Living in a world without oil: it can be done!

Transition Towns take the lead
PostedSeptember 10, 2014, in  Step 8: sustainable society
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They are called 'Transition Towns'. These communities have deliberately chosen to create a more social and sustainable society. Driven by concerns about climate change and peak oil, they decided to wait no longer for political changes to come. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of local initiatives in operation.  

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In 2005 the first Transition Town was created in Totnes, UK. Rob Hopkins, also known as the champion of ‘permaculture’, initiated it. Hopkins believes in a society that is in balance with economic, environmental and social resources. His ideal world: one without oil. This might not be very distinctive, as many share this dream of sustainability. What is special however is the fact that Hopkins bridges the gap between ambition and action: he encourages people to actually start moving at local level in their own environment.

Peak oil

In his communications Hopkins emphasises our dependence on oil. Oil is not only the most used fuel, but it is also indispensable in the production of many products, such as plastic and medicines. Over the past 50 years, our oil consumption increased from 20 to 85 million barrels per day. At the same time oil fields are depleted and new fields are located in hard to reach places. When oil becomes scarce and expensive this inevitably leads to peak oil. According to some, we have already reached that point, where others still doubt it. What no one doubts: peak oil will become a reality sooner or later.

Source of inspiration

Climate change is a reality, partly due to the CO2 emissions. According to Hopkins, all the more reason to plot a new course. This is precisely why he developed the Transition Network. This is an open source of inspiration, to help people on their way. The underlying idea: we need to focus on a steady transition from a world with oil to a world without oil.

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Tangible solutions

Around the world, the Transition Network has lead to the creation of steering committees. These groups are initially focusing on raising awareness: it should be different, so help us. Then working groups are composed that focus on specific problems and practical solutions. For example: creating local agricultural projects (less transport and better for the economy), increasing food production in urban environments (e.g. city farming) or setting up local food distribution points.  

Looking ahead

Also local energy companies have been set up, paid for and managed by the community itself. Quite often this is accompanied by the design of a ‘loss of energy plan’, which looks 20 years ahead: what problems can we expect? What are the biggest challenges and where are the opportunities? This way transition groups help to support local policymaking.

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Lewes Pound

Local authorities in Somerset and Leicestershire have embraced the concept and call themselves 'transitional government' now. Transition Town Lewes has even changed daily life in a big way, because Lewes has its own currency: the Lewes Pound only valid within city limits and thus only circulating locally. That is good for people, the environment and society.

Becoming more resilient

Transition Towns have not been around long, but are seeing exponential growth. This is partly due to the premise that we do not have to change the world, but only our own environment. We should specifically need to learn how to deal with changing circumstances, and how we can become more resilient. Because this is a local approach, tangible results are achievable and that is a powerful incentive. Precisely by not wanting to change the world, we are creating the opportunity to change the world. It is not a coincidence that Hopkins' book is titled: The power of just doing stuff. How local action can change the world.  

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PostedSeptember 10, 2014, in Step 8: sustainable society
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