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(and Transition)
Joanne Poyourow, Transition United States
… At a time when we need to get the Transition message out to vast numbers of people, as quickly as possible, to get many people on board the preparation and the planning, we don’t have time to do it all from scratch. Forming Transition groups based upon one or two initiators and building up to critical mass within a community could take years. And we don’t have years. We need to tap into existing pools of people whom we can inform of the Transition concept, existing pools of people who are already accustomed to working with each other — which means we need to recognize and acknowledge them as existing pools of community.

I guess the take-home message here is: when you consider diversity, don’t overlook faith communities. When you do local awareness-raising and networking, don’t be afraid of churches and religious centers. Just because they haven’t been the traditional realm of environmentalists doesn’t mean they have any less need for — or eagerness for — Transition ideas. As Peter Rood often points out, church is changing too. They just might surprise you.

The Transition Los Angeles city hub is now 1 year old. While our first year was spent getting local pods going, we turn to 2010 with the recognition that we need to carry Transition ideas into ethnically, racially, and economically diverse neighborhoods of our vast city.

We fully realize that we must overcome the crowd-of-white-faces problem within the Transition movement. But simultaneously we understand that the affluent “white faces” have perhaps the furthest distance to change in the Transition journey. We also realize that Los Angeles is the center of movies and media, and that if we can create consciousness change within the communities where the media-makers live, we stand a chance of altering what goes out through the media, i.e. changing the message that is heard round the world.
(26 January 2010)

(and Transition)
Joanne Poyourow, Transition United States
… We use the word “community” a lot, and we readilly agree that we don’t have tight-knit “communities.” But when we boil it down, what does lack of community mean? May East identifies it: lack of solidarity.

To explain this, she tells a story. (at approx 24:55 minute point in video) In journeying from the UK to Brazil, she brought her host a box of English biscuits (I think that means “cookies” in American). She tells how she had expected the man to take the precious box home to share with his wife and kids. Instead, an hour later she noticed the slum’s children along the street: each one had a tiny fragment of cookie, and they were carefully breaking those tiny fragments into still smaller fragments to hand to their friends. They didn’t have much, but what they had, they shared.

May East also notes how both the U.S. and South America were hit by major hurricanes, and in her observation South America was emerging from the crisis with far more resilience. Not just because of resilient “things” like we often talk about in Transition circles, but East asserts it was because of solidarity — a common purpose, the same life outlook which had the street children sharing their cookie morsels. East calls solidarity “the fabric of your community.”

Resilience and self-sufficiency

The Transition Network says that the goal of the movement is building “resilience.” When Transition U.S. began its web presence (I see that this has since changed) it used to say something like “local self-sufficiency and resilience.” This I can understand. In the elevator talk — where you have 60 seconds to get your message across — “resilience” doesn’t sell; nobody knows what it means.

“Local self-sufficiency” rings a bell with people, because we Americans have cultural history there. The Pilgrims, Laura Ingalls Wilder, we have plenty of self-sufficiency stories, and the concept holds a certain glory. It appeals to the back-to-the-landers and to the peak oil survivalists and to the conservative individualists. It defines a clear position, and when used in conjunction with “resilience,” self-sufficiency works because it helps to define the R-word. But in many cases, “resilience” remains about skills and things.

Perhaps the R-word itself needs to be modified. With “solidarity.”
(12 December 2009)

A former urbanite has put down green roots

Wendy Cuthbert, Investment Executive
There was a time when the only concerns that certified financial planner Bradley Roulston had to face when setting out for his daily run was Toronto’s noise, pollution and traffic.

These days, the president of Toronto-based Healthcare Financial Group Inc. has other things on his mind when he goes running: keeping an eye out for bears and cougars. That’s because Roulston now lives in a close-knit community in British Columbia’s Interior. Roulston still directs his financial planning business from its Toronto and Vancouver offices — and he still loves many aspects of city life. But, Roulston says, his move to Nelson (slightly less than 700 kilometres from Vancouver) has helped him achieve some much-needed balance between the artificial world of finance and the natural world he cherishes.

That balance includes participation in a number of local environmental initiatives, such as Transition Towns, a global movement that encourages communities to find their own solutions to address the issues of peak oil and climate change. Self-sufficiency and sustainability are the major themes of that movement.

… The move to Nelson was, in a sense, a return to Roulston’s roots. He grew up in a family that focused on environmentalism long before the advent of blue boxes.

“My mom, who I thought was crazy, was an environmental activist all her life,” he says. In fact, his parents and three siblings had appeared on several television shows to promote their “reduce, reuse and recycle” lifestyle. “Our weekly garbage was less than a shopping bag,” he says.

Roulston, who has been in the financial services industry for 13 years, admits he veered off the environmental path for many years while building up his financial planning career. Creating wealth for his clients and himself while living in downtown Toronto had separated him from environmental consciousness, he says. He wasn’t connecting his investments and purchasing patterns with his values: “[Money] became a means in itself.”

But Roulston’s recent move closer to Nature has changed all that, he says: “Now, I’m more consciously aware of how I’m spending my money, both in and out of investments. We vote with our dollar every day. The systems we’re supporting through our purchases and our investment patterns are shaping the world around us.”
(19 February 2010)
Something’s going on when a publication named “Investment Executive” runs an article on an exec who’s gone off to the woods and become involved with Transition! -BA

The easy pleasures of a simplified living space

Joanne Penhale, Montreal Gazette
Shelter is a weekly series featuring a conversation with tenants or condo owners.

Occupant: Serge Mongeau
Location: On Champagneur Ave, south of Jean Talon St.
Size: 51/2
Rent: $400 – renting from his daughter
Been there since: September, 2008

A mud-splattered bike rests on the street level porch of Serge Mongeau’s simple Park Extension apartment. In the backyard, the 72-year-old author and activist has recently harvested his last batch of carrots. The cold of winter makes them sweeter, he says.

In his twenties, Mongeau renounced his physician’s licence, in order to better serve society’s ills, he says. He’s written nearly 30 books on issues like health, pacifism and social ecology, and continues promoting a society based on humanitarian and ecologically sound principles.

… What kinds of meetings do you have here?

The movements that I work with, which are Le Mouvement Québécois pour une Décroissance Conviviale, and there is a new one we are launching called Transition Towns.

What are Transition Towns?

The movement started in England and it’s become very popular around the world. There are none in Quebec right now, but many places are working on it. A transition town is a group of citizens that are saying, “our governments don’t understand we’re in for hard times economically because of peak oil. It will mean that the price of everything will skyrocket and people will have a hard time living. So, as burroughs or cities, we should try to live without petroleum.” It’s organizing to take care of our own needs, to be autonomous and to establish helpful relationships between citizens. For example, collective gardening with every available space, public or private, having transportation that doesn’t rely on petroleum, better-insulating houses so we use less energy.

How do your ideals in terms of energy usage, gardening, or simplified living affect the way you live in your house?

I keep the temperature low. I have very little garbage. Did you see my small bag out front? That’s two weeks worth of garbage. I compost in the backyard. And I try to buy things that are not disposable, and don’t have much packaging. (He points through a window into the backyard.) Most of the time I dry my clothes outside on this line.
(20 February 2010)