Paul Potyen: Making the transition


Because of the process of economic globalization, our communities — which have been ravaged by what we call “affluence” — are now at the end of very long and fragile supply chain upon which we depend for even our most essential needs. Our community is vulnerable, exposed and at risk.

Here’s why: We now are facing three major converging global crises — Peak Oil, global warming and economic instability — that together represent a “perfect global storm,” bringing with it massive waves of change. James Howard Kunstler has called this “The Long Emergency.”

This is not just an event. We’re looking at global, long-term trends here. But they also will give rise to short-term regional breakdowns, interruptions and shortages along the way. This is an important understanding for every community; we need to prepare for long-term crises and short-term emergencies.

This situation is unprecedented in human history. If we were facing only one of these, it would be difficult enough. But the three together introduce dynamics that never have been seen before on this planet. And like the citizens of New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina, our communities almost are completely unprepared.

The Hirsch Report (prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005) states, “The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation … the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary. Previous energy transitions were gradual and evolutionary. Oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.” Unfortunately, the massive mitigation that the Hirsch Report speaks of has not yet begun.

In fall 2009, at the conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil in Denver, Richard Heinberg summed it up in a message that should be heard across the world. He said, “The apparent fact that the world has reached the end of economic growth as we have known it is momentous information. It needs to get to as many people as possible, and as soon as possible, if we collectively are going to be able to plan for contraction and manage the transition away from fossil fuels without succumbing to rapid, chaotic civilizational collapse. … We have our work cut out for us.”

And if we depend on our federal government to initiate this effort, it will be too late. We need to initiate an effort on a local scale. We need to move steadily and efficiently to local production of food, energy and goods, and reduce our consumption while improving environmental and social conditions in our own community. We need to develop an exemplary community in Steamboat Springs and Routt County that will be a working model for other communities when the effects of energy decline and economic disintegration become more intense.

If you are interested in learning more about the effort here in Steamboat to make the transition from oil dependency to local resilience, you can begin by attending a free screening of the film “In Transition” at Bud Werner Memorial Library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. A discussion with Transition Colorado founder Michael Brownlee will follow. In addition, a lunchtime discussion and presentation is scheduled for June 1 at the library for those who want to take an active role in Transition Steamboat.

I am encouraged and inspired by the many intelligent and creative people I have met and read about in this community who are already taking significant steps in this direction. I look at this transition initiative as an opportunity to create an even more wonderful place for us (and our children) to live our lives.

For more information about the transition movement, go to To join the movement locally, join

Paul Potyen is a Steamboat Springs resident.


George Danellis 6 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for your letter, Paul. Anyone who is interested in what our "economy" might look like and how resilient it will be in the future might like to come to the event Thursday evening - whether you agree with what is posited above or not. We live in a world economy based on readily available, inexpensive natural resources that provide the natural capital for our economic engine in the consumptive, growth-focused model of today. While this capital lessens and related costs increase, few leaders have been or are paying it due attention and this will be at our peril. It already is.


carlyle 6 years, 11 months ago

The "Peak Oil" question has been around for a long time. A good book to read is "The Battle for Barrels, Peak Oil Myths & World Oil Futures", by Duncan Clarke.


Steve Lewis 6 years, 11 months ago

YV Boy, Relax. A meeting of local residents is no reason to freak out. And its a bit early to label what they will want to do, isn't it. They haven't even met yet.


Steve Lewis 6 years, 11 months ago

carlyle, Save me the trouble. When do you think oil will peak? And how long before we see $4/gal gas again? About a year in my view, around next July. $5/gal in 3 years. But what do you think?


Scott Wedel 6 years, 11 months ago

Why does providing electricity via wind and solar result in socialism? At the very least, how could it get any more socialist when we already get our electricity via YVEA which is a consumer owned cooperative (according to their website)? The socialists are already running this valley, time for you to run from here to a capitalist area served by EXCEL.

Whether or not there is peak oil is largely irrelevant. What cannot be disputed is that China and India are adding to the demand for oil and we should expect expensive oil. We can prepare for a future of $150 per barrel of oil or we can be blindsided.

Maybe someone like Fred Duckels is not worried about global warming or peak oil, but as a businessman he might want that the next expensive purchase of heavy equipment can run on something other than diesel. Hearing scenarios of the future and being prepared is something is something smart business owners do all the time.


MrTaiChi 6 years, 11 months ago

I've read some of Kunstler's stuff.

Just becasue he lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, more than fifty miles from Steamboat Springs, doesn't make him an expert or a guru. If he lived in Steamboat, I think there would be a healthy skepticism about his Chicken Little message. As it is, and always has been, there is always a crowd ready to believe that the end of the world is at hand. "Repent now!" just has a new slogan, "Get green fast." I've composted kitchen and yard waste most of my adult life. I drive close to being characterized as a hypermiler because I'm cheap. I recycle. I walk to work most days. Don't lecture me.

Kunstler is not a democrat in the traditional sense of the word. He is an elitist who insists that municipal planning has it all wrong, that the free choices people have made to buy a house in the suburbs are wrong choices and shouldn't have been encouraged by building infrstructure to accomodate their desire for thier own home, a lawn and a car. He wants us all packed into orderly apartment projects with porches on our sidewalks so we can chat with neighbors passing by because they have nothing else to do. He is the type of dangerous elitist who genuinely believes that people don't know what is in their self interest, and he does.

It seems like a small step for the cognoscenti to impose their will over the popular will becasue they know better. The perversion of good intentions gave us eugenics in the past, collective farms, forced sterilizations and other fast track social engineering.

Sure, go and listen to the program, but don't check your brain at the door.


seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago

The hoax of AGW and peak oil has spawned global movements such as this one which started in the UK and is using fear of these two ideas to promote a deconstruction of society as we know it and the eventual elimination of the need for currencies. This would be done by designing so called sustainable villages where each person contributes labor or some other thing of value other than cash for the food they need. Industry would necessarily end and the planet would be saved from human consumption. I have come to this understanding from the maze of websites and information they themselves provide and use for training. HELP! Save us. It's not that we all don't love the planet and trees and stuff, it's that we want the freedom to be conscientious stewards while maintaining the freedom to live our lives in a sovereign USA, not a globally governed commune.


seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago

WARNING: The following link takes you to a George Carlin skit with the 7 words in use.


JLM 6 years, 11 months ago

The basis for this report is pure nonsense. America does not have an energy crisis of any kind at all. We do have some misguided policies which prevent us from optimally allocating our capital as it relates to how we produce energy for the long run and how we buy for the current account.

We have foolishly funded the development of foreign sources of energy while disregarding fully capable domestic energy sources which could completely supplant this foreign energy.

We are sending gobs of money to the Middle East for hydrocarbon energy while failing to develop alternative energy sources at home. I do not mean elitist phantom energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal but rather nuclear, clean coal and natural gas.

Nuclear energy is clean, homegrown and can be made in abundance. It is the cheapest source of energy available. It provides good jobs in the construction and operations phases nicely dovetailing w/ the need to produce good jobs.

Clean coal is simply a matter of pollution control.

Natural gas is a simple distribution problem. How to get it from where it is naturally located to where the demand resides.

We lack the discipline of being able to pay ourselves for the energy we use and insist on paying foreign --- often hostile --- regimes for energy that we essentially discover in their countries.

We eat dessert first, ask for a second helping and disregard any sense of discipline.


Brian Kotowski 6 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Tai Chi beat me to the punch. I too have encountered some of Kuntser's stuff. Once you slog thru the painfully "behold how erudite I am" prose/pose, you see that he's just Al Gore without the double chin. Modern suburbia="cartoon architecture." The "boulevards of commerce" are "gruesome and tragic." High density housing in deference to Mother Earth is where it's at.

Sorry, James. I like my 37 acres, and wish I could afford more.

An aside: I recently completed a TDY in Vegas that morphed into an 18 month stay (Las Vegas: Latin for "Sprawling Urban Cesspool in the Middle of Nowhere"). The single biggest adjustment for me was everyone living on top of one another on their .15 acre lots. Most of the people I met, however, loved it there. To each his own. Fortunately, the Kuntlsers of the world are unable to dictate to each what his own shall be.



Scott Wedel 6 years, 11 months ago

So are YVEA evil socialists?

If the issue is requiring people to live in "new urbanism" is the objective then I am against it.

If the issue is that some cities make it far easier to annex a suburb and have zoning rules that prevent giving people the choice to live near downtown areas in condos or apts and walk to shop then that doesn't sound that bad. There are cities that require a project provide two parking spots per residence plus visitor parking and there might be potential residents willing to own only one car. So zoning rules might be limiting free market options for housing you might not want to own, but others might like.

I do not accept the premise that someone is either a Capitalist or Socialist? There is also reality where nonprofits can do good, community service is not the end of the world, businesses innovate and create great products and services, it is nice to live with clear air and water, Iron Horse where government thought they could do so much better than commercial business, URAAC which is government subsidizing property improvements for millionaires and billionaires, BP oil spill for which every involved company blames someone else for the problem, public school system is a historical strength of the country and so on.

Do I favor the best business practices (capitalism) and hate the worst of government (socialism)? Yes. Do I favor the best of government (socialism) and hate the worst of business (capitalism)? Yes. So for the extremists that see things one way or the other, I am not one of them and so considered to be the other side. So I consider myself to be of neither side, but instead concerned with reality where both sides have their limitations and should accept that the other side can do some things well.


Steve Lewis 6 years, 11 months ago

Unbelievable, the above eagerness to pigeonhole this local meeting as crap, according to YOUR political stripes, and obvious fears. As Tai said, use your brain much? You guys are using only the boilerplate of what you believed yesterday, and throwing it on whatever you freaking see. I would love to know you put your blog writing in front of your kids or family. If you won't do that with the above and the other thread, then who is spreading crap?

Paul Potyen wrote the invite. Didn't see any search for "uptopia" in there when I read it. Actually it was the opposite, about dealing with possible coming disfunctions. But hey, when it involves a gun and then you are a "survivalist", I guess its o.k? I do rememeber we had the Heritage Foundation here. Don't remember feeling a need to pigeonhole that meeting. People should talk, no?


Ken Reed 6 years, 11 months ago

The problem with this type of article/meeting is that it is based on fear and unrealistic assumptions (peak oil, global warming and economic instability, the "perfect global storm"). Ridiculous. Once you are convinced the sky is falling, you'll do about anything. Kinda like feeling obligated to give at church cause you're preacher said you're going to hell if you don't. Sermon first, collective fear next, then comes the collection plate. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with community gardens, clean energy, etc. Just don't use fear tactics.


sledneck 6 years, 11 months ago

Paul, you could help us with all 3 of the impending catastrophies.

Sell all your possesions and give the $$ to the poor. This would help with "economic instability" of some poor people.

Stop using oil, gas and all products produced or transported or containing them. This will help the oil last longer.

Stop using any source of energy that uses fossil fuel. This will help with global warming.

And please, please please, let me know as soon as you do all those... Al Gore wants to be second!!!!


MrTaiChi 6 years, 11 months ago

These presenters may have information that is accurate and worth considering. One should attend the meeting with an open mind. That said, I think they are off to a bad start.

Whether you subscribe to the Bible as the word of God or not, it is a work of great literature containing much wisdom. Somewhere in warning against false prophets it says, you will know them by their works. That communicates that they themselves may believe their message, that they may be charismatic and convincing, but the test is in the results they produce and the program they promote.

These presenters have in one instance anyway, held up a prophet of doom who believes that government should coerce correct choices, as he views them, by economic disincentives to actions based on incorrect thinking. Since the voting public won’t willingly give up their space, privacy, and choices, these mandates will have to be imposed from above by treaties and international obligations that tie the hands of politicians so they won’t be voted out for the draconian life changes required of their constituents.

It doesn’t matter that this phenomenon has no label yet. It has the earmarks of totalitarianism in a new context.

I am struck by the irony that choice is a good mantra for abortion rights and use of marijuana and bad for incorrect thinking about economic freedom and personal freedom. Fear is bad when talking about the deficit, illegal immigration, (Sarah Palin stuff), but good and a complete reason in itself to believe wholesale in hysterical predictions.


Steve Lewis 6 years, 11 months ago

I'll attend the meeting because I believe economic instability, and peak oil are valid issues. Localizing the sources of my goods and services are a logical response.

You folks are free to enjoy a different evening, because you feel theses issues are not real. But you don't need to throw the stones do you? I don't get it. Surely your fear of socialists and hysteria could acknowledge those over here have some sanity too. You know, saying we want to "take things" away from you sounds a lot like hysteria too.

Global warming might be a hot potato, but that doesn't mean that economic instability and peak oil are also irrational arguments. They are not. Oil peaking in twenty years is still a reason to react.

Economic instability is all evidenced all around you. Where would the free market be without HUGE government intervention? You don't know. What will happen in Europe with countries teetering on bankruptcy? You don't know.

I'm not interested in the actual year oil supply will peak. More proven is what the oil market, with newly dominant players like Goldman Sachs, has shown it can do. Remember the summer of 2008 and the price spike of gas? That was not about the capacity of the pipelines. And it wasn't good for our economy.

Its your perogative to feel all cozy. But drop the rocks, o.k?


Jeff_Kibler 6 years, 11 months ago


It's not a free market with government intervention. It has been selective government intervention and likely will continue to be as such.

You bring up Goldman Sachs vis-a-vis oil futures trading. These folks know how to play both sides of the fence, e.g. carbon offsets. Just google "Goldman Sachs carbon." Here's a taste:

Would we be better off if we just had let GS die?


seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago,goldman-sachs-saves-shore-bank-051410.article

And lets follow the money all the way back to the only banker in America who testified in favor of the Community Reinvestment Act. It figures that this would be the Bank in line to handle the theft of our money in the Cap and Tax scheme.

"1977 • INDC raised additional capital and obtained authorization from the Federal Reserve Board to establish the City Lands Corp. (now ShoreBank Development) as a for-profit real estate development company, and The Neighborhood Institute (now called ShoreBank Neighborhood Institute, and soon to become ShoreBank Enterprise) as a non-profit organization providing tenant advocacy, education, job training and employee placement services. • Ron Grzywinski testifies before Congress in favor of the Community Reinvestment Act."

There's more to this sleazy group than meets the eye.


seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago

Shore Bank micro-lending or donating? Cap and Trade will increase the Banks abilities for sure.


trump_suit 6 years, 11 months ago

You are doing a lot of whining and complaining about cap and trade, and always manage to place your socialist tag on every Democrat platform or idea. OK, I accept that cap and trade is a bad idea.

Does anyone doubt that sooner or later those oil producing countries will decide that America is the devil and either double the cost of their product, or refuse to sell to the US at all. Can you doubt that it is a bad idea for us to send 700 Billion dollars a year to other countries for the priviledge of burning their oil? When you couple that with what is occurring in the Gulf, and the stark reality that America does not have the oil reserves it needs, where do we go from here?

It would help of you acknowledged that fundamental problems that we face and offer constructive solutions instead of partisan rhetoric.

The simple truth is that America needs a new solution to our energy needs. Converting out transportation fleet to natural gas will give us the time we need to find other solutions. This is a long term problem and the solution will be painful and expensive. At the very least, using the resources that exist in our country will give us infrastructure and high paying American jobs.

The real question is: How do you fund the transition? It is more expensive to change that it is to continue down the same path, so private industry will not make the transition unless it is in their best interests. (ie: profit) That is what the cap and trade legislation attemtps to do.

How would you solve this problem? I think T. Boone Pickens came up with a well thought out plan to look at. It is a solid attempt to lay out the best path forward.

Bottom line is that this is not about global warming or saving the planet. This is simple economics and the current path is not sustainable.


seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago

If you would be honest with yourself you would be able to see what the Cap and Trade laws coupled with the newly invented infrastructure of entities like the Chicago Climate Exchange, Emerald Cities(ICE) and Shore Bank(the Social Justice Bank) are meant to do. They are meant to fleece the American public out of their money and send it to build economies in foreign countries like Kenya and elsewhere. They are not interested in the ecology like you and many others are. They want to transfer wealth and power from us to them. We are not in total disagreement as to the energy problems and some of the solutions to them that we face as a country, we are just in disagreement over the true intentions of Obama and his clan. Yes, it is Socialism it is Global Socialism and the truth is there for you to see if you seek it. It is really sad that we Americans are bickering about stuff when we are all sinking on the same ship together. This argument about whether Obama is a Socialist has been answered by his own words,associations and actions before, and now during his Presidency. As far as the sustainability of the current US economic plan, you are 100% percent right. We need to do what any prudent manager does in tough economic times, cut spending, lower taxes, improve our energy extraction systems here and seek alternative sources to replace them for the future. The political fight over the action plan only proves that wealth and power are at the heart of it and not what's best for America and the future. Anyone who stood in line for gas when Carter was President knows how bad it can get and we should not be in this situation now but Congress and Presidents have been in the pockets of foreign oil producers for at least 1/2 a century and the only way to start to end that is to vote for better leaders on November 2nd. See you there.


sledneck 6 years, 11 months ago

Trump, I absolutely doubt that those countries will "decide" that we are the devil, they already think it. If they could push oil prices higher and keep consumption at current rates they would have long since done so. They can't drive the price higher anymore than you can drive it lower; it takes markets ($$$$) to do that. If and when the economy recovers from the recession and what our government is doing to it then oil prices will rise. So what?! Your paycheck will rise then too.

I hear so many people saying we need an "energy policy". It's silly. Get out of the way and the markets will automatically find the best policy, be it oil, natural gas, wind, solar, etc. When left alone the market is smarter than all the individuals of whom it's comprised. It's a natural process. Trying to steer it is like trying to "help" a baby bird that has just fallen from the nest while learning to fly. As much as we want to help, interfering will only do it harm.


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