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.

8 Jul 2010

Why Transition Culture has been a bit quiet lately…

I am feeling very guilty about the infrequency of posts here, dear Transition Culture reader, and so wanted to explain my lack of regular blogging activity.  I am very close to finishing the PhD I have been doing over the last 3 years (alongside everything else), which is entitled “Localisation and resilience at the local level: the case of Transition Town Totnes (Devon, UK)”.    A PhD, I am rapidly, and wearily, discovering, is rather like building a house.  When you build a house, you reach a stage where you think you are 90% done, walls up, all the slating done on the roof, windows in.  You soon find out though that you are only about halfway there, that all the fiddly bits and finishing things off take an inordinate amount of time.  So it is with a PhD.  I am aiming to hand it in by the end of this month, so am flat out tweaking, editing, cross-checking, throwing my hands up and wondering why I ever started it in the first place… .  It will be more widely available from mid-Autumn, but I thought for now you might at least like to see the Contents, to give you a taster of what’s to come (click ‘Read More’ to see it).  I do hope it will be something that you will all find useful… Right, back to it…Contents.


Author’s Declaration..

Chapter 1. Introduction.

1.1.      The Background to this research..

1.2.      The Research Gap.

1.3.   Aims and Objectives.

1.4.      Structure.

Chapter 2.  Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Challenge of Energy Descent

2.1. Introduction.

2.2. Energy Use.

2.3. Peak Oil and Climate Change.

2.4.   Future Scenarios: Assessing the Scale of the Challenge.

2.4.1. Introduction.

2.4.2. The Scale of the Challenge.

2.4.3. The Concept of ‘Energy Descent’ .

2.4.4. Future Scenarios.

2.4.5. The Post Peak Scenarios Model.

2.5. Resilience.

2.5.1. What is Resilience?

2.5.2. What does resilience thinking contribute to sustainability?

2.5.3.  Does Resilience Mean Relocalisation?

2.5.4. Resilient to What?

2.5.5.  Measuring resilience.

2.5.6. Resilience and Communities.

2.5.7.  Government Views on Resilience.

2.5.8. Case Studies of Community Resilience.

2.5.9. Resilience as an Opportunity/Adaptive or Transformational Resilience.

2.6. Energy Descent – a Crisis or an Opportunity?

2.6.1. Introduction.

2.6.2. Relocalisation as a Possible Response to Peak Oil.

2.6.3.  Localisation.

2.6.4.  Critics of Localisation.

2.6.5.  The Transition movement as a positive response to energy descent.

2.7. Lessons from Behavioural Studies.

2.7.1. Introduction.

2.7.2. Insights from Behavioural Studies 1: why people don’t change.

2.7.3. Insights from Behavioural Studies 2: w hy People Do Change.

2.8. Conclusion.

Chapter 3.  Methodology.

3.1.  Introduction.

3.2.  Aims of this Chapter.

3.3.  Case Study Approach.

3.3.1.  An Introduction to Totnes – the basis for this study.

3.4. Methods.

3.4.1. Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches.

3.4.2 Oral Histories.

3.4.3. Quantitative Questionnaire Surveys.

3.4.4.  In depth interviews with contemporary stakeholder groups.

3.4.5.  Focus Groups.

3.4.6. Public Participatory Tools.

3.5.  Data Analysis.

3.6.  Conclusions.

Chapter 4.  Transition Town Totnes: The Case Study.

4.1.  Introduction.

4.2. The Case Study: Why Totnes?

4.3  Totnes and District: some socioeconomic data.

4.4.  Totnes; a crucible of alternative culture?  Typical town or ‘unique’?

4.5.  Transition Town Totnes, its inception, objectives and process.

4.6.  Reflexivity and Positionality.

4.7. Conclusions.

Chapter 5.  Meeting Basic Needs: Constraints and opportunities for the adoption of relocalised energy descent pathways in Totnes.

5.1.  Introduction.

5.2.  Attitudes to energy and relocalisation.

5.2.1.      Community Attitudes.

5.2.2.      Local Government Attitudes.

5.3.      The Practicalities of Relocalisation: the scale of the challenge of meeting basic needs .

5.3.1.      ‘Reflexive’ and ‘Unreflexive’ Localism.

5.3.2.      Might Localism Better Meet Key Psychological Needs?

5.3.3.      The Localisation/Globalisation Tension.

5.3.4.      Beyond Economic Growth.

5.3.5.      Localisation and Local Economic Regeneration.

5.4.  Food:  Could Totnes Feed Itself?

5.4.1. Introduction.

5.4.2. Conceptualising Local Food Systems.

5.4.3. Empirical Modelling of Local Food Systems.

5.5.  Energy: Can Totnes power itself?

5.6.  Housing: Can Totnes house itself?

5.7. Transport.

5.8. Conclusions.

Chapter 6. Community Structures Required for Relocalisation.

6.1. Introduction.

6.2. Do existing political structures enable/support relocalisation?

6.2.1. Existing political structures in the area.

6.2.2. Shortcomings in the current system.

6.2.3. The Totnes Development Plan Document.

6.3. Governance for Transition.

6.3.1. ‘Localism’ or ‘localisation’?  The national context.

6.3.2. Principles for Transition Local Government.

6.3.3. A Tentative Approach to Governing for Transition.

6.3.4. What Might Transition Local Government Look Like?

6.4.  Which stakeholders need to be involved?

6.4.1. The Challenges of Inclusion.

6.4.2. Other Stakeholders.

6.4.3.      Why Visions Matter?.

6.5.  Conclusions.

Chapter 7.  Resilience: a Gentle Descent or Emergency Preparedness? Finding the most practical direction for a community’s efforts.

7.1. Introduction.

7.2. Heinberg’s ‘Powerdown/Building Lifeboats’ debate.

7.3. What Levels of Resilience Were There Historically in Totnes?.

7.4.      Assessing Emotional/Personal Resilience.

7.4.1. Can Transition Facilitate Psychological Resilience?

7.4.2. Measuring happiness.

7.4.3. The Qualities of Human/Psychological Resilience.

7.4.4.  Community Scale Resilience.

7.5. ‘Transition Together’, ‘Transition Streets’ and the Totnes EDAP.

7.6. The concept of ‘Resilience Indicators’.

7.7.  Social Enterprise: the key to stepping across from thinking to doing?

7.8. Transition Town Totnes’s ability to create parallel public infrastructure.

7.9.      Conclusion.

Chapter 8.  To what extent can lessons learned from the Totnes case study inform similar debates on energy descent pathways in other localities?

8.1. Key Findings.

8.2. Lessons for Elsewhere.

8.3. My Positionality.

8.4.  Future research.

8.5. Final Remarks.



Appendix 1.  Survey Questionnaire.

Appendix 2.  A Sample Transcribed Oral History Interview:  with Douglas Matthews from Staverton.

Appendix 3: Transcriptions from notes taken at World Cafe session, ‘Can Totnes Feed Itself?’ event, Methodist Hall, Totnes.

Appendix 4.  Powering Totnes Beyond Cheap Oil.  Notes from an Open Space Day on Energy.  Saturday 14th October 2006.

Appendix 5.  A Condensed History of Totnes.

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


Maxine Walker
8 Jul 2:20pm


Robert H. Hopkins
8 Jul 2:42pm

Good metaphor; I’ve built several houses, and after you dry in and get the walls done and all the structure done, the finishing is at least as much work, usually more.
Best of luck to you, then…

Linda Hull
8 Jul 5:57pm

Go Rob!

8 Jul 7:17pm

Kudos to you for sticking with it! The contents look fascinating – I hope it ends up being published one day. Please keep us informed.

Andrew Ramponi
8 Jul 9:00pm

I think your thesis might become one of the few Phd’s that more than 3 other people actually read, and find interesting.

Good luck with the snagging and final polish!

9 Jul 2:55am

It looks to me – as a new fence sitting – member of Transition – that from the Contents headings your PhD could make a very relevant and interesting book. Australia could do with some UK examples.

Alejandro Ahumada
9 Jul 8:33am

Transition Culture and a Phd??!! :-O

I’m amazed you find the time…

Best of luck, break a leg and fingers crossed 😉

I also hope you publish it one day.

9 Jul 3:39pm


David R
9 Jul 7:44pm

I’ve just done an introductory OU course and thought my head would explode. You must have a scandalous capacity for organising your time!

Andrew M
9 Jul 8:50pm

Great site, yeoman’s effort involved, it’s clear. Best on the Ph.D., which will not only distinguish you, but should also distinguish the subject matter by association. Clearly you are the right person for this particular project. I’ll be following along, and working from your materials (with attribution, goes without saying) in similar endeavors stateside.

A thought: should you determine the thesis would make a good book (and we all appear to agree it will), what about submitting it for this community to review in sections, adding our constructive comments and suggestions for content, editorial input, etc–an open-source collaboration, of sorts.

Carry on, then.

Marcin Gerwin
9 Jul 9:39pm

Rob, I’m looking forward to reading this bit: “What Might Transition Local Government Look Like?” 😉

Beth Tilston
10 Jul 9:20am

Dr Hopkins. Cool!

Melissa Worth
10 Jul 3:43pm

Good luck witth the home run!

10 Jul 4:41pm

I have this particular T-shirt, so … very, very best of luck with the final stages of thesis-birth!

John Robottom
11 Jul 5:37pm

I had wondered if you would ever get your thesis finished. Heaven knows how you find the time. I find writing OU essays bad enough. Very best wishes for a successful thesis. John

13 Jul 12:22pm

Perhaps your next work could advise the rest of us how to be even half as productive as you are…all the best, Trugs.

Jennifer Lauruol
16 Jul 10:47pm

Go for it!

kitty de bruin
27 Jul 11:27am

A MUST for all transitioners, thanks for all the good work you are doing