Over the past two years, I’ve talked about the need for us to be more self reliant, to relocalize our economy, and relearn valuable forgotten skills. I’d like to dispel some of the notions that transition portends a dire and drab future. Transition people are not survivalists, doomsdayers, or troglodytes.
First of all, although the future imposes conditions, it is we who decide how we want to react to it. There are no hard and fast rules other than that a transition plan must arise from the community and it must be sustainable. That being said, there are definite parameters that a transition initiative must stay within, such as achieving and maintaining a sufficiently low carbon output, maximum recycling of resources (minimum waste) within the system, and an open, collaborative decision framework. We here decide how best to do that for ourselves.
When we speak of self-sufficiency, we don’t mean that we starve in the dark. We feel that we need to be able to produce and maintain a lot of what we use locally, but there will always be items that are best produced, or can only be produced elsewhere. There will probably be a role for some franchises and larger corporations for some time to come. Despite their track record today, they are, after all, just tools and can be operated in a humane and fair way to the benefit of all. Complete energy independence would be nice, but we foresee that the renewable energy that we are able to produce will still be tied to some form of local grid. It is about pragmatic planning, not ideologies.
Transition is socially oriented and invests in the local community as the main bulwark to provide security in the future. We count on the existence of similar communities both in our region and around the world. We look toward building a future based on cooperation rather than competition and conflict. Keeping economic activity at that scale means that wealth could be far more evenly distributed than it is today. We’d rather see a loose confederation of communities, as we see in nature, rather than a hierarchical consolidation that focuses power, as we have now. There will be times and instances where focused power is called for, but only for specific purposes. Such power maintained for its own sake only seems to lead to trouble. Think of a future where you actually have much more control over your own life than you have now.
We want to save all the best of our civilization, which means we need to have enough resilience for our community to be able maintain and function despite the shocks of crises from without. We may not have everything we want, but we should try to have what we need. This includes not only the physical resources and skills, but the ability as a community to allocate scarce resources and tasks in a fair and open way. Community decision making is easy when times are good; it is for the more difficult times that we must develop and practice those skills. Let’s not overlook the darker aspects of human nature. Maintaining an open egalitarian society requires diligent and constant effort; community decision-making and collaboration are basic tenets in the Transition movement.
In talking about relearning important skills from our past, we are not talking about harking back to some "golden age." The past was more resilient than the present in many ways, but also less resilient in many others. The idea is to combine the personal and community resourcefulness of the past with the knowledge, sustainable technology and social awareness that we have today. A localized community will have a wider diversity of skills and many of us will have more than one outlet for our creativity. I think we can expect that, as we lower our carbon footprint, we will need to do more physical work than we do today. Our bodies are intended for and thrive on a reasonable level of physical work. Even a lazy person like me enjoys the relaxation and sense of accomplishment at the end of a good work session. It’s contemplating those work sessions beforehand while sitting on our butts that is the hard part. Variety, creative potential, moderation, and social contact make all kinds of work fun. Having some choice over how you spend your time will be a big plus over the arrangement that most of us have today. That’s only one of many advantages a different future could hold in store.
A much better future is waiting; it only requires that we engage it. Why settle for the mediocre "bird in hand?"
If you would like to know more about the transition movement, check out The Transition Companion. You can also learn a lot at www.transitionus.org and www.transitionnetwork.org.
Questions or comments?