Transition Whatcom

We had a great turnout of 220 people to our Oct. 1 event! Thanks to all who came out on a Thursday evening to hear our speakers discuss Climate, Energy Depletion, and Economic Instability. Many thanks to Tom Anderson and Rick Dubrow for putting this event together, and to our wonderful hosts, the BUF Green Sanctuary Program! Thanks also to all of our co-sponsors: Moka Joe Coffee, Terra Organica, Community Food Co-op, Appliance Depot, A-1 Builders and Adaptations, Sustainable Bellingham, Pickford Film Center, Village Books, and RE Sources for Sustainable Communitites.

We'd love to get your feedback. Let us know what we did right, and also how we might be able to do our next event a little bit better. How was the presentation received? Were you shocked, angry, sad, overwhelmed, or disbelieving? Was there too much "doom and gloom"? Or was the info nothing new to you, confirming what you already feel and believe?

Feel free to also contribute your thoughts on how the issues presented (peak oil, climate change, economic instability) are interrelated, and how we can respond personally and as a community.

For more info on the topics, go to our Resources page and read through the one page summaries of these topics, with the option of going deeper within those pages.

For a list of recommended books & films on these topics, Download the Microsoft Word document here.

For those who weren't able to pick up the "Purpose, Principles & Guidelines of Transition" handout, see the attachment at the bottom of this page.

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Overall I thought it was an excellent event, that succinctly presented the important issues about peak oil and climate change and the importance of responding to this problem now rather than waiting a decade or more when a response will be too little too late.

I have read many sources on these issues and it is always difficult information to take in. Since reading is a solitary act, the anxiety of this information can be mostly internalized. However, in a group setting, hearing or re-hearing the basic problems can result in a sort of collective sense of doom despite the efforts at the meeting of several Transition Whatcom members to suggest that we can achieve a positive outcome to this dilemma by working individually and collectively to solve it.

One thing that I was surprised to hear at this meeting occurred during the question and answer phase, when several twentyish adults spoke of their despair at the world they are inheriting. What I found the most provocative and disturbing, was the sense that this despair about the future, should be channeled toward an anarchical response that targets older generations and the wealthy. To me this is an unaddressed aspect of power down that the Transition Movement needs to examine. Reacquiring long lost skills and working together in a cooperative fashion sounds wonderful. However, not everyone will be eager to join in the power-down adventure. Also, as we become more localized, the broader structures that currently organize our economic and social life may not be able to adapt. I'm thinking of the economy controlled by multi-national corporations and their well-rewarded elected officials, whose task it is to keep these corporations in power. Will these forces take kindly to "localization" if it means their own extinction? What about the millions of jobs and thousands of other smaller businesses whose economic health is intertwined with these corporations?

We are seeing an advanced preview of this power play in the current Healthcare debate. The masses want affordable healthcare, but the giant health care corporations are spending millions in congress to fight it. At the end of the day, the Healthcare Industry will walk away with a larger profit, still decide who does and who does not receive treatment, and a token few will have a bit more access. However, the industry will walk away as a winner, and the US will still be at the bottom of the industrialized world in terms of healthcare.

If we have one-fifth the energy inputs in 2030 as today as was suggested in the presentation, what will the workers, managers and businesses that comprise the missing four-fifths of the energy picture do? To be simplistic, think of five people who are employed (including yourself). Now imagine four of them unemployed. Consider yourself one of those unemployed. Currently Rep. Jim McDermott is trying to get a bill passed to extend unemployment benefits, because in Washington state, there are six unemployed for every job opening. But in this power down scenario, those other jobs are not temporarily gone due to recession, they are gone for good. Powering down whether planned or forced, will have catastrophic impacts on our lives far beyond trading a car for a bike, or growing most of our fresh vegetables. As our state government currently struggles to balance its budget through program cuts, can we imagine a powered down world where the funding has dried up, our state, county, city governments have capitulated and no longer exist? What will enter the power vacuum? Friendly neighborhood organizations committed to helping one another? Or the playground bully and his gang.

As much as I am energized by the Transition Movement's ideas, I am really worried by the flip-side of powering down: economic and social turmoil, hunger and starvation, class and inter-generational warfare. I think this is one aspect of the transition that needs a lot of attention.
Well said, Rob - I am right where you are. And I would like to add that what I see are jobs being created that we not today ever consider taking. Labor and farm jobs. Jobs that oil/fossil fuel did for us before. The transition needed in getting to the place where we will take this job and still hold a positive vision of the future is the inner work of transition. This is the Heart and Soul work we were speaking of last night. In my mind, no matter how much we do on the outside, its the inner work that will make it possible to actually pull it off.

The anger and frustration of the generations that are now having children, trying to figure out what to do with their lives, trying to find a piece of land they can grow food on,..... to me is totally justified. I am dedicating the rest of my life to them and their needs. I had a good 50 years - and the next 50 will be dynamic, challenging, creative, rich, committed to community,....and I am looking forward to it. I would like to offer the suggestion that the creativity and passion available in those 20 somethings is exactly what we need to get through these times. Yes, invite them to be a part of the transition - just don't define it for them. Who knows? We may need that energy to get off of our collective arses and make it possible for them to have a life where they can look forward to their children having children.

Let's keep this conversation going, Rob, this is what it is all about to me!
Well said- and trust me we all have had these thoughts, sometimes in the middle of a very long night! I believe your concerns are well founded. At the same time, my response continues to be one of optimism because that's the only way I can get the energy for action. To paraphrase Ram Dass, when asked if he thought the future would hold violence and chaos, or if he thought there would be a positive future, said:

"i used to think I should have an opinion on this, but as I examined it, I saw that if it's going to be Armageddon and if we are going to die, the best thing to do to prepare is to quiet my mind open my heart, and deal with the suffering in front of me; and if it's going to be a new age, the best thing to do is quiet my mind, open my heart, and deal with the suffering in front of me".

In other words, whatever the future holds, my response is still the same- to do the best I can to reduce suffering and make our community a good one for our children.

Rob Olason said:
Overall I thought it was an excellent event, that succinctly presented the important issues about peak oil and climate change and the importance of responding to this problem now rather than waiting a decade or more when a response will be too little too late.

I have read many sources on these issues and it is always difficult information to take in. Since reading is a solitary act, the anxiety of this information can be mostly internalized. However, in a group setting, hearing or re-hearing the basic problems can result in a sort of collective sense of doom despite the efforts at the meeting of several Transition Whatcom members to suggest that we can achieve a positive outcome to this dilemma by working individually and collectively to solve it.

One thing that I was surprised to hear at this meeting occurred during the question and answer phase, when several twentyish adults spoke of their despair at the world they are inheriting. What I found the most provocative and disturbing, was the sense that this despair about the future, should be channeled toward an anarchical response that targets older generations and the wealthy. To me this is an unaddressed aspect of power down that the Transition Movement needs to examine. Reacquiring long lost skills and working together in a cooperative fashion sounds wonderful. However, not everyone will be eager to join in the power-down adventure. Also, as we become more localized, the broader structures that currently organize our economic and social life may not be able to adapt. I'm thinking of the economy controlled by multi-national corporations and their well-rewarded elected officials, whose task it is to keep these corporations in power. Will these forces take kindly to "localization" if it means their own extinction? What about the millions of jobs and thousands of other smaller businesses whose economic health is intertwined with these corporations?

We are seeing an advanced preview of this power play in the current Healthcare debate. The masses want affordable healthcare, but the giant health care corporations are spending millions in congress to fight it. At the end of the day, the Healthcare Industry will walk away with a larger profit, still decide who does and who does not receive treatment, and a token few will have a bit more access. However, the industry will walk away as a winner, and the US will still be at the bottom of the industrialized world in terms of healthcare.

If we have one-fifth the energy inputs in 2030 as today as was suggested in the presentation, what will the workers, managers and businesses that comprise the missing four-fifths of the energy picture do? To be simplistic, think of five people who are employed (including yourself). Now imagine four of them unemployed. Consider yourself one of those unemployed. Currently Rep. Jim McDermott is trying to get a bill passed to extend unemployment benefits, because in Washington state, there are six unemployed for every job opening. But in this power down scenario, those other jobs are not temporarily gone due to recession, they are gone for good. Powering down whether planned or forced, will have catastrophic impacts on our lives far beyond trading a car for a bike, or growing most of our fresh vegetables. As our state government currently struggles to balance its budget through program cuts, can we imagine a powered down world where the funding has dried up, our state, county, city governments have capitulated and no longer exist? What will enter the power vacuum? Friendly neighborhood organizations committed to helping one another? Or the playground bully and his gang.

As much as I am energized by the Transition Movement's ideas, I am really worried by the flip-side of powering down: economic and social turmoil, hunger and starvation, class and inter-generational warfare. I think this is one aspect of the transition that needs a lot of attention.
I was thrilled by the turnout - much larger than the Great Squeeze screening on campus. I think we should allow and encourage more discussion in the future. It seemed cut very short to me. If it would be possible to have smaller group discussion/open space at every event, we should.

Rob brings up interesting points about resistance, including from the top down. I wonder some times if the movement should be seeking legal protections and guarantees of freedom for the necessary activities of transition - organic home gardening, bartering, home-made electric cars, speaking against GMOs, etc.

I, too, was affected by the 2030 figure. I've had sinking feelings about that idea for some time, but that is the first time I've seen specific numbers for the downslope. But I thought we would all have flying cars by then...
I also thought the event was very well done. Although the speakers mostly confirmed what I already knew, it was interesting to hear the three in juxtaposition. I left feeling a strange mixture of despair about the seemingly disastrous course we are on, and optimism that there are others who "get it," and are trying to figure out what to do. I came home and dove back into my Transition Handbook, but found that like Rob, I didn't have too much optimism for our little enclave of bike riders and organic gardeners to effect much change in the face of politicians and oil companies. But all we can do is do what we can.
Cameron,

Thanks for reflecting on my observation of an “anarchical response” from some of the twentysomething members of the attendees. I wasn’t trying to draw a conclusion about a specific age-group’s response per sé, but to get at the underlying motivation for the response and possible implications of that response.

My use of the term “anarchy” was in this sense: "Absence of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of the supreme power; political disorder.”
I was thinking specifically of lawlessness and political disorder, perhaps a better word to describe my concerns was the implied vigilantism underlying some of the comments being made. The point I was driving at was that this response will be one of the options that many people will take during peak oil descent, especially if the descent is rapid. The reason I was drawing attention to it, was my concern that the Transition Movement needs to better address this issue, in my opinion.

In fact, Richard Heinberg (“Peak Everything”) tried to start a conversation on this issue in a presentation on Emergency Planning for Communities and Rob Hopkins documents an email exchange on the subject between himself and Heinberg at:

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/49052

As our local community moves toward our Great Unleashing—and beyond—I think it will be crucial that we acknowledge that a fair percentage of the population will not embrace the transition movement response to the inevitable power down, but will cling to a more primal human self-preservation approach.

Ultimately, I believe everyone attending the meeting shared many of the same desires and goals for humanity, the biosphere and the planet. In short, our commonality is greater than our differences, whatever our chronological ages may be.

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