Transition Culture

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

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I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

18 Sep 2008

Albert Bates on peak oil, relocalisation and why the hippys were right all along

In Totnes, one sometimes hears the term ‘old hippy’ used as a term of abuse.  Last week in Totnes, Albert Bates, an old hippy of the highest order, thrilled a full house at the Methodist Hall with the story of the Farm Ecovillage in Tennessee. It was a delight for me, as I first heard Albert speaking in 1995, when I was a fresh-faced, just qualified permaculturist who was lucky enough to get a bursary to attend the ‘Eco-Villages and Sustainable Communities’ conference at Findhorn.  The speech Albert gave there, one long evening, was a life changing moment. 

What is so wonderful about Albert’s talk, both the version I heard in 1995, and the one he gave last week in Totnes, is the incredible story he tells about what can be achieved when people work together to make something happen.  The story of hundreds of middle-class city hippy kids turning up on 1000 acres of poor farmland in Tennessee and having to work out how to grow food, build houses, make electricity and so on, is a great story for our times, showing what the combination of circumstance, passion and necessity can draw out of us.

Luckily for those of you who couldn’t make it, Carl Munson of the wonderful was there, and made podcasts of the Albert’s talks.  You can here is main talk, ‘Anything is Possible’ here, and a short interview Carl did with Albert at the end of the evening here.  You can also read Carl’s review of the talk here.  You can recreate the Albert Bates experience in the comfort of your own living room by also downloading his powerpoint here and flipping through it as you listen to the podcast.  Now, how 21st century is THAT?!  Transition Culture, the cutting edge….

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


The hippies who said that economic growth is unsustainable and counter-productive were right. But here is what they need to know now about the future.

Due to declining oil production, we are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from “outside,” and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

After the last power black out, the people living in rural areas will find that surviving will become increasing difficult without all of the goods from the “outside” (food, canning jars, fencing, roofing, hay, straw, seed, animal feed, plastic tarps, fertilizer, clothes, fabric, medicine, hardware, saws, wood stoves, etc.). The survivors will be the very few who live in areas with good rain and soil and who prepared intelligently for a life without oil.

This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed:

I used to live in the northern USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207.

Finn Jackson
21 Sep 9:28am

Thanks for posting this in full.

The audio was a little difficult to hear at times, but the talk, for me, gave a wonderful sense of how new ways of living can be built over time. (People at ‘The Farm’ have gone from living in school buses to having a business that sells technology that can detect nuclear materials crossing a border and automatically assign a satellite to track the particular truck/lorry… and all solar powered!)

There was also a sense not so much of ‘lessons learned’ but rather ‘here are the things we have come to realise that it is important to focus on’ which will be especially useful.

Thank you. And hurrah for the 21st Century cutting edge technology that is Transition Culture :o)

Jan Steinman
22 Sep 5:03pm

Like Clifford, we’re starting a “lifeboat community.”

Unlike Clifford, we aren’t hiding.