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.

17 Jan 2008

Ted Trainer Q&A Part Six

qa**8. Do you have a document setting out inspiring achievements, examples of what some towns have done? I am not sure the information on the website is what I have in mind here; maybe need a short overview document that could be given to students in courses like mine.**

Not yet, although some of that will be gathered together in The Transition Handbook when it comes out. We are currently looking to redesign the website so that that kind of information will be easier to access, so that say, the food group in Lewes can learn from the best practices of other Transition food groups around the country.

**9. Similarly, not sure about this, but I am inclined to think there might be a need for a more “prescriptive” list of things to try and not to try, for people thinking about going the TT way….i.e., actual projects to try early or leave until later, easiest to get off the ground first, etc.**

Possibly, but I am wary to do that. It may be that as the model is tried out in a variety of places, the need for that emerges, and facilitating that is one of the roles of the Transition Network. At the moment though, I don’t get a sense that people want that, rather they like the freedom that the 12 Steps offer to develop and design their own way through this, and the way that activities emerge from ‘the field’, from the capacities, passions and vision of those involved.

The process is designed not to be top-down, and one of the reasons is that there is not a one-size-fits-all way of preparing communities for energy descent. The diverse and complex terrains that we are working in mean that what we need is more a process that understands the complexity of the local context, and is able to design solutions that are actually appropriate. This is why, I would argue, peak oil and climate change will never be resolved without the active participation of communities developing their own pathways.

Projects will also depend on what is already in place, what resources there are and so on. I imagine that over time, by different Transition Initiatives sharing what worked for them and what didn’t, a body of ideas will emerge as to what works best at what stage, but it would be a mistake for that ever to become more than a collection of possibilities. I gave a talk last night in Wadebridge in Cornwall, to an audience that contained lots of farmers (it was a great evening). They are a very dispersed rural community, whereas Transition Brixton is almost another world from that. Keeping the model loose enough so that it can act as a catalyst rather than arriving with a set of pre-formed recommended solutions is, I think, one of the great strengths of the Transition approach.

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


James Samuel
18 Jan 8:44am

From the outset of my involvement with the Transition Town model, here in New Zealand, one thing seemed obvious – that the national network needed to serve the role of facilitating the exchange of information between communities, about what was working.

I have made an early start to support this idea in the “Waiheke Inventory page” of the New Zealand Transition Towns wiki.

An initiative tried and tested in one town (within a country that has broad cultural, geographic, climatic similarities) is likely to work in another.

By describing it clearly and succinctly, that may be enough to inspire and inform those people who are moved to run with it elsewhere.

19 Jan 4:26am

A site like that for the USA would be useful.
Someone noted to me that there are 66 places in the US that are interested in this at

and I see that for New Zealand there is a status page of where groups are at:

19 Jan 4:27am

A site like that for the USA would be useful.
Someone noted to me that there are 66 places in the US that are interested in this at

and I see that for New Zealand there is a status page of where groups are at:

Lucy Skywalker
19 Jan 9:50pm

I saw your pages James a while back, and thought, you do have the right idea. I have related questions about Research. For instance…

…it’s wonderful to have things like Can Britain Feed Itself reviewed on Rob’s blog. But this book needs peer-reviewing and the Soil Association have simply not even replied to the author’s request (I read his pdf to see how serious it was, and it looks serious enough to warrant proper peer reviewing). I asked David Fleming if he would look into this but have not heard a clear yes so far. I’m scrabbling, feeling desperate. Richard Heinberg is talking to the Soil Association about vast rising agriculture difficulties, and we need proactive research to find solutions. And we need to get as many researchers on board as possible, to do the key research needed. We need to raise the profile of research. Link Transition with Scientists for Global Responsibility so that they know which are the key Transition issues to target for research, and so that Transition can encourage any scientists we meet to work with SGR (UK). Link likewise for key Transition research with Machynlleth and Schumacher College. And with any university going who is willing to participate in Transition research. And with Steiner people. Anyone. And GET A RING going, a network. I’ve offered space on our website as at least a starter. Our forum is still unused. This work needs to be done and could do with a forum to kick-start a network at least.

I could continue to give example after example where we need to really tighten up the Research ring. Flood defences – what sea level rises? Whose predictions? What do IPCC say? Did I read my chart here wrong? Is Hansen OTT? could Peak Oil stop that level of excess warming anyway? Nuclear power – David Fleming’s wonderfully clear little book, but is it read where it needs to be read? Is uranium hexafluoride a greenhouse gas possibly thousands of times more potent than CO2? How do you expect people to believe that one since the general greenhouse effect is proportional to the molecule size, is it not? or what? How big is it in the global Greenhouse Gas stats, anyway? Why not just bury the waste in a desert part of the planet that has no water table problem, and mine it for geothermal heat? How far would that reduce or even eliminate the Lean Guide’s disposal costs assessment? What do financiers say about his analysis? Can he make it shorter for ordinary busy people to digest a bit more, to get educated rather than face book-size which is so often far too much? How to get the most crucial stuff with leads to the details in stages, FAQ-style?

Improving our basis of scientific knowledge in key Transition issues is necessary if we are not to be the blind leading the blind, like one suspects the politicians are. But Greens can be just as bad. There is much emotional hype around food. But not all is hype. We need not just ivory-tower academic speak, or biz-promotion speak, or nanny-state speak, but key issues with intelligence and transparent to further research – in fact, a whole approach to science by working with key issues, FAQ-style. Why not? There’s got to be some scientists who care about Transition – or would if they knew. Where are they? How can newcomers get facts that are transparent enough and clear enough? Where can we go for difficult questions? Now I’m new to probing difficult questions in high places. But then, a lot of us will be.

I’m in touch with Shaun Chamberlin (edited the Lean Guide) about related issues. I hope we can raise the bar between us…

adrienne campbell
23 Jan 9:37am

I’d also like to see the Transition Network becoming much more active in helping towns network. We need facilities such as
Best practice ideas
Ideas bank for the EDAP
Sources of funding for groups and sample applications
Off the peg constitutions or at least processes to help groups form them
Discussion forums and other structures to help people interconnect
Processes or structures to help local groups network

None of these need to be top-down or proscriptive; they’re just ways to facilitate networking.