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. Now that petroleum has become expensive and production seemingly peaked we are moving into a crisis condition. 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.
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 basic business model for that transformation is a process called relocalization.
Transition Towns qualifies as a best practice for a number of reasons, including:
First, 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.
Second, founded in 2005 in the UK and in late 2008 in the US, the model has proven viral. There are now over 400 officially recognized Transition Town initiatives around the world and more than 100 in the US.
Third, TT seeks a dramatic reduction in energy dependence without a reduction in quality of life. Transition communities seek a simpler lifestyle. Yes, material demands must be reduced but TT seeks to replace these with stronger human associations.
Fourth, TT is a community building process. Reducing dependence on global markets encourages local community. Resilient communities learn to provide many of their own resources. Transition communities are not only a smaller and human-scaled society but self-sufficient, self-reliant and capable of 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 goal of a Transition Town initiative is to develop, adopt and implement an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP). Transition in Action (See Review here.), the first comprehensive EDAP, provides an example and a model of the process.
The Transition Towns model, a product of the collective genius of thousands of participants, as outlined in The Transition Companion (See Review here.), has a twelve step process. It’s not the same as Alcoholics Anonymous but it is about an addiction, an addiction to oil. These steps have been carefully worked out by trial and error and have proven a “best practice”
1. Form a steering group of four or five people who want to launch a Transition Initiative.
2. Awareness Raising is accomplished by showing films, having public events, inviting speakers and giving workshops.
3. Networking with other people and organization who want to build a sustainable community.
4. A major public event that will go down in the history of the community as the time they all first came together to do something about their collective future.
5. Form working groups to address the needs of your community in transition. These groups work in many areas to establish goals and launch projects to achieve a good life with less energy and material goods.
6. Organize Open Space meetings to engage the community in productive dialogue.
7. Set and achieve goals that demonstrate success.
8. Facilitate a Great Reskilling. Reskilling recovers a vast range of lost skills needed for greater local self-sufficiency and self-reliance. There are also new jobs to develop to support a green economy.
9. Building bridges to local governments paves the way for merging Transition Towns and the local authority.
10. Honor the Elders, those who carry memories, knowledge and wisdom that will help the community prosper in times to come.
11. Let It Go Where It Wants To: Transition is not prescriptive. It must adapt to local conditions and cultures and it relies on the collective genius of people where they live.
12. Create an Energy Descent Action Plan: Where does your community want to be in 10 to 20 years living on less energy and with true sustainability? From that vision the community works to create and launch its EDAP.
The Transition Process is driven by principles. There are, to start, four key assumptions:
1. Life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable and it’s better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise;
2. Our communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the inevitable challenges that will come;
3. We have to act collectively, we have to act now;
4. By unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.
“Our first task” as TT advocate David Ehrenfeld summed this basic strategy, “is to create a shadow economic, social and even technological structure that will be ready to take over as the existing system fails.”
There are six Transition principles:1. Visioning: Imagining what it will be like when we achieve our desired outcome.
The Transition process involves social entrepreneurship. It has to be approached in a systematic manner. Personal enthusiasm and community involvement are the currency of the movement. There are barriers, mostly of a psychological nature, which inhibit launching a Transition Initiative. The Transition Companion provides a systematic overview of successful efforts to establish Transition Initiatives. The Companion should be carefully studied and adapted to local needs.
The first step in launching a Transition Initiative is to “Set up a steering group and design its demise from the outset.” This group I call a “Mead Minimum.” Margaret Mead is famous for remarking that not only could a small group change the world but that only a small group could. Her work pointed towards a minimum of some five people. I am also referencing Liebig’s Minimum which states that growth is limited by that which is available in the least amount, hence the “Mead Minimum.” The Transition process relies on social capital. It requires a group of people who are willing to invest the time, have respect for each other, and have a sense of compassion for humanity, to start a Transition Initiative. The steering group has as its mission working through step 4 of the plan, the major public event. Following that a new steering group is formed by the community that will guide the development and implementation of the Energy Descent Action Plan.
It is a long road to the Energy Descent Action Plan but it could well be one of the most important documents created by the community. The EDAP has been interpreted as something of a Declaration of Energy Independence. The EDAP seeks to establish what the community will look like in 10 - 20 years consuming only a fraction of current fossil fuels. The EDAP creates a set of assumptions about the future that guide the program for achieving sustainability and a self-sufficient community. It is not so much a plan as a process. It involves attaining achievable objectives, celebration of accomplishments, building community, and constant reassessment and renewed action as experience is gained.
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 when a decline of North Sea oil supplies signaled the reality of peak oil. He was also concerned about the effect 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, has been published and more will be coming. In 2010 Transition in Action, the complete Transition Towns Totnes Energy Descent Action Plan, was published and is available as a book. In 2011 the second generation handbook, The Transition Companion, was published.
The Handbook, and now Companion, has served as the model for forming “Transition Initiatives,” that is, communities in the process of, first, imagining and creating a future that addresses the twin challenges of diminishing oil and gas supplies and climate change; and second, creating the kind of community that we would all want to be part of. Since the Great Recession of 2008 TT publications have become widely recognized as a model for addressing global economic instability.
The main aim of the model is to mobilize public involvement in sustainable living through a two-fold process:
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.
The first US Transition Initiative was started in 2008 in Boulder, Colorado under the leadership of Michael Brownlee, a veteran of the Relocalization Network that preceded Transition US.
The following sites provide links to the Transition US and UK networks:
You can watch Rob Hopkins give a brief and informative summary of the Transition Response at http://www.postcarbon.org/video/47204-rob-hopkins-2009-ted-talk
You can also watch the Transition movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu_MvGdMzo8
Jennifer Gray talks about founding the US Transition network at http://www.wordpress.peakmoment.tv/conversations/?p=254
Transition Centre was originally formed to launch Transition Initiatives in central Pennsylvania. Two were formed in Centre County in 2010. You can join our local group at: http://www.transitiontownstatecollege.org/ .
Transition Centre continues the mission of promoting Transition Town Initiatives. We will work with any group considering this model, provide support to groups preparing to launch their formal initiative and act as a resource for those who are launching their initiative. We offer a passion 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 email@example.com.