My Interview About Community Organizing

About a month ago, I was interviewed by a few videobloggers, Ryanne and Jay about my community group, Upper Green Side. This short seven minute video shows my responses to a wide variety of questions about neighborhood organizing, running efficient meetings and a few personal steps I've taken to make my lifestyle more environmentally sustainable.

After the interview we had a good conversation about Peak Oil. They had gone to a few meeting of the local peak oil community out in California and found it all way to dark and depressing. We agreed that you can't focus too much on the negative scenarios that might happen, but rather concentrate on the tangible positive steps you can take in your own community. It's not to deny the possibility that the worst might happen, but rather to do now what's possible to build a better future under any scenario. Their video series focuses on positive change that's happening around the country.

Check out this other great interview with local eco-entrepreneur, Eugene Lee, owner of Rolling Press.

Nice short video, Glenn!

I especially liked your comments with regard to the importance of doing what we can where we are, as opposed to being overwhelmed with the immensity of some possible (probable?) scenarios.

I tend to want to "bloom where I am planted" even though I might not be in an ideal spot. My decision is based on a variety of carefully thought-out reasons that work for me. I do recognise that we're not all the same, so some folks will choose other options.

I feel that we have entered a "thin place" in the universe where we are all actually absolutely vulnerable to terrible unfolding of anthropogenic environmental, social, geopolitical, and economic problems.

From bees to polar bears to us people, there is no place to really hide in order to ensure self-preservation.

Even if there were such a places -- or were such places -- very few of us would fit into them, and we may very well ruin them if too many of us do try to fit into them.

Ah, well, back to the "local action" emphasis. Not only can we "green" our neighborhoods, we can enjoy the social richness that comes with truly being neighbors again.

Positive effects of our tiny preparations may outlast some of the big, elephantine efforts as well. Life can be funny like that.

Thanks for posting this Glenn,

Tomorrow I take delivery on 1000 flyers that I want to distribute to within 1/2 mile of my house. I can either pay $120.00 to have someone deliver them or me and my 2 kids can probably do it in a morning.

Over the years I have tried to get the word out and 99 out of 100 times people...don't get it...don't want to get it...or if they do get it they become depressed.

Maybe wishful thinking, but maybe 10 will come to a picnic at a local park to chat...

Part of me says I am pissing in the wind, but at this point I have no other alternatives...when gas is $7...$10...$20 people may get it, but at that point it may be too late.

Care to attach a copy/selection for us here? Even just the text or something? I like to see and hear how people consolidate their thoughts and present these ideas, since mine are sometimes clear, but many times convoluted. Think of it as another 1000 automatically delivered.

I don't think you're pissing in the wind. Maybe you are scrubbing a coal-plant's chimney with sponge, which might seem as futile, but the needed effect is not to actually 'clean up' that coal plant, but to make impressions on those who will witness it. Present the right contradiction to the disease, and it will catch and spread like a cleansing wildfire. There were some great moments at the WTO Protests in South America, (sorry, don't have links) when in one instance, some of the Delegates walked out of the fruitless talks to join the protesters outside. They led a charge and tore down the fences, but then stood off, and I think walked away. great statement. At another protest, when police and security approached a crowd on a lawn, they met no resistance, and were instead offered some of the fresh food that was being cooked.. the aggressive tone was rewritten on the spot by creative and flexible thinking, turning a confrontation into a statement of friendship and humanity. Won't work everywhere, or even most times, which is why we need to be creative and positive. Find what hope we can and use it to connect people and work the problems into solutions.

I'd love to hear what you wrote!

Bob Fiske

Hi Glenn,

Thanks and I'll listen as soon as I'm at a computer that allows me to do so!

Meanwhile, Rocc, I'd also be interested in seeing your flyer. Would you perhaps send it to the editors to post or something?
Or, post in a new drumbeat or here - or somewhere!

There are some great insights on moving towards sustainability in this interview.

I especially thought the comment that "worrying about things that you have no control over can drive you crazy" was valuable. Note that it doesn't say that you shouldn't try to affect them or prepare for the consequences, just that dwelling on the situation can be mentally unhealthy.

The other comment I liked was how each area and community will have different techniques and responses and opportunities to make changes that fit their conditions and resources. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution, no "one-right-way".

Personally, I too have worked for a long time promoting sustainability - but in rural areas and now in a small city. It is important to remember the successes and positive changes that result, and know that they are indeed spreading and multiplying.

I really appreciate the folks trying to combine their income producing work with doing things in a more sustainable ways. Such efforts and experiments are very important, even if not always sucessful, because they help evolve a new way of doing things. My own effort in the "right livelihood" realm has been creating a business that can maybe help us shift towards small-scale sustainable farming by providing in North America the latest version of the manual agricultural tool the rest of the world still uses - the digging hoe or azada.

It has been an interesting experience discovering the huge hurdles in trying to do something as simple as getting people to try a gardening tool they have never considered before. It has added a new appreciation of the seemingly small advances others have made in encouraging home insulating, public transit, farmers markets, packaging reductions, and all the other million jigsaw puzzle pieces we are slowly assembling.

Greg in MO

Hey Bob - Here is the text to the flyer. The printer donated 500 additional copies because he thinks its a good cause. It will cost me another $200 to deliver, but what other choice do I have? What do you think?

$10, $15, $20 Gas??!!
May be here sooner than you think.

Most people haven't heard about “Peak Oil,” or if they have most really don't understand what all the buzz is about. Well, we'll tell you.... The world is just about out of cheap oil, and natural gas. No, we're not out of all the oil and natural gas, just the affordable stuff. The why’s and wherefore’s of this reality are too extensive to include here, but enormous amounts of information are available on the subject via the internet.

Just Google: “Peak Oil”. You’ll get more than 30 million references. And then start studying, because this issue is going to have an enormous effect on your life in just the next few years if not the next few months!!!. For societies leveraged on ever increasing amounts of cheap oil, such as the United States, the consequences will likely be dire. Without significant successful cultural reform, profound economic and social decline appears inevitable.

Facts About Peak Oil (you can verify these):

♦ More oil wells have been drilled in the past 15 years than in all the previous years of exploration combined, and there is now a worldwide shortage of drilling rig equipment.

♦ The last major oil discoveries were made in 1967, 1968, and 1969: that’s 35+ years ago.

♦ The average total reserves of each new oil field discovered today, worldwide, is about 10 million barrels of oil – less than 1/8th the amount of oil consumed in the world every day.

♦ The USA consumes approximately 21 million barrels of oil per day -- 25% of all the oil produced on the planet – this daily consumption is the equivalent in volume to about 6½ minutes of water flow over Niagara Falls.

♦ The world consumes approximately 84 million barrels of oil per day – equivalent in volume to roughly 26 minutes of water flow over Niagara Falls.

♦ Nine of the world’s top ten International Oil Companies have now reported virtually flat or declining global production for two or more years in a row.

♦ Five of the top six super-giant fields of the world have now “peaked”, four of them in just the past three years. Only Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar field is still producing at capacity and it has been pumping heavily for thirty years. Many experts claim it is has peaked and is in terminal decline.

♦ Of the 65 largest oil producing countries in the world, 54 have peaked and are now in decline.

What is Peak Oil?

Peak Oil means an oil-producing region has reached a point where the maximum amount of oil that can possibly be pumped from it in a day has been reached, and from that point on it produces less and less each day, sometimes in a very rapid production decline of even ten percent or more per year. Many fields, sometimes off shore, far from markets, in smaller fields, or of lesser quality, takes ever more money and energy to extract and refine. Under these conditions, the rate of extraction inevitably drops. Eventually all oil fields reach a point where they become economically, and energetically, no longer viable. If it takes the energy of a barrel of oil to extract a barrel of oil, then further extraction is pointless.

Now that we know about oil fields and peaking and the insufficiency of new discoveries, it's easier to understand that the massive amount of oil we have been pumping out of the ground each year for decades is not being replaced. And oil is a finite resource. Numerous experts report that we have likely discovered all the big fields, which further infers that as the existing fields deplete, less and less oil can be made available to the world.

There is another problem -- the oil demands of the global marketplace have been expanding very rapidly in the past decade and are now on the verge of an even more explosive and extraordinary expansion.

Today, China is the second largest importer of oil in the world, after the USA, and they have just begun the industrialization of their nation which is four times larger than the USA in terms of population. India is right behind. To meet the projected global demand for oil in the next 25 years, oil companies and governments around the world have forecast that they will need to produce, refine, and transport to market more than 120 million barrels of oil per day. Further, they must first discover, between now and then, enough oil to supply an additional 200 million barrels of oil every day, just to meet both that projected daily demand and to replace the losses of supply from existing and future exhausted fields. For this to happen seems utterly implausible. So, we have a very rapidly rising consumption demand that is occurring on the planet, at the same time the world oil supply is peaking and in decline. That simply means there isn't going to be enough oil to go around. And THAT is the peak oil issue. Worse yet, natural gas peaking is only about ten years behind. Natural gas provides roughly one fourth of all the energy used in the United States.

What are the implications of Peak Oil?

The answer is complex. But it can also be made very simple: Transportation and the economy. Oil is very, very cheap -- cheaper than bottled water!! There are precious few liquids on the planet that are as inexpensive as oil. At $60/barrel, oil costs about 20 cents a cup (8 ounces.) Today, 70 percent of all the oil produced goes to make transportation fuel -- for cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships. As we run low on oil for these fuels, there is nothing on the planet that can replace those liquid fuels in the quantities we are using today, or at the low cost, let alone to meet global projected growth rates.

The entire world economy is based upon the abundant availability of this cheap liquid fuel for transportation. It is what makes it possible for our food and other products to get from the producers to the market, and what makes it possible for people to get to and from work or school or the grocery store. With chronic oil shortages, and the resulting higher prices affecting both availability and cost of transportation fuels, we stand to face some very, very serious problems in transporting food and virtually all other products to the marketplace. And, again, it won't be temporary – the problem will increase in severity month after month as oil production depletes further and further and gets more and more expensive.

You need to prepare for Peak Oil!!

We all need to prepare. Preparation consists of four primary approaches, and one major realization:

1. Adapt to a profoundly simpler lifestyle as compared to your current norm. This is known as “powering down”. (Adopting new behaviors takes time, and effort, so it would be to your advantage to start now);
2. Develop the necessary skills and become as self-sufficient as possible, in terms of food, water and energy, and conserve as much as possible. That means a large productive home vegetable garden, canning and preserving supplies and skills, rainwater harvesting, and renewable energy generation (like passive and active solar power);
3. Aggressively promote community re-localization to your family, friends, neighbors and community leadership; reducing dependency on long-distance supply chains. That means dramatically increased demand for local agriculture, local and decentralized energy production, and independent sources of water. Create significant demand for farmers markets, and locally produced products;
4. Dramatically reduce or eliminate your fossil fuel use, especially for transportation -- use mass transit, bike, or walk. Work closer to home. Support alternative, renewable fuels. Withdraw support for further development of highways, toll roads, urban sprawl, and large personal vehicles.
5. Realization: If you wait to start preparing, the resources you need or the conditions you count on may be exhausted, too expensive, or no longer viable. For example, if you wait until things get tough to trade in your SUV for a hybrid or plug-in car, there may not be any left (due to demand), and there may be no one willing to take that SUV in trade.

For more information:

Email me (Richard ) at: or call me at: 602--.

I was thinking of having a get-together at XXXXXX Park to discuss this…what do you think??