Solutions to peak oil – part III: 9 steps you can implement short term to get ready.

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Posted by Herve | Posted in How can I help? | Posted on 20-09-2012

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Wake up, we have past the peak

Wake up, we have past the peak

This is the continuation of my series on peak oil. In previous posts I described the problem and discussed consequences and myths around peak oil. Mostly, one need to remember oil is so pervasive that it enter into the manufacture of most of what can be bought nowadays, its depletion is a mathematical fact and there are numerous indications we have past the time of cheap ever-growing supply of oil. Peak oil can be paired with peak energy for various reasons. The consequences are complex to understand, and systemic implications are mostly overlooked. Timing has it that peak oil is compounding with one of the greatest financial crisis in the world’s history, with an environment brought to its knee like never since the great extinction events millions of years ago and with the ageing of world population to levels never achieved before.

Thankfully there are simple solutions which would warrant a less painful transition to an energy-poor world. In this post I will focus on what could be the beginning of an answer on which everybody can start to act now. This major society shift involves all of us, and we can all do something about it. In fact, the more people become aware of the issue, the easier it will be to transition our societies to a world without oil / fossil fuels.

Here are a few short term steps you can start to implement today in order to get ready for the energy descent.

  • Get prepared mentally for an economic and social roller coaster. Difficult times are coming, and much of what is taken for granted in rich societies simply won’t be available anymore. But ruin and misery do not have to be the inescapable fate of human civilisation. In fact the changes that are inevitably coming herald the one-in-a-multi-centuries chance to build a better world, more just and free. Doing this is up to all of us and demands not to be attached to physical possessions, to have a mind open to change and to be able to love and share. As long as we collectively put material wealth as our main goal, crave for career success and a bigger TV/car/house/etc.. than our neighbour, we will be slave to greed, and peak oil will hit us hard. That being said, we still have to eat, feed our children and get shelter… Which is the subject of the following points.
  • Seriously consider where you live and whether this is something you should do something about. Don’t act immediately and in any case resist the temptation of building yourself a bunker in the middle of nowhere. Although running for the hills or getting a “bug-out location” is on a number of people’s mind, a totally isolated and independent lifestyle is an illusion1a. Humans have evolved and are stronger together. We each have skills, tasks we prefer to do and are better at doing it. Therefore living in a community makes each individual more resilient through cooperation with the other members of the group.
    That is not to say that if you have the choice of where to live you should choose the centre of a megalopolis such as New York, quite the opposite. Strategically the most sensible places where to live after peak oil are close to your family and friends, within a small/medium, not too densely populated city on a train line and near a river.

Stop taking drugs – Part II: towards healing

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Health | Posted on 14-09-2012

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I believe liberty and freedom are essential elements to the path towards a better world. I think freedom starts as a mindset by inner freedom, and therefore slavery to any addiction acts as a trap hampering our common progress. However solutions exist, as per the discussion I recently had with the manager of a community aimed at rehabilitating drug addicts. Here is the second part of our discussion.

Stop taking drugs – Part I: understanding addictions

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Health | Posted on 05-09-2012

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Living with others requires to be able to live with your own self. Therefore building a better world demands the problem of addiction to be addressed. The United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) estimates that between 155 and 250 million of people, which represents between 3.5 and 5.7 per cent of the 15 to 65 years old, have taken illicit substances at least once within the last twelve months1. Addiction creates significant disruption
It is thought that abuse and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illegal substances cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars a year, considering their combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact2.

Generally speaking, addiction can be seen as a brain disease that affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behaviour3,4. The changes in the addicted brain are significant compared to the nonaddicted brain, as manifested by changes in metabolic activity, receptor availability, gene expression, and responsiveness to environmental cues. Artificial activation of reward circuits seems to be one of the reasons behind all addiction issues5.

Solutions to peak oil – part II: Consequences and myths

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Global issues | Posted on 03-01-2011

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Got milk?

A potential scenario for post peak oil

In our previous post about peak oil I introduced the concept of finite resources which may be a limit to growth, and described how important oil has become to our civilisation. What will happen if dramatic actions are not taken in order to address the increasingly limited availability of oil and other fossil fuels? The consequences of scarcity of oil will be dire. Basic market laws of supply and demand indicates that the decrease in production will lead to higher oil prices, and therefore higher price on all of the goods and service which heavily depend on oil, as I detailed in one my precedent posts.

As cost will keep rising and consumer’s disposable income will keep decreasing, we will witness slower growth at first, followed by foreclosures, recession, depression, inverted rural flight and a potential collapse of governments and financial systems.

Solutions to peak oil – part I: what is the problem?

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Global issues | Posted on 19-12-2010

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[singlepic id=50 w=200 float=left]

A storm is coming, and some say that it will wipe our civilisation off the earth1. I am talking about the progressive disappearance of oil.

I have been thinking and investigating the issue called “peak oil” for over a year now, and it is one of the reasons which started me writing this blog. Peak oil is defined as the moment where the maximum oil is being produced and the production starts it final decline.

There are indications that peak oil is either imminent or even may have passed a few years ago. Although the consequences won’t be immediate after the peak, on the long term they will be dire. We will discuss what the possible solutions to peak oil are in a moment but first, what are we talking about? Let’s start by a few facts:

  • There is only a limited amount of oil on the planet – because the planet is round.
  • The world’s first commercial oil well was drilled in Poland in 1853, and global production reached 4 million barrels a year in the 1860s2 (one barrel is about 159 litres).
  • Today’s production hovers just above 70 million barrels a day3.
  • 2005 was an all-time high at 73.72 million barrels a day3. Production is nearly flat since.
  • The Industrial Revolution brought a better understanding of how to use energy and allowed global population to increase ten times compared to what has been constant over millennia4a4b. It is quite clear that our population would never have reached this level without access to all the cheap energy sources we currently have.
  • Our industry, food system and economy have become wholly dependent on cheap fuel.
  • India and China demand for oil is set to quadruple by 20305.
  • Some 64 million barrel per day of additional gross capacity – the equivalent of almost six times the daily output of Saudi Arabia today – needs to be brought on stream between now and 2030 (World Energy Outlook 20086)

So if the amount of oil we have is limited, if our demand is exponentially growing and if production has been stationary for 5 years, how much oil have we left?

Lessons from the past bring a new argument against cloning

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Sustainable agriculture | Posted on 25-11-2010

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[singlepic id=44 w=180 float=left]Cloned cattle have been the subject of some recent front-page coverage in Europe[1a] [1b]. Meat from cloned animals has also been approved by FDA for human consumption two years ago[2]. With this come the usual heard arguments: the pro-cloning parties say that there is no difference between a clone and its “parent” (or sibling?), in which they are right on a purely genetic point of view, and they go on saying that the Earth resources are limited (correct), and that we need to feed everybody (true but how to save the world from hunger is subject to discussion). Those against cloning point out that the long-term implication have not been tested (true as well), that cloned animals have a very high rate of abnormality (correct[3]) and implies significant levels of cruelty to animals (correct[3]).

But besides all of those perfectly valid albeit slightly passionate arguments I’d like to bring one which is not heard often, and the implications of which are rarely made plain enough. It is a cold, logical and scientific argument linked to the survival of the fittest theory from Darwin. But first, let’s take lessons from a troubled period of our history.

Freeing the slaves

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Social organisation | Posted on 18-10-2010

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[singlepic id=43 w=180 float=left] Slavery has existed since the dawn of our civilisation. Throughout history, various people have worked to abolish slavery, starting by Cyrus the Great, 6th century BC. However the Abolitionism movement only started to gain real momentum in the 18th century, and reached global status in 1948, when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declared freedom from slavery is an internationally recognized human right.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

However, until today slavery exist in every country and millions all around the world are trapped in forced labour without the right to walk away. To discuss this issue and how to introduce potential solutions, my guest today is Kevin Bales, one of the world’s leading expert on modern slavery. Author, professor of sociology and consultant for the United Nations, Kevin Bales is the founder and president the nonprofit organisation Free the Slaves. He has made it his mission to save the world’s last slaves.

Weeds and soil improvement: 7 unusual considerations

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Sustainable agriculture | Posted on 18-07-2010

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Can weeds be beneficial? Throughout history, the richness and health of their soils has made the underlying power or utter downfall of nations and empires[1]. Over the past century mankind has witnessed an increasing trend towards top soil depletion[2], threatening the very basis of our complex societies[3].

“Soil erosion is second only to population growth as the biggest environmental problem the world faces,” said David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell. “Yet, the problem, which is growing ever more critical, is being ignored”[4]. It has nowadays reached a point where, to save the world from agricultural collapse, an in-depth rethink of soil management in view of sustainably improving soil fertility is needed.

I have already exposed in previous posts how good agricultural practices, including natural farming and the preservation of untouched spaces could contribute to a more fertile land. Today I want to discuss weeds.

Living the high life: a sustainable rainforest community.

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Social organisation | Posted on 25-06-2010

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[singlepic id=11 w=200 float=left]Saving our world’s rainforests and their incredible beauty and diversity is, undoubtedly, one of the most important challenges of our time. The gradual deforestation process around the globe is easily ignored, but is significant enough to trigger the sixth massive extinction of species since the beginning of the world.

Stopping the world’s ecosystem collapse into an irreversible nose-dive requires more than dramatic action: it requires a massive culture shift. It requires us to learn how to live in harmony with and in nature, develop sustainable communities and develop a real sense of care for life in general.

Today I want to give a new community the opportunity to share their fantastic work on building and pioneering a sustainable way of life at the very heart of the rainforest. Erica Hogan has kindly answered our questions about her community, Finca Bellavista, in Costa Rica. Here is the transcript of the interview:

How to help cleaning an oil spill.

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Posted by Herve | Posted in Saving the environment | Posted on 07-06-2010

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oil spill

The recent events in the gulf of Mexico are cause for terrible concern, both for the ecosystem and for the nearby populations who have seen their livelihood disappear in a matter of a few weeks. This only remind us how helpless we are in front of disasters and ecosystem collapse.

There is no magic solution and the fragile ecosystem of the gulf will take time to recover, if at all. However, here is a clue on how we could potentially help the recovery inland, and help save our world’s endangered environment.

This tool is natural, safe and inexpensive: we are talking about the amazing digesting power of mycelium. Mycelium is the name given to the root-like system which support mushrooms (In actual fact, mushrooms are the fruits of mycelia).