Our nation is in mourning, and so are we.
Since the horror of George Floyd’s murder blatantly exposed our country’s systems of oppression, Transition leaders across the country have been asking how Transition US and local Transition groups can more proactively engage in building a more just society.
Transition US exists to support a grassroots movement of autonomous local groups. We understand that many groups and individuals in our movement are deeply rooted and connected to the roots of Transition as a solutions-oriented movement. We understand that you value Transition’s unique approach and do not want Transition to become “a protest group.” Nor do we.
We know it is possible to honor the spirit and approach of Transition while also engaging in social justice work. We can do this by supporting the leadership of frontline communities to build new, more equitable social and economic systems. But first, we must engage in our own “inner transition” work at the individual level, to ensure we don’t perpetuate deeply conditioned patterns of oppression and exploitation in our organizing spaces and the new systems we seek to create.
And as we do the long-term work of building new systems, we must also acknowledge the injustices of the current system and call for accountability when they occur. That’s why Transition US issued a Statement in Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.
From its inception, the Transition Movement has largely shied away from social and racial justice issues in the interest of remaining politically neutral. It has become increasingly clear that this approach is inappropriate, for a number of reasons.
First, centering justice in our Transition work is the right thing to do. Social, racial, and economic injustices are moral issues that eat away at the heart and soul of our families, communities, and society. We cannot afford to lose one more black life to police brutality.
The spirit of Transition celebrates the best of humanity. We truly believe a better future is possible for everyone. We can’t ignore or neglect social justice issues without diminishing the depth of our work, and undermining its success..
Second, we are only as resilient as the most vulnerable members of our communities. The quick spread of protests, the looting and destruction of businesses and communities, the influence of opportunistic extremists and white nationalist groups, (largely by white nationalist and supremacist groups), and the aggressive response of militarized police to peaceful protests clearly demonstrates the connection between social justice and the safety, well-being, and resilience of our communities.
If we truly want our communities to be resilient, safe and healthy, we need to transform our approach to law enforcement, and, importantly, address the legacies of systemic oppression of people of color, including economic inequality.
In their powerful “Sermon on the Project of Whiteness,” Black Lives Matter activist Janaya Future Khan makes the case for white people to be invested in transforming our approach to community safety: “The best way to ensure no one takes what you have is to make sure there are enough people in the world who have enough.”
Third, collective liberation is a strategic approach toward Transition’s goal of slowing climate change and regenerating ecosystems.
The dominant capitalist economy was built on stolen land, labor, and resources. It continues to exploit and brutalize certain groups of people–often people of color–while enriching a relative few. We must not be naive about the level of highly-organized, extremely well-resourced, entrenched corporate interests that have undermined our democracy and want to continue business-as-usual.
In order to reclaim our democracy and institute the policies needed to end our dependence on fossil fuels and support ecosystem regeneration, we will first need to build powerful working relationships with all aligned movements of people who are negatively affected by our extractive, exploitative economy and broken political system and are invested in transforming them.
Recognizing that all of our struggles are intimately connected and that we must work together to build a better world is known as collective liberation.
Social Justice Resources and Support for Transition Leaders
In order to better understand social justice and develop authentic working relationships with oppressed communities and social justice movements, we must first educate ourselves on the many forms of social injustice that occur in our society and our role in perpetuating them.
It is essential for white people to understand white supremacy and how it shows up in ourselves and in our communities. This is challenging, uncomfortable “inner” work, but it is necessary, and you don’t have to do it alone.
For years, Transition US has been educating our staff, movement leaders, and our wider network by participating in trainings like Catalyst Project’s “Anti-Racism for Collective Liberation” and sharing “Just Transition” models and resources like these webinars featuring Mateo Nube of Movement Generation and Doria Robinson of Urban Tilth.
In late 2017, TUS staff and local Transition leaders from across the country came together to form a National Social Justice Working Group. The mission of the TUS Social Justice Working Group is to grow justice, equity and inclusion in the world, and to create the conditions for diversity to flourish in the Transition Movement. We do this by educating ourselves on social justice issues and sharing resources with the broader Transition movement, connecting and collaborating with the broader social justice movement, and implementing practical projects that incorporate justice and equity as integral aspects of building community resilience.
As part of our work, the SJWG has co-hosted–with the Inner Resilience Network–a series of “Building Bridges: Creating Healthy Collaborations for Climate Justice” webinars on topics including intercultural healing and historical trauma, unpacking privilege, and allyship. We are also developing a resource guide to support local Transition organizers in building healthy social justice collaborations in their communities.
And we want to offer more support to fellow Transition organizers who want to build social justice collaborations at the local level by connecting you to educational resources and other local Transition organizers who are committed to doing this work (likely through an ongoing, facilitated Zoom program).
If you would like to participate in a facilitated, peer-to-peer learning and mentorship program to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to build healthy social justice collaborations in your community, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deepening Our Analysis of the Crises We Face: Linking Social Justice, Extractive Economy, and Climate Change
During this historic moment, Transition US is also in the midst of a transformational strategic planning process. We are committed to creating the conditions for the US Transition movement to deepen our impact, share our stories far and wide, and realize our vision. As part of this process, we invited local and national Transition leaders to share your ideas and feedback.
One of the key themes that emerged from the feedback we received is the need to deepen our analysis of the connections between social justice, the extractive economy, and climate change, and acknowledge that climate change and social injustices are both symptoms of the same root cause: an economy based on extraction and exploitation.
This message and analysis is the heart of the “Just Transition” framework and movement that is rapidly gaining traction around the world. It is compellingly articulated in Naomi Klein’s 2014 book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.”
To many in our movement, these connections are obvious. Yet, this messaging would be a shift for Transition. Our movement has traditionally identified the challenge we face as “the converging crises of climate change, peak oil or resource depletion, and economic instability.”
To learn more about the “Just Transition” framing, please consider joining TUS staff and Social Justice Working Group members for Movement Generation’s free online workshop series “Course Correction: Just Transition in the Age of COVID-19.” The need for this type of education is obvious: more than 3,000 people registered for this course, and that was before George Floyd’s murder. You can view recordings of the first two sessions and participate in the remaining 2 workshops coming up on June 30 and July 14.
And importantly, please join Transitioners from across the country for a series of conversations about connecting social justice and community resilience at the local and national levels.
Sunday, June 21st @3pmPT/6pmET – “Building Bridges: Healing Justice.” This month’s Building Bridges series will recap what we have done so far, and keep the conversation going! This work is vital for the healing and shifting of that which has divided and damaged us. After our short recap and reflections, we will harvest the questions that are most alive for us today. Scott Brown will then introduce us to a restorative justice process where we will hold a deeper dialogue–a place where we can continue to look at our implicit and deeply rooted assumptions and perspectives on racial divides, as well as engage the inner process and seek the actions we can do to become more actively anti-racist. Learn more and register here: https://www.transitionus.org/event/building-bridges-series-healing-justice
Tuesday, June 23rd @4pmPT/7pmET – National Network Strategy Meeting “Social Justice and Community Resilience: A Discussion for Transition Leaders.” Join Transition leaders from across the country to explore best practices for bridging social justice and community resilience efforts. This session is open to members of local Transition Initiatives and mulling groups, Regional Hubs, National Working Groups and the Collaborative Design Council. Learn more and register here:https://www.transitionus.org/event/social-justice-and-community-resilience-discussion-transition-leaders If you’re not part of a Transition group but would like to participate in this conversation, contact email@example.com.
Monday, July 20th @4pmPT/7pmET – Social Justice Working Group “Study Group” conversation to explore key themes from the “Course Correction: Just Transition in the Age of COVID-19” workshop series. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate in this conversation.
Tuesday, July 28th @4pmPT/7pmET – National Network Strategy Meeting “Deepening Our Analysis: Connecting Social Justice, Extractive Economy, and Climate Change.” Join Transition leaders from across the country for the first in a series of conversations exploring key themes from our strategic planning process. This session is open to members of local Transition Initiatives and mulling groups, Regional Hubs, National Working Groups and the Collaborative Design Council. Registration coming soon!