Peak oil is spurring locals' self-sufficiency

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      What if you woke up one day and found that the world as you knew it had ceased to exist? It’s a thought that has probably crossed the minds of many and perhaps been quickly dismissed by most as silly.

      For Brennan Wauters, this prospect is real. That’s why he’s preparing for what he describes as a “collapse”.

      From Wauters’s perspective, the game changer is peak oil. He believes that in the past five years, the world has reached the point of maximum production of oil, and that the supply of this fuel source is on the decline. One day, the pumps may run dry.

      But the 42-year-old Vancouver man is not the type to hunker in a bunker. He isn’t storing food, buying gold, or stocking up on weapons to survive in a post-oil world.

      “I’m more a survivalist in the sense that I think we have to be psychologically prepared,” Wauters said. “I concentrate on being able to do things with as little as possible. It’s also an exercise to me, like there’s many things that I could just go to the store for. But I deliberately take a harder route just to test my own capabilities, to give me confidence that whatever happens, everything will be fine.”

      Learning to grow food is one of those things. Peppers were ready for picking when Wauters showed the Georgia Straight the vegetable plots at the East Side house where he lives with a number of other people. There were also chickens and honeybees out back.

      “If there’s a general economic collapse, people are not going to have jobs,” he said. “So they’re going to have time on their hands. And that probably means growing food so that they don’t have to depend upon some larger infrastructure. That’s the clear objective.”

      Wauters is also collecting books on edible and medicinal plants. That way, when the Internet is no longer working, he’ll have something to rely on for farming information.

      He’s also learning “wildcrafting”, or methods of gathering food from the wild and living off the land. He likewise considers knowledge of canning and smoking food to be important.

      Wauters builds sets for movie productions for a living, and that partly explains why he has a large collection of tools. He particularly values hand implements—drills, saws, and sets of screwdrivers—which he said will all be useful when power devices can no longer be plugged into wall sockets.

      He can also fix a bicycle, noting that this human-powered conveyance will eventually become more valuable than the automobile.

      According to Wauters, neighbours come to him to repair various broken household items. The house where he lives has a shed that stores numerous tools, such as pickaxes, shovels, and rakes.

      “The survival aspect is really two things,” he said. “It’s a mental exercise which helps you cope with adversity, and then the other thing is that it prepares you to be creative. You have to be creative to solve those problems that we’re going to face. We can no longer run to the store to buy something to solve our problem.”

      Wauters is the organizer of an Internet meet-up group that shares information over the web and holds meetings about peak oil–related issues. Some members of the group are considering the idea of purchasing land outside the Lower Mainland.

      “We’re interested in a completely different form of existence, where people are provided for but are not driven by self-interest,” he said. They’re interested in areas in the Kootenays or near Prince George, where, he said, the river systems are fed by glacial flows, ensuring a good supply of water.

      For Wauters, incidents like the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico—the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, which was triggered by an explosion at a British Petroleum rig on April 20 of this year—are an indication that the world has reached peak oil production.

      “Nations understand the strategic importance of energy, and the push to get that oil as deep as it is, where it is normally inaccessible by conventional means”¦is a direct result of oil companies and governments realizing that there is less and less oil out there,” he said.

      According to Jeff Rubin’s 2009 book Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, the Gulf of Mexico is the only area in the U.S. where oil production has grown in the past 15 to 20 years.

      “It has been the single bright spot against an increasingly gloomy background of falling domestic production,” Rubin, a former chief economist at CIBC World Markets, wrote.

      Globally, Rubin estimated that during the next five years, almost 20 million barrels of production per day from conventional oil fields will have to be replaced with “extremely problematic and high cost unconventional supply” from deep-sea fields and tar sands, including those in Alberta.

      “Depletion from existing fields has accelerated to a rate that now takes roughly 4 million barrels per day from world production every year,” Rubin also wrote.

      Concerns about peak oil have spurred neighbourhood-level initiatives like Village Vancouver, a movement that promotes resiliency in communities.

      “The context is that there is an eroding resource base,” Leslie Kemp, a member of the steering committee of Village Vancouver explained to the Straight in a phone interview. “It’s going forward to the kind of community that is based more on a neighbourhood level, where people know each other and can share resources, grow food, and connect with one another to create communities that are more sustainable, and to some degree a little bit more sufficient than we have now, where we’re so dependent on food growing in another continent.”

      It isn’t just oil that people should be worried about, according to Richard Balfour, a member of the citizen-based Vancouver Peak Oil Executive.

      “It’s ”˜peak’ everything,” Balfour told the Straight in a phone interview. “We’re running out of all kinds of resources.”

      Like Wauters, Balfour considers himself a survivalist. “Well, you have to,” he said. “It’s about survival of culture, even because when we’re going through these kinds of changes, it’s going to be violent. People are going to be reacting, going every man for himself. They’ll be fighting each other over things.”

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      20 Comments

      Edmond Dantes

      Nov 10, 2010 at 10:36am

      Rubin had best give some thought to what happens when people don't have essential supplies. Hurricane Katrina showed just how quickly events transpire that might make stocking up on guns a good idea.

      9 15Rating: -6

      welldoneson

      Nov 10, 2010 at 5:32pm

      "Peak oil" has been shown to be nonsense.
      The same nitwits have been putting this forth since at least the '70's.
      They react to each new discovery by simply moving their prediction
      back a few years. Consider the implicationsof the oil reserve the BP
      blowout well was to tap into; it was basically endless. That is why Obama's
      bureaucrats trumpeted the drilling effort as a model of safety, while knowing they were leading it to failure, as they showed us AFTER the blowout.
      Bringing that well in successfully would have changed the U. S. oil supply game completely, as well as showing how full of it the "peak oil" liars are.

      8 7Rating: +1

      what is TransLink doing in anticipation of peak oil?

      Nov 10, 2010 at 9:01pm

      TransLink is doing nothing about peak oil and is still operating post peak-oil guzzling #99 B-Lines getting 2.7 mpg under trolley lines to UBC. TransLink is also trying hard to expand transit to create more sprawl and to make transit less sustainable. It wants to build the E-Line to extend our transit sprawl out to Coquitlam. When are we going to give the jokers at TransLink the boot?

      Ben Broomhall

      Nov 10, 2010 at 10:30pm

      Why are the Saudis going off-shore looking for oil? Its because all the easy accessed oil is depleting. Its incredibly expensive to drill in deep water and obviously dangerous.
      There will be an interruption in oil production, either by terrorism or by sheer lack of product to distribute evenly to all that need it. The future is here and we have to believe its not going to be pretty. I remember being in Costco when we had a boil water advisory--water was still coming out of the taps and people were fighting in the store for the last flat of bottled water? Imagine a real emergency!
      We are kind of lucky in Canada with fresh water but will not be immune from chaos that's around the corner with oil and gas depletion. People should watch the movie "Collapse" by Micheal C. Ruppert and get a reality check...

      hogie2010

      Nov 10, 2010 at 11:48pm

      I have my doubts about peak oil, I think the globalists have been hiding the truth about the real oil situation, to their eventual benefit. Just like the man made global warming scam, allows follow the money.

      12 6Rating: +6

      Werner Nubanta

      Nov 11, 2010 at 6:32am

      Welldoneson, it doesn't matter whether Peak Oil is nonsense or not... the same response by humans is necessary: humans cannot expend as much energy as they do in such a short period of time without grave environmental implications. The world cannot discuss an energy replacement to oil without a discussion on the reduction of energy use. You are correct - the amount of oil that Deepwater would have supplied is massive; that same reservoir naturally vents as far as central Alabama. However, like most, you do not understand the concept of Peak Oil and its implications. If you understand Peak Oil you know that much of the oil in existence will remain in the ground because the energy invested to access that oil makes it both financially and logically untenable to access. Besides, an unlimited supply of oil as you describe in the Gulf would be suicidal unless you can use that oil to fix the climate change problem; think of the snake eating its own tail.

      Shepsil

      Nov 11, 2010 at 1:26pm

      Good article on Peak Oil. To those who think its fiction, it will be a tough ride, which will give those that are expecting Peak Oil a fighting chance.

      The world has had an infrastructure based on fossil fuels since the early part of the 19th century. The kilo calories used by approx. 6 humans doing a years work or 12,000 man hrs. is said to have the same kilo calorie value as one barrel of oil. Talk about value for money, a barrel of refined oil (diesel or gas) is worth about $250. Or, as the late Matt Simmons (financier to the oil industry) liked to explain: a cup of coffee costs about the same as a cup of gas, but a cup of gas will move your car, with 4 persons, a couple of miles down a road. Still good value.

      Peak oil (scarcity) will drive those prices up. We will manage, the question is how?

      9 11Rating: -2

      Susan Kammerzell

      Nov 11, 2010 at 7:21pm

      As I learn ever more about the resource base for civilization as we have come to expect it, I get multiple messages to move myself and our culture towards sustainability. Some are urgent - to secure finances in the face of our house-of-cards growth economy, to figure out local food sufficiency so that unaffordable transportation and agriculture costs due to peaked-out oil production don't leave us without food, to get informed and skilled enough to deal with the situation at hand - and some have a deeper pull.

      How soul-sick I am after decades of being offered every comfort at the expense of the majority of other humans. How deeply satisfying it might be to unlearn all that un-aware entitlement and live with what's really my share! How tiring it is to collude forever with the dismantling of an ecosystem I love with all my heart. How compelling the possiblity of living within the means of my home planet!

      As Brennan's life shows, powerful movement towards sustainability is possible here and now. Climate change concerns, peak oil panic, money misgivings, food forbodings or just plain love of our world can push us in a sustainable direction. If the climate scientists, oil geologists and economists are full of @$&*!, well, we will just have to get used to all the fresh local food and cool local energy solutions. Bummer.

      Last note - if the peak oil idea is new to you, there are fabulous documentaries out there on every resource issue from oil to food to water to minerals and so on. "Worth your time" is an understatement. I liked "Crude Awakening", "Sweet Crude", "Let's Make Money" and "Encirclement" among many others.

      10 7Rating: +3

      Transition here we go!

      Nov 12, 2010 at 3:26am

      It won't be for everyone but the Transition Town initiative mentioned in the article above is a creative and positive community-based response to the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change. They've got a longish movie that gives a good sense of what they're up to and trying to accomplish: http://vimeo.com/8029815. Peak oil is introduced between minutes 2 and 5.

      I'd also recommend a short presentation from Dr. James Schlesinger, Former Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy and CIA Director, explaining that "The Peak Oil Debate is Over": http://vimeo.com/16259773

      blah blah blah

      Nov 12, 2010 at 9:05am

      peek oil has more to do with production capacity vs demand ( and who has the ability to buy) than it does with total 'oil' in the ground. it is a rate problem. there is huge amounts a oil in the ground but how fast and how cheaply can we turn it into ammonium nitrate, ethylene, diesel fuel, pesticides etc? and how do we determine which areas take delivery of what remains?
      we are not going to simply run out... especially here in canada where, although the environmental consequence is revolting, we have SHIT loads of energy. 4 to 1 energy return to energy invested isnt so bad... actually yes it is but it will do until its high price encourages something better...

      huge changes are coming to us culturally, economically, and spiritually. i am excited!
      for every doomer hiding out in the country (which is shame because most of them are highly intelligent, critical thinkers) there is an engineer, economist, urban planner, environmentalist, and scientist committed to humanity and innovation. i think there is a side in all of us that is so fed up with the asinine culture and mindlessness that surrounds us that we may even welcome the 'end of the world'. when i first realized the seriousness of peak oil i went into duck and cover mode. buy seeds, get land, get your friends together.... all that stuff. this was 2005 and the world is still here even though many feel we are past peak. i think we need to be positive, proactive, and creative.

      if we run out out into the woods with a ho, seeds, and some candles and wait for a collapse that is exactly what is going to happen, and this is my problem with the peak oil movement as a whole. i feel it is misanthropic and seeks to separate itself from society.

      we have to competing aspects. one is an economic model using interest as a means of regulating money supply (oversimplification i think). this model requires constant growth. second we have an energy resource which is perfect for this (hydrocarbon energy) but is being depleted. can renewables provide the kind of growth that hydrocarbons have and are? this is essential micheal rupert`s thesis and he is quite right, they can't and there wont be production capacity to meet it. but.....

      heres a thought, since now one will read this personal thought exercise anyway...

      how do we lift a full 1/3 of the earths population from poverty without energy? energy availability and use is the yardstick of standard of life.

      in my opinion a few things are going to happen. we need a few good beatings before we get it. bad weather, high prices, maybe a good riot (i am thinking united states). some people are going to die. its going to become culturally unacceptable to be unsustainable. it will become fashion. everybody loves whats in style! yeah free market! there is going to be a revolution in finance/banking (growth is unsustainable). our collective sense of belonging and purpose, as we fight the first real 'war on ignorance' will spawn radical lifestyle changes. i am thinking less fat people, sugar water, and more bicycles. huge changes in labour and employment. automobile to energy production, cheep plastic useless crap to organic farming, its not that we are all unemployable in this future. there will certainly be lots to do!

      but where does the energy come from to maintain this standard of living and economic model as we transition? sorry but its coal, nuclear, natural gas, bitumen, hydro, wind, solar, biomass, tidal. the more we shit where we eat the more we are going to demand transition. a tough transition (glad i am canadian) but a transition non the less.

      also even though its a dirty word, nuclear technology is nowhere near term and the state of the art is 1960`s technology. i am looking towards this as it is the energy dense, high output power needed for the third world.