Peak Oil and the Tempo of the Earth

There is a certain human cognitive deafness when it comes to rhythms with periods longer than a typical human lifespan. Peak Oil is part of one such cycle, the slow rise and fall of major energy sources powering human civilization. The transition movement is an effort to deal with Peak Oil, and I got an interesting look into it on Saturday morning.

One of the folks I met in Montreal, Tibi (short for Tiberius; that’s a pretty impressive name) rode along with me to a village in the Laurentian mountains north of the city, Val David. At the village, I briefly toured Chaumiere Fleur Soleil, a retreat/teaching center founded by Jacques, a former RCMP instructor. Here are Tibi and Jacques.

The village is a major site for the Canadian transition movement. It’s best understood as an edge-cultural lifestyle motivated by the goal of preparing for Peak Oil by transitioning existing communities to more oil-independent ways of functioning. Tibi is attempting to build some technology tools for the community.  The transition movement is an offshoot of the broader permaculture movement, which I recently learned about.

Both seem to be a reinvented version of commune/kibbutz style models from the 60s. The primary difference appears to be a different relationship with technology. Where the 60s radicals railed against the military-industrial complex, the newer variants appear to have a more complicated relationship with technology. The movement includes both off-the-grid log cabin survivalists and those who want to use the Internet to help ride out Peak Oil. Tibi is attempting to bring technological solutions to some of the challenges faced by the transition movement, such as managing local natural resources better.

An early reader shared the opinion that he thought the themes of Tempo might be very relevant to the permaculture movement. I don’t know enough about it to judge, but I am now curious to figure out what this whole thing is, and how it is different (if it is) from older local/green/organic/sustainable living ideologies. I tend to be a sort of kind-hearted skeptic about such things: I am not sure such efforts can scale or have serious impact, but I am willing to be convinced and I usually like the specific lifestyle components they end up advocating. I do sense something of a mismatch between the scale of the problems such movements usually seek to address, and the nature/magnitude of the efforts.

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