Friday, July 23, 2010

Transitioning York Region

We are a society wholly reliant on the world’s finite and rapidly declining oil supplies. Our daily activities like heating our homes, eating, shopping, and driving all use vast amounts of oil. To make matters worse we've purposely designed leisure activities around burning even more oil as if it was a contest to see who can consume the most. The danger this irrational energy addiction poses should have been obvious to all of us but for the most part we’ve chosen to ignore the issue figuring the energy will always be there, well guess what? We were wrong!

It may have been 2 years ago or it may still be a couple of years away but we are on the cusp of Peak Oil, that point where we can no longer increase world oil production as shown on this graph with production in billions of barrels and the year.

In the early part of the 20th century oil was easy to find and world oil reserves and production grew quickly. This cheap energy spurred on growth, innovation, massive industrialization and conspicuous consumption. This worked out great for about ½ a century but eventually new oil discoveries began to fall behind and for every one barrel added to identified reserves several were used up. At this point we had ample time to change our ways but we didn’t bother, in fact most people inside and outside the oil industry ignored the trend altogether.

Fast forward to the present and we are at the point where all of the easiest, cleanest and cheapest oil has been discovered and a great deal of it burned. Today’s new oil is generaly deeper, dirtier, more expensive to extract, requires more energy to extract and is generally found in smaller pockets, the boom times are certainly over. From this point on oil production will stagnate at best and will most likely begin to drop in the coming years. Demand however is not expected to decline as several billion Chinese and Indian peasants rush towards industrialization and consumerism.

The end game is we are heading towards much higher energy prices and if we don’t adapt to use less energy very soon we will probably face shortages and major disruptions in our way of life.

Enter Transition Towns

Transition Towns is a grass roots movement out of the UK which provides the frame work and development tools allowing communities to form their own local Transition Town organizations. Once in place Transition Town can educate communities to the issues of climate change, peak oil and economic contraction. At the same time by engaging the community, Transition Town taps the local skills, creativity and energy generating home grown innitatives to ease adaptation from our current state to a post carbon society.

From Transition Towns main page.

A Transition Initiative (which could be a town, village, university or island etc) is a community-led response to the pressures of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and increasingly, economic contraction. There are thousands of initiatives around the world starting their journey to answer this crucial question:

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

There are already 321 communities largely in Western Europe and North America recognized as official Transition Initiatives by the Transition Newwork. Hundreds of additional towns, regions, and island are in the initial stages of organization. Each of these groups has different people, different skills, different climates and different visions which will eventually result in hundreds of distinct energy descent plans designed for their needs.

Under the umbrella of each local initiative various working groups develop to focus on issue of food, economy, energy, health, spirituality, transportation, reskilling, culture and others. People who get involved can work on the larger picture or simply find a project they like under one of the many working groups and run with it. Me, I'm all about food security issues and promoting those lost skills and trades needed to make people and communites more self sufficient and resilient.

Transition Upper York Region

I think every town needs a transtion movement as I've stated before, so I'm very pleased to announce that we now have our very own embryonic organization called Transition (Upper) York Region which held its very fist open meeting last night at the Regional building in Newmarket. The attendies, (somewhere between a dozen and a score) recieved a brief primer on peak oil and the organization/methodology of the transition movement after which we broke up into smaller working groups to discuss key topics like food, health and energy. The discussions were vigourous and passionate and I'm sure most of these people will attend the next meeting dragging family or friends along with them.

I do think that Upper York Region is a tad too big and includes too many separate municipalities to be manageable but I suspect as the group grows it will become an umbrella organization with separate working groups for some of the towns. This is probably a good strucure to start with but it will surely evolve into something different.

This group intends on being very active and it should quickly build up the kind of numbers needed to represent the needs and concerns of the residents as well as actually getting things done.

In the coming weeks Transition(Upper)York Region will be hosting a screening of the movie In Transition 1.0 Aug 10th
holding another transition talk event Aug 19th
and a pub night for general discussion. Sept 15th in Richmond Hill

The Locations for these events are not yet finalized but I will edit this post once I get that information. You can find Transition (Upper)York Region on facebook here.

If you are curious about peak oil and how we are going to cope this is the organization for you. I've been waiting for Transition Towns to arrive in Newmarket for a couple of years and I'm most excited about the possibilities, I think we are going to do some good work.

Have a look at the Carousel on the side bar for additional books on peak oil and adaptation


Agent L said...

I am having trouble imagining a world where we would NOT need an initiative like Transition Town -- thanks for the interesting overview.

Anonymous said...

dont get confused between oil and energy. much like the carbon tax and failed e-tax, it just deflects from the real issues. the planet may run out of oil, but it will not run out of energy. As the governor of kentucky said, we have coal supplies to last america 350 years......

Canadian silver bug/Green Assassin Brigade said...

1 try running your car on coal.

2. A quick conversion to electric transit, electric cars, electric heating all supplied by coal is not likely as the assessments, zoning, building etc will not keep up with the need or the possible speed of conversion.

The coal estimates are bogus because they look at current coal consumption not how much would be needed to offset oil usage if we did convert not to mention the damage done by that much coal burning.

Will more coal get used, undoubtedly but the generation plants are not available and the grid (at this point) will not take a massive increase demand run through it..

Coal supporters expect that we will suddenly have lots of electric cars, to utilize all that power generated by coal,, with an average car life of 8 years these days and the inability of manufactures to produce enough cheap batteries, there is no way electrification of fleet will happen before oil supply issues pop up.

Unless tech for ultra capacitors is realized very soon peak oil will simply lead to peak lithium, or some other expensive, hard to access mineral needed to achieve electrification.

Adaption scenarios will still be needed and if it brings about more vibrant local community even better.

Anonymous said...

well, coal was just an example. I do have 2 coal oil lamps, and both my vehicles are over 12 years old, but I degress.

you are under the assumption that the current state will remain the same or get better. In times of crisis, the environment always suffers, and do other things. I suspect mass electrification is where we are heading.

york said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life...