Transition Whatcom

This is a question that was asked at our Party Up for Power Down meeting last Friday evening, and I'm not sure it got answered.

A tiny bit of Transition Whatcom history (more in a later post - stay tuned!): Future TWIG members Rick Dubrow, Tom Anderson, Kate Clark, and myself began serving on the Energy Resource Scarcity / Peak Oil Task Force of Bellingham and Whatcom County at about the same time as Rob Hopkins' Transition Handbook was published. I had been following Rob Hopkins and the Transition movement in the UK for several years, and was eager to read the Handbook. Rick's wife Cindi was perhaps the first person in Bellingham to get her hands on a copy. She actually bought two copies - one for herself, and one to pass around to others - especially those on the task force. Those of us on the Community Education sub-committee of the task force quickly came to the conclusion that local Transition Initiatives offered the most compelling format for community engagement around energy issues. We were hooked.

In early December, Kate Clark and myself attended a two-day Transition Training in Portland, and in late December Rick Dubrow and Cindi Landreth attended 6 days of Training (to become Trainers themselves) in San Francisco. In early January of this year we came together to begin developing our local initiating group, which we affectionately refer to as "The TWIG."

"The TWIG" is the Transition Whatcom Initiating Group, which consists of Tom Anderson, Kate Clark, Rick Dubrow, Sandy Hoelterhoff, Cindi Landreth, David MacLeod, and David Marshak. We are a small collection of motivated individuals living here in Whatcom County who came together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges and opportunities of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis? This group came together as part of Step 1 of the 12 Steps of Transition. We came together to "drive the project forward during the initial phases."

We've been working hard, but much of that work has been behind the scenes and not yet very visible. There have been some visible projects (this website) and events - a presentation at a Bellingham IONS meeting, tabling at the Sustainable Connections Business workshop, a movie showing of The Great Squeeze, a couple of other presentations, co-sponsoring the Permaculture Design Course at Inspiration Farm, and of course culminating in our party last week!

Some of the behind the scenes work includes figuring out how we as the TWIG and Transition Whatcom are organized, decision making process, a Vision and Mission statement (you may see further wordsmithing on this), etc.

We also have a Playing Well With Others Committee (how we engage with individuals, volunteers, and other groups), a Communication Committee (press releases & general wordsmithing of documents), and a Timeline Committee (what all do we hope to do before "The Great Unleashing," and when).

I'll let other TWIGgers chime in here on who they are, why they became interested in Transition, and what they're individually working on.

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Rick Dubrow here.... another TWIG. Out on a limb, once again! Always seeking frameworks that make more sense than the mainstream paradigm that continues its treacehrous destruction of life.

Transition has captured my attention because it stresses what's worth working towards. I've spent my formative years working against this and that. Yes, there's plenty of this and that to choose from, but this and that continues its relentless downward spiral. I don't like to feel as though I'm being sucked down a toilet bowl, spinning 'round and 'round, this way and that....... downwards.

Transition, instead, works for something instead of against this and that. The energy here is more positive; more fun. Working on a powered-down, post-petroleum lifestyle and community is very much aligned with my greatest passion.... wilderness travel. So re-skilling and resilience building fits me like a glove. In the wilderness you leave a trailhead with a limited amount of stuff on your back and then your primitive skills, intermediate technology and resilience define how comfortable you will be. Transition, in so many ways, brings my civilized living in closer alignment to my wilderness living, as it should be. Rewilding humans.

I remember the excitememnt I felt when I first read about Transition in an email. I immediately emailed Cindi (my wife; another TWIG; VP at A-1 Builders and Adaptations; certified permaculturist; residential designer; cool human) with the link, asking her to check it out.

She had just done the same thing, emailing me with similar information and excitement!

Thus our path towards Transtion began. It led us both to San Francisco in December of '08, where we took the 2-day Training for Transition (T4T); then the 4 day Training the Trainers. We became 2 of the first 19 Americans trained to train others to train their communities to initiate a Transition Initiative (TI).

Cindi has already facilitated her first T4T in Seattle and is well on her way to help many a community down this path. I, instead, decided to focus more of my time and attention locally.... towards growing and fertilizing Transition Whatcom. For the time being, I decided to bail on helping other communities (beyond Whatcom County) through this effort towards birthing TI's.

So where am I spending this time and attention? I guess I call it dancing. It's the dance of growing an organization; that balancing act of attending to appropriate infrastructure prior to intiating this and that without the ability to manage it; to help it grow; to pay attention.

A key principle in the application of permaculture to a parcel of land is to do nothing but observe it for about a year; restrain oneself until one knows how water moves through it; where sunlight falls; where are the cold spots. Premature action sucks (although that's not how the permaculture text books put it!).

So we TWIGs must observe like any worthy permaculturist would. This may frustrate some. 'What are you TWIGs actually doing; looks like you're standing around smelling the roses; why aren't you out there saving the world?'

We TWIGs are doing two things............ creating infrastructure, while we observe the terrain (our community), while we disperse perhaps the greatest message of all from the Transition movement: facilitate others to initiate actions that are aligned with their values.

You see, TWIGs are catalysts; Transition is catalytic. We're here to shake, rattle and roll the physical and chemical reactions necessary to bring online the work groups the community needs to instill resilience......... local and healthy food; small and energy-neurotic shelter; renewable energy; intelligent transportation that addresses emergency climate change and peak oil; blah-blah-blah. You know what's needed.

I write this on 5-14-09. A week after our first Party Up For Power Down party and gathering; our first real event. So, like a one week old human, so much of what we TWIGs are doing is growing inside without communicating with the outside world all that much. Yet, day by day, there's more and more, of this and that. Right here on this site; right there --- out there --- watch for us; watch for more and more of this and that.

Stay tuned to this site; watch us grow; help us grow; be that growth. Be a bud upon the TWIG. Help us observe this great community and birth projects, awareness raising and learning that create a future aligned with the values you live by that brought you to this online site. Help us align our values with our actions.
Here's my personal story.

In late 2004, early 2005 a small movement began emerging in various parts of the world - community organizing as a response to peak oil. In the U.S. and Canada, much of it was formed around the Relocalization network of the Post Carbon Institute. I got involved with Sustainable Bellingham, which was a member of that network. Across the pond we were watching the work of Rob Hopkins, beginning with a group of students in Kinsale Ireland, and then seeing Rob develop Transition Totnes in the UK, and then the spread of other Transition Towns.


Rob's blog "Transition Culture" often had insightful postings that I would post to the Sustainable Bellingham "Sustainability Documentation Project" wiki pages, such as "Happy Relocalizers, Doomers, and the Concept of Resilience" and his dissertation on "Energy Descent Pathways."

There were a lot of parallels between the Relocalization network we were a part of here in N. America, and the Transition Towns spreading in the UK, but the Transition Towns seemed to have something a little special. When the Transition Handbook was published late last year, it all seemed to come together.

A clear path, with steps laid out...yet constantly open to feedback and the situation at hand. Flexible, yet with a clear goal - an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP). There's a place for thinkers, and a place for doers. A place for the intellect (the Head), an acknowledgement that effective Transition means engaging all of our inner resources (the Heart), and definitely a place for practical action (the Hands). This seems to be such a well-thought out process - I see so much balance - in too many ways for me to talk about here.

So what am I working on? This website, of course, and communications in general. Helping to craft our Vision and Mission (as we all are), working on writing a media article, helping people connect, working on our internal processes, writing things for this website and our emerging email newsletter, and generally trying to spread the word.

I'm also still involved with Sustainable Bellingham as editor of the weekly email announcements (let me know if you want to get on the SB Community Announcement list - and keep abreast of all the sustainability events going on in our community), and serving on the ERSPO Task Force, and working with Alan Seid at Cascadia Training & Mediation, and...oh yeah, my full time job.

Please remember, we're all volunteers here. If things aren't happening at the pace you'd like, or if you have an idea you want to put into action, please contact us, and jump in to help!
Here is what I am up to.

Because of my technical background and curiosity for things scientific I have spent considerable effort for the last decade learning about climate change and peak oil. It is clear to me from my experience as an industrial and public sector manager of people that our salvation to these problems lies more in how we cooperate and work together than in a technical fix. This has led me to a desire for interaction with a broad range of individuals so that I can listen to their expressesions of both their frustrations and their vissions for where they would like to go.

I believe that from a collective effort to listen to each other we can begin to craft solutions that we will willing support to solve our collective problems going forward. To that end I am excited that we had a large attendance at our first Party Up for Power Down and I am excitedly working on the format for the next one. Please send me your ideas.

The initiating group is working on other public events. Anyone interested in helping to organize them feel free to contact one of us or if you would like to host an event in your neighborhood that is another possiblity. As I mentioned above I am interested in dialoguing with a broad range of people. Hope to see you again on June 18th for another Party Up!!
I stepped into the arena of politics when chairing the 2004 Kucinich for President Campaign and witnessed the uniting progressive voices of Whatcom County. In part Sustainable Bellingham was born on the wave of this change with the desire to create a more self-reliant, localized community. Local first makes sense to me. Better to bounce than crash.

After years of volunteering I took a break from Sustainable Bellingham. That break led me to the Transition Whatcom Initiating Group. The irresistible sirens of community once more call to me to ride this worldwide wave.

I’m working with a great group of people who really care about our community and the world. And of course it is wonderful to meet the many amazing individuals in our community and work together to create change.

I’m currently working on the Playing Well with Others (PWWO) committee and the Timeline committee. The objective of PWWO is to develop and implement our outreach efforts to individuals and community groups to spread the transition message. The Timeline committee is working on exactly when our key events will occur.

Earlier this month I attended a T4T (Training for Transition) workshop in Seattle. More than 40 people attended and it was a wonderful experience connecting with motivated, like-minded people. Fantastic tools continue to be offered to use to transition our communities. Stay tuned for a T4T in our community.

Transition Whatcom seeks to unleash the collective genius of our community to lay the foundation for a more gentle transition. I want to be a part of that. I hope you do too.

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