Last night I went to a meeting of a local group called Green T.E.A. The TEA stands for Transition Eynsham Area. Its a bit of an incongrous title that actually doesn't give any clues about what the group is or does.
Firstly I was suprised that I only recognised one face in the room. Usually the same people go to just about everything in the village... you know the kind of people who just get involved in anything to do with the community... the mainstays really of English village life.
The next thing I noticed was that nearly all age groups were represented, not just the older members of the community but younger people too (by younger I mean people in their 20's and 30's).
The meeting began with a short talk by a very well spoken lady of a certain age who began "I am a grandmother and I am worried about the future of my grandchildren..."
Green T.E.A. is about preparing our village for the time when we have to transition from fossil fuels to something else... basically its about PEAK OIL and what can be done to prepare us for this event.
Some of you will be familiar with the term PEAK OIL... some of you may not. Peak oil is a time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. Some scientists argue that we have already reached this point, but one thing that ALL scientists agree on... this day is coming.
The kinds of things that will happen when peak oil is reached are scary... as oil becomes scarce, the prices of those things dependent upon it begins to climb. Our food production is very dependent upon the petroleum industry (agriculture uses huge amounts of petroleum based fertilizers as well as the machines used on the farms and finally the lorries (and planes) that distribute the food). And its not just the obvious things that will be affected, lots of things will become scarce, cost a fortune or disappear totally.
We watched a film about Cuba called Power of Community. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 Cuba was instantly left without any imports. The people faced starvation as the supplies of oil and food upon which they depended dwindled to almost nothing. The way they tackled this crises is seen as a good indication of how we should be preparing for our own peak oil event which is surely coming. In Cuba the government gave the people, free of charge and with no taxes to pay, land upon which to grow food. The proviso was that if the government needed the land back they could simply take it away again. But the people had to learn how to grow different types of food and all of it organic because they couldnt get any more fertilizers and many modern crops simply wont grow without these. Modern farming methods leave the soil sterile and it took 3 to 5 years to bring the soil back to a fertile state. During these hard times life was very difficult for the people but they ran schools and classes for everyone to learn how to grow food and people started growing things on their verandah's... in public spaces... (parks etc...) every single scrap of spare ground was used to cultivate something to eat. And everything had to be done on a local scale because of the scarcity of petrol for moving food around. It was quite inspiring.
After the film we had a little discussion about what we could do in Eynsham and the kinds of things that were suggested were: garden or land share so that more people can grow food... a skills register so that people with knowledge can share with those who need to learn... co-operative buying schemes where people club together to purchase things like solar panels so that they can buy in bulk and get good prices... a working group to investigate car sharing or car pooling... and so many more...
I left feeling really excited about having met people who shared my worries about the future of our earth and with a feeling that we actually might be able to do something other than grumble about it.