Cheery, charismatic, creative, constructive ... There are many “C” words which describe the Transition movement, its basic ideas, and the way this movement is manifesting itself in hundreds if not thousands of communities worldwide. In a recent piece, Carolyn Baker complains that many members of Transition are unwilling to use what seems to be her favorite “C” word: collapse.
Frankly, I don’t see the point of it. I do occasionally use the word “collapse,” although I’m much more likely to modify a bit and use the word “contraction,” particularly with respect to economics (as in, “economic contraction,” getting smaller, pulling inward). It has been plenty adequate to get the point across.
To me, collapse goes hand in hand with chaos. Baker is adamant that we put collapse at center stage. And to that I say: You’ve got the wrong movement, sister.
At a recent church convention I saw a t-shirt that quoted Robin Williams as saying. “No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.” The same might be said of the role of spirituality or the sacred in the Transition Movement.
Why is it that sometimes we work on a project or give a presentation and it feels like such a struggle? Other times we give a similar presentation or work a similar project and it goes smoothly and effortlessly; the pieces fall together so well that we can hardly keep up with all the great positive energy.
This week several events have me thinking about positive approaches and what creates the flow of change.
The first event was a very successful presentation that Transition Los Angeles gave at Bioneers LA; the energy in the room afterwards was tangible excitement about positive possibilities.
The second event was a key meeting regarding the community garden we've been trying to install in my local neighborhood. For ten years this land has sat empty, caught in political quagmire; this week it felt like someone had greased the skids as the project zipped into high gear.
The third incident reared up in harsh contrast: a piece I read by Michael Brownlee which asserted -- among other things -- that the rate of the Transition movement in the U.S. "seems to be slowing." Whoa, certainly not around here!
Hello Atlanta, Boston, Houston, New York, Salt Lake, San Francisco, Seattle ... and any other place that has an airport:
Here in Los Angeles, LAX International airport is trying yet again to expand, and we have been working on a response to the environmental impact report (EIR). We're making our letter public in case you can use any part of it in your backyard. (What is an EIR?)
Transition Los Angeles and our predecessor organization, the Environmental Change-Makers, have been active voices in responding to local Environmental Impact Reports. When these projects solicit public comments, we ask questions, underline problems, and highlight discrepancies regarding the issues of climate change, peak oil, and biocapacity.
When Joanna Macy describes the three types of action required as we experience The Great Turning, she lists "stopping action to prevent further destruction," as well as "a shift in consciousness." Responding to EIRs with pertinent peak oil and climate-change points is a form of stopping action. As we raise these points again and again in front of our city's decision-makers, it is our hope that we can help cultivate a shift in consciousness.
We Transition groups are perhaps the sole champion for these ideas -- rallying against further construction and spending in the wrong direction, and rallying for preparedness. Think about it: who else is going to ask the question "how do you plan to complete this massive project without oil?" We have a job to do, to make that position be heard.
In the Q&A section of public presentations we often get asked "How do you tell people about Transition ..." Then the questioner launches into a vivid description of how his attempts have failed to get through to his Hummer-driving brother-in-law, or his boss who vacations in the Bahamas, or his fellow churchgoers who rhapsodize over malls and "bargains" at big box stores, or his neighbor with the pristine, overwatered chem-lawn.
You can plug in a multitude of variables to describe the opulent consumption but in each of these instances the approach has failed for the identical reason: Our questioner doesn't understand how to use and work with the dynamics of cultural change.
In his 1999 book Believing Cassandra, Alan AtKisson outlined a model which has helped me enormously in targeting my efforts, relieving frustration, and becoming much more effective in my approach. In a nutshell: don't start with the people who are natural laggards and reactionaries.
August 31, 2010. "We need to get free of Wall Street," David Korten's eyes blazed, "not try to fix it by tinkering at the margins... It can't be fixed. It has essentially become a legal crime syndicate" (my paraphrase).
August 28, 2010. My first impression upon entering Cecile Andrews' cheery house is that simplicity doesn't mean deprivation. The author of Circle of Simplicity, Less is More and Slow is Beautiful, Cecile lives in a spacious Seattle house brightened with colorful dishes and artwork, beaming cut sunflowers, and inviting book-filled walls.
This past weekend, Transition Los Angeles had a small table of information at the Renewal LA event. Our initiating group, Environmental Change-Makers (ECM), is relatively well-known within the Southern California Interfaith Power and Light circles. ECM co-founder, the Rev. Peter Rood, is an Episcopal priest who is active in interfaith dialog groups. In fact, Peter gave the Welcome for the Renewal LA event.
For tabling at Renewal LA, we brought some of the handouts that we have developed specifically for faith communities, such as "Environmental Suggestions for Large Events,"