18 Jan 2007
10 First Steps for a Transition Town Initiative #7. Facilitate The Great Reskilling.
In my experience, peak oil is a better motivating issue than climate change, because it holds a mirror up to an individual community/individual/society and asks *where is the resilience? Where is its ability to withstand shocks?* Beyond the realisation that very little resilience actually remains, comes the realisation that very few people still have the skills a more resilient society needs. This is where your Transition Town initiative comes in.
I have written before at **Transition Culture** that I believe one of the main factors contributing to the sense of panic that often sets in immediately after an awareness of peak oil is due to the realisation that we no longer have many of the basic skills our grandparents took for granted. I still stand by that, and I think that one of the most useful things a Transition Town project can do is to offer training in a range of some of these skills.
What skills ought we teach? I have found that we need to enlarge our ideas of what these might be. Some research is useful, in terms of what skills people used to have that might still be appropriate, as well as looking at the skills people have now. Speaking to older people in the area around Totnes, it turns out that, for example, they all knew how to darn their socks. I know very few people my age who know how to do that, and it is a skill that once we get beyond the throwaway society we may well need again, hence the Sock Darning workshop we are running in March. These Reskilling events fulfil a few different functions;
* They bring people together, relaxing and learning new skills
* They build networks
* They build a fundamental sense of “can do”
* They can create a link between old and young as skills are passed on
* They can be practical events which actually put something in place, like a natural building day that produces a cob bus stop or something, thereby offering an opportunity for creating Practical Manifestations (**see #6**)
We have collectively become so deskilled over the last 40 years, and we urgently need to start the relearning of core life skills such as gardening, repairing and cooking. In Totnes we run a very popular 10 week evening class called ‘Skilling Up for Powerdown’, which covers peak oil, climate change, food growing, energy, trees, water and waste, economics and so on, from the perspective of enhancing resilience. A wealth of smaller courses can also be run, on all aspects of practical training in useful everyday skills.
These workshops could include – cycle maintenance, natural building, loft insulation, cooking, dyeing, herbal walks, basic home energy efficiency, making sour doughs, practical food growing and so on (the list is endless). What is important is that the workshops are well promoted and made to look as enticing as possible.
Work with existing groups, local sustainability centres, colleges and so on. Draw on local skills wherever you can. It is great if you can design these events in such a way that students from the first time a course runs can help teach the students the second time it runs.
To begin with, your Great Reskilling will largely consist of one to two day courses, or even in longer evening classes like Skilling Up for Powerdown. In time your town might become host to something like the 2 year full-time Practical Sustainability course at Kinsale FEC in Ireland. On that scale there is a lot you can do in terms of outreach and engagement.
A Transition Town project invites a community to undertake a journey, a collective adventure. Very often in modern society people feel disempowered, that even changing an incandescent light bulb for a low energy one is a taxing operation. Your Great Reskilling should give people a sense of the power of solving problems, of practically doing things rather than just talking about them, and of the sense of belonging that comes from working alongside other people. Above all it should be fun…
18 Jan 11:54pm
Great stuff, Rob. In my neighbourhood there is an old man who tells me he used to grow the vegetables for his family. There’s also someone who knows all about wood and woodlands. This kind of wisdom stays in the body for life; at last a chance to consult the elders!
19 Jan 4:06am
Spot on Rob. In fact I think this goes deeper than you write. Its not just that we have lost skills as a society, but we have lost our attitude and understanding of the value of those skills. Today you don’t have a skill unless its atested to by a ‘professional’ body and can therefore be traded on for money at a later date. That leads to the attitude that you can’t and shouldn’t undertake anything unless you are trained, tested, examined, approved and certified. Thus you get IT people with 24 bits of paper and no clue about wiring a plug.
I’ll be arguing for indentured apprenticeships and craft guilds next 😉
19 Jan 10:03am
Hi there, I have for a while now, been itching to get a project started up in my college in Somerset and outside it but have been feeling slightly too un-informed and succumbing to the whole ‘impossibility’ of it which is exactly what I want to eliminate. Your project has definately inspired me to get things started and opened the doors which felt closed. I hope you don’t mind, but are rather flattered, if I use your project as a basis for running mine. I’ve always felt the potential of a college but in mine there is a severe lack of enthusiasm or responsibility which I also need to tackle, this is something I’ll work on with the Student Support Team. You have cracked the shell for me, thank you and so well done!
24 Jan 1:51pm
Whereabouts in Somerset are you? I’m in Glastonbury and trying to get stuff off the ground here. We have an event in the Town Hall on February 23rd. Come along! Check out this week’s Central Somerset Gazette for more info
2 Feb 1:09am
can you say more about the event in Glastonbury? i live in bristol and would like to help promote it on my blog and through my networks. i may not be able to make it myself but would still like to know more. i dont know how i would get hold of the paper you mentioned. thanks and best of luck with it all.
2 Feb 5:00pm
Glastonbury’s Green Fair looks set to fill the Town Hall on Friday 23 February, from 11am to 5pm, with 30 environmental organisations invited, including green companies, now confirmed, and more showing interest in taking part.
Among those at the Fair will be the Eco Friendly Shop, a local mail order business run by Amy Lawson from Meare, who supply a wide range of popular home, fashion and baby goods for sale, made from recycled, organic and vegan materials, with Fair Trade and Forest Stewardship peace of mind – all of which are less damaging to the environment in the way they are made.
The National Trust’s Sally Plummer will be recruiting green volunteers for local conservation work. Ecologist Dr Pat Hill-Cottingham will be signing copies of her latest book “The Somerset Wetlands: An Ever Changing Environment