A Transition Initiative is a community (lots of examples here) working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:
"for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?"
As well, it addresses the third threat of economic inequality and instability. If we collectively plan and act early enough, which is NOW, there's every likelihood that we can create a way of living that's significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on today.
The community then engages on a collaborative, comprehensive and creative process of:
• Awareness raising around peak oil, climate change and the need to undertake a community lead process to rebuild resilience and reduce carbon emissions
• Connecting with existing groups, including local government
• Forming groups to look at all the key areas of life (food, energy, transport, health, heart & soul, economics & livelihoods, etc.)
• Kicking off practical projects
• Engage in a community-wide visioning process, to identify the future we want for ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to create a future that we won't like
• Eventually launch a community defined, community implemented "Energy Descent Action Plan" over a 15 to 20 year timescale
What a Transition Town is not, is a call for regressing to “the dark ages”; we all have certain ‘creature comforts’ we are fortunate to have, and would like to keep but there is so much room for improving our relationship with, and effects on the natural environment that we all call our home.
Whose idea was this anyway?
The model for Transition Towns came from Rob Hopkins, UK, an environmentalist and permaculturist. It is now more often referred to as Transition Initiative because it does not only cover “towns” but also large cities, villages, islands, etc.
Hopkins combined his passion for the environment with his knowledge of permaculture, which is “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems, which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.” –Graham Bell.
In 2005, Hopkins worked with students from the Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland on a model to reduce dependency on oil by becoming more self-reliant and self-sufficient. This would be achieved through increasing skills levels and encouraging a more community-based, relocalised, and therefore sustainable approach. The team compiled a first Transition Model document, which sold like the proverbial hot-cakes. Hopkins then wrote “The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience”, which is a kind of blueprint for the approach to creating a community in transition.
Totnes, UK, became the first official Transition Town in 2006. Since then initiatives have sprung up all across the UK and have spread around the world, turning what started out as a local model into a global social movement. The number of official (i.e. ‘certified’) initiatives seems to double about every six months!
In our minds, this is a good indication of citizens’ desire for community based action. And here are some of the best reasons why:
• If we wait for the governments to do something, it will be too little, too late
• If we act as individuals, it will be too little
• But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time
And lastly, this movement seems different from conventional environmentalism because: it is holistic rather than addressing just one single issue; it is about being hopeful and optimistic by being proactive rather than fearful and plagued with guilt; and it is about group engagement instead of individual action.