Transition Town North Bay is looking at ways to help our city and it's surrounding communities adapt to a future with less fossil fuel energy. Global warming tells us that we must end our dependence on fossil fuels, and the end of cheap oil tells us that this will happen whether we want it to or not.
Our mission is to help make the transition to a lower carbon society smoother by undertaking projects in our own communities that promote a more sustainable way of living. The world-wide transition movement prescribes a set of principles and techniques that have proven themselves to be successful in bringing about change. Much of these techniques are drawn from the study of perma-culture (permanent cultures), studying the history of civilizations that successfully navigated change, and efforts to understand our own inner natures and the psychology/spirituality of change.
Transition town members from around the world are working on a wide variety of ideas to help communities become more resilient. Our local initiative has started projects to promote local food consumption and food security. We are also partnering with other local environmental groups to build awareness of what the problems are and why change is inevitable.
Our local North Bay initiative is still in the exploratory stages but hopes to become recognized as an official transition initiative once we meet the criteria.
Transition Initiatives are an approach to building community level sustainability from a grass-roots level. This approach is modelled after successful projects in the UK and Ireland. A wide spread movement is now underway to adopt this model in other communities around the world.
The Transition Initiative model is based on four key assumptions:
- That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it’s better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.
- That our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the energy shocks that will accompany peak oil.
- That we have to act collectively and we have to act now.
- That by unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.
We accept that energy descent is not only inevitable, but desireable. The aim of a Transition Initiative is to create this more desireable future without oil through careful forsight and planning. We don’t believe that less oil necessarily has to mean a lower standard of living. Indeed there are many benefits to a revitalized local economy, such as:
- Happier and less stressed population
- More local businesses creating employment opportunities
- Healthier, more active lifestyle
- Improved air and water quality
- Increased community stability
We do this by helping a community explore and come up with it’s own practical answers. What works for one town, city, or village may not work for the next but when we find something that works we try to share it with others. We aim to create communities that are more resilient:
“Better able to withstand shocks from the outside, be they from climate change, energy security, or rising fuel prices.”
A transition initiative tries to act as a catalyst for a community to explore and come up with it’s own answers. They focus the collective mind on the practicalities of energy descent.
The methods used to achieve this change of mindset involve six underlying principles:
- Visioning: We can only move towards something if we can first imagine it.
- Inclusion: We need to involve everyone and not just ‘green people’ if we are to be successful.
- Awareness: Setting out the case as clearly, accessibly, and entertainingly as possible. We provide the key arguments but let people formulate their own responses.
- Resilience: Rebuilding resilience while moving toward a zero carbon society.
- Psychological Insight: An understanding of the psychology of change.
- Credible and Appropriate Solutions: Enabling people to explore solutions on a credible scale.
There are four types of initiatives within the Transition Model:
- Local Transition Initiatives
- Local Transition Hubs
- Temporary Initiating Hubs
- Regional Coordinating Hubs
Local Transition Initiative
A local Transition Initiative is embedded in its own locale where the steering group inspires and organises the community. This the simplest and most frequent initiative and is typically found in communities up to 15,000 people. This is the real heart of Transition.
Local Transition Hub
Based within a large congruent/contiguous area with its own identity (e.g. a city). Helps establish and support Local Transition Initiatives in it's surrounding areas. The transition hub provides encouragement, resources and training to other initiatives in it's locale, and facilitates the process of 'registering' as an official transition initiative. A community is only as resilient as it's neighbours.
Temporary Initiating Hub
Made up of a collection of acquainted individuals from different locales in the same region. Members of this group help each other start up Local Transition Initiatives in their region and then the group disbands. Members of the Temporary Initiating Hub usually move on to become members of their own local initiative when it starts to achieve some momentum.
Regional Coordinating Hub
A collection of existing transition initiatives that get together for mutual support, coordinating activities, and sharing resources. It is clear that there needs to be some sort of structure that is able to engage with government at all levels - local, regional and national.
The Transition Network only recognizes organizations representing collections of transition initiatives if:
- They have been requested by, or have emerged from a significant proportion of the active Transition Initiatives in the region.
- They are organized, run and coordinated by representatives appointed from within active Transition Initiatives in the region.
We advocate an organizational model where small groups with no central leader work in a cooperative fashion supporting each other’s projects. The role of a Transition Initiative is to raise the awareness and profile of projects and to build interest in the principles and concepts of Transition as a whole. Within this model, we need to be careful that the integrity of the ‘brand’ is preserved and it is recommended that new projects submit an outline of their proposal to the group for endorsement.
The scale of projects should be local in scale, such as a small town, municipality or neighbourhood. Because we interface with local politics, it is a good idea to consider the existing political boundaries when considering the scope of your project.
Transition Initiatives aim to extend and improve upon the definition of environmentalism, which traditionally has been focused on the single issue of global warming. We believe that a more holistic approach needs to be taken.
Traditional environmentalism focuses on individual change, and while this is important, we believe that change needs to be affected at multiple levels. One level that has been left out of mainstream dialogue is change at the local community level.
We think that the much needed upgrades to government policy is best achieved through making the new policies electable, rather than through lobbying, campaigning and protesting. To do this, we need more public participation, which can be achieved through arts, culture, and creative education.
Targeted interventions seem to work better than blanket campaigning.
A general understanding of the psychology of change suggests that fear, guilt and shock make poor drivers for action. People are more likely to respond to hope, optimism, and pro-activity. The man in the street is not the problem, he is the solution.
The idea of ‘Green Growth’ is probably not going to be possible, and we should instead plan for a ‘Green Renaissance’. The magnitude of the problem is similar to the emergence of Europe from the dark ages, which was marked by a revolution in intellectual pursuits, social and political upheaval, and major reforms in education.
The concept of sustainability also needs to be extended to include the ability of a community to withstand shocks imposed on us from outside forces beyond our control. We call this new concept resiliency, which is characterized by efforts to re-localize.
The role of local authorities is to support, but not drive their local Transition Initiative. The successful project is community-led with a bottom-up process, not top-down as municipal governments are structured.
Transition initiatives work independently of local politicians but try to cooperate wherever possible. Enthusiastic support of council is invaluable in helping transition initiatives grow, and can help ideas reach parts of the community that might not otherwise be reached.
One way a local council can help support transition initiatives is to pass a motion to endorse it. This support is very powerful in terms of being able to drive the initiative forward and enhance credibility, but should only be sought once the project has established a track record and has it’s own identity. Other ways a council can support Transition is to pass a resolution acknowledging peak oil and/or global warming.
A local transition initiative should have a local government committee and appoint a liason to council to help facilitate communication and cooperation amongst the groups. Public representatives should be invited to attend and participate in transition intitative events. The local government committee is expected to keep an eye out for council consultations and to appoint someone to attend.
Local councilors and other local government officials may want to attend Transition Initiative events and become members of their local initiative but should be careful not to appear to be driving the process. In the early stages of the process, members of the initiative should focus on raising awareness of and building support for the project and not get bogged down in the bewildering world of policy writing and local government work. In the later stages of development, local officials can provide valuable advise on how the political structure works and may want to become involved with the Initiative’s local government committee.