Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

31 Mar 2006

Can We Use Fear as a Motivator for Change? (slight return)

chuckie The response to Wednesday’s post has been amazing, a wealth of intelligent and insightful comments. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts. I had just two things I wanted to briefly add, which have come to me since on the subject. The first was a quote a found last night when I opened my copy of David C. Korten’s book “The Post-Corporate World”, it comes from Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers and sums up beautifully what some people have been saying;
>”We encourage others to change only if we honour who they are now. We ourselves engage in change only as we discover that we might be more of who we are by becoming something different”.

It is worth reading a few times. It yields more insight each time I read it…


The second thing you might like to explore further is DiClemente’s model of how change occurs, suggested by Zeke Puttam. You can see one version of it here. It looks very interesting. It defines 6 stages to the process of change. Pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, relapse (although hopefully the last one is optional). I will look into it further and will post anything else I come across. Have a good weekend.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


31 Mar 5:35pm

What a coincidence… I was just looking at some notes I took at class I recently took. The notes pertain to learning/change. In sum they say:

Use these 5 steps for every new learning process:

1. Awarness
2. Acceptance
3. Understanding
4. Resolution
5. Action

Kind of a traditional 12-step program boiled down to its essence. I admit that the acronym A.A.U.R.A. may not be all that catchy but the steps seem right on.

31 Mar 5:37pm

Oops. Step one should be “awareness.” How’s that for practicing what you preach?

Tom Atkins
31 Mar 8:52pm

Hi Rob

I’ve just read through Wednesday’s post and the amazing number of comments (21 so far). You seem to have sparked a fire in people with that topic.

My own take on this side of things is (as usual) perhaps slightly negative and (unusually) quite emotional.

Whilst I myslef live in the rarified world of blogs and the internet and am comfortable, well-fed and warm here in Ireland – I would like to just raise the voice of the world’s poor. These are the 4 billion people who are already living powered-down. They never powered up. These are the people who could only laugh at people saying: ‘Oh, I’m so scared, I might not be able to drive to Tesco’s anymore and my pension might not be secure’. The wealth we have in the West has not been failry got. We have stolen and continue to steal from the poor. To understand where I’m coming from just [read this weeks main article in schnews](

If that doesn’t make you angry then… well I don’t know.

My point is that who cares if us rich lazy fat bastards in the West suddenly get a bit hungry and lose our pensions. It’s what we deserve for several centuries of exploitation and pillage. We shouldn’ be powering down because of a shortage of fossil fuel, we should be powering down because it’s right. Ethics comes first in Permaculture before principles and I’d rather join Amnesty than Greenpeace anyday.

So – perhaps instead of worrying about how not to scare people when we say ‘you’re way of life is under threat’ maybe we should be saying ‘your way of life has killed people, is killing people, forces people to live in horrific conditions AND it’s wrecking the planet’s ability to support life – so by changing you’ll feel MUCH better because you’re doing the right thing!’

If I had the power I’d be screening wall to wall on BBC1, the effects of the West’s decadent lifestyles on people and animals. With this awareness I think people would start to say – ‘tell me how to live more ethically’ much more quickly. There’s a great comment from Nicholas Harvey who mentions Helena Norberg Hodge’s ‘Ancient Future’s’ and Ladakh. As mentioned on one of your first posts this book and film was the thing that set me on the path towards sustainability. Everyone should see Ancient Futures alongside the End of Suburbia. The two together would be a very powerful motivator for change.

It’s Friday and I’ve had a couple of beers – but I hope the above makes sense! I get quite emotional and angry listening to rich Westerners babbling on about how not to hurt anyone’s feelings and their ‘spirits’ when there’s so much real suffering in the world.

Ted Howard
1 Apr 10:33am

Go Tom!
I think we have a really big problem in the Globl Industrial Civilisation : pathological positivism.
We live in the most violent destructive civilisation this planet has ever seen. People accuse people like us of being doomsayers, so deep is their denial of what’s happening.

I really appreciate the reality checks I get from listening to Derrick Jensen in his talk ”Bringing Down Civilisation”
Listen to his latest interview : , click on ‘Programs’ scroll down to 9am and look across the page, click on ‘Making Waves’,
then click Mar 23 2006- Part one and then March 30th part two interview with Derrick Jensen. I like the part where he explains how “we don’t live where we are”, and how “we know more about Tom (Cruise) and Katie than the place we actually live”….
Also “I’m a complex enough human being to be able to hold in my heart grief and anger and frustration, and joy and happiness”

Also I listen to David Unsley at at on the main reasons we are facing mass extinction :
HIPPOG = Habitat destruction
Invasive species
Population (human population explosion)
Over consumption of natural resources
Global warming

We are really really screwed, and I have used my fear to motivate me to wake up, powerdown and grow a permaculture garden and consume alot less, and try to foster bio-diversity. I can see a time coming very soon when we won’t have any choice anyhow, so feel the fear and do it now out of ‘choice’!


Tom Atkins
2 Apr 2:54pm

Thanks Ted – just listened to the interviews. Great stuff – the bit you quote above (“I’m a complex enough human being to be able to hold in my heart grief and anger and frustration, and joy and happiness

Joanne Poyourow
4 Apr 11:07pm

I believe society has passed the Awareness in BeBo’s model (comment#1). Two to three decades of environmental alarms have raised the awareness. Many people have also achieved that Acceptance stage, if we are to say Acceptance is accepting that things like global warming, peak oil, water shortages, etc. are real. As for Understanding, I will take that in the direction of Understanding where society got off course, and Understanding what we could possibly do about it. I think we’re all grappling with the latter portion of that. While many people see clearly where we got off course, what to do about it is subject to much debate.

The Stuart Oskamp quote in Rob’s original post said change is most likely “(1) if people are aware of clear steps they can take to protect themselves and (2) if these steps are conveniently available.” While people are quite aware of the problems before us, I don’t think that mainstream people are aware of clear steps, even if those steps are somewhat available. Even among environmentalists – passionate believers that our lifestyles must change – there isn’t much understanding of what steps are realistic, which are preferable, and which are possible.

To most people, it isn’t clear which steps are preferable. Look at the debates we hear over such things as “paper or plastic” shopping bags (the answer of course being “Neither. Reuse!”). CNG, conventionally-extracted hydrogen, and “compostable” plastics are touted by green press as Progress. People lack the information to discern which steps truly are better or greener, so they chase their tails in debate and the real answers get lost in the melee.

To most people, it isn’t clear what is possible and realistic. News of the positive progress that is being made – the steps in the right direction, the Transition seque – is being buried amid fear-generating doom & gloom pronouncements. The horror stories, the wildlife species death tolls, the rainforest acreage depleted, the glacial melting, the increasing ppm CO2 counts, gain the green headlines. And the positive news gets lost. The positive news is out there. There is a massive change underway, worldwide. It’s hard to see at this point, but there are clues of it in mainstream and green press alike.

The fact is, the Understanding *is* there. People do realize we must change. As a believer that there is inherent good in human nature, I believe it is a minority who steadfastly refuse to change; the majority are willing but simply have no clue how to make the moves.

The Oskamp quote said the steps needed to be conveniently available – I would say that it’s not mere convenience, but that those steps also need to be familiar. People need illustrations, they need a picture, a vision. That’s where pioneers like the Permaculture folks are helpful, in being innovators, and putting new ideas and positive models out there for people to examine. Unless we provide a significant flood of clear illustrations of what to change *to*, mainstream people will be unable to make the jump.