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Future Proof Kilkenny

Speaking recently about the economy Minister for finance Brian Lenihan said “You would want to be a cross between a prophet and a soothsayer and a clairvoyant to predict what will happen after 2011″. If only our leaders would stand back, take a systems approach to understanding the world and consider the importance of energy they would have a far better understanding of where we are headed.

The most insightful video I have seen that looks towards the future is the Eon3 interview at the foot of this post with Permaculture founder David Holmgren. In it he sets out 4 “Future Scenarios” for society beyond “peak energy”. For anyone coming to terms with peak oil and looking for understanding in these uncertain times it is well worth watching.

The first he calls the “Techno Explosion”. This is the belief that we will continue industrial expansion and economic growth indefinitely – a view shared by most economists and central to the functioning of our debt based money system. Geological resource limitations will always be overcome by technology and free-energy sources will become widely available.

The second is the “Green Tech” scenario. This is where society levels out on a plateau of consumption, population and resource use by employing renewable energies, recycling materials and so on – the so called “steady state” economy favoured by many politicians. Attractive as this might sound there are problems. Can renewables really replace fossil fuels? What about other resources such as water and metals? If we put a cap on consumption can developing countries industrialise? Is a world where 20% control 80% of the wealth sustainable? If not, who’s way of life should change?

The third scenario is the “Collapse” scenario. This is what we want to avoid at all costs but there are many examples throughout history where a society that failed to adapt to a contracting energy and resource base fell apart. Indeed many societies “failed” for very specific reasons such as climatic change, resource depletion, loss of fresh water, erosion of top soil, loss of trading partners and so on. Whilst we think we are immune to the lessons of history our society today is facing a convergence of all of these problems.

Finally the fourth scenario is the “Energy Descent” scenario. Whilst including many of the “Green Tech” strategies early on, this is where we recognise what is happening and adapt to a declining energy and resource base. Although somewhat depressing at first, if this is managed creatively and with intent it could lead to positive change as the world learns to live within the nature’s limits rather than on temporary stores buried within the earth’s crust. Energy Descent is the core thinking behind the Transition Towns movement which was itself inspired by Kinsale’s Energy Descent Action plan.

You can read more about Holmgren’s “Future Scenarios” here.

One Comment to “Future Scenarios”

  1. on 06 Mar 2009 at 4:29 pmcass flower

    Great site and great projects. The economy is so unsound that everyone should be growing as much food as they can.
    Discussions are going on here on energy solutions, growing food and composting and wormeries:-

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