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Future Scenarios by David Holmgren

David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept.

In this short, crisp, well-reasoned book, writer and activist David Holmgren contemplates the possible futures that may lie ahead of us as the threats of climate change and oil depletion grow ever more acute.

In his view renewable energy sources prove incapable of sustaining our growth economy in the absence of abundant fossil fuels. Over a period of generations, our civilization undergoes progressive declines in complexity, population and economic activity. Localized rural communities, rather than metroplexes, once again become the focal point of our society. In short, we return to a simpler way of life that honors the ways of our sage preindustrial ancestors.

Since Holmgren believes energy descent to be the most likely scenario, he spends the rest of the book elaborating on it. And he further divides it into four sub-scenarios. This focus on multiple scenarios, as opposed to an explicit espousal of any particular one, is appropriate, since at this point we can’t know exactly how peak oil and climate change will unfold—or how they will play against each other.

Holmgren also makes a compelling case for permaculture—the environmental design concept that he and colleague Bill Mollison pioneered in the midst of the 1970s oil crises—as an effective response to our ecological crisis. Permaculture emphasizes economic relocalization, community building and low-energy design, all of which constitute commonsense mitigation strategies for ever-dwindling energy availability and worsening climate change.

From the website

"The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges for human civilisation.

Global oil peak has the potential to shake if not destroy the foundations of global industrial economy and culture. Climate change has the potential to rearrange the biosphere more radically than the last ice age. Each limits the effective options for responses to the other.

The strategies for mitigating the adverse effects and/or adapting to the consequences of Climate Change have mostly been considered and discussed in isolation from those relevant to Peak Oil. While awareness of Peak Oil, or at least energy crisis, is increasing, understanding of how these two problems might interact to generate quite different futures, is still at an early state. presents an integrated approach to understanding the potential interaction between Climate Change and Peak Oil using a scenario planning model. In the process I introduce permaculture as a design system specifically evolved over the last 30 years to creatively respond to futures that involve progressively less and less available energy."