Transition Culture

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

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15 Jun 2007

How Much Can the Transition Movement Do? Holden/Skrebowski/Leggett.

ffAt Monday night’s**Food and Farming in Transition** evening, a question was asked to the panel which generated some interesting responses. The question was “What proportion of what needs to be done can be done by the Transition movement?” It was during this evening that Jeremy Leggett, as he does here, used the term “scaleable microcosms of hope” to describe Transition Towns, which I really rather liked.

**Chris Skrebowski**. I think it is a slightly false question. I think the thing about the Transition movement is that it is a movement from the bottom, a movement of people relating to each other. It creates a pressure, it creates a momentum, and it is this momentum that hopefully becomes unstoppable and then carries the other parties along with it who may technically have more decision-making power, but because they are being forced from below will have no choice but to act.

**Jeremy Leggett**. I’ think the most likely survival strategy has to involve meaningful leadership in all three main areas, Government (local and national), business and then people/communities. In the search for scaleable microcosms of hope, we have to have meaningful leadership in every area. And we’ve got it in Sweden: in Sweden top companies, and communities, together with Government, are establishing a policy with a real plan to go zero-oil, to get off oil, to be the first nation in the world to do that. I think it is so important that genuine business leadership emerges, and I think it is.

You can wake up some mornings feeling slightly enthusiastic, and I’m well seasoned to greenwash, I worked for Greenpeace for 6 years and I’ve seen genuine, sustained, pan industry greenwash and egregious rubbish from these companies – there is definitely something happening that has never happened before. Although some of them may be doing awful things with the one hand, some of them are doing meaningful things with the other. It is in that context that the emergence of the Transition Towns movement is, I think, so exciting, because here is a platform focused on ordinary people seeing the things they can do locally themselves, with their communities and then within a much larger context. If one can create a story that helps us to see an impossible place and then how to get to it, way more daunting than the abolition of slavery, then it is vital, not just in Totnes, but elsewhere.

**Patrick Holden**: I don’t think it is possible to answer that question, but I agree, I think its really important that the Transition movement grows hugely before, and I’m not saying here that if Government woke up tomorrow it’d be a bad thing, they should be interested in this, but in a way, the stronger the movement is, the less likely it is that it’d be possible for Governments and industry to pervert it when they do finally get it. I think this is an opportunity for the ideas to really properly be rooted among individual citizens at a community level, and then obviously, all change happens inevitably when public pressure manifests at a political level, and at the moment the public pressure is still, unbelievably, below the radar screens of most politicians.

It’s got to be a gain anyway, but I think if it gains a tremendous amount its got to be a fantastic thing, so the more the Transition movement can really make lasting changes, the more resilient it will be.

Categories: Transition Towns

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


Mick Mack
30 Jun 2:58pm

Hi everyone reading this site.

I’d just like to say that although I can understand the solution-based approach offered here and in the kind of answers that are given above from panel members, I think there is a one-sided logic that is operating – by this I mean an analysis that that does not take into account large social movements of people that actually,like our political friends in Whitehall have little conscious relationship to these developments.

Of course, I’m not saying that the contribution that permaculture and its adherents and all those involved in the transition towns isn’t valid. I’m just wondering why the ‘mainstream’ which Bill Mollison believes is so important is not also being addressed.

Oil/fossil fuel use is mainstream, so are the people that use/abuse it. Connected material developments in the everyday lives of millions of people in this country are being ignored by this debate as though they are somehow irrelevant and will be made to see the error of their ways as and when the energy and consequent economic crises are more apparent.

I reproduce below an editorial from a radical daily newspaper that is focussing on an issue that is real, current and effects the lives of tens of thousands and potentially millions of people. Ignoring them won’t make it go away; just like the potentially more far-reaching energy descent and our responses to it.

Regards, Mick

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Build councils of action to support the postal workers

‘THIS has been the best-supported strike I’ve ever seen,’ CWU General Secretary, Billy Hayes told striking postal workers in Peckham yesterday.

This was after the membership of the CWU showed by their almost 100 per cent support for the strike action that they understood the gravity of the attack on them by a management and government determined to privatise the Post Office and the Royal Mail, casualise the workforce and smash the CWU.

Hayes added: ‘Its been a fantastic day for the union and I think we’re going to win this.’

Dave Ward, the union’s assistant general secretary, told News Line: ‘We’re receiving reports from right across the country that it’s the best-supported strike we’ve ever had, in all regions.’

When asked how the union would respond to attempts to victimise members or other attacks on the union Ward said ‘it is too early for us to say that other public sector workers should come to our aid as such.’

He added: ‘We are willing to talk to other public sector unions, and there will be a meeting between ourselves and Mark Serwotka (PCS civil service union leader) so we both understand each other’s disputes and we can work together to bring an acceptable solution.’

So despite the combativity that has been shown by the membership of the union, its leaders remain on the defensive hoping that the magnificent turn-out by their members will convince Royal Mail and the government to negotiate then capitulate.

In fact, Royal Mail has made it clear that it is preparing for a long and bitter dispute which its leaders have compared to the miners’ strike.

Nobody can say that they have not been warned. The miners’ strike lasted a year and saw a Tory government support the National Coal Board with every strike breaking facility required, from organising scabs, to state attacks on picket lines and on the union through the courts, using industrial relations laws.

In the last four years or more, postal privateers have established themselves in Britain, and there is every reason for thinking that at some time or other, sooner perhaps rather than later, they will be let loose by the government to play a strike breaking part in the struggle against the CWU.

After the magnificent support for the 24-hour strike action, the CWU leaders must be made to take the struggle forward, with a view to winning it.

They must meet at once with the other public sector trade unions and demand that they operate their just passed resolutions at the GMB and UNISON conferences for coordinated strike action across the public sector against the government’s job cutting and wage cutting policies.

The PCS has already made such a call, so the leaders of UNISON and the GMB must be urged to carry out their conference policy on coordinated industrial action.

The membership of the CWU must give their leaders a big push.

The local branches of the CWU should organise councils of action in their areas made up of all the local branches of all of the trade unions plus all community and youth organisations.

These councils of action must then organise local strike actions and demonstrations in support of the postal workers and all other public sector workers under attack, and create the conditions for forcing the union leaderships to call national strike action.

As well, postal workers and civil servants must see to it that their unions put down motions for the TUC Congress that will give Brown an ultimatum that the TUC will not tolerate a government that supports mass privatisation and mass wage cutting in the public sector and brings in private equity capitalists such as Permira’s Buffini into its camp as advisers, and even sources of funding.

Unions such as the CWU must see to it that the TUC tells Brown plainly that he must abandon his jobs massacre, and wage cutting policies for the public sector or else face a general strike called by the TUC that will bring down his government and bring in a workers government. This is what must be done to make sure that workers in Britain have a future.

Mike Grenville
1 Jul 4:37pm

it’s quite simple really – the Transition Town approach is to make a start and be an example – literally being the change you want to happen. Rather than getting bogged down trying to persuade others make start with those people who are receptive to making these changes in their own lives and communities and at the same time developing a longer term plan for the whole community.

Sure, not everyone will join in but if the price of oil rockets up suddenly then the plans of how each community can move forward will become invaluable.

So rather than saying lots of other people arn’t going to do anything so why should I, this is saying I will make a start and as time goes on more will join in.

maggie jeffery
10 Jul 10:26am

Mike said on July 1st about “being the change you want to happen”, which I would totally agree with. I think there is also something about shared vision and having the self belief to work in a group towards that shared vision and get organised in these early days. Where does the momentum come from, where does the drive come from? How do individuals work as a team while holding on to their personal drive towards that vision? How do we keep the inspiration going or will that happen naturally.