Energy Bulletin has an article by Rob Hopkins looking at a collapse manifesto from David Holmgren (I feel like I've gone back in time about 10 years !) - Holmgren’s ‘Crash on Demand’: be careful what you wish for.
It is a rare occurence that I disagree with David Holmgren. One of my heroes, and the co-founder of permaculture, I generally find his intellect formidable, his insights on permaculture revelatory, and his take on the wider patterns and scenarios unfolding around us to be deeply insightful. But while there is much insight in his most recent paper, Crash on Demand, it also raises many questions and issues that I'd like to explore here. I am troubled by his conclusions, and although I understand the logic behind them, I fear that they could prove a dangerous route to go down if left unchallenged.
So what are the paper's core arguments? It picks up from his 'Future Scenarios' work a few years on, reassessing their relevance in a rapidly changing world (you can read Jason Heppenstall's summary of the new paper here). In essence, he has shifted to thinking that a gradual energy descent isn't going to happen. Rather than his Green Tech Future scenario which sees a concerted government response (similar to what we're seeing in Germany) or the Earth Stewardship scenario, an intentional powering down, he argues that in reality we are moving deeper and deeper into what he calls 'Brown Tech'.
Brown Tech has emerged because "sustained high energy prices have allowed private and national energy corporations to put in place many new fossil and renewable energy projects that are moderating the impact of the decline in production from ageing 'super giant' fields". Most of these new fossil fuel projects, he argues, "generate far more greenhouse gases than the conventional sources they have replaced".
The pace of the unfolding of climate change has outpaced expectations, and the world, if it continues to pursue Business as Usual, is still on course for a 6 degree rise in temperature, which would be catastrophic. He states that we have left it too late for a planned and intentional 'Green Tech' future, and the structural vulnerabilities of the economy mean that the currently emergent 'Brown Tech' future will be short-lived.
He suggests that in this context, "severe global economic and societal collapse would switch off greenhouse gas emissions enough to begin reversing climate change", and that we should deliberately seek to make this happen. That troubles me. I have two key objections to the paper which I'll set out below.