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Downsides/criticisms/flaws to Transition Network / Transition Towns?  RSS feed

 
ryan112ryan McCoy
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So the Transition Network and Transition Towns approach to dealing with peak oil issues has been discussed on this forum, it is an interesting approach. 

Transition Network: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/support/what-transition-initiative

I like their ideas in general, but before I jump in, I'd like to consider the alternatives and possible downsides to this approach or philosophy.  If feel its important to consider the opposing viewpoints to evaluate things.

What are folks thoughts?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Major downside:  Very few communities actually doing anything.

 
ryan112ryan McCoy
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Major downside:  Very few communities actually doing anything.




Is that a result of their approach or a result of people not doing things?
 
Tyler Ludens
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ryan112ryan wrote:
Is that a result of their approach or a result of people not doing things?


If people don't emulate the approach it isn't a very successful approach.    Maybe that isn't a criticism of the approach, but a criticism of people, after all. 

 
                        
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I recently worked a three week internship in NW Oregon where the focus was peak oil (really, resources in general).  These folks were thrilled about the Transition Movement a few years ago.  Their critique was similar to the one H Ludi Tyler expressed.  In their view the Transition folks were joining together to join together.  They attend meetings, collect money, hold talks, recruit members, pass resolutions, have meetings, collect money, hold talks, recruit members... you get the picture.

At a certain point it is up to the individual to take action.  I believe the Transition Movement is making some positive contributions.  I think community action is where some of the hope for the future lies (I am particularly interested in living in a functioning community).  If the Transition Movement could begin transitioning that would be wonderful.

You will always find downsides.  "Two sides to every coin" mentality.

If I were to criticize it I could say this,

This is a largely European group.  We're Americans mostly on this website.  The main aims of this are to strengthen "our" communities in response to "climate change, fossil fuel depletion and increasingly, economic contraction" (according to the link provided).  These problems are largely our doing.  It is great we are trying to react to the problems we've created.  Doesn't help the rest of the global population we are continuing to screw over.  Example: move over to solar or wind power and hug yourself for helping the planet forgetting that lithium (used in the creation of batteries) is the reason we are invading Afghanistan.  Share cars and use less vehicles but the same amount of petroleum and forget that we invaded Iraq for this very resource.  Grow more food, produce locally, and abandon former colonies- I highly doubt we'll be providing aid to our former colonies as we cut economic ties.  We've used and abused and now it is time to pull out and continue to look out for numero uno.

I do not escape this criticism.  I look out for me.  I grow as much of my own food as is possible at the moment.  I'm planting a fruit orchard.  Investing in local economy.  Continuing to extract resources from afar through a local food purchasing cooperative which contracts with an international corporation extracting food from china, the middle east, africa, latin america, africa.  I want to create an intentional community to buffer the rest of the world from my own little private world.

I believe we need to transition because we are suicidal at present.  I don't know if the Transition Initiative is going to save us; maybe they are one of those great positive first steps we need.
 
rowan eisner
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Hi Ryan

I looked into this fairly seriously myself and decided that it didn't meet my need of being real enough. This is why I think this. A transition town can be started by a handful of people in a broader community that may consist of as many as hundreds of thousands, most of whom know nothing of transition. To me, to be useful as anything other than a feel-good excercise for those involved there need to be quantifiable, verifyable measures of progress towards transition. Someone looking at TTs need to be able to compare between locations and tell how much progress has been made. This is not remotely how TTs work, and it's probably unrealistic for anything these groups can do to make a significant difference to anything measurable, unless they're very lucky.

The board did sort of identify this as a problem a couple of years ago and asked them to address it and they came up with the application criteria as a result. But these criteria don't in any way allow the sustainability of the community they represent to be quantified. They are things like, one member of the core team has to have a PDC, a reasonable suggestion(!) but not a measure of sustainability of the community.

I thought about offering to design such a system for them since this is the sort of thing I do, but thought it wouldn't be popular because it would be likely to show the ineffectiveness of TTs. So I didn't!

It's probably more useful for emotional support, so we don't feel so isolated in caring about this stuff.
 
                              
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To add to what's already been said:
I think it's also hard to sell others on something if they haven't already been in the process of witnessing its success in process.

When I look up things like transition towns, and permaculture, there's usually more selling of why we should change, then there is showing how to change.  More specifically, there'll be tons and tons of talks about peak oil, and social disintegration, etc etc., rather than talks of changes we can actually implement.  And, when those possible changes do come up, it's so different from what the average person is used to, that they wouldn't likely be motivated to make those changes unless they were already sold on the peak oil, social disintegration, etc etc.  Which creates a which comes first, the chick or the egg kind of cycle.

I live in a 'community' that wasn't very well planned...beyond parceling out land and coming up with some rules.  (I think the original idea was that this would attract high income families who were willing to travel extensively to/from work.)  As gas prices increase, more families move away, and fewer move in.

One of my goals is to eventually help turn this place into an actual community.  But it's ridiculous to think that the best starting point would be to hold meetings with the intent of trying to convince these people that changes need to start happening.  Proof of that will be coming soon enough.  What they will need, however, when it becomes obvious that changes are needed, is local resources and local experience with the needed changes.  And that is where I'm starting.

I'm learning how to apply permaculture ideas to my household, my little yard, and finding local resources similar to an urban zone mapping, only in a suburban area.  I know of one farm a few miles away that does csa vegetables, eggs, and chicken and lamb meats.  This summer I will be exploring for others.

I'll be making connections with other people in this area who could provide knowledge and/or resources to this community.
I'll be making connections within this community with people who are also interested in these things, already.

I figure that as we begin setting examples that neighbors and friends will witness, then they will begin getting ideas of how what they see might help them.  And then they will ask questions, experiment, learn, etc.

So that when it becomes obvious that this community is going to be a ghost town if changes to the rules aren't made, we will already have ideas and experiences and knowledge and successes that we can present.

Basically, I intend to start from the ground up, rather than try to push for a top-down approach.  The way I see it, ultimately, it's the individuals that will be making the changes, regardless of what the rules up top try to impose.  It's those individual changes that matter most in the long run.
 
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