In these ten minutes, I'd like to provide a context for the discussion.
I'd like to paint a broadbrush picture of where we were, and where we are going.
It will be from the viewpoint of someone inside the movement looking out.
From the grassroots, rather than from the media.
Now my background is in journalism, so when I learned about peak oil, my ears perked up.
I said to myself that this is the story of the decade.
Since then - in 2004 - I've worked full time at Energy Bulletin, monitoring both the media and blogosphere.
My conclusion is that the media couldn't tackle peak oil by itself.
It it took a massive volunteer effort from OUTSIDE the media to get the ball rolling.
What seems wild and eccentric a few years ago,
has become accepted wisdom in a surprisingly short time
If you were concerned about peak oil in 2002 or 2003, the situation looked bleak.
Overall, there was little awareness of peak oil.
The media, government, industry all were uninterested.
Some people said peak oil would NEVER be covered in the media.
There was nowhere to publish, nowhere for most people to discuss peak oil.
The first phase, around 2004, is the story of a few extraordinary individuals and some small groups.
A few important books had been published, but for the most part information was hard to come by.
Here's one story from that era. Adam Grubb, an Australian web designer and activist, heard Richard Heinberg speak.
Adam was blown away. After the talk he asked Heinberg - What could he do?
Heinberg pointed out that there was no website which regularly posted peak oil information.
As a result, Energy Bulletin was born.
As evidence of how little information was available, Adam and another young Australian could post or link to just about every important peak oil document that appeared.
And they did this part-time, while working at jobs and grad school.
Very quickly, though, the pace piced up.
If the previous era was that of isolated individuals, the next period was when a peak oil community began to form.
A very important step came when several formal organizations became active.
ASPO-USA, The Oil Drum, and Post Carbon served as the nuclei around which like-minded people could get together.
They could share ideas and research, start planning a response.
Conferences began to be held.
Personal blogs devoted to peak oil proliferated.
Media coverage was still spotty. For the most part, articles were not very deep.
Articles would describe Hubbert's theory in a few paragraphs, then summarize arguments from "both sides", without looking at them too carefully.
However there were some exceptions.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, for a example, ran a comprehensive series called, "Crude Awakening" for which it received recognition from the Columbia Journalism Review.
In the last two years, peak oil awareness really exploded. Rising oil prices helped in no small part.
Every time the price of oil jumped, we noticed that our readership at Energy Bulletin soared.
Afterwards, it would plateau or dip slightly, but the general direction was up up up.
The stream of peak oil articles became a torrent. It was too large for any group or website to keep up. We had to specialize.
The mainstream opened up to peak oil. Several newspapers, like the Guardian, regularly carry peak oil articles. Publishers released about two dozen books written by writers whose work had appered in Energy Bulletin.
So, was this success?
Google hits are a convenient metric. Typing "Peak oil" into Google yields more than four and a half million hits. (4,540,000 hits on Sept 20 to be exact.)
When I was checking the figures, I found that in one week alone more than 160,000 new hits appeared.
The good news is that inertia has been overcome.
The information is out there.
People and the media are talking about peak oil.
The bad news is that peak oil is still not part of our national discussion.
The New York Times still avoids the subject.
And most coverage shies from examining all the implications of peak oil.
What's going to happen next?
For one thing, the peak oil community will continue doing what it's done before, what it's good at.
It will lobby and raise awareness. One peak oil critic called it "the well-oiled peak oil public relations machine"
It will continue having technical discussions about things like Energy Returned on Energy Invested.
About the viability of biofuels and unconventional oil.
Why has peak oil been successful as a movement? Why are so many people willing to do so much work for free?
The quick answer is that it's a nice place to hang out. There are no bosses.
You can do as much or as little as you want. Other people appreciate your work.
You're around people who have similar values . And yet, for some reason, politics don't seem to matter so much.
For people who crave intellectual stimulation it is heaven. If you're open to it, it's "like an ongoing graduate seminar".
COULD STOP HERE.
Like everything, the peak oil movement has its limitation.
For one thing, it's mostly volunteer. Over time, volunteers burn out. Spouses complain. One has to earn money.
The technical orientation means that only a small part of the population can be reached.
I've learned that if you insert a graph or equation without explaining it, you lose a big chunch of your audience.
Finally, peak oil has a narrow demographic. It's mostly technical professionals - men - living in Europe and the English-speaking countries.
The next logical step for peak oil is to broaden its focus.
In fact, this is already happening now, in several differnt ways.
First, we are becoming aware of just how central oil is.
There is more and more coverage of how the end of cheap oil will affect:
food and agriculture
urban design and transportation
Experts who learn about peak oil are beginning to assess the impact on their domain. ,
For example, take climate. Joe Hanson has co-authored a paper on peak oil and climate change.
Even people who aren't familar the technical details of peak ooil are having Aha! moments.
One example among many comes from geopolitics.
We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more as secretary of State than the way that the politics of energy is -- I will use the word warping -- diplomacy around the world.
U.S. Secretary of State
What does peak oil mean for your demain?
Very quickly in the peak oil world, you become aware that oil is not the only fossil fuel that is depleting.
Natural gas, coal, uranium - all are finite and will undergo Hubbert-like production curves.
I've been following phosphorus in particular.
It's one of the three macro-nutrients required for plant growth.
Without mined phosphates, industrial agriculture could not exist.
Several studies of "peak phosphorus" have come out. Dates range from already happened to decades in the future.
None of these studies has received much media attention.
To cope with peak oil, we need everybody onboard - not just the narrow demographic of the traditional peak oil movement.
Most peak oil work is done in English, but there are also lively movements in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Czech ...
But what about China and India? The Middle East and Africa? I've encountered a sprinkling of articles from these areas, but not much. I know that Energy Bulletin has little readership in these countries.
Traditionally, peak oil has been mostly the province of men.
That's changing. I've seen a dramatic upturn in the number of women writers. Some of the most interesting, most engaging pieces are coming from woment.
Perhaps that's because they tend to write more about people rather than numbers.
Finally, the matter of profession. Here the situation is not so good.
Most peak oil material still comes from technical professionals, though many artists have gotten involved.
Some farmers and gardeners have become peak oil aware.
But I have seen very little material by blue collar workers and small business people.
CAN END HERE
Culture is a deep problem, not an easy one to talk about.
Many of our ideas and attitudes developed in the past two centuries -- the age of fossil fuels.
Experimental science, capitalism, socialism, consumerism. All these developed in a period when energy was becoming cheaper and cheaper.
What happens when the trend reverses, and energy becomes more expensive?
What becomes of our cherished belief that technology will be able to solve any problem that nature throws at us?
There is much talk about this in the blogosphere. Not much of it reaches the media.
We are approaching a new world, where the ground rules are going to be different.
CAN END HERE
Sometimes it feels like ...
Everything you know is wrong
Culture change is a painful experience.
It's a truism in anthropology that you can introduce new tools and customs into a culture, AS LONG as they don't threaten its values.
But if you threaten people's view of the world, their values... watch out. Forced culture change almost never works.
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
So what does it take then?
Political and economic turmoil is one answer. The crisis in the financial markets, for example, is probably changing many people's minds about government regulation.
A more benign outcome is when opinion leaders are able to explain the new reality to people in their group.
Across the spectrum, some people are gettting it.
Those nations and organizations - including our church - that change their thinking and their behavior will thrive. Those that cannot, or won't, will not survive in the ways they should.
- Rev. Richard Cizik
National Association of Evangelicals
(Thou shalt go green)
Let me finish with a quote that I think describes the situation brilliantly.
A predicament, not a problem
... a problem calls for a solution; the only question is whether a solution can be found and made to work and, once this is done, the problem is solved.
A predicament, by contrast, has no solution. Faced with a predicament, people come up with responses. Those responses may succeed, they may fail, or they may fall somewhere in between, but none of them solves the predicament, in the sense that none of them makes it go away.
I think we will go beyond seeing peak oil as a problem to be solved.
Instead we will see as a predicament. A change in groundrules to which we must adapt.
The challenge for the peak oil movement and the media is to help us make the transition.
What does this the new culture look like?
Based on what I see, it means widespread changes rippling throughout culture. Everything will be affected.
Some elements of it:
Some traditional, non-modern values, like thrift. A revival of the traditional virtues like hard work, loyalty, common sense.
Valuing agriculture again.
Valuing human skills and competence.
Simple living - having a meaningful life without expending a lot of energy or resources. Also, living cheaply.
Realizing that the important things in life do not require vast amounts of energy.
Relocalization. Food, goods, our social life - will become increasingly local.
Staying put. Traveling is expensive in energy terms. We will get used to the idea of living in one place.
Science will change its focus. Probably away from abstract, earth-shattering projects. Instead, how to do things bettter, more efficiently.
The ideas of permaculture will become widespread.
1- honor the earth
2- honor human beings
3- return the surpus.