You know that feeling of focus and energy you get from going to conferences, retreats, etc. where you are together with a group of people who care passionately about the same issues you do? And how easily that focus and energy can dissipate when you return to the workaday world? Boy, am I experiencing a heavy dose of that post-conference disorientation. I think it's heavier than after conferences on most subjects, because I'm coming back into a world where the very premises of the conferences are airily dismissed. I'm hoping feedback from readers will help re-orient me. The two conferences that raised my energy levels are the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) North American conference two weeks ago in Houston (which I experienced only vicariously (PDF)) and the Fourth Annual Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions: Planning for Hard Times, which I attended this past weekend in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Both conferences were informed by a vision of world oil production that has already peaked or will imminently peak and then rapidly decline. Given how much our economy is dependent on cheap oil, the conference participants are interested in how we can rapidly adapt to a different sort of economy altogether. Back in Vermont, I've re-connected with other places I rely on for useful information and views, and I'm again confronted with how many people either believe peak oil is far away or vaguely claim that the market will take care of any consequences of peak oil. At the environmental web site Grist, for example, Joseph Romm explains “Why I don't agree with James Kunstler about peak oil and the 'end of suburbia.'” (Hybrid cars will save the day.) Matthew Yglesias, in his blog at The Atlantic, apparently thinks the world is only made up of middle-class suburbanites and agrees that hybrids will save them. Many of the commenters to that post have no idea what the future will contain, except that it will be better (e.g., “It may not be oil that powers our world, but whatever it is, it will be cheaper… Commodity prices always fall in the long run.”) Even Kevin Drum, who has looked closely at the numbers and published a largely sympathetic article on peak oil, imagines an old age in which he (now an apparently healthy 45 or so) flies to India to get heart surgery that is “[d]irt cheap, [with a] private room, world class facilities, [and] attentive nurses.” Meanwhile, I've returned from a conference where people envision the whole world now facing the magnitude of transition that Cuba faced when the Soviet Union collapsed and stopped subsidizing Cuba's oil. The entire agricultural and transportation infrastructure was radically reworked. Cubans came through the “special period” with their social structure largely intact, but only after the average Cuban lost 20 pounds in the food shortages. At the same conference, Sharon Astyk (who blogs at Casaubon's Book and created Our Victory at Home!) described some consequences the poor in the US are already facing from rising oil prices in the peak era: emaciated babies in Boston (as parents choose between food and heat) and a 30% rise in prices of food staples over the last year. And the hero of the conference was not the inventor or driver of some new hybrid car, but a local musician who brought his monthly electricity usage down from over 400 kWh to under 40 kWh through inexpensive retrofits and changed behavior. So I need some help from interested readers. My intent with this blog has been to promote ways to reduce Vermont's dependence on a globalized or even national economy that requires cheap fossil fuels to provide goods and services, and to focus on issues like â€¢ use of in-state, renewable energy, â€¢ local food production, â€¢ ways to drastically reduce our addiction to cars with only one passenger, â€¢ security for everyone at a time of economic contraction, and â€¢ ways to navigate a tremendous transition from a 20th century of seemingly endless economic growth to a 21st century of economic decline as global resource constraints affect all of us. If most readers share this vision, I'll just keep going with the sort of posts I've been writing. If most readers expect the coming decades to be pretty much like the past 50 years, with ever-more energy and materials used to produce ever-more stuff and ship it ever-increasing distances, then I'll want to assess how much of a conversation to have about basic assumptions. If you're not sure where you stand, there are some good primers on peak oil and its likely effects at The Oil Drum and Energy Bulletin. Anyway, please let me know what you think in the comments below or by emailing me at relocalizingvermont (at) yahoo.com. Thanks! --- Announcing my new radio show! After three or four months of co-hosting Tuesday Morning with Renée at WGDR in Plainfield, I have just started my own radio show. It shares the name of this blog, Relocalizing Vermont, and airs 8:30 – 10:00 am on Thursdays. If you can't pull in WGDR on 91.1 FM, streaming is available. This Thursday I plan to air some excerpts of talks at the Yellow Springs conference, talk with Todd Bailey of the Alliance of Conservation Voters about the Step-It-Up rallies this weekend, and ask listeners to comment on Vince Illuzzi's jokes at the Renewable Energy Vermont conference about violating prisoners' rights in the Northeast Kingdom. I'll probably move my regular blog posts here to Thursdays, since I usually base them on something from the radio show. I like to think of this Wednesday post as a move in that direction (as opposed, say, to a missed Tuesday deadline). --- The blog Relocalizing Vermont focuses on relocalizing the Vermont economy in a time of energy constraints brought on by peak oil and other factors. To "relocalize" is to return to local production of food, energy, and goods.