Can Transition Towns help create a new economy?

farmers market

When it comes to the conversation about climate change, Rob Hopkins says, "the world has gone from “there’s no problem” to saying “it’s too late” without the bit in the middle “maybe we can actually do something.”"

For Hopkins, that "bit in the middle" is his Transition Town movement, which has now reached 44 countries and thousands of towns and communities.

Hopkins spoke with Tara Logan at Alternet about his work developing the Transition network and where he sees it going from here.

Tara Logan: I know the idea of peak oil jumpstarted this work, but in the US that idea is not resonating right now because we are gushing with oil and gas. How do you reach an American audience, where many people are excited about America’s so-called energy independence?

Rob Hopkins: There is still a very strong argument that that’s a bubble. The work Post Carbon Institute is doing arguing that actually fracking is a very short bubble and that most of the sweet spots are going to be played out very quickly. It’s really an investment bubble and the only people who are going to benefit from it are the people who were in first, and engineering companies.

But I think increasingly, my experience of the last 10 days of traveling across the US is that the impacts of climate change are being felt by ordinary people all over the place. In Alaska people’s homes are sinking into the permafrost as it melts, the roads are buckling all over the place, forest fires, floods, that kind of stuff is really in people’s face. But actually, whether people are able to put a name to it being climate change or anything else, I think there is a real sense that something is not right. That things are changing incredibly quickly around us.

And actually I think the way that Transition gets framed now is how do we create a new economy. Where is it going to come from? Who is the cavalry coming riding to the rescue in the place where you live? Is the government going to come in and sort it out? Is Apple going to come in and open a factory at the end of your street and employ everybody? Where is it going to come from?

Whether people call it Transition, whether they attribute it to peak oil, climate change, all these kind of things, what’s resonating with people I think is that the economy is just going down the tubes and it doesn’t represent us. It doesn’t build justice, fairness, the kinds of things we want to see. And we can do a better job and that’s already starting to be modeled.

The key challenge for me is how we do this in a way that takes it out of being perceived as alternative culture— that it resonates across the spectrum of people of all kinds of different interests. I just came from Houston and actually the people who are running the Transition group in Houston work in the oil and gas industry. And they are really the people who are inspired to do that stuff there. I really love when Transition beds in with people who aren’t the usual suspects.

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Can Transition Towns help create a new economy?
Rob Hopkins feels like "the world has gone from “there’s no problem” to saying “it’s too late” without the bit in the middle “maybe we can actually do something.” That "bit in the middle" is what's known as the Transition Town movement.

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