Better Together Instead of Bowling Alone

How each community deals with peak oil will be different for because of its unique history, geography, infrastructure, politics, etc. But perhaps most important will be whether the community itself shows up at all. I suspect that many communities will pull together to face these challenges head on in a cooperative manner while in many others the community may dissolve in the face of adversity into extreme individualism or an "every man for himself" Hobbesian nightmare.

It was about a year ago that Prof. Goose put up this post about Peak Oil and Social Capital (click on the comment thread ("No Oil Here Either") from that old post which is still available). I thought we might renew this conversation. How would you evaluate your own social capital? How would you rate your community in general in terms of social capital? Are you doing anything to help improve the situation or do you think that's a waste of time?

I've just started reading Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam (2000), which outlines the decline in American civic participation and it's root causes. I'm only in chapter 3 right now, but it's an extremely insightful analysis of what constitutes civil society at the grassroots level. They have all the data from the book posted at And they have the more solutions oriented "Better Together", which offers ideas on building a more participatory civic culture in America.

The last 6 months of attending community board meetings, talking to local elected officals, other advocates and community residents has made me realize just how accessible and interesting local civic participation can be if one chooses to "get involved". I am slowly building up a pretty good network of local connections (or as Putnam describes it - Social Capital) in my area based on my work on environmental issues. And I have learned a lot by talking to and watching the people who have been doing this a lot longer than I have.

Just as important as building your financial preparations for peak oil, is building your social network - deepening bonds and relationships with good friends and family, reaching out to new people (bridging) in your area that operate in different networks. And this does not necessarily mean sitting around in a circle singing kumbaya - it could mean joining a regular dinner party, a book club, a sports team, etc - whatever you enjoy (besides sitting around watching TV). It does require some time and effort on your part, but probably not much money. And the returns to you can be immediate and long lasting.

I think "garden clubs" should go in there somewhere ;-), but it is also important to keep the time scale in perspective.  Energy infrastructure is going to change on a decadal scale.  Pick things you're going to enjoy doing for a decade or two, and that you'll enjoy even if the crash never comes.
Exactly, there are many things that you can plug into that are very enjoyable in the short term and could be a good social safety net to plug into in times of distress.

Gardening clubs sound very good.

I hang out with the Sierra Club now and then.  They are nice folks (even if they have a strange aversion to LNG), and it's fun to get out and hike.  I think a lot of environmental groups have roughly parallel goals to those with energy concerns (cue the geo-greens).
Environmentalists are, unfortunately, another group of people who 'don't get it'.

They worry about global warming, but oppose LNG.

On nuclear, the case for opposition is stronger (nuclear is not economic without big government subsidies), but still they refuse to discuss it and blame respected scientists as being in the pockets of the nuclear industry.

They talk about biomass, but much biomass will actually make the CO2 problem worse (eg the Brasilians).

Here in the UK there is massive opposition to windmill farms because they 'despoil areas of great natural beauty'.

The reality is, the CO2 problem is closing in so fast, that all solutions have to be on the table.

And we have to move fast, we can't afford to have 5 year planning approvals processes for wind farms (the UK, currently).

This year I have decided to learn how to garden organically. I am part of a local stay-at-home moms group and I have actally started a 'garden club' within the group. It meets at my house twice a month and we talk about vegetable and fruit growing on our city plots. One other mother is entirely new to it like me and we are having fun learning together. A couple of the other moms have done some gardening and one is actually a Master Gardener and has taught us all a lot.

I have dropped many 'hints' about PO to the other moms, mostly it goes in one ear and out the other. I think sometimes I say something that sinks in a bit though. I mainly have tried to point out that whatever food we can grow is good because it means we are not buying food from the supermarket that has been grown, harvested, and shipped in, etc, using heavy oil/gas inputs. I think they all get that.

I also walk a lot in my neighborhood for excercise and have met lots of people that way. If you are open to an exchange with people you can make a connection with just about anybody.

I agree that community cohesion is essential.  Last year I joined the Red Cross to help out during our hurricane disasters in the USA.  It is amazing what a group of dedicated people working in a common framework towards a common goal can do.  I urge anyone that is considering community volunteering to consider the Red Cross.  We will need your help in the future to get thru Peak Oil.

The USA is a great country mainly because of its community roots.  We need to go back to that pillar of strength.

And what are the community roots in Phoenix ?  Las Vegas ?  the new outer suburbs of {insert sprawling city here} ?
Hello AlanfromBigEasy,

From my experience: piss-poor.  My immediate neighbors recoil from me like I was Typhoid Mary since I broke the Peakoil Outreach to them a few years ago.  When the city wanted to build a pointless Senior Community Center [for what? to play cards while starving?] on the last piece of nearby city land that could have been a community garden: I could not get any to email or write the city council.

The Senior Community Center will soon be completed in the next month or so, the soil is currently being paved over with asphalt and concrete.  It is not a senior housing project, but just a bunch of rooms for people to meet in to suppossedly quilt blankets, do group jigsaw puzzles, paint figurines, etc in lavish A/C comfort.  What a waste as we go postPeak!

The seniors in my neighborhood have already long since sold out for big profits to young immigrant families, and moved to Sun City to enjoy golf, extended cruiseship voyages, and big RV vacations as they enjoy the extra income 'kicker' of escaping school property taxes.  Sheesh!

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?


about the only place in AZ, that even might be interested in PO is Tucson and you and I both are a 100 miles from there.

I'll go you one better Alan;  

what about Willcox, that's in Arizona also.  You open your mouth here about PO and your lible to get run out of town. -:)

You ll get ignored to death. However, its the sort of town that would do fairly well post peak, as it is old and long established, with fairly good land and solid communities.
They are what you decide they should be. Get busy Alan.
I couldn't get to the comment list for Prof Goose's post last year? Can someone post the URL if its still available.
Oops, sorry- no comment list there.  I wasn't paying attention to your question.
Click on "No Oil Here Either" at the bottom of the post.  Even though it says 0, a window opens that has the coment thread in it.

This issue skirts the edge of something I have been discussing for the last several weeks in various ways, and which has been a real subject of interest to me, and that is for lack of a better phrase, "Credibility Capital".

Being in a club of whatever type is nice and fun, although it could actually increase your fuel consumption slightly just getting to get togethers (!), but if you are intending to "steer" anyone to the Peak issue itself, you will find that it requires an absolutely towering level of credibility.

Most folks logic will be as followss..."BP says were fine, Exxon says were fine, and they do this for a living."

The content of the "peak aware" representives (experts, spokespersons, leaders, whatever) has to be measured and cautious, and backed up by the facts with a lean away from the "Nightmare on Your Street" content.

I am beginning to think that pushing the issue as much or more as an environmental issue may have a good chance, or at least marrying the two in a related pair, as environmental groups have a longer and more credible history.  That's only a theory, though, but any thoughts on credibility building seem to be worth the mental effort.

As far as the general goal of keeping your contacts and friends in your social circle, and being a "social" animal, that has it's own rewards anyway!

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

ThatsItImout -

I have been in the environmental field, as both an engineer and environmental consultant, practically since the inception of the serious environmental movement circa 1970.

From the perspective of that experience I have my doubts as to how beneficial it is to attempt to portray the peak oil issue as an environmental issue. This is not to say that I don't believe the two are closely connected: clearly they are. However, I think that the so-called environmental movement has peaked long ago.  The environmental field has become a 'mature' area of endeavor, and it just doesn't generate the same level of interest or excitement that it once did. In a word, it has become tired. (Then again, maybe it is I who have become tired.)

Furthermore, I suspect that a large fraction of the people who might need the most convincing re peak oil are hardly sympathetic to environmental issues, and in fact many of the more hard cases tend to view environmentalists as pinko, granola-munching, sandal-wearing tree-huggers. Giving the peak oil issue an environmental spin would immediately turn such people off.

Lastly, I think that bringing up environmental issues tends to dilute the main message: that we are rapidly headed for big trouble due to growing energy supply problems.  That is why I am a bit ambivalent about focusing so heavily on global warming. In my opinion the argument is strongest and most clear when it focuses on energy and energy only.

Just one man's opinion.

It's been my experience that people are more than willing to talk about the high price of gas, being an issue that affects their pocketbook.  Mention GW and their eyes glaze over.  I've also found that using the example of a single oil well and explaining production as following a rough bell curve makes a lot of sense to most people, and that leads naturally to Hubbert, etc.
this theme matters so much to how this is all going to play out, peakguy.  you're dead on.  

over the year since I wrote that original post, I have thought about this a lot...and it seems to me that the problem is that building social capital requires time, motivation, and opportunity.  

there are very few Americans who have all three of those factors going for them.  

back when Americans had leisure time, this was all perhaps a little easier to do than it is today, eh?  people are pressured, they feel unsafe (see Chomsky's article out today for more on that, e.g.), etc.

it's a hard row to hoe, especially as economic times get tougher.  building these social relationships is a tough thing to do when you're scrambling for resources and food...I agree with Putnam, the fabric is tattered for many.  

I am doing what I can with friends, neighbors, and heck, even with us putting together and maintaining this site (which we saw, when we were putting it together, as a chance to build virtual social capital and social networks, and we still do hope it serves that function for our readers), I'm trying to help...but am I doing all that I can, or all that the generation preceding me did?

Not even close, at least so it seems.  They were more on the same page, they were not suffering the ills of (and the strengths and validity of) a postmodern life.

Don't feel bad, building community is hard.  I've been working for 16 years now to make my town more bike friendly and build some biking community.  It's only now starting to work.  One key was to find a connector.  I knew our mayor a while before he became mayor and helped convince him that our town could be good for biking.  He's done some really great things in encouraging people to try biking.  He's known as a mayor who encourages biking and I'm known as the otherwise normal guy who bikes everywhere all year long.

It's also not so much leisure time as non-work social networking time.  My wife is getting very good at that, but we have the advantage that I earn enough as a wage slave to allow her to stay at home.  (It helps immensely to not have car payments!) She spends a good deal of time volunteering at our neighborhood elementary school and was just elected PTO co-president.  She also spends a lot of time walking and running around the neighborhood.  Most people know her as the woman who runs every morning.

I think it's important to get out and be seen in the neighborhood.  It's a great ice-breaker, since people know that you live there and aren't someone casing their property.  Even with the lack of front porches anymore, people see you when you're out walking around.  Become a regular at some local businesses and get to know the owner and long-time workers by name.  Most important, turn off the TV and limit your computer time (but keep reading and posting here, we need you!)

I agree, get out and WALK and BIKE. People get used to seeing your body and face not a metal can on 4 wheels. I went bike-only for a few months and a lot of people got used to seeing me, around the neighborhood. I'm back to a car now, but have been going to a local park to use their "par course" and also walking a lot, and that's a big part of "getting out and being seen". You have to watch out - friends can happen that way.
Ever consider a pro-biking ad campaign?

Here's what I'd do: find a J-Lo look alike. Take a picture of her riding a bike and then have a caption along the lines of "your fat ass rides a bike or goes to Iraq."

Or something like that. Just make sure to sex it up as much as possible.



That is one good thing about my situation. Perhaps I still live in some 1950s like existance...I have a 9-5 commute is minimal (15 min by subway) and even walkable (40 min by foot)....Most of my close friends and relatives live within a short walk, train or ferry ride away...But I don't have a marriage, children or a mortgage to worry about...

I have built in enough time in my schedule to fit in community board meetings, talking to folks at the local coffee shop, getting people to sign a petition. But that's just within the last year that I was able...I used to work and go to school part time - no time for "extra-curricular" activities.

We can't leave community building just to retirees, housewives and trustfund babies. And people shouldn't just engage the community when they have a very specific personal NIMBY grievance. Communities should be places where all members participate (not just pay taxes), help one another in times of need and conflicts can be mediated without involving courts and lawyers.

oooh...hadn't thought about the litigiousness angle.  gah, that doesn't help any--the "let's not solve this face to face, let's let an institution solve it" phenomenon we see so much of today doesn't help social capital at all, because part of building that social capital is solving the conflicts that emerge in social relationships and having something to work for and not against.
It's a particular problem in my neighborhood where everybody with money threatens to sue each other or the community board if they don't get what they want. Many of these are people trying to defend/create million dollar apartment window views. Even the folks who chased off the greenmarket folks after the community board approved it probably used that threat too.

Outsourcing conflict resolution to lawyers and courts creates a situation where you can easily circumvent the local institutions to get your way. And I'm not just talking about hard stuff here. Much of this could easily be mediated if people would just talk to each other and have some social pressure to be reasonable.

<quote>"It's a particular problem in my neighborhood where everybody with money threatens to sue each other or the community board if they don't get what they want."

"Outsourcing conflict resolution to lawyers and courts creates a situation where you can easily circumvent the local institutions to get your way." <quote>


And this is a problem for what reason?



Heh, it's the lawyer speaking :-)

Involving courts in conflict resolution is definitively expensive, time consuming and wasteful. It also infringes on people's freedom, since we involve the coercive power of the state. Mediated solutions, when they can be achieved, reduces resentment and increases the chance of compliance. Surely you agree that it is best to solve problems out of court, if possible?

(Matthew 5:25, by the way)

Prof. Goose, you have created a community, virtual or no.  Even if the internet devovles to be a means of shopping only, which is kind of what I expect, some of those who have participated here will use the preparation and understanding to the advantage of those around them.  It might be hard to track, but the effects will radiate outward for a long time to come.

I have never understood the attitude of "leave it to the professionals" that seems so prevalent (is it an American thing?).  Who should serve on the township board of supervisors?  Why the developers, that's what they do, right?  And who better to run the EPA than perhaps former chemical company execs, or someone similar?  It a strange mindset.

"leave it to the professionals" ... (is it an American thing?)

It is the First Commandment in the Gospel of Adam Smith.
Everyone specializes.
Teachers teach.
Firemen put out Fires.
Policemen catch Perps.
Doctors do the Doctoring.
Needlemakers stick to Needle making.

By leaving it always to the "professional", we prosper, one and all.
It's always worked out as best as things can for us.
We are the sum of all our specializations.
We are the beloved beneficiaries of the Invisible Hand.

Don't you know that yet? (If not, someone has not done a good job Edge-acating you. :-)

I wouldn't get too worked up about building community.  There's really very little you can do.  I started a local peak oil group a year ago and there's been a limited amount of interest.  But after a while we just had the same 10 or 20 people coming to the meetings so I've lost interest in it.  I've held sustainable agriculture workshops at my farm and had a few people come out.  People aren't interested in sustainability.  They want comfort, convenience, luxury, and freedom (including repropductive freedom).

I'm focusing on my own family.  If you have the land and the ability to grow food I would suggest doing so.  Start a neigborhood CSA.  People are less likely to attack you if things get ugly if you are feeding them.  We have a planet than can only support a much smaller human population without fossil fuel.  Food shortages are already developing and will get much worse over the next 20 years as oil and gas peak and decline.  People know we have a problem but our behaviors are ingrained.  You can't stop people from having babies for example.

In the short term governments will have to impose rationing and a police state to maintain order.  And that's a good thing.  But in the long term there has to be a large reduction in the population, and it won't happen voluntarily.  

If you have a lot of money you might consider moving to a location that isn't as oil-dependent as the US.  Rural France for example.  Probably be less violence and upheaval.  Otherwise do the best you can where you are with what you have.

"You can't stop people from having babies for example."
False. Look at Russia, with its plummeting population. Losing 700,000 people a year. So yes, you can stop people from having babies. A combination of high levels of education and low standard of living seems to do the trick.
let's just make everyone an academic.  we'll all be fine.
A professor of mine just got back from a week in the Ukraine - he said people live in tiny houses, consumer very little energy (relatively) and appear very happy. Rather than boast individual achievements, he was struck by how proud they were (large sample size) of their culture and the Ukraine.

Building on this, I was impressed to see that Roscoe Bartlett included slide 5 on happiness and well being in his latest presentation to congress. We have to get the message across that not only can we get by with less, but we can be happier as well.

p.s. my professor also commented that Brazilian women dress like nuns compared to Ukrainians. Dont know the mathematical correlation between that and societal happiness...;)

Seems like your professor wants to live in a country where the houses are small and the women are hot (or at least dress like it).That might be his combo for social happiness.
The world has patches of hot and beautiful women (need not be coincident), they rarely encompass an entire country. There seem to be patches in Ukraine, Romania, Thailand, Poland, Russia, Ethiopia, Mexico, China ...  No doubt it depends, to some extent, on personal perspective.

Small houses and hot women are probably more 'fun' than large houses and cold women. Which are more socially happy? LOL.

I would add Hungary to this list.
I used to think that the whole "certain areas have REALLY hot women" idea was just more of "grass is greener on other side phenomon."

But I recently read that some incredibly disproportionate percentage of professional fitness models come from this one tiny corner of eastern Europe. I couldn't think of any social reasons for the discrepancy so rather than question things too much, I simply booked a flight.



What's a <fitness> model?
It is a hot chick that has just enough muscle tone to show that she is in top shape. If she lifts too much weight she is called a female bodybuider and might not turn on as many men.  
Just do a google images search for "Timea Majorova" and/or "Monica Brandt."

They are both members of my apocalyptic religious cult . . . I mean "multicultural ecocommune." They just don't know it yet.



deCode, in their genetic mining of Icelandic genomes, has discovered that 80% of the women settlers did not come from Norway, Sweden, Denmark but celtic nations.

No doubt the Vikings were selective in who they "invited" back home with them.

Not every Icelandic woman is a "knonkout" but many are.  Four "Miss Worlds" from less than 150,000 women.  The current winner's mother was in the Final 5 of an earlier Miss World contest.

This a (posible) key point that everybody, including Roscoe, seems to be missing:

Happiness is not correlated with absolute degree of energy/money. It is correlated with whether the degree is increasing or decreasing.

Think about it. Who is happier, all other factors being equal:

A. Andy, who earns $20,000 but just got a raise to $40,000 . . . or

B. Billy, who earns $100,000 but just got a pay cut to $60,000?



If all other factors are equal they have the same bills so billy has $1,666 more per month to spend.  I'd say he is happier.  
My guess is he's going to be pissed he just got a cut.



I entirely agree. We as humans are able to percieve only derivatives, that is change in conditions, not the conditions themselves. The simplest example is velocity versus acceleration, a human has no idea their velocity, but acceleration can easily be felt. Likewise with happiness; we are not happy with good situations, we want ever increasingly good situations! This may be tied to an idea I read regarding evolution: Once a human percieves something, they quickly loose interest and begin searching for something new... The human who saw a tree and stared at it in constant amazement for a day neglected to see the lion sitting under the tree... The ability to quickly see complex patterns then promptly ignore them may be in our programming. Either way, I've been following this site for about a year, and all I have to say is good job everyone!
I agree that evolution has shaped our minds to seek out patterns that will increase our chances for continued survival and for a continued way of life.

It is not about "money" ($$) per se.

Think about a young child who finds out mommy and daddy are bringing a new baby home. The whole Cain & Abel jealousy thing springs up --a concept as old as the Bible itself. It's not about money ($$). Instead, the child perceives a threat to the continuity of his/her non-negotiable way of life. Where have you seen the "non-negotiable way-of-life" pattern before?

So the reason why a pay cut from $100K down to $60K is so upsetting for earner #2 is because the pattern forsages a downward trend in continuity of life style.

I've done some of the same things, though fortunately the Peak Oil meetup here in Toronto has steadily grown in the last year that I've been involved...from meeting in a Chinese restaurant and having no real agenda, we now have 30 or 40 people that come to each meeting, and we have guest speakers on things like ethical investing and alternative energy.

One other thing I did was to move to a house with a permaculturalist roommate...I've been raiding her book collection (and now watching her plant her garden) so I feel I'm learning a lot.

I think I'm doing the best I can do given my means in life...though there's still that debt thing I have to work on.

There is sadly a good deal of truth in your comment, SolarDude, but it is well worth keeping the door open for those who happen by with open, thoughtful and caring minds.

Trying to push awareness of what you and I see coming onto people just doesn't work. All one can do is drop hints and explanations, and wait for reality to eventually come along and slap them into waking up. Meanwhile, any skills training you can provide your locals will probably return its effort well in due time, I do some voluntary allotment vegetable growing help.

It scares me how incapable most folks are nowadays when it comes to growing, preparing and cooking 'real' food - the stuff that comes out of a farm or garden rather than a packet. Go back 60 years and I'd guess that 95% of people in UK (where I live) who had a garden grew vegetables. Even 30 years ago nearly everyone bought real vegetables, fish, meat and knew how to prepare and cook them - convenience foods were limited to frozen peas and tinned tomatoes, lol.

Yes, if things go tits up I expect a good deal of starvation due to simple ignorance once recognisable convenience foods run low. A sustainable population of between 2 and 4 billion reached sometime in next 5 to 40 years means between 2.5 and 7.5 billion excess 'to be reduced' depending on the when, abruptness, and growth up till then.

We do seem to be running into food limitations now, been consuming more grain than we produce (as a species) lately:

But back to the main theme of this thread...

I would say start small, very small. Do all you reasonably can to become more self sustainable and energy efficient, mention it - not too heavily - to others, help those who are interested to do all they can. A handful of people who are skilled in sustainability is more useful than a whole village pretending. So is a handful of true and trusted friends than a wide circle of acquaintances.

Ultimately the very local will be more critically important to you than anything wider, if society breaks down. That doesn't mean you should ignore wider participation, please do all you can to foster awareness and action in the wider community, but be prepared for that to be slower and more frustrating.

I would caution against uprooting to an alien culture at the last minute, if you plan to move somewhere that may take effort to fit in then you had better make that move now or very soon. Most places tolerate incomers after a couple of years, though there are some that call those who've only been there 20 years 'newcomers'. Of course, your 'utility' may influence 'their' assessment.

Most places tolerate incomers after a couple of years, though there are some that call those who've only been there 20 years 'newcomers'.

Perhaps that would be the same sort of place that call a forest 'new' because it's only been there for 1000 years :)

(For non-Brits I'm refering to the New Forest near the south coast of England, planted by the Norman invaders as a hunting preserve some time in the eleventh century.)

Most places in the US, under a constant barrage of gov't propaganda to welcome invaders and harsh laws regarding even looking at them crossways, yes.

Most places in the world, no.

From the Chinese monopolizing business in island nations in the Pacific to the conflicts in Eastern Europe, "newcomers" can be those who arrived a mere thousand years ago and when resources get scarce that's enoguh to justify trying your best to wipe 'em out.

Take the heavy hand of gov't away in the US and you'll see the same thing, only it will be "mexicans", whites, blacks, asians etc intead of Serbs, those Moslem losers, etc. The whole thing will blow apart. Steve Sailor ( has a lot of good pieces on this.

What's striking is how much of this is ignored in our modern brainwashed world. I for instance don't know the names of the Indians living right upstairs of me, literally walking over my head and have been for 3 years, and they sure don't want to know me. The different tribes merely tolerate each other here. Yet, I can be in the laundry room and engage in friendly conversation with another whitie I've never seen before, like we've known each other all along. This aspect of human reality is a taboo subject in US science, although England's Richard Dawkins knows the score and freely shares it, I (and many others whose opinions mean more) think he's one of the great scientists of all time. Literally right up there with Darwin, Lorenz, etc.

My two best friends in college and law school were black and middle-eastern, respectively. Only after reading Jay's stuff did I realize how unique it human history for a half-jew, an African-American, and a Middle Eastern muslim to be such good friends.

Understanding how a (now gone forever) energy surplus  made this possible was on the disturbing side.



Or not so unique.

Think the Ottoman Empire, where the Jews fled to because of persecution in Christian Spain.  And where the Prime Ministers were often Armenian.

Or the Byzantine Empire before it.  Or the Roman Empire before that.

Or the Austro Hungarian Empire in the last century.

It's in the modern period, since we created nationalism (substantially a 19th century movement) that these polarisations habe become more common.

One of the nicest things about New Orleans is the comity here.  Before Katrina, I knew most of the people within 2 blocks by face and many by name and some idea of their character.  (I have found that being known as a "good guy" has advantages :-)

Before WW II, New Orleans was considered the most gay friendly  city in the US.  (SF after the war).  We are still considered the most Tourette's Syndrome friendly city.  For decades we were the only Southern city where interracial couples were comfortable (tolerance is spreading elsewhere).

Tolerance and acceptance are endemic here and have been for centuries.  Thus our nickname "The Big Easy".

Thus, cheap energy is not a requirement for tolerance.

One cultural oddity is that people at a party (and we do party :-) do not ask what you do for a living in the first five questions.  One can go for an hour without that coming up.

BTW, Mayor Nagin was elected by a coalition of African-Americans and Republicans.  One analysis I saw was that Nagin got 78% of the black vote and 80% of the Republican vote.

I don't really see the point in trying to build community.  In most major metropolitan areas, I wouldn't describe how bad the community is, I'd say "what community?"  People don't know people who live more than one or two houses down.  Out of a city with millions of inhabitants, getting together a group of 20 or even 100 people is a drop in the bucket.  On that scale you're all just dust getting blown around by the political and economic winds.  
In a city, there are many communities, and they overlap to a great extent. You may know 200 other people, and each of those people also knows 200 people, but they are generally not the same people, and you can go quite far like that. And at some level, at least in proper cities, community is geographically based. In suburbs it's a lot worse, especially when everyone lives in isolated purpose-designed pods filled with people just like them.
Few will want to admit it, but your comment about "being dust" is very true.

I'm not big on going to peak oil meetups myself. I figure my family (genetics) and relegious sect (I need to find one) are far more likely to have my back when the shit hits the fan than a group of rich white hippies.

Not to be offensive,  but a disproportionate percentage of folks who go to these meetings fall into the "rich white hippie" archetype. If that offends you, it's only because you know it's (largely) true.

Not that there is anything wrong with being rich and white. I'm as white as it gets and I intend to be rich because $$$ makes preparing for peak oil a whole lot easier.

For me, the only reason to go to these meeting would be to find business partners in green business type endeavors. But sadly, the folks who go are not only disproportionately "rich white hippies" but they for some reason are often anti-business and anti-money. Kind of a schizo mindset but whatever floats your boat. I just don't see the point in me (27 years old renter trying to get his) going to meetings where most of the folks are over 55 year old homeowners who already got theirs.



Alpha, you are too accurate in your descriptions for comfort, (as many mutter to themselves, "hey, I resemble that remark!"
Allow me to repeat the text of a post I did no April 30th I did right here on TOD NYC, responding to a story about the Senators and Congressmen who came to the big energy conference, and a block or two from the event got out of their SUV and squeezed themselves into tiny hybrids and hydrogen cars to make their correct "arrival".  It actually was a hilarious example of "grandstanding" for the sake of pacifying an idiot public, but the story got only one reply in comment (mine).  I think that a lot of people accept the "concerned persona" as all that is needed, as nothing "really big" is going to happen in the end, but we may be able to convince some poor working class schmuck to take the bus or train to work and give up his dreams of someday owning a used Chevette, but because if he does that, he will be wasting MY oil that I need to vacation in the Rockies with my SUV and RV in tow....
anyway, here's the text of what I said then...

In my home state of Kentucky, several months ago, I went to a "Peak Oil Awareness" meeting, hosted by one of Kentucky's major voices on Peak Oil.
I arrived at the meeting place (a private book/collectable home furnishing type store) that was the meeting place.  The event was attended by about 12 to 14 folks, with a few coming and going throughout the event (typical aging boomer crowd with the typical aging boomer lifestyle, cell phones calling people away, some saying they had dropped in between other engagements, and were on the run, regrets, can't stay for the whole meeting).

At the end of the get together with what were very nice and socialable people, and some informative presentations, including a few that were very, very dour and pessimistic, predicting with near certainty that the then current natural gas crisis would result in $25 or more per MM/btu for natural gas before the end of winter and it was likely that people would freeze to death, and a virtually assured economy collapse within months, {remember, this was some 5 months ago, in the heart of winter}, we shook hands and began parting ways.

I was in my rattly old 1981 Diesel Mercedes 240D stick shift.  As I stood in front of the meeting place saying thank you and good bye,  I watched the members of the group leaving, in an assortment of newer SUV's....there was Yukon, a few Fords of various sizes (Explorer and Navigator being the most common) and one Mercedes SUV (the M class, 320 if I recall the numbers right)....needless to say, it was educational.   There were of course, normal sedan sized cars (athough not many!), but none that could be called an "economy car", but instead, a Volvo (which seems to be excused from all normal rules), a few Japanese sedans, Mitsubishi and Infinity stood out)

I then recalled the words of the meeting I had just attended, and realized that the push of the conversation had been that "they" need to reduce consumption, and "they" need to understand how serious this issue is, or "they" could freeze in the winter, or not be able to drive, but would have to use mass transit.

My feeling was and is that many people in the Peak Oil movement are lobbying for someone else ("they") to reduce fuel consumption ("they" should ride the bus, or walk) so that these quiet prosperous aging boomers can be assured of the supply needed to maintain their own lifestyle.  Just today over on TOD there were folks heading out to Jazz festivals and all the other events that make American life so pleasant.  I do not fault that, but we must face the fact that there are many in America, who, Peak Oil or no Peak Oil, cannot afford many of the events now that Peak Oil will supposedly someday keep them from going to.  They are left out of the "consuming" lifestyle so taken for granted by many, not because there is no oil or gas, but simply because they cannot afford it, and couldn't afford it when it was cheaper either.

There is a great deal of elitism in this debate, on all sides.

You bring up a good point here.  In a way, I feel my original comment was very pessimistic, but I also think it's somewhat true.  I don't mean that building community and trying to educate people is completely useless-- for instance, this stie has probably helped educate many people-- but I question how much impact physical meet-ups can have.  

In a way, I think the best strategy is to "put your money where your mouth is".  I don't think this is the sort of elitism you are describing, because obviously not everyone can afford to do things to cut their oil consumption, but rather the opposite.  Those who can afford to reduce their consumption of oil and other natural resources have an obligation to do so.  

How many people claim they care about the environment/global warming/peak oil/etc, and yet don't really do anything about it.  An SUV sitting out in their driveway indicates it's all lip service.  In fairness, a lot of people probably just haven't taken the time to think things through.  Even my own mother owned an SUV for some years, because at that time in her life she was very busy with other things, and did not realize how bad the mileage of the SUV was.  In fairness, she had a smaller commuter car as well, and rode the trolley, so it's not like the SUV was being driven much, but still.  

Anyway, my point is, for those of us who have the means and who do care about peak oil, the best thing we can do is to reduce our own consumption.  To some extent, this is why I feel discussions about how inferior and worthless alternative technologies are.  You can make arguments that hybrid automobiles are not worth the extra cost (I strenuously disagree with this one, at least if you live in an area with high gas prices).  A more credibly argument can be made that PV panels are barely worth getting (in the long run I do think they pay off).  But the point is not to look at such purchases from a purely economic viewpoint, but rather from the standpoint of supporting these new technologies, so that some day with economies of scale and more research they will make sense.  

So, I say go ahead and try to build a community and educate people, but make sure it's more than just words.  And the best place to start with more than just words is at home.  Ride your bike, if you can.  Buy a more fuel efficient automobile.  Even get solar panels installed.  Maybe even consider an EV.  "Put your money where your mouth is."  Because if even those who care about this stuff won't do it, then who the hell will?  

Once again, this is all in relation to your budget and what you can afford.  If you can't afford to pay for more extravagent stuff, then at least drive a reasonably inexpensive and fuel efficient vehicle, and take public transportation when practical.  

Typo, this sentence should read: "To some extent, this is why I feel discussions about how inferior and worthless alternative technologies are counter-productive."
Also think about the fact that "them" who are living pay check to paycheck & holding down 2 jobs don't have time to attend the fancy meetings --or even to blog here on the TOD site. They are too busy just surviving, just treading fast as they can and keeping head above water.

It has always been that only the leisure class has time to engage in renaissance thought.

As an addendum to my previous post.  Maybe what your experience at this meeting showed is that too much focus is being placed on telling people about the problem, and not enough focus is placed on what to do about it.  Not just what countries/states/cities can do on a macro level, but what each of us individually can do about it.  

Perhaps what we need is a discussion about what options are out there today, for each of us to consider.  Even far out stuff, that may not be practical for most.  

Many here probably have taken such steps, but what about the lurkers or people who show up here to learn about Peak Oil?  They see a lot of stuff about Peak Oil, for sure, but not nearly as much attention is given to what we can do.  And do now, not 5-10 years down the road.  

It makes sense to point out when technologies are obviously just pie in the sky (running on nothing but corn-based ethanol), but what about stuff that is immature but can possibly work?  

> I was in my rattly old 1981 Diesel Mercedes 240D stick shift.

I have a 1982 white (most energy efficient color :-) M-B 240D manual transmission.  31 mpg city and 35 to 42 mpg highway.

But it does not "rattle"  A bit of cetane improver, good engine mounts and proper under hood insulation.


My dear old daddy figured out what was wrong with mine, he stated it thus,
"Darned thing was just used too much when it was new..."  :-)
Roger Conner  ThatsItImout

And mine was driven my a little old lady in Whittier California in the summers (she lived in Palm Springs rest of year).

Talked to mechanic for last 12 years and the 83,000 miles are honest.

I think I redeemed a few karma points with this one :-)