Rob Hopkins's blog en The Second Life of Sally Mottram: a review <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="283" height="195" title="Cover" alt="Cover" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>It feels&nbsp;to me like an important moment in the evolution of Transition &nbsp;- the first novel in which Transition plays a key role, published by one of the UK's largest publishers. &nbsp;It's also a great read, and it's oddly thrilling to think that on beaches around the world this summer people were reading this story of one woman bringing Transition to her community.&nbsp;</p> <p><em><a href="">The Second Life of Sally Mottram</a></em> is written by David Nobbs, one of Britain's best known comedy writers, who wrote for comedians such as Tommy Cooper and Les Dawson, as well as writing <em>The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin</em> and twenty novels. &nbsp;It follows the story of Sally, who, following an unexpected tragedy, decides that she wants to put her energy into reversing the decline of her fictional Yorkshire town of Potherthwaite. &nbsp;The book follows her experience, and those of her friends and fellow townsfolk, as she tries to engage them in making Transition happen.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nobbs was inspired to write a novel featuring Transition through his stepdaughter and her husband who are involved in Transition in France. &nbsp;He adds, in the book's acknowledgements, that "I have not witnessed or taken part in any of the Transition movement's initiatives". Although this means that sometimes it doesn't ring true and you may find yourself thinking "it wouldn't <em>actually</em> happen like that", there is a passion and a drive to the book and to Sally's experience that will resonate for many. &nbsp;</p> <p>Sally heads to Totnes (in a chapter entitled "In which Totnes is mentioned many times") to stay with her sister and is inspired to make it happen in Potherthwaite, a town that is dying on its feet. &nbsp;Nobbs captures the essence of Transition beautifully:</p> <blockquote><p>"... big things come out of little things, that out of a thousand tiny acts, if they can be joined up, one might act may emerge". &nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Cover"><img src="/sites/" alt="cover" title="Cover" width="230" height="307" class="float-right" /></a></p> <p>Inspired, she invites her closest friends and people she loves for a meal at which she reveals her plan to bring the town back to life using Transition. She tells them:</p> <blockquote><p>"We will be able to deal at the same time with world issues and with our problems here, with our town, its decline, its ugliness, its quiet daily despair ... Ridiculous? Yes, but what is happening now is ridiculous. &nbsp;It's ridiculous that we let our town die around us and do nothing about it"</p> </blockquote> <p>I won't tell you much more, but the story unfolds in fascinating ways. &nbsp;As the book progresses:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>"...large numbers of people ... were delighted to feel a connection with Brixton, Tooting, and Los Angeles, and Brasilandia, and all the other places that were working towards the salvation of the planet in a myriad of little ways". &nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p>Inevitably perhaps, some of the book doesn't quite ring true. &nbsp;For example, anyone doing Transition who has put the effort in to getting all the traders in a local high street behind a project might not find themselves identifying with a project to make over all the shopfronts, "all the shopkeepers having miraculously been persuaded to sign up...". If only. &nbsp;The process seems more focused around Sally's own vision than about really engaging people in creating a shared vision. &nbsp;There aren't many public meetings, no Open Space, little in the way of working groups. More one very inspiring woman whose ideas inspire the community to help make them a reality. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="&amp;#039;Sally Mottram&amp;#039; author David Nobbs. "><img src="/sites/" alt="&amp;#039;Sally Mottram&amp;#039; author David Nobbs. " title="&amp;#039;Sally Mottram&amp;#039; author David Nobbs. " width="300" height="212" class="caption" /></a></p> <p>Also, I was struck that the Transition process in Potherthwaite seems, incredibly, to take place virtually without the use of IT or social media: no websites, Twitter, Facebook, I think there's only one mention of anyone even getting an email! &nbsp;Late on in the book when the town is faced with an emergency, we are told that "several of them stood with short-wave radios, ready to exchange the latest situations and make the swiftest and most accurate decisions". &nbsp;Surely they'd have been texting each other?&nbsp;</p> <p>What comes across in the story is also a very middle class version of Transition. &nbsp;At one point, when kids from the local estate are getting involved in a particular Transition project, Nobbs writes "what a glorious thing is responsibility. Anyone who has seen children taking part in youth theatre will have noticed it".&nbsp;Yet in spite of the moments when it occasionally doesn't quite ring true, there is much about Sally's story that I found deeply touching and resonating with my own experience. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>'The Second Life'</em> captures the power of one person deciding it's time to do something and how infectious that can be. The idea that if you don't like things how they are then you could step up and do something about it comes through the book strongly. &nbsp;What Sally starts really touches people. &nbsp;It changes what people think is possible. &nbsp;It changes what <em>she</em> thinks is possible.</p> <p>It is the story of Potherthwaite's Transition, and like Transition anywhere, it is unique to that place. &nbsp;What it captures most importantly is what it <em>feels like</em> to have such a process happening around you, what it feels like when for the first time you feel part of something. And Sally experiences the same self-doubt, the moments of thinking it's just never going to happen, and the same serendipitous moments when the right person turns up at the right time, that many of us have experienced. &nbsp;Does it work? Does Potherthwaite end up as Sally dreams of? &nbsp;I'm not saying. &nbsp;You'll have to read the book to find out. &nbsp;</p> <p>But <em>The Second Life</em> represents a fascinating moment in the cultural evolution of Transition, and its place in the wider culture. It's not quite yet having Transition Albert Square in Eastenders, but it feels close. &nbsp;For such a respected writer to put it centre stage in a book designed to appeal to a mass audience is fascinating. &nbsp;I really recommend it. &nbsp;I couldn't put it down. &nbsp;</p> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 06:50:02 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36770 at How we make space for nature: Transition Town Tooting <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="peppers" alt="Peppers" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Tooting is a busy London suburb stretching between and beyond two tube stations (Tooting Bec and Broadway) and along the A24, originally a Roman road and now a major arterial road carrying 10 million cars a year and numerous bus routes.&nbsp;&nbsp; One of our earliest TTT blog posts shows a <a href="">map and satellite image</a> of the area.&nbsp; As this shows, Tooting has its fair share of green space, but little centrally that is publicly accessible, very few allotments and many homes with little or no outside space.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox"><img src="/sites/" width="220" height="527" style="float: left;" class="float-left" /></a>Despite this, one of the first and most enduring of Transition Tooting’s activities is our annual Foodival, which celebrates food that is locally grown, cooked and eaten.&nbsp; From the very first event in &nbsp;event October 2008 (pics <a href="">here</a>) the event has sought to explore and celebrate the range of food that can be grown in the city and the diverse cultures found in Tooting, giving local people a chance to meet, learn from each other and have some fun. &nbsp;</p><p>Perhaps it is true what they say about the way to one’s heart being through your stomach, the event certainly inspired people to get growing and food shared at Foodivals has comes from window boxes, back yard and high-rise balconies (as the <a href="">map here</a> – and this lovely montage attests!)<span style="font-size: xx-small;">.</span></p><p>Despite this it was two and a half years before Transition Tooting got its first chance to really get its hands in the soil when our fantastic supporter, Naseem Aboobaker, offered us the chance to turn some unused land into a temporary community garden. The soil was first broken at our <a href=";type=1">Big Dig event</a> in June 2011.</p><p>In the three years since, the Garden has attracted many volunteers who come for many reasons – to do something local, practical and different, alone or with family and friends; to meet new people; to enjoy time outdoors and get some exercise; and of course to learn about and grow healthy food.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>We grow lots of things, and some are timed to be ready for the Foodival each September: this year there are three kinds of potatoes, sunflowers and garlic. &nbsp;When they are lifted we can get on with autumn sowings of broad beans, wheat and more garlic.&nbsp; Growing vegetables and flowers immediately puts us in touch with the cycles of the whole year’s seasons and even unconsciously we connect with wet and dry weather; day length; what’s flourishing or not doing so well; what we should do now or plan to do in response or in anticipation.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="5 year olds harvesting potatoes (pic Charles Whitehead)"><img src="/sites/" alt="5 year olds harvesting potatoes (pic Charles Whitehead)" title="5 year olds harvesting potatoes (pic Charles Whitehead)" width="230" height="306" style="float: right;" class="caption" /></a>We hold regular sessions for children from a local Primary School (Gatton School) who planted potatoes in March and April, and, when the autumn term starts, will dig them up (see right). One ten-year old said: “<em>For some of us, who have only seen vegetables in the supermarket, we were amazed to find out that potatoes grow underground and that sunflowers grow as big as our heads”.</em><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>And we don’t only harvest what we have planted: the Garden space is left mostly wild, with a lot of bramble bushes. So, plenty of bags of foraged blackberries go to the Foodival (see pic, below left, of bread from the Community Garden wheat and foraged blackberry jam at the 2013 Foodival (Credit: Charles Whitehead).</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Bread from Community Garden Wheat and foraged Blackberry Jam at the 2013 Foodival (Charles Whitehead)"><img src="/sites/" alt="Bread from Community Garden Wheat and foraged Blackberry Jam at the 2013 Foodival (Charles Whitehead)" title="Bread from Community Garden Wheat and foraged Blackberry Jam at the 2013 Foodival (Charles Whitehead)" width="230" height="307" style="float: left;" class="float-left" /></a></p><p>TTT is a busy and thriving group – with lots of activities to get involved in, but for some, TTT’s projects are not the attraction: they are looking for ‘time out’, for some quiet work, for hours where they can own what they are doing without too many of the targets and stresses of many jobs. Holding that balance between ‘doing’ and ‘appreciating’ is of course part of TTT’s intention and work.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>When people go through the gate in to the garden, tucked away among trees behind big buildings, they enter a world that’s different from Tooting’s busy streets, and also different from being on the large Common just metres away. The experience of nature in the Garden is more private (even though it is shared) and there are surprises as it gives up its secrets slowly (if one cares to search them out).<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some of the ‘secrets’ are not really secrets at all, they are simply there for the reflective and observant to find for themselves. &nbsp;There are bees, beetles and bugs to look at on the beans, artichokes, and teasels and on the grass right now there are seeds which have spiralled down from the trees. &nbsp;Among the gravel of the garden beds we’ve found a flint tool that was made and dropped here between 2500 and 4000 years ago, when people’s experience of Tooting’s nature was very different. We found a fossilised sea urchin, around 66 million years old – from the period when dinosaurs were still living. &nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>We hold regular open events and any more visitors come than we could cope with regularly in the Garden, and that’s fine.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="feedback"><img src="/sites/" alt="how" title="feedback" width="650" height="920" /></a></p><p><em>Feedback from participants at the Garden Open Day 2014</em></p><p>As these <a href="">responses from our last open event</a> show - people can be encouraged by ideas, action and good company to try out growing at home - or begin to put it altogether into mapping their own projects and routes for ‘low carbon living’.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some TTT members have recently raised funds to set up a supper club with monthly cooking sessions covering seasonal and low carbon cooking and run it from different kitchens in tooting.&nbsp; Meanwhile our lovely friends at <a href="">Foodcycle Wandsworth</a> host two weekly lunches cooked up from local surplus food – and will be hosting the food collection for this year’s Foodival.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>&nbsp;<a href="/sites/" class="colorbox"><img src="/sites/" width="650" height="161" /></a></p><p><em>Garden Open Day 2014 – Charles Whitehead</em><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Poster"><img src="/sites/" alt="Poster" title="Poster" width="220" height="311" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>The Community Garden isn’t the only place where locals find space to connect with nature. &nbsp;At a local cemetery in the heart of Tooting, the recently created <a href="">Friends Group </a>&nbsp;has created raised beds for local people to take part in planting and growing activities, benches where people can sit and relax and an apiary with three community bee hives. &nbsp;&nbsp;Recently the <a href="">ceremonial opening of a gate</a>, closed for 20 years, has created better access to this much needed oasis - allowing residents to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of nature and wildlife on their doorstep.&nbsp; As Lucy Neal said <em>‘Streatham Cemetery is a glorious and under-used green space in Tooting.... the re-opening of the pedestrian gate is a small but very significant moment in bringing this area back into use as a community space for all'</em>.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>As the map on our early blog showed, Tooting has limited green space, but that hasn’t prevented us making the most of ‘the great outdoors’ even in our predominantly urban setting.&nbsp; In the absence of an obvious ‘public space’ to gather (Tooting has numerous halls but no Town Hall, two indoor markets but no Market Square) TTT has developed a ‘mobile’ approach using walking as a way to connect across our community, to focus on wellbeing and to connect with our environment.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="From the 2012 Wellbeing Walk - Pic: Charles Whitehead."><img src="/sites/" alt="From the 2012 Wellbeing Walk - Pic: Charles Whitehead." title="From the 2012 Wellbeing Walk - Pic: Charles Whitehead." width="230" style="float: right;" class="caption" height="307" /></a>The first of these walks was our Tooting Earth Talk Walk where <a href="">we visited seven places of faith and worship</a> – in shared conversations we discovered much common ground about man’s relationship with the earth and the need to respect and care for our natural environment.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Lido"><img src="/sites/" alt="Pool" title="Lido" width="230" height="307" style="float: left;" class="float-left" /></a>Later, on a glorious sunny morning in May 2012, we gathered at the sparkling waters of Tooting Bec Lido for a day long Treasuring Tooting’ walk, celebrating places and things that contribute to our local wellbeing.&nbsp; More than sixty local people joined us as we strolled from the Lido to the Bingo Hall, the Community Garden to the Islamic Centre.&nbsp;</p><p>At each place a different aspect of our happiness and wellbeing was experienced and celebrated – through walking, making, talking, laughing, learning, planting and giving.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>This ‘mobile’ approach came into its own at our second Foodival where locally grown produce was distributed to and cooked up by seven local restaurants.&nbsp; A growing crowd followed this <a href="">map</a> as the fold-up ‘table of plenty’ we used to served the food <a href="">Pied Pipered</a> its way up the busy high street.<em style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</em></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Food tasting in the streets at the Tooting Foodival"><img src="/sites/" alt="Food tasting in the streets at the Tooting Foodival" title="Food tasting in the streets at the Tooting Foodival" width="230" height="300" style="float: right;" class="caption" /></a>Which brings us neatly back full circle, to the Foodival, now in its seventh year.&nbsp; At this year’s event on 14<sup>th</sup> September we hope break our record by feeding 300 people in one day using locally grown food, cooked by local people.&nbsp; Local restaurants will be serving up taster dishes throughout the day, and the winner of the Top Tooting Cook competition will be announced.&nbsp;</p><p>There will be plenty to entertain people, young and old - cooking demonstrations, music, theatre, activities, stalls and games - all with a sustainable local slant.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>If you are in the area do come and join us – more details <a href="">here</a>.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>“We’re always amazed by the amount of produce that people are growing in even the smallest space. People have been adding some wonderful pictures to </em><a href=""><em>our map</em></a><em> showing the amazing things growing in Tooting”</em> says Dave Mauger, Foodival’s event director.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Tooting" title="Tooting" width="640" height="480" />&nbsp;</p><p>Article by Hilary Jennings with contributions from Charles Whitehead, Jenny Teasdale and Belinda Sosinowics&nbsp;</p> nature Sat, 30 Aug 2014 23:12:47 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36780 at Responding to drought by thinking like a forest <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="180" alt="" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Here is a recent piece I wrote for <a href="">The Guardian's Living Better Challenge</a>:</p> <p><strong>Putting a stop to water waste: why local initiatives are key:&nbsp;Cities facing drought can generate water and jobs by planting trees, and installing tanks and rainwater harvesting systems</strong></p> <p>Los Angeles imports 89% of its water. Every year it spends over $350m (£211m) disposing of the perfectly acceptable rainwater that falls upon it, water valued at between $300-400m. At the same time, it spends $785m importing the water it needs from many miles away, a process that uses the largest amount of electricity in California.</p> <p>Meanwhile, here in the UK, as the climate warms the likelihood of drought is increasing. If the raised beds in my garden are anything to go by, this is turning out to be a very dry summer already. A recent&nbsp;<a href="">Water Resources Management paper</a>&nbsp;by researcher Muhammad Rahiz and Professor Mark New, looked at future drought trends and concluded that “both drought intensity and the spatial extent of droughts in the UK are projected by these climate models to increase into the future”. The South East of England is of particular concern.</p> <p>Perhaps we should be looking to places where drought is a more regular fact of life, for inspiration for how to develop a more resilient relationship with water. Although LA may lack a coherent city-wide strategy for rethinking its water system, it doesn’t lack people working on solutions. Andy Lipkis has spent 20 years looking at LA in its wider context as a water catchment. California is currently suffering an historic drought, the worst for 500 years, which has brought to the fore many of the issues that&nbsp;<a href="">TreePeople</a>, the organisation he founded over 40 years ago, has been working on for years. With support for widespread conservation slow to emerge, and growing pressure for energy-intensive desalination plants which can cost up to $4bn a piece as the solution, Lipkis visited Australia to see what lessons could be learnt from the country’s recent 12-year drought.</p> <p>Rather than the linear thinking that underpins LA, Australian cities such as Adelaide have started to think of themselves more as forest ecosystems. When rain falls on a forest, the impact of its fall is broken by the trees. An oak tree with a 100ft canopy can hold more than 57,000 gallons of water just in its rootmat, like a sponge, and more in its leaves which act almost as a floating lake. Flooding downhill is reduced, water is filtered and aquifers are replenished. Could our cities shift their relationship with rainwater in this direction? Rather than seeing rainfall as a problem, might each downpour be the opportunity to capture and store as much of it as possible?</p> <p>This was the approach taken in Australia. People were incentivised to<a href="">harvest and store rainwater</a>, with tanks and cisterns being heavily discounted. As a result, 45% of homes in Adelaide now have rainwater harvesting. In Brisbane, average water use fell from 80 gallons per person per day to 33. In Sydney, the installation of water cisterns is one of the sustainability changes required in order to get planning consent for changes to existing buildings.</p> <p><img src="/sites/" alt="The ‘cistern fence’ is set deeply into the ground, giving it extra capacity." title="The ‘cistern fence’ is set deeply into the ground, giving it extra capacity." width="460" height="276" class="caption" /></p> <p>Back in LA, Lipkis tells me: “Essentially the model we’re intending to overlay onto the city is a model of how a forest ecosystem works, within which all energy, all water, all nutrients are recycled.” It’s an approach which, he argues, could create 50,000 new jobs. TreePeople are busy working towards a target of LA generating 50% of its own water (today it’s 11%) through unpaving neighbourhoods, planting trees, installing tanks and rainwater harvesting systems.</p> <p>So where do the garden fences come in? One of the strategies TreePeople is promoting is the ‘cistern fence’, replacing garden fences with long thin water tanks. 100 feet of cistern fence could hold 5,000 gallons of water. While not yet available, Lipkis proposes that these tanks be made in the city using locally recycled plastic. “The key innovation I’m promoting is to have the tanks electronically networked with remote control technology so you can have a fully decentralised system, but manage it very nimbly as a huge networked reservoir – making it functional for water supply, flood protection and stormwater quality protection. The technology now exists to network one million tanks as a single system,” he tells me.</p> <p>It’s this decentralised thinking that is increasingly coming to the fore. Does it make more sense to build large power stations, or local networks of interlinked renewable energy systems combined with ambitious energy conservation? Similarly, does it make more sense to build new reservoirs, or even – as was proposed during the UK’s last drought – a pipeline from Scotland heading south? Or would smaller distributed ‘reservoirs’ in hundreds of thousands of gardens make more sense?</p> <p>Lipkis believes that great things are possible. Indeed, as he puts it, “A new, resilient, local water supply is not only possible, it’s beginning to happen.” Cistern fences as standard in all new-build housing developments in the UK? It may not be as far away as you might think. I’ll drink to that.</p> nature Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:07:39 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36771 at Interview: George Monbiot on Rewilding <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="George Monbiot" alt="George Monbiot" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>In July I had the great privilege of chairing George Monbiot's presentation on rewilding at the Ways With Words literary festival at Dartington Hall. &nbsp;Before the talk we found a quiet corner and chatted for about half an hour about the book, and some of the ideas and issues it raises. &nbsp;If you'd rather download or listen to a podcast of our conversation, you'll find it at the end of this post. I started by asking George to give a sense of what his new book <a href=",,9781846147487,00.html"><em>Feral</em> </a>is all about.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;<!--break--></span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Cover"><img src="/sites/" alt="Cover" title="Cover" width="200" height="308" style="float: left;" class="float-right" /></a>"It’s about ‘rewilding’ which is a mass restoration of ecosystems. That’s a very different approach to the natural world to that of mainstream conservation in Britain which is all about protecting what’s here and maintaining the ecosystems that we possess. What rewilding does is to try to create opportunities for ecosystems we don’t possess yet; ecosystems of the kind that perhaps we used to but will be different to anything that went before and for the species that we don’t yet have and could have again.</p><p>Instead of trying to create particular habitats and particular species compositions, what rewilding seeks to do is bring back some of the missing elements and then allow nature to do what it does best which is to develop its own dynamic processes and its own outcomes. What we are missing desperately in Britain is process, ecological process. Just about every conserved habitat here is kept in a state of arrested development where succession and other processes are effectively prohibited. We are missing almost all the function and structure of ecosystems.</p><p>But it’s not just about ecology. It’s also about us. It’s about enabling us to enjoy a rather richer and rawer existence than is permitted to us at present in Britain where everything seems to ordered and regulated and buttoned down, and it’s very hard to escape from that, even if you go into what are supposedly the wildest parts of the countryside. We have nothing that really resembles self-willed land or sea in this country. Our national parks are basically sheep ranches. They differ markedly in this respect from the national parks of nearly every other country on Earth. Most of the world’s national parks are classified under the IUCN guidelines as category 1 or category 2 which basically means governed by ecological processes and set aside largely for nature.</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>Every national park in Britain is category 5 which means no fundamental difference between that and the surrounding farmland. There’s nowhere to escape from it. It’s even worse, if that’s possible, where just 5 square kilometres out of the 48,000 square kilometres of our territorial waters are closed to commercial fishing. Everywhere else is ripped apart several times a year and life has no foothold there.</p><p>We are surrounded on all sides by a remarkably depleted and impoverished ecosystem which I believes helps to create a remarkably depleted and impoverished set of human experiences as well. So what ‘rewilding’ is about is the restoration of wildlife and the functional wildness of the natural world but also about a restoration of wonder and enchantment and delight and hope, which are all things which are seriously lacking in this country.</p><p><strong>You’ve spent many years writing your column and your books, such as <em>Heat,</em> about climate change, a subject that’s rarely mentioned in <em>Feral, </em>other than&nbsp;a few times in passing. Does rewilding represent a lateral, alternative route to the changes we need to see or a resignation that an adequate response will never be possible?</strong></p><p>What I hope that rewilding does is to produce an inspiring vision which can be one strand of a positive environmentalism, which then I hope will help to transform much more effectively environmental politics into an unstoppable force than only campaigning against the things we don’t like. We’ve been very good as a movement at identifying what we don’t want, and very bad as a movement, with a few honourable exceptions of course, at identifying what we do want. You cannot sustain campaigning on that basis.</p><p>You have to have a vision, something better than the standard environmental vision which is – follow us and you’ll get a slightly less crap world than you would otherwise have got. That cannot work for long because it is not sufficiently inspiring. Whereas – follow us and here’s a wonderful, fascinating, engrossing, enchanting world which we could conjure up, which Transition is doing in it’s different way as well. That is a vision that has got legs, if a vision can have legs!</p><p><strong>I’d never really had you down as a nature writer before. But Feral contains some of the most beautiful nature writing I’ve read, like Henry Thoreau or Aldo Leopold. Are we seeing a new, softer George Monbiot?</strong></p><p>I don’t think some of the people who become the targets of my column would agree that I’ve mellowed much in my decrepitude! I suppose part of what has happened in researching and writing this book is that I’ve rediscovered my roots as an environmentalist. It’s very easy to forget why you become an environmentalist because you get bogged down in data, in parts per million, in Watts, in kilometres and kilogrammes and you succumb to the language and the framing of what Paul Kingsnorth calls "the quants rather than the poets".</p><p>Like a very large number of environmentalists, I came to this through a profound love of the natural world. That was always my motivating force and I was almost ashamed of it, because it seemed wooly and romantic and emotional by comparison to the hard, empirical pursuit of trying to work out the best solutions for climate change or any of the other problems that assail us. Now I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that we should stop doing that as well. We desperately need people to do that, but there’s a great danger of forgetting why we’re in this.</p><p>That danger is best manifested, for example, in the "natural capital" agenda, where people pretend they love the natural world because it makes money. I don’t know any environmentalist who became an environmentalist because they were worried about the state of their bank balance. It wouldn’t be a very rational decision if that was their motivation. To claim that we should be preserving and protecting the natural world because it is the economically rational thing to do, while that may be completely true, is also a form of lying. It misrepresents our real motivation and our real interest in protecting it.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Monbiot" title="Monbiot" width="620" height="387" /></p><p>For almost all the environmentalists I know, the reason for wanting to protect the natural world if you push them on it is because they love it. It’s because it’s wonderful. It’s delightful. It’s astonishing. It’s marvellous. To spend our lives pretending that we’re in it for some other reason is to lie to ourselves and to lie to other people, but at the same time to miss the greatest opportunity there is for reaching people, which is through wonder and enchantment and the invocation of intrinsic values rather than extrinsic values.</p><p>And so for me – some people have called my book a Midlife Crisis. I would call it a midlife <em>awakening</em> in that I’ve remembered what it’s all about for me and why I’ve gone into this in the first place. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop engaging in aspects of quantification, and it doesn’t mean I’m going to drop the grinding, aching process of continuing to oppose the bad stuff. But I feel that I cannot sustain it, let alone ask people who read me or listen to me to sustain their interest if all I talk about is the bad stiff and how to combat it rather than the good stuff and how to achieve it.</p><p><strong>Have you seen, since the book came out, have there been any examples of people saying "right, I’m going to rewild this"? What’s your sense of the impact it’s had?</strong></p><p>It’s been remarkable. I’ve been really surprised by it. Before the book came out, I went to see all the major conservation groups in this country to explain what was coming, because I was quite critical of them all in the book, and to see what their attitudes were and what traction there might be. While most of them weren’t overtly hostile, one or two of them were. Generally their interest was quite muted and it was clear they didn’t have much intention of acting on any of the issues that I was raising.</p><p>Since then it has really changed. It’s changed quite dramatically. The National Trust is already rewilding some substantial areas of its own land. The RSPB is now talking quite openly about rewilding and about a much broader vision of what it should be achieving. Even the Wildlife Trusts, which in some ways are the furthest behind, are mostly committed to what I see as an unambitious, anally retentive and rather ecologically illiterate form of conservation, are beginning to change.</p><p>They are beginning to see that what they’ve been doing, in many cases, is much closer to gardening, is obsessed with the composition of plant and animal communities rather than by function, and misses the big picture of what is missing and what would need to be done to restore anything resembling a healthy ecosystem.</p><p><strong>Most people who are involved with Transition and most Transition groups don’t tend to own large estates in Wales and Scotland. What does domestic-scale rewilding look like?</strong></p><p>Let’s take this back a step, because owning large estates is not the prerequisite for being active in rewilding. There’s a group of us halfway through the process of starting a rewilding campaign for Britain for which we’ve done the exploratory phase. We’re now raising the core funds, setting up a charity and we’ll soon be appointing a director. The idea is to catalyse rewilding across the country, to mobilise in favour of it and that means campaigning through the media, through public forums, lobbying, fundraising, making it easier for those who do have opportunities to rewild to do it.</p><p>There are already groups who are raising money through public subscription and using very large numbers of volunteers to get land rewilded, for example Trees for Life in Scotland. In the Highlands of Scotland and in the Southern Uplands, Carrifran who are very strongly reliant on public involvement.</p><p>But it’s also true that you can contribute to rewilding on very small areas of land. While our focus is on large core areas big enough to support top predators which turn out to be ecologically critical to anything resembling effective function, those core areas can’t function without a permeable landscape through which animals can move. That requires smaller pockets of wild habitat as well as wildlife corridors and a more general permeability because otherwise the animals in the large core areas become genetically isolated. So we need rewilding on all scales if it’s going to be effective.</p><p><strong>You wrote recently in an article about 'positive environmentalism', that "an ounce of hope is worth a tonne of despair". How deep a shift does this feel for you?</strong></p><p>I should say that I’ve always sought to propose solutions. I always feel a sense of failure if I’d raise a problem without at least being able to hint at a solution. It’s not always possible to do that of course, some problems either are just at the beginning of being understood or don’t have obvious solutions. But in a lot of cases I’ve worked hard to try to find some ways forward and I’ve written one book which was entirely about possible means of change which was <em>The Age of Consent</em>.</p><p>In my other books, they’ve all had chapters about how to move forward. But to be going back to my roots and writing entirely about the natural world and of course its interactions with the human world, but the focus being very firmly on the natural world, and at the same time to be proposing an entirely positive vision, that feels new and that feels very exciting to me. I feel inspired by it and other people seem to be as well.</p><p><strong>You wrote in the book that "the slowest and most reluctant of any European nation to begin rewilding the land and reintroducing its missing species is the UK." Why is that? What are we afraid of, on a cultural level, what are we so terrified of?</strong></p><p>It’s a good question. There’s a couple of ways of answering it. The first is we have been literally cut off from large animals for longer than most other European countries. We expiated our large mammal fauna more thoroughly than any other country except Ireland within Europe. Having done so, we have tended to regard any prospect of the re-establishment of those missing large mammals as an alien intrusion which is to be feared rather than to be marvelled at.</p><p>But this is greatly compounded by the fact that our land is owned by so few people. We have on estimate the second highest concentration of land owning in the world and those people are far more conservative than the population as a whole. Not all of them, but on average far more conservative and far more resistant and reluctant to contemplate any kind of positive change, let alone the return of large animals, than most of the population would be.</p><p>For instance, the only survey I’m aware of showed that 86% of respondents were in favour of the return of beavers, but the landowners whose land might be suitable for the return of beavers on the whole are fiercely opposed to the idea and invoke a rich mythology in trying to justify their opposition which suggests that they learnt their ecology from the Brothers Grimm in which the beaver somehow takes the place of the Big Bad Wolf.</p><p><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 07:11:37 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36767 at Why Transition needs a sense of wonder <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Glowworm" alt="Glowworm" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's dusk. &nbsp;The family who arrived earlier in the day and pitched their tent next to ours have just asked us if we'd like to join them for a short walk to see "something magical". &nbsp;We walk in the near-darkness down a grassy track to a lane with hedgerows on either side, the sea away to our right and the lights of Plymouth giving the clouds ahead of us an apricot-coloured underbelly, until something catches our eye. &nbsp;Two dots of greenish light in the hedge. &nbsp;Glowworms. &nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>I struggle to remember the last time I saw a glowworm. &nbsp;A memory awakens that it was when I was a child, on a family holiday to Devon, when my parents took my sister and I out down a similar lane at dusk with a similar sense of reverence. &nbsp;As we approach the tiny lights, the group of about 10 of us, more than half of us under 12, fall into silence. &nbsp;The glowworms aren't perturbed by our presence, they just keep glowing. &nbsp;Our guides were right about the "magical". Nobody speaks, other than the odd "wow".&nbsp;</p><p>I find myself feeling delighted and thrilled and honoured to be standing there. I find that these two pinpricks of light are acting as a powerful kind of reminder. &nbsp;A reminder of amazing things I've seen during my life when I've seen nature at its most alive, its most unexpected, its most beautiful. &nbsp;I am reminded of the fireflies I saw (occasionally) when I lived in Italy, the closest thing to seeing fairies I could imagine. &nbsp;Watching the seal that comes up the River Dart to hunt for fish toss salmon into the air. The owl that flew past me in total silence as I stood hoeing in my garden in Ireland. The snow monkeys I saw in the forest in northern India, wise old men of the trees. &nbsp;The thirty minutes I spent spellbound by a river in Wiltshire watching a kingfisher fly in and out in search of fish, his dazzling turquoise feathers glinting in the sun. Moments that I recognise, as I stand in that quiet lane, that I experience less and less as more and more of my life is spent in front of a computer. &nbsp;</p><p>I subsequently discuss it with Richard Louv, author of <em>Last Child in the Woods</em>, in an interview to be published here later this month. &nbsp;I tell him the story of our glowworm moment, and how magical it was and ask him, from his perspective, what it was that was happening in that moment. &nbsp;"Wonder", he tells me. &nbsp;It is in those moments of wonder that we really connect to the world, that our senses are heightened, that our inquisitiveness and creativity are at their most vibrant. &nbsp;In <em>Last Child in the Woods</em> he quotes Rachel Carson as saying:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts".&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>And what could be more useful for Transition groups in search of "reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts" than looking more deeply into the question of how Transition initiatives might weave that sense of wonder for the natural world into what they do. &nbsp;It brings to mind Wendell Berry's poem <em>The Peace of Wild Things</em>:</p><blockquote><p>When despair for the world grows in me<br />and I wake in the night at the least sound<br />in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,<br />I go and lie down where the wood drake<br />rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.<br />I come into the peace of wild things&nbsp;<br />who do not tax their lives with forethought<br />of grief. I come into the presence of still water.<br />And I feel above me the day-blind stars<br />waiting with their light. For a time<br />I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.</p></blockquote><p>So our theme for this month is 'Making Space for Nature'. &nbsp;We will be framing the month around five key questions. &nbsp;Might a separation from Nature be at the root of our problems?&nbsp;Is it possible to make a healthy culture without connection to Nature? What are the impacts of losing that connection? Why is contact with Nature essential to raising healthy children? &nbsp;And finally, what does making space for Nature bring to a Transition group?&nbsp;</p><p>We'll be talking to George Monbiot about his book <em>Feral</em>, to Richard Louv, to ecopsychologist Mary-Jayne Rust, to writer Caspar Walsh and to permaculture activist Pandora Thomas, and quite possibly a couple more too. &nbsp;We will also be hearing from some Transition initiatives about how they create space for nature in what they do and the impacts they see it having on people. &nbsp;We'd love to hear from you too if you have something you'd like to add to that.&nbsp;</p><p>For me, one of my ways of making space for nature is drawing. &nbsp;I don't tend to draw cities, roads, buildings. &nbsp;When I have time to draw, I tend to head with my pens, pencils and paper to the woods, the fields, the rivers. &nbsp;Vincent Van Gogh once said "if you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere". &nbsp;He might also have said "if you truly <em>observe</em> nature, you will find beauty everywhere". &nbsp;</p><p>It is the process of sitting and really looking at what's in front of you, looking at the same tree for several hours, how the light changes on it, how shapes relate to each other, sitting in the quiet just watching, that really creates that space for me. &nbsp;Here are a few of my holiday drawings from the last month:</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="View from campsite towards the Plymouth estuary. Glowworms spotted about 200 yards behind the tree on the left. " title="View from campsite towards the Plymouth estuary. Glowworms spotted about 200 yards behind the tree on the left. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Long grasses and scrub. " title="Long grasses and scrub. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="The family tent in the evening sun. " title="The family tent in the evening sun. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="A quick study of elder leaves and pennywort growing below. Crantock, Cornwall. " title="A quick study of elder leaves and pennywort growing below. Crantock, Cornwall. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>In my visits to Transition initiatives, I see time and again projects that are making space for nature in the local community. Whether they are Community Supported Agriculture projects that connect people to what becomes 'their' farm, community gardens on train platforms, in corners of parks, in school grounds, getting people out on bikes, spending time outdoors socially, all of it creates opportunities for wonder. &nbsp;They are directly responding to the trend identified by the great ecologist Aldo Leopold in his <em>A Sand County Almanac</em> in 1949:</p><blockquote><p>"Our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land. &nbsp;Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets. &nbsp;He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow. &nbsp;Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a 'scenic' area, he is bored stiff". &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>Transition does a great job of addressing this, finding creative, possibility-shifting, community-building ways of getting people together, out of doors and away from their computers. &nbsp;For example, on July 26th in London, Crystal Palace Transition Town, together with a couple of other local organisations, opened 'The Sensible Garden', named after local resident and punk legend Captain Sensible (of The Damned and also a solo artist). &nbsp;The group had taken an unloved corner, covered in rubbish and old mattresses, harnessed the 'power to convene' that Transition does so well, and transformed the space into a garden. Here's a film about the day:</p><p>&nbsp;<iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>To return to our glowworm story, as it turned out, our guides were, as well as introducing us to a bit of magic, also trying to get on our good side in the knowledge that people are less likely to be grumpy when your kids wake them up running around and shouting at 6am if you've met them before. It was a good trade-off though. &nbsp;</p><p>I'll leave the last word to Aldo Leopold, who wrote:</p><blockquote><p>"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. &nbsp;These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot. &nbsp;Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. &nbsp;Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. &nbsp;For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech". &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;Enjoy the month.&nbsp;</p> nature Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:39:25 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36758 at The Transitioner's Digest (July) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="202" title="Logo" alt="Logo" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>This month our theme has been 'Celebration'. &nbsp;We have set out to explore 5 questions: Why do you celebrate? Why is celebration important? What are the ingredients of good celebration? What is the wider context for celebration? What is the personal context for celebration? &nbsp;We started by addressing some of these questions, especially the third one, <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/10-tips-great-transition-celebrations">in our monthly editorial</a>. &nbsp;It reflected on Transition Town Lewes' recent 'Seven Year Itch' celebration, and what some of the key ingredients of good celebration might be. &nbsp;</p><p>We published <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/celebration-kinsale-college-s-amphitheatre">a beautiful article by <strong>Ian Wild</strong></a>, drama teacher at Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland, a celebration of the cob and cordwood amphitheatre built at the college, which in itself links back to the very earliest days of Transition, as well as being a celebration of the power of natural building materials. &nbsp;While not really part of our theme, <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/naomi-oreskes-roots-climate-change-denial">we also heard from <strong>Naomi Oreskes</strong></a> about her recent book <em>The Merchants of Doubt</em> and what it tells us about the roots of organised climate scepticism. &nbsp;</p><p>Site editor Rob Hopkins has been on the road (well, train) recently, and shared his reflections on two recent trips, <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/inspiring-taste-transition-germany">one to Germany for the launch of the German edition of <em>The Power of Just Doing Stuff</em></a>,&nbsp;(<em>Einfach. Jetzt. Machen!</em>), and one <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/celebrating-transition-transition-northwest-conference">to Lancaster for the recent Roadshow event there</a>. &nbsp;He also shared the odd tale of <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/house-baz-built">'The House That Baz Built'</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>Ecopsychologist and addictions specialist <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/chris-johnstone-without-celebration-we-wither-away"><strong>Chris Johnstone</strong> helped us to address the question of "why is celebration important?"</a> &nbsp;"Without celebration we wither away" he told us. &nbsp;"<span>Celebration is a form of psychological nourishment and it’s absolutely vital to keep ourselves going", he continued, before wrapping up the interview with some music. &nbsp;For the wider context question we had also hoped to interview John Croft, founder of 'Dragon Dreaming', but it just didn't quite work out. &nbsp;Perhaps another time.&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Sophy Banks</strong>, in her monthly column shared what felt for her to be some of the key ingredients for building <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/sophy-banks-creating-culture-celebration">"A Culture of Celebration"</a>. &nbsp;She also discussed why it is so important to build appreciation into how our Transition groups work:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><span>"Brain scientists have found that our brains are wired to be like Velcro to criticism – it goes in really quickly, and sticks – but like Teflon to praise – it slips past and is slow to go in".</span></p></blockquote><p><strong>Fiona Ward</strong> of the REconomy Project, in a post called <a href="/%20https%3A/">On learning to celebrate a £10,000 failure</a>, looked very honestly at the failure of an early REconomy Project, and what she learnt from it, an experience she described as:</p><blockquote><p><span>" of being willing to stop heading in a direction that required too much efforting to make it work (and was perhaps too entrenched in traditional thinking), and to admit it wasn’t working. Then lift up my head, take time to reflect and then tap into a direction that felt/feels much more effortless, where energy and results naturally seem to flow".</span><span style="color: #353535; font-size: 0.813em; font-style: normal; line-height: 21.46320152282715px;">&nbsp;</span></p></blockquote><p>Three Transition initiatives shared their stories of "How We Celebrate". &nbsp;Crystal Palace Transition Town's <strong>Joe Duggan</strong> talked about <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/how-we-celebrate-crystal-palace-transition-town">how their AGM has become the opportunity for a great celebration of all that the group has achieved</a> over the previous year (*Spoiler Alert* which is really rather a lot).</p><p>Four members of <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/how-we-celebrate-crystal-palace-transition-town"><strong>Transition Bristol</strong> wrote about their recent <em>Small Green Sunday</em> event</a>, reflecting on what the group has done over the past 7 years. &nbsp;We also heard how <strong>Transition Town Wilmslow's Energy Group</strong> <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/how-we-celebrate-transition-town-wilmslows-energy-group">weave celebration into what they do</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>Transition Network's Ben Brangwyn interviewed author, social entrepreneur, thinker, blogger and systems thinker, and also member of&nbsp;<a href="">Bowen in Transition</a>,&nbsp;<strong>Dave Pollard</strong>, while he was at Schumacher College recently for their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Dark Mountain</a>&nbsp;course. &nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-07/dave-pollard-celebration-nodding-smile-sacred">They looked at celebration from Dave's own very particular angle</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>Our theme for August will be, as it has been for the past couple of Augusts, <em>The Power of Not Doing Stuff</em>, where we try to model taking time away from doing Transition, switching off phone and laptops and reconnecting with ourselves, our families and the actual living, breathing world. &nbsp;We will be back for the start of September with the theme of <em>Making Space for Nature</em>, which promises to be fascinating. &nbsp;See you soon.&nbsp;</p> celebration Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:00:00 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36427 at Divest! Then what? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Divest!" alt="Divest!" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <div><p>Last year when I visited the US, Peter Lipman (Chair of Transition Network) and myself had supper with representatives from 3 large philanthropic organisations there.&nbsp; At one point, Peter asked “so do you invest in coal?”&nbsp; There was some discomfort around the table, and the reply was “no, coal is a terrible investment!” – the clear implication being that if it had been &nbsp;a good investment the answer would have been a different one.&nbsp;<!--break--></p></div><p>It was, for me, a low point in an immersion into how some parts of the world of philanthropy work.&nbsp; A massive endowment is invested in such a way as to generate the maximum returns.&nbsp; Fund managers are told to invest so as to get at least a 10% return a year.&nbsp; A 10% return is very difficult to do ethically.&nbsp; So money is invested in all sorts of things, including fossil fuels, housing developments etc etc, whatever generates the best return, so that the interest raised can then be invested into projects that try to clear up some of the mess that the endowment may well have played a part in creating.&nbsp; So, put crudely and at it’s worst, for the damage generated by every £1 million invested, £10,000 is put up to try and clean up that mess.&nbsp; What a conflicted model, but one that, to a degree, makes possible the work we do here at Transition Network.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Peter Buffett" title="Peter Buffett" width="259" height="194" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />Yet within the funding community, the conversation is starting to change.&nbsp; Philanthropist Peter Buffet (right) wrote in an article last year called <a href=""><em>The Charitable Industrial Complex</em></a> about meetings with heads of state, corporate leaders and investment managers. He wrote “all are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left”.&nbsp; He referred to philanthropy as increasingly becoming “conscience laundering” and suggested that given the scale and severity of the climate crisis, foundations need to practice what they preach more, arguing “foundation dollars should be the best ‘risk capital’ out there”.&nbsp; &nbsp;He also added “money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market”.</p><p>Divestment is one of the great campaigns of our times.&nbsp; Last week saw <a href="">the announcement that The World Council of Churches will be pulling its investments out of fossil fuels</a>, joining a rapidly growing list of organisations in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry”.&nbsp; Even President Obama alluded to his support for the concept, recently stating “you need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms”.&nbsp; But the question then arises, “then what?”&nbsp; If the World Council of Churches, a university, or a pension company decide it’s time to divest from fossil fuels, then what might they do next?</p><p>The first thing is to recognise that the severity of the climate crisis is such that an endowment will be of little use in 30-40 years.&nbsp; This, here, now, is the time when the window of opportunity exists to avoid the more catastrophic lines (usually in red) on the climate models. I’m not suggesting that now is the time to blow the lot, but some fresh thinking is called for.&nbsp; That thinking is starting to emerge.&nbsp; <a href="">Confluence Philanthropy</a> is one organisation focused on “guiding foundations towards mission-related investing”.&nbsp; &nbsp;Another, which makes an explicit link between divestment and taking a new approach is <a href="">DivestInvest</a>, who I only came across while researching this piece.&nbsp; Here’s how they offer to help foundations rethink what they do: <ins cite="mailto:Rob" datetime="2014-07-24T13:17"></ins></p><ol start="1"><li><strong>Assess</strong>: Conduct an assessment of your exposure to climate change risk, defining the degree to which you are invested in fossil fuels versus climate solutions and investments that support your mission.</li><li><strong>Consult</strong>: Launch a dialogue among Board and Staff on investment strategies that align investments with mission and support a sustainable and just economy.</li><li><strong>Commit</strong>: Commit to a timetable and process, commensurate with the pace of climate change, for eliminating all fossil fuels from your investment portfolios while investing in a new, clean energy economy through renewables, clean tech and other innovations.</li></ol><p>But what do they propose foundations invest in instead?&nbsp; This is from <a href="">their FAQs</a>:</p><blockquote><p>“Investment means allocating endowment assets to sustainable, fossil-free investments in climate solutions and the new energy economy. Fossil-free investment opportunities exist across all sectors of the economy and across all asset classes of a diversified investment portfolio, from conventional asset classes such as cash, fixed-income, and public equities (stocks) to alternative asset classes such as hedge funds, private equity, real estate, farmland and timberland, and other commodities and real assets. Investors can invest in clean technology and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into fossil-free investments in other industries, and move their money to more resilient community investing institutions. All portfolios can be readily structured around themes of climate-related strategic asset allocation, carbon risk mitigation, sustainability solutions, and positive environmental impact”.</p></blockquote><p>What else could foundations do?&nbsp; The first point is they will most likely need to lower their expectations in terms of returns.&nbsp; Some more enlightened foundations have already lowered their expected return to closer to 5%, which enables them to invest far more ethically and in a way consistent with their values.&nbsp;</p><p>Secondly, get behind the quiet revolution unfolding around the world, through Transition and many other bottom-up community-led processes.&nbsp; There is a new economy out there, being created through community farms, community energy companies, new food business models, new models for care for the elderly.&nbsp; All founded on principles of being rooted in local communities, being low carbon, operating with a wider social purpose, building community resilience.&nbsp; Some of them are captured in last year’s REconomy/Transition Network report <a href=""><em>The New Economy in 20 Enterprises</em></a>.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Atmos Totnes Patron Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the local community outside the site. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Atmos Totnes Patron Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the local community outside the site. " title="Atmos Totnes Patron Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the local community outside the site. " width="650" height="477" class="caption" /></a></p><p>They are doing amazing work mobilising people, innovating and creating new opportunities.&nbsp; But they need support, and as Peter Buffett put it, “foundation dollars should be the best ‘risk capital’ out there”. I’m part of a project in my town called <a href="">Atmos Totnes</a>, which will be a community-led development, a model of Transition in action.&nbsp; It is just weeks away from signing a historic agreement with the site’s owners.&nbsp; But to get to that stage we had some grants to cover the initial work, without which we wouldn’t have got this far. And it’s a project that over time will need ‘patient capital’ which will be able to unlock the community developing an asset that can then be a real driver for an ambitious relocalisation programme.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox"><img src="/sites/" width="300" height="139" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a></p><p><a href="">Bath &amp; West Community Energy</a> were able to use £1 million invested in them at an early stage to create a share option that then raised £750,000 from local people and inspired further investment from other local organisations.&nbsp; They are now working to <a href="">support neighbouring communities to do the same thing</a>&nbsp;(see right).&nbsp; Enlightened support can unlock much more, including investment opportunities for foundations’ endowments. But foundations need to take some of the risk to bring those things into being.</p><p>If other institutions, such as universities, decide to divest, then it can be a great opportunity for fresh thinking.&nbsp; Why not take those funds and invest them instead in reimagining how your organisation operates? <a href="">The Oberlin Project</a> is a great example of what it might look like if a university divested and put the money instead into a crash course of renewable energy, community engagement, new business opportunities and much more, a kind of town-wide Transition.&nbsp; If a hospital trust decides to divest, that could be the incentive for bold thinking in terms of how a hospital that models what a low carbon hospital could look, something <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-05/our-month-transition-and-health-and-what-would-transition-hospital-look">we explored here recently</a>.</p><p>Divestment is something that we shouldn't only be pressuring large institutions to do.&nbsp; Many of us also have pensions and investments, and we need to be more mindful about choosing investments that are true to our own values and sense of urgency around the climate issue.&nbsp; Where community share/investment opportunities arise, get behind them and support them.&nbsp; Also, as individuals, of course, we choose to invest or to divest every day when we go shopping.&nbsp; Which economy is it that we want to create where we live?&nbsp; Do we support local independent businesses or supermarkets? Do we reuse and repair or buy new?&nbsp; We have a lot more power than we might think.&nbsp; Divestment is not just an issue for large organisations.&nbsp;</p><p>While <a href="">the campaign for divestment rightly gains pace</a>, we need, alongside it, a bringing together of foundations, larger institutions and Transition/New Economy organisations, to design models whereby divestment is just the first step. &nbsp;Models which rather than just focusing on renewable energy, seek also to accelerate the new food systems, local economic models, new models for housing and development, new social enterprises, the multi-layered tapestry of new, diverse, resilient economy.&nbsp;</p><p>It's the first step to an urgently-needed model wherein foundations work alongside the communities working at the local scale to <a href="">build the resilient local economies and infrastructures so essential to a low carbon world</a>.&nbsp; Divestment needs to be the catalyst for the conversations that could lead to so much more. &nbsp;&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:32:29 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36531 at Fiona Ward on learning to celebrate a £10,000 failure <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="300" title="crash" alt="Crash" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>One of the things I love most about working for the Transition Network is the cheerful disclaimer…</p><p><em>“Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact. We truly don't know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale…”</em></p><p>There have already been some posts from Transition groups about when an experiment fails, like this <a href="/stories/charlotte-du-cann/2012-05/when-experiment-fails">great article by Charlotte du Cann</a>. Within the Transition Network organisation, the board and staff team are incredibly supportive of this experimental attitude within our own organisation. If things don’t work out as expected despite our best attempts, there is a collective shrug, a gathering of learning and openness to a new direction instead.<!--break--></p><p>Sometimes we just don’t know why something doesn’t work, and we put it down to ‘it just wasn’t meant to be’. This is not to say we use this as an excuse for half-assed attempts or covering up our own deficiencies, these are also inspected as part of the process.</p><p>In our work, we’re very good at focusing on positive outcomes. So given this month’s theme is celebration, and to show you how deeply we have taken this permission to experiment to our heart, I’d like to celebrate my biggest ABLO with you. What’s an ABLO? It’s “another bloody learning opportunity”. Here’s how I spent £10,000 of the Transition Network’s hard won money trying to start a consulting practice that went nowhere.</p><p>I come from a consulting background so I’m used to working with businesses in this capacity, and it seemed to me that Transition had much to offer these kinds of companies - and it would help create an income stream to reduce our reliance on funding. Based on my business plan, the board agreed that this would be a useful area to explore and in 2009 funded some of my time to develop the ideas further.</p><p>In a nutshell, this consulting practice would help organisations of all shapes and sizes to understand their risks in relation to peak oil (i.e. rising energy prices) and climate change, and see the flaws in their operating models so they could take appropriate action. Partly informed by some work I had done with Simon Snowden of the University of Liverpool, I developed a process which could be used to estimate the risk exposure of manufacturing and distributing a company’s key products or services.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Fiona propping up the bar at the 2012 Transition Network conference with early REconomy pioneer Shane Hughes. " title="Fiona propping up the bar at the 2012 Transition Network conference with early REconomy pioneer Shane Hughes. " width="640" height="427" class="caption" /></p><p>This would, for example, pinpoint the cost of oil-based materials like plastics used in the supply chain, and allow modelling of what would happen to the costs – and end pricing to the customer – if the oil price doubled, tripled etc. The company could then take action to reduce its exposure through substitute materials, closer suppliers, reduced reliance on export markets and so on.</p><p>I piloted this Energy Resilience Assessment (ERA) service with 2 organisations with good results and feedback (<a href="">see the case studies here</a>). So I then developed a practitioner training course and recruited 2 groups of Transition business practitioners who were trained, and then unleashed to sell the service to their local public and private organisations. We were well organised and ready for the rush of work. And then… nothing!</p><p>Despite the best attempts of a small number of the practitioners in particular, no one managed to sell a single service. While we all believed this was a useful service, clearly the market did not agree. We did a review as a group, and concluded there were likely 2 main issues – that the market just wasn’t ready for this service and at that time, and possibly still today, they are still just getting to the basics of energy efficiency and some ‘greening’ actions. We were probably positioning something a step too far from where they were at - a classic lack of understanding of our customers?</p><p>We also didn’t have any sort of marketing budget or profile and were relying on our personal contacts which greatly limited our reach. A number of practitioners put in a lot of unpaid time, and also paid to do the ERA course. While we made clear there were no guarantees of income, I wish it could have been otherwise. While we generated a little bit of revenue, by mid-2010 I had spent about £10,000 of the TN’s precious funding and failed to deliver the business plan.</p><p>Interestingly, there was a similar lack of interest in a course for local authorities that had been developed by Transition Training. They did 3 pilots and had good feedback, but it never took off after that. Naresh Giangrande who led the work says “partly I think this was due to the coalition coming to power at that time, and local government budgets were being cut to pieces, but also we never got hold of what the training was supposed to do. ‘What could local authorities do about Transition?’ was the question we could never really answer. We created some interesting exercises which we have 'composted' and used for other trainings. But as with all 'good' ideas, I think timing plays a part and also how the landscape is shifting must be considered. But also it lacked the spark that set it alight and made sense of things”.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="ERA" title="ERA" width="650" height="488" /></p><p>What have I learned from this? I know that I have a strong attachment to ‘being a success’ (and that some part of me is very clear on what this should look like), and that failure for me is a place I really don’t like to go - I can be very hard on myself. But I’m understanding more that words like success and failure are just judgements, and actually what matters are my good intentions and doing my best, and I’m not in control of the outcome anyway. A Rumi quote sums this up nicely for me… “You know how it is – sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another”.</p><p>The place that this ABLO took me was the REconomy Project. It was becoming clear to me that working with existing businesses was a limiting approach, and I have never been convinced that the majority will be willing or able to make the fundamental shifts that are required for Transition – though I hope to be proved wrong.</p><p>And so, the ideas for the REconomy Project began to emerge, with an understanding that growing a new kind of economic system needs to include the creation of new types of enterprises, projects that put infrastructure in place to support a local economy, and a leadership approach that works with local councils and other key partners – as well as helping existing business to transform, if they so desire.</p><p>It became clear that our role is to help build the capacity of Transition groups to bring about their own economic transformation. You can read more about <a href="">the REconomy Project on our website</a>. In 2011 we found a few funders who were very interested in these ideas, and the project is still going from strength to strength.</p><p>The learning from the consulting practice that never was, was one of being willing to stop heading in a direction that required too much efforting to make it work (and was perhaps too entrenched in traditional thinking), and to admit it wasn’t working. Then lift up my head, take time to reflect and then tap into a direction that felt/feels much more effortless, where energy and results naturally seem to flow. It’s a learning I’m taking into many other areas of my life.</p> celebration Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:28:00 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36526 at Sophy Banks on Creating a Culture of Celebration <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="307" title="Apple" alt="Apple" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was about 12 a friend of my sister came on holiday with my family. We were quite a typical family of three irritable siblings – when someone started singing or playing an instrument another child was guaranteed to tell them to “Shut up, that sounds horrible”. &nbsp;We were continually fighting over whatever shifting thing was deemed to be the desirable whatever – sitting in the middle, sitting by the window, going first, going last. My sister’s friend who joined us was an only child and I was stunned to find that she only ever said nice things – to everyone.<!--break--></p><p>When one of us started singing she’d say “hey that’s nice”, pick up a guitar and play along. Anything creative, funny, she’d be interested in and complementary about. Somehow in just a week we all got a taste for how peaceful and lovely it was when someone was nice to you, and the habit stuck. We all turned into nice teenagers, who had our fights, but generally were kind and supportive to each other.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="argue" title="Argue" width="284" height="177" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />I’ve been fascinated by group cultures – from time spent in women’s groups and football teams to psychotherapy groups and workplaces. Most recently within Transition Network, we’ve been paying attention to our culture of celebration and appreciation, and experimenting with ways of warming up our meetings.</p><p>My favourite statistic at the moment is that healthy, happy, resilient workplaces, teams, friendships and relationships have a ratio of at least 3:1 positive to negative statements. For every criticism, put-down, negative remark, there are at least 3 positive complements, appreciations, supportive statements. Five to one is a better ratio. Happy couples in normal conversations have a ratio around 20:1 – the conversation is a steady stream of interest, positive response, support and appreciation. Having more positives means not only more happiness generally, but also that when negatives come along people can hear and respond to them more, because they’re not defending against what feels like a bombardment of complaint.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="DL" title="DL" width="240" height="199" style="float: left;" class="float-left" />Why do we need such a high ratio? Brain scientists have found that our brains are wired to be like Velcro to criticism – it goes in really quickly, and sticks – but like Teflon to praise – it slips past and is slow to go in.</p><p>If you imagine that belonging to your social group was the absolute determinant of survival for early humans, over millennia of evolution, responding and learning quickly in order to avoid negative or shaming social signals was absolutely vital. It makes me imagine that we also evolved to give each other a lot of positive reinforcement – so receiving affirmation for what we’re doing feels like a normal state to be in.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Word cloud" title="Word cloud thing" width="265" height="190" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />I personally believe that when we don’t have this ongoing positive feedback we feel a sense of lack – and if we’re really short of affirmation it can create the kind of inner emptiness that our consumer society just loves us to feel so we will attempt to fill up that craving with food or shopping or some other marketable product or experience.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Mingle"><img src="/sites/" alt="Mingle" title="Mingle" width="265" height="199" style="float: left;" class="float-left" /></a>So creating a culture of appreciation is a radical, political and profound choice. Seeing and appreciating what each member of a team is contributing is like a kind of sweet honey that people will keep coming back for. If you have meetings which are all about actions, doing, agenda, what we could improve, and have a low positive statement ration people are likely to leave feeling unconnected and exhausted. Meetings with lots of shared appreciation, as well as celebrating what has been achieved together, usually mean people leave feeling more energised than when they started.</p><p><span style="color: #434343; font-size: 1.188em; letter-spacing: -0.5px;">How to create a culture of appreciation and celebration?</span></p><p>If you think this is something that would be good for your group you could put it down as an agenda item and have a group discussion. See if your group will agree to try out some of the ideas below – or come up with your own suggestions for how to keep up the ratio of celebrations and appreciations.</p><p>Know that shifting the group culture is likely to feel uncomfortable. Some people may really find this difficult – often those who have a strong inner critic and are used to a constant stream of inner criticism (and sometimes outer as well). This kind of criticism may be masking fear or a need to stay in control. Some may feel that it’s “unprofessional” to be something other than critical – I believe especially here in the UKbeing critical can gain you a lot of status. Know that the <a href="">research shows it’s destructive and unhealthy</a> – of all kinds of relationships – in the long term.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some things we’ve done within Transition Network meetings:</p><ul><li>Start a meeting with a round of appreciations (we do this often at morning meetings at our big conferences – where everyone has been working flat out and there’s lots to get through. It takes a few minutes, and gives everyone a boost as they see the hardworking contribution recognised). They might be general or specific to one person.</li><li>Start a meeting with a go-round of “something you’re grateful for, or enjoying about life at the moment” – which puts us in a mood to notice positive things as we start.</li><li>Appoint a “keeper of the heart” in any kind of meeting to keep an eye on the feeling state of the group (we’ve adopted this after seeing it working at a National Hubs meeting). Part of their job is to notice opportunities to celebrate from the very simple “we’ve made a decision” to the more significant “we ran a wonderful event and had great publicity and 30 new names on the mailing list”.</li><li>End your meetings with a reflection on how the meeting went, starting with what you enjoyed about the meeting, and adding anything to improve for next time. It only need take 5 -10 minutes.</li><li>If the meeting energy is flagging have an “appreciations go round”, or even an “appreciations mingle”</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p> celebration Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:22:49 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36516 at This month's theme: The Power of Not Doing Stuff <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Summer clouds" alt="Clouds" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>This is going to be a very short post. &nbsp;Our theme this month is <em>The Power of Not Doing Stuff</em>. &nbsp;All too often our default as activists is to do do do, and to give ourselves very little time to pause, reflect or celebrate. &nbsp;I remember once going to the leaving party of the head of a large green NGO. &nbsp;He had been in charge there for a long time, and I asked him "what are you most looking forward to about not working here any more?" &nbsp;"Not working 7 days a week" came the reply. &nbsp;All through his kids growing up, he'd been working seven days a week. &nbsp;Here at Transition Network, we say that's not OK. &nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>We try to model a different approach, one where we balance doing with being. &nbsp;One where it's OK to take a breather and spend time with family, take off with a tent and a sleeping bag, or head to the beach with some sausages and the barbecue. &nbsp;One where your kids remember who you are and get to spend enjoyable time in your company. &nbsp;We feel that having a month of the year where this site takes a breather means that what we produce for the rest of the year is more grounded, better rested, and more focused. &nbsp;No-one reads stuff you post in August anyway. &nbsp;</p><p>So we're off. &nbsp;Laptop off, mobile off. &nbsp;We'll be back in September when our theme will be 'Making Space for Nature' which promises to be fascinating. &nbsp;See you then. &nbsp;Have a good break. &nbsp;We'll leave you with this. &nbsp;Last August I wandered into a tent at a festival and saw Camille O'Sullivan singing the song she sings in this clip. &nbsp;A hairs on the back of the neck moment, awesome. &nbsp;Hoping that you get a few of those this summer.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p> Not Doing Stuff Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:32:22 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36429 at How we celebrate! Transition Town Wilmslow's energy group <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="301" alt="" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Like many Transition groups we have spawned different subgroups at different times to meet particular interests and concerns. The Energy group has been going for quite a while and what picked it up was putting in a bid for government Local Energy Assessment Funding. This brought out some new talented people, who have run businesses and charities, a Nobel prize winner on climate change, Cheshire Groundwork as fund holders, and got us a successful bid. In turn that brought in staff time to get out publicity, recruit a lot of new volunteers to use thermal cameras, and advise householders.<!--break--></p><p>We discovered that neighbours are far more approachable as they trust us. The sorts of faulty insulation, dodgy double glazing and poor advice we saw showed why salespeople don’t have a good reputation. It was really frustrating when people had turned down free cavity wall insulation too though, and exciting when we came across a 1900 house with really effective cavity wall insulation (there are a few around Wilmslow with this).&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Insulation work underway on Andrew&#039;s house. " title="Insulation work underway on Andrew&#039;s house. " width="214" height="320" class="float-right" /></p><p>Once that job was over we have done stalls in the local market, promoting our top tips for energy saving – and now we have teamed up with the local area partnership to form a separate LAP energy group to try and help the council also deliver effective energy reduction. It has brought in a major local social housing provider, local town and parish councils, and the fire brigade too. This has got us funding for electricity monitors to be borrowed in the local libraries – though I wish we’d done more talking to others who have done this to get a better package for people to use… And a bid for Awards for All to try and bring in more people to survey houses and get another thermal camera. What next on this front will depend on funding and time.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>And whilst a few of us have done a lot of the direct stuff to deliver improvements, we have had some fun being creative too. Our next fun initiative is to have a pot luck low carbon supper – with people bringing in an item of food with a card to show how it was made to keep energy use low, whether raw food, thermal cooker, hay box, microwave, or something else clever. Any excuse for a party!<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Andrew Backhouse</p> celebration Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:51:22 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36294 at Celebrating Transition at the Transition Northwest Conference <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Programmes" alt="programmes" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Saturday 12<sup>th</sup> July saw the first pilot Transition Roadshow take place, the <a href="/events/2014-07-12/north-west-transition-conference">Transition Northwest Conference</a>.&nbsp; And if <a href="/news/2014-07-02/announcing-4-transition-roadshow-hosts">the four subsequent Roadshows</a> are to prove anywhere near as good, then it represents a great new evolution in how to celebrate and support Transition at the local level.&nbsp; The conference was held at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster, hosted by the <a href="">Institute for Leadership and Sustainability</a>.&nbsp; <a href="">Transition City Lancaste</a>r had done wonders in pulling together the event, and their care and attention to detail was clear throughout.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>While in the main the 120 or so participants came from Lancaster or from Transition initiatives local to the area, there were people there from as far afield as the US and Edinburgh. &nbsp;The day started with Samagita welcoming everyone and outlining the day to come.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Sarah McAdam at the opening session. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Sarah McAdam at the opening session. " title="Sarah McAdam at the opening session. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></p><p>Sarah McAdam from Transition Network then introduced the day in the context of the other forthcoming Roadshows and recognised the amount of work that Transition City Lancaster had put in to making it happen.&nbsp; We then did some mapping, getting people up and moving, looking at questions such as:</p><ul><li>Where have you travelled here from?&nbsp; Where is home?</li><li>How long has your Transition initiative been going for?</li><li>Would you say you were thriving or struggling?</li><li>How old are you? (ranking the hall from oldest to youngest)</li></ul><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Making a &amp;quot;where are you from?&amp;quot; map. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Making a &amp;quot;where are you from?&amp;quot; map. " title="Making a &amp;quot;where are you from?&amp;quot; map. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></p><p>Then after a short coffee break, we broke up for the first session of workshops.&nbsp; People could choose between:</p><ul><li>Transition Support – creating and maintaining healthy Transition initiatives</li><li>No to fracking, yes to community energy</li><li>Community currencies and local economies</li><li>How to engage people with Transition</li><li>The Sustainable Communities Act</li></ul><p>I went to the one on community energy, facilitated by Kevin Frea, which was an excellent exploration of the issues around community energy schemes, the support available for them, and at which a North West Community Energy Network was formed (these Transition folks don’t hang around). &nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Community energy workshop"><img src="/sites/" alt="Community energy workshop" title="Community energy workshop" width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></p><p>Then after lunch there was a second session of workshops. &nbsp;The choices were:<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><ul><li>Reconomy Project</li><li>Transition approach to death and dying</li><li>Personal resilience</li><li>Tearing down the fences – retrofitting any street to co-housing: what would it take?</li><li>Local urban food and organic methods.</li></ul><p>I went to the workshop on cohousing entitled&nbsp;<em>Tearing Down the Fences - Retroftting Any Street to Co-Housing. What Would it Take?,&nbsp;</em>led by&nbsp;Cliodhna Mulhern of the <a href="">Lancaster Co-housing project</a>. &nbsp;They recently built an amazing co-housing project, containing 41 units, to Passivhaus standard. &nbsp;Here is a short film about it:<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>The workshop then focused on what it might take for any street to reinvent itself using elements of the cohousing model. &nbsp;A very interesting discussion followed, starting with ideas like lowering fences and moving on to more ambitious ideas: buying clubs, car clubs and so on. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Notes from my group at the Co-housing session. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Notes from my group at the Co-housing session. " title="Notes from my group at the Co-housing session. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></p><p>I only made these two workshops, but if you have a look at <a href="/blogs/transition-roadshow">the conference's own self-generated blog</a> you will find some reports on other workshops too. &nbsp;For example, there are write-ups on the <a href="/blogs/transition-roadshow/2014-07/transition-roadshow-urban-food-organic-food-biochar-workshop">Local Urban Agriculture workshop</a>, the <a href="/blogs/transition-roadshow/2014-07/transition-approaches-death-and-dying-transition-roadshow-workshop">Transition approaches to Death and Dying workshop</a>&nbsp;and the<a href="/blogs/transition-roadshow/2014-07/sustainable-communities-act-2007-it-useful-transition-workshop-tra">&nbsp;Sustainable Communities Act</a>.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Rob"><img src="/sites/" alt="Rob" title="Rob" width="240" height="240" class="float-right" /></a></p><p>The last session, after a coffee break began with a talk I gave called&nbsp;<em>Transition as a many splendored thing</em> (see right), which gave an overview of what is happening in Transition and why what we are all collectively creating is so important. &nbsp;</p><p>After some discussion and questions, we had a closing session, facilitated by Sarah McAdam, reflecting on how the day was for everyone, before the day was then brought to a close by Kathy from TCL. &nbsp;</p><p>But that wasn't the end! &nbsp;That evening, in the View Bar at the University was food, followed by music and dancing from&nbsp;Howard Haigh and the Men of the Hour, getting everyone up and moving around, powered by a pedal-powered generator. A great end to a fantastic day. Here's a couple of bits of feedback from the conference blog:</p><ul><li>"Intergenerational responses in the opening session were very encouraging".</li><li>"I’ve really enjoyed the experience today – the workshops were very useful – Wish I could have gone to all of them as was spoilt for choice".&nbsp;</li><li>"Have met some very interesting people here today and hope to be able to keep in contact with them and share our successes and refresh ideas".</li><li>"Of course it’s not really over, as usual for a Transition meet up, it’s another wave beginning its roll towards the shore.&nbsp; Good to be part of it".</li></ul><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Kathy draws the day to a close. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Kathy draws the day to a close. " title="Kathy draws the day to a close. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></p><p>The next day there was the opportunity for people to immerse themselves more in some of the interesting stuff happening in Lancaster. &nbsp;The day began with a Universe Walk led by Samagita, and then included a cycling trip to visit Lancaster Co-housing and the community hydro scheme, and also the Claver Hill no-dig community food growing project, or a walk to the Fairfield Flora and Fauna project. &nbsp;</p><p>The great thing about this Roadshow approach is that it is infused with the experience and enthusiasm of the host initiative. &nbsp;While on reflection there are some learnings for the subsequent Roadshows, especially in relation to the running order and content of the day, it felt me like there is something very dynamic about this way of doing things. &nbsp;It was certainly an event that left me renergised in the way that only spending a day with other active Transitioners can. &nbsp;Our deepest thanks to the folks at TCL for all their hard work in pulling it together, and to IFLS and the University of Cumbria for hosting us. &nbsp;</p> celebration Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:44:44 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36374 at Chris Johnstone: "Without celebration, we wither away" <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="165" title="Chris Johnstone" alt="Chris Johnstone" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Chris Johnstone works in the area of the psychology of resilience, sustainable happiness and is co-author, with Joanna Macy, of <em><a href="">Active Hope: how to face the mess we're in without going crazy</a></em>. Chris appeared at both the Unleashing of Transition Town's Totnes and Lewes, and has interacted with different Transition groups ever since. He's also an accomplished musician (you can hear him playing briefly at the end of the podcast of our interview). &nbsp;I started by asking him why celebration matters:<!--break--></p><p>"I’m just thinking about how important food is. Without food, we wither away. Food is nourishment. We also have needs for psychological nourishment or psycho-spiritual nourishment, emotional nourishment. I see celebration as one of those things that nourishes us psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. I was thinking about this also in terms of how important celebration is in keeping us going.</p><p>One of the thought blocks that people bump into sometimes is the voice that says “well what’s the point of doing this?” What celebration does is it gives us an answer to that. I think of it as helping shifting us from a going nowhere story where we feel we’re making no progress and have no direction to what I think of as a going somewhere story, where we feel that we’re on the way somewhere because we’re celebrating and marking important steps along the way.</p><p><strong>What are the risks of not pausing to celebrate, do you think?</strong></p><p>If you don’t pause to first of all notice that you’ve made any progress, it’s very easy to feel that you’re not making any progress. If you’re not making any progress, one of the risks for burnout is that loss of meaning where you lose the sense that there’s a point to what you do. Basically you run dry.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Transition Bristol come together recently to celebrate their work of the last 7 years. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Transition Bristol come together recently to celebrate their work of the last 7 years. " title="Transition Bristol come together recently to celebrate their work of the last 7 years. " width="650" height="489" class="caption" /></a></p><p>I see one of the parallels here as sustainable agriculture. One of the keys of sustainable agriculture is to nourish the soil. If you look after the soil, you get good crops. In terms of personal productivity, I think it would be to have sustainable activism. The parallel to topsoil is, I guess, our enthusiasm. We need to look after our enthusiasm for something. If we don’t, our enthusiasm gets thin like thin topsoil and you can get to a point where there’s no enthusiasm left and you just have that sense of, well what’s the point. You lose the oomph, you lose the energy, and you lose the plot.</p><p><strong>What does good celebration look like? What for you would be the ingredients of a good celebration?</strong></p><p>You can do it alone. It’s good to have ways where we notice the steps that we’re taking by ourselves and find some way of marking those and reinforcing those, but I’d say that celebration generally is much better in company. It’s also socially bonding and there’s very interesting research here about what really makes a difference in relationships.</p><p>There’s a psychologist called Shelley Gable who worked at the University of California Los Angeles, and she was trying to work out what are the vital things that really make a difference and she recorded lots and lots of relationships. One area of communication that seemed to make a key difference in relationships was the response to good news.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Transition Town Kingston created this allotment cake to celebrate their Unleashing. " title="Transition Town Kingston created this allotment cake to celebrate their Unleashing. " width="650" height="433" class="caption" /></p><p>If one person had good news and shared it with the other and the other person responded to the good news by being ‘joy in the joy of another’, by celebrating the good news, that deepened trust, that deepened the sense of satisfaction in the relationship. But if somebody shared good news and it passed by without notice or even worse, the person tried to persuade them that really it was bad news, that led to a drop in the level of satisfaction in the relationship that was so strong that Shelley Gable found that she could work who was at higher risk of breaking up over the next 12 months just by looking at their response to good news, whether somebody celebrated the good news when it was shared, or whether somebody passed it by or poured cold water on it.</p><p><strong>There was a thing that I wrote for this month’s framing editorial that was my attempt at what some of the ingredients of good group celebrations might look like. What does celebration on a more day to day basis in a group like a Transition group – how can we design it into our meetings, our everyday rather than having something we just do once a year?</strong></p><p>I’d say there’s something here about celebration needing to be meaningful. It’s asking yourself “what exactly is it that we are celebrating?” What we’re doing with celebration is celebrating the things we appreciate, the things that we value. By having a shared celebration, what you’re doing is reinforcing the system of values, the shared system of values within that group. In terms of what keeps us going, it’s really important to celebrate success. So what comes up there is we need to look at how do we notice success, how do we notice progress and how do we define that?</p><p>It’s particularly important when working for social change, for social and ecological justice, that we can often have a lot of disappointment and frustration along the way. If we only celebrate the really big things, the really big victories, we can have long gaps between the celebrations which makes us feel that we’re losing, that we’re not making progress. And so therefore I think what’s really important is to look at the mini victories along the way, and to both celebrate the positive outcomes that happen, but also to celebrate the effort put in, and one way of doing that is just to find some way of appreciating what has been done, so for example research on our mood shows that one of the things that improves mood is both the experience and also the expression of gratitude.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Emcee Kathy Blume climaxes the Celebrate Charlotte’s Future party at The Old Lantern by serving up a special “birthday” cake."><img src="/sites/" alt="Emcee Kathy Blume climaxes the Celebrate Charlotte’s Future party at The Old Lantern by serving up a special “birthday” cake." title="Emcee Kathy Blume climaxes the Celebrate Charlotte’s Future party at The Old Lantern by serving up a special “birthday” cake." width="650" height="489" class="caption" /></a></p><p>One of the ways that you can build celebration into everyday meetings and things is just finding some way to appreciate each other, appreciate the steps that we’ve been taking. If you’ve notice that someone’s worked really hard on something, to have some gap in a meeting, some agenda item in the meeting where you just notice the things that have been done and the effort put in, and find some way of valuing them, marking them, noting them.</p><p>It might be first of all there’s a slot for anyone who’s got any good news to share and then to celebrate that, but also has anyone got any appreciations of gratitude to express. To actually build that into part of a group culture that we take time to notice and celebrate the steps we notice each other taking, and also if somebody has noticed a step that we’ve taken, for it to be completely more than fine, I’d say brilliant, for us to step forward and say – one thing I’m pleased about, you may not have seen this but one thing I’ve done is… where we take time to notice and to celebrate the steps we’ve taken ourselves.</p><p>It’s great when other people can notice it, but we don’t want to end up feeling resentful because no one cheered for this hard piece of work I did. We actually get better at stepping out there and saying – yes, I’m really pleased that I did this, I’m really pleased that I did that, because when we mark the steps that we’re taking, we reinforce that in a way that helps us keep taking those steps.</p><p><strong>The environmental movement, in as much as I’ve been around it for the last 25 years or so, feels to be fairly spectacularly bad at stopping and celebrating. The culture is like a marathon, “got to keep going, got to keep going”, so there’s lots of burnout. Why do you think the environmental movement has been so poor at that?</strong></p><p>Partly it’s the scale of the tasks that we face. We can’t have a party to celebrate climate change being sorted out, because that’s probably not going to happen in our lifetime. There’s already problems in the post, as it were, from the carbon that’s already been released into the atmosphere. The task is so huge that we could be working, well, there’s 168 hours in the week and we could be working all of those for a whole year and still feel that there’s more and more to do. There’s two things here.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Dancing at Transition Town Lewes&#039; Seven Year Itch event. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Dancing at Transition Town Lewes&#039; Seven Year Itch event. " title="Dancing at Transition Town Lewes&#039; Seven Year Itch event. " width="650" height="430" class="caption" /></a></p><p>There’s the to-date thinking which is where we look at what we’ve done so far, but there’s also to-go thinking where we look at what we’ve still got to go, the distance we’ve still got to cover. When we look at the distance we’ve still got to cover, it’s further than we can get in our lifetime, so that’s the trouble as I see it. We can just be working, working, working, and feel that there’s always more to go.</p><p>But also if we only focus on the work that’s still to be done, the danger is we just get exhausted. We become like what we’re doing to the fields of wheat around the world – we harvest them unsustainably and end up depleting the soil. I’d say that activist enthusiasm is a vital renewable resource, and we need to get much more skilful about how we treasure it. How we look after it in a way that can help it grow.</p><p><strong>My last question is, can you think of one celebratory event that you were particularly moved by or inspired by which could be a story that might be useful for Transition groups to hear?</strong></p><p>I’ve shared a number with you that I really delight in. One that comes to mind is when the two of us spoke together at the launch of Transition Town Totnes. It was the official unleashing of Transition Town Totnes and that was years ago now. But I think that was in 2006, so eight years ago now. What we do is celebrate launches of things in a way that we’re marking them and saying – hey, this is the beginning of something. We don’t know what will happen, but we’re marking our very clear intention.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox"><img src="/sites/" width="182" height="278" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>There’s a form of energy, I call it ACACI which means A Clear and Committed Intention. It’s like a form of psychological energy. When you have strong, clear and committed intention, it drives you on. One of the ways of building that up is to have a launching celebration. I really enjoyed that event with you. We spoke together at the unleashing of Transition Town Lewes as well and we’ve both been back there since then. You wrote recently in your July 1<sup>st</sup> blog about being at their 7 year celebration and I was there at their 5 year celebration.</p><p>If you have a party to begin something, then you can also revisit that point some years on. So they become markers in time. We can say yes, we were here when this began, we celebrated the launch of this. And now here we are meeting again, this number of years later and we also celebrate the effort put in and the steps taken and the distance covered in that between time.</p><p>What you do there is build in the journey approach to change. This sense that we’re on a cultural migration. That’s why I love the term Transition. Transition is about moving from one place to another and we mark the steps along the way. So we celebrate when we begin this journey with the unleashing, the launch, but we keep coming back to that at periodic intervals and say – hey, we’re still on this journey. It’s still important to us.</p><p>While there might be some steps forward and some steps back and frustrations and disappointments along the way, there will always be things that we can look at and say yeah, that’s what we did and I feel really good about that.</p><p>When you mark the things that you feel good about, you get something which I call afterglow. This is the warm feeling of satisfaction after you’ve done something or noticed something that you feel good about. That’s what keeps us going, it’s fuel for the journey. So back to that original idea that celebration is a form of psychological nourishment and it’s absolutely vital to keep ourselves going.</p><p><strong>You’re a very gifted musician and you managed to weave music and getting everybody moving and joining in as well. What’s the role of music in that, do you think?</strong></p><p>It’s so interesting, because they’ve found bits of bone that have been turned into flutes that are 20,000 years old. I see music as a form of social glue. It draws people together. There’s something very remarkable that can happen when people move rhythmically together. It’s where we shift out of just seeing ourselves as separate individuals to where we sing and dance together it reinforces our connectivity, our sense of being part of something larger.</p><p>That’s great – actually 'great' is an understatement. I talked about psychological nourishment, also how do we reinforce and grow social capital? Social capital is the wealth that comes out of relationships. Shared music and dance is one of the ways that happens.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Here is the podcast of our interview with Chris. &nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 07:06:24 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36368 at How we celebrate! Transition Bristol <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Circle" alt="Circle" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;A couple of weeks ago, Transition Bristol held their Small Green Sunday event, to celebrate and reflect on all that they have achieved over the last seven years. Four members of the group have kindly shared their reflections on the day, and on what it felt like to come together to celebrate, beneath the bunting and fuelled with good food, all that Transition has brought to their lives and to their city. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Kristin Sponsler’s story</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>It is impossible to capture in words what it has been like to be part of the Transition Bristol journey over the last seven (seven??) years. From my arrival as a corporate escapee in 2007 and being invited by Transition Bristol’s founder Sarah Pugh to “help” with the Big Event that autumn (400 people and some big name Peak Oil stars in the lineup!) to helping craft our “light touch” and celebratory Small Green Sunday event this past May where we had 50 people max, it has been a bumpy and exciting ride.</p> <p>One of my big learnings through all of this has been that it is quality of the partnerships and relationships, not the quantity of attendees that counts when you are trying to do Transition work in a city that has the feisty energy that Bristol does. Have a look at our timeline to see what the idea of Transition has helped to birth and inspire since we began as the first “official Transition City” in 2007.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><span>Since I was on the door most of the morning, the highlight of Small Green Sunday for me was the amazing bring food to share lunch that the participants brought with them on the day, as well as all the luscious and scrumptious cake provided by Shannon Smith, local baker extraordinaire. The invitation was for people to come either for the morning session or to come in later and share in one of several "lunchtime conversations" that arose out of the interactive session in the morning. Even though the weather turned lovely after a shaky start in the morning we couldn't get many people to venture out into the Trinity Centre's lovely garden space because they were too busy talking! A sign of a successful event in my book.</span></p> <p><span><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Food!"><img src="/sites/" alt="Food!" title="Food!" width="650" height="489" /></a></span></p> <p><strong>Angela Raffle’s story</strong></p> <p>I’ve been part of the volunteer team running Transition Bristol for about five years. It’s been hard to envisage running anything that could match the wonderful Big Event of November 2008 so instead we’ve concentrated on behind the scenes, helping on masses of transition In Bristol stuff. Then with new energy from new people we found ourselves creating Small Green Sunday on 23 May 2014. The delight we felt from reconnecting across all the themes – energy, food, happiness, learning, transport, and links with Green Capital – was tremendous.</p> <p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Angela Raffle facilitating the Transition Bristol event. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Angela Raffle facilitating the Transition Bristol event. " title="Angela Raffle facilitating the Transition Bristol event. " width="650" height="489" class="caption" /></a></p> <p>My memories of the event range from the excitement of rattling along the rough track from the allotments in the early morning sunshine with a vat of Mike Feingolds legendary cider fizzing on the back seat of the car, through to the joy of seeing everyone completely focused on lunchtime conversations over shared food – lightly organized with a mini-version of Open Space Technology. The worst panic moment was standing leaning with my back against the stage thinking ‘Eek - how many chairs shall we lay out? Will it be zero or 80?’ at which point two things happened.</p> <p>One was a warm wet sensation in my right ear and the other was someone saying to my left ear that the best rule on a free ticketed event is half the number that booked. Looking round I found myself face to face with a huge German Shepherd dog standing on the stage and licking me, strangely comforting in an alarming kind of way. So we immediately removed half the chairs to leave 40, and that was exactly the number that came, which felt perfect. We had a morning of connecting, celebrating, thinking, discussing, planning, dreaming, and committing. The power of the Transition concept was definitely at work.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Tom Henfrey’s story</strong></p> <p>The importance of celebrating achievements really struck me when I moved to Bristol during 2013. Arriving from somewhere where community action has far less breadth and momentum, I revelled in the richness of what Bristol's grassroots movements for social change have achieved. From needing to work hard to spend time in places where Transition is already underway, I literally found it hard to move without coming across some visible manifestation, and benefit, of decades of sustainability action.</p> <p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Transition Bristol event. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Transition Bristol event. " title="Transition Bristol event. " width="650" height="489" /></a></p> <p>Community gardens and other growing projects all over the place (80 throughout the city, I am told), providing local cafes and restaurants or acting as informal community learning spaces; a local permaculture group with over 1000 members, and dozens more coming through the design certificate course and Shift Bristol's groundbreaking Practical Sustainability course every year; a city-wide network of community energy projects; a functional cycling infrastructure and thriving bike culture; more talks, films and other gatherings of the like-minded than you could ever hope to attend, and a new local currency rapidly establishing itself as a marker of distinction for independent traders.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Marvelling at the abundance, I was surprised to discover that the most common attitude among seasoned Bristolians in this scene was one of frustration at how much more remains to be done. While I joyfully rode or walked to the back yard of my local social centre to pick up my weekly veg bag from a community-run permaculture farm two miles from my home, I heard old-timers grumble about the extent to which Bristol remains very much part of the carbon economy, the traffic-clogged city streets, the number of supermarkets, economic dependency on a small number of large and ethically dubious businesses. All this is true, and it's also true that several decades of community action, accelerated since Transition took off since 2007, has left a rich legacy.</p> <p>The cultural ground for Transition has become well established. It's easy to spend most of your time with people and in places who hold and express core values of sustainability and social justice, something I find deeply nourishing. Any new project or initiative is richly resourced in terms of knowledge, skills, networks, sympathy, and background understanding of the big picture of which it forms a part. In the daily work of pushing things forward still further, it's natural to focus on how far there is to go rather than what's already been accomplished.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It's these past achievements that make current and future work possible, and everyone who has put vision and energy into making them happen deserve opportunities to take stock, look back, and celebrate all they have done. Thanks to them, Bristol has become an exciting, vibrant, inspirational place to live where the key challenges of Transition are being faced head on. I'm proud that I was able to contribute to an event that celebrates this and plans how we build on that legacy going forward.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Mark Leach’s story</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>One of my roles in attending Small Green Sunday was to explain or clarify the nature of Green Capital – the Partnership, the 2015 company, the European award etc.; but I took part in the day wholeheartedly and a number of things struck me.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Firstly, to see again just how much Transition has achieved over the last decade. Or to be more precise, helped people/groups etc in the city acheive. We are looking for lessons that Bristol can swap with others as we learn from other cities and they from us about being a greener city during 2015. Well, I think we should be saying to any city across Europe, becoming a Transition city can help nurture projects through the difficult seedling stage, and sow more new seeds too.&nbsp; The Bristol Green Capital Partnership has played a huge role too and the event made me realise just the extent to which the two compliment each other well.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Bunting"><img src="/sites/" alt="Bunting/." title="Bunting" width="650" height="489" /></a></span></p> <p>The award of European Green Capital is not awarded for reaching the finishing line as a completely green city, it's for making good progress along that journey – a journey that is long and difficult for all cities.&nbsp; Transition and SGS are great for reminding us how far we have to go, due to the ambitions and dreams of participants and their vision for where we should be going as a city.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>I was bowled over by a sense of respect that permeated the event and those participating. People had challenging questions, but a tough, constructive challenge is so much more worthwhile than a limp negative one!<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Another thread running right through the event was the desire to reach out and be inclusive. It's easy for people outside to pigeon-hole Transition as a movement for middle class people that only those with time and space for it. I think I learned how far this is from the truth and certainly from the potential of Transition.&nbsp; The reality of Transition – as much practical and down to earth as well as, say, spiritual, and the broad potential appeal of permaculture.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And lastly the venue, the re-vamped Trinity building, beautiful Trinity Community garden and beguiling “shed” were perfect for the event and for demonstrating this reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> celebration Tue, 15 Jul 2014 06:33:22 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36366 at Dave Pollard: Celebration: nodding with a smile to the Sacred <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="235" title="Dave" alt="Dave" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <div><p>Transition Network's Ben Brangwyn interviewed author, social entrepreneur, thinker, blogger and systems thinker, and also member of&nbsp;<a href="">Bowen in Transition</a>,&nbsp;Dave Pollard, while he was at Schumacher College recently for their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Dark Mountain</a>&nbsp;course. &nbsp;Our month's theme of Celebration ran through their discussion.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p><strong>Dark Mountains aren’t really the kind of places many of us would choose as places to have a celebration, and the theme of Dark Mountain (civilisational collapse) is perhaps not a subject that immediately brings up thoughts of celebration. Can you tell us if celebration featured at all in the course and how it might help us navigate through the Dark Mountain (or not)?</strong></p></div><div><p>The term ‘celebration’ is interesting in the context of movements like Dark Mountain and Transition that are substantially in opposition to prevailing popular thought — etymologically and originally it meant a ‘large and solemn gathering to honour something’. So, I don’t think Dark Mountain was celebratory, either in the original sense or in the current sense of a collective and congratulatory acknowledging of some happy event.&nbsp;<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>What we did practice, I think, is Tom Robbins’ advice, to “insist on joy in spite of everything”. Dark Mountaineers are, by profession, artists, and TS Eliot, writing of poetry, one of his forms of art, said:<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><blockquote><p>“Poetry has to give pleasure… [and] the communication of some new experience, or some fresh understanding of the familiar, or the expression of something we have experienced but have no words for, which enlarges our consciousness or refines our sensibility… We all understand I think both the kind of pleasure that poetry can give and the kind of difference, beyond the pleasure, which it makes to our lives. Without producing these two effects it is simply not poetry.”<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p></blockquote><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Dave&#039;s diagram"><img src="/sites/" alt="Diagram" title="Dave&#039;s diagram" width="330" height="329" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>If that is our purpose as artists — to give both pleasure and the kind of fresh understanding that makes a difference to people’s lives — then I think we need to come at our work from a place of joy. And we certainly did that at our recent course. It is amazing and exhilarating to find a group with which one can speak fearlessly and unapologetically about collapse, who appreciate worldviews as diverse and complex as those of John Gray, David Abram, Guy McPherson, Charles Eisenstein, Paul and Dougald, and you and Rob.&nbsp;<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>As recently as five years ago talking about collapse was lonely and difficult work. But now, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">New Political Map</a>&nbsp;(see right) is populated with at least seven “camps” of past-denial thinking about our future: Humanists, Transitioners, Radical Activists, Communitarians, Dark Mountaineers and Voluntary and Near Term Extinctionists. There’s a growing appreciation, I think, that all of us who are ‘beyond denial’ can and must work together, that we share a common purpose, and that our numbers are growing. All of that is a cause for joy, and perhaps even celebration.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>You and some of the team of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Bowen in Transition</a>&nbsp;(BC, Canada) have run a successful 1-day “Intro to Transition Course”. To what extent did celebration feature in that course, and did you cover the “when” of celebration?</strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>Our course was designed to give our 3800 Bowen Island residents a sense of the energy, economic and ecological challenges we will face specifically on the island, and some of the things we are doing and might do to prepare for that. It also includes an “inner transition” session and a set of exercises to help attendees see how much work remains to be done.&nbsp;<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>While the first part of the workshop is pretty sobering (there are, always, some tears), the exercises in the second half, which focus on identifying our preparedness for living in a relocalized, post-growth, post-cheap-energy, post-stable-climate world, have taught us that we’re better prepared than we might think. In these exercises we’ve discovered that our neighbours have skills we would never have imagined, we’ve practiced dealing with crisis scenarios and gained a sense that we’re less helpless than we thought, and we’ve envisioned a future for our island that is highly resilient in core areas like food security, local livelihoods, and health &amp; wellness.</p><p>When you’re on a small island, there’s a sense that you might be cut off in a crisis, and it’s comforting and energizing to realize that, when we must adapt, we will probably do remarkably well. &nbsp;And of course our workshops include a potluck meal, which is always a type of celebration.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>You very deliberately retired from the Industrial Growth System not that long ago. How did you celebrate that retirement in the short term and also the longer ter<em>m?</em></strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>I wanted to imagine myself as having resigned like Patrick McGoohan did in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Prisoner</a>. But the truth is that none of us can resign from civilisation; I am as dependent on it as the next person. And I am immensely grateful for the enormous good fortune I have been blessed with all my life, and specifically for the opportunity it gave me to critically explore and learn how the world really works and to imagine better ways to live and make a living.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">This is kind of what it felt like</a>&nbsp;to me to retire from civilisation; a bewilderment that will probably last the rest of my life, wondering what ‘uncivilized’ life might really be like.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>One of the things I did immediately was to move to Bowen Island, a more sustainable place in a more sustainable part of the world than where I worked. The view out my window, of forest and ocean with little evidence of civilisation’s existence, is an endless source of joy.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>I take every opportunity to celebrate the freedom I have now — to wake up in the morning with nothing that must be done that day, and do whatever I feel like doing; to walk naked in the quiet forest beside my home; to talk about the state of the world without fear of being silenced or subjected to violence; to eat local, healthy, organic food and drink fresh well water; to surround myself with natural beauty; to connect with bright, inspired, caring people here and all over the world. It is such a privilege to have such freedoms. &nbsp;If being grateful, every day, is a form of celebration, then that’s what I do.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>You’re focusing heavily right now on “presencing”. Can you explain what that is, and to what extent celebration is a feature of “being present”?</strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>Perhaps I’ll be able to celebrate if I can ever actually achieve it! I think that because I am fortunate enough to have the capacity (time, knowledge, skills, intelligence, and access to resources) to be of service to others I have a responsibility to do so. Like so many humans coping with our industrial civilisation culture, I have been damaged by it. I have dealt with depression much of my life, and still suffer from far too many fears and anxieties for my own good. I also have ulcerative colitis, one of the many chronic autoimmune diseases that are epidemic in our culture.</p><p>My purpose for trying to become present is to enable me to heal and hence to be able to be of better service to others. I also hope it will bring me more clarity about exactly what my role is, going forward, how I can best be of service. That’s a theme of my book,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>Finding the Sweet Spot</em></a>, but I am still learning about it, and I expect it to be a lifelong process.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>In those rare moments when I feel myself fully present, whether it be when I’m really “on” in some mentoring or collaboration with others, or in a moment of meditation when I feel time stop and my ego vanish and the separation between ‘me’ and all-life-on-Earth fall away, that very presence is, I think, a celebration of connection, what I think wild creatures must feel most of their lives.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>As a systems thinker, you’re often producing excellent diagrams that depict systems (social, ecological, inner personal) that show actions, reactions, impacts and feedback mechanisms. Have any of your diagrams included “celebration” or similar?&nbsp;</strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>Thanks — my systems diagrams are all part of the thinking-out-loud process&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">on my blog</a>, my attempt to make sense of the world and what it means to be human, and I’m delighted others have found my ‘diary’ of that process useful to them.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>If celebration has not factored into these diagrams, I suspect it’s because I’m drawing what I perceive to be the current state of things, and my experience and sense of things is that there is not much cause for celebration, either external or internal, in most of our lives.<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>This</em>&nbsp;is a celebration</a>. When such events occur to us personally, or when we are instrumental in helping such events happen, then we can celebrate.&nbsp;<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>That’s why I think most of our work, most of our occasions to celebrate, will be small scale and local, what Joanna Macy calls “holding actions” against a tide of growing atrocities aimed at keeping civilization culture alive. In my suggested<a href="" target="_blank">Pattern Language for Effective Activism</a>&nbsp;(<a href="" target="_blank">pattern languages</a>&nbsp;being another way of documenting and making sense of systems) I showed “Celebrate” as one of the patterns.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>And I’d like to thank all of those reading this who are doing that “holding action” work — rescuing, liberating, blocking, disrupting, seizing, undermining — and those who support them, and those building alternative systems and models. In short, all of those who are making a small, real difference now, putting themselves on the line, taking real, personal risks.&nbsp;<span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></p><p>As a chronicler of civilization’s collapse, I do not foresee much opportunity for celebration myself. But the other, related approaches to dealing sanely with the knowledge of what is to come — insisting on joy in spite of everything, giving and taking pleasure and meaning from our creative and other work, discovering new and unexpected areas of resilience and possibility, breaking bread together, being grateful for this magnificent life and all that we have — are small ways of ‘nodding with a smile to the sacred’, which is perhaps a more modest definition of celebration, one that we can all partake of, every day.</p><p><em><strong>Dave Pollard</strong> retired from paid work in 2010, after 35 years as an advisor to small enterprises, with a focus on sustainability, innovation, and understanding complexity. He is a long-time student of our culture and its systems, of history and of how the world really works, and has authored the blog&nbsp;How to Save the World&nbsp;for over ten years. His book&nbsp;<a href="">Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work</a>, was published by Chelsea Green in 2008. He is one of the authors of&nbsp;<a href="">Group Works: A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings</a>, published in 2012. He is a member of the international Transition movement, the Communities movement and the Sharing Economy movement, and is a regular writer for the deep ecology magazine&nbsp;Shift.&nbsp;He&nbsp;is working on a collection of short stories about the world two millennia from now. He lives on Bowen Island, Canada.</em></p></div> celebration Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:42:46 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36275 at The house that Baz built <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="201" title="Marcus and Kate McCabe&#039;s strawbale house, Clones, Co.Monaghan. " alt="Marcus and Kate McCabe&#039;s strawbale house, Clones, Co.Monaghan. " src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Given that our theme this month is 'Celebration', this feels like a good time to share the story of the oddest talk I ever gave, which took place at a celebration, and which left me with a question I have been unable to answer to this day, one that perhaps you might be able to help me out with. &nbsp;Sometime around 1998, I was invited to give a slide show at a wedding, thankfully not something I have been invited to do before or since.&nbsp;<!--break--> </span></p><p><span>I was living in South West Ireland, and a couple I knew were getting married at Cool Mountain, a kind of travellers community on the side of a hill near Dunmanway. &nbsp;Locally it was known as a mostly incomer/alternative/’hippy’/traveller community, who lived in an assortment of vans, caravans, temporary structures, but also some very interesting low impact buildings and some great people, on a hillside renowned for its high levels of rainfall.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>My friends were getting married (well 'handfasted' actually, a kind of pagan wedding), and for some reason, I was invited to give a talk about straw bale building as part of the festivities. &nbsp;It's certainly the first, and last, time I've been asked to give a talk about straw bale building at a wedding. &nbsp;I had recently been part of building the first straw bale house in Ireland, Marcus McCabe's house in Monaghan (see photo above), and had a slide show showing most stages of the process which I have given a few times locally.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>The actual ceremony had taken place in the early afternoon, to be followed by a big knees-up in the evening, and I was asked to come and speak at about 5pm. &nbsp;I turned up, with my slide projector, to an old farmhouse on the side of the mountain, got set up, and then people started turning up to listen. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>It rapidly became clear that while about half the people had come expecting to hear me speak, the other half had arrived already expecting the party. &nbsp;Quite a few of them had, we might say, imbibed levels of alcohol more suitable for a party than a slide show about straw bale construction. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>One guy in particular was already very drunk. &nbsp;He sprawled on the sofa, but still managed to fix his attention onto the talk, just about. &nbsp;I started by talking about the history of strawbale building before moving onto the story of the Monaghan house. &nbsp;We began with the foundations. &nbsp;I showed how they were built and the learnings from that. &nbsp;The guy on the sofa roused himself. &nbsp;"Foundations", he just about managed to get out coherently, "foundations are what goes under the walls to carry the weight", before slumping back again. &nbsp;"Thanks" I said, before moving onto walls. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>It soon became clear that whatever stage of the building process I mentioned, our friend had to have an informed (ish) opinion on them. &nbsp;"Walls, yes, that's what the roof sits on", "Roof, that's the bit that goes over the top and keeps the rain off" etc. &nbsp;Each time he spoke he was shooshed by everyone else, and after about 15 minutes, he proceeded to be sick all over himself and left the room. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>During the talk more people arrived, the majority of whom were here clearly to party rather than listen to me. &nbsp;At the end of the talk, I came to the bit about how much this beautiful, circular, thatched house had cost to build. &nbsp;"So this family", I told the crowded farmhouse sitting room, "built a three-bedroom house for just £30,000!". &nbsp;I had given this talk many times before, and every time this fact generated an appreciative sense that that was quite something, that here, perhaps, was an affordable and technically feasible building solution at a time when conventional construction was out of the reach of many. For many people it was the high point. &nbsp;Not on Cool Mountain.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>One guy, who had spent the talk either listening intently or was too drunk to move, it was hard to say, looked shocked at this statement, and his indignation moved him to sit upright. &nbsp;"Thirty grand?" he said with a tone of great disgust. &nbsp;"Thirty grand?? &nbsp;Baz built his house for a hundred quid". &nbsp;History does not record what Baz lived (or perhaps even still lives) in. &nbsp;Quite what Baz managed to build for a hundred quid will forever be left to future generations to speculate upon. &nbsp;Me, I never found out. &nbsp;As soon as I finished, the partiers were able to finally begin partying properly, let off the leash at last. &nbsp;I headed home, celebrating Baz’s ingenuity, creativity, and, quite possibly, highly creative accounting.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> celebration Tue, 08 Jul 2014 06:29:40 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36272 at How we celebrate! Crystal Palace Transition Town <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="238" title="Poster" alt="Poster" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>The words "A.G.M". and "celebration" don’t exactly flow together. A.G.M. conjures up: minutes; agenda items; amendments to constitutions; corrections to amendments to constitutions; and generally&nbsp;men&nbsp;in suits coughing to get attention. A top table. Members and officers. Two hours listening to people talking. &nbsp;In this blog I wanted to take a look at how we evolved our A.G.M. over the last three years and how it’s become more and more useful for our group (Crystal Palace Transition Town).&nbsp;&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p><strong>Old School: 2012</strong></p><p>With our first A.G.M (2012) we were still a bit old school: a selected representative from each theme was scheduled to speak for 10 minutes about what was happening in that theme: Food and Growing, Energy, Waste, "Local and Fair" and Skillshare.&nbsp;Then a happy accident: the person who was scheduled to speak overall on all the food projects was delayed. As they say in permaculture, "the problem is the solution".</p><p>So we asked 8 people to say a few words each about their aspect of food and growing&nbsp;instead. Suddenly the people who didn’t normally speak were speaking. The person who cared about permaculture talked about permaculture, the person who always watered that garden talked about always watering that garden. The meeting opened up and it felt like a room full of involved people rather than a room divided into talkers and listeners. It also helped that we had chairs arranged in a circle. No top table.</p><p>In 2012 we got something else right. We put some questions out to the floor and invited people to respond to them. This, after all, is what a Transition Town is supposed to be about, but something can be forgotten in the midst of meetings and emails. A community responding. One of the questions was “How can we source more sustainable food locally?”&nbsp;&nbsp;We got into clusters and discussed it. Every one of the 30 people there had a chance to participate.</p><p>A new member, Karen, suggested we launch a food market. We had already learnt how to put that sort of person in their place, coming into our group with her grandiose ideas:</p><p>&nbsp;“That’s a wonderful idea. Would you like to lead on it?”</p><p>“Yes.” was the unexpected reply.<strong style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>Fast Forward one year: 2013</strong>.&nbsp;</p><p>We now call it our AGM and Annual Celebration. The group has grown considerably. That imposter, Karen, has drawn in a team with Laura, Rachel and many others and is about to launch a weekly food market. They have sourced fantastic suppliers, have a market site, a website, done all the boring council/insurance form-filling stuff and are good to go. So that’s worth celebrating.</p><p>Building on the year before, we get as many people as possible to speak, rather than just one rep on each theme. We have gone up from 30 people to about 65 attending. Several local councillors come along to support us and check us out.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>We Do Do-ocracy....</strong></p><p>In my 2013 welcome to the A.G.M., I highlight the idea of do-ocracy. We are here to celebrate the do-ers. We have already gained a reputation in the area for a being a group that is pro-active and positive and it seems important to add that to our unspoken manifesto. There’s something impressive about putting the people who are “doing stuff” on the pedestal, giving them the microphone.</p><p>Do-ocracy has another strength in that helps the tone of visioning processes. It reminds people that while their opinions are valid, if they are not going to get involved in activities there is no guarantee any of their opinions will be taken onboard or that their vision will become a reality. The do-ers make the decisions. Doing is one of the important currencies by which we measure our progress. Do-ocracy also protects the do-ers from anyone who wants to do an impersonation of the Harry Enfield character who’s catchphrase was “You don’t want to do it like that!”.</p><p>Do-ocracy also clarifies that we are not using a server-provider model. We are volunteers following our passions, keeping to our values as much as we can, with limited time and capacity. If you want to see a certain kind of stall at the market, or a bee-keeping event in the community garden, it’s much more likely to happen if you come along to the next meeting, send out a few emails, follow them up and see if you can get something rolling.</p><p>Since this idea has been introduced, some have found it challenging and strange. People had to learn to shake off old habits and old ways of thinking. Sometimes “shouldisms” can hang in the air. I still see it happen where people work hard to please a whim expressed by someone no one has heard from for months.<strong style="font-size: 0.813em;"></strong></p><p><strong>Roll of Do-ers&nbsp;</strong></p><p>But celebrating the do-ers has taken us on a new and exciting journey. Back at the 2013 A.G.M., as well as the food market launching we hear how:&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Our three community gardens has grown to five, new projects have sprung up including: Palace Pint, Palace Power (solar panel project), Palace Preserves, and Palace Pick-Up (Community Clean-Ups).</li><li>The Local and Fair group has delivered Fairtrade Fortnight and The Local and Fair online guide to local businesses.&nbsp;And on the night, Angus, who has been following us for a while online, takes the plunge and launches the Transport Group. Simultaneously we are approached by Tim who wants to focus on public transport issues<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">.&nbsp;</span></li></ul><p>A local councillor tweets during the event about do-ocracy.</p><p>We don’t get everything right. The night over-runs and we have to tidy up so we don’t get time to do a proper brainstorm. Feels like an opportunity missed. One to fix for 2014.......<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Fast Forward One More Year: Annual Celebration and AGM (2014).</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Note the swop around in the title this year. (Maybe next year it'll just be "Annual Celebration"!)</p><p>We sent out emails well in advance asking a wide range of people to do 3 sentences on their specific area. We grouped them together so that people won’t feel like they have to speak on their own. We timed it carefully and warned people we would keep to their times.We had Louise with her "saucepan of time" to time-keep. Anyone over-running was unceremoniously rattled. It was a good balance between keeping it tight and having some fun.&nbsp;</p><p>Before people had even settled, one of our new projects, Busker’s Paradise had welcomed them in with flamenco guitar.&nbsp;Mehul’s videos, a photo-collage of the year's activities set to music, have become a highly-requested part of the night.</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>It is a powerful way to remind old stalwarts that all the hard work has been worth it – especially before and after photographs of gardens. I put up&nbsp;the&nbsp;objectives from our three year old constitution. I admit that we when wrote them, they felt pie-in-the-sky. Not anymore.</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>This year we lined up an impressive line-up of do-ers. We heard from EIGHT speakers on the market alone : &nbsp;Paul, who has found employment through the market, Alex the Duke of Edinburgh volunteer, Laura on the wide community outreach, Beth on the artist's collective Handmade Palace, Steve the Busker Organiser, Andrea the trader, Veryan who organises children's activities and Karen with the overview.</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>These short snappy presentations flowed really well and there was a real sense of variety in the speakers.</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>Right across the other themes, the&nbsp;do-ers were encouraged and empowered to step up and be celebrated for what&nbsp;they had done. Patchwork Farm has grown into a network of six community growing spaces, two more in the&nbsp;pipeline, a host of garden shares, Friday Farmers, and over 40 local gardens contributing&nbsp;their glut to the weekly stall. "Local and Fair" has delivered another Fairtrade Fortnight and produced a map version of their “Local and Fair” directory. Seven community clean-ups. An Edible Bus Station and plans for a growing space at Crystal Palace Train Station. Palace Trees is our latest new project. Patchwork Preserves and Palace Pint are into their second year. The new transport group has&nbsp;delivered&nbsp;bicycle&nbsp;repair workshops and is planning&nbsp;play streets. Captain Sensible is coming to open one of our gardens on his old stomping ground.</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe>&nbsp;</p><p>And as well as all the physical stuff, it was important to take time to acknowledge the secretary, the treasurer and the people who update the website.&nbsp;The invisible, essential emails and arteries of a group this size.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Celebrate, Don't Spin</strong></p><p>As well as being celebrationary, we've learnt the importance of honesty. At past A.G.M.s I would have been tempted to positively spin things more, but I've learnt that B.S. can come back and bite you: people turn up to see your wonderful thriving project and it's just you and your small dog. So now if we need more people to make a project work, we say it. Invite new volunteers in and let them know they could be the difference that could get the project really off the ground. If we make everything sound brilliant, the new people will just go home thinking "They don't need us."&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Spending A Million</strong></p><p>And we kept right on schedule and had time for a great visioning activity.</p><p>We put out the questions:</p><p><em>"What would you do with a hundred volunteers?"</em></p><p><em>"What would you do with a million pounds?"</em></p><p>The ideas that came back were really interesting and highlighted a number of new themes, including the&nbsp;elderly, teenagers and health.</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>By the end of&nbsp;the event 87 people had attended and around 30 people had taken the mic. It felt like we had got even better at handing over the floor, and&nbsp;handing over the Transition Town, to the members.</p><p>For all the talk of declining resources, it feels like our most important resource is our people. And when members connect with each other at an event like this, the whole Transition Town gets stronger. To know you are part of a bigger vision can make those Saturday mornings in the rain giving out fliers a little easier.</p><p>We like to keep our feet on the ground in Crystal Palace Transition Town. But I would say that by the end of the 2014 Annual Celebration each person who came along went away feeling they were part of something happening, something that was bigger than themselves. Something worth celebrating.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Joe Duggan has been involved&nbsp; with Crystal Palace Transition since early 2011 and has been co-chair since 2012.&nbsp;</em></p> celebration Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:37:36 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36278 at An inspiring taste of Transition in Germany <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Germany" alt="Germany" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>It’s just as well I enjoy travelling on trains, as Germany is a long way from Totnes.&nbsp; That enjoyment however does not extend to the train I’m writing this post from.&nbsp; It’s the 40 minutes-delayed Koln to Brussels train, packed with people, and I’m in the carriage in which the air conditioning is broken, on a day when it is over 30 degrees outside.&nbsp; I’m surrounded by lots of sweaty faces.&nbsp; I’m on my way back from 2 packed and inspiring days in Germany, helping with the promotion of the German version of <em>The Power of Just Doing Stuff</em> (<em>Einfach. Jetzt. Machen!</em>).&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>You can’t get from Totnes to Berlin by train in a single day, so I had to break the journey with an overnight in Brussels.&nbsp; I arrived just in time for the start of the Belgium/USA game, one of the finest games of football I have ever had the pleasure to watch, and then took quite a while getting to sleep due to the people driving around the centre of the city beeping their horns to celebrate the Belgian victory.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Description"><img src="/sites/" alt="Description" title="Description" width="250" height="333" class="float-right" /></a></p><p>The following day I reached Berlin by about 4pm, with Gerd Wessling of <a href="">Transition Germany</a>, who had joined me on the train as it passed through Bielefeld.&nbsp; We walked to the Heinrich Boll Foundation, who regular readers may remember hosted a talk I gave about 18 months ago.&nbsp; We were straight into an hour of interviews after which was a short period of downtime before the evening’s event.&nbsp;</p><p>On the bill was myself, Gerd, and Dieter <span>Janacek</span>, an MP and the Green Party’s economics spokesperson.&nbsp; The evening was moderated by Dorothee Landgrebe.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I spoke for about 30 minutes and then Gerd talked about what is happening with Transition in Germany.&nbsp; We then had debate and discussion with Dieter about the meeting of bottom up activism and top down policymaking, and just how far a bottom up approach like Transition can go.&nbsp; It was billed as a debate, but we pretty much agreed that of course Transition can’t do everything, but it can help politicians who want to make the necessary changes by just getting on with it and changing the culture.&nbsp;</p><p>Then there were lots of good questions and dialogue from the packed room.&nbsp; When it was all over there was lots of book signing, chatting, questions, and meeting great people from all over the country (and a guy from Chile who was all excited and wanting to take Transition home with him).&nbsp; After a trip to a bar for pizza and a beer to round the day off, it was off to bed. Here is the video of the event that evening:</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>The next morning started with Gerd and I travelling by tram across Berlin to visit <em>Leila</em>, a free shop set up by Transition Pankow, who are very active in their neighbourhood of the city.&nbsp; The shop, in the basement of a community centre, has three parts, a free shop, where people can bring stuff and take stuff away for free, a borrowing shop, where ... I think you’re getting the point by now .. you can borrow stuff (lots of board games for example).&nbsp; And lastly a Tool Library, with a wide range of tools.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Breakfast at Leila with Transition Pankow. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Breakfast at Leila with Transition Pankow. " title="Breakfast at Leila with Transition Pankow. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></p><p>After a tour of the shop, and meeting the dedicated people who run it, a big group of us had breakfast on the street in front of the shop, including some of the most delicious strawberries I have ever eaten.&nbsp; Then about 8 of us got onto bicycles and set off across the city to our next stop.&nbsp; My bike was an old GDR bike, one of the ones you pedal backwards as a brake.&nbsp; Never ridden one of those before.&nbsp; Not sure I have any immediate plans to do so again.&nbsp; But it got me around.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Our next stop was Goerlitzer Park in the Kreuzberg part of the city.&nbsp; We met members of Kiezwandler, the local Transition group, among the 26 heritage variety fruit trees they planted in the park.&nbsp; Goerlitzer Park is, as our hosts put it, loved by many and hated by many.&nbsp; It suffers from overuse, from rubbish and littering, and from open drug dealing in the park, as well as from parties and loud music. &nbsp;For some the park is a nice clean green oasis, for others it is an anarchist free zone that operates without state interference.&nbsp; It proves to be a tricky balance.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Apples in the park. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Apples in the park. " title="Apples in the park. " width="650" height="488" /></a></p><p>&nbsp;Kreuzberg had, until a couple of days before I arrived, been under something resembling a siege.&nbsp; Between 500 and 1000 police from across Germany had closed off part of the area due to a large group of mainly African refugees occupying a school building.&nbsp; It had been squatted for around 18 months, and over time the situation had deteriorated within the squat, with drug and alcohol problems, fights, inadequate sanitation and even one murder.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The district government offered to resettle people to other districts, and around 200 people left voluntarily, but about 40 remained, some threatening to leap from the roof if the police entered.&nbsp; The night before I arrived, an agreement was reached to allow the occupants to stay in part of the building while work begins to transform it into a centre for refugee organisations.&nbsp; It is in this context of a part of the city where social and political problems and disputes are very visible that our friends have been working since 2009 to try and make Transition happen.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Note the garden&#039;s first windfall apple which I&#039;m holding. " title="Note the garden&#039;s first windfall apple which I&#039;m holding. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>In this context, the group proposed, at a series of meetings with neighbours, local politicians and park authorities, planting an orchard of heritage varieties in the park.&nbsp; A rota of people now look after the trees and water them regularly due to the poor, free-draining soil in which they stand.&nbsp; The plantings have suffered minimal vandalism, and have had good feedback, and are seen as being one of the key contributors to the recent decision by the district to redefine Kreuzberg as an “edible neighbourhood”, meaning that any plantings, where possible, will be edible species.&nbsp; That’s quite an achievement.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Although the group has done lots of things, they have also struggled with engaging a critical mass of people in a neighbourhood defined by high levels of left wing dissident activism, high levels of diversity, low incomes, and many groups already existing before Transition.&nbsp; The group is currently, apart from maintaining the orchard, on a hiatus, due to burnout and over-reach.&nbsp; There were very interesting discussions about how an approach more rooted in REconomy might have been a better way to do things, as the group definitely felt it has reached the extent of what was possible as a group of volunteers.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox"><img src="/sites/" width="650" height="488" /></a></p><p>Then it was back on the bikes and off to <a href="">ThinkFarm</a>, a social enterprise incubator on one floor of a great old 1930s factory complex.&nbsp; ThinkFarm is a community of entrepreneurs, and was founded inspired by Transition values.&nbsp; They are home to a number of innovative enterprises, and one of the founders, Boris, showed us round and introduced us to many of the businesses there.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="With Gerd, Ludgwig, Boris and Nils. " title="With Gerd, Ludgwig, Boris and Nils at ThinkFarm. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" />&nbsp;</p><p>There was Milpa Films, who made the very influential <em>Voices of Transition</em> film (now out on DVD!).&nbsp; There was a media company specialising in ecological/social businesses called Sinnwerkstatt.&nbsp; There were some designers.&nbsp; There was TransitionLab, a research organisation doing research into Transition.&nbsp; There was Quartermeister, who brand beer brewed in a local brewery and sell it in bottles with all profits going towards local charities&nbsp; They operate as a not for profit, as a transparent business, with a social purpose, and with a membership who choose the local charities the profits are distributed between.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Description" title="Description" width="650" height="488" /></p><p>There was Fairbindung, an organisation doing education work with schools and also selling Fairtrade coffee from Guatemala.&nbsp; They all share the space, have a kitchen area in which they try to eat shared meals on a regular basis, and which feels like a really creative community.&nbsp; At the end of the tour, they asked me to wax lyrical to their camera about ThinkFarm, not easy with 1 minute’s preparation! Here it is:&nbsp;</p><p>Very inspiring, something that could be replicated in many Transition communities.&nbsp;Then back onto the bikes and off to Prinzessinnengarten, in the centre of the city, one of the best known urban agriculture projects in the world.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;<img src="/sites/" alt="Description" title="Description" width="650" height="488" /></p><p>Given that the site has no soil, the garden is raised in boxes of compost, often stacked two or three deep.&nbsp; Runner beans scramble up very sturdy supports.&nbsp; All manner of produce flourishes in boxes.&nbsp; The place is fascinating from a financial model perspective.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Description" title="Description" width="650" height="488" /></p><p>It has become a key tourist attraction, and its cafe, which appears in many tourist guides as a “must visit”, serves delicious meals under the trees, in a unique setting. 60% of its income comes from the cafe, and the rest from consultancy.&nbsp; The group who run the garden also have installed and manage a number of rooftop gardens across the city and act as contractors on others.&nbsp; They receive no funding from anywhere and the site is thriving.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="How about these for sturdy runner bean supports? " title="How about these for sturdy runner bean supports? " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>I met a woman who is the site’s beekeeper.&nbsp; She’s clearly a woman who loves bees, to the extent of having a beautiful bee tattoo on her arm.&nbsp; She showed me the site’s hives.&nbsp; I was fascinated by how close to people they are.&nbsp; Just feet away from people sitting having lunch, the bees are minding their own business.&nbsp; Apparently they travel up to 5 kilometres from the garden in pursuit of pollen, and the beekeepers have mapped where they get their pollen from within that radius.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Busy bees." title="Busy bees. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>After lunch under the trees and a couple more interviews, Gerd and I set off for Bielefeld.&nbsp; Bielefeld is a city of around 300,000 people, and is a University city<span>&nbsp;</span><span>with&nbsp;</span><span>the largest&nbsp;</span><span>single-block</span><span>&nbsp;university&nbsp;</span><span>building&nbsp;</span><span>in Germany</span>.&nbsp; It was to the University that we headed for the evening event.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Description" title="Description" width="650" height="650" /></p><p>When we arrived, a Transition ‘market place’ had been set up, with stalls from many of the Transition initiatives in that region of Germany.&nbsp; The way to it was marked by boxes full of plants.&nbsp; It was great to see the different groups and what they’ve been up to.&nbsp; Always a fascinating and inspiring experience. &nbsp;Here's a short video someone made of impressions from the event:</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>Then a couple more interviews, a sandwich, meeting more great people, and then at 7.15pm, it was time for the talk.&nbsp; A great crowd piled into the huge lecture theatre, hardly an intimate space, and for the next 45 minutes or so I talked about Transition and the steps people are already taking around the world to bring a new culture into being.&nbsp; We then had good questions and answers and discussion, and I signed lots of books for people.&nbsp; We also asked people doing Transition in Bielefeld what, for them, Transition is:</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe>&nbsp;</p><p>... as well as asking why they do it:</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p><p>In my talk I had discussed how important it is to start things, to get projects underway, to take the step across into action.&nbsp; I met a woman from Transition Town Witzenhausen who said “starting projects isn’t our problem.&nbsp; We’ve started loads.&nbsp; We now own and manage a building, we’ve started gardens” and a huge range of other projects I can’t remember now.&nbsp; “Our problem is maintaining them all!” she told me.&nbsp; She showed me one of two folders packed with all the press coverage they’ve had over the last couple of years.&nbsp; Impressive.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Description" title="Description" width="650" height="488" /></p><p>Then I went for supper and a drink with a lot of the Transition Town Bielefeld crew which was very enjoyable, before heading back to Gerd’s for the night.&nbsp; Then up early the next day and onto the sequence of trains that led me home again, including this extremely hot carriage.&nbsp; A great trip, full of inspiration, and delightful as ever to see Transition popping up in different places, and to hear people’s experience of it.&nbsp; My thanks to Gerd and everyone at Transition Germany <span>as well as my German publisher OEKOM</span><span>&nbsp;</span>for organising it and to everyone who hosted me and came up to say hello.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> celebration Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:54:20 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36271 at Naomi Oreskes on the roots of climate change denial <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="205" title="Naomi Oreskes" alt="Naomi Oreskes" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Naomi Oreskes is a historian at science who teaches and does research at Harvard University.&nbsp; She is the author, with Erik Conway, of the excellent <a href=""><em>The Merchants of Doubt: how a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming</em></a>.&nbsp; We caught up by Skype to talk climate scepticism, science and the relationship between the two.&nbsp; I started by asking who the ‘Merchants of Doubt’ are, and why she felt compelled to research and write about them.<!--break--></p><p>“The Merchants of Doubt were a small group of people, mostly scientists, mostly older physicists, who had created common cause with think tanks and the fossil fuel industry to challenge the scientific evidence of climate change. We wrote the book because we stumbled across the story, we didn’t set out to write a story about climate change denial.</p><p>Eric and I are both historians who were working on other problems in the history of science. I was working on the history of oceanography, he was working on the history of atmospheric science. We stumbled across the story of these prominent physicists who had become climate change deniers. But Eric had also found materials related to the denial of the scientific evidence of the ozone hole and it was the same people.</p><p>We thought that was a little peculiar, so we started digging and discovered that not only had those people challenged scientific evidence of ozone depletion but also acid rain. Also in the big 5 was that they had denied evidence on the harmfulness of tobacco. When we found that link to the tobacco industry, which as most people know was convicted of criminal conspiracy to commit fraud against the American people, we thought that was an important story so we started digging and that’s what led to the book. [Here is a video of a talk Naomi gave around the time of the book's publication]</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="488"></iframe></p><p><strong>The book’s subtitle is ‘How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming’ but to what extent can those people truly be called scientists? Where does the distinction lie between a scientist and a pseudo-scientist?</strong></p><p>This was one of the really difficult things about this book, and about how to tell the story. It’s the same thing that makes it difficult to deal with. These people were scientists in a sense that they had PhDs in science, they had published scientific research, they had prominent positions of power and influence in the American scientific community. &nbsp;But they were not experts about climate change.</p><p>One of the things we say in the book is that this is part of the reason they were able to fool so many people. They drew on their scientific credibility to make claims that the people and the press found credible. This is the part of the book where we really do fault the press. In most cases, the press never pointed out that these people were actually all-purpose contrarians, that they really didn’t have expertise on climate change or tobacco and that they were really exploiting their scientific credentials in a way that was quite misleading, in a way that was merchandising doubt.</p><p>It helps to explain why it worked because it’s a subtle point. If it were really coarse and really crude, if these guys were just shills for the coal industry and were on the payroll of the coal industry, you could have pointed that out and everyone would have said “oh well, obviously”. But this is much more subtle and therefore a much more pernicious thing.</p><p><strong>How can people spot this? What are the fingerprints? When you open the newspaper and read a story questioning some aspect of climate change what are the fingerprints to look for?</strong></p><p>There are a few things to look for. One of the things I’ve noticed is very often journalists will write a story in which they’ll say “the majority of scientists say the globe is warming up” or “the IPCC says...” or the National Research Council or the Royal Society, they’ll identify who it is who holds this dominant position. But then they’ll say “however, some experts”, and very often those “some experts” are not actually identified. We’re not told who they are so that should be a red flag from the start.</p><p>“However some experts” should also be a red flag, because then the question should be raised, “well how many experts exactly?” Are we talking 49% of the scientific community, is there a really big split among scientists, or are we talking about a handful of doubters? &nbsp;Very often they are talking about the handful of doubters. If you see an article in which it’s not made clear who these people are or how many of them there are, that should be grounds for suspicion.</p><p>From the point of view of the journalist, journalists have asked me so many times – what should we do? That’s always a tricky question for me because I feel like saying “you guys need to figure this out, you guys need to ask yourselves that question”. One thing that all journalists could and should do is just to ask some really basic questions up front from anyone who’s presenting themselves as an expert.</p><p>That is to say “what’s your PHD in?” “What have you published on this particular topic under discussion right now?” “Are you receiving funds from a third party with a vested interest?” Because if you were to ask those basic questions of the scientists, it turns out that Fred Seitz was receiving a lot of money from the tobacco industry. I don’t think he was doing it for the money. I think ideological and egotistical reasons played a bigger role in his own personal motivation. But the fact that he was being paid by the tobacco industry was a relevant piece of information.</p><p>&nbsp;The fact that his PhD was in solid states physics was a relevant piece of information. The fact that he’d never published a peer-reviewed scientific article on climate change, to me that’s the most relevant of all. If journalists would just ask those three basic questions, they would realise very quickly who are the real experts and who are the doubt-mongers.</p><p><strong>In <a href="">an interview online that you have with sceptic Nick Minchin</a>, you suggest he untangles the discussions about his responses on how to run an economy etc. from arguing about the science. While historically the sceptics you write about have had an impact, so have a number of independent bloggers, tweeters and so on. Where are they coming from?</strong></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="with Nick Minchin"><img src="/sites/" alt="with Nick Minchin" title="with Nick Minchin" width="300" height="189" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>It’s becoming a complicated social phenomenon. It isn’t just one thing. The story we were telling in ‘Merchants of Doubt’ was essentially an origins story. We wanted to know where all this had come from in the first place and we were able to track it back. Every story has a beginning, and we were able to show that this story begins with the George C Marshall Institute in 1989, where they first shift their attention away from Cold War issues, having to do with national security, and onto environmental issues. &nbsp;That’s the origins part of the story. <strong></strong></p><p>Since then of course it’s spread like a kind of disease. Nick is an interesting case in point because to me he was a kind of ‘Exhibit &nbsp;A’ of exactly the type of thing we talk about at the end of the book, namely that <em>The Merchants of Doubt</em> conflated two very different problems. First is the factual scientific problem of whether climate change is happening and caused by human activities, and the second is the problem of what to do about it. These are two very different things.</p><p>Nick Minchin is just like the Merchants of Doubt we studied, because the reason he rejects the science is because he doesn’t want to do what he thinks will be required to do if climate change is true. Let me say that again: If climate change is true then there are certain things we may have to do. Nick doesn’t like those things.</p><p>He doesn’t want the government to intervene in the marketplace through a carbon tax or an emissions trading system, or whatever else it might do. And because he doesn’t like the implications of the truth, he denies and rejects the truth and finds reasons to question it. We call that ‘implicatory denial’.&nbsp; We’re in denial because we don’t like the implications of the truth.</p><p>Nick is a perfect example of this because he’s a nice guy, he was fun to talk to, and when you really press him on it he actually admits that this is the case. I was upset with that ABC programme because we had this great exchange in which I said to Nick “you’re confusing two related but different things” and he actually said that that was true, he said that yes, he didn’t want the government to get involved in a big intervention in the marketplace.</p><p>So I said “well that’s fine, and that’s what we should be talking about, about how to solve this problem without taking away everyone’s personal freedoms”. It was a really great truthful, honest moment and of course the ABC didn’t use that in the film. That tells you something about what the press’s orientation on this issue is, at least in some cases.</p><p><strong>There are some who argue, like Stuart Brand and Mark Lynas, that if the science on climate change is right then we should also therefore accept genetically modified food, nuclear power, geoengineering. What’s your sense of other lenses that we can look through such issues with beyond just the fact of scientifically establishing whether they work or not?</strong></p><p>There are two question there. The first is – should we look at this problem through other lenses? The answer to that is of course absolutely yes, and this is the most important thing of all, we need to stop arguing about whether climate change is happening.&nbsp; That shift is underway, but the problem is it’s been underway for 20 years and we keep slipping back.</p><p>But we need to shift the focus from the problem to the solution. There’s no question in my mind that that’s true. The extent to which people like the ones you mentioned, Stuart Brand and Mark Lynas are provoking us to discuss the solutions, that’s a very good thing and they’ve made a positive contribution.</p><p>On the other hand, I think to jump to the conclusion that the solution is nuclear power or genetically modified crops is, let’s just say, not supported by the evidence. One of the things about climate change and fossil fuels is that energy derived from fossil fuels was a super great technology and nobody expected it to do the damage that it’s ended up doing. One of the things we know about technology is that it’s almost always a two-edged sword. It does some things for us very well but it often creates other different problems.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Naomi"><img src="/sites/" alt="Naomi" title="Naomi" width="650" height="488" /></a></p><p>I feel like if there’s any lesson from the history of technology it’s that. So anyone who thinks that nuclear power or genetically modified crops will solve this problem, it seems to me has only got one eye open. That’s what we talk about at the end of <em>The Merchants of Doubt</em>. We talk about this phenomenon which we call ‘techno-fideism’, faith in technology.</p><p>The Merchants of Doubt had that too. Their whole argument was the government didn’t need to do anything about climate change because markets would provide the technologies we needed. Bill Nierenberg made that argument explicitly in 1983, so that’s 31 years ago! Well here we are 30 years later, climate change is underway, we’re seeing the impact all around us and yet we still haven’t seen a strong market response and we’re still seeing the use and production of fossil fuels increasing rather than decreasing. So we know that the marketplace, left to its own devices, isn’t solving this problem for us spontaneously.</p><p>But now the question comes – should the government support nuclear power? Well, there’s a lot of problems with nuclear power. There have been a lot of extreme difficulties, including the very high cost of it. To say that this is going to solve our problems without engaging in a serious discussion about why nuclear power has not succeeded so far, that’s, as I said, discussing the issue with one eye closed.</p><p>What does this conversation really look like when you open your eyes wide open, both eyes, and you don’t succumb to techno-fideism but ask yourself a serious, honest question: “what do we know from history about the successes and failures of large-scale technological systems, and can we learn any lessons from that?”</p><p>The answer is yes, and it strongly suggests we will not solve this problem with some kind of massive reliance on nuclear power. Possibly modest reliance in certain cases, almost certainly not with large-scale reliance without serious costs.</p><p>One more thing about genetically modified crops. Again there’s no question in my mind that genetically modified crops could be useful for certain kinds of things. But the idea that they will solve this problem is naïve and ignorant in the extreme. Because look at the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was supposed to be the fantastic application of technology to solving a major human problem. And what happened?</p><p>Well it definitely helped. There was definitely very significant progress and we don’t want to downplay the progress that was made. But where are we today? Well 2 billion people on this planet are still hungry and they’re not hungry because we don’t have enough food. They’re hungry because we don’t know how to distribute and store and get food to the people who need it.&nbsp; That’s not a problem of technology.&nbsp; That’s a problem of human institutions.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The techno-fideists focus far too much on the hardware and not nearly enough on what we could call the software technology. I don’t mean this in a literal sense, but software in the sense of support systems, distribution systems, the forms of governance that are needed to get food to people where they are without it being diverted. Even Norman Borlaug who was considered the father of the Green Revolution, said at the end of his life that he had overestimated the role of technology and underestimated the role of all these other social, institutional and cultural factors.</p><p>So is there a place for genetically modified crops? Probably. Is it going to be a magic bullet , a solution to this problem? I don’t think so.</p><p><strong>You paint a picture of very influential people, very highly connected, very well resourced with credible scientific qualifications, with the ear of many powerful people. How on earth can we combat that?</strong></p><p>One thing we can do is expose it, because when people see it for what it is they get it. People aren’t idiots, but we get confused and we get misled, especially when people are trying to confuse and mislead us. So number one is exposing it and that was of course what Eric and I were trying to do in the book, and we’re very gratified it’s received the reception it has.</p><p>I think the second thing is what you just suggested. To shift the conversation to the solutions and say “this is a very difficult, very challenging problem, but it’s not insoluble”. There are people who want you to think it’s insoluble for reasons of their own. There are also people who want you to think there’s an easy solution for reasons of their own. I think we want to resist both these impulses and say “it’s not easy but it’s not impossible”.</p><p>What does that look like? Conversation has not really begun in a serious way. There are places happening here and there, but a serious sustained discussion about solutions, we really need to have that conversation.</p><p><strong>There are the people you talk about in the book and the Heartland Institute and these very well-backed, very vocal and influential climate sceptics. But I’m sure that you probably, like me, on Twitter and so on, get people who are armchair climate sceptics who do much the same job but presumably in an un-funded amateur capacity and they can be quite poisonous as Michael Mann and others experiences on a daily basis and quite possibly you do too. Where are those people coming from?</strong></p><p>Quite right.&nbsp; What has happened is this has spread like a kind of disease, and like any disease that’s now spread, it’s much harder to contain. This is one reason why deep in my heart I feel anger towards people like Bill Nierenberg and Fred Seitz because they started a kind of epidemic and now it’s out of control.</p><p>You’re absolutely right, all over the internet, Twitter, in the blogosphere there are all kinds of people, many of them are amateurs, self-motivated armchair climate change deniers. But one thing they all have in common is that in a sense they’re all like Nick Minchin. They don’t want climate change to be real because they don’t want to be told that they have to change the way they live. So there’s no accident that climate change denial is much more rampant in the United States than anywhere else in the world.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Naomi"><img src="/sites/" alt="Naomi" title="Naomi" width="600" height="399" /></a></p><p>Americans use more energy and are more consumptive of material resources than anyone else in the world and by a lot. The average American uses 4 times as much energy as the average French person. It’s not just that we use more than impoverished Bangladeshis, it’s that we use more even than our fellow citizens in the advanced, industrialised wealthy nations of the world.</p><p>Climate change is a problem that seems to suggest that there’s something wrong with the American way of life. People don’t like that suggestion, especially Americans! &nbsp;Americans live by the belief in American exceptionism, that this is in a way an ideal and wonderful country. I travel a lot and America is a great country. There are many things about this country that are great. I’ve lived in other places and I came back because at the end of the day, life in America is really good.</p><p>But there’s this sort of soft underbody of American life and it’s the consumption problem. A lot of people don’t want to admit that. They don’t want to talk about it. So when they hear or read the allegation that climate change is some kind of left-wing hoax, some kind of liberal or even socialist or communist hoax, that appeals to them and so they go looking for arguments that support their inclination to disbelieve in any way, so there’s a lot of confirmation bias. There’s confirmation bias on both sides of course, but one side has the scientific facts and the other side doesn’t.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Naomi Oresekes' and Erik Conway's new book&nbsp;<a href="">The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future</a> is available now. &nbsp;The above was edited from the full interview, which can be heard below</em><em style="font-size: 0.813em;">:</em></p><p><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 06:18:04 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36268 at A Celebration of Kinsale College’s Amphitheatre <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="224" title="Kinsale" alt="Kinsale" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: left;" lang="en-GB" align="CENTER">Here's a lovely piece by <a href="">Ian Wild</a>, a celebration of a project very close to my heart...<em>&nbsp;</em></p><p style="text-align: left;" lang="en-GB" align="CENTER"><em>Can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France?</em></p><div lang="en-GB"><p style="text-align: left;"><em>Or may we cram within this wooden O</em></p><p><em>the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt?&nbsp;<br /></em></p><p>Around the turn of the millennium, my wife Belinda was invited to run a theatre course for adults at <a href="">Kinsale College</a>. <!--break-->John Thuillier, the then Principal, was an educational visionary who had already set up the best Outdoor Education Course in the country and an arts faculty that was refreshing and different. We were allowed to design a fun, exciting and practical training where students could experiment with acting in a free and uninhibited way. It was quite unlike any other professional drama training in Ireland or any of the headbound University courses.</p><p>One early difficulty for the course though, was a theatre. We didn’t have one. Though, back then, we had three light and airy rooms for rehearsals, when it came to performing our productions, we had to move house – pack everything into a lorry and tumble into the Town Hall, or a venue in Cork. Building our own theatre, never seemed an option. Who thinks like that? Well, Rob Hopkins did, fortunately for us.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Once a drama training had been established, a permaculture course was next to take root in Kinsale college. As it was the only such course on the planet, people came from all over the wide world to join it. The numbers overwhelmed. Permaculture aims to create a more sustainable way of living with the earth. It emphasises the provision of local needs with the least destruction to the world and its resources possible.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Kinsale Permaculture students 2003-2004 with the amphitheatre under construction. " title="Kinsale Permaculture students 2003-2004 with the amphitheatre under construction. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>Rob Hopkins, (leader of the course) was interested in his students serving the college community and asked Belinda what the drama course needed. Only a theatre, she said. And so the idea of a mini-Shakespeare’s Globe, made from natural building materials and sitting in the grounds of Kinsale College, was born. Rob and Belinda were, of course, both quite mad.</p><p>Why the Globe? Partly because the sort of natural building techniques that the Permaculture students were using were common in Shakespeare’s day, and also because Belinda has this slight infatuation with a man from Stratford – though not the Shakespeare of set texts in the junior and leaving certs. There is a very different Shakespeare to that ghastly fellow, and people mostly love him when they meet him. Although Belinda was interested in all aspects of theatre, mime, clowning, tragedy, masks – she had just been to see the Globe in London and was fired up about creating a smaller version on the college grounds with Rob and the permaculture hordes.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Cedar frames made from trees felled directly over the road from the college, being raised into position. " title="Cedar frames made from trees felled directly over the road from the college, being raised into position. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>And so, with plans drawn (literally) on the back of an envelope, Rob set to work with a team of Permies (as they were affectionately known) and in a matter of months raised an odd-looking, but strangely attractive stage (a theatre that Bilbo Baggins might act on and not seem out of place). It was made out of cob (straw and mud) with wood frames.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Colossal cedar beams held up the turf roof. With a view to&nbsp;<em>practicality,</em>&nbsp;I was at first perturbed at my wife’s eagerness to stage a large end-of-term play in a theatre so completely open to the elements. Any actor, stepping onto the apron of the stage in a downpour would have been immediately drenched. And as for the audience ... well, there were no walls and no roof for the groundlings, or any spectator. There were benches in a semi-circle that formed, with the rest of the theatre, a large ‘O’.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="John Thuellier welcomes the audience to the first performance in the amphitheatre. May 2005. " title="John Thuellier welcomes the audience to the first performance in the amphitheatre. May 2005. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p>But protection from the ravages of nature? There was none. And in Ireland, if I might import a quote, ‘the rain it raineth every day’. Or at least, sometimes it seems so. For some reason, this didn’t seem to overly concern Rob or Belinda. Faith, I dare say, wears no mackintosh.</p><p>It was however, a tremendous achievement to get a performance space ready for the end of term play<em>, the Merry Wives of Windsor</em>. We rehearsed in this open air arena, like ancient Greeks but without their blue skies and dusty olive groves. It wasn’t until the show went on that I realised that the amphitheatre was something out of the ordinary. The play electrified the audience. Of course, it is a great play, and the actors excelled. But there was more to it than that.</p><p>The space had a magic that modern theatres entirely lack. The Globe and all early Elizabethan theatres, were designed to maximize contact with the audience: to connect with playgoers in as direct a way as possible. A modern theatre seeks to distance the audience from the actors. In Kinsale amphitheatre, the audience are&nbsp;<em>in</em>&nbsp;the play. Not in a way that will discomfort or embarrass them. In a way that will enchant and enthral.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><img src="/sites/" alt="A Midsummer Night&#039;s Dream. 2007." title="A Midsummer Night&#039;s Dream. 2007." width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></span></p><p>That first spring – in early May, the weather held all week. The air was a little refrigerated. I was playing mandolin in musical accompaniment to the play and my fingers once went a funny blue colour. It was something though, to watch Falstaff’s antics with an awareness of a starry infinity overhead. We all realised, the permaculture students had raised something rare and unique. [<a href="">Here</a>'s a piece from RTE Television at the time]</p><p>Alas, Rob Hopkins left for England before the amphitheatre went much further. But not before starting the Transition Town movement (now an international phenomenon) in Kinsale, from the college. The baton was taken up by lecturer Graham Strouts, with assistance from Paul O’Flynn, and gradually, year on year, the amphitheatre has been improved and enlarged by diligent permaculture students. Walls grew and backs appeared for the benches. But most difficult of all, was the provision of a roof for the audience. We knew our meteorological luck couldn’t hold out forever; but how could we prop up canopy across the wide auditorium?</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Kinsale amphitheatre with new roof. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Kinsale amphitheatre with new roof. " title="Kinsale amphitheatre with new roof. " width="650" height="354" class="caption" /></a></p><p>Nobody wanted great pillars obscuring the spectacle of a play. Eventually, Christie Collard from Future Forests arrived and designed a reciprocal roof: impossible Escher-like cross struts which suspended a roof above the audience like a conjuring trick. Christie’s experience with natural building, meant that he shaped structures entirely in keeping with the beautiful and idiosyncratic appearance of the theatre. Travel where you will, there is nothing like it. It is pretty and unusual as Elizabethan architecture was, because, as with buildings constructed back then, the amphitheatre has grown organically.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Kinsale amphitheatre: Photo: John Allen"><img src="/sites/" alt="Kinsale amphitheatre: Photo: John Allen" title="Kinsale amphitheatre: Photo: John Allen" width="650" height="446" /></a></p><p>Instead of the prefabricated square and rectangular monstrosities that modern architects inflict upon the landscape, this wooden O is human. The grass roof is a little prairie on the house. Throughout, the theatre is an arcadia of trunks and beams. The place seems to have a sense of humour and is full of inbuilt jokes, the windows being made from recycled portholes of washing machines. In a world that is becoming increasingly regulated and conformist, it is part throwback, partly a dream of the future. One could almost say, the amphitheatre is a physical embodiment of the spirit of the drama course it serves. Always growing, always different, always human, busily creative and comedic.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="This year&#039;s performance. Photo: John Allen."><img src="/sites/" alt="This year&#039;s performance. Photo: John Allen." title="This year&#039;s performance. Photo: John Allen." width="650" height="416" class="caption" /></a></p><p>For many years, hardened amphitheatre devotees sat on hard seats and braved the chill of evenings in early May by arriving with cushions and even sleeping bags. Those days, for good and bad, are pretty much gone. The Auditorium is soon to get a thorough draughtproofing and stuffed seats. It’s not centrally heated, but on a May evening, there is no longer any danger of blue fingers or toes. I like to think that it’s the sort of place Shakespeare’s ghost visits now and then. Arriving unseen through the thick walls, seating himself at the back and enjoying plays – all manner of plays – even his own, in one of the most intimate and thrilling auditoriums a person could ever visit.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="The Kinsale Amphitheatre today. " title="The Kinsale Amphitheatre today. " width="650" height="229" class="caption" /></p></div> celebration Tue, 01 Jul 2014 22:42:15 +0000 Rob Hopkins 36204 at