local transition town training

Last summer, I mentioned something here about Rob Hopkins and his Transition Town sustainability initiative in Europe. And, since then, a lot has happened. Most notably for us in the U.S., a number of North American towns, like Boulder, Colorado, have started the process of becoming “transition certified,” which essentially means that they’ve set out on the difficult task of restructuring their communities from top-to-bottom so as not to unravel when the cheap oil spigot is cut off. And, I’m happy to say, that at least in some little way, the communities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have also initiated the process. In fact, an official, local, two-day Transition Town training session — the first such training in the Midwest — is set to take place here in a few weeks. Following is an overview from my friend, and fellow Ypsi 2020 Task Force member, Lisa Bashert.

There will be a Training For Transition in Ann Arbor on Jan 31-Feb 1, 2009. It’s the first training in the Midwest on the concept of Transition Towns, an idea that is mushrooming throughout the UK, Australia, Europe and even Japan. The two-day training costs $200 and will take place at Rudolf Steiner High School, 2230 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. The trainers are Michael Brownlee and Lynette Marie Hanthorn of Transition Boulder County, one of the first Transition Initiatives in the USA. For more information and to register, click here.

The basic idea behind Transition Towns is that we need to find an effective, meaningful and LOCAL response to the twin challenges facing us today: global warming and oil depletion, AKA “Peak Oil.” Climate change is something more people are beginning to understand. The term Peak Oil expresses the concept that we are at or nearly at the global peak production of oil and also natural gas. So, we are looking at a future where we not only need to reduce our carbon emissions to keep the climate stable, but ALSO there’s going to be a decreasing oil supply. And, in a culture that is so completely dependent on oil, we need to really rethink the way that our society works. So that’s the background and within that context, Transition Towns says that we can’t wait for national governments to take action, we can’t wait for international protocols, there’s not much we can do as individuals, so we need a local level of response. We need communities to be coming together and thinking through how we can solve the problems of food production, transportation, housing, health care, economics and livelihood, basic stuff about living, in a way that’s no longer dependent on an globalized oil-based structure.

Hopefully our mayors, city council members and representatives from our city planning departments will be in attendance… Tell you what — if you have a minute, why don’t you send a link to this post on to an elected official or two, and ask them to participate.

And, here, if you aren’t familiar with Hopkins’ work, is a good video interview in which he lays out much of the program and explains why immediate, comprehensive change is necessary.

[Also of interest to local sustainability folks, members of the Washtenaw/West Wayne MOSES organization will be meeting Thursday, January 8, at 6:00 PM in Ypsilanti to discuss their community organizing activities around the issue of public transportation. The meeting will be held at the First Congregational UCC (218 N. Adams), and visitors are welcome.]

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11 Comments

  1. Brackache
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I can see a lot of benefits to this provided individual liberty isn’t shit on.

    Not punishing folks for raising their own urban food sources (i.e. — goats, chickens) would be the perfect place to start.

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Brachacke needs those chickens to pay the witch doctors…

  3. Brackache
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    I’ll let you imagine what the goats are for.

  4. Levitating Voodoo Guy on Segway
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    NOW I’M IN CHARGE!!!

  5. Somebody else
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I also think it’s a great idea.

  6. plant
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Me too. Being more locally self sufficient can see us through any number of potential problems. Natural disasters, oil shortages, economic collapse, you name it. We need to be able to take care of (especially feed) ourselves if there are supply problems for any reason.

  7. Peanut Gal
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Agreed.

    Food doesn’t grow on shelves.

    It has to be shipped from farms to here.

    Most food is shipped in trucks.

    Trucks use a lot of gas.

    Gas is a finite resource.

    Do the math.

  8. mark
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    The appeal of what Hopkins is preaching, at least to me, is that it’s positive. He’s not talking about what we have to give up, so much as he’s talking about what we have to gain – tighter-knit, more self-sufficient communities. It’s a good approach, I think.

  9. mark
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    And I’m not sure if it’s in this video, but I’ve heard him speak before about planting trees that both aid the environment, and provide food. He set out, I believe, to make some town the “nut tree capital” of Europe. It think that could be cool here in Ypsi. Wouldn’t it be nice to just walk out to the curb and harvest a basket of chestnuts?

  10. Posted January 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Well, in my neighborhood, which I fondly call the Walnut Grove, gathering a basket full of nuts is already a possibility. In fact, it’s a necessity. Learning how to use them is on my list. They should make an outstanding oil.

    Hopkins IS very positive, which I find a relief from the environmental movement in this country — always doom, gloom and punishment — must be our puritan ancestors coming out. I love his idea of edible landscaping. I think, since we already have an abundance of black walnuts in this town, certainly other nuts will grow well. I’ve been planting food shrubs in my own yard and I think the city should, too.

    How to go about creating a grassroots Transition Town effort is the subject of the training. I’m looking forward to it with excitement!

  11. Ditch Digger
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    All hippy bullshit aside, it is indeed a good idea to be more locally self sufficient.

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