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Transition Primer a guide to becoming a Transition Town US Version

Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) A majority of the content of this primer is sourced from the Transition Network and is used here in gratitude and with permission in case anyone asks.

US Version (2.0) Last Updated: 09/28/2011 Cover image: Permaculture bike tour, Transition San Francisco

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Transition Primer

Contents Something remarkable is happening ...


The Transition Movement


How is Transition Different From Other “Sustainability” Groups?


Why Transition?


The Guiding Principles of Transition


The 12 “Ingredients”


Barriers to Transition - The 7 “Buts”


Becoming a Transition Initiative


Training For Transition


About Transition US


Cheerful Disclaimer!


Appendix A: Community Resilience Indicators


Appendix B: A Closer Look At Peak Oil


Appendix C: Introduction to Exponential Growth


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Something remarkable is happening ... All cross the country and around the world citizens in every locale are banding together to reinvent their communities. They are boldly looking at climate change, resource depletion and the economic crises and purposefully unleashing the collective genius of their communities to address these issues. They are not waiting for government and they are not acting alone. Instead they are building connections in their community; they are reaching out to others and spurring each other into actions that are bold, poignant and exhilarating. Together they are creating a momentum, a groundswell, an empowered and active community movement. These groups are building their future by vision, by design and by intention. Official Transition Initiatives (TIs) range in size from the in the TI in the Los Angeles basin with a population of 13 million to the TI in Micanopy, Florida that boasts a population of 653. Along the way we have seen ordinary people become extraordinary, stepping out, working with others to create positive change. In Houston a Transition instigator led his community into action through Permablitzes (creating gardens where there were lawns) one neighborhood at a time. In Transition Ann Arbor local leaders convened their fourth "Re-skilling" festival where those who had skills to share taught those who wanted to learn. In Transition Pittsburgh youth leaders instituted the ever widening Gift Circle (A Gift Circle is a way of building personal connections and fostering the flow of goods and services within a community). And in Transition Sebastopol an avid gardener galvanized others to start the first community seed saving garden on the grounds of the Episcopal Church. Examples of the impacts resulting from TIs springing up across the country include the brilliant seed library started by Transition Richmond, CA that was subsequently adopted by the San Francisco Public Library. The process: would-be gardeners check out seeds (with planting tips) in the spring, returning seeds after harvest for next year's bounty. The Transition Folkschool developed in Sandpoint, Idaho was adapted by Transition Whatcom in Washington State. Based on the Re-skilling theme the Folkschool will reach more people, offer more classes and create more opportunities for community members to build relationships. We invite broad participation in all we do, in fact we know that the times require this. We are at a point in history where the future is calling out for all of us to step up, to be extraordinary. At this time too, we are given the very real task of having to work together. We hope you will join us as we join you.

Carolyne Stayton Executive Director Transition US

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The Transition Movement is comprised of vibrant, grassroots community initiatives that seek to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as increasing energy costs, sever environmental degradation and economic instability. Transition Initiatives differentiate themselves from sustainability and “environmental” groups by seeking to mitigate these converging global crises by engaging their communities in home-grown, citizen-led education, action, and multi-stakeholder planning to increase local self reliance and resilience.

The Transition Movement Transition initiatives succeed by regeneratively using their local assets, innovating, networking, collaborating, replicating proven strategies, and respecting the deep patterns of nature and diverse cultures in their place. Transition Initiatives work with deliberation and good cheer to create a fulfilling and inspiring local way of life that can withstand the shocks of rapidly shifting global systems.

To begin with, it is important to note that although the term “Transition Town” has stuck, what we are talking about are Transition Cities, Transition Islands, Transition Valleys, Transition AnywhereYou-Find-People.

It all starts off when a small collection of motivated individuals within a community come together with a shared concern: How can our community respond to the challenges and opportunities of our time? This small team of people begin by forming an initiating group and then adopt the Transition Model with the intention of engaging a significant proportion of the people in their community to kick off a Transition Initiative. They start working together to address this BIG question: For all those aspects of life that our community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience, drastically reduce carbon emissions and greatly strengthen our local economy?

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Transition Primer

During the process the community recognizes these two crucial points: • That we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy upslope, and there’s no reason for us not to do the same on the downslope. • If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today.

Now is the time for us to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, renewable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. Local Transition Initiatives provide a process for relocalizing the essential elements that a community needs to sustain itself and thrive. Hundreds of communities in the US are joining thousands around the world that are setting off on their relocalization journeys using the Transition model.

Transition Initiatives make no claim to have all the answers, but by building on the wisdom of the past and unlocking the creative genius, skills and determination in our communities, the solutions can emerge.


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Transition initiatives share many of the same goals as other groups, and works collaboratively with a variety of organizations in their local areas. Transition differs in that it focuses specifically on preparing communities for the changes associated with unprecedented resource depletion and transitioning away from fossil-fuel dependency.

How is Transition Different From Other “Sustainability” Groups? The Transiton model involves engaging directly with the public to raise awareness about the issues and encourage citizens to create a vision of a better future. Transition initiatives act as a catalyst - inspiring others to create their own answers and vision - without necessarily trying to provide all the answers. The aim is to bring information and resources together in one place about groups and organizations already working toward making communities more sustainable and resilient, leverage resources where possible, and coordinate if needed. It is not the intention of Initiatives to launch any projects that duplicate work already being done by others. Rather they help connect the public with existing resources, and also help find “gaps” where critical needs are not being met - and then help fill those gaps. Another important aspect of Transition that differentiates it from other efforts is in it’s ultimate goal of creating an Energy Decent Action Plan (EDAP). An EDAP sets out a vision of a powered-down, resilient, relocalized future, and then backcasts, in a series of practical steps, creating a map to get there from here. Every community’s EDAP will be different, both in content and style.

Lastly, the “inner-transition” (aka Heart & Soul) component is a key part of the Transition model. sometimes referred to as the “psychology of change,” although it is more than just that. An important aspect of the process is to provide for psychological and emotional support for community members as they come to terms with changes that can often be overwhelming. Supporting each other through these changes is a vital part of community resilience. Including an inner-transition aspect is key to making the Transition model stand out.

When our supermarkets have only enough food for two days time, sustainability seems to focus on the efficiency of the freezers.

- Rob Hopkins, 2009 TED Talk

* Thanks to Transition Oklahoma and Transition Sebstopol for the above text.

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Transition Primer

Traditional Environmentalism

Transition Approach

Individual behavior ........................................................... Group Behavior Single issue .......................................................................... Holistic Tools: lobbying, campaigning, protesting ................ Tools: Public participation, psychology, culture Sustainable development .............................................. Resilience/relocalization Fear, guilt, and shock as motivation ........................... Hope, optimism and proactivity as motivation The man in the street is the problem ......................... The man in the street is the solution Blanket campaigning ....................................................... Targeted interventions Prescriptive - advocates answers and responses ...... Acts as a catalyst - no fixed answers Carbon foot printing ......................................................... Carbon foot printing PLUS resilience Belief that economic growth is possible ................... Designing for local economic resilience

“Sustainability is inherently static. It presumes there’s a point at which we can maintain ourselves and the world, and once we find the right combination of behavior and technology that allows us some measure of stability, we have to stay there. A sustainable world can avoid imminent disaster, but it will remain on the precipice until the next shock. Resilience, conversely, accepts that change is inevitable and in many cases out of our hands, focusing instead on the need to be able to withstand the unexpected. Greed, accident, or malice may have harmful results, but, barring something truly apocalyptic, a resilient system can absorb such results without its overall health being threatened.� -- Jamais Cascio

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We are living in an age of unprecedented change, with a number of crises converging. Sever weather disruptions, global economic instability, declining biodiversity, resource wars, have all stemmed from the availability of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Global oil, gas and coal production is predicted to irreversibly decline in the next 10 to 20 years, and severe climate changes are already taking effect around the world. The coming shocks are likely to be catastrophic if we do not prepare.

Why Transition? As Richard Heinberg states: “Our central survival task for the decades ahead, as individuals and as a species, must be to make a transition away from the use of fossil fuels – and to do this as peacefully, equitably, and intelligently as possible”. The Transition movement represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities to take the far-reaching actions that are required to mitigate these foreseen shocks. Furthermore, these relocalization efforts are designed to result in a life that is more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable than the one we have today. The Transition model is based on a loose set of real world principles and practices that have been built up over time through experimentation and observation of communities as they drive forward to reduce carbon emissions and build community resilience.

Underpinning the model is a recognition of the following: • The challenges of our time require urgent action • Adaptation to a world with less access to cheap fossil fuels is inevitable • It is better to plan and be prepared, than be taken by surprise • Industrial society has lost the resilience to be able to cope with shocks to its systems • We have to act together and we have to act now • We must negotiate our way through these challenges using all our skill, ingenuity and intelligence • Using our creativity and cooperation to unleash the collective genius within our local communities will lead to a more abundant, connected and healthier future for all. The Transition Movement believes that is up to us in our local communities to step into a leadership position on this situation. Together we can make a difference.

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“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” — Thomas Edison, 1931

“The danger posed by war to all of humanity - and to our planet - is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming. I believe that the world has reached a critical stage in its efforts to exercise responsible environmental stewardship.” — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” — Henry Ford

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Principles matter because the people we deal with on a day to day basis can hold us accountable to them. They matter because they’re how we look at problems, devise responses and interact with people. They matter because the field that we’re operating in can knock us sideways, and it’s really useful to have something solid to grab hold of. These are the principles that Transition US aspires to as an organization, and we hope to model them in such as way that other transitioners adopt them as well.

The Guiding Principles of Transition 1. Positive Visioning We can only create what we can first vision • If we can’t imagine a positive future we won’t be able to create it. • A positive message helps people engage with the challenges of these times. • Change is happening – our choice is between a future we want and one which happens to us. • Transition Initiatives are based on a dedication to the creation of tangible, clearly expressed and practical visions of the community in question beyond its present-day dependence on fossil fuels. • Our primary focus is not campaigning against things, but rather on positive, empowering possibilities and opportunities. • The generation of new stories and a new narrative are central to this visioning work. 2. Help People Access Good Information and Trust Them to Make Good Decisions • Transition Initiatives dedicate themselves, through all aspects of their work, to raising awareness of peak oil and climate change and related issues such as critiquing economic growth. In doing so they recognise the responsibility to present this information in

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ways which are playful, articulate, accessible and engaging, and which enable people to feel enthused and empowered rather than powerless. • Transition Initiatives focus on telling people the closest version of the truth that we know in times when the information available is deeply contradictory. • The messages are non-directive, respecting each person’s ability to make a response that is appropriate to their situation. 3. Inclusion and Openness • Successful Transition Initiatives need an unprecedented coming together of the broad diversity of society. They dedicate themselves to ensuring that their decision making processes and their working groups embody principles of openness and inclusion. • This principle also refers to the principle of each initiative reaching the community in its entirety, and endeavouring, from an early stage, to engage their local business community, the diversity of community groups and local authorities.

Transition Primer

• It makes explicit the principle that there is, in the challenge of energy descent, no room for ‘them and us’ thinking. • We need good listeners, gardeners, people who like to make and fix everything, good parties, discussions, energy engineers, inspiring art and music, builders, planners, project managers. • Bring your passion and make that your contribution – if there isn’t a project working in the area you are passionate about, create one!! 4. Enable Sharing and Networking • Transition Initiatives dedicate themselves to sharing their successes, failures, insights and connections at the various scales across the Transition network, so as to more widely build up a collective body of experience. 5. Build Resilience • This stresses the fundamental importance of building resilience, that is, the capacity of our businesses, communities and settlements to deal as well as possible with shock. • Transition initiatives commit to building resilience across a wide range of areas (food, economics, energy etc) and to setting them within an overall context of the need to do all we can to ensure general environmental resilience. • Most communities in the past had – a generation or two ago – the basic skills needed for life such as growing and preserving food, making clothes, and building with local materials. 6. Inner and Outer Transition • The challenges we face are not just caused by a mistake in our technologies but as a direct result of our world view and belief system. • The impact of the information about the state of our planet can generate fear and grief which may underlie the state of denial that many people are caught in.

• Psychological models can help us understand what is really happening and avoid unconscious processes sabotaging change, e.g. addictions models, models for behavioral change. • This principle also honors the fact that Transition thrives because it enables and supports people to do what they are passionate about, what they feel called to do. 7. Transition makes sense - the solution is the same size as the problem • Many films or books who suggest that changing light bulbs, recycling and driving smaller cars may be enough. This causes a state called “Cognitive Dissonance” –a trance where you have been given an answer, but know that it is not going to solve the problem you’ve just been given. • We look at the whole system not just one issue because we are facing a systems failure not a single problem failure. • We work with complexity, mimicking nature in solutions based problem solving. 8. Subsidiarity: self-organization and decision making at the appropriate level • This final principle enshrines the idea that the intention of the Transition model is not to centralise or control decision making, but rather to work with everyone so that it is practiced at the most appropriate, practical and empowering level, and in such a way that it models the ability of natural systems to self organise. • We create ways of working that are easy to copy and spread quickly.

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These 12 Ingredients (aka Steps) have grown out of the observation of what seemed to work in the early Transition Initiatives. They don’t take you from A to Z but rather from A to C, which is as far as we’ve got with the model today. These Steps don’t necessarily follow each other logically in the order they are set out here; every Transition Initiative weaves through them differently.

The 12 “Ingredients” 1. Set up a steering group and design its demise from the outset. This stage puts a core team in place to drive the project forward during the initial phases. We recommend that you form your Steering Group with the aim of getting through Steps 2 – 5, and agree that once a minimum of 4 sub-groups (see Step 5) are formed, the Steering Group disbands and reforms with a person from each of those groups. This requires a degree of humility, but is very important to put the success of the project above the individuals involved. Ultimately your Steering Group should be made up of 1 representative from each working sub-group. 2. Raise Awareness. This stage will identify your key allies, build crucial networks and prepare the community in general for the launch of your Transition initiative. For an effective Energy Descent Action plan to evolve, its participants have to understand the potential effects of both peak oil and climate change – the former demanding a drive to increase community resilience, the latter a reduction in carbon footprint.

also be very inspiring. Articles in local papers, interviews on local radio, presentations to existing groups, including schools, are also part of the toolkit to get people aware of the issues, and ready to start thinking of solutions. 3. Lay the foundations. This stage is about networking with existing groups and individuals, making clear to them that the Transition Initiative is designed to incorporate their previous efforts and future inputs by looking at the future in a new way. Acknowledge and honor the work they do, and stress that they have a vital role to play. Give them a concise and accessible overview of Peak Oil, what it means, how it relates to Climate Change, how it might affect the community in question, and the key challenges it presents. Set out your thinking about how a Transition Initiative might be able to act as a catalyst for getting the community to explore solutions and to begin thinking about grassroots mitigation strategies.

Screenings of key movies (Inconvenient Truth, End of Suburbia, Crude Awakening, Power of Community) along with panels of “experts” to answer questions at the end of each, are very effective. Talks by experts in their field of climate change, peak oil and community solutions can

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Transition Primer

4. Organize a Great Unleashing. This stage creates a memorable milestone to mark the project’s “coming of age”, moves it right into the community at large, builds a momentum to propel your initiative forward for the next period of its work and celebrates your community’s desire to take action. In terms of timing, we suggest this take place about 6 months to a year after your first “awareness-raising” event. The Official Unleashing of Transition Town Totnes was held in September 2006, preceded by about 10 months of talks, film screenings and events. Your unleashing will need to bring people up to speed on the challenges ahead but in a spirit of “we can do something about this” rather than a doom and gloom scenario. One item of content that we’ve seen work very well is a presentation on the practical and psychological barriers to personal change – after all, this is all about what we do as individuals. It needn’t be just talks, it could include music, food, dance - whatever you feel reflects your community’s intention to embark on this collective adventure. 5. Form working groups. Part of the process of developing an Energy Descent Action Plan is tapping into the collective genius of the community. Crucial for this is to set up a number of smaller groups to focus on specific aspects of the process. Each of these groups will develop their own ways of working and their own activities, but will all fall under the umbrella of the project as a whole. Ideally, working groups are needed for all aspects of life that your community needs to sustain itself and thrive. Examples of these are: food, waste, energy, education, youth, local economics, transport, water, local government. Each of your working groups looks at their area and tries to determine the best ways of building community resilience and reducing their carbon footprint. Their solutions will form the backbone of the Energy Descent Action Plan. 6. Use Open Space. We’ve found Open Space Technology to be a highly effective approach to running meetings for Transition Initiatives. In theory it ought not to work. A large group of people comes together to explore a particular

topic or issue, with no agenda, no timetable, no obvious coordinator and no minute takers. However, by the end of each meeting, everyone has said what they needed to, extensive notes have been taken, lots of networking has had taken place, and a huge number of ideas have been identified, and visions set out. The essential reading on Open Space is Harrison Owen’s Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, and you will also find Peggy Holman and Tom Devane’s The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future an invaluable reference on the wider range of such tools. 7. Develop visible practical manifestations of the project. It is essential that you avoid any sense that your project is just a talking shop where people sit around and draw up wish lists. Your project needs, from an early stage, to begin to create practical, high visibility manifestations in your community. These will significantly enhance people’s perceptions of the project and also their willingness to participate. There’s a difficult balance to achieve here during these early stages. You need to demonstrate visible progress, without embarking on projects that will ultimately have no place on the Energy Descent Action Plan. 8. Facilitate the Great Reskilling. If we are to respond to Peak Oil and Climate Change by moving to a lower energy future and relocalizing our communities, then we’ll need many of the skills that our grandparents took for granted. One of the most useful things a Transition Initiative can do is to reverse the “great deskilling” of the last 40 years by offering training in a range of skills. Research among the older members of our communities is instructive – after all, they lived before the throwaway society took hold and they understand what a lower energy society might look like. Some examples of courses: recycling grey water, cooking, bicycle maintenance, natural building, herbal medicines, basic home energy efficiency, practical food growing, harvesting rainwater, composting waste (the list is endless).

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The 12 Ingredients (cont’d) Your Great Reskilling program will give people a powerful realization of their own ability to solve problems, to achieve practical results and to work cooperatively alongside other people. They’ll also appreciate that learning can be fun! 9. Build a Bridge to Local Government. Whatever the degree of groundswell your Transition Initiative manages to generate, however many practical projects you’ve initiated, and however wonderful your Energy Descent Plan is, you will not progress far unless you have cultivated a positive and productive relationship with your local government authority. Whether it is planning issues, funding or networking, you need them on board. Contrary to your expectations, you may well find that you are pushing against an open door. 10. Honor the elders. For those of us born in the 1960s when the cheap oil party was in full swing, it is very hard to picture a life with less oil. Every year of my life (except for the oil crises of the 70s) has been underpinned by more energy than the previous years. In order to rebuild a picture of a lower energy society, we have to engage with those who directly remember the transition to the age of Cheap Oil, especially the period between 1930 and 1960.

If you keep your focus on the key design criteria – building community resilience and reducing the carbon footprint – you’ll watch as the collective genius of the community enables a feasible, practicable and highly inventive solution to emerge. 12. Create an Energy Descent Plan. At the moment there is only one completed Energy Descent Action Plan, the one done for Kinsale in Ireland. Although this was a student-led project, it did a very good job of producing a template that other communities could follow in designing pathways away from oil dependency. Some people find the term ‘Energy Descent’ too negative, and have chosen to call their EDAP an “Energy Transition Pathway,” “Community Resilence” or “Community Vision Plan”. Whatever it is called, the EDAP sets out a vision of a powered-down, resilient, relocalized future, and then backcasts, in a series of practical steps, creating a map to get there from here. Every community’s EDAP will be different, both in content and style. However, they will explore a wide range of areas as well as energy: energy descent is an issue which affects every aspect of our lives.

While you clearly want to avoid any sense that what you are advocating is ‘going back’ or ‘returning’ to some dim distant past, there is much to be learnt from how things were done in the past, what the invisible connections between the different elements of society were, and how daily life was supported when less oil was available. Finding these things out can be deeply illuminating, and can lead to our feeling much more connected to place when we are developing our Transition Initiatives. 11. Let it go where it wants to go. Although you may start out developing your Transition Initiative with a clear idea of where it will go, it will inevitably go elsewhere. If you try and hold onto a rigid vision, it will begin to sap your energy and appear to stall. Your role is not to come up with all the answers, but to act as a catalyst for the community to design their own transition.

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Creating An EDAP Step 1. Establish a baseline. This involves collecting some basic data on the current practices of your community, whether in terms of energy consumption, food miles or amount of food consumed. You could spend years collecting this information, but you aren’t trying to build a detailed picture, just getting a few key indicators around how your place functions in terms of arable land, transport, health provision etc. Your working groups may have identified some of this information. Step 2: Get hold of any community strategy plans that are produced by your local government. Their plans are likely to have time scales and elements that you need to take into account, and they will also be a useful source of information and data. You will need to decide how to integrate your EDAP with their existing plans. Step 3: The overall vision. What would your community look like in 15 or 20 years if we were emitting drastically less CO2, using drastically less non-renewable energy, and it was well on the way to rebuilding resilience in all critical aspects of life? This process will use information gathered in your Open Space Days, from Transition Tales and a range of other visioning days, to create an overall sense of what the town could be like. Allow yourselves to dream. Step 4: Detailed visioning. For each of the working groups on food, health, energy etc. (although this is trickier for Heart and Soul groups for example), what would their area look like in detail within the context of the vision set out above. Step 5: Backcast in detail. The working groups then list out a timeline of the milestones, prerequisites, activities and processes that need to be in place if the vision is to be achieved. This is also the point to define the resilience indicators that will tell you if your community is moving in the right direction.

Step 6: Transition Tales. Alongside the process above, the Transition Tales group produces articles, stories, pictures and representations of the visioned community, giving a tangible sense through a variety of creative media, of what this powered down world might look like. These will be woven into the EDAP. Step 7: Pull together the backcasts into an overall plan. Next the different groups’ time lines are combined together to ensure their coherence. This might be done on a big wall with post-it notes to ensure that, for example, the Food Group haven’t planned to turn into a market garden the same car park that the Health & Medicine Group want to turn into a health center. Step 8: Create a first draft. Merge the overall plan and the Transition Tales into one cohesive whole, with each area of the plan beginning with a short summary of the state of play in 2009, followed by a year-by-year program for action as identified in the backcasting process. Once complete, pass the document out for review and consultation. Step 9: Finalize the EDAP. Integrate the feedback into the EDAP. Realistically, this document won’t ever be “final” - it will be continually updated and augmented as conditions change and ideas emerge. Step 10: Celebrate! Always a good thing to do. The 12 Steps set out a plan of action and you may be forgiven for assuming that Step 12 is the end of the process. On the contrary, it is with the completion of Step 12 that your initiative really begins! The EDAP sets out the work you will be doing in the future and in theory once you reach that stage, your initiative’s job becomes the implementation of the EDAP.

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When faced with the prospect of difficult change and challenging actions, humans often construct their own emotional and psychological barriers that stop them from taking those actions. In the Transition Movement we call these “The 7 Buts”. Below we give some guidance on how to tackle what we’ve seen to be the most typical barriers to change.

Barriers to Transition - The 7 “Buts” But we’ve got no funding… Funding is a poor substitute for enthusiasm and community involvement, both of which will take you through the first phases of Transition. Funding not always a good thing; funders may demand a measure of control, and may steer the initiative in directions that run counter to community interests. As eco-village designer Max Lindeggar says: “If a project doesn’t make a profit it will make a loss.” You can make sure your process generates an adequate amount of income through the events that you hold. As an example, Transition Town Totnes began in September 2005 with no money at all, and it has been self-funding ever since. The talks, film screenings and other events that are run bring in funds sufficient to subsidize free events such as Open Space Days. You may reach a point where you have specific projects that will require funding, but until that point you’ll manage. Retain the power over whether this happens… don’t let lack of funding stop you. But they won’t let us… A fear exists among some environmentalists that any initiative that actually succeeds in effecting change will get shut down, suppressed, or attacked by faceless bureaucrats or corporations. Transition Initiatives operate “below the radar”, neither seeking victims nor making enemies. As

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awareness of the various challenges build, many people in positions of power will be enthused and inspired by what you are doing, and will support, rather than hinder, your efforts. But a sustainability group already exist here and I don’t want to step on their toes… Transition Initiatives work to form common goals and a shared sense of purpose with existing groups. Working within a network of existing groups towards an Energy Descent Action Plan will enhance and focus their work along with yours, rather than replicate or supersede it. Expect other groups to become some of your strongest allies, crucial to the success of your Transition. But no one in this town cares about the environment … You could easily be forgiven for thinking this, given the existence of what you might perceive as an apathetic consumer culture surrounding you. Dig a bit deeper though, and you’ll find that the most surprising people are keen advocates of key elements of a Transition Initiative, for example local food, local crafts, local history and culture. The key is to go to them, rather than expecting them to come to you. Seek out common ground, and you’ll find your community to be a far more interesting place than you thought it was.

Transition Primer

But it’s too late to do anything useful… It may be too late, but the likelihood is that it isn’t. That means your (and others’) endeavors are absolutely crucial. Don’t let hopelessness sabotage your efforts - as Vandana Shiva says, “the uncertainty of our times is no reason to be certain about hopelessness”. But I don’t have the right qualifications… If you don’t do it, who else will? It matters not that you don’t have certain qualifications, or years of experience in gardening or planning. What’s important is that you care about where you live, that you see the need to act, and that you are open to new ways of engaging people. If there was to be a job description for someone to start this process rolling it might list the qualities of that person as being: positive, good with people, having a basic knowledge of the place and of the key people in the town. Remember that you are going to design your own demise into the process (see Step 1 below). Your role at this stage is like a gardener preparing the soil for the ensuing garden, which you may or may not be around to see.

But I don’t have the energy for doing this... As the quote often ascribed to Goethe says, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” The experience of beginning a Transition Initiative certainly shows this to be the case. While the idea of preparing your town (or city, region, county, or state) for life beyond oil may seem staggering in its implications, something about the energy unleashed by the Transition Initiative process is unstoppable. You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of all the work and complexity, but you will find that people will come forward to help. Many Transition Initiatives have commented on the serendipity of the process, how the right people appear at the right time. Something about seizing that boldness, about making the leap from “why is no-one doing anything” to “let’s do something” that generates the energy to keep it all moving. Developing environmental initiatives can seem like pushing a broken down car up a hill - a hard and unrewarding slog. Transition is like coming down the other side – the car starts moving faster than you can keep up with it, accelerating all the time. Once you give it the push from the top of the hill it will develop its own momentum. That’s not to say it isn’t hard work sometimes, but it is almost always a pleasure.

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So you have learned a little (or a lot) about the challenges and opportunities of our times, and you want to start a Transition Initiative in your community. Congratulations, you are embarking on a truly critical and exciting path. Below you will learn about how simple it is to apply for your “official” status. Many initiatives have told us that they cherish their formal status, and are very proud of having reached that point. By registering with Transition US you are also playing a critical role in allowing us to paint an accurate picture of the movement.

Becoming a Transition Initiative Transition initiatives on all scales (other than national ones) typically go through a succession of stages, as follows. The Initial Stage: typically, a group of people start to meet each other, start to discuss the Transition concept, and begin the process of enthusing each other to initiate the process. The ‘Mulling’ Stage: contact is made with Transition US and the individuals or groups read the ‘Transition Handbook’ and let us know of their ‘mulling’ status. The “Official” Stage: the ‘mulling’ stage can last for a few weeks or for many months, depending on the group. In order to proceed to formal (aka “official”) status you and your team simply need to: •

Check out the Transition Initiative Checklist and review it with your initiating team.

Complete the application which lists the guidelines and asks for information about the initiative, as well as checking that the initiative is in the best possible position to proceed successfully.

Submit your application by emailing the completed form to

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Criteria We’ve established a draft set of criteria that tells us how ready a community is to embark on this journey to a lower-energy future. If you’re thinking of adopting the Transition model for your community, take a look at this list and make an honest appraisal of where you are on these points. If there are any gaps, it should give you something to focus on while you build the initial energy and contacts around your Initiative. These criteria are developing all the time, and certainly aren’t written in stone. They are designed to be as helpful to you as possible. □□ An understanding of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis as drivers (to be written into your group’s constitution or governing documents) □□ A group of 4-5 people willing to step into leadership roles (not just the boundless enthusiasm of a single person) □□ At least two people from the core team willing to attend an initial 2 day training course. □□ A potentially strong connection to local government □□ An initial understanding of the 12 Steps of Transition

Transition Primer

□□ A commitment to ask for help when needed □□ A commitment to regularly update your Transition Initiative web presence □□ A commitment to write up something on the Transition US blog once every couple of months □□ A commitment, once you’re into the Transition, for your group to give at least two presentations to other communities (in the vicinity) that are considering embarking on this journey – a sort of “here’s what we did” or “here’s how it for us” talk □□ A commitment to network with other communities in Transition □□ Minimal conflicts of interests in the core team □□ A commitment to work with Transition US re grant applications for funding from national grant giving bodies. Your own local trusts are yours to deal with as appropriate.

community. It may be that eventually the numbers of Transitioning communities in your area warrant some central group to help provide local support, but this will emerge over time, rather than be imposed. This point is in response to the several instances of people rushing off to transition their entire county/ region rather than their local community. □□ Finally, we recommend that at least one person on the core team should have attended a Permaculture design course. It really does seem to make a difference Once you let us know at Transition US that you’re on board with these and ready to set off on your Transition journey, you open the door to all sorts of wonderful support, guidance, materials, web space, training, networking opportunities and coordinated funding initiatives.

□□ A commitment to strive for inclusivity across your entire initiative. □□ A recognition that although your entire county or district may need to go through transition, the first place for you to start is in your local

Organizing Your Transition Initiative Grass-roots, community organizing is really at the heart of getting a Transition group up-and-running in your community. Be sure to visit the Transition US Knowledge Hub for tools and inspiration in the following topic areas:

• Getting Started • Diversity • Fundraising • Governance • Group Dynamics

• Leadership • Promotion • Structure • Technology • Tools

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This two-day course is an in-depth experiential introduction to Transition for those considering bringing Transition to their community. It is recommended for local communities wishing to become an internationally-recognized Transition Initiative.

Training For Transition At the Training for Transition (T4T) course, you will: • Explore how the Transition process increases community resilience • Receive tools for community outreach, education and engagement • Learn how to summarize the challenges we face in ways that move people to positive action • Understand and know how to work with obstacles that have prevented our communities from recognizing and positively responding to the challenge of energy transition • Experience ways that local social and economic community can be created and strengthened • Learn ways of creating a positive, shared vision for your community’s future • Receive support for becoming a Transition catalyst in your community • Connect with others who are helping your region transition to greater stability and security • Become a part of a rapidly growing positive, inspirational, global movement!

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Curriculum: The course describes how to catalyze, build and facilitate a successful Transition Initiative. It is packed with imaginative and inspiring ways to engage your community, and delves into both the theory and practice of Transition that has worked so well in hundreds of communities in the U.S. and around the world. The Trainers: T4T is provided by professional trainers who: • Have successfully completed an officially recognized training course offered by Transition US and conducted by Transition UK trainers. • Are actively involved in a local Transition Initiative • Are committed to their own personal change and growth • Have demonstrated an ability to deliver the course materials using an interactive model.

Transition Primer

Monterey County, CA 2009

Oklahoma City, OK 2010

Stelle, IL 2009

Twin Cities, MN 2011

Ann Arbor, MI 2009

Hosting A Transition Training Transition US has developed the following set of guidelines to help individuals and communities host the 2-day Training for Transition (T4T) course in their locale. These guidelines can be found online at: T4T Trainers are committed to providing the course in an efficient, cost effective manner with a low carbon footprint, and an affordable tuition for participants. If you decide to host an event please note that all official T4T courses are now offered through Transition US. To host a training please contact:

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Transition US is a nonprofit organization that provides inspiration, encouragement, support, networking, and training for Transition Initiatives across the United States. We are working in close partnership with the Transition Network, a UK based organization that supports the international Transition Movement as a whole.

About Transition US We believe that we can make the transition to a more sustainable world. We hope that you will join us. Our vision: Our vision is that every community in the United States has engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present. Our Mission: Transition US inspires, encourages, supports, networks and trains individuals and their communities as they consider, adopt, adapt, and implement the Transition approach to community empowerment and action.

3. To support the continued development and delivery of high quality education, training and consulting in support of the advancement of the Transition Movement in the United States. 4. To mirror the diversity of the United States in Transition Initiatives by supporting Initiatives’ efforts to include all major cultural and demographic segments of their local communities. 5. To achieve financial sustainability for Transition US and Transition Initiatives in the United States and build capacity for TUS board and staff.

Strategic Action Goals: 1. To raise awareness of the need to work together to build resilience in the face of fossil fuel depletion, climate change and economic crises. 2. To support the emergence and growth of Transition Initiatives and leaders in all regions of the United States.

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Transition Primer

Bringing A New World To LIfe

History: The Transition Network was established in the UK in late 2006, to support the rapid international growth of the movement. In 2007, increasing high levels of interest in the States led to the launch of Transition US. We were established as a national support network, in partnership with the Transition Network so that we could take on the role of providing co-ordination, support and training to Transition Initiatives as they emerged across the States. The process of “officiating” Transition Initiatives in the States was also handed over to Transition US.

In December 2008, Transition US invited the UK founders of Transition Training, Naresh Giangrande and Sophy Banks, over to the United States to give a series of training courses and talks. All courses were sold out events. One of these was the inaugural 4-day “Train the Trainers” course, in which we selected and trained a team of 21 people who are now facilitating 2-day “Training for Transition” courses around the country.

To learn more about Transition US and the movement in general please visit our website. There is a wealth of resources on the topics covered in this primer and more.

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Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact. We truly don’t know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.

Cheerful Disclaimer! What we are convinced of is this: • If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late • If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little • But, if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time. Everything contained in this primer is the result of real work undertaken in the real world with community engagement at its heart. This document, just like the Transition model, is brought to you by people who are actively engaged in Transition in a community. People who are learning by doing - and learning all the time. People who understand that we can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. People like you.

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Transition Primer

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

— Margaret Mead

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Resilience is the ability of a system or community to withstand impacts from outside. An indicator is a good way of measuring that. Conventionally, the principal way of measuring a reducing carbon footprint is CO2 emissions. However, we firmly believe that cutting carbon while failing to build resilience is an insufficient response when you’re trying to address multiple shocks such as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis together.

Appendix A:

Community Resilience Indicators So how might you be able to tell that the resilience of your community is increasing? Resilience indicators might look at the following: • percentage of food grown locally • amount of local currency in circulation as a percentage of total money in circulation • number of businesses locally owned

• percentage of medicine prescribed locally that have been produced within a given radius. • amount of 16 year olds able to grow 10 different varieties of vegetables to a given degree of competency • percentage of local building materials used in new housing developments

• average commuting distances for workers in the town • average commuting distance for people living in the town but working outside it • percentage of energy produced locally • quantity of renewable building materials • proportion of essential goods being manufactured within the community of within a given distance • proportion of compostable “waste” that is actually composted percentage of local trade carried out in local currency • ratio of car parking space to productive land use

“Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.” - Rob Hopkins

• amount of traffic on local roads

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Transition Primer



1. I put my savings and investments in community and regional banks and local institutions.

13. I have friends and acquaintances in my local community (and I know their faces, not just their Facebook pages).

2. I buy or barter the goods and services I need from local merchants, organizations, or individuals. 3. I make my income from my local economy. 4. I know how to fix, grow, build, or create things (such as repair a roof, grow kale, give a guitar lesson) that others would want in good times and hard times.

14. I am comfortable asking my neighbors if I can borrow stuff (e.g., tools, ingredients). 15. I could easily call on nearby friends and neighbors for help in an emergency. 16. I offer support to people in my community when they need help.

5. I have an alternative source of livelihood that could sustain me (and my family) if my current source were no longer viable.

17. I’m active in community groups (like neighborhood associations, potlucks, churches, soup kitchens, gardening clubs, arts organizations, or local political groups).

6. I consume locally grown food that I could afford even if prices went up substantially (e.g., from a food co-op, backyard garden).


7. I know how to preserve food and keep a wellstocked pantry.

18. I sing, dance, paint, or otherwise participate in arts or creative work on a regular basis.

8. I have access to sources of water, even when the weather is unpredictable or the tap water doesn’t work (such as a rainwater tank or a reliable well).

19. I regularly engage in activities that help me stay calm and balanced (such as meditation, exercise, prayer, or spending time in nature).

9. I have ways to get around, even if the gas at the pump is unavailable or pricey (such as feet, bike, electric car). 10. I have alternative heat and energy sources (such as solar panels or a wood stove) if the power goes out or utilities get expensive. 11. I actively promote the development of renewable energy in my local community. 12. I have a hopeful vision of what my community and life can look like in a future without fossil fuels.

20. I take care of my health, such as through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and an appropriate amount of sleep.

This article was written by YES! Magazine staff for the Fall 2010 issue, ‘A Resilient Community’. It is being republished here with permission.

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Peak Oil is about the end of cheap and plentiful oil. It recognizes that the ever increasing volumes of oil being pumped into our economies will peak and then inexorably decline. It’s about understanding how our industrial way of life is absolutely dependent on an ever-increasing supply of cheap oil and making the adjustments that will be necessary as oil becomes ever more difficult and expensive to obtain.

Appendix B:

A Closer Look At Peak Oil Peak Oil is not about “running out of oil”; it’s about “running out of cheap oil”. There will always be oil left in the ground because it’s either too hard to reach, or it takes too much energy to extract. Regardless of how much money can be made selling oil, once it takes more than an oil barrel’s worth of energy to extract a barrel of oil, the exploration, the drilling and the pumping will grind to a halt. From the start of the 1900s, plentiful oil allowed an industrialized society to massively accelerate its “development”. Ever since it was first “discovered”, there has been more and more oil available (apart from two oil shocks in the 1970s when Middle East crises caused worldwide recessions), and each year, industrial society has increased its complexity, its mechanization, its globalized connectedness and its energy consumption levels. The problems start when around half of the recoverable oil has been extracted. At this point, the oil gets more expensive (in cash and energy terms) to extract, is slower flowing and of a lower quality. For the first time in history, we are not able to increase the amount of oil that’s coming out of the ground, being refined and reaching the market. The result is that oil supply plateaus and then declines, with massive ramifications for industrialized societies. As we go into energy decline, we will have decreasing amounts of oil to fuel our industrialized way of life.

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The situation can be summarized as follows: • Of all the fossil fuels, oil is uniquely energy dense and easy to transport. • Ever-increasing amounts of oil have fuelled the growth of industrial economies. • The key elements of industrial societies - transportation, manufacturing, food production, medical equipment and drugs, home heating, construction - are all reliant on oil. • The consistent pattern to the rate of extraction of oil, whether from individual fields, oil regions, countries or the entire planet demonstrates that the first half of the oil is easy to extract and high quality. But once about half the recoverable oil has been pumped out, further extraction gets more expensive, slower, more energy intensive and the oil is of a lower quality. • The pattern means that the flow of oil to the market, which has been steadily increasing over the past 150 years, will peak. After that, every successive year will see an everdiminishing flow of oil, as well as an increasing risk of interruptions to supply.

Transition Primer

• A growing body of independent oil experts and oil geologists have calculated that the peak will occur between 2006 and 2012 (a few years of hindsight is required in order to confirm the peaking point). Many say that it is happening now. • Technological advances in oil extraction and prospecting will have only a minor effect on depletion rates. As an example, when the US hit its oil production peak in 1972, the rate of depletion over the next decades was high, despite a significant wave of technological innovations. To understand the degree to which Peak Oil will affect the industrial world, here is the opening paragraph of an executive summary of a report prepared for the US government in 2005 by an agency of experts in risk management and oil analysis: “The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.” Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation & Risk Management. Robert L. Hirsch, SAIC

According to Jeremy Gilbert, former Chief Petroleum Engineer at BP, in May 2007: “I expect to see a peak sometime before 2015… and decline rates at 4-8% per year“. The opening paragraph of the Peak Oil Report produced by Portland, Oregon (population 550,000) explains their concerns: “In the past few years, powerful evidence has emerged that casts doubt on that assumption [that oil and natural gas will remain plentiful and affordable] and suggests that global production of both oil and natural gas is likely to reach its historic peak soon. This phenomenon is referred to as “Peak Oil.” Given both the continuous rise in global demand for these products and the fundamental role they play in all levels of social, economic and geopolitical activities, the consequences of such an event are enormous.” Portland has incorporated the Oil Depletion Protocol in its targets, aiming to reduce its oil and gas consumption by 2.6% per year, reaching a 25% reduction by 2020. Apart from a few notable exceptions, national and local leaders are not stepping up to address Peak Oil problems in any meaningful way. If the political leaders aren’t going to fix the problem, who is? It’s going to be up to us in our local communities to step up into leadership positions.

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An understanding of exponential critical to fully grasping the perdictiment we are facing. The following is exerpted from Chris Martensen’s ‘Crash Course.’

Appendix C:

Intro to Exponential Growth In the Crash Course, we will learn a few foundational Key Concepts. None are more important than exponential growth. Understanding this will greatly enhance our chances to form a better future. Here’s a classic chart displaying exponential growth – a chart pattern that is often called a “hockey stick.” We are charting an amount of something over time. The only requirement for a graph to end up looking like this is that the thing being measured grows by some percentage over each increment of time. The slower the percentage rate of growth, the greater the length of time we’d need to chart in order to visually see this hockey stick shape. Another thing I want you to take away from this chart is that once an exponential function “turns the corner,” even though the percentage rate of growth might remain constant and possibly quite low, the amounts do not. They pile up faster and faster. In this particular case, you are looking at a chart of something that historically grew at less than 1% per year. It is world population, and because it is only growing at roughly 1% per year, we need to look at several thousands of years to detect this hockey stick shape. The green is history and the red is the most recent UN

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projection of population growth for just the next 42 years. Certainly by now, math-minded folks might be starting to get a little uncomfortable here, because they might feel that I am not presenting this information in a classical or even accurate way. Where mathematicians have been trained to define exponential growth in terms of the rate of change, we are going to focus on the amount of change. Both are valid; it’s just one way is easier to express as a formula and the other is easier for most people to intuitively grasp. Unlike the rate of change, the amount of change is not constant; it grows larger and larger with every passing unit of time, and that’s why it is more important for us to appreciate than the rate. This is such an important concept that I will dedicate the next chapter to illustrating it. Also, mathematicians would say that there is no “turn the corner” stage of an exponential chart, because this is just an artifact of where we draw the left hand scale. That is, an exponential chart always looks like a hockey stick at every moment in time, as long as we adjust the left axis properly.

Transition Primer

But if you know the limits, or boundaries, of what you are measuring, then you can fix the left axis, and the “turn the corner” stage is absolutely real and vitally important. This is a crucial distinction, and our future depends on more of us appreciating this. For example, the total carrying capacity of the earth for humans is thought to be somewhere in this zone, give or take a few billion. Because of this, the “turn the corner” stage is very real, of immense importance to us, and not an artifact of graphical trickery. The critical take-away for exponential functions, the one thing I want you to recall, relates to the concept of “speeding up.” You can think of the key feature of exponential growth either as the AMOUNT that is added growing larger over each additional unit of time, oryou can think of it as the TIME shrinking between each additional unit of amount added. Either way, the theme is “speeding up.” To illustrate this using population: If we started with 1 million people and set the growth rate to a measly 1% per year, we’d find that it would take 694 years before we achieved a billion people. But we’d be at 2 billion people after only 100 more years, while the third billion would require just 41 more years. Then 29 years, then 22, and then finally only 18 years to add another, to bring us to 6 billion people. That is, each additional billion people took a shorter and shorter amount of time to achieve. Here we can see the theme of speeding up. This next chart is of oil consumption, perhaps the most important resource of them all, which has been growing at the much faster rate of nearly 3% per year. So we can detect the ‘hockey-stick’ shape over the course of just one hundred and fifty years. And here, too, we can fix the left axis, because we know with reasonable accuracy how much oil the world can maximally produce. So, again, having “turned the corner” is extremely relevant and important to us. And here’s the US money supply, which has been compounding at incredible rates, ranging between 5% and 18% per year. So this chart

only needs to be a few decades long to see the hockey stick effect. And here’s world-wide water use, species extinction, fisheries exploited, and forest cover lost. Each one of these is a finite resource, as are many other critical resources, and quite a few are approaching their limits. And here is the world you live in. If it seems like the pace of change is speeding up, well, that’s because it is. You happen to live at a time when humans will finally have to confront the fact that our exponential money system and resource use will encounter hard, physical limits. And behind all of this, driving every bit of every graph is the number of people on the surface of the planet. Taken one at a time, any one of these charts could command the full attention of every earnest person on the face of the planet, but we need to understand that they are, in fact, all related and connected. They are all compound graphs, and they are being driven by compounding forces. To try and solve one, you’d need to understand how it relates to the other ones that you see, as well as others not displayed here, because they all intersect and overlap. The fact that you live here, in the presence of multiple exponential graphs relating to everything from money to population to species extinction, has powerful implications for your life and the lives of those who will follow you. It deserves your very highest attention.

Learn more at:

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245 Kentucky Street, Suite C Petaluma, CA 94952 +1.707.763.1100

Transition Primer (US Version 2.0)  

An introduction to the Transition Town movement, why it is important and how to get started.