Post-Carbon Institute Meeting: Preparing for A Future of Uncertainty

On Friday I followed the fruit blossoms up Old Gravenstein Highway up to Sebastopol, CA (pop 8,000), where The Post Carbon Institute is based.

Present were the Institute’s founder and executive director Julian Darley, co-director Celine Darley, along with authors Richard Heinberg (The End of Oil, Peak Everything) and Daniel Lerch (Post Carbon Cities).

We had tea in the local energy farm garden surrounded by a quarter acre of food-sunlight-energy-soil experiments, including an ethanol distiller and apple press. Chickens clucked in their pen and mosquito fish swam in the caputured rainwater reservoir. The garden epitomizes a sort of working lab for how communuities can achive greater self-reliance in the face of global climate change and energy volatility.

We discussed how Common Curernt and the Post Carbon Institute can collaborate on our visions of a more sustainable future. Daniel has been leading up work with North American cities on oil-depletion protocol, while Common Current has worked with regions, the State of California and national governments on creating frameworks for green cities.

Besides the challenge of climate change, government, businesses and citizens need to prepare for scarcer resources, namely crude oil, which has risen more than four times in price the past few years. For the first time, even Goldman Sachs and UBS energy analysts, automotive companies and the McNeil Lehrer show are mentioning the “P” word–peaking oil.

The Post Carbon Institute’s energy garden is one response to figure out how a society responds to the diminishing availability of the economy’s key resource. More critical has been the institute’s development of Relocalization Networks.

The Relocalization Network is composed of more than 170 grassroots groups and affiliate organizations all over the world. Consider Willets (CA) Economic Localization, which includes an inventory of how the Northern California town is preparing for greater energy and food security, to the Grateful Gleaners, wich last year picked four tons of unwanted fruit and distributed it to schools, senior centers and food distribution centers. 

PCI has also started a fleet of carbon-free carsharing in Sebastopol. Julian took me for a spin in two different electric vehicles, one parked in front of the local energy farm, and one in the driveway of a former Sebastopol mayor. All he had to do was wave a fob over a transponder in the dashboard to get access to the cars, which were being partially charged through solar energy panels.

Banish thoughts of isolationist hippie back-to-the-landers–the Post Carbon Instutute is more an internet savvy organization with 20 employees, a book publishing arm and a carefully researched framework for new community networks and municipal mangers to plug into.

PCI and Common Current are planning how we can expand their network statewide and into Marin County, CA, where Common Current is based. We expect to make presentations to the city council of Fairfax and Sustainable Fairfax, and to get involved in county leadership efforts to develop communtiy choice aggregation for community owned renewable energy.  

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