What Concerns Us

 

At the top of this website is a line reading, “Peak oil, climate change & a failing economy.” It is intended to summarize the subjects that concern us.

 

A broad interpretation of “peak oil” allows peak oil to stand for depletion of non-renewable resources. It is the most-studied instance of an important resource. It has a well-documented history of depletion. We have used up something like half the economically producible oil on earth in the astonishingly short time of 150 years. The century-and a-half era when cheap and abundant oil powered unprecedented economic and population growth is now over.

 

During those decades of progress and prosperity, our economy, and possibly our civilization, became more and more dependent on oil. About 97% of our industrial transportation system runs on fuels made from oil. Industrial farming consumes about ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food produced. This is true today, even though efforts to develop alternative fuels and more efficient engines have been important since oil production in the United States peaked in 1970.

 

In the 1970’s, about 1/3 of American oil consumption was supplied by imports, leaving our economy vulnerable to oil shocks. “Energy independence” was the goal of President Nixon, and has been the goal of every President since. We have never been close to achieving energy independence. Imported oil has since provided as much as 2/3 of our oil consumption. Today, the figure is closer to 5/8 of consumption, a reduction caused by prices 4-6 times the average of the year 2000, prices which have been lowered a bit by periodic faltering of the national economy.

 

It’s clear that, as helpful as alternative fuels and efficiency measures are, they are entirely inadequate to keep business as usual operating in the face of global peak oil. Further drastic reductions in the amount of oil that will be available for import are in our future, no matter what we imagine our “demand” to be. So long as established patterns of history hold, then we can look forward to multiple further episodes of high oil prices and economic crisis.

 

Peak oil is the most obvious driver of our need to break the patterns of history by creating a low-energy economy not dependent on oil and other fossil fuels. Oil is far from the only resource important to industry, and it is certainly not the only one that is being depleted. The list of depleting resources does not stop with the other fossil fuels. Everything from rare earths to common metals like iron and copper are included.

 

“Climate change” is the most well-known effect of excess carbon dioxide emissions. Acidification of the oceans is another and possibly more profound effect. Together, they are global aspects of a degraded environment. There is a whole long list of more localized insults to the environment. Some of the local insults could be reversed in a single human lifetime, though extinctions will not. Neither will radioactive contamination around Chernobyl and Fukushima.

 

If peak oil is the outstanding example of depleted non-renewable resources, then climate change is the exemplar for destruction of resources that were renewable. Depletion and destruction together account for the failing global economy and guarantee that it cannot be revived in any permanent way by stimulus, interest rate changes or printing money. When there is inadequate food, a shortage of clean water and dead zones growing in the ocean faster than deserts are growing on land, prosperity through economic growth is not a realistic possibility.

 

That brings us to the goal of creating local, resilient, low-energy communities. It’s not just a nice idea, a better way to occupy Sunday afternoons than a round of golf. It’s not a hobby to be shared with a select few initiates. It’s what we have to do, if our local communities are going to survive the fuel shortages and food shortages that will come along with increasing unemployment and financial turmoil. It’s going to include all our neighbors, regardless of which illusory “left” or “right” political ideology they might follow now.

 

The United States, we are told by all who are insisting on cutting government budgets, cannot afford to continue. We cannot afford to provide jobs for everyone, or guarantee health care for all. We cannot afford to pay teachers, police, fire fighters or soldiers a decent wage while they are working, let alone a decent retirement. We cannot afford food, shelter and clean water for everyone. That’s how bad the situation has already gotten, with a failure of growth. It’s going to get much worse as the global economy slides into permanent contraction.

 

Jared Diamond, in 2003, delivered a short talk on why societies collapse. The talk was recorded, and can be seen at:
http://www.ted.com/talks/jared_diamond_on_why_societies_collapse.html

 

In summarizing his conclusions as they apply to what we should be doing about our society, he said:

 

People often ask me what is the most important thing that we need to do about the world’s environmental problems? My answer is the most important thing we need to do is to forget about there being any single thing that is the most important thing we need to do. Instead there are a dozen things, any one of which could do us in, and we have got to get them all right, because if we solve eleven and we fail to solve the twelfth, we are in trouble. For example, if we solve our problems of water and soil and population but we do not solve our problem with toxics, then we are in trouble.

 

The fact is that our present course is a non-sustainable course, which means by definition that it cannot be maintained, and the outcome is going to get resolved within a few decades. That means that those of us in this room who are less than 50 or 60 years old will see how these paradoxes are resolved, and those of us who are over the age of 60 may not see the resolution but our children and grandchildren certainly will.

 

The resolution is going to achieve either of two forms; either we will resolve these non-sustainable time fuses in pleasant ways of our own choice, by taking remedial action, or else these conflicts are going to get settled in unpleasant ways not of our choice, namely by war, disease or starvation. But what is for sure is that our unsustainable course will get resolved in one way or another over the next few decades.

 

[end of excerpt from Jared Diamond]

 

Building resilient local communities is one of the dozen things we have to get right in the next few decades. That’s what Transition Ferndale, and all the other Transition Town organizations, are for. If you are concerned about peak oil, climate change and a failing economy, then join in the effort. If Ferndale is too distant to be your community, then you may have to start a Transition Town group where you are.

Art Myatt

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Transition Ferndale Bylaws

(11-15-2010 draft)

Name –

The name of this organization is Transition Ferndale.

Purpose of the organization –

Peak oil, climate change and economic instability are all indicating that we cannot rely on the high-tech, high-energy global economy. We advocate developing a network of low energy and high-employment local economies. Transition from high energy to low will be the work of generations, just as building up to the global economy was the work of generations.

We don’t know where this project will take us in future decades. We do have a strong sense that we will be better off developing permaculture, reskilling, local production and energy conservation to make our communities more resilient. We’re for equality and cooperation, against rule by elites and the wars that result. We will be working in our neighborhood, and we encourage everyone to work in theirs.

We expect to engage in education, including self-education, through public discussion of books, films and events. We expect to initiate some activities and participate in some initiated by others, when those activities save energy, help with local production (especially food production), and generally build the community. We are a non-profit organization, not focused on politics, but we do not intend to become a “501C3” organization because we reserve the right to endorse candidates & take positions on issues.

Membership –

A member is a person who agrees with the purpose stated above, has provided contact information, and is current with dues as set by the Organizing Committee (defined below). Members have the right to make proposals to the organization and to vote on proposals.

Member’s families automatically become associate members, with the right to speak at meetings but without the right to vote on proposals. People wishing to vote can become full members.

There is no geographic requirement for membership, though we expect most Transition Ferndale activities to take place in Ferndale and nearby communities. Members who have not participated in any Transition Ferndale meeting for 6 months will be listed as inactive, and will not be counted for determining quorum.

Dues –

Dues are intended to give the organization funds to be used for meeting room rentals and similar expenses incurred by the organization. A dues reduction or waiver is automatic for anyone wishing to be a member who cannot afford to pay.

Organizing Committee –

The Organizing Committee (OC) exists to plan meetings and similar events consistent with the purpose of the organization. Initially but for no longer than one year after the founding of Transition Ferndale, OC members will be self-selected. After the initial period, the positions will be elected by the membership.

The OC will consist of Transition Ferndale members who are willing to assume the following uncompensated roles:

Meeting Manager – Keeps track of scheduled Transition Ferndale meetings; publishes the Bylaws (this document) and a meetings/events calendar; ensures resources needed for each meeting are available (access to the location of the meeting, chairs, equipment, etc.); either chairs meetings or finds a volunteer member to chair.

Secretary – Keeps and publishes minutes of meetings; keeps membership records; notifies members of upcoming meetings and events; distributes copies of proposals; determines quorum at meetings; records & reports membership votes as needed.

Treasurer – Collects and deposits dues and donations; writes checks as needed for Transition Ferndale meetings and projects; publishes the books of the organization; files and keeps Employer Identification Number forms, tax forms, bank statements and similar records.

Project Representative(s) – Whenever an ongoing project (such as a gardening class or book group) is initiated by Transition Ferndale, or when Transition Ferndale endorses a project (such as a community garden or a campaign against a local ordinance prohibiting the raising of chickens), at least one member participating should become a representative on the OC to ensure the OC is informed on how the project is going.

Decisions –

Decisions will be made by consensus when possible, and by simple majority vote of the members when consensus is not possible. Proposals must be supported by three or more members before a decision is required. Proposals include revisions of the Bylaws and dissolving the organization. Quorum for a vote will be at least 1/3 of listed, active members. Abstentions will count for quorum but will not count to affect the outcome of a “yes” or “no” vote.