A Practical Peacemaker Ponders . . .

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Have You Heard About Transition Towns?

1/26/2009

(Please read The Plea at the end)

There’s a new environmental/ relocalization/ community building movement that’s gaining momentum across the country.  It seeks to help communities make positive responses to the massive and mandatory lifestyle changes that will be necessary in the wake of peak oil and climate change.  (Peak oil, the point at which world oil production goes into irreversible decline, is thought either to have happened recently or expected to happen within the next five years or so.)  Known as Transition Towns, the movement is based on the question: "For all those aspects of life that our community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience ( to mitigate the effects of peak oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions ( to mitigate the effects of climate change)?"  When a few people in a community begin to see the importance of addressing this question, the Transition Towns movement offers clearly articulated ways to organize, initiatives to adopt, and support aplenty, all at transitiontowns.org.   

So far the greatest number of Transition Towns are in the U.K. , where the movement began in 2005.  The bible of the movement is The Transition Handbook; from Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network.  (Transition folks love that word resilience, and actually, so do I.  It means “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change.”)  Richard Heinberg of the Post-Carbon Institute chimes in from our side of the Atlantic by writing the foreword to the book, in which he describes the process of making your town into a Transition Town as “more like a party than a protest march.”

Indeed, my experience with my local Transition Colorado and Transition Denver groups bears out Heinberg’s comment, as these people love to get together, either in person for outreach events and monthly potlucks, or virtually, through social networking online.  They, like many practical peacemakers, understand that from here on out, we’d better figure things out together, because each of us individually owning everything we need, driving our own cars everywhere, and not knowing our neighbors won’t work in the post-peak oil future.  At the current early stage of Transition development, nearly everyone who attends events seems to be an activist, or at least knowledgeable in a particular field.  Collectively the group functions as a city-wide coalition of green specialists you can call on regarding issues you care about but don’t have time to research. 

In addition to the social aspect, Transition initiatives involve food (e.g. growing veggies in your yard, farmer’s markets), transport (could include bicycling, car sharing), household energy (maybe form a neighborhood “insulation club” to share ideas, learn about alternative energy), reuse and repair (such as offering “how-to” workshops in repairing household items), and local economy (barter for goods and services).

The Plea: Transition events tend to be veg-friendly, but there is definitely a need for more involvement by vegetarians/vegans in the Transition movement.  We’re needed to speak up about the environmental destruction and inefficiency of livestock agriculture, and the impact of meat-centered diets on national health care expense.  Check it out!