…Transition’s approach is adamantly different from that of the survivalists I heard about, scattered in the mountains around Sandpoint in bunkers stocked with gold and guns. The movement may begin from a similarly dystopian idea: that cheap oil has recklessly vaulted humanity to a peak of production and consumption, and no combination of alternative technologies can generate enough energy, or be installed fast enough, to keep us at that height before the oil is gone. (Transition dismisses Al Gore types as “techno-optimists.”) But Transition then takes an almost utopian turn. Hopkins insists that if an entire community faces this stark challenge together, it might be able to design an “elegant descent” from that peak. We can consciously plot a path into a lower-energy life — a life of walkable villages, local food and artisans and greater intimacy with the natural world — which, on balance, could actually be richer and more enjoyable than what we have now. Transition, Hopkins has written, meets our era’s threats with a spirit of “elation, rather than the guilt, anger and horror” behind most environmental activism. “Change is inevitable,” he told me, “but this is a change that could be fantastic.”
…Brownlee spelled out some probable outcomes, quoting peak oil’s pantheon of thinkers: Oil hits $300 a barrel by 2013. Middle Eastern exports cease. Things we take for granted — supermarkets, suburbs — quickly become impossible, and the world sinks into an “unprecedented economic crisis” that will “topple governments, alter national boundaries,” incite wars and “challenge the continuation of civilized life.” Brownlee paused after reading that last quote. He hadn’t even gotten to climate change and the implosion of the American dollar.