Beginning the Transition Journey
When my husband and I sat down at a coffee shop in 2010 to talk with two other people about starting a Transition group, I would not have imagined all of the things I would learn and do over the next 7 years. Transition Longfellow has been an expansive experience.
I tell people Transition is a way of thinking and a direction, as well as a local and global grassroots movement. That sounds pretty high falutin. What does it really mean?
Transition Gives Us Back our Self Determination
Every day we make innumerable decisions that individually and collectively have an impact on our world. Our culture pushes us to make those decisions based on what we “want” and what we “deserve.” And our consumer society is set up to short-circuit our decision-making process by making some things easy (turn up the thermostat), convenient (get in the car), and distractingly addictive (Facebook). It makes other (often better) things quite difficult (carpooling) or expensive (solar).
When you dig deeper into the issues Transition looks at – food resilience, cutting carbon, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels – it changes the way you look at your everday decisions. You ask yourself different questions: “What is the carbon footprint or the collective impact of of this decision? Could I do this another way? Do I really need to do this at all?”
You make decisions in a new way.
Transition Provides Direction
One of the first activities Transition groups do is engage their community in a visioning process to identify what a healthy, sustainable future would look like in their area. What direction do we need and want to go? The answer to that question will be different in different places. It may be water issues in New Mexico and seed sovereignty in India. I heard from a student, who had visited a Transition group in Bolivia, say that improving male-female relationships and overcoming the damaging effects of machismo was one of the first things the group she visited chose to tackle.
In my neighborhood it could be improving mass transit, getting safer bike lanes, helping to get more homes weatherized and insulated, increasing the number of solar installations on rooftops or getting more people signed up for solar gardens, helping people grow more food, or helping people identify and prepare for the effects of climate change.
In my mind, I see all of those “good things” as part of a big river flowing in the direction of a sustainable, healthy future. There are many streams of effort feeding that river and everyone can be part of it. In fact, millions of people are taking hundreds of millions of actions. Even when some governments or some businesses put up a damn to try to divert us, this is one great big roiling river. We are not alone.
Transition Provides a Structure for Personal Exploration
My husband and my involvement in Transition Longfellow has inspired us to try so many new things: from dropping a car, to finding a new home for 1,079 possessions, to creating an edible landscape and learning to preserve our own foods. We’re more interesting people ourselves because of it – and we’re also more skilled.
Last fall I got to meet Brianna Harrington and learn about her project, the 15/30 Challenge. I’m so impressed by her efforts to raise awareness of the tragic wastefulness of fast fashion. From the massive diversion of water to grow fiber, to the childhoods and health lost in sweatshops, to the dumping of used clothes on African nations, ruining their clothing industry and impoverishing their culture, cheap clothes for us has had devastated effects across the globe. I hope to take her challenge soon – once I know how to use Instagram to share my efforts :).
Transition Builds the Local Community and Economy
We have met many, many neighbors. Although I’d lived here 23 years, it wasn’t until we started a Transition group that I knew more than a handful of neighbors. I’ve met at least 150 new people and made dozens of real friends. Some of these people became my support system as I took on the task of providing home care for my dying mother. They cared for me as I cared for her.
As we move further into climate change and feel more of its effects on our health and safety, these relationships within our commuity will become even more important.
We have found role models all across the metro area who are doing things to reduce their use of fossil fuels and live a more sustainable life. Lee Olson taught us to grow sprouts. Annette taught us to make jam. Bruce and Aggie inspire us to grow big with their huge garden. And our new friend Lisa is helping us think about preparedness.
We have found businesses to take us in the right direction. Ralph Jacobson from Innovative Power Systems and Bruce Stahlberg from Affordable Energy Solutions have helped us reduce our home energy use. The folks at Gandhi Mahal restaurant have demonstrated how a restaurant can source its food hyper-locally, growing its own veggies and fish IN THE CITY! The Tiny Diner has become a hub for learning and growing by offering food growing classes.
That river of Transition needs businesses of all sizes and business professionals in all fields to stop and ask the questions:
- “What is the carbon footprint or the collective impact of of this decision?”
- “Could we do this another way”
- “Do we really need to do this at all?”
And when they do, Transition can make those actions visible so we can support and learn from those efforts. So we can see that we are, in fact, all in this together.