What your group can do

Here are 7 things your group can do to further positive change.

Here is a link to a two-sided handout version (pdf) that I created in anticipation of a speaking engagement.  It was written for church communities and other organizations which are interested in participating in the Transition process.

If you would like to edit the handout for use in your local area (for instance if you want to substitute your local climate change impacts for L.A. ones), email me and I will send you the raw Word doc (MS Word 2010)

1.Acknowledge the full extent of the problem

In the decade ahead, humanity will grapple with a triple crisis: the growing costs of climate change, the end of the oil age, plus ongoing economic contraction.

Peak oil is the understanding that our planetary supply of fossil fuels is limited, and that – particularly with respect to oil – we are crossing the halfway point of using up that planetary supply. We have already consumed the cheap, easy-to-get-to oil. Now comes the more expensive portion of the supply. That means that in the coming decade, even as we are adjusting to the threats of climate change, we will experience an energy crisis, the likes of which we have never seen. We will experience extreme price volatility, supply interruptions, shortages, potential conflicts over remaining supplies, severe economic repercussions, the inevitable human emotions that come with massive-scale change, and – if we dive into it unprepared – a looming threat of civil unrest.

Climate change: Here in L.A., climate change will probably look like erratic rainfall, ongoing droughts, water supply issues, severe storms, flooding, mudslides, and firestorms. Extreme heat days will coincide with limited energy for air conditioning. We can expect increased immigration from other geographic areas which become unlivable. Central Valley farmers will suffer from weird weather and exotic insect pests, which means food will get a lot more expensive. All of this means greater pressure on L.A.’s already-strained rich/poor social divide, and increased potential for food riots and conflict.

Economy: We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg: Prepare for hard times to get much worse. This is because there are fatal flaws in the original design of our economy. Eternal “growth” is impossible on a finite planet. Globalization and our expectations of scale, volume, and throughput are entirely out of line with the realities of the physical world.

At present, we call it “normal” to harvest raw materials on one continent, transport them to another for manufacturing, and transport them to a third continent for consumption. All the while, we’re burning fossil fuels and belching greenhouse gasses. North Americans consume world resources at a rate which – if everyone on the planet lived the way we call “normal” – would take FIVE PLANETS to provide for all. We cannot call this “normal”!

Oil is not the only substance for which we are hitting Peak – we’re also experiencing peak copper, peak natural gas, peak phosphorus (essential for agriculture), peak arable land, peak fresh water, and much more.

We live on one small, finite planet. In nature, growth is not linear and unending. Rather, it is part of an interconnected cycle which includes the rich, life-giving beauty of compost and decomposition. Right now we are living in a contracting economy, and life as we once knew it is changing forever.

2. Say NO to “normal.” Hurricane Katrina, Occupy protests, and this decade’s prices at the gas pump remind us that “normal” is completely not working. The trio of crises makes it clear that a bit of “conservation” and surface “greening” of business-as-usual patterns is entirely insufficient.The word radical comes from the same Latin source as “root.” Coping with these massive crises demands radical, root-level change. There are plenty of root-level solutions available. Many are marginalized by mainstream society as “alternative,” but the crises ahead dictate that we rethink that derogatory label. From urban farming to on-site greywater practices to permaculture building techniques, these low-impact, low-inputs techniques are the foundation of a livable future.

3. Rally for Resilience. As we enter the post-peak era and experience the supply constraints of peak oil, “local” will inevitably mean “survival.” Does your local community have what it needs? Do you have local, energy-free water supplies? Local food suppliers? In sufficient quantity? Does your community have reliable local businesses which are disassociated from the unstable globalized system? Resilience-oriented enterprises are oriented to local supply chains, lower-volume, and powerdown operations. Buy local. Support these fledgling businesses as they develop. Use your buying dollar to vote for a livable future. Become the watchdog for your local government and your local community: Any long-term Plan created this point in history must take the triple crisis into account, or else that Plan is not viable.

4. Create Culture Change. Make post‑petroleum, low-carbon “the way we do things” within your organization. Use peer pressure to applaud the right stuff and to shift attitudes. For example… Food: Choose local foods, local businesses, and/or organic. Learn how big box stores, supermarket systems, and GMOs completely undermine a secure food supply. Transportation: Go local, go human‑powered (bicycle, walking), and rideshare. Recognize that there is no honor in how far someone has driven through traffic, and air-miles are unconscionable. Waste: Choose reusable goods at every opportunity, share leftovers, and compost on site. Shun “disposable” and “single-use” as unacceptable ways to treat the earth’s precious resources. Set “zero waste” as an organizational policy, and strive to eliminate the volume you send curbside each week. Change begins at home, and for your organization that means each one of your meetings, gatherings and events.

5. Install the Infrastructure. From economic systems to agribusiness systems, our old infrastructure is broken and failing. To cope with the crises ahead we will need new tools, new structures, and new skills. Make your organization one of the forerunners, showing the way to a livable future. On your premises, install bike racks. Capture and infiltrate rainwater. Transform your grounds into a food garden. As you make repairs and replacements, choose power-free, durable, mechanical devices. In your local neighborhood, set up economic infrastructures like time banks, tool lending libraries, and local harvest swaps. Help put in place the physical and social tools we will need as we move deeper into this post‑petroleum, post-peak, economically lean era.

6. Inspire Imagination. Get people thinking about solutions to the triple crisis at every opportunity. In meetings with the leadership of your organization, brainstorm how to carry on your social change mission as donors and grants disappear amidst long-term, unceasing economic decline. When you do outreach and service work, teach the triple crisis. Rather than allowing people to yearn after bygone times, encourage others to get prepared. Cultivate necessary skills such as growing vegetables, local hand-crafted manufacturing, and low-inputs holistic health care. Seek powerdown techniques, low‑consumption scenarios, and new ways to reuse and reconnect.

7. Cultivate Community Connections. We can no longer “go it alone.” The crises we face demand that we work together with others in ways we never have done before. Our society lacks the necessary skill base including consensus decision-making, conflict resolution, and peace-making. Your organization can help by practicing and teaching these skills. We’re all in this together: Reach across old barriers between social groups, religious denominations, and economic classes and help others understand and prepare.

Our inner worlds must change and evolve as well. Humanity must redefine itself, and evolve in its understanding of how we fit into the cycles of this small planet. As we experience massive, transformative change, people need psychological, emotional, and spiritual support from others who understand what is going on. Listen with an understanding ear and help create the inner transition.

Joanne Poyourow is initator and core team member at Transition Los Angeles.  She is the author of several transition-related books, including the forthcoming Economic Resilience:  What You Can Do in Your Local Community.

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