Coping with climate change, peak oil: community resilience needs a change in mindset

Community resilience needs a change in mindset


[This piece appeared in the journal Community and Habitat 2008 No. 13 of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement.]

This issue of PRRM’s Community and Habitat journal is focused on the intertwined issues of climate change, energy and food.

Recent events have further highlighted the linkages between these concerns. As oil prices increase, driven up by the decelerating global production levels, a frantic search for alternative fuels is happening now. The search is constrained by the impact of fossil fuels on climate, which in recent years has finally entered the public radar screen. It is now generally accepted that we cannot continue the current levels of fossil fuel consumption without endangering our very survival on this planet. Among the carbon-neutral technologies which have received attention are agrofuels (which is a more accurate term than biofuels because the term pinpoint the true source of such fuels). Today more than a fourth of the U.S. corn production now goes to alcohol production. Given the expected attractive prices for agro-fuels, agricultural lands are being shifted to agro-fuel crops like corn, sugar, sorghum, and exotics such as jatropha. One doesn’t have to be an agriculture expert to predict the impact of these developments on food production. True enough, food prices are shooting up, food shortages rearing their ugly head, and countries with surplus food crops are beginning to scale down their exports.

Locally, the most telling effect of these developments is that the Philippines, which ironically hosts the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is now the world’s biggest importer of rice.

We have collected a number of pieces that look at the different aspects of these intertwined issues. Although we have emphasized adaptation measures, we are not ignoring the analytical search for root causes and vicious cycles, which is ultimately the first step towards long-term solutions.

It is clear now that we must build new types of communities to cope with these serious threats. Among the various terms used to describe such communities, we have chosen the word “resilience” as one which most closely describes the most important feature a community must have to weather the coming shocks. Resilience is also a scientifically-grounded term often used in ecological studies to characterize ecosystems that can survive serious environmental shocks.

Resilience involves reviving forgotten practices that have served us well in times of crises as well as adopting radically new approaches in thinking and behavior. It will involve a major change in mindset for each of us.

The sooner this happens, the better.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 9, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Amen to resilience.!
    Small scale solar food driers for damp or intermittent weather comes to mind. Winiarski model wood fired – (Aprovecho publication), central America.
    Larisa Welk’s solar model (Back Woods Home Magazine article), come to mind along with solar ovens to cook rice, fish, any vegetable or meat at near to gas fired temps.
    Mark in Maine

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