Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beyond Fuels 8: The 'Plan C' Path

Pat Murphy's Plan C talks about four different plans we could choose. Plan A is what he calls 'Business As Usual', where we continue doing what we're doing, assuming that economic growth is infinite, or at least indefinite, and what we're doing is okay. Plan B uses 'Clean Green Technology' to rescue us from the mess we find ourselves in. (In a footnote he claims that his version of 'Plan B' is not about the book of the same name by Lester Brown and that the comments he makes about Plan B do not 'necessarily apply to him'.)

Plans C and D are wonderfully alliterative: Plan D he refers to as 'Die Off', and I would add, Death, Destruction, and Doom. (I think we are all familiar with that one, so much so that there is a group of peak oil believers commonly called 'Doomers'.) What Pat Murphy advocates is Plan C, 'Curtailment and Community'. I have it up on my door these days as: Conserve by Curtailing Consumption and Create Caring Community.

Thus, the path of Plan C is two fold: first we need to cut our consumption and consumer habits, rather than expecting some new technology to save us, and second, we need to rebuild community around us, since that's what is most likely to support us through the difficult times ahead.

While it talks about peak oil, peak gas, peak coal, peak uranium, peak economy, and peak empire (not to mention climate change and inequality), the book focuses on what each of us can do to forge the path beyond fuels. It looks in particular at the ways we use energy in buildings, transportation, and food--and how we can change what we do. There are lots of graphs and technical details. (Pat Murphy says in the preface that "This is definitely a numbers book.") Much of the beginning of the book will be familiar to those who follow peak oil and climate change. But the book's strong point is its emphasis on what we can do, even going as far as giving 'six steps' we can take to change our food habits (eat less, change our diet [eliminating soft drinks, snack foods, fast foods, and highly processed foods], reduce meat consumption, purchase local organic food, preserve and store food, and create a garden and/or a henhouse).

He does go on a few tangents I found a bit overly focused on specific solutions (the Smart Jitney, for example, or devoting a whole chapter to 'Kicking the Media Habit'), but ends with chapters appropriately covering 'Localization' and 'Reviving and Renewing Community'. All in all this is a useful book, I think, for charting out the path beyond fuels.

Quote of the Day: "We are facing multiple grave world crises--peak oil, climate change, inequity and species extinction to name just a few. ... Twenty year of so-called sustainability conversations have led nowhere, and green has degenerated into a marketing term. ...
"Our problem is cultural, not technical. It is a character issue, not a scientific one. ... We have allowed cheap fossil fuels to change us from citizens into mere consumers. ...
"Plan C offers an alternative perspective to the ever more frantic technical proposals for continuing our soul destroying and life endangering way of living. ...
"I envision a society based on cooperation and care of the planet rather than competition and exploitation of planetary resources." - Pat Murphy

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