14 Dec 2007
Ted Trainer’s Q&A Part Three.
**5. How conscious are people that what they are doing is extremely subversive…that to make a town sustainable and just is to more or less eliminate the normal economy, by taking control of their fate and preventing market forces and the corporations from determining it for you. Is there a sense that what they are about is taking collective control of their town?**
It is my sense that the “extremely subversive” nature of the Transition approach is implicit rather than explicit. Permaculture teacher Mike Feingold once described permaculture as “a revolution disguised as organic gardening”, and the Transition model is designed similarly to come in under the radar. It is my sense that the tools the environmental movement has had thus far (campaigning, lobbying, protesting)are insufficient for the job in hand, that of navigating a society through energy descent.
I think that some of the new tools we will be utilizing include a drawing together of a diversity of individuals and organizations that we have never seen before, akin to the much-used term “a wartime mobilization”. Part of achieving this, it seems to me, is to make the process as unthreatening as possible, and to skillfully seek to put in place more democratic, low energy and localized infrastructure in such a way that it is perceived as positive, fun and unthreatening. The traditional activist dynamic of seeking someone to blame is completely inappropriate in this context. That concept of “coming in under the radar” is central to this question.
8. Is there emphasis on voluntary community working bees…which can perform miracles quickly and I think must be central in building and running the new communities and economies.
9. **Are commons being developed, especially edible landscapes on public land…free fruit and nuts etc…built and maintained by the working bees. (The community gardens here are almost entirely private plots worked for hobby purposes only.)**
I often argue that the kind of purposefully useless landscapes that now dominate our urban landscapes (lawn, low maintenance ground cover shrubs, ornamental trees) are a strange luxury of a world with more oil than sense, and that rethinking our urban areas as productive spaces will be one of the key tasks of the coming years. In Totnes we have been approaching this question in various ways.
Firstly we have been involved in the campaigning for the local Council to provide more allotment space for gardeners. Secondly, the ‘Totnes, the Nut Tree Capital of Britain’ project has involved members of the community ‘mapping’ the town in terms of public spaces where fruit and nut trees could be planted and then seeking community financial input into buying and planting the trees. The most recent tree planting day attracted people from the community to spend the day planting trees, and was supported by the TTT Tree Guardian Training, which trains local people to look after the trees they have planted.
Alongside the development of commons as fruit and nut growing spaces, we are also looking to identify sites for urban market gardens, whether they are run as commercial interests or as community-owned CSA projects. We feel that, as in Cuba, intensive urban market gardens have an important role to play in the Transition process. We have also initiated the TTT Garden Share project, which is about connecting older people with gardens they are no longer able to manage and younger people who want to garden but who have no land. People often bemoan (usually justifiably) the lack of access to land, but there is a lot of land around us that is underutilised, and the Garden Share scheme is about addressing that.
We have also made the catalysing of a CSA project in the town one of our main objectives for 2008, and are starting the process by organising a trip to see one of the UK’s finest, the Stroud CSA, early next year.