Well, we’ve finally got a mostly-complete ASPO Conference schedule. The problem is exactly the sort of problem you’d really like to have when running one of these – that there are just too many serious thinkers who need a spot. It is really tough to finalize the conference schedule when every day you are receiving calls that say things like “This is Bianca Jagger, Chair of the Human Rights Foundation, calling to say that I’d like to speak at your conference on the connection between Climate, Energy Depletion and Human Rights…here are the texts of my UN speeches if you’d like to see them.” Or “The Rear-Admiral would be delighted…”
What we’re seeing is that the scientific debates about peak energy are really over – the IEA, the US Military, the Department of Energy – all of them have had to admit that we are facing instability and supply constraints, coming upon us very soon. Former Secretary of State Dr. James Schlesinger has come out in the mainstream media to point out that the discussion is over – and now we have to deal with the realities.
The heartening thing (on an issue that obviously doesn’t have a lot of heartening things) is that this is so far a non-partisan issue, so much so that ASPO’s scheduled Press Conference and Congressional Briefing can actually bring together people who simply don’t appear on the same stage together. We’ve got Anti-poverty Activists and Billionaires, Right-wing Congressfolk and Left-Wing Presidential Candidates, Human Rights Campaigners and Military Folk, and even me. They don’t agree on anything – except that Energy Depletion represents a fundamental threat – and it isn’t controversial anymore.
ASPO is changing fast with this new reality – we are leveraging this new understanding as hard and fast as we can. Because even though we know that the boat isn’t going to turn around fast or in time, we also know that policy changes on the state, federal and local level can make huge differences in quality of life and basic security for thousands and millions of people. It isn’t an all-or-nothing game here.
My presence on the board is part of another change – once upon a time, Energy Depletion was primarily the territory of Geologists and Scientists, who spent a lot of time discussing the detailed parameters. All of us who know about peak oil now are deeply enriched by that work. At the same time, however, now that the basics are fully established, the territory of peak oil extends to everyone who has a stake in the future, and investment in their security and the hope for their posterity. And while technical responses have a role in the future, so do everyday actions by ordinary, engaged citizens.
ASPO brought me onto the board in the hope of building a new balance between supporting the research and technical knowledge and bringing the message to the mainstream and supporting social change. In some ways, my presence, as a writer and small farmer, is a challenge to what ASPO has been in the past, and an investment in what it can be in the future – an investment in the ties between the technical and personal ends of this quest for a way forward.
So I need to ask several things of my readers. First, if you can attend the conference in Washington DC, please do – the more of you who are present, who have something to add to the discourse, the more we build that connection between the people who have technical answers and those who have answers about what they want for the next generation. Come to the conference. Take part. Ask questions. And make sure that you are seen as the face of this issue. Make sure that when the media comes through, they don’t just see the faces of scientists talking to each other, but of parents, thinking of their children and of community activists engaging with the scientific and technical knowledge.
For those who can’t come, I’ll be liveblogging the conference as much as I can. There’s simply too much valuable knowledge there for it not to be transmitted as far and wide as we can. But I can’t do it alone – my responsibilities as a board member and a press liason, as well as the fact that I’m speaking twice during the conference means I’m going to miss a lot. So if you will be attending, email me if you’d be willing to help blog the conference – I’ll put your posts up here (with full credit, obviously) as the conference progresses. If you tweet, consider tweeting the conference as well. Email me at email@example.com if you’d like to be part of my blogging team!
If you can attend, please take time to visit your congressional office and let your congressperson or their staff know how concerned you are that peak oil planning get on the agenda. ASPO is organizing visits, and will give you talking points and strategies. If you can’t attend, you can still email and phone your congressperson and the White House and let them know that you care about this issue.
This is our opportunity to get stories in the major media as well that aren’t “Here’s a crazy person and her pile of MREs” ;-). The reality about this conference is that the aggregate of the experts here simply don’t allow you to sustain the idea that this is a marginal or highly debatable idea. So if you have ties to media – national or local to the conference, encourage them to write a story. Everyone who knows and understands can do something to help their community – we’re that much richer for every opportunity.
The more you distribute the liveblogging I and others do, the more you circulate the articles, and draw your neighbors’ attention to the reality, the closer we get to a moment when we can say “look, we have to deal with this.” And even if it doesn’t happen to everyone, every person you engage makes a difference. So spread the word. We don’t know how many more chances like this we’ll get.
There’s no way the ASPO conference alone can turn the tide of denial about peak oil – but the reality is we aren’t alone. There are thousands of you – I know that each of my posts gets read by thousands of people, and they in turn can pass the stories on, lend a hand, raise a voice. I’d be grateful for your help.