Transition to a low-carbon future
Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. In just five years, 870 Transition initiatives in 34 countries have started to develop community-scale resilience to the energy and climate challenges ahead. We want, now, to catalyse and deepen take-up of the Transition innovation approach.
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
Few communities are well-prepared for the imminent peak of conventional oil production, and the adjacent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to reduce climate change. 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.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
Transition works collaboratively with communities to replace fear of climate change and peak oil with hope and meaningful work. Transition initiatives create awareness of climate change and peak oil and focus on the creation of locally-inspired projects involving local food, energy efficiency, renewable energy and resources. By acting as a community, rather than as individuals, they are able to take more effective, ambitious and high impact actions, as well as build the resilience of their community, which will be important in a more localised society.
The Transition concept was initiated in Kinsale, Ireland, and Totnes UK. In Kinsale, permaculture lecturer Rob Hopkins and his students learned about peak oil and responded by researching and developing an Energy Descent Action Plan for the Kinsale community. Rob moved to Totnes, where a group of local people came together to create Transition Town Totnes, in 2005-2006.
Inspired by this, the Transition innovation spread virally and rapidly as an inspirational grassroots movement. Within five years, there are now 870 communities pioneering a Transition approach, in 34 countries. Transition Network was set up as a support organisation to help answer a growing flow of enquiries and requests for information, guidance, training, support and practical ideas, from communities inspired to find their own solutions to the challenges of peak oil and climate change. We have set up an international network of 95 Transition Trainers in 25 countries who can help provide training on a local basis, and National Hub organisations to provide local support and networking in 12 countries.
Examples of the remarkable changes already achieved in many communities include Transition Lewes’s community-owned renewable solar energy company, Transition Brixton’s local currency, or Marsden and Slaithwaite Transition Town’s community-owned shop selling, and increasing production of, a wide range of local food. Transition initiatives are taking off in the favelas of Brazil and are responding to the economic crisis and protests in Spain and Portugal. More deprived communities such as Jamaica Plain, Boston, USA and Eastfield, UK are focussing the Transition approach on solving community problems of fuel poverty, food security, and local employment.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
Transition takes a strong self-organising, and grassroots-led approach. We are a living example of the Trimtab principle as described by the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Transition Network has a small staff of 12, but has been able to catalyse and influence a grassroots movement involving many thousands of people globally. The largely self-organising and community-led approach allows the rapid scaling up and replication of the innovation.
The work of each of these communities is hugely inspired and nourished by being part of an international whole through Transition Network. We provide support and training relevant to groups at different stages and those who are just starting to explore the issues. We help Transition initiatives through advice on the best way to run groups, raise awareness or run practical projects. We facilitate effective sharing of ideas and resources between initiatives, including through our highly interactive networking website, which had 345,000 unique visitors in its first year, and our monthly e-newsletter received by more than 10,000 Transitioners.
Transition principles are inspired by another Buckminster Fuller insight: the system-scale rule, that large scale problems require small scale solutions within a large-scale framework. In this spirit, our activities are grounded in global environmental and resource limits, but respond to specific community needs and culture in each local area. The Transition innovation has been a breakthrough because the concept has very wide appeal globally, for people to take it on and own it locally.
Transition initiatives are starting to have real effects on economic relocalisation, and have catalysed the launch of a huge range of environmental and ecological projects. There is a strong creative and story-telling element to Transition techniques and approaches.
The Transition message also includes peak oil, which can inspire a greater range of people to recognise its reality and relevance to their lives. So much of what we hear about climate change, peak oil and sustainability is deeply disempowering, often leaving people feeling scared and hopeless. The Transition approach enables people to find a way past that through communal action.