RICH, Celine




Author of:

Collected Memories: A Guide to the Community Markers of South East Vancouver (1997).

[2005]

Photo: Julian Darley, Celine Rich and Dave Room

Relocalize Now! Getting Ready for Climate Change and the End of Cheap Oil (New Society $21.95)
Review



Rising gas pump prices affect more than a car trip. The cost of oil is factored into our food, furniture, appliances, clothing and just about everything else that needs to be trucked, shipped or flown. Relocalize Now! Getting Ready for Climate Change and the End of Cheap Oil (New Society $21.95) by Julian Darley, David Room and Celine Rich is a forthcoming “post-carbon guide” that will outline ways people can create local money, energy and food systems to obviate our reliance on oil.

Pump down the volume, folks. Relocalize Now! suggests a completely new way for society to operate by ensuring our needs are met locally. Its trio of authors, two of whom live in Vancouver, acknowledges change will require experimentation and time, and that mistakes will be made along the way, but revising our consumerist lifestyle in North America is inevitable: “There are no perfect answers or solutions to these problems, only responses,” they write. “Finding what responses might work for each individual’s locale will require a fantastic experiment, a post carbon experiment... we are working to manifest dreams of an enjoyable and invigorating future that seems about as remote and different from our current existence as one could imagine—a future without cheap oil and natural gas, without limitless energy and growth and without huge corporations.”
In a world where corporations control many of our provisioning choices, employing large numbers of people, these can be seen as incendiary words. Yet the authors say they are not political; they just don’t see a reasonable vision for the future coming from the political right or the political left.
Regardless of one’s political orientation, Relocalize Now! calls for a radical makeover of society, including the butchering of some sacred cows. Take, for example, the so-called free market: “It is important to note that these notions are human constructs: they are developed, rationalized, and promulgated by people. Operating systems are not divine truths cast in stone that can never be altered even though certain ideas become so embedded in common beliefs that they are regarded as undeniable reality. Such is the case with free market economics.”

In the authors’ brave new and environmentally sustainable world, the future will be in the hands of clusters of self-governing, self-provisioning communities that are not completely isolationist. Where economic projects require more resources than a community has, regional cooperation will be required. In opposition to “this global behemoth we have created,” there will be far less material wealth. It has become imperative to “reduce and produce 90 per cent less, then make the rest.” Like any screed that promotes radical change, Relocalize Now! contains many new or not well-known terms: • peak oil (the high production point after which all future oil production will begin decreasing and energy will get more expensive) • parallel public infrastructure (a new
provisioning infrastructure that uses the local model and new forms of ownership, and is developed while the existing global system is still operating)
• community supported manufacturing (a partnership of mutual commitment between the makers of life’s tools and a community of supporters. Supporters cover the factory’s yearly operating budget by purchasing a share of the production. CSM members make a commitment to support the factory throughout the year and assume the costs, risks and bounty of manufacturing along with the factory workers).
Strange new concepts for most people to be sure, but such ideas will give people something to think about when watching the price numbers tick over while refueling their cars at the gas station. The alternative—simply pondering the status quo—is a great deal less inspiring.

“Oil and other forms of big energy, such as natural gas, nuclear, large hydroelectricity dams and coal, have enabled humans to strip mine the earth,” write Darley & Co. “We have managed to scrape the ocean bottom of fish, mow down trees from the mountains and poison the biosphere with pollutants while increasing our numbers to six billion (and counting). Our massive use of fossil fuels cause the Earth’s temperatures to rise and the beginning of climate change like nothing we’ve known before.” And in the process, some executives in Canada’s oil and gas capital, Calgary, will still tell you that petroleum use does not cause global warming. It wasn’t so long ago that tobacco companies denied smoking causes cancer, either.

Julian Darley has a MSc in environment and sociology from University of Surrey, UK, which led to a published thesis examining the coverage of complex environmental issues in current affairs programmes at the BBC. He also has a MA in journalism and communications from the University of Texas. Celine Rich has a MA in design for the environment from the Chelsea College of Art and Design, England; a BA in fine arts from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, and a Certificate of Marketing from Kwantlen College. Darley and Rich are a Vancouver couple who have recently co-founded the Post Carbon Institute, an educational think tank that explores in theory and practice how cultures, governance and economies will function without (non-renewable) hydrocarbons as energy and chemical feed-stocks. David Room has a M.A. in engineering economic systems and a B.Sc. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. 0-86571-545-9

--Review by Beverly Cramp, a freelance writer who edits the Musqueam Newsletter.

[BCBW 2006] "Environment"