Towns... embody creative responses
by ordinary people
- who want to prepare creatively to meet the twin challenges
of Peak Oil and Climate Change that face us now.
- who know we don’t have all the answers but know
it’s important to have the conversation.
- who see the need to build local resilience to cope with
future shocks, energy brownouts, etc as oil becomes scarce.
- who believe that we will not come through well unless
we work together, building community and solidarity.
- who see that whether we like it or not, we will have to
re-localize, de-globalize, in most basic aspects of life,
and that it is better to try to plan this than to let ourselves
be taken unawares.
- who are drawing on their individual creative resources
to wean ourselves off our heavy dependence on oil in food
production, transport, energy, manufacturing, businesses
everywhere - our whole way of life.
- who discover they are unleashing incredible riches of
a community's creative capacities to face difficulty.
emerged out of initial shock when the permaculture students
at Kinsale, Ireland, learned about Peak Oil. They responded
creatively by developing the first Energy Descent Action
Plan, involving and engaging the whole Kinsale community.
The initiative has now grown from just two towns in 2006
(Kinsale and Totnes, UK) to 30
officially designated Transition Initiatives
over 400 groups "mulling" (Nov
"It feels to me that one of the reasons [Transition
Towns] has grown so fast is that it is positive
in a time where it is hard to find positivity, solutions-based
in a time when the problems are so glaringly obvious, and
fun, in a time where we’re not supposed
to have time for that any more." Rob
The aim is to "re-localise" ie
"de-globalize", community by community, planning
practical alternatives to our fossil-fuelled energy-intense
lifestyles, looking for best solutions generated by everyone,
rather than waiting for hardships enforced from above, catastrophes,
societal breakdown, and even martial law. We still have a
"window of opportunity" to recreate communities
that are vibrant, resilient and truly sustainable. But the
longer we do nothing and expect "someone else" to
act, the harder it will be when the global challenges press
in on us, as they surely will.
Peak Oil describes the half-way high point
in oil production. It’s not that oil is going to run
out, but as the rate of new finds decreases, it becomes more
expensive to extract.
• This looming scarcity can only lead to price rises,
stiff competition for remaining reserves, and unthinkable
patterns of behaviour - unless we think, plan and act, now.
• Fossil fuels are central to every aspect of our lives
including food, transport, water, manufacturing, and healthcare.
• Peak Oil also threatens our ability to deal with the
unpredictable effects of climate change.
• Peak Oil may well be here now - production has not
risen since 2005, and prices are increasing.
We can’t control the speed of energy
decline, nor can we predict its onset accurately at this point.
However, we can choose how quickly and effectively to prepare
Energy Descent Action Plans.... An EDAP
is a timetabled vision of how to move away from our dependence
on cheap fossil fuels, rebuilding local resilience through
re-localising, where feasible, all aspects of life. Given
the likely disruptions ahead, a resilient community –
self-reliant for as many of its own needs as possible - will
be infinitely better prepared to weather the storms, if only
those of price volatility, which are set to impact food supply,
energy generation, transport fuels, healthcare and housing.
See the EDAP, or visit Eat
The Suburbs for more detail.
Permaculture seems to embody the way of
thinking, acting, and living that embraces the Transition
model most naturally. If you are not familiar with Permaculture,
it is worth understanding and experiencing it, or something
The UK Independent front-page designs this year reflect a
deep change towards global, holistic, responsible thinking
- even if we have a lot further to go - and bad "global
warming" science to let go of:
• Energy Beyond Oil, Paul Mobbs • Open Space Technology:
A User’s Guide, Harrison Own • The Change Handbook:
Group Methods for Shaping the Future, Peggy Holman and Tom
- the principles involved
up a steering group and design its demise from the outset
- this can happen when enough key interest groups have
visible practical manifestations of the project
- this significantly enhances people's perception of TT
and their willingness to participate
|2. Awareness raising
- Peak Oil & Climate Change as twin drivers - films,
talks etc - identify key allies, build crucial networks,
prepare community in general
||8. Faciliate the
Great Reskilling - rediscovering lost abilities
to solve problems, to achieve vital practical results
and to work cooperatively alongside other people
|3. Lay the foundations
- network with existing groups and activists, acknowledge
& honour their work and suggest how TT may act as
||9. Build a bridge
to local government - nothing can progress very
far without cultivating good relationships with local
authority - who may well be keen to participate
|4. Organise a Great
Unleashing - to celebrate that the community
is facing the issues - where the bad news is seen as a
catalyst to bring forth positive response.
||10. Honour the elders
- the generation who lived through the war and before
cheap oil remember how they managed and have precious
wisdom and stories to tell
|5. Form sub groups
- the unleashed collective genius of the community needs
to form smaller groups to develop different parts of the
||11. Let it go where
it wants to go - "keep your eyes on the
prize" and just act as a catalyst for the genius
of the community to unfold
|6. Use Open Space
- in theory unworkable, in practice a highly effective
way for TT to galvanize ideas, plans and committment in
response to key questions and issues
||12. Create an Energy
Descent Plan - this is the goal to be for everyone
involved in Transition Towns. We are constantly in tension
between the pressure of events and our dreams.
|1. ‘We’ve got no funding.’
Not really necessary when you’ve got enthusiasm
and community involvement. Funders can also be controllers,
which doesn’t serve the process.
2. ‘They won’t let us.’
Transition towns operate ‘below the radar’,
removing fears, apparently held by some green folks
that successful initiatives will get shut down. Corporate
awareness of climate change and ecology is growing,
and many people in power are inspired and enthused by
3. ‘I don’t want to step on the
toes of other green groups in town.’
A Transition Town initiative will invigorate and unite
existing groups in a common goal and sense of purpose.
Liaising with existing groups will be useful in constructing
an Energy Descent Plan. Email sent from Sustainable
Redland to the Transition Town group: “I just
wanted to feed back to the group after going to last
night’s Transition City Bristol meeting and talk.
Great bunch of people, informative talk… I got
the impression that the Transition City bunch are probably
way further along the road than us in really building
guardianship of the planet into their lives, but despite
that, there was no sense of 'us and them'. There was
also a refreshing lack of angst about what the authorities
in Bristol are/will be doing; it was 'ignore that, just
get on with it'.”
4. ‘No-one in this town
cares about the environment.’ While this
may appear to be true at first, if you look deeper and
seek out those involved in local food, crafts, history
and culture (going to them, not expecting them to approach
you), you’ll probably find more allies than at
first you saw.
5. ‘Surely it’s too late to do
anything?’ It may be, but also it may
not be. Vandana Shiva says “The uncertainty of
our times is no reason to be certain about hopelessness.”
6. ‘I don’t have the right qualifications.’
Well, if you don’t do it, who will? “What’s
important is that you care about where you live, that
you see the need to act and that you are open to new
ways of engaging people.”
7. ‘I don’t have the energy for
doing that.’ Although this may appear
from the outside to be a daunting task, very often,
developing environmental initiatives is like pushing
a broken down car up a hill. Transition Towns is like
coming down the other side – the car starts moving
faster than you can keep up with it, accelerating all
the time. Once you give it the push from the top of
the hill it will develop its own momentum. And you are
not alone. The energy is generated by the group and
for the group. This is a new way of being together and
organizing life together.
key page - last updated 10th Aug 2008
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whose material we've used, but if we've fallen short, apologies,
and please tell us! - it's all done with goodwill and hope,
with the right intent and for the right reasons...