Peak Oil Anarchy

Peak Oil is indisputable, inevitable and -- probably -- imminent. As the Cheap Oil era ends & oil supplies grow ever more scarce, our consumerist, earth-eating economy will go into convulsions & industrial civilization will teeter on the brink of collapse. Best be prepared! Peak Oil could herald a Golden Age of Anarchy. In Leviathan's ashes, we could create new decentralized communities of mutual aid, solidarity against oppression, & egalitarian harmony. May this be a map to the terrain ahead!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hope for the Future?

(POA note: As green libertarian socialists—i.e., eco-anarchists—we post this essay very reluctantly. We think that the left/right political divide is artificial & juvenile, and leftists who uphold it are propping up a decrepit status quo which needs to collapse. In other words, we are sympathetic to "post-leftist" anarchy. However, this essay is useful both because it attempts to awaken the left about the seriousness of peak oil and, more importantly, draws attention to the viability of grassroots, decentralized, community-based ways of proactively responding to "energy crisis." It's not another laundry list of sniveling bureaucrapitalist policy-fixes! Plus, it gives anarchist props to Food Not Bombs... ;-)

A Wake-Up Call to the Left!

It would seem natural for the left to take up the topic of resource depletion, and peak oil in particular. These problems are indicative of the failure of our current socio-economic system and the need for change. We have squandered our resources in a mad rush of rampant consumption. One would think that the left would have a field day with this. Yet the left has gone out of its way to avoid this issue.

For the most part, progressive voices and alternative media outlets have systematically played down the message of peak oil. Even now that it stares them in the face, they are reluctant to admit it and are making no organized attempt to deal with it. Instead, they have either been vehement in their denial of peak oil, or they have pointed to a techno-fix without taking a good strong look at the unlikeliness of such a solution.

This failure to discuss peak oil and its implications means that the field is wide open to the other side of the political spectrum. Without so much as an argument from the left, the right will institute their own solution to the problem: a militant grab for the remaining hydrocarbon resources, the opening of protected wilderness to exploitation, corporate welfare, a push for coal and nuclear power, and a restriction of liberties for the general public. The opposition will be stuck protest loudly-—-and futilely—against these tactics—something it has become very good at.

Yet the solution of the right is no solution at all, merely a vain attempt to stay the course and hold on to their position at the top of the heap. Ironically, a sustainable solution calls for many of the same goals which the left has long held dear. What is more, the public—as it wakes up to the problem—is frightened for their welfare and clamoring for real solutions. It is the duty of the left to answer the cries of our friends and neighbors with bold ideas and recipes for successful action. We must announce a new age of hope, compassion, quality of life, and freedom from the tyranny of corporate capitalism.

One way or another, energy depletion will spell the end of globalization and conspicuous consumption. Surviving the end of the oil age will require us to get to know our neighbors, to rediscover our local communities, and to become responsible stewards of our local environment. The path will be fraught with hardship. But if we begin preparing now, we can ensure that the future holds a world where the values of freedom, equality and justice are known and cherished, a sustainable world in harmony with nature, a world rich with community and quality of life.

First the left must wake up to the reality of resource depletion. We must loudly and creatively articulate our vision for the future, and we must act to bring this vision to fruition. We need artists—painters, musicians, and above all storytellers—to paint this vision for us, to sound it out and give it substance. We need a renaissance of art, thought and action to bring us out of these dark days of corporate capitalism, conspicuous consumption and media monopoly. As activists, we must learn that protesting is the least important of our activities. It is the duty of activists everywhere to organize locally and begin building the world of the future within the hollow husk of today.

12 Fun Activities for Activists

Community Vegetable Garden Lobby your communities and neighbors to allow you to plant up and tend vacant lots. If you live in an apartment complex with a suitable roof, lobby the management to allow you to build and tend planting boxes on the roof. This is an activity which can foster a strong sense of community between you and your neighbors.

Operation Johnny Appleseed Take a cue from that activist of American folklore and just start planting. Always save your apple seeds, pear seeds, peach pits, grape pips, cherry pips, etc. Save them and plant them wherever you find a likely spot. You can do this with any hardy perennial—fruits, roots and a select group of vegetables. You can even donate a little money and time to the purchase and planting of saplings, vines (grapes), bushes and brambles (blueberries and raspberries), or runners (strawberries). You could also take a tip from the American Indians and other native peoples and promote the propagation of beneficial wild plants. The study of permaculture lends itself to this activity.

Food Not Bombs This is perhaps the best single idea to come out of the Anarchist movement in the last fifty years. What is wrong with the Salvation Army, soup kitchens and other charities? For one thing, the majority of food charities expect something in return, usually a religious conversion. But there is a more basic problem with traditional charities: they are a charity. People who are well off are taking time to help the downtrodden. However well-meaning, those who come for the food are made to feel like beggars, beholden for the charity they receive and dependent on the charity of others. In Food Not Bombs, fliers are passed out announcing an open picnic at a local park, or some such place. The food is prepared ahead of time and laid out where everyone can serve her or himself. And then everyone sits down to eat together. Food Not Bombs picnics can be combined with educational tours to identify local edible plants. You could even show off the fruits of your free plantings or invite folks to help out with the local community garden. Food Not Bombs is solidarity, not charity!

Farmer’s Markets and CSA’s If you can locate a nearby Farmer’s Market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), then patronize the former or join the latter. CSA’s are farms dedicated to serving their subscribers. For a yearly subscription price, members are given a percentage of the produce. Subscribers sometimes pitch in with the harvesting and other activities. The farmers usually accompany their produce with advice for food preservation. If you can’t find a local Farmer’s Market or CSA, then perhaps you should consider organizing one.

Community Transportation Networks This is an idea which is bound to become more popular as gas prices go up. Form a community car pool, not just for the commute to and from work, but to shopping centers and elsewhere. You could set up a local network to match up people who need to go to specific places at specific times, so that they can share rides.

Bicycle Co-ops and Bicycle Trails Bicycle co-ops could maintain a fleet of bicycles for the use of members, or for the temporary rental by non-members. The co-ops would maintain the bicycles, and perhaps collect them and return them to distribution centers. Bicycle co-ops could lobby local communities for bicycle trails, and perhaps donate time to the maintenance of those trails.

Support Local Businesses, particularly Co-ops How many local businesses are left in the wake of globalization? While supporting local businesses, press to ensure that those businesses are ethical and responsible.

Form Co-ops There is no end to the essential services which could be provided through co-ops. Co-ops give a community control over the provision of necessities.

Organize Community Activities Community entertainments such as barn dances, music and art festivals or community theatres not only provide entertainment, they provide venues where people can socialize. This is where you can meet like-minded folks who would be interested in taking part in the other activities mentioned here. These concerts and festivals also provide forums for local artists to reach an audience and/or inspire them with visions of where they can take their community.

Community Refurbishing Co-ops Such groups could help to remodel homes for greater energy efficiency, erect or refurbish community centers, or possibly erect shelters for the homeless.

Community Energy Production Co-ops Such organizations could provide local, community owned and maintained, low level energy production. Depending on local conditions, potential power sources could be wind turbines, solar cells, hydroelectric, or even geothermal (in select areas).

Ecovillages Here is the ultimate activity, an entirely self-sustaining community. This is the eventual goal which we must all direct our activities towards if we are to have a free, equitable and just society. That is, a society where the quality of life makes life worth living and where we can reside happy and contented to watch our children grow up in a positive and healthy environment.

This is the vision which the left can hold out to the public, a vision which cannot be matched by the right’s appeal to fear, anger and greed. It is time for the left to step up to bat. There is no need to fearfully deny the reality of resource depletion. And we have every reason not to leave the field of action to the right and confine ourselves to protest and reaction. There are hard times ahead, but there is no need to give up hope if we can stand together to meet what is to come. The left does have a positive vision to offer, but it must be trumpeted loudly and we must take the initiative. Failure to do so will lead to a dark and dismal future.


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