Transition Centre
Building Self-Sufficient Communities and Economies
TRANSITION TOWNS

 

 

 

Transition Centre was formed in 2010 to promote the best practice model of Transition Towns in central Pennsylvania.  We are part of a national and global network of Transition Initiatives. 

The Transition Towns movement was founded at Totnes, UK, in 2006 and has rapidly spread across the planet and grows steadily in the US (see current count of official initiatives at www.transitionus.org).  The first Transition Town in the US, Boulder, Colorado, was formed in 2008.  Transition Towns State College, the Transition Home Town of Transition Centre, was formed in early 2010. 

While each Transition Town is autonomous, the movement has worked to develop a substantial information-sharing network.  The Mid-Atlantic Regional Transition Hub (MATH), of which we are closely involved, was formed in 2013 as an innovative response to synergizing the Transition movement in our region.  Other hubs are being formed across the country.

TRANSITION TOWNS MODEL

Transition Towns is a grassroots community response to the critical issues of environment, energy and economic instability.  At the root of both climate change and the global economy is energy.  Petroleum is the lifeblood of our civilization.  Both food and life in the cities depends on a steady flow of cheap oil.  Rising cost of petroleum is a major challenge to our economic well-being.  Lacking a credible national energy plan and the investments to build a renewable energy infrastructure we face a challenging future.  The Transition Towns model is proposed as an effective alternative to community energy independence and economic self-reliance.

Fossil fuels are only part of the growing resource scarcity.  Arable land, water and mineral resources are becoming increasingly scare, increasingly vital and, lacking them, increasingly threatening to our current way of life.  We must, first of all, preserve and restore remaining resources and secondly become highly innovative in creating a truly sustainable economy and society.

BEST PRACTICE

Transition Centre adopted the Transition Towns model as a best practice.  A best practice, by definition, is:  “A technique, method, process, activity, or incentive which is regarded as more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, or process.”  The Transition Towns model is showing great promise as a tool for the development of local initiatives—not just plans, but programs of action.  The business model for that transformation is a process called REconomy. 

Transition Towns (TT) qualifies as a best practice for a number of reasons, including: 

  • It is a grassroots initiative.  It requires no applications, approvals, grants or other funding.  It requires only the commitment of four or five people to start.
  • The model has proven viral.  The US and global network continues to grow steadily and continuously recreates its mission.
  • TT seeks a dramatic reduction in energy dependence without a reduction in quality of life.  Transition communities seek a human-scaled lifestyle.  Yes, material demands must be reduced but TT seeks to replace these with stronger human associations. 
  • TT is a community building process.  Reducing dependence on global markets encourages local community.  Resilient communities learn to provide many of their own needs with local resources.  We know the producers in a local economy.
  • Transition communities seek greater self-sufficient, self-reliant and a high degree of independence from the forces of a world embarked on an often disturbing plunge down a slope called “Progress.” 
  • Stronger communities provide a greater sense of security.

The Transition Town model is grassroots, bottom-up, not top-down and monolithic.  It does not require the lengthy and political process of regulatory maneuvering but seeks innovative solutions that meet practical needs in real time.  It is not a “one size fits all” approach but diverse and innovative.  It is participatory and seeks to retain community ownership of the quality of life of the community.  It is something that small groups, nongovernmental organizations and small-business startups can find fertile soil to grow in.  As the sustainable community movement matures, local authorities will naturally cohere into the process.

The Transition model does not ignore political realities but simply does not depend upon them.  Public agencies have their own mission and are facing increasing fiscal restrictions.  Transitional enterprises thus fill the gaps and can in fact strengthen the capacity of local governance by restoring and enhancing local economic vitality.  Transition is a community asset, not a public expense. It is not only about the global environment and resource depletion but also about community quality of life.  Where local authorities lack either the resources or the political will to aggressively pursue a sustainable future the community itself take responsibility.  The community must, in any case, retain ownership of its future and take a leading role in achieving it. 

At base, sustainable community is about sustainable economy, a secure economy.  It seeks an economy based not only upon money but also on other forms of exchange and capital.  The Transition process involves social entrepreneurship. Personal enthusiasm and community involvement are the currency of the movement. 

While there are any numbers of practical projects, public meetings, workshops, activities and festivals involved in forming a transitional community, the goal of a Transition Town initiative is to develop, adopt and implement an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP).  Sustainability has to be approached in a systematic manner.   This plan consciously maps and seeks to align the community’s diverse interests and activities to achieve a sustainable future.  It seeks not to impose but to discover the natural order of the community, to increase awareness of common needs and values, and to produce a coherent model for a cooperative community.  It is not as much a “plan” as a “design,” a living, dynamic and constantly evolving system.  A community is an ecosystem (Click here for an overview of that idea.

Transition in Action (See Review here.), the first comprehensive EDAP, provides an example and a model of the process.  Transition Centre is engaged in develop a systematic and comprehensive model of a community sustainability master plan based on both dramatic reduction of energy consumption and substantial innovative of alternative technologies and practices.

The Transition Companion (2011) (See review here) graphically illustrates Transition Town best practices.  The Power of Just Doing Stuff (2013) provides an emerging model for a larger-scaled, more systematically organized, community REconomy projects.

The Transition model is holistic.  It is based on the principles of Permaculture which in turn is based on the science of ecosystems which in turn is founded in general systems theory.  Permaculture is practical; it is something you can do around your home and in your community.  It is about sustainably growing things and, perhaps of greater importance, it is about restoration of depleted ecosystems.  Many people have adopted permaculture as a way of life.  It therefore has a social dimension.  Communities, themselves ecosystems, are thus but extensions of the natural process.  Indeed, without such understanding, communities cannot become sustainable.

TRANSITION TOWNS AND THE WORLD

You may ask what the Transition model has to do with the welfare of peoples around the world experiencing the impact of climate change, trying to emerge from abject poverty and social injustice and the hope of all people for healthy and prosperous lives.  The answer is Everything?  Unless and until the United States and other developed countries solve the problem of local sustainability, the rest of the world will bear the cost of our excesses. 

The Occupy movement denounced the excesses of the wealthy one percent.  We need to bear in mind that the United States, with five percent of the world’s population, consumes a quarter of its resources.  We consume roughly twice, per capita, what the other industrial states do; but between us, the industrial world gets the lion’s share.  We have already exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth’s biosphere.  We are rapidly drawing down our natural reserves.  For China and India to achieve the stage of development of Europe, which they earnestly hope to do, would require, by some estimates, the equivalent of five earths to support.

Long before the developing world could even begin to achieve parity we will have far exceeded that climate threshold both public agencies and major corporations are already worried about; that threshold that will mark dramatic climate and consequently economic and political, instability.  The jury is still out on the capacity of the global economic system to adapt to the awesome stress and strain of a continuous growth ideology but the level of anxiety is clearly rising in people around the world. 

Transition Towns is not a model just for the developed world.  The model is equally, perhaps even more so, applicable to every village and town around the world.  It levels the playing field.  Through its rich networking, it allows an exchange that can be highly beneficial to those of us who are imbedded in industrial communities that are no longer viable.  It is a model that gives us a sense of our common humanity.

Transition Towns offers a different vision of the world but it is one that must be consciously, deliberately and systematically undertaken.  It is one that calls not so much for austerity as a restoration of a human-scaled and high quality of life.  It is not one that seeks retrogression to primitivism but to bring our collective wisdom into alignment with the tremendous genius of the modern age to produce environmentally sensitive technologies.

MID-ATLANTIC TRANSITION HUB

Formed in Spring 2013 the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) represents existing and emerging Transition Towns in our region.  The Mid-Atlantic region consists of all or parts of seven states along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard and the District of Columbia.  The MATH network is comprised of a Council of Transition Town representatives and a Board of Stewards.  The Board and Council provide a non-hierarchical relationship that insures both administrative capacity and innovative collaboration among Transition communities and partners.

MATH COUNCIL VISION STATEMENT

Mindful of the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and to address global climate change, the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub Council promotes a societal shift away from dependence on fossil fuels by encouraging vibrant, resilient, sustainable, and just communities.

Recognizing the strengths of our communities’ diverse human and environmental resources, we envision enhancing the efficacy of local Transition groups by facilitating their collaboration throughout the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA, as part of the worldwide movement to:

  • Reduce our carbon footprint by decreasing reliance upon fossil fuels;
  • Protect Earth’s natural resources, utilizing permaculture-based stewardship techniques;
  • Care for all beings, honoring the pursuit of well-being in body, mind and spirit;
  • Encourage locally/regionally sourced renewable energy, food, and shelter;
  • Ensure equitable economies in which all beings are sustained;
  • Proliferate trust, joy, solidarity, and peaceful co-existence by actively promoting the re-creation of engaged and functional communities;
  • Educate ourselves and others about various ways of accomplishing the goals above.

 

The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub is not unique.  It is rather an example of an emerging concept in the US.  It represents a geophysical framework that is largely synonymous with bioregions; with watershed and foodsheds and with transportation networks that are more natural than arbitrary political boundaries.  Local self-reliance does not deny the natural networks of interdependence of trade and commerce and of culture that define the place we live.  Self-determined local communities are not closed systems but rely upon and are relied upon for the exchange of goods, services, information and cooperation that nourishes them collectively.

MATH BOARD OF STEWARDS

The MATH Board of Stewards consists of not more than 12 members and an executive administrator.  The duties of the MATH Board of Stewards include:

  • Provide continuity for the organization by maintaining the corporation’s legal existence, and representing the organization's point of view through interpretation of its products and services, and advocacy.
  • Govern the organization by broad policies and objectives to ensure the organization's capacity to carry out programs by continually reviewing its work
  • Acquire sufficient resources for the organization's operations and to finance the products and services adequately.
  • Account to the public for the products and services of the organization and expenditures of its fund.

HISTORY OF TRANSITION TOWNS

The Transition movement started in 2005 when Rob Hopkins, a teacher of Permaculture at Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland, led his students in the creation of the first Energy Descent Action Plan. Hopkins became concerned about the effects of declining oil reserves and the effects of burning fossil fuels on global climate.  The Kinsale Town Council adopted the plan to work towards energy independence in 2006. 

Hopkins moved to the UK where he formed a group to establish Transition Town Totnes in 2006.  The movement quickly spread across the UK.  He published a guide to principles employed in forming TTs, derived from numerous community initiatives, in The Transition Handbook (2008).  A sequel, The Transition Timeline, by Shaun Chamberlin, was published in 2009.  Subsequently a series of books on local foods, local sustainable housing, local money, and on how to engage local governments, was published. 

Transition US was founded in 2008 by Jennifer Gray and Pamela Gray, pioneers in the UK Transition Towns movement, as a non-profit organization to support Transition Initiatives across the United States by providing training, networking and inspiration.  Transition US is a national hub and a number of these hubs have been formed around the world. 

In 2010 Transition in Action, the complete Transition Towns Totnes Energy Descent Action Plan, was published.  In 2011 the second-generation handbook of the movement, based on broad collective experience, The Transition Companion, was published.  In 2013 the REconomy project was launched, Hopkins published The Power of Just Doing Stuff and he made a tour of the US.  Coincidently the Mid-Atlantic Regional Transition Hub (MATH) was formed.

TRANSITION NETWORKING

The following sites provide links to the Transition Movement:US and UK networks:

Transition US:  www.transitionus.org

Transition UK:  www.transitionetwork.org

REconomy Project:  http://www.reconomy.org

REconomy US page: http://www.transitionus.org/reconomy-project-building-resilient-local-economies

Mid-Atlantic Regional Transition Hub:  http://transitionmidatlantic.org

Transition Centre Services

Transition Centre will work with any group considering this model, provide support and act as a resource for those who are launching their initiative.  We offer a commitment for the Transition Towns model, a long experience in organizational development and an objective, impartial and exterior perspective that can help break through barriers and overcome hesitations.  Contact us at info@transitioncentre.org.

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