I had a visit yesterday from my wonderful friend and neighbour, Debs. We connect on many levels, and share much common thinking on the coming energy-collapse popularly being called Peak Oil. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the Olduvai Theory (pdf), and the surprising number of people we've both met recently who have become aware of the Peak Oil/Energy Descent debates, and are actively implmenting plans to cope with a looming energy, economy and possibly population crash, with the attendant social problems that may possibly ensue. It surprised both of us at the unlikely suspects who were among the names mentioned.
A common meme seems to be "how to manage a transition strategy". On the one hand we live in the ordinary early-21st-century Western "market-economy" materialist-lifestyle world - or, as I have long termed it, "The Golden Age of the American Empire" - with all the things that it means. On the other hand, we wish to prepare for a very different future that we believe likely to unfold. The status-quo is harshly unforgiving of alternative lifestyle and economic choices.
According to the Olduvai Theory, we should expect rolling blackouts to become a permanent feature of life throughout the world starting in about 2008 and getting worse as time goes by. Of course in the Western Cape we've been experiencing quite a lot of rolling blackouts recently, and we expect more this coming Winter. Some will argue that the current blackouts result from unusual circumstance and should not be connected with hypothesized energy-descent blackouts. They're wrong. The theory makes no statement or prediction on the source or reason for blackouts. The theory further predicts that some day some blackout will simply become permanent.
The only real questions about the energy descent are "how fast" and "how far".
And these are precisely the questions we have to grapple with in planning and implementing a transition strategy, whether at a personal level, community level, regional level, national or global level. Taking the personal case, how do I remain functional in the current status-quo while at the same time getting structures and systems in place that could make me, my family, friends, neighbours and community self-sufficient in a very short space of time, and with little or no warning or lead time? In truth, self-sufficiency is a concept that is only realisable at the community level. It is unattainable by an individual or family group.
We did not come up with any good solutions (yet), except for some tentative discussions of how to begin sensitizing and preparing our own community. But at least the debate is broadening.