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Transition Towns

Transition Towns

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Transition Towns is a grassroots network of communities that are working to build resilience in response to peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. Transition Towns is a brand for these environmental and social movements “founded (in part) upon the principles of permaculture
Permaculture
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that is modeled on the relationships found in nature. It is based on the ecology of how things interrelate rather than on the strictly biological concerns that form the foundation of modern agriculture...

” , based originally on Bill Mollison
Bill Mollison
Bruce Charles 'Bill' Mollison is a researcher, author, scientist, teacher and naturalist. He is considered to be the 'father of permaculture', an integrated system of design, co-developed with David Holmgren, that encompasses not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture and ecology, but also...

’s seminal Permaculture, a Designers Manual published in 1988. The Transition Towns brand of permaculture uses David Holmgren’s 2003 book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. These techniques were included in a student project overseen by permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins at the Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland. The term transition town was coined by Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne. Following its start in Kinsale
Kinsale
Kinsale is a town in County Cork, Ireland. Located some 25 km south of Cork City on the coast near the Old Head of Kinsale, it sits at the mouth of the River Bandon and has a population of 2,257 which increases substantially during the summer months when the tourist season is at its peak and...

, Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 it then spread to Totnes
Totnes
Totnes is a market town and civil parish at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 where Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande developed the concept during 2005 and 2006. The aim of this community project
Community projects
A community project is a term applied to any community-based project. This covers a wide variety of different areas within a community or a group of networking entities. Projects can cover almost anything, including the most obvious section of concern to any community, the welfare element...

 is to equip communities for the dual challenges of climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 and peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

. The Transition Towns movement is an example of socioeconomic localisation. In 2007, the UK-based charity Transition Network started up in order to help spread the ideas of transition and support communities around the world as they adopted/adapted the transition model to turn their locale into a more resilient, lower carbon settlement.

History


The Transition concept emerged from work that permaculture
Permaculture
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that is modeled on the relationships found in nature. It is based on the ecology of how things interrelate rather than on the strictly biological concerns that form the foundation of modern agriculture...

 designer Rob Hopkins had done with the students of Kinsale Further Education College in writing an "Energy Descent Action Plan". This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture as a "road map" to a sustainable future for the town. Two of his students, Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne, set about developing the transition towns concept and took the far-reaching step of presenting it to Kinsale Town Council, resulting in the historic decision by councillors to adopt the plan and work towards energy independence.

The idea was adapted and expanded through 2005, 2006 and beyond in Hopkins' hometown of Totnes where he is now based. The initiative spread quickly, and as of May 2010, there are over 300 communities recognized as official Transition Towns in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. The term transition towns has morphed into transition initiatives to reflect the range and type of communities involved - e.g. villages (Kinsale), neighbourhoods of cities (Portobello, Edinburgh), through council districts (Penwith
Penwith
Penwith was a local government district in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, whose council was based in Penzance. The district covered all of the Penwith peninsula, the toe-like promontory of land at the western end of Cornwall and which included an area of land to the east that fell outside the...

) to cities and city boroughs (Brixton
Brixton
Brixton is a district in the London Borough of Lambeth in south London, England. It is south south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London....

).

In the United States, transition initiatives have sprung up in many communities. Transition US is the national hub and has a vision "that every community in the United States will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present". Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States that are able to withstand severe energy, climate or economic shocks while creating a better quality of life in the process. They are accomplishing this mission by inspiring, encouraging, supporting, networking and training individuals and their communities as they consider, adopt, adapt, and implement the transition approach to community empowerment and change.

A large number of state sites have also been set up using the Ning social networking platform. These state sites, under the umbrella of a National Ning site, were set up to help facilitate, network, inform, monitor, and house regional and organizational Transition initiatives and further the rapid spread of the Transition Movement while networking related organizations, projects, ideas and activities. These social networking sites have now begun to spread worldwide.

Features of the project


The main aim of the project generally, and echoed by the towns locally, is to raise awareness of sustainable living and build local ecological resilience
Resilience (ecology)
In ecology, resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly. Such perturbations and disturbances can include stochastic events such as fires, flooding, windstorms, insect population explosions, and human activities...

 in the near future. Communities are encouraged to seek out methods for reducing energy usage as well as reducing their reliance on long supply chains that are totally dependent on fossil fuels for essential items. Food is a key area, and they often talk of "Food feet, not food miles
Food miles
Food miles is a term which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used when assessing the environmental impact of food, including the impact on global warming....

!" Initiatives so far have included creating community gardens to grow food; business waste exchange, which seeks to match the waste of one industry with another industry that uses that waste material; and even simply repairing old items rather than throwing them away.

The Transition Network website contains a listing of the initiatives that have registered there.

While the focus and aims remain the same, the methods used to achieve these vary. For example, Totnes has introduced its own local currency
Local currency
In economics, a local currency, in its common usage, is a currency not backed by a national government , and intended to trade only in a small area. As a tool of fiscal localism, local moneys can raise awareness of the state of the local economy, especially among those who may be unfamiliar or...

, the Totnes pound
Totnes pound
The Totnes pound is an alternative local currency, intended to support the local economy of Totnes, a town in Devon, UK.The initiative is part of the Transition Towns concept, of which Totnes is a pioneer...

, which is redeemable in local shops and businesses, helping to reduce "food miles" while also supporting local firms. This idea is also planned to be introduced in three Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 transition towns and in Maleny Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, the Baroon Dollar as a part of a regional transition towns project.

Central to the transition town movement is the idea that a life without oil could in fact be far more enjoyable and fulfilling than the present: "by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design the future low carbon age to be thriving, resilient and abundant — somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth."

An essential aspect of transition in many places, is that the outer work of transition needs to be matched by inner transition. That is in order to move down the energy descent pathways effectively we need to rebuild our relations with our selves, with each other and with the "natural" worlds. That requires focusing on the heart and soul of transition.

Energy Descent Action Plans


A key concept within transition is the idea of a community visioned, community designed and community implemented plan to proactively transition the community away from fossil fuels. The term "community" in this context includes all the key players - local people, local institutions, local agencies and the local council. With a website devoted to the plan and the publication of Totnes' Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP), the definition of the concept of transition towns has recently seen a significant development.

Future of the project


The number of communities involved in the project is increasing with many localities in the process of becoming "official" transition towns. Transition Towns has even featured in the plot line of the long-running BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 series The Archers
The Archers
The Archers is a long-running British soap opera broadcast on the BBC's main spoken-word channel, Radio 4. It was originally billed as "an everyday story of country folk", but is now described on its Radio 4 web site as "contemporary drama in a rural setting"...

, which illustrates the media attention and rapid growth the movement is generating.

As of 2010, transition initiatives are generally including the global financial crisis as a third aspect beside peak oil and climate change. Initially, this has been linked to the creation of a series of local currencies in transition towns including the Totnes pound
Totnes pound
The Totnes pound is an alternative local currency, intended to support the local economy of Totnes, a town in Devon, UK.The initiative is part of the Transition Towns concept, of which Totnes is a pioneer...

, the Lewes pound
Lewes Pound
The Lewes Pound is a local currency in use in the town of Lewes, East Sussex. Inspired by the Totnes pound and BerkShare, the currency was introduced with the blessing of the town council in September 2008 by Transition Town Lewes - a community response to the challenges of climate change and peak...

, the Stroud pound
Stroud Pound
The Stroud Pound is a local currency in use in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Unveiled on 12 September 2009, the scheme is the third local currency scheme introduced in England in recent years after the Totnes Pound and the Lewes Pound.-History:...

 as well as the Brixton pound in London.

International elements


There are transition initiatives all over the world now, and much of the material has been translated and adapted to other languages/cultures. These translated materials are linked from this page, and cover:
  • Brazilian/Portuguese
  • Danish
  • German
  • Dutch
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Irish

Publications


Transition Network, the charity based in the UK whose mission is to "inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they adopt/adapt the transition model in response to climate change, peak oil and economic contraction" has released a number of publications. These are designed to help communities through the varying stages of their initiative.

The books listed on the Transition Network books page are:
  • The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience - by Rob Hopkins
  • The Transition Timeline: for a local, resilient future - by Shaun Chamberlin
  • Local Food: how to make it happen in your community - by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins
  • Local Money: how to make it happen in your community - by Peter North
  • Local Sustainable Homes: how to make them happen in your community - by Chris Bird
  • Local Communities and Local Councils: working together to make things happen - by Alexis Rowell


In 2008, the Transition Handbook was the joint 5th most popular book taken on holiday during the summer recess by the UK parliamentary MPs.

See also

  • Degrowth
  • Fairtrade Town
    Fairtrade Town
    Fairtrade Town is a status awarded by a recognized Fairtrade certification body describing an area which is committed to the promotion of Fairtrade certified goods...

  • Sustainable city
    Sustainable city
    A sustainable city, or eco-city is a city designed with consideration of environmental impact, inhabited by people dedicated to minimization of required inputs of energy, water and food, and waste output of heat, air pollution - CO2, methane, and water pollution...

  • Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World
    Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World
    Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World is a 2004 book by Richard Heinberg in which Heinberg discusses peak Oil and its attendant implications for the global economy...

  • Peak oil
    Peak oil
    Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

  • Climate change
    Climate change
    Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

  • Winning the Oil Endgame
    Winning the Oil Endgame
    Winning the Oil Endgame: Innovation for Profits, Jobs and Security is a 2005 book by Amory B. Lovins, E. Kyle Datta, Odd-Even Bustnes, Jonathan G. Koomey, and Nathan J. Glasgow, published by the Rocky Mountain Institute...


External links