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SURVIVING OIL CRASH — SOFT LANDING OR HARD?

by Kevin Moore — July 2004

 

Hard to swallow facts

 

More hard to swallow facts

 

Even more hard to swallow facts

 

The world of spin

 

Some good news

In the 1930s Jews in Central Europe had numerous warnings that their world was about to come to an end. Some fled, but the vast majority did nothing, other than to hope for the best, reasoning that the situation would not get too bad and would start to improve. We know what happened.

Twenty years ago scientists warned of the dangers of global warming and were largely ignored. Suddenly, when it is too late, politicians have begun to wake up to global warming and talk about strategies to combat it, but not actually take any effective action. In practice it will probably take a few major global warming disasters before politicians really become focused on dealing with the problem — at which point it will be far too late of course.

Now we are faced with an imminent catastrophe and the response of government and the media is once again complacency and denial that there is a problem.

As with the global warming problem it will be when it is too late to do anything that government and the media will wake up. Those who wish to act need to do so now.

 

Soft landing versus hard landing

All the evidence supports the contention that the globalised consumer society is constructed on an extremely fragile base which is about to collapse.

I personally would sleep a lot better if one shred of evidence could be produced that proved incontrovertibly that

  1. we are not entering a period of extreme energy crisis
  2. we are not entering a period of extreme climate change
  3. we are not entering a period of extreme biodiversity loss

At this point of time no evidence has been presented to indicate that we are not on path to total worldwide disaster a decade or two from now. Indeed, policies are in place to ensure that is exactly what will happen.

Logic tells us that it would be extraordinarily imprudent to, for instance, construct a motorway system for petrol driven cars if there is no evidence that there will be petrol at the time of completion, yet this appears to be exactly what is about to happen. Policy decisions appear to be made on the basis of personal whim or dogma, rather than scientific evidence. Sadly, the catalogue of wrong decisions made by politicians in the past would fill many volumes, but a particularly notable example was the decision to construct a chemical plant to convert natural gas into petrol, losing 50% of the energy content of the gas in the process, putting the nation into a severe debt situation that it never recovered from and leading to the premature depletion of New Zealand’s most valuable energy source, whilst doing nothing in the long term to contribute to the New Zealand economy — it simply encourage further wastage of fuel and contributed not only to global warming, but also to the ill health of New Zealanders… the first step along the path to a hard landing!

 

Hard landing

Let us deal with the hard landing first, since this case is a little simpler. The hard landing involves the following steps

  1. Denying that there is a problem.

  2. Continuing with current policies of greater mechanisation, larger vehicles, more contraptions (leaf blowers, jet skis, air conditioners) replacement of hand tools by power tools (electric screwdrivers etc.) more use of resources (gas barbeque heaters, gas heating for swimming pools instead of solar etc.), more importation of goods, more advertising to sell goods, more billboards, more over-eating of the wrong kinds of foods, (more smoking by adolescents?), more drug use, more consumption of alcohol, more tourism, more low quality housing, more thermally inefficient housing, more consumption of fuel, the sabotaging of cycling, walking, public transport, the failure to address basic issues or to have any real direction.

  3. Embracing a policy that is driven by whatever results in greater consumption and achievement short-term profit goals.

  4. Suddenly finding that the required fuel/gas/electricity needed to keep the consumption machine going is not available and then facing catastrophic collapse.

  5. Being surprised by and trying to halt the failure of businesses and general failure of the economy, resulting in financial crisis, which can only be addressed by massive cuts to services. As more job losses lead to less income for the city, the whole thing spirals down [to oblivion?]. The Manukau approach.

 

Soft landing

A soft landing can be achieved by a number of steps and the following ideas are neither definitive nor exclusive. However there can be no half measures. The City Council must fully embrace all possible measures to make a massive reduction in energy consumption, since a 10% or 20% reduction in energy consumption will not result in long-term sustainability and will simply extend the period of ‘pain’.

  1. Acknowledge that there is a set of very serious problems looming and that the first (oilcrash) is about to hit very soon, followed by gas crash, then electricity crash. ‘If you fail to deal with reality, reality will deal with you’.

  2. Accept the new reality and try to work with it, rather than try deny the new reality and try to work against it. This means accepting that there are no technical fixes that will allow us to continue on our present path and we must adjust our expectations and lifestyle in line with plateauing and then diminishing fossil energy supplies.

  3. Evaluate of every policy and action to test whether is energy efficient or not and adjust or amend all inefficient policies and actions.

  4. Evaluate of every policy to see if it generates genuine improvements in health and welfare of the citizens of the city or simply generates short term gains

  5. Expect no assistance from central government or the business sector and be prepared for sabotage

  6. Answer the following questions: What is the purpose of the globalised consumer? Will it exist in the future? What will the city council require from beyond its borders? How will the city obtain those things/materials? — work toward providing the solutions.

 

Strategies that need to be implemented immediately for a soft landing

  1. Ensure that every member of the staff is aware of and has debated the information contained at websites such as www.oilcrash.com, www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net, Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), etc.

  2. Establish an environmental education centre that can promote an understanding of crucial issues, such as energy crash, global warming, ozone depletion etc.

  3. Immediately reduce all speed limits. Until 1920 the vast majority of the population had perfectly satisfactory lives without travelling at more than 30kph The faster a vehicle travels, the higher the air resistance, the more fuel that is used, the greater the emission of undesirable exhaust gases and the greater the carnage when collisions occur. Within Waitakere City boundaries the motorway limit should initially be reduced to 80kph and all through routes initially reduced to 50kph. All minor roads should be initially designated 40kph. After one year these limits should be further reduced to 70kph, 40kph and 30kph respectively. Strict enforcement would be required of course.

  4. Immediately establish cycle, bus and light motorcycle (below 250cc) routes along all major through routes.

  5. Work toward rapid divestment of all oversized vehicles and replacement with the minimum vehicle that will do the job i.e. second hand import Toyota Echo 1litre, Daihatsu Charade or Nissan March. Promotion of motor scooter licence training and the use of scooters and mopeds. Investigate use of electric vehicles for short haul journeys.

  6. Remove all traffic lights from road junctions wherever possible and replace them with roundabouts.

  7. Encourage the use of walking and cycling by providing covered rest stops for pedestrians and providing secure cycle parking at convenient locations.

  8. Put an immediate hold on permits for the construction of condominiums, shopping malls, car parks etc.

  9. Institute an immediate revision of building codes to ensure that all new constructions and renovations take note of solar efficiency i.e. the minimum area of south facing windows, the maximum area of east and north facing windows, wide eaves or other devices to control summer insulation.

  10. Commence the conversion of all council owned buildings to solar heating wherever practical and consider installing solar cell generation of electricity where practical.

  11. Designate all low lying regions and all constricted valleys as no go zones in preparation for sea level rise and increased incidence of torrential storm episodes.

  12. Allocate all undeveloped land to allotment developments to encourage the production of local food supplies. Encourage the planting of productive trees rather than ornamental trees and promote the concepts of permaculture.

  13. Promote local activities by establishing numerous local community centres at walking/cycling distance that can hold dances, social and cultural events rather than trying to establish mega-centres that require participants to travel huge distances. (A church and hall [$500,000 asset] have recently been demolished in Pakuranga to enable a shopping mall car park to be extended!)

  14. Promote waste reduction by banning the use of one-trip/non-returnable containers.

  15. Promote composting of domestic organic waste.

  16. Promote recycling of all other materials = zero waste society.

  17. Promote the collection of roof water for irrigation

  18. Financial disengagement from the loopy policies of other councils

  19. Develop plans to establish flood-proof, hurricane-proof civil emergency shelters and local security measures (hordes of starving Aucklanders arriving at the Waitakere border, refugee camps 2010/12 onwards?)

  20. Everything must become smaller and more local, as cheap energy disappears.

 

It would be a very brave and determined city council that is prepared to make a stand against the globalised consumer society and a central government that is destroying our lives and our children’s future, yet to fail to do so will result in greater misery for most of the population, commencing perhaps a little as 3 years from now.

Clearly the first step would appear to be to engage in a debate [that the architects of globalisation, consumerism and increased energy consumption appear not to wish to be held]. Yet time is extraordinarily short and if the worst-case scenario holds true [of oilcrash in 2004], we have just a matter of months to take action and cannot allow ourselves to be bogged down by bureaucratic processes.

Obviously there are no easy answers, but none of the problems I have highlighted will go away and all will get progressively worse, so the sooner they are tackled logically, the better it will be for everyone.

I believe it is time for those who do not want to bury their heads in the sand to stand up and be counted. Yet I find myself living in a region of Auckland, in which the city council is unable to respond positively to submissions and has virtually told me that they do indeed intend to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.

I trust that Waitakere City Council does not intend to do the same.

 

Kevin Moore
Environmental Consultant and Educator
July 2004