400 Transition Communities Worldwide – That’s pretty impressive

I honestly do not know whether I could live in a transition town or not. I took a hitch hiking tour of “intentional communities” here in America in the early 80s. Now I am not trying to compare Ttowns to communes, but some of them were low tech attempts to be agricultural communities. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a question of how you fit in with the people more than what they were doing, per se. Still they are interesting ideas.


Communities in Transition

Less carbon – more skills and connection

Doug Pibel wrote this article as part of Stop Global Warming Cold, the Spring 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Doug is YES! managing editor. Photo of Doug Pibel

posted Feb 01, 2008


Transition Town Westcliff: community gardens. Photo by Fred Robinson
Citizens of Transition Town Westcliff, in the United Kingdom, are exploring how to prepare for a carbon-constrained world. The town is creating an Energy Descent Action Plan. This photo: community gardens. Photos by Fred Robinson

Rob Hopkins was teaching permaculture in Kinsale, Ireland, when he encountered the concept of peak oil. Hopkins and his students were shocked at the looming prospect of a world without cheap energy, and at the absence of plans to deal with the repercussions. Rather than wait for someone else to act—government or otherwise—they figured out how to address the problem, one community at a time.

Hopkins says, “The idea emerged that the future with less oil could be preferable. But we need to rediscover what was actually good about life before cheap oil.”

Their work led to the Transition Towns movement, which claims 26 communities as members in the United Kingdom, with 400 more worldwide expressing interest in becoming transition communities—people taking charge of preparing their communities to make a graceful entry into a low-energy world.

The essence of the Transition Town concept is building resilience at the community level. As Hopkins points out, it is only in the last half-century that oil has become the central force in all aspects of our lives, moving people, moving food, and removing both the sense of community and the skills for local mutual support.

During World War II, Hopkins says, Victory Gardens were an important part of the food supply. At the time, growing food in the back yard was not a great challenge—most people were at most a generation away from some sort of home food production. Those who were not had ready access to the knowledge of neighbors or elders.

Transition Town Westcliff: sustainable transportation. Photo by Debbie Burnett
Transition Town Westcliff, in the UK. This photo: sustainable transportation. Photo by Debbie Burnett

In the years since World War II, we’ve so absorbed the notion that food should come from trucks that a Victory Garden would be beyond the capability of most. Similarly, cheap clothing shipped across the world has made sewing a quaint thing of the past. Skills that were commonplace less than 100 years ago have disappeared. What we’ve lost, says Hopkins, is resilience.

The Transition Towns movement aims to rebuild that, from the ground up. One key to the success of the movement has been that it invites people on a journey of change, starting where they are right now, rather than using fear or guilt as motivators. The news about peak oil and climate change is still poorly understood by many; helping people adjust to what seems very bad news is part of the Transition Town program



More next week.


2 thoughts on “400 Transition Communities Worldwide – That’s pretty impressive

  1. Interesting blog. I will come back to it and read more. We have Transition Milwaukee going in my town.

    We also have three intentional communities that have sprung up in the last four years–an ecovillage, a yoga cooperative and an art community. i just wrote about the latter

  2. thanks…i once did a piece on milwaukee but i had to pulled it in anger because the milwaukee editor of the newspaper that i pulled the article from accused me of plagiarism…not your problem i know and thanks for the comment again…

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