Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Canada in Transition

The CBC recently did a piece on Rob Hopkins and the Transition movement. It focused on Transition Town Totnes in England, as this is where the concept has been most thoroughly embraced and implemented. It also talks to people who are working towards starting similar initiatives in some Canadian towns and cities like Peterborough, Ontario and Port Alberni, BC.

If you've never heard of the Transition concept, here's how the website defines it:
A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

"for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?"

It's a unique approach that focuses on permaculture principles and re-localization (local food, local energy, local industry, even local currency) as ways in which communities can make the transition to a much lower energy future.

There are many things I like about the Transition approach. One is that it's not doom and gloom. In fact, it's been described as "more of a party than a protest march" because it envisions a future without fossil fuels as actually being better than the world we're living in now.

Another thing that sets Transitions apart is that it tackles peak oil and climate change as two parts of the same problem instead of dealing with them in isolation.

The consequences of the 'one or the other' approach are beginning to be seen in the U.S. presidential campaign, where concerns over GHG emissions and climate change have suddenly fallen off the radar in the face of rising energy prices. Politicians from both parties are suddenly desperate to start drilling everywhere they can, and are eager to be seduced by the false promise of 'clean coal', ethanol, oil from shale, and anything else they can find that will allow them to continue feeding America's addiction and (consequently) pump even more carbon into our atmosphere.

On the other hand, many proposals aimed solely at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon capture and storage, tree-based carbon offsets, and some rather imaginative proposals for re-engineering our atmosphere, fail to take the inevitable consequences of peak oil into account.

Some of the specific methods and 'consciousness building' exercises they propose are a bit hippy-dippy even for me (please, don't make me do the 'web exercise'), but the basic philosophy is sound and may be ideally suited for a country like Canada with its abundant resources, and where the remnants of the old farm, village and market town landscape can still be glimpsed under the sprawl, waiting to be revived.

(cross-posted from Canada's World)

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