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.

12 Nov 2007

“Wizards of the Wacky West”. Groan.

tttWorking with Transition Town Totnes, one so often sees the dilemma facing journalists, especially those from national newspapers, when covering TTT or events to do with the town. Do they go for the ‘Totnes woo-woo’ angle, emphasising the town’s alternative aspects, or do they resist that and look for what is actually happening and what is interesting about that? In the main, reporters have managed to resist, but in this weekend’s Telegraph, their property reporter just couldn’t quite help himself. The headline “Wizards of the Wacky West”, it would be fair to say, didn’t bode well. The article, which actually gave TTT some pretty fair(ish) coverage, dripped with references to Totnes having “more vegetarians per square yard than a Hindu tofu festival” and shops “peddlling stones and crystals and a Friday market that smells of marijuana and incense”. Groan.

For non-UK readers, it is worth remembering that the Daily Telegraph is the conservative Right’s paper of choice, chronicling a world where Thatcher is still Queen and resisting the Euro is a cause to die for. That the visiting reporter brought to the piece his own agenda can be seen in pieces such as “the pretty South Devon town on the River Dart with a population of about 9,000 is as trendy as an eco-carrier bag. Its reclusive, secular patron saint is the otherworldly singer Kate Bush, who has her home nearby”. Kate Bush? Patron Saint? He even struggled with the name of the project, the “Totnes Transitional Trust”.

Anyway, the article looked at property prices, the bane of most Totnesians lives, especially the younger ones. Indeed our recent Oil Vulnerability Audits showed that lack of affordable housing is one of the key vulnerabilities of the town, with the majority of the town’s essential workers living outside and needing to drive in. The article failed to ask the deeper questions about how sustainable these high prices are, how second home ownership has affected this, and what an actually sustainable affordable housing policy might look like. At least I wasn’t described as the ‘arch Wizard of Totnes’ or anything similarly ghastly!

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


12 Nov 10:56am

I think that article gives a fairly balanced account of the the stale-garlic-and-BO ambience of Totnes high street. The place is full of new age loonies and bloody awful buskers. They and you were attracted by exactly the same ‘alternative’ reputation.

There is a not unsubtle whiff of new age nuttiness about TTT, with it’s unacknowledged ‘head, heart and hands’ reference to bonkers Austrian occultist and white supremacist, Rudolf Steiner.

Jane Buttigieg
12 Nov 12:06pm

In response to the comment of ‘Rationalist’, I have to say that transition is by no means limited to Totnes, and is not restrcted to ‘new age’ thinking. We’re doing it here in Bristol too, and you really don’t want to see some parts of the area I live in. Burger bars, bookmakers, tower blocks, cheapo supermarkets and not a busker in sight. Wish there were, we’ve got people begging to buy drugs instead so count yourself lucky if you’ve got the odd crap busker. Why are we doing transition here? Because climate change and this whole Peak Oil thing will have a disastrous effect on the City, and we need to think of ways to feed ourselves, heat our homes and make our communities greener, better places to be once the worst effects start to kick in. Shine on Totnes, we’re following you!

Caroline Walker
14 Nov 12:52pm

I think we probably need to remember that things that were considered ‘loony’ 20 years ago are now mainstream. And that transition to a low carbon future is not just for the well-off but can be empowering for those who are less privileged, when they start to ask “Why are our houses so cold and damp?” and “Why is there no public transport I can use?” and “Why is there no fresh local food available?” and start finding their own solutions.

Chris Prelitz
14 Nov 10:46pm

From your moniker I feel safe in supposing that you a drawn to the concepts of rational thinking..derived from the likes of Aristotle,Plato and Descarte “in which the criterion of truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive”
(borrowed wiki def.)
Here on the other side of the pond, we’ve had 2 studies done by or for the U.S. Govt. based solely on mathematics – not philosophy.

Feb. 2007 Report to Congress from the GOA (Govt. Affairs Office) “Uncertainty about Future oil Supply Makes it Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production.”

April 2007 Independant report ordered by the Department of Defense
“Recognizing that DOD must change how it views, values, and uses energy—a transformation that will challenge some of the department’s most deeply held assumptions, interests, and processes—the Office of Force Transformation and Resources, within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, asked LMI to develop an approach to establishing a DoD energy strategy.”

And, the best comments come from Australia in a report prepared for their Senate: “In the Committee’s view the possibility of a peak of conventional oil production before 2030, even if it is no more than a possibility, should be a matter of concern. Exactly when it occurs (which is very uncertain) is not the important point. Australia should be planning for it now, as Sweden is doing with its plan to be oil free by 2020.

This is rational science done by some of the most adept pointy headed analyst’s in the developed world. It doesn’t seem to make rational sense to dispute their findings without the numbers or science to back it up.