The Transition movement started as a response to the twin threats of global climate change and peak oil. The age of cheap energy is coming to an end. Managing this change is an unprecedented challenge on a global scale.
Transition Towns provide a grassroots model for meeting this challenge.
The Four Assumptions and Six Principles of Transition
The Transition Handbook
Transition US social networking on Ning
Confrontational Activism vs. Model Building
I entered into political activism in the wake of 9/11.
I saw the Bush administration take advantage of that tragedy and use it to crush political dissent as they began unjust, unsustainable wars in two third world countries.
In protest, I painted banners, held signs, marched, even got arrested. I ate alongside the homeless with Food Not Bombs and learned a bunch from veteran organizers. Eventually I moved from direct action to local politics - playing important roles in two local election campaigns for the Green Party. I moved from there to organizing in the inner city for ACORN, and I saw how the other half lives here in the richest nation in the world.
Many of the things I did in those days were in the confrontational style: standing in the path of injustice or destruction in hopes of stopping it, or at least slowing it down. But I got sick of working hard, making sacrifices in my relationships and my finances, and yet, never winning. Burnout came, then life followed suddenly on its heels. For a long time, my political activism was limited to signing a petition or writing a letter here and there.
But I remembered certain things from my days as an activist. And as I thought, and read, and watched other activist campaigns at work, I came to a conclusion.
The two kinds of activism that work the best are the kinds that change how most people think, and the kinds that directly affect people's lives.
Transition fits into this role nicely.
Confrontational activism has power, and has a vital place in changing our society and protecting the environment. But it can only take us so far. New laws and regulations have loopholes - and they are written, ultimately, by the people with the money and power.
A full on, confrontational battle with the machine is not enough. The powerful have (relatively) unlimited resources, and an army of highly skilled, highly paid professionals:
- propagandists who have a range of unflattering stereotypes to draw on when discrediting environmentalists and other activists. When it is no longer enough to paint us as privileged, stoned and out of touch, they can whip out the "domestic terrorist" label.
- police services to investigate us and intimidate us, and remove activists from where we are most effective.
- military services to crush any meaningful, threatening change and ensure that there is a steady supply of cheap labor and cheap oil.
They have mastered the tactics that win in the arena that they
The trick is to bring the fight into a new arena. We can try to regulate coal burning power plants out of existence - or we can take practical steps to reduce our collective need for energy from coal and other fossil fuels.
This is where Transition's focus on solutions comes in.
Transition is both a mitigation strategy and an adaptation strategy.
Relocalizing, cutting reliance on fossil fuels, and encouraging organic food production increase our sustainability and simultaneously prepare us for the problems we will face with a changing climate, peak oil, and ecological crash. Transition is about building resilience.
The Transition Movement is inclusive.
American politics is divisive. This is one reason why the American system (like most systems throughout history) is working very well for those who already have power, and is basically broken for everyone else.
The loudest 10% on the so called "left" is shouting at the loudest 10% on the so called "right" - and that's all we get to hear.
Transition is focused on practical solutions to the problems we face. Debates about which politicians we should elect, or on divisive social issues, are not part of the model (although they will doubtless happen within that model). There is no reason why a conservative small business owner cannot support a liberal small farmer
- because it is in both of their interests to do so. There is a place in Transition for people who are interested in local food, urban planning, transportation issues, advocacy for the poor (in America and abroad), local business and economics
, self sufficiency, energy policy...
Transition is ground up transformation.
The corporate buzzword is "emergent." Each community can do whatever is appropriate - whatever there is energy for. One community can plant fruit trees and community gardens, another can create a solar power co-op
, another can focus on encouraging local business and alternative community economics. Hopefully all Transition Communities would eventually embrace all the aspects of transition, but the process is an organic one, not a cookie cutter approach.
Nor is it top down. There's no need to wait for politicians and regulators to decide when and where it is appropriate (read: profitable) to build a massive windfarm or nuclear plant or megasolar generating plant that will allow the utility companies to sell us free electricity.
We can do all of this for ourselves!
Although Transition came from a permaculture theorist (Rob Hopkins), not an anarchist, the techniques are the same: meaningful, direct action that impacts our day to day lives. It is a model.
Like any model, it will have structural problems and shortcomings. I think that Transition should focus on a pending ecological crash
as well as a carbon crash and climate change - but even without explicitly addressing other kinds of ecological overshoot, Transition could drop our ecological footprint considerably.