Transition Culture

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

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17 Oct 2010

Tim Jackson on Economic Growth from this year’s TED Talks

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


Milton Dixon
18 Oct 12:02am

A fabulous talk! I think I’ll watch it again.

Maria A. Salgado
18 Oct 12:37am

I’m told I need a plugin and proceed to install it. Then I’m told it is already install, but next time I try to open a site it tells me again that I need to install the plugin. Frustrating!

Brad K.
18 Oct 1:35am

What an innovative approach to traditional fundraising. Tim holds up Ecosia as a sterling example of combining the traditional definition of search engines with the novelty of donating part of the proceeds – for a fund raising project.

I thought the presentation was well done, but while he posits the worst of consumerist society is entirely focused on the quadrant he labels “novelty” – he enjoins that all the answers must come from change and new tech. That sounds like “novelty” to me.

His other/self, tradition/novelty graph I think has possibilities for evaluating myself and projects. But that was really the only part I got from the talk, aside from how fund raising is the answer to making everyone rich.

I was disappointed that he stuck by the consumerist and fund raiser gimmick of quantifying the lives of poor in terms of cash. This trivializes traditions, equivalence of food nutrition and quality, lifestyle choices, and cultural legacies. Yes, some comparison must be made to portray poverty and affluence. How about equivalence in terms of energy, that is, in watts, in BTUs and kilojoules? Or a “therm” – 37.37 BTUs (I got that idea from the Christopher Stasheff sf novel “A Company of Stars”). This would be one way to relate equivalence of cost to produce, process, transport, and distribute food.

I was impressed with the April 2007 talk by William McDonough.

This talk seems merely to empower traditional(?) consumerist marketing principles.

Marcin Gerwin
18 Oct 9:01am

Maria, perhaps you could try another web browser?

Graham White
18 Oct 9:15am

I hate watching videos on websites. Is a transcript available?

18 Oct 10:02am

“I was disappointed that he stuck by the consumerist and fund raiser gimmick of quantifying the lives of poor in terms of cash.”

Wasn’t his point that at least this is a way of distributing money back to those who need it most? Surely this is the key to transition.

In a perfect world it would be great to say, “We in the developed world have seen the error of our ways and renounce consumerisim… here… have all the money you need!”

That’s not how addicts behave. We are stuck in the system and we are going to have to work the system in order to break from it. As Bill Murray finds out in Scrooged… baby steps!!

Dave Ackroyd
18 Oct 10:31am

Brad K.
18 Oct 4:02pm


Wasn’t his point that at least this is a way of distributing money back to those who need it most? Surely this is the key to transition.

So – transition is merely the same “tax the rich” scheme as always. Sending cash for . . what? Anywhere there are poor, there are predators – tyrants – that glom onto any cash moving into the area. And cash is seen by most economies as what you buy luxuries with. You know – cash is excess wealth to be used for consumer activities.

Moving cash around hasn’t resolved America’s poverty or homeless issues, today it certainly hasn’t done anything to resolve unemployment.

I read Brazil reassured the environmentally concerned that they held the rainforest destruction to 1,000 square miles in a year. I also understand that the Indianapolis 500 and other races of that type have contracted to burn only ethanol – shipped overseas from Brazil. Brazil seems heavily invested in burning ethanol from their “reclaimed” rainforest land. I see precious little activity that expresses an intent to actually undo the devastation – what kind of fundraising is going to sequester carbon, or restore the energy balance and weather impacts that reforesting the Amazon Basin would do? Reforesting will not happen as long as the authorities there are invested in exploitation. That goes for anywhere there are poor or starving.

In the mean time, so much of “sustainable” energy isn’t. I don’t know what the energy return is on wind farms for electricity in the UK – but unlike the historic windmills of Holland and the staid Aeromotor well pump models, the modern version takes a lot of government money to make, transport (I don’t see many electric lorries yet), erect, and maintain. That is a lot of current energy – either oil or coal-fired electricity, mostly, or oil and oil products.

I had considered transition to be essentially to prepare for and investigate ways to avoid the profligate use of energy we currently base our way of life upon.

The Ecosys model requires users to maintain the modern consumerist (shopping early, shopping often, online) model to stay in business, let alone make contributions. Let the audience begin living at a sustainable energy level – modest computer usage, homespun or bartered clothes and food, make do with what you have or do without – and the enterprise will close in a week. That is not the same thing as “transitioning” from today toward tomorrow. That is investing heavily – their livelihood – in today’s approach continuing for the life of their enterprise.

There is a gentleman selling plans and kits – pvc or all brass – for installing a hand pump in existing shallow wells. I see that as a transition activity.

Crunchy Chicken announced her fourth annual “freeze your buns” challenge, an invitation to turn the heater down to a lower temperature. That makes sense, in a Peak Oil and economically unstable world.

Cash itself might be a by-product of profligate use of excess energy – and inflation/deflation may well be in the process of realigning purchase power of money to actual energy available. Getting used to that notion would be a transition activity.

Meanwhile, I find I am more and more opposed to fundraising in general as time goes on. The parable about “give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for life” comes to mind. Sending money, no matter how it is spent, is giving a “fish”. You have not taken personal responsibility, taken the poor into your home, taken there welfare and interests into your own hands.

That is something the wealthy do, when they hire helpers and employees. Until the do-gooders tax them into mundane poverty.

I agree with the others, the presentation is uplifting and interesting. But the substance underneath it is the same old fundraising mantra that has been with us since mass media and mass marketing – another expression of exploitation of the wealth of excess cheap energy.

19 Oct 9:30am

Interesting points Brad.

I watched dispatches last night, about tax havens, and it mentioned that for every unit of currency that enteres many third world countries, ten units leave to sit in tax havens.

Would you agree with fundraising if those funds were actually used to empower individuals and not line the pockets of various interested parties?

Interesting TED talk by the way. I have William McDonough’s book on my ‘pile of books to read’. Will move it to the top and look forward to reading it!

Graham White
19 Oct 12:19pm

Thanks for the transcript. Interesting.

Perhaps the first step is to invent more eco-bling to satisfy our current behavioural needs: I’m spending my savings on a wood pellet boiler. No more oil!