Transition Whatcom

Survey - Should Transition Whatcom advocate on policy and/or political issues?

If you would like to share your thoughts about this question, please fill out the survey at:

The survey will be available only until Aug. 15, so please fill it out promptly.

 The TWOG realizes that a survey is a very blunt tool to gather thoughts about such a complex topic, but thought it would be the best way to make sense of input from a lot of people. We expect an ongoing conversation about this topic.

Please take a look at the Transition Guidelines and TWs mission (available at for some background in which to think about this questions.

 The question of advocacy has implications for our identity as an organization, and for our role in the community. To what extent does TW, as an organization, want to be an advocate regarding political and/or economic policies relevant to community resilience, climate change, and fossil fuel use?  It is clear that TW is not primarily an advocacy group (i.e. we are not As we know, the Transition Guidelines emphasize education; inclusiveness; building community resilience; natural, decentralized organizational growth; and positive vision. 

 Are there times, however, when TW, as an organization, has a moral responsibility to support or to oppose economic and/or political policy decisions which will impact climate change and/or peak oil and related issues? If so, what is the best way for us to do this? How would a policy about this influence the way we will involve local government as we begin to develop an EDAP?  Also, to what extent does a “non-partisan” stance influence the movies, or book readings and other events we select to promote? Or the organizations we decide to partner with?

These questions are about a landscape of approaches that TW could take to a wide range of situations that may arise.

 We want all of those who are committed and active in TW to be heard. The survey is one piece of an ongoing conversation. The results will be posted later in August, as well as other steps in the conversation.

Thank you for all that you do. 

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I have created a page of resources to hopefully help inform TW members as they think through these issues.

Copied and pasted below for convenience:

Resources for Discussions on how TW Should Engage in Advocacy

Transition Ingredients: Involving the Council
To deepen your effectiveness, developing a good relationship with your local authority will be vital, but how to do that most effectively?

The Purpose, Principles, and Guidelines of Transition Initiatives
A 4 page pdf from the Transition Network. Includes a number of clarifying statements, such as "Our primary focus is not campaigning against things, but rather on positive, empowering possibilities and opportunities."
The link above does not seem to work well (at least for me) in terms of the formatting of the document when it comes up. Better to take the link below to the 7 Principles page, and from there take the link to the above document.

The 7 Principles of Transition
Just the principles from the document above, as posted on our Ning and org websites.

Who We Are and What We Do
A core document defining the Transition Network, from 2009. "...self-organisation, innovation and action are to be encouraged and supported where they arise,supported by a distinct set of principles and clear guidelines."

The current iteration of Transition Principles on the Transition Ne...
Current as of 8/04/13. Essentially the same, slightly different presentation. Here is the intro:
"Principles matter. They matter because the people we deal with on a day to day basis can hold us accountable to them. They matter because they're how we look at problems, devise responses and interact with people. They matter because the field that we're operating in can knock us sideways, and it's really useful to have something solid to grab hold of.
These are the principles that Transition Network aspires to as an organisation, and we hope to model them in such as way that other transitioners adopt them as well.
Like everything else, they're not cast in stone, and if the wider field of transition feels that they need to change, then we welcome that input. This page is open for comments for that very purpose."

Transition U.S. Application Form for New Initiatives
The criteria for becoming an official initiative. Includes this statement:
"A commitment to strive for inclusivity across your entire initiative. We're aware that we need to strengthen this point in response to concerns about extreme political groups becoming involved in Transition Initiatives. One way of doing this is for your core group to explicitly state their support of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948). You could add this to your constitution (when finalized) so that extreme political groups that have discrimination as a key value cannot participate in the decision-making bodies within your Transition Initiative. There may be more elegant ways of handling this requirement, and there's a group within the network looking at how that might be done..."

TW Guideline Paper: Balancing the Principle of Positive Visioning w...
A TWIG document designed to clarify TW's basic stance. The purpose of this paper is to further clarify the identity of Transition Whatcom and how we use and apply the Principles of Transition. As an example of applying these principles, we will discuss the application of the Principles of Positive Visioning balanced with the Principle of Inclusion and Openness.

Transition Ingredients - How We Communicate
"Be mindful of the language you and your group use in talks, printed materials and events, avoiding divisive ‘them and us’-style messaging, however subtle. Work actively to avoid perceptions of being ‘hippy’ or excessively rooted in alternative culture; rather, ensure that the project remains as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible."

"...Over subsequent years I rapidly developed a sense of what people like, and what turns them off. I also learnt that, within the environmental movement, there is often a lack of awareness of what turns other people off: we can be so convinced of our rightness that we don’t think we need to pay any attention to how the message is communicated. The fact that it is communicated is enough. The ultimate example of that was the, to me, deeply mistaken film produced by climate campaign group 10:10, No Pressure, which showed people who didn’t believe in climate change being blown up. A visual in-joke that when viewed by people outside the circle of those who conceived it, became a very unpleasant, bewildering and, unfortunately, self-defeating piece of work."

“The Rocky Road to a Real Transition”: A Review by Rob Hopkins
A while back the Transition model was criticized by an activist environmental organization known as the Trapese Collective, in a piece called "The Rocky Road to a Real Transition." Rob Hopkins reviewed their critique on his blog, and I think Rob really gets at an important part of what distinguishes the Transition model from other approaches.

"Transition is determinedly inclusive and non-blaming, arguing that a successful transition through peak oil and climate change will by necessity be about a bringing together of individuals and organisations, rather than a continued fracturing and antagonising. It seeks common ground rather than difference and realises that people who run businesses and people who make decisions are all similarly bewildered and forced to rethink many basic assumptions by these new and challenging times we are beginning to enter. I make no apologies for the Transition approach being designed to appeal as much to the Rotary Club and the Women’s Institute as to the authors of this report.
Time and again the authors of this booklet re-state their belief in a them-and-us perspective. They talk of “taking on power and those who hold wealth and influence”, of there being “powerful forces to confront” and that Transition is “only realistic if people are also prepared to take on the vested interests in the media, government and business”. Yet these extraordinary times into which we are moving extraordinarily fast demand new tools, both practical and thinking tools. It has always struck me that as we stand on the verge of the monumental changes that peak oil and climate change will impose, to have confrontational activism as the principal tool in our toolbox is profoundly unskilful."

TW Letter to Stephen Trinkaus
In the early goings of TW, Stephen asked a direct, public question of TW: "...I know that when I attended the Party Up for Power Down event I had a similar question - what is OK and what is not OK under the umbrella of Transition Whatcom? I really want to know if having people who are aligned with the resistance movement is going to help or hurt Transition Whatcom." Follow the link above to see our response. There was also an entire thread of conversation on our Forum on the question "Culture of Resistance or Culture of Abundance?"

Transition Politics
by Mark Rotherham, a member of Transition City Lancaster, an independent film maker and radio broadcaster. He created Lancaster's own Transition film based on the launch event.
At a local and national level the question of Transition/politics matters because one piece of legislation has the power to counter the good intentions of a million people doing good and kindly acts. Turning off the tap is preferable to constantly mopping up. And the Transition Movement is in danger of becoming handmaid to elite power, duly mopping up the mess left by cuts to welfare and public services. The Green Party is the only political and parliamentary organisation that gives radical voice to social justice and ecological sanity. Being political isn't about 'party politics' - that common putdown by the confused and disingenuous - it's about policies. And thanks to the hard work and foresight of the Green Party those policies are worked out and waiting to be voted for. The Transition Movement is still in its infancy. As it matures it must connect veggie boxes with ballot sheets.

 In keeping with the mission* of our Transition Whatcom  I don't think TW, as an organization, should endorse individual politicians. (the emphasis of our mission should be on actions, and our scope is to be inclusive). 

I do believe that TW should encourage full participation of the members in local political events and policy making. For example TW could be in keeping with the Transition principles (especially principle #3**), by holding informative panel discussions on current policy setting topics for our community, where all sides of the issues are represented.... For the education of not only TW members but also for the wider community.

I consider this to be a guideline not a rigid rule. There could be special situations, where TW as an orgaization would make special efforts to support a political initiative that strongly correlates with our mission. In some cases it could seem wise for TW to take a stand. But I think the role of the organization should be primarily on ACTIONS on the local level to build resilience and on facilitating community education on policy issues that takes in all perspectives and assumes TW members and the broader community will then make their individual decisions and vote as they see fit. TW - as an organization that values diversity - could not represent all the individual members'  different viewpoints on policy and politicians, so, as much as possible TW should not endorse specific politicians.

I'm including the parts of the vision and mission of TW that correlate with my comment:

*Vision & Mission

Transition Whatcom's VISION is resilient and more self-reliant communities throughout Whatcom County with a local food supply, sustainable energy sources, a healthy local economy, and a growing sense of vitality and community well-being.

The MISSION of Transition Whatcom is:
1) To explore and then follow pathways of practical actions that will reduce our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
2) To rebuild our community's resilience, that is, its ability to withstand shocks from the outside, through being more self-reliant in areas such as food, energy, health care, jobs and economics.
3) To inspire and support the communities and neighborhoods of Whatcom County as they establish Transition Initiatives at these local levels; and
4) To coordinate a county-wide, citizen led Energy Descent Action Pathway by creating a collective 20 year vision of Whatcom County. From there we will devise the paths on which we may achieve our objectives.

**The Application of Transition Principle #3: Inclusion and Openness

"Successful Transition Initiatives need an unprecedented coming together of the broad diversity of society. They dedicate themselves to ensuring that their decision making processes and their working groups embody principles of openness and inclusion. This principle also refers to the principle of each initiative reaching the community in its entirety, and endeavoring, from an early stage, to engage their local business community, the diversity of community groups and local authorities. It makes explicit the principle that there is, in the challenge of energy descent, no room for 'them and us' thinking."

The survey is closed now. The results will be posted soon.

Thanks to all that participated!

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