As shocking as the inevitable end of cheap energy may be, fortunately there’s plenty of jobs being created to address it. Just take this snazzy looking guy to your left, all dressed up in a Chicken Little costume for a day job hawking an anti-peak oil message in front of the recent Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference in Washington D.C..
Whomever hired that hen pecker sure must think it’s a worthwhile investment to pay a guy to distribute lit denouncing peak oil. Hmmm, wonder what kind of interested business would decide to throw cash behind a message plan like that?
Well, anyway, interestingly, said chicken just happened to squawk up to Andre Angelantoni of Post Peak Living who was speaking at the ASPO conference on, of all things, scenario planning, and how to positively strategize for a post peak oil life. And, like the boss of Henny Penny there, Angelantoni also thinks there’s careers to be had in peak oil. His jobs, however, tend to last longer than the three days of the ASPO conference during which this frontyard chicken strutted his stuff.
His sky isn’t falling
If peak oil is putting the world on the fast path to a financial crash you wouldn’t know it from talking to Angelantoni. The California-based peak oil lifestyle consultant has instead “profited from the peak” through a business that helps people tackle the various questions that come up when learning about peak oil. Whether the desire is to craft a broad response plan, develop emergency preparedness, learn various skills, or address the spiritual implications of a changing energy paradigm, PPL offers classes and practical resources to get the job done.
Angelantoni came to peak oil through research on the California Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32, a 2006 initiative which aims to reduce greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020 through enforcement by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Troubled by the implications of climate change, Angelantoni was initially happy to learn that declining oil likely meant that we would be emitting less carbon, which would help with climate issues, though not without a cost to the economy. He then realized that it was necessary to view all three predicaments together—climate change, peak oil, and economic crisis—in order to engage with the issues in a way that showed a practical path forward. It was from this that Post Peak Living was born.
Ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain)
In a world in which almost nothing can be separated from its fossil fuel footprint, a future of both dramatically less available and significantly more expensive oil means that the lifestyles we currently enjoy stand to change so much that they’ll be almost unrecognizable not too far hence. To that end—all other things being equal— anyone preparing for the change peak oil implies stands a much better chance of success by preparing for the shift. This is particularly true now, when by some estimates up to 20% of the population is unemployed. If a resurgence in entrepreneurship means that even without “official” work folks can begin exploring or performing some new skill, or launch a viable local venture, so much the better. For them, change is already here. If you want to jump on the bandwagon, PPL offers a guide.
Begun in 2007, PPL was originally intended to educate the public, offering both free Web content and an online preparation course covering everything from raising—ahem—chickens, to understanding what constitutes a viable job in a post peak oil economy. But like so many self-starting ventures, PPL took on a life of its own, morphing into a wide variety of online programs taught by a six-member faculty. The low-carbon beauty is that the courses are available online worldwide, no travel required, which means that a global predicament can be addressed via global solutions enacted locally.
Angelantoni said the success of his programs have been amazing. People from 14 different countries have already taken PPL courses, which cycle every three months.
We don’t need no education
Most of the students using PPL are already clued in to peak oil and get the implications pretty well, says Angelantoni. But now they’re ready to ratchet up their involvement, making a commitment to action personally and, quite often, for their community. Maybe they want to figure out how to bring together lifestyle issues such as career, housing, food sources, and transportation in such a way that the fewest vulnerabilities are built into their personal plan.
Or maybe they’re exploring co-housing, or other forms of cost sharing to make ends meet while diverting savings to emergency food supplies. Or perhaps they’re taking a PPL course with Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, on how a positive and empowering shift in consciousness is available to us even as we watch our current lifestyle slip away.
“The changes people are experiencing are often dramatic and overnight,” said Angelantoni. “Maybe they’re dealing alone with the possibility that their kids aren’t going to college, or that they’re retirement is disappearing; Carolyn Baker has a course that can help them get some emotional freedom around that.”
Up the down staircase
We’ve already taken one step down the peak oil decline, says Angelantoni, when in 2008 oil prices skyrocketed to triple digit numbers, triggering our current recession. The next step down may come rapidly on its heels, he argues, if we experience another oil price spike, or debt implosion escalates. “The next really big step is a stock market collapse. It will crash at some point, I believe,” he said. Looking at the mortgage crisis, and rapidly converging troubles in banking, that time may be sooner rather than later, whatever any naysaying chickens-for-hire might claim.
In the meantime Angelantoni launched Transition Drupal, an open source web development project that he says offers a “…website in a box for communities to relocalize.” The project, with a team from all over the world, hopes to release a 1.0 version in the first quarter of 2011. If successful, it could help the already rapidly growing Transition movement catapult even faster, which may be necessary as the triparte predicaments converge.
In addition to PPL, Angelantoni is a trained energy auditor, which he calls a “back pocket skill” in case more localized work is necessary in his own future. While advising on blowing in insulation may pay the future bills, for now his desire to “lessen the suffering I see coming down the pike motivates me to show others that there is still a fulfilling life even during contraction.” That sounds like a growth industry to me.
Don’t chicken out
In the US we probably haven’t talked enough about ways to be resilient on career when jobs vanish or the job search turns up nil. Sure, perhaps from time to time you can pick up a gig wearing a chicken costume to denounce the thoughtful presentations of a worldwide panel of economists, geologists, oil industry insiders, and, well, actual chicken farmers. But we’re still not seeing those poultry gigs show the long term career trajectory that your average job seeker may want.
Other speakers at the ASPO conference addressed this, too. John-Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, said now’s the time to become your town’s invaluable microbrewer. To partner with that tradesman, perhaps now’s also the time to become a collector of recycled beer bottles. Or perhaps the printer of beer labels? Maybe you like baking bread? Growing herbs? Chopping wood? Carrying water?
If you’re out of work, time’s a wasting on turning lemons into lemonade. You could even start raising chickens. Or sewing chicken costumes for the next ASPO conference. Go ahead and preen. Worst case scenario you lay an egg. And like Bob Dylan once sang, “There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.”