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Power to the People

The Road to Resilience

The transition movement upon which Transition Vashon is based began about nine years ago in Great Britain.  It was calling for personal and community changes to make us more resilient to the dual threats of climate change and “peak oil.”  It postulated that we needed to become more resourceful and self reliant in the face of  the economic and social upheaval likely to result as these threats manifested in the years ahead.  They made no claim to know what our future might look like or even whether the strategies they were recommending would work.  However, climate change and “peak oil” were facts that they were fairly certain about.  Over the years since, we have seen that climate change is in fact developing a bit faster than most models predicted.  Peak oil, at least in the short run, appears to be a different matter.

To refresh your memory, Peak Oil was a theory proposed back in the fifties by an oil geologist named M. King Hubbert.  He studied the  lifetime production of oil fields and found patterns with which he felt he could predict the depletion of oil in any region.  Peak oil was the moment at which half the oil in any region had been pumped out after which production would steadily decline and price would increase.  He predicted that US oil supply would peak in 1970.  In the 1950’s, his theory was roundly dismissed as it seemed that the US oil supply would continue far longer than that.  He proved to be right as the gas shortage of 1974 and the beginning of OPEC reflected.  His prediction of global Peak Oil was around 2000, and in fact more recent measurements of oil production indicated that the peak was imminent.

In 2010, when we formed Transition Vashon, there were predictions that global oil production had peaked as early as 2006 or would peak by as late as 2015.  The importance of Peak Oil for us at the time was that, while climate change encouraged us to curtail our carbon footprint, declining supply and excessive price due to Peak Oil would force us to lower our carbon footprint.  As it turned out, at least in the near term, the Peak Oil theory failed to consider the possibility of unforeseen developments changing the equation.  Peak Oil was based only on the production of oil that could be profitably extracted.  That left out an undetermined amount of oil that was technologically inaccessible or too expensive to extract.

With the development of horizontal drilling and “fracking,” and the viability of tarsand oil extraction, we find claims being made that North America has more oil reserve potential than anywhere else in the world!  While this is music to the ears of fossil fuel proponents of the status quo, it is very troubling to those of us that are concerned about implications of uncontrolled carbon release for catastrophic climate change.  We Transition advocates were counting on the “push” of Peak Oil to drive the reduction of our carbon footprint.  At least in the short term, we have lost the disincentive of high cost while being unable to limit or control new technologies that seriously threaten our water, air, soil health, and even seismic stability in the case of “fracking.”  Although nobody really knows for sure how much oil is available or will be available with even newer technologies, we still know that the oil is finite and that it will end, and that we will have paid a huge environmental cost for it.  

To put things in perspective, it is a fact that we can only release 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between now and 2050 if we are to have any chance of keeping global warming within the agreed upon 2 degrees Celsius, the amount of warming that we think we can sustain while maintaining some semblance of civilization.  It is a fact that we have the equivalent of 2795 gigatons of carbon dioxide potential in the world’s known fossil fuel reserves, five times more than we can safely burn in the next 40 years!  Will we be able to resist the urge to burn up all that we have?  Do we need to be looking for more?

These “fracked” natural gas and oils and the tarsand oils are explosive and dirty, and we now have the additional worry of transporting these products by pipeline, rail, and ship in unprecedented quantities.  To add further insult to injury, our ability to dictate national policy to regulate these activities has been hijacked by the very corporate entities that intend to profit from them!  Clearly, we need to stop those working against our best interests before we can make progress.

The first thing we need to do is regain control over national policy. Sixteen states have already passed resolutions to urge Congress to propose an amendment to the US Constitution that would limit and control the wealthy special interest money that is now dictating who gets elected and what laws get passed.  The proposed amendment would simply state that corporations are not people, that money is not speech, and that all political donations must be utterly transparent and accounted for.

We in Washington State have the opportunity this year to get our state on board.  Petitions have been started to authorize Initiative 1329 for the November ballot this year in our state.  All of you need to sign this!  I have petitions that I can give you to pass around to your friends and family.  If you contact me, I will see that you get them.  Otherwise, look for signature gatherers in town until the deadline, June 25.  This is serious, folks, let’s get this done!
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