Mendo Island Transition

Transition: Still just preaching to the choir?


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From SHARON ASTYK

I get invited to speak to a lot of US Transition groups, and often I go.  Often the leaders are blog readers, sometimes people I know through the internet, often future-friends.  While every talk is different, they have some real similarities.  Whether speaking in a suburb of Maryland, a large city in Ohio or to a coalition of rural towns in Virginia, I know that some things will probably happen.

I will meet wonderful, kind hosts who will put me up in their guest room and on their couch.  I will most likely speak at a Unitarian Church (although I have spoken in many, many different kinds of venues including Churches of many denominations, synagogues, Grange Halls, Public Libraries, Town Halls, Public Parks and other venues, Unitarian Churches by far predominate.)

The audience will be warm, welcoming and attentive.  The average age of the audience will be at least a decade older than me and often much more (50s, usually.)  The audience will be largely or exclusively white (although I have also spoken to a very few impressive urban transition groups that are neither) and middle class.  Before my talk a long list of committees and administrative tasks will be discussed, and we will welcome many co-sponsors of my talk from local resources that tend strongly towards the middle-class progressive.

After my talk on food issues, oil and climate issues, transportation, etc… (depending on what they’ve asked me to speak on), someone will raise their hand and say how wonderful it is that the audience is of X size, but how do we get the message out to everyone else, and why are there only white middle class people in the audience?  Odds are I will have already had this conversation two or three times with the leaders of the group or others involved also.  They will point out that they have done outreach and advertising, movie nights, etc… and it still seems to be mostly attracting the same group of people – older white people with money to spare.

When these questions are asked, I find myself giving a number of answers over and over again.  Some of them I have rather frequently written about here, for example:

1. Most people do not hire babysitters/come out on a freezing/raining/frying

Transition: Dancing on Big Box Graves…


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From JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER

Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle. The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won — for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).

The chain stores won not only because they flung money around — sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials — but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. “We Want Bargain Shopping” was their rallying cry. The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn’t that a bargain, though?

Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: people get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic.

The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn’t groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them.

Transition: What Would a Down-to-Earth Economy Look Like?


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From YES! MAGAZINE

How did we end up with Wall Street when models for a healthy economy are all around us?

With proper care and respect, Earth can provide a high quality of life for all people in perpetuity. Yet we devastate productive lands and waters for a quick profit, a few temporary jobs, or a one-time resource fix.

Our current expansion of tar sands oil extraction, deep-sea oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, and mountaintop-removal coal mining are but examples of this insanity. These highly profitable choices deepen our economic dependence on rapidly diminishing, nonrenewable fossil-energy reserves, disrupt the generative capacity of Earth’s living systems, and accelerate climate disruption.

A global economy dependent on this nonsense is already failing and its ultimate collapse is only a matter of time. For a surprisingly long time, we humans have successfully maintained the illusion that we are outside of, superior to, and not subject to the rules of nature. We do so, however, at a huge cost, and payment is coming due.

To secure the health and happiness of future generations, we must embrace life as our defining value, recognize that competition is but a subtext of life’s deeper narrative of cooperation, and restructure our institutions to conform to life’s favored organizing principle of radically decentralized, localized decision making and self-organization. This work begins with recognizing what nature has learned about the organization of complex living systems over billions of years.

Our Original Instructions

Some indigenous people speak of the “original instructions.” Chief Oren Lyons, of the Onondaga Nation, summarizes the rules in “Listening to Natural Law” in the anthology Original Instructions:

Transition in Romania…


From TRANSITION CULTURE

More of what’s happening in the world of Transition here

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Local Cooperative Journalism…


Co-ops-Unite

From NIEMAN JOURNALISM LAB

Tom Stites had a long career in newspapers, editing Pulitzer-winning projects and working at top newspapers like The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. In recent years, he’s shifted his emphasis to trying to figure out a new business model for journalism through the Banyan Project. Here, Tom outlines where he believes web journalism stands today and one model he thinks might work; here’s part one, here’s part two, and this is part three.

Maybe we’ve been looking for models in all the wrong places. To find the elusive secret to making web journalism sustainable in community after community, maybe we need to take a peek behind the curtain into the secret sector of the economy.

For years now, people have been trying to devise business models for online community journalism that are both sustainable and replicable, but the usual sectors aren’t delivering: Only a few isolated for-profit sites are generating enough advertising revenue to support themselves while producing the original reporting that’s so crucial to civic health and democracy; on the nonprofit side, there are nowhere near enough philanthropic dollars to support enough sites, at least not for long (see part one of this series). And the idea of public-sector news publishing gets tangled up in the First Amendment.

It’s common to think these three sectors are all there are, but there’s a fourth — the cooperative sector — which future-of-journalism efforts are just starting to explore.

A Visit to Decentralized Cooperatively-Owned Community Energy…


From TRANSITION CULTURE

Last Friday I visited Brixton in south London to visit Brixton Energy.  Brixton Energy had just closed its second share launch, Brixton Energy Solar 2, which had raised £70,000.  Its first project, Brixton Energy Solar 1, was the UK’s first inner-city community-owned solar power station, a 37kW solar array on the roof of Elmore House on the Loughborough Estate.  The second was a 45kW system spread over the roofs of the 4 housing blocks of Styles Gardens.  I joined Agamemnon Otero of Brixton Energy on the roof of a neighbouring tower block on a crisp and clear winter day, with a clear view over the solar systems that Brixton Energy had already installed (see picture above), to ask him more about the project.

“I’m Agamemnon Otero, I’m a director for Brixton Energy and Repowering South London. I set up decentralised, cooperatively owned renewable energy projects.  A few years ago Transition Town Brixton (TTB) heard I was working on my Masters thesis around social responsibility and community-owned energy and how to facilitate low carbon economies, and asked me to do a talk at an event.  Their buildings and energy group had dissolved some time earlier.

Before and after the installation of Brixton Energy Solar 1.

Transition: Is the entire “eat local” movement naive and insufficient?…


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From DAVE POLLARD

About half the people on Bowen Island, where I live, commute daily to Vancouver via a heavily taxpayer-subsidized car ferry. The reason they do this is, basically, that whatever they have to sell can’t be profitably sold here, because it doesn’t directly meet any of our needs. Much of what they produce does make it back here, in the form of gasoline, imported products, processed foods, bank, insurance, accounting and legal ‘products’, construction materials, pharmaceuticals and household goods. And interest and rents paid to absentee mortgagors and landlords. Little of what we really need — food, clothing, building materials, drugs, energy, household products, health services etc. — is made here in significant quantities. We ‘import’ just about everything.

The other half of the population is either retired, unemployed, or (from what I have ascertained) constantly struggling to make a living. We have many artists, craftspeople and artisans, musicians, and service people of all kinds (hairdressers, therapists, construction workers, seamstresses, retailers, caterers, water taxis, maintenance people, restaurants etc.). The price of land and property here is insane, thanks to our proximity to Vancouver, so a lot of people work from their homes instead of offices. The citizens, struggling

Transition: Cheer up — things really are as bad as you think…


From ERIK CURREN
Transition Voice

In last week’s election, Obama may have been a better choice than the alternative, but no American president is likely to have much positive impact on climate change, peak oil and the worldwide economic crisis anytime soon. Given the sorry state of national governments, controlled as they are by rapacious corporations driven by the profit motive, there’s little chance of either hope or change coming from the top in Washington or any other capital.

So, it’s up to local communities around the world to save themselves. Three new books will inspire you to join the effort while helping you achieve the calm and cool mind you’ll need to succeed.

Old McDonald had a brownfield

Deeply embedded in daily life, industrial food could be the most insidious kind of tyranny that today’s society exerts over people and communities. You nearly have to become Amish to completely avoid processed food made from GMOs and packed with chemicals and additives that may not kill you right away but will certainly kill you slowly through cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Urban Farms

Urban Farms by Sarah Rich is a non-combative hardcover volume with pictures by photographer

Transition Ukiah Valley: ‘Urban Roots’ Film Showing Tonight Tuesday 11/13/12 at 6pm


Transition Ukiah Valley Film Series
and the
Gardens Project of N.C.O.
Present

The post-industrial urban landscapes of Detroit’s neighborhoods are being reclaimed, and a community spirit is being built, and people are feeding each other through community gardening and farming.

“Detroit’s farmers are building a new and powerful urban economy, and providing an invaluable service to their community. We need empowering films like Urban Roots to keep us moving in the right direction.” ~Alice Waters

Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse
107 S. Oak St. Tuesday, Nov. 13th at 6:00PM
$5-10 Donation requested

Discussion after the film…
Folks from the Gardens Project
and the Transition Ukiah Valley Food & Seeds working group
will talk about their local projects and answer questions.

Transition Ukiah Valley is part of an international localization movement to build community resilience in the face of peak oil, climate change and economic instability.

Join us! Contact: 707-376-8846

A Fiscally Sponsored Program of the Cloud Forest Institute.
TUV Film/Speaker Series
Sponsored & Supported by the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse.

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Transition: Who will get this economy going? No one…


From DAVE GARDNER
GrowthBusters

“We’ve got to get this economy going again!” Unless your cave lacks wifi, cable or satellite, you’ve heard this once or twice in the last four seconds.

Job creation and economic growth dominate the November election in the U.S. — perhaps more than any election in history. Campaign ads for local, state and national candidates all promise jobs. The presidential election this year has become a referendum on who can breathe new life into our economy.

News Flash: Neither presidential candidate will succeed.

What if our unexamined assumptions about the need and possibility of perpetual economic growth are wrong? What if robust economic growth is our civilization’s way of driving off a cliff? What if the planet is incapable of supporting continued increase in global economic throughput?

We’ll excuse almost anything if it happens in the name of jobs. At last count the U.S. Congress had passed 247 anti-environmental measures in its current term. The Republican Party wants to throw environmental regulations overboard because they throttle back the unfettered growth we must have. Across the aisle, many who normally exhibit a stronger environmental ethic are joining the massacre, so strong is the mandate to grow the economy and create jobs.

Transition Town Fujino goes for local energy independence…


From RESILIENCE

Fujino Town in Sagamihara City in Japan’s northwestern Kanagawa Prefecture is a peaceful place with a population of about 10,000 people. Located in a valley and surrounded by abundant nature with mountains and lakes, though it is only one hour away from central Tokyo, it is known as an artists’ haven, promoting and displaying art works around town.

Fujino (officially renamed Midori Ward in 2010) is also home to a Transition Town initiative. As we have explained before on Our World 2.0, the Transition Town Movement is an international network of grassroots groups that form to apply the theory of permaculture to community revitalization. The concept of permaculture, which originated in Australia, is a practical approach to designing a lifestyle that will create sustainable human environments. The word “permaculture” comes from the combination of “permanent” and “agriculture”, later expanded to signify “culture”.

Working to build resilience in the face of climate change and peak oil, the Transition approach can be particularly instructive in demonstrating how to accomplish this shift using bottom-up rather than top-down methods (the top-down approach has been characteristic of most Japanese eco-towns). The Transition Movement promotes action at the local level and encourages communities to draw on their own creativity, building on existing regional resources.

The world’s first Transition Town was initiated in the fall of 2005 by permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins in Totnes, a small town in England. Supporters promoted the movement across England and all over the world. Currently, there are around 450 official Transition Initiatives and another almost 600 communities preparing to become official, according to the Transition Network.

Going local in Fujino

Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.

Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies

Transition: Rethink the idea of “Jobs”…


From ECONOMIC RESILIENCE

Becoming a jack of all trades and a master of one…

“Jobs” as we know them today — paychecks from large corporate employers — are a very recent phenomenon in human history. Within our new understanding of the future economy, this form of earning a living is not too likely to continue.

Even the idea of “green jobs” is deeply flawed. Many of the “green” jobs are completely dependent upon government funding. Some supposedly “green” jobs are in tech-centric industries, dependent upon oil, overseas manufacturing, and continued supply of trace elements, all of which will be difficult to sustain as we move deeper into the post-peak-everything era. Most “green” industries are built upon the presumption of economic growth, and depend on continued societal affluence to get the fledgling “green” industries off the ground. And many so-called “green” industries merely provide green-cast consumption, perpetuating the five-planets-worth-of-consumption which we have told each other is “normal.”

The role of “employee” of a giant facility controlled by corporate executives is part of the fading past. If we are to achieve The Great Redistribution, there will be a redistribution of ownership. As we Relocalize and powerdown, making a living is much more likely to be in the role of “proprietor,” rather than employee.

Income sources in the future are less likely to look like paychecks and far more likely to look like local businesses, home businesses, or barter businesses. These small businesses are likely to be providing some of the basic, core services that local community members need, such as food, water, basic shelter, basic clothing, low-input forms of health care, and human services such as psychological and spiritual help in coping with this vastly altered course of events. (more on this at Practical Tool #4) All those Reskilling classes we create within the Transition movement begin to look very different!

Remember that in the not-so-distant past, people thought not in terms of “jobs” but in terms of “trades.” A young boy was sent out to apprentice and learn a craft or a trade. Yes, some people did have jobs, but they were nothing like the massive oil-supported corporate structure we see today. People farmed food, people crafted everyday necessary tools, people made clothing, people nursed each other, all done locally. In a post-petroleum world, the globalized corporate structure is doomed. We will be left with a lot more community-level sufficiency. In our March 2009 economics session in Los Angeles, when we asked the audience the types of businesses we would need for greater resilience here in L.A., the list was extensive and inspiring.

Thus more likely possibilities for future livelihoods include small businesses in resilience-building industries, or working for a local businessman within a resilience-building industry. This becomes important not only for “how will I pay the rent” but also when we consider the messages we give our children

Transition Streets: A powerful tool for getting beyond the converted…


From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

I have written several times here about ‘Transition Streets’, the street-by-street behaviour change model created by Transition Town Totnes which was the winner of the 2011 Ashden Award for behaviour change.  There is a good evidence base now, showing how it enables a Transition (or other) group to reach the parts that other community engagement projects may not, becoming ‘green by accident’ by having a good time.  It is an approach to change which is self-propelling with tea.  It embodies the Transition commitment to self-organisation, the groups managing themselves and determining themselves once the project has been set running.  Here is a short video about it.

What I am delighted to announce today is that now Transition Streets (also known as ‘Streets-Wise’) is available for any group to run, anywhere.

So, award-winning community engagement project Transition Streets has done the legwork to create a tried-and-tested way to break down the barriers and bring people together to take action on energy – and a new Streets-wise programme is now available for community groups to adapt the project to their own area.

Transition Streets from Transition Town Totnes (TTT) has inspired over 550 households – who may not identify themselves as environmentalists – to make changes in their lives to help the environment (80% Totnes compared to 51% nationally, DECC LCCC baseline research, 2011). It has also increased TTT’s influence on local development.

Transition: We’re In a Slow Motion Collapse… Take Advantage of the Time Available…


From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

Our economic and political system is in collapse and there’s no way to fix it from inside the system.

It’s a systemic crisis. The systems we rely upon aren’t viable.

They haven’t been for a long time. Every year we are worse off than the year before.

A political fix, switch, or reform isn’t going to do the job.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we didn’t see a wholesale collapse in 2008. When people lost faith in the financial sector. What prevented it?  At first, it was the US government’s ongoing bailout of the financial sector’s gambling debts.

Since then, it has been the ability of the US government to spend enough to keep 41% of the economy afloat.

As long as the US government continues to borrow at those levels, we’ll avoid a sudden economic collapse like Greece and Spain.

However, this spending won’t fix the system.  Far from it.  We’ll still be in a slow and steady collapse.

Why do I think this is good news?  Two reasons.

Firstly, many people are finally waking up to the fact that the old system isn’t viable anymore, and we need to create a new one.  A system that actually

Involuntary Enlightenment: Radical Simplicity and the Middle Class…


From SAMUEL ALEXANDER
The Simplicity Institute

1. INTRODUCTION

How would the ordinary middle-class consumer – I should say middle-class citizen – deal with a lifestyle of radical simplicity? By radical simplicity I essentially mean a very low but biophysically sufficient material standard of living, a form of life that will be described in more detail below.1 In this essay I want to suggest that radical simplicity would not be as bad as it might first seem, provided we were ready for it and wisely negotiated its arrival, both as individuals and as communities. Indeed, I am tempted to suggest that radical simplicity is exactly what consumer cultures need to shake themselves awake from their comfortable slumber; that radical simplicity would be in our own, immediate, self-interests. In this essay, however, I will only defend the more modest thesis that radical simplicity simply would not be that bad. Establishing that thesis should be challenging enough.

Of course, if a radically lower material standard of living were to be imposed upon us suddenly by force of circumstances and without anticipation and some preparation, I acknowledge that most people would find such a dramatic change terrifying and painful – an existential disaster. Such a response would be quite natural and understandable. But I will argue that if such dramatic change were to be stoically anticipated and prepared for, it would not be that bad.

Transition: Building Resilient Local Economies through Local Investment…


“Building Resilient Local Economies through Local Investment”
Presented by Michael Shuman, Fellow, Post Carbon Institute

In the face of multiple increasing global uncertainties – economic and environmental – the need to build the strength and resilience of our local economies has become very clear in the last few years. This forum addresses how we can work toward achieving that aim by encouraging entrepreneurship and cooperation between business and citizens locally and by harnessing local investment to support the start up and expansion of locally owned enterprises.

Produced for Transition Sydney and Energising Communities
Filmed at UTS, Sydney, September 2012
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Post Office in Mulligan Books
Downtown Ukiah
Now Open

Stamps, Postage, Mailing

Last Mail Pickup – 5pm
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Transition: California Homemade Food Act signed by the Governor…


What the California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616, will accomplish – a summary

Click here to download the final version of the bill.

The new law will go into effect in January. It creates a new category of food production called a cottage food operation, which, unlike other types of commercial food facilities, can be operated out of a home kitchen. The types of foods that a cottage food operation can sell are limited to “non-potentially hazardous foods,” which are foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature. The list of foods includes:

  • Baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas
  • Candy, such as brittle and toffee
  • Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Dried pasta
  • Dry baking mixes
  • Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
  • Granola, cereals, and trail mixes
  • Herb blends and dried mole paste
  • Honey and sweet sorghum syrup
  • Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Nut mixes and nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Vinegar and mustard
  • Roasted coffee and dried tea
  • Waffle cones and pizelles

Transition: A write-up of the 2012 Transition Network Conference. The best yet…


From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

Transition folks from around the world gathered last weekend at Battersea Arts Centre for the 6th annual Transition Network conference.  In a week when the Arctic ice reached its smallest ever extent, scientists warned that the world’s weather could be on the verge of running amok and it was suggested that Saudi Arabia, always meant to be the ‘swing producer’ on whom the rest of the world could depend for reliable oil supplies, may become a net importer of oil by 2030, the theme of the conference was, appropriately, ‘Building resilience in extraordinary times’.  Unlike previous conferences which had spanned two, perhaps three days, this was, in effect, a 6 day ‘Festival of Transition’, and it turned out to be an extraordinary event which deeply affected those attending.

Friday

Thursday began with the first day of a Transition Thrive training, and Friday featured the second day of that training, attended by 35 people from around the world, as well as a Youth Symposium and the REconomy Day.  I arrived on Friday lunchtime, gave a short talk for the Youth event, and dipped into the REconomy day, so I can’t say much about either.  Fortunately, thanks to the various people who documented the event, you can see some great photos of the REconomy day here and read Jay Tompt’s reflections on it here, and here Caroline Jackson reflects on the Youth day.

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