In Transition “lingo”, the Head is education, bringing people into the understanding of the challenges we are facing so we can properly prepare and plan for them. As you may have already guessed, it takes almost a year for most Initiatives to talk to enough folks to form a solid and active core of Transition members.
Through the different workshops, interactive lectures, presentations and open space meetings you might attend, there’s a number of terms you will run into (and many thanks to the Transition Network for the definitions):
- “Energy Descent”
- “Transition Initiative”
- “Transition Network”
- “Peak Oil”
- “Climate Change”
- “EDAP – energy descent action plan” and
These phrases may appear initially strange to you at first. Here’s what we mean:
This is the journey we have to embark on to shift our communities away from our current high CO2 emitting and fossil fuel addicted ways of living. It starts with a small initial group within a community, then builds into a broad coalition of people, existing programs and new groups within that locale.
Together, they unleash the genius of the local community to design their pathways through the energy descent that we’re facing, looking at all our key systems – food, energy, economics, education, transport, textiles, health etc. And they do it in ways that are practical, playful, cooperative, engaging and mindful of the wider questions of biodiversity, social justice and economic equity.
Rational analysis of fossil fuel supplies – including all the geologically, infrastructural, geopolitical and economic factors – concludes that weaning ourselves of fossil fuels is a very urgent task. Rational analysis of the science of climate change concludes that our CO2 emissions are out of control, and that we have to start taking steps on what will probably become a very radical journey of de-carbonizing all our key systems. And any eco-aware analysis of the relationship of our energy use and resource depletion will conclude that in order to give our world a chance to replenish its stocks of fish, soil, forests and general biodiversity, we’re going to have to reduce energy use dramatically, shifting away from polluting sources to renewables.
As a process, energy descent looks like this:
- Climate change makes it essential and urgent
- Peak oil makes it inevitable
- Transition Initiatives make it feasible, viable and attractive (as far we can tell so far…)
This is the name given to a community-led initiative that is adopting and adapting the transition model to answer this question:
“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil and global economic downturn) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”
They’re working with a few key recognitions:
- that we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy up-slope, and that there’s no reason for us not to do the same on the down-slope
- if we collectively plan and act early enough there’s every likelihood that we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on today.
- if we wait for the politicians, it’ll be too little too late
- if we do it on our own individually, it’ll be too little
- but if we do it together in our communities, it might just be enough, just in time
Resilience describes a system’s ability to withstand shocks from the outside and still maintain reasonable levels of equilibrium. The system could be an ecosystem, an individual, a business or a community. In Transition terms, this typically refers to all the people, connections, institutions, land-base and knowledge-base that makes up a community. Resilience has seeped away as the age of cheap and abundant energy has allowed us to disconnect from our community and our land-base. Consequently, we’ve become collectively unmindful of how our consumptive behaviors are depleting resources and causing environmental damage in distant lands that we have no connection to.
Transition involves rebuilding our links to our neighbors, our land-base, our local resources and staying mindful of how each action we take affects the people, the land-base and biodiversity around us.
This is the charity set up to support the growth of transition worldwide. Their mission is to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they self-organize around the challenge of rebuilding resilience.
There are a thousand pages on this subject across the internet, ranging from the wildly optimistic “We’ll get to 120 million barrels a day easily before we see a drop off in supply” and the abysmally pessimistic “We hit peak in 2005 and we’ll be descending into complete social chaos sometime in the next couple of months”.
One of the most important things to remember is that this should not be a discussion about when the oil will run out. That’s the wrong conversation and it’s pretty much irrelevant. What’s important is recognizing the inevitability and imminence of the time when the endlessly increasing amounts of fossil fuels that have powered our food, energy, transport, economic and industrial systems will reach a peak, fluctuate their way along a bumpy plateau and then inexorably decline. What’s important is to analyze these systems and their dependency on fossil fuels and figure out what they might look like if we redesigned them to be dramatically less reliant on these dwindling resources. In many cases the inevitable redesign looks like re-localization.
An excellent place to start learning more about peak oil is the Energy Bulletin Primer.
Transition operates from an understanding of the science of climate change, and a recognition that in general, the IPCC has underestimated the impacts of climate change. The foremost scientists are suggesting that in order keep us from going into runaway climate scenarios we have to be figuring how to get back down to 350ppm. Not an easy task, and one that will need us to cooperate at global, national, regional, community and individual levels. That’s unprecedented.
Transition’s premise is that we have to start on this carbon reducing journey now, learning as we go, sharing knowledge and inspiration. And that’s what Transition Network is trying its hardest to facilitate.
Transition Initiatives are working towards co-creating an EDAP in broad consultation with the rest of the community. It’s a part of the transition process that requires the initiative to have been going for a good while, with theme groups in all the key areas (food, energy, transport, heart & soul, education, economics & livelihoods) having gained a lot of experience in running projects within the initiative that reduce CO2 and increase resilience.
The EDAP involves the community coming together to create a vision of what, in 15 or 20 years, that locale might look like, feel like, sound like, smell like if it had successfully navigated its way through the imperatives to reduce CO2 emissions, increase resilience and rebuild its economic fabric. That visioning covers all the key areas noted above.
Once the vision for 20 years hence has been drawn up, the initiative then “backcasts” – that is, works backwards from that time to figure out what must be in place, for example, in years 19, 15, 10 and earlier. For example, if the community wants to source 50% of its home heating from managed woodlands in 2030, then it’ll need to have planted up all the necessary areas by 2020. That means it’ll need to have completed land deals by 2018. That means an audit of existing capacity has to carried out by 2013 so that land acquisition plans can be put in place early enough. And who do you have skilled up to do that audit in just a couple of years’ time? Better get someone on a training course for next academic year.
This pattern of needing to act now to start on creating the vision of 2030 covers all the theme areas – food, energy etc.
This one is relatively simple. Without vast amounts of energy, we all lived a much more local life. As we go through the energy descent, that will happen again.
We’ll grow our food closer to home, source our building materials closer to home, deal with our waste closer to home. And we’ll be more mindful of the effects of our consumption and “waste” as a direct result.
This isn’t about returning to the old days – human society is a complex system and complex systems never return to prior states. It’s about taking the best of today, what worked well in the past and forging it into something substantially — and amazingly — different.