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Future Proof Kilkenny

Dimitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse, speaking at the New Emergency conference

There were quite a few Irish Transition Towns represented at Feasta’s recent New Emergency conference including Monaghan, Clonmel, Cloughjordan and Kilkenny. It was a three day affair arguing that we are at the oil peak and now face the twin problems of climate change and peak oil along with an economy in steep decline. “This is an emergency – we are just not acting as if it is!” was one comment from the plenary session drawing on the analogy that we are now in a “phoney war” period before things really start to unravel..

The conference was convened over three days.

Day 1, called “Race to the Tipping Point”, set out how the last 100 years has been an exponential race to the global peak of energy and resource consumption which has pushed ecological systems to breaking point and threatens runaway climate change.

Day 2, called “Managing the Transition”, began with an examination of how complex societies break down and why, without serious reform, a collapse of the current economic system is certain as oil production declines.

Day 3, called “Building Resilience”, was the most hopeful of the three looking at different strategies for dealing with the problems we face including local food systems, carbon sequestration in soils and second generation bio-refining to name but a few.

Below are two of the presentations that were given that have been recently been posted online. First, in his presentation on food systems, Bruce Darrell, argues that the experience of the Irish famines could be repeated on a global scale if we don’t transition away from our globalised industrial food system. Not only is it dependent on fossil resources for both transportation, machinery, fertiliser and irrigation (fossil water) but it will come under increasing strain from other global influences such as increased use of land for biomass, increased meat consumption, climate impacts and lack of skilled labour not to mention the taboo subject of population growth.

Bruce Darrell – The Future of our Food Supply from Feasta on Vimeo.

In the web video below David Korowicz’s thesis brings together the science of thermodynamics with the work of Tainter and others who have studied how complex systems break down. The central argument is that increasing complexity requires increasing energy and resource consumption. Consequently with a reduction on both of these society will, voluntarily or involuntarily become less complex. The transition to a less complex society, however, is likely to be characterised not by a gradual descent but by a series of “phase transitions” or mini-collapses. You can also read this paper here.

David Korowicz – Complexity, Economy, Civilisation & Collapse from Feasta on Vimeo.

The full conference program can be viewed here and the rest of the video recordings are available online at the Feasta Vimeo site.

Overall the conference was a mixture of shocking climate and energy forecasts for the years ahead together with practical and positive solutions that will actually benefit local economies and rebuild a sense of community – one that is sorely lacking in the age we live in. At the end of the conference Davie Philip of Cultivate summed it all up with the quote “On spaceship Earth there are no passengers – only crew. All hands on Deck!”

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