No comment needed on this, the first slide of a Transition Towns — 8 Years On show we did at Friends Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth last night, our monthly Transition meetings that have been in progress since January. Putting it together was an education and reminder about how quickly this movement has grown, from the work of Rob Hopkins and his permaculture students in Ireland in early 2005 as they created an “energy descent action plan,” to a worldwide reach: some 1,000 Transition Initiatives in 42 countries. If you were with us last night, this is a rerun. If you weren’t, please read on:
A year after he completed his teaching gig and Ph.D. dissertation on the subject, Rob Hopkins started Transition Town Totnes (UK, 2006), and the movement took off like a shooting star. Many people responded to the opportunity to tackle four key issues that Transition addresses: climate change; our addiction to oil; the myth of endless growth; a skewed economy.
If you’re a subscriber or regular reader of this blog, chances are you are already in the 61 % of Americans who accept the scientific basis for climate change and/or the 48% who recognize that it is “a major threat.” But I’m going to bet that, even so, you may not have woken up to the fact of our addiction to fossil fuels and why we need to swiftly break it. The concept of Peak Oil shows that around 2008, cheap oil production, upon which our civilization relies — at least here in the prosperous part of the world — ‘peaked,’ and thereafter, we have had to spend more money, resources (e.g. water), and energy, to extract a diminishing supply. Fracking, which has been touted as the next boom in energy, is actually one sign that we are scraping the bottom of the barrel, pun appropriate. The case for scaling back on conventional energy use while developing renewables (solar and wind), has never been stronger.
You may not be aware that the myth of endless growth was exploded in 1972 with the release of Limits to Growth, and the estimates about when we would reach planetary ‘overshoot,’ that is, when we have ‘used up’ more resources than can be replenished by Nature, are proving all too prescient. Yet, again in the wealthy part of the world, the notion that we can enjoy endless growth on a finite planet, remains a fixed ideology, espoused by government and business. It is the reason the economy and concern for the environment are so often at odds. In an economy skewed toward the already wealthy and powerful (and vote-buying) sector, one needs to be constantly reminded that small businesses, including organic farmers and local food producers (to look at one example) create more jobs, better health and well-being, social justice, and keep money circulating in the local community.
The slide show goes on to describe how and where Transition is taking root, and it’s an inspiring human story that I would be glad to bring to your club, faith group, or organization. I could use the practice, and it’s free.
Most Transition Towns get going when a small group of engaged citizens begin to talk together about our predicament and how we can move beyond it, in and as communities, to a different way of thriving with less energy, more connection, and joy. Sometimes, the group gels quickly and starts to adapt the low-carbon, relocalizing approach of Transition to the needs of the local community. Sometimes — as in Transition Palm Beaches — partnering with other groups on some common grounds, can be the catalyst. To date, we have helped — in partnership with EcoArt South Florida and Gray Mockingbird Community Garden — to bring Symphony of the Soil, an important documentary by filmmaker, Deborah Koons Garcia, to the 400-seat Muvico in City Place (WPB) and raise money for a new composting site in the community.
This April, Transition Palm Beach members participated in C’est La Via, an ‘urban acupuncture‘ project to revitalize underutilized public spaces, in this instance, the bleak alleyway behind the bustling Clematis Street row of restaurants and shops in downtown West Palm Beach, transformed for one day with a scrubbing, paint, plants, music and people interaction into an urban oasis. This weekend, we went to the historic Osborne School in Lake Worth to participate in planting several acres with a variety of soil-restoring seeds, under the guidance of Ken Horkavy, garden manager and permaculturist, and an enthusiastic bunch of kids. Come back a year from and you may see once vacant land becoming a food forest for the community. Volunteers welcome. Get your hands in the dirt.
For me, focusing on what can be done locally is enriched greatly by what is going on the wider world of Transition. Most of this information is available on two big sites and two emerging ones: Transition US, the clearing house for Transition information and education in this country. It offers free online seminars and a wealth of good, inspiring material. If you cannot be at a seminar, the audio and transcript versions are posted promptly. In August, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Transition Hub (MATH) was formed, to enable Transition Towns to share information and best-practices. In our area, we have a smaller, promising version in Transition Southeast and Deep South. In the UK, where all this began, there is The Transition Network, home of Rob Hopkins prolific blog, basic information about the movement, and a list of Transition Initiatives around the world. As of this writing, the newest is Tiv’on, Israel. Transition Palm Beaches is still officially registered as a ‘mullers’ group.
Rob Hopkins is often quoted as saying the cavalry is not coming to save us. But what if we’re the cavalry? Let’s saddle up and ride.