This book is way overdue. I have been eagerly searching for books addressing the preparation for post peak oil for many many years. Books like this should have been written years ago so I was delighted to see that at last practical guides are starting to appear on the book shelves.
I really enjoyed the first couple of chapters dealing with peak oil and its implications for society. Subsequent chapters I did not enjoy as much particularly when the Kinsale Energy Decent Action Plan is promoted as a role model for sustainable community development.
There is a huge wealth of expertise in the development community, particularly which which was developed from overseas aid agencies. They have developed approaches, standards, principles and a multitude of methodologies for developing communities, with limited or almost non existent resources, and where success or failure costs lives. This expertise has been ignored and attempts made to reinvent the wheel.
I think the focus of the book should have built on the expertise of organisations such as Oxfam, VSO, Save the Children, and Overseas Development Administration and focused on the structures, processes and outcomes, which would help develop community resilience and sustainability, with limited resources.
I have a worry that communities who attempt to use this handbook as the basis for their transition will make fantastic progress initially through the generation of enthusiasm but due to improper planning, a lack of monitoring and evaluation of effectiveness and imprecise goals and objectives, people will become disillusioned and drop out. There is also the danger that communities who adapt this approach will not be able to communicate effectively with traditional disciplines, local authorities, health services, energy engineers or others. Who should change first? The current decision makers and service providers or the community development
This process of conflict between service providers and community organisations has happened time and time again, without learning the lessons of what actually is sustainable in the long term. It usually results in the community organisation being unable to access state funding resulting in decline and or death. How can a community organisation sustain itself unless it becomes a business, with formal structures, job descriptions, terms of reference, fundamental guiding principles, training, development, salaries, income generation, sales etc. How can that fit with the "loose" concepts proposed?
Lets hope this is just the first of a huge range of increasingly sophisticated publications yet to come that will address these issues using the best expertise available in the fields of business, development management, community organisation, sustainability, public health, and many more, combined into a consensus best practice manual for transition. I hope these comments help to stimulate a critical approach to sustainable community development.