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27 May 2009

To Plan for Emergency, or Not? Heinberg and Hopkins debate

robrichardAt the Transition Network conference, Richard Heinberg gave an online presentation looking at the concept of Emergency Planning for Communities, something he initially unveiled at Findhorn last year.  You can see his presentation here.  For a while now, Richard and I have been discussing the tension between longer term planning for resilience and the more immediate and pressing responses demanded by sudden and rapid change.  It is still an ongoing discussion, but we thought now, with Richard’s presentation, it would be a good time to open up the conversation for your thoughts.  What follows is the series of email exchanges we have had since late last year.

One of the fascinating discussion points at the conference between those in the US and those in the UK, revolves around the degree of vulnerability people feel.  When Naresh and Sophy returned from delivering Transition Training in the US, one of their observations was that, as a country with no free healthcare and little in the way of social services and benefits, life feels much more fragile there, and the sense that things could all fall apart tomorrow much more palpable.  Translating Transition to the US context can be, some of those present were saying, a bigger challenge because of that.  Is the US being overdramatic, or the UK lulled into a false sense of security?  Does putting emergency planning at the forefront of Transition risk losing more people than it engages?  Is it possible to build resilience in the middle of a crisis?  There are just some of the questions that arise from these exchanges.  Anyway, we throw this open, and welcome your thoughts based on the discussions below. …

December 10th 2008.

Dear Rob,

Let me start by saying that I am not proposing any specific change in the public Transition written materials or trainings, merely a private strategic discussion among those at a high level within the movement.

My reasoning is simple: Transition has a very positive and optimistic face, which is extremely attractive and the main reason for its success. As you know, better than anyone, its goal is to envision a desirable post-fossil fuel future and then backcast incremental local steps for the achievement of that future.

Now: the reason we all see it necessary to transition away from fossil fuels is that if we don’t, dire things will happen. But what if it’s actually too late to prevent some of those dire things from happening, and they occur during our Transition period and process?

Obviously this is not an academic question. We are seeing a truly frightening financial collapse—partly resulting from this year’s high oil prices—unfolding before us. The world has changed very significantly in the past few months, so much so that the shift is difficult to overstate, even though its direction and implications are still revealing themselves. My question is: should the Transition movement ignore this new fact-on-the-ground, address it as just a bump or pothole along the way, or take it very seriously as (1) a potential challenge to the Transition program if people feel that their optimistic efforts are being overwhelmed by catastrophic economic conditions including closure of local businesses and loss of jobs and funding by key organizers; (2) a potential opportunity both to grow the movement and to offer tangible help to people in genuine need; or (3) both of the latter?

If it is to be seen as (2), an opportunity, what might that mean in terms of public messaging, trainings, etc.?

My own view is that organizations like ours can help by providing inspiration (as Transition certainly does, probably to a much greater extent than PCI), as well as by helping to solve real problems. I would guess that in the near future solving problems will become more of a priority than it has been up to this point, simply because the number and scale of problems that individuals and communities will be confronting will snowball. Whether we like it or not, those of us who have put ourselves forward in the public eye as having answers will be looked to for practical solutions to very basic problems like homelessness, unemployment, hunger, decaying infrastructure, lack of heating fuel, lack of capital, and bank failures.

Obviously, what Transition and PCI have been advocating (community gardens, local currencies, etc.) are in fact at least partial solutions to these very problems, but so far we have discussed them in terms of proactive efforts to keep the problems from happening, or to build a better world in the future. Should the growing presence of these problems affect how our solutions are described (to the general public, to policy makers, or among ourselves) and/or how they are implemented?

Again, this is only meant to be a conversation opener. We’re all figuring this out as we go along—at least I am!

With all best wishes,

January 9th 2009.

Dear Richard,

Happy New Year to you. I have been giving your email some thought over the last couple of weeks and wanted to respond with some feedback. I agree with you that some element of Emergency Planning (which feels like a more appropriate term to me) is vital, but I wonder whether it is something that either falls completely outside of the work of Transition groups or, while connected, has somehow to be kept clearly distinct for the reasons below.

To begin with, that kind of emergency response work is usually done by local authorities, or in the US by groups like FEMA. It is hard to figure out how one would come up with a community response plan that would be more effective, or able to mobilise what they are able to mobilise, than what they could do. I haven’t tried to find out who is responsible for that in Totnes, but I suspect that whoever it is would not be entirely welcoming of well-meaning approaches from us offering to input some Transition flavouring.

At the root of it is the old bottom up/top down question. Is it possible to design a bottom up emergency response plan that is effective? At present, in the event of an emergency, in theory at least, the government agencies swing into action, organising water, energy, food and so on (although of course Katrina is an example of exactly the opposite happening, but what would a pre-planned community response in New Orleans have looked like?). Of course this raises fascinating questions, as I suppose in a few years a community fully engaged upon energy descent would be far better at dealing with emergencies than “the authorities” – and in the past bottom up emergency planning worked superbly in the anarchist led communities during the Spanish Civil War. Having said that, those were communities which were already, and explicitly, united around a common vision; ie more like communities already meaningfully engaged in energy descent than the current early adopting transition initiatives.

I think about this in terms of the principles of Transition. Does Emergency Planning lead to increased resilience? Maybe yes, but maybe not. Tends to be peoples’ last consideration in times of panic. The priority turns to short term survival. We are already seeing in the Ukraine people felling trees left, right and centre in order to keep warm, and Ireland during the Famine had barely a single tree. Short term emergencies tend to move people away from resilience, something that, it seems to me, can only really be created in a longer term, intentionally designed way. On the other hand, does that mean that principles of resilience should be put to one side in an emergency? While the answer to that must be no, I’m struggling to see what one does with the resulting tension.

In terms of ‘Inner and Outer Transition’, I think this creates a huge challenge. There are very few people who can really delve into the nitty gritty of emergency planning without feeling deeply despondent.. there are a few grizzled doomers who would thrive on it, but how to create a meaningful community process of planning emergency responses without breeding powerlessness on an unprecedented scale is hard to imagine. There may be a need for working out how to do trauma counselling on a huge scale, training a team of people to support the freakouts that would happen, but again, on that scale it needs the Health teams and the NHS.

In terms of subsidiarity, emergency planning is something that has almost always come from the top down. I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on what an effective bottom-up response might look like. Wouldn’t bottom up responses to emergencies, almost by definition, be actions which emerge rather than follow a pre-determined plan? The piqueteros in Argentina appeared as a result of dire need/emergency, but not because of a previous plan. It may well be that within a TI a few people who are so inclined might write such a thing, but I can’t see it being something many people would choose to engage with.

I feel that absolutely key to all of this is the fact that, in terms of visioning, there isn’t a positive potential outcome to use to inspire and engage people. Transition is very deliberately designed to be non-threatening, to be inviting and engaging. It could be argued that emergency planning is the opposite. The danger is that if the vision becomes collapse next week, that the Transition group becomes seen as a survivalist cult, and loses people. It is hard enough for us to engage and work with our local authority here, and we are presenting ourselves to them as rational, positive thinking people with ideas they need, answers to questions they aren’t asking yet, although no doubt we are still seen as fringe players. If we were to take a very doomy position, and invite them to prepare for meltdown next week, I suspect we would find it far harder to find a way into them.

I think the question for me is more around how does one ‘speed up’ an EDAP. Most of the work in one tends to focus on their first few years, and if it is written properly it should really engage that kind of input. For example, if we want to have food gardens in place in time for an emergency, the same obstacles still exist to their creation now that exist in an EDAP. It is about designing things that are viable in one economic context that will also be viable in another entirely different one. It is a big job, but those gardens aren’t going to appear by magic, they need to be planned, created and maintained. Same with woodfuel, local markets and so on.

I find it hard to see how the things that would actually lead to increased resilience could be done any faster, short of actually being in that emergency scenario by which time, in some ways, it is too late to do that effectively. Say the UK’s gas is shut off tomorrow, leading to a speeding up of the current economic troubles… not too much in the way of meaningful gardening to be done in Totnes in January.. Would be at least June before much is produced. An EDAP would be looking for triggers for rapidly speeding up the numbers of people growing food, other institutions that could help, identifying potential growing land and so on. It is hard to see how it might be done any faster.

Finally, there are lots of other organisations, community groups and so on, who don’t engage at the moment, but who would in an emergency. I think the EDAP creates a template for how they might be invited to direct their energy. So, my feeling is that the creation of Emergency Plans is something that could either happen in parallel with the EDAP process, or could be the work of a separate group. I think it would shift public perception of the work of that initiative away from it being seen as a positive, forward looking and inclusive thing, to being a doomer cult, the embodiment of what everyone always suspected environmentalists were all about in the first place. It certainly has an important role, but perhaps it is something that just happens discretely…

Finally, turning to your explicit question:
“My question is: should the Transition movement ignore this new fact-on-the-ground, address it as just a bump or pothole along the way, or take it very seriously as (1) a potential challenge to the Transition program if people feel that their optimistic efforts are being overwhelmed by catastrophic economic conditions including closure of local businesses and loss of jobs and funding by key organizers; (2) a potential opportunity both to grow the movement and to offer tangible help to people in genuine need; or (3) both of the latter?”

I think we clearly can’t ignore it or view it as a bump or pothole – and my gut feeling is that it is (3), the combination of challenge and opportunity. It may be though that the truth is that the opportunity is that the emergencies coming towards us will serve to demonstrate the need for transition more than anything else.

Thank you for having raised this issue, which is absolutely vitally important. On re-reading the above, I’m not sure that we’ll get to a completely clear answer, but I look forward to your further thoughts with great interest. It might be worth looking at the idea of publishing this exchange of emails on Transition Culture, and/or elsewhere, as I know it is a subject of conversation elsewhere. There is, for example, an interesting thread on the Transition Network forum exploring this.


February 2nd 2009.

Dear Rob,

Many thanks for your thoughtful reply to my earlier letter about Transition and emergency planning. I think the best way for me to continue the conversation would be to respond to specific points you made.

“Is it possible to design a bottom-up emergency response plan that is effective?”

If not, then I think that we (that is, those of us who desire to see an orderly, decentralized transition process) may be in danger of being written off as irrelevant at some point—perhaps in just a few months’ time. As you point out: during an emergency, people are much less interested in long-range plans and much more focused on satisfying immediate needs. The emergency is unfolding, and it is not going to be transitory. So as people deal with survival issues, how can their collective efforts trend toward sustainability?

“In the past bottom-up emergency planning worked superbly in the anarchist-led communities during the Spanish Civil War.”

This is an encouraging example to think about, even if—as you note—circumstances are very different now. In fact, I think communities are going to be left mostly to their own devices, once the efforts of national governments begin to fail—and fail they will. So how will communities get by? Who will help them organize their response to an almost complete economic shut-down, so that families still have food, water, shelter, sanitation facilities, work, and health care? I think anyone who can offer tangible help will be regarded with some respect.

“Does Emergency Planning lead to increased resilience?”

As you say, emergency planning doesn’t necessarily lead to greater resilience, but on the other hand I don’t see how a society can be resilient without it, especially when there are so many crises looming.

“I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on what an effective bottom-up response might look like. Wouldn’t bottom-up responses to emergencies, almost by definition, be actions which emerge rather than follow a pre-determined plan?”

Yes, but such responses are likely to emerge more quickly and effectively if a few folks within the community begin running scenario exercises ahead of time, identifying community resources and thinking about how those might be mobilized. Such efforts could in fact be crucial to preserving societal coherence.

And this is what I fear most, frankly: the loss of societal coherence. If that goes—if we are each on our own, competing for food and drinkable water—then we have lost the game. This is what Orlov is talking about in his five stages of collapse ( it is social and cultural collapse that we must avoid if at all possible. We are seeing financial and commercial collapse now, and the beginnings of political collapse in many nations. How far down the chain are we going to go? Can we interrupt the process at some point by creating more cultural coherence? Transition is in fact creating more local cultural coherence—we’re on the right track!—but is it enough, and of the right sort?

“I find it hard to see how the things that would actually lead to increased resilience could be done any faster, short of actually being in that emergency scenario by which time, in some ways, it is too late to do that effectively. Say the UK’s gas is shut off tomorrow, leading to a speeding up of the current economic troubles… not too much in the way of meaningful gardening to be done in Totnes in January. Would be at least June before much is produced. An EDAP would be looking for triggers for rapidly speeding up the numbers of people growing food, other institutions that could help, identifying potential growing land and so on. It is hard to see how it might be done any faster.”

Fair enough—we’re all working as hard as we can, going as fast as we can go. But maybe there are unseen opportunities here.

In the beginning of your letter you point out that, “that kind of emergency response work is usually done by local authorities, or in the US by groups like FEMA. It is hard to figure out how one would come up with a community response plan that would be more effective, or able to mobilise what they are able to mobilise, than what they could do. I haven’t tried to find out who is responsible for that in Totnes, but I suspect that whoever it is would not be entirely welcoming of well-meaning approaches from us offering to input some Transition flavouring.”

I think you might be surprised. The few emergency response folks I’ve talked with are frankly very worried. A lot would depend on the manner in which they were approached. If they sense that we are merely pushing an agenda, they are likely to be quite hostile. If we appeal to a shared interest in addressing real looming problems, there is likely to be at least some openness to collaboration. These are the “adults” in the community, people who are taking responsibility in ways that aren’t always fun or rewarding, but are doing things that need to be done for everyone’s sake. I’d like to think that we are in the same category (though I wouldn’t rule out the “fun” part).

Moreover, emergency response officials aren’t the only ones who are worried: my guess is that Community Resilience campaigns undertaken right about now (with cheerful smiles, holding garden implements, but acknowledging that the economy is falling apart and that we have to act fast) might garner even wider support and interest than Transition is already doing.

“Finally, there are lots of other organisations, community groups and so on, who don’t engage at the moment, but who would in an emergency. I think the EDAP creates a template for how they might be invited to direct their energy. So, my feeling is that the creation of Emergency Plans is something that could either happen in parallel with the EDAP process, or could be the work of a separate group. I think it would shift public perception of the work of that initiative away from it being seen as a positive, forward looking and inclusive thing, to being a doomer cult, the embodiment of what everyone always suspected environmentalists were all about in the first place. It certainly has an important role, but perhaps it is something that just happens discretely…”

If there is no looming emergency and you are planning for one, people may call you a doomer. When the emergency is palpable and undeniable and everyone is filled with a sense of urgency, then people may call you a realist—if you can describe what is happening accurately and point to solutions in a helpful way. Much depends on one’s tone of voice. This is the source of much of Obama’s attraction: he has earned the nickname “no-drama Obama” because he’s so unflappable. At this point, no one is going to call us doomers for engaging in disaster planning unless we have shrill voices and are buying up all the ammunition in town. A calm voice with a realistic yet helpful message will get you a long way these days.

Maybe, as you suggest, aspects of the disaster-planning/EDAP process need to be discrete, but at this stage I think the existence of such a process is more likely to be a drawing-point than a put-off. I agree that the EDAP is already a helpful template in guiding existing groups to pitch in to address crises, though perhaps that could be more explicit.

“I think we clearly can’t ignore [the economic crisis] or view it as a bump or pothole—and my gut feeling is that it is (3), the combination of challenge and opportunity. It may be though that the truth is that the opportunity is that the emergencies coming towards us will serve to demonstrate the need for transition more than anything else.”

Yes, I agree completely. Yet somehow I still think there is more we could be doing. I understand: in the past two years Transition has taken off like a rocket; if it’s working, why screw with it? Perfectly sensible. At the same time, I have to underscore my sense that what we are seeing unfolding in the world right now will change just about everything. And everyone will have to adapt to survive—Transition (and Post Carbon Institute) included. I’m looking for both a plan to save the community, and a plan to help our efforts remain relevant and perhaps become much more so.

It’s worth asking: What is Transition actually capable of doing to respond to an unprecedented economic crisis? In the most cynical assessment, it consists essentially of a lot of well-meaning local activists wanting to envision a better future. These are not the sorts of people to engage in serious emergency response work, nor do they have the support mechanisms to enable them to do it.

But who does have the ability to do that work in the context of a vision of what needs to be done also to solve the longer-term crises of climate change and resource depletion? For whatever reason, Transition is appearing on the world scene at the right time, it is viral, and it has a positive, hopeful face that people respond to. It needs to keep that positive, hopeful visage, but perhaps it also needs to be perceived as being responsive to changing circumstances. If what we are proposing to do can only succeed if we have a decade or so of “normal” economic conditions during which to grow our base, train more trainers, and deploy our methods, then . . . it may indeed be too late. But if we can adapt quickly and thereby strategically help our communities adapt, the result may be beneficial both to communities and to those who are organizing Transition efforts.

Obama is telling Americans that the economy is going to get much worse before it gets better. He was elected on a platform of hope, but he’s dishing out some pretty grim forecasts these days. I want him to succeed, but I fear that circumstances will overpower his ability to respond.

You’re likewise a hopeful, unflappable public figure, Rob, and people love you for it (as well as for other qualities—your ability as a writer, your humor, and more). I suspect that there are a lot of folks out there waiting to see how the Transition message will evolve in response to changed circumstances. But I shouldn’t presume to speak for them; I am really just stating my own thoughts here.

The emphasis of my own work will change from here on. I know I gained whatever notoriety I have on the basis of my gloomy writings about Peak Oil, but that may be a near-dead issue for the time being. I won’t leave it entirely behind (energy is ultimately where it’s at and I still have a book and some other publications on energy issues coming out in the next few months), but this year I intend to focus primarily on identifying efforts taking place in communities around the world that (1) address basic human needs in the context of economic collapse (2) are replicable and/or scalable, and (3) set us on the path toward sustainability. In fact this will also be the main focus for Post Carbon Institute for the foreseeable future, as we expand our Fellows program. I hope that what we come up with as a think tank will be immediately useful to Transition initiatives everywhere.

I’m confident that in our partnership we will be able to do some really useful work. I realize that my suggestions are vague. Maybe overt disaster planning is just not practical at this stage (it may well be too late, and we may well not have the capacity), and maybe all that can come from this is a some new messaging that acknowledges the dire circumstances and that promises that useful ideas for responding to communities’ burgeoning problems will be forthcoming.

In any case, I’m delighted to be working in collaboration. I have nothing but admiration for what the Transition Network has accomplished so far. May those accomplishments grow!

Best wishes always,

February 4th 2009.

Dear Richard

Thanks so much for your considered and fascinating response. I’m delighted you feel happy for this exchange to be made public, as I think it will be of great interest to people. As you say, things are moving so very fast, it is fascinating to observe. I was very interested to hear you say that you feel that peak oil is in danger of becoming a non-issue… would it be fair to say that some of the peak oil community, in an understandable effort to communicate the implications of peaking, didn’t communicate clearly the possible implications of peak demand being reached before peak supply? I still find it a very useful lens to help people view things through, but as you say, we have to stay nimble and on our toes, as the economic situation is what is most clearly in peoples’ faces.

I feel that your last email actually gave me a certain ‘Eureka’ moment. As you state, Transition “is working, so why screw with it?”, but at the same time, as you put it, “in the most cynical assessment, it consists essentially of a lot of well-meaning local activists wanting to envision a better future. These are not the sorts of people to engage in serious emergency response work, nor do they have the support mechanisms to enable them to do it”.

Yet what Transition groups have done most powerfully in my experience is at least start to weave into their communities a powerful web of connections and links that weren’t there before. It has developed a language and an approach that is as accessible to Councils and businesses as it is to teachers, activists and estate managers. This, I think, has been one of the things that is most powerful about it. In Totnes for example, were the shit to hit the fan tomorrow, TTT now knows the best gardeners, the best people at teaching it, who are the main landowners, who are the local funders, and so on, so the drawing together of those pieces is far easier than it would have been before. This is highly valuable, and is perhaps one of the key contributions, alongside the awareness raising work..

My Eureka moment comes from thinking about how to best combine the need to build resilience as well as the need to build the ability to better respond in emergencies. As you know, the Transition idea emerges from a background in permaculture and bioregionalism, although permaculture training (and I write this as a teacher of many years) tends to assume a gentle transition in its perspective. While it offers an invaluable set of thinking tools, its longer term focus on ‘permanence’ perhaps doesn’t lead to a sufficiently appropriate set of tools. For example, teaching sheet mulching with vast amounts of cardboard and compost may not be the best approach for people faced with turning a football pitch into allotments.

Were a training, presented in the Transition way, i.e. positive, empowering, visionary, yet intensely practical, to be developed and rolled out though Transition groups, this could be a very useful tool. It could pull together the best from bushcraft training (but without the excessively survivalist flavour), the best from bioregional studies (i.e. how to read where you are, what is home, what is the nature of where you live), the best of appropriate technology (how to build simple yet effective tools and then how to use them), biointensive horticulture (most amount of food from smallest amount of land), traditional allotment gardeners (growing food with what you’ve got), and also emergency response organisations (how to organise amid chaos, how to prioritise based on situations).

Indeed, it could also create a very dynamic interface between emergency response organisations, green groups, Transition, education providers, probation/youth offenders services, and a range of training providers, among others. Perhaps even the Army (now there’s a sacreligious thought!!). What would be important would be that it would move beyond the usual crowd that go to such courses. It would draw as much from the work of activists such as Catherine Sneed, engaging young men who have been in trouble, as it would the usual permaculture course-going public.

Such a programme, which could become core in schools and colleges, would start to create a team of people who would be ‘on call’ for this, and who could undergo regular additional training. My friend who is a fireman did his core training but then has to do regular top-up trainings. Perhaps then a key part of the EDAP is looking at how that training could be developed and then rolled out, as well as how it might be funded. The key aspect of it, as with all of this, is tone. If it is presented as an emergency response force training, I don’t think it would be as effective as if it was Transition Teams or something. It would be great to get some marketing/advertising bods on board with it, to really focus the presentation and the language. I think Chris Martenson’s Crash Course was designed with some of this in mind. There is also a fascinating area of overlap in terms of working with young men, and menswork, which is a vital thing to look at too in all this.

I think that such a training, if properly designed, could run alongside the regular work of Transition initiatives, and run alongside the EDAP process, while at the same time generating useful insights for that. It builds on the positive slant of this. I do wonder though, thinking of my family and neighbours, just how much this kind of approach would engage people, given that many people will respond to the developing economic situation by thinking “how can I remortgage the house so as to reduce my payments”, “how can I reduce my overheads by switching to a different home phone provider” and “how secure is my job”, rather than “how am I going to store rainwater”, “how am I going to dig up my garden” and so on. In that regards, the Transition awarness raising stuff it clearly vital alongside this.

In that sense, one could still have a Transition emergency preparedness group, if there were people keen to do such a thing, but Transition Network could design and pilot such a training that could then be rolled out through the network. The EDAP would be doing the longer term resilience building, while at the same time training and mobilising a group who would be of use in both scenarios. This would, as you say, create more “adults” in the community, but in a sense of maturity rather than paranoid survivalists. Key, as you say, in maintaining ‘societal coherence’.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. The field we are exploring here is so vast and wide, it is hard to pin it down to particular things, but for me I feel that the above maybe offers one way of building on what is best about Transition while at the same time developing a practical and relevant side to accompany the awareness raising work and the networking that combines to create the EDAP.

If you’re interested in looking in more detail at how to develop this line of thinking, perhaps we could fix a time to have a telephone or skype conference, with me and Peter and Ben over here? If it seems to be fruitful, perhaps we could look at running a workshop on it at our conference on 24/5/6 April, with you attending electronically?

With very best wishes


February 4th 2009


I love your idea. At New College (R.I.P.) we always offered experiences in backpacking, camping, and primitive/appropriate technology alongside our heady course work in anthropology and social critique. It’s what many of the students came away remembering best. It gave them a sense of basic mammalian competence that took the edge off of the grim information we were imparting. The key will be to offer skill-building experiences that are both inviting/fun and relevant to the kinds of practical challenges people will be facing.

As you say, many people will be focused on questions like

“how can I remortgage the house so as to reduce my payments”, “how can I reduce my overheads by switching to a different home phone provider” and “how secure is my job”, rather than “how am I going to store rainwater”, “how am I going to dig up my garden” and so on.”

If we can address people’s very real economic concerns, we will be offering tangible benefit. What are some strategies for saving money? Get family and friends to move in with you. Find ways to cook with less fuel (solar cookers are only one of many strategies there), use less water (gray-water recycling with or without re-plumbing your house), ditch your car, share stuff, repair stuff, make stuff. How to live happily without x, y, and z. How to live more happily and healthily than ever on a fraction of the income.

The big question on everyone’s mind is: How can I get by once I’ve lost my job (or now that I’ve lost it)? Learning how to raise capital and form cooperative ventures that benefit the community (and are therefore worthy of community support) could be a life-saver. Also: how to set up barter networks, how to make community currencies work for you.

The design of such a course will be easiest if we get together three or four people who have complementary skill-sets and who are already teaching many of these things. The Voluntary Simplicity people have some of this down; also the appropriate technology folks; the primitive tech folks; the co-op venture folks. Now that I think of it, it might take more than three or four “experts.” But maybe there are those like Chris Martensen who are already aggregating these skills. It would not be so good to initiate a course design process that requires months and months of work and lots of investment, given that time and money are in short supply. The key is to synergize existing resources. As you know from the success of Transition itself, if it’s the right idea at the right time, circumstances will conspire to help.


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


5 Jun 6:35pm

Wow, people have written some VERY long responses to this! Have just skim read them all.

A few quick thoughts/ comments
* I like the idea of the trainings in appropriate tech etc.
* Mapping the community (in terms of skills, resources, land, etc.) is key to both short and long term plans so should defo be done as an early step in transition
* Official UK Resilience plans (see ) assume that no crisis will last more than 3 days. Personally I find that a bit worrying.
* There is also the Real Help Now site that has been set-up
* It is obvious that in any serious crisis those that are “supposed” to be doing the work will be overwhelmed.
* Yes, you can’t grow food in an emergency, especially out of season. The key to food resilience is FOOD STORAGE (and seed storage too so that you CAN plant stuff straight away too)
* Demos had an interesting conference on this stuff recently to launch their book Resilient Nation
* In Camden in London they put adds on bus stops with this link
* The Red Cross has a lot to teach us with the ERU – Emergency Response Unit. These are teams of people (a bit like the Transition Team Rob outlined) who have both expertise in a particular field AND experience of working together. The Red Cross gets one of these teams out to disasters within 48 hours which is pretty impressive. Details of UK stuff are here (BTW, it include “Psychosocial” support too)
* Searching for Red Cross ERU stuff I note there are online games related to it not checked them out yet though.
* Check out
* Vinay Gupta, one of the Collapsonmics team, has a useful “Six ways to die” model: Hunger, Thirst, Hot, Cold, Injury, Ill. We need to think about local versions of the infrastructure that stops us from dies from these things.

Its now raining and I’m outside a (currently) bar in a small village in Spain using free wireless so I’m off to find shelter…


Susan Butler
11 Jun 4:46am

I was recruited to advise a group of high schoolers in a small Southern California city in the L.A. area about how to feed 10,000 people for three days –and details on how to prepare well in advance of need.
Here is our exchange so far:
—– Original Message —–
From: emerlyn tseng
Sent: Sunday, June 07, 2009 9:06 PM
Subject: interview please?

Dear Ms. Butler,

Hello! My name is Emerlyn Tseng and I am a student at Arcadia high school. We have a project in our environmental science class where we will be preparing a disaster plan for the city of Arcadia. I was wondering if I might be able to ask you some questions about this project. Of course, I do not know your specialty, but our teacher Ms. Stevens has recommended you as an interviewee, so whichever questions you may be able to answer would be greatly appreciated.

Here are some of the questions we are interested in, they do not require intense research or anything like that- to be honest, we just want a point of view from a professional adult.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Interview questions:
-Title of job:
Our project requires that we prepare enough food for up to 10,000 people, for a minimum of 3 days. How would you try to accomplish this?
-For a long-term plan, would you recommend planting certain edible plants in the city, to be used in emergencies?
-if so, which types of food would grow in abundant supply and be filling?
-Or, what types of plants require low maintenance but high yield?
-Do you think these plants might be suitable to be used as a fuel source?
-What kinds of food do you think might be suitable for longterm storage, without spoiling?
-What kind of long-term plan would you recommend? Something we can begin NOW to prepare for future disaster?
-Do you have any advice regarding our disaster plan?

Thank you very much,

Emerlyn Tseng

How to prepare food for 10,000 people for three days?

There are different kinds and severity of disasters, with different scenarios afterwards, so I will discuss different levels of response, depending on how much existing infrastructure remains intact. An earthquake could cause either local or statewide disruption, either mild or severe. A fire is usually a regional problem. A sudden fuel shortage could cause the grocery stores run out of food (within 3 days) before people realize what is happening. I am assuming that many peoples’ homes will no longer be functional, either from earthquake damage, fire, or lack of fuel for heat, refrigeration, and cooking.

Resources needed:
1. COOKING FACILITIES: It would be best to have as many feeding centers as possible, spread around the downtown area, and near other densely populated areas, such as neighborhoods or suburbs. Assume transportation might be difficult, so it’s best if people can walk to the centers. 50 – 100 cooking centers would be more feasible than one or two big ones. It’s hard to seat 10,000 people for a meal; but 100 or 200 would be quite doable.
a.) Outdoor facilities could be quickly set up, similar to large outdoor barbecues, using 55 gallon drums, or large culverts (those pipes that direct water under roadways) cut in half, or just any metal scraps that can be formed into a 20′ long cooking grill, perhaps several for each center. In winter, roofs for outdoor kitchens could be quickly erected using scraps from ruined buildings, or tarps. If you have parks, these would be good locations for this, especially if they have bathrooms. Otherwise parking lots are everywhere.
For fuel, what first comes to mind is wood –scraps from ruined buildings, cut firewood, or charcoal –if caches of that can be found in your city in stores or homes. I don’t know your area well enough to know if the houses are made of wood, or if there are many trees there. If normal sources of fuel for cooking are available in this disaster, such as propane or natural gas, that should be used wherever available. With proper expertise, intact existing gas lines might be tapped into. Failing other sources for cooking fuel, trash and tires are everywhere and can be burned, but the smoke is toxic. Erecting very high smokestacks on the barbecues would help, as would constructing the fire-containers with battery-powered blowers and dampers to control a very hot flame, which pollutes less. For longer-term preparations, small gasification units are available which make clean natural gas out of anything –-tires (cut up) plastic trash, scraps of wood, pine cones –without pollution. See
The hard part in a crisis would be organization to get these centers set up quickly, so planning in advance is essential so as to have people skilled in construction, welding, cooking and fire safety on call.
b.) Take over institutional facilities such as those found at churches, schools, grange halls, fire stations, jails, clinics, day care centers, restaurants and the like. Planning in advance for permission for this would be a good idea. Some of these resources would probably still be at least partially intact. Also consider using the parking lots of large retailers, which often have good bathroom facilities, some of which may still be partially functional. If not, more on sanitation later.
c.) Private homes, parks, museums, golf courses, sports stadiums, etc. might also be assigned as feeding centers. Outdoor facilities could be set up in these places, or any intact homes, or other buildings could be utilized. Again, best to get permission in advance for this.

a.) Grilling can be done on makeshift barbecues without pots or pans. Otherwise, these cooking tools would have to be scrounged from restaurants, institutional facilities or private homes. It might be good to arrange to have commercial cooking equipment on call for emergencies from the places that normally use it.
b.) Most people have knives, forks and plates they could bring with them to a facility. (more on communication later.) Or, there might be paper plates, etc, still available in ruined stores; or these things could be stockpiled in advance. Worst case, shingles, large leaves, and fingers would have to do. The same applies for tables and chairs for feeding. These might be available in parks or institutional settings. Otherwise, sitting on the ground, or on tarps would do.

a.) EMERGENCY STOCKPILES: This depends on the particular disaster scenario. Are there public stockpiles of flour, beans, canned goods, dried food? If not, a plan for this getting this in place should be made and carried out. Is the government going to drop-ship emergency supplies? I wouldn’t count on this unless the disaster is limited to only your local area.
b.) FOOD ON HAND: If no stockpiles are available, then scrounging is in order. To avoid looting, and other forms of social disorder, a plan is a wonderful thing. Even in fire or earthquake, there will be some food still available in the less hard-hit areas –in stores, in institutions, in peoples’ homes, on privately owned fruit and nut trees, if in season; and in community gardens, if you have them. Plans should be in place for permission to take these supplies to feeding centers in emergency.
There may already be laws in place to cover “eminent domain” in emergencies, that is, the authorities’ right to commandeer supplies, facilities, and land. This legal aspect would be an important research topic for you. (more on emergency-authorities later) There are about three days worth of groceries available in stores at any one time. That’s all. If stores, schools, restaurants, etc. have not burnt down or collapsed, there should be enough in place to supply feeding centers for three days. Look to assemble a total number of meals available from in-stock grocery store shelves, and other sources, at any one time in your city. We are talking about 60,000 meals, at two meals per day, for 10,000 people, for three days.
d.) FORAGING: This is another good research topic: What wild foods are plentiful in your area, and at what times of year? I’m no expert on this, but what comes to mind are fruits and nuts from wild trees or local orchards, if in season; reed beds, acorns, bay tree nuts, edible wild roots and greens. Some able-bodied people will have time on their hands, so this area of supply could be well researched and planned for in advance.
e.) SECURITY: We must assume that police will be overwhelmed, as they were in Katrina. Security is a great job towards which to divert the energies of those in your area who may be naturally aggressive and are often well equipped with firearms. A plan should be in place for using such people as security forces for keeping order. Planned protocols should be in place with specific job descriptions to be assigned in a hierarchical structure. Safe gun practices, and strict rules of engagement should be a part of your plan. This part of the plan should be well publicized in advance, so that otherwise unmanageable armed persons know there is a place for them to be useful. The plan should include treating these folks with special priority in feeding lines, sleeping facilities and the like, so they feel valued and respected. This is an important part of a plan to prevent disorder.

a.) Once your class gets your plan done, it should be well-publicized. Articles should be placed in local papers, perhaps your high school drama department could stage a play, local authorities could be sought out to coordinate with their plans. Practice run-throughs could then be organized, involving as many people as possible, twice a year to cover summer and winter conditions. This will make sure that everyone knows that a plan is in place, and that they will be taken care of. Panic will not set in, and people will know where to go and what to do.
b.) Phone and internet may not be available, so a tree or web of foot-carried messages should be planned for, using neighborhood ‘hubs’ -–usual gathering points where people can go to get information. A low-tech, solar-and-battery-powered radio capability could be planned for. Hand-cranked radios are available to receive such communications. Perhaps each designated neighborhood ‘hub’ could have a person assigned to keep such a receiver on hand.

a.) Every community has local government officials, first responders (police and firemen), and emergency teams such as EMT (emergency medical technicians), Red Cross chapters, and the like. You should know who these people are, where they work, and what their plans and capabilities are. Depending on the suddenness, severity, and duration of a disaster, these human resources and organizational structures may or may not remain intact. So an emergency plan should be in place both to work with them, and to replace them, if necessary. Volunteer leaders with skills and expertise should be sought to be on call, just in case. The important thing is that authorized, capable and respected leaders remain in place at all times. Disasters are no times for anarchy, experimentation, or strong-arm tactics. It’s well-known that competent leaders often emerge from unlikely sources in a crisis, so flexible accommodation for this phenomena should be planned for. One idea is to plan to pass out colored arm bands for people responsible for different tasks, as is done at big demonstrations and other large outdoor events, for example, blue for authorities, red for security forces, orange for foragers, yellow for medical, and the like.

a.) Transporting people and supplies is a critical issue. Are there secure (earthquake and fireproof) stockpiles of liquid fuel for emergency vehicles in your area? If not, that should be planned for. Even just enough fuel for a few trucks and buses, for a few days, would be critical. Arcadia is a small city, so in-town transport is possible on foot. However, people tend to be very widely spread out in Southern California, so a means for getting people and supplies to feeding centers is important. For longer-term planning, a small-scale program to make alcohol fuel from normal urban waste streams of spoiled foods, or from reed beds in constructed wetlands (which are also good for flood control and “green” wastewater treatment) could be put in place to secure ongoing, independent, and local liquid fuel sources for emergency vehicles.

a.) What goes in must come out, so emergency sanitation is a critical part of any feeding scheme, where large numbers of people will gather. If normal facilities are intact, those should be utilized wherever found, whether normally public or private, such as at schools, stadiums, restaurants, retail stores, or gas stations. Otherwise, the quickest and lowest-tech solution would be to dig privies. Calculate, as part of your planning, how many privies of how much capacity each, would be needed for each feeding station. A longer-term solution to this aspect of things would be to construct public composting toilets in every park, and beside every frequently utilized area, such as shopping centers and the like. These facilities are common in our state and national parks, and can be designed to be simple, private, clean and odorless.
b.) Facilities for washing up after meals, and just as importantly, hand-washing facilities for everyone must be provided, to forestall disease. Another important item to stockpile: chlorine bleach for sterilization. This is adequate for cooking and eating ware. Plain soap is important for hands.
This brings up the issue of water. Does your community have emergency stockpiles of water, or the capability for obtaining it, such as pumps, pipes, filters, and storage tanks? This equipment should be planned for. Otherwise, find out where water is normally stored –tanks, trucks, water mains, hot water heaters, reservoirs, ponds, year round streams, and the like. Clean water is even more important than food. Every planned feeding station must have a planned water source. Normal water supplies would be disrupted by earthquake or fuel shortages. Longer term planning should emphasize a program of rainwater harvesting off buildings with water storage tanks becoming a commonplace feature of your urban landscape.

a.) We have to assume that conventional medical resources will be overwhelmed in a disaster, if intact at all. Anyone with first aide skills should be identified in advance and sought as volunteers on call. Tents and basic equipment for makeshift hospitals would be wise to have stockpiled.
b.) Therapists are plentiful in California. On call volunteers for trauma counseling, for group therapy sessions, and for conflict resolution duties should be planned for and recruited as an essential resource.


There are edible urban tree-planting schemes being developed in some areas. This involves not just planting the right kind of trees, but having an ongoing program in place for harvesting and storing the resulting produce. This part is critical. The reason cities have normally avoided planting food-bearing trees is because they leave a mess on the sidewalks, and attract rodents. Oaks for acorns, coconut palms, date palms, almond trees, olives, walnuts, all kinds of fruit trees, kiwi vines, blueberry and current shrubs, prickly pear cactus, are only a few of the many types of edible trees, vines and shrubs that can feed an urban population. Most of this produce can be dried, or made into preserves or oils, and be stockpiled safely for long periods. Vacant lots with irrigation capability (former parks or golf courses come to mind) can be planted with edible meadows. In California’s year-round growing season, it is quite possible to sow broccoli, kale, mustard greens, etc. and let them naturalize in a meadow area which has been sheet-mulched first with cardboard, then 4-5″ of manure and compost applied before planting the edible meadow. With little or no competition from weeds, after they are planted and get started, many of these non-perennial food plants will self-sow each year, providing winter and summer vegetable matter full of lifesaving nutrition. Other meadow-type edible things should be mixed in for maximum variety –wild onion, oxalis, artichoke, and many other plants could be researched as to what does best in your chosen site’s microclimate. This is just for urban landscaping. Community gardens, with plots allotted to individual gardeners should be a strong feature in places interested in local food security and resilience.
In semi-arid conditions such as in Southern California, mesquite trees, long considered weeds, could become a great resource. They require no irrigation. The wood makes excellent fuel, and the pods are starchy enough to make alcohol fuel. There is a species of desert gourd which can be planted under mesquite trees which also requires no irrigation. Prickly pear cactus is attractive and edible and will also grow, once established, without care or water.
Certain trees are good for coppicing, which is the best way to grow wood fuel sustainably. To coppice, one cuts the tree down but leaves the root system. Then certain species of trees will throw up many new shoots to replace the single stem that was cut. One root system thus can produce useful wood for many decades. This is another good research topic: find out which trees in your area would grow well and work for this purpose. They could be planted in parks and along streets.

Individual stockpiling of water and food, such as MREs (military meals-ready-to-eat) or canned goods and other non-perishables at home is becoming popular. In my opinion, publicly organized stockpiling, along with a well-thought-out and well-understood plan, such as the one you are working on, is a much better arrangement. Otherwise individuals have the worry of how to protect their stockpile from people who don’t have anything. This is a recipe for problems. We are all far better off working together. That’s why your plan is so important. And your wish to start now and put in place the things that will make your city more self-sufficient long-term, is a really great idea.

Please feel free to send me further questions and comments. Also please keep me informed about how your plan progresses. I would love to see your final result.

–Susan Butler

11 Jun 9:09pm

Thanks for sharing that Susan 🙂

Ian Graham
12 Jun 3:37am

We’re here in Dundas ON Canada, with a barely functioning TTI ( I am 55, learning to homestead on the edge of a valley town of 25,000 people, part of a 500,000 metropolis, dying steel town of Hamilton.
Emergency planning? No one wants to think of it, let alone do it.
I’ve been absorbing the PO/PCI literature in print and online for 3 years, and I’m an ‘early adopter’ type, so I don’t wonder that the public is far from being aware, let alone interested in the ‘warm fuzzy’ TTI approach, or even less, the Emergency Planning tactics being discussed in this thread. Susan Butler’s piece was particularly helpful because of it’s very gritty level of detail.
My two cents: get a TTI up and running, and at the Great Unleashing event, or equivalent, have a node available for the EP types, encourage them to work away at the E plan while the rest of us do the EDAP. This is the both/and point of view, expressed by others here too.
Canada still has a fairly intact social safety net, unlike the US, the Empire to which we are umbilically attached, by virtue of geography, oil and water. I think we Canadians are supremely complacent that all the bad news is going to happen to people elsewhere, and some even look to the US to help us out in a disaster. My view: they will help themselves out of our backyards, without a moment’s hesitation. But I digress.

In one of Richard H’s many interviews, he talks about preparation for energy descent as equivalent to a spiritual crisis: we need to rise above dispair and work faithfully for a better future, even while it appears futile.

Dan Dashnaw
13 Jun 8:09pm

It seems that Rob can’t seem to refrain from dissing “Survivalists” He has been engaged around this issue for several years now, and it is abundantly clear that he needs “Survivalists” as an antagonist. Well, I’ve had it. If we are facing collapse in the next 20 years, we need to build bridges, and check our prejudice at the door. But TT has not relented. And neither will I. Goodbye TT. I will block you on the ground around me wherever I can- until you find common ground with American Survivalists. It isn’t hard, Rob, you just have to surrender your arrogance. You have a smarmy unxious way of responding to criticism that suggests that you are hearing what your critic is saying. I have watched this technique very closely. It is obvious to any thinking person that you are impervious to any influence. Your arrogance is massive. And that is why TT, at least in the USA, will be a marginal and irrelevant movement.

Helen Loughrey
14 Jun 8:39am

Yes there is a bit of selective separation there.

Unfortunately the arrogance is also on the survivalist side. US survivalist websites poo-poo any community approaches, favoring use of firearms [murder] to protect personal stashes from those who did not plan ahead. Frankly they underestimate the futility of that approach. Their shoot-out scenario would become a war of attrition that they and their families ultimately lose to the looted armory -equipped local warlords.

I tend to agree with Richard Heinberg. [How refreshing to sidestep the false choice between the lone gun-toting survivalist and the naive hemp-toting hippy stereotypes.] We do need a synthesis of both TI community-based skilling up and of survivalist emergency preparedness in light of the accelerating arrival of the three storms of macro-economic collapse, natural resource depletion, and climate change – in that order.

Living in America may make it easier to see this. Our families and communities having been more fractured by job mobility and by the rugged individualism paradigm and resulting lack of a social safety net; our climate already being more life threatening in our summer and winter extremes: literal survival is definitely the immediate issue here especially on the US east coast than in more moderate climates such as on the US west coast and in more cohesive communities in the UK.

The government is hopelessly corrupted and bankrupting itself before our very eyes. As we saw in Katrina, it cannot be relied upon in an emergency – just as it could not be relied upon to mitigate the worldwide environmental damage, the peak oil damage and the capitalist greed damage that its federalist deregulation policies helped wrought.

If TI is going to thrive beyond California in the US, it must factor in the emergency planning as a grassroots skilling up function. TI could start by outreaching to existing grassroots networks such as the ‘neighborhood watch’ movement. Since towns and cities will soon no longer be able to sell municipal bonds [or tax the increasingly unemployed] to fund basic services, I think that the local neighborhood associations will become the defacto local governments of the future. Think smaller scale, less funding. You won’t even be able to drive across [or as is more likely in the US out of town] to your TI meetings, you’ll have to skill up with your immediate neighborhood. Are they prepared for a lengthy power outage, sudden grocery store empty shelves, or a water main break? Start there first… and then later you can teach them all knitting.

Vinay Gupta
15 Jun 11:14am

I want to throw two resources into the ring.

The first is the “Beyond Resilience” concept, which basically says that using resilience to simply keep going through crises often isn’t enough – you need to adapt to the new conditions. I think Transition Towns has this part down cold.

The second tool I’d like to add to the mix is SCIM mapping – – which provides a common framework for discussing both long term systemic risks like Peak Everything, and short term acute risks caused by disasters, violence, sudden unfolding scenarios.

I think it’s important to be clear that a substantial subset of the actions required to handle systemic risks are also very useful in dealing with acute ones.


John Croft in Germany
18 Jun 10:05pm

Dear Richard, Rob and all the other contributers.

Thank you all for a very interesting discussion with much food for thought.

I have been pondering these questions, as you know Rob, for a considerable length of time. Any culture that destroys its life support system in the name of progress is insane and has not got a great deal of time to live. In such a culture, what we see as “normality” is only contributing to the insanity, and “sustainability” in such a culture is extremely abnormal. It is only a matter of time.

As regards emergency planning, the issues of top down versus bottom up I feel are irrelevant, we need to do both, just as we do with the EDAP process. I am reminded of the fact that a number of years ago, the Cyclone that flattened Exmouth in Western Australia was twice as big as Katrina, and yet there was zero loss of life and the town was rebuilt relatively painlessly. The reason why was that the town created an excellent Emergency plan, and rehearsed it 6 weeks before the cyclone struck. As a result, in the emergency, everyone knew what to do and various glitches had been identified and dealt with.

Physical emergency planning of this kind can be fun and productive. It also increases the feeling of security in an emergency.

Some time ago, when looking at the closure of major local employers, in the Western Australian Department of Local Government and Regional Development we looked at the issue of “Economic shockproofing for local communities”. For example, in such a scenario, what should be done immediately and who should do it, what could be done in the medium term and what long term actions need to start immediately. It was a very productive exercise, and with role playing scenario planning could help enormously.

But I don’t think we should fool ourselves into thinking that we are going to be all beer and skittles. Various people have suggested 4 scenarios are possible.

1. The market solution of Business as Usual
2. The Militaristic solution of seize the resources you need, devil take the hindermost
3. The Failed State neo-Feudal solution (Look at Somalia)
4. The clean Green, Transition type solution.

Various options and alternatives to these have been repeatedly put out.

But I don’t think these *are* alternatives. In fact I feel we will see all four solutions being tried at different times and different places, as things slowly get tighter and tighter as we proceed towards the overshoot collapse.

In such circumstances, I have been conducting a comparative study of Dark Ages to see what lessons we can learn from these.

In order to minimise the Darkness of a Dark Age, and to shorten its tength, there are, I feel, 6 courses of action which we should start looking at now, when there is still time. Much of these relate to the Tranition movement, which I think (Semi fortuitously, semi by design) has hit upon some of these things spontaneously.

If you want to limit and enlighten a Dark Age here is what you do.

1. Build community as if your life depended upon it. It does. Those people who live in a supportive and caring community will sirvive better than those who try to do it alone, or maintain their home as their castle, on the belief that good fences make good neighbours.

2. Simplify your life. Prior to the peak, increases in complexity, increase the standards of life. After the threshold, increased complexity reduces standards. So in such circumstances reduced complexity increases resilience, especially by preventing people from being time poor.

3. Maximise creativity. Technological creativity is linked to social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and artistic and spiritual creativity. The creative individuals and communities are those that find the way through first.

4. Cultivate nonviolent resolution of all conflicts. In a Dark Age, inter and intra community violence increases, and in such circumstances one cannot “fight violence with violence” it just escalates the downward spiral. Nonviolence at every level is urgently needed.

5. Preserve knowledge. In a Dark Age people not only forget what they once knew in a great deskilling to reverse Rob’s terminology, they also forget that they have forgotten very quickly. We currently lose a language every two weeks and are becoming ecologically ignorant as a result at an alarming rate. Wisdom is degraded to knowledge, which is degraded to understanding, which is degraded to data, which disappears in a sea of noise, as new superstitions arise to fill the vacuum. Preserve knowledge.

6. Cultivate ecologically based interfaith dialogues. In a Dark Age we see the rise of militant fundamentalisms, and it would be hard to find a better definition of “evil” than that. Interfaith Earthbased spiritualities are urgently needed.

If we can do these six things, then the coming Dark Age will possibly be short and not too Dark. But fail and we are in for a rough ride to the bottom.

As Joanna Macy says, Apathy is another word for no feeling. When we learn to engage with and acknowledge our despair we can come through to the other side into “the Great Turning”. Then action can follow.

Hope this helps



gas safety london
19 Jun 10:22am

I think a frame-work of emergency planning responses could be pulled together through a workshop. The emergency planning folks could provide input on their priorities and focus, we could add ours and then it could be shaped up in a format that Transition groups could work with and Emergency Planning Groups could use.

Ed Straker
4 Aug 2:44pm

First off, let me say that I have gone to the two day transition training course so I am fairly well versed on it.

My sense is that Rob has an all-or-nothing attitude towards mitigating collapse. Either transition saves the day, or we capitulate to dystopia.

My feeling is that setting the bar so high for Transition is unrealistic. What that means is at the first hint of violence, the whole transition model breaks down.

What I see in this debate is a growing realiziation that as we face the real probability of Argeninian-style hyperinflation and the chaos that is likely to cause, that Transition will indeed be rendered irrelevant by its avoidance of anything that could be construed as “survivalism”.

Likewise, if Rob’s calculations on carrying capacity are wrong, or Transition is only adopted in pockets here and there, once the music stops on the game of musical chairs with respect to energy descent and ecological collapse, you will have this patchwork quilt of towns that are more or less resilient. Lifeboats must be defended otherwise they are useless.

In Rob’s world, the second conflict of this sort rears its head, Transition’s mission is to be deemed a failure. Just curl up in a ball and die.

Considering that the end goal of anyone who takes the red pill is survival, how is that defeatist attitude attractive?

Survivalists have to adopt more community responsibility and drop some of the misanthropy, and TT needs to stop alienating them as well, since they are already the most advanced at doing at the individual level what the rest of the town should be doing as far as the homesteading piece is concerned. Those skills should be leveraged.

[…] this weekend I am reminded of a recent debate in the transition blogosphere about the need for emergency planning for communities within the Transition Town […]