peak oil and muddy vegetables

Oil is running out.

Okay, I’ll say that again. It’s not just global warming that should make us mend our ways. Oil is running out. Quite fast.

Some people think oil production has already peaked.    (Peak oil: the point when further expansion of oil production becomes impossible because new production flows are fully offset by production declines).

Even the most generous estimates give us to 2015 – just seven years away. And from then on, however much we (and China, and India, and Russia) might want our economies to grow – there just won’t be the oil or gas to do it.

Since the first commercial oil well was dug in Ontario in 1857  here are a few of the things we’ve got used to making from it: aspirin, sticky tape, trainers, socks, glue, paint, varnish, foam mattresses and packing, carpets, clothes, CDs, DVDs, plastic bottles, contact lenses, hair gel, toothbrushes, rubber gloves, washing up bowls and drainers, electric plugs and sockets, shoe polish, computers and printers, candles, bags, puffa jackets, bicycle pumps, rawlplugs, credit cards, double glazing, lipstick and of course plastic bags.

So, first step; start preparing yourself to do without that lot. Of course, it won’t take account of all the other things that need oil for their production.

If that seems like too much pain and suffering, we could go to war for what’s left. But, in what? Do you know how much oil it takes to run a tank ?

So oil companies are now rushing to look for oil in new places, like tar sands. But it’s much more expensive to produce this way. It’s like trying to take the cocoa out of a  brownie But dirtier. Or like a junkie who’s used up her arms and legs, looking for veins between her toes. (I prefer the brownie analogy myself. Just a baking, mum sort of thing.)

By 2011, the annual CO2 emissions just from getting the oil out of the tar will be more than from all of Canada’s cars 

Our so-called government is putting its faith (and YOUR money, in vast amounts) into nucular power. But guess what? Eighty-six percent of oil and gas consumption is for purposes other than producing electricity. So nucular is irrelevant in that context.

In an ideal world, we’d all be offgrid by now. But given what we know now about  wind turbines in north Kensington  (you’ll never find me using the words ‘cynical’ and ‘vote-catcher’ in the same brackets), the next best thing for urban prisoners is to find other ways to reduce our oil dependency.

There’s one simple thing even David Cameron could do. This year, for the first time since 1939, sales of vegetable seeds have exceed those of flowers. Digging for victory  is back.

And the better news is that the dirtier they are, the better they’ll last. Mud is a  natural preservative. As I keep vainly trying to tell Mr Fixit.

If you’re so wildly urban you don’t even have a garden, try an allotment. ‘Try’ being the key word; waiting lists are ten years in Camden, six years in Lewisham, and in Haringey they gave up counting and just closed the list.

Still, grumbling is a core element of husbandry, so go to the allotment forum to look for an unused patch in a distant suburb, and have a good moan.

If your family are wary of the off-grid experience, downsize by stealth. Start with an off-grid holiday at the  Sustainability Centre just a bike ride away in Hampshire, where you can learn to lay hedges or press apples.

Next time, venture further afield (as it were). Tell them they’re having a holiday in Cornwall, just like any normally aspirational townies. Don’t – necessarily – tell them they’re going to Plan-it Earth,  ‘in the heart of Cornwall’s Transition Culture’ to learn how to make herbal ointments and felted clothing, acquire bushcraft skills and get down to cob oven cookery.

While you’re there, put the town house on eBay. That’ll teach ‘em.