15 Jan 2009
The Transition Declaration of Independence
Here is something rather wonderful that emerged in late 2008 from New Zealand, thanks for Dr. Susan Krundieck (about whom more below). It is an update of the US Declaration of Independence, brought up to date for a generation facing peak oil, climate change and economic contraction, and is attributed to the Representatives of the Transition Committee of Oamaru (a town in New Zealand). I love the list of ‘the Growth Economy has for its own sake…’ accusations statements… there is a deep, forceful power to this, a clearly spoken and resonant declaration of intent. Prepare yourself for a goosebumps moment.
Transition Declaration of Independence
Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
Thomas Jefferson, 1776
Adaptation by Dr. Susan Krumdieck, 2008
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the economic bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, Justice, the pursuit of Happiness, a Healthy Natural Environment and Sustainability for ourselves, the Third Generation and the Seventh Generation.
— That to secure these rights, Organisations are instituted among Communities, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Members,
— That whenever any Form of Economy becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Relationship, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Economic Relationships long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them and their environment to ruin, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Economic Constraints, and to provide new Guards for their future security and sustainability.
— Such has been the patient sufferance of this community; and such is now the necessity which constrains us to alter our former Systems of Business Growth for its own Sake and Environmental Exploitation. The history of the present Theory of Economics is a history of repeated disasters, injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over communities and the environment. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, felled our forests, polluted our water and fouled our air.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has exploited our talents, put us into debt, degraded our culture and eroded our relationships with the members of our community.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has exploited mineral resources which by right should belong to people in perpetuity in order to obscenely enrich a few in the short term.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has paved our farms, sprawled our towns, and destroyed the quality of live of our people and their children and grandchildren.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has convinced us, for more than a century, to ignore the voice of scientific knowledge and reason in order to continue the acidification of our air and oceans through Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrous Oxides and Carbon Dioxide emissions from combustion of fossil fuels.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has exploited the labour of people and environments that have no protection from ill use, and has persecuted people who worked for economic justice and equality.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has assaulted the morality of our youth and treated them as a target market rather than with the respect of future citizens and community members.
The Growth Economy for its own Sake has corrupted the purpose of our governance and civic institutions, it has usurped the purpose of our curiosity and research efforts, and it has shifted the motivation for the education of our young from development of their intellect and character to exploitation of their labours for further growth of the economy.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the Transition Committee of Oamaru, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of this community, solemnly publish and declare, That this Community is, and of Right ought to be Free, that we are Absolved from all unsustainable and perverse requirements of the Growth Economy for its own Sake, and that all connection between this Community and the Growth Economy, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Free and Sustainable Community, we have full Power to reduce fuel and electricity consumption, restore our environment, protect our culture, nurture our agricultural assets, set aside our resources, refrain from extracting minerals, stone or fossil fuels, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Local Commerce based on our own principles and theories, and to do all other Acts and Things which Sustainable Communities may of right do.
— And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Some background information on the Transition Declaration of Independence (kindly provided by email by Ted Howard of Transition Nelson (many thanks to Ted and James Howard for all the information on this story).
For a bit of background on Dr Susan Krumdieck (Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury) click here. Susan was the co-speaker with David Holmgren of the weekend workshop I attended in April 2007. She and David were speakers at the ASPO-NZ Symposium we ran in Nelson 2 weeks later. Susan is on the advisory board of ASPO-NZ.
After the event in Oamaru, Michael O’Brian a master bookbinder artisan gave me his last handmade and bound copy of “Victorian Oamaru” which really is a vision/action plan for spreading the work of the Oamaru Natural Heritage Soc. and anchoring it as an important part of the future of the town. Though dressed up as a tourist attraction (all these eccentric people who dress in Victorian garb and work in artisan crafts), in reality they have known for some time the present unravelling would be coming, and had been planning for it. The last 2 pages are a list of the 200 artisan skills that were required to make a Victorian town functional, and I presented this list in a workshop on Transition Towns at the Ecoshow, as examples of the skills we were likely to need in a post-carbon world.
I brought this back to Nelson and gave it to someone to scan, but in never got done and was returned to me. I scanned it, but forgot to return it to Michael, until I remembered it as I was about to travel from Nelson to Riverton in the far south to assist teaching a Permaculture Design Course. I dropped into Oamaru on the way there and had lunch with Micheal. He had recently gone through big changes in his life and felt he was “losing his vision.”
2 weeks before I visited, the Oamaru folks had gone through their second workshop, setting up the Transition Oamaru steering group and again working with Susan Krumdieck. The result was a study run by her post-grad students, and her modified version of the American Declaration Of Independence.
When I walked into Michael O’Brian’s book bindery, I gave him back his “Victorian Oamaru” and he thanked me for literaly returning his “vision” then showed me the copy of the Oamaru Declaration he had just had printed up on parchment paper, then nailed to the Oamaru stone wall and signed it. A young German tourist couple, visiting the book bindery, sensed that something interesting and significant was happening, and asked for an explanation. Michael explained what was going on, the significance of his returned “vision” and the nailing up of the Declaration. It was a seriously goosebumpy moment!
As I left for the training and Ecoshow in Taupo this month, I brought the copy of the Declaration that Michael gave to me, in the chance I could share it with NZTT folks, especially with James. When I did this, he was deeply inspired, and took it away and made a copy. He read it out at a dinner he attended on the Friday evening of the Ecoshow. Andrew Rundle-Keswick from TT Kapiti was there, got deeply inspired and came back to the marae where we were staying, found me, wanting to read it through again. He asked if it was available electronicaly, and we looked on both Susan’s and the ONHS site, and couldn’t find it. So he transcribed it onto his computer.
The next day Susan gave her ‘Transitioneering’ PPP at the Ecoshow and at that time, we found out that she was the author of the Oamaru Declaration, but no copy was up on the website. Andrew being the computer techie for her presentation, was able to explain he now had a copy, on his computer, and immediately put it up on the screen. We asked Susan to read it out to us….a powerful moment!
It deeply reflected her Lord Of The Rings story within her presentation, of the little people (hobbits) stepping up to the impossible task, in the same way the TT movement is doing so today. We are now all part of a truely epic story, unfolding around and through us!