Starting your own group

On this page…

  1. Why start a group?
  2. If you have to, start an online presence
  3. Recruit ‘kindred Spirits’
  4. Things can happen FAST!
  5. Develop a strategy to recruit local government, business, thinkers and talent
  6. Develop an action plan for your area and start it.
  7. Think about approaching the State and Federal government.
  8. If all of this sounds like too much work…

1. Why start a group?

It’s probably not necessary! There are so many climate and sustainability groups already that you are bound to find like minded people who already have a meeting place, maybe even a budget, a treasurer, a legal association, insurance, etc etc etc and have an effective team you could help out just that bit more! Please look around again to see who you can help raise awareness of these matters. (See 2: Finding your local group).

2. How to start an online presence

Again, try to join another group as even if they don’t have a group in your town or suburb, they might have a website where you can borrow their web server and website and create a ‘franchise’ of their group.

EG: Transition towns are spreading globally, and the Postcarbon network has bravely closed their Relocalise network to merge with Transition towns. When a group is properly set up, Transition Towns will offer webspace.

You could even use Facebook if desperate!

Anyway, when you have a blog / forum website and people start to meet up then make sure you greet them. That’s all it takes. Keep checking with the other forums above to see if there are locals, and maybe once a month post a reminder — “Attention residents of (your city) we are meeting soon” and post your forum details. You may find that a lot of locals already know about peak oil and are just waiting for someone to start a group that will do something in your area. Logging in as “organiser” does not mean you have to be the “leader” forever. You can hand it over to someone else if you are uncomfortable with the role.

I logged in as organiser for our Sydney meetup group in February 2005. I determined that no one would log in and be ignored… I would greet them all and ask them what they thought about peak oil, and what they wanted to do.

Within 6 months we presented peak oil to some of the minority parties in the NSW Upper House! Was it because we had an exceptional team, a group of scientists, the most rigorous testing regime before members could join, the local oil expert? No! From a larger group of 25 or so, there were four of us that presented to our Senators. I just went along for the ride, my other group members wrote the speech and handled the charts.

This involved 2 graphic designers, a TV editor, and a lecturer in sustainable human habitations. How did we do this so quickly?

  • We met online.
  • We met together.
  • When meetup started charging $9 / month, we made our own peak oil “brand” and formed Sydneypeakoil.com
  • We met about once a month
  • We talked online and on the phone.
  • We used our “6 degrees of separation”, used our contacts and got into speak to some politicians. (We are going back in November.)

Things can happen quickly when someone just takes that first step, and helps motivated people come together. Once you meet, you all know people who know people. By using the power of your own social networks (your ‘6 degrees of separation’) you can change the world — or at least your local city and state.

For more information on starting an environmental or peak oil group, try these links.

…anyone can

A guide to starting an environmental group

and running an environmental campaign

(This is a free book on how to start, run, fund, and facilitate a group).

Greenpeace Take Action page

(Lists other things you can do)

3. Recruit other ‘kindred spirits’

There may be many other peakniks in sympathetic fields of endeavour. Try the list below. Who knows? They may even have a thriving peak oil campaign that you can join. Maybe your group will join theirs? Maybe you will work together on certain projects, as we did when organizing the Heinberg and Holmgren tour. (Which involved Sydney Peak Oil, Sustainable Population Australia, Permaculture North, and The NSW GREENS.) So try discussing peak oil with:-

  • eco-village designers
  • University staff or lecturers in “sympathetic” fields
  • organic growers
  • community supported agriculture
  • Permaculture adherents
  • Conservation Councils
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greenpeace
  • Socialist Alliance
  • the Greens
  • The Environmental Protection Agency for your region
  • community groups active about something
  • folk festivals
  • (Someone above may be able to offer a meeting venue, especially the University lecturer. That was Sydney Peak Oil’s experience anyway).

4. Things can happen fast!

Sydney Peak Oil formed in January 2005 and by July 2005 had briefed some NSW State politicians. Then we had some more success later in November 2005. In thinking back on it, all I did was start the online conversation and send some frantic emails. Eventually people contributed their own time and talent, and the group came up with some ideas and ran with it. People who are interested just need a venue and format, a friend to share it with, a smile or joke now and then… and they’ll bend over backwards for you!

5. Develop a strategy to recruit local government, business, thinkers and talent

Depending on your group’s unique talents, desires and connections, there are a variety of strategies your group might work towards. The important thing about a strategy is to have one! It does not matter which strategy your group works towards as long as you do something. Know that you are not alone, and that as you cover your strategy others are working on other areas. We can’t do everything — so do what you can, and do it well. We all understand that you are a volunteer and like most of us, you also have a day job. However, when working with a group you never know what you might achieve.


What is your strategy?

Bookstore: Carefully chat with the local bookstore owners towards a peak oil display? If they become peakniks, they could have a peaknik DVD on playback loop or at least theoilposter.com on display. The stand could sell peaknik books, drumming up both revenue for the store owner and members for your group?

Brochures: Print off and hand out some peak oil brochures in the mall?

Street art: Run a busker / street performance or presentation?

Street stall: Sell peak oil books in the stall — always get permission.

Uni posters: recruit the local university students to put up posters there?

Council: Engage local Council / City Hall with letters from your group of ‘concerned citizens’. Write and then deliver a speech at your local council meetings? Many councils have a meeting each month where citizens can book to have a short say. My council allows 4 minutes. 😉 Councils are not ‘the enemy’ — please listen to this interview with a Californian Mayor on how to approach local government in your campaign.

Movie Screenings: Ask local cinema’s if they will screen one of these peak oil movies. Have a ‘panel of experts’ afterwards. See if your TV stations will arrange to screen these important movies. Buy copies and lend to your friends.

Express humanitarian concern: Inform the local churches and charities of the risks both to their aid projects and inevitably for their very own local members. Large scale poverty is coming our way — and these groups will have an interest in informing their members.
Or you might try local government awareness raising (or even working at a State or Federal level).

Once you have decided what your group is about, do it! It is very easy to sit behind the computer reading about peak oil all day, or worse getting into arguments on internet forum about alternative energy, or long pointless philosophical debates about the nature of humanity, how we got into this crisis, your favourite conspiracy theory, etc. Some of this is necessary when forming the online presence and local relationships for your group — but it is more important to meet together, get to know each other, discuss what you are going to do, vote on a strategy, and start to do it. You will make mistakes but it’s all a learning experience.


6. Develop an action plan for your area

Now that you have raised awareness and recruited enough local city councillors, university groups and local businesses, it’s time to get an actual action plan in place! This might not even be your thing — you have generated a group, and been a part of forming a panel of experts, and now they take over. If so, you’ve done your bit and I hope your town goes well.

The beauty of local campaigning is that much can be achieved without even the permission of State and Federal Governments. The more your community is aware of peak oil, the more talent and local solutions can be implemented before the rest of the country is hit by rolling Recessions and the inevitable “Greater Depression”. Life is destined to be far more local post-peak — so it’s best to start thinking this way right now.

For some great advice on how one community brought a variety of people together, ran large ‘Open Space’ meetings, and developed an action plan, please read the full report on the Energy Descent plan of Kinsale.

7. Think about approaching the State and Federal Government.

Once your local campaign is well and truly underway, you might want to consider State and Federal letter writing campaigns. It is essential that our Federal governments adopt the Oil Depletion Protocol as this will both help work towards avoiding oil wars and market chaos. If you can get that scheme is up and running, we will have won! Remember Simpol have a strategy for achieving national and international campaign goals.

8. If all of this sounds like too much work, then just put up a poster!

Please, just print out and put up one of these free posters once a fortnight. You’ll be doing your bit, and you don’ t know who else you might influence into activism on this.

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