Transition Towns

So, we’re both a day late, but Gloria and I somehow decided that every day in May was going to be inspirational!

Each day Gloria will a post about an inspirational person, and I’ll highlight an inspirational project. Her first person is Maya Angelou, and my first project is…

Transition Towns
The Transition Towns project was initiated by permaculture teacher of 10 years, Rob Hopkins.

Focussing on the central issues of peak oil and climate change, Transition Towns are “towns that are participating in the transition to a more localised post-peak-oil future”.

This process normally involves going through the following 10 steps (now 12 steps, see here):

  1. Raise awareness of peak oil and climate change (often by showing films like The End of Suburbia and An Inconvenient Truth)
  2. Lay the Foundations. This is about networking with existing groups and activists and stressing that this Transition Town initiative is not a process of duplicating their work but of requesting their input in a new way of looking at the future.
  3. The Official Unleashing. The aim of this event is to generate a momentum which will propel your initiative forward for the next period of its work.
  4. Form Groups. You can’t do this on your own. Part of the process of developing an Energy Descent Action Plan is that of tapping into the collective genius of the community. One of the most effective ways to do this is to set up a number of smaller groups to focus on specific aspects of the process.
  5. Use Open Space. Open Space Technology is an extraordinary tool. It has been described as ‘a simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people, and a powerful way to lead any kind of organization, in everyday practice and ongoing change’.
  6. Develop Visible Practical Manifestations of the Project. It is easy to come up with ideas, harder to get practical things happening on the ground. It is essential that you avoid any sense that your project is just a talking shop where people sit around and draw up wish lists. Your project needs, from an early stage, to begin to create practical manifestations in the town, high visibility signals that it means business.
  7. Facilitate The Great Reskilling. Very few people still have the skills a more resilient society needs. This is where your Transition Town initiative comes in.
  8. Build a Bridge to Local Government. Whatever the degree of groundswell your Transition Town initiative manages to generate, however many practical projects you manage to get going on the ground and however wonderful your Energy Descent Plan is, you will not progress too far unless you have cultivated a positive and productive relationship with your local authority.
  9. Honour the Elders. There is a great deal that we can learn from those who directly remember the transition to the age of cheap oil, especially the period between 1930 and 1960.
  10. Let it Go Where It Wants to Go and Reflections….In essence, although you may start out developing your Transition Town process with a clear idea of where it will go, it will inevitably go elsewhere. You need to be open to it going where the energy of those who get involved want to take it. If you try and hold onto the idea that it will be a certain way it will, after a while, begin to sap the energy that is building to do certain things. It is what is so exciting about the whole thing, seeing what emerges.

So there you have it. Transition Towns (of which there are now many) are very inspiring projects.

For more info check out Rob Hopkin’s blog Transition Culture, these excellent articles on Treehugger, and have a read through the Transition Initiatives Primer (pdf) and the Kinsale Energy Decent Action Plan (pdf)

Also, check out this short video from Transition Town Lewes: