I'd heard about the transition town movement a number of times. It was like some kind of chorus. Maybe I read about it in The Ecologist first but it was one of those concepts that I kept coming across. There are so many local and not-so-local organisations and groups I've half joined, or joined but not managed to find time to engage with. For example, the Farnham Local Food Initiative. I keep meaning to go to the plantings, the meetings and so on, but I'm always 'too busy'. Then I received an email that there was a kick-off meeting for 'Transition Town Farnham'. Despite being 'too busy' and mid-show I made it. I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.
I'd heard about Totnes being the pioneer, but also other towns, villages and cities who were actively seeking to plan for life beyond oil, often at starting at a grass-roots level. Why wait for the politicos to take the lead? There were also these concepts that came into the near-distance of my vision such as peak oil, permaculture and local currencies. This was the space I was entering and it was a more profound, holistic and structured than making your town plastic-bag free. (Nothing wrong with that I might add).
So I went to the meeting and we watched a couple of edited DVDs. First a little scary, the excellently titled The End Of Suburbia. It showed the end of civilisation as we know it when oil starts to peak (apparently we're already there). However, if we'd just watched that then we'd have all gone home to have nightmares and so we then watched a more upbeat film called The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. This showed how with a little sense, science and not much oil or fertilisers you can survive and thrive And, Importantly, the community comes together. I had seen a Monty Don show when he visited Cuba to see how people had started growing food (organically) everywhere and found it riveting.
When I moved back to Elstead last year I found myself curiously wanting to engage with the community. I'd been brought up here so it was familiar and I felt a sense of entitlement to some kind of quality of life or services that I hadn't felt so strongly in London. I wrote to the papers about recycling, I worried about the impact of foot and mouth in the village and I looked at what local organisations I could engage with. Maybe it took me a year to find the niche but when the transition circus finally came to town, I knew it was the right one to join. Fortunately the circus didn't move on, but has taken root as Transition Farnham and I'm in the core team. We meet up once a week in Farnham.
We're just getting going as you can see on the blog - and there are so many, often overwhelming, issues to look at. For myself, I've been putting my old hat on and helping with online communications but am just about to start working on a sub-group for sustainable fashion.
I have been invited to a conference at the London College of Fashion, Centre for Sustainable Fashion next week so it's helped me develop my ideas as to how I might contribute both to an industry-level debate and also to a local community-led process at the same time. I find the industry views fashion from an acceptance of a mass manufactured model, which then needs to become more sustainable and ethical. However, from a peak-oil perspective, I personally don't see how this is in fact sustainable. It seems to me that this would simply mean buying more ethical brands but the dominance of large companies on the high street would remain the same, albeit with slightly more ethical credentials. However, with peak-oil theory meaning that mass-globalised-production is based on cheap oil, which will no longer be cheap, it's not a long term option. We need to buy less, buy better, make, mend and be creative. We've lost the skills and the confidence to take things into our own hands. I'd like to be part of a solution to work with the community to re-skill and look good without being part of a global supply chain.
Much of the early work of the transition movement is around creating a vision, and positive one at that, of our new reality in 2020. I've found it so overwhelming getting my head around this work that it's been hard for me to do so. Now, after a few weeks, it's beginning to take shape. I can see a glimpse, no more, of my local town, Farnham, in which we have a clear style - which is not dictated by magazines, celebrities and large clothing chains but one in which each town has it's style because it's about a community creativity. How cool is that?