Transition Towns pave the way for economic change


This under the radar movement is helping communities make radical environmental and economic changes.


By Joel Durston

Say the term ‘transition town’ to people in the street and you may be met with many blank faces.

But a little under the radar this movement is helping communities, and by extension wider society, to make radical environmental and economic changes.

Transition Town (TT) Kingston is one of the first and foremost of these, following close in the footsteps of Transition Town Totnes and Transition Town Kinsale – regarded as the flagship schemes.

The movement started in Kinsale following work permaculture designer Rob Hopkins had done with students, and this grass-roots ethic has can be seen in the hundreds of other Transition Towns, particularly Kingston.

From its humble beginnings in the southern Ireland village, Transition has gone nationwide, and often termed ‘transition initiatives’ to reflect the wide range of participating settlements.

John Fellowes, one of the TT Kingston core team said: “In Kingston we have the same aims, and following the Transition model we go with the flow by doing what our people feel passionate about.”

Transition Town Kingston gained much of its momentum from political activist Shaun Chamberlin’s talks with Transition founder Mr Hopkins in 2006.

Twenty activists and members of the local community came along to the first meeting at the suitably local…well, local.

In this pub meeting they set up a Steering Group of eight people to head up the scheme, and which now meets every week.

TT Kingston formally started in April 2008, with members raising awareness of climate change with film screenings, presentations and meetings.

Shaun Chamberlin said: “People have emerged to carry on the battle. It’s really exciting to see events happening rather than us driving them.”

This momentum has manifested itself in six core groups: Steering Group, Food Group, Energy Group, Business Action Group, Council Group and Schools Group.

Tied in to these, there are a number of projects such as the Abundance Project which harvests food and redistributes surplus, Green Communities which implements energy saving schemes and Kingston Kitchen – free, social cooking workshops organised by local foodie Toni Izard.

The often literal grass-roots nature of the movement is fundamental to many involved: “What is exciting about Transition Town is that an alternative to the idea that politicians have all the power,” Shaun Chamberlin said.

“It’s about local community getting together and making a difference.”

But as much as anything, in addition to all grand ambitions, the vast majority of the people running and participating in the movements find it fun and rewarding.

“It’s been quite liberating in making us feel we’re part of something larger, dynamic and inspiring,” Mr Fellowes said.

One of the most pressing issues for TT Kingston is that of ‘peak oil’ – the state numerous reports suggest we are in now of oil usage and extraction being at the tipping point for earth’s sustainable future.

Mr Fellowes said: “An added challenge though is urgency – it feels like the predicted economic collapse associated with peak oil is beginning, and we need more time to prepare.

“But at least this is creating a readiness – I feel we’ve begun a dramatic U-turn in society, led by ordinary people with open minds.”

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