Transition Culture

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

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29 Jun 2009

Super Furry Animals Capture a Moment from a Post Carbon Future

Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by the potential role of story as a way of enabling people to imagine themselves in a successfully transitioned world.  There has been less discussion about this in the context of songs.  It was my birthday the other day, so I treated myself to the new Super Furry Animals album, and on it is a song called ‘Inaugural Trams’, which, by my interpretation anyway, does just that.  Here it is….

Apart from being a great song, it also contains the following lyrics;

It’s the first day of the integrated transport plans,
Let us celebrate this monumental progress.
We have reduced emisions by 75%
It’s a magical day and it will be even better tomorrow,
Let us make the best of a difficult situation.

(One person’s attempt at writing out the lyrics here).

So to me it reads like a song of celebration from a point in the future, say in 20 or 30 years, that has successfully managed to cut its emissions by 75%.  The mental picture it conjures up for me is of a town or city that has collectively embraced the challenge of climate change, has planned creatively and with the support and engagement of the population, and here they are, all out on the street celebrating the achievement of a three-quarters cut in emissions.  While their new trams are the focal point, there is also a sense of huge pride at the overall achievement, as well as a sense of optimism that “it will be even better tomorrow”.

What intrigues me, both in song and in story, is those examples that don’t say “what we should do is” or “why isn’t anyone”… but rather those that insert the reader/listener in a world that has already done it…. which this song does beautifully. That’s how I hear it anyway.  Might, of course, be about something completely different.  But it has put a spring in my step, and if you spend the way singing “we have reduced emissions by 75%” all day as a catchy refrain, then there’s a positive aspiration ticking away in the subconscious!  The rest of the album is pretty fine too…

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Tom A
29 Jun 10:28am

The pop nerd in you will also be pleased to know that the German rap is performed by Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand! And yes you’re right the song is about what you think:

Gruff says: “A celebratory anthem regarding the opening of a new tram line in a fictitious utopian mainland Europe town. The reason this song was written about the opening of a new tram system, was because that was the most uplifting occasion I could think of. My great-grandmother was run over by a tram in the Mumbles. But I’m still very much in favour of trams as a low-emission inner-city transport solution. The song is about commemorating the opening with a secular holiday. It’s a celebration of living with science rather than religion.” (Times March 20,2009.

29 Jun 11:33am

That’s very inspiring Tom! Maybe the Transition Timeline should include a chapter on “The End of Religion” visualizing a future in which we have achieved transition by a rejection of stories, fantasies and pseudoscience in favor of critical thinking and evidence-based policies. Rock on!

Dave Prescott
29 Jun 1:02pm

My nomination for a ‘Transition song’ is Oxygen by Willy Mason:


…I wanna hold up my head with dignity
Proud of a life where to give means more than to take
I want to live beyond the modern mentality
Where paper is all that you’re really taught to create…

29 Jun 7:14pm

On a totally different note – theres someone else across the Pond who is obviously wanting to have a dialogue with us…ie Sharon Astyk of “Casaubons Book” blog note. You might like to read her post on us:

Leo Brodie
29 Jun 9:13pm

Here’s a celebration of the future that’s actually happening now:

Produce travels from Sequim to Seattle by sailboat

[Reid] decided to explore new territory- proving what’s possible when it comes to delivering food. It’s high time, he believes, to move away from fossil-fueled modes of shipping.

30 Jun 11:39pm

If we’re looking at a ‘Now That’s What I Call Transition’ compilation, I commend this to the house: – Tower of Power’s ‘Only So Much Oil in the Ground’.

30 Jun 11:42pm


There’s only so much oil on the ground
Sooner or later there won’t be much around
Tell that to your kids while you driving downtown
That there’s only so much oil on the ground

Can’t cut loose without that juice
Can’t cut loose without that juice
If we keep on like we doing things for sure
Will not be cool – It’s a fact
We just ain’t got suffiecient fuel

There’s only so much oil in the ground
Sooner or later there won’t be none around
Alternate sources of power must be found
Cause there’s only so much oil in the ground

There’s only so much oil in the earth
It’s a fact of life – for what it’s worth
Something every little boy and girl should know since birth
That there’s only so much oil in the ground

There’s no excuse for our abuse
No excuse for our abuse
We just assume that we will not
Exceed the oil supply
But soon enough the world will watch the wells run dry.


Graham Burnett
30 Jun 11:48pm

Back in the days of the Wapping Anarchist Centre circa 1981/82 a regular act that played were Hornchurch band What Is Oil? – a question surely many will be asking in the post-carbon, post-eergy descent era, non??

Graham Burnett
30 Jun 11:51pm

Carl – that is one cheesy slice of cheese you have managed to unearth there!