Transition Culture

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

Transition Culture has moved

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.

16 May 2008

Clare Short MP Proposes Transition Birmingham

csClare Short: Birmingham should become a transition city. May 13 2008 By Clare Short.  From the Birmingham Post.

Just before Easter, I accepted an invitation to contribute to a course on development at Schumacher College which is situated in the grounds of Dartington Hall, near Totnes. The college is famous for its commitment to environmental sustainability as is the Dartington Trust. On the road sign for Totnes someone has painted “Twinned with Narnia”. It is a beautiful part of the world and large numbers of green minded, alternative sorts of people live there. This has made Totnes the ideal place for the birth of the Transition Towns movement.

I have spent the last year or so reading and thinking about where politics is going. It is clear that people are sick to death of current British politics.

The tide is going out for Labour and therefore coming in for Cameron. But I detect little enthusiasm for the Tories. They are the instrument available to give the government a kick in the pants, but few people are excited about what they have to offer.

I myself doubt that things would change much if Cameron became Prime Minister.

The really big change that is coming will result from the challenge of global warming, peak oil and the strain on global resources resulting from growing populations and massive economic growth in China and India.

Our whole way of life, since the industrial revolution is based on massive energy use. And most of that energy comes from oil. But oil also produces all our plastics, fertiliser and most of our pharmaceuticals.

New oil resources are not being found and usage has increased massively particularly in Asia. This explains the doubling of oil prices over the past year and the likely doubling yet again.

The Transition Towns movement, which started in Totnes and is spreading across the country and the world, is about local people coming together to prepare for the change that is coming.

Its founder, Rob Hopkins, who lives in Totnes, is convinced that we must localise massively to live in the future.

So groups in Totnes meet to think of how food will be provided, where energy will come from and how people will survive.

They have even launched a Totnes pound which local businesses agree to take in order to encourage business to source their products locally.

I do not know how quickly peak oil will create a crisis for our way of life, but I am sure that the combination of forces at work will drive massive change and risk a global economic depression.

The only way through will be more localisation. And the beauty of this is that it will draw people together into greater contact with each other and greater community co-operation.

I have in recent months visited villages that are co-operating to reduce their carbon emissions, met with the founder of the Transition Towns network and found other community groups across the country working together locally and trying to face up to the environmental challenge.

I think this is the force of the future. And the beauty of it is that people are working together to create change instead of sitting around predicting doom and gloom.

My question is could we make Birmingham a transition city? Bristol has joined the network as have Brixton and Nottingham and many smaller places. I would love Birmingham to get involved.

Clare’s suggestion also prompted  this response from the paper’s economics editor. 

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


Vinnie mc cann
16 May 7:52am

Great idea Clare if you want it, go get it, even better, Transition England. Whether we have peaked regards to oil is irrelevant the speculation of peaking is enough to destabilise our systems.
There is no time to lose, the time is now.
What ever group, party, or individual cease the initiative will be the point of change in the future, politicians are waiting for a ground swell of public opinion, and the public are waiting for that person , group or party to stand up.
Come on Clare stand up

16 May 11:32am

it’s fantastic to see TT getting mentioned in so many diverse places – the media really seems to be open to the idea.

my suggestion to clare short would be however, to set up a TT in her area of Birmingham – in her own neighbourhood. the idea of having one over-arching transition project in birmingham risks sounding like a ‘top-down’ rather than grassroots initiatives. if she got a fantastic TT project going where she lived and really got people involved, they would want to go and set one up in their own area.

i’m currently working as part of a transition group in swansea and it looks like this is the way we might go – set up a number of neighbourhood transition projects in the areas of people who are already well into the idea and then hope it spreads!

Darren Woodiwiss
16 May 3:08pm

We should put her in contact with Amanda who came to the training whilst mulling how to Trainsition Birmingham

Amanda Baker
18 May 5:32am


The Transition Birmingham ‘mulling’ group met with Clare on Sat 17 May 2008. She is keen to see every local area within Birmingham with their own Transition Neighbourhood. Felipe and I talked about our ideas for a Transition Birmingham Network, which would help such Transition Initiatives to co-operate where appropriate.

John Hemming MP is also interested, and sent a representative, Neil Endicott.

Our next steps are: (1) to have a Transition Birmingham mulling meeting tomorrow, Mon 19 May 2008, which Neil can hopefully attend; (2) to contact Rob Hopkins to find out when he might fit a talk in Birmingham into his diary – in a central venue which the MPs offices can facilitate.

Watch this space …

Steve Atkins
19 May 7:59am

A hat and scarf can help keep in the 40 – 50% of heat lost through the head and neck.

Nice to see Clare demonstrating ‘energy descent’ in action.

x steve

19 May 9:18am

Hi Steve,
Nice observation, but I think close examination of the picture reveals a distinct lack of hat, and a scarf possibly made from the pelt of an extremely endangered snow leopard. However, the stack of copies of The Transition Handbook under her arm more than make up for these shortcomings! Great news that things are moving forward in Birmingham, I look forward to my invite!
Thanks Steve…

20 May 4:38pm

at the risk of sounding either controversial or pessimistic on some way, i’m not doubting at all that clare short would love to see “every local area within Birmingham with their own Transition Neighbourhood” – the thing is, it’s not up to her. i’d love to see every neighbourhood in swansea being a transition area too, but that’s the choice of the people living in those neighbourhoods.

mu understanding of the transition concept is that you create a vision so appealing that people will want to go there themselves, under their own volition. if my MP were to tell me they wanted my neighbourhood to follow almost any idea, i’d smell a rat immediately and wonder what they were up to, as i’d imagine most people might…

Graham Burnett
20 May 4:52pm

Yes, what Citrus said… Part of the whole power of TT is that it is a bottom up initiative, not top down… Its not about politicains taking the lead, they can jump on the train or choose to be left behind, but it’s the people who are driving, not them…

Those with longer memories repeat after me; “Agenda 21, Agenda 21, Agenda 21…” 🙂

Robin Clarke
1 Jun 1:03am

I’m a longterm resident of Bham and its surrounding countryside. It would be wonderful if Birmingham could generate and sustain a load of transition locales.

But I very much doubt whether Bham can be even remotely sustainable for very long anyway. 40-20 years ago it was surrounded by a green belt of farms which supplied its food. It had many factories creating genuine value. But now those farms, factories and related resources are closed and very hard to replace. It has a million people who would not have a clue how to provide their own food and other necessities locally. In the context of severely rising fuel costs, the probability of Bham being able to feed more than 10 percent by local food (or global either) is slim. That’s even if Bham performed some radical de-urbanisation program which is unimaginable without central government support.

So we are looking to a catastrophe of mass starvation, unless, very improbably, the oil/economic crisis magically eases for some years and meanwhile there’s a stupendous movement towards local sustainability.

More realistically, I regret, it looks like mass starvation and violent social breakdown is pretty inevitable, in the next one to ten years. And rather than trying to build something positive in doomed Bham the only positive thing to do is prepare to flee before that collapse hits.

Lord Aikins Adusei
7 Jan 10:55pm

Bham is lucky to have a well respected person like Clare Short as MP.Clare Short and George Galloway are the only Credible politicians left in the entire western world.The Americans have sold their conscience for nothing and Europe for fear of being called anti Semites and for the sake of political expediency has withdrawn from anything that matter to the world.