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Energy Descent: The Future Will Not Look Like the Past

In Future Scenarios, permaculture co-originator and leading sustainability innovator David Holmgren outlines four scenarios that bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural, and economic implications of peak oil and climate change, and the generations-long era of “energy descent” that faces us.

Whether a total societal collapse, a future marked by increased energy use hand-in-hand with as-yet-devised technological advances, or something in between, all we know for sure is that the post-peak future won’t look like the past, and it won’t look like the present. Whether that’s for the best remains to be seen.

From In These Times:

The human mind almost seems hard-wired to expect the future to resemble the past. While this may be an artifact of our evolutionary history that served our ancestors well, in the complex and rapidly changing world we have created, it could prove a fatal blind spot.

David Holmgren has been considering the possibility of our civilization falling victim to our own growth for the better part of four decades. With fellow Australian Bill Mollison, he originated the permaculture movement in the 1970s, aimed at bringing the design of human societies in line with natural systems. In his new book, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change (Chelsea Green Publishing, March), he suggests that the fast converging crises of peak oil and climate change may lead to a future far different from our past—a future of less energy, less complexity and more locally focused lives.

[…]

In the end, the importance of this book is not so much in its descriptions of or prescriptions for energy descent. Rather, its importance lies in the insistence that we set aside our conviction that the future will look like the past. The emerging evidence of climate and energy science suggests that it won’t.

Since Future Scenarios went to press late last year, the global economic crisis has deepened and desperate measures have been implemented to revive an economic regime predicated upon cheap, abundant energy and infinite growth. That we might need to fundamentally change course in an era constrained by the effects of climate change and decreasing energy abundance finds no place in policy discussions.

Yet it’s become increasingly clear that our present course is unsustainable. One needn’t accept the direst of Holmgren’s scenarios to see the wisdom in rethinking our assumptions and planning for a different, and more difficult, future.

Read the whole article here.

 

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