Book Review – Future Scenarios

Joanna Schroeder

I read in interesting book this week called “Future Scenarios, How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change,” by David Holmgren. The book focuses on the inevitable “energy descent” that the world is facing and outlines four likely scenarios that include the cultural, political, agricultural and economic implications of peak oil and climate change. Holmgren is best known as the co-creator of permaculture. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it is “the integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.”

The book begins with a discussion of four possible broad energy scenarios that are likely to occur over the next century: techno-explosion, techno-stability, energy decent, and collapse. These scenarios range from continued growth to doom and gloom, and Holmgren writes, “There is a desperate need to recast energy descent as a positive process that can free people from the strictures and dysfunctions of growth economics and consumer culture.” He continues, “This is now apparent to many people around the world and is far more fundamental than a public relations campaign to paint a black sky blue.”

There are other factors that will affect our future in addition to climate change and peak oil and these include critical materials depletion, water depletion, food supply, population pressures, financial instability, psychosocial limits to affluence, and species extinction. Holmgren notes that all of these issues combined need to be considered when predicting possible future scenarios.

So what are the scenarios?

  • • Brown tech (slow oil decline, fast climate change)
  • • Green tech (slow oil decline, slow climate change)
  • • Earth steward (fast oil decline, slow climate change)
  • • Lifeboats (fast oil decline, fast climate change)

Holmgren writes of the scenarios, “While the characterization of the four scenarios is difficult and inevitably speculative, the scenarios do provide a framework for considering how peak oil and climate change could interact to reshape global and local energy resources, settlement patterns, economy and governance.” He also notes that they could provide a framework for effective policies.

This is a unique book in that most energy books focus on the problem and provide some solutions, but they don’t delve into the long-term consequences of specific actions, like this book does. If you are looking for something to provoke a discussion on how our actions will affect the future in light of peak oil and climate change, then consider adding this book to your reading list.

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