Energy Descent Action Plan for BC

When the production of oil fails to meet demand, a scenario known as Peak Oil, what then? World Peak Oil is predicted to occur sometime between 2008 and 2010, though some say it has already happened, and “the event” will be followed by a steady decrease of available energy. This could be a collective opportunity for society to transition to true sustainability.

by Norberto Rodriguez dela Vega

Rob Hopkins describes this process of peak oil and decrease on the Transition Culture website as “the continual decline in net energy supporting humanity, a decline that mirrors the ascent in net energy that has taken place since the Industrial Revolution.” 

The period of decline, coined by ecologists Howard and Elisabeth Odum as energy descent, is a transitional stage that could be considered the fodder of futuristic horror movies or could be a collective opportunity for society to transition to true sustainability. 

In their book, A Prosperous Way Down, the Odums take a positive perspective: “That the way down can be prosperous is the exciting viewpoint whose time has come. Descent is a new frontier to approach with zeal…if everyone understands the necessity of the whole society adapting to less, then society can pull together with a common mission to select what is essential.” 

Enter the EDAP 

One of the most useful visioning and policy guiding tools to deal with the transitional period of decreasing energy is the Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP). An EDAP is a local plan that goes well beyond issues of energy supply, to look at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of health, education, economy and much more. An EDAP is basically a proactive community planning process, done in an integrated, multidisciplinary way. It provides direction to local government, decision makers, groups and individuals with an interest in making the place they live a vibrant and viable community in a post-carbon era. 

The Permaculture Connection 

One framework that can be used in the planning process is inherent in permaculture. According to Wikipedia, permaculture “seeks the creation of productive and sustainable ways of living by integrating ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture and agroforestry. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.”

Most recently, in a 2004 interview, David Holmgren explained the relationship between permaculture and Peak Oil like this: “In a world of decreasing energy, permaculture provides, I believe, the best available framework for redesigning the whole way we think, the way we act, and the way we design new strategies. It doesn’t mean to say that everyone’s going to have a chook tractor, a vegetable garden or some other permaculture technique. But the thinking behind permaculture is really based on this idea of reduced energy availability, and how you work with that in a creative way. That requires a complete overturning of a lot of our inherited culture.”

The first EDAP was written in 2005 by permaculture students in the small Irish town of Kinsale. The focus was on “how Kinsale could navigate this uncertain time by setting out a clear vision of how a lower energy future could be, and then identifying a clear timetable for achieving it.” 

The resulting plan components cover most aspects of life in Kinsale: food; youth and community; education; housing; economy and livelihoods; health; tourism; waste and energy. Each of these components details The Present, The Vision, followed by Practical Steps in chronological order, and lastly, References. 

The EDAP process includes; 

1. Community education, consultation, and networking. On Cortes Island, we can begin with our annual Sustainability Home Show where we look at many of these issues, and we have the FOCI Resource Centre. 

2. Research. Local food mapping and security, researching wind flows, solar radiation, local skills, current energy mix and vulnerability, etc. 

3 . Producing the plan. Creating a visionary but grounded document condensing all the best of the community feedback and ideas. A planning charrette is a perfect tool to use for this step. 

4. Gaining political support. For BC, this could be from regional district/municipal up to the provincial level, depending on the size of the city, town or community. 

5. Implementation. Sometimes the most difficult step, but some facilitation ideas include awards and prizes, continuing consultations, newsletters, community participation activities, celebrations and recognition. 

We know that BC is a major oil user, unsustainable in many aspects. We cannot ignore the fact that our resources are limited and that our current focus on economic growth takes priority over everything else. It is time to develop our own Energy Descent Action Plan! 


  A sampling of references (available at the FOCI Resource Centre) Transition Culture – Kinsale EDAP – Heinberg, R. (April 2003) The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. Holmgren David (2002) Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. Kunstler, J.H. (April 2005) The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century. Odum H.T & Odum E.C (2001) A Prosperous Way Down: Principles and Policies Ruppert, M (October 2004) Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil.

[From WS September/October 2006]

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