T. Vijayendra, a Founder-Member of POI, writes to the group reminiscing on its formation and offering pointers towards the future
It is just about a year since the informal group called Peak Oil India was formed (on June 7, 2013) and we decided to have a website. The website has been active for quite some time and we have a mailing list with nearly 60 subscribers. I am considered a ‘founder member’ and am probably the oldest member at 70+. So, I may be permitted to take the initiative to look back and offer a few suggestions.
I will begin with my own involvement with the issue of Peak Oil. Of course, many others have been engaging with the issue independently, not necessarily knowing each other. The first person I met in the field was Suyodh Rao. Sagar Dhara, Sajai Jose and Mansoor Khan have also been active on their own. All of them are now members of the group.
I wrote my first article on Peak Oil in December 2007 titled ‘Who is Afraid of Global Warming? Global Warming, Capitalism and the Road to a Saner Society’ and presented it at The Social Science Congress in Mumbai. It was very well received and was later published in Frontier and Medico Friends Circle Bulletin.
In 2008-09, I began to write a series of articles and published them mainly in Frontier, the journal from Kolkata. Frontier is a left wing weekly addressed mainly to the non-parliamentary Left. I chose to address them because they alone have an agenda of changing the system as a whole in a revolutionary manner. By the end of 2009, I published a book called Regaining Paradise: Towards a Fossil Fuel Free Society. That brought me in touch with many people who had similar ideas and engaged with the same issues, and eventually an embryonic Peak Oil community came into being.
Based on the book’s ideas, in 2009 August, a friend, Vinayak moved into a small block level town called Kinwat in Nanded district in Maharashtra to work on ‘urban initiatives towards a fossil fuel free society’. At that time we had not heard of the Transition Towns movement. Vinayak worked for three years and although he was successful in everything he tried, we failed to evolve a viable group. Our activities mainly revolved around water harvesting, kitchen gardens, local food, transport etc. By the end of the period, we came across Transition Town literature and on reflection, realised that we had not done enough work to reach out to the people with the big picture. We thought we will bring out booklets on the subject and arrange talks to the youth in colleges etc.
There was a biodiversity mela in Hyderabad in the year 2012 and we decided to release four booklets on the occasion. These were:
1. Yugant: Capitalism, global warming and peak oil By T. Vijayendra
2. Global Warming by Nagraj Adve
3. Peak Oil Primer By Energy Bulletin
4. Cuba without isms By T. Vijayendra
These were priced between Rs. 5 to Rs. 8 and we managed to reach a few people (You can download electronic copies by clicking on above links or visiting our Documents page).
Following this, in June 2013 we organised a 3 day workshop on ‘Sustainable Development—An Oxymoron! Search for Alternatives‘ near Hyderabad. In the workshop, we distributed the booklets mentioned above and also gave a DVD which had all the books, booklets, some Powerpoint presentations, articles and four films. Mansoor Khan gave a talk and also did a presentation on his book, The Third Curve: The End of Growth As We Know It. It was on the third and concluding day (June 7) that we formed the informal group called Peak Oil India and decided to have a website.
Today our network has some active people in Bangalore, Udupi, Belgaum, Pune, Goa, Kinwat and Hyderabad. I hope there are some more people and places.
Incidentally, Vinayak left Kinwat, but a young local person, Yogesh, who had attended the workshop in Hyderabad, is now trying to continue the work he started.
A Few Suggestions
Recent posts in our website paint a gloom – doom scenario. There is certainly enough basis for this and all of us have enough reasons to feel pessimistic about the world and about our country. To me, it appears that most of these authors expect the existing governments to change policies and they find that there is no hope. Many rule out the revolutionary alternative completely – either for ideological reasons or because they feel that there is no empirical evidence that such an alternative is in the offing. The net result is that no action programme emerges – at least I have not seen any action programme coming out of it.
Now, I come from a tradition of politics where engaging with people is primary. There are two good examples we can look to in trying to meet the present challenges of Peak Oil, global warming and growing inequality. These are that of Cuba, which faced and overcame a Peak Oil-like situation in the early 90s, and the Transition Town Movement. There are thousands of separate activities carried out by individuals and small groups all over the world that can contribute to either of these ‘models’. Each part of the world has to evolve a model that suits its history and genius. This applies to us also and different regions of our country may have to evolve different models as well, since India is a sub continent with distinct ecological regions. My idea is that we should work towards evolving such a model for our country or at least for some regions of our country and evolve an action plan.
The programme that is proposed here is:
- Awareness lectures to youth groups, Left groups, NAPM, Trade Unions and any local mass organisations including housing societies, etc.
- To take up Transition Town kind of work in a few small towns
- We should as a collective create a few small booklets and pamphlets for the purpose. We can have an editorial group which selects, edits and creates/commissions new material for the purpose. The documents available on this website can also be considered. We should also have a group that prepares ppts for these booklets so that anyone can use them.
- We should take up translation of this select list of booklets and presentations for regional use. As of now, we may need it in Telugu, Marathi and Kannada- languages of states where we have some live contacts. We should include Hindi too, as it covers a large area.
- We have been doing some work in Kinwat for some years. We can share our learnings. I feel we should initiate work in a few more towns. Khanapur near Belgaum, Karkala in Udupi and may be some small towns near Bangalore and Hyderabad should be explored. The question is who is going to take initiative? If the gloom-doom scenario is real, we can either forget it and enjoy life (as some commentators put it) or do something worthwhile, even if it is a losing battle. As I see it, most of us are neither enjoying life nor doing anything worthwhile. If some of our younger activists are prepared to come forward for it, I think it will create some energy and synergy.
To conclude, I am neither a pessimist nor a pure optimist. I think I can call myself a sceptical optimist and an activist. I feel that during the remaining years of my life I should pass on whatever I have learned in the four and half decades of my activism.
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