Monday, 22 February 2010

Transition Towns: the way of the future?

So here's what I am thinking about at the moment. Just back from a meeting to set up a Transition Initiative in Hitchin. For those who have no clue what I am talking about the Transition Town Initiative's purpose is to encourage sustainable communities and provide advice on how to achieve them.

On the one hand I am very excited because the movement has grown from Kinsale, Ireland to more than 160 initiatives across the world. When one looks at what has been achieved already - the spotlight on Totnes , the first UK transition town, thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who was so inspired by the local food hub that he set up Landshare to connect landowners and growers nationally. More recently Lewes got involved and introduced the Lewes pound as a way of strengthening the local economy whilst preventing money leaking out.

All inspiring stuff and I have said to the main organiser in Hitchin that I am happy to get on board as part of the steering committee providing they have a specific initial project in mind like producing a local directory of local produce. I wait to see what happens.

So the focus is on creating a local community we would all like to be part of that becomes less resilient on oil and fossil fuels because the world's supply is diminishing. What this means is finding ways to share what we have whether that is car sharing schemes; giving neighbours without gardens a space in our garden if it is large enough so that they can grow their own fruit and veg; clubbing together with neighbours to get a solar panel for each roof and thereby cut the costs because companies are often based a fair distance (read several counties away) from consumers.

This is where I have a question. To what extent are people prepared to share their resources? How much do people want to create community? How far are people prepared to go to make a difference? How bad does it have to get before there is an attitudinal change, a willingness to get involved? There has already been lots of debate about whether climate change is real. All this confusion means it is easy to ignore these cries for change by focusing on more immediate concerns.

This sounds depressing and before we decide to give up, it is worth remembering the daffodil principle. One woman had a vision which was to cover fields with daffodils as far as the eye could see. After a number of years and having planted one bulb at time, her dream was realised. We can make a difference, one person at a time. So what can each of us do to make this a better place for our kids and our grandchildren? I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I think the bone of contention with climate change is not whether it exists, but rather if it is caused by humans or not. For me it's a no brainer. And even if there's no proof either way right now, can we afford to sit on our hands waiting for the "all clear"? I don't think so. I don't want to be saying, "we told you so" as the water laps at my feet.
    So applause to you, the Transition Initiative and anyone trying to make a difference.

  2. I agree with you Garry. We need to act now for the future generations we are bringing into the world rather than getting caught up in semantics and politics. It's amazing to see how dependent we are on oil though - all plastics, nylon and spandex, the list goes on...

  3. Fantastic post. I find it terribly depressing thinking of everyone I know who owns a houseful of identical and expensive equipment. When I was little my mum had a lawnmower, one friend's mum had a tumble drier, another drove so gave lifts and so on. Currently (among other things) I give a friend's daughter a lift to school, and do my mum's washing; she also uses my computer. I have three people who bring the girls home from school on specific days, and help offload my granny's fruit and veg grown in her allotment. I hardly know anyone else who even does these simple things, which I find astounding. I want to live in a field of daffodils even if no one else does!

  4. Thanks for the lovely comments Kim. I know what you mean. I remember being almost religious about using biodegradable nappies even though they cost shed loads more than Huggies and Pampers. One mother took incredible delight in telling me why they were a waste of time and did not work in landfill sites because of the lack of oxygen in the landfill! Another friend ended up starting nappygate because she dared to suggest that biodegradable nappies could be put in the compost bin. We have a long way to go but I take heart in the thought that every little helps.