Nafeez Ahmed: Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system
A handbook "THE ENTERPRISING ECOVILLAGER. ACHIEVING COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT THROUGH INNOVATIVE GREEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP" focus on green business and entrepreneurship, offering a practical guide on how ecovillages can create business opportunities that adhere to the principles of truly green thinking. It gives an overview of the different aspects that should be considered by the aspiring ecovillage entrepreneur, and presents examples of successful business stories from various ecovillages around Europe. The book also strives to remedy the reluctance that many ecovillagers feel toward business. Furthermore, it demonstrates the ways in which ecovillages are ideally suited to run businesses that are compatible with the well-being of both people and planet, the businesses of the future.
Kalu Yala, a sustainable settlement for innovators, may be the alternative real estate model the world needs.
It feels to me like an important moment in the evolution of Transition - the first novel in which Transition plays a key role, published by one of the UK's largest publishers. It's also a great read, and it's oddly thrilling to think that on beaches around the world this summer people were reading this story of one woman bringing Transition to her community.
The Second Life of Sally Mottram is written by David Nobbs, one of Britain's best known comedy writers, who wrote for comedians such as Tommy Cooper and Les Dawson, as well as writing The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and twenty novels. It follows the story of Sally, who, following an unexpected tragedy, decides that she wants to put her energy into reversing the decline of her fictional Yorkshire town of Potherthwaite. The book follows her experience, and those of her friends and fellow townsfolk, as she tries to engage them in making Transition happen.
Nobbs was inspired to write a novel featuring Transition through his stepdaughter and her husband who are involved in Transition in France. He adds, in the book's acknowledgements, that "I have not witnessed or taken part in any of the Transition movement's initiatives". Although this means that sometimes it doesn't ring true and you may find yourself thinking "it wouldn't actually happen like that", there is a passion and a drive to the book and to Sally's experience that will resonate for many.
Sally heads to Totnes (in a chapter entitled "In which Totnes is mentioned many times") to stay with her sister and is inspired to make it happen in Potherthwaite, a town that is dying on its feet. Nobbs captures the essence of Transition beautifully:
"... big things come out of little things, that out of a thousand tiny acts, if they can be joined up, one might act may emerge".
Inspired, she invites her closest friends and people she loves for a meal at which she reveals her plan to bring the town back to life using Transition. She tells them:
"We will be able to deal at the same time with world issues and with our problems here, with our town, its decline, its ugliness, its quiet daily despair ... Ridiculous? Yes, but what is happening now is ridiculous. It's ridiculous that we let our town die around us and do nothing about it"
I won't tell you much more, but the story unfolds in fascinating ways. As the book progresses:
"...large numbers of people ... were delighted to feel a connection with Brixton, Tooting, and Los Angeles, and Brasilandia, and all the other places that were working towards the salvation of the planet in a myriad of little ways".
Inevitably perhaps, some of the book doesn't quite ring true. For example, anyone doing Transition who has put the effort in to getting all the traders in a local high street behind a project might not find themselves identifying with a project to make over all the shopfronts, "all the shopkeepers having miraculously been persuaded to sign up...". If only. The process seems more focused around Sally's own vision than about really engaging people in creating a shared vision. There aren't many public meetings, no Open Space, little in the way of working groups. More one very inspiring woman whose ideas inspire the community to help make them a reality.
Also, I was struck that the Transition process in Potherthwaite seems, incredibly, to take place virtually without the use of IT or social media: no websites, Twitter, Facebook, I think there's only one mention of anyone even getting an email! Late on in the book when the town is faced with an emergency, we are told that "several of them stood with short-wave radios, ready to exchange the latest situations and make the swiftest and most accurate decisions". Surely they'd have been texting each other?
What comes across in the story is also a very middle class version of Transition. At one point, when kids from the local estate are getting involved in a particular Transition project, Nobbs writes "what a glorious thing is responsibility. Anyone who has seen children taking part in youth theatre will have noticed it". Yet in spite of the moments when it occasionally doesn't quite ring true, there is much about Sally's story that I found deeply touching and resonating with my own experience.
'The Second Life' captures the power of one person deciding it's time to do something and how infectious that can be. The idea that if you don't like things how they are then you could step up and do something about it comes through the book strongly. What Sally starts really touches people. It changes what people think is possible. It changes what she thinks is possible.
It is the story of Potherthwaite's Transition, and like Transition anywhere, it is unique to that place. What it captures most importantly is what it feels like to have such a process happening around you, what it feels like when for the first time you feel part of something. And Sally experiences the same self-doubt, the moments of thinking it's just never going to happen, and the same serendipitous moments when the right person turns up at the right time, that many of us have experienced. Does it work? Does Potherthwaite end up as Sally dreams of? I'm not saying. You'll have to read the book to find out.
But The Second Life represents a fascinating moment in the cultural evolution of Transition, and its place in the wider culture. It's not quite yet having Transition Albert Square in Eastenders, but it feels close. For such a respected writer to put it centre stage in a book designed to appeal to a mass audience is fascinating. I really recommend it. I couldn't put it down.
Tooting is a busy London suburb stretching between and beyond two tube stations (Tooting Bec and Broadway) and along the A24, originally a Roman road and now a major arterial road carrying 10 million cars a year and numerous bus routes. One of our earliest TTT blog posts shows a map and satellite image of the area. As this shows, Tooting has its fair share of green space, but little centrally that is publicly accessible, very few allotments and many homes with little or no outside space.
Despite this, one of the first and most enduring of Transition Tooting’s activities is our annual Foodival, which celebrates food that is locally grown, cooked and eaten. From the very first event in event October 2008 (pics here) the event has sought to explore and celebrate the range of food that can be grown in the city and the diverse cultures found in Tooting, giving local people a chance to meet, learn from each other and have some fun.
Perhaps it is true what they say about the way to one’s heart being through your stomach, the event certainly inspired people to get growing and food shared at Foodivals has comes from window boxes, back yard and high-rise balconies (as the map here – and this lovely montage attests!).
Despite this it was two and a half years before Transition Tooting got its first chance to really get its hands in the soil when our fantastic supporter, Naseem Aboobaker, offered us the chance to turn some unused land into a temporary community garden. The soil was first broken at our Big Dig event in June 2011.
In the three years since, the Garden has attracted many volunteers who come for many reasons – to do something local, practical and different, alone or with family and friends; to meet new people; to enjoy time outdoors and get some exercise; and of course to learn about and grow healthy food.
We grow lots of things, and some are timed to be ready for the Foodival each September: this year there are three kinds of potatoes, sunflowers and garlic. When they are lifted we can get on with autumn sowings of broad beans, wheat and more garlic. Growing vegetables and flowers immediately puts us in touch with the cycles of the whole year’s seasons and even unconsciously we connect with wet and dry weather; day length; what’s flourishing or not doing so well; what we should do now or plan to do in response or in anticipation.
We hold regular sessions for children from a local Primary School (Gatton School) who planted potatoes in March and April, and, when the autumn term starts, will dig them up (see right). One ten-year old said: “For some of us, who have only seen vegetables in the supermarket, we were amazed to find out that potatoes grow underground and that sunflowers grow as big as our heads”.
And we don’t only harvest what we have planted: the Garden space is left mostly wild, with a lot of bramble bushes. So, plenty of bags of foraged blackberries go to the Foodival (see pic, below left, of bread from the Community Garden wheat and foraged blackberry jam at the 2013 Foodival (Credit: Charles Whitehead).
TTT is a busy and thriving group – with lots of activities to get involved in, but for some, TTT’s projects are not the attraction: they are looking for ‘time out’, for some quiet work, for hours where they can own what they are doing without too many of the targets and stresses of many jobs. Holding that balance between ‘doing’ and ‘appreciating’ is of course part of TTT’s intention and work.
When people go through the gate in to the garden, tucked away among trees behind big buildings, they enter a world that’s different from Tooting’s busy streets, and also different from being on the large Common just metres away. The experience of nature in the Garden is more private (even though it is shared) and there are surprises as it gives up its secrets slowly (if one cares to search them out).
Some of the ‘secrets’ are not really secrets at all, they are simply there for the reflective and observant to find for themselves. There are bees, beetles and bugs to look at on the beans, artichokes, and teasels and on the grass right now there are seeds which have spiralled down from the trees. Among the gravel of the garden beds we’ve found a flint tool that was made and dropped here between 2500 and 4000 years ago, when people’s experience of Tooting’s nature was very different. We found a fossilised sea urchin, around 66 million years old – from the period when dinosaurs were still living.
We hold regular open events and any more visitors come than we could cope with regularly in the Garden, and that’s fine.
Feedback from participants at the Garden Open Day 2014
As these responses from our last open event show - people can be encouraged by ideas, action and good company to try out growing at home - or begin to put it altogether into mapping their own projects and routes for ‘low carbon living’.
Some TTT members have recently raised funds to set up a supper club with monthly cooking sessions covering seasonal and low carbon cooking and run it from different kitchens in tooting. Meanwhile our lovely friends at Foodcycle Wandsworth host two weekly lunches cooked up from local surplus food – and will be hosting the food collection for this year’s Foodival.
Garden Open Day 2014 – Charles Whitehead
The Community Garden isn’t the only place where locals find space to connect with nature. At a local cemetery in the heart of Tooting, the recently created Friends Group has created raised beds for local people to take part in planting and growing activities, benches where people can sit and relax and an apiary with three community bee hives. Recently the ceremonial opening of a gate, closed for 20 years, has created better access to this much needed oasis - allowing residents to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of nature and wildlife on their doorstep. As Lucy Neal said ‘Streatham Cemetery is a glorious and under-used green space in Tooting.... the re-opening of the pedestrian gate is a small but very significant moment in bringing this area back into use as a community space for all'.
As the map on our early blog showed, Tooting has limited green space, but that hasn’t prevented us making the most of ‘the great outdoors’ even in our predominantly urban setting. In the absence of an obvious ‘public space’ to gather (Tooting has numerous halls but no Town Hall, two indoor markets but no Market Square) TTT has developed a ‘mobile’ approach using walking as a way to connect across our community, to focus on wellbeing and to connect with our environment.
The first of these walks was our Tooting Earth Talk Walk where we visited seven places of faith and worship – in shared conversations we discovered much common ground about man’s relationship with the earth and the need to respect and care for our natural environment.
Later, on a glorious sunny morning in May 2012, we gathered at the sparkling waters of Tooting Bec Lido for a day long Treasuring Tooting’ walk, celebrating places and things that contribute to our local wellbeing. More than sixty local people joined us as we strolled from the Lido to the Bingo Hall, the Community Garden to the Islamic Centre.
At each place a different aspect of our happiness and wellbeing was experienced and celebrated – through walking, making, talking, laughing, learning, planting and giving.
This ‘mobile’ approach came into its own at our second Foodival where locally grown produce was distributed to and cooked up by seven local restaurants. A growing crowd followed this map as the fold-up ‘table of plenty’ we used to served the food Pied Pipered its way up the busy high street.
Which brings us neatly back full circle, to the Foodival, now in its seventh year. At this year’s event on 14th September we hope break our record by feeding 300 people in one day using locally grown food, cooked by local people. Local restaurants will be serving up taster dishes throughout the day, and the winner of the Top Tooting Cook competition will be announced.
There will be plenty to entertain people, young and old - cooking demonstrations, music, theatre, activities, stalls and games - all with a sustainable local slant.
If you are in the area do come and join us – more details here.
“We’re always amazed by the amount of produce that people are growing in even the smallest space. People have been adding some wonderful pictures to our map showing the amazing things growing in Tooting” says Dave Mauger, Foodival’s event director.
Article by Hilary Jennings with contributions from Charles Whitehead, Jenny Teasdale and Belinda Sosinowics
Here is a recent piece I wrote for The Guardian's Living Better Challenge:
Putting a stop to water waste: why local initiatives are key: Cities facing drought can generate water and jobs by planting trees, and installing tanks and rainwater harvesting systems
Los Angeles imports 89% of its water. Every year it spends over $350m (£211m) disposing of the perfectly acceptable rainwater that falls upon it, water valued at between $300-400m. At the same time, it spends $785m importing the water it needs from many miles away, a process that uses the largest amount of electricity in California.
Meanwhile, here in the UK, as the climate warms the likelihood of drought is increasing. If the raised beds in my garden are anything to go by, this is turning out to be a very dry summer already. A recent Water Resources Management paper by researcher Muhammad Rahiz and Professor Mark New, looked at future drought trends and concluded that “both drought intensity and the spatial extent of droughts in the UK are projected by these climate models to increase into the future”. The South East of England is of particular concern.
Perhaps we should be looking to places where drought is a more regular fact of life, for inspiration for how to develop a more resilient relationship with water. Although LA may lack a coherent city-wide strategy for rethinking its water system, it doesn’t lack people working on solutions. Andy Lipkis has spent 20 years looking at LA in its wider context as a water catchment. California is currently suffering an historic drought, the worst for 500 years, which has brought to the fore many of the issues that TreePeople, the organisation he founded over 40 years ago, has been working on for years. With support for widespread conservation slow to emerge, and growing pressure for energy-intensive desalination plants which can cost up to $4bn a piece as the solution, Lipkis visited Australia to see what lessons could be learnt from the country’s recent 12-year drought.
Rather than the linear thinking that underpins LA, Australian cities such as Adelaide have started to think of themselves more as forest ecosystems. When rain falls on a forest, the impact of its fall is broken by the trees. An oak tree with a 100ft canopy can hold more than 57,000 gallons of water just in its rootmat, like a sponge, and more in its leaves which act almost as a floating lake. Flooding downhill is reduced, water is filtered and aquifers are replenished. Could our cities shift their relationship with rainwater in this direction? Rather than seeing rainfall as a problem, might each downpour be the opportunity to capture and store as much of it as possible?
This was the approach taken in Australia. People were incentivised toharvest and store rainwater, with tanks and cisterns being heavily discounted. As a result, 45% of homes in Adelaide now have rainwater harvesting. In Brisbane, average water use fell from 80 gallons per person per day to 33. In Sydney, the installation of water cisterns is one of the sustainability changes required in order to get planning consent for changes to existing buildings.
Back in LA, Lipkis tells me: “Essentially the model we’re intending to overlay onto the city is a model of how a forest ecosystem works, within which all energy, all water, all nutrients are recycled.” It’s an approach which, he argues, could create 50,000 new jobs. TreePeople are busy working towards a target of LA generating 50% of its own water (today it’s 11%) through unpaving neighbourhoods, planting trees, installing tanks and rainwater harvesting systems.
So where do the garden fences come in? One of the strategies TreePeople is promoting is the ‘cistern fence’, replacing garden fences with long thin water tanks. 100 feet of cistern fence could hold 5,000 gallons of water. While not yet available, Lipkis proposes that these tanks be made in the city using locally recycled plastic. “The key innovation I’m promoting is to have the tanks electronically networked with remote control technology so you can have a fully decentralised system, but manage it very nimbly as a huge networked reservoir – making it functional for water supply, flood protection and stormwater quality protection. The technology now exists to network one million tanks as a single system,” he tells me.
It’s this decentralised thinking that is increasingly coming to the fore. Does it make more sense to build large power stations, or local networks of interlinked renewable energy systems combined with ambitious energy conservation? Similarly, does it make more sense to build new reservoirs, or even – as was proposed during the UK’s last drought – a pipeline from Scotland heading south? Or would smaller distributed ‘reservoirs’ in hundreds of thousands of gardens make more sense?
Lipkis believes that great things are possible. Indeed, as he puts it, “A new, resilient, local water supply is not only possible, it’s beginning to happen.” Cistern fences as standard in all new-build housing developments in the UK? It may not be as far away as you might think. I’ll drink to that.
In July I had the great privilege of chairing George Monbiot's presentation on rewilding at the Ways With Words literary festival at Dartington Hall. Before the talk we found a quiet corner and chatted for about half an hour about the book, and some of the ideas and issues it raises. If you'd rather download or listen to a podcast of our conversation, you'll find it at the end of this post. I started by asking George to give a sense of what his new book Feral is all about.
"It’s about ‘rewilding’ which is a mass restoration of ecosystems. That’s a very different approach to the natural world to that of mainstream conservation in Britain which is all about protecting what’s here and maintaining the ecosystems that we possess. What rewilding does is to try to create opportunities for ecosystems we don’t possess yet; ecosystems of the kind that perhaps we used to but will be different to anything that went before and for the species that we don’t yet have and could have again.
Instead of trying to create particular habitats and particular species compositions, what rewilding seeks to do is bring back some of the missing elements and then allow nature to do what it does best which is to develop its own dynamic processes and its own outcomes. What we are missing desperately in Britain is process, ecological process. Just about every conserved habitat here is kept in a state of arrested development where succession and other processes are effectively prohibited. We are missing almost all the function and structure of ecosystems.
But it’s not just about ecology. It’s also about us. It’s about enabling us to enjoy a rather richer and rawer existence than is permitted to us at present in Britain where everything seems to ordered and regulated and buttoned down, and it’s very hard to escape from that, even if you go into what are supposedly the wildest parts of the countryside. We have nothing that really resembles self-willed land or sea in this country. Our national parks are basically sheep ranches. They differ markedly in this respect from the national parks of nearly every other country on Earth. Most of the world’s national parks are classified under the IUCN guidelines as category 1 or category 2 which basically means governed by ecological processes and set aside largely for nature.
Every national park in Britain is category 5 which means no fundamental difference between that and the surrounding farmland. There’s nowhere to escape from it. It’s even worse, if that’s possible, where just 5 square kilometres out of the 48,000 square kilometres of our territorial waters are closed to commercial fishing. Everywhere else is ripped apart several times a year and life has no foothold there.
We are surrounded on all sides by a remarkably depleted and impoverished ecosystem which I believes helps to create a remarkably depleted and impoverished set of human experiences as well. So what ‘rewilding’ is about is the restoration of wildlife and the functional wildness of the natural world but also about a restoration of wonder and enchantment and delight and hope, which are all things which are seriously lacking in this country.
You’ve spent many years writing your column and your books, such as Heat, about climate change, a subject that’s rarely mentioned in Feral, other than a few times in passing. Does rewilding represent a lateral, alternative route to the changes we need to see or a resignation that an adequate response will never be possible?
What I hope that rewilding does is to produce an inspiring vision which can be one strand of a positive environmentalism, which then I hope will help to transform much more effectively environmental politics into an unstoppable force than only campaigning against the things we don’t like. We’ve been very good as a movement at identifying what we don’t want, and very bad as a movement, with a few honourable exceptions of course, at identifying what we do want. You cannot sustain campaigning on that basis.
You have to have a vision, something better than the standard environmental vision which is – follow us and you’ll get a slightly less crap world than you would otherwise have got. That cannot work for long because it is not sufficiently inspiring. Whereas – follow us and here’s a wonderful, fascinating, engrossing, enchanting world which we could conjure up, which Transition is doing in it’s different way as well. That is a vision that has got legs, if a vision can have legs!
I’d never really had you down as a nature writer before. But Feral contains some of the most beautiful nature writing I’ve read, like Henry Thoreau or Aldo Leopold. Are we seeing a new, softer George Monbiot?
I don’t think some of the people who become the targets of my column would agree that I’ve mellowed much in my decrepitude! I suppose part of what has happened in researching and writing this book is that I’ve rediscovered my roots as an environmentalist. It’s very easy to forget why you become an environmentalist because you get bogged down in data, in parts per million, in Watts, in kilometres and kilogrammes and you succumb to the language and the framing of what Paul Kingsnorth calls "the quants rather than the poets".
Like a very large number of environmentalists, I came to this through a profound love of the natural world. That was always my motivating force and I was almost ashamed of it, because it seemed wooly and romantic and emotional by comparison to the hard, empirical pursuit of trying to work out the best solutions for climate change or any of the other problems that assail us. Now I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that we should stop doing that as well. We desperately need people to do that, but there’s a great danger of forgetting why we’re in this.
That danger is best manifested, for example, in the "natural capital" agenda, where people pretend they love the natural world because it makes money. I don’t know any environmentalist who became an environmentalist because they were worried about the state of their bank balance. It wouldn’t be a very rational decision if that was their motivation. To claim that we should be preserving and protecting the natural world because it is the economically rational thing to do, while that may be completely true, is also a form of lying. It misrepresents our real motivation and our real interest in protecting it.
For almost all the environmentalists I know, the reason for wanting to protect the natural world if you push them on it is because they love it. It’s because it’s wonderful. It’s delightful. It’s astonishing. It’s marvellous. To spend our lives pretending that we’re in it for some other reason is to lie to ourselves and to lie to other people, but at the same time to miss the greatest opportunity there is for reaching people, which is through wonder and enchantment and the invocation of intrinsic values rather than extrinsic values.
And so for me – some people have called my book a Midlife Crisis. I would call it a midlife awakening in that I’ve remembered what it’s all about for me and why I’ve gone into this in the first place. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop engaging in aspects of quantification, and it doesn’t mean I’m going to drop the grinding, aching process of continuing to oppose the bad stuff. But I feel that I cannot sustain it, let alone ask people who read me or listen to me to sustain their interest if all I talk about is the bad stiff and how to combat it rather than the good stuff and how to achieve it.
Have you seen, since the book came out, have there been any examples of people saying "right, I’m going to rewild this"? What’s your sense of the impact it’s had?
It’s been remarkable. I’ve been really surprised by it. Before the book came out, I went to see all the major conservation groups in this country to explain what was coming, because I was quite critical of them all in the book, and to see what their attitudes were and what traction there might be. While most of them weren’t overtly hostile, one or two of them were. Generally their interest was quite muted and it was clear they didn’t have much intention of acting on any of the issues that I was raising.
Since then it has really changed. It’s changed quite dramatically. The National Trust is already rewilding some substantial areas of its own land. The RSPB is now talking quite openly about rewilding and about a much broader vision of what it should be achieving. Even the Wildlife Trusts, which in some ways are the furthest behind, are mostly committed to what I see as an unambitious, anally retentive and rather ecologically illiterate form of conservation, are beginning to change.
They are beginning to see that what they’ve been doing, in many cases, is much closer to gardening, is obsessed with the composition of plant and animal communities rather than by function, and misses the big picture of what is missing and what would need to be done to restore anything resembling a healthy ecosystem.
Most people who are involved with Transition and most Transition groups don’t tend to own large estates in Wales and Scotland. What does domestic-scale rewilding look like?
Let’s take this back a step, because owning large estates is not the prerequisite for being active in rewilding. There’s a group of us halfway through the process of starting a rewilding campaign for Britain for which we’ve done the exploratory phase. We’re now raising the core funds, setting up a charity and we’ll soon be appointing a director. The idea is to catalyse rewilding across the country, to mobilise in favour of it and that means campaigning through the media, through public forums, lobbying, fundraising, making it easier for those who do have opportunities to rewild to do it.
There are already groups who are raising money through public subscription and using very large numbers of volunteers to get land rewilded, for example Trees for Life in Scotland. In the Highlands of Scotland and in the Southern Uplands, Carrifran who are very strongly reliant on public involvement.
But it’s also true that you can contribute to rewilding on very small areas of land. While our focus is on large core areas big enough to support top predators which turn out to be ecologically critical to anything resembling effective function, those core areas can’t function without a permeable landscape through which animals can move. That requires smaller pockets of wild habitat as well as wildlife corridors and a more general permeability because otherwise the animals in the large core areas become genetically isolated. So we need rewilding on all scales if it’s going to be effective.
You wrote recently in an article about 'positive environmentalism', that "an ounce of hope is worth a tonne of despair". How deep a shift does this feel for you?
I should say that I’ve always sought to propose solutions. I always feel a sense of failure if I’d raise a problem without at least being able to hint at a solution. It’s not always possible to do that of course, some problems either are just at the beginning of being understood or don’t have obvious solutions. But in a lot of cases I’ve worked hard to try to find some ways forward and I’ve written one book which was entirely about possible means of change which was The Age of Consent.
In my other books, they’ve all had chapters about how to move forward. But to be going back to my roots and writing entirely about the natural world and of course its interactions with the human world, but the focus being very firmly on the natural world, and at the same time to be proposing an entirely positive vision, that feels new and that feels very exciting to me. I feel inspired by it and other people seem to be as well.
You wrote in the book that "the slowest and most reluctant of any European nation to begin rewilding the land and reintroducing its missing species is the UK." Why is that? What are we afraid of, on a cultural level, what are we so terrified of?
It’s a good question. There’s a couple of ways of answering it. The first is we have been literally cut off from large animals for longer than most other European countries. We expiated our large mammal fauna more thoroughly than any other country except Ireland within Europe. Having done so, we have tended to regard any prospect of the re-establishment of those missing large mammals as an alien intrusion which is to be feared rather than to be marvelled at.
But this is greatly compounded by the fact that our land is owned by so few people. We have on estimate the second highest concentration of land owning in the world and those people are far more conservative than the population as a whole. Not all of them, but on average far more conservative and far more resistant and reluctant to contemplate any kind of positive change, let alone the return of large animals, than most of the population would be.
For instance, the only survey I’m aware of showed that 86% of respondents were in favour of the return of beavers, but the landowners whose land might be suitable for the return of beavers on the whole are fiercely opposed to the idea and invoke a rich mythology in trying to justify their opposition which suggests that they learnt their ecology from the Brothers Grimm in which the beaver somehow takes the place of the Big Bad Wolf.
It's dusk. The family who arrived earlier in the day and pitched their tent next to ours have just asked us if we'd like to join them for a short walk to see "something magical". We walk in the near-darkness down a grassy track to a lane with hedgerows on either side, the sea away to our right and the lights of Plymouth giving the clouds ahead of us an apricot-coloured underbelly, until something catches our eye. Two dots of greenish light in the hedge. Glowworms.
I struggle to remember the last time I saw a glowworm. A memory awakens that it was when I was a child, on a family holiday to Devon, when my parents took my sister and I out down a similar lane at dusk with a similar sense of reverence. As we approach the tiny lights, the group of about 10 of us, more than half of us under 12, fall into silence. The glowworms aren't perturbed by our presence, they just keep glowing. Our guides were right about the "magical". Nobody speaks, other than the odd "wow".
I find myself feeling delighted and thrilled and honoured to be standing there. I find that these two pinpricks of light are acting as a powerful kind of reminder. A reminder of amazing things I've seen during my life when I've seen nature at its most alive, its most unexpected, its most beautiful. I am reminded of the fireflies I saw (occasionally) when I lived in Italy, the closest thing to seeing fairies I could imagine. Watching the seal that comes up the River Dart to hunt for fish toss salmon into the air. The owl that flew past me in total silence as I stood hoeing in my garden in Ireland. The snow monkeys I saw in the forest in northern India, wise old men of the trees. The thirty minutes I spent spellbound by a river in Wiltshire watching a kingfisher fly in and out in search of fish, his dazzling turquoise feathers glinting in the sun. Moments that I recognise, as I stand in that quiet lane, that I experience less and less as more and more of my life is spent in front of a computer.
I subsequently discuss it with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, in an interview to be published here later this month. I tell him the story of our glowworm moment, and how magical it was and ask him, from his perspective, what it was that was happening in that moment. "Wonder", he tells me. It is in those moments of wonder that we really connect to the world, that our senses are heightened, that our inquisitiveness and creativity are at their most vibrant. In Last Child in the Woods he quotes Rachel Carson as saying:
"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts".
And what could be more useful for Transition groups in search of "reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts" than looking more deeply into the question of how Transition initiatives might weave that sense of wonder for the natural world into what they do. It brings to mind Wendell Berry's poem The Peace of Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
So our theme for this month is 'Making Space for Nature'. We will be framing the month around five key questions. Might a separation from Nature be at the root of our problems? Is it possible to make a healthy culture without connection to Nature? What are the impacts of losing that connection? Why is contact with Nature essential to raising healthy children? And finally, what does making space for Nature bring to a Transition group?
We'll be talking to George Monbiot about his book Feral, to Richard Louv, to ecopsychologist Mary-Jayne Rust, to writer Caspar Walsh and to permaculture activist Pandora Thomas, and quite possibly a couple more too. We will also be hearing from some Transition initiatives about how they create space for nature in what they do and the impacts they see it having on people. We'd love to hear from you too if you have something you'd like to add to that.
For me, one of my ways of making space for nature is drawing. I don't tend to draw cities, roads, buildings. When I have time to draw, I tend to head with my pens, pencils and paper to the woods, the fields, the rivers. Vincent Van Gogh once said "if you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere". He might also have said "if you truly observe nature, you will find beauty everywhere".
It is the process of sitting and really looking at what's in front of you, looking at the same tree for several hours, how the light changes on it, how shapes relate to each other, sitting in the quiet just watching, that really creates that space for me. Here are a few of my holiday drawings from the last month:
In my visits to Transition initiatives, I see time and again projects that are making space for nature in the local community. Whether they are Community Supported Agriculture projects that connect people to what becomes 'their' farm, community gardens on train platforms, in corners of parks, in school grounds, getting people out on bikes, spending time outdoors socially, all of it creates opportunities for wonder. They are directly responding to the trend identified by the great ecologist Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac in 1949:
"Our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land. Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets. He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow. Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a 'scenic' area, he is bored stiff".
Transition does a great job of addressing this, finding creative, possibility-shifting, community-building ways of getting people together, out of doors and away from their computers. For example, on July 26th in London, Crystal Palace Transition Town, together with a couple of other local organisations, opened 'The Sensible Garden', named after local resident and punk legend Captain Sensible (of The Damned and also a solo artist). The group had taken an unloved corner, covered in rubbish and old mattresses, harnessed the 'power to convene' that Transition does so well, and transformed the space into a garden. Here's a film about the day:
To return to our glowworm story, as it turned out, our guides were, as well as introducing us to a bit of magic, also trying to get on our good side in the knowledge that people are less likely to be grumpy when your kids wake them up running around and shouting at 6am if you've met them before. It was a good trade-off though.
I'll leave the last word to Aldo Leopold, who wrote:
"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech".
Enjoy the month.
It's that time of year when Open Eco Homes events happen up and down the country. Totnes are doing it, as are Bridport, West Bridgford, Lewes, Stroud and others. A Green Open Homes event is an opportunity to ask a neighbour about an energy saving improvment that they’ve made, and see if it might work for you. On an event day, householders who have made low carbon improvements to their homes open them up to share their experiences with neighbours and others.
They are an excellent way for people to find out about the reality of getting solar panels, insulation, triple glazing, or new heating options without talking to a salesman. Visitors can ask the residents whether the installation was a hassle, and how much they’re really saving on their energy bills as a result. These events are an effective way of inspiring people to take action to make their homes more energy efficient. Events come in all shapes and sizes, take place over one day or several weekends, and might feature as few as six or as many as 40 homes.
In 2013, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) awarded funding to the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), working in partnership with Bristol Green Doors (a national leader in running local low carbon open homes events) to set up a national Green Open Homes network to stimulate more activity and provide support for low carbon open homes events across the country. Transition Network was one of the organisations delighted to be able to offer advisory support.
The aim was to help new open homes events and networks get off the ground all around the country, to increase people’s feeling that making energy saving improvements is ‘normal in my neighbourhood’. For groups who already ran small open homes events, our goal was to help them flourish, to make the events bigger, easier to deliver, and have more impact.
A searchable directory of Eco Homes events was set up, a collection of 18 guidance notes for would-be event organisers, over £180,000 was distributed in grants, a national roadshow took place, and a newsletter produced. 49 organisations were supported, some of which were Transition groups. At the end of the project, here's a sense of its impact:
Here's a video about Sustainable Frome's event:
Here is a short report about the project. If you are thinking about running an Open Eco Homes event in your community in 2015, have a look at the support that's available, and perhaps go along to one of this year's events for some inspiration. Transition Network would like to offer its congratulations to the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol for running the programme so well, and was delighted to have been able to play a role in making it happen.
Although we are mostly kicking our shoes off this month, we still have some inspiration for you, such as why is it so important to celebrate what you do, plus news of Transition Training in India, and more.
The Power of NOT Doing Stuff
Our theme for August is about NOT doing stuff. All too often our default as activists is to do do do, and to give ourselves very little time to pause, reflect or celebrate. I remember once going to the leaving party of the head of a large green NGO. He had been in charge there for a long time, and I asked him "what are you most looking forward to about not working here any more?" "Not working 7 days a week" came the reply. All through his kids growing up, he'd been working seven days a week. Here at Transition Network, we say that's not OK.
We try to model a different approach, one where we balance doing with being. One where it's OK to take a breather and spend time with family, take off with a tent and a sleeping bag, or head to the beach with some sausages and the barbecue. One where your kids remember who you are and get to spend enjoyable time in your company. We feel that having a month of the year where this site takes a breather means that what we produce for the rest of the year is more grounded, better rested, and more focused. No-one reads stuff you post in August anyway.
So we're off. Laptop off, mobile off. We'll be back in September when our theme will be 'Making Space for Nature' which promises to be fascinating. See you then. Have a good break. We'll leave you with this. Last August I wandered into a tent at a festival and saw Camille O'Sullivan singing the song she sings in this clip. A hairs on the back of the neck moment, awesome. Hoping that you get a few of those this summer.
The Transitioner's Digest (July): Celebration
During July we set out to explore 5 questions: Why do you celebrate? Why is celebration important? What are the ingredients of good celebration? What is the wider context for celebration? What is the personal context for celebration?
Divest? Then what?
Rob Hopkins was shocked to discover that put crudely and at it’s worst, for the damage generated by every £1 million invested by some philanthropic organisations, £10,000 is put up to try and clean up that mess.
Learning to Celebrate Failure
Fiona Ward reflects on what to do when things don’t work out as expected despite our best attempts.
Creating a Culture of Celebration
Sophy Banks on how to create a culture of appreciation and celebration.
All our stories about Celebration:
NEWS OF THE NETWORK
Transition Network Strategy
In case you missed it last month, please take a look at what the Transition Network plans to focus on over the next three years and why.
Web Service Update
This is a brief update on where the web project is at the end of July 2014.
How to transform you local economy in just 1 day.
We want community-led economic development, the kind that’s just, ecologically regenerative, inclusive and equitable. Easier said than done. Yet for the past 3 years, we’ve been doing something that seems to be working. It’s relatively cheap and easy to do. Jay Tompt reports on the Local Entrepreneur Forum.
Urgency and the Long Game
Jay Tompt wonders what we can do faced with the growing cacophony of urgent calls.
More stories from the Social Reporters here:
TRANSITION FREE PRESS
Transition Free Press crew are now in full swing production for the next September issue. Don't miss out and order yours today!
Fight to Save Grow Heathrow
News Editor Amy Hall reports on the eviction notice.
Empowering Tribal Communities
One of our intrepid roving Transition Trainers, May East, turns up in another unexpected location and helps build resilience with Tribal Communities in India.
Training and Events
Launch onLine begins again on October 8th, and Inner Transition workshops are happening in Copenhagen and London.
Our full programme of trainings are here:
Tales of Cli-fi
A genre of books and movies called "cli-fi", set in the wake of some kind of major climate disaster, has been creeping out of the fantasy and science fiction sections of bookstores and libraries and into the mainstream.
14-17 August. Wiltshire
A 500 participant only event designed for local abundance and global sustainability, where small is beautiful and shared experience is the fabric of community. Use the discount code OFFGRID10 when buying tickets here:
UK Permaculture Convergence
12-14 September. London
A diverse range of workshops, practical sessions, a visit to a very well established local permaculture LAND centre, project case studies, Diploma presentations, networking, exhibitions, woodland walks, games, adventure activities and lots, lots more!
Transition Network Roadshow:
Our Roadshows kicked off with two delicious days in Lancaster.
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Next newsletter is 5 September 2014
Co-operatives UK have just announced some really useful-looking funding to enable mentoring and peer-to-peer support for community energy initiatives. It can be used either by Transition groups seeking mentoring support for their emergent community energy companies, or for established initiatives who would like to be able to offer that support. We heard recently the impact such an approach is already having in Sussex. You can read more about it, and how to apply, here. It's a fast turnaround, the deadline for first round applications is August 8th. See Frequently Asked Questions here.
Below is a taster, its guidance for community groups seeking support:
What types of groups will be eligible for support?
You will be one of a growing number of community energy groups and enterprises across the UK working to generate energy and to reduce demand through energy efficient products sharing all or most of the following characteristics:
You should be at a stage early enough in your journey and just setting up where you will benefit most from mentoring support. The only criteria is that you are not a well-established group already delivering a range of renewable energy projects.
Why Get Involved?
We can help you to develop and deliver projects in your community through a programme of mentoring support.
This month we can read about our new three year strategy and the possibility of creating a UK hub; the website theme on the relationship between politics and Transition is explored; REconomy has some inspiring reports and our Social Reporters explore the stories we tell ourselves. Plus the monthly world roundup, a new book a video and more to designed to inspire.
NEWS OF THE NETWORK
Transition Network Strategy
We’re delighted to be able to publish the final version of Transition Network’s new three year strategy. It’s been a fascinating process working together as a team, TN staff and trustees, to develop this document in consultation with people in the wider Transition movement. We are now making it publicly available so everyone can see what we plan to focus on over the next three years and why. We’ll be reviewing how we’ve done and whether everything is still relevant each year and, as always, your feedback and ideas will be very welcome.
TN’s role as UK National Hub
What we heard: A number of people questioned whether the Transition Network (TN) is playing this role effectively and, indeed, whether it is an appropriate role for TN to undertake. Some people expressed a desire for a stand-alone UK Hub, designed by and accountable to UK Transition Initiatives. A couple of people also talked about the more direct, practical support that a UK National Hub might be able to offer to UK Transition initiatives.
What we will do: We would very much like to explore this idea further with UK Transitioners. We certainly want to share and seek feedback on TN’s plans for UK-focused work and we are keen to support UK Transition Initiatives (TI) to develop stronger connections between each other and with TN. We’re also making an effort to be more explicit about which aspects of TN’s work and resources are internationally-focused and which are UK-specific. We’re not sure at this stage whether there’s a need for the UK National Hub to be a completely separate organisation from TN - there would be advantages and disadvantages to this - but we would love to see much clearer representation from the UK within the National Hubs Group network. We’re also very conscious that Transition Scotland and Transition Ireland already exist and there are strong networks developing in Wales. So we’re not assuming that a UK-wide structure is the right one to go for.
The UK roadshow events that we are planning for the autumn of 2014 and the spring of 2015 will give us an opportunity to take this conversation forward with Transitioners generally, but it would be great to hear before then from any individuals in the UK who are willing and able to put time into discussing the issue (we’ve already had a couple of volunteers). If a small group of people come forward, TN would be delighted to support them to meet and start to develop their own vision of what a National Hub might look like and what it might do. If you’re interested or would like to hear more about this proposal, please contact email@example.com
Announcing the 4 Transition Roadshow hosts!
We are delighted to announce the four initiatives selected to host our four 2014-15 Transition Roadshows. We had 9 applications from Transition initiatives across the UK, and after much deliberation can reveal that the hosts chosen are Transition University St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, Transition Penwith in Cornwall, Transition Bristol in Somerset and Transition Town Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. The exact dates and details have yet to be arranged but will be announced shortly. They offer a great opportunity to try a different approach to our usual annual conference (which looks set to be back for 2015).
Last chance to book for the Transition Northwest Conference!
12-13 July Lancaster
Our first Roadshow is booking up fast- there are no lunches, or b&b’s places left, but entry is still available at time of writing.
Powys Networking Day
Powys in Transition has gained funding to setup a regional network of local organisations involved in Transition or Low Carbon Communities. Mike Thomas went along to the launch event.
The Transitioners' Digest (June): "Is Transition political?"
This month our theme has been Transition and Politics. Our editorial concluded that the answer is yes. Deeply. But it isn't explicitly so. It comes in under the radar, and that really matters.
We have interviews from the Mayor of Frome, former MP Alan Simpson, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, Greg Barker MP, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and Caroline Flint MP, Labour's Shadow Energy Minister. Plus Sophy Banks thoughts on what politics might look like were it "to orient to what truly makes us happy as humans".
The June 2014 Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition
Another bumper edition, busting at the seams with news of how Transition is manifesting itself around the world in a dazzling diversity of ways. Stories around the UK from Belper, Cambridge, Chepstow, Chesterfield, Crystal Palace, Reading, St Albans, and Totnes. News from other countries Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, and USA.
REconomy goes global!
Five national hubs have been exploring how they might support REconomy-type activity in each country - let’s begin with hearing about Croatia’s groundbreaking event in Zagreb:
Economic enablers, REconomy style
Transition groups are doing a range of projects that support new and existing local businesses, including creation of infrastructure - here’s some inpsiring examples:
Our Mainstream Stories
Jay Tompt calls on us to re-appropriate the word 'mainstream'.
The Ukraine, Sharks and Compost Loos
Chris Bird asks about the dominant stories we come up against when we try to bring about change, in particular what we should do with our shit!
Everything We Dream of Makes the Impossible Possible
Steph Bradley travels across Wales hearing and sharing tales of community and healing.
Educating for Hope in Troubled Times
A new book has just been published which is a great handbook for school teachers and educators in Transition. Called “Educating for Hope in Troubled Times: Climate change and the transition to a post-carbon future”, it explores the three issues of climate change, peak oil and the limits to growth that teachers and learners need to know about and be more prepared for. There is a tendency in schools to avoid ‘big’ issues and this book helps teachers to identify positive ways of engaging with them, sharing success stories (including a number from Transition groups) and sources of inspiration and hope. There are many suggestions for classrooms activities plus up to date information and case studies. The author Dave Hicks (formerly Professor in the School of Education, Bath Spa University) says “In fast changing times yesterday is no longer an accurate guide to tomorrow, so how we help young people think about their future is of major importance.This book is about developing new ways of being and seeing and the exploration of new horizons.”
£26.99 ~ Available from Institute of Education Press at:
The next Launch onLine begins October 8th. Transition Launch trainings in London UK, Poppau Germany, and Charlottestown, Canada. Thrive- Hallaberg Sweden, and Train the Trainers Alingsas Sweden. Details: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/events/network-training
One Day in Transition
Young Transitioners creating their own jobs.
12 July Bristol
An event for young adults looking for ways to create Transition livelihoods. It is a workshop in its own right that also introduces One Year in Transition. Past and present students from One Year in Transition are the hosts. They will also be talking about their own community-based projects, the experience of doing the One Year in Transition course, and offering mini brainstorms on the project ideas that participants would like to discuss with them.
Real World Economics
19-20 July Dartington
Kick starting the new economy on your doorstep.
Wellbeing and the New Economy
9 August Rotterdam
Create a vision for a New Economy centred on shared values and ecological renewal.
VIDEO: What is Transition?
We asked members of Transition Town Lewes how they would describe what Transition is. The event going on in the background is their 'Seven Year Itch' event, celebrating all the great things they have achieved during that time.
July's theme on the website is 'Transition and Celebration'
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"We cannot paper over the cracks anymore; we must delve deeply into the very fabric of all it means to be human and begin decision making from the heart."
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Next newsletter 8 August 2014
We're delighted to be able to publish the final version of Transition Network's new three year strategy. It's been a fascinating process working together as a team, TN staff and trustees, to develop this document in consultation with people in the wider Transition movement.
We are now making it publicly available so everyone can see what we plan to focus on over the next three years and why. We'll be reviewing how we've done and whether everything is still relevant each year and, as always, your feedback and ideas will be very welcome.
Thank you to every one of the 736 people in 48 countries who viewed this document in draft and especially to the 71 people who provided comments in writing. We asked a headline question about your satisfaction with the draft survey and got this response...
|Overall, I think the draft strategy...|
|Set's a clear, useful direction for Transition Network||61%|
|Is broadly helpful, but needs some further work||34%|
|Needs to be changed completely||5%|
It was great to receive written comments on the draft strategy from the National Hubs in Belgium, Brazil, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. They responded very positively to the document - mostly they endorsed the planned outputs and activities and started to discuss how we all might take this work forward together. There were also a few useful comments about aspects of the document which came over as UK-centric.
This strategy is fantastic, very inspiring for our hub, great job!! I often wanted to write "this part is very important too"...
We very much appreciate this document. In our national feedback round, the response was that this work is very inspiring as an example for our national organisation. It gives us motivation to work on a concrete proposal for the formalisation of our national hub.
I would like to express our satisfaction about the quality of the document and thank you all for the job you are doing.
It makes a lot of sense, and is built as a macro scale of a TI (with National Hubs and projects as working groups).
Some people found the document too corporate, others said it contained transition jargon and needed to be shorter and sharper. However, many more people responded positively than were critical, saying they found the document clear and helpful.
We're going to accept that we'll never please everyone and are not going to amend the style of the document at this stage or play around too much with the format or length. We're going to take what we've learned from this process, including all your comments, into the work TN is now doing to review how we tell the Transition story.
People liked the focus on streamlining, clarifying and improving the support TN offers and on nurturing peer-to-peer support (whether between individuals, Initiatives or National Hubs). Some of the National Hubs reminded us that there is very little support or information offered in languages other than English and that the National Hubs themselves don't currently have the capacity or resources to translate much Transition-related material.
It's great (and a little bit overwhelming) to hear about the appetite for improved support and resources. We've just consulted on the next stage in the development of the TN support framework and people seem pleased that we're heading in the right direction. Our aim is to make it much easier to identify which are the key pieces of information that would benefit from being translated into other languages, but we're conscious that this is much better done by people who understand the particular context in which Transition is operating within their country. We have secured some funding to help develop the capacity of National Hubs and, if they see it as a priority, to enable them to pay for translation. We're also seeing National Hubs starting to group around some of the main global languages and co-operating to produce materials that can be used in more than one country - we'll be alert to anything TN can do to support this very positive development.
There was strong support for the references to social justice throughout the document (although a couple of people felt this was taking us into difficult territory politically). A number of people commented that the Transition movement is still relatively narrow in its appeal and suggested TN should be doing more to ensure that the ideas and benefits of Transition reach all sections of society.
We're currently seeking funding to enable us to identify and share the best UK examples of TIs and other similar groups working inclusively and/or addressing social inequality. We think there is a lot of learning to be exchanged across the National Hubs network on this, since the focus of Transition activity varies considerably around the world. And an important objective behind the work we're doing to update the Transition story is to make sure TN speaks consistently and powerfully about the importance of social justice, transmitting messages that reach and make sense to as wide a range of people as possible.
A number of people questioned whether TN is playing this role effectively and, indeed, whether it is an appropriate role for TN to undertake. Some people expressed a desire for a stand-alone UK Hub, designed by and accountable to UK Transition Initiatives. A couple of people also talked about the more direct, practical support that a UK National Hub might be able to offer to UK Transition initiatives.
We would very much like to explore this idea further with UK Transitioners. We certainly want to share and seek feedback on TN's plans for UK-focused work and we are keen to support UK Transition Initiatives to develop stronger connections between each other and with TN. We're also making an effort to be more explicit about which aspects of TN's work and resources are internationally-focused and which are UK-specific. We're not sure at this stage whether there's a need for the UK National Hub to be a completely separate organisation from TN - there would be advantages and disadvantages to this - but we would love to see much clearer representation from the UK within the National Hubs Group network. We're also very conscious that Transition Scotland and Transition Ireland already exist and there are strong networks developing in Wales. So we're certainly not assuming that a UK-wide structure is the right one to go for.
The UK roadshow events that we are planning for the autumn of 2014 and the spring of 2015 will give us an opportunity to take this conversation forward with Transitioners generally, but it would be great to hear before then from any individuals in the UK who are willing and able to put time into exploring the issue (we've already had a couple of volunteers). If a small group of people come forward, TN would be delighted to support them to meet and start to develop their own vision of what a National Hub might look like and what it might do. If you're interested and/or would like to talk more about this proposal, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A number of people commented on the need and potential for TN to work more closely with organisations and networks with similar aims and values - to avoid duplication and together achieve a greater impact. The examples given were many and various, drawn from across the environmental and social justice movements and beyond.
Developing effective partnerships is a priority for TN over the next three years. We know we have a better chance of delivering each of our desired strategic outcomes if we work with other organisations and networks so, rather than constantly repeating our intention to build partnerships, we stated it as a general intention in the section labelled How we will work (see paragraph F headed Collaborating and looking for synergies). The challenge - and we know it's the same for National Hubs and Transition Initiatives - is to work out which potential partnerships to prioritise from amongst all the great organisations and networks that are out there and to find ways to collaborate which are light-touch, don't require us to set up cumbersome structures and which support rather than burden people in the wider Transition movement. We're experimenting with a couple of interesting alliances at the moment - all at a very early stage, but we will share what we learn from these experiments and you should see evidence of us being increasingly connected to others who are working to support change.
A number of people asked whether there was more TN could do to influence politicians and argue for policy changes that would make it easier for Transition to have an impact at a local level.
We're not sure! We are still a very small organisation compared to the many bodies that are set up to lobby policy-makers and we think it's important that our primary focus is on inspiring, encouraging, connecting, supporting and training people to take action locally. We are also trying to work internationally wherever possible, so it wouldn't be possible or appropriate for us to devote lots of time and resources to influencing a single national Government. But we know that relatively minor changes in policy can sometimes open up new possibilities for many individual Transition initiatives and we want to respond positively to the increasing interest we're finding in community level action at both an international and a national level. So we're going to explore this further, in discussion with National Hubs Group and have mentioned this in the strategy.
Don't get set in your ways and ideas, stay open and flexible with the em-phasis on experimentation and responding to feedback, keep your strategy, and indeed the very existence of TN in its current form, under review.
This feels very important to us. As we get slightly bigger as an organisation and as the Transition movement grows in scale and impact, we're trying to find ways to be more structured about what we're doing without losing our nimbleness and creativity. We've designed this strategy to cover a three year period - anything longer feels much too difficult to predict - and we've committed to reviewing how we're delivering against it every year. Feedback from the wider Transition movement will help keep us on our toes. We know we won't be able to do everything you'd like us to do and we'll certainly make mistakes, but please keep letting us know what's working well and what you'd like us to change.