Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Apples from New Zealand, Transition Towns and Peak Oil

I've started to get involved in the Transition Towns movement. In some ways, Transition Towns is so broad that it is difficult to define - it encompasses a lot of initiatives. That could seem a bit diluted but in this case it is a positive thing because it shows there are lots of things we can do, as a community, to increase our resilience to Peak Oil.

Here's a nice explanation:
A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

"for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?"

To me, Transition Towns are about RESILIENCE and that is really the point.

My current employer gives out free fruit, a nice perk for staff. I grabbed an apple and noted, with some disappointment that it was from New Zealand. Now I have absolutely nothing against NZ - I love the place. But really, we can grow bloody apples RIGHT HERE. Do we need to find the most distant place on Earth, grow apples there and then fly them here? This makes no sense to me at all.

In the future, we in England will not be eating apple from New Zealand. There is no way we can sustain that. How do we ensure there is not a great big BOO HOO when we can't get apples from New Zealand? Well, perhaps we should plant some apple trees here. The local council has planted nice 'clean' trees along our roadsides. They produce no fruit, no nuts and no firewood so we buy all that from Tescos, who fly it all in from New Zealand. How about local councils planting fruit trees and nut trees so we can eat what comes off them? We won't then need to charter a flight of Apples from New Zealand in order to eat apples.

I need to stop ranting. The point is that Transition Towns is all about finding creative ways of us still managing to eat apples when flights get prohibitively expensive. Well, of course, no just apples, everything!

Some locals are already doing stuff in this direction, for example, we have a Trumpington Community Orchard project in Cambridge.

Just stop and think for a minute. Imagine gas is $9.13 a US gallon and not $4 a gallon (actually that really is the price of petrol in the UK). What effect is this going to have on the economy? Are we still going to fly apples from New Zealand? What if we get no more apples from New Zealand - how will we survive? What are we going to eat locally? What did our ancestors eat?

Monbiot pointed out this week that Peak Oil is now forecast to be around 2010 - that's 18 months away. This might be a good time to start thinking about it.


At 7:17 pm, Anonymous Ron McFarland said...

Interesting challenge to truly draw a radius around a town and have all neccessary goods and services originate from within.

I wonder if the impact of many small changes originating at the individual level and radiating out has the potential to calm the crisis. And at the same time enable the benefits that we enjoy from a global market making itself available to all.

New Zealand certainly requires many things from other countries and everyone benefits from the mutual trade.

At 8:00 pm, Blogger litsl said...

I don't think we have to take things to complete extremes yet. We don't really need to draw a radius around a town and source everything from within it. However, we are doing the opposite at the moment. I am eating apples that have come from half way around the world when there are 4 trees around my house which have no fruit. We can grow apples. When we can no longer afford to fly them in, we would be more resilient if we had learned how to grow a few for ourselves like we used to do.

I don't know to what extent we can calm a crisis like this. It's all about becoming more resilient. I hiked 1,500 miles last year and learned that some basics of survival quickly rise to the top of your mind. What if we turned the taps on and no water came out. How could we cope? How would people manage? Well, you can manage but we need to learn how to.

Cuba has survived Peak Oil. Their supplies were cut off in the 1990s and they had to revert to the old ways of doing things. They have a very helpful climate but nonetheless had a difficult 2 year period. Now, most of what you eat in Havana is grown within the city limits. They are leaders in permaculture. We don't have to get that good yet but we do need to start taking some steps in the right direction.

In Climate Change parlence we talk about the need to adapt. I think transition towns is helping us start to adapt in a way that doesn't hurt. In fact, working within our local communities we might discover that we quite like each other and it might not all be a terrible disaster if we can't get apples from New Zealand!


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