Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Chris Martenson and Peak Oil

I went to hear Chris Martenson speaking at Colston Hall last night - thanks to a tip-off from Yorkshire that this was a part of his UK tour. It was (I found to my surprise) organised by the council - for an exclusive invited audience that probably wasn't quite so exclusive once I'd persuaded them to add my name.

A very good talk. He was stripping down his 'Crash Course' (a three and a half hour video seminar) to a 45 minute summary, so it helped to know a bit of the background. He was careful to deal solely in facts and he avoided emotive issues like climate change or population. The message is that a world in which everything from money to debt to consumption of energy and raw materials requires ever-increasing (exponential) growth simply cannot be sustained - and that we're at or close to the collapse point. Like it or not, things will change dramatically. Better that we should think ahead and develop alternatives than suffer an uncontrolled collapse. Those alternatives would include other currencies (not debt based) to fall back on, and other ways of measuring progress that don't simply rely on economic output; and finding better ways to define happiness than ownership of more and more stuff.

All these things are possible, there are plenty of viable ideas around already; but the initiative to put them into practice will most likely come from the grassroots, not from central governments.

Chris's own history is of a scientist who later became VP of a big US corporation, and in that role learned more about the way the economy and money supply work (or don't work). That shocked him enough to send him on this mission to communicate the news to everyone else - principally through the 'Crash Course' on

He's one of many who realize the economic Emperor really has no new clothes - but he's much better than most at articulating it. The audience here was impressed, asked intelligent questions, got intelligent answers.

Full marks to this council for recognising that this is a real issue. Whether they'll be able to integrate it into real policy and action is anybody's guess - but there's a step in the right direction on Thursday when the Cabinet should be adopting a "Climate Change and Energy Security Framework" which will formally recognise 'Peak Oil' as a major factor in the city's future functioning.

[At the following Cabinet meeting, in March, they're set to approve the new traffic-generating South Bristol Ring Road - so let's not get over-confident about things!]

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