Transition Initiatives. Can Communities Tackle Peak Oil and Climate?

The Transition Handbook image

The Transition Initiative may well be one of the one important grass roots, community-based movements out there. Because, if nothing else, it removes the powerlessness that many people feel in the face of big issues like climate change, peak oil and their ilk?

The Transition Initiative restores a sense of control over one’s destiny. It says, don’t wait for government or business. If you want your community to be resilient in the face of global warming and peak oil then it’s up to you - and the people around you. And you can make your action feel more like a party than a protest, infuse it with fun not futility.

Such is the resonance of Transition that almost 200 communities around the world have officially embraced the concept. Is yours one of them?As Sami has been striving to make known for aeons now, (see his many posts below) Transition is a process whereby communities work together to significantly increase local resilience or mitigate against the effects of Peak Oil and Climate Change. (Originally known as Transition Towns, it later became Transition Initiatives because towns was too limiting) They do this by imagining what a vibrant neighbourhood will look like, when cheap oil is no longer with us.

For every community the impact will be unique. And that is the beauty of the Transition model. It provides guidelines, but no prescriptive rules. And as a idea barely a few years old, it wisely admits it has no answers. It’s still experimenting.

But it does have a manual: the Transition Handbook, written by the movement’s founder, Rob Hopkins. Originally published in March 2008 this upbeat book was an instant success. So much so, that it’s now being prepped for a second edition, via an free online open collaborative edit. And earlier this year a special Australasian edition, with case studies from Australia and New Zealand was released (left image above)

(While the USA now has over 30 official Transition communities, that’s one per every ten million citizens, in Australia it’s roughly one roughly per every million and NZ one per ever half million.)

Examples of Transition Initiatives
The reason for the rush of Transition publications (others on local money and local food are due out soon) is that its vision gives cohesive form to many disparate ideas. It brings together in one idea: buying local, organic food, social cohesion, low carbon transport, skills sharing, debt free living, self reliance, community spirit and much more.

Transition Initiatives work as a pick-me-up antidote to the bitter pill of too much negative news. They give people the courage to try out stuff, to experiment with more resilient options at a scale that is meaningful to them and their local community, be it developing a local currency, planting food trees instead of ornamentals, running cheese-making courses, setting up bike-share or car-share schemes, establishing permaculture gardens, etc.

You might recall the story about Bundanoon, the village that voted to become Australia’s First Bottled Water Free Town? Although not an official Transition project, this community initiative to effectively ban bottled water does encapsulate much of what Transition is all about. An online commenter writing of that particular project, neatly summed up what also makes Transition so appealing to many.

"This is a great story about a community seeing an issue and coming together to work out a solution that they are happy with. Getting people to community meetings is not easy, unless people are passionate or angry. This is a display of community support for a small action people can control that is part of a big environmental issue - it's fantastic.

This isn't the silver bullet to global warming, but it is an example of community and collective will. I bet this town doesn't stop here - people talking, collaborating and acting is a recipe for sustainability - watch this town over the coming years - there are lessons for us all here."

Transition Education
Transition was inspired by the principles of permaculture, which in turn drew its wisdom from observation of the natural world. All three are simultaneously simple and complex, defying that classic notion of something that can be quickly explained in an elevator ride. One can read about Transition from books or one can leap right in and become part of the experiment. A middle approach is to take advantage of training that’s available. Trainers from the UK have been touring the world training other trainers, so they can pass on the lessons learnt.

One such Transition Training course is on in August 2009 in NSW, Australia. But you’ll need to get organised, as bookings close this week.

Not that you need to do anything formal to bring about positive action in your community, but Transition Initiatives can support your endeavours with tips on how to limit personal burn out. Give it a whirl. Experiment with the radical hypothesis that through stronger, more resilient communities we might just find a way out of this mess.

::Transition Initiative Wiki
More Transition Initiatives
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 Reach Japan
Transition Towns Reach New Zealand
Interview with Rob Hopkins, founder of the movement
Transition City Bristol
The Transition Handbook

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