Author and energy expert Richard Heinberg and his wife reportedly conduct “energy fasts” on a regular basis. This is a fascinating concept, and an important one. This means more than just turning out your lights “Earth Hour” style; it means not using energy. No mobile devices with batteries, no automobiles, no air conditioning, no natural gas for cooking, no oil for heating… no energy. This doesn’t mean modern life comes to an end – you can still have friends over for a drink, work in the yard, do many kinds of work, read a book, fix a nice dinner, chat with a neighbor, walk the dog, do all kinds of things. But you do them with your own energy. These energy fasts are a wonderful energy descent preparedness drill.
When you think about it, we could do almost everything in our life today without outside forms of energy. Electricity, natural gas, and petroleum simply make these things easier for us, and therefore make us more productive. If electricity, natural gas, and petroleum were to go away, many of the conveniences we currently rely on would go away too. Our lifestyles would have to change to reflect that.
Luckily, with the possible exception of an act of war, it is highly unlikely that we would lose any form of energy overnight. A gradual transition gives us time to adapt with a bit more ease. Fossil fuels are finite to be sure though, so are indeed going away. Like any other resource they will gradually become more expensive over time as supplies decline. Rising costs will force low-profit margin aspects of our fossil-fuel reliant economy to change first, then others. We use fossil fuels to create most of our electricity, and to create both solar panels and wind turbines, so the decline of fossil fuel supplies really is the thing to watch.
The sciences of declining supplies of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, and how humanity loosens our dependency on them, are what energy descent theories are all about. It may seem tempting to champion just one theory we feel is most likely and plan around that one, but it’s likely that many of the theories will play out in various places depending on local conditions. The big question faced by each of us today is not in what way we will react when cheap and abundant fossil fuels are gone, but how we react as they become more scarce and expensive. How we adapt and evolve the fossil fuel-dependent lifestyles we lead today into the sustainable fossil fuel-free lifestyles needed tomorrow will determine either our prosperity or our fate.
Politics, business, and apathy in our society all point toward domination of the Adaptation and Collapse theories. Don’t wait for politicians, business leaders, or other people – let’s make sure our lives each represent a step towards resilience and less dependence on fossil fuels. Take a vacation – from fossil fuels.