Image credit: Transition Whidbey
I posted on Friday about Worldchanging's critic of the Dark Side of Transition Towns, in which Alex Steffen argued that the Transition Town movement is effectively burying its head in the sand—promoting ineffectual, perhaps folksy [I paraphrase], individual action instead of systemic or political change, and maybe even gleefully anticipating a social collapse. No sooner do I finish writing about the ensuing debate, that I come across a video that, I think, shows the true heart of Transition. The Transition Whidbey Initiative is clearly promoting a broad and far reaching set of solutions to peak oil—from community mapping of local food initiatives to reskilling initiatives to local currency to promoting renewable energy. When these folks talk about being "inspired by peak oil", I don't see the "casual eagerness for the death of others" that Steffen referenced, but rather a recognition that life is going to change anyway, so we had better plan how we want that change to happen. And crucially, the group is interacting with the political systems it inhabits—which is a vital part of moving beyond personal action to real cultural change.
Now I'm not saying Steffen doesn't have a point. It's important that Transition Towns become a catalyst for, not a replacement of, national and international political action. And it's important that they don't remain a marginalized refuge for the liberal left. His Sunday morning rant on Worldchanging that the revolution will not be hand made does, I think, make this argument more cogently than his Transition piece.
While learning to build cob structures, willow hoop houses and the like can be a good way to refocus on simpler pleasures and greener technologies—they are no replacement for a social movement that finally ends Government inaction on climate change. And they should augment, not replace, high-tech solar innovations and luxury green condos.
We need a myriad of solutions and a myriad of actions—Transition Towns are just one piece of the puzzle.
As is so often the case, thanks to Rob Hopkins' Transition Culture for posting the video.