(2009-04-16) Robb Hopkins Transition Towns

John Robb on the Transition Town model espoused by RonHopkins, profiled in the Ny Times. It aims to build Resilient Community in preparation for the Long Emergency. Hopkins moved to the English town of Totnes, and, in 2005, began mobilizing a campaign to "relocalize" the town. The all-volunteer effort has since been busily planting nut trees, starting its own local currency (LETS) and offering classes on things like darning socks in order to "facilitate the Great Reskilling.".. More than 80 other initiatives across England have followed, including one in Bristol, a city of nearly half a million people. Worldwide, there are now more than 150 official Transition Towns (communities with an active group of citizens)... The Transition Handbook reads like an imaginative take on a corporate-management text. It recommends techniques for building consensus, from bureaucratic-sounding protocols like Open Space Technology to an exercise in which people decorate a potato like a superhero... Millard's sketch happened to look a lot like the master plan of Fourierism, one of the most popular secular utopian movements in American history. In the early 1800s, Charles Fourier, a Frenchman, proposed, in a series of jargon-filled writings, a self-sufficient community model called a "phalanx." A central estate or "phalanstery" would be surrounded by tradesmen's workshops, cultural institutions and farmland... The structure Transition sets forth is intentionally very minimal, and improvisation is encouraged. The handbook's 12 steps needn't be done in order (Hopkins now calls them the 12 "ingredients"), and communities are free to skip ones they don't find useful. Ultimately, the most profound thing Transition offers isn't a methodology at all but a mood... It was inspiring for Reuter to watch the group emerge as one fervently turning gear in the larger mechanism of Self Governance.

Robb: However, as I pointed out in my earlier post on the movement, the real value of the Transition Towns approach isn't its emphasis on energy descent (which may neither be sufficient nor ultimately valuable for Resilience), but rather its concisely crafted methodology for catalyzing Community Participation (Political Engagement) via a messy Open Source organizational process (which allows people to deviate from the "energy descent approach" if they desire to).


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