Preparing for the end of oil

Published 9 November 2006

What might happen to life on the Northern Rivers when the energy crisis really hits? What services and products will no longer be available? What alternatives to these can be locally established and what needs to be done right now to get the ball rolling and help us all become better prepared?

These questions are being examined by Post Carbon Northern Rivers, a new online forum that is looking for the answers.

Forum member Dr Leigh Davison, head of the Centre for Ecotechnology at Southern Cross University, said the group was researching and discussing what can be done locally in practical response to the challenge of what has become known as ‘peak oil’ – the fast-approaching time at which world oil production will no longer be able to keep up with demand.

The local production of food, energy and goods, and the development of a local currency, governance and culture are key areas of focus, he said.

The creation of the forum followed recent screenings at the University of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.

This radical film documents Cuba’s large-scale mass emergency transition to local organic agriculture and renewable energy, following the Soviet collapse in 1990, when the huge Soviet subsidies of imported oil and food to Cuba were halted.

The film visits urban gardens and organic farms, explains the relationship between food and fossil fuels, and shows how a society can change from having an industrialised, global focus to a local, community-based one.

Cuba’s experience provides a living model for how the rest of the world can respond to the coming world oil production peak and irreversible decline some oil experts say will occur this decade.

Dr Davison said everyone who is concerned about ‘peak oil’ should see the film, which shows how the collective mobilisation of an entire society can meet an enormous challenge.

“Here on the Northern Rivers there has been a high degree of interest in economic localisation for some time and the emergence of the LETS (local energy transfer system) barter network, local currency (LETS dollars), weekend markets and local growers markets are all examples of this,” he said.

“The Cuban film shows that ‘peak oil’, when it arrived in Cuba in the early nineties, brought with it many social and human health benefits. The Cubans were forced to go cold turkey on the petroleum drug and so the development of local organic food production and economic systems was their only option.

“While it is more difficult for those societies, like our own, which appear to have a number of choices, the global Relocalisation Network offers support to those who wish to explore a positive alternative.”

The Post Carbon Northern Rivers website is part of the Relocalisation Network, an international network launched in 2003 by the Post Carbon Institute based in Vancouver. There are currently 125 local Post Carbon groups in 11 countries accessible from the site, with new groups from around the world appearing every week.

The main goals of the Relocalisation Network are to increase community energy security, to strengthen local economies and to dramatically improve environmental conditions and social equity. Successful local community actions can then become working models for other communities when the effects of energy decline become more intense.

The Post Carbon Northern Rivers website is located at
'The Power of Community: How Cuba survived peak oil' DVD can be ordered by calling Kali Wendorf on 6684 4353.

Photo: Dr Leigh Davison.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer, 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.