Islands Centre for Net Zero Transition Labs

We are trying something different

Heresy is from the Greek word meaning thinking for yourself.  In the workshop we learn that "thinking with the crowd" is natural for humans, but it is the main source of inertia that drives Business as Usual. Heretical ideas beyond targets are continuing to stream in. Participants want to continue the discussion. So keep watching and visit the Facebook page to get involved. 

For so many years, we have taken it for granted that demand for energy and materials will continue to grow forever. Governments and energy companies told us that in the future we would need much more energy than we have now. But - how many Europeans, Americans, Australians actually NEED more energy than they are using now? How many of us need more stuff than we have in our garage, storage, attic, on shelves...? Here is a heretical idea - in the future we will need much LESS energy and materials than we are using now. Let's keep going with the heretical idea and postulate that in the future all in our community will have what is essential for their wellbeing. Any organization or family that needs only a small amount of energy will have enough to meet their needs.

Heresy means that we purposefully question the commonly held beliefs and the embedded assumptions in our shared behaviour and rules of operation. Throughout history, famous heretics have questioned religious embedded assumptions, and started off whole new ways of organising and behaving. We remember heretics who nailed 95 theses to the cathedral doors, or who demanded the end to institutions like slavery, or the inclusion of civil rights. One thing to consider is that the embedded assumptions focused power and wealth into certain minority hands, and heretics question these assumptions. Embedded power assumptions are taught and reinforced through many message and behaviour sociologies. The more power is accumulated and consolidated, the more detrimental the outcomes for the rest of society. Society can bear hardships, inequalities and injustices for as long as they are bearable. Throughout history we see over and over again, consolidation of power and wealth creating grand and amazing buildings and artefacts, but the most amazing statues, temples and palaces are the last ones before a correction in the power structure. As the pressures for change accumulate, the powerful double down on the embedded assumptions and work to discredit heretical ideas. 

What are the embedded power assumptions that are driving the increasing degradation and risks to the most people now and into the future? What are the heretical ideas bubbling up to question the embedded power assumptions? If we can understand the dynamics of power, mechanisms of consent to the embedded assumptions, and how power shifts occur, then couldn't we design and build a correction without destructive struggles?  That is an interesting question. 



Transition the Oil Company

One of the best investments has traditionally been oil. The return on investment is so large, demand was insatiable and inelastic, government spent billions providing the infrastructure for using more and more oil. For most of last century, the price of oil was regulated to keep it low, but the competition to private vehicles and trucks was marginalized and expanding populations owning more cars and driving further distances meant that continuous growth in demand could provide ever increasing profits, even with low prices at the pump.  Chemists and scientists came up with more petroleum products. Governments used their military power to secure access to oil, ports, shipping and pipelines. Oil companies have merged and absorbed each other and grown to essentially unmanageable scale, complexity and disconnectedness -  as demonstrated by the serious safety and environmental disasters of the 2000's. The most lucrative oil fields have become toxic wastelands, refineries and pipelines are ageing and straining under lack of maintenance and stripped out labor force.  And now, the unthinkable is happening. Demand has plateaued and is declining.

How does the oil company transition in the next decade? Oil companies have dabbled with biofuels and renewables. Oil companies have broken up and sold off retail, refineries and other un-profitable segments.  But the core business of exploring for reserves, extracting oil and bringing petroleum products to the market is now in the wind-down phase. 80% of the known oil must be left in place. How does an oil company change to become the force behind change instead of funding the lobby to block change?


Transition the Electricity Supply

One of the most conservative and reliable investments has been utilities. Most of the securing of resources like hydro and building of infrastructure was funded by central government. In the early years, profit was regulated, but virtually assured. Although the electricity unit price remained low, the unrelenting growth in demand meant that profits would continue and returns could increase. The population continued to grow, and the number of things people could buy and plug in and leave running grew as well. And now, the unthinkable is happening. Demand has plateaued and is declining. 

We have enough electricity.


Transition Lab on the School Run

The pupils at Glaitness Primary School in Kirkwall, Orkney wrote letters to Professor Krumdieck talking about what they value in their community and environment, and how they want to take action to address the climate crisis. The group at the Heriot-Watt University Campus in Orkney ran a Transition Lab. Here is the story.
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