www.transitionfreepress.org Issue No. 1 Spring 2013
RECONOMY: Are there
livelihoods in Transition? asks Fiona Ward Page 5
WORLD: Is Peak Oil
dead? Richard Heinberg investigates Page 7
the fields Shaun Chamberlin Page 14
PHYSICAL: Lying down
on bikes, walking up ski slopes Page 23
Will extreme weather bring climate action?
by Alexis Rowell
If climate change was the global crisis which drew many into the Transition movement, then 2012 was the year it became almost impossible for the rest of the world to ignore the link between extreme weather events and climate change. There was of course Hurricane Sandy, the most violent tropical storm since Katrina, which ravaged the Caribbean and the US East Coast, killing more than 250 people, and causing widespread flooding and physical damage. But 2012 was also the worst drought in the US since the dustbowl era of the 1930s. And, with 9.2m acres burnt, it was the third worst wildfire season in US history. The UK experienced its wettest summer for 100 years and 2012 as a whole was the second wettest year since records began, just a few millimetres short of the record set in 2000. There was also extreme flooding in Australia, Thailand, West Africa, Pakistan, Argentina and China, plus unusual and
devastating temperature lows in Russia and Eastern Europe. Scientific institutions like the Tyndall Centre in the UK, NASA in the US and the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation (UNWMO) in Geneva fell over themselves to say that the increasing number of extreme weather events was the result of manmade global warming. In the words of the UNWMO: “Climate change is
“Doha is essentially an agreement to do absolutely nothing“ taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Global carbon emissions are now 58% higher than in 1990, the year the international community first started talking about reducing them. The 2012 UN climate negotiations in Doha are widely agreed to have been
Au s t e r i t y b i t e s i nto UK nu t r it i on by Tamzin Pinkerton
Sales of fruit, vegetables and all major nutrients have dropped to all but the highest income families in the UK over the last four years,
according to the government’s annual Family Food survey, the most detailed annual snapshot of spending on food and drink. Families have less money because of the recession, but
Greenland is melting five times faster than in the early 1990s. Photo © 2009 James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey for the film Chasing Ice
a disaster. Teresa Anderson of Transition Town Totnes and the Gaia Foundation, who was at the conference, said: “Doha is essentially an agreement to do absolutely nothing.” Alongside the extreme weather events came climate trends that scientists dared not dream of five
years ago. The most terrifying was the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, which reached a new annual minimum in September 2012. Until recently, most scientists thought it would be the second half of this century before the ice started to melt appreciably. Now Arctic experts like Professor
Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University say it could all be gone by 2015. If the ice cover goes, then the sea will soak up the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it back out into space. Prof. Wadhams calculates that the loss of the Arctic sea ice in the summer will CONT. PAGE 3
food is also considerably more expensive. Wet weather and crop damage in the UK; droughts in other major food exporting countries; biofuel production on arable land; and the rising cost of fuel, animal feed, pesticides and fertilisers on global markets: all have combined to force a steep rise in food prices. Figures from the British Retail
Consortium show that food price inflation reached 4.6% in October 2012. Waitrose chairman, Mark Price, has warned it could rise to 5% and beyond in 2013. Rising prices don’t always lead households to eat less - often good quality food is being replaced by food that has dubious nutritional value. A recent study for The Guardian showed that, since 2010,
the levels of processed, high-fat foods consumed by families living on an annual income of under £25,000 has soared. As food production gets more industrialised, lower quality and cheaper, so health declines. According to government figures, more than one in four of the UK adult population is now clinically REPORT PAGE 4
WORLD NEWS pages 6-7 PEOPLE page 12 REVIEWS page 13 ARTS page 16 FOOD pages 18-19 WELL-BEING page 20 PRACTICAL page 22 SPORT back page
Editor Charlotte Du Cann News Alexis Rowell Food Tamzin Pinkerton Design Trucie Mitchell Proofreader Marion McCartney Publicity Mike Grenville Distribution Mark Watson Business manager Jay Tompt
Contributors Stefan Blasel, Estelle Brown, Matt CardingWoods , Isabel Carlisle, Patrick Chalmers, Shaun Chamberlin, Phillip Evans, Simon French, Naresh Giangrande, Jonathan Goldberg, Jonny GordonFarleigh, Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins, Chris Hull, Simeon Jackson, Duncan Law, Dorothea Leber, Mandy Meikle, Ed Mitchell, Lucy Neal, Frances Northrop, Alison Pattison, Andrew Reeves, Juan del Rio, Hannah Roberson, Catriona Ross, Nae Sekino, Paul Shephard, Katheryn Trenshaw, Fiona Ward, Piero Zagani www.transitionfreepress.org
eco-systems and lives of people everywhere – from the fossil fuel industry to land rights to the global food system. We also look at the solutions communities are coming up with in the areas of livelihoods, education, energy and food – the incredible things people are doing, as Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the movement, records in his new book, The Power of Just Doing Stuff. We started this paper, like all good creative enterprises, on the kitchen table. We rolled up our sleeves, pooled our skills and time, and after successfully publishing a preview issue last summer, decided to launch a 4-edition pilot for 2013. All of us realised that the mainstream media were not reporting the new narrative we saw unfolding. So we created a newspaper which could serve in several ways: to reflect the Transition movement to the wider world; to act as a feedback loop for Transition groups, and, perhaps most importantly, to be a communications tool for the people who have yet to hear about the other story happening around the world. Over 40 UK initiatives have signed
Grow Heathrow face eviction from their squatted community in a landmark case tried before London’s Crown Count in January. Photo by Jonathan Goldberg up to distribute 11,000 copies and subsidise its printing, and so it’s thanks to them you are reading these pages today. We are aware that none of this happens on its own. We are a small and resilient people, and this is a small and resilient paper, but when we connect up – contributors, distributors, readers all – we become a strong and vibrant network. What the new narrative shows us is that our innate ability to face ethical dilemmas and use our imaginations is what makes us stand out and stand together as human beings. Can we hold together as the storm advances before us? Can we share our gifts in time? This edition is all about the people who
are responding to these questions. It starts with coming home to ourselves and our neighbourhoods; to a place where we no longer feel afraid or alone, but where we can fulfil our task of being alive on this planet of intense beauty and hidden treasure. We’re rooted in place and time, connected to millions of others across the world in our hearts and minds. It is our hope, dear reader, that as you hold this paper in your hands, you can join us to meet what has been called the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. In solidarity and joy, from all of us on the Transition Free Press: Charlotte, Alexis, Tamzin, Trucie, Marion, Jay, Mark and Mike.
Crowdfunding our media
2 WELCOME 3-4 NEWS 5 RECONOMY 6-7 WORLD NEWS - Spain, Greece, Japan, and the US 8 REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE 9 LAND RIGHTS 10 EDUCATION 11 PROFILE - Transition Leicester 12 PEOPLE - Mark Boyle 13 REVIEWS 14-15 TALKBACK 16 ARTS 17 COMMUNITY 18-19 FOOD - Dunbar Bakery 20 WELL-BEING 21 OBITUARY - Adrienne Campbell 22 PRACTICAL 23 PHYSICAL 24 SPORT
“More powerful than laws, more powerful than armies, is culture”. At the heart of our Spring edition is an interview with author and activist, Mark Boyle. In it we discuss the key story of our times – the shift from an individualistic, growth-atall-costs culture to one that values sharing and community. It is the aim of this new newspaper to cover the stories that form this emergent culture and to show how, if we take matters into our own hands, the ship that looks to be heading for disaster can be steered in a totally new direction: a future we all want to live in. For many of us in the Transition movement this means learning to work together – engaging in social projects, creating community gardens and regenerating our neighbourhoods. It requires a keen awareness of the bigger picture, as well as a personal capacity to downshift and be resourceful in times of economic and environmental collapse. In our first issue we look unswervingly at the realities of the forces now squeezing the
Launching a new newspaper is a risky business in a shrinking economy, but the Transition Free Press has used the new tool of “crowdfunding” to help finance its start-up costs. This new Transition enterprise launched a 90-day campaign on the crowdfunding platform BuzzBnk.org last November and aims to reach its targets of £10,000/£15,000 by the middle of February. “Crowdfunding is a hot sector and an important new economic alternative to corporate High Street banks,” says TFP’s business mananger, Jay Tompt.
“It represents an important new funding strategy for creative and community projects.” All successful crowdfunding campaigns rely on the power of social networks and community. A website, or online crowdfunding platform, provides the mechanism for new ventures to aggregate large numbers of small grants or loans from their networks of friends, colleagues, supporters and local communities. Acccording to the website ReconomyProject.org, there are now over 40 crowdfunding platforms on the web. “As the paper is firmly rooted
The only valid reason to reject the ideas of the Degrowth movement: Large reductions in scale will make the future discovery of ‘Bigfoot’, funny, but also quite disappointing.
No.02 Transitional thoughts By Simon French www.simonfrench.com
in the Transition movement, it was natural for the TFP team to seek start-up funding from the wider Transition community, or ‘crowd’. We are organised as a workers’ co-operative, so we decided to work with BuzzBnk, a social enterprise itself that only works with other social enterprises, non-profits, charities and community groups.”
If the campaign is successful, it could lead to more Transition projects being funded this way and a dedicated Transition crowd-funding website. TFP’s crowd-funding campaign runs until 15th February at www. buzzbnk.org. If you would like to back us and become a Friend of TFP please see our back page for a range of further opportunities.
12 Things you can say when people ask “What is Transition?” Transition is... 1) a community-led response to the end of cheap energy (“peak oil”), climate change and the fragility of the financial system 2) a self-organising grassroots network of change-makers 3) creating resilient communities that can work together to withstand external shocks like floods or unemployment or high fuel prices 4) a social experiment pioneered in Kinsale, Ireland and Totnes, Devon in 2005 5) more than a thousand Transition initiatives now active in towns, cities and bio-regions in the UK and around the world 6) finding ways to wean ourselves off fossil fuels (“energy descent planning”) and relocalise goods and services 7) co-creating a new culture based on partnership and sharing – skills, knowledge, produce and tools 8) starting up community projects in areas such as food growing, alternative energy, transport, education and the arts 9) employing ingenuity and generosity for the well-being of all, not just the few 10) doing stuff together because it’s a practical and meaningful response to serious challenges 11) preparing the ground for a more joyful, lower-energy future 12) a way to have fun, do something useful and build community
Continued from front page have a warming effect roughly equivalent to all human activity to date and could roughly double the rate of warming of the planet as a whole. But that’s just for starters. Trapped by cold and pressure under the Arctic Ocean are billions of tonnes of frozen methane, which is 40 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. As the Arctic
warms up, the risk of catastrophic discharges of methane into the atmosphere increases. Peter Lipman, Chair of the Transition Network, said: “Looking at the latest climate science can have a terrible and disempowering impact, but the worse it gets, the more I feel I’ve got nothing to lose by having a go at making some positive difference. This is a global challenge, and the more we build Transition into a strong
worldwide movement, the more we give ourselves a chance of responding in a proportionate way.” And there are some hopeful signs. Young people from 190 nations are gathering in Istanbul in June in an effort to shame the UN into action. The recently published US National Climate Assessment, compiled by more than 300 scientists, was unequivocal: the US is going to become a lot hotter, drier and
Photo by Russell Watkins/DFID
A scientist gets
An excerpt from a recent interview by Rob Hopkins with Kevin Anderson of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Rob Hopkins: You spend a lot of your time surrounded by all the papers and research that’s coming out, and all the models that get worse and worse. How do you personally cope with that? Kevin Anderson: I have to say it gets increasingly difficult; it has affected my personal life quite considerably over the last few years and is getting worse. I find it very hard to engage with the science and then not link that to what we as individuals, what society, what policy makers are doing, or evidently not doing. It has been really challenging for me with some work colleagues, less so in the immediate group that I’m involved with here in Manchester, but certainly wider colleagues who I work with on climate change who, it seems to me, have no regard for what their research tells them. For many, but with significant exceptions, their work seems to be little more than something that pays the mortgage. I find that quite difficult. I take the view that it is incumbent on us as scientists and citizens that we should be changing what we’re doing in our own lives, and I think that people would take much more note of the analysis that we do if we decided to live broadly in accordance with our science. In my view, far too few scientists who work on climate change actually do that. But also I find it increasingly difficult not to challenge friends and family, who often appear to have complete disregard for the impacts of their action. I’ve got to
the point now where I think that when we’re profligately emitting, we’re knowingly damaging the lives and the prospects of some of the poorest people in our communities, both in the UK, but more significantly globally.
“I find it almost reprehensible that scientists are able to completely ignore such a very clear message” Yet we obscenely carry on doing this. We’re happy to put a few pence into a collection pot in the middle of town to help people living in poorer parts of the world, but we don’t seem to be prepared to make substantive changes to how we’re living our lives - even when we recognise the impact our emissions are having. And yet science is pretty clear on this, that vulnerable people
“It has raised some serious challenges for me in maintaining personal relationships” in the poorer parts of the world will suffer the repercussions of what we are doing now and what we’ve already done. I find it almost reprehensible that scientists are able to completely ignore such a very clear message. We know that the people on the coastal strips of Bangladesh will suffer very significantly from our behaviour as will many other people, particularly poorer people,
around the world. And we really do not collectively as a society and even often as individuals demonstrate any meaningful care or compassion. I’ve cut back on many of the activities I previously pursued. Many of my friendships linked to activities; as a keen rock climber, I used to travel away for breaks by plane. This has all had to change quite considerably. I have close friends from when I used to work in the oil industry, friends who think climate change is a serious issue, but are not prepared to make any changes to their lifestyles. It has raised some serious challenges for me in maintaining personal relationships. I don’t want to pretend that it’s easy. I do not think that the future, for those of us that are in the very fortunate position of living in the West, is full of winwin opportunities. People who have done well, very well out of our Western system, and live very carbon profligate lifestyles are going to face difficult challenges, and we should not pretend otherwise. Until we actually embrace alternative means of finding value in our lives, I think that transition from where we are today, highcarbon, high-energy lifestyles, to ultimately lower-carbon lifestyles is going to be both difficult and unpopular. But ultimately, I do not see an alternative. Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy, but 4°C to 6°C [of global warming] will be much worse. Rob Hopkins is one of the founders of the Transition Movement. The full version of this interview is on his blog at: www.transitionculture.org
more disaster-prone because of manmade climate change. And at last, opinion polls show Americans now accept the concept of manmade climate change and support action to combat it. Perhaps as a result, President Obama is talking about hosting a climate change summit. “We in the US Transition movement are hopeful that the time has finally arrived for some actual progress to be made on climate change here,” said Scott McKellan of Transition US. “Transition groups, along with other grass-roots organisations such as 350.org, can play a key role in creating “bottom-up” support for meaningful action,” he added. It’s been tough over the last year for those of us who have been
fighting for action on climate change, especially as more and more unconventional fossil fuel sources are discovered, thereby dashing the hopes of those who thought Peak Oil might ride to the rescue of climate change. But weather is a strange beast. It affects everyone. It brings reality home. It’s impossible to deny that the world’s weather is weirding dramatically. Maybe this is what will help to move the majority towards the minority, like Transition initiatives who’ve been holding the big picture these last few years. Maybe extreme weather is what will finally join up the dots. Alexis Rowell is the News Editor for the Transition Free Press.
UK distributor Dogwoof have a special half price £100 offer for Transition initiatives to show Chasing Ice. Visit popupcinema.net/films/chasing_ice
Extreme weather and climate in 2012 American Hot North America saw more extreme weather in 2012 than any other continent. Hurricane Sandy took more lives and caused more damage than anyone predicted, but 2012 was also the warmest year on record. And the 2012 drought, which, at its peak in July, covered 62% of the country, was the worst since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Wet, Wet, Wet in the UK 2012 was the second wettest year since records began in the UK. The National Farmers’ Union estimated that the weather cost Britain’s farmers £1.3 billion. In December, the UK media were filled with images of flooding from around the country. Breaking records around the world In February, floods in Australia led to the abandonment of entire towns. In May, northeast Brazil experienced its worst drought in 50 years. In June, five million people had to be moved from their homes in China due to rain and flooding. In August, two weeks of rain fell in 24 hours in the Philippines and submerged 50% of Manila. In September, Bangkok experienced its worst flooding for 50 years. Unusually heavy rains from July through October resulted in flash floods throughout Nigeria, culminating in the worst floods in decades. Hundreds were killed in Russia and Eastern Europe in cold snaps in February and December, the worst for many years. The end of Arctic sea ice Sea ice cover in the Arctic hit a new low in 2012, dramatically lower than the previous minimum in 2007. According to some scientists, the Arctic will be ice-free during the summer within the next five years. In the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the Arctic sea ice was not predicted to melt substantially until the end of the century. Meltdown in Greenland and Antarctica A study published in the journal Science in November showed definitively that Greenland is losing ice mass at five times the rate of the early 1990s. The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought, according to research published in December in the journal Nature Geoscience. Sea levels – largely determined by the rate of melt of Greenland and Antarctica - are rising 60% faster than the 2007 IPCC report projected, according to scientists from Germany, the US and France, who looked at satellite data for the last 20 years.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had to add a new purple colour to its temperature chart in January to show areas above 50° Centigrade
Austerity bites UK nutrition
Tending raised beds at Edible Landscapes London Photo by Deanna Harrison
Continued from Page 1 obese. In October 2012 the charity Diabetes UK said the country was “sleepwalking towards a public health calamity”. The charity estimates there are more than 330,000 cases of type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity. A perfect storm? Not really. It’s all linked, says food policy expert Professor Tim Lang of City University. He’s calling for a new understanding of what he calls “ecological public health”, one that actively acknowledges the link between food, human health and the environment. This holistic approach is found in the many initiatives making up the local food movement, examples of democratic experimentation that are seeking to relocalise food production for the benefit of individuals, communities and the eco-systems we share. It is these community-based, local food projects that are leading the way in finding solutions to the nation’s nutritional deficit. One such solution comes from the field of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA farms, where the risks and benefits are shared between the farmers and community members, are on the rise. There are over 80 such initiatives in the UK, of which 20 started business in 2011, several within the Transition movement. At the core of many CSAs is a desire to make local, fresh food
more widely accessible within their communities, and a number have schemes that ensure their membership and/or produce is available to lower income families. As well as providing access to fresh food, many local food initiatives acknowledge that awareness raising plays a crucial role in their success. Growing Communities, an award-winning, community-led organisation in Hackney, North London
“We aim to make good food available but also foster debate about the true cost of producing food” has continually promoted the benefits of local, organic food. Founder Julie Brown says: “We aim to make good food available to communities but also to foster debate about the true cost of producing food.” The Growing Communities approach seems to work – they have a dedicated customer base choosing to buy food through their veg box scheme and at their Farmers’ Market in Stoke Newington. Nearly a third of their box scheme customers are on a low income, showing that it is possible to live on limited means without compromising on nutritional health.
Transition food groups are also working in this new ecological public health space and are responsible for establishing numerous food-based projects. Transition Town Lewes’ Friday Food Market provides local farmers and food producers with a direct connection to consumers. Several Transition initiatives in London have set up fruit and veg box schemes and/or community growing spaces. Transition Matlock’s local food co-op called DE4 Food is made up of small-scale local food and drink producers as well as their customers. This developed from Transition Matlock’s research into how to create a sustainable local food system using a jigsaw model. The focus was then moved to missing pieces - encouraging people to grow more of their own fruit and vegetables or sourcing local food producers. Recognising that progress is being made in some places is not to ignore the suffering currently being endured in others, where poorer families are unable to eat healthily. But this does present us with an opportunity to question an inadequate system, and to devise better alternatives to feed us. Tamzin Pinkerton is a writer and author of Local Food: How to Make it Happen in Your Community. She lives in East Sussex and is a passionate supporter of local, organic food.
Th e f r a c k s a r e s t a r t i n g t o s h o w Campaigners have vowed to keep up the pressure on the government, and on companies seeking to exploit UK gas shale reserves, following the lifting in December of the nationwide moratorium on fracking. The UK government had imposed the temporary ban after two small earthquakes were caused by Caudrilla Resources whilst drilling for shale gas near Blackpool. Shale gas is methane produced by blasting a combination of hot water, sand and chemicals into rock containing organic matter. Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, breaks up the rock, floods it with water and releases tiny trapped bubbles of natural gas which are then pumped to the surface. Anti-fracking campaigners argue that the chemicals can pollute ground water supplies and methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – is released into the atmosphere at fracking sites. In response to the end of the 4 moratorium, the national Frack
Off campaign said: “This is the start of a major battle over what sort of world we will leave to our children.” “Community feeling against fracking is strong - it combines a desire to keep fracking out of the UK with a passion to find energy solutions,” said campaigner Sarah Woods. “It seems to me that the campaign for a Frack Free Future is less a fight against an industry we don’t want and more a call for the future we need,” added Woods, a playwright and member of Transition Bro Ddyfi in Wales. The Chancellor, George Osborne, is a strong advocate of fracking because he believes it will lead to lower gas prices. But the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, the man responsible for lifting the moratorium on fracking, warned that lower prices were “unlikely” because of the quantity of extractable shale gas in the UK. Professor John Stevens, an energy expert at the independent think tank, Chatham House, has called the UK’s dash for shale gas “a dangerous gamble”. “Osborne’s
view of the future of energy is misleading because it ignores the very real barriers to shale gas development in the UK and Europe,” he said. “The US revolution was triggered by favourable factors such as geology, tax breaks and a vibrant service industry. However in Western Europe the geology is less favourable, with the shale containing a higher clay content more difficult to use in hydraulic fracturing.” Dirk Campbell of Frack Free Sussex and Transition Town Lewes added: “The best shale gas prospects in the UK are mostly under the constituencies of Conservative MPs. They’re the same politicians who did so much to keep wind farms out of their backyards, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the planning applications come in and voters start to object.” See p7 for Richard Heinberg’s view on why shale gas will turn out to be a worthless pyramid scheme, even in the US, and Dirk Campbell, right, on why we should oppose fracking.
Irish campaigner Rossa Ó Snodaigh on the threatened shores of Lough Melvin, a SSSI and home to a fish found nowhere else in the world. Photo by Richard Gott Dirk Campbell of Transition Town Lewes and Frack Free Sussex says there are five key reasons to campaign strongly against fracking: 1) Leakages at drilling sites lead to methane, which is 40 times worse than C02 as a greenhouse gas, being released into the atmosphere. 2) It may pollute ground water supplies – the US Environmental Protection Agency is investigating numerous cases of possible chemical leakage from fracking sites. 3) It will only produce, at best, 18 months to two years of supply for the UK, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. 4) It will not reduce prices for UK consumers because there will not be enough and because UK prices are determined by European and global prices. 5) It diverts attention away from energy efficiency and renewables, which are cheaper options.
The Transition Job
by Fiona Ward
If the Transition movement is to endure and make a difference, then it needs to have a business model as well as a social and cultural vision. That is the thinking behind the REconomy Project, which is designed to help Transition initiatives transform their local economies.
It’s a hard-edged vision – not just making jam and selling it for pocket money. This is about providing the jobs we’re going to need in a resource-constrained future. Our vision is one where, for example, as much of the food system as possible is relocalised. Where the money that currently goes through our big supermarkets’ tills and out of our area, instead stays circulating with our own farmers, processors and shops. Where all our homes are made energy efficient, creating thousands of jobs in the process. Where our renewable energy assets are developed in community ownership, providing a good, secure financial return for our savings and pensions. And importantly, providing work that is more fulfilling. Chris Rowland from the Ouse Valley Energy Services Company (OVESCO), a community owned renewable energy company born out of Transition Town Lewes, says, “before OVESCO I worked in the construction industry on projects all over the UK for companies like Shell, HBOS, GSK and BAA, where I had little or no connection to the location of that project. Working for OVESCO has allowed me to build wonderful relationships with local business, schools, the council and the community, totally changing my working
Solar panels on the roof of Barcombe nurseries, an OVESCO project. Photo by Chris Rowland life for the better.” So what might such a new kind of economy be worth? How many jobs could it provide? To provide these numbers, we’ve been piloting an “Economic Evaluation” process in several different places – a market town, a rural county, a city. Building on lessons learned in Totnes, Hereford and Manchester, we will be running this process in Brixton, London in early 2013.
“We can unite behind an economic strategy that’s realistic and that gives enormous social and environmental benefits” Duncan Law, founder of Transition Town Brixton says, “This work will help us make a credible case for community-led economic development in our area. We can
use the data to talk to our local councillors, chamber of commerce members and businesses in their own language, and show them there’s a viable solution to some, if not all, of our economic problems. We can unite behind an economic strategy that’s realistic and that gives enormous social and environmental benefits too. Lambeth Council are supportive and will provide as much data as they can”. Some unexpected outcomes have emerged from this work already. In Totnes it led to a two day event with local government CEOs from across the South West, where we looked hard at the implications of the economic uncertainty on council services (practically no one there believed a return to economic growth was likely). We explored the opportunities for councils and communities working more closely as one of the solutions, with council services being designed and delivered in a way that improves well-being, and better supports local enterprises even in a time of economic contraction. Economic Evaluation is just one of the many useful processes being developed by the REconomy Project. To keep up to date with our news and see all the great stories, resources and tools already available, go to our website, then ‘like’ us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Fiona Ward has been involved in Transition since 2006. She set up and ran the Transition Streets project for Transition Town Totnes, and the REconomy Project for the Transition Network. Fiona’s background is in business consulting, working with companies of all shapes and sizes over the last 20 years, to define and deliver business transformation strategies.
Bristol pound makes money have increased the size of the local economy by around half a million pounds by the end of 2013.” The aim is to increase the amount of Bristol pounds in circulation to B£250,000 before the currency’s first anniversary comes round in September. The B£ is supported by Bristol City Council, which allows payment of the council tax and business rates in the alternative currency. The B£, which was launched in September When the Queen visited Bristol in November 2012, is now the biggest alternative currency in the UK, with B£100,000 in circulation. The organisers say 500 traders now accept the physical pounds and 170 take payments by text message. Up to B£50,000 had been spent electronically, including via text message, by the end of December. Technical Delivery Director of the B£, Mark Burton of Bristol University, estimates that each B£ will circulate 10 times in a year, making the effective circulation B£1million. “I’m amazed by how well this experiment is going,” he said. “By my calculations we’ll
she was given a set of paper pounds by the new Mayor, George Ferguson, who is paid his salary in B£. Every B£ issued is backed by a pound sterling deposited at the Bristol Credit Union (BCU). B£ can be changed back into sterling by the BCU for a 3% charge. There are now five alternative currencies in the UK. The others are in Totnes, Lewes, Stroud and Brixton. All were started by Transition initiatives.
The Bristol £5 note by artist Alex Lucas
As Europe’s economy contracts under the weight of austerity and debt, Bristol in south-west England is set on bucking the trend. Organisers of the UK’s newest local currency – the Bristol Pound (B£) - claim they will have created half a million pounds worth of new economic activity by the end of this year.
HIGH STREET STORY
Storm in a coffee cup After a local campaign which gained national press coverage, the corporate chain Costa Coffee agreed they would not open a store in a vacant retail unit in Totnes, even though they had been given planning permission. Frances Northrop weathers the aftermath. The campaign wasn’t really about Costa, or coffee, for that matter. Our real concern was the potential damage to the local food economy, not only the possible closure of several independent coffee shops in the town, but also the knock-on effect on local suppliers the chain might use, which could result in the loss of more local jobs than it would create. For others involved in the coalition there were a range of issues: the loss of a valuable retail unit, the lack of ‘useful’ shops on the High Street, the probability that where one chain comes, others follow, losing the town’s individuality, and the risk of rents going up generally if other absentee landlords wanted a chain’s bigger bucks. Costa’s decision to pull out took everyone by surprise and the reactions to it have revealed underlying tensions and misconceptions. Some saw Costa as a way to ‘move into the 21st Century’, away from their hometown being perceived as ‘weird’. For others it tapped into disquiet about legitimacy, with concerns that a particular group had undue influence over the Town Council and was dictating what the town should be. There was also a real sense that at a time when work is scarce some don’t have the luxury of waiting for ‘quality jobs’. For Transition Town Totnes (flagship for the Transition movement) it has revealed that the initiative is seen as an institution, rather than a group of selforganising residents, and that our aims around environmental, economic and social resilience building were not being communicated clearly enough. However Totnes is a small town and conversations are now taking place about useful shops, jobs, affordable housing and transport, care for the sick and vulnerable. A new group, Totnes Voice, has emerged to talk about these issues with longer established groups such as residents associations, Totnes Transport and housing forums. Meanwhile the shop has opened as a pop-up and the landlord is now more open to alternatives. Frances Northrop is the Manager of Transition Town Totnes and a passionate advocate for grassroots action for change. Her background is community development and social enterprise.
A big thumbs up from campaigner Toby Rist Photo by Fiona Ward
The Spanish Spring by Stephan Balsel and Juan del Río (Barcelona)
The Spanish economy is locked in a vicious downward spiral. Forget the meaningless concept of growth, which anyway has been negative in Spain over the last five years. Look at the reality.
Unemployment has increased from 8% to more than 25%, with more than half of all 18-25 year olds now without work. The income gap between the rich and poor has grown more in Spain than anywhere else in the European Union, according to a 2012 report by the Catholic organisation, Caritas. UNICEF defines one in every four Spanish children as poor. Education and health budgets have been slashed and public services have been privatised, while taxes at every level of household income have increased to some of the highest rates in Europe. Since 2008 there have been 400,000 evictions despite the fact that, according to a survey for El Pais newspaper, there are more than 5 million empty housing units. In the words of British political scientist Susan George, quoted in the Spanish newspaper Levante: “It’s as if the Spanish are being used as laboratory rats to see what level of punishment and suffering they can endure before they rebel.” Amid the grim statistics, and the stories of despair and unhappiness, there are some hopeful signs. As people realise that the government is not able, or is unwilling, to
do something, innovative alternatives have emerged, pointing, perhaps, to a new social and economic model. One of the first big responses to the crisis was the 15M Movement. Starting on the 15th of May 2011, hundreds of squares in Spain were peacefully occupied as a massive, decentralised and connected demonstration. The aim was to recover public space as an Ancient Greek-style “agora”, where people organised themselves to work on the development of alternative economic and social models. A few months later the Occupy movement spread to the Anglo-Saxon world. Small groups from 15M then went into the neighbourhoods to organise and spread the word. Different projects grew up, like
A peaceful protester offers flowers in Barcelona in May 2011. Photo by Ramon Serra/Fotomovimiento in return for whatever citizens can offer – as Exchange System (www.ces.org.za). That’s
“Since 2008 there have been 400,000 long as it’s not euros! 50% more than the US in second place and evictions despite more than 5 million In the Catalan town of Tarragona the more than three times as many as the next organisers of the local currency, the Eco, asked European country, Finland. empty housing units” the Affected by Mortgages group, which has stopped over 300 evictions around Spain. This was a response to laws dating from 1909, which protects banks not householders, and which has been described as “abusive” by the European Court of Justice. Another successful experiment spreading through the country is ‘Integral Cooperatives’, a mix of consumer, producer, work and housing co-operatives that have emerged as horizontal, non-capitalist organisations. Aurea Social in Barcelona offers health and education services
not just local shops but also the producers of goods available for sale to accept 50-100% of their product price in Ecos. Another local currency, the Turuta in Vilanova, which was started by a Transition initiative, has made waves by using their local currency to finance local projects – without charging interest on the loans! If local systems of exchange can be seen as a barometer of the rise of alternative economics, then Spain is a world leader. There are 117 Spanish complementary currencies registered on the international Community
Spain is now crossing a threshold of change, and every change produces pain. However, as the crisis deepens more people wake up and realise that we will never go back. When that happens we start to step towards a new paradigm. This crisis may turn out to be an incredible opportunity to take our future into our own hands and to move from the realm of ideas to action. Juan del Rio and Stefan Blasel are members of Barcelona en Transició, one of 30 Transition initiatives in Spain.
So this is what a revolution looks like Naresh Giangrande and Sophy Banks delivered the first Transition Training course in Athens last year, and found seeds of positive change amidst the deepening crisis. Naresh reports. It’s so easy to continue to believe in the Way It Has Always Been. Then one day it’s no longer there and we all want to believe in the ‘new normal’, which then becomes the familiar, until it too is replaced by something else. For a while the two realities sit side by side, and appear to coexist, until one day they don’t. And so it is goes in Greece. Something feels different, and then one day it’s clear for all to see. What is bewildering is that in the midst of relentless change normalcy hangs on like the drunk who won’t go home even though the party is over. The Transition trainers stayed near Exarthia Square, a maze of lively cafes and tavernas, with nightly gatherings of a different
character altogether. All around the square are a backdrop of revolutionary slogans and posters. An anarchist collective is apparently at war with the drug dealers, as well as the State.
connections between energy and resources, equality, the financial system and ecology. A deeply thought-through and fundamental understanding emerged. The present Most people attending the Transition situation has made many people think long training - held in a repurposed 1960’s concrete and hard and come to some deep realisations industrial building, now housing a community of the depth of the crisis facing all of us. arts project - were still in work. We asked in one And although we heard many stories of of our ‘mappings’ at the beginning who had lost Greeks leaving Greece for more favourable jobs or income, or who knew someone who had. countries, we met several Greeks who had At least half stepped forward. been born or moved abroad and are now In another mapping we asked whether most returning. And there are apparently many people in their communities saw the present more who see the crisis as an opportunity. crisis as primarily financial, or did it have wider As the old system breaks down, new ways implications? More than half indicated that of living and working become available. On ordinary people felt it was a crisis of culture and the course there was a wide mix of people: a a deeply flawed economic system, as well as an Permaculture teacher who was working on ecological crisis. an agricultural project, another in a ‘Citizens Another exercise was even more surprising. Alert’ group (network of people, creating We asked people to name the reasons why grassroots political engagement), who told we needed to engage in transition, and us that he had to ‘make something change place them in a certain pattern, drawing the or go crazy’. We heard about several centres
of environmental education being set up, teaching everything from straw bale building to non-violent communication techniques, and about many abandoned villages in the mountains being resettled by young people wanting land, as well as others returning to the Greek islands. So in a state of crisis that intensifies each day there are already tender new shoots of new ways of living and working, and it is hoped that Transition initiatives will become established and contribute to the repurposing of this ancient culture. Many changes have convulsed this small country: world wars, the civil wars that followed, the military junta, and now the Euro crisis. You can feel resilience in the sinews of this place, culture built upon culture, as life goes on. Somehow. Naresh Giangrande is the co-founder of Transition Town Totnes, and runs Transition Training, which has delivered courses in 30 countries since 2006.
RIP Peak Oil? Richard Heinberg, one of the world’s most wellknown writers on Peak Oil and the depletion of natural resources, in an exclusive article for Transition Free Press, explains why he’s convinced that the concept of ‘Saudi America’ is a bubble waiting to burst… In its latest annual World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency has forecast continued growth in global oil supplies, led by burgeoning production of ‘tight oil’ in the US through application of fracking technology. Many pundits have been quick to say this means peak oil is dead. Really?
“fracking relies on both Ponzi pyramid scheme investment dynamics and unusual geology” Oil companies only frack tight reservoirs for two reasons: first, they’ve run out of better prospects; and second, because the price of oil has risen so high that there is some hope of profit even in the face of steep drilling costs. It’s helpful to remember the context: 2012 posted the highest average annual oil price ever recorded, even when taking inflation into account. Meanwhile most of the increase in ‘oil’ production in recent years (and most of the growth the IEA anticipates in the coming decade) is from natural gas liquids, which cannot be directly substituted for crude oil because they are much harder to transport and less flexible to use. Global crude oil production has essentially flatlined since 2005. There’s more. Geologist David Hughes is working on a major report for Post Carbon Institute, based on an exhaustive analysis of 30 shale gas plays (areas that have significant shale rock formations) and 21 shale/tight oil plays—over 65,000 wells altogether. The data show a pattern of rapid per-well declines across the U.S. for both shale gas and ‘tight oil’. In the effort to maintain and grow oil and gas supply, Americans will effectively be chained to drilling rigs and will have to endure escalating collateral environmental impacts. Productive areas are turning out to be smaller than originally thought, and frackers are already running out of places to drill. The evidence suggests the US oil and gas industry’s recent successes
will prove to be short-lived. At the same time, financial analyst Deborah Rogers has documented how the significance of unconventional production has been systematically hyped in order to cushion share prices of the companies specialising in fracking. Drilling in tight reservoirs requires innovative financing, and Wall Street has stepped in to help—resulting in a new financial bubble. Little of this bigger picture is captured in the IEA report. But then, consider the organisation’s track record: in its forecasts during the past decade the IEA has overestimated world oil production nearly every year. In 2009 The Guardian quoted a whistleblower at the IEA as saying that forecasts were being skewed by political influence from the US government in an attempt to stop panic buying of fuel. In other words, we should be careful about relying on IEA figures. Yes, US oil production will probably increase for another few years – assuming oil prices remain at their current economy-killing level, which cannot persist for long. But this temporary increase will amount to only a few million barrels per day, and will dissipate far more rapidly than the IEA anticipates. Because fracking relies on both Ponzi pyramid scheme investment dynamics and unusual geology, other nations will have little success applying it. Meanwhile, depletion of the cheap-to-produce crude oil that drove economic growth during the mid-20th century accelerates. Is peak oil dead? No, this is what peak oil looks like. Too bad the IEA can’t see it.
Richard Heinberg is the author of ten books including The Party’s Over and The End of Growth. He is Senior Fellow-in-Residence of Post Carbon Institute and is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators.
A solar power workshop in December 2012 by Transition Town Tama (a west Tokyo suburb) led by Tetsuya Odashima from Fujino Power Company. Photo by Hisato Kato
After the earthquake by Nae Fukino and Paul Shepherd (Japan)
The 3.11 earthquake and nuclear disaster was a watershed event with longlasting implications for the future of Japan. Transition groups here tend to think in terms of pre-3.11 and post3.11 Japan.
From outside the country (with the exception perhaps of the contaminated areas of Belarus), it might be hard to fully appreciate the difficult context that Transition initiatives in eastern Japan are working in. For example, if there are radiation hot spots in your town, do you and your family continue to eat local food or do you have your food specially flown to you from farms in western Japan and overseas? Transition began in Japan in 2008 when the first 3 Transition initiatives (Fujino, Hayama and Koganei) were established. Until 2011 knowledge about the transition movement spread amongst people in the environmental movement and about 15 Transition initiatives emerged. During this period, we worked hard on awareness raising about community resilience, food sustainability, peak oil and climate change. Then came the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. We had energy blackouts, food shortages, radiation contamination and daily aftershocks across the whole of eastern Japan from Hokkaido to Tokyo. In the first few months after 3.11, there was no need to do awareness raising – people were facing real life problems and the importance of local community
helping each other was obvious. In particular, with the radiation contamination of rice, milk, vegetables and fish, protecting the health of young children and pregnant women became a vital issue. Prior to Fukushima, talking about the risk of building nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone Japan had been a taboo subject. Suddenly, people were free to talk openly about nuclear power and renewable energy. Many people feel our energy wasteful lifestyles in Japan have contributed to the nuclear disaster.
“If there are radiation hotspots in your town do you and your family continue to eat local food?” People have responded to the nuclear crisis by making big efforts to save energy (power use in Tokyo is more than 15% down) and so even with 48 nuclear reactors (out of 50) shut down last summer there were no blackouts (but CO2 emissions were up by about 3.9%). This summer, a long-awaited, comprehensive, feed-in-tariff law to encourage the development of renewable energy came into operation and many people are now investing in renewable energy. Since 3/11, there has been much more interest in Transition and the number of Transition Towns in Japan has increased from about 15 to about 35 citizen partnerships – including the small scale activities of individuals,
community-led projects in villages, rural towns, inner city areas and local government. The emphasis has shifted to starting practical projects. In Fujino, Japan’s first official Transition Town, a notebooktype local currency Yorozu has 140 households signed up and a Forest group is helping to manage the woods of Fujino’s satoyama zone. After 3.11, to cover the electric power supply in Fujino, members established Fujino Electricity Company, which eventually aims to power Fujino on 100% renewable energy. Project teams also went out to festivals in the earthquake disaster zones in the Tohoku region and offered support to the affected areas. The working group holds monthly “Solar Power System Workshops” at their base in an abandoned elementary school where participants can easily assemble a home system by connecting photovoltaic (PV) panels and batteries, as part of a campaign called “An Energy Shift Starting at Home”. By summer 2012, the accumulated output of all the solar power generators assembled at the workshop amounted to over 10,000 watts. Nae Sekino is a graduate student in Bioresource Sciences at Nihon University researching the Transition movements in Japan. She is also in a research group of tsunami disaster district planning. Paul Shepherd is a British-born teacher and a resident in Japan for 25 years. A founding member of Transition Japan NPO and Transition Town Koganei, he is now active in a new TT initiative in Funabashi, Chiba. 7
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Harnessing urban wind
the edge of London. Councils generally prefer large-scale, industrial solutions to waste and recycling because, they claim, they cost less and are “easier to manage”. But those large-scale energy-from-waste monsters need feeding -- they don’t incentivise waste reduction. If urban small-scale AD can be
by Alexis Rowell
In a small, green corner of England, just behind Kings Cross station in the London borough of Camden, a radical experiment is underway to find a solution to the twin problems of urban food waste and rising energy costs. In the Camley Road Natural Park, volunteers are helping to build a mini-biodigester which will use rotting food to generate electricity. The process is called anaerobic digestion (AD). It involves capturing biomethane from decomposing organic waste to drive a gas engine, leading to the production of electricity. Camden is already something of a leader on biogas from food waste; the council runs part of its vehicle fleet on biogas, although the fuel currently comes from a landfill facility just outside London. Now a mini-biodigester (AD facility) is under construction in Camley Street Natural Park, a small wildlife haven in Camden. The Local Energy Adventure Partnership (LEAP) project will power a small Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit for the park
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A household bio-gas digester system. Graphic courtesy of Dave Foster office. After the gas has been used successfully in any city. They’re to generate energy, the remaining hoping to prove that it can solids will be used as compost in be a viable part of the urban the park and on food growing energy mix. sites around Camden. LEAP Project manager, Rokiah Yaman said: “This demo of a “One day we may all closed loop food-to-fuel-to-food cycle will provide educational have mini anaerobic and employment opportunities, digestion systems in our and hopefully will lead to greater kitchens producing gas uptake of the technology. One day, may all have mini AD systems for cooking and heating we in our kitchens producing gas for as well as fertiliser for cooking and heating as well as fertiliser for our gardens!” our gardens” Rokiah’s immediate vision is for Small-scale urban AD is a network of mini-biodigesters something of a ‘holy grail’ in across Camden. The competition renewable energy circles. It works is a plan by the North London on European farms and in villages Waste Authority, a collaboration in India, but, according to LEAP, of the six North London boroughs, it hasn’t been made to work to build several huge AD plants on
Food waste from UK households bakery
The size of the bubbles indicates the amount of food wasted in UK households each year
= 1 million people
This could have lifted 26.5 million people out of hunger.
Figures are based on the average calorific deficit for malnourished people being 250 kcal per person, per day
mixed meals 704,000 t
vegetables 1,587,000 t
15.8m meat, fish 302,000 t
The whole of the UK's household food waste could lift 74 million people out of hunger... 8
confectionery 63,000 t
made to work, then potentially we have a fascinating model for the future. Whilst biogas from food waste can only ever be part of the solution, it feels like an experiment worth trying as we hunt for resilience in terms of energy supply in cities. It also gives urban communities more control over their futures.
...equal to the total population of Turkey WRAP 2008, and Tristram Stuart, 2009, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal
Infographic by Piero Zagami, a graphic designer working with the Information is Beautiful team. Piero is passionate about data visualisation and its applications to the real world. This image explores the number of malnourished people that could be lifted out of hunger with the equivalent of food wasted in UK households. The global prevalence of malnutrition can’t be solved by richer countries sending their stale bread and mouldy tomatoes to poorer parts of the world, but minimising our own food waste can help to relieve pressure on the environment, on resources and on global food supplies, which would have a positive domestic and global impact. Tristram Stuart, food waste campaigner. Do you have a Transition-related issue that you’d like to see visualised in an infographic? Please send suggestions to TFPfood@gmail.com and we will feature the most inspired idea in the next edition of TFP. Tamzin Pinkerton, Food Editor
Sustainability and French lessons the Commons by Patrick Chalmers (France)
by Justin Kenrick
Across the world, land grabs by agribusiness, logging, mining and conservation are pushing people off their land and forcing them to become poorly paid labourers on the land that was previously theirs, or forcing them into cities to look for work. These communities often have no piece of paper entitling them to their land because they have held their land in customary systems based on long established ways of ensuring that it is managed sustainably and effectively. Most communities in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland were forced to undergo this transition to unsustainability generations ago through the enclosures, the clearances and internal colonisation, a process that was spread to the rest of the world through colonisation and is still very much underway. This ongoing colonisation relies on the threat of physical force backed up by the story that there is no alternative, that there is no way of belonging, that only the relentless drive to dominate nature may -just may -- stave off scarcity and ensure a future for our children. As we know, the truth is quite the opposite. Current research in Cameroon shows that once the land has been taken over by agribusiness, replacing farmland and forest with palm oil monoculture, then it takes 10 hectares of plantation to provide one job, whereas formerly it took one hectare. Extremely long and
low paid working days replace the village system where farm work starts early but is already over by just after midday. Here in Scotland (as elsewhere) the story that there is no alternative has been given the lie as communities have taken back their land into community ownership. What began with Assynt and the Isle of Eigg reclaiming their community
“Is there a way of making clear that there is and always has been an alternative?” lands from absentee landowners was then taken up in the 2003 Land Reform Act which provided the framework, and for a while the financial support, to enable communities to reverse the clearances. Over 500,000 acres is now back in community hands. Like other Transition initiatives, we in Edinburgh’s PEDAL Portobello initiative have been finding the gaps and cracks where we can make the difference: finding derelict land we could turn into an orchard, spaces behind shops where we can start community gardens. Like others we have had to negotiate with powerful landlords to try and get agreements for more ambitious projects, such as negotiating with Scottish Water to seek agreement
for a site for Portobello and Leith’s proposed community turbine. This is all very good, but is it really enough? As we face ecological destruction driven by the boom and bust of economic growth, should Transition remain above and beneath and beyond politics, or is there a way of making clear that there is and always has been an alternative, not just at the local level but at the society-wide and global levels? Should we be thinking about peacefully occupying the spaces needed for food growing, for energy production, for ensuring the basic needs of care for each other are met? As the gambling financiers take home their winnings, and the economy unravels on the back of declining oil supplies, do we need to present a clear society-wide alternative to ecology-busting growth and people-smashing austerity? This may be one way of taking Transition to the next level: branching out without losing the deep roots in the places we all depend upon. Justin Kenrick works for the Forest Peoples Programme and has been involved in PEDAL since 2005. A former lecturer at Glasgow University he now focuses on supporting communities to reclaim their lands in Scotland and Africa. He is a contributor to Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society 2012 (Feasta Books)
A road barricade in the ZAD (Zone A Defendre) district outside Nantes in France, under threat by airport development. Photo by Phillip Evans from an exhibition held at Grow Heathrow earlier this year
Life on France’s ‘causses chèvres’ or goat plateaus. Photo by Cécile Dubart
Talk of building local resilience to climate change and peak oil quickly brings people to food – what sort to eat, where to source it and how to afford it. No surprise then that France should have some valuable lessons to share with the rest of Europe.
French people’s love of food and farming runs deep. Yet their farmers and consumers face all the same issues as those in rich countries the world over. Farmland is being lost to housing and other infrastructure, as land prices keep rising. Intensive cultivation of ever-larger farms means fewer farms, fewer farm jobs and a failure to attract young blood into the workforce. People have turned increasingly towards organic and extensively farmed produce amid concerns about genetically modified crops, pollution from chemicals and animal waste, increasing cancers and other food-related diseases. All these factors inspired the creation of the French group Terre de Liens (land or earth of connections) in 2003. Its aim is to secure land and to present the case for alternative land ownership models. It also offers practical help to aspiring organic, biodynamic and peasant farmers. A ready understanding of the issues meant that TdL quickly prospered, raising 26 million euros (£21 million) to secure 2,500 hectares (6200 acres) of farmland. By mid-July 2012, Terre de Liens had 115 farms with 200 farmers who were either in place or in the process of getting installed. making TdL a pioneer in its field. Its next step is to be recognised as being of “public utility”, opening the possibility of working with local authorities and their substantial land banks. “It’s very important to us, as it would allow us to replicate the work,” Véronique Rioufol told TFP in a recent interview. The success of Tdl, and others like it in Europe, inspired an informal network between a dozen like-minded initiatives in Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. Britain has two - the Soil Association and the Biodynamic Land Trust. The Soil Association website links to a handful of case studies it supports, each one a story of quiet, determined, achievement by the farmers over a number of years. Rachel Harries, who coordinates the work, says the aim is two-fold: “What we are trying to do is to talk about land ownership and also to acquire land for farming. It doesn’t necessarily mean we want to be the legal owner of the land.” The amount of land held this way, in Britain and elsewhere, remains minute, meaning much more work is needed to drag European food production away from industrial farming methods. Another Soil Association project, the launch of a UK branch of La Via Campesina, will aim to address this wider problem by linking up with this global network of small-scale and peasant farmers. Patrick Chalmers is a Scottish journalist, author, journalism campaigner and media trainer who has lived in SW France with his family since 2005. He is the author of Fraudcast News - How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies (http://fraudcastnews.net/).
e d u c a t i o n Oinntransition e year by Isabel Carlisle
There is a conversation going on at the margins of higher education that is just beginning to be heard in the market place. It goes something like this: If the future that we are educating young people for is not the future that is approaching, how can we adjust the course of our current monolithic education system?
What are the skills and aptitudes needed for a world of economic contraction, rising energy costs, environmental degradation and climate change? Have we been charting our course by the wrong North Star? For many young people the rising tuition costs of higher education are not the only reason that they are questioning the desirability of getting a University degree or college certificate. The conveyor belt of performance learning from SATs to GCSEs and A-Levels and upwards no longer guarantees a job at the end. Nor do they see much work that accords with their values and their desire to bring a different future into being, one that supports their lives, the lives of their communities and the lives of future generations. In the spring of 2011 I began to reflect on these issues as I looked at ways in which Transition
could make an offering to young people looking for right livelihood in community. If they were to step forward into community, either their own or a Transition community that offered them a place, what skills and knowledge would they need? How would they map that community and make their pitch, knowing that they were creating value and finding their niche? How would an
“I want my ethics
than £1000 for a year. One Year in Transition was launched at the September Transition conference in London. Three intrepid “Transitioners” have since had one week-long meet-up in Totnes, which explored the nature of change. Each has a personal mentor who is a trained psychotherapist or coach. We use Action Learning to plan, take action and reflect on the group’s projects and learning journeys. Skills mentors are being recruited to offer voluntary placements in the skills that the Transitioners choose to learn. We collectively plan future meet-ups and the “tutors” who we invite to
teach us. The January focus is on REconomy and Gift Culture. The projects that the Transitioners are embarking on include setting up the new network for youth in Transition, starting up a new Time Bank in Oxford (Cowley) and starting a new green skilling programme for young people at risk of exclusion in Bristol. The course is part time and flexible, so can run alongside part-time work or training. Hannah, Richard and Lisa all chose to do 1YT while living in their own communities. “I felt I needed a container and support for the things I’m planning to do this year”, said
Hannah Fenton from Oxford. “I need to reframe success, and I want my ethics to be central to my working life, not something I do in my spare time. I learnt so much from the Transition model, especially the way people deal with the realisation that we are living in an unsustainable world, and how we come to terms with the actions we need to take”. Isabel Carlisle is Education Coordinator for Transition Network. She leads two education programmes: Schools in Transition and One Year in Transition. She co-founded Transition Highbury in 2008 and is a Trustee of Transition Town Totnes
to be central to my working life, not something I do in my spare time” understanding of new economic models such as Gift Culture serve them, and how would we weave a learning process that combined the inner and outer aspects of Transition? Around these questions a group of eight young people aged 17 to 27, in different parts of the UK, gathered for regular Skype chats. This design team agreed the learning should be through mentoring. They liked the idea of practical skills and they asked for the freedom to learn through being given responsibility and being allowed to fail. They didn’t want an over-designed course, they thought the students should design much of it themselves, and they said it should not cost more
Richard Toogood competing in the Devon Rural Skills Trust Hedge Steeping competition. Photo by Alex Toogood
Researchers reach ‘real world’ By Mandy Meikle
Recent concerns over climate change and the declining availability of cheap energy have pushed energy security to the top of policy agendas. In grassroots movements like Transition, communities are taking control over both the production of energy and the ways it is used. This has generated high levels of academic interest, fuelled by funding streams such as the Research Council’s UK Energy programme. 10
However, research agendas remain controlled by academics, their interests, and those of their funders, not by communities. The Transition Research Network (TRN) is an informal group of researchers and activists who are creating conversations between academics and communities, and promoting effective communityled action towards fossil fuel independence. In October 2012, TRN held its third open meeting in Kingston, organised in partnership with the Energy Security in a Multipolar World Research Cluster, an
interdisciplinary research cluster led by the University of Exeter and the University of Sussex. Delegates explored how research on energy security looks when led by community interests, how language impedes dialogue and cooperation, and how Transition can be made to seem relevant, rather than peripheral. Sam Aukland, an MSc student studying Climate Change Management, led an Open Space session looking at inclusivity and exclusivity, with the provocative title ‘The Tyranny of Transition’. This led to a follow-up meeting,
organised by Professor Audley Genus of Kingston Business School, in November: “Research is needed on how to be inclusive, how we scale up initiatives beyond the ‘pioneers’, and how we adapt the language of Transition to engage the wider community,” said Genus. “Linked to this is how to build bridges with other actors, such as small businesses, schools, universities, farmers, minority ethnic groups, trade unions. Our findings should be shared across Transition in general, and community energy groups in particular,” he continued.
TRN is a vital aspect of Transition as there is funding for academic research into carbon reduction measures - but for how long? Academic research gives credibility to what many Transition Initiatives are trying to do and TRN takes Transition into the ‘real world’, which is where it has to be. Mandy Meikle lives near Edinburgh and has been speaking on peak oil issues since 2004. Mandy writes for the Social Reporting Project and edits the Reforesting Scotland Journal. Visit Mandy’s blog The Cheery Pessimist at: www. mandymeikle.wordpress.com
profile Transition Leicester
”My local Footpaths group gave me a really good opportunity to get to know some of my neighbours. Since the meetings finished we have shared washing machines, an allotment, learned how to make bread and mend punctures, bought bulk organic food together and generally spend a lot of time in and out of each others’ houses. I would never have made those friends without Footpaths and it feels like the beginning of a real community.” Zina, West Leicester
by Andrew Reeves
Like any city, Leicester (with a population of 330,000) provides a particular set of opportunities and challenges to a Transition initiative: ethnically and culturally diverse, with a mix of wealthy and poorer neighbourhoods, it also offers a wide range of partnerships from universities to community organisations, including a Leicester Eco-House. In the first in a series of Transition profiles, Andrew Reeves suggests why this Midlands initative is thriving.
Transition Leicester was one of the first city-based initiatives to launch and, like many initiatives in the UK, is soon to celebrate its fifth birthday. Looking back, our initiative seems to be stronger now than it has ever been. We have a number of well-established city-wide projects, a regular programme of public events, a solid pool of volunteers, and good working relationships with both
local organisations and our City Council’s environment team. When we launched in early 2008, the pioneering initiatives in Bristol and Nottingham were tackling the thorny question of how to do Transition in a city by setting up groups to work at a neighbourhood level. Our journey didn’t go this way – no-one at our initial events wished to set up a neighbourhood group, so instead we put energy into awareness raising activities, or in setting up issue-based groups (Food, Heart and Soul and more). By 2010 our focus had shifted to running several projects which had emerged from those groups (now all dissolved). The projects (see boxes) all came from the passions of the particular people who set them up: a new Community Supported Agriculture scheme, the Footpaths carbon reduction groups programme, our Swap Shop (hosted at a local eco-centre), the annual Green Light festival, Green Fox Community Energy Cooperative and more. Our biggest limiting factor is the time to make everything
happen on a voluntary basis, so this year we have focused on making it easy and attractive for new people to get involved. We’ve done this by creating a volunteer co-ordinator role, which incorporates being a point of contact for new volunteers and devising and advertising specific opportunities (from one-off tasks to internships). We have found that having ongoing projects that people can help with on a one-off basis (such as stewarding at Green Light or serving food on a stall) makes it much easier to welcome new people in. As one of the coordinators, Mel Gould, says: “We make a conscious effort to appreciate and support all our volunteers (including ourselves) which generally makes us a happier and more cohesive bunch. We provide training and briefing for new and continuing volunteers and take the time to ‘officially’ appreciate people’s contributions, whether that’s impromptu verbally, or in a more planned way. We seem to be a more diverse group than most, perhaps partly because of our fabulously diverse
city and partly because we actively recruit volunteers in places like universities and through Voluntary Action Leicester. Many people also make even more of a conscious effort to pro-actively engage with people who attend for the first time who may feel ‘different’ in some way from the majority of the people present or who are new to Leicester or indeed to the UK.” The core team Over five years we have managed to retain an active and committed core team, and we think a key reason for this is the value we place on supporting and connecting with each other. Some tools we use to do this are as follows: doing a go-around at the start of each meeting on how everyone’s week has been; investing time in sharing information about ourselves and our background when new members join; sharing food together at each meeting; evaluating each meeting and appreciating the contributions made at the end. We’ve noticed that the niche that Transition Leicester fills has depended a lot on what else is
happening locally. For example, one of our major projects has been setting up Permaculture Design Courses, something that wouldn’t be needed in cities like Leeds or Brighton that have thriving permaculture networks. Leicester already has a local charity that employs staff to deliver large-scale environmental projects, so we are focusing on making Transition Leicester a platform for setting up and sustaining volunteer-led projects or independent social enterprises on a local or city-wide level. So what next for Transition Leicester? Over the coming year, we have two major new projects lined up – a city-wide skillsharing initiative (replicating Peterborough’s “Greeniversity”), and a neighbourhood-based cycle club to give affordable access to a range of practical bikes. Roll on the next five years! Andrew Reeves is a co-founder of Transition Leicester and helped establish Green Light festival, Green Fox Community Energy, Leicester Permaculture course and a host of other projects.
Footpaths: Community Carbon Reduction Footpaths helps people to reduce their carbon footprint in a supportive group environment. People come together in locally based groups of 6-10 people for a series of seven meetings, looking at issues such as food, home energy and consumerism. Through discussions, games and exercises participants share practical information and start to address some of the emotional and practical difficulties around changing how they live. Footpaths also provides a handbook and a two-day facilitation training for a couple of people from each group as well as ongoing support for some of the many ideas and projects coming out of the initial meetings.
Community Harvest Whetstone A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme, set up in Autumn 2009 to reconnect people with the land and the production of local food. The project rents land and polytunnels from a farm just outside the city, employs 3 part-time growers and uses volunteer help to cultivate vegetables which are distributed on a weekly basis to members. The project started on a small scale, providing a weekly crop share to 10 local households for its first 18 months. A grant-funded expansion programme in 2011 increased the land under cultivation from one seventh of an acre up to one acre, enabling 30 households to become crop-sharers. Members are actively involved in regular Community Days carrying out work on the land, and through a programme of family-friendly public events held each year.
Green Light Festival Green Light is an annual festival to showcase and celebrate all the projects and initiatives taking place across Leicester to make it a more sustainable city. It was set up with a view to creating something with a broad-based appeal - engaging people through a mix of talks, practical workshops, music, interactive stalls, performance, kids’ activities and more. The event attracted close to 1000 people in 2011 and 2012, and is organised by volunteers. The next Green Light will take place on Saturday 16th March 2013. www.greenlightfestival.org
Photo of Mark Boyle by James Barke
Mark Boyle and the
p e o p l e by Charlotte Du Cann
I am standing in The Idler Academy, a tiny elegant cafe-bookstore, packed with people. Everyone is drinking wine and talking madly, and you could think this was the 80s or 90s, except for one thing: a man in a blue T shirt and jeans has just stood up on a chair and is speaking about other ways of being human. The fire in his voice silences the crowd. It’s Mark Boyle, activist and founder of Freeconomy, at the launch of his new book, The Moneyless Manifesto. And suddenly we all know exactly what time we are in. It’s the author’s second exploration of the territory. The Moneyless Man revolved around his years of living without money, based in an orchard in the South West. This follow up volume is a constellation of ideas and practices behind what is known as the Gift Economy. The first half of the book looks at the present financial system and the stories that uphold it; the second charts the practical enterprises and makers of the new emergent culture – from archaic skills like flint knapping, to modern urban ones, such as freeganism. Many Transition initiatives are already engaged in such exchanges – give and take events, seed swaps, abundance projects. We build rocket stoves, love foraging and aspire to low-impact, off-grid living. This is not just because these are times of austerity, but because we are part of the shift from a highly monetised, individualistic culture toward one which values sharing and community - what Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred 12 Economics, calls “a new story
of self and a new story of the people”. Mark Boyle embodies a reconnection with nature and gift-giving that lies at the heart of Transition. He influences this grassroots narrative by reminding us we are together on a planet which for millions of years was held in common by all beings. Money gives us the illusion of independence You can’t help noticing that, arresting speaker though he is, the man is not built of words, but of knowledge and action. He brings the physicality of those pioneer years with him, even in this fashionable district of the city. In conversation we discuss how civilisation blinds us to our true (and free) interdependency with life, and how division of labour enables us to live without lasting bonds or relationships. “What sustains you?” I ask him. “Knowing that another way is possible. When I see the pain we are inflicting on ourselves and the rest of life, and watch the Machine economy flat-pack everything in its path, I find plenty to motivate me. But I am also very inspired by the growing movement of people who are saying “enough is enough” and who are passionately doing what their hearts are calling them to do, not just for the sake of all life around them, but also for their own sense of dignity, integrity and honour.” “I was intrigued by what you said about being trapped in one way of being human: “There are many ways of being human in the world. But most of us don’t even know that there is another way of being human
because we’ve never experienced a different way. We don’t even know that we don’t know. Travelling may give us an insight into other cultures, but who has walked the land with aboriginal people using their mythic song lines to find water and food, who can’t even conceive of the idea of a numerical system, let alone money?”
“Once we see the world in a way we haven’t before, our hands will begin to move in new ways with much more ease” “I feel we have to fundamentally change and deepen our experience of life. There is one danger inherent in the gift economy in a country such as the UK, and that is that it can feel like a game, simply because most of us do still have a choice. We would have to give up everything to participate in it for real, and we are not there yet. That is one of the many reasons why I gave up money - I wanted to experience being human in a different way. Still, play has always been used as a means of preparing ourselves for life as an adult. And now we stand at the verge of adulthood, with our initiation ceremony at hand.” We are given freedom of speech but not of action The Manifesto analyses the cultural mindset behind banking and property, as well as the invisible social forces that keep us locked in conformity, such as our beliefs about success and scarcity. Is it important that ideas precede action? “Behind every action there is a philosophy. Our hands are moved
by the outdated worldviews of philosophers – Descartes, Newton, Smith. So first we must change our philosophies. Unless you understand why it’s important to grow your own soap, to use a compost toilet, to share unconditionally, why on Earth would you bother to enact all the resulting practicalities, which can appear undesirable? Once we see the world in a way we haven’t before, our hands will begin to move in new ways with much more ease.” Disengaging from a corporatecontrolled world however is hard, no matter how clearly we see. Boyle’s “POP” (Progression of Principles) model shows how we can downshift in stages to reduce our dependency. What inspired him to take the most radical route? “There was a moment when I realised that all these symptoms - fracking, the massacring of the oceans, sweatshop labour, mass species extinction, erosion of topsoil, homogenisation of culture – stemmed from a single root cause: our perceived sense of separation from Nature. That instead of being participants in life, we have become consumers of it. “The most potent disconnecting tool we possess is money. Most of us now don’t even have an awareness of the most basic of realities: that our lives actually depend on the biosphere we are part of - the streams, woods, fungi, the humble earthworm. “We no longer have an authentic relationship with the land. We defend supermarkets and industrial infrastructure and technology, because we believe that we depend on technology, not on trees, soil and water. We no longer see where our food comes from, and marketing
departments are given big budgets to make sure we don’t. “ What did he feel was a key action for 2013? “It’s critical that we choose the seeds we want to plant for our future carefully, as it is these which will germinate once the conditions are right. And they will be right, as hard as it is for us to see in these dark nights. We need to question everything we think we know about the world. Otherwise history will repeat itself. “Let us listen to our ancestors when we choose these seeds.” Charlotte Du Cann is Editor-in-Chief of the Transition Free Press and the author of 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth (Two Ravens Press) www.charlotteducann.blogspot.com
The Moneyless Manifesto is published by Permaculture Publications. Save 25% and pay just £11.20 p&p free (UK only, normal price £14.95) when you buy from www.green-shopping.co.uk or phone 01730 823 311. Or read for FREE at: www.moneylessmanifesto.org
Stories set to storm the shelves by Rob Hopkins As I write this, I am days away from completing the new Transition book, a process which has been pretty all-consuming but very enjoyable. It looks like it will be called The Power of Just Doing Stuff: inspiration from the Transition movement. The best part of creating it has been speaking to people around the world doing incredible things with their Transition groups. It is their stories that really bring it alive. You could think of 2011’s The Transition Companion as being like a Lonely Planet guide to a distant land, with everything you need to know about being there and how it all works. This new book is more reminiscent of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s famous saying: “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them
to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” This book tries to teach people to long for the endless immensity of the sea. There are stories from Spain, Portugal, Canada, the US, Argentina, Italy, Japan, France and Australia. Here’s how it starts: “Have you ever heard about a community energy project happening near you and wondered what it’s all about? Or seen stories on TV about cities launching their own currencies and been intrigued by what they’re up to? Or seen ‘pop-up’ shops open on your High Street and wondered why anyone would want to do such a thing? Perhaps you’ve noticed more people or schools around you starting foodgrowing projects? Or perhaps you’ve simply wondered if there might be a better way of doing things than how they’re done today? “This book is an open invitation to take some time and explore a
new approach to how we might imagine our economy working, how we create employment and wealth, and how we live with and work alongside the communities we live in. It will present you with a new Big Idea for where we move forward to from here. “You will hear from creative and imaginative souls who have already set out onto uncharted waters, and their stories of enjoyment, trepidation and the sheer ‘hairs-on-the-back-of-theneck’ thrill of the whole thing. You’ll find they’re not all that different from you. “I want to give you a sense of what preparing for such a journey would look like. I hope that it proves sufficiently inspiring that in later years you might look at the moment when you picked up this book as having been one of the seminal moments in your life, beyond which you never looked at things in the same way again.” Agamemnon Otero from the
One of Transition Lancaster’s Fruity Corners by Rob Hopkins from his new book wonderful Brixton Energy told me, in one of the interviews for the book: “Energy, solar panels or whatever, are just a way to get there. We’re not wedded to solar panels, or Combined Heat and Power, or whatever. We’re wedded to well-being.” That’s the spirit that I hope will shine through its pages. It should be out on 16th May 2013. I have also got my pens out and done a few drawings for it too (such as the one of the Lancaster Fruity Corners here). I hope it will
prove to be the tool to help take Transition to the next level. Rob Hopkins is one of the co-founders of Transition Town Totnes and Transition Network, and author of The Transition Handbook and The Transition Companion (both Green Books). He spends an unhealthy amount of time thinking about all things Transition, he blogs at www. transitionculture.org, likes walking on Dartmoor and slug-wrestling in his garden.
Creating a stir in print
Digging for victory on-line
by Mark Watson
by Matt Carding-Woods and Simeon Jackson
STIR: Volume One - from Anger to Analysis to Action. Together.
Video games have received a great deal of bad press recently and many a violent crime has been blamed on the influence of games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. These popular games account for the lion’s share of TV and print advertising used by the industry, further cementing the idea that “all games are violent”. But if you know where to look, positive ideas are already being taught through the medium of games. Minecraft, developed by small Swedish company Mojang, is described as “a game about placing blocks to build anything you can imagine,” but it’s a little more complex than Lego gone digital. Seen through the eyes of your avatar, you start in a world almost devoid of manmade structures. You can then explore this world gathering resources to be crafted into the tools and constructions you need to survive. You must grow vegetables for food or hunt for wild pigs and cows which you can capture and breed. As the sun goes down, monsters emerge. Swords and bows, though present within the game, are rarely a viable option for keeping them at bay. It would take too much of your precious time to kill them, and it makes much more sense to provide yourself with shelter from them (a house, for example). To survive in Minecraft’s sprawling, randomly generated worlds you must learn to take care of your resources, whether hunted, gathered, farmed or mined. You will learn as you play that rare but useful resources such as diamonds (used to manufacture the toughest tools) must be conserved and only used when necessary, as replacing broken diamond tools is rarely easy. Although you can play on your own personal world, Minecraft is best played with others on an online server. There, you can show off your designs and constructions, all of which are made using the resources gathered from the world. But playing with others offers an additional challenge - the allocation of the world’s resources. On some servers (like ours), all the resources are shared, trusting that our players will be responsible with valuable items. Other servers have strict bartering systems so that items that are in short supply don’t get overused. Minecraft, and the increasing number of games it has inspired (see Castle Story and Terraria), have a great deal to teach us about the finite nature of the world around us. Unless we find a way to conserve resources and use them responsibly, we may find ourselves cowering in the dark with the monsters scratching at our doors. Simeon Jackson, a member of Transition Norwich, and Matt Carding-Woods, who has been playing video games since before they were cool, are behind the new blog gamingforgood. wordpress.com. 13
The moment STIR: Volume One arrived in the post and I saw its handsome graphic cover I was hooked. This crowdfunded book in A4 format comprises a selection of 13 in-depth articles and interviews from the first years of alternative online magazine STIR. Produced and edited by Jonny Gordon-Farleigh and Abby McFlynn and licensed under Creative Commons, STIR aims to promote ‘the inspiring and innovative community-orientated alternatives to the financial crisis, climate chaos and other contemporary challenges.” The content reflects a typically wide-ranging response to the times of transition. Whether you’re reading about the struggle between copyright and the internet, the establishment of a local food store in Exeter, or horizontal decision making in the US Occupy movement, this is a publication that reports with intelligence and immediacy on a reality that is often ignored by monocultural mainstream media. Recurrent themes are the commons, new means of exchange and reclaiming sovereignty over our food supply. Read David Boyle of the New Economics Foundation as he does some serious mythbusting about the gold standard in Money and Wealth. Be galvanised by author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing, Raj Patel, as he exhorts us all “to demand the world that we think we can live in and not the world that the food industry can accommodate itself to.” Find out about OrganicLea, an established urban food project and worker’s co-operative, where Claire Joy and Naomi Glass talk about their ‘transition from hobby radicals to professional radicals’, producing local food, providing jobs and maintaining their commitment to good human relationships. In a world of ecological, economic and social crises and the failure of governments and corporations to respond adequately, STIR asks, ‘What happens next?’ and then reports on the low profile, grassroots activity that is present everywhere. The answer is that it’s already happening if you know where to look. When you pick up publications like STIR: Volume One or Transition Free Press, you hold in your hands communications from a co-operative future that is already taking shape. One we just might want to be part of. The next edition of STIR will be published in April. www.stirtoaction.com Mark Watson is the present chair of Sustainable Bungay (Suffolk), the distribution manager for the Transition Free Press and a founder Social Reporter. He also tweets as @markinflowers.
talkback Reclaiming our
by Shaun Chamberlin Land, and the new armies marching to claim it, in the UK and around the world Land is a place to live, a source of food, of water, of fuel, and of sustenance of almost every kind. And its management has profound impacts on our ecosystems and environment. So it matters deeply that while UK supermarkets and housing estates find planning permission easy to come by, those who wish to access land to explore truly sustainable living are blocked and frustrated at every turn. It is this sorry state of affairs that has given birth to the “Reclaim the Fields” movement and activist groups like Grow Heathrow and the Diggers 2012. Inspired by the example of Gerrard Winstanley’s 17th century Diggers, these peaceful, practical radicals have moved onto disused UK land in order to cultivate it, build dwellings and live in common “by the sweat of our brow”. In other words, they have asserted their right to simply exist on nature’s bounty, seeking neither permission from anyone nor dominion over anyone, a right that they believe people should still share with the other animals. A right, indeed, that was enshrined in UK law in the 1217 Charter of the Forest. More recently, however, the strange young notion of owning exclusive rights to land has pushed back hard. Thus – as happened to their forebears – the Diggers 2012’s crops have been torn up and they themselves have been hassled, moved on and in some cases arrested. It might seem, then, that the efforts of these determined folk are being successfully repelled by ‘the system’, were it not for two crucial considerations – that they have history on their side, and that there is an enormous army surging at their backs. As we look around the world, we see them, from the likes of the 1.5m strong Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil and the vast
international peasants’ movement La Via Campesina, to the tens of thousands of Greek families deserting the cities to return to the land and the immense – and successful – land rights march across India. Meanwhile, here in the UK, I see increasing numbers of my friends disillusioned and marginalised from the mainstream economy. As the inherently unsustainable financial economy continues to unravel, the people of England are not yet reaping the desperate consequences to the extent that those of Greece or India are, but it is growing even here, and it will come heavily home to this dark heart of the financial empire soon enough. For many, ‘austerity’ is already biting hard. Naturally, in such circumstances, we seek alternatives. Yet while some might wish to follow the example of those Greek families and earn a simple, honest life “by the sweat of our brow”, they are simply not being permitted to do so. New laws are being passed absurdly criminalising squatting and trespass, forcing the police to step in on behalf of landowners. Meanwhile, planning policy
reform makes it ever easier for corporations – and harder for families – to control land, leaving the courts obliged to prosecute those who wish to work to heal disused, neglected land instead of relying on state handouts to survive the vagaries of the employment market. The glaring injustice that has mobilised mass movements in Brazil and India is becoming ever more apparent here.
“I just want to farm well. I don’t want to compete with anybody” Thus I see the tide of history at the backs of the Diggers 2012, with their direct action the vanguard of an inevitable UK movement to reclaim the land under our feet from the 1% – or rather the 0.06%, who own almost half of the UK – who would call it theirs. Yet, as with all influential movements for change in society, the activists cannot achieve much alone. Their direct action and willingness to put their bodies on the line powerfully expresses and demonstrates the
ever-swelling public pressure, but if that pressure is to lead to a better society, rather than simply widespread frustration and anger, we also need positive lifestyle examples that lawabiding citizens can follow, complemented by the slow work of developing alternative legal and organisational forms that allow land to meet the pressing needs of the people. This is why I agreed to become a director of an organisation called the Ecological Land Co-operative, which exists to overcome the two great barriers to land for those wishing to establish ecological businesses and smallholdings: soaring land prices and simple legal permission. After a seven year journey, we are now on the brink of making our first area of land available, as part of the wider movement to reclaim land from the ecologically destructive, market-driven mainstream of conventional land use. Or, if that sounds a little grand, perhaps I can borrow from one who speaks more plainly? In the words of a U.S. farmer quoted in Colin Tudge‘s So Shall We Reap: “I just want to farm well. I don’t
want to compete with anybody.” In this world of frantic capitalism, there is a radical thought if ever I heard one. It is a thought that inspires me. I feel more and more that the people the world needs most right now are not campaigners or activists, but such people who simply wish to live in relationship with a piece of land in a healing, productive and ecologically nurturing way. There is no shortage of them, and they should be able to access land without being forced into political campaigns or planning permission battles in order to do so. Perhaps this vast and diverse movement – from La Via Campesina and the Diggers 2012 to the Eco Land Co-op – in truth has but one simple aim: to safeguard the quiet dignity of that farmer, and the billions like him. Shaun Chamberlin has been involved with the Transition network since its inception, co-founding Transition Town Kingston and authoring the movement’s second book, The Transition Timeline (Green Books, 2009). An expanded version of this article, with links to further information, is available on the author’s website: www.darkoptimism.org
the art of unravelling
by Lucy Neal In Suzi Gablik’s Conversations Before the End of Time Ellen Dissanayake describes art as ‘making things special’ - marking things we care about as extraordinary and important.
It sounds simple, but creative attention can have dramatic effects, especially when tracing or revealing what’s already there - or just beneath the surface. In the book, The Oil Road, Platform artists James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello ‘make special’ a line from Baku in Azerbaijan to the City of London. They trace the metrewide pipeline that delivers oil from below the Caspian seabed to the Caucasus mountains, onto ships at the port of Ceyan in Turkey, across the Mediterranean to Trieste and on to refineries of Northern Europe processing the ‘liquid fossilised ecosystems’ that fuel our daily lives. There is poetry, compassion and dedication in the way this line is traced. A Carbon Web connects the banks, governments, law firms, universities, NGOs, and cultural institutions that give the Oil Road licence to operate. A story surfaces of environmental havoc, oil companies in hock to repressive regimes, of
the carbon web
social and economic injustice. At two metres a second, a million barrels of oil a day rumble beneath the communities spread along its five thousand kilometre path. Imagine: a trillion dollars a day travelling under your farm, orchard or field. In an Azerbaijani village, while visiting families living close to the pipeline, Marriott and Minio-Paluello are nearly arrested for following the line and ‘looking around’. BP would like this ‘energy corridor’ to be ‘safe, silent, unseen’ but in a heroic act of ‘making special’ The Oil Road’s art pays attention to hidden truths. A restoration song for the biosphere is wrested from the unstable mix of power, history, politics, geology, economics and engineering. Imaginative space is made for us to join our own dots, sowing seeds of awareness about how it could be unpicked and redrawn differently. The ‘geology of elsewhere’ comes to our front door, with our own political and financial institutions integral to its flow. I imagine the constant pulsing of black crude oil beneath the ground. My finger swishes my phone and I zoom in on Sumqayit, one of the world’s most polluted landscapes, north of Baku. I’m awakened, complicit, connected. It’s become
clear: our current energy realities need dismantling and replacing with alternative energy futures. The book’s last words sound clear as a bell. A tanker on its way to us is ‘a climate bomb, partly commissioned by our city. We can defuse her.’ The Oil Road becomes a ‘how to’ manual of how this could be done. A story of revealing but also of restoring, returning, recovering. From Baku to Bell Lane Creek Platform combine art, activism, research and education, and have traced lines closer to home to re-imagine the renewal of rivers and our city. Down Bell Lane Creek I find what I’m looking for: a tidal bell hung high on a sluice gate where the River Wandle meets the Thames. The cold bites into my hand as I remove my glove to take a picture of this part of Platform’s 20 year old Delta project, part of their initiative to reveal London’s hidden rivers, which led to the creation of RENUE - a bold plan to install renewable energy systems in Wandsworth and Merton. The inscription ‘Salmon, Swan, Otter, Heron, Eel’ honours wildlife found there once and that might be found again. Once devoid of oxygen, the Thames has come back to life. The River
Wandle, once polluted and rubbish-strewn is better loved. It has a festival, a trail, wild life returning, and at Merton Abbey Mills, an Archimedes Screw. I want to ring the bell and say: ‘Making Special. Pay Attention.’ ‘The river is a metaphor of what can be done and a reminder that things can change...we can retreat from our untenable position in the war against the biosphere... we can retreat from the Carbon Web and enable a different future for this city’. We can retreat, we can recover. Platform’s James Marriott and Emma Hughes will visit Tooting on Feb 5th hosted by Transition Town Tooting, Friends of The Earth and Wandsworth Environment Forum. Lucy Neal is the author of Playing For Time, a collaborative handbook of transitional arts practice that charts the imaginative and creative response to the challenges we face. If your initiative or community has made space for imagining a different story, drawn attention to something hidden or encouraged collective creativity, we would love to hear from you firstname.lastname@example.org
WRITING IN TRANSITION
Tales of Our Times: Chapter one In 2010 Steph Bradley of Transition Town Totnes took six months unpaid leave from her job at Transition Network to walk 2000 miles in a pair of red flip flops around England’s Transition initiatives, collecting and sharing transition tales. Here we serialise her folktale of that walk, the book of which you can order from www.storyweaving.co.uk, or support by downloading the new chapters as they are written. The tales are also being serialised on SoundArt Radio www.soundartradio.org.uk. Once, in a time that was, and was not, a time of transition, there was a town that was not too big, and not too small, with a river running through it, and a steep, steep high street, with a castle on the top. Now came to the town a man they knew as Rob of the Great Renown, with a tale to tell, and ‘twas a tale that not many understood, at first. ‘Twas a tale of something called Peak Oil. “Peak what?” asked the people, perplexed. “Is it a mountain? For they have peaks.” “No, ‘tisn’t about a mountain.” And the people in the Peak District asked, “What have they done?” for Peak Oil was
their local oil distributor. The people didn’t know what Rob of the Great Renown was talking about, but Rob knew his tale was an important one and continued to tell it whenever he could: at the school gates as he waited for his children, in the local tavern over a jar or two, where he met the Great Blessed Farmer, and little by little the tale became known. But what was this tale they were so keen to share? Well, it seemed to have something to do with the thing called Climate Change, and at first the people struggled to understand what any of this had to do with them, but, little by little, they began to realise that something was amiss. The oil that they had become accustomed to for fuelling their cars and making the electricity they used to heat their homes and cooking would not last forever. “What is to be done?” they asked. “Well,” smiled Rob, of the Great Renown, “we are going to have a lot of fun.” “Fun?!” exclaimed the people. “Indeed” replied Rob, and proceeded to tell the new story: that when people understand how it is that their place is related to adjoining places, and when lots of people work together, a lot of fun is to be had, and that suddenly there is enough to go round. Well, that got people thinking. And the more they thought the more ideas they had,
and the more ideas they had the more they did, and the more they did the more fun they had, and the more fun they had the more people joined in, and the more people joined in the more ideas they had... Pretty soon people in the town that was not too big and not too small had mapped each and every farm, smallholding, shop and cafe that grew, produced and sold local food, the Great Garden Share had been born and those who had no land could grow food on the land of those who had no time to grow, and people began to try out growing leeks in their front gardens, and spuds in the rockery, and it was fun. The Heart & Soul group got busy, quarrelling at first, till they found their purpose: to support others by listening; enabling healthy relationships by supporting individuals to do what they truly love best of all. Meanwhile the Transport group were busily ensuring the cycle paths didn’t run out just at the point where the road got busy, the Energy group disappeared into a little huddle to emerge at a later point in this tale, the Housing group started to look at what cheap affordable housing for all really meant, and the Totnes Pound was born. Is it really allowed, they wondered, to have again, as once we had, our very own local currency? In slightly wary fashion, three hundred notes were created and given out, and their
descendants thrive to this very day. The fun had begun. And so it was that life in the town that was not too big and not too small began to feel interesting and interested, perhaps in a way it had not felt for quite some time. To be continued... Abridged excerpt from the prologue to Tales of Our Times by Steph Bradley 2012
Steph in her well-walked red flip flops Photo by Simon Brandon
a r t s
The fight against
On 30th September 1881 the Daily Telegraph reported on the world’s first public electricity supply, powered by the wheel at Mr Pullman’s leather mill on the River Wey.
© all photographs by Katheryn Trenshaw www.inyourownskin.org
Finding truth can be more than skin deep With a camera and body paint in hand, artist and photographer Katheryn Trenshaw approached over a hundred and fifty people and asked them: What is true of you but not obvious to strangers?
Participants chose a word (or phrase) that revealed something about themselves yet was unknown to most others. Trenshaw collected portraits of subjects from more than thirty countries and all walks of life. Each of their photographs reveals a living story. “If we want to be resilient and deal with the difficulties that will arise as we lose our supply of oil, we need each other and we need dynamic resilient communities. “I wanted to know what makes people happy and what keeps people strong in challenging times. In other words, I am a kind of hidden treasure hunter researching resilience and how creativity and inner transition work can play a role in this transition.” One of her influences came from a meeting with eco-philosopher Joanna Macy at a conference in San Francisco: “I was deeply moved by a shared passion for helping people transform despair and apathy, in 16 the face of overwhelming
social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action.” Her In Your Own Skin project is a creative innovative response to climate change and helps to create a strong vibrant healthy community; the kind on which Transition initiatives are based. It also aims to create a bridge for people on the edge of our communities to engage with Transition who might otherwise not do so. The artist had an epiphany a few years ago during which she realised that the greatest treasures we hold are buried deep in each of us. “All of us have something to hide, something we wish nobody would find out. If we can share these things in a safe way we are often surprised by the beauty that lies in the very thing we have been hiding. “Everybody has a story. We also all hold powerful gifts that will be ever more important to share. This vein of gold hidden inside is true in all of us. Collectively this marks the difference between being able to thrive in these transition times and our demise.” Katheryn Trenshaw is an American born artist and expressive arts teacher. She is the founder and the director of Passionate Presence Centre for Creative Expression and helps run the Transition Town Totnes Arts Network (TTTAN). www.passionatepresence.org
‘We shall not want the stoker and the collier so much if only the example set by the good people of Godalming be followed. The waterfalls, mill heads and rivers will quietly be making all our electricity by day and we shall be consuming it as easily at night, or the winds and tides will be made to labour for us. Nature in all her varied moods will be called in to help us fight against the dark, and we shall be able eventually to turn night into day by the bright lamps which Nature herself kindles for us.’ This was a story we wanted to tell in Godalming Museum and we were fortunate to get the support of the Happy Museum Project to do this. The Project encourages museums to explore how they can contribute to environmental and social sustainability. Our project partner was the London Cinema Museum, also working on building stronger connections in their local community. The other ‘Happy Museums’ were the Lightbox in Woking, the London Transport Museum, Manchester Museum and the new Story Museum in Oxford with a range of projects to engage mental health service users, homeless people and families with young children, as well as to embed resilience and sustainability into museum planning and operation. At Godalming we aim to create a display linking local heritage and present day thought and action, and to find ways for the museum itself to be more sustainable, and are working closely with other local organisations and individuals to achieve this. Allotmore, Greening Godalming, traditional woodworker Mervyn Mewis, Puttenham Eco Camping Barn, Skillway, Transition Godalming, Waverley Cycle Forum and musician Kathryn Young, among others, have been hugely generous with their time, skills, knowledge and enthusiasm, as have many of the museum’s volunteers. All this creative input has enriched the project and taken it in some surprising directions. Together we are planning a display which asks the visitor questions: Where does your power come from? What do you use it for? Where does your food come from? How has this changed over time? Perhaps inevitably, the museum has started to ask itself some questions too. I never would have thought of putting a display label beside the gallery heater, or the light switch, but this gives us an opportunity not just to explain what we are doing now, but to explore how the building has been heated and lit over six centuries. The process of creating the display - the friendships the museum is building, the new ideas it is taking on board, the opportunities for training and work shadowing, have become as important as the end result. Knowing the complex story of ‘the fight against the dark’, which has absorbed human ingenuity and effort since the Palaeolithic era, will also help us find a solution to the central challenge of our times: powerdown. Alison Pattison is the Curator of Godalming Museum, a small community museum run in partnership by Godalming Museum Trust and Waverley Borough Council. The new display will be open in March.
The Pullman family posed outside the Goldalming mill on the Wey Photo courtesy of Godalming Museum Collection
c o m m u n i t y Project
s h a r engine ing
by Ed Mitchell
Waiting, Shifting, Shoppers pop-up choreography at Magdalen Street Celebration 2012 Photo by Kayla St.Claire
Dancing in the street by Chris Hull
Celebration has always been a key ingredient to transition work. So has collaboration. Both are very much in evidence in a now established street festival in Magdalen Street, Norwich, the creation of a Transition neighbourhood group.
Many people and organisations from contrasting backgrounds come together to celebrate the wonderful streets in the North of the City, an area which has been neglected over decades. With its themes of creativity, sustainability, and diversity, the festival – now in its fourth year is widely regarded as the biggest and most diverse in activity of all the city’s street festivals. The event brings together local residents, businesses, historians, artists, performers and musicians. It includes history tours, exhibitions, a Memories Cafe, dolls’ hospital, storytelling, and fashion shows. There is a range of live music to suit all tastes - classical, folk, Americana, blues,
klezmer, electronica - including a stage provided by the local youth radio station, and a series of popup performances worked out by a local dance choreographer on the theme of interacting shoppers.
“There are no warring factions... All this in what is described in official language as a ‘deprived area’” All these very different organisations work together in a harmonious way. There are no warring factions: the artists are not competing with the historians or the political parties; the businesses are contributing a lot more than their shop premises on the day. All this in what is described in official language as a ‘deprived area’. There is something about not seeing talent and skill in deprived areas - ones that because of labelling get ignored and are assumed to be too challenging
to work in. Often however, it is about appreciating what is already there, and what people are already doing: opening a few doors, facilitating a few contacts, creating a space. It is about recognising and celebrating a resilient community in an area of Norwich that has been so neglected over the decades it produces its own representative candidate in local elections! And yet it has its own creative quarter and has spawned enough vintage and retro shops to be locally known as the ‘Portobello of Norwich’, with not a single chain or supermarket in sight. Magdalen Street has not only weathered neglect by the planners, it has thrived through the years of recession and exists as a shining example of localism and resilience. Chris Hull is a founder member of Transition Norwich, a former Green Party County Councillor, and works in the field of post-adoption support. He also rode the Cycling Tour of Britain East Anglia stage in 2012 and lived.
Does your local project need some ideas and expertise? Need to know how other groups have organised composting or bulk-buy solar-panel schemes, started up a CSA or community garden? Ed Mitchell explains why the Transition online projects directory is the place to come.
The Transition Network website contains all the useful information from Transition initiatives (TIs), projects, ingredients, and stories that describe ‘Transition’. Most of it it has been added by Transitioners themselves, co-creating a shared pool of experience and activity. A vital part of this sharing is the projects directory. People add projects to promote their work, attract new people or money, or offer what they have learned, and there are about 300 at present stored on the site. Although the Network site hosts the movement’s information centrally (so it is safe, reliable and up to date) the frontline communications are the hundreds of websites run by the Transition initiatives themselves. Recently the Transition Network web team has been working out how to easily and safely share information from their central directories onto the Transition initiatives’ websites. Our first step into this experiment is called the ‘Project Sharing Engine’ (PSE).
It is a very simple ‘widget’ that shows where the nearest projects are to any initiative and it can be copied on to any TI website. The widget knows where that TI is, so visitors to that TI website can browse local projects without visiting the Transition Network website (in which the information actually resides).
“It is a very simple ‘widget’ that shows where the nearest projects are to any initiative and it can be copied on to any TI website’” Visitors can also add their own community projects through the widget in three quick steps, building awareness for their enterprise and making the TI website into an even more useful local communications tool. This work has been funded by the Nominet Trust and we are grateful to them and to the Transition webmasters who have been helping get the Engine up and running. Read more about the projects directory and the Project Sharing Engine widget www. transitionnetwork.org/pse Ed Mitchell is the web manager for Transition Network. Based in Bristol, he likes log piles, bikes and compost.
Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham The Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham shows how volunteers, community and social enterprise are changing relationships in a modern world. It tells stories about the city’s ‘Militant Optimists’: people doing things because they care, sometimes against the odds and often with little formal support. People like the Friends of Cotteridge Park, a group who saved their local park from decommissioning and went on to make it bigger and better and who say that “having fun is what makes it work”. People like Birgit Kehler of Change Kitchen, Eleanor Hoad and Nigel Baker of Urban Harvest, Tom Baker of the community bakery, Loaf, and other up-and-coming social innovators. “The aim of the book is to highlight some truly original and inspiring projects to spread ideas and encourage doing things in new ways,” explains the book’s editor, Nick Booth. “Encourage people just to try things, to experiment, to work around the system and, together with other people, make communities they want to live in.” This is the fourth in a worldwide series of collective books published by Social Spaces, a project which enables citizens and professionals to collaborate in transforming their neighbourhoods. So far the series has included Rotterdam, Hackney and The Jewish Community, alongside their prototype source book, Hand Made by Tessy Britton. The Birmingham edition was launched in January, and is free to read a chapter a time via www.communityloversguide.org/Birmingham Printed copies available to order on Blurb via http://bit.ly/CLGbrum.
Birmingham’s Saheli Women’s Group on an ice skating outing
The roots of winter
Our regular columnist Dorothea Leber digs deep to find some valuable harvests in these cold climes.
An important insight of biodynamic gardening is that the focus of the earth’s energy shifts with the seasons. During the summer it is concentrated above the ground, its vitality being expressed in the abundant growth of leaves, blossom and fruit. In the winter, however, all of this energy goes back down beneath the ground, so that the earth is actually very alive during the colder months.
It is therefore a great time to enjoy root vegetables as they are at their most nutritious, having been busy storing all their energy to grow again in spring. This is also why it is the best time to harvest roots for medicinal purposes. One such vital edible root ready for harvest during this time is the scorzonera or black salsify - a long root with black skin and a white core. Scrape off the bitter black skin to reveal a white core that tastes sweet when harvested in winter. Despite its unexciting appearance, it is delicious steamed and eaten with seasoning, butter or oil. In summer, it grows tall yellow flowers, with a wonderful sweet scent not unlike chocolate! Another fine example of winter fare is the black Spanish winter radish. This is a very hardy plant that is again black on the outside and white on the inside. These radishes express their strength in their strong flavour, though they aren’t particularly hot. They are a great thing to eat at this time of the year with so many colds and coughs doing the rounds, as they are very good mucus dissolvers. Try them grated in salads or soups to keep the lurgy at bay. In our school garden, we are lucky enough to have large, unheated greenhouses that allow us to grow salad-greens all year round. They don’t provide much growth in January but they pick up again as the days lengthen and the climate warms. One wonderful salad is the sugar-loaf, a hardy chicory that is a good source of fresh leaves. We heeled the sugar-loaf into the coldframes in December and covered it well with straw to keep it well protected through to February. In March we are looking forward to the arrival of the leeks, kohlrabi and parsley, not least because they bring with them the welcome beginning of spring. Dorothea Leber is the head gardener at the Michael Hall Steiner School in Forest Row, East Sussex. She tends the 2 1/2 acre biodynamic walled garden, selling produce to staff and families at the school, as well as to local greengrocers. Biodynamic horticulture is an organic method of food production developed in the early 1900s. It works by creating a holistic, self-sustaining system by nurturing the interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals that comprise it.
Dorothea’s garden at Michael Hall Steiner School, Forest Row
Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden is a local food history project in Liverpool, inspired by the Transition idea of looking to the past to help generate visions of a sustainable future. Using oral history interviews, old map research and visits to local archives they have found a wealth of former local food sites, including vegetable gardens, small local dairies, orchards, favourite local foraging spots and, (pictured here) Holden’s Noted Potato Hut on Great Homer Street, Everton. What was Mr Seel’s garden is now a supermarket site. For more info visit www.mrseelsgarden.org Photo (c) Sam Perry
Edible growth Hannah Roberson explores the implications of change and expansion in a community food project in Finsbury Park, North London
Edible Landscapes London (ELL) is a thriving foodgrowing project that finds itself at the centre of challenges facing voluntary organisations today.
As one of the pilot enterprises in the Transition Network’s REconomy initiative, ELL is part of a movement pioneering new ways of living, and working to build a relocalised economy that values both social justice and the environment. At the same time, ELL is one of a consortium of local partners that has recently been awarded £1 million from the Big Lottery Fund. The challenge we now face, therefore, is to find ways of putting this award to the best possible use, whilst maintaining the integrity and ethos of the project. There is of course much more to cultivating a community food project than successful mulching. ELL, an offshoot of Transition Finsbury Park, has been operating for over two years on an area of public land in the corner of the park. It grew from the recognition that there was a need for locally propagated edible plants in the area. By training local people in growing skills whilst also giving or selling these plants to nearby
growing projects, ELL could work to benefit both the local economy and local food networks. From the outset, we chose to focus on perennial plants, being more resilient, cost effective, and low-maintenance than annuals. Growing perennials also helps to maintain the integrity of the soil, as it isn’t disturbed in the
“This... has challenged us to live according to our values of fairness and transparency” cultivation process. As part of the training we offer, we work to share the advantages of perennial gardening with local people, introducing them to the diverse and delicious variety of perennial plants available, from walking onions to Siberian pea trees, hops to mulberries. We also teach people how to recognise and identify edible plants and how to prepare or cook them, as well as providing the opportunity to enjoy the site’s bounty with fellow volunteers and trainees. ELL’s portion of the Lottery funding is to be used for accredited training, where qualified tutors will be paid to deliver courses that lead to students earning a formal
qualification. The introduction of substantial amounts of money and accredited courses into an entirely volunteer-run project has, however, inspired conversations that go to the heart of what ELL does, why we do it, and what motivates volunteers to dedicate their time and energy to the project. Opinions are varied amongst the project’s volunteers. Some welcome the possibility of accredited training and paid positions. They point out that in the current economy, with so many (and particularly the young) being unemployed, providing local people with the opportunity to build skills is a valuable community service. Others maintain that an injection of finance could create an imbalance between volunteers and paid staff, and introduce unwanted tensions amongst those of us that run the project. It has also been felt that accreditation could divert resources away from the project and into bureaucracy and administration, and that it might even undermine the value of the non-accredited courses we offer. We have found that holding ongoing discussions about these and other concerns is the most productive way of allowing each of us to have the chance to voice our
opinion. One decision that we have recently made is to publish our accounts online and to advertise all paid positions publicly. This feels like an important step towards preserving the project’s openness and accessibility. The dynamic of the project will inevitably change with the Lottery funding and the accredited training, as will our relationships with other organisations. It offers an exciting opportunity to engage with accreditation bodies, donors and local government in order to reach more people and contribute to building an invigorated local economy. This process has, however, challenged us to live according to our values of fairness and transparency, and has highlighted the importance of maintaining strong relationships and clear communication within the ELL team. As we move further down this path, we are aware it will be a much more complex, delicate process than it was at the outset when funds were scarce, the project was small-scale and the workforce entirely voluntary. But we remain hopeful that we can continue to inspire a love of perennial edible growing, whilst finding new ways of bringing Transition values into the wider world. Hannah Roberson has been involved with food-growing projects with Transition Finsbury Park for several years. She is a regular volunteer at ELL, and her work at the project also forms part of her PhD research into community gardening in London.
Dunbar Community Bakery creates and sells artisan bread, patisseries and savouries on Dunbar high street. It is a community owned co-operative with over 570 members and eight employed staff including several young trainee bakers. Now an independent social enterprise, it was initiated by the Transition group and a community development trust, Sustaining Dunbar, in 2008. Philip Revell, a founding member, shares their story.
community share offer. Our team is headed by Ross Baxter, who comes from a family of bakers and who learnt about the art of baking at his uncle’s knee. Not only can he produce superlative artisan bread, but he has also worked with Michelin starred chefs and was Scotland’s Patissier of the Year in 2011.
How did the Bakery grow from an idea to a successful business? The idea was sown in early 2008 when Sustaining Dunbar got to hear about the forthcoming closure of the town’s existing family bakery. The Dunbar Bakery was launched as a community owned co-operative in July 2009 and finally opened in October 2011. The Bakery aims to bake and sell real handmade bread without additives from scratch, to provide local employment and training, and to attract people to our high street. We only use natural yeasts and good quality ingredients, and we value traditional recipes as much as we enjoy adding new discoveries to our repertoire. The Bakery is registered with the FSA as an Industrial and Provident Society and owned by its shareholders, who elect a volunteer management committee that oversees and supports the employed staff. We chose this model because we wanted to gauge the level of local support and because we wanted to raise finance by means of a
Where did you gain inspiration and advice for setting up the Bakery? The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire, The Real Bread Campaign run by the organisation Sustain, and Andrew Whitley’s work have all been great sources of inspiration to us. We also benefited from helpful advice from Co-ops UK, Co-operative Development Scotland, and the Development Trust Association, Scotland.
How did you raise funds? This was done through a combination of sources: a community share offer, private loans, bank loans and an EU Leader grant available to social enterprises. Many hours of volunteer work have also helped to resource the initiative.
In what ways does the Bakery help to support the local community? The main purpose of the project was to be able to meet local needs from local resources, to help to regenerate the high street and to provide local employment. Our vision for the Bakery over the next five years is for it to be a profitable business reinvesting in local food projects,usinglocallygrownandmilled flours, and providing employment and artisan-skills training as part of a thriving high street.
Dunbar Bakery’s Pavel Broz (the savoury chef), Ross Baxter (manager and head patissier), and Nathalie Helen (night baker). Photo by Phillip Revell
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)
As spring arrives so do the wild leaves on our tables - nettles, bistort, wild garlic, alexanders. In the first of a series on foraging plants, Josiah Meldrum has a rethink about the humble dandelion.
As a child I remember how Swiss family friends would put flowerpots on all the dandelion plants in the garden at the beginning of their Easter stay. Before they left there would be a feast of the blanched leaves. How strange, they would say, that you make no use of this wonderful free food. They were right – it really is time we rediscovered the dandelion in Britain. It’s easy to identify and collect, plentiful, and all parts of the plant – from root to flower bud – are edible and delicious. Centuries ago it was a staple, with the roots used to flavour beers and puddings, the leaves and flowers added to salads, stir fries, soups and stews, and the flower buds pickled like capers. In much of the rest of the world this is still the case and in the US and much of Europe varieties of dandelion are grown commercially in order to meet demand. High in iron, vitamin A, calcium and potassium, dandelions are packed with vim and, as we’ve often been reminded at Sustainable Bungay’s Plants for Life walks and talks, a great medicine. Brewed into beer with burdock roots they often appear as another kind of medicine at Happy Mondays, our monthly community meal. I feel a particular affinity for the overlooked dandelion because for the last year I’ve spent a lot of time working with another food that has been largely forgotten in Britain, the fava bean. It so happens that steamed and sautéed dandelion leaves are perfect in southern Italian-style bitter greens, fava bean and potato mash. Also in season and good to eat: primrose flowers (Primula vulgaris), pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris), sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella), young larch needles (Larix decidua), cleavers (Galium aparine), jack by the hedge (Allaria petiolata), young hawthorn leaves (Crategus monogyna) Josiah Meldrum is co-founder of Sustainable Bungay and a director of East Anglia Food Link (EAFL). Over the last three years EAFL has worked with Transition Norwich on a set of linked demonstration projects aimed at showing what a more resilient food system for the city might look like and how it could work.
Dunbar born and bread
w e l l - b e i n g On a glorious sunny day in May, Transition Town Tooting (TTT) held a daylong walk celebrating the places and things that contribute to our sense of well-being.
by Hilary Jennings
The walk brought together two recurrent themes of Transition Town Tooting: a ‘mobile’ approach to making local connections and a focus on community well-being. Tooting stretches between and beyond two tube stations and along a major arterial road used by 10 million cars each year. Although the area has numerous spaces for education, faith, sports and other activities, there is no central communal shared space. We have numerous halls but no Town Hall, indoor markets but no Market Square, much green space but little centrally that is openly accessible. In the absence of a clear, shared ‘public space’, we have developed an often mobile approach to our activities. An early experiment was the Tooting Earth Talk Walk which visited seven places of worship, where a faith leader spoke, followed by a representative of TTT. Much common ground emerged between Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu teachings about human beings’ care for the earth, while TTT representatives spoke of their hopes and fears for the future. At the same time in Tooting we have been seeking ways to introduce people to ideas of well-being as a way to build local
Well-walked feet cooling in the waters of Tooting Lido on the Treasuring Tooting route. Photo by Charles Whitehead
Lost in Transition? No problema! The Transition Agony Collective is here to help... Are you stuck? Overwhelmed? Bewildered? Your transition initiative is too big, too small, too cliquey, doesn’t exist? You can’t find enough people interested to get a group going? You’ve got a group going but the same people turn up every time and you’re all rather weary of talking about ‘outreach’ at meetings which used to be monthly, but are now fast becoming quarterly? Does any of this sound familiar? You REALLY get the whole Peak Everything, economic downturn, business-as-usual-just-isn’t-working thing and the planet feels very warm to you right now. But your partner thinks there’s a techno-fix for everything and the rest of your family have just booked return flights to New Zealand. Arrrrgh! You’re too busy, too poor, too middle class, don’t feel you belong, and the nearest initiative is (a) in another country (b) half an hour away by car or (c) just down the road but fell apart in 2010 (and you were the co-founder; you’re still sore about it, actually). And your ‘normal’ friends still look at you in a weird way when you talk about skill-share and foraging for food. Are you for real?
You’d love to get into some community gardening, but you live on the thirty-third floor of a tower block or down a country lane surrounded by enormous fields sprayed with agrochemicals, your next-door neighbour is half a mile away and 70 per cent of the houses in the nearest village are second homes. If you are Lost in Transition, the TFP agony collective is here to point you in the right direction. We might not be the usual experts, but we all have several years’ experience in Transition initiatives; we’ve been through successes and failures and we know that designing an energy descent action plan takes more than a few meetings in the pub and forming an energy-saving light-bulb buying group. Though that might be a start. So whether it’s about mending a kettle or difficult group dynamics, finding people to grow food with or keeping your spirits up when Transition Anywhere Else’s initiative seems so much more happening than yours, send us your (inner and outer) transition dilemmas. You can be sure we’ll respond with practical suggestions, fellow feeling and a good sense of humour. At the very least you’ll discover you are not alone! Contact: email@example.com
resilience. Many Transition initiatives, focusing as they do on people doing something active and constructive with their neighbours, report that those involved feel happier and their communities feel more robust and more connected. In addition, research shows that “happiness and fulfillment come less from material wealth and more from relationships; less from focusing on ourselves and more from helping others; less from external factors outside our control and more from the way in which we choose to react to what happens to us”(Action for Happiness: 2012). Bringing these themes together, our walk, Treasuring Tooting, celebrated places and things that contribute to our local well-being. More than 60 people joined us as we wended our way through 12 locations from the Lido to the Library, the Bingo Hall to the Market, the Community Garden to the Islamic Centre. At each a different aspect of our happiness and well-being was experienced and celebrated – through stories, making, talking, laughing, learning, planting and giving. More details about the walk including an illustrated map, photos and short video can be found on our website at www. transitiontowntooting.org Hilary Jennings was co-chair of TTT. She works freelance in the cultural sector on wellbeing and sustainability projects including www.happymuseumproject.org and www.caseforoptimism.org.uk.
Los t in
i Transit by TAC
TRANSITION FREE PRESS OBITUARY
Adrienne Mike Grenville celebrates the life and work of one of Transition’s most passionate pioneers
Adrienne Campbell was someone who always looked difficulty in the eye. With her scientific mind, she saw clearly the direction modern industrial society was heading with climate change, peak oil, global economics etc., and could not look away. When Transition emerged in 2006, it became a main channel for her response to these challenges. Rob Hopkins described her as “one of Transition’s most passionate and dynamic proponents”. She helped found Transition Lewes and developed many of their key community projects, including the Lewes Pound, the car club and the Friday Market. At MIT in Boston she had studied Microbiology, followed by a Masters in History and Philosophy of Science at Kings College, which served as a good grounding for the passionate communicator she became. She spent time as a journalist for publications including the Economist, she had her own column in Viva Lewes and her own blog called ‘100 Monkeys’, exploring the challenges of being in transition to the world her heart told her was possible. She was also one of the founding group of Transition Social Reporters. Interestingly the first paid-for article she wrote after graduating was about fractal geometry and turbulence and how unresilient systems are prone to unpredictable effects of turbulence when one or more factors converge. Although a deep thinker, it was always important for her that thinking was backed up by doing. She co-founded the Lewes New School and learnt many practical skills such as fire lighting, studied for a Permaculture certificate, was a keen allotment gardener and woodswoman. For 20 years she was a bee guardian, gifting swarms of bees to many, contributing to the
To advertise here email Jay@transitionfreepress.org
Calling all drupal-friendly developers
front and backenders – you know who you are! The ‘Transition Technologist’ group is expanding and we’re looking for people to share the development and maintenance of Transitionnetwork.org and related web services. Rates are low but the work is paid. Email the web project for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ecological Holiday Accommodation
on the Bay of Mont St Michel Sleeps 12, public transport accessible, less than 200 road miles from London. Ideal destination for coastal walking and food foraging, near historic towns and departure point for guided walks across the bay to the Mont. (World Heritage Site) Contact: email@example.com 0033231660017. or visit www.dodgygreengeezer.com
establishment of the Natural Beekeeping Trust. For Adrienne honey was not a commodity but was sacred and only to be used as a medicine. It was a measure of her clarity and influence that, when faced with decisions, many in the Transition movement would ask themselves: “What would Adrienne do?” However to be that kind of beacon you need to be uncompromising and, like Lewes’s own revolutionary, Tom Paine, sometimes leaving a few noses askew or hackles risen. Many might be surprised that engaging so publicly was something she felt compelled, rather than attracted, to do. Asked in 2006 to speak at a Transition Forest Row launch event she revealed that “Public work is the most uncomfortable for me, yet how much can be done without that?” Discovering the Transition movement around the same time, Adrienne and I supported each other in making sense of it and establishing our nearby initiatives in Lewes and Forest Row. Together we formed the South East Transition Initiatives network, to support the emergence of Transition in the region. With that aim we travelled around speaking about Transition and organised several regional gatherings. With Adrienne’s deep connection to the natural world, the idea emerged for the annual Transition Camp in October. She once described the camp as a place that gave her some “healing to let go of the pain of bewilderment and allow myself to be Be-Wild-ered.” Together we approached a number of funding bodies to support us in growing Transition regionally. Underlying this drive for finance was Adrienne’s clear
view that healing society was something that should be worthy of respect in mainstream life and gaining finance was one way to achieve that. Although the various bids we made to get funding were unsuccessful, it would be a wonderful legacy if the fund set up in her name to help young people engaged in sustainable and nature-based enterprises would enable others to do just that. Although full details and framework are still being developed, already £3,000 has been donated. You can donate via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org or find details here: http://www.adriennecampbellfund.info. Speaking at her memorial event, her husband Dirk said: “You felt that she had some access to a deep mysterious secret but was unaware she had it. You felt that she knew what she was doing, that she had inner authority, but you could also see how vulnerable she was, how unsure of herself. She seemed to combine opposites like a hall of mirrors. She was beautiful yet awkward, elegant yet gauche, confident yet shy, strong yet delicate, robust yet refined. She balanced both female and male. Her smile radiated love and generosity.” Others commented that she not only made you feel as though you mattered, but that everything mattered. In the many spheres of life touched by her there will be many who will miss her embodiment of being the head, hands and heart of Transition. Adrienne is survived by her husband, three daughters and son. Adrienne Campbell (born Katy Bridges) born 30 July 1960, Paris died 25 Oct 2012, Lewes
marketplace marketplace marketplace Transition LAUNCH
Big Green Canoe offers tours, education and personal development around the Transition theme in the Totnes and River Dart area. Mixing outdoor adventure, inspiring site visits, practical and creative tasks, experiential activities and lots of fun, we deliver powerful learning experiences. Ideal for business away-days, university study and school field trips. email@example.com. Tel: 07977 178214 www.biggreencanoe.org
Passionate Presence Center for Creative Expression An international center without walls offering Transition-influenced training and facilitation in movement, art and personal development. Educational events, workshops, multi-media projects and consulting for individuals, groups and organizations in person and by Skype worldwide. Contact: Katheryn Trenshaw firstname.lastname@example.org www.passionatepresence.org
in Totnes, 16-17 March Weekend training with lots of practical ideas on how to set up, run and grow a Transition initiative. Also useful for people who have recently become involved in Transition and want to develop the essential skills to help their initiative become a success. Cost is £105 (bursaries available). Contact: email@example.com
Education for a sustainable and equitable world Join us for postgraduate, vocational and short course programmes in holistic science, ecological design, natural, building, sustainable horticulture and economics for Transition. 2013 short courses with Satish Kumar, Starhawk, John and Nancy Todd, Bill Plotkin and more. www.schumachercollege.org.uk
p r a c t i c a l
David Blair and his young son Angus at the family’s woodland croft house by Michaela Hunter
Woodland By Catriona Ross
Scotland’s many community woodlands could prove to be fertile ground for future sustainable settlements to thrive and grow.
Training and employment opportunities, affordable housing and local food, timber and firewood are helping breathe new life into locally owned woods. Scotland has over 200 woods
in community ownership, from small urban woodlands to vast monocultures, legacy of the late 20th century when industrial planting saw swathes of hill and glen smothered by Sitka spruce.
David Blair from Tighnabruaich in Argyll is a pioneer of woodland crofting. He used permaculture techniques to transform his land at Dunbeag into a flourishing and diverse wood, with burns generating hydroelectricity and gardens and orchards growing much of the family’s food. He chairs the Kilfinan Community Forest Company, which aims to increase local selfsufficiency through wise use of a 127-hectare wood, bought from the Forestry Commission in 2010. Many people in Scotland are keen to live sustainably, but their aspirations are often crushed by current land ownership patterns. “When people have control of land where they live, so many possibilities open up,” David said. “Since Kilfinan transferred into community ownership things have moved apace. “Trees are now being harvested. A grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and LEADER is funding a new wood processing yard, which will supply fuel and sawn timber from the forest.” As in many rural communities, housing is a critical issue in Tighnabruaich. “Houses are very expensive and most people can’t earn enough to stay,” David explained. “We’re closing that gap by developing housing within the reach of locals - hoping that will also attract young people into the village.” As well as creating crofts, the company wants to sell plots
with planning permission for energy efficient homes built from local materials. “We’re also looking at building several affordable houses to sell,” David added. “Having the yard will mean we can use our own timber, keeping work in the village, boosting local trade and helping hone invaluable skills.” The forest has become a hub for folk in and around the village, with allotments, a community orchard and space for socialising and celebration. Di Oliver of the Community Woodlands Association said the hands-on approach enabled groups to learn new skills, pass on old ones and share ideas. “Community woodlands offer great places for community space, arts, crafts, employment, training and new social enterprise as well as all the obvious outdoor and wildlife benefits.” For further information about community woodlands visit: www.kilfinancommunityforest.co.uk www.dunbeag.org.uk and www.communitywoods.org Catriona Ross is a freelance journalist and PR consultant specialising in rural and environmental affairs. Passionate about the landscape, people and culture of the Highlands, she is a core member of Transition Black Isle and contributor to the Social Reporting Project. Find her blog at www.catrionaross.co.uk.
Propaganda gardens Incredible Edible Todmorden was founded in 2008 by a group of people who felt it was time to stop blaming others for the world’s woes and start doing something about creating a kinder, more sustainable town. There are now 115 Incredible Edible towns around the world. In the first of a series on key Edible ingredients, Estelle Brown talks about sowing their first seeds.
We decided to use the universal language of food to reach out to folk and start a conversation, introducing the idea that there is a different way of thinking and of doing things. The first step was to grab the town’s attention and get them talking, so we started propaganda gardening. The concept of these gardens is easy: find a piece of unloved scruffy land, preferably somewhere very public, plant it full of lovely food for everyone to share and put signs up saying ‘Help yourself’. We soon learned lessons on what not to grow. For instance, broccoli, cabbages and salad leaves are easily recognised and it isn’t difficult to know when to pick them. The same goes for fruit like raspberries and blackcurrants: everyone can see they are ready to eat. Not so with root veg like carrots which folk unwittingly pulled before they had fully grown and, trying to do the 22 right thing, would push them back into the ground
(result: dead carrots). But we learned fast and stuck to things easily recognised. Rhubarb is a huge favourite, so we planted masses of it, and the conversation is growing day by day. We now have food-to-share beds along the canal towpath, at the railway station, outside the community college in the centre of town, at the health centre and – a special favourite – in the police station forecourt. It feels a little bit daring to go and just take some veg from the cop shop without paying. As Mary would say, “It’s naughty but nice.” The propaganda is certainly working. People can see that local food freshly picked tastes better than veg that might be days, or even weeks, old brought from hundreds of miles away by air or road, and are now ‘asking for local’ when they go shopping. Even the canal barge horse helped himself to lunch by munching some of the willow on our living beehive sculpture. But we can’t complain. After all, we do say, “It’s all there to share”. Estelle Brown is a 68 year old salad subversive living on a boat on the Rochdale Canal. A convent school survivor with no degree, just passion and a desire to make a difference, she is now a full time unpaid volunteer for Incredible Edible and feels that this is the most worthwhile work she has ever done.
Grow Heathrow, the Transition initiative and grassroots action group squatting unused land in the village of Sipson, is entirely offgrid. The group use donated wood to cook and heat their water, bicycle dynamos to power computers and have four compost toilets. They first installed four 190 Watt solar panels on the roof of their southernmost greenhouse, which gave them clean electricity whenever the sun was out. But in winter, when there is much less solar energy available, diversifying became a priority. During November 2011 they worked together in three crews (wood-working, metal-working and electricals) under the guidance of the DIY sustainable technology collective, Cambridge Greentech, to carve, weld, paint and erect their own 2.4m diameter 700 Watt turbine. www.transitionheathrow.com has more details on building a wind turbine and other workshops run by the GH community. Photo by Jonathan Goldberg www.jongoldberg.co.uk
p h y s i c a l Slow Skiing
Ever since I worked in a ski resort as a teenager I’ve always loved skiing, but when I went eco I forced myself to re-evaluate what I liked about the sport. Mountains, beautiful views, fresh air, exercise, sun, powder snow – yes. Queues, energy-intensive ski lifts, ski runs full of people, landscapes disfigured in the summer months by skiing infrastructure and carbon-busting flights to get to the Alps – no. So nowadays, when I do get the chance to go to the mountains, I walk up and ski down. It’s what I call slow skiing. But the story starts back in the UK with a reasonably low carbon train ride from London to the Alps. It’s never going to be as cheap as flying, but if you buy the tickets three months in advance,
you can keep the cost down. I like to stop off at friends in Paris on the way. That’s what I call slow travel – where the journey becomes part of the holiday. These days I tend to go to resorts that have banned fossil fuel cars, like Zermatt in Switzerland. But the joy of slow skiing is that you don’t need to go to a big resort full of cars, people and ski lifts. You can go to the smallest mountain village as long as it has snow. Slow skiing is done on fake seal skins, which are attached to the bottom of skis and which are made of material which allows you to slide forwards but not back. This means you can walk, or rather slide, up surprisingly steep hills. For comfort, the rear of your boot isn’t attached to the ski so your heel can lift up.
by Alexis Rowell After several hours of reasonably strenuous exercise disturbed by neither man nor machine, you strip off the skins, re-attach the back of your boots to the skis, and go down normally, preferably avoiding crowded runs or even runs at all. I usually manage a couple of descents a day. It’s a far cry from the hundreds of kilometres of vertical drop a day I used to force myself to rack up. It’s more beautiful, utterly “in the moment”, and much better for you and for the mountain! Another way to enjoy the mountains without causing as much damage as piste skiing is on ‘rackets’ [see photo]. These are like tennis racquets without handles. They allow you to walk in deep snow or up steep slopes, but you need to be careful not
Uphill all the way
to crush baby pines and other young plants. A few years ago I took eco skiing to an even more extreme place – I spent a week in a camp of canvas igloos perched halfway up a Swiss mountain. The pods had their own wood-burning stoves inside. Ours was delightfully warm when we arrived on the first evening
Pedals, wheels and velomobiles by Duncan Law
The motor car, the icon of the age of cheap energy, is grossly fuel inefficient. It converts only 15% of its primary energy into motion. It moves more of its own weight than the people or stuff it carries. It also gets easily stuck in traffic. It pollutes and causes injury. And it costs lots of money to own and run. If we accept that the days of the car are numbered as a key mode of personal transport in an age of energy scarcity, then what will replace it? The bike is the most efficient transport machine humankind has ever created. But, in its traditional, upright format, it has downsides: it’s exposed, it’s fairly slow, and it doesn’t have a great range. Above 20mph, 95% of your energy is used pushing yourself upright through the air. I ride a Kingcycle recumbent or lying down bike. This solves many of the problems. It’s lighter and faster because it’s more streamlined. It’s a great load carrier. It has good rear and forward vision. It’s also much more comfortable than a normal bike. It’s actually like cycling a deckchair! It has a low centre of gravity which means good handling and braking. Plus, if anything goes
wrong, there’s less far to fall, and feet come into contact first rather than head, shoulders and hands on the traditional bicycle. I tow a trailer to which I’ve attached a stepladder. This gives extra load-carrying capacity and
“It’s also much more comfortable than a normal bike. It’s actually like cycling a deckchair” means I can transport everything and anything for Transition Town Brixton events. I can take my recumbent bike on trains and many coaches so it’s an ‘integrated transport solution’. It also hangs from the ceiling in my hallway so it takes up no floor space. If you put a shell around a recumbent bike, add a wheel or two, and sometimes an electric motor, then you get a velomobile, which often has the appearance of a fighter plane without wings. It’s usually a one person solution although a 12 kg, two person velomobile has been produced, which is lighter than most bikes. The most common format is what
is known as the tadpole trike, one drive wheel at the back, two steering wheels at the front, the driver lying between. They are normally the optimal ‘teardrop’ shape, rounded at the front to accommodate the rotating pedals and legs and narrowing down to point around the single rear wheel. They are low and lean, with up to 30 times less air resistance than a normal bike. Velomobiles are weatherproof, though they can be a bit too
warm in the summer; they offer some crash protection; and they can carry some luggage inside the hull. They’re basically recumbent bikes, so they’re comfortable, handle superbly and, once they get going, they’re fast. The disadvantages are that they take a while to get going, they’re mostly solo vehicles, they’re hard work going uphill – which is probably why they’re
and so we went to bed without putting more logs in the wood burner. Big mistake! We woke up at 5am with the temperature well below zero. Half-asleep and freezing cold I was obliged to make a fire from first principles. A copy of The Economist made an excellent fire lighter. Far better than reading it!
A velomobile or HPV (Human Powered Vehicle) more popular in the Netherlands than in the UK – and you can’t hang them in your hallway. So they’re not yet a solution for everyone or for every day. But they are a wonderful beginning of the development of appropriate transport technology for a relocalised, energy-constrained world. Duncan Law is a co-founder of Transition Town Brixton.
Less far to fall: recumbent bikes in Edinburgh. Photo courtesy of David at laid-back-bikes.co.uk
s p o r t
Who needs Wayne Rooney? FC Utd of Manchester fans cheer another value for money goal. Photo by Matthew Wilkinson by Jonny Gordon-Farleigh
Co-operatives UK, which campaigns for businesses to become co-operatives, recently asked football fans how they thought their clubs should be run. An astonishing 83% of Manchester United fans and 72% of Liverpool fans felt their clubs would be in better hands if they were owned co-operatively, that is by supporters themselves. Most British football clubs are currently owned by private interests, with wealthy owners plugging funding holes with their own cash. This unsustainable business model comes with significant financial risks attached, as fans of Rangers, Portsmouth and Leeds will tell you.
In 2005, Manchester United went through a controversial debtled takeover by US businessman, Malcolm Glazer. There were protest marches outside Old Trafford; anti-Glazer chants at games; and a boycott of the club’s megastore: all to no avail. So one group of disgruntled supporters took matters into their own hands and created a supporterowned co-operative, which they named FC United of Manchester. To encourage collective financial responsibility, FC United asked supporters to decide how much they should pay for their own season ticket. The average contribution was £160 – nearly double what the club had suggested! This meant subsidised tickets could be offered to less well off members of the surrounding community.
There are all sorts of ways cooperative ownership can benefit football – and work along Transition lines. When Exeter City FC were owned by a small corporate group, members of the local community couldn’t park within a mile of the town centre on match days and were told that, since the club brought money to the city, they would have to accept the situation. By contrast, when Exeter City transitioned to fan ownership, it implemented a travel plan to encourage use of public transport, reduce their carbon footprint and co-operate with the needs of the local community. Another way fan-owned teams are reflecting the Transition project is their use of community share schemes. In 2012 FC United raised £1.6 million from their 3,000
members to build a new ground, which should be ready in time for the 2013-14 season. Lewes FC, which moved to 100% supporter ownership in 2010 after teetering on the brink of bankruptcy as a privately owned club, have used the community energy model piloted by their local Transition group to install solar panels on their south stand roof. In March 2012 the installation started generating electricity as well as income for the club and supporters. FC United are looking for community groups to work with on the installation of solar panels at their new ground. And they’re currently building relationships with local, organic producers as an alternative to major long distance suppliers.
“Perhaps the most extraordinary example of fan power is Barcelona, whose 170,000 members own and operate the club” But if the news from FC United of Manchester, Lewes and Exeter is hopeful, the reality is that the cooperative model has yet to penetrate the upper echelons of British football. The highest placed supporter-owned team in UK football is Brentford FC in League One (two steps down from the Premiership). We’re far behind Europe in this sense, probably because football
teams are considered to be sporting associations rather than businesses in most European countries. German law stipulates that supporters have to own at least 51% of a club’s shares. But perhaps the most extraordinary example of fan power is Barcelona, whose 170,000 members own and operate the club. That doesn’t stop ‘Barca’ from being phenomenally successful, both on and off the field. They’re the world’s second-richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of 400 million euros. There’s clearly scope for growth in the number of fan-owned teams in the UK, especially in the current economic climate. And if that happens, then it makes sense to exploit the obvious synergies between Transition initiatives and co-operative football teams, both of which serve the interests of community members not profitdriven shareholders. Interestingly, it’s been suggested that if UK football supporters register their clubs as “community assets”, then, under the 2011 Localism Act, they would have first buying rights if the clubs are put up for sale. At last – someone’s found a use for what must be one of the most confusing and lightweight pieces of legislation to emerge from the British government in recent years! Jonny Gordon-Farleigh is the Editor of Stir Magazine (www.stirtoaction.com), an online magazine that promotes cooperatives and community-orientated alternatives to the mainstream, and a member of Transition Town Kingston.
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