Transition and Occupy * Rob Hopkins responds * Can We All just Get Along?
Is Transition like Occupy? A good question can raise the stakes; inject some excitement, into any presentation. I’ve experienced this fewer times than I would like. But last Saturday, I was the person on the receiving end during my presentation on Transition to Ashley Moore’s permaculture course at Gray Mockingbird Community Garden in Lake Worth.
It’s always helpful to say, Good question! and in this case, I meant it. The answer is, No, and … Occupy and Transition have some obvious similarities. Both are grassroots movements; both emerged from a conviction that the economic/political system was broken; both were rooted in action: Occupy, in the physical occupation of public spaces to demand change; Transition in community projects to make change. Occupy is against business-as-usual; you could say Transition is focused on a better way to do business.
Many in my liberal religious congregation were very supportive of Occupy. We have a strong tradition of social justice and our own martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement. So in no time, there arose a cadre of people willing to demonstrate regularly on the sidewalks in front of our property. We held a Saturday workshop on Occupy, including a session on Single Payer and another on songs of protest. Protesting can produce a high, no doubt. And, whatever happens to the Occupy movement now, we will not soon forget its identification with the 99%.
Although it’s not my thing, I have supported and/or engaged in protest actions for a specific goal: equal rights for women, Move to amend, stopping the KXL pipeline. So, although I agree that business-as-usual is in great need of a major course correction, I decided to remain on the sidelines of Occupy, and have happily found a home in the Transition movement.
Attempting to differentiate between Occupy and Transition led to some lively conversation and I’m very grateful that the question was raised. But there is no more articulate spokesperson than Rob Hopkins himself in how the movements differ. Here’s a response after he visited as a speaker during the Occupy London action in 2011. Here are some key quotes (links to the entire article and others follow).
First, like the appreciative enquirer that he is, Hopkins gave tribute to the value of Occupy:
What Occupy is doing that matters so much is that it is holding a space. It is holding a space where the discussions can take place on their own terms about what is broken and what needs fixing. It is underpinned by a realisation that this is a crucial time of change where everything is on the table, where business-as-usual is no longer an option. It isn’t making demands because that would put the power in the hands of the people in power to decide whether or not to respond to them. It is holding the space for the conversations, and is doing so on its own terms. I admire that.
And here were some key divergences:
You can’t … just base deep change on an analysis of what is wrong.
Transition says to people “take this model and do it where you are”, whereas Occupy suggests coming together to suspend your life while you explore, with others, the question of what’s the best thing to do now. Transition is about building that into your own life, right now.
…what everyone can do, in a time when it is increasingly clear to anyone who thinks about it, that business as usual is no longer a runner and that new thinking is needed and soon, is to occupy, in their own lives, that sense of possibility, that space for asking the questions that matter.
You might say that Occupy suggests occupying, for example, Wall Street, while Transition suggests occupying your own street, putting up runner beans and solar panels rather than tents.
Can We All Just Get Along?
That is the bigger question. What would it look like if we reached beyond our differences and found common cause? Sometimes, it seems possible, see: Fissures in G.O.P. as Some Conservatives Embrace Renewable Energy. And A Green Tea Party?
So whether you are a 20-something in a tent city demanding change in the current system that rewards wealth at the expense of everyone else, or a 70-something grandmother who believes that we have to live with less so that others – including future generations – can simply live, we have to work together. Because putting to rest the notion that we can grow or technologize ourselves out of this unprecedented planetary crisis, is too big a job for any one movement.
A Day at Occupy London
Comments are interesting, too.