15 May 2007
A Talk for Transition City Bristol. 1st May 2007.
**A Review: from** Transition City Bristol’s **website**.
“Over 200 people packed the Trinity Centre on Tuesday night to hear Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement. With towns and now cities across the UK taking up the Transition challenge the experiment has left the laboratory and is going viral in the wild. Soil Association director Patrick Holden introduced Rob, reliving the point in history when he first heard Rob speak and the massive impact on his life, farming and work that it had.
Rob explained the basics of Peak Oil and looked at the various straws currently being clutched at in the energy arguments. In a quote from David Strahans book The Last Oil Shock he warned that the rush to biodiesel could leave us ‘starving to death in a traffic jam’.
The big thing point seems to be that nothing is ever going to be as versatile, mobile and concentrated an energy source as fossil fuels. As easy and cheap access to them declines over the next couple of decades we are going to have to find other ways of doing, well, pretty much everything. Rob pointed out that our very existance is underpinned by fossil fuels – transport, building, heating our homes, industry and, most importantly, our food supply. From tractor fuel and chemical fertilizers to the air miles it takes to import and export food our whole food supply is tied into the oil supply.
This all sounded a bit scary, and the graphs and data Rob supplied to back his story showed a pretty convincing and gloomy picture of the future. But…….there’s no room for gloom in Transition!
Rob went on to explain the approach he developed first in Kinsale, Ireland and is developing now, big time, in Totnes. This model draws on some innovative methods including Permaculture, the psychology of change, open space consultation and more. The idea is fairly simple. Work out what the impacts are likely to be when oil is not in plentiful supply. Get as many people as possible engaged in imagining what the town (or in our case, city) might look like if we had to do things differently. Simply finding another fuel to keep our current supply is a dead end so we need to be a bit more creative. The Energy Descent Action Plan is the aim of the process, a roadmap to reducing oil dependency that is actioned as it is created.
Re-localisation of our basic needs came across as a key theme, finding ways to regain our local food systems, rebuild a thriving local economy and most importantly regenerate active communities.
Rob mentioned a raft of different measures that have been successful in Totnes, including oral history interviews with the elders, whose memories stretch far enough back (and its not even that far!) to remember a time when we used much less energy than we do now. Amazingly that was only the 1950’s. Totnes residents have set up groups to look at the key areas, food, transport, energy, water, building, economy and even a heart and soul group looking at well-being and health measures. Groups are looking at how to involve young people and how to use the Arts to help bring about change. It was really inspiring to hear how a community can take hold of this process and make it happen.
After the talk there were questions which included an expression of interest and a willingness to hear much more from Barbara Janke, leader of the City Council. If Transition is to work it will eventually need to lead to some influence on policy in the city so it was good to hear that the door is at least a little ajar at this early stage.
The most exciting bit of the evening came right at the end, after a break and much munching of fantastic home made organic cakes.
We gave a basic outline of how Bristol could follow the Transition model, and how we are still very much exploring the scale issue. In an expression of enthusiastic anarchy the audience took the proposed group discussion and formed into groups around their own area. A moment of chaos ensued as 220 people tried to find their neighbours in the crowd. The groups then set about putting their neighbourhood to rights and ceating a wish list of steps and initiatives they’d like to see at home. The results of this brainstorming session will appear on the website just as soon as we can type it all up. This fantastic outburst of community spirit and creative visioning was a thing to behold.
A big thankyou to everyone who turned up and made the night their own!! A big thank you to Rob for his entertaining and inspirational talk. We hope he’ll be back sometime soon, by which time Bristol should be well on its way to being the first Transition City in the UK”.
*The event was also picked up in a review at Sustainable Redland and by Bristol Indymedia. Transition City Bristol are doing great work, seeing Bristol as a collection of villages, and their role as being a network to support each village in its own Transition process. This work is now underway and they are doing great work with trying to support those initiatives getting started. There is supposed to be a podcast of the talk at some point soon, I’ll let you know.*