Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Essential 12-Step Programme

The 12-step programme was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, which found its roots in the Oxford Movement - a Christian based fellowship which provided consolation to those suffering from troubles with drink and other misfortunes of the human condition. The 12-steps of AA are intended to (1) admit you have a problem, (2) sort-out your past, grievances and own-up to your own part in them and (3) forge a link with a Higher Power and find spiritual salvation in communion with whatever god you believe in (or don't) and in the assistance of others suffering from the same problem you have.

It's a simple approach, but very difficult to apply in practice on all the the above three accounts. Now I note that the conversion of an oil-based town (or village) to a "Transition Town" (or village) is also reckoned to be abided by a 12-step programme. I will list the steps here, as in this oil-deprived inevitability we are seeing now, I feel that I need to try and do something practical rather than just write about it. I have not yet tossed-in the towel over the survival of humanity and feel there is a road to salvation, albeit with far less vehicles on the roads.

I am thinking specifically about the village of Caversham where I live with my family, neighbours and friends, which is indeed a very friendly and lovely place to live, set on the north bank of the River Thames, across from Reading. I am trying to "think local" as E.F.Schumacher urged us to in his classic and best-selling book, "Small is Beautiful"... subtitled, "a study of economics as if people mattered." Well, I think we do matter, all of us, and that man's words were published in 1973, while he was also a consultant economist to the British National Coal Board. They are far more relevant now because hardly anybody heeded them, then or since. If we had we would not be where we are now.

The Transition Town community have not nailed together a complete plan of action as yet, but it is the essential first stage in the ultimate arrival in a world without cheap oil and eventually without much of it on sale at all. The notion of a 12-step programme I take to be ironic, in that we have become utterly addicted to oil as alcoholics are to drinking, and we need to place ourselves in a condition of "recovery". AA has it that no alcoholic is ever cured but keeps sober and improves through a state of daily maintenance; so it is, most likely with oil. Put another way, the TT is an evolving fellowship in which we have to learn to live a new way: sober, without oil. The word "sober" does not just mean neither drinking oil nor booze but it reflects a state of altered comprehension, where one no longer desires or needs these things. Hence the spiritual transformation that AA promise to those who work their way assiduously through its 12-steps, usually with the help of a "sponsor".

Since no-one has done the TT programme as yet there are no sponsors and we will have, though cooperation, to work it out for ourselves, probably drawing on past knowledge, and finding the old ways of running a society before the first oil-well was struck in Pennsylvania in 1859 (exactly 100 years before I was born). The first field in the Middle East was found in 1908, by an Englishman, an explorer by the name of George Reynolds.

(1) Set up a steering committee and design its demise from the outset (now the latter is a lovely touch!).
(2) Awareness raising (yes like the AA programme, admitting we have a problem).
(3) Lay the foundations.
(4) Organise a great unleashing (i.e. set some plans and timescales).
(5) Form sub-groups (now this means potential action!).
(6) Use open-space (yes, if you look around there is more than we might think even in densely populated and built-up regions like the south east of England).
(7) Develop viable practical manifestations of the project (spot-on - real action afoot!).
(8) Facilitate the great reskilling (more difficult, but it may simply be learning woodwork, how to grow food, to cook and other practical arts, which have been long-lost since WWII and the plentiful appearance of cheap oil and transportation).
(9) Build a bridge to local government (yes, I'm working on that one now!).
(10) Honour the elders (yes, because they can still remember those lost arts alluded to in Step 8).
(11) Let it go where it wants to go (now since this is not about the market forces the mess we are in now has been excused by, I agree - the Higher Power knows best!).
(12) Create an energy-descent plan (this speaks for itself and is really the conclusion and purpose of the whole of the programme)... and then (AA "paraphrased": having undergone a spiritual conversion as a result of these steps, to carry the message to others that they can sort themselves out too).

As Ghandi said: "Be the change which you wish to see in the world."


Related Reading.
http://transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/12Steps.

4 comments:

sustain_ability said...

http://www.globalwarmingsolutions.co.uk/buoyancy_driven_solar_engine.htm

Dr Alan Williams (based in the U.K.) has come up with yet another attempt "to produce high air flow velocity using the buoyancy of warm air".

Is there any way of convincing a respectable engineering firm to at least do a feasibility study? Funding could be a problem. Chris, do you know of such a firm?
George

energybalance said...

Hi george,

It sounds interesting. Money is always a problem, though! I'll look into it.

Chris.

energybalance said...

Hi george,

It sounds interesting. Money is always a problem, though! I'll look into it.

Chris.

energybalance said...

O.K. George, I just took a look at it. It certainly looks like a design with merit for (as the author) rural communities with to access to other energy sources.

A full scale-up beyond that would be stretching the engineering quite some though!

I'll see if I can find anyone who's interested.

Regards,

Chris.