A crucial juncture – a beginning or an ending

This post is by TSB President; Phil Baulch

(“crucial juncture”) A point of time: especially one made critical by a concurrence of circumstances.

Sometimes it takes an existential crisis to make real change happen. For Transition South Barwon (TSB), that crisis is now. Members of the current committee cannot continue in their current roles and the group is facing a winding up of its incorporated status.

We stand at a precipice; either this is the end or it really is just the beginning? Either we become galvanised around the concept a planned transition to a low energy, climate changed world or we stand by and watch as our community walks, unaware and unprepared, into a dystopian future.

Our group formed initially around two existential challenges, climate change and peak oil. In 2007 these two issues appeared as a Clear and Present Danger to thinking and aware people.

This was the TSB brief statement of purpose at the point of our incorporation on 18 October, 2010:

  • Transition South Barwon is a small but growing group of concerned people from the 3216 area – including the suburbs of Belmont, Highton, Waurn Ponds, Grovedale, Wandana Heights, and Marshall
  • Transition Initiatives currently represent one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities in strengthening themselves against the effects of two monumental challenges – Peak Oil and Climate Change.
  • Transition South Barwon is established to inspire the community with a positive vision of a “post-carbon” future that is energy-lean, time-rich, less stressful,
    healthier and happier.

This statement of purpose was valid then – but is it valid now? The purpose inspired huge growth in the membership of, and interest in, TSB and other Transition groups across the country.

Since then, for understandable reasons, interest has shifted to  focus almost exclusively on climate change and it’s mitigation through the growth of energy(mostly electricity) from renewable sources.  Our absolute dependence on liquid fuels has gone almost completely below the radar of the media.

The public(and activists) are almost completely unaware that Peak Oil never went away. It was just papered over by, almost two trillion dollars of newly printed money since the global financial crisis(GFC). Oil companies borrowed this money from banks at extremely low interest rates and used it to create enough new daily production from fracked oil wells for the U.S. to declare themselves ‘Saudi America’. The peak of real(affordable conventional) oil production is now acknowledged to have occurred sometime in 2005. Peak Oil never went away.

Meanwhile, public awareness around other threats to our survival has grown enormously. The Extinction Rebellion(XR) movement has underlined the climate emergency and extended it to include the ecological emergency. XR co-founder Jem Bendell’s research paper ‘Deep Adaptation’ has become the most downloaded academic paper in history. It’s brought to public awareness, the possibility of a ‘multiple bread basket’ failure and mass starvation caused by a climate induced

New activist cohorts have emerged, most notably Millennials involved in the School Strike for Climate(SS4C) movement. The SS4C movement has underscored the inter-generational injustice of Baby boomer inaction on climate change.

Although the precise magnitude and timing of the climate change threat is unknown, we acknowledge the threat is real has deserved our attention. The problem is that this new awareness has taken the focus away from Peak Oil. Activists now see almost all other issues through the lens of climate change. Clearly climate change a serious existential threat to our communities because of its effect on global economic supply chains as well as the natural systems that effect all life.

But the threat posed by the end of readily available, cheap hydrocarbon energy is an imminent to our economy and our way of life – its here now. Most activists would say the end of fossil fuel use can’t come soon enough.  But few recognize the possibility of a gap between the end of affordable fossil fuels and the emergence, at scale, of renewable, dispatchable, reliable electricity. Without affordable oil coal and gas the replacement of our 60 year old energy system will not be possible.

While we’ve been focused on climate change another existential threat crept up behind us. That is the threat posed by our public and private debt. Almost everything we rely on for our daily existence depends on a functioning financial system.

A functioning financial system relies on not just the growth of debt, but acceleration in the growth of debt. Yes you read that right. The total of new debt loaned into existence today must be larger than the amount of debt loaned into existence yesterday. If this exponential growth stops or even slows down, our financial system becomes unstable.

Then, global supply chains needed to ship goods become unreliable and at some point when counter-party trust collapses, they cease to function. Ships can’t leave ports, supermaket shelves become bare except for locally produced food, fuel rationing begins. Just as a global pandemic seemed unthinkable so too does the possibility of a truly global financial/energy/food crisis.

I don’t know of any model that even comes close to Transition Towns when it comes to demonstrating what might be possible in terms of human fulfilment in the post carbon, relocalised future.

If TSB fails to engage the public at this time with an inspiring vision of how we can thrive in a low energy, climate changed world, I suspect we will indeed become bystanders as we watch our community walk, unaware and unprepared, into a dystopian future.  The rationale for the existence of TSB has never been clearer.

Its needed for these key purposes:

  •  An auspicing body for transition related initiatives including local food production/distribution, education about ‘energy lean’ living and street level community
  • Keeping COGG accountable for their 2011 commitment to CACIT related actions including the creation of an Energy Descent Action Plan for the city including food production zones.
  • Publishing analysis of the latest research at the intersection of energy/environment/economics and finance.
  • Creating/hosting events that foster growth in our awareness of spirituality(happiness and
    fulfillment) and the value of community.

We are calling for new members including committee members.

Kind regards – Phil Baulch
President Transition South Barwon
0417 554791 philbethechange@gmail.com


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