Towns in Transition

Let’s assume, despite those who would still argue otherwise, that climate change is real and people did and do have a part to play in it.

Let’s also assume, despite those who would still argue otherwise, that peak oil is real and we can’t keep using fossil fuels.  (Video below best viewed from 1:45.)

Here’s a worrying fact:

According to wikipedia, in 2013, world production of maize was 1, 016 million tones, rice, 745 million tones and wheat 713 million tons and increasing.  Given industrialised agriculture is not kind to soils, that means an awful lot of fertiliser.

And guess what? Industrial agriculture is heavily dependent on oil.  Wheat alone is grown on more than 218 million hectares of land.  Then there’s the oil used in food processing, packaging and transportation.  That’s a lot of oil. And I’ve probably only scratched the surface.

Peak oil threatens food security and according to researchers Henk-Jan Brinkman and Cullen S. Hendix, food insecurity is a threat and multiplier for violent conflict.

I’m not painting a very pretty picture.

But that doesn’t mean that we should bury our head in the sand.  The problem isn’t going to go away and political strategy has failed to address the issue.

So why wait?

The Transition Town Movement began in the once little known town of Totnes, Devon in the sunnier part of England.  It is a “dynamic, community-led and run charity that exists to strengthen the local economy, reduce the cost of living and build resilience for a future with less cheap energy and a changing climate”.   It now operates in more more than 850 towns across the globe.  In Totnes, 500 homes have reduced carbon emissions and water used, saving on average about £750 a year per household.  Lewes in Sussex has it own community-owned solar power station.  The more infamous area of Brixton in London has raised sufficient funds for its own.  These towns also adopt their own currencies to encourage local buying and support for local businesses.  They are creating local jobs, avoiding long commutes to the country’s financial centre.  They work on inner transition too, helping deal with stress and health.

And politicians are taking note – Rob Hopkin’s book “Transition Handbook” ranked 5 in MPs summer reading.  Yet, the movement has created more significant change in a short space of time than our government or the European parliament will before their 2020 targets, even though they’ve read the book.

At the moment I’m looking for a place to rent temporarily in Spain for the winter.  In Galicia there’s a very cheap rental, with some land included, which you can develop if you wish.  It’s a stone cottage, and its interior is beautifully crafted in wood, including a bedroom made to look like the cabin of an old wooden ship.  It’s beautifully set in an agricultural and forest landscape.  Not far from a small town, it isn’t isolate and there is a convenient bus service to the nearest city.  I emailed the owner in my best Spanish and received a reply.

The home is obviously loved.  The owner simply wants someone to live in it and look after it, because,  for work, he is divided between Madrid and Malaga, distances of 500 and 1000 km respectively.  His experience tells of a sad story in Galicia, where whole village are for sale, as the younger generation have had to move to the cities for work and the buildings are exposed to the elements and beginning to crumble.  Communities, their histories and their culture are dying.  Galicia isn’t alone.  The story is widely and globally told.

The Transition Town Movement offers hope to those that still survive.  Perhaps local people will be able to remain in the homes they own, the homes they love and benefit from an income they do not have to travel for?

And if you don’t have a home – make use of what there is:








8 thoughts on “Towns in Transition

  1. I would say that British “debaters” are a heck of a lot more polite that Americans! NASA? Really. How could all those independent researchers reach the same conclusion? I only listened to a little of the second one. The third one, I can’t imagine living alone for 45 years. Did you see how many cats they were feeding? Good grief. But my guess is they were pretty healthy with no one else around to give them any germs? I found it interesting that even in that Spanish village the houses were named! 😀 Global warming is a series thing. Something tells me it’s going to end up like a TV movie where everyone waits till there are three hours left to do anything about it… (Is it a cop out to say I’m glad I won’t be around to the see destruction>)

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    1. Debating is still regarded as an art form. Schools have teams that go against each other, and students who take part take it very seriously. There is a ‘code of conduct’ which I think transfers into our more public realm. Logical flaws like ‘ad hominem’ attacking the person rather than the argument are avoided, it’s not a way to win an argument!
      There’s a book coming out in October which is written by a scientist with a comic book writer/illustrator to address climate change denial. It arose from research conducted on science teachers in the US, 100% of who taught about climate change. When asked what percentage of scientists agreed that climate change is caused by human activity they reported less than 80%, when it is 97%. They found that teaching the science of climate change doesn’t change people’s minds, but present it as a story, or by using metaphors, it is more powerful, that’s what they’ve set out to do. Will be interesting to see how it is received.
      I agree that it’s likely to play out that way. We envisage the force of martial law and the new gold will be soil and seeds. I’m not sure that we won’t be around to see it. I think we are already seeing it, if not yet at home.
      I was taken by the naming of houses too. It suggests they are seen as more than commodities. Which is all the more reason why their abandonment is a travesty. It is possible that the couple’s isolation meant they weren’t exposed to viruses etc, but I also wonder if their way of life contributed to disease resistance?

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      1. Yes, that’s an interesting observation about their way of life. My friend Eunice, one of the ladies I visit, will be 103 on the 16th. She REFUSES to talk about the past. Think that has anything to do with her longevity? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

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        1. That’s very interesting. Has she ever said why she doesn’t want to? A focus on the here and now may keep her growing and moving forward from past events does help generate positivity and resilience. Maybe we’ve unlocked the secret!!

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            1. And I thought gossiping was bad for you!! But having a social niche, support etc is very important for health and gossiping is also a way to gain a sense of ‘belonging’ in a group which according to Maslow is one of our basic motivational needs. 103 years – that’s quite remarkable.

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                1. Yes, I’m not a great lover of evolutionary theories in psychology, but have come across the evolutionary basis and value of gossiping before. I was coming from a more Buddhist angle – Right Speech as part of the Noble Eightfold Path – based on the value that to be noble is more important that a host of many other things including to be healthy. At the time I was exposed to it, I thought that that one of the eight was the one I really needed to work on!!!

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