Transition Culture

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

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21 Jan 2008

Support Swells for Fledgling Transition Town (Transition Lostwithiel).

**From the Western Morning News, 21st January 2008. Graeme Demianyk.**

lostAlready a committed environmentalist, Julie Tamblin had a moment of clarity when she became aware of peak oil. Apathy was not an option, and **Transition Lostwithiel** was soon formed.”I went down to Penzance to hear Richard Heinberg’s talk on peak oil in November 2006,” she said. “After that, it was impossible not to start working towards Transition Lostwithiel straight away.”

For the uninitiated, peak oil is shorthand for the point when oil production reaches its zenith and supplies start to diminish. Estimates vary, but commentators think the tipping point is imminent.

Whenever it arrives, however, oil scarcity is likely to push up prices dramatically. As such, the natural resource upon which Western culture is based, from transport to manufacturing, will be on shaky ground. “Transition” is the set of rules that a growing number of people think can move a community away from a reliance on oil. Totnes, the pioneer, is already some way down the path. If successful, transition will dramatically slash carbon emissions and help combat climate change.

For Ms Tamblin, the talk by Mr Heinberg, author of the influential peak oil text, Peak Everything, was an epiphany. She immediately e-mailed the coordinator of Transition Penwith, a community group already embracing the core transition values in West Cornwall, for advice on how to do the same in the small Cornish town at the head of the estuary of the River Fowey.

She said: “Incapacitation was not an option in the face of the information that I had received, so it had to be action.” Mrs Tamblin, a language tutor and owner of a vegan B &B, set to work. The central idea behind a Transition Town is to spark a community uprising and then let the momentum dictate its direction. “It could mean anything, from recycling to car sharing or something bigger like a renewable energy project. A committee was formed in Lostwithiel with this goal in mind, and will be disbanded once it gathers pace.”

A group of four residents – Ms Tamblin, Jennie Wason of environmental business support agency Envision, Tony Greenham, who supplies locally produced organic food hampers, and Angela Warwick, of sustainable planning consultants Situ8 – met weekly to discuss how the whole town could brace itself for peak oil.

They were careful not to terrify the town by painting a bleak picture of the future, underlining the fact it could re-connect the community.

The public launch was last November. The group screened three films over a series of weeks – including Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – and held an open discussion on the final night. Numbers started to swell. As many as 35 people were turning up and, in turn, the organising committee’s skills base broadened. Graphic designers will now help with the publicity.

Having raised awareness, Transition Lostwithiel is now looking to do something tangible. It wants to go plastic carrier bag-free, and will this week screen Rebecca Hosking’s film, Message in the Waves, which inspired Modbury in South Devon to take action against plastic last year. “This is something which people can focus on,” said Ms Tamblin.

More dates are in the diary. Low-energy light bulbs and renewables are all on the agenda. Ms Tamblin said: “We have many ideas for events coming up covering composting, recycling, cooperative farming methods and knitting and darning. “The movement is under way, gaining local support with more people joining the committee, and there is a move towards local council support.”

New faces are regularly joining the fold. The hope is that a series of sub groups will emerge dedicated to a certain area, such as transport and energy. Mrs Warwick said: “We are encouraged each time we meet new local people how exciting it is to engage them in thinking about a new more sustainable future, and discover that they can offer so much and are indeed experts in their own right.”

Transition Lostwithiel is to screen Message in the Waves, a documentary on the how plastic plagues the lives of sealife, on Friday in the Church Room on Summer Street, Lostwithiel, at 7.15pm. For more details, e-mail or visit

Categories: Climate Change, Peak Oil