Saturday, September 1, 2012

still-sound 101. Transition (part 1)

I just read the transcription of an interesting conversation between Rob Hopkins and Charles Eisenstein.

I've been following Rob Hopkins for a number of years now.  He's one of the main voices of the Transition Movement.  The movement seeks to address the way we live and to shift our societies into ones that are resilient and ultimately independent of cheap oil.  Peak Oil, the movement's impetus, is the notion that the demand for oil will only increase in the future as supplies remain level or decline (which may already be the case).  The rise of controversial methods like fracking already suggests that oil is not as readily available as in the past.

It's a simple idea but no small task.  Virtually every aspect of our daily lives is pulsing with a blood supply of cheap oil.  Transport of food, food production, travel and the endless consumption of disposable tat.  Every fiber of our economy and politics is deeply connected with the oil supply.  No wonder endless wars are fought. 

Transition towns are popping up all over the world.  They seek to strengthen local businesses and food production.  In some instances they introduce local currencies to keep the exchange of money within the community.  For example, in Totnes, Devon you can pay for your pints at the pub with Totnes pounds.  The big things, like mortgages are still sold in Sterling.  In addition to strengthening the local economy, these efforts help to foster a sense of community and personal accountability.

Of course it's not just about the economy and politics.  Our very identities are influenced by the consumer-oriented dream machines; advertising and entertainment, all dependent on the supply of oil.  It's a cultural transition as much as anything else.

When you read details of these town 'in transition' they don't come across as particularly radical.  They're not hippy communes.  They are ordinary places where people live and work.  The changes are small and incremental; appearing in business, personal choices and local government.  The transition towns share an underlying goal of shifting everyday life towards sustainability and equality. 

What I like most about the transition movement is that it's practical and gentle. Rob Hopkins is soft-spoken and comes across as thoughtful and, well, ordinary.  The pervading attitude of Transition can be defined as 'let's get on with it'.  In our culture of haters, it's easy to criticize ideas that posit solutions whether major or minor.  Poking holes without offering an alternative solution leads to paralysis, yet is so frustratingly commonplace.  Transition towns do not offer a meta-solution to all of the world's ails and injustices but they are a practical model.  There will have to be many practical, functioning models in place to make a substantial difference.*  What's important though, is that we simply 'get on with it' and start living the life we think is the right one to live.

Here in the US, the media is saturated with campaign rhetoric.  Personas are crafted to exude determination and dominance.  We are supposed to vote for a Fixer - a strong-handed, no bullshit leader.  Inconceivable amounts of money fuel this smoke and mirrors.  The reality though, is that nothing gets fixed.  Obama, Romney and Congress will change nothing.  Ordinary people with an unwavering determination to make their communities better, will make the change.   

I read to be kept current with the activities of transition towns around the world.

I will talk about the actual interview between Rob Hopkins and Charles Eisenstein in the next post.

* In fact, it's hard for me to imagine Los Angeles going into transition.  It's a city that was built around cars and cheap oil.  The city would essentially have to redefine itself from the ground up.  Most European towns developed before the advent of the automobile and the addiction to oil.  They were already sustainable and their planning reflects this (eg. town hall, a central commerce area, market halls, proximity to farmland).  Los Angeles and much of America that quickly developed into the wide open continent and came into their own after the Industrial Revolution have their own unique set of challenges.

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