Our Energy Future – Transition Somerset

On October 20th, in Taunton, I facilitated an event called ‘Our Energy Future’ for Transition Somerset. I was keen to do so because it gave me a chance to try out four scenarios about our responses to peak oil and climate change.

To start with, I acknowledged, but then ignored, two scenarios at either extreme:

A. Climate change and peak oil do not happen in this timescale, or, if they do happen, the effects are minimal.

F. The effects of peak oil and climate change are so severe that society collapses very quickly.

The titles of the four scenarios we concentrated on were:

B. We try to grow as fast as we can and deal with the consequences.

C. Green growth

D. A shift in focus to the well-being of people and planet

E. Oil was a one-off: we have squandered it and cannot replace it

The first question about each scenario that we asked the participants was what would happen to their lives and to the Transition and other groups of which they were part. Here are some of the points – many rather striking – made about scenario E:

  • Transition ideas will be needed. Rise in the local. Does this mean greater antagonism to the ‘other’?
  • Feudal? Back to bartering system?
  • Fear and greed can be allies: greater motivators.
  • People need to get used to keeping things for a lifetime
  • We will have acquired a new set of skills, and those that haven’t will be in trouble!

We then asked whether, given that we can’t foretell the future, there were approaches for people’s organisations or for Transition Somerset as a whole that would work under most of the scenarios. (This is one way of understanding the fashionable but slightly tricky notion of ‘resilience’.) Again, here are some of the most interesting points:

  • Reward value creation – collaboration
  • Overcome short-termism – new style of leadership
  • Whatever the scenario, there may be isolation, individualism and separation, so we need to build local communities
  • Giving people the inner skills to develop resilience
  • Change comes out of desperation not inspiration

Perry Walker