Peak Everything 101

Although the members of Transition Towns worldwide focus primarily on preparing for Peak Oil or “Post Carbon Living”, Climate Change is a close second. In fact, it has become clear that they are two sides of the same coin – reducing our dependence on fossil fuels through the localization of our economies is certainly the best way to deal with Peak Oil by reducing our carbon footprint. Another way to put it is that adapting to Peak Oil is the best way to mitigate Climate Change.

However Peak Oil and Climate change are not occurring in isolation but influence and are influenced by a variety of other trends. These include changes in the areas of:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Fisheries
  • Minerals
  • Population
  • Pollution
  • Debt
  • Coal
  • Natural Gas
  • Social Trends

Each one effects the others i.e. increased populations in China and India want the Western lifestyle so they eat more beef burgers which requires more cattle which require more water and grain while the grain requires more oil and natural gas in the form of synthetic fertilizer which creates more pollution which enters the oceans which are being over-fished to feed that growing population.

That same population growth drives the need for more electricity to power more cell phones and flat screen TVs which require increasingly rare minerals to manufacture. The electricity is often produced using coal which is delivered to power plants on trains that run on oil (diesel) and the trains and the coal plants produce green house gasses.

The coal plants, beef burgers and cell phones are all acquired via debt financing which is an economic system that requires constant growth in the form of consumer spending and then one day the music in the form of national anthems stops and there are not enough chairs and one group of people think it’s the fault of another group of people.

As each item on the above list represents an extremely complex system in itself, while being interdependent with all the others, it is unlikely that purely linear estimates of remaining individual quantities will provide any kind of realistic picture of the future. Instead, each will be affected by the fate of the whole resulting in a non-linear, in other words unpredictable, outcome.

Another key concept in understanding the urgency is the time-lines involved in exponential growth. Please watch this short video which is highly relative to understanding our real situation in terms of time.