Year for Committing to Transition:
A time for commitment, a time for aligning interests.
We think this is a critical year. We see indications everywhere that this is the year that we need to be viewing what we’re doing in a new way. Namely, that our educational work, our information, our discussion of options, is now to be geared to two things that we’re asking of people and their communities. First, we’re asking them to recognize that important changes are needed if we are to cope with the “converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century”1, exciting, exhilarating, enormous changes shaped within the framework of building community resilience. Second, we’re calling on them to make a commitment to sustainability, to say that they will weave sustainability into the fabric of their lives and their communities.
Why do we think so? Here are some of the many indications:
First off, objective conditions indicate the immediacy of crises that threaten our way of life, even our existence: catastrophic changes due to global climate instability are looming, as is the disarray of a post-peak oil world and the malaise of economic collapse.
Second, people, organizations, and even governments have been responding to the urgency of these challenges, and the responses are on the rise: 350.org’s Sept 24, 2011 Moving Planet day of around the globe action for sane climate policies; 1,252 North Americans arrested in front of the White House protesting against the tar sands pipeline; Pittsburgh and other municipalities passing rights-based bans on fracking; farmer-consumer groups fighting for local foods, like raw milk, and against industrial frankenfoods, like GMO salmon or GMO rice; hundreds of communities around the world (96 in the United States) becoming official Transition Initiatives.
Which leads to a third kind of indicator, and a deciding factor for us, the emergence of a strategy for building local resilience, generated by the recently started Transition Movement. It provides startup models for how communities can commit to sustainable living practices and align in pursuit of a sustainable, democratic, and regenerative future.
If you don’t know what the Transition Movement2, begun in the British Isles, is about, here is our in-a-nutshell version of its message:
- We are faced with a number of problems of catastrophic proportions. These, like peak oil production, will force change upon us – whether planned or unplanned – and it’d be better for us if we planned our changes.
- Neither technology nor individual initiatives alone will solve the problems. Grassroots, local initiatives, community by community, are needed to provide the collective efforts that empower people, unleash creativity, and thereby build community resilience.
- Taking ownership of the need to create solutions, like energy descent plans, may allow us to create a better society than our current one.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” – W.H. Murray3
The Alliance for Sustainable Communities-Lehigh Valley has decided to work on catalyzing the Greater Lehigh Valley’s Commitment to Transition this year! This will include working on intertwining our own Transition Movement efforts and the ongoing sustainability efforts of other Lehigh Valley organizations during the next 10 months in a flow toward Earth Day 2012 and beyond, with Earth Day 2012 then serving as a community rite of passage, as a crossing of a portal to a new mindset, a new commitment, away from oil dependency and globalization and instead toward the creation of local resilience.
“All of these electric dipoles are randomly oriented—like countless compass needles pointing every which way. But if the dipoles form in the presence of an existing electric field, they immediately align along the same direction as the field.” – Ker Than4
The Transition Movement is essentially establishing a social field, providing a rationale, values, and strategies for individuals, households, communities, organizations, and publics to take actions away from fossil fuels and other unsustainable life threatening modalities to local life-affirming resilience. To align people, communities, and the public at large within this transition social field, we’re asking organizations to:
- provide a “transition flavor” to their events during the coming year and be part of a transition “social field”;
- help in shaping Earth Day 2012 to be a transformational experience;
- participate in Earth Day 2012 itself; and
- perhaps, be involved in post-Earth Day 2012 “transition” developments, like “Great Unleashings” in various communities in the Lehigh Valley.
How does one give a “transition flavor” to the valuable public/community sustainability events that you’re already doing?
- Indicate that the event is in keeping (alignment) with the Transition Movement’s approach of taking us away from fossil fuels and other unsustainable and life threatening modalities to community-generated life-affirming resilience.
- Use “transition terms” to describe what is happening. For example, educational programs on how to live sustainably, healthily, responsibly, productively, can be talked about as the “re-skilling” that we need for us to transition to a healthy, happy and sustainable world. Programs about energy retrofitting or renewable energy or carbon footprints, can be couched in terms of communities’ need to do “energy descent planning”. That can help get us all on the same page. We can help with that.
- Address the importance of collective, community-wide efforts in achieving the desired goals. For example, if talking about conservation, information should be included about the importance of community-wide buy-ins to conservation practices. If talking about energy sources/production, likewise information should be included about Municipal Utility Districts (public ownership/decision-making entities) or about communities making use of local, renewable resources vs. their underwriting or permitting long-distance transmission wires, pipelines, and tankers.
- And it would be great if your events would have info about the Transition Movement itself. We can help with that too.
But the Alliance will also be working more directly on transition objectives by creating a Transition Hub that can provide support for Transition Initiatives in local communities – so that each community can “be the change”. Potentially powerful stuff. If you’d like to work with us on that, our doors are open.
for the Transitions Group of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities-Lehigh Valley
1 – James Howard Kunstler, 2005, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.
2 – Rob Hopkins, 2008-9, The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience. Chelsea Green Publishing.
3 – W.H. Murray, 1951 – source: http://www.goethesociety.org/pages/quotescom.html