Post-Conference Reflections: Going Down to the Forum

There was a moment on Sunday morning, the last day of our Climate Crisis Solutions conference, when Richard Heinberg spoke about the importance of each of us going down to the forum. That image of us gathering to share what we know helped coalesce the conference presentations and dialogues into a clear, crystalline understanding of where we are and where we need to be.

It was a coalescing of Jim Merkel’s rousing talk of his personal journey to radical simplicity; the careful inquiries into carbon numbers of Marty Heller and Pat Murphy; Bob Brecha’s stories about the IPCC report and Europe’s renewable energy projects; Liz Walker’s documentation of the Ecovillage At Ithaca’s impact on its neighbors and broader community; the individual stories of personal and community commitment and change; and Richard’s own introductory presentation on the need for contraction. We all need to go the forum, Richard said during a panel discussion on Sunday, because of the moment in history we’re sharing, no matter how dangerous, or exacting, or fruitless it sometimes seems.

It’s been ten years since Community Solutions’ first Peak Oil conference in 2004 and many of the same colleagues joined us this year. Our discussions, now as then, were wide-ranging and thought-provoking, embedded in climate and energy realities, and touching on issues of community and individual leadership. We heard Peter Bane and Linda Wigington lead panels of impassioned people who are making deep energy cuts in how they live or in their homes; discussed the need for – and likelihood of – voluntary and involuntary simplicity and poverty; learned of the need for practical tools to create a carbon budget. And, throughout the weekend, we talked to each other about how we might rise to the historic challenge of this moment individually and collectively.

On the Sunday morning panel, reflecting on where change starts – with the individual or in the community – Richard said: “Begin with yourself or you have no authority. Then share with your community or you have no relevance.” In response to Jim Merkel’s earlier examination of our political realities, Richard continued that we are an “empire in the process of cracking up. So that means it’s a dangerous time to be alive and it’s a dangerous time to go down to the forum. Because people are frightened, confused and angry, they don’t understand what’s happening around them and they’re looking for someone to blame. So they need practical guidance in adapting – basically in learning how to be successfully poor because that’s the direction we’re heading in….”

Tom Bradstreeter, a participant from Transition Milwaukee, who sent us Erik Lindberg's conference blog "Climate Crisis and the Pursuit of Happiness", included below, wrote us: 

Erik would have completed this before we made it back to Milwaukee, but our almost nonstop dialog about what we experienced this weekend slowed him down. Personally it will take me several weeks to process it all. Not the technical aspects of things like Passivhaus but the emotional and personal transitions that were shared by all --both speakers and audience. It was one of those events where the lines are blurred. When you get at most 75 people in a room and all of them are speakers (or could be), the sharing economy of ideas and feelings is overwhelming.

It's obvious that the forum provided by the recent conference was an important one for many participants, including those of us at Community Solutions. We're planning to continue the dialogue and reflections by posting conference presentations and interviews beginning with Richard's Sunday panel reflections, which you can find here.  You can also attend our 2015 conference, Climate Crisis Solutions:  Tools for Transition.