Published Jul 9 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 9 2009

Transition Towns - July 9

by Staff

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Book Review: The Transition Timeline

Graham Strouts, Zone 5

The follow-up to Rob Hopkins’ seminal The Transition Handbook uses the method of “backcasting” from an envisioned future from which we create a timeline of how the transition to a more local, resilient world unfolded.

The first part goes through four different scenarios presented as “cultural stories” roughly along the same lines as the scenarios we are familiar with from Holmgren’s Future Scenarios, this time under the headings:


-Hitting the Wall

-The Impossible Dream

-The Transition Vision

...The second part of the book takes a deeper look at the Transition Vision in the five areas of population and demographics; Food and Water; Electricity and Energy; travel and transport; Health and Medicine.

Each of these sections presents a thorough and well-researched overview of the current situation, ending with a Timeline of how we reached a more desirable situation by 2027.

At the back of the book Chamberlin states that “This book has not attempted to quantify the energy/emissions footprint of each aspect of the Transition Vision, but this represents a critical avenue for further work.”

Unfortunately, this lack of analysis seriously compromises the usefulness of the book, as the projected scenarios may be widely implausible or purely aspirational.

Many other authors have put work into this already, which could have been drawn from, a recent example being the Mayo Energy Audit, which also uses a scenario format, but successfully puts values and figures on the scenarios.

...The last section of the book gives more detailed explanation of Peak Oil and then Climate Change; the Peak Oil section is fine, but adds little to existing literature; but the Climate Change section I found really excellent, surprisingly learning plenty of new things, for example about how different measures of greenhouse gas concentrations are used in public discourse which are little understood and distort the picture.

In conclusion, the Transition Timeline has plenty of useful information and some great ideas, but fails to really move the work of transition on in a way we might expect at this stage; and, perhaps inevitably, tends to paint a rather rosy picture of how the transition will play out. Personally, I would hope to see a more realistic view, which includes more on emergency planning and a future which may not be able to deliver the kind of smart technology envisioned for some of the areas explored.

Predictably(!), I am highly critical- and will continue to be- of the New Age influence in the Health section,which will feed the suspicion in some quarters that transition is adopting some cultish attributes, and insist on the promotion of evidence-based medicine; and I feel, the lack of detailed energy auditing just means that the Transition Vision will tend to move further away from the observed reality.

Rob Hopkins and Shaun Chamberlain have both posted comments on Zone 5 where they discuss some of Graham's concerns highlighted in his review, mainly about the lack of energy auditing in the book. KS

(30 June 2009)

Insights on Resilience from the Recent History of Totnes. 1: Back garden food production

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture

Over the next few days I will be sharing some of the output from the oral histories I have been doing in Totnes and its surroundings, as which will make up part of the introduction to the EDAP and also part of my research. I did about 15 interviews, and have condensed the outputs from them into subject areas such as food, skills, energy, transport and so on. The period covered is from the 1930s until the early 1960s. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Images are courtesy of the Totnes Image Bank, to whom I am very grateful. I have shortened names to initials to preserve anonymity.

Food was by necessity, until recently, a far more local affair than it is today. Most people, apart from the wealthiest, would have grown some of their own fruit and vegetables, and would have had a far deeper connection with where their food came from than our supermarket-focused generation of today. This arose, in the main, from necessity. Rationing was, after all, still in place the mid 1950s. VP recalls in the late 1950s the first time she became aware of the idea that food was something that could actually come from further afield than the local area, when she was asked to do a school project which involved collecting the paper sheets that oranges came wrapped in at that time and compile a list of where they had come from. Until that point, she told me, the idea had never occurred to her.

People growing their own food was commonplace until the mid-1960s. Most people interviewed remember the town itself having a diversity of food gardens, allotments and small livestock. MA, whose parents ran the bed and breakfast in Bridgetown in which she grew up, recalls the garden behind the house, managed by her father, which grew the large majority of the vegetables used by the family and by their business, as well as their chickens and fruit trees. As part of the legacy of the Dig for Victory campaign in the war, food was still being grown in some unusual places. For example, ML recalls living, just after the War, at Weston House near Berry Pomeroy, and having an allotment on what had been, before the war, a grass tennis court.

...For most people, growing some of their own food was just a fact of life, a skill acquired almost by osmosis during childhood, and the landscape of the town reflected this. IS, who grew up in Collapark, recalls his father’s passion for food growing, a passion he never himself came to share. At the bottom of his garden were allotments, of which his father had two, as well as a large garden, similarly dedicated to food production, but focused on fruit, whereas the allotments grew vegetables. VH’s father had, during her childhood in the 1950s, two allotments situated along the railway to Staverton, the line on which he worked as a ‘lengthman’ (a person whose job it is to maintain a particular length of railway line). One was outside Totnes, and the other near Staverton. The vast majority of the vegetables the family ate came from his allotments including kale, which she hated; “horrible stuff with a really bitter taste”.

....“Looking back, practically all our food came from this area. We had a couple of house pigs that ate the rubbish. A local chap would come by, cut their throats and cut them up, and make bacon and hams. We used to preserve it in saltpetre, the wives would make a salt solution and baste it every 2 days, then it was put up on hooks in the dairy to dry. I still have the hooks out there now. I suppose we might have had an orange on very special occasions. Our main meal was lunch, not supper, if the husband worked at home. Evening meals were a professionals’ thing. Lunch was normally roast beef, mutton, hot or cold. Hot or cold chicken, stews, potatoes and veg, peas and beans, potatoes baked or boiled. We ate meat every day, hot or cold, depending on how the husband and wife were getting on! For tea we had bread and butter, jam and cream. For breakfast it was bacon and eggs. Supper was just a snack meal, bits and pieces of what you liked. For fruit we had apples, pears and plums. Apples could be kept all year round. They were kept in a cellar under the house. Certain kinds of pears could be kept. We had greengages and plums; we usually made those into jams”.
(7 July 2009)

Rob continues his series on Transition Culture here and here KS.

Tooting Catches Carnival Cash

Mike Grenville, Transition Network News

Transition Tooting in south London together with Project Phakama, a London based youth arts organization working with refugees from around the world, have been awarded a grant towards the cost of a year long twelve step Transition process that will culminate in a large scale carnival on the 2010 summer solstice.

Since its launch in 2004, TippingPoint has been bringing artists and scientists together to explore climate change and the creative agenda. With funding from Major Road making the awards possible, The TippingPoint Commissions is a major new project to develop a critical mass of performance-based work conceived in the context of Climate Change. Launched in February this year, TippingPoint received 178 proposals from across the UK from which four were selected to receive grants between £15,000 and £30,000.

The winners of the awards were announced on 29th June at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank by Ed Milliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, pictured here with (standing on the right of the picture, Lucy Neal, Hilary Jennings, (co-Chairs TT Tooting), Indrajit Patel (Chair of the Tooting Partnership Board/Tooting Business Network), Audrey Helps (Tooting Town Centre Manager), Deb Mullins (Emergency Exit Arts), Faye Mayer (Tooting Community Programme Co-ordinator for Tooting Schools), Fabio Santos (Project Phakama), Ines Tercio (Project Phakama) and Regis Gnaly (Project Phakama).

...In the Xhosa language Phakama means Rise up, elevate and empower yourself. Working with Transition Town Tooting, Project Phakama is planning a Trashcatchers Carnival that will unite 60 artists and over 500 Tooting residents in a year long process looking at a transition from a high energy to a low energy community. Together with Emergency Exit Arts and using art, carnival, celebration and the collective ingenuity of Transition Town Tooting, the Trashcatchers’ Carnival will provide a large-scale promenade on the 2010 summer solstice. The project received a grant of £20,000 from TippingPoint towards the estimated £100,000 needed.

Speaking at the event, Lucy Neal from Transition Tooting and organiser of the EDAP in Two Hours at the Transition conference said that they hope that this event will offer a model of engagement to the Transition Movement for future celebrations. “This award is very prestigious and it kick starts our fundraising”. Lucy explained that they will use the process of developing the carnival to go through the twelve Transition steps. “Not only is carnival is an exciting community project, it means we can insert all of the other Transition projects into it” she said. “Carnival gets everyone involved whether they are primary school kids or elderly ladies clubs – there is no reason why anyone who wants to be can’t be involved” she said. “It raises the stakes as it claims the public space.”
(30 June 2009)