Transition Town Movement
"The idea of Transition Towns is radical relocalization of politics, economics and culture to autonomous and self-sufficient communities, in order to cope effectively with the twin perils of Peak Oil and Climate Change, to become resilient to such mega-changes. Hopkins decided to create a working model of such a community in 2006, in Totnes, UK, and there are now over a hundred networked transition towns in existence or in the planning stages, built on that model." (http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2008/09/16.html#a2244)
"For participating communities, it involves a three-step process. First, acknowledge the strong probability that in the near future, our communities are going to have much less cheap energy available to them than at present. Second, recognise that pretty much all our systems – for food production, clothing, house-building, making a living – are more or less completely dependent on the availability of cheap energy sources. Third, embrace the reality of energy descent as an opportunity to re-design our communities and entire societies along more human-scale, inclusive, equitable and convivial lines." (http://www.newstatesman.com/200803170007)
"The Transition movement was started four years ago by Rob Hopkins, a young British instructor of ecological design. Transition shares certain principles with environmentalism, but its vision is deeper — and more radical — than mere greenness or sustainability. “Sustainability,” Hopkins recently told me, “is about reducing the impacts of what comes out of the tailpipe of industrial society.” But that assumes our industrial society will keep running. By contrast, Hopkins said, Transition is about “building resiliency” — putting new systems in place to make a given community as self-sufficient as possible, bracing it to withstand the shocks that will come as oil grows astronomically expensive, climate change intensifies and, maybe sooner than we think, industrial society frays or collapses entirely. For a generation, the environmental movement has told us to change our lifestyles to avoid catastrophic consequences. Transition tells us those consequences are now irreversibly switching on; we need to revolutionize our lives if we want to survive.
Transition’s approach is adamantly different from that of the survivalists I heard about, scattered in the mountains around Sandpoint in bunkers stocked with gold and guns. The movement may begin from a similarly dystopian idea: that cheap oil has recklessly vaulted humanity to a peak of production and consumption, and no combination of alternative technologies can generate enough energy, or be installed fast enough, to keep us at that height before the oil is gone. (Transition dismisses Al Gore types as “techno-optimists.”) But Transition then takes an almost utopian turn. Hopkins insists that if an entire community faces this stark challenge together, it might be able to design an “elegant descent” from that peak. We can consciously plot a path into a lower-energy life — a life of walkable villages, local food and artisans and greater intimacy with the natural world — which, on balance, could actually be richer and more enjoyable than what we have now. Transition, Hopkins has written, meets our era’s threats with a spirit of “elation, rather than the guilt, anger and horror” behind most environmental activism. “Change is inevitable,” he told me, “but this is a change that could be fantastic.”
After developing the rudiments of Transition with a class he was teaching at an Irish college, Hopkins moved to the English town of Totnes, and, in 2005, began mobilizing a campaign to “relocalize” the town. The all-volunteer effort has since been busily planting nut trees, starting its own local currency and offering classes on things like darning socks in order to “facilitate the Great Reskilling.”
More than 80 other initiatives across England have followed, including one in Bristol, a city of nearly half a million people. Worldwide, there are now more than 150 official Transition Towns (communities with an active group of citizens), and last winter, trainers from Totnes traveled the globe to run workshops, leaving activists on three continents to begin the relocalization of their own communities — autonomously and with whatever financing they can raise. (The Transition revolution is, loosely speaking, a franchise model.) Sandpoint, Idaho, was the second Transition Town in the United States after Boulder County, Colo. They have been joined by more than 20 others in the last year, including Portland, Maine; Berea, Kentucky; and even Los Angeles. But the American arm of the movement is expanding far faster than it is accomplishing anything, which is why the event in Sandpoint that night was so significant."
"the real value of the Transition Towns approach isn't its emphasis on energy descent (which may neither be sufficient nor ultimately valuable for resilience), but rather its concisely crafted methodology for catalyzing community participation via a messy open source organizational process (which allows people to deviate from the "energy descent approach" if they desire to). " (http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2009/04/rc-journal-transition-towns-as-a-means-to-participative-problem-solving.html)
Resilience and Participation
From a conversation with Councilman John T. Reuter, of Sandpoint Idaho (a Transition Towns site:
"What Reuter said he felt was wonderful about the Sandpoint Transition Initiative was how quickly it was rejuvenating people’s faith that the changes they craved were worth working for. “To say the group has only created a community garden so far really isn’t sufficient,” he told me. “It’s something really more substantive: they’re bringing people to the process.” It was easy to argue that at the initiative’s core, in place of any clearly defined philosophy or strategy, was only a puff of enthusiasm. But Reuter seemed to argue that enthusiasm is an actual asset, a resource our society is already suffering a scarcity of. “There’s just something happening here that’s reviving people’s civic sense of possibility,” he later said. “Politics is ‘the art of the possible,’ right? I think what the Transition Initiative is doing is expanding what’s possible in people’s minds. It is expanding people’s ability to dream bold. And that’s what we need to do: dream bold. Because people have been limited by their own imaginations.”
Reuter had a utopian vision, too: the one laid out in the U.S. Constitution. And the Sandpoint Transition Initiative seemed to be moving Sandpoint closer to that ideal in its own small way, even though it was working out of a totally different handbook. They were managing to make the functioning democracy in their town a little more productive. For a wide range of not-always-consistent reasons, people in Sandpoint decided that Transition could help them build the world they wanted. And now, only because enough people stepped forward and made that decision, Transition actually looked like a good tool for the job. They were picking it up by whatever handle they grasped. They were swinging it as earnestly as they could." (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/magazine/19town-t.html?sq=the%20end%20is%20near&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=print)
Key Book to Read
- First community in 2006, in Totnes, UK: http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/, in May 2010 they published their Energy Descent Action Plan 'Transition in Action'
- Elle magazine: http://www.elle.com/Beauty/Health-Fitness/Do-Worry.-Be-Happy
Listen or watch:
- Watch: Rob Hopkins on the Transition Movement and Resilience:Three part introduction, by the founder of the Transition Movement, very well done
- Marcin Jakubowski on Transition Towns and Open Source Villages
- CBC Podcast (see March 26 coverage in directory)