Start your own transition town, and you go a long way to restore ‘resilience’ to your community. This simply means that your community is not reliant on supermarkets, oil prices or national currencies in order to eat and live well.
In a nutshell, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (oil, gas, nuclear). It’s not just warming your home and fuelling your car. Everything these days in modern life relies on it. Take your supermarket. Not only does it take oil to import all the non-seasonal foods (and palm oil) by plane, but once here, most produce is taken to central distribution houses to be stored (sometimes for up to a year) in fridges that are powered by oil. Then it takes more oil to drive the lorries to the supermarket, and you use oil to drive to the supermarket because many can’t be walked to. Then most items are wrapped in plastic, which is made from oil. Etc etc.
Most transition towns:
Grow their own food. If growing and sharing food and seeds etc, see pet-toxic plants, trees and mulches to avoid. This also applies to seed swaps as many (like lupins) are toxic to pets.
- Run their own energy. Many put solar panels on local schools etc, to give free energy to the community, and excess energy can be sold back to the grid, to pay for community projects.
- Have their own currencies. Totnes had England’s first local currency, and this has been followed by ones in Brixton, Lewes and Bristol.
- Are not ‘owned’ by the corporate world. Totnes even has an ‘independent cinema’ in a pub! It also has fruit and nut trees so people can help themselves, and free herb gardens. Supermarkets do not dominate.
How did Transition Towns start?
He was not the only one involved, but the idea came about when permaculture gardener Rob Hopkins (who had been teaching classes in Ireland on self-sufficiency) heard that the then-Prime minister was concerned that ‘Britain was only a few days away from having no food’, due to lorry strikes. A similar thing happened recently with Brexit, believing we would starve, with no imports.
Rob thought this was batty. We are a rich nation with fertile land, and don’t suffer from the freak weather like some countries where all the harvest would fail. How did we get to such reliance on supermarkets, that we can’t feed ourselves, without help from Tesco?
So he set up the first Transition Town in the quirky little town of Totnes, in Devon. This is filled with hippy types’, so many people got on board. Some joker has apparently put a sign ‘twinned with Narnia’ as you reach the town. It started its own currency, put a solar panel on a big roof to provide energy, and there are local food swaps, garden-shares and growing free food for the community. It even has an indie cinema above a pub.
The movement took off and now there are transition towns all over the world. In the spirit of independence, each one has its own ideas, though often borrows from others. So there is no one ‘set formula’. Some transition towns in England include:
- Totnes has created a Grown in Totnes Toolkit for the ‘small-scale grain and pulse movement’ (doesn’t that sound wonderful?) It’s to help growers, millers, bakers and retailers grow local food. It grows free fruit and nut trees for the community to help themselves (fancy some apples? – don’t buy the shellac-sprayed plastic-wrapped ones from the supermarket, just pop down the street and pick a few off the tree). There’s also a Skillshare project (like a timebank where people swap skills, no money involved). Mend someone’s sticky door and get someone bake you a cake in return!
- Lewes has managed to make all the local allotments nature-friendly, founded its own energy company and local currencies, and also has local food markets and a plastic-free campaign.
- Transition Liverpool is a major hub, one of the people involved wrote the ultimate book on local money and currencies for the Transition movement. The projects include ‘Scouse Veg’, Merseyside Cycling Campaign and ‘Frack Off’ campaign!
- Kingston (Surrey) gives away free seeds to local growers (most shops sell F1 hybrid seeds designed not to re-grow, so you have to buy new seeds the next year). It again skill-shares and builds solar roofs on community buildings. And it delivers unused food from supermarkets and other places to local charities, saving it from being incinerated.
Want to Learn More?
Visit Transition Network, the main site where you’ll also find Rob’s blog and read his book. This is where you can also look up to see if there’s already a Transition Town near you. If not, then you’ll find all the help, training and resources to set one up from a vibrant and helpful community.
In a Transition Town, the idea (and it’s never ever preachy, always fun and inclusive – everyone’s doing their best – most of us supermarkets when we can’t find alternatives) is to do exactly the opposite! You would have local food hubs where you can find affordable organic food grown by local people, not in plastic. You can walk to the shop or the farm, and you can get your energy from a solar panel on a local roof (say from a school) so you have less bills. You have more walking and cycling paths, so there is less oil needed to run your car. And you can buy fresh food most days, so you don’t have big fridges powering up food from afar.
If the whole world did this, then we would use gazillions of gallons less oil, there would be less fossil fuels, less climate change, less flying and less wildlife having oil pollution accidents. And our lives would be nicer too – slow and more relaxed, with no self check-outs to drive you batty! They would become extinct!
The Transition Town Reading List
These books can help to make communities resilient against the rising price of oil (and therefore food) and aims to take back power with local food, money, energy and housing. Some books are official, others are simply written by others on the same subject. There are quite a few of these. So if you are planning to set one up, put your reading glasses on. And if not, find a local bookworm to read them then feed back with the important details! Also check out a lovely free e-book Ecology Begins at Home (does not appear to be in print anymore, just use Archie’s calculations to reduce your use of oil.
- Climate-Action Planning is a book to help planners and citizens work at local levels to reduce a community’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience against climate change. It goes well beyond climate action plans to examine the mix of policy and planning instruments available for all communities. Learn how to assess your greatest risks and opportunities and find sections of land use and transport, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- The Transition Timeline is by Shaun Chamberlin who is instrumental in Transition Kingston. This is more the science of how Transition Towns can help stop climate change. Buy direct from his site (he gets 10 times more than if you bought on Amazon).
- The Transition Handbook is the first book, a good all-rounder to show you what it’s all about, and how to do it. Rob’s updated Transition Companion includes stories from around the world, about what people are doing globally.
- Local Money: How to Make It Happen In Your Community covers local currencies (including examples from around the world), skill-sharing schemes (like time banks and local exchange trading schemes), regional currencies from Germany and Argentina’s barter networks. Dr Peter North is a founding member of Transition South Liverpool.
- Local Food: How to Make It Happen In Your Community covers community gardens & orchards, farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, allotments, garden-sharing, food co-ops, local food guides, school growing projects and local food events. Written by two co-founders of Transition Town Totnes. If growing food for your local community, see pet-toxic plants, trees, mulches & other items to avoid.
- Local Sustainable Homes: How to Make Them Happen In Your Community looks at building a roundhouse in the woods, refurbishing council flats in Sheffield, developing an eco-cluster in rural Dorset and creating sustainable social housing in Kirklees. The author helps run the Building and Housing Group for Transition Town Totnes, and lives in a well-insulated home with solar thermal and photo-voltaic panels.
- Communities, Councils & a Low-Carbon Future is a polite title for ‘how to inspire councils to get their acts together. It covers biodiversity, energy efficiency, food, planning, recycling, transport, water and wellbeing. It also covers how to get elected with insights from four eco-councillors.
- Community Energy: How to Make It Happen In Your Community is by the co-founder of a community energy project in Scotland. Since the book was written, new bladeless wind turbines (safer for birds and bats) have come onto the market so if using wind power, explore these if not using other clean energies. This book is more about how to harness your community to provide its own energy
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 be just enough, just in time. Transition Network
I’m not afraid of a world with less consumerism, less ‘stuff’ and no economic growth. I’m far more frightened of the opposite. Rob Hopkins
Ultimately, we all have to decide what our own life is for. I will die one one day. And whether my day is near or far, I choose to look back on my time, and know that I walked through the doors that inspired me. Shaun Chamberlin
All of the easy oil is gone, and what’s left is requiring more energy and money, and this has an effect on everything. Our problem is that we’ve created an infrastructure that’s so dependent on oil. So we really need to start building an alternative economy, before we get caught in a trap of our own making. Richard Heinberg
Transition Towns ultimately are all about change. We can’t go on the way we’re going, but often communities need a little positive nudge, to make the leap to do something different. The great thing about the TT movement is that it makes it fun and interesting. Who wouldn’t like to pick a free organic apple from a street tree, meet up with friends at an indie cinema above a pub, or not pay any energy bills?!