I've written about the transition movement before, somewhat skeptically. I'm still skeptical about the movement itself, but I agree that something needs to be done. Here's one alternative that we could wind up with, if we don't manage things right: the return of slavery.
In a Guardian article in February, Jean-François Mouhot observed that the rise of fossil fuels overlapped with the decline of slavery, and in some ways enabled it. He wasn't the first; in fact, he mentions reading it in "a book on climate change." I just listened to an intense exploration of the human history of slavery by Dan Carlin. His dramatic delivery gets a little carried away at times, but this episode is worth two dollars and an hour of your time. (Be warned, there are graphic descriptions of the abuses of slavery.) One of his main points is that to their owners, slaves were the original "labor-saving devices."
Mouhot and others compare the morality of slavery with the morality of fossil fuel use, observing that climate change and other effects of pollution cause a lot of death and suffering around the world. He also asks whether we can borrow some tactics from the abolitionists in our own campaign to reduce or even abolish fossil fuel use. To be honest, I'm skeptical: if the availability of "labor-saving devices" running on fossil fuels gave us the economic leeway to abolish slavery, what is giving us the economic leeway to abolish fossil fuels?
But it gets worse. As fossil fuels get harder and more expensive to extract from the ground, it will get more and more expensive to run the labor-saving devices. We will have two options: work harder or get someone else to do it.
I haven't read James Howard Kunstler's World Made by Hand books, but as I understand them, part of the story involves the reestablishment of some form of forced labor in the disorder following an economic collapse brought on by an energy crisis. If such a thing comes to pass, some people will be tempted to go beyond this kind of serfdom to outright slavery.
I don't think that slavery is inevitable, but I do think it's a danger that we need to try and protect ourselves against. Some might argue that our constitution is protection enough. Others might say that our values have changed enough that we can never go back. Do you believe that?