Across the world, communities are using the principles of TransitionTown to solve their problems locally and transition to vibrant, healthy and sustainable systems that meet their needs.
[Patricia Benson tells us about the TransitionTown Movement in this session from the Democracy Convention on August 26, 2011. This summary is by Margaret Flowers.]
The TransitionTown movement started in the UK about 5 years ago. It developed from a permaculture design course . Permaculture involves creating a system that balances the inputs and outputs of food production. It is not based on industrialized or mechanical farming. A permaculture system is like a forest in which every niche contains desired plants such as food producers or helpers.
There was a permaculture design teacher, named Rob Hopkins, in Ireland. He asked his students what would happen if permaculture principles were applied to the community. The students did the project using a town in Ireland. They created a vision and a path to get there. The teacher took their plan to the City Council and they adopted it.
When Hopkins returned to his hometome in England, Totnes, he decided to work on a similar project there in a more serious way. He brought a group together and they met to hash out their plans. They started getting questions, so they put together a tranisiton handbook. Hopkins never imagined that the transition concept would take off the way it has. Now it is all over the world and he is writing a transition companion that can allow the ideas to be used anywhere in the world.
There are now 360 transition initiatives worldwide from Japan to South America to the US, Canada and Europe. TransitionTowns does not solve the problems for you. They give you tools to apply permaculture principles. The first rule is to observe because locals know best what their resources and needs are.
We each have the same collective wisdom and genius within us. If we are presented with a problem and provided with good information from around the world, people can come together and solve their issues locally. They start by looking 20 years forward and asking what they want their town, neighborhood, or community to look like. The reality is that we need energy independence because fossil fuels are disappearing, and we are dealing with new disaster weather patterns. How do we transition to this reality?
At the local level we are building resilience. The thing that sets transition apart from other good efforts is that we focus on relationships. It is a cultural shift based on building relationships whether in big cities or small towns. We are pulling people together, presenting problems, providing information and then developing solutions. We look not only to outward actions but to inner transition away from what we are addicted to. We help each other to remove ourself from our addicition to current society. We create a positive vision and work toward it.
The transition movement is definitely a movement. In addition to the 360 initiatives, we know that there are more. Some countries like New Zealand are working nationally through many local groups but do not have an official transition movement. There are lots of “mulling groups” or groups that are moving forward without connecting with the transition movement. The national TransitionTown organization in US has only 3 staff. It has a low budget. It creates a space for people to network and work together. We are focusing a lot on community enterprise and green jobs.
The common question is: what is step one? We are holding transition salons that are topic-based. These are conference calls that provide a dialogue about what each person or community can do next. It is about creating networks and getting people to communicate with each other. TransitionUS will support initiatives by holding a space where issues can be addressed and providing access to experts in the field on various issues. They draw in the wisdom of farmers, elders, and artists. The focus is on a culture shift which avoids trigger language which would alienate certain groups. Conservatives and liberals are interested in transition towns. Most people want resilient communities: localized, healthy and vibrant communities.
Patricia Benson is a public speaker, educator, and community organizer who specializes in making connections, both among people and at with organizations. She discovered in the Transition Movement a process for addressing behavioral change at the community level. Patricia serves on the board of directors for Transition US, and has been actively involved with the unleashing of Transition Northfield — the first Transition Town in Minnesota. Her email is email@example.com .