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Situation Now Edit

Earth's life support systems are under severe stress, due to unsustainable rates of resource extraction and the amounts of waste and pollution generated.

Globally and nationally, and even within smaller communities, there is a unequal distribution of "wealth" and opportunities for gainful employment.

The impending Peak oil crisis is likely to lead to crippling global economic recession.

The effects of climate change are likely to create millions of refugees.

Situation in a Sustainable Future Edit

Extraction of resources is at sustainable level, with very high rates of material re-use and recycling. Little is disposed as "waste." Processes making long-lived or hard to deal with waste are disfavoured.

Energy systems are mostly renewable, and are fitted to most buildings in urban areas. Waste biomass all goes into composting (to fertilise crops) or anaerobic digestion (makes methane to burn for heat or power). Biomass is also grown for heat and power - but wildlife and landscape considerations are balanced.

Heavy loads are not transported far: production and consumption are local. International trade continues only for light, high value goods - e.g computer software, works of art.

Opportunities? Edit

Community based efforts will be important if we are to secure a "soft landing" from the impending crisis. This is better done before the crisis than after. It will be a whole lot harder to construct new ways of doing things, if the fabric of society is too far damaged by recession, resource wars, or a new rise of [fascism]. The great depression of the 1930's brought Hitler to power. What could Peak Oil do to the political landscape?

Community recycling schemes will become progressively more economic as costs for raw materials and waste disposal soar, and the costs of transporting materials long distance for processing become prohibitive.

Long distance commuting to work and long distance goods distribution systems will become less favourable as the cost of transport fuel rises. This means that re-localisation of jobs and food production could happen. Or it could go the other way - isolated expensive to reach communities going downhill and gradually being deserted! Which way it goes in your community will depend on if anyone grasps those opportunities to re-localise jobs, food and services!

Renewable energy systems are more likely to gain acceptance if local communities benefit from the sale of electricity or heat. Here's a case study of a Community Wind Farm

Growing your own and local food cooperatives will offer huge opportunities to keep people well fed and reduce carbon emissions. Know-how and equipment will be at a premium.

As "it's cool to re-use" / "I'm gonna have to re-use" replace "I Shop, Therefore I Am" there will be lots of opportunities for craftspeople who can make goods work again. And who can make them to last a long time the first time round!

Consumption does define identity for many people (I write from the UK). Many of these people will be around when the crisis hits, and they won't feel too good at losing their lifestyle and their status symbols. Could building community through the kind of efforts I've described give a new kind of desirable, high status identity to aim for?

Comment Edit

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  • New Start editorial November 29 2006 - Counting sheep, I’ve found, rarely works on those occasions when you lie awake worrying about the state of the world. The latest tome from the Treasury might be more effective.

Related topics Edit

Sustpedia, Sustainability - the basics


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