Note: this essay originated as a post to the Transition US network, of which I am a member; I bring it to the readers of Resilience so that anyone with similar interests may join. When I use the capitalized term “Transition” below, I am thinking of and including the many communities, organizations, and movements engaged in local or regional projects of deep social transformation, variously defined. For me, deep, or radical, social change or transition means “transformation of a society (or other entity such as a community, region, or the whole world) in the direction of greater economic equality and political participation, accomplished by the actions of a strong and diverse popular movement.”
As the school year beckons, I would like to invite teachers to join me in co-creating an on-line knowledge action network – Transition U – as a space to share our thoughts, materials, best practices, syllabi, and any other resources we have for engaging our students both inside and outside the classroom in learning about the climate crisis, climate justice, and building resilient communities wherever we are.
The goal is to inspire each other and our students to engage in learning about and above all practicing Transition work in their own school communities, at home over the summer, and in their eventual communities of residence after they graduate.
The idea is to create a network of educators, starting with US colleges and universities but ultimately open to all educators at any age level everywhere, who are associated with the Transition movement or share its mission in general terms and who wish to engage with their students and communities in creating and supporting transformative on-the-ground initiatives as part of their teaching, their scholarship, and their activism.
Such a network would chart its own agenda and course, but it could, among other activities:
- Create an e-list for the exchange of ideas, best practices, and resources
- Design a website that all educators everywhere could visit, and participate in
- Create a blog to communicate ideas, examples, and experiences with the wider world
- Engage our students in Transition work inside and outside the classroom, and do such work together with them
- Hold virtual conferences as a forum to exchange ideas and build the network
If fully realized, the potential of such a network of educators, which I would like to name “Transition U,” might be game-changing, as it would bring young, creative people into the Transition Movement and its many like-minded initiatives flying under their own banner anywhere. At the same time, it could seed innovative Transition living laboratories in college and university communities, generate new knowledge/methods/practices/experiences of Transition; contribute to knowledge for Transition work and spread awareness of such work in our schools; and scale up our efforts to new locations, demographic groups, and communities.
We are just starting to get a student-centered project off the ground at UC Santa Barbara with the contiguous 20,000-person community of Isla Vista. Our goal and hope are to turn Isla Vista into a model ecovillage and Transition Initiative called Eco Vista in the next ten years. You can see our self-presentation here: www.ecovistacommunity.com There is also a more detailed set of proposals for Eco Vista, which allows one to see how it aligns with Transition ideas, as well as my course syllabus on Turning Isla Vista into Eco Vista, available for the asking.
I see this as a way to bring young people into positions of leadership in Transition in both their college communities and the communities they spread out into after they graduate.
If you would like to be included in this effort, please send me your name and e-mail at a minimum, and if possible, please also include a short bio and/or link to your own website(s) as well, so I can begin to build a database.
I would like to start as soon as possible! Please let me know your thoughts, ideas, contacts, and concerns. You can reach me at [email protected], and if you have any questions, please ask!
With gratitude, and looking forward
Member, Transition US Collaborative Design Council
Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
About John Foran
I am a Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and teach courses on climate change and climate justice, activism and movements for radical social change, and issues of development and globalization beyond capitalism.
In addition to the Eco Vista Project described above, my experience that is most relevant to this proposal is my role as co-coordinator of the UC-CSU Climate Education Digital Platform and Knowledge Action Network, which is creating a website repository of materials for college-level educators to enhance their teaching repertoires in the areas of the climate crisis, climate justice, and critical sustainability studies. Learn about it here: http://ejcj.orfaleacenter.ucsb.edu/nxterra-project-page/