Living on the Isle of Man it is easy to think of climate change and peak-oil as distant problems, disconnected from our own lives. A walk past the war memorial on Douglas promenade reminds us that the Isle of Man is part of a much bigger world, a world which occasionally comes knocking, even when it’s not welcome. In the 1930’s many local people may have thought of fascism as somebody else’s problem, a distant threat that wouldn’t effect them. The rise of Fascism was the last great crisis that we faced and today the global threats of climate change and peak oil are as big a threat to our survival as fascism was in the 1930’s, and our response to this threat needs to be just as big.
Whilst the Isle of Man may stay safely tucked away from melting ice caps, bush fires and drought induced famine. We will not escape the impacts of climate change and peak-oil. Warmer seas mean more storms, greater storms affect our food security as growing conditions change. Stormy seas become unnavigable, presenting difficulties getting goods and people on and off the Island, and rising sea levels increases the likelihood of flooding and render ports unworkable. When the weather does permit travel, the scarcity of oil over the coming decades will make transporting food, goods and people prohibitively expensive, and with fossil fuels generating the majority of our electricity, life is set to change drastically over the next 30 years, whether we want it to or not.
Just as the Island’s war time population didn’t take things lying down, we don’t have to either. None of the impacts of climate change are inevitable and the technology and the expertise exists to mitigate the worst effects of peak-oil. There is still time for the Island to make changes that will resonate around the world, showing the rest of the planet that the Isle of Man is a beacon of best practice, both environmentally and economically. Changing the way we power our homes and public buildings will cost money, but doing nothing and trying to deal with problems as they occur will cost far more.
What is our future ?
“By 2030 the demand for resources will create a crisis with dire consequences. Demand for food and energy will jump 50% by 2030 and for fresh water by 30%, as the population tops 8.3 billion” - Prof John Beddington, UK Chief Scientist, SDUK 09 conference (March 2009)
Here on the Isle of Man we can choose to hide our head in the sand and carry on as ‘normal’ until society unravels or we can plan ahead and make a smooth transition to an oil-free society. Making the transition will not be easy, but it needn’t be traumatic either. It might mean that our high energy consuming lifestyles have to change but if that is for the good of our collective well-being then that must be a good thing. As the journalist George Monbiot put it
“If people had put their own immediate selfish interests ahead of the national interest during the Second World War we would have lost, but at the moment people are saying, “How dare you even suggest that I can’t have a Plasma Screen TV the size of a football pitch? How dare you even suggest that I can’t fly to Thailand for my holidays? I refuse to give these things up. They are my fundamental rights.” Have we become so soft and so selfish that we can’t lay those down, when during the last great crisis people were asked to lay down not their plasma screen TV’s and their holidays to Thailand, but their lives? Have we become so soft and so selfish that we are asking other people in other countries and in future generations to lay down their lives so that we can maintain these plasma screen TV’s and holidays to Thailand? If so it casts us in a pretty grim light.”