23 March 2008

'Official Status' of Transition Towns

'Transition Towns' is a new movement that has arisen in response to climate change and peak oil (and peak other stuff). People and groups in the UK have been pioneering the ideas and concept.

They've also started to formalize processes in some ways, and one of them is setting out criterias of what is to constitute an 'official' transition town. This of course has stirred up some discussions, notably on the New Zealand discussion list.

Here is my response to the thread:

Thank you very much for bringing this up. I think this is a very important issue. It is important because in order to succeed with transitioning to a better and sustainable future we need to be
grounded in our local environment. This not only in terms of food and energy production, but also in terms of economics, culture, philosophy and worldview. I noticed that we had some discussions in our Christchurch group on the same subject of this business of 'official status' as well, without coming to a final conclusion on what that is supposed to mean of us.

While things like an 'official status' are clearly hangovers from our current traditional culturally imperialist midset, I also have an explanaition from the permaculture point of view. One of the
permaculture principles my teachers tought me was put into following words: "everything gardens". Every participant in the system is trying to influence its immediate environment in a way as to create more livable conditions for itself to survive and spread. Applying this principle to the social and economic sphere helps me understand a lot of what is going on.

Everyone is constantly engaged in manipulating his or her environment and relationships with others in a way that suits his/her own character and purposes. This is neither good nor bad - this just is. All, everyone and everything is doing it all the time. But just because someone/something else is in the process of remodelling his/her/its systemic environment to suit its own purpose/character doesn't mean that we have to submit to those efforts ourselves.

As far as I'm concerned, if someone declares his/herself as 'official' - then this is just their own problem and not mine. I only have to decide what I need to do in order to stay true to myself. In terms of the Transition Towns movement this might mean: Engage in networking to learn from others, if they have to teach us something useful. Yet on the other hand we might ignore what comes across as cultural imperialism and we should not feel obliged to submit to some 'official
guidelines' that are handed down from some gurus on the other side of the world.

To me, the Transition Town's movement is about more than just energy descent. In order do succeed, we also need to create a new culture that is steeped in the systems' approach, rooted in the local environment of our planet and has evolved to embrace cultural and spiritual diversity.

So, Gail, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think is it absolutely necessary that we are clear on why we are engaging the transition process as well as how we are relating to others who are
engaged in the same process, locally as well as internationally. While we are often engaged in discussing and learning the nuts and bolts - developing an understanding of the big picture of underlying dynamics is often more challenging.

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