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Australia’s First Transition Town!

Sonya Wallace, Transition Culture
Rob Hopkins: Transition Sunshine Coast has just been officially awarded its Transition status, bringing the concept to Australia for the first time. It is a real sign of how rapidly the idea is spreading, and the enthusiasm with which people are picking it up (you can read their press release here). Sonya Wallace, one of the people behind the initiative, recently wrote a piece on her website which explains how she first became interested in the concept, which she has kindly allowed me to post below. It offers an interesting insight into how this work is inspiring people in their communities. Heartening stuff.

Bringing together ideas from around the world
by Sonya Wallace.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really concerned abouclimate change and peak oil. I mean really concerned – lay awake at night concerned.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who is, but it doesn’t take long on the laptop to find plenty of other people who feel the same way.

I find inspiration browsing through my list of favourites and seeing all the other individuals and groups who are trying their hardest to do something and to make changes despite, at times, immense opposition and apathy.

These sites have become places of inspiration and kinship for me even when I don’t know the people involved. When I feel like giving up, a quick connection to the www and there they all are – busy networking, educating, offering their skills and time and most importantly of all inspiring others all hours of the day and night, every day of the year.
(3 October 2007)
Sonya Wallace has a background in communication, which she will be using to help publicize the sustainability movement. -BA

Investing that is really socially responsible

Original: How does your money work?
Catherine Austin Fitts, Common Ground (Canada)
…What can hopelessly complexifying a financing system, burying it in legal gobbledygook and wrapping it all up with government guarantees achieve? As a result, financial institutions can engage in predatory lending in residential communities, then pool the mortgages into securities and sell those securities into the retirement plans of the very people whose neighbourhoods are being destroyed. Fool the people closest to home and you can then fool investors around the globe. This is how frauds like the sub-prime mortgage mess happen.

This is not a pretty picture, but it is a common one for many of us. Increasingly, we find ourselves financing activities that are harming our air, water, food and communities.
Last year, my aunt, a Quaker concerned with peace and environmental sustainability listened to my audio seminar, Beyond Socially Responsible Investing. Agitated, she called me saying, “You said that this SRI fund is investing in Halliburton. I am an investor in that fund. How can this be possible?” On my next trip to her home, I went through her brokerage accounts. It turned out she was financing Halliburton through not just one, but three funds.

…taking the time to understand where our money is coming from and where it is going is a critical step to gathering our power to create the world we wish for our children and future generations. As we align our money with our mission and our values, we also create the foundation to take the most powerful next step: holding the institutions and enterprises around us responsible to align their financial affairs and investments with their stated missions and values.

…Free farmers, fresh food: Why go to a horror movie when we can read about the corporate manipulation and control of the seed and food supply? The time has come to organize consumers to ensure a healthy food system by supporting private brands in financing networks of indigenous and independent farming communities that have the traditions and knowledge to protect their land and seed supplies. The diverse constituencies gathering to protect a vital, fresh food and water supply, backed by mission-driven investment and political action to prevent legislative and regulatory sabotage, present one of the most attractive opportunities for successful investment in decentralizing change.

…Global media: Markets can work when products, services and assets are understood quickly and allowed to be priced accurately. That means truth matters; hence the opportunity for internet-savvy media that have the capital to attract the best and the brightest and which are not financially dependent on central powers or overly dependent on military and corporate satellites.

…Place-based equity: For several decades, we have experienced a shift of assets out of governments and communities into the hands of large private banks and corporations. We have the opportunity to create investment vehicles to manage such privatization in a decentralizing manner. Step one is to shift the current investment flowing out of communities and into large banks and corporations into more grounded investment. This includes developing pooled investment vehicles, which can create liquidity for equity investment in small businesses and farms within a place.

Imagine venture funds and mutual funds for your local area (and those of your family and friends and networks) that you could buy through your retirement plan or that would be attractive for pension funds. Such vehicles can finance the integration of new technology critical to lowering energy, transportation and waste costs, revitalizing infrastructure and protecting personal financial privacy. Such investment vehicles can offer equity incentives to young people to seek career opportunities building up communities.

Investment performance of such capital pools could benefit tremendously from bringing greater transparency to and reengineering government investment and regulations locally.
One attractive feature of this kind of investment is that it creates financial incentives for local and global investors to prosper together from the success of “place,” including the environmental and human health and well-being arenas. If adopted on scale, this is a profound change in our global incentive systems. Imagine stocks that rise as the environment heals, and fall as environmental damage occurs.
(October 2007 issue)
Recommended by contributor Bill Henderson.

Life without lights in a Ghanaian village

Peter DiCampo, The Christian Science Monitor
The village of Wantugu, Ghana, has power poles but no electricity – yet. They keep the dark from encroaching with kerosene lamps, flashlights, and a little solar power.
Wantugu, Ghana – With high-tension power lines in place since 2000, Wantugu seems to be a village several steps ahead of many others in Ghana’s northern region. However, the people of Wantugu are still lacking one key element: electricity flowing through those wires and into village homes.

For most people in developed countries, living without electricity is unthinkable. But in Ghana’s north, Wantugu’s situation is the norm, rather than the exception.

Only 22 percent of households in the northern region have electricity, and 77 percent use kerosene lamps as their primary source of lighting,

In the Tolon/Kumbungu District, made up of many small villages and 19 larger villages including Wantugu, only four communities have electricity.

Even without electric power, though, the 3,500 inhabitants of this rural farming community are active after dark:

Every night, young people get together to study English homework or the Koran. And villagers gather to watch an American, Nigerian, or Indian film on the one TV in the village.

Occasionally, the midwife will stay late to deliver a baby at the town’s clinic, working under the dim glow of solar-powered lights donated by two nongovernmental organizations, New Energy and the Ghanaian Danish Community Programme.

And every few nights, men, women, and children dance to traditional drumming. “Even if you are tired and are lying down, if they play the music, you will feel it, and you will want to come out,” says Fusini Mohamed, a college student who lives with his family in Wantugu between school terms,
(4 October 2007)
Nice to see a report of what actually goes on when there is no electricity. -BA

Trials and tribulations of setting up a local Climate Action group

Original: Taking action – before it’s too late
Julia Hollander, The Guardian
Julia Hollander on the trials and tribulations of setting up a local Climate Action group. Is she ready to give up her car and plane travel?
(4 October 2007)