24 Feb 2014
Your ‘Step Up’ moments: No.10: Duncan Law of Transition Town Brixton
I was lucky to grow up during the much maligned 70s when we learnt so much about how to deal with what the future might bring. I heard and read Schumacher. I drew the peak oil curve for myself. Then I became an actor and director. In 1999 I did a permaculture course which was a homecoming for me. Climate change campaigning was occupying me more and more and in 2006 I went to the first Climate Camp at Drax Power Station and decided I had to make climate my front-line activity. I went straight on to the Permaculture Convergence where someone called Rob Hopkins was to be talking about peak oil.
I wanted to tell Permaculturists that while peak oil would be deeply awkward, climate change had the potential to alter the habitability of the planet. In a tent in a windy field in Dorset I was very excited by the seeds of Transition, but it took me 6 months of watching, reading, thinking before I was ready to go the Lambeth Climate Action Groups that I’d set up and suggest we should be Transition Town Brixton. It has been my life ever since.
The visionary starting point of Transition changes the chemistry and life becomes working towards something we agree we really want rather than fighting against nonsense. Once you have been part of a few visioning processes (and ideally a few projects that have brought a vision to fruition) the local landscape becomes loaded with beautiful, productive, cooperative, connecting possibilities.
Permaculture has been described as ‘revolution disguised as organic gardening’, which reveals its historically rather land-based orientation. I describe it as ‘designing and working with the powers that operate’. On land-based projects this was primarily nature. But in the ‘anthropocene’, the age of human influence, human nature, psychology, group dynamics, ‘people care’ become at least as important. And in trying to make a movement that could engage 9 billion people in developing a better new paradigm to supersede the old nonsense, Transition is revolutionary. We are changing the common sense. Governments will ultimately follow where we lead.
We Unleashed gloriously in 2008, with a dozen groups presenting for 2 minutes on their visions and plans. In 2009 the Brixton Pound was launched and we held a series of workshops and an open space day on the Future of Our Food which spawned several amazing offshoots. In 2010 we opened The Community Shop and Brixton Skill Share and TTB Community Draught Busters started. In 2011 the Remakery Brixton started preparing to convert an unused undercroft garage space to Brixton’s reuse centre and the first UK pay-by-text currency was launched by B£.
In 2012 Brixton Energy installed 2 large community-owned solar arrays on community housing. 2013 saw another array go live and the establishment of Repowering London to help other local energy projects get going. We produced to REconomy project reports for Lambeth on the benefits of localising the food and energy sectors of the economy and in 2014 we continue to work to make this reality.
I am privileged to have met and worked with amazing people through these seven years. It has been a privilege to be part of the early journey of Transition. It is the best place to work.