OregonPEN Best Invest List – Post Carbon Institute

Our Mission

Founded in 2003, Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to lead the transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world by providing individuals and communities with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated ecological, economic, energy, and equity crises of the 21st century.

Our Vision
We envision a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

The Issues We Address
We believe that the world is experiencing the confluence of crisis in four interrelated systems — energy, ecology, economy, and equity — which we call E4. These crises can be summarized as:

  • The age of extreme energy. Declines in the amount of affordable energy available to society mean far higher environmental, economic, and social costs.
  • Overshoot abounds. Across the board—food, population, water, biodiversity, climate change, etc.—we are hitting biophysical limits.
  • The end of growth. As a result of the limits within and outside the economic system, we are experiencing the end of economic growth as we’ve known it.
  • Increasing inequality.Rising domestic and global inequality could lead to tremendous socio-political unrest (and ultimately economic and environmental disaster), as an growing population struggles to share diminishing economic and natural resources.

Our Strategy
Post Carbon Institute provides individuals and communities with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated ecological, economic, energy, and equity crises of the 21st century. We help build resilience to withstand these crises, and support social and cultural change to make society more ready to take decisive and appropriate action. Specifically, we:

  • Grow collective understanding of our energy reality, and the need for both conservation and appropriate, community-centric renewable energy.
  • Promote community resilience as the best way to build thriving, relocalized neighborhoods, towns, and cities capable of withstanding coming disruptions.
  • Support a growing movement of innovators and early adopters who can develop best practices and provide leadership both now and during future crises.

Our Energy Reality

Energy is at the heart of the human predicament in the 21st Century.

We are now facing a transformational moment in our energy story. As we leave the age of seemingly cheap and plentiful fossil fuels and enter an era of extreme energy, the ever-rising financial, social, and environmental costs of fossil fuels can no longer be ignored.

The essential problem is not just that we are tapping the wrong energy sources (though we are), or that we are wasteful and inefficient (though we are), but that we are overpowered, and we are overpowering nature.

– Richard Heinberg, from the Introduction to ENERGY

We believe that in order to make the right choices and investments, we must have a more comprehensive understanding of our energy predicament, including:

  • The true costs, potential benefits, and limitations of all energy options, including renewables;
  • The impact of each form of energy production on human societies and nature; and
  • The true relationship between energy, our economic system, and the environment.

The Energy Reality Program builds this fundamental energy literacy and aims to shift the public conversation around energy—from wanting more to needing less, and valuing what we have.
Visit the Energy Reality website, the online home for:

  • A robust energy primer and series of thought provoking essays;
  • The Public Energy Art Kit (P.E.A.K.), a campaign to increase energy literacy using arts and activism;
  • A collection of compelling photos shareable via social media to connect people with the efforts of partner organizations working to address the impacts of global energy economy; and
  • The list of hundreds of ambassadors and organizations with whom we partnered to disseminate over 5,000 free copies of the breathtaking and thought-provoking book, ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth.
  • Building community resilience is our best response to the looming economic, energy, and environmental challenges of the 21st Century. We can’t “solve” these with technical fixes. Nor can we ignore the need for global action, or the needs of people less fortunate than ourselves.

We can recognize our vulnerabilities, build our capacities, and recognize opportunities—even in an increasingly unpredictable future. We can adapt our behaviors, connect with neighbors, develop viable strategies, and rediscover a shared sense of meaning. We can have a world that supports robust communities of healthy, creative people and ecosystems where millions of other species flourish. We can build a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world…for all.
The Building Resilience program engages cutting-edge innovators, on-the-ground early adopters, local and national activists, and key thought leaders through:

  • Community Resilience Guides, action-oriented books on building local food systems, developing community energy systems, and investing in local economies.
  • Resilience.org, the premier source of information and inspiration on relocalization, reaching 1.2 million unique visitors annually.
  • Research and publications that illuminate key challenges and opportunities, and highlight diverse perspectives from the field.
  • Engagement and outreach through facilitated conversations, thought leadership, and support for movement-building.

What if the “Shale Revolution” is really just a “Shale Bubble?”
In the seven years since hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has brought a surge of new oil and natural gas production to the United States, our nation’s public conversation about energy has stalled. Politicians, business leaders, pundits, and even some environmental groups now repeat the same conventional wisdom: The risks of fracking for tight oil and shale gas are far outweighed by the decades of abundant, affordable domestic energy we’re getting in return.

Based on optimistic U.S. Department of Energy forecasts and industry rhetoric, this conventional wisdom has had major implications on federal, state, and local energy and climate policy — including the push to fast-track Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and lift the oil export ban, shut down coal-fired power plants, transition vehicle fleets, and more. These may sound great in theory, but what if they are based on a false premise?
Since 2011, Post Carbon Institute has been the primary national voice questioning the prevailing view of the “shale revolution.” We’ve released groundbreaking reports, held public and policymaker briefings, interviewed with media, produced creative messaging campaigns, and partnered with other organizations concerned about the rush to develop unconventional oil and gas resources.

A few of the Post Carbon Fellows


Erika Allen is Chicago Projects Manager for Growing Power, a nationally acclaimed non-profit organization and land trust providing equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe, and affordable food, especially in disadvantaged communities. She helps food producers of limited resources strengthen their farm businesses and work in partnerships to create healthy and diverse food options in inner city and rural communities.
Erika and her father, Growing Power founder Will Allen, have received significant attention for their work, including a feature article in The New York Times Magazine. Erika is co-chair of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council, and was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn in 2008 to the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force. In 2007 she was honored by Family Focus for her work in community food systems, and in 2006 she received the Good Eating Award from the Chicago Tribune. Erika has a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MA in art therapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Zenobia Barlow is a nationally known pioneer in creating models of schooling for sustainability. Co-founder and executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL), she has designed strategies for applying ecological and indigenous understanding in K-12 education, including “Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability,” “Rethinking School Lunch,” and the “Food Systems Project.” She is a contributor to the Center for Ecoliteracy’s book, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability (Fall 2009, Watershed Media/UC Press). She also co-edited Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World (2005) and co-authored Ecoliteracy: Mapping the Terrain (2000). Prior to joining the CEL, Barlow was editor of an international publishing company, a university program director, and executive director of The Elmwood Institute, an ecological think tank. She travels widely as a documentary photographer.


Michael Bomford is a faculty member in the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. His work focuses on organic and sustainable agriculture systems suitable for adoption by small farms operating with limited resources. His projects examine practical ways to reduce food system energy use and meet farm energy needs using renewable resources produced on-farm. Michael has a Master of Pest Management from Simon Fraser University, and a PhD in Plant and Soil Sciences from West Virginia University, where he conducted research on one of the nation’s first land grant university farms operated entirely according to national organic standards.


Majora Carter is President of Majora Carter Group LLC. Majora simultaneously addresses public health, poverty alleviation, and climate change as one of the nation’s pioneers in successful green-collar job training and placement systems. In 2001 she founded Sustainable South Bronx to achieve environmental justice through economically sustainable projects informed by community needs. Her work now includes advising cities, foundations, universities, businesses, and communities around the world on unlocking their green-collar economic potential to benefit everyone.

Majora’s vision, drive, and tenacity earned her a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. In 2007 she was named one of Newsweek Magazine’s “25 To Watch” and Essence Magazine’s “25 most Influential African Americans.” The New York Post has named her one of the “50 most influential women in NYC” for two years, and BBC World Service named her “NYC’s most influential environmentalist.” Majora is a board member of the Widerness Society, SJF Ventures, and CERES. She hosted “The Promised Land” on public radio’s Launch Minneapolis, and “Eco-Heroes” on the Sundance Channel.


John Kaufmann was lead staff for the City of Portland’s groundbreaking Peak Oil Task Force. John worked with the Oregon Department of Energy for 29 years as solar specialist, manager, and policy analyst helping to make Oregon a national leader. He received the Professional Achievement Award from the American Planning Association-Oregon for getting 26 jurisdictions in the Portland Metro Area to jointly adopt solar orientation and solar rights ordinances, and received the 2009 Energy Manager of the Year Award from the Association of Professional Energy Managers-Oregon for Lifetime Achievement. Most recently, John was Senior Buildings Energy Manager at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.


Cindy Parker is on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she co-directs the Program on Global Sustainability and Health. She is also an Instructor in the Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences where she directs the undergraduate major in Global Environmental Change and Sustainability. Her professional interests include education, policy work, practice, and research on the global environmental topics of climate change, peak petroleum, and global sustainability. As part of her desire to educate the public and policy makers about the health effects of global climate change, she is a frequent speaker on the topic and co-authored Climate Chaos: Your Health at Risk (2008).
Dr. Parker received her MD from the University of Arizona and her Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is board certified in Public Health and General Preventive Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine where she is Co-Chair of the Environmental Health Committee. She also serves on the National Board of Directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility.