11 Dec 2007
Ted Trainer’s Transition Q&A Part One.
**Ted Trainer** is author of the essential Renewable Energy Cannot Power a Consumer Society, which is one of the best arguments for the inevitability of energy descent yet to appear. He has spent many years arguing for localisation, reduced consumption and the end of affluence. He recently received the Transition Primer, and was highly enthused by the whole concept. He sent me a list of 17 questions about it all, which my crap typing has thus far prevented me from launching into. Given the assumption (which I have observed repeatedly as a teacher) that if one person has a question, it is usually the case that it is also a question that lots of other people would like to ask too, and given also that they are great questions, I am going to work my way through them, 2 a day, here at **Transition Culture**. It is also an opportunity for readers who are involved in Transition Initiatives elsewhere to chip in their thoughts, and perhaps how they might have answered the questions, thereby offering a snapshot of the Transition movement in relation to these questions. So, here we go, Question One…
**1. How many in the most energetic towns are involved; is it a fringe thing or is the whole town more or less working with the cause?**
In a recent piece on a local Sussex radio station, an incredibly inane reporter visited Lewes, and went around asking people if they had heard of Transition Town Lewes. Out of the 4 people he asked, only one had. When he later interviewed Adrienne Campbell of TTL he said something like “in my straw poll, only 25% of people have heard of your group!” Struck me that 25% is really rather good after such a short time!
In Totnes, which is the one I am most familiar with, it is hard to ascertain how many people are involved. It also depends what one means by ‘involved’. In terms of those who are actively involved in groups, that figure is less than those who are enthusiastic and supportive but have less time to dedicate. At the moment, in a town of about 8,000 people, our email bulletin goes out to about 800 people, although admittedly not all of those are in Totnes, although the large majority are.
The various working groups have memberships of anything between 10 and up to 70 or 80. In Totnes we are certainly not a fringe thing, we have the full endorsement of Totnes Town Council, Totnes Chamber of Commerce and the local Strategy Group. We are designing our work so that we increasingly reach out into areas we haven’t worked in before, so in April we are working with all of Year 7 at the local school with our Transition Tales initiative, we are planning a street makeover, events for young people, all the time we are designing the programme so it reaches out into new demographics in the town that we haven’t touched up to that point.
At the end of the day, I think the idea that we can get everyone on board before we can start work is a dangerous one. I see the Transition model as being based on an ethic of service. It is about working around peoples’ lives, putting in place the infrastructure that will be needed post-peak in such a way that it is fun, engaging and non-threatening. This has been the beauty of things like the Totnes Pound and the nut tree plantings. What they are doing is important, putting in place essential resilient infrastructure, but they are universally seen as positive and good for the town. If 10% of people are actively engaged, and the majority of everyone else are supportive, then that seems to me to be an excellent basis for action, with any increases on that being an added bonus.
**2. How did the consciousness get where it is; did this take a lot of work, or was it more or less spontaneous? (Either way it is very encouraging that it has got up such momentum so quickly.)**
I have no idea, I guess this is a big question and is one that is more appropriate for other people to answer, I guess I am too close to it to wonder how it grew so fast. My sense, for what it’s worth, is that it emerged into a vacuum. Peak oil is starting to be seen as a big issue, and the Transition approach is the possibly the best thought through response to it. As such, when people find out about it and wonder what to do, unless they plan to head for the hills with their baked beans and their shotgun, then Transition tend to be where they turn.
The answer to “did this take a lot of work, or was it more of less spontanteous?” is both. It has developed an extraordinary viral momentum, but at the same time it has required a lot of work to support and enable that. That is really where the Transition Network comes in and why we have been so fortunate to secure some core funding for that, which is what has enabled the Network to form and support this viral growth.
What I find amazing is how the concept and the inspiration is reaching further afield, in terms of what is happening elsewhere in the world. Without our going on extensive international lecture tours, people seem to be hearing about it and being inspired by it, which I think will be facilitated enormously when the book comes out in February. It feels to me that one of the reasons it has grown so fast is that it is positive in a time where it is hard to find positivity, solutions-based in a time when the problems are so glaringly obvious, and fun, in a time where we’re not supposed to have time for that any more. I’d be interested to hear other peoples’ thoughts on this one…