Monday 7 May 2012

Transition-Anywhere-You-Find-People. Even here!

This post first appeared on 19th April as part of the Transition Social Reporting project's Transition without Initiatives week.

Okay I admit it upfront. I do have a Transition initiative. In fact, I'm involved with two. Sustainable Bungay and Transition Norwich. So why don't I just get out of here and let the Transition individuals without an initiative get on with the week?

The thing is, I live in neither of the places where the initiatives are. I live down a lane in Suffolk a mile and a half from Southwold, a wealthy seaside town where 70% of the houses are holiday or second homes and most people are retired. It's a nice place but unless I'm missing something no transition initiative will be happening there any time soon.

So in my transition beginnings in 2008 I was very glad of the introduction to the 12 original key steps, with its idea of Transition Anywhere-You-Find-People. The people I had found were in Bungay (and later also Norwich) both some way from Southwold.

What bothered me most was having to drive to meetings and events. Car use is carbon use - especially when your car is fifteen years old and has had six owners already – and I was trying to reduce both. From early on I would use buses and trains as much as possible and sometimes stay with people overnight.

Over the past few years the bus services have dwindled to a fraction of their former selves. No more night buses connecting the train from Norwich back to Southwold. No more buses to Bungay in the early morning or at night.

Our old car went the way of all old cars and we didn’t replace it. Then our neighbours (not in Transition) offered to share their second car with us (splitting the service costs) specifically so we could do our shopping and get to Transition events and meetings. A mini local car-share scheme – that wouldn’t have happened without transition.

And this is the thing. Being in a transition initiative (or two) over time, even though they are not right on the doorstep, has not only helped build relationships and community with all the diverse people in those initiatives, it has impacted on all areas of my life, and led to better links with the people where I do live.

Sustainable Bungay is where the hands-on, experiential, action-based moves happen – collectively creating the Library Community Garden, organising Give and Take Days, plant swaps, themed Green Drinks, Bungay Community Bees, film nights, the new Garden Share scheme and Grey Water systems group, the Plants for Life events, Happy Mondays at the Community Kitchen. And where we publish a quarterly newsletter in print that showcases all these activities.

And Transition Norwich is where I join in with The Low Carbon Cookbook, write on this community blog and help out with the monthly news bulletin, all of which are light on trips to the city these days.

The links and exchanges between city, market town and isolated rural area are important. Norwich offers a place for intellectual stimulation and discussion and I can relate some of what’s going on outside its boundaries in the hinterland; This Low Carbon Life is read by people from all over the world. Bungay, in discovering community resources for developing resilience, shows how in a town of 5000 people a Transition initiative can thrive. It's become a hub of transition activity attracting people from both the town and nearby villages and has inspired people countrywide.

I don't get out of East Anglia much any more, despite having been an inveterate traveller in my 20s and 30s. And I don't really miss it. There's plenty of interest in this region to explore and as I've become cash-poorer I've also become less spoilt. I've started to enjoy the people, plants and places nearby.

And people are coming to visit; friends from both local and wider initiatives, like Transition Network webmaster Ed, who set up the Transition Social Reporting project with Charlotte. And like Alexis and Sarah from TTBelsize in London: we talked all weekend about transition communications (Charlotte and Alexis are shaping a national Transition newspaper), about medicinal plant beds (Sarah and I set out plans for a medicine plant workshop at the Royal Free Hospital permaculture garden in May), and we went foraging for wild salads.

Fellow social reporter Kerry Lane, one of the original movers and shakers of post-unleashing Transition Norwich, was here this week on a break from her Glasgow job, cycling from Norwich to Bungay for Happy Mondays and a night in Transition Reydon. All of us were able to discuss the challenging aspects of being active and committed members of our initiatives, for whom this cultural shift is not just a hobby that happens once a month on Tuesdays.

And that's what this Transition Individual can offer any fellow who might happen to come by Anywhere-Reydon to pay a visit sometime. A cup of tea, something local to eat, a light (or dark) low carbon conversation or a foraging walk down the lane.

Pics: Standing on the Edge, Dunwich, Suffolk February 2012 (MW); On the platform at Lowestoft station behind the St. John's Wort 2010; Charlotte and fellow Social Reporter and TN-Blogger Kerry Lane at the bus stop, April 2012 (MW); Ed Mitchell Transition Network webmaster, visits Suffolk, Happy Mondays, August 2011 (CDC); Sarah, Charlotte and Alexis - foraging down the lane in Reydon, April 2012 (MW)

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