I read Michael Brownlee’s recent piece ‘The Evolution of Transition in the US‘, with a mixture of fascination and a sense of disquiet that increased the deeper I got into the piece. The concept of Transition has been regularly critiqued, a positive process which has helped to shape what it is today. Most critiques run along the lines of “Transition, nice idea, but it isn’t [ … ] enough”. So, for Alex Steffen, Transition isn’t technologically savvy or optimistic enough, for the Trapese Collective it isn’t politically savvy enough, for John Michael Greer it is guilty of ‘premature triumphalism’, for Ted Trainer it isn’t sufficiently rooted in alternative culture or focused enough, while for others it is too riven with New Age thinking and pseudoscience. Now, according to Brownlee, it is fatally flawed by not having the ‘Sacred’ at the heart of what it does.
It was with some fear and trepidation that Alexis Rowell, a Camden Borough councillor and the author of the upcoming Transition Guide to Local Authorities (LA), and I arrived in a deeply conservative part of the country, Norfolk, to do a day with them on peak oil, climate change and the Transition town model and practice. For those that don’t know it, Norfolk is a stunningly beautiful part of the country which is partly comprised of two areas, the Norfolk Broads, a large inland waterway system and the Fens (see pics below) which is partly wild and very intensively farmed, it being one of the UKs most productive farmland. It is also largely at sea level therefore at the hard edge of climate change policy. As the Helen and Newton Harrison’s work, Green House Britain makes clear, a 5 metre rise in sea levels will mean a significant part of East Anglia would be under water.
(Naresh Giangrande recently returned from a Transition Training tour of Sweden, here is a short report about his trip).
I spent a intensely satisfying afternoon with the students of a Folks school in Gotenberg exploring how to tell positive stories of the future especially around climate change. We explored topics like how to tell stories that changed peoples heart and mind, how to tell stories about systems, resilience, and my favourite ‘how do you tell stories about the future’. They invited me to join them because the course tutor had heard of my visit and she thought that having someone from a positive movement about climate action would stimulate and inspire students. It certainly inspired me to work with switched on and passionate teenagers!
A WHILE AGO, I heard an American scientist address an audience in Oxford, England, about his work on the climate crisis. He was precise, unemotional, rigorous, and impersonal: all strengths of a scientist. The next day, talking informally to a small group, he pulled out of his wallet a much-loved photo of his thirteen-year-old son. He spoke as carefully as he had before, but this time his voice was sad, worried, and fatherly. His son, he said, had become so frightened about climate change that he was debilitated, depressed, and disturbed. Some might have suggested therapy, Prozac, or baseball for the child. But in this group one voice said gently, “What about the Transition Initiative?”
The Cultivate Centre in Dublin have just produced a fabulous resource that all Transition groups will find invaluable, the Powerdown Show. This series of 10 20 minute programmes explore many aspects of the Transition movement in a humorous, accessible and inspiring way. Those interviewed in the series include George Monbiot, Paul Allen, Richard Douthwaite, Megan Bachman Quinn, Daniel Lerch, Duncan Stewart, myself and many more. Episode 8 is called ‘Transition Towns and Energy Descent Pathways’ and you can now see it online as a taster for the wonders this DVD contains….