Skills Necessary for a Post-Carbon World

The possibility exists that our society already holds the skills necessary for averting the predicted disasters of decreased energy supply.  Communities held together by a social and economic network are in position to absorb a significant loss of energy inputs.  They have the resources, a short supply chain, small scale and cottage industry, and human scaled farms, necessary for decreasing dependence on imported energy.  These strategies, intuitive to a self-sustaining community, present answers to our current carbon dependence.

A “post-carbon world” does not have to be a dreary place.  The age we are entering will be an opportunity to celebrate our return to an acceptable level of complexity.  Once again we will be able to embrace our neighbors as resources for a better community.  The existing skills of the community have been ignored due to abundant energy in the form of coal and oil.  Decreased energy supplies would encourage us to create local systems for fulfilling our needs.   Waning fossil fuel supply would bring about the harnessing of human energy.  Our labor saving devices, powered by the assumption of cheap oil, would be replaced by the skill, craftsmanship and the ingenuity of our neighbors.

Changing our lifestyle first requires a thorough understanding of the problem we face.  Fritz Schumacher believed that this understanding leads to  “seeing the possibility of evolving a new life-style, with new methods of production and new patterns of consumption: a life-style designed for permanence.”  The work of Richard Heinberg responds directly to this understanding and vision.

Heinberg’s work as a core faculty member of the New College of California and with the Post Carbon Institute seeks to reveal the growing dangers of fossil fuel dependence and proposes options for a world beyond that dependence.

As a Research Fellow with the Post Carbon Institute (PCI) he has been involved with projects designed to minimize dependence on fossil fuel by focusing on the generating capacity of the community.  Through their local energy farm model, the PCI is working to demonstrate the possibility of producing, processing and storing energy at the community level, minimizing carbon inputs, and ensuring the healthy production of food with out depleting the environment.  The PCI also works to bring communities the tools necessary for developing local economies.

In addition to his work with the Post Carbon Institute, Richard Heinberg is a core faculty member at New College of California.  He and his colleagues have created the student driven Powerdown Plan.  Over the course of a semester students develop community strategies for decreasing fossil fuel energy dependence at the municipal level.  At the end of each semester students gather their findings and present them to local decision makers.  The goal of Powerdown is to make information on alternative energy resources available to municipalities.

Richard Heinberg is also the author of seven books, most recently The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism and Economic Collapse.  His writings and teaching have brought to light disturbing facts about our energy dependence, but have also given us hope.  He has demonstrated that humans can thrive in a “post-carbon world” by relying on the productive energies of communities.

The Schumacher Center will be hosting Mr. Heinberg along with Stacy Mitchell and Will Raap as a part of the 26th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture Series.  This event will be held on October 28, 2006, at the First Congregational Church in Stockbridge, MA.  Tickets are $20 for non-members and $15 for members/students/seniors.