Transition Culture

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

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22 Oct 2010

An Update on All Things Transitioney and French

Transition-wise things seem to be moving along very swiftly in France, so here are a few of the more recent developments we want to share with you. The “In Transition 1.0” film is now available on Vimeo with embedded subtitles,  thanks so much to Paul for helping us out with this. Also, more fantastic news is that Rob’s Transition Handbook has now been translated into French and published by Ecosocieté, so we hope this will inspire even more Transition initiatives to take off in France. Also, Kitty de Bruin and her web-guru Francis have built a wonderful new website for the French Network here. It seems there’s loads of Transition activity going on in France at the moment, but some of you are doing it rather quietly and secretively so we want you to tell us what you’re up to! Looking at the Initiatives Directory on the Transition Network website, there are three mulling initiatives in France: Salies de Béarn, Sucy-en-Brie, and Un système de partage global. We’ve also heard there’s been a Transition meeting in Lyon, so we wish you all the best with getting a Transition Initiative started up there. If there are any more groups in France, mulling or official, please do let us know by adding yourselves to the Directory of Transition Initiatives and add your projects to the Projects Directory. Also it seems likely a national co-ordinating body will soon emerge in France, so please make sure Ben at Transition Network is kept up to date with these developments….

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


22 Oct 11:13am

Merci beaucoup

kitty de bruin
22 Oct 11:41am

is a vimeo a new english word ?combining film and video


Richard Bell
22 Oct 5:53pm

Kitty, “vimeo” is not a new English word. It’s what you might call a “branding word,” since it’s the name of a company, Vimeo, that bills itself as “Vimeo is a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make. We provide the best tools and highest quality video in the universe.”

I’m sure your guess about how they came up with the name by combining film and video is right. (Although they might have hired one of those companies that uses computers to generate lists of “new” words–like Exxon!)

Ed Straker
22 Oct 7:40pm

What does Transition France have to say about all of the striking and rioting there, all about changing the retirement age? If they are getting this upset over entitlements, how are they possibly going to handle peak oil?

Bart Anderson
23 Oct 6:38am

One of the limitations of Transition is that it has no way to think about events like those in France.

What is going on in France is a precursor of conflicts in the rest of the world. As the economic situation gets tight, who will shoulder the burdens: the rich or working people? There is an inevitable conflict.

Giving in to the government’s proposed reform does not make France more resilient. On the contrary, it merely allows the present unsustainable arrangements to continue.

To make a successful Transition, working hours need to decrease, so that people have time to build community — so that Transition is not just a hobby for retired people and students, but is within the reach of working people.

Bart Anderson
Energy Bulletin
Transition Palo Alto

Jon Barrett
23 Oct 6:56am

Ed, for many people the strikes here in France have been focused around the raising of the retirement age but more widely they are reacting to authoritarian top-down measures that place the burden of economic “recovery” entirely onto the ordinary working person. Some of the literature I have been given by marchers presents the concept of decroissance” (degrowth), argues for a steady-state economy and presents eminently sensible alternative ways to tackle the national deficit other than increasing working age.

I have also seen side-debates taking place on topics such as Herve Kempf’s “Comment les riches detruisent la planete” - – Kempf is environmnet editor of Le Monde who has written a lyrical criticism of vested interests and the impossibility of continuing business as usual.

The French are often accused of being eco-illiterate. But watching from this side of the Channel, it surprises many of my French friends who have joined the protests here that people in the UK are so passive in the face of ‘business as usual’ government responses to our national and global economic, energetic and environmental crises.

Jon Barrett
23 Oct 7:12am

PS. Beware of being influenced by media coverage to describe the French strikers and demonstrators as ‘rioting’ – it happens amongst a tiny minority and makes good headlines for sure but in my relatively lowly populated area of Brittany, thousands have joined in the ‘manifs’ which have been very calm affairs policed by only a handful of sympathetic firemen and municipal police.

kitty de bruin
23 Oct 10:17am

I agree with you Jon, i live in the south west of France, only a very quiet demonstration of youngsters who are claiming that a raise of the working age will lead to less acces of young people to work. And in my opinion the problem of deviding work and resources, the unfair tax system are the basis of this problem in france.
But strike is here ‘the answer’ of people who are not pleased with the current situation. I hope that transition can really make a difference, to be independent of all this consumerdriven economy can create a better and more “solidaire” world

Ed Straker
23 Oct 1:26pm

I don’t think it matters whether the strike is “peaceful” or not if it’s having a TEOTAWKI impact by shutting down the liquid fuel infrastructure, waste disposal, etc… Is this not the OPPOSITE of the resilience-building that Transition Towns are supposed to focus on? It’s basically a form of extortion.

If they want to argue for steady state, argue for steady state. Start powering down. Learn to live with less. To an outsider, it looks like they are doing the reverse, arguing for more entitlements, rather than accepting that the future will not have the energy or economic surplus to continue to extend the same entitlements they’re used to.

Bart Anderson
23 Oct 8:00pm

@Ed, when you talk about living with less, who are you talking about? The rich and powerful, as represented by Sarkozy and his hyper-consumption friends? Or the 70% of the French population who support the strikes?

Where are the cuts going to come? Really, there has to be a little more clear thinking. The significant entitlements are those directed towards the military and the industries with lobbying power. In the US, for example, 19-44% of the federal budget goes to the military (depending on how you figure it). Shouldn’t there be a little belt-tightening there?

These are not academic questions about “steady state.” They are conflicts of interest that will be decided politically, sometimes in the Parliament and sometimes in the streets.


kitty de bruin
23 Oct 9:21pm

Why is this conversation in english, about a french situation? and can anybody help me to translate english or dutch text to french to put on the french website?

Kitty de Bruin

Jon Barrett
24 Oct 7:18am

Kitty, my French is not good enough to help – translation is usually best done into the translator’s first language anyway. But I am happy to ask around locally – such a collaborative task might help in kick-starting a Transition initiative where I live! You can you contact me directly if you want to – jontybarrett(at)gmail(dot)com

kitty de bruin
24 Oct 10:11am

dear John, you must be the husband of Leigh? If so your site (with also a link on the french website) is already beautufull and a good example for french people to put actions on a site , instead of discussions( what is also important) but we beed both, are you from SQY?


kitty de bruin
24 Oct 10:15am

dear John, you must be the husband of Leigh? If so your site (with also a link on the french website) is already beautyfull and a good example for everybody to put actions on a site , instead of discussions( what is also important) but we need both, are you from SQY?


24 Oct 11:04am

This period of strikes in France is also the opportunity to speak about peak oil, climate change and resource depletion issues. I’m doing that with my colleagues and the result is always interesting, even if they are far from understanding the urgency of the situation.
I was also at the first transition meeting in Lyon, and we hope something can finally start here also.

Leigh Barret
24 Oct 11:38am

I’d love to add our French transition initiative to the directory, but when I clock on the “add your initiative” button, I get an “unauthorised to access” message. Ideas?

Leigh Barret
24 Oct 11:43am

Hello Kitty, hello John,
No we aren’t related. My husband is French so it is Barret with one “t” instead of two.
But “Go Transition!” in Brittanny, by the way !
best wishes,

danielle grunberg
24 Oct 2:39pm

En Francais pour changer un peu et aussi pour eclaircir un peu la situation Transition en France
( Mon francais, ecrit, est loin d’etre parfait).
J’en ai deja parle un peu aved Helen,l’assistante de Rob.
Pour la deuxieme fois j’entends dire que ” le mouvement Transition en France est ‘ cache’ ou ‘sousterrain'( commentaires d’une Francaise et une Anglaise)ce qui selon moi est absolument faux.
Ce n’est pas du tout ce que j’ai vue en voyageant un peu partout en France, en parlant aux groupes en villes et en campagne. Tout au contraire. Il existe en ce moment un bouillonement formidable.
D’un cote, ce qui est difficile pour les Anglais de comprendre,et ce qui est bien encre dans la culture Francaise ,c’est le plaisir du DEBAT. Ont aime ca, ca prends du temps et l’action vient…plus tard…. En Grande Bretagne, par contre, il y a une tendance naturelle a agir dabord.
En ce qui concerne mon interlocutrice Francaise
( Nature et Decouverte qui organise une Table Ronde a Paris le 12 Novembre, Marjolaine, a la quelle je suis invite) je lui ai assure que les groupes en France deviennent de plus en plus VISIBLE et nombreux.
Danielle-une-jambe en Ecosse-et-une-plus-longue- en-France.
Si vous etes a Paris, venez, venez et qu’on ce rencontre pour un bon non-debat!

Ed Straker
24 Oct 3:38pm

‘These are not academic questions about “steady state.” They are conflicts of interest that will be decided politically, sometimes in the Parliament and sometimes in the streets.’

This to me refers back to the debate between Rob Hopkins and Heinberg. Is there a role for Transition in a society that is on the brink of revolution?

Are people going to be holding Open Spaces for the community at a time when there are artificial fuel shortages and waste disposal backups caused by the strikers?

So it’s not about deciding who is right and wrong. It’s about defining the utility of the Transition model in the midst of social chaos. Transition is an Energy Descent action plan. It is not a way to triage anarchy or civil war.

If we were on some other forum we could discuss the strike issue in general. I just think waving banners for the strikers on a Transition forum really calls into question the relevance of Transition itself.

kitty de bruin
24 Oct 5:29pm

To Leigh,

did you did the insription first?

And to the moderators
i think that ile de paris is a tool and not a initiative,
And the few french initiatives on the Uk network are those of foreigners who speak reasonably english,thats why we did build the portal/website,for the french and in french to make the french initiatives visible

Bart Anderson
24 Oct 6:17pm

Situations like those in France ARE the time for Transition to demonstrate its relevance. Do we stick our heads in the sand, and pretend these things aren’t happening?

Do we repeat the comments about the strikes that we read in the newspapers, or do we go beyond the conventional wisdom and learn from what is happening there?

If Transition has good group processes in place, how do we talk about things like this?

For what it’s worth, I think strikes and political turmoil are MUCH more likely to be the way that we experience peak oil, etc. than shortages of food.

In the UK and the US, cuts are being made and people are passively accepting them. The result is increased poverty, mental depression, polarization of the classes. I fail to see how this passivity, even with Transition-style band aids, can continue indefinitely.

Leigh Barret
24 Oct 8:06pm

Kitty, yes, thank you I did just register our initiative.

However, I don’t much like the idea of being called a “muller” on our initiative description ! SQYenTransition isn’t “mulling” about transition at all, but very much engaged in the “active” state, we are not underground, etc.

Ed Straker
25 Oct 4:15am

“Situations like those in France ARE the time for Transition to demonstrate its relevance. Do we stick our heads in the sand, and pretend these things aren’t happening?”

You’re wrong. The Transition Town concept rests on a single premise, that is to prepare for chaos while the situation is still relatively normal. The EDAPs which extend out to 2025 are by itself polyanna in assuming that we actually have that much time before peak oil hits.

The original TT concept didn’t even factor in economic collapse. It only dealt with the “dual crisis” of peak oil and global warming. Since 2008 it’s had to play catch-up with the flow of history.

Transition Towns should not be just forming at a time when the fabric of society is already crumbling. It will be too late for Transition’s orderly approach to make a difference.

BTW, in my Transition Training there was no mention whatsoever of endorsing infrastructure-crippling strikes. That sort of thing is more of what someone like Derrick Jensen might sanction, not Rob Hopkins. Transition is supposed to apply positive reinforcement only.

Transition “going where it wants to” should not be used as an excuse to have it embrace behavior that runs counter to its charter.

Bart Anderson
25 Oct 8:17pm

I think you’ve missed one of the most important messages of Transition, Ed, that of listening and openness to new information. The attention to communication and group process is what keeps Transition from falling into dogmatism.

How does a movement like Transition find out about new events and adapt to them? If there’s one thing that monitoring the situation has taught me, it’s to expect the unexpected.

You’ve mentioned how Transition originally missed the problem of economic turmoil. In a similar way, it has missed the widespread protests in France, as well as in many other countries. And this is just a foreshadowing of what’s to come.

We have a choice when confronted with the unexpected. We can shut our ears, and repeat the same ideas again and again. Or we can be open to learning.

France is one example.

There are other important things happening beyond the English-speaking word, such as the “Vivir Bien” movements in Bolivia, Ecuador and elsewhere.


adrienne campbell
25 Oct 11:16pm

Vive la Revolution!

‘But watching from this side of the Channel, it surprises many of my French friends who have joined the protests here that people in the UK are so passive in the face of ‘business as usual’ government responses to our national and global economic, energetic and environmental crises.’

We have submitted to a week of budget cuts, caused 80% by the bailout by the banks’ excessive risky lending and bonses. And there are no walkouts on the streets.

Bernadette Barclay
26 Oct 2:10pm

Salut a tous – Hi everyone

Bienvenue a Kitty et companie sur nos discussions ici. Welcome to Kitty and co. to our discussions here.

The fact that the French are striking to hold on to their hard won social gains is to be supported. Again, reports of riots need to be set against all the non-violent action that is happening.

And yes, I would like to see them coming out on the streets to support the social and economic change we need to mitigate climate change, peak oil and economic injustice. Ditto for the UK (and everywhere)

Lastly, the need for community activists is even more important at a time of upheaval.

So go Transition go !

Jon Barrett
26 Oct 3:44pm

Bart, thank you for your considered words on the social unrest in France and what it might presage for other developed Western economies now wrestling with the early stages of economic turmoil. Also for the coverage of the French situation on Energy Bulletin. I feel sure you are right to suggest that this is what societal responses to ‘limits to growth’ will increasingly look like.

Adrienne, yes, “vive la revolution” – although I do not want to suggest that the reported 70% of the population in favour of the protests here necessarily have any more awareness of energy depletion, loss of biodiversity or alternatives to capital growth economics than do the majority of people in the UK or US.

My point was really that those amongst the protesters who do have an awareness of ‘converging crises’ and of the urgent need to challenge the status quo have used the ‘retraite’ protests as a vehicle for awareness raising and discussion of wider but related issues.

My understanding of Transition in France is that it has been slowly brewing here over two or three years thanks to the work of people like those on the Objectif Resilience forum. There may be several reasons why it is perceived to have been slower to take off here than in other places; not least that, despite market globalization, many aspects of localism still persist in France. For instance, although France has Europe’s largest and most industrialised agriculture, many simple rural crafts and traditions persist – I can’t begin to count the number of local people who grow their own vegetables and, where I live at least, there is a food market in one or other local village every day of the week. And (although public spending reforms increasingly threaten this) many local matters of infrastructure and services still remain in the hands of local people who are locally active through the commune system. Also, in comparison to the UK, many people in France – especially those in rural areas – do continue to live simpler less consumptive lives and place high value on the basics of food, family and leisure. So many key aspects of Transition already exist in the French way of life, if not necessarily a widespread understanding of the crises the movement has formed to address.

Kitty, you asked above, why the discussion of a French situation in English? I am guessing that you were not questioning the right of English speakers on an English website to debate a French (or Russian or Chinese or any other country’s) situation but were actually wondering why such opinionated comment about the French situation should be expressed by non-French nationals. This seems a valid point and may also account for a certain resistance to the idea of Transition that I have found locally. I suspect that my being English, not French, may in part account for my lack of success in generating interest in an idea conceived in England and so far largely taken up by English speaking countries – or else promoted by English speaking ex-pats like me!
As Danielle comments, it is clear that there is a considerable movement building in France that focuses on the need for transition (with a small ‘t’). But perhaps there is less enthusiasm for modeling a French transition on an Anglo one? After all, France already has strong movements for bio-regionalism, peasant farming, organic agriculture, de-growth, the protection of the environment and much more, which are active both through national organizations and through a myriad of local associations.

My wife and I are English living in France, looking to act on ideas that we have understood primarily in the context of our own culture and language and still often surprised at the depth of cultural differences between our neighbouring countries. In one sense we are in France as ‘economic migrants’ because, thanks to the property speculation the French have largely avoided, in the UK we could not afford the plot of land and dilapidated farm we have here to develop our ideas for a ‘sustainable life’ centre and outreach resource (La projet pour une vie durable). Our experience is that – just like anywhere else – some local people are in tune with our ideas whilst others really couldn’t care less. But we have learned from our decidedly uphill (though still ongoing!) efforts to form a local Transition group that it is far more helpful to inform ourselves first about how French people themselves are evolving solutions to the crises we are facing so we can work out how best to become involved and make a contribution without seeking to ‘evangelise’ or superimpose our own cultural understanding of the issues.

As Bart points out, an important part of the Transition concept is listening and openness to other ideas. This is what makes the idea so infinitely transferrable and adaptable to different places and contexts. And thanks to the work of Kitty and others, a truly French Transition movement is starting to happen here alongside the wide range of other important French grass-roots initiatives. Exciting times!

kitty de bruin
5 Nov 10:21pm

Thank you Bernadette, and i agree with you, action! ,like Leigh told us in her interview on the french website. But actions are different per culture,and especially when it concerns political mathers.
and Jon off course I think also that is very interesting to discuss french issues (or issues from other countries) on a english blog, especially when you are english or understand it,and also when you are living in France or interested in different cultures. And you are right, fortunatly the french do appreciate the good and local food, and a lot of farmer- markets do still exist, but we have to defend those valuables and re -inforce them. Because it is a shame that the hugh supermakets in france are selling kiwi’s from new zealand, while we have a large production here, in the south west of france
And about the pace of transition, it could be the ‘non invented here’ syndrome, but i don’t think so, a movement takes time, and it is not supprisingly that most of the first initiatives in France are set up by foreigners.The french persons (in this area) are in general not fluent in english, and the material was not quickly translated.I know persons who have very bad acces to foreign websites,( try to go from the orange box to a dutch or english website!) even when i try to connect to my english account i’m constantly rerouted to the
But a lot of eco and not eco persons are understanding the transition message and concepts and they love it. But the problem is to convert that to the right actions and to find a link between all the associations,what is at least here the name of the game(we have 88 associations in a town of 5000 persons) I hope that the website will be used as a meeting place, it still is not finished, i need flyers with short, crispy text to explain the transition concept to people. And we b need examples of actions, working groups etc , because my dream is that we have within a year a nice inspirational part, where people can find mostly FRENCH examples about what could happen in your town when you start transition

Leigh Barret
6 Nov 10:15am

A word about the initiatives initiated by foreigners. It does help to have a really good understanding of English in order to understand the materials regarding Transition. I’m holding my breath waiting for the brand new Manuel de Transition in French to arrive in my mailbox so I can share it with the people in our group, none of whom have a good enough understanding of English to use the anglophone manuel.

However, many French are very interested in initiating Transition in their towns… but there is no Transition Training in French !

It is not very helpful to insist that our French groups travel to a training in a language that they do not understand in order to be considered “official” either.

Also, from a perspective of reducing our carbon imprints, it certainly seems like a better idea to bring one French speaking person who is qualified to do both Basic and Training the Trainers, than to expect dozens of French to travel to get the training. Once we have the possibility to have training in French, combined with the Manuel de Transition, I think the French Transition mouvement will grow by leaps.

I have written three times to the UK inquiring about a training the trainers course, with no response, but the Paris group says they are in contact with folks in the UK too. Hopefully, something will come of it in 2011. For the moment, we are “mulling” along as positively and energetically as possible.

kitty de bruin
9 Nov 11:38pm

Dear Leigh,

We plan to have translated the training the end of januari, and the first TT in Franee ( in french) will take place in spring 2011, you could follow the news about training on (under acceuil, formation) I saw also your message on the google group, thank you for your offer to help and to be involved, and i will contact you by tel.
Kind regards,

Leigh Barret
10 Nov 7:39am

Thanks so much. I discovered the ongoing work of translation of TT into French just after posting here. Count me in !

kitty de bruin
21 Nov 2:49pm

Thank you Leigh, you website is a good inspiration for other french initiatives, and the project verger en ville seems very interesting, could you send me a french resume about it? We are in Salies also preparing a jardin collectif, i’m very curious how this will work in France, the local group said that it will be very difficult , but we try involve aal local people, living around this park and see how far we wiil come with this projet. Im writing it in french what is for me more difficult than writing in english

kitty de bruin
18 Dec 4:57pm

Congratulaions Leigh! Fisrt officiel ville en transition , i hope your projects will inspire others to bring local businesses and transitionners together, i hope a lot of projects, also from other cities and villages or territoires will follow.
And Welcome Toulouse and Ferney Voltaire, and a lot of people are added in the list of contact per departement . ça bouge en france (même sous la neige)

Leigh Barret
18 Dec 7:42pm

thank you ! It’s true, tthings are moving down here, with lots of people discovering Transition projects. There is more and more being reported in the local media as well, and that reaches even more people. Welcome Toulouse and Ferney Voltaire !