6 Jan 2006
Tell Me About Your Eureka Moment…
Part of the research I am doing for my PhD looks at peak oil as a catalyst for transition. One of the big questions I am exploring is how people and communities (and therefore nations) make transitions, develop a culture of transition. As part of this, I am asking as many people as I can who would consider themselves to have some degree of ‘green’ awareness to tell me their stories of how they first became interesting in all this stuff. Please do tell me yours.
Conventional environmental thinking would have us believe that if we put enough information and bad news in front of people, they will be moved to action. It rarely happens like this. What actually tips people to make changes can range from a particularly inspiring person you met, a book you read, something you saw on the television, a building, a song, a course you did, a meal you ate, a painting you saw. Gathering people’s stories about their ‘eureka’ moment may throw up some interesting clues as to how to most successfully engage people in energy descent processes on the scale that will be needed if we are to have any chance of weathering the coming storms. I would like to invite you to post below your stories of what was your Eureka moment.
Mine, was when I was 14 and I bought a 7″ single (remember them? wonderful things…) by a band called Flux of Pink Indians, which had a fold out sleeve that was a very emotive and well written article about the meat industry, which turned me vegetarian overnight. That got me thinking about lots of other things and made me start to deeply question lots of things… **what was your Eureka moment?**
6 Jan 10:40am
Reading ‘Ancient Futures’ by Helena Norberg Hodge in 1989. I have been waiting for the localisation movement to gather strength and for oil prices to sart shooting up ever since! Looks like things are picking up.
The key for me was realising that living ‘simply’ was most likely more fulfilling than the consumer life I was leading. Naturally I’m still addicted to consumerism and haven’t moved to a low-income country… but I’d vote for a party that imposed simplicity.
6 Jan 5:08pm
Riding my bicycle to work for the very first time.
6 Jan 5:28pm
The Eureka moment for me was reading Jared Diamonds’ book “Collapse” on what caused various civilizations to collapse. Shortly after that a friend gave me a copy of “Twilight in the Desert” by Matthew Simmons questioning the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. This friend had been trying to interest me for the past year in the thoughts of Simmons but I think Diamond’s book “primed” me to take Simmons’ book seriously. Of course, as a teen in the ’70’s I’ve always been interested in the environmental movement but as a working mother I had strayed from the path.
6 Jan 9:01pm
For me it has to be the ‘End of Suburbia’ for the ‘Eureka’ moment on peak oil, sustainability was a lot earlier. Watching that film for the first time was shocking and at the same time exciting as it dawned on me that we wouldn’t need to try so hard at promoting sustainability, people were going to have to change as soon everything based on fossil fuels was going to going to get more and more expensive. Eureka – permaculture, eco-design, green building, resource efficiency etc, etc was going to have to be adopted. It really proved to me the power film has. I had heard Colin Campbell talk a couple of times, I even organised a FEASTA conference in 2000 where Colin explained the concept of peak, still the Eureka moment was the film.
7 Jan 5:55am
Well, I have to say there have been a number of eureka moments scattered along my road. First off, my dad never allowed me while growing up not to be aware of the effects the nascent consumer feedfest of the ’60s was having on the environment. I recall his dismay at the reckless disregard of our modern and mobile society towards both the built and natural environment. I didn’t always want to hear it though, and it was really only in retrospect years later that I was able to appreciate how lucky I’d been to have learned young to know my town and its surrounding countryside from the seat of a bicycle, before much of that countryside was paved over with ever more car-culture accoutrements. If, as some have suggested, the ’50s in North America were darkest days for social progressives, then it and the early ’60s must have been especially despairing for those with any sense of environmental stewardship. The prevailing attitude of this period will forever be typified for me by the abuse – verbal and otherwise – my father (and a very few others, surely?) suffered from self-righteous motorists as he rode daily to & from work. I suspect that bicycles in the UK hadn’t been discarded to quite the extent they were shrugged off here in the new post-war auto sprawl accepted unquestioningly by everybody as ‘progress’. There was not a single student at my high school who arrived by bicycle; in fact, there were no allowances made for bike storage anywhere – but I remember when they paved over the south lawn for a new student parking lot! It wasn’t until the end of that decade that a voice was finally given to alternative thoughts of any kind. I remember reading books by Vance Packard (titles forgotten) somewhere in the murky past, and later on being inspired by “Small is Beautiful” (by Schumacher, was it?). I’m grateful for David Suzuki’s persistence in raising awareness, often in the face of bitter criticism. As I say, lots of inspiring people and moments…
Identifying my peak oil ‘eureka’ moment is easy, though: like Davie, it came from watching “The End of Suburbia” this past October. Having enjoyed James Howard Kunstler’s witty & acerbic pleas for urban sanity, I was not surprised to find him involved in such a project. The film riveted me; I had to watch it a second time when it was repeated in the wee hours. From there it was straight to the internet and I’ve been reading and researching and pondering and discussing ever since.
(BTW Rob, cheers for setting up this great forum!)
8 Jan 7:38pm
I still remember my “Eureka” moment that radicalised me back in the 70s when I was about 15. I came home from school to find a book my eler sister had left out on the kitchen table- “The Creation of World Poverty”. It was by a Marxist writer whose name I dont remember. The idea that poverty and injustice were in some way created was an entirely new concept to me at the time and completely changed my world view. No longer was the world a simple place , just an extension of my home, in which some people just unfortunatley didnt manage to get the good things in life. Not only that, but it this meant there was something I could- and should- DO about it. One phrase in the book still sticks in my mind- “By eating meat from the Third world we (the West) are eating the children of Asia, Africa and South America”. I turned vegetarian soon after and this lead onto further investigations- a sociology degree, followed by a back-to-the-land lifestyle in pursuit of simplicity. Later came Permaculture.
My first intro into energy issues came from reading Thom Hartmann’s “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” which also had a profound impresion on me, a feww years ago, but for me also it was “The End Of Suburbia” that really caused the penny to drop- I think because it actually went so far as to propose a time scale- of just a few years!
9 Jan 7:34am
For me it was reading “The Party’s Over” by Richard Heinberg. Once I grasped the concept of Peak Oil I got scared then depressed, and then after a few weeks began to be able to take positive action, reducing my impact on the environment and fossil fuel use, and help set up and run PowerSwitch to spread the word further.
9 Jan 10:02am
Reading ‘GlobalCorp’, an article by Mike Ruppert. It’s alarmist and over-the-top, but it was my first introduction to Peak Oil, and was enough to make me read more (and more, and more) about the subject.
9 Jan 11:04am
My wake up moment came about a year ago. I was looking around the web (probaly politics and current affairs sites) and stumbled on ‘Life After the Oil Crash’ website. I followed this to a number of other sites and read everything i could for 2 or 3 hours. I was due to meet a friend that evening and had to walk across sheffeild. Durring my walk my perception of everything around me was changing. While walking i called my Mother, i was in needed of someone to express what i had learned to. She offered comforting words to help ease my worry (as only a Mother can). And the rest is history, slowly i began to change me world outlook and read more and more around the subject. And i hope soon too put my knowledge to work and help raise awareness.
9 Jan 12:34pm
I’ve never really had a “Eureka moment”, there’s always been a nagging feeling that we were living beyond our means and sacrificing our future for this profiligate lifestyle. I had an unusual upbringing spending time with people from lots of different cultures as a young child as my mother helped set up and run a buddhist centre in Birmingham in the 70s. I think I absorbed the fact that we didn’t need all the “stuff” and that allowed me to think in an unfettered way about how much it was costing us. Just doing little bits of thought experiment when I was young, showed me clearly that the sums, both in terms of economic and resources, didn’t add up, and other societies and environments were paying for our lifestyle, both in low wages and degradation.
In concept, Peak Oil was not a Eureka realisation for me at all, what surprised me is how far down the line we are and how much duplicity goes into keeping the status quo.
Now I realise how much peril we are in, I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint and trying to show other people they are not helpless to do the same. James (Coventry UK)
9 Jan 12:40pm
… probably attending the ‘Peak Oil’ event in Edinburgh last year (http://www.clv101.plus.com/docs/Peak_Oil_UK_Edinburgh_April05.pdf)
…. When representatives from oil companies started standing up and asking how they could change their career ….
11 Jan 4:32pm
I have been aware of ecological crisis since I was a child, deepened my understanding by university education as a biologist, but had one distinct moment of insight one year ago which eventually led to fundamental changes in my professional life – “really” reading “Limits to Growth” and then “Limits to Growth – the 30 year update”.
11 Jan 4:35pm
Wow, what a great question. While on the Internet in May of 2005. I came across a website on ‘Peak oil’ and since the cost of gas was rising I thought I would explore this issue. At first I thought ‘Peak Oil’ was an oil company creating problems in the industry. Slowly, I learned about M. King Hubbert and his theories about productuin curves. Still, I was only minorly concerned but I kept on exploring as I felt my understanding of energy was rudementary at best. I began to get really concerned when I learned about the relative power of energy derived from oil and how much energy it possessed in relation to other forms and how much of it was used in food production, harvesting, and distribution. I was starting to become very awake. It seemed the more I learned, the more scared I became. This was key for me as I believe there is information in the details we must all try to grasp. Transportation soon became another watershed issue especially for the U.S. since we are so reliant on our cars for everthing and how difficult and expensive it would be to change this structure. It took me about a month to be so scared I altered all parts of my life. I analyze all my energy use and stated to look at ways I could change. I immediately installed Flourescent light bulbs, purchased solar panels, and stated stocking up on items I thought would be helpful in an energy starved world. I filled several sheds. I’m unsure if it was the bad news that got to me. I think it was the accurace of the information from a mathematical perpective but again it took a great deal of research to understand all of this. I have probably put 1000 + hours into research and I do not think everyone has that kind of time to invest. But if one could have the issue explained by someone with credibilty to the listener, then perhaps that would help. Becoming educated about energy has been the greatest education of my life. I wish someone had woke me up earlier. Perhaps many tried and I was too caught up in the american dream to fully appreciate the problem. I see the world in a completely new light. I always consider the energy issues when I make choices now. I only hope I am not too late to make all the changes I feel I will need to make to prepare for the problems soom to reach into our lives. Eugene Duran
11 Jan 6:56pm
As a child I loved nature and always thought that man-made structures were dirty and ugly compared to its inherent beauty. One of several ‘Eureka moments’ was a book I came across in 1986 called ‘The Awakening Earth’ by Peter Russell and it caused me to think about a large scale transformation that humanity needed to undergo. The new world view he posited would be ‘holistic, non-exploitative, ecologically sound, long term, global, peaceful and co-operative.’ I read about Gaia, Climate Change, green issues, developed an interest in Buddhism and I began to realise that we can be happy without so much material stuff. I joined a Global Action Plan group in my community and learned about saving energy and reducing waste amongst other useful things. Last year I bought ‘The End of Oil’ by Paul Roberts and was shocked at the urgency of the situation but also excited by the fact that society might be forced into a huge transformation of the way we live out lives. I decided that I needed to change myself before I could talk to others about it and have since dived headlong into this process. I have applied for the Permaculture course in Kinsale starting in September 2006, started a one-year Open University course in ‘Working with the Environment – technology for a sustainable future’ and became a member of Cultivate in Dublin where I saw ‘The End of Suburbia’ last Autumn. Each of these lesser ‘Eureka moments’ have been feeding my changing worldview and they both excite and terrify me in equal measure.
11 Jan 7:22pm
As others mention here, I have not had a single “aha” moment. I recall a high school science class textbook in the ’70’s that showed there was an estimated 60-70 year supply of petroleum. I remember thinking, “Hmmm… that’s within my lifetime!”
I did not even have a driver’s license until my mid-20’s, but gradually succumbed to the ways of the world. But I did always try to do things as green as possible, choosing vehicles for their fuel economy and doing as much cycling and walking as possible. And I tithed to green causes, and worked on green campaigns.
I took a bunch of “green” political and science classes in the ’90’s, and got seriously inspired by Donella Meadows (who was still with us at the time), and studied Hardin, Lovelock, Leopold, et. al.
Perhaps the turning point was reading Matt Savinar. It made me realize that I’d reached the limit of what was possible on a 1/4 acre suburban lot. I had green electricity, near-zero waste through aggressive recycling and careful purchasing, worked at home, and used only biodiesel or used vegetable oil when driving (http://www.Bytesmiths.com/Van), but it still wasn’t enough.
Then I began looking at the USA, especially after the 2004 election. Like that kid in “The Sixth Sense,” I began seeing dead people — but they were the future dead, and they were all around me, in the very process of killing themselves!
With that election, I really began feeling like an alien, so I decided to become one, and put in for Canadian immigration. I’m under no illusion that Canada is vastly superior, but it is decidedly “less worse” than the US, having under half the debt that they are paying off with a budget surplus and being a net energy exporter. And they spend less than half as much on what is arguably a more equitable — if not outright better — health care system. It is MUCH easier to live a simple life there.
We are in the process of forming an ecovillage in SW BC, which I hope will be a model of sustainability, one of Julian Darley’s Outposts, and one of Richard Heinberg’s cultural lifeboats. Come join in the “hard fun” at http://www.EcoReality.org !
Now is the time to take positive action. I’ve cut way back on giving money to “anti” groups — I used to be an “anti,” but now I’m a “pro!” But the giving cutback is mainly because I’ve cut way back on my income, choosing voluntary simplicity instead. If one owns their home and runs a business, one can live quite comfortably at well below the poverty level.
Sorry to be so long winded, but I feel my present duty is to enable and inspire others of like mind. I hope this helps someone!
11 Jan 9:35pm
For me it was about 1 1/2 years before Y2K, when I realized what just-in-time stocking of stores meant if oil supplies were interrupted. This led to continuing consciousness of the many oil refineries that burned all over the US in the year before January 2000, and connected me up with the peak oil theory. Since then I have gotten my Permaculture DC and made many changes to my lifestyle. I have found “End of Suburbia” to be very helpful in changing people’s awareness if they are at all open.
12 Jan 6:55am
My Eureka moment was the “re-election” of the Shrub. (I can’t even bring myself to type his name). One day at work I was chatting with one of the few like minded people and he told me, “Hey you think that’s bad? Go google Huberts Peak and Peak Oil”. One of the top hits in my search was Matt Savinar’s site, http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.com. I was really frightened by what I read but still somewhat skeptical. I asked my (really smart) husband to read it. I was figuring he would tell me twenty-five reasons why everything would be okay. Instead he said, “hmmm very disturbing.” We have both read just about everything we can find on the topic now.
I wish we could make really big changes quickly but it’s hard. We have a mortgage, car payments, two kids in college and another in private high school.
After (kind of) getting over the initial depression, we started preparing best that we can.
In a way, it’s really bringing about a lot of positive changes in our lives:
We are spending every dime we can to pay off our home and cars in case we are unable to sell our house. If our jobs hold out, we’ll be debt free in 2008.
We have started gardening, insulating, and replacing our lightbulbs. I’m getting some rain barrels. Longer term I hope we can purchase a cistern, a super efficient frig, a soapstone stove, and a solar system. I’m trying to quit smoking. (Hey one preparation that is FREE and acutually saves $$ ) 🙂 I’m planning on starting to buy silver rounds for trading this month.
I’d like to start working on implementing the 100 mile diet but haven’t managed to yet.
to have time to save up for some of our more ambitious plans before things fall apart.
that when our oil-based economy starts to fall apart, it’s a slow decline rather than a sudden crash.
that we will be able to help other people adjust.
The thing I think I will miss most in a post-peak world is the ability to hop in the car and have a spontaneous road trip.
12 Jan 4:52pm
My eureka moment has really been the last 6 months or so.
The only negative aspect of my own consumerist habits that I could see was that globalism didn’t really seem very fair – especially to the poorest in the world.
Having a well-paid job allowed me to continue trying to “spend my way out of guilt” by giving money to charities, or choosing exotic 3rd world holiday destinations in the naive belief that some of my money would trickle down to the local economy.
I had a vague sense of uneasiness about climate change, but again thought it was a far away problem that the Government would probably sort out. Buying a flat in town so I didn’t have to drive to work allowed me to flatter myself that I was doing something positive, although the real reason was probably more to do with avoiding taxi queues on Friday nights.
Having seen films like The Corporation, I’d thought about maybe trying to get a job in the public sector, but made very irresolute efforts in pursuit of that end. I just wasn’t about to be motivated by guilt.
My delusions stopped the day I read Matt Savinar’s “Life After The Oil Crash” website. The sheer enormity and immediacy of the Peak Oil problem stopped me in my tracks and made me realise that the kind of lifestyle changes that we’re going to need in the future aren’t optional; being energy efficient, growing your own food, supporting local independent traders and recycling will be a matter of survival, not a matter of morality.
Discovery of Peak Oil triggered a lot of reading (which is still going on), and brought about the first time I’ve ever written to my MP, councillors, local paper etc. I’m starting a Masters in Environmental Architecture in a couple of months, have got an allotment managed by a local organic growers co-op, begun buying food from local organic shops, learned how to bake my own bread, brew my own beer, and will continue learning the skills and adopting the behaviours that will help to remove my dependence on the globalised economy and bring about positive change for my family and community.
So, I guess the key for me was a combination of shock and fear. However, there are others around me who know about Peak Oil but don’t seem similarly motivated – I can only think that they need positive examples to follow, so setting one has now become an additional part of my motivation.
12 Jan 6:29pm
We’ve always been a frugal family – doing with what we need. Then when I was on my own I went thru a phase of buying “the best”; but I was never one for consuming. Aside from buying a house (mortage paid off in 10 years) we’ve never been in debt and never will.
The big eye-opener has been a conflusion from my own experiences as well as my wife. She rediscovered a book I read long ago – Diet For a Small Planet. We immediately went vegetarian. Then there was Voluntary Simplicity, the book Your Money Or Your Life, Measuring Well Being via the Unitarian Church, organic food, buying local. It all came together in a self re-inforcing way.
Since then I’ve gone vegan and have discovered Peak Oil.
Everyone used to think that we were a bit strange and now it’s worse than that. Either way nobody is buying into this “Peak Oil thing” or “freezing in a cold dark house”. Ie turning off some lights, turning down the heat.
I see massive energy waste at work; the lights in my office use more electricity per year than my whole house! But, I’m utterly unable to get any action on that – very very frustrating.
The crux now is worrying about the future for our kids. I’d like to become self sufficient; but I’d loose being able to cycle to work and that’s not worth the loss of exercise, increased pollution and living costs. What is really frustrating is having a house that I’d love to ditch and do it right (perhaps straw bail, passive solar, etc) but it’s just not worth it with the insanely low energy prices today.
2 Feb 4:24am
For me it was reading Richard Heinberg’s “The Party’s Over” about one year ago…what an eye opener! It completely changed how I see our culture and our daily lives. Since then, I’ve done a lot of reading about useful low-energy skills such as permaculture.
We bought land last year and are planning to design a low-energy house this year and have it built next year.
Many people I talk to don’t think there’s going to be any problem, or they don’t know what to do about it. But I had to act to get ready as best as I can!
22 Feb 11:18pm
Although I have been diligently recycling for years I had not thought about or considered directing myself towards real sustainabilty. During the summer of 2005 I read “Not on the Label” by Felicity Lawrence and started to think about how ‘unconsciously’ I was actually living, how my day to day choices had a real and negative effect on others – how BOGOFs and ‘cheap’ prices in the supermarkets were actually costing people, animals and the environment hugely, somewhere down the line.
Shortly after I signed up to do an OU course called “T172 – Working with our Environment: Technology for a Sustainable Future”. This got me reading around the subject, web browsing, etc and I came across James Howard Kunstler’s “The Long Emergency”. I put this book on my Christmas list and spent my Christmas holidays reading it. I reacted to the book like I suspect many others will and got scared, anxious – even panicky. I lost sleep – and I never loose sleep! Interestingly one of the things that ‘settled my nerves’ was reading about the Kinsale Energy Descent Plan.
So I guess F.Lawrence was the initial catalyst but J.H.Kunstler provided the ‘Eureka’ experience.
I continue to read/web browse widely around the subject and with my husband we are beginning to take action towards reducing our energy consumption, our superfluous possessions and are aiming towards learning some skills that may be useful in a post fossil fuel era. Like my grandmother used to do – I now bake my own soda bread every week, I will be recalling memories of working alongside my grandfather when I get to set my own potatoes – hopefully this year.
Thanks for the web site – regularly dipped into!
20 Apr 7:43pm
I’ve grown up with recycling and ecological gardens. I did History at the univ and become familiar with world-system analysis (Wallerstein) and the impending end of capitalism. That end was never in doubt, but how and when.. I expected a slow disintegration. A few days ago I was googling on futurology and ecology, and when I discovered Peak Oil, I knew how it all was going to end.
And actually, I feel better with the crash in view.
13 Jun 12:47am
Very nice blog you have here. Keep up the good work.
Robert Thomas Maclagan
15 Jun 4:57pm
My ‘moment”, was a very long while back. I was perhaps 15/16 years old, taking my usual walk through my beloved woods outside of Chicago, Illinois, usa, with camera in hand. I was thinking, ‘how wonderfully perfect and peaceful’. I noted on the forest floor, some old, broken bits of concrete slab, (a long gone foundation?), and at a fisure a lone flower had broken through and caught the Suns’ rays. Fantastic, I thought. Nature ALWAYS wins in the end. I took a photo. To Gaia! Rob @ St. Pete, FL. usa.