10 Oct 2008
More Transition Stirrings: the early days of Transition in Flanders
So yesterday I posted Joanne’s reflections on the early stirrings of Transition in LA. Today I want to share with you an email from Rudy Dhont in Flanders, on the beginnings of Transition work there….
The early inspiration
“I was a course participant at Schumacher College on several occasions the last two years and I got very inspired by Transition Town Totnes. (I was in Totnes with the launch of the Totnes Pound – 1st and 2nd – and had the opportunity to take part in some of the activities and talks that TTT organised. I talked with quite a few people, especially also with Nigel Topping – who was a fellow course participant at one stage, and who was so kind as to organize a meeting with Ben for us.)
An article in Oikos, a Belgian magazine for socio-ecological change
Actually I got so inspired that I started reading a lot on Rob’s very inspirational website, and I worked my way through several versions of the Transition Primer. I was probably one of the first abroad to receive Rob’s book. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my friends. I was invited to write an article about Transition Towns for Oikos, a magazine for socio-ecological change in Flanders (Dutch speaking part of Belgium). All of a sudden people wanted to know more, and got inspired by what Totnes (and other places in the network) have been doing.
One of the people who picked it up was Alma De Walsche, a journalist for MO*, another magazine. She visited Totnes in August and interviewed Rob, Ben and some other people.
Enthusiasm leads to a first two day programme
Because of the many questions I got about TTT, I got together with Jeanneke and Nico, two more people from Aardewerk, our deep ecology group, who had by that time also ordered and read Rob’s book. Instead of just rushing around and giving short talks about it (for a couple of people, here and there), we decided our energy would be better spent if we tried to bring together all the people who are interested in TT. To our own amazement we ended up organizing a full two day programme about TT.
Our main objective is to facilitate bottom up things. We not only wanted to give people decent information about TT and its underlying principles, but also provide them with whatever they needed to maybe start something in their own town or village.
That meant a lot of translation work, since people will need the material in Dutch. By now we have translated and subtitled How Cuba survived Peak Oil (and were in contact about that with the people from The Community Solution), and the Transition Primer (about which Jeanneke contacted Hugo Klip from The Netherlands, who had also been working on a translation, and who had talked to Ben about this translation).
For our two day programme (Saturday 27 September and Saturday 11 October) people were invited to find two or three other people from their locality and come as a little group. Our only objective was indeed facilitating the start of local initiatives.
We are now preparing the second day of the programme, and the first day was a real success: 55 people showed up (and we had to turn down 20 because of limited space in my house). The first day mainly concentrated on peak oil (and peak everything) with parts of The End of Suburbia and our subtitled How Cuba survived Peak Oil; and with information about the Transition Initiatives (a bit of the history, the core ideas, the 7 buts, the 12 steps, the ‘MEP’ = our abbreviation for the Energy Descent Action Plan, etc.). Our next day will be mainly on permaculture, and give more concrete information on TTT; and it will accommodate for the smaller groups to talk about taking the first steps. We also use the spirit and the formats that I experienced in Totnes: post-its, open space, small groups, see what talents people have and how they can begin the transition work…
The post-it-notes these movers and shakers left after the first Saturday are very promising: people felt inspired and enthusiastic about the whole idea…
Who are we actually? Just a small group of 3 enthusiasts (with unfortunately also other jobs and limited time) with backgrounds in education, deep ecology, permaculture and transformative learning. What we do is voluntary work (but we seem to get at least as much energy from this as we put in).
Support from the Transition Network?
It seems extremely likely that in the coming months local groups will take their first steps. If indeed local groups really have the serious intention of picking up the Transition Town initiative in Flanders, it would be a great help for us if we could have a fixed contact person in the Transition Network. Somebody who we can keep informed about what we do and with whom we can discuss further things such as the translation of the primer (and making it available), the possible organisation of some training programme in Belgium, and whatever other things might pop up. (By the way, we were also informed that a Dutch translation of The Transition Handbook is due for the end of this year or the beginning of next year, which would of course be a great help for people here.)
A dream. Of course, and depending on how fast things start to roll here, it would be great if we could at some point invite someone from TT(T) for a talk to our own movers and shakers. After all, Flanders is just a eurostar away… But at the moment we’re just planning our second day. And starting to plan a second two day programme for all the people we had to turn down…
Other Transition news from Flanders
I promised Rob to give a bit more information about other transition things that are stirring in Flanders. Because apart from what we are trying to do (start local transition initiatives in the spirit of what I learnt in Totnes, and from the Transition Network), also other groups are busy with some kind of transition.
There are at least two other networks that we know of (and have met in a meeting recently): the transition arena for sustainable building and living (“duwobo”), and the transition arena sustainable material management (“Plan C”; with company and university research involved, but also engaging government and ngo’s, and with a strong team on “Wakker Publiek”, the societal component of the transition). Some of it is horizontal or top-down, some of it is research, some of it was started or encouraged by the government, quite a number of people in “Wakker Publiek” are interested in finding new ways (campaigns, social marketing) of making behavioural change happen… So you see: a lot of transition energy to be happy about. And a lot of diversity… And most likely, there are even a lot of things happening that we don’t know of.
In comparison to these transition arenas, we’re small. Maybe at this point we don’t even show up on the radar. But we nevertheless hope to witness/become part of the first local transition initiative(s) that could come under your Transition Network.
Warm wishes, thanks for all the inspiration, and all the best with your transition work.
(and my fellow-organisers/enthusiasts Jeanneke van de Ven and Nico Cuypers)
P.S. You can have an idea of our initiative at www.transitie.be, which is of course unfortunately in Dutch. I understand (from Steph and Naresh) that there is someone in the Transition Network team who speaks Dutch. That person can easily access a copy of the article I wrote for Oikos, which seems to have inspired quite a few people here.
Dirk Van Belle
24 Oct 9:14pm
Fascinating initiative ! Keep me informed. I’ll spread the message through MySpace.
Dirk Van Belle
(excuse me for the boobies on my MySpace profile. Just trying to generate more hits for the good cause 😉
26 Oct 10:53am
Very interesting. Is it possible to add my name on your mailing list? Thanks a lot.
4 Nov 8:31pm
In fact, the transition arenas in Flanders are not so large and they are crumbling rather than growing. The Transition Town movement is much more energizing as it is truely bottom-up. One of my key questions is how these different transition movemements can reinforce each other.
So, the question I no hold is: how can we give compost to the movement of transition towns in Flanders (rather than bombarding it with a big campaign)? What can we contribute?
Chairman of Wakker Publiek
Dirk Van Belle
18 Nov 9:57pm
We begin by showing an appealing and inspiring movie on how Cuba was forced into transition after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the loss of support from Russia.
People there had no choice and began growing vegetables and fruit even on their roof in the cities. 50% of their food supply now come from permaculture CITY gardens. Cuban people have a healthier way of life now. They don’t need fitness clubs to be sexy (lol)
Some people say the birds and the bees are for green romantics. Albert Einstein said that if the honeybee became extinct, then so would mankind.
Plus, there’s nothing communist about it. People here can apply permaculture knowledge in their own private gardens if they prefer. People in Cuba make profit by selling their own grown wine. Situation here in Belgium is not as urging as it was in Cuba back in the early 1990’s, so it’s predictable that many people won’t see any reason to change their habits. It does not discourage me from changing some of my habits 🙂