This past weekend I attended a teach-in on the "Triple Crisis" currently facing the world. "Triple Crisis" refers to the combination of climate change, peak oil (the end of cheap energy), and global resource depletion (including species extinction). In upcoming posts, I'll talk in more detail about all three--especially the last two, often not addressed in our popular press.
The line-up of speakers were unbelievable (at least for nerds like me): Bill McKibben, Frances Moore Lappe, Vandana Shiva, David Korten, Richard Heinberg, Wes Jackson, Carl Pope, Betsy Taylor, Megan Quinn, and many, many others.
This is the first time specialists in all three areas have come together for a major meeting like this. During the teach-in, all three crises were understood to be one large interconnected problem, deriving from the same causes (massive use of fossil fuels and the Earth's resources) and therefore able to be addressed in similar ways. One of the central approaches is the concept of "powering down"--or learning to live with far less energy, and far lower consumption of materials, than we currently use. One way of doing this is by moving to an increasingly local society. In the future I'll write more about this concept and how we and others are trying to address this answer.
I was especially pleased to see people address one of my pet concerns. So often, people who consider themselves environmentalists decide that the way to save the world is through purchasing more stuff. I'm very much part of this group myself, so please don't think I'm sitting on high judging everyone else. "Oh, let's go out and BuyBuyBuy all those hip new green products! Don't we need a Prius, and organic bamboo sheets, and new sustainably-forested-wood kitchen cabinets?" But overconsumption is what got us into this mess. We can't find our way out just by encouraging a new-and-improved kind of shopping. Check out this disturbingly hilarious video which makes this point with tongue firmly in cheek.
There were many academic disagreements at the conference, frustrations about the fact that no clear direction has emerged, and of course much rallying of the troops. We all left with a energy and enthusiasm for the fight--but also something I think too many of us have felt had abandoned us: