Skip to content

Feasta conference – The New Emergency – June 10th to June 12th 2009

 It is now just 2 weeks today until the opening of Feasta’s conference ‘The New Emergency – Managing Risk and Building Resilience in a Resource Constrained World”. It promises to be a stimulating and cutting edge conference, looking at how seemingly diverse interests like climate, energy, economics and food security interact. Speakers and other attendees will examine both the foundations of current problems and innovative ways of dealing with them

The detailed programme is below. To book a place visit or peruse speaker’s biographies in more detail, visit here.

Seizing the Mid-Collapse Moment
Public Lecture by Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse, will explore the question What is it that we are looking at here, and what can we do about it? He believes that here is not much hope for a global financial system and economy, nor should there be given the huge problems it is causing with the environment. If this is the case, then what people can do, in terms of coping with financial collapse, creating community resilience, and re-skilling for the new, local, self-reliant, highly manual age that is coming?

Theme – How today’s crises were created yesterday

Conference Opening
By Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan

Richard Douthwaite, the author of The Growth Illusion, will look at the problems created by the availability of cheap energy. He believes it shaped capitalism and our monetary systems, led manufacturers and farmers to adopt unsustainable technologies, and permitted a six-fold increase in the human population while creating a concentration of power and wealth in very few hands.


  • Chris Vernon, European editor of The Oil Drum, will survey the prospects for oil, gas and coal supplies over the next 50 years. He will argue that, because the energy cost of producing these fuels is rising as more difficult sources have to be used, the actual amount of energy that will be available for other purposes will fall off more quickly than has been recognised so far.
  • Kate Bailey led the team which researched the recently-published Chatham House report, Food Futures, which examines the effects of globalisation on the UK’s future food supplies. Her talk will focus on the vulnerability of present food systems to disruption.
  • Alex Evans‘ report on climate change and global institutional reform was published by the Center for International Co-operation earlier this year. He will present the case for basing a framework for dealing with the climate crisis on a scientifically derived stabilisation target. Such a framework should also share the global carbon budget out between the world’s nations according to a transparent, equitable formula.


Parallel breakaway sessions will explore the topics of Energy, Climate and Food in more detail, and will include additional presentations and roundtable discussions.

Communicating the Challenge

  • Julian Darley, founder of the Post Carbon Institute, will review the non-economic factors that influence decisions making. He will explain how a knowledge of them can be used to get new systems introduced. The factors include culture, social and individual psychology, business and political fashions, perceptions of what will be publicly acceptable, and what other opinion leaders and decision-makers are thinking and doing.
  • Brian Davey is an economist with an interest in mental health and how and why systems break down. He believes that a fluid situation exists now that the financial and political parts of the present system have discredited themselves. He wants to see is if local green initiatives (like Transition Towns) flourish, eventually developing national level capacities to transform the energy and transport infrastructures of societies.

Theme – Managing the transition to sustainability today


  • Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse, will explain why efforts to extend the lifetime of the industrial, fossil fuel-based economy are misguided and will fail. He will then present alternatives, describing how patterns of land use can be transformed into patterns of habitat creation and how informal local networks of sustainable non-fossil-fuel-based production and distribution can be created.
  • Physicist David Korowicz will document the disturbing growth in the complexity of trade and financial networks and in the various types of infrastructure. He sees the collapse process as a system of re-enforcing feedbacks that cut investment in energy and R&D and cause supply chains and IT networks to break down.

Rescue Tools

  • Ludwig Schuster, who advises many of complementary currency systems that have sprung up in Germany, will look at the role that money systems have to play in moving economies away from the exponential growth paradigm. He will argue that, as different activities offer different benefits, special currencies may be needed for particular purposes.
  • Mark Rutledge, an environmental consultant, will argue that the adoption of Cap and Share, Feasta’s proposed framework for a global climate treaty, is a necessary tool for dealing with peak oil and the current world recession. Unless it is used, he will say, any economic recovery will be strangled at birth as oil prices rise again.
  • Architect James Pike co-founded Urban Forum, which is made up of five bodies representing the professionals in the Irish construction industry. He will explain how a non-debt method of financing property development, Equity Partnerships, can not only rescue completed developments which can’t be sold in the present market, but can also provide a way in which all occupiers gain a stake in future developments. Equity partnerships are equally suitable for community energy projects.


Parallel breakaway sessions will explore in more detail the topics of Currencies, Trade and Infrastructure, and will include additional presentations and roundtable discussions.

Communicating Transition

  • Davie Philip, coordinator of the Irish Transition Towns network, sees the ‘new emergency’ as a ‘once-in-a-species’ opportunity to make a controlled, planned transition to a post-industrial society. He will ask whether the Transition Towns initiatives emerging around the world are up to this challenge and what more this young movement could be doing to facilitate the building of resilient communities.
  • John Sharry, a family and child psychotherapist, will look at the way communities are responding to the current crises. He will draw on modern psychological models of motivation and change, and of how people deal with threat and loss, to suggest strategies which can be used both to help individuals change and to galvanise communities into collective action.
  • Anne B Ryan is the author of Enough is Plenty which will appear later this year. She will argue that the adoption of a new self-limiting worldview is as crucial as the adoption of new technologies. “We are all born with the capacity for enough and everybody has a part to play in the creation of a culture of enough, as a way to understand the world and to live in it,” she says.

Theme – Building resilience for tomorrow

Planning for Descent

  • Eco-architect Emer O’Siochru believes that the proximity principle has to be turned on its head if communities are to become sustainable. She will argue that, instead of bringing similar activities closer together to reap the benefits of scale and agglomeration, different activities should be beside each other to be more energy- and carbon-efficient. She wants new, low-carbon food, energy and shelter production systems to be integrated locally to transform and invigorate rural communities.
  • Bruce Darrell, urban gardener, Cloughjordan eco-villager and a founder of Dublin Food Growers, thinks that a secure food supply is an essential part of the response to the climate, energy, economic and health crises. As state planning for such a supply has been grossly inadequate, he will detail the key actions that we need to take at a personal, community and regional level to compensate.

Building Resilience

  • Dan Sullivan is director of Saving Communities, a US NGO working on a wide range of community development issues. He will contrast the experience of Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the present downturn. Cleveland is struggling to stem a complete collapse of its housing market while in Pittsburgh, foreclosure rates are low, home prices are climbing slightly and construction rates are increasing, He will attribute the difference to the fact that Pittsburgh has a site value tax and Cleveland does not.
  • Michael Hayes, Research Professor in the Carbolea group at the University of Limerick, points out that Ireland has more high quality soil per head of population than any other country in the EC, and the rainfall and climate to grow biomass very efficiently. He will describe how this biomass could be refined into a wide range of valuable products, many of which would replace petrochemicals.
  • Corinna Byrne, co-ordinator of the Carbon Cycles and Sinks Network, will examine the policies needed to get Irish land to absorb CO2 rather than release it. Besides discussing how the large amounts of carbon locked up in peatlands can be safeguarded, she will review the role that biochar could play in reducing nitrous oxide and methane emissions and building up the fertility and carbon content of the soil.


Parallel breakaway sessions will explore in more detail the topics of the Commons, Resources and Natural Carbon Cycles, and will include additional presentations and roundtable discussions.

Conference Summary

Roundtable discussion

Posted in Land Taxation, News.

Tagged with , , , , .