First things first


Friday, 31 October 2008

Sit back and watch

Okay, I think we're building up a decent bank of 'welcome to peak oil' resources in different formats, including hopefully whichever format best suits your preferred way of taking in information.

I've recommended DVDs, and then last time I linked to a very good written summary of the peak oil issue. Here instead is something online that you can immediately sit back and listen to. This chap, Chris Martenson, has a remarkable skill for communicating sometimes complex subjects in a human, accessible way that doesn't insult your intelligence.

Click here for his audio slideshow.

If you like his style, then look around his site. That link took you to one chapter of what is in fact a remarkable series of presentations on many interlinked subjects, not just peak oil. He looks at problems of debt, population and money supply - so if you're hungry for more, there's plenty there.

Well, soon I hope to localise this blog and do a bit of very speculative musing about what are the strengths and weaknesses of our neighbourhood, Westcombe Park and the surrounding area, in dealing with the challenges of peak oil. I'd love to hear others' ideas on that, because each of us will have different perceptions, different views of what opportunities our local area offers and different levels of knowledge about our community. I certainly don't know enough, and I look forward to learning from other Westcombe Parkers.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

One of the best peak oil 'primers'

In the last post I directed readers to some DVD resources - and again I highly recommend them.

But I realise that that is not a great draw for those who are unconvinced and understandably might not want to go to the expense and effort of ordering them at this stage. And not too helpful for those who are eager to get more information right this minute.

I've been looking for a great, relatively brief introduction to the subject of peak oil, one that explains things clearly in laymen's terms and which answers most of those questions and 'buts' that bubble up in most of us on hearing about this subject.

So here's one of the best I've come across so far: Click here.

It contains a lot of clear graphs and diagrams which really help me to get a handle on the subject - including this one, which, when I first saw a version of it elsewhere, really brought home for me what a strange blip in human history we are living in - and yet one which, because it is many human lifetimes long, seems normal and eternal while you're inside it.

As always, if you would like to get involved in setting up a Transition Westcombe project - it doesn't yet exist! - get in touch at

Monday, 27 October 2008

Where to begin?

I hope to write specifically about Westcombe / Greenwich soon, and how we might apply 'transition' ideas here, but at this very early 'mulling it over' stage, it's probably more appropriate to offer some resources to those who are interested and want to know more about the issues. Once we get talking, our focus will no doubt turn to the specific opportunities and problems facing our own neighbourhood.

So today I simply want to recommend some films which do a very good job of introducing the peak oil concept - and one which looks at possible solutions.

First up, 'The End of Suburbia'. This was available in almost full length on You Tube until a few days ago - now it has disappeared, and only trailers are available on that site. However, it can be bought on Amazon and elsewhere, and it is thoroughly recommended.

Next up is 'A Crude Awakening', which covers similar ground but is probably more comprehensive in covering the technical details - but in an accessible way. I know this is available to rent on Love Film or Sofa Cinema if you are a member.

Third is one I haven't yet seen myself but have heard great things about: 'The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil'. This is probably a necessary pep-up after the gloom of the first two films, as it shows how Cuba survived its own dry run for global peak oil. The country had to deal very quickly with a sudden loss of oil supply in the early 90s, thanks to the international blockade. It achieved remarkable results, and now 60% of Havana's food needs are met from inside the city itself, from gardens and community food-growing schemes.

If you want to get involved in setting up a 'Transition Westcombe', email

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Interview with the originator of transition towns

The UK's first Transition Town is Totnes, in Devon, which has become a model for the hundreds of others now taking shape (although each is, by its nature, bound to be different than any other, shaped by the desires, the skills and the local culture of the people who live there and by the local natural resources and infrastructure).

In this film Rob Hopkins, the gently spoken man behind the transition idea, explains how it all came about and introduces Transition Town Totnes.

Are you interested in helping to set up a Transition Westcombe? Email

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Welcome to Transition Westcombe

The Transition Town idea was initiated in Totnes, Devon, but is springing up now in hundreds of towns, villages and cities across Britain and overseas.

Its aim is for communities to come together to plan, prepare, and reshape themselves for two problems, one well known and the other rapidly gaining people’s interest.

The first is climate change, which demands that we drastically cut back the use of fossil fuels in our lives and our economies.

The second is often referred to as ‘peak oil’, which, to cut out the jargon, says that we are at the point where we have pumped about half of the world’s oil out of the ground.

When this happens in individual oilfields or oil-producing nations – as in the United States in the 1970s – it becomes technically more difficult and more expensive to reach the oil that is left. Production can no longer go on increasing, and less oil is extracted in each year afterwards.

Increasing numbers of oil analysts, consultants and engineers say that this point has been reached – or will be within just a handful of years – on a global scale. In that case, we face a future of ever-dwindling supply of oil in a world whose existence has been based on oil-fuelled growth, year on year.

When we look around at our lives and identify the things that we depend on for oil – our commute, our food, our heating – the consequences are obviously immense. And no alternative energy matches the incredible productivity of energy-dense oil. No combination of them has been shown to be able to provide as much energy as we use now. That means a much lower-energy future.

The two problems – climate change and the end of easy, cheap oil – dovetail in that they demand a rapid ‘decarbonising’ of the economy – and a relocalising, too, with our basic necessities having to come not air-freighted but from our own communities.

These two issues can often seem so overwhelming that their scale can make us feel depressed, demotivated and disempowered, and can drive us into denial, quite understandably. Environmental campaigning has, for decades, failed to engage people in a way that does not bring on that paralysing feeling of doom and gloom.

The transition movement’s ethos is that it is better to prepare for these non-negotiable changes in our lives, rather than to be taken by surprise.

Ride the wave rather than be engulfed by it.

Without harking back to some mythical golden age, it aims to show that life after easy oil – while requiring that we reskill and radically reshape our lives – has the potential to be much more rewarding than our lives now, in many ways.

It aims to make environmental efforts seem ‘less like a protest and more like a party’. It brings together people in their communities to share ideas and knowledge, trusting people to make their own communities more resilient and self-reliant. It encourages people to imagine positive futures without easy oil – because if you can do that, then working practically to make it a reality is a more attractive and even an exhilarating task.

Transition Towns are involving people from all walks of life, and where transition movements are taking off they are seeing previously unsuspected creativity and genuine enthusiasm unleashed.

If you would like to get involved in setting up a Transition Westcombe (a name that can change if we decide on a better idea of where our community is) or if you would just like to know a bit more, then get in touch by emailing