Transition Whatcom


If truth be told, the legacy of myopic insight and action is the residue beholden to the individual and the collective. Unrecognized, any evolutionary aspects become hamstrung into conforming to recognizable patterns, albeit unconscious, this tendency darkens the way.

Many folks are familiar with the development of electricity in America and the squaring off between Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla. As Edison purported D.C. current and Tesla backed the A.C. , the deciding factor was Westinghouse’s backing the centralized and meter able version. Which came down to kicking Tesla to the curb. I can’t help but wonder if equating market success with resilience is the useful metric it’s held up to be, or is it merely for the sake of being comforted by the familiar aspect it offers.

When TW was being established the decision was made to exclude using the name Bellingham as group name, which comes across as a bit odd to someone outside the city limits, seeing how much emphasis has been devoted to a mindset of inclusion. Did any of the formulating discussions occur in Kendall, Acme, Sumas, Maple Falls, Deming, Glacier, Everson, or Custer? Other than the food being sold (resilience) at the Bellingham Farmers Market, were any other considerations given to the concerns and needs of those outside the city limits. If so, What were they? If not, why? Before I dialed into the nature of the “TW/TB” issue, I took a piece of paper and sketched out the county (all of it), and proceeded to begin developing an EDAP, with alternative routes/means of transportation being emphasized. When I attended an EDAP meeting and asked those who attended the question of which issue Peak Oil or Climate Change would be the concern to challenge us first. It was Peak Oil unanimously. 

The next 2 years need to be considered thoroughly as Fukashima’s invisible debris and Methane releases in the Arctic begin to offer their resources into our web of life. Embracing change with the capacity and capability at hand is a window of opportunity never to be seen again, and the first step most likely will be away from the comfort of the familiar and the legacy of human history. An option now destined to morph into a demand.

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Comment by David MacLeod on December 5, 2013 at 9:43pm

Hello J.C.,

I'm not sure I'm entirely following your train of thought in this blog post (especially regarding the level of concern about the TW/TB issue), but I will attempt to answer some of the questions you raise.

On the decision to be Transition Whatcom rather than Transition Bellingham, there were multiple reasons. Primarily, we felt that Whatcom County was a biogregion of a size we thought was reasonable to manage as a Transition Hub.  A Transition hub is intended to support, but not control the emergence of other Transition Initiatives within that region.  We envisioned the potential of numerous initiatives springing up throughout Whatcom County - on the neighborhood level within Bellingham, and on the town level throughout the County.  Most of the smaller level initiatives have not met with long term viability, but we have seen Transition Ferndale, Transition Goshen, Transition Blaine (not called that), and several Bellingham neighborhood initiatives have had some level of operation.

As the initiating group it was not our intention to get these initiatives up and going ourselves - we didn't have the resources, nor did we consider it our responsibility.  What we did and do offer is support and a framework for those who are interested in getting involved in those initiatives.

We did have one formulating meeting in Laurel, and another in Bellingham where representatives from various neighborhoods and towns gathered. One of our initiating group worked in Ferndale, one lived in Goshen, one had grown up in Kendall. Most of our meetings occurred in Bellingham.

In Transition, one of the core concepts is that every location is unique and therefore will have unique needs, and unique emphasis in which issues it engages with.  This is why it is preferable that each town or neighborhood have its own initiative operated by the people living there, so that the people living there can collectively decide what to focus on in their initiative.

For example, those in Goshen are a bit off the beaten path and can start to feel isolated. They don't focus on awareness raising about peak oil or climate change, they focus on supporting one another in real and tangible ways, sharing with one another either their skills or their produce or their firewood, etc.

At the most basic level, to contrast the needs of Bellinghamsters with those in outlying county areas, I would say that in addition to the above, those in the city might feel a greater need to build resilience in food production; whereas those in outlying areas might be more concerned about improved and efficient transportation options (as you mentioned).

In regards to the EDAP, I think you are almost accurate that at the time you referenced it was probably more commonly believed that the effects of Peak Oil would be felt before the effects of climate change.  I say "almost accurate," because I remember you at that meeting stating you felt Climate Change would challenge us first, and therefore it was not unanimous.  At the time I remember feeling thankful that you were there expressing that important concern.  And I think that the reality we are now experiencing shows that at this point in time it seems to be climate change being more in our face than peak oil. I do think peak oil is still very much present, but its effects are being masked to a degree.

Regardless, what I think the Transition movement tries to emphasize is that no matter which one is felt first, we really need to be dealing with both issues in a unified way, and they need to be seen as two symptoms of one problem - our society's over-dependence on fossil fuels. Our biggest challenge and our best hope of resilience is to figure out how to dramatically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels - as both individuals and as a society. The Transition Handbook has a great section on why we need to deal with these two issues in a unified way that reduces our exposure to both of those threats. And we're now increasingly seeing how the ideas around continuous economic growth also exacerbates both of those problems, and we have to pay attention to our economic arrangements as well.

I appreciate your last paragraph. Very sobering to consider, and I think we really do need to take this seriously.

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