What is Transition?

Transition Towns (also known as transition network or the transition movement) is a global grassroots network of currently about a thousand highly diverse communities that are working locally to build resilience in response to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship and shrinking supplies of conventionally-sourced cheap energy. These communities have started up projects in areas of food, transport, energy, education, housing, waste, arts etc. after first identifying their own local needs and challenges. Together, these small-scale responses make up something much bigger, and help show the way forward for governments, business and the rest of us.

See map for locations of registered Transition initiatives: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/initiatives/map

Inspired by the ground-breaking writings of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture, a Designers Manual ’88 and David Holmgren’s Permaculture and Pathways Beyond Sustainabiltiy ’03, the movement took off in the UK where the Town of Totnes, England became the officially designated Transition Town. Requirements for this official designation are described at http://www.transitionnetwork.org/support/becoming-official.

The Transition process has been described as being the opposite of protest in that transition actions are solutions-oriented. It’s about getting up and doing something constructive about it alongside our neighbours and fellow townsfolk. And people report that as a result of being involved in their local "transition initiative", they're happier, their community feels more robust and they have made a lot of new friends.

What are we "transitioning" away from?
All industrialised countries appear to operate on the assumption that our high levels of energy consumption, our high carbon emissions and our massive environmental impact can go on indefinitely.

Man eating huge burgerAnd most developing countries appear to aspire to these ways of living too. However, any rational examination of our energy supplies, our economic inequalities, our diminishing levels of well-being, our ecological crises and the climate chaos that is already hitting millions of people tells us this can't go on much longer.

We're saying that the best place to start transitioning away from this unviable way of living is right within our own communities, and the best time is right now.

What are we "transitioning" towards?
Whether we like it or not, over the next decade or two, we'll be transitioning to a lower energy future - essential because of climate change and inevitable because of diminishing supplies of conventionally- sourced fossil fuels.

There are a variety of possible outcomes depending on whether we stick our heads in the sand or whether we start working for a future that we want.

Creative Commons photo by LopkovsTransition Initiatives, community by community, are actively and cooperatively creating happier, fairer and stronger communities, places that work for the people living in them and are far better suited to dealing with the shocks that'll accompany our economic and energy challenges and a climate in chaos.

These groups are beginning to create formal Energy Descent plans and to rebuild their local economies by starting up, for example, local energy companies, social enterprises and cooperative food businesses.

This co-ordinated local response strives to rebuild the resilience we've lost as a result of cheap but non-renewable energy sources , to address issues of inequality in terms of access to key resources and also to drastically reduce the community's carbon emissions.

And incidentally, in general these initiatives are not asking for permission to start this work - they're just getting on with it, sharing their successes and failures, their hopes and fears.

Where it goes from there is a path as yet untrod...

What about local and national governments and businesses?
When we emphasise the vital impact that communities can make in this process, we're not saying that national governments are irrelevant or that institutions like businesses aren't important - we know they're all vital. What we are saying is that for most people, their own local community is where they can have the quickest and greatest impact. Our hunch is that when the governments see what communities can do in terms of this transition, it'll be easier for them to make decisions that support this work.

The different shapes of Transition
So far, initiatives have started up in over 35 countries around the world. It's a start, and there's a long way to go.

Cheerful disclaimer!
Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact.

We truly don't know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.

What we are convinced of is this:

  • if we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late
  • if we act as individuals, it'll be too little
  • but if we act as communities, it migt just be enough, just in time.

Adapted from the Transition Town site: http://www.transitionnetwork.org

For those who have not seen the Transition 1.0 movie yet, it is now available online and embedded below. :)

In Transition 1.0 from Transition Towns on Vimeo.

 The movie In Transition 2.0, produced in 2012 is available temporarily online for free at http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/12998/In-T... Enjoy!

The US Transition Primer is a great read to get a short but in depth overview of the Transition movement and how it has worked so far.