Transition: Meeting the Challenge of Energy Descent

November 01, 2009
Michael Brownlee
Permaculture Activist

“I believe there is a course of action that is appropriate to what we face, and is actually inevitable, whether we go there voluntarily or have to be dragged kicking and screaming into that future: the comprehensive downscaling, rescaling, downsizing, and relocalizing of all our activities, a radical reorganization of the way we live in the most fundamental particulars.” –James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century

Our Predicament

It’s become axiomatic that, like it or not, we will be facing a future with ever less energy. But what does this “Energy Descent” mean, exactly? And how do we prepare?

Richard Heinberg has been fairly specific about the dimensions of the challenge. He estimates that due to fossil fuel depletion and decreasing exports we could easily see a 25-40% decline in available energy over the next two or three decades. He calculates that in but a very few nations probably no more than 25% of the energy currently being consumed could be replaced by alternative/renewable sources by 2030. So for fossil fuel importing nations like the U.S., says Heinberg, it would be prudent to anticipate and plan for at least a 25% decline in total energy by that time. That would certainly change the face of modern society!

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