World-renowned “Peak Oil” expert Richard Heinberg packed the 100 Mile House Community Hall on Feb. 8 to deliver his seriously troubling message that economic growth is effectively over.
The audience of 220 all stayed to hear there is a silver lining if we can curb our spending on credit and apply principles of sustainability to our resources. People came to the event to hear what we can do, locally and globally, to begin to live within our means and preserve resources for the future.
Preceding the evening event, an afternoon workshop was held in the Valley Room so Heinberg could interface with members of the sponsoring groups, and most specifically, have an exchange with five Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School students who represent leading-edge thinking about the future.
At one point, listening to the students speak, a visibly impressed Heinberg said, “Where is the video camera? This should be on YouTube!”
At the evening event, three walls of the community hall were decorated with a display, designed and installed by Gus Horn and Rita Giesbrecht, of outstanding artwork and photography by James Smith and Shane Adams. In the front of the room, tires and oil barrel displays told of our responsibility to use, reuse and recycle.
Canim Lake Band Chief Mike Archie welcomed Heinberg to traditional Shuswap Territory with reverent song and drum. Mayor Mitch Campsall spoke briefly, and then Patricia Spencer and Linda Savjord introduced Heinberg.
“With the Industrial Revolution, rapid economic growth became normal,” Heinberg told the audience. “It was mostly the result of cheap energy.
“Economists assumed growth could go on forever. Nobody stopped to think all this industrial growth was happening on a small planet with only so much oil and soil, only so many forests and fish. So we all got hooked on growth.
“Governments, businesses and households went into debt on easy credit. The financial system created ever more complex securities and derivative schemes to soak up all that debt, and to make imaginary profits on imaginary assets.
However, Heinberg noted money and debt depend on natural resources.
“Piling up debt year after year meant piling up claims on resources that were shrinking as we depleted them. It was a pyramid scheme. The mother of all bubbles, and in 2008, it burst.”
Governments and central banks tried to re-inflate the bubble with bailouts and stimulus packages funded by public debt, Heinberg said.
“But there are practical limits to debt and energy sources, and we are hitting them. There are real limits to the planet’s ability to absorb our wastes and industrial accidents.”
There is no recovery, he said, adding the stimulation of the economy has all been done with more debt.
“We live on a finite planet. We can live without economic growth, but we’ll have to aim for improvements in life that don’t require increasing our consumption of fossil fuels and other depleting resources, or piling on more debt.
“The longer we put this off the harder it will be,” Heinberg told the group. “So let’s move on.”
The South Cariboo Sustainability Society and the South Cariboo Agri-Culture Enterprise Centre sponsored Heinberg’s presence in 100 Mile House.
Heinberg’s videos and newsletters are available at http://richardheinberg.com/homepage, or contact the Sustainability Society (250-791-1901), or the Agri-Culture Centre www.cariboo-agcentre.ca (250-397-2980).
A DVD of Heinberg’s 100 Mile talk will be made available through the Agri-Culture Centre for $15.
Heinberg, author of The End of Growth, is Senior Fellow-In-Residence at The Post Carbon Institute in Santa Rosa, California.