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The Role of Environmental Societies and
Conservation Organizations

                     David L. Trauger, PhD
                     College of Natural Resources
                     Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

                     Capital Science 2008
                     Washington Academy of Science
                     Arlington, Virginia – March 29, 2008

What is the significance of December 16, 2005
Peak Oil
• Contemporary natural resources
  conservation and management is
  highly dependent on cheap,
  abundant energy

• A critical evaluation of
  implications of Peak Oil is needed
  in order to anticipate and plan for a
  range of “futures”
• We will face great challenges in
  adjusting to new “Post Peak”
  realities during the coming decades

• Much of what is described here will
  be influenced by future economic
  conditions and whether we can
  avoid collapse
      Making the Connection
Oil                                      Our Environment
Combustion Engine, Oil Use Increase      Industrial Revolution + Population

Abundance Of Cheap Oil                   Environmental Degradation & Species Loss

Massive Oil Exploration, Production, &   Pollution, Environmental Movement,
Consumption                              Emergence Grassroots Organizations

Energy Resource Concerns                 Environmental Ambivalence

The End Of Cheap Oil                     Economic, Environmental, Social,
                                         and Cultural Instability

Expensive Oil, Increased Coal Use        Race for More Oil, New Resources,
                                         Technology + Environmental Shift

Oil Peaks                                Support for Environmental Problems &
                                         Organizations Shrinks

Less Oil, All Fossil Fuels Decline       Worsening Environmental Degradation &
                                         Species Loss

While climatologists and environmentalists
fret about the quality of the energy we
produce, a great many other experts worry
far more about the quantity of energy we
can make and, more specifically, whether
we can produce enough energy of any kind
or quality to satisfy the world's present and
future needs.
                          Paul Roberts, The End of Oil
• Peak Oil and the Environment
  – How have Natural Resources and Environmental
    Professionals in Conservation Community
    addressed Peak Oil?
  – What are Implications of Peak Oil to Professional
    Societies and Conservation Organizations?

• Research
  – Purpose
  – Sources

  “…environmentalists have had a tendency to downplay or
  ignore oil depletion, and still do.”
                               Jeremy Leggett, The Empty Tank, 2005
• Environmental Professional Societies
  and Conservation Organizations
   – 11 Professional Societies
   – 24 Conservation Organizations
   – Mission, Goals, and Priorities
   – Peak Oil Position
 “Many academics have contributed heroically and brilliantly to
 the development of alternative energies and energy-efficient
 technology, but with the aim of reducing pollution caused by
 oil consumption, not saving civilization from a shortage of
                      Stephen Leeb, The Coming Economic Collapse 2006
Professional Societies

• No Articles, News, or Documents
  on Peak Oil or Oil Depletion

• No Peak Oil Position Statements

• Related Topics Covered
  – Global Warming
  – Drilling in ANWR & Offshore
  – Oil Spills/Pollution
 Professional Societies

• The Wildlife Society
  – No Focus on Peak Oil before 2006 Symposium
• Society for Conservation Biology
  – No Focus on Peak Oil
• American Fisheries Society
  – No Focus on Peak Oil
• Society of American Foresters
  – No Focus on Peak Oil
• Soil and Water Conservation Society
  – No Focus on Peak Oil
     Professional Societies
• Ecological Society of America
   – No Focus on Peak Oil
• American Society of Mammalogists
  -- No Focus on Peak Oil
• American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
  -- No Focus on Peak Oil
• International Society for Ecological Economics
   – No Focus on Peak Oil
• International Union for Conservation of Nature and
  Natural Resources (IUCN)
   – The Future of Sustainability Report
   – – Peak Oil Mentioned Once
   Professional Societies
• Society of Environmental Journalists
    Once a nation's (or the world's) oil and gas
    production has peaked, remaining supplies can
    be extracted only with increasing difficulty and
    expense, while production steadily declines.
    This would drastically increase the cost of
    energy, as well as petroleum products. In the
    long term, the global energy supply could drop
    despite rising demand. All of this could lead to
    major lifestyle changes, economic
    repercussions, and shifting international
    dynamics and tensions.
                        Tipsheet: August 3, 2005
   Conservation Organizations
• Articles, News, Documents, Book Reviews, & Videos
  on Peak Oil
• Focus on Energy Conservation & Alternative Energy
• Some Focus on Peak Oil Implications Especially
  Environmental & Economics
• No Peak Oil Actions, Campaigns, Committees,
  Working Groups, or Specific Projects
• No Discussion of Impacts on Conservation
  Organizations or Conservation Efforts
• Related Topics Covered
   – Global Warming
   – Drilling in ANWR & Offshore
   – Oil Spills
   – Oil Security & Independence
       Conservation Organizations
•   American Rivers                  •   National Environmental Trust
•   American Forests                 •   National Wildlife Federation
•   Chesapeake Bay Foundation        •   Natural Resources Defense
•   Conservation Fund                    Council
•   Defenders of Wildlife            •   The Nature Conservancy
•   Ducks Unlimited                  •   Oceana
•   Earth Policy Institute           •   Resources for the Future
•   Earthwatch                       •   Sierra Club
•   Environmental Defense            •   Union of Concerned Scientists
•   Friends of the Earth             •   The Wilderness Society
•   Greenpeace                       •   The Wildlife Society
•   Izaak Walton League of America   •   Wildlife Conservation Society
•   National Audubon Society         •   World Resources Institute
•   National Coalition for Marine    •   World Wildlife Fund
    Conservation                     •   Worldwatch Institute
    Conservation Organizations
• Friends of the Earth
  – Campaign for Ford to Make Fuel Efficient Cars a
  – Campaign for Exxon-Mobil to Invest in Clean,
    Efficient Energy
  – Bluewater Network (Division of FOE) - works to
    stop environmental damage from vehicles &
    vessels, & to protect human health & the planet
    by reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
• Audubon Society
  – Book Review & Alternative Energy Options
  – Focus on Drilling in ANWR
   Conservation Organizations
• Natural Resources Defense Council
  – Analyses of U.S. Oil Policy Recommendations for
    Energy Policies that Reduce U.S. Oil Use While
    Safeguarding Our Security & Economy.
  – Break the Chain Program – End Americans
    Dependence on Oil
• Sierra Club
  – Several Peak Oil Articles from State Chapters
  – Actions Specific to Global Warming & Oil Drilling
• Greenpeace
  – Letter Writing Campaign to Push for Fuel
    Conservation Organizations
• Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  – Believes that Policies that Emphasize Reliance
    on Fossil Fuel Jeopardize All Natural Areas,
    Including the Chesapeake
• Resources for the Future
  – Energy 2050: The Future of Petroleum
     • Matthew Simmons
     • Steven Percy, former CEO of BP America:
      "We have seen a gathering storm around the issue of
       whether or not we have adequate petroleum to carry
       our economy and society into the future."
  Conservation Organizations
• World Resources Institute
  – Energy is “Key Issue”
    • Some Peak Oil Information
    • Publication on Peak Oil (from 2000) is Out of
• Worldwatch Institute
  – World Watch Magazine
    • Peak Oil Forum
  – Major Focus on Energy, Consumption,
      Conservation Organizations
• Earth Policy Institute
  – Lester R. Brown, Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a
    Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in
    Trouble 2006
     • Chapter 2: Beyond the Oil Peak
        “Oil has shaped our twenty-first century
         civilization, affecting every facet of the economy
         from the mechanization of agriculture to jet air
         travel. When production turns downward, it will
         be a seismic economic event, creating a world
         unlike any we have known during our lifetimes.”
   Conservation Organizations
• Union of Concerned Scientists
  – Major Focus on Energy
     • Clean Energy
     • Oil Dependence
     • Efficiency
• National Environmental Trust
  – Major Focus on Energy
     •   Energy Security
     •   Renewables & Clean Energy
     •   Efficiency
     •   Environmental Impacts
 Conservation Organizations
• No Peak Oil Focus
  – Several Conservation Organizations
    Have No Peak Oil or Energy Resource
    Reference or Focus
  – Some Only Reference Oil Drilling,
    Spills, & Other Oil Pollution Issues
  – Some Have Partnerships with Big Oil
    Companies & Funds for Environmental
    Conservation Community
• What Is Missing?
    A Focus on the Implications of Peak Oil
    to Their Own Organizations and Causes
     • Appear to Avoid Addressing the Issue by
       Focusing on Energy Conservation,
       Government Policy, Clean Energy,
       Renewable Energy, Big Oil, Oil Security,
       Oil Drilling, Climate Change, etc.

• Main concern is “How to Delay Peak Oil"
  Rather than “How to Prepare for Peak Oil
  So We Can Continue Our Work"
Peak Oil Implications
      • Economy
      • Environment
      • Funding
      • Membership
      • Operations
      • Meetings
      • Employment
Peak Oil Strategies
      • Myopia
      • Education
      • Courage
      • Cooperation
      • Collaboration
      • Credibility
      • Leadership
Federal Budget Challenge

The Great Transformation
"Oil depletion is the modern face of the
universal ecological dilemma of
population pressure, resource depletion,
and habitat destruction. In the end, there
are only two possible responses: self-
limitation, or a culling of the population
by famine, pestilence, and war. Fossil
fuels have raised the stakes of the
ecological dilemma to new heights, and
Peak Oil thus looms as a pivotal historic
choice for humankind.”
                       Richard Heinberg
                       Beyond Peak Oil
                       Resurgence 238:48, 2006

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