Slowly but surely people are beginning to talk about a taboo- what happens when the oil runs out. What are we going to do? How are we going to live? How will we feed, power and house ourselves? How can we transition our society away from oil to a secure energy future? These kind of questions are being explored in a three month programme of events in my local town talking about how the community can cope “beyond oil”.
It is certainly innovative and an exercise like this would have been unthinkable even a year ago. While it has to be commended for its vision and inspiration, no one is under-estimating the scale of the problem ahead, not just for one town but for society in general.
Emphasising how difficult it will be to wean ourselves off oil, the UK Department of Transport has just published statistics that all point in the wrong direction.
Compared to a generation ago, Britons are making far fewer journeys by foot or by bike, and many more by fuel-hungry cars and planes. The average person walked 255 miles in 1975, however that figure has now fallen to under 200. Cycling has also declined over the last 30 years by 42 per cent. Even more depressing was that fewer children are now walking to school at the same time as obesity rates in kids are soaring.
In comparison, car drivers drove twice as much as they did in the seventies. We are also flying more – between 1989 and 2005, the number of people flying around the UK almost trebled from 4 to 11 per cent. It is set to get worse, we are now used to flying around Europe on budget airlines. But now even long haul flights are getting cheaper.
Next month, Oasis Hong Kong will offer single flights from London to Hong Kong for as little as £75. “Increasing competition amongst no-frills budget airlines flying within Europe indicates a gap in the UK market for low-fare, long-haul travel,” says Steve Miller, chief executive of the Hong Kong-based airline.
It is low fair, long haul, but huge ecological cost. It is time for transition. But all the trends are in the wrong direction.