From Rob Hopkins’ blog, TransitionCulture.org:
5 Sep 2011
In conversation with Transition US: a transcript
In July I did a ‘webinar’ thing with Richard Heinberg and Carolyne Stayton of Transition US, about how Transition is developing and about what will be contained in the ‘Transition Companion’. With deepest gratitude to Rani of Transition Palo Alto, the poor soul who bravely transcribed it and must be utterly sick of the sound of my voice, here is the transcript. We’ll be doing it all over again on September 12th, and you can hear the audio of the last one here. Maybe see you there.
Carolyne Stayton: Welcome everyone, this is Carolyne Stayton with Transition US. I’m here today with Richard Heinberg. Good morning to you Richard.
Richard Heinberg: Good morning Carolyne.
Carolyne: And Richard will be our host on the call today with Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement. And good afternoon to you Rob.
Rob Hopkins: Good afternoon-morning.
Carolyne: Ha, ha whatever it is.
Carolyne: I wanted to mention a few things now before we begin the program. One is that Rob’s new book, The Transition Companion, published in the US by Chelsea Green, is expected out, by October 24th I believe, and you can pre-order that through a link on our website, transitionus.org.
Carolyne Stayton (Transiton US)In the US, we now have 93 official Transition initiatives, and several hundreds forming. At this point, official or forming Transition initiatives are in almost all of the 50 states. For those who are mulling, it would be great for us to hear about you and your good work, so please go to our website, which links to the Transition Network and let us know who and where you are.
Join us again on September 12 for another conversation with Rob. Also join our Harvest Share, running September 21 to October 21 where we will measure pounds of food shared or hours volunteered in the process of sharing harvests.
Finally, we ask that you consider making a donation to Transition US so that we can keep on offering these types of programs. You can do that too by going to our website transitionus.org.
Our program today is structured along these lines: expect to be on the call about 75 minutes. For 20 minutes or so we get to hear Rob wax eloquently about highlights from the recent Transition conference and the Transition Movement. Then Richard will ask Rob questions based on those submitted by a number of you. Towards the end, and this is where it gets a little fuzzy in the possibilities, Richard and Rob might engage in some dialogue, or Richard and I might ask additional questions ourselves based on further questioning that we’ve received from all of you. It is possible that we will even have time to open the mic for a few calls, and we’ll see how that runs.
Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute)
Now I wanted to introduce Richard Heinberg, our host for this call. Richard is the author of ten books, including his latest The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Senior fellow in residence at the Post Carbon Institute, Richard is best known as a leading educator on peak oil and the devastating impact it will have on our economic, food, and transport systems.
His new book argues that limits to debt, plus tightening natural resource constraints, mean that the era of economic growth, stretching back to the end of World War II, is at an end. However, if we adapt wisely, we can enjoy a higher quality of life even as we consume less. As a sought-after speaker, Richard has presented throughout the world, and has been featured on radio and television, and in documentaries including The End of Suburbia, and Leonard DiCaprio’s The Eleventh Hour. Richard, thank you so much for joining us today and hosting this call, and it is my pleasure to welcome you.
Richard: Thank you, Carolyne. It’s a pleasure for me to be on the call with so many Transition folks, and especially to have the opportunity to have this conversation with my friend Rob Hopkins.
For those who don’t know him, Rob is the originator of the Transition concept, and co-founder of the Transition Network. For the 11% on the call who don’t know what Transition is, we have the ideal person on the phone to tell us. He spent many years teaching permaculture, cob-building, mostly, when living in Ireland. He’s now based in Totnes, in Southern England. He’s a member of Transition Town Totnes, works part-time for Transition Network, publishes transitionculture.org, which, if you don’t have that website bookmarked on your computer, that’s a good thing to do.
Rob Hopkins (Transition)
He’s the author of the Transition Handbook: from Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, which came out in 2008. And he says, he spends generally far too much time thinking about Transition stuff. He is also a trustee of the Soil Association, the winner of the 2008 Schumacher Award, and a fellow of Ashoka International. He’s hard at work finishing up his new book, Transition Companion, which will be out in the US in October of this year.
So that’s enough introduction I guess. As Carolyne said, we wanted to start this call by hearing from Rob. There’s just been a Transition conference in the UK, and I imagine we would all like to hear a little description of what happened, and what the state of Transition initiatives is at the moment. So, Rob, why don’t you just take over the microphone and spend maybe 20 minutes bringing us up to date.
Rob: Thank you very much, and it’s lovely to be here. As some of you know, I gave up flying five years ago, so this is probably the closest I’ll get to having this kind of event in person. But it’s been wonderful over the last few years seeing how Transition has taken root in the US.
It’s been very very exciting to see that whole process unfold.
I have no idea how anybody should do Transition in the US. I can pass on some of the experience from here, but we’ve always imagined Transition from the beginning as being like a huge social experiment. What we’ve done is to create some simple tools, some simple principles, and an invitation to people to be part of an experiment on an enormous scale, and that’s really what’s happening.
For the 11% of you who don’t know what Transition is, basically it’s a bottom-up, grassroots-led response to peak oil and climate change, which is about making the places that we live more resilient, i.e. able to adapt to shocks, about making them more local, but seeing those as an enormous opportunity. Both Carolyne and Richard mentioned the Transition Companion. What we did five years ago and then with the Transition Handbook, was to put out the idea.
The Transition Handbook said, what would it look like if there was a movement all around the world of people doing this? In doing the book, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to look out at this network and see what people are doing, invite their stories, reflections, photographs, drawings, and so on and so on.
Within five years we’ve gone from just one initiative here in Totnes, in Devon, which I’m looking out on from here with rain and seagulls, to there being 375 official initiatives and 427 mulling initiatives. The indications we get from a number of places is that that’s not scratching the surface. There are many more who just haven’t let anybody know what they’re doing.
If you look on the map for Japan, for example, there are only two or three registered initiatives, but anecdotally we know there are about 40 groups working there. And this is in about 34 countries.
Transition has gone from an idea pulled together over pints in Devon pubs to an international phenomenon. It’s amazing and humbling to see that happening. Often we’ll sit around the computer here in the office and go, “Look at this! My God it’s absolutely extraordinary!”
In the Transition Handbook, and in the Primer, which was the first guide, we have the “Twelve Steps of Transition.” Early on people started turning up here in Totnes and saying “This is great, what are you doing exactly? And how does that work?” We really had no idea quite what we were doing – we were making it up as we went along and drawing together the tools and the ideas lying around us.
So we put together the 12 steps, which seemed to represent what we were doing. That was the state of the art when the first book came out.
But now, three years later, after looking around and seeing what people are actually doing, we became aware of the limitations of that as a model. Some people were feeling tied to a chronological “first you do this, then you do this” approach.
And also, in that model, the last of the 12 steps was to do an Energy Descent Action Plan, i.e. to write a community-led bottom-up Plan B for that place. Here in Totnes we did that last year. Strictly speaking we’re finished now and can go back to our daily lives and say, “Well, didn’t we have fun for the last three years?” But of course that’s really only the beginning of the whole process.
So we wanted to rewrite the Transition model in such a way that it was more reflective of what people are actually doing. What’s come out is the idea of Transition as a collection of ingredients and tools. In the same way that when people want to cook they look in at the same pantry full of ingredients, but they cook different things from them, we’ve come to see these ingredients as being solutions to problems encountered by communities trying to do the Transition process – solutions which we’ve seen happen enough times to have confidence that they are going to work.
The foreword to the book was written by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, a food activist and TV chef-guy over here. He said it’s like giving a great cake recipe to a dozen different cooks, and watching how their particular ingredients, techniques, and creative ideas produce subtly different results.
We’re not saying, you have to do this, then you have to do this. It’s really giving people the range of different things they can do. Although we do note that there are certain overall stages to it. Like when you are making a cake, you don’t just put the flour in a bowl, put it in the oven and expect to get a cake. You have to do the butter and the sugar first, then the eggs and then the flour, but there’s lots you can do within that.
So there are five stages we see in the Transition process:
Starting out, the process where you meet some friends and get together and say why don’t you do this?
And then Deepening, which is where you start to really connect it out and become an organization and start to something really meaningful.
Connecting, which is when you go much deeper in the community and build a broader coalition around what you’re doing.
And then there’s Building, which is one of the things that distinguishes the Transition approach, which is saying, “Look, if we’re serious about the intentional localization of this place and its economy, then we need to start being strategic and start scaling up what we do and our thinking.”
The fifth one is called Daring to Dream, which is about what would it look like if this is what happened everywhere, what does this look like at scale.
Doing the book led to hearing fantastic stories from different places. Lewes Sussex, which is one of the first Transition groups, have just covered the roof of their local brewery with 544 solar PV panels. They raised 310,000 pounds from a community share option in four weeks in order to do that. The brewery brewed a special commemorative beer called Sunshine Ale to celebrate. Two years before, when Transition Town Lewes launched the Lewes Pound, they launched a beer called Quid’s Inn to celebrate that as well.