MEMBERSHIP of a Transition initiative is as much a personal story as a collective one. We each learn much about ourselves as we contribute to its start up and development. Transition describes as much one's own behaviour as the community's. We find ourselves developing new skills, challenging old habits and surprising ourselves with what we do and do not know, because the rules do not exist and the way forwards is unclear. Such is the beauty of a blank page.
October 2007 is the month I recall when first making contact with Transition Network to see if there was any activity in Cambridge. I had already been active in climate change issues with Cambridge Carbon Footprint and was attracted by the wide scope of the Transition approach, with the freedom to start and progress projects that encourage lifestyle change. This led to contact with others and eventually the almost obligatory showing of 'The Power of Community' at Iain and Suzie's house that brought us together. And so Transition Cambridge began.
From Small Onions Plugs...
Since then the organisation has grown and mutated. People have come, some have moved on, often as their careers or life choices dictated. Those that stay follow their interests and their energy. So there are many sub-groups with Food, Energy, Farming (with 7 tonnes of communal onions harvested this month) and Permaculture amongst the most active.
Similarly there are several affiliates, where members have chosen to start initiatives in their own immediate geographic vicinity or area of interest. We have hosted Rob Hopkins, with a tremendous turn out, we've run numerous courses (including building a wind turbine that now powers an fence to keep rabbits off a farmer's field) and just as importantly, stayed solvent both in terms of money and, just about, personal energy.
The issues we face will likely be similar to those of Transition initiatives across the country and indeed the world. We have no major revelations to impart but I look forward to this Social Reporting Project as a chance to explore the barriers and opportunities we encounter in gaining wider participation so that it becomes a true community project.
And to achieve all this in a city like Cambridge that has global reach and is the home of global players, where many are striving to get ahead and others just to stay afloat, where learning and innovation are part of the daily bread but where perhaps baking bread (or making jams and chutneys) is seen by some as giving a low return on investment.
However, Cambridge has it's 'alternative' side and many welcome that others are building a transition movement here. It is seen as a worthy activity but with busy lives, not for them - not just yet.
So if we are to achieve change I am keen to explore how we reach out and make our message compelling and our strategies effective on the large scale to make a true difference. How to support the enthusiasts so that they can follow through on their ideas. Yes, all this as well as examining what the journey means for the individual.
Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost
And me? I've retired from a life of running companies, inter-country commuting and narrow life focus to become a bicycle trekking (Lebanon, Italy), vegetable growing, DIY, energy saving, writer.
As you can see, these are mostly practical activities. I like to see a material result and hence the need to challenge what we do. But I also enjoy exploring my own self awareness - you have a lot of free time on a bike trip - and Transition membership has helped in this. So I now have the luxury of choosing how I spend my time. However, this was achieved through an energy consumptive past and therefore I sometimes feel defensive in exhorting others to choose a different path. But then exhortation is never the way.