I had my Peak Oil moment some years ago, by which I mean a sudden all-at-once awareness of how utterly embedded I am in, and part of, a culture wholly dependent on fossil fuels for its existence and maintenance. And the shock of realising it hadn’t always been like this, and wasn’t always going to be like this.
I started taking notice of things I’d previously ignored. How is our economy set up and run? What does anthropogenically related climate change actually mean? How is the food I am eating produced? I joined Sustainable Bungay and Transition Norwich and have been looking at these questions and a million others in a thousand meetings with people who were asking them too. I worked out my personal carbon footprint for transport, home energy and food and reduced it. I morphed from vegetarian to freegan. I joined this blog and began writing about it.
It’s been an odd week. I borrowed a friend’s car yesterday to do a food shopping trip and take six months’ worth of bottles to the bottle bank. I’ve recently been going everywhere by foot, cycle, bus or train, so I hadn’t been in a petrol station forecourt for about six weeks or seen the prices (about £1.30 a litre). The Daily Express (no I don’t read it, it was on display at the garage) warned that petrol would be £8 a gallon in the near future and only the rich would be able to afford to drive cars. Meanwhile Libya becomes the latest country in the Middle East to explode in unrest. I had a feeling of deja-vu. And then became aware that the oil (and other crises) we've been talking about and preparing for in transition were actually happening now, not in some near or distant future.
And here at home the shock doctrine government spending cuts start being felt in so many areas. Suffolk County Council are planning to close several waste disposal tips, including the ones at Beccles and Southwold. Practically speaking this would mean a round trip of twenty to thirty miles to Lowestoft if you live in Bungay or Southwold and need a dump. And with petrol prices... Who will be on hand to prevent flytipping on the land?
But we have started to raise our voices. The proposed cuts to the libraries have been met with fierce opposition and community engagement in many places. Sustainable Bungay have organised a World Book Night read-in next Thursday. But even here in Southwold, there are stirrings. The Labour Party’s Save The Library poster can now be seen in many windows (and not all of them red, I'm sure).
Meanwhile back to oil. In November 2009 I wrote on this blog about the ship-to-ship oil transfers off the coast between Lowestoft and Southwold. The government recently voted to allow this to continue (the only place in Britain it is permitted). The Southwold and District Chamber of Trade and The Southwold and Reydon Society pressurised the government into reopening public consultation. This gives us until 10th March to write letters to Westminster. And shows that public pressure does have an effect.
Stop Press: See Mark Crutchley's latest article for the One World Column: The End Of The Oil Age
Pic: Ship to Ship Transfer off Southwold Nov 2009 by Mark Watson
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