Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 6, 2010

The Transition Handbook – Rob Hopkins

An important initiative that sprung up in the south west in 2005 was the formation of the Transition Towns Initiative [1]

The Transition Handbook-from oil dependency to local resilience by Rob Hopkins sets out the philosophy and detail of the movement.

A Transition Town can be best described as  ‘a small collection of motivated individuals within a community who come together with a shared concern: how can the community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?’ 

The first Transition Town was set up in Totnes [2] and today there are over 100 TTs around the world and over 600 who are ‘mulling over the idea’. 

Transition Initiatives are based on four key assumptions:

  •  That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it is better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise
  • That our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the severe energy shocks that will accompany peak oil
  • That we have to act collectively, and we have to act now
  • That by unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognise the biological limits of our planet. 
How the Transition approach is distinct from other environmental approaches
(Hopkins 2008) p135
Conventional Environmentalism The Transition Approach
Individual behaviour Group behaviour
Single issue Holistic
Tools: lobbying, campaigning and protesting Tools: public participation, eco psychology, arts, culture and creative education
Sustainable development Resilience / relocalisation
Fear, guilt and shock as drivers for action Hope, optimism and proactivity as drivers for action
Changing national and international policy by lobbying Changing national and international policy by making them electable
The man in the street as the problem The man in the street as the solution
Blanket campaigning Targeted interventions
Single level engagement Engagement on a variety of levels
Prescriptive – advocates answers and responses Acts as a catalyst – no fixed answers
Carbon footprinting Carbon footprinting plus resilience indicators
Belief that economic growth is possible, albeit green growth Designing for economic renaissance, albeit a local one

 The table above helps to define the Transition Initiative. There are also six underlying principles that underpin the Transition model which are encapsulated in an Energy Descent Plan. The six principles are:

 Visioning – paint a future without oil where life has improved and developed

  1. Inclusion – we need to include everyone – not just the ‘green’ ones
  2. Awareness raising – if we are not all informed of peak oil and climate change we won’t act
  3. Resilience – the changes ahead will be very challenging so our plans need to include solutions which will survive at the local level
  4. Psychological insights – many of the barriers to finding solutions lie within our heads – psychology can help us overcome these
  5. Credible and appropriate solutions – we need solutions which are of a scale, resilience and sustainability to solve the problem

 In producing an Energy Descent Plan a scenario is agreed by the group, for example, as a community we must be oil independent by 2030 and we must cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030.

 A vision is then drawn up to illustrate the community flourishing in 2030 have achieved the above objectives. The final part of the planning involves ‘back casting’ from the vision date to the present and ascribing a series of actions that will be required every year across the following areas of daily life to achieve the objectives

  •  Food
  • Youth & Community
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Economy and Livelihoods
  • Health
  • Tourism Transport
  • Waste
  • Energy
  • Marine Resources




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