Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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3 Jul 2006

Communicating Energy Descent …. Your Thoughts?

adI had an excellent meeting last week with Dr Chris Johnstone and Dr. Stephen Rollnick, in Bristol, to look at how insights from addiction and in particular Motivational Interviewing can inform energy descent projects. It was great, really useful, the recording is presently being transcribed and I’ll post it here as soon as I can. One thing that came up that I am keen to put in front of you all is a question that Stephen came up with, that we kicked about but didn’t really resolve, and that I’d love your thoughts on.

MIHe asked, “if Totnes Town Council gave you use of the main sign post in the middle of Totnes for a year (unfortunately there is no such thing), what message would you put on it?” He was talking about how we present messages, and the importance of offering advice in such a way that people reach their own conclusions rather than being told. Rather than telling people how they should feel or what they should be thinking, we present information or ideas in such a way that they are able to reach their own conclusions. If you had free access to the main billboard in the town you are planning an energy descent process for, what would YOU put on it?

Categories: General

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Mark Jenkin
3 Jul 9:29am

I think it would have to be something that people immediately relate to. If you start to use phrases like “Greenland Ice Sheet” or “Peak Oil” then most folks won’t be fascinated or even interested to find out more.
( I suppose we could say “David Beckham visits Greenland Ice Sheet – while it is still there” Becks reports >)

So I thought about showing a spoof utility-bill which we all recognise.
Instead of:
Electricity 200KWh £30.00 Debit
Gas 285KWh £25.00 Credit etc..

We should have
Gas………….Running Low
Electricity…..Likely to become scarce
Nuclear Power…Far higher price than you think
Conservation….Should do better

Then a list of ‘solutions’ off to one side.

That should get people thinking!


3 Jul 1:04pm

Whilst driving through New Zealand last year we saw a black poster with white writing saying “you’re 10 minutes late” – nothing more.

We were immediately intrigued, wondering what this enigmatic statement might be referring to…

A couple of miles later another one said “you speed up a little”…

A few more miles: “you’re going to miss your meeting”…

Then: “you start taking bigger risks”…

“You’re in an accident”…

“It takes 34 minutes for the ambulance to arrive”

“Ambulance ride: 41 minutes”

“Surgery: 8 hours”

“Recovery in hospital: 8 months”

“Back to work: one year”

“All because you were 10 minutes late”

If you had the billboard in Totnes for a year, you could put up a different poster each month, so the energy descent message unfolds over time, each one leaving a little “cliff-hanger” to keep people interested in what’s coming next. You could even tie the messages in to the time of year for additional resonance. So, for example, the one in January is about heating bills, the one july about climate change and the one in August is about flying.

Using a this method would probably mean that one-off visitors to Totnes wouldn’t get it, but the permanent community of Totnes would. However, my feeling is that the topic of energy descent doesn’t lend itself to one-off, soundbite, say-it-all-in-one-image type of communication very easily; it is a very easy message to dilute for the sake of brevity, confuse with “traditional” environmentalism that people find easy to dismiss as preachy, or marginalise by sounding too extreme. For this reason I think it would be worth trying to convey the message accurately to the permenent residents of Totnes rather than inaccurately to everyone who passes through.

3 Jul 1:55pm

That is a very good question Rob. As a movement we have, in some ways, failed to engage the mainstream in a way that isn’t preachy.

I think that the recent Chevron ads have been effective in getting people to begin to think about the issue of peak oil. I saw a great one in New York airport, below the 10 or so screens with departure information was a huge billboard. It simply said…

“Exactly 0% of passenger jets can be
fueled by wind, solar or nuclear energy. So what’s the alternative?”

Richard Heinburg met the creator of the Chevron’s PR campaign at some gathering recently, the guy had just retired. Richard like a lot of us wanted to know if Chevron were aware of the Peak Oil concept, as its not really mentioned on their ‘will you join us’ site. He was told they were well briefed on peak and this is the motivation behind the ads.

Graham Strouts
3 Jul 10:36pm

“Peak Oil will end Globalisation.
Localisation starts here”

Joanne Poyourow
4 Jul 11:20pm

Here in Media Central (Los Angeles) I am painfully aware of how the peak oil message doesn’t fit neatly into a sound-bite. And, in this sprawling metropolis, there is no such thing as a “main billboard.

5 Jul 4:59pm

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want but the realization of what you already have.

Donna Jones
5 Jul 7:40pm

Sustainable Totnes – What’s in it for you?

Local food, local jobs, a warmer house, cheaper transportation, energy efficiency, more beautiful surroundings…

Everyone wins!

Jason Cole
6 Jul 4:45pm

“The Party’s Over”, with the image of William Hague holding a petrol pump to his head….

Nicholas Harvey
10 Jul 7:34pm

‘Live more consume less’

Ted Howard
15 Mar 5:14am

Derrick Jensen’s slogan works for me:

Dismantle globally
Rebuild Locally!