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Key Information - Global Challenges

Peak Oil Primer - The Peak Oil theory says we have used up more than half of what’s available, and if we find no equivalent alternatives, what’s left will cost more and more to extract. Our whole way of life, including food production, transport, and power, is based on the unsustainable idea of a "growth economy" which has become heavily dependent on cheap, plentiful oil for petrol, diesel, all plastics, all synthetic fabrics, heating, fertilizers, and electricity. This mega-challenge on our doorstep is still widely ignored or is backed up by highly suspect "science". But we have a "window of oppurtunity" to look for creative solutions, new ideas, and good science, while we still have cheap oil...
Oil is our biggest single energy source (37%); taken together with gas which is also expected to peak very soon, the total is 60%. If prices start to rise steeply, we will be affected in every part of our life. Food and agriculture would be particularly vulnerable... BUT FIRST WE NEED TRUSTWORTHY SCIENCE. Climate Science has shown widespread malfeasance directed by UN - so how can we trust Peak Oil any more? However, read Peak Oil: a detailed and transparent analysis by Skrebowski and Hart. Read the Hirsch Report stressing the urgent need to face Peak Oil, commissioned by the US government. Read the GAO report commissioned by Senator Roscoe Bartlett to look at strategy. Although the US "suburbia" will be hardest hit, Peak Oil will hit us all. "Every attempt to flog non-solutions (tar sands, shale, coal-to-liquids, hydrogen, ethanol) is precious time lost to get plausible alternatives."
Key links: Energy Bulletin - ASPO - Post Carbon Institute - Oil Depletion Protocol. Sign the Petition from Power Switch. Read the rousing wake-up from LifeAfterTheOilCrash that converted Senator Bartlett. See the lovely Oily Cassandra.

Not just Peak Oil, Peak All is a concept we must face some time . Rare minerals used in flat-screen televisions and monitors, mobile phones, computer chips, solar cells, fluorescent light bulbs. Platinum for vehicle fuel cells. Phosphorus for fertilizer. And when oil production is perceived to have peaked, all energy-dependent costs will rocket, and a transition to a low-energy economy will occur whether we like it or not. It is not just oil - coal production world-wide is predicted to peak in 2030 – 2040. Ores of other important minerals may be running low.

Climate Change is NOT as the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change portrays. So what is the truth, and how can one be sure? I fervently believed in Global Warming as shown in An Inconvenient Truth, I believed top NASA expert Jim Hansen. How to respond to a "sustainability emergency" for which the evidence looked grimly clear? I checked the science... it held up... Then I was challenged further - to reverse directions! It's tough re-examining, inch by inch, what one thinks one has mastered. I try to be courteous - we all can fall short when we've checked so carefully from top sources that we're right, that we "must be" dealing with idiots in denial...

Ten years - zero correlation between CO2 and global warming. This graph suggests that the earlier link was sheer coincidence, though it seemed so evident from 1975-2000. Explore Curious Anomalies (my Climate Science Primer).

<<The evidence of this graph has not been explained satisfactorily by the IPCC. With claims of global crisis, we need to have a human-scale handle on this, to examine evidence for ourselves, to grasp the science, as well as human factors: experts' pride, misplaced trust in "experts", funding for "alarming" issues, science issues outside one's own discipline being incomprehensible, peer pressure to stick to consensus, pressure from UN IPCC, fear of job loss, etc...

Many say "sea level rise could be far worse than expected" - but sea level rate of rise hasn't changed at all for a century. Moreover for ten years it's leveled off - this was not predicted by any climate models. See the IPCC Summary for Policymakers (Nov 2007). Hansen is the Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science; an eminent climate scientist; but he is disowned by his former boss. Hansen says we have a "sustainability emergency". But - we need to be able to check the science, for the actions Hansen demands are far too expensive to risk a mistake. Then comes the bombshell: Data unobtainable (now grudgingly released, thanks to pressure from climate sceptics). Methods still uncheckable. And more.

What Will We Eat as the Oil Runs Out? - Richard Heinberg, Nov 2007, addressing Soil Association: "Our global food system faces a crisis of unprecedented scope" - Rising oil prices, biofuel displacing crops, extreme weather (Climate change), degrading topsoil, water loss, dependence on nitrates from the Haber process which uses fossil fuels, peak phosphorus, petrochemical pesticides, cities' dependence on transport: all these bring the harshest difficulties to the most impoverished nations, which threatens social unrest. "All these efforts [individual campaigns to fight poverty, protect topsoil, etc] are laudable; however, they largely fail to address the common sources of the dilemmas we face - human population growth, and society's and agriculture's reliance on fossil fuels."

Can Britain Feed Itself? - Simon Fairlie expands Kenneth Mellanby's 1975 report "on the back of an envelope" into a pdf report - in brief, he says that Britain can feed itself - but with less meat. Chemical, organic & permaculture ways are examined. This is a crucial piece of work that needs developing further and reviewing. We understand that the Soil Association is going to take up this work, perhaps together with Transition Towns.

Overpopulation and Overconsumption: Overpopulation exists when the population exceeds the stable carrying capacity of the country/planet. There are ten times as many Asians as North Americans, but one North American uses the resources of twenty Third World people. We have passed our sustainable limits for both of our major food energy sources, grains and fish, and we are very quickly reaching our fresh water limits.THIS IS THE BIG SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE, behind all the rest. We need sensitive, holistic education to wake up, grasp a truer picture, in which there is room for Spirit and what happens before birth and after death, and how to take responsibility, contribute solutions, support the changes we need, and plan the civilized transition we each need to make if we are to survive with integrity.

Can Nuclear Power fill the gap? - here is a summary/download of Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy by David Fleming, who believes it cannot. Extrapolating present technologies, supplies, and demands, Peak Uranium would mean that we cannot generate enough nuclear power to even handle its own waste - and if energy prices skyrocket, this will be even harder... it has greenhouse liabilities ... it is dangerous ... However, there are other possible sources of uranium... and other possible nuclear technologies... beside other even more fringe ideas of which 99.999% may be wild, but 0.001% may bring something that provides enough energy to solve all our problems...

Renewable Energy Cannot Power our Consumer Society - "this is one of the best arguments for the inevitability of energy descent yet to appear" - Rob Hopkins. Wind, biomass, photovoltaic and solar thermal sources could not (in current theory) meet present electricity demands. It is too difficult to generate and distribute enough hydrogen. Nuclear energy is not a good answer. Conclusion: our problems need to be solved by incorporating a transition to a society based on simpler, more self-sufficient and cooperative ways, within an economy changing to zero-growth.

Governments have a moral obligation to fund renewables research, and encourage local small-scale renewable energy generation, way beyond the insultingly low current level of funding. Politicians need Education for Sustainability!

All the mega-problems that challenge the 21st Century (this is the list by James Martin). Water shortages, excessive population growth, loss of ocean life, desertification, pandemics, unstoppable global migrations, violent religious extremisms, famine in ill-organized countries, etc.

We did a mind-map on Research to make key issues readily available - but we need so much more! How many people, for instance, know how many man-hours a gallon of petrol represents? (a gallon of petrol drives a car 20-30 miles; this is equivalent to 6-8 weeks' manual labour.) How many people know how much of our present energy consumption could be replaced by all the current viable alternative power sources?

"Snappy Facts" about crucial issues - both user-friendly and accurate.
In the 70's there was an amazing series of little leaflets published by ECOROPA: short, pithy, informative, and accurate, issues like "Atomic Energy and Nuclear Weapons - the intimate connection" .

This website serves a unique function in bringing together all the basic, essential "Snappy Facts" you will need to grasp for Transition, and offers help with holistic, spiritual awakening many people have found necessary to cope with such hard facts and still keep a sense of Life, Purpose, Meaning, and Hope.

We need to "ratchet up" Education for Sustainability for everyone. This needs Research for Transition to Sustainability, not just for children or academics or governments but for all, and not just UK or "Western" but worldwide. It also needs a willingness to open up and seek help from the Great Spirit of the Universe, by whatever name we call God - Spirit - Allah - even Matt Simmons, top banker, advises prayer to handle Peak Oil.

  • simple, friendly, "icons" of the basic scientific evidence crucial to Transition,
  • discernment and healing of the current climate science corruption,
  • the basics of good scientific method and how to distinguish good evidence from bad,
  • the basics of agriculture and permaculture for sustainability,
  • our share in building resilience and re-localization,
  • the basics of economy, both global, national and local,
  • our natural resistance to change, and our genius for hope,
  • the psychology of addiction and how to pass "from darkness to light",
  • the non-negotiable, utter, profound need to build solidarity,
  • Sensitivity, Creativity, and Openness.

We've all heard about changing our light bulbs until we're sick of it. We need to reach far, far deeper. There are many fine inspirations to draw on. Before Gorbachev were people like Churchill, Alfred the Great, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and many more. We can learn a lot from other peoples' strategies of integrity at times of great danger.

More loose ideas here

updated 14th November 2009

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