It all started with four people from a small Transition group and a derelict former farm site. Four people, an old farm, and an idea to grow a bit of food, maybe teach local kids about nature. Today, Greenslate community-run farm is a hive of community activity, with hundreds of people visiting, volunteering and learning each month. It’s home to rescue and heritage animals, a social enterprise cafe, drug recovery service, a community project incubator, a men’s shed and Rhiannon Jones, one of those founding four Transitioners and today, project co-ordinator who lives on the bustling site.
Our four day immersion in London Transition activities started on Thursday evening at the Doreen Bazell Hall, a Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) Hall on the Goldington Estate in Camden, to visit one of the weekly meetings of Camden Think and Do, an initiative created between Camden Council and Transition Kentish Town. Think and Do happens here every Thursday, offering a free lunch as well as workshops on a range of things, from repairing clothes, to energy efficiency advice, to advice about the cost of living and benefits, and much more besides. We spent the afternoon with the community members there, meeting Maria and Tuli who coordinate the Think and Do sessions, and Halima who runs Sharing Space Eats from there, a social enterprise providing catering to local businesses.
If you are interested in learning about permaculture, about green energy, about ecology and the environment, the range of courses out there can be a little overwhelming. From the flexible, free and online variety to the two or three year long, in-person degree courses offered by many institutes of higher education. For example, the BA (Hons) Sustainable Futures: Arts, Ecology and Systems Change degree at the Black Mountains college in Wales. In 2010, two women, Sarah Pugh and Laura Corfield co-founded Shift Bristol, fired up by the idea that what people needed in order to make that shift – to a more sustainable, eco-friendly, viable and happy existence – was some hands-on training.
Portland, United Kingdom - As one of the recipients of Transition Bounce Forward’s Seed Funding in 2020, Portland 4 the Planet is a beautiful example of what dynamic community action, when combined with little pots of funding, can unlock. Laura started the initiative in March 2019 as “my response to finding out about the climate and ecological emergency and thinking ‘what can we do to help our community try and resolve the situation?’”. Having realised the scale of the challenge, read everything she could, changed her diet, cut out plastic, transitioned to a vegan diet, her focus turned to what her community could do. She lobbied her local council to declare a climate emergency, which they did. However, her interactions with local government made her realise that given the speed at which bureaucracies move, however willing and supportive they might be, it was best to not wait for them and to get started.
Transition Berkeley has cultivated a community of practice that hits close to ground zero – a “culture of repair,” that demonstrates a way to live with more humility, making do with what we have by sharing knowledge and skills, one repair at a time. Repair Cafes harness a library-system supported methodology that touches a diversity of people and interests. The bells that ring on the repair grounds throughout an event celebrates the completion of each repair – and total up to 100 in any four-hour event. Repair Cafes and fix-it clinics produce an excitement not unlike a dopamine-pumped day at the derby with your besties. This elegantly simple community-based solution draws support from people across all cultural, gender, age and socioeconomic lines and provides a unique opportunity for them to gather, connect, and build relationships.
The principle in Transition of focusing your energy on what you are passionate about is beautifully captured in the work of Transition Toronto in Canada. While COVID meant that some of their key projects, such as their annual EcoFair, which they co-present with the Green Neighbours Network, had to go virtual, two key projects, TreeMobile and Food Up Front really came into their own. TreeMobile (pronounced in the same way as ‘Batmobile’) is described by the group thus: “TreeMobile delivers and plants food-bearing trees, shrubs, and other perennials to improve local food security, reduce food miles, reforest urban communities, and create delicious food”. The idea is simple but effective. In the winter, Virginie Gysel, landscaper and the founder of the TreeMobile project, contacts tree nurseries, reserves trees and shrubs (edible species only) which will do well in the local climate.
We are living in a Transition Moment. To those of us who are resilience-minded, this shock to our globalized economy and society, and its ripples in our local communities, did not come as a surprise. We may not have known what form it would take, but we knew it was coming. We have been preparing for years, and now is a time when the skills, the processes, and most of all, the stories and spirit of the Transition Movement and the many other community resilience-building efforts are so needed. Our focus on positive and practical solutions and our vision of a future that is simpler, yet more joyful, abundant, and connected, is medicine for the human soul in these challenging times. Humanity has a common cause, and a noble one at that: protecting the most vulnerable–both physically and financially–in our society.