Post Carbon Institute senior fellow and GMC visiting scholar Richard Heinberg told an Ackley Auditorium audience September 15 that the central challenge for human society is shifting to renewable sources of energy. “The big story for the rest of our lives will be how quickly and how successfully we transition from fossil fuels to renewables,” he remarked.
Heinberg was on campus as visiting scholar for the Sustainable MBA, the master of science in environmental studies (MSES) and the master of science in resilient and sustainable communities (MRSC) programs. In his public address Thursday he showed how the discovery of cheap, abundant and easily accessible sources of fossil fuels resulted in rapid and unprecedented change in the economy and ecological health.
He illustrated recent trends showing a slowdown in worldwide economic growth at the same time atmospheric and ocean temperatures are steadily rising. Heinberg presented a hopeful prescription, which included grassroots community action to help build resilience. “Reliance is all about adaptation–it is a learned state of being,” he said. “We have to build adaptability in our institutions.”
His work at the Post Carbon Institute includes assembling “community resilience guides,” action-oriented books in building food systems, developing community energy projects and investing in local economies (prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist’s book Rebuilding the Foodshed is one the key resources).
“We face a future of daunting challenges but there’s no point throwing in the towel . . . everything depends on us, and the level of commitment and intelligence in which we engage.”