Saturday, February 21, 2009

The joy of transition

Yesterday a friend, who is a firm believer in it, raised the topic of Peak Oil. You probably are aware of the concept of Peak Oil but, just in case you are not, some people foresee a precipitous decline in the supply of cheap energy and a catastrophic collapse of western-style civilization.

My friend's reference to Peak Oil reminded me of the period, a few years ago, in which I became aware of the possibility of energy descent. Back then, I felt confused.

Some scientists were publishing credible data that supported the hypothesis that we were heading for mayhem. On the Internet I even read about people who had prepared for Peak Oil by creating rural bunkers stocked with guns and ammunition.

Yet some technically savvy people were telling me that humankind would invent a solution and the perceived threat would evaporate.

For a while I spun my wheels, not knowing what to do. I sure as heck didn't want to resort to firearms. My attitude was that, if survival came down to that, I would yell, "Stop the world. I want to get off!"

But, in the meantime, there was something else going on in my life that had no obvious connection with Peak Oil. It was the fact that I felt so darned lonely in the suburbs of a large-ish city. It was my longing for community that attracted me to cohousing.

Although protection of the environment and preparation for Peak Oil were not my primary motivations for buying into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, the founders of our project ensured that it would incorporate the following features that leading environmental experts talk about again and again:

  • Space for growing food.

  • A location that allows residents to access local amenities on foot.

  • A multi-family residential building with a single exterior skin that minimizes energy loss.

    I increasingly have come to value these elements of our project.

    The friend who mentioned Peak Oil told me about a British website called Transition Culture. After our walk, I went to the Internet and looked for it. I found it interesting. The site was created by Rob Hopkins, a practitioner of permaculture. One of the things that he does is assist communities in designing action plans for energy descent. Apparently there are over forty Transition Towns in the United Kingdom.

    In looking around the site, I felt that we at Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community already had implemented many of its recommendations.

    My experience also is that making the transition is fun. At least that is what it has been like for me. It has not felt to me like deprivation.

    If I could convey only one message to the residents of my previous suburb, which I found sterile, it is the level of joy I have experienced since I've joined a cohousing community and started living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

    Now I'm off to Esther's West African dance class, with Voodoo Dave playing the drums. I'll be getting there on foot, of course. :-)
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