My story with Transition seems to be fraught with disaster. The first event I ever took part in, in 2009, was a workshop training on Open Space Technology organised by Transition Italia, the Italian hub of Transition Network, together with the facilitation school Genius Loci. This happened only a few days after the March 2009 earthquake in the city of L’Aquila, which killed 309 people and destroyed the entire city centre. L’Aquila had been the third initiative in Italy to officially join the Transition movement, just a few months before the earthquake.
Years after, at a Transition gathering, I had the opportunity of talking to Gabriella Liberatore, one of the founders of Transition L’Aquila. Me and Gabriella share a bioregion and an ecosystem, as well as some pretty intense geological phenomena. We both live in the Apennines, the backbone of Italy, a long chain of mountains stretching from Tuscany all the way down to Mount Etna in Sicily.
Transition Italia’s Open Space event after the 2009 earthquake
The Apennines are low, forested mountains, soft and hospitable in comparison to the jagged Alpine peaks. For most of human history these were managed forests and grazing pastures: much more land was in cultivation and is now abandoned and in the process of rewilding. The little, isolated stone villages are all but abandoned in the cold winter season. The resident population is elderly; the villages fill up during the holidays and in summer, as most people have moved to Rome and other big cities along the coasts, where Italy’s lines of communication (trains, highways, tourism…) sit.
Earthquakes are frequent in this area. I asked Gabriella what her initiative could have used, and didn’t have, immediately after the earthquake in 2009. She told me, without a moment’s hesitation: “Radios, to set up communications. Tents and gazebos to rapidly create gathering spaces”. There can be many reasons for using radios and gazebos, so I’ve since made sure my local Transition group, Associazione La Rabatta, got hold of some. We’ve learnt new skills getting trained in radio communications, which we use when we lead groups in forest walks or to keep teams in touch during large events. And gazebos are always a good thing to have around for the local market stalls. It’s just in the back of our heads, that by building resilience we are also preparing for disaster.
Part of Deborah’s local transition group under their resilient gazebo.
After the first Open Space, a group of trainers travelled to L’Aquila to train local organisations in the use of participatory tools such as Open Space and World Café. Gabriella, who was one of the coordinators, believes it was a great success, especially in terms of empowerment. “At these events, people get the sense that they can use their hands, hearts and minds to do something, it counteracts the feeling of powerlessness which was so pervasive in those first weeks and months”.
On August 24th 2016 an earthquake hit the Appennine town of Amatrice, killing 289 people and leaving the town in ruins. In the first days of the emergency Roberto Salustri and his team from Reseda, a cooperative working in development and appropriate technology which has developed in the years a strong tie to Transition, went to the field.
Facilitating conversations and helping on the ground – photo from the Amatrice 2.0 blog
Permaculture team in Amatrice
The effort has since developed into Amatrice 2.0, a project to support local communities with transition and permaculture tools and approaches. In order to support communities, peoplecare, earthcare, fair share and resilience-building, volunteers have been travelling on weekend learning jouneys to Amatrice, to listen and talk directly to people there. Their stories and photos are collected in a blog: Amatriceduepuntozero. The Istituto di Permacultura is providing information, design and tools to re-design the local food system to foster fertility and re-generation. Strong links have been formed with local farmers. Conversations to gather their needs have led to a mobilisation to provide farms with hay and straw for the winter months: as equipment was destroyed or is stuck in inaccessible buildings, this was a pressing urgency which Amatrice 2.0 is contributing to alleviate.
Here comes the cavalry…photo Roberto Salustri
One of the next appointments is Amatrice Re-generation, an event co-created with Transition Italia and other partners, scheduled for the 18-22 November 2016, with workshops dedicated to operators working in the affected area. Amatrice Re-Generation will be held in Panta Rei, an environmental centre a couple of hours removed from the earthquake area. The building itself, constructed in cob and straw-bale, is an example of appropriate scale and bio-architecture, and we believe it is helpful to move a bit out of the emergency, so that we may look at the post-disaster system with fresh eyes. Together we will train in the use of participatory tools including Social Presencing Theatre and Open Space Technology, plan and design for the coming months, and share stories from all over the world, including L’Aquila, Nepal and New Zealand.
Roberto Salustri in the ruins of Amatrice
How to get involved:
We need all the support we can get; here are some ideas on how you can help:
- Have you been involved in projects dealing with resilience-building in a post-disaster context? Get in touch, tell us your stories. We’d appreciate it if you could contribute your experience, in person or via remote communication.
- Come learn with us. We’ll do what we can to facilitate the participation of people, particularly those involved in Transition and Permaculture in other Countries, in workshops or as volunteers in the field so that we also may disseminate learnings and build bridges;
- Share information, including this article
- Make a donation. We will use it to bring transition and permaculture to the rebuilding efforts, to fund projects and tools in and around Amatrice, and to keep telling these stories.
- Keep building resilience in your personal and collective life. It doesn’t have to mean disaster preparation, and it certainly doesn’t have to wait for a disaster to happen!
If you would like to send money to help the Transition team continue this project, here are the project’s bank account details:
IBAN: IT87J089513890000000010115 3 – SWIFT ICRA IT RRQF 0
Purpose of transfer: