Organic Transitions: Beyond the Gloom & Doom of Economic Depression, Climate Change, & Peak Oil
- By Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association, October 14, 2008
Straight to the Source
First the bad, or shall we say the really bad, news. Not since the Great Depression have Americans been challenged by anything comparable to the current unfolding disaster: economic meltdown, global warming, climate chaos, escalating energy and resource costs, looming shortages, endless war, biodiversity erosion, and deteriorating public health—metastasized and abetted by a corporate elite and indentured federal government that apparently doesn’t know what to do, or, worse, doesn’t care. Even with likely regime change on November 4, we are in very deep trouble, according to leading scientists, economists, agronomists, and public health experts.
Fortunately a critical mass of people are waking up to the fact that we must get organized and find holistic solutions, not mere band-aids, for our crisis. Millions of us are heartened by the indisputable fact that organic, green, commonsense solutions for all of our life-or-death problems are at hand, including appropriate technology and innovative public policy and legislation. We don’t have to wait for Washington bureaucrats or corporate marketers to tell us what to do. We can join together with our fellow citizens and begin the absolutely essential process of organizing Organic Transitions committees and campaigns in our local areas, starting with local organic food buying clubs, house parties, and study and action circles.
Times are indeed grim and frightening, but certainly not hopeless. We still have a strategic window of opportunity to take back control over our political, cultural, and economic institutions; to create millions of urban and rural green jobs; to transform our educational systems; and to make a smooth transition from fossil fuels, climate chaos, and resource wars to a renewable, peaceful, solar-based agriculture and economy. But time is of the essence.
There is no longer any doubt that we must quickly move away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas pollution if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. Likewise there is no doubt that we are quickly running out of cheap oil, and other essential resources such as water, forests, wetlands, and plant and animal biodiversity. You are likely familiar with the term “Peak Oil”, the notion that global oil production has peaked and will now become inexorably more expensive and scarce, even as global demand continues to rise. What you may not realize is that we stand on the cusp of Peak Everything, where nearly all of our essential natural resources are reaching their limits.
We obviously can no longer afford trillion-dollar bailouts for Wall Street speculators, nor trillion-dollar wars for oil and empire in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is temporarily enough food, fiber, and fuel on the planet to feed, clothe, and shelter everyone (that is, if these necessities are distributed equitably), but the days of fossil fuel-intensive, chemical-intensive agriculture, transportation, utilities, and housing are drawing to an end. Natural gas-derived chemical fertilizers and petroleum-based pesticides, transportation, and processing are absolutely essential to supercharge America’s current system of industrialized and globalized food and farming, but as economists point out, these inputs will be literally unaffordable within a decade. Chemical fertilizer and diesel costs alone have gone up 80% in the last two years, with global food costs rising comparably. Gasoline in the U.S. now costs about $3 dollars a gallon (over $10 a gallon in some EU nations), while natural gas for heating is $2.50. Multiply these costs by two over the next couple of years, by four over the next five years, and by ten or so over the next decade and you get the picture.
There’s a silver lining in the collapse of our energy-intensive, chemical-intensive, hyper-consumerist society. We’re likely to be a lot happier and healthier after we make the Organic Transitions we need. Most of us will not be making as much money as we once did, or buying as many consumer products, but as we green and relocalize our economy and our politics, we’re likely to be a lot healthier, less alienated, and stressed-out. We’ll certainly be driving and flying less, and millions more of us will be involved in organic gardening and farming and other green jobs, but OCA’s belief is that we’ll likely be happier and more at peace with ourselves, our local communities, and the Earth. Please join up with the OCA as active participants in our Organic Transitions campaign. And please support us financially as we move beyond the gloom and doom of the present crisis.