, my community and region in regard to peak oil and climate change.

We'll see how it all goes...


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Climate change & Peak oil are not a problem

There is so much media, government and public attention focused on the ‘problem’ of climate change and, to a lesser degree peak oil, but aren’t we all looking at this from the wrong angle?

I see the changes in our climate and our impending energy descent as symptoms, not problems.

The problem is much deeper and much more personal.

The problem is the way we – those of us in developed countries – are living our lives.

It’s the way we consume way beyond what we actually need, it’s about the food we throw away, the culture of consumerism we’ve created and have now become enslaved to.

Try telling someone that they don’t need the latest model car, they don’t need a wardrobe full of clothes they don’t wear, that we don’t actually need shopping malls full of useless ‘crap’ and see how far you get.

Somewhere, somehow, we all started believing we had the right to live the high life. Marketers jumped on the bandwagon – or perhaps kicked it all off – and we were on our way. The latest handbags, boxes and boxes of shoes, the latest in-season fashion. Live like a celebrity!

What’s hot and what’s not? Our passion for fashion (not just clothes of course, but the latest model kitchen appliance, the celebrity style overseas get away …) is directly related to what’s hot that’s for sure. And another thing that’s hot is the climate.

Human behaviour – consumerism, land use, deforestation, fossil fuel burning – has now changed the world’s weather patterns – perhaps irreversibly. Warning after warning, each more dire than the one before and appearing in our newspapers, our nightly news programs yet… where is the revolution?

Yet, we continue on our merry way, worshipping the consumerism of today’s life… very few people have really made any serious effort to change the way they live. Our societies make it hard for those of us who would like to seriously change the way we live – you try living without a car on the Sunshine Coast!

We continue to pump out (the problem) carbon emissions in huge amounts (the symptom) despite knowing it is going to cause extinction of species (note to all – WE are a species!), destruction of the environment, major disruptions to food supply and loss of available land…

As for peak oil, do you think an ant cares that we are running out of oil, or a bird, or an elephant?

We care that we are running out of oil because we’ve built ourselves into a corner. A corner built on oil, lives dependant on oil, economies dependant on oil, employment, housing, food, mobility… all dependant on oil.

We’re running out because we’ve consumed what was available at an alarming rate. We’ve wasted oil on frivolous, meaningless things that have done nothing to really improve our lives. We’re less happy and more stressed than our pre-oil ancestors.

Looking at climate change as an environmental problem is taking us off course and away from where we should be focussing. We are losing valuable time and wasting valuable energy if we look at this as an environmental problem.

Because what happens is councils and other organisations, thinking they are doing the right thing – climate change is about the environment right? – employ environmental scientists to get to work fixing the problem.

But then, the poor person put in that position realises the problem is not the environment, the problem is people - social, economic, psychological, planning, infrastructure, systems, systems, systems.

Yes, climate change is about the environment, but climate change is only a symptom, not the problem. Same with peak oil – if we didn’t use (waste?) so much of this precious fuel and if we hadn’t designed our whole lives to revolve around it – it wouldn’t be reaching it’s peak and if it was, we wouldn’t care.

When I worked in the medical field, often patients would be being treated and hospitalised for their symptoms, not the problem. Our health system is a reflection of our current crisis.

Yes we can treat symptoms, we can mask symptoms – but unless we treat the underlying problem – and in this case it’s human behaviour and abuse of earth’s resources – we are only ever going to have a bandaid effect.

Let’s instead bite the bullet and address the real issues 1) consumption – or more to the point overconsumption and 2) a change away from linear globalised systems – resource in waste out – extraordinary transport miles and carbon emissions attached to everything we buy.

Let’s be brave and
reduce consumption,
produce locally,
build resilient communities
relocalise and
make the transition to our post carbon future with our eyes wide open and looking forward.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Notes from a talk by David Holmgren

In August 2006 David Holmgren spoke at the local university. I went along and took notes... and then took those notes to heart.

They became the blueprint for how we prepared for peak oil.

Here is a copy of the notes I took - it was from his talk "Regional Sustainability in an Energy Descent Future"

One of the things he spoke about at length is the need for relocalisation and how Permaculture fits with that.

He spoke of the need for an ‘Earth stewardship scenario’ post peak oil – where we care for the natural resources of the Earth to ensure there will be enough bio physical resources for future generations. This isn’t some hippy dream – if we don’t have rainfall and living soil, we cannot produce food and the world will starve.

Care of the soil, water, air, plants… it all made so much sense and he presented such a positive scenario for the future, rather than the gloom and doom coming from our pollies, the media and science.

I made some notes and thought I’d add them to this site – they are paraphrased, I don’t do shorthand, but here they are…

The need for what he calls a ‘bottom-up’ movement in response to peak oil. Ideas and action coming from the grassroots in the community, rather than government. This mirrors what Professor Ian Lowe says – he uses the examples of the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote and the inclusion of indigenous people in the Australian census as actions that have been driven by a groundswell in the community, not politicians.

Community gardens, Permaculture and organic gardening courses, networks, and sites just like this play a very important part in that movement.

A need for ‘connection’ and ‘transfer’ – bartering, knowing your neighbours, building networks within local communities, skills sharing.

He pointed out that rice uses 7459 litres of water per one dollar of value. Fruit and veg bought in the supermarket comes with a price tag of 103 litres of water per dollar value that you buy. He compared this with his own home food production which he has calculated to be about 20 litres of water per dollar value. Growing food at home saves water.

Holmgren also stated that the most energy efficient way to provide food security for the future was to learn how to grow food at home.

He urged us all to “resist the restriction of water use in home food production” – something I feel very strongly about.

Holmgren concluded his talk with an action plan of what we can all do to build more sustainability into our lives and ensure a better future post peak oil.

Network – for information and inspiration – Permaculture groups and community gardens are a great place to start.

Start producing your own (food, goods, services)and support local producers

Know your neighbours – establish bartering systems, LETS, PETS,

Teach children how to grow their own food (this is already well underway on the Sunshine Coast with lots of permaculture gardens in schools)

Reduce consumption – recycle, reduce, repair, reuse.. etc etc.

If you have extra space, take in a lodger, share your place, (also has economic benefits for you)

Share your car – car pool, organise a local group to share driving, make your trips count, do more than one thing on a trip

Work around impediments

Pay off your debts / work from home

Retrofit your home and garden for the post peak oil future, not for the $ value

Although Permaculture is so much more than gardening, Holmgren’s talk focused on food growing in the future as this is one thing that is not being addressed by governments in Australia. Apparently only South Australia’s sustainability planning includes any mention of food growing (then it is only two lines), no other State is preparing for the scenario of how we are going to eat when peak oil forces the price of fertilisers, refrigeration and transportation to affect the cost of food at the supermarket checkout.