Sophy Banks reflects on why this year’s Transition Network International Conference looks set to have the greatest buzz of any so far…
This year’s Transition Conference in Devon is looking set to be the most global event Transition Network has hosted so far. People are coming from countries that haven’t been represented before, as well as many old friends. We’re especially happy to welcome people from China, Thailand and Japan (Japan is a country where Transition has been going a long time), as well as new friends from South America – Argentina, Columbia.
Some of you may know that this year’s conference coincides with the annual meeting of the Transition National Hubs – the people who have taken on to support, catalyze and connect Transitioners in their countries. 25 countries will be represented through this extraordinary network. Many ‘Hubsters’ will be part of an international facilitation team, and all will be identifiable so you can connect with people from near and far.
This international meeting feels like something special, and I’ve been reflecting on why. One of reasons is simply the buzz that comes with a diversity of voices, cultures, viewpoints, and languages. Having lived in a very multicultural part of London I recognise some of the feeling – like going down Ridley Road market in Hackney on a Friday, where the mix of African, Asian, European, British, and many more, would just create a feeling of expansion and excitement.
Part of the buzz comes from the way in which diverse cultures express themselves. We have people who love to come together with music, dance, singing, to stay up late and connect passionately. We have those who want to express things through art and beauty, through physical movement or through meticulous research, through sound business and practical ideas. There will be people whose countries still have an intact indigenous tradition of living close to the earth, as well as different versions of industrial growth – and some from countries who have experienced waves of economic collapse.. I find the mix of this completely fascinating, and enlivening – like the most fantastic party, but without needing any stimulants to really enjoy it!
I think there’s another deeper reason for feeling nourished by these international gatherings – and it’s something to do with having different parts of the whole global system represented or spoken out in some way. I sometimes see three main groupings: those who are in the globalised industrial growth system who are doing well, those in the same system who are being treated badly, and those who are still outside the globalised system, often fighting to protect their lands and traditional ways.
For me it feels enriching – and often challenging – when the voices of the global south challenge the prevailing perspective of the global north. I have heard indigenous people question the whole concept of the emerging “New Cultural Story” – reminding us that for many people the transformation we in the Industrial Global North are seeking is simply a healthy old story still alive in some places.
When all these parts of the global system are represented I think something extraordinary can happen – and I saw it at the New Story Summit. We can feel the possibility for deep truth to emerge when those who are most harmed, exploited, or disrespected by the system can speak about the pain and suffering it causes – helping us to know its true nature, and perhaps to feel those places in our selves and our own communities where the hurt is present but harder to see.
The Transition Conference isn’t quite at the place of being able to bring indigenous elders and groups from the global south to balance up the predominance of people from the global north who’ll be coming, but the mix we have this year promises to be another step in that direction. In response to this we have created some new sessions that we hope will help us harvest the benefit from this rich gathering.
Saturday morning will open with a session of meeting and finding out who’s here – with everyone having the chance to meet a few others in depth, and together creating some kind of instant display to show ourselves who we are, where we’re from, and something of what we’re up to in this wide arc of transitioning to a positive and inclusive future.
On Saturday afternoon we will offer a ceremony to mark the passing of the system of economic growth. Is it dead? Dying? There are many different views, but an increasing number of people are realising that its days are numbered, at least in its present form. This ceremony will be a chance to remember the history of this system, to feel its impact on our planet including human and non-human lives, and to remind ourselves of the original purpose of many of the industries and sectors that are now creating destruction, inequality and other kinds of harm. What truly serves life? What will we still need going forward? And what is our prayer, our wish or our longing for the new systems that will grow as the present dominant system diminishes?
Another will be a chance to hear some of the different voices present, and connect with people interested in Transition who are not present at the conference. We’ll explore together how Transition takes different forms, brings different opportunities and challenges, and share how our common culture of local knowledge and creativity responds.
We’re also bringing back that Transition tradition – a huge double session of Open Space on Sunday. What are your questions to this international, hugely experienced and wise gathering? What do you want to share, talk about, learn, or create together?
If you’re planning to be at the Conference expect the usual challenge of choosing between a rich smorgasbord of workshops, activities, open spaces sessions, and the need to just get a bit of quiet time. If you aren’t planning to come but are wanting to connect – maybe with others near you – we’d love to hear from you, and we’re looking for groups who we can bring into the global webcast at 16.30 UK time on Saturday.
We want to acknowledge the carbon footprint of an event like this – something that most Transitioners I know feel very conscious of (and we at Transition Network have thought long and hard about). Is it worth the travel, to bring such an amazing gathering together? Personally I believe it really is- that the quality of connection from these events is so rich and inspiring that it truly helps to sustain us to keep giving generously, to deepen into the profound purpose and necessity of our movement – and to get to know our many brothers and sisters in connected and mutually supporting organisations. And we hope that those of you who are staying home will benefit and contribute as well. We’re always really pleased to hear from you, and will do our best to pass information on or respond if we can.