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Transition and Permaculture should get together more often

Two movements working towards the same positive, resilient future using the same principles, why are they not more integrated? Why do those involved in them only vaguely know about the other? Why are we not reaping the benefits that each could gain from closer involvement? I am, if you were wondering, talking about the Transition movement and the Permaculture movement.

Transition University of West Scotland logoMy story started in the Transition movement, which gave me the vision and the inspiration that has set me up for a life of exploring a more abundant and resilient future, but I faltered along the way, not sure how to carry on when the Transition handbooks didn't cover a situation. And that was when I found Permaculture and discovered the tools, approaches and systems thinking that enabled me to start making my vision a reality. I am of course still on that journey, otherwise I probably wouldn't be writing this blog post, and I assume most of the people reading this are too. But a big part of my vision now involves encouraging and creating greater integration (a good permaculture principle) of Permaculture and Transition. Maybe one of the barriers in the past has been the perception/focus of permaculture being soley land-based, but with my roots in Transition I have inevitably gravitated towards the people aspect of Permaculture and using it to design The recent People and Permaculture course I went onpeople systems (organisations, comunication, networks, community spaces, health and wellbeing), which is much more similar to most Transition activities. And there is an emerging, vibrant people and permaculture movement, which I have written about before.

So why bother? Both movements are pottering along quite happily as they are. 

Well I can see a whole host of benefits for each side in integrating more. I reckon that they each offer a solution to some of the others challenges.

The Benefits to Transition

So what has permaculture got to offer Transition? I rather vaguely put in my little personal history earlier that 'I faltered'. But this wasn't just one incident I found all the way through my involvement in Transition that I had a lots of enthusiasm and visions, but when it came down to making them a reality I wasn't really sure of how to go about it. I/We always came up with a way of doing it, but there was rarely much logic or planning behind it, beyond feeling intuitively what might work. For example when I was in Transition Norwich I organised a series of Reskilling workshops. It was a great idea and there was considerable enthusiasm for it. Looking back I can see I did do a wee bit of permaculture style designing in that I sent out a survey to find out what kind of things people were interested in learning (not that it had that much of a response) and then tried to put together a series of informal workshops teaching them. The few that I did run were enjoyable and had reasonable attendance, but I didn't end of running that many of them in the end as I met some limits, such as teachers, and ran out of enthusiasm for organising it. Looking back now with knowledge and skills in permaculture design I can see that if I had spent more time working out what helps I had available, what limits I might need to be aware of, what patterns I could identify from similar successful endeavours and planning how I was going to keep momentum up, then I would have made it a lot more resilient, a lot easier and less effort for me and therefore ultimately more successful.

A reskilling workshop creationIn my experience Transition projects falter either through lack of effective planning in the beginning and/or conflict arising. I would actually argue that the majority of the second reason is actually due to/or can be avoided by addressing the first. This is not a criticism by any means, I mean how are we supposed to know how to plan things, I definitely didn't know how to go about it. But the Permaculture movement has that knowledge and experience and can provide those tools. 

The benefits to Permaculture

So what about on the other side? Transition has captured the imagnation and enthusiasm of communities across the planet. It has managed to bring a vision of a positive, resilient future and a solutions based approach to thousands of people and communities. Permaculture is a big and growing movement, but Transition was probably as big in its second or third year of existence and Permaculture (as we know it) has been around for about 40 years. The Transition movement is brilliant at getting the word out there, inspiring people and getting people together. It has huge popular appeal and seems to attract a broad range of different people. Unfortunately Permaculture is still trying to overcome the popular myth that it is just about gardening.

So in essence Transition is fantastic at getting the word out there, inspiring people and getting things started and then Permaculture is great at working out how to make things happen and how to keep them going. Don't they make a great team? Maybe together they could save the world! 

Photos: Transition University of West Scotland logo - it doesn't tell you how to run a Transition University in the handbook!, my recent People and Permaculture course (Denise Curie), a creation from one of the reskilling workshops.


Ann Owen's picture

Couldn't agree more!

It is strange how in transition, which is in essence permaculture's child, we haven't been using the PC principles or even design process in an explicit way. Yet it's there, a bit like you can often see the resemblence to the parents in a childs face. Is it perhaps that transition needed to cut the apron strings, the cord and grow up independently? And that now it is time to go back to evaluate and tweak? Could be exciting!

Kerry Lane's picture

Yes maybe you are right Ann,

Yes maybe you are right Ann, but now Transition is at an age where it realises it's parents are friends to work with rather than just people who impose limits all the time!

Monica King's picture

Probably a good place to

Too funny that Ann's response to this was to post an article titled: The Trouble with Permaculture....??  now there's the spirit!  :P

Probably a good place to start, since people look to the Network, and Resilience for 'guidance' and a sense of what is important - would be to at least not be positioning yourself to be seen as permaculture bashing ~ most folks out here find them both Transition and Permaculture invaluable & inseparable, and simply want to learn whatever moves us forward, they are perfectly complementary if one just "looks" with an eye to see it - just like gardening and permaculture....there are always people who in applying new ideas will be annoying, even transitioners sometimes think they  have the answer to everything... so generosity toward all newbies will go a long way, and using forums like this, and Resilience to be thoughtful in promoting understanding & working together with some mature tolerance makes good sense. 

In my world, permaculture has been such a wonderful addition both with gracious, warm, sharing, humble and enthusiastic people willing to roll up their sleeves and assist anyone wanting to build community and food security that no one with any sense would want to miss out ~ great idea Kerry!