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CUTTING ENERGY USE WITH CREATIVE DESCENT
While many sustainability advocates focus primarily on renewable energy and energy conservation, Australian environmentalists David Holmgren and Bill Mollison propose a more radical, albeit innovative approach to confronting the impending energy crisis.


As an offshoot of their explorations of Permaculture (see our March 2020 issue for more on this concept), the Aussie pair is advocating what they call “creative descent” where energy use is severely curtailed over the course of time, via a voluntary downsizing of demand.


“In the Earth stewardship ‘creative descent’ scenario,” Holmgren writes, “which I consider to represent the only truly sustainable future, human society creatively descends the energy demand slope essentially as a ‘mirror image’ of the creative energy ascent that occurred between the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the present day.”


Although the theory may sound pie-in-the-sky, and a departure from what Permaculture has advocated as “green tech stability” (see graphic below), it’s an idea that has some traction. An Irish team, for example, has created a TV program called “The Power Down Show” (DVDs available at http://transitionculture.org). That program has gained a small but loyal audience worldwide.


 


In David Holmgren and Bill Mollison’s Permaculture theory, instead of pursuing renewable energy sources to keep up our energy-intensive lifestyles via “Green-Tech Stability,” “Creative Descent” seeks to dramatically change our way of life to minimize our reliance on energy. More info: www.futurescenarios.org


 


To assist consumers with the latter, WWF recently helped develop on-line energy-efficient appliance ranking tool called TopTen USA (www.toptenusa.org). For more details, see the “Elite Green Rankings” sidebar, previous page.


Targeting Net Zero
Touching briefly on new construction, The Energy Report advocates for net-zero energy homes (see next month’s issue for more on this topic), and incorporating features such as passive solar design, high insulation levels, heat recovery, optimal ventilation, PV, and geothermal heating and cooling.


Addressing home builders, Bryn Baker advises: “Install the most energy efficient appliances, lighting, and HVAC systems available—to maximize efficiency first. Use solar hot water heating wherever possible. Then add PV panels or heat-pumps where possible.”


Furthermore, Matt Belcher urges builders to educate their clients about the advantages of owning high-performing buildings. “The initial cost of a substantially more efficient building is almost always higher on a per-foot basis, and ultimately the buyer must absorb that cost,” he points out. “The key, of course, is communicating effectively that the premium can be off set by future savings.”

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