Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saving Suburbia (Part II): Transition Towns

Way back in December, I wrote a post on “saving suburbia” spurred on by the announcement of a proposed 650-acre Eco-Village development here in town. My intent was to follow that up periodically with other thought-provoking ideas out there on how to transform the inherent design failures of modern suburbia into something more promising and sustainable. (Clearly things – work, school, baby – got in the way of that well-intentioned plan.)

During my research I happened upon a UK-based movement knows as “transition towns”. I squirreled away my notes and there they sat until one day, fellow Sustainable Sakonnet reader Jeremy happened to forward a note about a NY Times Magazine article chronicling transition town efforts here in the U.S. I just love when things come full circle like that!

In a nutshell, the transition town premise is that Peak Oil and Climate Change will negatively impact life as we know it in the not-so-distant future. The solution: Start preparing now by figuring out how to solve these pending dilemmas at the community level.

To that end, the Transition Town (TT) movement offers community members a literal game plan and playbook for recruiting and organizing their fellow neighbors, then developing solutions for everything from energy to transportation to food. TT doesn’t provide communities with the answers; it merely supplies the tools for you to figure that out on your own.

It appears to be working with – according to the article – over 150 TTs in existence across the globe. Closer to home, a national arm of the grassroots organization has formed (Transition United States) to provide guidance and resources to communities through hands-on training and ongoing support. One by one, a network of Transition initiatives is taking root across the county: Los Angeles, Boulder County, Colorado, Sandpoint, Idaho (the feature location for the Times Magazine article).

Now, I read something like that and say, “Let’s rock! This is something that we could do right here!” Then, the reality of community organizing hits me upside the head and retorts, “Sakonnet could never get something like this off the ground. Too polarizing. Too tree-hugger. You’ll get kind words of support but little action. People are too pre-occupied with other things…” The list of excuses goes on.

But could we?

I know from professional experience that if you involve others in the solution, they are more apt to support it, give it a try, and less apt to shoot it down. From that angle, the TT concept makes sense. But do enough people in our community feel this passionate about the potential life-altering consequences of the post-carbon crash and climate catastrophe to do something of this scale?

Please, someone, take me off of this pessimistic ledge I’m holding on to...

More TT resources:

Official TT Wiki
• TTs in action (Ashland, Ireland)
• TT coverage on
• Rob Hopkins (TT Founder) YouTube interview


Natescape said...

I'm in like some Irish guy.


What, "Flynn" not flowing for you? ;-)

Natescape, you have some cool, TT-like things coming out of UMASS Dartmouth based on those weekly program emails I get. Very progressive. Wasn't there a recent session that ended in different activity groups being formed to tackle various components of community living? Are you plugged into that?

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