I came across this interesting book through an article in the Times Educational Supplement (End of the world as we know it ). In the early 1970s, as a student, I was a convert to conservation, reduced consumption and The Limits to Growth. I read the Club of Rome report avidly. Since I was already a great fan of E F Schumacher (Small is Beautiful ) and valued Gandhi over Marx (though not by much), the report seemed to provide a scientific justification for what were essentially moral/sentimental arguments (protecting our heritage for future generations etc.). I remember having discussions about imagined futures over coffee in the David Hume Tower basement. ‘What would we do when the oil runs out?’ One of my friends was particularly difficult to argue with. While I maintained that the oil would run out (from memory I think the Club of Rome model suggested that ‘peak oil’ would be well before 2000), he refused to take that seriously. ‘Even if it does run out, scientists will invent something else.’ I can no longer find refuge in the moral high ground, a frequent recourse as a student and potential refuge as a lifelong member of Friends of the Earth, since I have lived a not-untypical carbon-hungry lifestyle in which I have probably put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than most of my previous ancestors put together. It seems that I lost the argument as well. In my lifetime at least, he has been proved right, and I, believing the Limits to Growth, have been proved wrong. Here we are in 2012 and ‘peak oil’ is still some years away. Forty years on, the arguments focus around climate change rather than resource exhaustion.
However, the oil will run out.. just not as soon as we expected…. and there still seem to be very few people thinking about the social implications. It was therefore really interesting to see these issues explored in the context of schools and schooling. The Times Ed article gives a taster of what to expect in the book. The argument suggests that doing without oil and restoring the local community aspect to schooling (something our primary schools have not, on the whole, lost) could have some significant benefits. ‘Teachers become community leaders and pupils community workers’ (and vice versa, I would add).
This book imagines a better future.
Bring it on.