Transition Culture

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

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24 Mar 2016

Transition Galway’s ‘2030 Vision’ report: "there’s no limit to what we could do"


Transition Galway in Ireland just published ‘A Vision for Galway 2030’, their Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP).  It’s a fascinating piece of work, and so we caught up with Bernard McGlinchy (BM), Mary Greene (MG) and Caoimhín Ó Maolallaigh (COM) to find out more about it.  There had been two previous attempts to start Transition Galway, both of which had petered out, but when Mary Greene moved back to Galway after time away in London studying Transition groups there for her MSc, she sought out, via the Transition Ireland & Northern Ireland website, Caoimhín and Bernard, and the group got going in earnest.  They started film screenings and meetings, running street stalls to raise awareness, taken part in the St Patricks Day Parade, began Green Drinks evenings and a community garden.  It wasn’t long before the idea of creating an EDAP took hold of their imagination. You can find the full document here, and our interview in full appears in this podcast:  

In 2013 and 2014, Transition Galway organised to a series of open, public visioning events to allow people share their ideas for a low-carbon, sustainable Galway City by the year 2030. Members of Transition Galway then compiled all of the ideas, big and small, received from the public at these sessions into one final document. The booklet is divided into eight chapters based on eight topics: 

  • energy
  • food and water
  • infrastructure
  • community and education
  • arts and culture
  • economics
  • waste;
  • inner transition 

They produced eight short films, one for each topic, outlining the solutions in each chapter.  A selection of those videos are spread through what follows. The first video though is a piece from Irish TV about the report’s launch event:


The report

I started by asking the three of them about the design of ‘A Vision for Galway 2030’

COM: It’s broken into digestible solutions. Bernard came up with the solution for that.

BM: We took the format from the Totnes EDAP and thought “how can we simplify that so that we could do it on a slightly smaller scale?”

COM: There’s over 200 solutions and they’re little names or ideas in themselves. Bernard came up with the idea that there’s a title for the solution, who it applies to so it might apply to the council or the department of education or the private sector etc. Then the main text is about the actual solution itself, a description and so on, and then there are links underneath that. One of the reasons it’s successful is that format.


Other groups could copy that of course – nobody owns that idea. It’s just easier to read, you can dip out, you can skim, and the links are there as well. So the formatting of it is one of the more successful things about it. There aren’t many new ideas out there, but I think the formatting is more digestible, it’s easy to read, and it also lends itself to the videos as well and the website.

MG: We were worried about just having everything in written form because a lot of people prefer visual communication on YouTube etc. We were lucky enough to have a guy here involved who has all the equipment and was willing to give all that time. So we decided to do a short video summarising each chapter to get the message further as well. So the host that wrote the chapter agreed to present it if they could and if not we found other people to do it – just to summarise in really short terms what they talked about in the chapter. That helped a lot to increase publicity.

The response

COM: Obviously with the climate change talks in Paris at the end of November to the start of December (2015), with the march as well – we helped to organise the climate march in Galway – we decided to launch it then for that reason. Also locally the city is putting together a city development plan, which we will make submissions to. The closing date for that is March so we will have to come together and decide whether to submit the whole thing or to be selective. So that’s the next step I suppose, to decide what submissions we make into the city development plan. They get voted in by all the councillors, so we have to lobby them and support that.

The other thing is there is a general election. We’ve always given all of our material and invited all the local politicians, but I’m not sure if that’s up for grabs. That’s national election in Ireland, the general election.

The City Development Plan was probably the highest potential in terms of us affecting change in Galway because it will be the City Development Plan for the next five years, from 2017 onwards. The other thing is that Galway is a candidate city for the European City of Culture 2020 so we’ve been working closely with them as well and have given them the document.

They’re making a final bid as well. We’ve tried to engage with all the different groups. In terms of timing it’s really good. The City Development Plan is coming together, it was after the Paris talks and the general election as well. So it’s too early to say – we didn’t get great coverage from the local media. One paper covered it but the two main ones didn’t.

MG: Connemara Radio interviewed us and there’s an article in the Irish Times about us. I was looking at the stats in terms of the web traffic and so on, and it just spiked after that article as it was a national publication.

BM: The 2020 European City of Culture thing – I managed to get talking to a group that are interested in setting up a social space for Galway, for art, design, mental health, growing food sustainably all in one centre, so that was their plan. They were looking at all the groups, so I was representing Transition Galway. I put in a bit like the Garden Facilitator role in the document, how can I expand that a little bit and how would that fit into facilitating people within this kind of space.

I’ve also gone to college studying Business Enterprise and Community Development, which helped to expand it further. We’re also going to meet people in the business sector and health, so it’s merging community and business and trying to work out how that works. That will probably be more towards the group that are doing it than specifically Transition, but it’s the Transition idea of a garden facilitator that sparked it, and I think there’s something starting to evolve from that.

MG: So we have the political field, the business field, and then also the University have been very supportive. I’m doing a PHD in the Geography Department and they’ve invited me to come in to do guest lectures about Transition Towns to the Masters class there that are doing a Masters in Environment, Society and Development and they’re really open to engaging with Transition and are hoping to get some kind of potential research projects with Transition down the line as well. All the MA students are looking for projects to do as well, so there’s a lot of engagement there which is a great support.

Altogether I would say Galway is very open and supportive but that’s different to actually getting these ideas implemented. So the City Development Plan is the best way for that. We also had a launch and Irish TV, it’s a new localised TV channel, they cover local, grassroots stuff in Ireland. They did coverage of us as well, and we had the TV coverage of that online as well. So there has been quite a lot of support but it is too early to say yet where the ideas are going to be implemented, if at all.

Next steps

COM: We haven’t really had a proper meeting since the publication, we’re all busy with different things. We all needed a little rest.

MG: We’re going to have a meeting in early February to discuss what the next steps are and our plan from here with the group and so took a bit of a hiatus over Christmas. But we’re going to get back into it and it will be up on the website, so watch this space.

COM: There’s actually a few other things – Bernard alluded to a social space group. There’s another group as well trying to set up co-ops and there’s a lot of overlap with these different groups, and common people who are involved with these different groups. Another one of our members who is away at the moment, he’s talking about setting up a local energy co-op and there’s another person talking about housing co-ops. So I think it might seed different groups and so on. We’ll keep putting the seeds out there and hopefully the seeds will land on fertile soil. Realising those things, that’s the hard work really.

BM: One of the things I would like to get involved with personally is the schools and hospitals, to make the public buildings adopt a more Transitional ethos. It’s just finding ways in.

MG: It’s going through the institutions, then there’s groups of people who are going outside the institutions and just trying to do it themselves. So there are two lines of change going on.

COM: There’s over 200 individual ideas. We’re a small group so we can’t implement all of them. We put them out there and obviously anybody could take those ideas. People can borrow them or adopt them and adapt them to their own locality and so on. They’re just ideas.

MG: It would be great to have a timeline to add to the book eventually, but that would require work with the City Development Plan to actually see when different bits of projects could be implemented and to maybe have a timeline that we’re updating as we go along of things that are being achieved, so we could maybe add that to the handbook down the line.

COM: It could be reviewed it a few years – you were talking about adding a new chapter…

BM: When we were looking at the Inner Transition it was almost overlapping with health initially. I’m a trained nurse myself, but that wasn’t what I was focusing on. I realised there’s so many things in the healthcare sector that at that period I didn’t have the knowledge of. So instead of sandwiching it along with Inner Transition, we just mentioned some of the possible ideas at the start and said – hey look, there’s room for this to expand further if we look more closely at the healthcare system. That would be one gap. But it was never meant to be a fully comprehensive and complete document. It was as much as we could possibly do.

MG: We hope that maybe we could add more chapters and perhaps a timeline of what’s been achieved and update that via either our website or a new edition of the handbook.

COM: If new ideas come in we could just add to it because there’s no limit to what we could do.

If Galway does win the City of Culture bid there will be funding and some of these ideas need funding or large funding so we’ll see. National legislation as well, with the Paris climate talks and so on, there might be momentum there and potential for implementing some of the ideas. We’ll just have to collaborate with whoever we can really.