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Would You Know How to Survive After the Oil Crash?

Could you get by without your car, food from outside your community, your job? There's a bunch of folks who want to show you how.

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We may crash and burn, or we can aim for something Angelantoni calls "creative descent." This involves teaching people about the coming crisis, retraining them in skills that will be useful and helping communities to be more localized.

"The first thing, really is to figure out where you want to live," said Angelantoni. Some areas, like the Southwest, may prove to be fairly unlivable as climate change kicks in as well. And disaster-prone areas, like geological-fault-riddled California may be dicey, he says.

But it's not all bad.

"There will be a lot of opportunity to start new businesses," he said. "We have to localize."

The relocalization movement has been around for decades but has gotten a second wind as the stumbling economy and mounting environmental pressures have shocked many into action. The basic premise is for communities to become more self-sufficient, and hence more resilient. This often means more local-food networks, more local energy and water systems and robust community businesses.

This idea has recently spun into transition towns, which has spread around the U.S. and in 14 countries. They provide a structure for communities to relocalize. Towns form working groups on issues like energy, food, transportation and local economics.

"It's not a political movement, it doesn't have a political bias," said Transition US Executive Director Carolyn Stayton. "Different types of people can be interested in it -- it is an us, not a them, it is about how we all can together create a future that works for us."

Each town has its own priorities and issues it is working on. For instance, in Santa Cruz, Calif., they are holding a reskilling expo where people can learn about composting, beekeeping, water catchment and nonviolent communication, in addition to workshops about peak oil and local economics.

Folks in Berea, Ky., just held a 100-mile potluck to help promote local food and farmers and to grow community awareness about their transition initiatives. 

It's easy, she says, to become paralyzed by fear -- global warming, economic turmoil and the loss of cheap energy can be a lot to take in. Transition towns examine those issues, but then "imagines what can be on the other side," Stayton said.

"What would our future look like? People imagine it looking like a healthy, wholesome place where people don't have to commute, where neighbors know each other, where business is local and vibrant and people have skills that they are sharing. The vision becomes so enticing that the problems shrink in their power, and people get propelled to create a future that solves the problems."

For Angelantoni, this kind of community resilience is the opposite of many survivalists, who head to the hills to see if they can live independently. His version of surviving a post-peak-oil world is dependent on communities coming together and adapting to new ways of supporting each other -- leaving their big cars and their big houses and their many toys behind.

"We are going to have to get much more practical," he said. "Are you going to be the butcher, baker, or candlestick maker in your local community? What are the skills you need? What are the skills you have?"

And the time to start answering those questions is now. "Some people think we have until the end of the century to get off oil. I'm not one of those people," he said. "I think we goofed. I think we are going to see, with the economy cratering, that we may have as little as 10 to 20 years."