The Post Carbon Era (Part 1)

We know that there exists a destructive spiral that threatens our very existence on earth.  In fact, the very earth itself!  But, the countless statistics and endless information doesn’t quite stick, do they.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that we detach ourselves from the ominous cloud that is resource depletion.  These all happen in third world countries, right?  This doesn’t affect us in the least, right?  WRONG!  I hate to say this, but it is happening in our very backyards with our flagrant and wasteful use of resources: Water is taken for granted and we drive from point A to B to C to Z without thinking of the consequences.  We don’t acknowledge the impending disaster and therefore we don’t care to prepare.  Reading this book, “The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises”, was like a splash of ice-cold water on my face, a reminder that change is necessary!  Let me begin.

Our economy’s foundation is innovation and production, a response to the boom ignited by the industrial revolution.  Since then, the economy has built and built on top of it, the resulting structure to be quite sturdy.  That is, until now.  It has reached a plateau of sorts and is now on the decline.  The solution?  The economy needs to be restructured… easier said than done am I right?  The scary truth is that we are dependant on so many outside sources to get the basic necessities.  What is worse is that these sources are going to fail us soon.  One of the contributing authors, Chris Martinson, is the genius behind the Crash Course, “an online video seminar about our broken economic system, the crisis of our aging population, and peak oil” (Martinson: ©2010).  In his section of the book, he focuses on the problems we will face with food in the post carbon era.  As he points out, “most communities have, at most, a total of three to five day’s worth of food on hand at their local grocery stores and supermarkets” (Martinson: ©2010).  These regular food deliveries are dependant on trucks.  So what happens when that mode of transportation fails due to extreme weather or fuel shortage? … of which, by the way, is bound to happen.  What will happen during the cold canadian winter if we are ever cut off from supplies?  Our lack of self-sufficiency will be our downfall.  We need to solidify our now withering bond with the earth by growing our own food and relying on the surrounding environment to support ourselves.  It’s now about localization, not globalization.

However, restructuring means the destruction of the current structure.  Trust me that when I say destruction, I mean total annihilation.

“Just so you have a sense of the scope and the pace of these changes in our lives I should mention that in 2003 I was a VP at a Fortune 300 Company, forty-two years of age with three young children (the oldest was 9), living in a six-bedroom waterfront house, and by every conventional measure I had it all.  Today I no longer have that house, that job, or that life.  My “standard of living” is a fraction of what it formally was, but my quality of life has never been higher.  We live in a house with less than half the size of our former house, my beloved boat is gone, and we have a garden and chickens in the backyard.” – Chris Martinson

Obviously this cannot happen over night.  The key, as Martinson suggests, is to take baby steps towards becoming self-sufficient.  Start with the smallest possible thing you can do and slowly adapt in response to the pending crises.  These are the necessary sacrifices we will all have to take to live in the quickly approaching post carbon era and this hard dose of reality is very much needed.  This change will happen, there is no question about it.  But are we, as a collective, ready to absorb all this?  Are we ready to attempt at change?  What holds us back?  It’s the fear isn’t it.  The fear of leaving this “paradise” we have built on the foundations of oil consumption.  To go back would mean to leave everyone and everything, right?  Wrong again.  The idea of baby steps is to not severe ties from our carbon life.  It’s about making new connections and networks that will facilitate this healthy lifestyle change.  If we are to involve our community, we first must commit to the change.  As Martinson so eloquently puts it:

“It is up to each of us to inspire others by first inspiring ourselves”

We have the power, we just need to start.


Martinson, C. “The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises.” (part 15: pg 429 – 441). ©2010 by Post Carbon Institute. Watershed Media, California.


3 thoughts on “The Post Carbon Era (Part 1)”

  1. Great post! However, I feel as though our current administration’s approach isn’t entirely driven by such ideas.Nonetheless, the notion of systemic change is still viable in the sense that we don’t have to cut off our consumption of oil- or heavy oil entirely just yet- but perhaps strive to engineer methods to enhance the efficiency of its extraction- that entails extracting more from rock pores and somehow minimizing environmental impact. I know significant research is being undertaken to facilitate such endeavours – loosely based on smoothened particle hydrodynamics/ discrete elements methods and stuff like that. Your thoughts?

    1. Seeing that this gradual switch is moving at a sloth’s pace, we have time to research new techniques and extraction methods that take the environment into consideration. In fact, I like that engineers are now thinking about the environmental impacts, but I feel as though it is a little too late. There is no hope of reverting the earth back to it’s former, healthy glory**, but this new research can help with maintaining the fragile balance that is remaining. However, in saying this, I hope that everyone realizes that this mode of thinking can only take us so far. We need to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for the worst, when sacrifices need to be made because resources become scarce.

      Thank you for your thought provoking comment!

      **of course I realize that this may not be their intention, but nevertheless it is true.

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