Transition Culture

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

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8 Apr 2008

End of Suburbia Screening in Swansea Begins Transition Process…

swansea“When the World Runs Out of Oil”. Swansea Evening Post. 5th April 2008.

(Interesting to see how the End of Suburbia is still, a few years after its release, acting as an inspiration to groups at the early stages of Transition processes, as the article below attests. Wales has become a real hotbed of Transition activity, good luck to Swansea on their Transition journey, they clearly have some good sympathetic local media, which is a good starting place…)

Rob Hopkins’s life changed when he watched a film about oil running out. At the time he led an idyllic lifestyle in Ireland – growing his own veg, cutting firewood and working as a teacher.

But the documentary movie, The End of Suburbia, got him thinking about just how dependent we are on oil and what would happen when it dried up. The film was very powerful,” he said. “I realised I was living in suburbia. I had to drive my kids to school and to get to the shops.” Mr Hopkins then asked his students to design a way of making their community non-dependent on oil. The result was the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan, named after the local town.

The plan attracted much interest, and spawned the Transition Town movement, which is now spreading across the globe.

Earlier this week The End of Suburbia was shown in Swansea, which is gearing up to become a Transition City.

The Transition movement is all about raising awareness of a phenomenon called peak oil. Its members also raise the profile of climate change, and try to make their community more resilient to both.

Peak oil is different to the concept of oil just running out – and it’s very relevant to our future.

Let’s say you strike oil in an underground oilfield and start removing it week by week. Peak oil is the moment of maximum extraction, around the midpoint of the removal process.

After that threshold moment, slightly less oil is removed each week from then on.

The theory was proved correct in America when the outspoken geologist M King Hubbert predicted in 1956 that the US’s oil production would peak in 15 years’ time. It did, right on cue, much earlier than most people had thought.

It follows that the world’s supply of oil should peak when half of it has been extracted. After that, supplies decline, the remaining stuff is harder to extract, and prices soar as demand exceeds supply.

The problem is that statistics on how much oil is left – discovered and undiscovered – are very hard to come by.

Industry scandals haven’t helped. Shell was fined millions of pounds in 2004 for announcing it had overstated its oil reserves by 3.9 billion barrels, or 20 per cent.

All this means it’s extremely hard to know when the peak has taken place.

Renowned environmentalist George Monbiot has said: “Are global oil supplies about to peak? Are they, in other words, about to reach their maximum and then go into decline? There is a simple answer to this question: no-one has the faintest idea.

“I have now read 4,000 pages of reports on global oil supply, and I know less about it than I did before I started.”

It is hard to over-estimate the importance of oil to the modern way of life. It is not just needed to provide the petrol and diesel used to power the cars, lorries, ships, planes and farm machinery we depend on – a bewildering array of products, from cosmetics, toothpaste and pain- killers through to plastics, carpets, clothes, fertilisers and pesticides are all produced from oil products.

There are now more than 700 towns worldwide applying for Transition Town status. A total of 45 have already done so, including Llandeilo.

Another is Totnes, in Devon, where Mr Hopkins is now based. More than 70 local shops there accept the Totnes “pound”, which helps keep money circulating in the community and boosts local trade. A hydro-electric scheme is also in the pipeline.

The fledgling movement in Swansea began when Sera Rabbett and Hannah Buddle, of Mount Pleasant, saw flyers about Transition Town while visiting Bristol. Now the duo are on the 12-strong Swansea steering committee.

“We took the flyers away,” said Sera. “A lot of the information was relevant, so we put them up all over the place in Swansea – in shops, libraries and community centres. People started to contact us.”

Now, more than 100 people are in the movement.

“Youngsters got in touch, older people, politicians – all age groups,” said Sera. “They came from Sketty, Mumbles and Neath. It’s inspiring.”

If you want to know more about Transition Swansea visit or email

Also, read The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

1 Comment

bob banner
10 Apr 1:35am

Thanks for posting this…. Since many pioneers have been ahead of the curve it appears that we in the peak oil transition movement might bring back some of these potent films to newbies who are now becoming interested in learning how to create resilient communities as oil supplies decline. Thanks, we might just do a film festival with such greats as End of Suburbia; Escape From Suburbia; The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil; Cuba: An Accidental Revolution; What a Way To Go; Oil, Smoke and Mirrors; Independent America: In Search of Mom and Pops on a two lane highway… and others.

Cant wait to get Hopkins book in the US to start learning about his and their successes!

Bob Banner, editor of Sustainability: Radical Solutions Inspiring Hope (