Transition Towns

TommyTransition Towns – Tommy Welham – Open Day 2012

Transition Towns are part of a world wide shift in lifestyles and local structures in response to climate change and energy descent.

Our current paradigm relies on cheap oil and cheap energy for our transport, food production and distribution, electricity, industry, housing, clothing, medicines etc.


Fossil fuels are reaching (or have already reached) peak production, and we can see the flow on effects of this with current fuel and food prices skyrocketing.

Effect of climate change on seasonal weather patterns affecting our agriculture and industries.Destabilisation of our ecosystems and therefore economies result in increasing food,  fuel and living costs.On top of a rising tide of natural disasters which affect all facets and levels of our society.

Building our world on cheap fossil fuels, we have sold out our local skills and resource networks, and through doing that, the resilience of our local communities to hardship and disaster.

Transition Towns was started in Kinsale, Ireland in 2005 with a group of students formed the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan.

Totnes, UK in 2006 – facilitated by Rob Hopkins.
-Local community would not fare well in a world of increasing fuel and energy costs and deteriorating climate
-Life and vitality of the town benefit from increased cohesion and interaction in the community.
-Question “what would our town look like without oil?”  produced motivating visions for their future.
-Since then, transition movement has grown massively.

Worldwide: 420 Official initiatives, 545 planned initiatives in over 34 countries, 73 in Aus.
Transition Sunshine Coast – Queensland
Sustainable Living Armidale New South Wales
Transition Neighbourhood Bell Victoria
Eco Bello – Bellingen New South Wales
Transition Town Newcastle New South Wales
Transition Town Hervey Bay Queensland
Transition Town Eudlo (within the Sunshine Coast, Queensland)
Transition Sydney – New South Wales
Transition Katoomba – New South Wales
Transition Wingecarribee – New South Wales
Transition Town Kenmore – Brisbane, Queensland
Transition Meander Valley – Tasmania


Support and resource networks have sprung up, and the forms and structures of the process continue to grow and develop.

Current global situation was born from the oil boom of last century.
Cheap oil promoted large-scale manufacturing and agriculture, goods transported vast distances for economies-of-scale profit margins, workers commuting to centralised business and industry areas instead of working locally.
Local was bought out or out-competed by national, trans-national, and global corporations, and the networks which were the glue of our communities  began to fall apart.
Pawpaws from North Queensland via Sydney sorting centres and chain store supermarkets, buying clothing made in China and sold by American fashion labels, driving cars from a Japanese company based in Korea. None of this will be possible once fuel is less available.

The decision to change is not a choice.
Change is inevitable, and impending, but we have the choice of what it will look like if we act now.
If no change is made on our part, we will have it forced on us by climatic and economic instability.
Changes in our lifestyles and communities strengthen ties to each other, local economies,  food and water security, environmental stability.

Visions-old and new
People see this change as a backwards step
We have the chance to consciously decide what we want our world to look like, and the human power to work towards that vision.
It may take motivation, effort and commitment, but the end result will be massively better than the future we face if we take no action.
We can create our future, and we can learn from our past.
Days of older generations, up until the later half of last century, most  if not all of our communities were self-supporting, locally integrated, well connected hubs.
Look around, Structures and ideas are still present in communities.

Benefits of moving from high consumption, high energy industrialised centres to locally integrated communities is both immediate and long-term.
Forming groups and networks as a part of the transition process creates community integration and sharing of ideas, which promotes trade, innovation, co-operation and friendship.
One of the aims of the transition process are to produce food and goods locally, for local benefit and profit, and to reduce high-cost importation from other areas or overseas. -Local jobs become available as money circulates and stays in the area, and the local economy is made stronger and less prone to loss through external fluctuations. -With the use of low carbon technologies, responsible agriculture and development planning, our carbon footprint is reduced, and our local (and world) environment becomes healthier and more resilient.

Digital Shower!!

Shift in outlook accompanied by shift in patterns of consumption.
Current problems due to irresponsible consumption of resources- food, water, energy, minerals.
High energy items valued for their embodied energy, high energy processes used sparingly.
Limited resources and energy- should be used according to their true value

Benefit of living lower consumption lifestyle is the increase in quality of life.
Counter-intuitive but LESS REALLY IS MORE.
Studies have shown, across race, culture and religion, that quality of life increases with per capita income from zero to around $15 000 a year, decreases proportionally after this.
Less stuff = less time earning money to buy it = more time spent with family, friends & occupations more fulfilling & better for your own happiness & happiness of those around you.
Shift in thinking in Bhutan has lead the government to measure the National Happiness Index as measure of progress, rather than Gross Domestic Product.

1. Set up an initial steering group to guide the first phases of the transition. This is not a permanent group, it will eventually be made up of representatives of other groups.
2. An intensive community information and awareness raising period with film screenings, presentations and information nights. This engages and educates the community in the issues we face, as well as the aims of transition. Usually 6mths- 1 yr.
3. Building foundations for the movement by linking in with existing groups and individuals. There is much value in integrating all parts of the community into a single vision. Give clear presentations on Peak Oil, Climate Change, the Transition Initiatives and how the particular community can use transition to overcome current and future issues. Education and diplomacy will ensure that everyone is included.
4. The “kickoff” of the transition initiative, celebration of the community’s commitment to change, and acting as the first milestone in the project’s timeline. This event brings together the community and inspires motivation for the next phase.
5. Set up smaller specific work groups to begin researching and bringing about changes. These groups fall under the umbrella of the Transition Initiative but work within their areas and according to their own designs. Groups might include: food, waste, energy, education, youth, economics, transport, water, local government, natural environment. Their work forms the backbone of the Energy Descent Plan.
6. Find appropriate means of facilitating group forums in the process. The Transition Network recommends Open Space as a way of meeting and sharing ideas.
7. Begin practical, visible works and projects. This will motivate people and give them a sense of progress early on.
8. The Great Reskilling. Run or facilitate workshops on relevant skills which have been lost or are necessary in a low-carbon future. These might include: Home energy efficiency and alternative power, home gardening, food preserving, practical crafts, organic farming, sewing, tool making. The list is endless but available from our many hobbyists and older generation who still hold that knowledge.
9. Connect with local government to gain their support with funding, planning issues and providing connections and help from further afield. Communities and government working hand in hand will give great strength and inertia.
10. Honour your elders- they are the ones who saw our society move into the Age of Oil. It is they who will have the best knowledge about how to live without it. The knowledge of yesteryear will prove priceless to the people of today and tomorrow.
11. Allow the movement to grow organically, according to the will of the people within it. The Transition Initiative is not a structured plan, but a catalyst for communities to develop their own plan. And finally;
12. As a collective of the working groups, form an Energy Descent Plan; a timeline of the community’s progress toward a low carbon, high resilience, environmentally friendly future. This will be the framework that gives people the motivation and structure to make changes in their lives.
The detailed explanation of these steps as well as templates and other resources are available online at I have a list of resources if anyone is interested.

Support and resource networks.
There are already many groups and projects already running which will key into a transition initiative and provide invaluable groundwork and support. These can be groups like Ecomart and food security groups, farmer’s groups, co-operative food or craft organisations, LETS and other work-trade currencies, WWOOFers, local farmers markets, Landcare, CWA, Men’s Sheds, activist or lobby groups, the list goes on.
Growing worldwide network of transition communities has grown resource network to assist others in their change.

Sustainable Nimbin
Nimbin community a part of communities preparing themselves for energy descent. -2009 – Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre ran the first of a series of public meetings to create the Sustainable Nimbin movement.
Visions and ideas were collated, plan outlining 9 different focus areas.
Within two years, many of the projects brought into fruition,
Public meeting in 2011 recrystallised support and renewed the goals of the groups. -Major projects achieved or currently underway:
The Nimbin Community Solar Farm, a 46kW solar array based on five of Nimbin’s community buildings producing 61 000 kWh of renewable energy per year;
The Nimbin Equipment library, a public resource bank including a grain mill and other harvest and food processing equipment;
Several food security and sustainability initiatives such as Foodlinks and the Blue Knob Farmers Markets;
Better local health and wellbeing services including the Nimbin Integrated Services project.
Project co-ordinator Natalie Meyer organising the community acquisition of a house to set up as a display centre showcasing sustainable building techniques, projects within the Sustainable Nimbin movement and local skills and resources, as well as a functioning commercial kitchen and processing space for public use.
Many areas of the world are ready for a transition to a better future. Within any given bioregion, there are great local knowledge banks in many areas of building, farming, practical crafts, food production, environmental science, and planning and infrastructure, just to name a few. Most towns and villages are well placed to have good local trade and produce, to supply most, if not all their own needs eventually and also to influence those regions around them.  Accepting the challenge and moving forwards will help protect us from fuel price surges, food scarcity, environmental instability, rising energy costs and, as I’m sure you’re aware, the costs of mining that energy in schemes like coal seam gas mining. We are rich beyond measure, but if we do not take steps to protect ourselves and our communities, we may lose the lot.

So think about it. What would your area look like in an oil-free world? Write it down, draw it, sing about it, share it, work towards it.
This is YOUR VISION. This is YOUR FUTURE. It’s up to US!

The Transition Network (UK)-
The Transition Handbook- Rob Hopkins
Sunshine Coast Transition Network-
Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre-
The Great Disruption, Paul Gilding (2011)
Here On Earth, Tim Flannery (2010)

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