The weekend of October 1st and 2nd was rainy and cold: the perfect environment in which to cozy up at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy with a group of new friends and talk about the end (or the beginning, depending how you look at it) of the world as we know it.
The Transition Movement, founded in England in 2006, is an educational and cooperative umbrella for many different facets of awareness, activism, and behavioral change. Its first main goal is that all citizens become aware of three major threats to the developed world’s status quo: climate change, peak oil, and the inevitable economic contraction that will result from a lack of fossil fuels.
After learning more about the approaching upheaval and the systems that caused it, many people feel frightened and powerless against the threat of such massive destruction. The most important part of the Transition Movement, in my opinion, is its response to that fear. Rather than isolate and arm ourselves against the changes that are coming, Transition sets up a structure in which communities can access their own “collective genius,” can dialogue about possible reform, activism, alliance-building, and can create more resilient systems of their own choosing.
In Troy, our training was organized by our own local Capital District Transition Network. Our facilitators came from the Berkshires and from Pittsburgh to represent Transition USA and lead us through an in-depth presentation of the Transition model. Each brought his or her own stories of community and connection; each represented the ways that the model can be applied to various situations and communities.
The goal of our weekend was amorphous. My desire for the training was to gain a deeper understanding of and exposure to the idea of Transition, and to meet more local people who might become great friends and project partners. Those goals were easily accomplished: I met about 20 new people, all of whom are doing amazing things in their communities, and I learned a lot about the Transition set-up.
Particularly relevant and useful parts of my training included the following:
- The most important, lasting, and constructive movements come from within the communities that they affect.
- Positive visioning, rather than obsessive fear, is an amazing tool for imagining change. Picture the world as you’d like it, rather than the way that you fear it could be. (This involves an acceptance of paradox; there may be great difficulty, but there is also great capacity for positive change.)
- Create a list of local heroes/activists/organizers. Include organizations that you might not immediately align yourself with, and emphasize diversity. Use that list to promote a conversation about how to re-imagine the community. Make your outreach as inclusive as possible.
- Emphasize celebrations and landmarks in your community.
Drawbacks to the model included, for me, its “branding” and many catch-phrases. I felt somewhat stifled during the training, and noticed the same sentiment in some of the other attendees. So much is already going on in Troy and Albany--we have a great and various community of activists, one of the largest community gardening organizations in the country, two amazing DIY bike workshops, a local permaculture guild, a time bank, and many more vibrant networks of people already talking about climate change and resiliency. We do need to come together, to share our skills more broadly, to form alliances. And Transition can help give us a model for that larger-order thinking, but it’s also something we can do on our own. A few times during the latter part of Sunday, one of the attendees would pipe up and say, “When are we going to talk about the things that are already going on, and what the people in this room are doing?” Though the energy was there, I felt like there wasn’t enough time devoted to real-world locally-focused conversation. But that’s what our facilitators expect us to do now--and we are.
If you’re interested in joining the conversation, check out http://www.cdtransition.net/, and email David Hochfelder, one of the organizers of our local Transition Network, at email@example.com.
Colie Collen is the Garden Educator for Capital District Community Gardens, where she teaches gardening skills, nutrition, preservation, and also learns something new every day, and she's a staff member at the Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany. She lives in and is an advocate for the great city of Troy, NY.