Transition Ferndale will have its next meeting in the Ferndale Library, 222 E Nine Mile Road, Ferndale, MI, at 7:00 Wednesday evening, April 16.

We’ll be showing a one-hour video, “Transition 2.0,” with stories from 16 different Transition Town organizations in 7 different countries. Then we’ll have a discussion focused (we hope) on what is being done locally, and what else we might do. The meeting is free and open to the public.

So, what is this transition movement? It’s about making the transition to a society much less dependent on consuming fossil fuel energies. Making many transitions might be a more accurate expression, because every locality will have somewhat different problems, and will evolve different ways of adapting. Concern about climate change, peak oil and economic collapse is a common thread tying all the different locations together.

The transition movement got started with people realizing there is good reason to be worried about both climate change and peak oil. Further, the globalized economy which depends on increasing consumption of fossil fuels is guaranteed to fail as the supply of fuels declines and the ability of the biosphere to absorb industrial waste products also declines.

This is not some abstract notion about the possibility of economic collapse at some distant future date. The economic collapse, in fits and starts, is already happening. Our financial system has already produced far more claims on real wealth than there is real wealth.

Think of dollars as players in a game of musical chairs, with real resources being the chairs. In the child’s game of musical chairs, chairs are removed one at a time, and players are also removed one at a time, in an orderly fashion with no awful consequences.

In our financial system, half or two-thirds of the chairs are already removed. When this round of music stops, the consequences will be extensive and not much fun at all. The scramble for chairs will not be orderly. Most people will not want to continue playing the bank/mortgage/stock market game. That’s one way to describe the coming economic collapse.

Will the collapse of our economy lead directly to the extinction of mankind? Well, if fighting over resources takes the form of nuclear war, then yes. We can hope everybody in charge of nuclear weapons understands there are no winners in a nuclear war.

Now, some people want to believe wars are not fought over control of critical resources. These people don’t have a coherent explanation of World Wars I and II, the multiple wars originating in the Middle East, or border wars from USA-Mexico to Russia-Ukraine. Control of resources is not the only reason for wars, but it is a critical element of every war, and the naked reason for some wars.

But the question is, does our current wrecking of the planet mean that we are headed directly for our own extinction? Collapse, yes; extinction, no, or at least, not necessarily. It’s certainly possible, especially if our reactions are stupid, but the extinction of humanity is not at all certain.

Here’s an excellent explanation of why, from

[begin block quote]

That insistence [humanity will soon be extinct] bespeaks an embarrassing lack of knowledge about paleoclimatology. Vast quantities of greenhouse gases being dumped into the atmosphere over a century or two? Check; the usual culprit is vulcanism, specifically the kind of flood-basalt eruption that opens a crack in the earth many miles in length and turns an area the size of a European nation into a lake of lava. The most recent of those, a smallish one, happened about 6 million years ago in the Columbia River basin of eastern Washington and Oregon states. Further back, in the Aptian, Toarcian, and Turonian-Cenomanian epochs of the late Mesozoic, that same process on a much larger scale boosted atmospheric CO2 levels to three times the present figure and triggered what paleoclimatologists call “super-greenhouse events.” Did those cause the extinction of all life on earth? Not hardly; as far as the paleontological evidence shows, it didn’t even slow the brontosaurs down.

Oceanic acidification leading to the collapse of calcium-shelled plankton populations? Check; those three super-greenhouse events, along with a great many less drastic climate spikes, did that. The ocean also contains very large numbers of single-celled organisms that don’t have calcium shells, such as blue-green algae, which aren’t particularly sensitive to shifts in the pH level of seawater; when such shifts happen, these other organisms expand to fill the empty niches, and everybody further up the food chain gets used to a change in diet. When the acidification goes away, whatever species of calcium-shelled plankton have managed to survive elbow their way back into their former niches and undergo a burst of evolutionary radiation; this makes life easy for geologists today, who can figure out the age of any rock laid down in an ancient ocean by checking the remains of foraminifers and other calcium-loving plankton against a chart of what existed when.

Sudden climate change recently enough to be experienced by human beings? Check; most people have heard of the end of the last ice age, though you have to read the technical literature or one of a very few popular treatments to get some idea of just how drastically the climate changed, or how fast. The old saw about a slow, gradual warming over millennia got chucked into the dumpster decades ago, when ice cores from Greenland upset that particular theory. The ratio between different isotopes of oxygen in the ice laid down in different years provides a sensitive measure of the average global temperature at sea level during those same years. According to that measure, at the end of the Younger Dryas period about 11,800 years ago, global temperatures shot up by 20° F. in less than a decade.

[end excerpt from Greer]

Clearly, climate change plus peak oil/gas/coal means we are in for a number of rough decades as both population and the industrial economy repeatedly decline in step with declining supplies of affordable fuels. Globalism will disappear, and then perhaps “nations” as they are defined today, with no exception for America. If ‘America’ means the two-party system of George W. Obama Clinton, it’s not a loss to be mourned. But humanity has a shot at surviving.

“Preparing for collapse” sounds a lot like survivalism. There’s a reason for that. Transition towns and survivalism are both responses to the same reasons for anxiety. Climate change, resource depletion (for which peak oil is a specific example) and an unsustainable economy are real problems that are not going away. We’ll all have to respond, both individually and collectively.

The Transition Towns movement generally takes the position that strengthening the local community and the local economy – especially the ability of the local economy to produce food – is the best thing we can do now to prepare for survival. That’s very different than the survivalist approach of hoarding food, ammunition and duct tape for individual survival while the community perishes.

Comments are open below, if you want to disscuss over the internet.

Or, if you’re in the area, you may want to come to the regular Transition Ferndale monthly meeting for a face-to-face discussion. It’s in the Ferndale Library (222 E Nine Mile Road, Ferndale, MI) at 7:00 pm on the third Wednesday of each month. If you can’t make it this month, then maybe later.

If you have a Facebook account, you might take a look at the Transition Michigan group: