People get ready, there's a crisis coming!
Anyone who's seen the youtube video clip will still remember the honest trader, Alessio Rastani, almost rubbing his hands in glee as he talked about the coming financial crises and how much profit he was going to make because of them. I love that guy! He is truly an inspiration and us transitionistas ought to be following his lead.
Okay, now you're thinking I've taken complete leave of my senses, but no, honestly; a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. As activists we need to be at least as ready as Mr Rastani to make the most of it. There's nothing like an emergency to shake us out of our complacency. When we are told that the water is rising and will become a problem at some point in the future, we don't tend to leap into action. And it isn't until the water is actually lapping at their doorstep that the public realise they've got a problem and that they are totally unprepared for it. At times like this communities will be looking for direction and guidance and wouldn't it be great if transition activists would find themselves ready and able to rise up to the task?
I don't believe that what we are facing will come in the form of sudden catabolic collapse, but rather that there will be a number of crises, followed by periods of recovery, all relentlessly taking us down to a more realistic level of resource use. With each crisis more of the things that today we take for granted will become hard to get: jobs, pensions, libraries, affordable healthcare, housing, education, money, infrastructure, justice etc. As a matter of fact, it looks like our beloved rulers are finding themselves in quite some haste to speed this process up by re-inventing a contemporary form of slavery. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it does look like we are sliding into a double dip recession, which I think will start to bite late spring 2012 onward. This is when the general public might start to realise that the much heralded economic recovery is now a concept slightly on the right of Utopia and that things might never get back to "normal". And this is when communities with active Transition initiatives will fare undoubtedly better than those without. Why? Because already there will be a committed group of people who is used to meet and work together, they will have access to a world wide net of support , they will have plans in place of how to look after the most vulnerable and might be some way along the process of re-building resilience within that community. And most important of all, they will conduct this work within the ethos and principles of Transition, which does safeguard us from the less acceptable responses to crises as Naomi Klein describes in her excellent book "The Shock Doctrine".
If you are one of those who is wondering whether it's all worth it after yet another event where three people and a horse's head attended, after a huge effort of sending out a questionnaire asking the locals if and how they would like a community shop and less than 10% bothered to answer, if the apple trees that you planted with the local school got vandalised again, remember this: "Yes, unfortunately, it is worth it." You and your actions are the "plan B", even if for now it feels like you are the lone voice in the wilderness. It is imperative that you keep going, keep organising and when the proverbial hits the fan you and your community will be in a far better position than if you hadn't bothered. With this next crisis, you will find that people will remember what you talked about and might even come looking for you and your Transition initiating group, especially if you manage to keep your focus firmly on the positive vision of a healthy, prospering low carbon, high happiness community.
Now ask yourself: how ready are you? If you're going to have to join the panicking hordes running to empty the supermarket shelves next time there's a fuel strike or a prolonged cold spell, you're not going to be much use to your community. So start with the basics: make sure that you have, at any given time, at least a months' worth of food stored. And I don't mean freeze dried astronaut's fare or cans of spam. Just your normal, every day food that you are eating right now. Things like rice, pasta, flour and yeast, sugar, beans and lentils, tins of tomatoes, baked beans and tuna. UHT milk, cheese and marge, meat and fish in the freezer. Buy a sack of potatoes, a net of onions and one of carrots and keep them in a frost free, cool space. Make sure you get those foods that will keep your nearest and dearest happy and add a few treats. Allow for a little extra in case you have unexpected guests or to help neighbours out. Then think about those other groceries that will keep your home functioning even though there's 2 feet of snow outside. You might be ok to use your left hand and water, but I can guarantee that this will go down like a lead balloon with any young teens in your household and you'll find yourself trudging up a snowy track with bogroll in your backpack. Then there's washing up liquid, pet food and sundries, toiletries (contact lens products!), medicines, printer ink, spare vehicle fuel, candles, torch and batteries, the list goes on and it will be different according to your and your family's needs, where you live, how your heating works, whether a car is essential and so on. Maybe you think that you'll be happy to rough it for a couple of weeks, but let me tell you, having done it and not always out of choice, it is stressful. Trying to keep stress levels to a minimum is part of what getting prepared is for, as stressed out people rarely make sound decisions. That then brings us to a different kind of resilience.
It's not all about well stocked pantries and lots of bogroll, but also about how prepared you are on an emotional level. If you are willing to step forward in times of crisis to help others, you are going to be dealing with some very upset people and if you are comfortable with your own fears and sadness and anger, it will be much easier to assist others going through similar emotions. Make sure you have people around you who support you and your work and who are willing to talk things over with you. Make time for celebrations and gatherings, take regular walks in natural environments, do things that you really enjoy and expand these to include others in your neighbourhood. Now your own house is in order, you can start once more to organise events and activities to help your community on the road to resilience. And if it turns out that there isn't and won't be a crisis after all, then remember that everything you did in the name of preparation was a good thing to do Anyway.