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If you want to know what I'm on about in the shortest time then please read the introductory first post and my current action plan. Comments are very welcome. And if you like this blog, please tell a friend. Thanks!

Sunday, 27 May 2007

My Action Plan as of May 2007

Having spent a few months intensely considering the problems facing us and the options I have for responding to them, it seems like a good idea to put a one-page summary together to help me maintain my focus and make it easier to explain to others what I'm up to. Here's my first edition as of late May 2007. Remember that this is my personal plan and it will contain things which aren't relevant to you and will omit some great ideas which aren't relevant to me.

The Problems

1. Peak Oil. The modern world (that means you and I) literally cannot survive in its current form without crude oil, yet at the rate we're presently consuming it there'll be none left within a few decades. Global production may already have peaked which means that from here on the trend will be that oil becomes increasingly more scarce and more expensive.

2. Global Warming. Caused not just by our consumption of oil but also of natural gas and coal, and through activities such as deforestation and intensive livestock industries.

3. The Australian Drought. Water storages in my region are below 20% capacity. Some of the nation's major agricultural areas are bracing for the possibility of zero water allocations for irrigation this coming summer.

4. Energy Security. The three problems just described all have an impact on the future availability of electrical energy to power our society.

5. Ecological Concerns. Both for our own sake and as a matter of principle we need to halt or even reverse the global destruction of species and ecosystems.

My Responses

1. Use less oil for personal transport:
  • Drive less. Plan ahead so that I can get more stuff done in a single trip. Refocus my social and recreation activities to be closer to home. Work from home instead of going to the office. Take public transport whenever possible. Ride my bike whenever possible.
  • Drive more efficiently. Accelerate gently, coast down hills, anticipate slowing down and get the foot off the accelerator sooner. Use the trip computer to monitor efficiency and learn to go further on less fuel.
  • Drive a more efficient car. Use the four-cylinder car instead of the six-cylinder one where possible. Replace the six-cylinder one with something more fuel-frugal ASAP.
  • Make air travel an exception rather than a lifestyle. At the destination use trains or buses instead of taxis if practical.
2. Eat food which uses less oil for production and transportation:
  • Establish a productive food garden at home. I would like to be able to supply a significant portion of our diet from our own backyard: vegetables, some fruits, maybe some macadamia nuts and even eggs with the help of a couple of chooks.
  • When buying food is necessary, choose locally-grown produce as much as possible to reduce fuel requirements for transport. Ideally look for produce grown using sustainable practices which require a minimum of oil- or gas-derived fertilisers and pesticides.
  • Eat more whole or unprocessed foods.
  • Avoid "fast food" as much as possible.
  • Avoid food packaging, especially plastic containers, bags and wraps.
  • When buying meals away from home, "dine in" instead of "take away" to reduce plastic wastes.
3. Buy less manufactured stuff, and choose local goods where possible:
  • Think twice before buying anything new. How much oil/energy/water was used to make this? Where was it made? Is it going to make a worthwhile contribution to my life? Where will it be in 2050? What will I do with the thing it's replacing? How much oil/energy/water does this use?
  • Consider second-hand options for things I need to buy.
  • Consider whether the thing I need could be borrowed or hired rather than purchased.
4. Reduce electrical consumption:
  • Switch off as much as possible. Make the TV a special event instead of a lifestyle.
  • Use the microwave and the electric frypan in preference to the stove or oven for cooking. Plan meals which require less cooking.
  • Use the air conditioner as a last resort and even then only at a mild setting. (Insulation and external shade screens are already installed in the only air-conditioned room in the house.)
  • Wear clothes longer in between washes.
  • When major appliances require replacement make energy-efficiency a high priority.
  • Sweep the tiled floor in preference to using the vacuum cleaner.
  • Check the meters regularly to measure and manage usage.
5. Take responsibility for personal carbon emissions
  • Pay the premium for renewable electricity generation.
  • Buy in to greenhouse gas offset schemes for vehicle and air travel emissions.
6. Reduce water consumption / increase water use efficiency:
  • All the usual stuff... Australians are pretty aware these days of how to use water efficiently around the home.
  • Go the extra mile: "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown then flush it down."
  • Check the meter regularly to measure and manage usage.
7. Make use of the sunshine and the rain:
  • Convert to solar hot water heating ASAP.
  • Investigate skylights for kitchen, dining room and study.
  • Install rainwater tanks to irrigate gardens and reduce dependence on town water for clothes washing and toilet flushing.
  • Consider pros and cons of solar panels for electricity production.
8. Minimise all forms of waste:
  • Convert kitchen scraps to compost.
  • Avoid disposable packaging. (This one is really tough in a "developed" society.)
  • Try to provide the kids with toys that are durable, non-plastic and in some way recyclable.
  • Be strict about recycling as much as possible. Follow council guidelines carefully to ensure that the material isn't contaminated and consequently wasted.
  • Spend some time considering McDonough's "waste equals food" principle. (His book is on its way to me in the post as I write this.) Look for opportunities to embrace it.
9. Become an active participant in my local community and broader society:
  • Well there's this blog, for starters. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and gives me a kind of reference point to compare whatever state I find myself in with where I've been in the past. But hopefully it'll also be valuable for others - just as blogs like the ones I've linked to have been so helpful to me.
  • Seek out people who are further along the sustainability track (generally speaking) than I am. Support them and learn from them.
  • Speak out - but avoid being arrogant or obnoxious. Look for opportunities at a personal and political level to involve people in the discussion of how we're going to survive (dare we hope to prosper?) in the post-oil greenhouse-affected forseeable future.
10. Make sure to actually live and enjoy life along the way.


Iain said...

The water allocation issue is occurring with the next allocations in July. So it's going to affect a lot of winter crops, such as wheat, as well as next summer's if we don't have any rain in the interim.

And of course you'll have seen that the BoM's outlook is for an "average" winter...

CG said...

I assume this is the action plan that is supposed to be linked from the top of your main page. The link doesn't work. But I'm persistent.

I am attracted that someone (other than me) would have a vision for 2050, although I'm convinced there will be major change by 2012. But I don't think using less and the like is anywhere near enough -- it will take the ability to live independently.

TB said...

Hey CG,

As far as I can see the link works just fine, but thanks for pointing it out and I'll keep an eye on it.

Far more important, though, is your comment about imminent change and independent living. I'm pretty sure I know what you mean and I both agree and disagree with you.

Change isn't just coming, it's happening now. But it's like the weather: highly resistant to successful prediction, especially for the long term. I've been massively encouraged in the last couple of months by changes for the better in terms of political, commercial and social momentum. No it's not enough, but it could be the start of enough.

As for living independently... well my wife and I are among billions of people who simply couldn't. In our case the reason is pharmaceutical. We both depend on modern medicines to keep us fit enough to function. If the system falls, in all likelihood so do we and our still-young children. Otherwise I probably would be trying to convince Michelle that we should move out into the hinterland and join forces with folks like SEAC.

But for all of our sakes, and the sakes of the other billions, I'm focusing my attention on what might be done to reform modern civilisation more than diverging from it.

Don't take that as criticism though. I see an enormous value in having some people do as you are doing. You provide a different perspective, a practical and philosophical reference point. The wisdom of generations past is sometimes best revealed by trying to live under similar constraints to those which bound them. And, if it all goes to "h*ll" as you say on your own blog, then you're a potential lifeboat for humanity.

But as things stand right now I think our approaches have a great deal in common - we're just working on different scales, in different contexts.


Eloise Dunwell said...

this seems the best place to make contact because eliot said that a gardening perspective would be good, and you've mentioned running your own garden. Your blog is brilliant, I'll send the link to the Transition Town members that I meet with every thursday, for those persuing the solar panel aspect. You've got the TT link in your highly recommended. So just revisiting that now its amazing to see how much you can just keep learning! I would really enjoy starting a blog on some Permaculture Design aspects, if thats what you were interested in, it would be great for my I.T. major work- and for this little ocean shores transition town group to start a website or blog.

Anyway it was good to meet you - please verbalise any ideas or thoughts and send them my way!!