The Next Decade’s Top Sustainability Trends

Published on Post Carbon Institute, by Warren Karlenzig, Jan 6, 2010. – Linked on our blogs with the Post Carbon Institute, and with Transition US.

The top ten sustainability stories of the past decade was my last post. What trends are likely the next ten years? One thing for sure, 2010 through 2019 will be one day looked at as 1.) the turning point for addressing climate change by using effective urban management strategies, or it will be remembered as 2.) the time when we collectively fumbled the Big Blue Ball … //

… 7. End of Cheap Oil/ Onset of Fossil Fuel Shortages Time, Period: 2012-2019:

Besides fresh water, oil is the most threatened increasingly imported resource in developed economies. Energy shortages or supply disruptions are expected to continue to develop because of political acts, terrorism, warfare and natural disasters. The issue is not that the reserves are “running out,” but that getting at the remaining oil in a cost-effective manner is becoming increasingly more difficult, as has been outlined in multiple books by author Richard Heinberg (The Party’s Over, Peak Everything) and others.

As former Shell Oil CEO Jeroen van der Veer said in a 2008 email to employees, “Shell estimates that after 2015, supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.” Add the coming impacts of global climate change regulations to the scarce oil equation (see Trends numbers 2 and 5 in this post), and oil will continue to be an unpredictable flashpoint for the world economy. In 2007-2008, rapidly rising oil prices helped trigger a deep world recession; during the next decade oil may set off a chain of economic and civil events that could be far more severe.
With market uncertainty for oil prices and oil supplies, this new decade will witness the sunset of exurban-style automotive dependant sprawl in the United States and in many overseas copycat developments, particularly Asia. The overbuilt market for large, totally car-dependent single family homes in outer suburbia is expected by even some developers to not be viable for almost a decade, even if oil prices and supply stay relatively stable. A prolonged recurrence of oil prices above $100-150 a barrel will drive a stake through the heart of the exurban car-only model of real estate speculation, and will hit many other elements (food, imported goods, oil-based products) of the Western economy.

8. Focus on Urban Agriculture and Foodsheds: … //

9. Resiliency planning: cities, towns, homes, Time Period: 2010-2019:

Resiliency is about making a system or one’s self stronger and more able to survive adversity. As the previous items portend, there will no shortage of adversity during the coming decade from climate change and energy supply instability. One of the major social phenomena related to resiliency has been the emergence of the Transition Town movement, which has grown from a few villages in the United Kingdom to Barcelona, Spain, Boulder, Colorado, and Sydney, Australia. The founder of the phenomena, Rob Hopkins, also a Post Carbon Institute Fellow, has used his transition model of Totnes, United Kingdom, to devise a global organizational playbook. The purpose of transition thinking is to prepare people for potential shortages in global energy supplies and food caused by peaking oil and climate change. In contrast to earlier “off-the-grid” movements of the 1970s, Transition Towns can be located in urban neighborhoods as well as in the distant boonies, and they focus on community-scaled solutions in transportation, health, economics and people’s livelihoods and personal skills. Tactics of local groups vary widely, with events ranging from the familiar–clothing swaps and art festivals to the seemingly more obscure–”unleashings,”–to policy-laden activities, such as launching a long-term (15-20 years) “Energy Descent Action Plan.” The emphasis is on understanding and using collective community resources, including knowledge and skills, that people have in their own sphere of influence, versus waiting for top-down government decrees.

10. Sustainability Movie/ Novel /Art/ Song: … (full long text).

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