Published Jun 26 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jun 26 2009

Transition - June 26

by Staff

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Transition movement vs post-carbonistas

Alastair Bland, Metro (Silicon Valley, California)
Life or Death Decision
While peak-oil activists foment panic, the 'Transition' movement sees a graceful evolution back to the Stone Age
FOR THE PAST couple of years, California has seen an uprising of activists who are training themselves and others to grow food and preserve it, to make soap, weave fabrics, build homes and master other essential tasks. They are learning to do the work that we abandoned to the factories and machines in the late 1800s, when the power of burning oil turned life into a leisurely vacation from reality.

That vacation is now ending, they say, and we must get back to work.

Some are reminiscent of survivalists, while others sound like '60s utopians, but they share one belief: The era of oil is over.

... Two schools of thought are offering their own answers and predictions. They are polar opposites, with one--the Post Carbon movement, which has a local chapter--taking a gloomier approach. Its leaders voice prophecies of a future marred by hunger and misery.

The other approach is a warm and heartening contrast, a worldwide movement called Transition. Followers acknowledge that oil-based society has some serious obstacles to consider as fuel production volume diminishes. Yet they remain hopeful. They believe that human ingenuity coupled with a reconnection to the Earth's natural resources and seasonal cycles will result in a utopia of community gardens, walkable neighborhoods and skilled artisans at every corner.

Transitionists see the end of cheap oil as the beginning of a better world without as much noise, pollution, and social apathy. Their hopeful outlook has quickly drawn followers in an extensive network of localized uprisings on several continents. The nearest Transition Town is Santa Cruz, where activists launched the concept into action last August. Silicon Valley is yet to see such an organized effort, though several locals are already using the word freely.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of Post Carbon has attracted just a dozen followers in four years of outreach.
(24 June 2009)
An article by the young journalist who wrote Transition communities gear up for society's collapse with a shovel and a smile

Read a response from Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute here.

The conflict described in the article between the Transition Movement and Post Carbonistas is an interesting way to inject drama into the story. Unfortunately, it has no basis in fact. The two groups are closely connected and are composed of the same kinds of people. Still one appreciates the publicity, and there's a lot of good information in the rest of the article.

The Transition Initiative: changing the scale of change, from The Orion magazine

Jay Griffiths, The Orion Magazine via Transition Culture
A WHILE AGO, I heard an American scientist address an audience in Oxford, England, about his work on the climate crisis. He was precise, unemotional, rigorous, and impersonal: all strengths of a scientist. The next day, talking informally to a small group, he pulled out of his wallet a much-loved photo of his thirteen-year-old son. He spoke as carefully as he had before, but this time his voice was sad, worried, and fatherly. His son, he said, had become so frightened about climate change that he was debilitated, depressed, and disturbed. Some might have suggested therapy, Prozac, or baseball for the child. But in this group one voice said gently, “What about the Transition Initiative?”

If the Transition Initiative were a person, you’d say he or she was charismatic, wise, practical, positive, resourceful, and very, very popular. Starting with the town of Totnes in Devon, England, in September 2006, the movement has spread like wildfire across the U.K. (delightfully wriggling its way into The Archers, Britain’s longest-running and most popular radio soap opera), and on to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil—the declining availability of “ancient sunlight,” as fossil fuels have been called. The initiative is set up to enable towns or neighborhoods to plan for, and move toward, a post-oil and low-carbon future: what Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Initiative, has termed “the great transition of our time, away from fossil fuels.”

...Scale matters.

We speak of economies of scale, and I would suggest that there are also moralities of scale. At the individual scale, morality is capricious: people can be heroes or mass murderers, but the individual is usually constrained by inner conscience and always constrained by size. While a nation-state can at best offer a meager welfare system, at worst—as the history of nations in the twentieth century showed so brutally—morality need not be constrained by any conscience, and through its enormity a state can engineer a genocide. At the community level, though, morality is complex: certainly communities can be jealous and spiteful and less given to heroism than an individual, yet a community’s power to harm is far less than that of a state, simply because of its size. Further, because there are more niche reasons for people to identify with their community, and simply because there is a greater per-capita responsibility, a community is more susceptible to a sense of shame. Community morality involves a sense of fellow-feeling, is attuned to the common good, far steadier than individual morality, far kinder than the State: its moral range reaches neither heaven nor hell but is grounded, well-rooted in the level of Earth.

...In the British context, the memory of World War II is crucial, for during the war people experienced long fuel shortages and needed to increase local food production—digging for victory. In both the U.K. and the U.S., the shadow of the Depression years now looms uncomfortably close, encouraging an attitude of mending rather than buying new; tending one’s own garden; restoring the old.

To mend, to tend, and to restore all expand beautifully from textiles, vegetables, and furniture into those most quiet of qualities; to restore is restorative, to tend involves tenderness, to mend hints at amends. There is restitution here of community itself.
(26 June 2009)

Transition Hohenwald: Rural Community Targets Energy Efficiency

Jennifer Dauksha-English, Transition United States
The small town of Hohenwald Tennessee, population of around 4000 people, is taking small steps at greening up the community. Since 2006 a group of dedicated volunteers have been hosting events building on Hohenwald’s efforts to make Lewis County greener, safer, and more economically viable. This group, the Sonnenschein Green Initiative (SGI), focuses on proactively supporting local economic and community development strategies (LECD).

...The growing trend toward localization of food, energy, goods & services, and entire economies, away from dependency on a teetering, global non-renewable energy based economy, exemplifies the transition culture’s response to massive resource depletion, global energy crises, rising fuel and food prices, plummeting markets, and the threat of global climate change. Towns, organizations, and entire governments are finding that localization is a “win” for the economy, environment, community development, and for quality of life. The Transition Town Movement-- one example of localization -- was founded in 2005, in Kinsale, Ireland and Totnes England; and has since spread throughout Europe, and into the Americas. Towns across the world are asking questions related to energy decent planning and transitioning away from a petroleum-and other non-renewable energy based economy. Our community of Hohenwald, TN began similar conversations in 2006.

Being a rural community, we found that the best way to communicate with local residents about energy efficiency was to talk about economics. We’re trying to invent or grow something locally that’s positive and within the existing boundaries. People have enough problems already and this makes them sensitive to talking outside their boundaries. The unemployment rate of Lewis County is above 17 % and our neighbor, Perry County has above 25%. With unemployment so high, people within our current cultural context, don’t want to talk about protecting ecosystems, they want to talk about jobs and saving money.

...The most effective and energy efficient strategy or “right thing” for SGI’s transition initiative has been to marry Permaculture with financial literacy. Permaculture design and system thinking is at the core of SGI’s transition strategy. Our project development incorporates Permaculture design principles and ethics of earth care, people care and fair share. In 2008, SGI through the Center for Holistic Ecology and a partnership with Solari Inc. and other local organizations gave birth to the Financial Permaculture Institute (FPI).

Through FPI we’re both discovering and creating language, tools and design models towards transition economics or what I also like to call whole ecosystem economics. We’re using our home, Hohenwald as our base camp and grounds for proactive experimentation. In this rural setting we’re applying five objectives: greening existing businesses, attracting new green industry to the area, offering green jobs technical trainings, outreach education on energy conservation and Permaculture, and mapping the overall financial ecosystem of the county. We’ll be holding our second Financial Permaculture Green Business Summit in Hohenwald September 22-26, 2009.
(June 2009)
Related: KS