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Inequality in the Transition Network purpose statement discussion: Explaining what it's all about

Where does equality fit in Transition?  Should Transition be responding to climate change, the rising cost of energy and inequality?

This is a question that the staff team at Transition Network have been mulling over for some time.  Our discussions have journeyed from responses to inequality need to be somewhere in Transition towards responses to inequality need to be everywhere in Transition, and perhaps at the centre.  We’ve come up with a possible new purpose statement to reflect this. It says:

“Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.”

Of course this statement is fairly familiar except for the addition of the word “inequality”. If we are to change Transition Network’s purpose statement in this way, it will be because people involved in Transition want this to happen.
We asked a few people to write about their thoughts on inequality in Transition. We realised that very few of these people were against the idea and yet we didn’t seem to know people in Transition who would be against it.  So we put a note on the Transition website to invite anyone and everyone to submit their thoughts.  We received 21 responses of which the overwhelming majority were for the idea. 

We’ve laid out all the submissions in the following blogs and would love to hear your comments on this discussion. 

What next?  Will Transition Network be adopting a purpose statement that includes inequality as a central driver?  Well that all depends on you…



Doly Garcia's picture

I think it would make a bit

I think it would make a bit more sense to have the equality bit in the second part of the statement, like: “Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience, equality and happiness.”

As I see it, the goals come in the first part (dealing with climate change and peak oil), and the means in the second part (building resilience, equality and happiness). Adding "dealing with inequality" as a goal just gives one more possibly conflicting direction to move towards. What if somebody has been very active in fighting inequality but isn't very interested in climate change? Isn't it likely to create more conflict, when Transition initiatives have often had plenty of conflict already?

On the other hand, if building equality is one of the means, the project of the person fighting inequality will be evaluated on whether it also helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels or not. If it's purely about inequality (and perhaps even increasing the need for fossil fuels), the person could be told that maybe a Transition initiative isn't the right environment to do that kind of project.


Hugh Fraser's picture

When diversity makes demands you cannot meet

Where I live we have NO TRANSITION initiative BECAUSE of issues around diversity.

Here on the outer reaches of Notting Hill in West London, where 'we' have the annual Carnival, acceptance and recognition of a truly diverse approach to ANYTHING relating to the community lies at the end of a long, hard road: long, because the peace we now have here in the deprived north of this the richest borough in the nation took many years to achieve following the 1958 [yes, 1958] Notting Hill Riots; and hard--well this area had had conflicts for much of the 23 years before the 1981 riots in Brixton, South London. Yet, in August this year, what troubles we had locally amounted to little more than a couple of smashed shopfronts.

I am no social historian nor a specialist in the events or the stories of the many different local ethnicities and minorities that are the basis for the claim by borough to be the most diverse borough within the most diverse city of Europe. I was a commited green activist. Writing about this issue is not easy. There are, understandably, toes to avoid stepping on. I speak for myself alone, not our former group.

It is true to say, we have no Tranition initiative today, but for over two years there were four of us working away fortnightly to keep our initiative going, to grow it and to expand it. Yet finally recognising that Transition had not taken hold hereabouts and would be unlikely to, we decided to give the project a rest. We identified 101 reasons why. 

We remain friends and sometimes we debate those reasons. But the implications of diversity are as multifaceted as our local community, where we 'White British' are but one tribe. Other 'tribes' have their own persectives, their own priorities. As a model, Transition seemed so very 'foreign' to others, they just did not know what we were getting so bothered about. The priorities of a family newly escaped from Afghanistan are very different from those of an nth generation English family in a small market town.

We were fortunate in receiving support in the making of what we thought was a worthwhile film. We believed it would help us, but even then the participation and engagement we sought to generate was not forthcoming and we remained four. You can still see 'Our Borough, Our Future' on Youtube.

Yes, there were lines we never persued, many. What we most needed though were committed others to add strength to our core group and though we had upward of 250 individuals attend the 30-odd events we staged, those others were never forthcoming. I would be interested to hear of T initiatives that have met the challenges of balanced participation within a truly diverse community and how things evolved for them.

Jeff Mowatt's picture

I can offer a couple of

I can offer a couple of examples from our own project papers:

First the principles of economic and social inclusion: 

  "The fundamental policy guide for P-CED is the International Bill of Human Rights . IBHR is comprised of Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights; and International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. P-CED's main focus falls within the sphere of economic, social and cultural rights, ICESCR"

In subsequent work on poverty in Eastern Europe: 

"This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. "

The context may be seem in this story of our transition,