Transition Whatcom

Celt's Garden: Community Emergency Readiness is All About Attitude
by Celt Schira, Transition Whatcom

...Columbia Neighborhood has spectacular pocket gardens as well as the best organized disaster preparedness in the city. Check it out. I like to walk down the alleys. That way I can peer into people's gardens while pretending to move out with a purpose. 

Disaster takes many forms. Consider the guy who planted a square foot garden in the former front yard, just for kicks, and then was laid off. Consider that the sewage from the Lake Whatcom side of the hills is pumped up and over to the Wastewater Treatment Facility. The city is quick to respond when a sewage pump loses power (the residents have probably never noticed.) So, how about a major power outage where all the pumps lose power for days? Consider that supermarkets have three days of food (much of it vile non-food extruded dubious rancid concoctions made from GMO corn and soybeans.) Consider that FEMA advises everyone to have two weeks worth of food stored because they don't plan on getting to you sooner than that (and if you are brown, rural, or poor they may plan on getting to you never.)...


Building Resilience - Web Chat (Transcript)
Chuck Collins, Vicki Robin, and Asher Miller discussed Building Resilience. They took a look at two different models for community resilience building: Resilience Circles & Transition Initiatives. [Transcript now online]


As the Earth Turns: Going Global with Perennial Polyculture Agricul...
by Robert Jensen

Wes Jackson spent the weekend at The Land Institute’s annual Prairie Festival talking up -- with his usual precision and passion -- the science and strategy behind plans to revolutionize the way we grow food using perennial polyculture grains.

A leading figure in the sustainable agriculture movement, Jackson has been pursuing the science and tweaking the strategy for more than three decades, building an impressive body of knowledge with his colleagues at “The Land,” as it’s known to everyone there. (The group also has produced an impressive full-bodied bread that was on the dinner table during the festival, made from an intermediate wheatgrass grain they’ve developed and dubbed “Kernza.”)

But, perhaps ironically, my faith in Jackson’s vision deepens not when he speaks from the depth of his knowledge (or when people happily bite into the bread) but when he emphasizes the uncertainty of what he knows...


Crisscrossing the Rubicon of Peak Oil
by Kurt Cobb
 We know that oil price spikes have been associated with 10 of the l...; there is reason to believe that we are headed into number 12.

It is this pattern which prevents a clear signal to people, policymakers and markets about our predicament. We seemed to be crossing the Rubicon of peak oil in 2008 as prices rose to $147 a barrel only to cross back during the subsequent two and a half years leading to a new nominal peak in production in January this year. In between the price of oil plummeted to around $35 a barrel before rebounding above $100.

This phenomenon has now been described for us by the former editor of Petroleum Review, Chris Skrebowski, in his piece "A Brief Economic Explanation of Peak Oil." Skrebowski believes there is a sort of speed limit that oil prices are imposing on the economy, and it begins roughly when oil trades above $90 a barrel though the number may be higher for high-growth countries such as China, perhaps up to $110. If prices stay in this area for long, it appears to signal that a recession is not far away.

From the public's point of view, oil prices this high have become a "normal" part of life. And, if Skrebowski's analysis proves correct, there will be no dramatic price spikes above, say, $200 a barrel that stick, something that might definitively signal the beginning of a long-term oil crisis in the public's mind. Instead, there will be repeated attempts to revive economic activity through fiscal and monetary stimulus which will ultimately fail to gain traction as oil prices shoot up once again, dampen economic activity and lead to recession after recession. During each recession oil prices will drop making the peak oil problem seem to disappear...



The Peak Oil Crisis: The German Army Report

by Tom Whipple
...The Bundeswehr Transformation Center, the organization that prepared the study, starts with the assertion that as there are so many forces in play, it is impossible to determine an exact date for peak oil, but that it will become obvious in hindsight. The Germans also believe that it is already too late to complete a comprehensive global transition to a post fossil fuel economy. They introduce the notion of a peak oil induced economic "tipping point" that would trigger so much economic damage that it is impossible to evaluate the possible outcomes.

For the near future the study foresees that a very large increase in oil prices would harm the energy-intensive agricultural systems that produce much of our food. Not only could the costs of fertilizers and pesticides become prohibitive, but the massive amount of oil-dependent transportation needed to move agricultural products long distances could make food unaffordable for many.

The study goes on to postulate a "mobility crisis" that would arise from substantial increases in the costs of operating private cars and trucks. Although sudden shortages could be relieved by volunteer and regulatory measures, ultimately the mobility crisis would feed into and add to the worsening economic situation...


Peak Oil: Now or Later? A Response to Daniel Yergin
by Euan Mearns

Over the years there has been significant convergence between the peak oil and business-as-usual camps, each hopefully learning from the other. Yergin, whilst attempting to debunk peak oil, appears to have been converted to a late peakist. I can certainly relate to many of the concepts described by Yergin - price influencing supply and demand, technology, innovation and new plays etc - but wonder when these are going to result in new production capacity (supply) that exceeds annual declines?

The stakes are high. Should policy makers listen to Pulitzer Prize winning historians? Or should they listen to geologists and a growing band of economists who can see the dependency of economic growth upon increasing supplies of cheap energy that quite simply do not appear to exist? Most important of all, will the WSJ publish a modified view of the oil world than that presented by Daniel Yergin?


More Thoughts on Peak Oil
by James Hamilton
In Saturday's Wall Street Journal, Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, gave his explanation of what's wrong with peak oil. Here's why I don't find his analysis altogether convincing. ... I submit that meeting the growing global demand for crude oil over the last five years has posed significant challenges for the world economy. And those who worry that the next 5-10 years might be like the last should not be dismissed as crackpots.

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