Peak oil, energy, and society

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Welcome to the learning project on Peak Oil, Energy, and Society.

This learning project is an online version of a course at a small high school in progress from March-May 2008. You are welcome to add! Additions, comments, and questions by all are very welcome.

Content summary[edit | edit source]

What happens when the oil runs out? Oil is a highly-concentrated, easily portable source of energy which has made our society what it is today. Yet some say that we will soon reach the peak of global oil production and that oil will then become extremely expensive. How will our society change if and when that happens? How much does our culture depend on cheap energy, and what would a future without it be like? And, what can we do about it? ksafasklf kajsfbsfbajkf

Subpages[edit | edit source]

Anyone can create a new subpage - click the "edit this page" tab at the top, then put the cursor where you want to put the link to your new page, type in the name, and put brackets and a slash around the name of your new subpage... like this: '[[/nameofyourpage/]]' (leave out the quotes). If it's red, that means it has no content yet; click on it to create it and add content. You could change the name of your page, too, by editing this page.

Building recycling


Ian's page

Adam's page

Caleb's page

Meg's page

Charlotte's page

Frederick's page

Contents of course[edit | edit source]

Topics and homework for each unit[edit | edit source]

Peak Oil, Peak Everything


  • Intro: PD, chap 1, §1,3,4,6
  • Standard: PE, Introduction

How Systems Function: Ecology, Economy, Energy Flow, Our Homes, & Complex Societies


  • Intro: LE, chap 7, part 1
  • Standard: Van Der Ryn, chap 6
  • Advanced: Diamond, Prologue

Also Read: Selected news articles.

Ecological Footprinting

  • Intro: Watch The Ecological Footprint
  • Advanced: Read “The Ecological Footprint” pages (7) at <>

Renewable Energy: the solution?

Read: One chapter from either:

  • Chiras, Guide to Renewable Energy
  • OR Pahl, Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook

Renewables, continued, & Farming


  • Intro: PE, ch. 2, “Fifty Million Farmers”
  • Advanced: Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels

Climate Change

  • View An Inconvenient Truth

Despair & Social Change


  • PE, ch. 7, “The Psychology of Peak Oil”

Actions for Our Future


  • PO chap 6 “Managing the Collapse”
  • AND PD chap 2-5 ONE chap of your choice.

Reading Notes Due Each Tuesday

Lessons[edit | edit source]

Activities[edit | edit source]

  • Activity 1
  • Etc.

Learning materials[edit | edit source]

Readings, Wiki links, Web links, other resources

Wiki links[edit | edit source]

Links to pages in Wikiversity that you could work on, or you might find useful. Please add links!

  • Wikipedia add good links you find here!

Learning materials[edit | edit source]

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Bibliography and abbreviations[edit | edit source]

  • Chiras, Dan. The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2006.
  • Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. London: Penguin, 2005.
  • PE: Heinberg, Richard. Peak Everything: Waking up to the century of declines. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2007.
  • PD: Heinberg, Richard. Powerdown: Options and actions for a post-carbon world. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2004.
  • PO: Heinberg, Richard. The Party’s Over: Oil, war, and the fate of industrial societies. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2003.
  • LE: Kunstler, James Howard. The Long Emergency: Surviving the end of oil, climate change, and other converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century. New York: Grove Press, 2006.
  • Merkel, Jim. Radical Simplicity: Small footprints on a finite Earth. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2003.
  • Pahl, Greg. The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community solutions to a global crisis. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007.
  • Pfeiffer, Dale. Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, food, and the coming crisis in agriculture. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2006.
  • Van Der Ryn, Sim. Design for Life: the architecture of Sim Van Der Ryn. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2005.

Assignments[edit | edit source]

Notes & Responses[edit | edit source]

For each unit we’ll have two (2) assignments: notes or reports on the readings, and responses to the issue. The responses are small products (such as a one-page paper) of your thinking; many of them may focus on actions or strategies. Once each in the term, your response must include a graph, a map, a drawing, a budget, a wiki entry, and a story: please see the separate menu of assignment options.

Major Project[edit | edit source]

The major project involves identifying and carrying out (1) a change or improvement to the Meeting School’s ecological sustainability; (2) a community awareness-raising effort, or (3) an experiment in renewable energy. The class will choose a format (e.g., blog, wiki, paper handbook) and publish its work for use by the other members of the community (e.g., the board’s Sustainability Committee, the community’s Physical Plant Committee, parents)

Potential Projects
  • Make biodiesel in a five-gallon pail
  • Grow oil (for biodiesel) with algae
  • Apply for a grant (write first draft) to install a full-scale renewable-energy system at TMS
  • Buy & install a small photovoltaic (PV) panel
  • Set-up a House-by-House energy audit for one source (e.g. oil, electricity, wood, etc.)
  • Organize & host an awareness event, e.g, a “second hour” at Monadnock Quaker Meeting; a café evening at the Peterborough or Winchendon Unitarian-Universalist churches; a presentation to Mountain Shadows School, etc
  • Insulate the damn water heaters and install timers on them
  • Do a rough ecological footprint or carbon audit for the campus, using a book or website calculator
  • Create a budget for offsetting TMS’s carbon footprint using RECS
  • Write a proposal for building a methane generator on the campus.

Learning Project Summary[edit | edit source]

Active participants[edit | edit source]

Active participants in this Learning Group