I saw an excellent presentation today, made in the kind of relaxed yet informative and engaging public speaking style that I am unlikely to ever successfully emulate (annoyingly). The speaker was Chris Martenson who is in the UK to present to various groups including the All Parliamentary Party Group on Peak Oil. The topic for today’s presentation was: Economy, Energy and the Environment which was part of an event organised by my colleagues here at Keep Scotland Beautiful. Chris eloquently outlined the challenge we all face without once mentioning climate change and presented the complex in a simple way. As he admitted, a lot of what he said was actually common sense, yet the amazing thing about it was just how many people have wilfully ignored it.
I’m not going to repeat everything he said; there’s plenty of information on his website to get you started. However what I will repeat is one of his fundamental messages which is that we face a predicament, not a problem.
This is important because a problem is something we can solve whereas a predicament is something we cannot: we can only manage our response. Chris used photographic examples to demonstrate these two situations. In one photo we saw two climbers, with one man hanging off the foot of another as they cling to the edge of a cliff. This shows a problem with potential solutions: the man dangling could theoretically climb up the other man to safety. Or a third person could arrive on the scene and help cushion the fall. On the other hand, in the photo showing a predicament, a man was seen in the air, having just leapt off a cliff. There was no solution to his situation, only an inevitable landing in the water beneath. All this man could do was minimise the impact by trying to land safely.
As far as Chris is concerned that is essentially the position we face. He asserts that we cannot realistically hope to solve the problems of peak oil, limited resources and unsustainable economic growth. All we can do is try to manage our response to it at a local level and to ensure that as the world changes over the next 20 years (and we can be sure it will change) we are equipped to cope.
It’s difficult to argue with this. A global consensus to the impending energy crunch has not been reached. Countries are reacting very differently to oil resources. However, in some ways it makes little difference to our approach. Whether we are providing a solution or helping to manage the response; waste reduction, reuse and recycling is still vital. By preserving materials and treating waste as a resource we can extend the time available before we hit the water.
I’ll leave the final word to Chris: “Our individual challenge is to accept the possibility that the future may be quite a departure from the present.”