I was recently asked why I haven’t made the connection between ERE and peak oil more explicit. As some of you may know, I used to be somewhat active in the peak oil community about 5-7 years ago.

The main problem as I saw it was that the great majority of people who were/are aware of peak oil would discuss it at length but then next day they would have to return to their consumerist lifestyle with irrelevant work because they got bills to pay.

There is (or was?) an even great number of people who are unaware of peak oil or simply dismiss it—if I promoted ERE as a peak oil solution, they would simply dismiss it due to association.

In both cases an ERE lifestyle would make it possible for people to adapt much more readily to peak oil (and other problems).

But I don’t think that explicitly connecting ERE to peak oil, global warming, or overpopulation is going to help convince people who aren’t already convinced. Those who already worry about those issues should easily see the connection already. Those who don’t are more likely to be turned away—yet they’d still pursue it for the individual or family reasons.

I let it be up to people to decide what they are going to do with that freedom. From what I’ve seen and heard, it seems few people plan to contribute nothing in their early retirement(*) and even if they did so and chose to, say, become permanent tourists, their impact would still be reduced i.e. no longer part of the peak oil problem (except if the money goes to jet fuel).

(*) This is what makes (extreme) early retirement different from traditional retirement. People almost always have more things they want to do.

What I like about ERE is that it is a solution that works in the present environment on the individual scale as well as the collective scale. A lot of the peak oil and sustainable solutions only work if they are implemented on the collective level. This means that some of them won’t work at all because the will isn’t there. It was this realization that caused to more or less abandon active efforts in the peak oil community. Grand plans are only as good as their implementation and those plans were impossible to implement. ERE on the other hand can be implemented and the grand scale would appear as an emergent effect.

You can say the means are the same but the goals and motivation are different. I think that’s okay, because the means are what’s important. Goals and motivations can change much quicker than means.

Originally posted 2010-11-26 12:58:44.