Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Post Carbon Relocalization Network Meeting

On Saturday May 20th the Bay Area Outposts of the Post Carbon Institute got together to share what they have been doing. The mission of Post Carbon Institute is to assist communities in the effort to Relocalize and adapt to an energy constrained world. One way they do this is to support the individual Outposts and help them network with each other.

Eventually, as each Outpost learns from working with it's community, it will pass this information back up to PCI, who will compile these into "best practices" which they will then disseminate back to the Outposts. They hope to use the technology of the internet to assist people in joining forces and ultimately having face to face meetings.

Julian Darley, the founder of PCI, explained that they will focus and filter the information they gather because time is of the essence now, and we can't afford to miss any piece. They are upgrading their software, so keep check their website to see what they are offering. New services will roll out soon.

We heard from organizers from Willits to Ventura. Not surprisingly, California has the most Outposts of any state. Each gave a short presentation about their group. Here are some highlights:
  • Folks in Pacific Grove (Sustainable Monterey) have found that talking about the economy was a way for people to understand the impact that peak oil will have. They will be inviting folks to come to a "visioning" to discuss what they would like to see in the future.
  • Let's Live Local has three goals: to reduce their dependence on fuel (propane bills are as much as $500 a month in the winter); to reduce their dependence of fuel for transportation (car co-ops, ride share, buses); to promote sustainable ways of living (greenhouses, a community garden). They found that people in their community had a high interest in alternative energy.
  • Bay Area Relocalize produced a Strategy Summit with business, non profits and officials to connect the community groups with each other. The folks that participated in this have started their own projects. BAR has written "Building a Resiliant Bay Area Economy" which will be distributed soon. They plan on working with a neighborhood and doing an in depth assessment of it.
  • Big Sur has had to relocalize. When there are mud slides on Hwy 1 they are cut off for months at a time. They hosted their first event with speakers and a film, and had 70 people come. At their next event they will have committees set up for people to join based on what people wrote that they could contribute after the first event.
  • The Powerdown Project is being developed by Richard Heinberg's students at New College of California. They are developing a relocalizing template and will offer themselves as interns to cities when it is complete. They will have a website up at powerdown.org in a couple of weeks.
  • One member shared what he learned working in Marin County and going to every city council meeting. He said a big issue was getting past the gate keepers. Politics are complicated even on the local level. Cultivate connections and try to learn the internal dynamics. The city councils plan their agenda months in advance, but there is usually time to allow the public to speak up about their concerns. They can't comment in response because it is not on their agenda for that meeting.
  • APPLE (Alliance for Post Petroleum Local Economy) had a big event that they did a major media campaign for. They had 300 people show up. They found that folks were willing to give up an evening, where day long events don't have as much of a draw. They are starting an every other month film and speaker series. The group gets together to work on alternate months. They encourage members to follow their passion.
  • Peak Moment is a local public access television series. They hope to take it on the road.
  • The San Francisco Oil Awareness Group presented a film about their development. (I sure could relate to the part when people come to one meeting and then never come back.) For more about their biggest accomplishment, see below.
  • The San Francisco Post-Carbon Outpost has produced The Oil Poster, which has been distributed to every member of the US Congress. Thanks to folks purchasing the poster, they have been able to give away 2000 of them to educators. They also supported the creation of a college course about peak oil that they hope to adapt to teach to the general public and officials. The students were so excited that they went to the Washington DC conference during Spring Break.
  • In the Santa Clara Valley they are working on projects to do outreach to the public and local government, including making speakers available and producing a DVD to hand out. They want to offer workshops in gardening, food storage, etc. They also are fighting to keep 17 acres from being developed. We need the acreage to produce food.
  • In Santa Cruz the city council is co-sponsoring a participatory town hall meeting in September.
  • The new Diablo Post Carbon Study Group is starting to take action. They have an inventory project and do screenings of the End of Suburbia and the Power of Community (the "Cuba" film).
  • The Livability Project is disseminating preparedness information. Every month they take a new theme. They also sponsor a Community Feast at a local cafe.
  • There is a "social ecovillage" in Oakland that produces a monthly calendar of events. People focus on making connections. It's been going on for eight years.

After that we had a Q&A with the San Francisco group about how they got their board of supervisors to pass a peak oil resolution. They emphasized the importance of knowing the inner workings, working with aids, inviting the council members to panels, and chance meetings. Apparently words like peak oil, localization, relocalization, even local are hot buttons that may backfire. "Energy vulnerability" seems to be a neutral term (so far.)

Then we had break out sessions. I talked with another member about getting folks to come to meetings. I need to do some more outreach. And our group needs to decide on a project to take on jointly.

We decided to meet quarterly. I hope I can come back for the next one. It was totally inspiring.

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