A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth

Oil prices rise, there is an outcry and we turn down the oil-fired heating, close the window, and wish we were not so dependent on fossil fuel.

Having coped with several increases this year alone, the developed world seems to manage, but the situation is serious and it will not get any better, especially as we have been warned that supplies cannot last indefinitely.

If we can’t come up with alternatives, we are faced with a situation that will slowly but surely leave us exposed, with vehicles that can’t be used, homes that can’t be heated or cooled, and whole cities whose infrastructure operates on a hit-and-miss basis.

The next generation will not thank us if we make no attempt to cut consumption and find other means of fuelling our lifestyle.

Whether we think of fuel oil in its raw state, pipelines, barrels and all, or we think of items in our homes that are manufactured from its by-products, the evidence is all around us.

Dock areas bursting with tanks, refineries and tall chimneys belching out stinking smoke, seaways full of ships transporting oil from its sources in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, and roads clogged with petrol tankers as they distribute the refined product that we are gagging to buy at the pumps - that’s the picture of our world.

In a situation that is a socio-political nightmare, we are every bit as vulnerable as the pundits tell us.

Those of us with two cars could see if it’s possible to exist with just one.

When it’s time to replace a car because it is becoming too expensive to run, cast around for a model with the lowest possible fuel consumption, and car share as much as you can.

Clear the back seat of all the litter that prevents you from offering a lift to your neighbour, and take it in turns to take the children to school. Just by doing that, you’ve halved petrol consumption at a stroke.

If you’ve got public transport serving your area, get everybody to use it and if the timetable doesn’t suit, make representations to the people in charge and get it changed.

As a community, get together with those living nearby and discuss the possibility of setting up your own mini-bus service, one that can be responsive to people’s precise needs, that is efficient to run, and driven by volunteers on a rota. They do work and have been shown to fulfil a real need.

Not only that, they encourage people to leave their cars at home, to give up driving altogether when they are too old, and set an example to other areas to try the same tactic.

Whether it is car sharing, weaning ourselves off items made from oil by-products, cutting down on wasteful journeys, or simply consuming less, the process requires planning and organisation, but, step by step, we can make a difference.

But will it be enough?