It’s been three years since Rob Hopkins’ seminal book, The Transition Handbook, was published, and put into words what many have sensed for a while: that things will never be the same again. Indeed, they’re not.
So, I thought that given some advancement in awareness among people (witness the #OccupyWallStreet movement) it was time to take an (admittedly incomplete) look at where things stand today in the world of Transition.
Five years ago, Transition Town Totnes, a town in the UK that wound up being the very first Transition Town, got started. Totnes began putting Hopkins’ ideas to the test in 2006, and hasn’t looked back since.
From local currency to local food to a local economy, Totnesians embraced Transition, and the hard work of going where no Transitioners had gone before, with a will. The fact that their’s was and is a cohesive community, where people have lived for a long time and are well acquainted, figures prominently in the degree to which they’ve succeeded in transitioning toward a low-carbon world.
All for one, one for all
Having that foundation – a group of like-minded individuals who live in relationship with one another – upon which to build is essential to the success of any Transition Town, according to Carolyn Stayton and Trathen Heckman of Transition Town Sebastopol, California.
I listened to Mike Ruppert interview Carolyn, who has served as Executive Director of Transition US, and Trathen on the September 18, 2011 episode of his show, “The Lifeboat Hour” (available as a podcast). The need for Transitioners to have a history with one another makes sense, particularly when the human tendency to think of people unknown to the group as “outsiders,” or The Other, is taken into consideration. We’re at our best when we see ourselves mirrored, at least in part, in the faces of those we know and trust.
The downside to establishing this essential element of Transition is, of course, that it takes time. But try we must.
A community of disparate individuals without real ties to one another can’t bring any level of resilience to bear when destructive forces hit hard. The web of social connections that human beings used to take utterly for granted – family, friends, churches, neighborhood schools – has been deconstructed, especially here in the US, in large part because of upward mobility, serial relocation, divorce, and overfilled schedules.
Families whose savings have been decimated by 21st century robber barons, families whose homes belong to the banks that foreclosed their mortgages, families that struggle to remain together despite the fact that both adults have lost their jobs, have found that the loss of these social connections leaves them feeling there is no one upon whom they can depend for help, outside their immediate family.
Brains, brawn, and barter
Now, the triple whammy of climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse is driving us back together. We can wait until we’re down for the count, but since we see disaster looming, doesn’t it make eminently good sense to prepare?
It does, and here’s why, in no particular order:
- Because two heads are better than one.
- Because what one doesn’t know, another will.
- Because people of good will working together can create a synergy that is absent when they each work alone.
- Because there’s safety in numbers.
- Because giving up isn’t an option.
To find out what the people who really know about this business of Transition have to say, let’s take a look at the Transition United States website. I suggest that you begin by reading the executive summary of their 2010 annual report, Bringing a New World to Life. From there, go directly to a fabulous section of the site called the “Knowledge Hub.” Here you’ll find materials about awareness raising, online training, getting started, and fundraising. The links to publications and books are not, in my opinion, all they could be, and I’ll make my own recommendations later on (I’m a librarian – it’s a sickness).
Each in their own way
There are now 100 official Transition Towns in the US. Among them are Chicago (which intends to include all 77 legendary neighborhoods in its efforts), Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Omaha, and a host of medium-sized and downright small towns, as well, including media mogul Transition Voice’s own local effort, Transition Staunton Augusta. Add to these a number of counties that are official Transition sites, and it becomes apparent that there are millions of people willing to undertake the challenge of Transition here at home.
The action’s not all taking place on this side of the Atlantic, however. In addition to the 100 Transition Towns just described, there are 387 more worldwide!
As for those teetering on the brink – well, if you’ve never heard of a “muller” before, you have now. These are folks who are beginning to take the very first steps toward Transition, but whose efforts have not yet engaged other like-minded individuals. Read more about worldwide mullers, and the international aspects of Transition, at Transition Network. There’s lots of ways on Transition Network to look at who’s mulling and who’s official. I’m particularly fascinated by their idea of arranging Transition communities by themes, i.e., the issues that interest that community the most. Definitely worth taking a look at.
As promised, I’d like to recommend some books and websites to those of you wanting to learn more about Transitioning, as well as related matters. There’s nothing listed here that I haven’t read, or listened to, myself. Consider Rob Hopkins’ books as not requiring mention; obviously, you should read them. Please regard this list as a good starting place, not the be-all and end-all. Enjoy!
Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front, and Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation, Sharon Astyk.
A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil, Sharon Astyke & Aaron Newton. The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, Thomas H. Greco, Jr.
The Long Descent, and The Ecotechnic Future and The Wealth of Nature, John Michael Greer
The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, James Howard Kunstler
Rooted in the Land, William Vitek & Wes Jackson, eds.
Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, Woody Tasch.
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, E.F.Schumacher.
Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America, John de Graaf, ed.
–Vicki Lipski, Transition Voice