New York Times Offers Profile of Transition Towns
I need to read the New York Times more often. Doing one of my regular check ins on Transition Culture, the blog of Transition Towns founder Rob Hopkins, I find that the NYT just ran a 5000 word article profiling the Transition Towns movement, and getting to meet the folks behind Transition Town Sandpoint, Idaho. I've probably made it pretty clear by now that I am a huge fan of the Transition movement - it may well be the most important social movement of our time. So it is great to see the word spreading far and wide in the US. The NYT article, by Jon Mooalem, is a great example of exactly why the movement is succeeding in preaching way beyond the choir (and highlights, I think, some pitfalls too).
Entitle, The End is Near (Yay!), Mooalem's article shows how Transition is helping folks move from apocalyptic fears to a unifying and inspiring vision:
"Lately, an apocalyptic bile has been collecting in the back of America's throat. Our era has been defined by skyrocketing line graphs, and it's easy to wonder if we have finally pushed something just a little too far and are now watching everything start to teeter over. Maybe it's not our dependence on oil, but the carbon we have plugged up the atmosphere with. Or global population. Or credit derivatives. We're all starting to career down the other side of that hill — which hill, specifically, is up to you. But it's the shadowy side, and none of us can see the bottom.
In Sandpoint, though, people were trying to move the stale chatter of environmental collapse out of the health-food store and into the 21st century — to pull each incongruous part of their community together and make their town, collaboratively, the blessed place they all knew it could be. At a time when so much fuzzy energy for change ricochets through our culture, and even Chevron ads ask us to use less oil and harness "the power of human energy" instead, Transition seemed to offer this sold-out theater in Idaho both a vision and a lucid, 240-page instruction manual with which to give it a try.
Would it work? Nobody could say. But as Brownlee finished, and the crowd suddenly re-erupted into applause, even just trying it seemed to feel wonderful. Next, a group of kids raced onto the stage in Sgt. Pepper garb, holding inflatable guitars. Later came a "sustainable performance arts" troupe (they use biofuels when fire dancing) and a woman who sang about rain and peace. By the time the last guitar duo performed "Here Comes the Sun," everyone in the room was so keyed up — so ready to turn the impending dark age of peak oil and climate change into a renaissance — that no one heard the slightest menace in the line "Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting." Or if they did, they just kept singing along anyway.
The article quotes folks from all ends of the political and cultural spectrum who are finding inspiration in Transition, but it does also hint at some dischord with the more "touch-feely" hippyish aspects of the movement:
"But Michael Boge, the City Council president, seemed to complain of exactly that, telling me he didn't understand why the group had to cheapen a good idea by "inventing a new word for it and wrapping themselves in that catchphrase." (The new word Boge objected to wasn't "Transition"; it was "sustainability.") Still, Boge, who owns five drive-in restaurants and is active in a long-distance motorcycling club called the Iron Butt Association, told me that he felt allied with Transition's ideals. "I've bitched about this to my friends for years: we need to make a concerted effort to get off fossil fuels," he said. "And I truly believe that with the country and God behind us, we can do it." Transition was a prism, offering a slightly different view of Sandpoint depending on how each person turned it, but always shooting out lots of rainbows.
It's great to see that the Transition Movement is spreading as fast as it is, and attracting support from a diverse range of folks. I just hope that it continues to make an effort to remain as broad a church as possible. For those wanting to learn more about Transition Towns in the US, check out the new Transition US website, or take a look at Rob Hopkins' welcome video below. I've also included some links to previous articles on TreeHugger about Transition Towns.
Further Reading on Transition Towns
Planet Green's Green Glossary: Transition Towns
Transition Towns Reach the US
The Times Newspaper on Transition Towns and 'Apocalypse Now'
Transition Towns and Cities Emerge in the US
Transition Towns New Zealand Gains Strength
Transition Towns Reach Japan
Transition Towns Reach New Zealand
Transition Town Plants Up Nut Trees for Food Security
Interview with Rob Hopkins, founder of the movement
Transition City Bristol
The Transition Handbook
Transition Towns Reach Australia
The Virtual Orchard Project