The Massive Impact of Just One Community Transition Group

transition town totnes website image

Image credit: Transition Town Totnes' website lists its current projects

The Transition Movement may have introduced me to backcasting, but it has never been just about workshops or visioning techniques—from harnessing peer pressure to promote renewables, to community nut tree plantings for food security, these guys have a track record of getting stuff done. Nevertheless, when I wrote about Al Jazeera's report on Transition Town Totnes, I noted that it was refreshing to see this hotbed of the transition movement still chock full of cars when many activists seem under the impression that the town has become some kind of ecotopia. Confirming that this view is widespread, Rob Hopkins tells us that visitors coming to witness the work of Transition Town Totnes are regularly surprised that "there are still cars and not windmills everywhere". So much so, that the group has decided to name its new report after the common refrain "So What Does Transition Town Totnes Actually Do?" Fortunately, they've got some answers to the question too. And it's impressive stuff. While some may be depressed at the news that despite being a hub for a global movement to kick the fossil fuel habit, Totnes remains almost as addicted as any other town. But I like to look at it differently—we are all in this together, and the fact that Totnes has built a massive social movement, and provided impetus for that movement to spread globally, is a huge deal. It's even more of a huge deal because Totnes is not some hippy utopia, but an ordinary town with an ordinary economy. (OK, it probably does have a slightly higher than average number of crystal shops and reiki practitioners...) It's way too early to be talking about fossil fuel free communities of any scale, but the building blocks being laid by groups like Transition Town Totnes are a vital early step to take us where we need to go.

As for concrete steps that the group has taken since its inception just over 4 years ago, the executive summary of the new Transition Town Totnes report offers some pretty impressive numbers, which Rob Hopkins summarizes over at Transition Culture. Pardon the long bullet pointed list, but it's the only way to get across quite what a powerhouse this organization has become. And with Transition groups in action in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and beyond, it's clear to see that the ripple effect of local actions are having a profound impact on a global scale:

  • People visiting Totnes to find out about Transition have brought an estimated £122,000 to the local economy
  • Over 300 people have visited the town to undertake Transition Training
  • TTT raised the funding for the 74 solar panels on Totnes Civic Hall which will generate around 13,000kWh (a third of its demand, leading to the Council saving over £5,500)
  • 186 hybrid nut trees have been planted throughout the town
  • Over 4000 Local Food Guides (in 2 editions) have been distributed
  • Our Garden Share scheme means that now 30 gardeners in 13 gardens are able to grow food, providing food to over 50 families
  • Over 70 businesses now accept the Totnes Pound
  • TTT has organised over 140 public events
  • More than 1,000 students at King Edward VI Community College have now participated in our 'Transition Tales' programme
  • Over 75% of people in Totnes and Dartington are aware of TTT's work
  • More than 600 people attended 4 workshops on renewable energy
  • There are now 59 'Transition Together' groups in and around the town, who will each reduce their carbon emissions by 1.2 tonnes, each saving £601 per year • over 50% of those households are low-income
  • 'Transition Tours', a structured tour designed for those who want to visit the town to learn about Transition has, so far, had a local impact of £52,166
  • The work of TTT has inspired an international network of thousands of Transition initiatives
  • TTT has formed partnerships with 25 other organisations
  • The creation of the Energy Descent Action Plan engaged over 800 local people, gave talks to 35 local organisations and held 27 public meetings
  • 50 people have learnt to garden through our basic gardening course
  • Over 400 people attended 'Winterfest', a one-day celebration of the work of TTT
  • 3 annual 'Edible Garden Crawls' have been attended by over 500 people
  • The 2010 'Energy Fair' was attended by over 400 people
  • TTT's email newsletter is received by over 2,000 people
  • TTT's Garden Share scheme was the inspiration for Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's national 'Landshare' campaign
  • Produced 10 short films about various TTT events
  • 'Estates in Transition', a day conference co-organised with Dartington, brought 65 local landowners and managers together to explore the impacts of peak oil and climate change
  • 57.2% of local people feel TTT's work is either 'highly relevant' or 'relevant' to their lives
  • The Heart and Soul group provides support to 15 people working in TTT so as to minimise incidents of burn-out
  • TTT's website has over 4,500 registered users
  • Our annual Seedy Sunday events each attract at least 200 people
  • A recent grant of £75,000 from Community Builders is supporting our efforts to bring the derelict Dairy Crest site back into community ownership
  • TTT has generated a great deal of media coverage, including BBC's The One Show, Al Jazeera TV, 'In Business' on Radio 4, and pieces in most daily papers, as well as regularly attracting international media attention

Is that it? I hear you ask. Knowing these guys, probably not. But it is not a bad start.

More on the Transition Movement
Why Backcasting Can Help Us See the Pathway to a Sustainable Future
Rob Hopkins of Transition Town Totnes and Transition Culture
Transition Towns on Al Jazeera (Video)
Transition Towns: How Do They Stay Relevant?
The Dark Side of Transition Towns? Worldchanging Slams Transition Movement

The Massive Impact of Just One Community Transition Group
The Transition Movement may have introduced me to backcasting, but it has never been just about workshops or visioning techniques—from harnessing peer pressure to promote

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