Friday 12 March 2010

In my final post I would like to take a wider view. I have recently been appointed to be a Trustee of the Transition Network and will be working with the Totnes (mainly) crowd on shaping the movement. I am extremely pleased with and grateful for this appointment.

I have become involved with Transition over the past couple of years because I see it as the most exciting movement I know that is working towards a sustainable future. The most important reason for this is that it is positive: it is about people in communities taking responsibility for their own lives and their own future.

That is very different from many other environmentally-oriented groups that put their efforts into lobbying governments or into protest. I think there is a place for that too, but the problem is that governments generally have no idea of what a sustainable future could or should be. They hold onto too many vested beliefs, particularly economic growth. I don’t think that growth in the well-being of people and planet and growth in the amount of money spent are at all the same, and very often are at odds with each other.

We in the Transition movement don’t have a fully worked out blueprint either, but we are engaged in learning the best ways of doing that, or at least the best starting points.

The Transition movement has been growing extremely rapidly, with more new towns in more countries all the time. I put that down to the appeal of Rob Hopkins (and others) vision in the Transition Handbook, which laid out a set of initial steps that people could look at and say “Yes, we can do that.” It was also the breadth of that initial vision, which went way beyond local food and energy, to include Heart and Soul and related issues.

A lot of our present activities are awareness raising events in our communities, and that is the bread and butter of Transition groups. The endpoint of the original Transition 12 steps was an Energy Descent Action Plan, which is aimed at helping their community create a vision of the future they want. All this is really valuable.

But there is an increasing emphasis on what Transitioners can do for themselves, to increase their own resilience and reduce their own carbon footprint. The two major areas for this are food and energy use. For reducing energy use, in this region, we have the Transition Circles and the Carbon Conversations. In both, groups of people get together to learn what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. I think that being part of the group is as important as the reduced footprint, as the resilience comes out of being part of a supportive community. (See my anxious attempts to reduce my own fuel use in my Monday post.)

For food, there are so many projects: sharing vegetables from gardens and allotments, Seedy Sundays for seed sharing, community orchards and woodlands, community supported agriculture schemes, and probably most important of all, lots of shared meals.

My sense is that there is a great variation in the strength and stability of the various Transition Town groups, and even within the several parts of the larger groups, such as Norwich and Cambridge. To the extent that Transition starts to make a real difference in people’s own lives, as these energy and food projects are beginning to do, Transition will thrive and attract more people.

And where to next? I think that is to do with learning to support ourselves better organisationally. The challenge is that, on the one hand, we don’t want conventional hierarchical methods of organisation. We know that the kind of society we are trying to invent is not based upon power and coercion. On the other hand, we want efficient and effective ways of working, where people build upon each others strengths.

The starting point for this is effective communications, so that people know what others with similar interests and problems are doing. That is necessary for synergy to grow. Because of that I have been part of the Transition Network’s web project, and also have set up as a regional web portal for East Anglia.

But that is only a first step. I think we need people who take responsibility for taking an overview of Transition at various levels. So we have the Core Group in Norwich, and the Transition East Regional Support Group.

We need to learn effective skills of communication and conflict resolution, using such techniques as Non-violent Communication. I hear too many stories of people falling out with each other, people who are seen as pushing their personal agendas at the expense of the group. That is a major reason for the patchiness of the success of Transition groups.

Finally, I think we need to be creating a coherent vision of the future we want for ourselves. The Energy Descent Action Plans are part of that, as are the Transition books: the Handbook, Timeline and Local Food book. My Sustainable Diss 2030 is part of that too.

I would like to see us move beyond publishing books and plans, to holding discussions and taking polls on these to make it clear where we agree and where we disagree. I would like to see summaries of these circulating around the various parts of the movement, so we begin to form an explicit shared vision, to attract more people, and to put before policymakers and businesses.

I see this combination of a clear shared vision, and making a substantial difference in people’s daily lives as the key to success for Transition in the next year or so.

That's all from me. Thanks for reading this week! Gary

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