Starting a new transition town – spreading the word

Jeremy Williams continues the story of Transition St Albans, as the group hosts its first events and begins to meet the public.

transition conferenceTransition St Albans has come a long way in a short time. After a couple of months of planning and getting ourselves organised, we finally reached that crucial moment: our first public event. Like most transition towns, we chose a film screening. We opted for a positive film, ‘The Power of Community – How Cuba survived peak oil’. (If you haven’t seen it, watch it online here).We booked a church hall, printed some flyers, contacted all the local networks we could think of, put a note in the local press, and waited to see if anyone would come along.

Thankfully, they did, and there was that buzz in the room at the end of the film that there was when we first started. We moved the chairs into a circle and shared our perspectives on the film. ‘Why don’t more people know about peak oil?’ was a recurring question, and ‘how can we get this message out?’

It feels like a great time to be getting involved in the Transition movement. It’s still young enough to have a sense of energy, possibility, and chaotic creativity, but it’s established enough to offer concrete examples, too. Those of us just starting out can point to real results in places like Totnes or Lewes, proof that the Transition concept is more than naïve optimism. More and more people are realising that the best way to tackle the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change is to deal with them together, as a community, at the local level.

The media are catching on too, with a string of articles and features. The Times profiled the group where I used to live in Belsize in London, and The Guardian hailed the movement as a new form of political engagement. A popular radio soap opera in the UK, The Archers, has run a Transition storyline. Alternative currency projects have hit the news in several different towns. Even the Telegraph, a bastion of scepticism and conservative thinking, wrote about Transitions in the context of the financial crisis:

“The Transition philosophy disputes the conventional wisdom that capitalism’s propensity for innovation and efficiency will provide the solutions to energy and climate problems, arguing that no alternatives can possibly sustain the economic system we now live by, and that local communities need to be planning a transition – hence the name – to a post-carbon society.”

summer fairThis growing awareness of the movement is very helpful when it comes to explaining it to newcomers. Over the past two weekends, Transition St Albans has had a stand at summer fairs, meeting local people and explaining the ideas. A fair proportion of visitors had already heard of Transition Towns, and were delighted to find there was an initiative in their own town. Dozens of names were added to our mailing list, and there were a bunch of new faces at our second film screening, ‘The End of Suburbia’, on Wednesday.

Local organisations and businesses are noticing too. A number of other campaigning groups are involved, including Friends of the Earth and the Green Party. A local solar entrepreneur has been in touch, the deputy mayor, and members of local government. The links are beginning to come together, the seeds of future partnerships and collaborations.

Of course, the next step is to move beyond raising awareness to real projects. What are we actually going to do to make St Albans more sustainable and resilient? It’s up to the community to find its own solutions, and as the Transition community grows, those ideas will start to percolate. I’ll let you know what we come up with.

Visit the Transition St Albans site here.

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  • Posted on July 20, 2009. Listed in:

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