Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Transition or Trauma? Carolyn Baker Reviews Future Scenarios

Permaculture co-originator David Holmgren maps out four possible futures in a world of declining resources and increasing climate change in his new book, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change.

In this article from Speaking Truth to Power, Carolyn Baker takes a look at Holmgren’s predictions—from the relatively benign “Green Tech” scenario to the sobering “lifeboat” scenario—and takes away some lessons humanity would do well to learn.

Taken together with the words of NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen, who tells us that “the onset of severe impacts from climate change is now inevitable, even if there is a huge worldwide effort at mitigation”, David Holmgren’s words above cause me to pause and on some level stand in awe of the current global economic meltdown. I notice, first of all, that climate change now probably has a life of its own and has permanently escaped the influence of the human species. I also notice that economic collapse, while having unfolded rapidly within the past two years, has not done so in a falling-off-the-cliff scenario and may be slowing down the collapse of the ecosystem.

In Future Scenarios, (Chelsea Green, 2009) David Holmgren, the author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability offers four possible sketches of transition from industrial civilization to a post-petroleum world. The characteristics and likely outcomes of them compel us to view them more closely.

Physically, this paperback book is quite reader-friendly, embellished with colorful illustrations and beautiful photos and fits snugly into pocket or purse for effortless transport.

The first scenario Holmgren names the Brown Tech, Top-Down Construction in which energy descent is slow, and climate change is fast. Brown Tech is essentially the corporatist system that has dominated the United States for the past sixty years, reaching its zenith during the George W. Bush administration. It is “top-down” in the sense that “national power constricts consumption and focuses resources to maintain the nation-state in the face of deteriorating climate and reduced energy and food supply.” (68) Brown Tech is characterized by centralized systems, high-density systems, national banks and currencies, a nationalist/fascist bias, male domination, and culturally speaking, a super-rationalist/fundamentalist dichotomy.

Conversely, the Green-Tech scenario is characterized by slow energy-decline rates and mild climate change symptoms. The sense of chaos and crisis “is more muted without major economic collapse or conflict.” (68) This scenario is the one embraced by those well-meaning progressives who may believe that we have enough time for strategically transitioning to a post-petroleum, downscaled world. In Green Tech there is good conservation, a great deal of renewable energy use, compact towns and small cities, regional currencies, the gender status is balanced and blended, and the philosophical orientation is essentially humanist and eco-rationalist. What makes Green Tech unrealistic and somewhat utopian, in my opinion, is the speed with which climate change is actually occurring. For Green Tech to be fully implemented, climate change must be slow. “The relatively benign climate allows a resurgence of rural and regional economies on the back of sustained and growing prices for all natural commodities including feedstock for biofuels.” (69)

Read the whole review here.

 

Related article:


Economic Development is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It

Economic development today is completely broken. That’s the argument of author Michael Shuman in his new book, The Local Economy Solution. The singular focus on attracting global corporations is not just ineffective but counterproductive, Shuman argues, especially given the huge opportunity costs. Indeed, it’s not far-fetched to suggest that the best way most communities can […] Read More..

5 Shareable Strategies for Creating Climate Action

Frustrated about climate change? You’re not alone. Most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the spectrum of depressed about our climate situation to flat-out denying that it exists. In fact, the more information about global warming that piles up, the less we seem to do to combat it. What is the reason for this […] Read More..

A Mini-Festo for Earth Day – Rebuild the Foodshed

For the past month, author Philip Ackerman-Leist has been on a Twitter MiniFesto campaign – each day sending out a new tweet designed to spark conversation and pass along some lessons he learned whilst working on his last book, Rebuilding the Foodshed. You might also know Philip as the author of his memoir Up Tunket […] Read More..

Books in the News: ‘The Tao of Vegetable Gardening’ & More!

What does Taoism have to do with gardening? That question is being answered in The Washington Post this week with a lengthy profile of Chelsea Green author Carol Deppe—gardener, plant breeder, seed expert, and geneticist based in Oregon—and her new book The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. “Once I read The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, with its […] Read More..

Depressed about Climate Change? Good. Here’s How to Take Action

The facts about climate change are settled. Mostly. In fact, the news seems to get worse, and more urgent, every day. Yet, the more the facts stack up, the less resolve many people seem to have about getting behind solutions that will stem, or turn, the tide. What gives? In What We Think About When […] Read More..