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Energy descent

By George Meacham - posted Thursday, 9 October 2008

Capitalism works! Just as the planet is driven to the brink of environmental destruction by our crazed pursuit of increased growth and consumption, so the hand that guides us begins to crumble.

Financial commentators have agreed on the cause. It was the bankers who made bets with money they did not have, putting new money into circulation as debt, often in excess of 20 times more than the value of assets they actually held. Then, as those limited assets dramatically lost value, there became no way to service these ludicrously leveraged bets.

What is not being discussed quite so openly is that the dramatic fall in the value of these assets is not a US sub-prime issue. This is only the symptom, not the cause. What caused this meltdown in asset value is a realisation by the international financial community that we have peaked. Ladies and gentlemen, our generation has inherited the era of peak oil, peak everything. The oil has not yet run out, but from now on, year on year, there will be an ever-decreasing supply available to us. The all powerful neo-liberal model of unceasing expansion and growth lies in tatters.


The bankers have been allowed to preside over the exponential growth in the supply of money through a cycle of debt-fuelled housing booms. But money is not wealth. Money is only the entitlement to wealth. As the money supply expanded, so of course, has the claim against the world’s supply of natural capital. But all natural capital is finite. On September 23, we consumed the last of our 2008 allocation of natural resources that this planet has to offer us this year, and for the remainder of the year, we are consuming future year allocations.

With the global capital markets on their knees, what we actually have now is a most unexpected final reprieve, one last chance to prepare for the enormous socio-economic change facing us all. Let us not squander this chance; we will not get another opportunity.

It is imperative that we do not drop the environmental hot potato now in order to address much more pressing economic concerns. The economy is nothing more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment that supports it.

Nor should we anticipate our salvation will come from Kevin and Penny’s carbon trading scheme, the bold political compromise that will reduce carbon output from 1990 levels by a derisory 10-20 per cent by 2020, leaving us with no Arctic sea ice, a dead barrier reef, and locked in atmospheric carbon levels that will cause climate chaos.

Now is the time to mobilise each and every shire in this land to become a community once again: one that understands that it must immediately embark on an energy descent plan; that must once again bring the means of production back within its own locality; that alone is responsible for its own aged care; that must irradiate its dependencies on global capital markets through a systematic relocalisation of investment and currency; and that must build local resilience in the face of ever decreasing supplies of cheap fossil fuelled energy.

It starts here, and it starts with us. If you would like to get involved in this exciting community mobilisation, please look up transition towns, relocalisation or resilience on the internet now.

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About the Author

George Meacham is English born, having emigrated to Central Queensland earlier this year with his wife and two young children. He is a Management Accountant, having worked in a variety of sectors, ranging from local waste management to the international HIV/AIDS community. He is currently working within the regional council in a Commercial Project Accountant role. He has a keen interest in alternative economics, community currencies, permaculture and occasional squash and golf.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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