After learning about many things, particularly peak oil and the relationship between money and energy, I had determined that "The World is Flat" was probably a waste of time, as it was likely arguing that the world would become more globalized, interconnected, and that things would just keep growing. This is the opposite of what will be happening due to peak oil, so the book looked like a 20-hour waste of time. The only reason I had to consider reading that tome, and I do believe there is a copy on my shelf somewhere, was that several of the administrators of my school read the book, which in turn was giving them a very distorted vision of the future. In the end, I did not read that one, rather reading other books, by other authors, that actually were grounded in the reality of the energy future that we face.
I did not want to read this new book either. With an author that seemed to be unaware of our energy situation, or the limits to growth, why would the next book be any better? Two things combined which finally convinced me to give it a go. First of all, a person whom I respect, the local renewable energy installer, highly suggested the book, saying that the author finally got a clue, and this installer actually took the time and effort to buy and ship me the book so I could read it in relation to my current work on our local future. The second event was an opportunity I had to speak for a college class titled "The Study of the Future" on the topic of peak oil, and it so happened that the sole textbook for this class is the "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" book. So, to my mind, this is a book to read for the few insights it might have, as well as for the ability to intelligently respond to anything ignorant that this author might profess.
Chapter One: "Where Birds Don't Fly"
I now have completed reading the first chapter of this book, with difficulty, as the author insists on inserting much of his own opinion, based on his limited knowledge, into the text. Still, in some ways, we are all like that, and I am certainly guilty of this form of speaking, so I strove to find within the pages, and paragraphs something of value, and something of importance.
One tidbit of good information was the author's explanation of how various countries addressed the rising oil prices of the 1970s. In the USA, fuel economy laws were made, more fuel efficient cars were produced and purchased, and the use of petroleum declined. In France, the people decided to focus on nuclear as their key energy source, to help them become energy independent. In Brazil, a push to grow sugar cane ethanol enabled true energy independence. Finally, and most interestingly, in Denmark, the people decided to focus on renewable energy, specifically wind, solar, and conservation. Denmark, the author claims, is now energy independent.
The lesson from history is that our responses to past energy problems have been varied, and we can look back to see which have been successful, which have not, and what can be learned so we can move forward into the declining energy future we face.
The second tidbit of interest was a reflection that there are many people who are ready and willing to serve our country (or any country) in the military and in paid volunteer service. This relates to my goal to develop and implement a plan whose result is to employ one million people in Michigan, people who are currently out of work, as well as those who will lose their jobs in the coming months and years. The idea that people are out there and are ready to work hard for things that they see as valuable, even for low pay such as the military, is a very heartening idea, because to create a million jobs of a military sort would be more doable than a million blue or white collar jobs.
One Million Michigan Jobs: The MichiCorp
In my state of Michigan, a corp of workers would be created to do any number of jobs throughout the state, focusing on infrastructure, reforestation, growing and distributing food, weatherizing homes, and etc. This corp would enlist people from all around Michigan, in all walks of life, of all ages, of all positions, to work together on the goal of creating the Michigan of tomorrow.
How this corp would be organized requires some innovative thinking.
A possibility is that for compensation that the corp would be able to live in homes that were purchased by the state after foreclosures and then renovated for passive house level energy efficiency by member of the Corp's Housing regiment.
Food would be provided by the Crop's Food regiment who would grow, store, and distribute food to all of those enlisted, as well as to schools, hospitals, and others. A portion of the food would come from farm markets from local farmers who signed up to be paid in a state-wide community currency (the MichiHour) which could be used to buy other farm market food, pay for rent on state owned housing, to pay tax bills, and etc.
In addition, the Corp's Capture regiment would be responsible for developing energy, especially electricity, generation plants utilizing wind and sun to provide the energy needs of all publicly owned structures, as well as to the homes owned by the state.
Corp regiments would also be formed to provide for clean local water, sanitation and recycling, reuse centers, free community health care, free daycare centers, and other services necessary for both corp members and the public at large.
The Corp's Biodiversity regiment would be responsible for reforesting the state, for cleaning up and restoring to wilderness unused lands, building community and neighborhood parks, and etc.
Overall, the first chapter of "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" had a couple useful points for me to remember: first, about the successes that other countries and cultures have had, and second, about the great willingness of people to serve when they believe in the cause. Finally, in the writing about it, it sparked some ideas about how to create a job corp within Michigan to help Michigan thrive through the ongoing economic turmoil.
Aaron Wissner is a teacher, educator, organizer and guest speaker. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with emphasis on mathematics, science, and education. Mr. Wissner has taught and consulted for sixteen years in public school, in areas ranging from mathematics, science, computers, to leadership and television news production. He is the founder and organizer of the grassroots Local Future Network, a non-profit educational outreach organization dedicated to saving Earth through culture change.