Tag Archives: fossil fuel

Your Resilience Plan – Transport

Begin this part of your Resilience Plan by considering how you transport yourself, for this is the easiest thing to change.

Most people can walk. Do so. Walk around your neighbourhood regularly. Exercise yourself as you would if you had a dog. Walk with a purpose as well. If it takes an hour’s round trip to get a pint of milk from a local shop, do that instead of the ten minute drive to a supermarket.

farm shop reception

The plague has trashed public transport, so it’ll need your help to recover. Once it’s possible again, use a bus or train at least once a month. Travel to the nearest city for a day’s sightseeing. Take a bus to one end of a scenic walk and a different bus home at the other end, thus freeing yourself from being tied to circular walks.

Cycling has many of the same advantages as walking, but is generally faster. However, you need a better surface, and are often forced to share the road with motor traffic, which can be dangerous. There’s a plan in Britain to develop a fully connected national cycle network, promoted by Sustrans and others.

A bicycle for hire in Amsterdam

Another key aspect of transport which you can influence directly is the movement of goods. The concept of food miles is familiar in the context of global warming. Buying local is one of the most resilient actions you can take.

So far, we haven’t mentioned the personal car. This is an undeniably convenient resource, which is why its use has been allowed to create so many problems. Pollution of land, air and water; gridlocks in cities; an annual fatality rate of over a million globally.

Decades of car use have fragmented our communities. Friends, family, schools and work-places can be many miles from your home. This complete dependence on being able to maintain a personal car isn’t resilient. Floods, snowfall or fuel shortage can bring your entire lifestyle to a halt.

traffic jam

How could you begin to mitigate this? Start by keeping your car serviced for efficiency. This reduces pollution, as well as personal expense. Consider alternative way of reaching your key destinations. How could you adapt if you couldn’t use a car? Make a personal transport plan for such eventualities. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can’t cycle anywhere!

Maybe you could exchange your current car for a smaller, more economical model? Hire a larger vehicle for family holidays? Perhaps swap for an electric or hybrid car? Many showrooms will let you test drive these. Identify the barriers to making this change.

When you’ve got your copy of the full Resilience Assessment included in ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’*, you’ll see there’s a default score of 30% in this section simply for not possessing a car. Score even if your family has one, but you’re not the main driver, because then you’re doing car-sharing.

Lift-sharing is a way of reducing the transport burden, especially in cities. People who travel to work can offer space to others, thus saving on congestion and parking costs. There are a number of schemes which you can explore, or encourage your workplace to set one up. Working from home is obviously better all round, but some jobs require your physical presence.

Community vehicle ownership is another avenue. A group of drivers club together to own a single vehicle for the personal use of each. This is complicated, but there’s advice available. Think how often you need the exclusive use of a car. How long does it spend doing nothing?

Throughout the Transport Resilience Plan, you may have noticed links to other sections of the Resilience Wheel.

Links from the Transport section to other parts of the Resilience Wheel

All sections of the Wheel are linked, but it’s particularly clear here. For your final task, we’ll cross to another quadrant entirely. How would you design a community transport hub?

You won’t be able to do this alone. You’ll need to enlist the Community Quadrant. Such a hub wouldn’t have to be a building. A strategically placed rural bus shelter could be extended to provide covered bike racks. People could cycle there from outlying villages to catch the main bus to town. Add a noticeboard, a book exchange, solar panels, a litter-bin divided for recycling. Provide wall maps for touring cyclists and ramblers, a wi-fi booster for linking to train timetables. All this is achievable with few resources, and the support of the surrounding community!

the resilience wheel

As I’ve described in the Handbook (p178), once you’ve completed the basic Resilience Plan, you can develop your resilience by specialising in areas which particularly appeal. One of my specialities is food production and supply. My current project is to last on stores for three months, with occasional visits to the tractor shop where I can stock up on dairy produce. I can reach this easily by bicycle.

I made my last large shop at Iceland (to fill an empty drawer in the freezer) in mid-December, spending only £50. If I can last out, the next supply run where I’ll need the use of a car will be mid-March. I’ll let you know haw I get on with this challenge!

If you want to read my advice on food security, please buy yourself ‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense shopping for the 21st century’.* You’ll find tips on growing vegetables, storing food and over a hundred basic, adaptable recipes!

Recipes for Resilience book in leeks

*Also available on Amazon if you really must go there.

London Transport

After my experience on the Road to Hell, I reconsidered my plan to drive to London that weekend. Clearly, more vehicles was not what the situation there needed.

I booked a ticket over the phone with Berry’s Coaches, a local firm. I boarded at Glastonbury Town Hall, read Private Eye and a newspaper, and was in Hammersmith before I had got round to the puzzles.

The new Underground trains were a little disconcerting. There aren’t any divisions between the carriages. You can see down the whole length of the train, how it twists and leans on the track ahead. With an Oyster card, a stranger in town has to take the fares on trust, but I’m always pleasantly surprised by its remaining balance. The entire return trip from Somerset cost me under £30.

Cheaper than the diesel for my somewhat rural camper van. No worries about overheating in traffic jams, finding somewhere to park or straying into the Low Emission Zone! I have to admit that the air quality in central London is greatly improved due to this policy, which excludes elderly diesel vans, even if it puts me to some inconvenience.

News is easy to come by here. If you’re not hooked into the direct feed of your smartphone, there are free newspapers everywhere.

I read about the London living wage campaign, to which many firms have already signed up. If workers could afford to live within walking distance of their jobs, this would reduce the commuter traffic.

Labour threatened to change the name of the House of Lords to the ‘Senate’ and move it to Manchester. This too would make a major contribution to reducing congestion. The frantic dashing of lobbyists between Houses would be offset by the regular travelling of the support staff.

Finally, such a valid reason for the HS2 that one wonders which idea has precedence here. If there’s a joined up plan, why not share it with us stakeholders who will have to pay for it?

Life in the Slow Lane

I don’t often drive to London or the South-east, but I had to travel to Hastings recently.

We came in on the M3 onto the M25 and down the A21. There were traffic jams on all these roads, sometimes over twenty minutes long. Once in Hastings, we navigated around the city at a crawl. On the way home, we paid close attention to the traffic news.

A crane broke down in the anti-clockwise carriageway just north of the M3. Traffic was at a standstill in all three lanes, and eventually the gridlock seemed to stretch all the way up to the M1. Luckily, we were on the other side, and it only took us four hours to win clear of the congestion.

While on the M25, all we could see in front of us was row upon row of tail lights, four cars wide, stretching to the horizon. From the side, more vehicles edged into this choking stream. Lanes full of cars trying to leave lined the slip roads. Lorries, run out of legal driving time, were beginning to park on the hard shoulders.

The air was thick with fumes as gallons of precious oil burned away in this insane exercise. Has no-one told you people that this is crazy?

It wasn’t freight traffic causing the problem, but thousands upon thousands of people in cars. As it was early evening, one would have to assume that they were coming home from work.

Developers are allowed to create residential deserts, devoid of any meaningful employment. Companies working within London – and other cities – take no responsibility for bringing in thousands of workers daily.

The whole situation is driven by greed and need. There is a lack of joined up responsibility here which urgently needs to be addressed.

What do you need from transport?

You need to get yourself, possibly your family of young children, an elderly relative, maybe a dog, from here to there. You don’t want it to be prohibitively expensive, you don’t want to have to wait around in the rain or lug heavy bags a long way.

A car was the answer! Everybody got one, and then two, even three!

Then you begin to fall out with your neighbours over parking. The cost of running a car goes up by the day. You are getting unfit because you drive everywhere, so you consider a bicycle. The roads are too dangerous because they are full of cars. You think about the bus, but they are costly, infrequent and often unreliable or non-existent in rural areas.

Depending on your car means depending on oil, mainly from other countries. The news is full of the trouble and deadly conflict caused by arguments over who controls these fuel resources. You hear of the vast areas of pollution surrounding extraction sites.

Always the price you pay for fuel rises, and a disruption of supplies brings your entire lifestyle to a stop – this is not resilient!

We are addicted to the use of oil. It will not be easy to cut back, but it must be done. Local initiatives are the key to encouraging government and business to get involved. They will not do so without public pressure, both political and by the use of your spending power.

Change is happening slowly, but it needs more people to engage with the process. Here’s a couple of good places to start.

The Urban Walking route planner gives you a route map between any two points, including your journey time, calorie burn, step count and carbon saving. It’s quick, free, healthy and green!

Sustrans is a charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. They work with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in.

 

© Elizabeth J Walker 2014

What is ‘Transition’?

The Transition movement takes a positive attitude to the changes we will need to make in order to cope with the end of cheap oil.

With the price of fuel, you may not feel that oil is cheap in any real sense, but for operating machinery, running factories and processing other natural resources the power of fossil fuel was incredible compared to that of manual labour. After centuries of runaway technological growth, we are finally arriving at the point where advanced machine design and renewable energy sources can replace the use of oil, and just in time as it is becoming harder to obtain.

The infrastructure, and to some extent the lifestyle, created around fossil fuels needs to change. The Transition network is dedicated to supporting this process. Totnes, in Devon, became the first ‘Transition Town’ in 2006, and many others have followed.

A Transition Initiative looks at forming an energy descent action plan for their area, exploring how local resources can be used in a more sustainable model, and outlining the path of this transition. As life with lower energy consumption is inevitable, it is best to plan for it and Transition maintains that the increase in quality of life will more than compensate for any inconvenience.

The Transition movement has local branches all over the country. Transition is ‘an invitation to join the hundreds of communities around the world who are taking the steps towards making a nourishing and abundant future a reality’

Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook

 

What is Resilience?

It’s not easy to explain or define ‘resilience’ even though it is becoming the new buzz word. Simply described, it is the ability to cope well with change. It can be applied to materials, ecosystems or entire planets, but here we are dealing with resilience in people, in communities and in cultures.

Resilience is a concept with depth, one that exists and develops through time, like loyalty and responsibility. It implies a knowledge of what is valuable, what must continue, where to strive to repair and regenerate, what should not be discarded.

Change can come in many forms. The fossil fuel bonanza of recent centuries has enabled people to become detached from each other and pursue their individual desires without reference to local resources or communities. As a consequence, these communities and resources are no longer available to support us through the next major change as this cheap and abundant – but not renewable – fuel begins to run out.

‘Peak oil’ is the term used to describe the point where new fossil fuel discoveries no longer compensate for the steadily decreasing production of existing oil fields and coal mines. It does not mean the end of fossil fuel. There is still time to adapt to a sustainable lifestyle, a change which will be driven by the increasing cost of energy as this source becomes more scarce.

Resilience and sustainability are closely linked. As an unsustainable practice is doomed to eventual failure, it is not a resilient practice either. Sustainability tends to start at the luxury end of the market and work downwards while resilience focusses on need and works upwards.

Sustainability asks “could you involve less air miles when choosing which food to buy?”

Resilience asks less comfortable questions such as “how much food can you access within walking distance of your home?”

Think about that last question. In what circumstances would it become important? Is your local food supply enough to sustain you and the people in your area? For how long?

You fill up your car, you drive to the supermarket, you buy food. The whole process takes hours at most. Growing food takes months, requires land, needs work. Waiting until a global situation outside your control disrupts the fragile transport network upon which we depend will be too late.

Our lifestyle is far from resilient and we need to act now to correct this. We must take control of the process of change and turn it to our advantage.