Thursday, October 01, 2009

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #62
October 1st 2009


Message from the Editorial Team

Transition towns
An international network of local initiatives to meet the challenges of peak oil and climate change

Message from the Editorial Team

The main article prepared by Judith delves further into information and ideas presented in previous issues on the lasting effects of the energy crisis on the whole of society. In our previous issue, we reviewed a book by Jeff Rubin which shows that if the crisis is global; its impact will spread as far as local levels of society and disrupt people's lives.

The Transition Towns’ approach is therefore practical and highly prospective, as it prepares and helps us to adapt to the idea that our daily lives will be disrupted. Now is the time to start organizing the transition towards communities capable of living together in a sustainable manner with the existing resources of our planet. We have every reason to be inspired by these precursors.


In our previous issue, we invited you to share your own experiences and reflections. We wish to reiterate our call.

In this Forum, we are assuming that we are all, to varying degrees, actors and practitioners of solidarity economy, all rooted in a singular territorial context, but living and sharing many matters which we have in common.

In the interest of better knowing you and building a shared diagnosis, we wish to invite you to participate in the following manner (a 1-2 page document).

1 - Introduction: You and your organization: address, mission, goals.
2 - Who is behind these initiatives (citizens, civil society, technicians, NGOs, local authorities, etc. )? followed by a brief account of these
3 - Lessons learnt: obstacles and opportunities
4 - Key issues; courses of action?

For further information:
AA4SE http:/

Editorial Team
Judith Hitchman
Yvon Poirier
Martine Theveniaut

Transition Towns
An international network of local initiatives to meet the challenges of peak oil and climate change

Although Totnes in the U.K. is often thought to be the home of the Transition Town movement, it actually all started in 2005 in Kinsale, a small town in West Cork in Ireland. This is where Rob Hopkins, the founder, was then lecturing in the Kinsale College of Further Education. It is also where he started the first full-time 2-year permaculture course in the world. The movement is based on the concept that our planet is facing the dual threat of peak oil and climate change, and that all people and local communities need to develop a bottom-up energy descent action plan to become less energy dependent, build resilience and capacity, and learn how to become responsible consumers in all ways. The movement has spread rapidly: today it is not just Transition towns, but also Cities, Islands, Hamlets, Valleys and Forests... The approach has developed already developed extensively in the English-speaking world (it is increasingly widespread in the UK, Ireland the US, Australia, NZ and Canada), although there are also some initiatives in Latin America and mainland Europe.

What it is and how it works.
The objectives are to
• Build resilience and develop the capacity within the community to prepare for the transition away from the dependence on fossil fuels to a safe and sustainable future
• Ensure a supply of fresh local food, support local farmers and food producers
• Relearn from our elders how to grow our own food as well as all sorts of other traditional skills
• Develop community solutions to reducing carbon emissions
• Protect the local environment, its ecosystems and biodiversity.

The emphasis is on “local” and “small-scale”, and convincing people to grow their own food in their gardens or allotments is one of the key goals of the movement.
There is no blueprint, although there is a handbook, based on 12 steps. Each community has to empower itself to find its own solutions. This means that the speed and way in which each community works is variable and unique. Some initiatives have even gone as far as developing local currencies. (Kenmare in Ireland, Totnes and Lewis in the UK.).

An interesting comment by Sally Sweeney, instigator of an initiative that started up under a year ago in Tramore in Ireland: “It’s important to learn how not to be alarmist so that you can make a difference, make people aware of how serious the situation is; and make people want to act.” In the case of Tramore, both the “energy” group and the “food” have developed well and fast, and there are mutual visits between similar group in other towns, which helps empower, create emulation and also helps maintain interest and enthusiasm.

The stage of interfacing with local authorities is a critical aspect. Once a local community becomes empowered, with a dedicated core group, they become credible. And this in turn helps to develop a virtuous circle where local authorities introduce measures that support the approach. The outcomes are citizens’ empowerment, a more committed approach to responsible consumption and sustainable local development.

Author: Judith Hitchman
Original article in English and French

For more information:

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Special thanks to:
Évéline Poirier from Canada for the English translation
Brunilda Rafael from France for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin from Brazil for the Portuguese translation

To contact us (for information, feedback, to subscribe or unsubscribe):
Yvon Poirier

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