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.

20 Dec 2008

One Last Thing… Transition Training Tour: Blog Post 2

A Tale of Two Cities… well three actually….

The first was NYC. We had a quiet night at The Bridge Winery in Brooklyn. Several people turned up, young mostly, and turned on -a good group. We had a small conversation about TTs; they listened and asked good questions and we had a dialogue. Two things struck me.  Firstly the audience was young. That’s unusual, and that probably reflects my daughter, who organised the evening. The other was that of the 7-8 million people in NYC only 8 could be bothered to show up.

They were a young and ambitious group and I guess that reflects the values and focus of people who migrate to NYC. They have a bigger investment than most in believing in the current system- which I think is much more in the USA than certainly in Europe. Like one person put it, there are no poor in America, there are the rich and the not yet rich. I wonder what happens when the American Dreams encounters Never Never Land?

The next city/town really was Montpelier, Vermont. Over 220 turned out on a cold night with snow forecast. Several people on the way in remarked on the number of activists turning up, and what a crowd, and what a buzz. This was a beautiful, well planned and well supported evening. I met up with the Transition Montpelier initiating group at a local organic restaurant for a light supper before the event and we talked and exchanged stories. One gentleman told me of the energy committees in so many of the towns in Vermont. He said that there was an energy committee in ¼ of the towns in Vermont. That’s huge!. Their remit was the same as the energy group of TTT, to reduce overall energy use and increase renewables. These groups work closely with Town Councils and other stakeholders. Powerdown seems to be a given, no awareness raising necessary.

The evening was a real boost to the activities of Transition Montpelier who only just got their official status the week before. The real meat of the evening came for me after the local cider and cheese was served downstairs. We arranged 2 circles of chairs and had many people standing. There was a good natured banter, people spoke from their hearts, tears were shed and things that needed to be said were said. My favourite question was someone who asked if we had $100 million given to us what would be do differently.

I answered that it would make a nonsense of the project. We just would not want it. We could create a model transition but it wouldn’t serve as a model. It would be a one off and that misses the point. It is so often assumed that money is the issue and it’s not. Money plays a part and at a certain point we needed money, but it’s not the issue. We want something that works in Bangladesh as well as Bologna, London or Montpelier. Transition is about creating the methodology for making the Transition.  We are in such a lather about getting there, and wherever ‘there’ is.

I was left off at Boston South Street station by Stan who came up from Boston to be part of this evening. We just talked, not just about the training but about life and you know -stuff. I so appreciate the many great people who I meet training, and how many are such stars, it’s a very special privilege of doing the work I’m doing.

I stayed with Carl and Diana in Montpelier. Carl hosts a regular Powerdown phone in on the local radio station, and I was his guest on Monday mid day, my first radio phone in!. They live about 3 miles out of town in and old farm house they have converted into a very energy efficient and delightful place to live. Carl showed me his latest powerdown gadget- a hand grain mill.  We had some of their apple cider and a nightcap of last year’s apple jack. Low energy houses have a special quality, they are so comfortable and have a connection to life that ordinary houses don’t have. They are part of the life systems around them, even the flicker of a wood stove, (a wood stove that is an integral part of the house system, not an optional extra), I woke up to a winter wonderland in a spectacular spot, looking out across the green mountains of Vermont.

The Cambridge Massachusetts training was a powerful experience for me.. There were many facilitators with many years experience in doing similar work, which can always be somewhat intimidating.  Pat and Alastair were a trip to work with, very solid facilitators and a joy to be around. We stayed with Rob who organised the training and his delightful wife Aviva and daughter, (Pat called her a munchkin- which is what I called my daughters) Aya. They live in a neighbourhood of wooden houses and small yards, a typical American tableau. It was a great joy and pleasure to eat vege organic food and feel the struggles of their lives- the struggle to make life work in the midst of a deeply dysfunctional society; the struggle around childcare and to eat well and life a low energy lifestyle.

It’s a way of life they love and are really on board with, but where it meets the current system it’s a struggle. We trained at Livable Streets a non profit that has been given some space by MIT. It was doubly poignant to be doing this work in the epicentre of American technology, in a place that represents the opposite stance to life as most of us in Transition (I am sure this is a vast over simplification!).

This was my first training in the US. They were a technically sophisticated group that Pat and Alastair hadn’t encountered before. Referencing the context for transition became an issue, and a future solution came in the form of Tina who will be doing the Training for trainers. She thought she had a group in the US who could provide us with some technical backup. Otherwise the questions that people came up with were broadly similar, inclusivity came strongly into it, with people of colour. Transition seems to translate into the US with ease.

Naresh December 08

Categories: Transition Training

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


Mike (Stroud, UK)
21 Dec 7:18pm

Happy Christmas to you and to all our ‘cousins’ over there. Sounds like you’re doing a great job.
I’m interested to hear more about the links/partnerships with local government / local councils and to see what we might usefully take on board in the UK.
Peace and goodwill

22 Dec 12:21pm

A little unkind to NYC – not everyone in this town is a materialistic pig! Certainly there are many who have serious problems with ‘the system’!
Perhaps the relevant people out of 8-9 million New Yorkers did not know about the transition meeting? Perhaps you did not managed to make contact with the networks that would support Transition in this town. Please lets stops this prejudice against city folk!

Hi Naresh,

Thanks for this update. I particularly liked your quote “Low energy houses have a special quality, they are so comfortable and have a connection to life that ordinary houses don’t have.” I kind of know what you mean, and I wonder why it is… Probably it is about a number of different things…

But I was less sure about the answer you gave to your favourite question, “What would Transition do with $100m?” I don’t understand why we wouldn’t want it.

Ok, I kind of understand what I think you mean — that Transition is about people becoming resilient and that is about choosing to do it for ourselves. So being given a pile of cash just wouldn’t work because once the cash has run out then nothing else has changed.

But surely if Transition had $100m then there are ways we could use it to accelerate the changes that we seek? So that more people decide to become resilient sooner, and it takes less time to reach the point where everyone is living in a low energy house?

I realise that if we tried to pay for house insulation, or solar panels, or land to grow food then $100m wouldn’t go very far. We still need to do all those things for ourselves, matching local needs and circumstances.

But couldn’t we use the $100m to pay for twenty more Nareshes and Sophys to travel the world delivering transition training? That would help more people decide to change faster. Or we could extend the training to cover more of the new skills we are all going to need. And we could get better and faster at sharing and developing the best practices that independent Transition Groups are already developing around the world.

We could even use some of the money to help set up new businesses that make and sell the new “powerdown technologies” we are all going to need in the future — things like ‘hand grain mills’ for example — which the existing system has no interest in developing.

There are probably other things we could do as well, and I just don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to do them.

Best regards, and Happy New Year in the snow!

1 Jan 5:42pm

I agree with Finn that a lot of impulse could be given to Transition Movement with money. Money is just a tool, and the point is how you use it. Besides Finn’s ideas I’d like to mention *media*

Nowadays society is a media-controled society. And with money you can enter the mass media to spread the Transition (healthy) virus. And when I say “media” I think about the Internet as well. A lot of viral marketing could be done with money, believe me… Money gives time to people and is useful to buy time of their media attention, also.

Though I chose to be ruled by nature’s seasons and timings, rather than Modern Society ones, and they said to my Celtic Galician ancestors that the New Year started on Hallowe’en (Samhain)… Happy Transitional New Year! 🙂

1 Jan 11:18pm

Thanks Finn and Manoel for raising this issue which I ignored my attempt to defend city people. The money issue if vital & it is important to confront this squarely. Trying to make transition happen without considering the financial realities is hopeless. It is also quite likely to burn out transition activists as they struggle to make bring the vision into reality. Money is a tool, money is energy, money means we can set priorities – and without any money we are very fragile.

If we had £100m we could do an awful lot of excellent projects. The idea that we should not want money to make the transition vision happen is just a little bonkers. People are bankrupting themselves to try and this off the ground – from my experience this is a common state for environmental activists. Doing this work just does not pay the bills (especially in places with poverty issues). To pretend that we do not need money is hopelessly naive. We need to build capacity to look after the people who are making transition happen, and to do this we need to take money into account.

Manoel is also right regarding the need for media to spread transition. But perhaps even more important in getting the transition concepts to other audiences on a grassroots level. By other audiences I mean others aside from the middle class white people who are the standard transitioners.

We need to start thinking much more seriously about the financial realities of how we are going to make the transition happen. I for one, would like to say that if anyone wants to give the Transition Network £100m, please ignore Naresh. Allow transitioners with some financial acumen make practical plans on how to turn this transition concept into a reality. The troops in the fields need to be fed!

Zev Paiss
2 Jan 4:23pm

Having been involved in “alternative” activities for the past 30 years, I strongly agree that for Transition to be as successful as we all feel it needs to be, will require financial support. This will allow people to commit their time and skills to this process. I strongly suggest we all think about who will be the leaders in the emerging green economy and approach them for support.

4 Jan 6:14am

Great post! How hard would it be to become a non profit and try to raise the funds?
I did not know that it is middle class white people that are the standard transitioners…. hmm. Maybe that is were your money is at?