It is 5 o’clock in the morning. All is still, the kind of silence one only encounters before the sun rises, when life is at its calmest. I am tired but can no longer sleep. Words come slowly, rising up out of my unconscious to the surface of my mind.
After so many months of a certain kind of routine and rather simple, uncluttered life in Denmark, I have returned to my former world with new eyes. This little place here in Wisconsin is so busy with life and people, children and ideas all growing together in a constant whirl of activity and movement. I stand in the middle of it now, watching. Yesterday brought celebration, prayers, music and dancing, as well as the gathering of community in honor of the Earth and its protection. Speeches were given, films were shown, and people gathered in small clusters to talk about directions they have already taken, and the direction they wish to go in future. I watched and listened with interest and attention. What they spoke of is important and relevant. How to create a world without reliance on an oil-based, consumer society, and instead to create local economies which are self-sustaining, healthy, vital communities of people living in a peaceful, harmonious way. And it is happening, all over the world.
Self-interest is destroying the world at an incredible rate. But there are human beings all around the globe who are working hard to reverse this trend. The alternative stream is, I am very glad to report, alive and well and growing. The film I watched yesterday is about a movement called Transition Towns. It was begun several years ago by some people in England, headed by a man named Rob Hopkins. The idea is simple enough. You gather a group of concerned local folk together, begin talking and brainstorming about the ways that your neighborhood, town or village can pool your resources, harness your creativity and work with each other to live without importing food, using fossil fuels, and consuming very much. Instead, you learn to plant gardens, grow your own food, implement systems for transportation and heating which do not use petrol, and learn to live with your neighbors and friends in a more sharing way. In other words, you throw away the current model of ‘every man for himself.’ You can think of it as a return to the way people lived before industrialization, but with the important difference of it being a conscious choice, every day. In fact, the change in an individual’s attitude towards life is a major key to making this new, community-based model work. It is about talking to the people in your local area, helping to educate them about the realities of peak oil and its decline, and how that will (and already does) affect economic systems. Once you have a core group of people who understand what is happening and that a better, sustainable way of living is not only possible, but actually quite necessary, then you can together begin to move your community into this new direction of living for the future.
Transition network‘s website has this to say about what they are trying to accomplish:
It’s happening in well over a thousand highly diverse communities across the world – from towns in Australia to neighbourhoods in Portugal, from cities in Brazil to rural communities in Slovenia, from urban locations in Britain to islands off the coast of Canada. Many of these initiatives are registered on the Transition Network website.
These communities have started up projects in areas of food, transport, energy, education, housing, waste, arts etc. as small-scale local responses to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship and shrinking supplies of cheap energy. Together, these small-scale responses make up something much bigger, and help show the way forward for governments, business and the rest of us.
Really, it’s the opposite of us sitting in our armchairs complaining about what’s wrong, and instead, it’s about getting up and doing something constructive about it alongside our neighbours and fellow townsfolk. And people tell us 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.
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.
And 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 unenviable way of living is right within our own communities, and the best time is right now.
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 fossil fuels (particularly oil).
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.
Transition 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.
We’re working hard to ensure that the very broad range of groups experimenting with the Transition model across the world are able to share successes and failures, adding strength and momentum to the whole movement.
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. 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 might just be enough, just in time.
Everything that you read on the Transition Network site is the result of real work undertaken in the real world with community engagement at its heart. There’s not an ivory tower in sight, no professors in musty oak-panelled studies churning out incomprehensible papers, no inflexible plans that MUST be adhered to.
Their website, just like the Transition model, is brought to you by people who are actively engaged in transition in their own community. People who are learning by doing – and learning all the time. People who understand that we can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. People like you, perhaps..
Today is Earth Day. But in reality, every day is a day to celebrate our beautiful planet which is our home. We still have the choice, in every moment, in every decision we make and each action we take, whether we want to preserve and care for it, or to continue to trash and disregard it. We can no longer afford the luxury of thinking we can throw things away, because there is no ‘away’ on the earth. What we are really doing is throwing away our collective future. America still is the number one consumer of oil in the world, it is still a automobile-based economy, there is still tremendous amounts of waste being created in this country every single day. In the 42 years we have been honoring Earth on this day, we have been destroying more and more of the natural systems which support life on this planet. Global warming is a reality, with all of its implications. We humans can no longer afford the luxury of being asleep to how we are abusing our planet.
So Dear Readers, why not celebrate your little section of Earth today? Take a walk in nature. Listen to a bird sing. Watch the squirrels in your yard. Plant some flowers. Hug a tree. Hug each other. Climb a mountain, kayak down a river, sing a song in the woods. Pray for the spirits of the trees and the earth to help you to know what to do. Do a healing dance on the land. Gather with friends and family and give thanks to the Earth for sustaining you, feeding you, sheltering you. Walk in gratitude, in grace. Be gentle with the Earth. Beautify your neighborhood. Talk to your neighbors about ways you can improve your piece of the planet. Ride your bicycle. Breathe the air. Love one another. Be peaceful.
For more information about the Transition Network: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/support/what-transition-initiative
- Transition-Anywhere-You-Find-People. Even here! (energybulletin.net)
- Home, sweet home! (learningfromdogs.com)
- Not greed and oil. Interview with Transition Albany (CA) Leader Catherine Sutton by Willi Paul. Sponsored by Permaculture Exchange (openmythsource.com)
- ‘Breathing new life into the concept of resilience’: the notes from my ‘Four Thought’ talk (energybulletin.net)
- “Climate Survivors” – who, what, why, how (manchesterclimatemonthly.net)
- A call to transition to a post-oil world (vancouverobserver.com)
- Sonoma Valley Getting Transition Towns! (planetsave.com)
- Welcome to Transition Town Mooky!! (ttmooky.org)
- A New Declaration (energybulletin.net)
- The best of all possible worlds has no use for peak oil (energybulletin.net)