Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Energy Ascent

Here is a story from Eat the Suburbs, thanks to the Energy Bulletin

Energy Descent Action Plans
- a primer
by Adam Fenderson

An Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) is a local plan for dealing with Peak Oil. It goes well beyond issues of energy supply, to look at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of health, education, economy and much more.

An EDAP is a way to think ahead, to plan in an integrated, multidisciplinary way, to provide direction to local government, decision makers, groups and individuals with an interest in making the place they live into a vibrant and viable community in a post-carbon era.


According to a growing number of experts, within the next handful of years the world will reach the ultimate peak in global oil production. After this point, production will begin its slow but terminal decline. 'Peak Oil', as this event has become widely known, represents an historical turning point, from an era of growth, to an era of contraction. Peak gas won't be far behind.


Internalising the implications of all this can take a fair bit of reflection — and can sometimes result in a sense of despair. However, a small but growing number of people are using Peak Oil as an opportunity to address broader social and ecological issues.

Their best ideas are inspiring, creative and attractive visions of revitalised local economies, visions grounded by a connection to place and the people in it.

Something sets these ideas apart from many earlier approaches to sustainability — it's a palpable desperation to be realistic and viable, to involve everyone in the community, to capture the imagination, and to succeed.

Peak oil and Permaculture

The phrase 'energy descent' was first used by Australian permaculture co-orginator David Holmgren. He wrote in 2003 that “I use the term ‘descent’ as the least loaded word that honestly conveys the inevitable, radical reduction of material consumption and/or human numbers that will characterise the declining decades and centuries of fossil fuel abundance and availability.”

Okay, you say, but permaculture — that's just a system of organic gardening, right?

In a short answer: no, well not really.

Permaculture is a "design system for sustainable human habitats that supply human needs in an environmentally enhancing way". Permaculture is all about functional design — ways to maximise productivity and abundance, while minimising effort, by working with nature, rather than against it.

Permaculture can be applied to everything from settlement design, large scale farming, factory design, business practices, kitchen layout, housing, pretty much anything really. Permaculture designs are inspired by natural systems, and built on ethical principles — two things which actually contribute to their effectiveness.


The documentary The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, explains how permaculturists were amongst those who helped transform Cuba through this difficult period into a functional, low energy society, where infant mortality and average lifespans are now as good as in the USA.

"In a world of decreasing energy, permaculture provides, I believe, the best available framework for redesigning the whole way we think, the way we act, and the way we design new strategies. It doesn't mean to say that everyone's going to have a chook tractor, a vegetable garden or some other permaculture technique. But the thinking behind permaculture is really based on this idea of reduced energy availability, and how you work with that in a creative way. That requires a complete overturning of a lot of our inherited culture." Permaculture co-orginator David Holmgren.


Essentially an EDAP is a local plan for dealing with the period leading up to and following Peak Oil. It is not a plan for how to live in a sustainable world. It is a plan for the transitional period of decreasing energy — how to get to that sustainable world.

The first EDAP was written in 2005 by permaculture students at a further education college in the small Irish town of Kinsale.


The document broke down the issues which arose locally from peak oil into sections, such as health, education, transport, housing, youth and community, food and energy.

It includes ideas like turning the town supermarket carpark into an eco-centre, new ecologically sensitive housing development legislation, permaculture studies as part of school curriculum, community gardens, a youth council, a community currency and trading network, and lots more. As testimony to the way the plan, while visionary, retains a feeling of practicality, late last year the Kinsale town council officially adopted the plan.

There are similar projects happening the world, some directly inspired by Kinsale. The efforts in Willits in California represents another successful approach. The Post Carbon Institute, a primarily North American organisation, has educational toolkits and other methods of supporting local groups working on Peak Oil education and relocalisation efforts, and have a couple of outposts in Australia."


There is a permaculture group in my town.

They meet once a month for a big pot luck supper.

If you are tired of feeling like you are doing nothing

other than getting really depressed.

Do something for yourself and all the rest of us,

and start working on a plan for your community.

Cities such as Portland have already passed Peak Oil Resolutions.

On reflection though,

We might want to think about the name.

Moving from Carbon to light is hardly a descent.

Maybe we should start writing those plans for

the Energy Ascent.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was happy to see an article suggesting the importance of Permaculture and the thinking behind it.

The most important idea for me that came from studying Permaculture - the light bulb - was the idea that your dollar is your vote.

Sure we all know that, but do we really act on it.

Not buying gas guzzlers, or homes that use more than a reasonable share of energy for heating and cooling or even buying products from giant corporations that support unsustainable practices, or buying locally and on and on.

Permaculture has been around for a long time, as last perhaps its time has come.

Again thanks.

8:26 PM  

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