It’s not clear whether Stan Cox is a plant breeder with a penchant for politics, or a political provocateur who finds time to do science. Whichever aspect of his personality is dominant, Cox artfully draws on both skill sets to make the case for rationing, perhaps the most important concept that is not being widely discussed these days. The power of his new book, Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing, comes from his blending of scientific analyses of dire resource trends with a compelling moral argument about the need to reshape politics and economics.
Evidence shows its very clear we have reached the safe limits to growth in terms of the most pressing threat to human civilisation – that of a stable atmosphere. Therefore, until we can find a way to decouple growth from carbon emissions and reach that mythical “dematerialised” economy, restarting global economic growth seems a dangerous folly. But what might the implications of this be for capitalism?
As I wrote in my post about the Pulse, “Howard Odum was of the opinion that all systems on all scales pulse. Storages gradually accumulate, consumers consume and develop, and eventually decline, and then dispersing materials that will be used in the next pulse.” And if “energy flows, storages, transformations, feedbacks, and sinks” are central to any system, man-made or otherwise, we can see that the peaking of world oil production is going to have a huge effect. So, how does the idea of pulsing change one’s approach to design?
On Building a Better (and More Resilient) World: Complexity, Community, and the Precautionary Principle
From the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to Superstorm Sandy, the last decade has seen an incredible array of natural disasters...The proliferation of disasters is raising awareness about our collective need to minimize vulnerability and to bounce back afterwards – our need for greater resilience.
On 18th September 2014 the Scottish People will have a referendum on their future within the United Kingdom where they will be asked the simple question: Should Scotland be an Independent Country? Yes or No.
Should the people say yes then this will not only have far reaching political and socio-economic consequences for Scotland and the rest of the UK but it will also leave the rest of the UK’s energy security in a parlous state since the bulk of the remaining oil and gas reserves of the North Sea and Atlantic margin lie in Scottish waters. Or is it that simple?
UK crude oil + condensate + natural gas liquid production. Accelerated declines in recent years are the result of inept changes to the taxation regime, increased scheduled maintenance in the wake of Macondo and increasing numbers of unscheduled platform shutdowns attributed to ageing infrastructure. Data from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).
The University of Aberdeen will host a two day conference / debate on The Politics of Oil and Gas in a Changing UK on the 8th and 9th of May 2013. Entrance is free for all those who wish to attend.
In order to understand the events leading up to the current situation it is necessary to go back to 1707 when the current Union between Scotland and England was established. This came in the wake of a disastrous investment enterprise undertaken in the new world of Panama called the Darien Scheme where many Scottish nobles lost significant portions of their wealth leaving Scotland impoverished.
However, not all were in agreement and come 1745 the second Jacobite rebellion against The Union culminated in the battle of Culloden where the Jacobites were slaughtered and a period of military occupation followed accompanied by clearing farmers from the land to make way for Nobles from the South. Many fled to the colonies of Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand.
Since 1745 Scotland has been part of one of the most successful political and monetary unions in history and was part of the global super power that conquered the world. Despite this there has always been discontentment and those who saw a brighter future as an independent Scotland. In 1934 The Scottish National Party (SNP) was born with sole purpose of lobbying for independence via the ballot box.
The success of the SNP has fluctuated with time but on an ever upward trajectory. In 1999, a large number of executive powers were transferred from Westminster to the new Scottish Parliament, a move that had very broad cross party support. However significant powers remained with the UK, mainly fiscal powers, foreign policy and energy policy. The proportional voting system for the Scottish Parliament was designed specifically to not enable any single party to gain an overall majority.
The SNP were naturally in favour of devolution of power from Westminster to Edinburgh even though this did not go far enough for their cause. Under the leadership of Alex Salmond, one of the UK's most astute politicians, the SNP fared well in Scottish parliamentary elections.
The last election took place in May 2011. In March of that year, in an act of political ineptitude, UK Finance Minister George Osborne launched a £2billion tax raid on North Sea oil and gas profits which in some measure determined the outcome of the election. Come May, the SNP won a resounding landslide victory winning an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, an event that was never supposed to happen. Whilst there was no constitutional case for doing so, the UK government could quite clearly not deny the SNP and the Scottish people a referendum vote on their political destiny. Osborne has since learned the error of his ways with sweeping reforms to the North Sea taxation system in order to encourage investment in marginal fields.
The SNP face an uphill struggle to convince the Scottish electorate to vote yes. Looking towards Europe, we can all see how difficult it is to form a successful political and monetary union. I do not want to go into the many facets of the political debate, but energy security will form a central plank. With control over North Sea oil and gas, Scotland would be an exporting nation. Not on the scale of Norway, but not far behind. England and Wales would be left in a situation similar to France, with very little indigenous oil and gas production and heavily dependent upon imports. This is the ace up the sleeve of the SNP.
But it is not that simple. Much of the remaining oil and gas reserves lie to the east and west of the Orkney and Shetland islands that are both strongly opposed to severing links with The Union. Should the Scottish people vote yes, and the Islands vote no, Salmond may be deprived of The Prize he has fought so long and hard to win.
• The Trouble with Biofuels: Costs and Consequences of Expanding Biofuel Use in the United Kingdom
•Dance of the Honey Bee
•The benefits of alternative farming methods
•A Brief History of Our Deadly Addiction to Nitrogen Fertilizer
•Connecting the Dots: the Big Permaculture Picture
•YFF: Using the Sun to Empower Women and Help Family Farmers
•International Day of Peasant struggles
•Why Saving Seed and Growing Organic Food is a Powerful Weapon Against Corporate Tyranny
•Why farmers still struggle when food prices rise
Sometimes people tell me, “If you cover fracking, you really need to see that film—that film, what’s it called?” “Gasland?” I’ll offer helpfully. “Yes, that’s it.”
Growing plants, particularly for food, and particularly in community, is a big part of the Transition experience and ethos. Many people in transition are active permaculturists. At the very least, most of us want to eat plants grown organically from good seed.
David Graeber, who was actively involved in the early days of Occupy Wall Street and continues to work to advance its principles, starts his new book The Democracy Project with a fascinating (if long) personal history of how OWS found its legs and what it had to deal with (notably the brutal suppression of November 2011 when the governments of the day decided to shut down the protest through a sustained, globally coordinated and ruthless operation, and the disgraceful behaviour of the media ‘covering’ the movement, and then abruptly not covering it at all).
Mitigation or adaptation? It’s usually an either/or choice: either we work on ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or we find ways to adapt to new conditions created by climate change, including reducing society’s vulnerabilities and raising its resilience. Fighting to close a coal plant or developing green energy alternatives, for example, is a different job than translocating an imperiled species or planning for inevitable sea level rise. Same problem, separate responses. Different tribes. Mitigation and adaptation even have separate conferences!
•Peak oil isn’t dead: An interview with Chris Nelder •What If We Never Run Out of Oil? •‘Peak Fossil Fuels’ Is Closer Than You Think: BNEF
I’ve been advancing my guerilla gardening efforts recently, with a significant new raised bed now beautifying my nature strip, as seen in the featured picture. I thought in this post I could provide a brief overview of how to build a cheap raised bed, either for use on your nature strip or in your front or backyards. This overview might seem a bit basic for the handy builders among you, so I direct this post to those who are beginning their journey into guerilla gardening and urban agriculture.
Peak oil does not occur when we run out of oil. Peak oil occurs when the marginal consumer is no longer willing to pay the cost of extracting and processing the marginal barrel of oil. And we can actually calculate what the related numbers are.
Cities everywhere are working to improve transportation options to reduce reliance on automobiles and for this reason bicycling as another mode of transport is taking off. But there’s a lot of push back because in the U.S. car culture is king, and the hidden argument against bikes is rarely made public.
Today's shale gas boom has brought a surge of drilling across the US, driving natural gas prices to historic lows over the past couple of years. But, according to David Hughes, geoscientist and fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, in the future, we can expect at least the same frenzied rate of drilling – but less and less oil and gas from each well on average.
In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote that “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” This single line succinctly describes a recently conceptualized psychological phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. David Dunning and Justin Kruger, two researchers from Cornell University, have concluded that there is an inverse relationship between a person’s knowledge and skill level in a particular area and the person’s self-rated ability to perform in the area. Dunning and Kruger argue that people who are unknowledgeable and unskilled at performing an activity are also unable to recognize their own incompetence, which is why they tend to overestimate the quality of their performance when asked to self-evaluate. (Likewise, those individuals who are highly knowledgeable and highly skilled tend to underestimate their performance when asked to self-evaluate.)
A group of people will be walking through the Great Plains, along the proposed Keystone XL route, for three months this summer. We hope to make connections with communities along the way.
A weekly update, including:
-Oil and the global economy
-The Middle East
-Quotes of the week
Transition culture may be flourishing in the south of my county – Devon, we have Totnes there after all – but how is it progressing in the seemingly distant and rather overlooked north? Well, I offer the following sketch perspective.
As soon as we begin using the word “farming” again, all of the implicit associations with farming begin to reemerge in our shared thoughts and language