Post Carbon Institute was established in 2003 as an initiative of MetaFoundation, an organization created in 2000 by Julian Darley and Celine Rich. The purpose of MetaFoundation was to develop and support new organizations focused on innovative and unique solutions to environmental challenges. The creation of MetaFoundation stemmed from concern about the difficulty of covering complex environmental issues in current affairs.
The first initiative of MetaFoundation was Global Public Media, an Internet broadcasting station streaming long format audio and video interviews. This media service was established in 2001 in response to the tendency of mainstream news media to develop news as entertainment, and the resulting lack of substantive discussion of profound environmental concerns.
Global Public Media offered news and analysis on these complex issues, provided by world experts from a wide variety of different fields. It eventually also served as a medium for individuals and groups to share their solutions.
In 2002, during the time Global Public Media was being developed, Post Carbon Institute founder Julian Darley was advised by a local bookseller to read Jeremy Rifkin’s book The Hydrogen Economy. The last chapter of this book introduced the concept of Peak Oil to Julian, leading to a shift in the focus and work of MetaFoundation.
After visiting Colin Campbell, a prominent petroleum geologist and founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) in Cork County Ireland, Julian and Celine embarked on a process of information gathering about Peak Oil. The expertise and comprehensive knowledge they attained during this time led them to establish Post Carbon Institute, an environmental organization focusing on Peak Oil and climate change related issues and responses.
With a keen interest and their base of support coming out of the United States, it was decided that MetaFoundation would be established as a nonprofit entity. MetaFoundation was incorporated in 2003 with Global Pubic Media and Post Carbon Institute operating as affiliated initiatives, under the umbrella organizational format of MetaFoundation.
Over the next few years, with a growing public interest in the initiatives of MetaFoundation, Post Carbon Institute was successful in establishing a reputable board of directors, featuring the most prominent experts working in the field of Peak Oil. With this new board with an increase in public interest, it was decided that Post Carbon Institute would become the think tank and lead entity and the other initiatives would become programs of Post Carbon Institute.
Between 2003 and 2008, we developed a number of innovative programs, all centered around the concept of Relocalization--a strategy to build societies based on the local production of food, energy and goods, and the local development of currency, governance, and culture. The main goals of Relocalization are to increase community energy security, to strengthen local economies, and to dramatically improve environmental conditions and social equity.
In addition to Global Public Media, Post Carbon Institute programs were:
- The Relocalization Network, an online community of groups and individuals working to educate their local communities and develop programs to re-localize food and energy production, and reduce local consumption.
- Post Carbon Cities, a program to help local governments understand and prepare for the challenges of peak oil and climate change, which published Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty—a guidebook on the local effects of peak oil and climate change and responses for U.S. and Canadian municipal leaders.
- Energy Farms Network, a demonstration and partnership program which is building a broad body of knowledge to help farmers, citizens, and community leaders to understand the possibility of producing vital feedstocks, fuels and electricity by local farmers for local users.
- Oil Depletion Protocol, an international agreement to avoid price and supply volatility problems associated with global oil production decline by gradually and collaboratively lowering the global rate of oil production and oil consumption.
At the end of 2008 Post Carbon Institute underwent a major strategic shift. This came in response to the departure of founders Julian Darley and Celine Rich, and the unfolding of key events like the growing global economic crisis, the likely peak oil global oil production in July, and the shift of power in Washington D.C. It became increasingly clear that the world had reached a pivotal moment—the convergence of a number of environmental, economic, and energy tipping points. We saw that the world really only has this one opportunity to leverage our decreasing financial and energy resources towards a managed transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world.
How we manage this transition, now that we’re here, is the central question of our times—and it’s the question Post Carbon Institute is now dedicating itself to answer.
This shift required a narrowing of the Institute’s programmatic focus and the deepening of our strategic partnerships with other organizations. When the organization started, there were few if any other organizations working in these various areas. The last few years have seen a tremendous growth in activity, with some groups emerging that are doing truly exceptional things. This provided us with the opportunity to pass the proverbial baton when it comes to direct support of grassroots organizations and on-the-ground demonstrations.
A number of staff and volunteers have played key roles in Post Carbon Institute, too many in fact to thank here. But we wish to pay special thanks to founders Julian Darley and Celine Rich, who moved to London, England in early 2009. Their contributions are too numerous to state.
Additionally, only through the generous and ongoing support of our friends in the San Francisco Bay Area (who wish to remain anonymous) has the Institute been able to accomplish so much.
We also wish to thank David Room, who served as full time staff for two years during the start-up phase of the organization and was a founding member of the Board of Directors. Dave played a key role in the development of the Relocalization Network, helped draft Relocalize Now and the original Outpost Manual, conducted over 30 audio and video interviews for Global Public Media, managed programs, and conducted numerous presentations. His role in the early days of Post Carbon Institute was invaluable.