Transition Culture

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

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17 Jan 2014

How to discuss Transition with … No.3: Young People

The challenge

How might Transition be made more interesting, relevant and fun for younger people?  What are the aspects of Transition that will appeal and what is the most skilful way to communicate it? 

Key points

  • Make it part of you, it’s really important to model the change in your own life
  • It has to be fun
  • Peak oil and climate change aren’t necessarily the best places to start
  • Empower young people with skills that they can then pass on to other people
  • Creat a sense of adventure
  • Feeling part of a community and making friends is really important


Robert, Hayley, Jenny and Dan are all participants in the One Year in Transition course being run by Transition Network.  I caught up with them during one of their days together just outside Totnes.  We started off talking about how they each communicate Transition to their peers and what they see as being the hooks to bring young people in. 

(Left to right) Robert, Hayley, Jenny, Dan.

Dan: “I tend to concentrate on the internal Transition rather than the external.  I’ve found that talking too much about peak oil and climate change people just switch off.  But if you say to them through this and through that there’s this idea that I can change, and I can change the environment around me, then that has a knock-on effect because they go off and talk about the same kinds of things.  I order to relate to younger people, that’s how I would approach it.  Personalise it, make it part of you, because if it’s not, people will know. 

People know when you’re going through it as if it’s not.  The reason you’ve (meaning Rob) done what you’ve done is because you’re passionate about it.  It’s not an idea, it’s part of who you are.  Once you’ve instilled that idea, and planted that seed, then it just balloons into whatever it balloons into.  You can help guide people in different directions as Transition has”. 

Jenny: “For me, it needs to be fun.  There are quite a lot of young people involved in Transition Cambridge, the thing that integrates them is learning new skills.  We have Cropshare, where people go out to the CSA farm and learn how to grow produce on a bigger scale, learn about organics, learn about permaculture, and basically empower themselves so they can go off and grow their own things and then teach that to other people.  I think that’s one of the big things, learning a skill and being able to teach it. 

People in the group have become empowered, so they’ve taken up their own projects within the Transition network, which you can do, there’s that opportunity all the time, for you to have a voice.  We have a Transition Cafe every other week, and whoever wants to come and show a film or talk about what they’re doing it’s possible.  It’s really open to people having a voice whatever they want to say.  It’s all about fun.  Community is like a big party, we all come together and have great fun, but at the same time we’re creating a sustainable community”.

Hayley: “I agree. There has to be a sense of adventure about it.  When I found this course, it suddenly felt like a new adventure, like something quite different.  That also has an impact when I’m communicating it.  At the allotment I work on we were talking about “what do you do”, and I was talking about the Transition movement, and I was telling them “this is the revolution!” and they were saying “yeah, this is the revolution”, and that suddenly made it more exciting, that it’s not just gardening, it’s a revolution. 

When I first got into environmentalism, it was about giving up and abstaining and being like “now I’m going to eat less meat and do less of this and less of that”, but now, rather than being about abstaining, it’s more about doing something new and it being a new adventure, rather than abstinence and giving something up.  That has inspired my family and the people around me a lot more, because they’re like “it’s new, it’s exciting, we can cook new food, we can do new recipes, we can learn new skills”.  The fun is really important”. 

So what were the tipping points for each of you?  Did you have an “aha!” moment that led you into getting involved in these issues?

Robert:  “I was 21, and I had a big epithany around becoming more open to a less rational way of looking at the world. I went to Uganda, then felt really guilty about my lifestyle, then got bad depression and appendicitis and realised I had to do things differently.  It was a bit extreme, wouldn’t recommend it for anybody else!  But that was when I really started to care about these things”.  

Jenny:  “I was pulled into Transition by film screenings and shared food.  For me local food is a big thing.  I went travelling in Kenya.  I had forgotten about Transition to be honest, and when I got back I was living with a couple who were really involved in permaculture, and I gradually, through them, got really involved in Transition and met lots of people.   

It got so much bigger, and I started going to the cafe nights and then I got poached into the food group, and I’ve done more and more.  There’s so much stuff you can learn from other people, and you don’t have to pay for it, and it’s open to everybody, with Skillswaps and Skillshares.  The network  is such a supportive community, any idea you have everybody is so supportive of it.  Having a voice is what has kept me involved in Transition”. 

Hayley: “I had a very traditional Catholic education.  From that I always had a sense of guilt!  Because of that I got involved with Amnesty International first, and then I remember watching a film that said something like “why bother about human rights when we’re all going to drown anyway” or something like that!.  I didn’t do very much, every now and then I’d do some recycling, but I wasn’t very passionate about it.  Then I went to Climate Camp, eventually.  That was the big turning.  I couldn’t really imagine it before, I couldn’t imagine what it was going to look like, it was really nice.  I remember making such good friends, that was the thing”.  

You can read more about One Year in Transition here.