Alexia Coke: Transition Tales: Framing in the Transition Town movement


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Presentation at the STEPS Conference 2010 - Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice

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  • Part of broader CC/PO movement (North 2009) Inspired by systems thinking etc – permaculture/socio-ecological & individual behaviour change approaches Holds a conference, creating visions and storytelling feature in sessions; sponsor books under Transition Books on themes of interest, such as Local Food Food, Local Money, and one currently being put together called Transition Tales, based on someone walking around the country to different Transition Initiatives to record their ‘stories’, inspired the title of the talk. Villages -> cities -> islands; Brazil and Transition Africa website.
  • Key to the twin issues of Peak Oil & Climate Change Problem some of the current cultural stories Pictures from European fairytales – like the 7 League Boots, or the Porridge Use of the language of ‘addiction’.
  • ‘ Taking these cultural stories a little further, let’s look at the stories we tell ourselves about the future.’ Use of the Peak Oil curve/projection
  • Turning peak oil on its head… Chamberlain 2009: 69 in his book on the Transition Timeline draws on scenario-planning to crate such visions for energy, food transport etc: e.g. ‘… by 2023, the majority of energy assets were at least part-owned by the local community, often through co-operative renewable energy societies based on the Totnes model. In 2025 the government also introduced a requirement for any new large-scale generation to be partly community-owned. Local insulation clubs and Tradable Energy Quota –pooling groups are also common…’ The ‘Power of Community’ + reconnecting with nature Joanna Macey – the work that reconnects e.g. developing positive future news stories Better – more connected, less stressed/addicted – ‘the alternative hedonism’
  • In the Handbook distinguishes the movement from preceding environmental movement Social justice agenda implicit, and seemingly pretty marginal
  • Rationale for linking PO + CC together: ‘ In terms of devising mitigation actions, it’s important to look at Peak Oil and Climate Change together. If you look at them in isolation, you get one dimensional solutions.’
  • 12 steps – addiction self-help groups inspired? Power of Community, End of Surburbia, Transition Film (promotional film) 3. i.e. coordinate with other groups 10. Oral history interviews Similar, but reinvented locally…
  • Pathway used in energy descent planning too… based on a vision The kinds of projects engaged in Solar Water Heater Challenge. The Totnes Renewable Energy Supply Company (TRESCO) Lending Library Earth wisdom council Greenhouse Britain Arts project Nut tree planting Car Share Club TTT International Youth Music Festival ‘ Transition in Action’
  • Policies for Transition (the role of politics) – a pattern Within the ‘challenge’ portion, says that ‘without appropriate far-reaching policy-making, Transition with struggle’. In ‘the Solution’ says: ‘Transition works to change the cultural story, for example, to what I means to live within natural limits, enabling a different space for policy decisions. It aims to make unelectable policies electable, and seeks to engage with the political process in ways that takes no party affiliation, holding hustings focusing on resilience, to lead by example rather than hectoring.’ (p 101)
  • Bringing in new people Brazil + website for Africa now. Allying with local government, but often with some ambivalence– non-oppositional Implicit assumptions that ‘social justice’ will just occur; harking towards idea of needing to ‘rebuild’ community. Part of/links to many other movements (i.e. discourse coalitions
  • Alexia Coke: Transition Tales: Framing in the Transition Town movement

    1. 1. Transition Tales: Framing in the Transition Town movement Alexia Coke RESOLVE (ESRC-funded) Centre for Environmental Strategy University of Surrey STEPS Conference, 23-24 September 2010
    2. 2. The Transition Movement <ul><li>Over 300 ‘official’ initiatives in UK & beyond since 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Motivated by ‘twin’ threats of Peak Oil & Climate Change </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on facilitating local responses </li></ul><ul><li>Informed by systems thinking and ‘stages of change’ </li></ul><ul><li>Social Movement Organisation – The Transition Network </li></ul>
    3. 3. Framing the Problem: Exposing Current ‘Myths’ <ul><li>‘ Dominant myths of today </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Things are getting better </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tomorrow will be like today, but bigger and shinier </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic growth is good </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We must keep shopping </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology will solve all our problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is no alternative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You can’t stop progress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Living standards are rising </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humans are selfish and greedy by nature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The market will solve it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We’re all doomed…’ </li></ul></ul>From: : Standard Transition Presentation 2010
    4. 4. Framing the Problem: The Need for New ‘Cultural stories’ Industrial Ascent <ul><li>Energy use </li></ul><ul><li>Resource use </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental degradation </li></ul><ul><li>Pollution </li></ul>Peak Energy? Techno-Fantasy Green-Tech Stability Earth stewardship Post Mad Max Collapse Great Grand Children Agriculture 10.000yrs BP Industrial Revolution Baby Boom Pre-industrial culture Historical Time Future Time Creative Descent (Permaculture) From ‘Standard Transition Presentation’
    5. 5. Framing the Solution Creating New ‘Cultural Stories’ <ul><li>Use of: </li></ul><ul><li>-- positive visioning </li></ul><ul><li>-- story-telling </li></ul><ul><li>To depict: </li></ul><ul><li>A more connected, sustainable & enjoyable future </li></ul>Graphic from Transition Training
    6. 6. Framing the Solution <ul><li>Catalyst for collective action </li></ul><ul><li>Community-based </li></ul><ul><li>Relocalisation </li></ul><ul><li>Building resilience </li></ul><ul><li>Reducing energy consumption </li></ul><ul><li>Fun & enjoyable </li></ul><ul><li>Inclusive </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Inner’ & ‘outer’ Transition </li></ul>
    7. 7. Framing the Solution Responses to Peak Oil & Climate Change* <ul><li>CLIMATE CHANGE </li></ul><ul><li>Climate engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Carbon capture and storage </li></ul><ul><li>International emissions trading </li></ul><ul><li>Climate adaptation </li></ul><ul><li>Nuclear power </li></ul><ul><li>P O + C C = </li></ul><ul><li>Systems Re-think </li></ul><ul><li>Planned Relocalisation </li></ul><ul><li>Energy Descent Pathways </li></ul><ul><li>Local Resilience </li></ul><ul><li>* Slide from Transition Training </li></ul><ul><li>PEAK OIL </li></ul><ul><li>Burn everything! </li></ul><ul><li>relaxed drilling regulations </li></ul><ul><li>biofuels </li></ul><ul><li>tar sands and non-conventional oils </li></ul><ul><li>Resource nationalism </li></ul><ul><li>Resource Wars </li></ul>
    8. 8. Transition as Pathway: The 12 Steps <ul><li>Set up a steering group </li></ul><ul><li>Raise awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Lay the foundations </li></ul><ul><li>Organise a Great Unleashing </li></ul><ul><li>Form groups </li></ul><ul><li>Use Open Space </li></ul><ul><li>Develop visible practical manifestations </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate the Great Reskilling </li></ul><ul><li>Build a bridge to local government </li></ul><ul><li>Honour the elders </li></ul><ul><li>Let it go where it wants to go </li></ul><ul><li>Create an Energy Descent Plan </li></ul>
    9. 9. Transition as Pathway Totnes Energy Descent Action Plan Hodgson 2010: 98-99
    10. 10. Transition as Process <ul><li>‘ The Transition process offers a positive, solutions-focused approach that draws together the various elements of a community to address this common challenge and sees much of the solution as coming from within, through a process of unlocking what is already there, rather than from experts and consultants coming in from the outside.’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Hopkins 2008: 136) </li></ul>
    11. 11. Transition as ‘Pattern Language’: An Emergent Framing From: 2010 Transition Network Conference Guide
    12. 12. A New ‘New Social Movement’? <ul><li>Middle-class, white (European), & young? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Large % middle-class, white, middle-aged, ‘Northern’, but not all </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on lifestyle politics? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Inner’ transition focus on individual, but ‘outer’ on collective action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doing locally, rather than campaigning nationally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Concerns about imposing lifestyle on others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Links to other related movements (e.g. Coop, LETS, etc) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No redistribution/representation agenda? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Critiqued for non-oppositional stance by some left activists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social justice raised at many Transition conferences, but not an explicit Network agenda </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No-growth position potentially problematic for social justice agenda? </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Thank you <ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>Chamberlain, S. (2009): The Transition Timeline for a local, resilient future, Dartington, Green Books </li></ul><ul><li>Haxeltine, A. and G. Seyfang (2009): “ Transitions for the People: Theory and Practice of ‘ Transition ’ and ‘ Resilience ’ in the UK ’ s Transition Movement. Paper presented at The First European Conference on Sustainability Transitions , July 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Hodgson, J. with R. Hopkins (2010): Transition in Action: Totnes and District 2030 – An Energy Descent Action Plan. Transition Town Totnes </li></ul><ul><li>Hopkins, R. (2008): The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience. Dartington, Green Books. </li></ul><ul><li>North, P. (2009). “ The Climate Change and Peak Oil Movements: possibilities and obstacles ” . Paper presented at Alternative Futures and Popular Protest Conference , Manchester Metropolitan University, 15-17 April 2009 </li></ul>