What's next for Transition Towns?

It has grown from a local to a global phenomenon, but how does the Transition Movement keep itself relevant in the current political and economic climate?

This article originally appeared in The Guardian


Four years have now passed since the seeds were first sown in Kinsale, County Cork, for the Transition Movement. In a relatively short period of time, the movement has grown into a global phenomenon with Transition Towns now located in countries ranging from the US and New Zealand through to Chile and Italy. And you know it's crossed over into popular thinking when the fictional town of Ambridge in Radio 4's The Archers becomes a Transition Town, as it did last year.

The core idea is simple enough: raising awareness among local communities about their utter dependency on oil. But finding the best ways for each community to wean themselves off oil has always been a little more difficult to pin down. The teachings and theories behind permaculture – self-sufficiency, sustainability, cooperatives, working with nature - have always been at the forefront of the Transition Movement and, in a way, it has often felt as if it has been a sort of rebranding exercise for a philosophy and way of life that somehow appeared trapped in the 1970s. I believe that the Transition Movement has been a much-needed reboot for the sensible thinking that underpins permaculture.

But it also feels as if the time has now come to ask: where does the Transition Movement go next? This weekend, many Transitionites will be heading to the Sunrise Celebration festival near Bruton in Somerset to enjoy the music and speakers, as well as the predicted fine weather. Sunday is being hailed as "Transition Sunday" by the organisers and they promise "talks, forum discussions, movies and more to inspire everybody to get involved in their own local initiatives".

They add:

We are lucky to be based here in Somerset, where even the county council have made a commitment to becoming the UK's first Transition local authority.

Among the many talking points will surely be how the Transition Movement keeps itself relevant in the fast-moving rapids of our current political and economic turmoil. There are no doubt opportunities for the movement, but I also sometimes worry about the company the movement might attract by displaying such a high-profile lunge towards localism.

Looking at the programme of the third annual transition conference held at the Battersea arts centre in South London, it doesn't appear as if there were any events that specifically discussed the potential threats to the movement, but it would be interesting to hear from any Transitionites about the challenges that still need to be overcome if the movement is to continue expanding into new communities.

For example, many of the communities that have warmly welcomed the ideals of the Transition Movement have to date been those that already have, let's say, something of a reputation for being hubs of left-leaning greenery. I'm thinking Totnes, Lewes, Brixton, Bristol and the like. How does the movement now reach beyond these low-hanging fruit?


This article originally appeared in The Guardian

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