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A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Thank You, Transition Towns!

By Diana Leafe Christian, Earthaven Airspinner
Some of my friends in Ashland, Oregon celebrating their town’s Transition Initiative with a parade and floats!
          The way I see it, Transition Towns (now called Transition Initiatives) are doing exactly what Ecovillage activists always wanted folks to do.  Ecovillagers worldwide support local economies and/or create our own economies (sometimes using alternative currencies). We support local farmers and/or grow our own organic food. We generate our own electric power if we can. Similarly, Transition Towns (or islands, peninsulas, counties, or city neighborhoods) create their own local economies (often with alternative currencies), grow their own local food, and generate their own local power. The Transition Movement got started by applying Permaculture principles to social design. Likewise, most ecovillages, Earthaven included, are designed according to Permaculture principles.

Ecovillagers have been motivated over the last 20 years or so by hoping to make the world a better place. Similar to “putting your money where your mouth is,” we attempt to put our lifestyle where our values are. But our motivation has not been to prepare for Peak Oil and climate change, which most of us didn’t know about until a few years ago. We live this way because it seemed like the right thing to do.
 Left:  Ecovillages and the Transition Movement are both involved with Permaculture. Here members of Source Farm Ecovillage in Jamaica are determining their site design, lead by Earthaven member and permaculture designer Chuck Marsh (right).
          Transition Town activists, on the other hand, are specifically responding to Peak Oil and climate change. Yet . . . their response is totally resonant with the values and lifestyles of ecovillagers. For example, here’s the vision of Transition US: “Every community . . . will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present.” Well of course. That’s exactly what we want for the world too.
          Transition Towns are seeking to live more sustainably: ecologically, economically, and socially. And ecovillages provide models — little pinpoints of sustainability in the broader mainstream culture — where Transition activists can come and see what living like this actually looks and feels like. In fact, you could say we are trying to inoculate the culture. Jonathan Dawson, past president of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and author of the book Ecovillages, writes, “Ecovillages can be likened to yogurt culture . . . small, dense, and rich concentrations of activity whose main aim is to transform the nature of that which surrounds them.”

          Above: The Transition Movement is in response to Peak Oil and climate change.

          Over 100 Transition Initiatives are up and running in the United States, and as of July, 2010, you’ll find 321 Transition Initiataives on six continents — and the movement only started in 2005! Websites on  the Transition Movement exist in Portuguese, Danish, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese. Ecovillages also can be found on six continents, from Europe (which has the most number per population), to Latin America (especially Argentina and Brazil), Asia, New Zealand and Australia (which has plenty, mate), and a few in Africa. North America has relatively few ecovillages relative to our population: Earthaven is one of only about six well-developed ecovillages on the whole continent.
          I’m an ecovillage activist: in my work I advocate ecovillages and present workshops on starting successful new ones. Yet I believe Transition Towns — not ecovillages — are more likely to rapidly spread ecological values and practices worldwide. In fact, the Transition Movement seems to be the fastest-growing social/ecological movement the world has ever seen. I say, “Hallelujah!” As someone who lives off the grid and deals with buckets of compost daily — and wishes everyone everywhere would do the same for the Earth — I certainly hope this is true!

Diana Leafe Christian  is author of Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities, and Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community. She teaches workshops on starting new ecovillages, serves as a consultant to existing ecovillages and other kinds of intentional communities, and speaks and conferences internationally. She is publisher of Ecovillages, a free online newsletter about ecovillages worldwide, and her monthly column about ecovillages appears on the homepage of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) website.  Diana lives in Earthaven’s Forest Garden neighborhood.

activist, Diana Leafe Christian, peak oil, permaculture, transition initiatives, transition towns

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