From oil dependency to local resilience

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Terra Nova owner Ken Foster serves on the steering committee of Transition Santa Cruz. Using guidelines outlined in The Transition Handbook, we are reinventing Santa Cruz as a city in transition from oil dependency to local resiliency. You can learn more about this international movement at the Transition Culture website.

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Graham Strouts of Zone5.org offers the following review of The Transition Handbook, From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience:

“The concept of energy descent, and of the Transition approach, is a simple one: that the future with less oil could be preferable to the present, but only if sufficient creativity and imagination are applied early enough in the design of this transition.” — Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook

The publication of the much anticipated handbook marks the latest landmark in what has become the fastest growing environmental movement since CND in in the 1960s: the phenomenon that is sweeping the UK, the Transition Towns movement.

The book is clearly written and entertainingly illustrated—including some original line drawings by the author. Primarily it is a handbook for inspiring and guiding communities into a new sustainable future with less dependency on fossil fuels. Comparisons with the recent early-industrial past—food production and allotments during Britain’s ”wartime mobilization” in the 1940s for example—make fascinating reading and give some pointers for how large-scale change could happen again—if we only had the collective will and sense of urgency to achieve it.

What makes it unique is that this is not merely aspirational, but also documents the meteoric rise of the transition movement. Its advice and exercises have been hewn on the workbench of real local communities making the first steps of a radical transformation that the whole of the developed world will have to confront over the coming years.

Placed through the book are 12 Tools for Transition describing in detail different workshop activities that can be used to help develop a process and facilitate discussions, including Open Space and World Caf; the web-of-life game is described, which has become the web of resilience—a game whereby participants stand in a circle and pass a string back and forth between them representing links between different elements of a woodland or a community.

As it becomes clear that the cheap oil required to sustain our oil-dependent lifestyles is not going to be with us indefinitely, we find ourselves looking around at the severed strands of web and starting to wonder which strands might reconnect to which others. The Transition approach is one of re-weaving this web, and remaking the connections which will be needed by a resilient post-oil economy. Every new harmonious relationship we forge is a step back to sanity.

It all started at the end of the summer of 2004 when Rob was teaching permaculture in Kinsale, the course he had set up three years earlier—a 2-year Practical Sustainability course, one of the only courses of its kind anywhere in the world. Davie Philip of Cultivate had just shown me The End of Suburbia and I gave a copy to Rob just before the start of term. He immediately arranged to show it to the students along with a talk by Colin Campbell, and presented with them what must still be the greatest challenge to have faced permaculture students on that course: to write an Energy Descent Action Plan for the town of Kinsale.

This daunting task was undertaken with considerable enthusiasm and the document they produced has been hugely influential in framing the tasks ahead for those seeking effective responses to peak oil and climate change.

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