Category Archives: Transition Info

Being Part of a Transition Group

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,  creating an edible landscape and learning to preserve our own foods. We’re more interesting people because of it – and we’re also more skilled.

Last fall I got to meet Brianna Harrington and learned 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 – fast fashion – for us has had devastated effects across the globe. I hope to take her challenge soon – once I learn 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 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-related 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 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 all support and learn from those efforts. So we can see that we are, in fact, all in this together.

Thanks for Reading

At the Personal Permaculture discussion last Saturday I met a reader who has been following my blog for awhile. She told me how much she appreciated my simple, to-the-point writing style. She liked that I shared both what worked and what didn’t work, what we were doing now and what was going to have to wait. She liked that it was realistic.

What a nice thing to hear! I’m happy if that’s the message that comes across because this journey is about progress, not perfection.

  • It’s about deciding that, although it’s 11 below 0, I’m going to try riding my bike to yoga. I may not always do it, but I’m going to do it this time. And if it works out – hey, maybe I’ll do it again.
  • It’s about buying that GO TO bus pass so that cash in hand is not the barrier to taking the bus. It makes it easier to choose mass transit for my trips.
  • It’s about telling my neighbor what I’m doing because they may know more about this than I do, they might be able to help me, or they might want to do it with me.

That’s what I love about the monthly discussion groups of Transition Longfellow. I learn new things and I get so many more ideas when I hear what other people are doing. Everyone I meet is an inspiration and that’s what I need to keep up my energy as I continue to look for ways to minimize my family’s carbon footprint.

The Building Blocks of a Better Life

Learning how to pickle cucumbers and green beans

Our local sustainability group — Transition Longfellow — has been helping people preserve their garden produce with group cucumber and bean pickling and group tomato canning workshops. This summer we’ve also built solar cookers and Little Free Libraries. Some members have gone berry picking together, toured each others’ gardens, and made jam, jellies and soups together. These are teaching and learning moments, but they are also friend-making and community building moments.

Transition Longfellow First Saturday Discussion Group

How often do you hear people complain that as they get older, it’s harder to make friends. It doesn’t have to be that way. Since becoming involved with the Transition movement, I have not only learned new skills, I’ve met literally hundreds of people with whom I have important things in common. I have made many new – and I hope lasting – friendships. It has enriched my life (and my pantry) immensely.

Learning about – and making – a solar cooker with friends from Transition Longfellow.

While it may be challenging to make significant lifestyle changes to reduce your carbon footprint, to reduce waste, or to grow your own food, building a network of supportive friends who are walking the same path makes this effort much more joyful and rewarding. We are amazed at not only the talent of people in our community, but also their willingness to share and teach. Last weekend, a very skilled carpenter helped a dozen people build Little Free Libraries together, making his studio available for us to use. Just yesterday, a new friend spent most of the day with me teaching me how to use a pressure canner to can soup.

Spreading the word that Longfellow has a neighborhood sustainability group and everyone is invited!

If you are in the Longfellow neighborhood, we hope you will join us. I think you’ll find many opportunities to participate and to build new friendships. We host a 1st Saturday discussion group at the Riverview Wine Bar from 10:30 to noon. We also host a potluck/movie night on the 3rd Friday of each month (starting again in Sept), at Bethany Lutheran Church on 36th Avenue and 39th St. Other events are offered occasionally throughout the year. Of course, if you’d like to lead an event or offer a training, please let us know. We’ll advertise it to our list.

Neighbors get to know one another while building “Little Free Libraries” together

If you live elsewhere, don’t wait for someone else to make things happen. YOU can make things happen. YOU can create a flyer and post it at as local coffee shop to create a sustainability group. YOU can host a reading group at your local library or church. If you are in the Twin Cities, contact the Alliance for Sustainability to see if they know others in your area who are interested in these types of activities or if there is already a group in your community.

Transition Speaker Brian Kaller Coming to Twin Cities in July

In 2010, my husband and I changed our lives because we heard Richard Heinberg speak about the Transition movement. This may be your chance to have a life-changing encounter with the message of the Transition movement.

Brian Kaller, a former Twin Citian now living and working in Ireland, will be speaking at Macalester College in a FREE talk entitled, “O’Sterity: How the Irish Thrived in Desperate Times.”

In the coming decades, we will all face the inter-related challenges of peak oil, climate change and economic instability (what the Transition movement calls “the Long Emergency.”) Among the tools we have for meeting these challenges are the skills and knowledge gathered by traditional cultures over the centuries — skills and knowledge that allowed humankind to thrive. Ireland in the 1970s, when his wife was growing up, was a country “poorer than many Third-World countries, and not everyone had electricity or indoor plumbing.” Despite hardships, statistics show that people at that time were better-educated and healthier. And in surveys, the Irish reported being happier at that time than Americans report being today. Brian will talk about ways people can thrive during chaotic times, giving examples from Ireland.

You can learn more about Brian Kaller by visiting his blog, “Restoring Mayberry.”

WHEN (note, this is the same presentation, given on two different days):
Friday, July 13: 6:00 – 6:30 pm reception; 6:30 program
Saturday, July 14: 7:00 pm program

WHERE: Weyerhaeuser Hall, Macalester College, on the corner of Macalester Street and Grand Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.

The End of Growth: The New Economic Reality

At this time last year, Peter and I thought we were doing pretty good with our environmental practices. We were a one-car/one-scooter household, carpooled, used mass transit, recycled, tried to remember to use cloth bags, shared our house with roommates, had a decent sized vegetable garden, etc. We were certainly doing our part.

Then we heard Richard Heinberg speak at South High about the interplay of global warming and peak oil and his message hit us like a ton of bricks. That was when we really understood the problem facing all of us. And by understanding that, we also understood how much we needed to do and how quickly we needed to do it. No one has ever had such a profound impact on our lives.

Continue reading

Sustainability – Resilience … what’s possible?

Daniel Lerch, in a video posted at The Post Carbon Institute, believes that “sustainability” isn’t possible and that we need to focus on “resilience” —  building the capacity of a system to withstand disturbance while retaining its fundamental integrity. Take a look at the video and weigh in. What does this mean for how we talk about the issues we’re facing?

Transitioning to The New Normal

A video is available of the keynote speech from the November transition town event with speaker Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute. This was an amazing, eye-opening talk! I highly encourage you to give it a listen. Heinberg is the author of The Party’s Over and Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World. The video was shot by Laura Stopyro of the Minneapolis Television Network.

The Transition Handbook Reading Group

The Longfellow Sustainability Group will start reading The Transition Handbook. The group plans to meet in the community room at Peace Coffee on Saturday mornings, 10:30 to noon on February 19 and again on March 19.

UPDATE: We’ll use a web-based reading for the first meeting in case we don’t all have the book yet. (But do get going on obtaining the book: “The Transition Handbook ” by Rob Hopkins)

For an overview of Transition Town movement (and there are many others which you may find via Google), let’s read:

And for an explanation of “What is the Transition model?” let’s read:

Two Potentially Interesting Talks This Week

Tuesday January 18, Bryant Lake Bowl, 7:00 pm (6:00 doors open)

Café Scientifique is a happy hour exchange of ideas about science, environment, and popular culture. Topic: Households and Urban Pollution. The University’s Twin Cities Household Ecosystem Project involves a survey of 3,100 urban and suburban households in Ramsey and Anoka counties and their household emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorus. The study centers on a range of behaviors, including household energy use, food choices, vehicle use, air travel habits, pet ownership and lawn care practices. University scientists Larry Baker, Sarah Hobbie, and Kristen Nelson will discuss the surprising results of this new study.

Wednesday, January 19, White Bear Lake Unitarian Universalist Church, 328 Maple Street, Mahtomedi, MN 55115,  7:30 PM

“Cars, Houses, and Sustainability” a talk by Dr. Chris Wells, Environmental Studies, Macalester College. What if Americans drive cars more than anyone else on the planet not because of a great “love affair” with the automobile, but because of how we’ve organized the places we live, shop, and work? Chris will discuss his research on America’s car culture and sustainability. He studies U.S. environmental history, including movements such as green architecture, New Urbanism, and Smart Growth. Look for his upcoming book: Car Country: Automobiles, Roads, and the Origins of Car-Dependent Landscapes in the United States.

This is part of the 2010-2011 Global Climate Change Speaker Series,
on the third Wednesday of the month, 7:30 -9:00 p.m. The Global Climate Change Committee at White Bear UU Church educates and informs the congregation on global warming and urges action to solve the problem.