7 Mar 2008
12 Tools for Transition: No 5. Post-Peak Tour Guides
This is a visioning exercise, one I use most often on permaculture courses when teaching about urban permaculture, usually about two-thirds of the way through the course. The scenario is that it is 2030, and that the town/city/village you are in successfully made the Transition to a lower energy, more localised model. As such, it is now an exemplar for the rest of the world similarly engaged in this process. People come from far and wide to draw inspiration from what has been achieved. Their job is to act as tour guides.
Take the group to a central point in a housing estate. Divide them into groups of four or five, and give each a subject area (housing, food, energy, waste etc.). Tell them they have twenty minutes to design a ten-minute tour for the rest of the group which departs from and returns to this central point. They are to introduce us to all the fantastic developments that have made this place so famous.
When they lead their tour, encourage them to really help everyone else to see and feel what we are ‘looking’ at, to tell stories and to really bring it to life. Once all the tours are complete, it is very useful to then reflect on whether the current
design facilitates or inhibits the place’s ability to adopt these ideas. For example, if the houses had all been designed to face south to start with, how much difference would that have made?
One small caveat: do be mindful of the fact that you are walking around in other people’s space, and make sure that the students are respectful of that. It is not about criticising how things are done. I once did this exercise in a town north of Cork in Ireland on a Saturday afternoon. One of the participants was a very loud and outspoken Australian lady, who walked around, in earshot of the residents who were washing their cars and clipping their hedges, proclaiming “I
mean, how do people live like this? Really, it’s all about education”, and so on. I had to take her to one side and have a quiet word.
Also, groups of people wandering around with clipboards can make people nervous, thinking you are developers planning a motorway through their gardens, so be prepared to explain to people what you are doing. This is a very popular exercise, one that really grounds the concept of visioning in an everyday setting.