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.

1 May 2008

What is a Transition Initiative? The Archers definition…

oil rigTheTransition storyline in the Archers continues to evolve, leading many out there in Archersland to ask “what is a Transition Village anyway?” The Archers website this week offers a very useful and concise overview of what a Transition Initiative is, and it is quite a thorough overview.

This week, Pat is visiting Stroud in Gloucestershire to research her idea that Ambridge should become a “transition community”. But what would this process involve, and why?

A Transition Town is “a community in a process of imagining and creating a future that:

  • addresses the twin challenges of diminishing oil and gas supplies and climate change
  • and creates the kind of community that we would all want to be part of.

Peak Oil
We’re all familiar with the issues surrounding climate change, but Peak Oil has had less publicity. It refers to a point where the world will start to face diminishing supplies of oil and gas. Some experts think we may already have reached this point, and others that it is not too far away. Last year, former BP chief petroleum engineer Jeremy Gilbert said he expected to see a peak sometime before 2015.

Campaigners then predict an extended period of energy decline when, year on year, the world will have decreasing amounts of oil to fuel its industrialised way of life. Eventually the world’s remaining stocks of oil will be extremely difficult and expensive to harvest. And once it takes an oil barrel’s worth of energy to extract a barrel of oil, then extraction will become pointless.

Action Plan
In 2005, in response to this challenge, a group of students from the Irish town of Kinsale drew up the first draft of an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) for the town. The report, which was formally adopted in a unanimous vote by the town council, set out how Kinsale could make the transition from a high energy consumption town to a low energy one.

Transition Town Totnes
The students’ tutor Rob Hopkins later became one of the leaders in an initiative in Totnes, which became the world’s first Transition Town. They stated their objectives as:

  • “To explore and then follow pathways of practical actions that will reduce our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
  • To build the town’s resilience, that is its ability to withstand shocks from the outside, through being more self-reliant in areas such as food, energy, health care, jobs and economics.”

The thinking behind Transition Town Totnes was that a town using much less energy and resources than currently consumed could, if properly planned for and designed, be more resilient, more abundant and more pleasurable than at the present.

As well as producing its own Energy Descent Action Plan, as Kinsale did, each transition town aims to put into a place a wide range of practical initiatives. Some of these include:

  • Business exchange schemes – where one business’s waste is used by another.
  • Garden share – allowing keen gardeners to tend plots that might otherwise go to waste.
  • Encouraging people to choose local food
  • Public transport and cycling initiatives

Courses are run for people keen to learn skills appropriate to a low-energy future, such as repairing, cooking, cycle maintenance, natural building, dyeing, basic home energy efficiency and practical food growing.

Totnes Pound
Some towns have experimented with their own local currency. This is designed to strengthen the local economy by avoiding the so-called “leaky bucket syndrome”, where wealth generated within a community leaks out to the wider economy at large. After a trial project, 10,000 Totnes Pounds have been printed, and the currency is accepted in over 70 shops in the town.

There are now 50 communities, from villages to cities, which have adopted the transition approach. Ambridge joins a further 600 communities from Argentina to the USA which are considering following suit: “mulling”, as it is dubbed by the Transition Network (the charity set up to support transition communities).

As they say: “We demonstrated phenomenal levels of ingenuity and intelligence as we raced up the energy curve over the last 150 years, and there’s no reason why we can’t use those qualities, and more, as we negotiate our way down from the peak of the energy mountain.”