Friday, August 15, 2008

Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change / Pat Murphy -- Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2008.

Briefly stated "Plan C" is Pat Murphy's proposal for how we can respond to the "triple threats of peak oil, climate change and increasing inequity" in the standard of living of the planet's population. Murphy suggest we must curtail our use of fossil fuels and strengthen the bonds of community. I had expected a bit more practical advice about how to do this, particulary building community, but that's not the book that Murphy wrote. Instead, he mainly describes the the activities and institutions that have promoted our current problems. Along with the "triple threats," Murphy discusses U.S. militarism and imperialism and the corporate control of the mass media.

There is very little in the book with which I would disagree, but then very little that has not been described better elsewhere. The value of the book is in how Murphy brings together under one cover brief explanations of the most pressing problems of our time; however, I more than a few times wanted more complete arguments for his assertions (as willing as I was to accept them.)

Among the more interesting points was Murphy's criticism of various green technologies as inadequate to resolve our environmental problems. Instead, Murphy has the courage to conclude that our only hope is to drastically "curtail" our greenhouse gas emissions. The term "conservation" is too moderate for Murphy as it does not seem to imply returning to a virtually pre-industrial lifestyle.

Murphy argues that we, as pioneer individuals, must transform our lifestyles before a wider political commitment can form to make wholesale societal changes and it is the role of small, ecologically aware communities to support these pioneer members.

The notions are compelling for me. For several years I have worked to create and strengthen the Maryland Green Party, thinking that having a political institution that could champion a radical political and ecological agenda would be an important avenue for change. I have, however, come to the conclusion that such a political institution can not flourish without more or less permanent social groupings that will sustain the connections between people while they are politically active, and for such social groupings to succeed, they must be based in geographically compact communities. Murphy does not write about the extension of his vision of lifestyle and community into politics, but such and extension seems natural and beneficial.

I would recommend Plan C to anyone with a curiousity about and slight knowledge of Climate Change and Peak Oil for its concise summary of these problems. However, Murphy's "curtailment" response to these problems may be more than anyone who is not already convinced of the depth of the problem can handle.

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