There is no doubt that humanity is facing in unprecedented crisis. This crisis is two-fold. On one hand there is the problem of peak oil, and on the other, the looming spectre of climate change and global warming. At present, there is no way to know for sure how bad the outcomes of these two problems will be, but it is certain that the way we act right now will define our collective future. The polytunnel has an important role to play in how we, as individuals and small business owners, are able to respond to the future scenario in which we find ourselves.
Before we talk about how a polytunnel can play an important role in our future, let's take a look at the potential scenarios that lie before us.
The permaculture proponent David Holmgren posited four potential energy futures:
In this scenario, we overcome our global problems through technological advancement – making use of new, large and concentrated energy sources that allow for continued human growth free from current environmental constraints. This scenario usually involves human beings looking to the stars, and moving to colonise other planets.
In this scenario, humanity is able to convert seamlessly to renewable energy and technologies, allowing for a maintenance of the status quo, or at best, a steady rate of sustainable growth.
In this scenario, the steady depletion of fossil fuels leads to a reduction in economic activity, complexity and population and ultimately to a destruction of some elements of Industrial culture and a return to a ruralisation of settlement and economy.
This 'worst case' scenario involves a complete and devastating collapse of industrial society as we know it as fossil fuels are depleted and climate change continues to bite. This would entail a major 'die off' or potentially even the extinction of the human race, along with much of the planet's biodiversity.
The rapidly accumulating evidence on climate change and world oil supply, along with the current energy state, make it seem increasingly likely that we will face the 'energy descent' scenario. However, the response to this potential future should not be one of defeat. Instead, we can look at mitigating negative consequences through a wholesale societal reform and re-organisation utilising permaculture principles and strategies.
No matter which of the above scenarios we find ourselves in, and no matter how severe our energy descent (should we experience this outcome), a polytunnel can help us, as individuals, to weather the storms.
A polytunnel can help us to grow food in rural and urban environments. It can temper the excesses of global weather change and help us be resilient in the face of problems with the global food supply chains and help in redistribution of power to local communities. Those with polytunnels may be better equipped than others to deal with whatever the future may bring.