Monday 5 December 2011

Forging Alliance – Transition Themes Week #10

Welcome to our tenth Transition Themes Week! We’ve been running these weeks for a year now, in order to showcase and feed back what the different TN groups and projects have been engaged in. By the end of 2011 it’s clear that the shape and the style of the original theme groups has shifted. When we began in 2008, the “comms” group spent a good deal of time debating how to organise stalls, what our message should be, taking part in local events, setting up a website, We sat in intense circles at the Playhouse, upstairs at Take 5, debating where that “message” should go, taking minutes, introducing ourselves and our ideas.

Two years later we are less involved in marketing Transition than in creating a resilient culture and alternative media. There are the people who organise events and there are the people who co-ordinate and contribute to the news blog and This Low Carbon Life. Simeon Jackson wrote an excellent roadmap recently for establishing a new Outreach Programme, but this is on the back burner right now because there are other things at play in the world, in which Transition has a distinctive role.

One of the main functions of communication is to forge and maintain connections. It has a singular ability to be fluid and enter many spheres of activity and to cross-reference and make dynamic links.

In a recent social reporting week on Navigating Community Chaos Mike Grenville described how during the process of transformation the imaginal buds of the emerging butterfly link up. They do this in order to resist attack by the immune system of the caterpillar, which is holding on to its old form. This metaphor appeared many times in TN’s early Heart and Soul meetings, as a way of understanding what was happening on the planet. But there is one thing voicing a spiritual idea and another undergoing it in the real world. One thing to breezily state: well hey, we’ll just go into our cocoon and dissolve!, and another actually allowing those old caterpillar forms to break down, uncomfortably, inside ourselves and our social groups, to forge alliances without allowing our own allegiance to the ancien regime to destroy us from within.

One Saturday last month the Bloggers met, as they do each quarter, to discuss the upcoming rota for Winter and Spring, We sat round a table at The Greenhouse and jammed about themes and topics and how to reduce the enormously long list of subjects we have been covering for the last two years (see right hand column!).

But before the meeting began three of us attended a lobbying session upstairs, organised by StopClimateChaos Coalition, to present 8 different questions to Simon Wright MP, ranging from FITs for community solar panels (Norwich City Council) to biofuel power plants (Greenpeace/Norwich Carbon Reduction Trust). The meeting was chaired by Michael Uwins (Friend of the Earth) and networked by Trevor Phillips (Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts) to mark the start of the present talks in Durban. After our meeting I went to the General Assembly at Occupy Norwich and heard about the upcoming Kett's Rebellion march this Wednesday and feedback
from the Climate Change working group and the recent Occupy UK conference at St Paul's. If you could step out and see from a bird's perspective you would see amongst the thronging restless shoppers on an ordinary Saturday in Norwich, these small still circles of people, discussing the future against all odds. What characterises all them is their intensity of focus and their coherence.

These alliances are happening all over the world. The old consumer caterpillar culture carries on voraciously eating all the resources at its disposal and resisting that dissolve. It is lashing back violently against the butterfly protest and peaceful assembly, breaking its agreements, infringing civil rights and environment protection. At the same time grassroots and environmental groups are holding together and responding in a way not seen for decades. Last week in response to George Osborne's autumn statement and the Government's deregulation planning laws that will put vast areas of our countryside into developers hands, an extraordinary alliance of countryside campaigners, wildlife groups and green activists delivered a powerful push back.

So one of the function of “comms” within Transition is to cohere and to bring to light some of our own local, national and international alliances. Because Transition cannot be all things to all people. It can’t do the specific work that single issues campaign groups such as BiofuelWatch do, it doesn’t have the edge of activism, or a connection with the bigger frame of the natural wild world, as Jeppe Graugaard pointed out in his post on Re-imagining the Future. It doesn’t have the intellectual or creative edge of the Dark Mountain Project, or the full-on engagement of
Occupy. And conversely these groups do not provide the drivers for community resilience, the building of an alternative low-carbon infrastructure, or individual ways people can reconfigure themselves. Our strength lies in our working together as a composite and the harmonious exchange between our networks. To engage in meetings and actions in full awareness of their significance, as if life really mattered.

If we are serious about social justice, about creating a fair and equitable world, about the consequences of peak oil and climate change, we would be wise not to separate and attack, to criticise ourselves or each other, not to call ourselves usual suspects or hippies or middle class or a bunch of amateurs. We would be wise to see ourselves as an emergent new collective form, to celebrate our own integrity and intelligence, to do everything we do as if our lives depended on it. Because our lives do depend on it. And our hardest task is to keep communicating with one another in a hostile world that encourages everyone to remain separated and silent and superficial, whose media keeps informing us that if we just keep shopping everything will be all right.

So here is our week from Transitioners who know that that is not the truth of the matter, who all work intensely in their singular areas and write in alliance on this blog: Chris on a new carbon-cutting incentive, Norwich Energy Lookouts group, Simeon Jackson on Occupy Norwich and Monetary Reform, Elena on local food production at Norwich FarmShare, Mark on working together on a Permaculture Norfolk Workday, John on "sustainable" housing development and Transition Circle Hethersett. Keep that conversation going!

Photos: Nov 26 meetings - stopclimate chaoas, Norwich bloggers, Occupy Norwich GA; poster for Occupy Everything; recent Heathrow map for expansion plus graffiti; video of Nov 30 fair pensions public workers's strike march.

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