Soil Association starts nationwide series of meetings on ‘peak oil’ problem

The Soil Association is holding a nationwide series of public meetings on making the transition from ‘cheap oil’ to ‘peak oil’.

Here is an account of the first meeting from Robin Maynard, director of communications for the Soil Association:

“On 6 April the International Panel on Climate Change released further findings on the impacts of climate change, focusing on the impacts on human and natural systems. 

“The summary report from the world’s leading climate scientists that climate change is expected to affect the health of millions people, with increased malnutrition; greater incidences of diaorrhea; “increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts”; and “increased frequency of cardio-respiratory disease due to higher concentrations of ground level ozone related to climate change” does not make encouraging reading. 

“Indeed the scientists’ findings proved too strong for some countries and their politicians. The US, China and Saudia Arabia have been at the forefront of seeking to tone down or remove altogether some of the more dire projections.

“While scientists and politicians wrangle at international climate summits, people across the UK have been meeting to take action in their communities to adapt to and help reduce the impacts of both climate change and the additional challenge of scarcer, more expensive oil and gas supplies, popularly known as ‘peak oil’.

“So it was that over 450 people packed the Arts Hall at the University of Wales, Lampeter in West Wales, on Tuesday afternoon and evening (3 April) to discuss and act on the theme of ‘Preparing West Wales for a future without oil’. 

“Local farmers and townspeople listened to presentations from leading climate change and peak oil experts, then broke into groups to discuss turning the challenges into opportunities, action and solutions. 

“Lampeter and its surrounding rural area has a history of innovation in food, farming and environmental initiatives, providing a crucible for key organic pioneers over the past 20 years, and lying close to the pioneering Centre for Alternative Technology at Macchynleth. 

“With several farmers, organic and non-organic at the meeting, including Margaret Dalton, former ‘NFU Woman Farmer of the Year, strengthening local food networks to reduce unnecessary ‘food miles’ and stimulating the agricultural economy were key themes.

“Rob Hopkins, who founded the ‘Transition Town’ initiative outlined the concept of ‘Energy Descent Plans’, whereby communities can make the transition to reducing their dependency on ‘cheap oil’ whilst sustaining livelihoods and quality of life. 

“He reminded people that during the fuel protests, a short-term scenario for what ‘peak oil’ could bring on an ongoing basis, London was ‘just four meals away from anarchy.’ 

“Soil Association director and local farmer, Patrick Holden emphasised how organic and non-organic farmers must be in this together.

“Whilst confessing he’d previously felt, ‘quite good about the fact that his farming system was less oil-reliant due to its avoidance of nitrogen fertiliser’, he’d realised that once his produce left the farm, the majority of it ‘was still part of the problem by feeding into the supermarket system of centralised, ‘just-in-time’ distribution. 

“My awakening to my own farm’s need to adapt better to peak oil and further reduce its contribution to climate change has been a key driver for our ‘One Planet Agriculture’ campaign.

“If politicians haven’t understood how much climate change and peak oil undermine our national food security, people at the grassroots have and are taking action.”

Lampeter is the first in a nationwide series of public meetings on making the transition from ‘cheap oil’ the Soil Association is supporting through its ‘One Planet Agriculture’ campaign.

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