The Transition Handbook

This month I have been reading from 'The Transition Handbook- From oil dependency to local resilience' by Rob Hopkins

The Transition movement is a way to rethink our present trajectory and to provide tangible solutions to build community resilience and empowerment in the face of climate change and peak oil.

I have just read the beginning of the Handbook, which is 'the Head'- basically he explains all about how we got here and why.  The following are some quotes that I thought were inspiring or interesting.  I left out the explanation of the history of climate change on peak oil in this blog post.  Please go read the book or see for more information.

Western Pasqueflower, Anemone occidentalis

 When he talks about ways around peak oil and climate change- he lays out a few options:

  • "Adaptation: scenarios that assume we can somehow invent our way out of trouble
  •  Evolution: scenarios which require a degree of collective evolution, a change of mindset, but which assume that society, albeit in a low-energy, more localised form, will retain its coherence
  •  Collapse: scenarios that assume that the inevitable outcome of peak oil and climate change will be the fracture and disintegration, either sudden or gradual, of society as we know it."

He goes on to quote Einstein in saying:
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

Hopkins explains why a future with less dependency on fossil fuels will happen either by progressive transition (scenario 1, evolution), oil shocks (sudden disruptions, price hikes, emergencies, scenario 2, business as usual), or disintegration (scenario 3, collapse).

In pg 46 and 47 of the book there is a great diagram of 'scenarios for beyond the oil peak' like enlightened transition, building lifeboats, waiting for the magic elixir, last one standing, urban colonies, tribal trading, Atlantis, earth stewardship etc...  Some of these scenarios sound great, and some are scary.

Elephant's Head Lousewort, Pedicularis groenlandica- Can you see the elephant heads?

What is important in all this is the human state of mind when approaching challenges.

"Psychologists Winter and Kroger write that "healthy functioning requires that we have faith that our needs will be met in the future; without this confidence, our trust in the world is damaged.  Damaged trust can lead to four neurotic reactions that are likely to impact environmental behaviour: narcissism, depression, paranoia and compulsion."  Our best chance of dealing with climate change and peak oil will emerge from our ability to engage people in seeing that transition to Scenario 1 as an adventure, something in which they can invest their hope and their energy." pg 49

We have all been around people who are 'downers' about the world.  That we will never fix anything, that the world is a mess, etc, etc...  I feel like that every time I listen to the news!  It is important to feel the problems, and the pain, but it is just as important to see the solutions. This is why I love permaculture so much, because it is full of integrative solutions for earth care, people care and fair share.

Mark Lakeman, of City Repair echoes this in an interview he did for 2012 international permaculture day "What is exciting to me about permaculture is that it seems to have no limits to its implications, for anyone who wants to come engaged in constructive solutions."

Bear-Grass, Xerophyllum tenax

On reducing our energy...

"We have a choice.  We can descend the hill on which we are standing if the same imagination and drive that got us to the top in the first place can be harnessed.  The reality is that the only way from here is down (in net energy terms), but that 'down' need not necessarily mean deprivation, misery and collapse.  Trying to build a Heath-Robinson-style 'extension' to the hill (build on foundations of coal-to-liquids, tar sands and so on) - a rickety artificial slope that attempts to deny the geological reality of the hill itself - only means we have further to fall.  The idea of energy descent is that each step back down the hill could be a step towards sanity, towards pace and towards wholeness.  It is a coming back to who we really area, similar to how members of busy family rediscover each other during a power cut.  Energy descent is, ultimately, about energy ascent - the re-energising of communities and cultures - and is the key to our realistically embracing the possibilities of our situation rather than being overwhelmed by their challenges." pg. 53

Western Pasqueflower, Anemone occidentalis

So what is resilience, and why do we want it in our communities?

"In ecology, the term resilience refers to an ecosystem's ability to roll with external shocks and attempted enforced changes.  Walker et al. define it thus:
" Resilience is that capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks."
In the context of communities and settlements, it refers to their ability to not collapse at first sight of oil or food shortages, and to their ability to responds with adaptability to disturbance."pg 54

Building resiliency within our communities, re-localizing skills, resources and trade is one way to address the issue of energy descent.  We can do alot in our own homes, neighbourhoods, communities, regions.  If we can rally our government to help us, and others to join us, even better.  Movements like transition town, city repair, village repair and your neighbourhood permaculturalists are already doing this!  Get involved with transition!

"Once we take it into the social level, and therefore more strongly in the cultural sphere, then its limitless possibilities become evident." Mark Lakeman, interview for 2012 International Permaculture Day


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