Four Energy Descent Scenarios

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Don Tipping:

"Australian Permaculture co-originator, homesteader, teacher and writer, David Holmgren wrote an excellent road map in 2007 called Future Scenarios and then followed it up with an update in 2013 called, Crash on Demand that explored what routes society was likely to follow considering the data.[16] His analysis basically explores 4 possible energy descent scenarios that could emerge over the coming 10 to 40 years locally and/or globally.

  • Brown Tech — keep using fossil fuels with little to no regard to climate change (our present trajectory)
  • Green Tech — transition swiftly to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and biomass. Incentivize the transition with carbon credits and tax breaks. Epitomized by some western European nations and the US state of California. A bit of a techno-utopia, especially when you consider that strides in reducing greenhouse gases typically spur an increase in consumption as people feel like they have earned it.
  • Transition Town Movement — local, county scale initiatives at local resilience through community actions. Willits, California or Ashland, Oregon are good examples.
  • Lifeboats — islands of coherence in a sea of insanity. This includes the permaculture, homesteader, and prepper movements. Mostly at the individual, family-scale with a few notable small communities on a single piece of land or neighborhood. Last one standing."



Power-Down Strategies

Don Tipping:

"The key to any path moving forwards is the idea of “Power down” strategies. Richard Heinberg, author of the seminal Peak Oil book, the Party’s Over (2003) wrote Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World in 2004. Powerdown is the concept of intentionally downshifting our global energy appetite to avert the myriad of “hockey-stick chart narratives” in which humanity appears doomed to follow. The lifestyle of the current first world nation’s peoples uses so much fossil fuels to support that it is roughly the equivalent to each of us having 50 “energy-slaves” at our disposal. This comes at the cost of a disproportional energy-footprint compared with people in the developing world. Put simply, this is not sustainable, nor does it allocate any excess energy towards restoration and reparations from centuries of resource extraction and colonial capitalism. We must ask ourselves, what does fair share look like? Further, are we individually willing to power-down? Or, will this only occur as a result of external controls and conditions like economic collapse (demand destruction)? Holmgren states in 2013, “in principle, a major contraction in energy consumption is possible because a large proportion of that consumption is for non-essential uses by more than a billion middle-class people.”[19] However, a concept known as the Jevon’s Paradox[20] comes into play such that any gains in efficiency due to conservation in one sector or new energy sources (solar and wind which requires fossil fuels to create the raw materials) will inevitably lead to expanding the total consumption of resources. For instance, even if the entire country of the USA does some serious belt-tightening, India and China’s economies are rapidly expanding along with their resource consumption and greenhouse gas output, which effectively negates any strides inefficiency. Another way to grasp this phenomenon is to consider that for all the energy-saving initiatives in California over the past 3 decades, the net energy consumption has still gone up." (