Transition people respond to the question of should Transition Network add inequality to its purpose statement so that it says:
“Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.”
Steve Liaros, Sydney, Australia
I feel strongly that equality is a fundamental, if not defining element of the transition movement. This is because democracy is only truly possible amongst equals.
Democracy, in the way that we have constructed it has a single aim, that of economic growth, in the hope that economic growth and the market can satisfy all our individual and collective needs. Yet if we demand that we must all travel the same path, to steer the ship in a single direction, then we are enforcing on ourselves the need to conform to a particular order, whether it is an order imposed by economic processes or tradition or by established structures, governments, religious authorities or others. That order also demands that we establish hierarchies, that we submit to the authority of others. This demand for conformity is actually the antithesis of democracy.
Democracy, as it is meant to be, is about individual involvement in the delivery of collective needs. It is about individuals gathering and deliberately and willingly forfeiting some of their private interests for particular or specific collective interests. In this arrangement, individuals each forfeit what they can rather than being forced to forfeit whatever governments demand through taxation or what the market demands through price for goods and services.
A democratic forum is a forum that allows each individual the complete freedom to offer what they can and therefore distinguish him or herself, show who we are and how we are different to all others by what we offer the collective. A democratic forum would allow us to be completely honest about our flaws and needs and also honest about how much we can offer. Trust is built upon honesty and openness. If we make demands of others… you must pay this much tax, you must work this many hours, you must go to church, you must entertain people you don’t like regularly, you must pay this much interest on your mortgage even if you are not making any money, you must be educated in certain fields which pay well even if they don’t interest you…. then under these pressures everyone turns inwards and protects themselves from what often feels like incessant demands.
Once we stand as equals, rather than as un-equals as is the consequence of our current competitive environment, we can then trust each other. In a non- competitive environment it will no longer be necessary to build a bigger city. Instead, we can focus our spare capacity, our surplus talents, on building a better city, a more free, more trusting, more caring environment.
Our new communities must be based on trust. Trust is based on honesty and openness. Honesty is only possible if we treat each other as equals.
I thought I would put together some thoughts in the form a of a charter…
Transition to a Better World
1. Transition is our process for creating a Better World.
2. Our Better World will be a global network of intentional local communities.
3. The network will be forged through, and bound only by, the free sharing of all human knowledge.
4. Each community shall regard all other communities as their equals and is responsible for sharing knowledge to achieve and maintain that equality.
5. Each community shall strive toward self- sufficiency with respect to food, water, energy and material resources.
6. Each community acknowledges that the right to use any part of the Earth is accompanied by a responsibility to maintain or enhance the health of the Earth so it may also be used by all future generations of all life species.
7. Each community shall maintain itself at a scale where all it’s members can meaningfully participate as equals in the development of agreements that bind the community together.
8. Each community shall allow and encourage the free movement of individuals between communities.
9. Each community shall allow and encourage the continual review of it’s agreements so that those social contracts are suitable to the present participants.
10. Each community acknowledges that all individuals are unique and therefore different.
11. Each community shall encourage all individuals in their pursuit of self-knowledge, which is the pursuit of happiness.
12. We shall Individually pursue self-knowledge in order to understand how that knowledge can contribute freely to the creation of a Better World.
Doly Garcia, Brighton, UK
I think it should be somewhat wider than inequality, I think it should include all human rights. This is something that I proposed in the early days of Transition Brighton & Hove, that we should add human rights to the quick one-liner, for the good and simple reason that there are solutions to the problem of climate change and depletion of fossil fuels that would work perfectly well for a few people, to the detriment of many others. Unfortunately the suggestion fell by the wayside, because it was made at a meeting where we were listing our principles, and what emerged from the meeting is that there were precious few common principles among those present… which came as a shock to some people, though I had noticed that already myself.
My definition of Transition has always been: A banner for projects that are all of the following:
2. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
3. Bring change directly, not indirectly through pressuring other big organizations to do something
4. Respect human rights and justice, as understood by the majority of residents in the location
5. Aspire to be part of a strategic local plan with wide input from all residents in the location (the EDAP, but not necessarily by that name or done by Transition people)
As I see it, if a project fulfills all of those (or at least the first four, while there is no clear candidate for an EDAP), it’s a Transition project, whether they call themselves that or not. Likewise, if a project calls itself “Transition” but fails on those criteria, it isn’t really a Transition project.
If I was involved in the running of the Transition Network, if I heard of a Transition initiative that was failing on those criteria, I would consider removing them from the list of Transition initiatives, but I have never heard that it’s been seriously considered for any Transition initiative. Though some Transition initiatives seem to be morphing in standard climate change groups, that are really not (1) or (3), others seem to be sliding so far away from the original idea that it’s questionable whether they are about (2), and the internal fights in others suggest that (4) might not really be in the minds of some people.
Ed Christwitz, Transition Lake County, US
Thank you for your fine effort to help keep us all relevant with the recent riots and ancient classisms behind them. I find the content impeccable and yet I suggest moving the phrase “building resilience and happiness” to the beginning of the statement, with a slight alteration. It would then read:
“Towards building a happier resilience, Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy.’
This way happier resilience isn’t lumped in with the negatives at the end. Thanks again, Ed
Blake Poland, Transition Oakville, Canada
Delighted to see this topic receiving additional attention. Equity (a better term than equality for many reasons) is a fundamental determinant of population health, as demonstrated by numerous epidemiological studies.
Putting equity more visibly central within the core mission of the Transition movement would help counter one of the most frequent objections I hear from people who get the need for transition work but question the merit of emphasizing working at the local level: “won’t this increase inequality as better resourced communities work on their own futures to the exclusion of other less fortunate communities, in effect creating a kind of ‘gated community in transition’?”
A clear articulation of the many compelling reasons to make equity central to transition efforts urgently needs to be made, if it does not already exist. It could conceivably include (but not be limited to): (a) equity is the strongest documented determinant of population health (see WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health for a compelling summary of the evidence); (b) diversity (socioeconomic and other) is crucial to successful transition; (c) sharp and growing inequity is a major driver of social unrest, social distrust, and failure to collaborate (meaningful dialogue across difference is possible, but more challenging when differences are sharp); (d) equity promotes social cohesion, solidarity (the most well off currently think they can buy their way out of any crisis – a stronger sense that we’re all in this together is required for effective collaboration across differences); (e) equity is both a goal and means of Transition; (f) converging threats to social and health equity (climate change, peak oil, economic instability, etc) have the capacity to undo gains in other areas (the UNDP estimates that climate change alone has the capacity to undo 20+ years of anti-poverty work around the world). I’m sure much more could be said about each of these points, and more points made.
I’m really hoping that the forthcoming update to the Transition Handbook addresses this hands on. We must also go beyond politically correct motherhood-and-apple-pie statements about equity and inclusion to address the very practical issues involved in building equity at the local level (and how to bridge to inter-local equity work and the progressive left more generally). Most environmental groups (and Transition movement, at least here in North America seems no different) are populated mostly by white middle-class. We have a lot of work to do in reaching out and diversifying the movement. Most people in this movement, however, have barely a clue about how to do this. Practical advice an tools are urgently needed, as well as inspiring examples.
On a related note, the core elements of the Transition movement need to be rethought for/by the global South, where the message of frugality etc is viewed with suspicion as a tool of the global North designed to keep the global South underdeveloped (while we continue to enjoy the lion’s share of the planet’s resources). If the Transition message is to spread compellingly beyond the global North (and even, I would argue, if it restricts itself to the global North), issues of global North-South equity must urgently be addressed. Numerous commentators note emphatically that historic and ongoing North-South inequity and resultant mistrust threatens to prevent and undo any hope of meaningful global cooperation on climate change or resource allocation.
I think I’ve said enough for now. Looking forward to a vibrant dialogue on this issue!
(Transition Oakville, Go Local Oakville, Halton Green Screens, Dalla Lana School of Public Health/University of Toronto, Environmental Health Justice in the City research network)
Steven Liaros response to Blake Poland’s submission above
I refer to Blake’s comment that equity is a better term than equality. I have some legal training but my area of practice is town planning so I am not intimately familiar with the legal difference if that is the point being made. Blake, I generally support most of the points you make and I would appreciate your comments as to why you believe equity is superior to equality.
My understanding is that equity arose because of the complexity of the common law and initially related to the objective decisions of the king that were intended to provide some fairness when the courts became tangled in their own processes. It was about shifting from the technical wording of the law in certain circumstances to provide fairness.
My concern with this is that fairness is about treating everyone the same. People should not be treated the same. We try too much to be average or normal. Also a community of equals don’t relate to each other as a king or a government would relate to people. A king or government has to treat everyone the same because it can’t know each person individually and treat each according to their talents and their needs.
A community of equals treats each other as equals. That means everyone looks at everyone else at the same level. There are no superiors or inferiors in the public relationships. (This is different to private relationship, where for example, children, students and apprentices must obey parents and teachers.) In the public realm, we are all equals. This means we should contribute equally and deserve to benefit from the produce of the community equally. When we look at each other in this way we will be more compassionate and accepting of flaws and we will also allow each person to distinguish themselves according to their talents. In this way we are free to show how we are different rather than trying to be the same.
I hope this helps provide an alternative view.
Ruth Gofton, Albany, US
Yes equality should be there – I have more of a problem with the wording which currently implies that there are shrinking supplies of resilience and happiness.
It needs just a little tweak, maybe to something like: “Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy by building resilience and happiness.”
It is because inequality is the mean, while purpose statement should only contains the end (so even climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy should also not be in purpose statement, as they are not the only two obstacles to transition). What we really want is probably happiness, sustainable happiness.
To achieve it we must not only consider inequality, but also needs to take freedom (which motivates ingenuity) into account. In short, we need to balance between society and market, and I think it is best leave it to each community to decide, based on their culture. We can mention the need of balance in the Transition Initiatives Primer.
There is way to auto-regulate the economic gap within a range that is large enough to encourage ingenuity but not too large until poor cannot survive and see the hope of social mobility. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested.
Alex Loh, Ipswich, UK
As for Transition including equality I have no objection to this – though I strongly feel that the “riots” (whilst caused to an extent by social inequality) should be viewed more as a rise of criminality limited to crowded city areas of England and a few other areas where there are already social problems caused by the overuse of drugs and a culture of hedonism seeking, lack of self discipline amongst young people as well as any lack of community spirit and inequality.
It’s as important to look at the areas where there was relatively little trouble -areas as diverse as Brighton and Hove (despite the strong drugs culture, so whatever the Greens are doing there must be working!) and Ipswich (where a combination of Police surveillance of the Internet social networks and targeted monitoring of potential offenders nipped any trouble in the bud). also other countries of the UK remained unscathed, with disturbances confined to England.
At the same time its important not to play down the significance or scale of the crimes committed, or the long term effects – in many cases offenders were targeting their own neighbours and destroying their businesses and properties.
The sheer level of anger and nihilism that causes people to turn to this is perhaps hard to imagine amongst those who are maybe older or have been brought up in a “think positive eco friendly” progressive middle class left wing environment – but it is definitely out there amongst the youth.
I’ve personally seen it manifest itself at supposedly happy/friendly events such at parties and raves – its even happened at well run licensed events despite security measures and when it happens it is most unpleasant and often results in physical violence being used – however its hitherto been confined within groups of young people and often gone unnoticed outside their circles or (in extreme circumstances) the NHS staff and Police who have to pick up the pieces.
If such a crimewave re-occurs in the next few years a “transition Friendly” business will be just as likely to get its windows stoved in and stock robbed and the place trashed/set on fire as one where the owner was a pro-free market/capitalism Tory Councillor. So it is most important to prevent this happening but not an easy task.
In reality Transition and involvement in other eco-friendly thigns does not appeal to many younger people outside those who might be viewed as “hippies” – its seen as “boring nerdy hippy stuff” whilst others want cars, trainers, electronic gadgets etc.
Many have now proven they will now even fight to take this stuff unless its defended by “hard authority” – be that lines of policemen or even ethnic minority shopkeepers defending their family businesses with improvised weapons, or other vigilantés in the streets of some parts of London (something overlooked in previous replies).
I am unsure as to how these folk will “cope” with such an issue as peak oil – the result may not be pleasant! Perhaps the best case is that they are just shown that social boundaries exist, and there are penalties for crossing them – they may not be able to be “converted” totally but may begrudgingly realise they do not have the balance of power within any society, even a seemingly “softer” one that Transition appears to encourage, and if they wish to “protest” they should do so through proper channels.
Even the “hippy” young people clearly don’t want to get too involved with “harder work” such as CSAs or even organising meetings – or perhaps they can’t as they genuinely don’t have the time or energy. its perhaps understandable they just want hedonism after this (albeit a gentler form) – I am still young(ish) and felt much that way myself until a few years ago when I got involved in Transition.
Contrary to stereotypes of the youth many seem to work long hours these days by necessity and are perhaps too sapped of energy to get deeply involved in comparison to a middle aged person in a management position in a public sector organisation or large corporate or a retired person (these last two groups of people making up the bulk of many Transition groups).
It may well be here that Transition first needs to address the issue of “inequality” – otherwise the movement cannot grow to the strength needed to move forward.
Erik Buitenhuis, Transition Norwich, UK
I think it’s highly desirable to include equality as an explicit part of the purpose statement. Last year I proposed a new pattern to go with it, the moral yardstick, which proposes a question to guide decision making: will it take us towards a world in which the difference between the richest and the poorest human being is less than a factor 10?
Isabel Carlisle, Transition Totnes, UK
In a world that is increasingly interconnected it is hard to tackle single issues in isolation. Climate change, peak oil, population growth, soil degradation, eco-system collapse and loss of biodiversity are all connected and impact on each other in often unpredictable ways. If we add social inequity into this mix (as Thomas Homer-Dixon does in The Upside of Down) we get the full spectrum of challenges that this planet is now facing.
For me, inequality is one of the drivers of social breakdown that Transition needs not just to be aware of but make explicit. The recent riots reminded us how powerful tensions around lack of employment, money and self-worth lie just beneath the surface of our society. Rather than being afraid of that, can we instead ask how to work with that energy by brining it into the open? It could be a force for cohesion (as with the post-riot clean-up) rather than fragmentation. My sense is that if we don’t engage with inequality Transition could be seen as unreal and that we are not preparing people for the big shake-up that is coming.
Ed Tyler, Scotland
As a permaculture design diploma tutor and design course teacher, plus a champion of Transition in Scotland since its outset, I have always argued that the word “equality” should be included in the definition of Transition. I would like to see Transition Scotland work with the Equality Trust in explaining to the wider public the premise contained in the book “The Spirit Level” which argues that inequalities in society affect the wellbeing of the whole of society including the rich and the middle classes – as well as, of course, hitting the poorest hardest.
Transition is accused of being a middle class movement. This is inevitable in my opinion and is not something to agonise over. However, the localisation agenda implicit in Transition is in danger of ignoring the bigger picture – which The Spirit Level focuses on. Transition needs to address the health and wellbeing of the whole of society. I applaud the work of Luci Ransome in Glasgow in broadening the work of Transition to include those suffering most from ravages of consumerism.
Peter Gallagher, Belfast, Northern Ireland
We live in and were brought up in a competitive society. That’s where losers come from. Those who get the low grades and there are lots of then. We may not call them losers but we treat them as such and they feel it. Until competition ends we will always have oppressed people – rejected people. It’s not that far from a social society to a sharing society.
Competition re business, what is it but uncivilised. People really need to look at business; what exactly is it and squeeze out it’s essential nature, remove the competition i.e.the carrot/drug additive element, call it what you will.
Business: the Transistion movement largely ignores it but it is the key to transistion but 1st you must understand what has been going on behind the business banner and take charge. What is business supposed to be? I don’t know. Let me try to pinpoint some suggestions. Business is or should be the driving force of a community; so corporations I don’t think so? Business should be the spirit of a community, if done right, a distribution centre???? always.
A business is a group of properly trained/professional people focused on a particular area with an order of command. If we were to act truly civilised, we could drop the better job, better salary concept and fall in according to the needs and abilities around us.
Our current mind set is wrong but it is changing. These words are signs only. Don’t look for black and white clarity in words but expand the words to deeds from your heart.
If equality is a means to the end of transition then it does not explicitly need to be added to the transition networks purpose. Of course it may be seen by many as an end in itself but that becomes part of a much bigger political debate.
Personally I think it is more useful to keep the focus on dealing with energy transition.
Dave du Feu, Transition Linlithgow, Scotland
“Transition Network are consulting on whether to add the word ‘equality’ to their statement about what they do, as in: “Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.”
Yes, it is good to use the word ‘inequality.’ I would be much less happy to say we were ‘for equality.’ Clearly there are gross and increasing inequalities, which are a major evil. However complete equality is impossible and in any case sounds very prescriptive, so my feeling is we are not aiming for equality but we are definitely aiming to greatly reduce today’s iniquitous and increasing inequalities.
Also, on a purely phraseology point, the sentence doesn’t read very well IMO, especially on first reading, as ‘building resilience and happiness’ can read as if they are 2 more items in the list of community-led responses, rather than being things in the list of things that TN wants to achieve, if you see what I mean.
Maybe I’m being over-pedantic, it’s just a thought, but a solution might be to use ‘;’ instead of ‘,’ after ‘cheap energy’. Or, perhaps better, completely rephrase it, such as…
“TN aims to build increasing resilience and happiness, through community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy.”
Allen Armstrong, Fife, Scotland (Community-Led Environmental Action for Regeneration)
We would strongly support the inclusion of inequality in the Transition Network’s `mission’ statement. In the wider context, we understand the transition movement as a response to global inequalities, primarily energy exploitation and consumption . In the local context, we work in an area of relative deprivation (Levenmouth in Fife) where inequality is clear in terms of for instance a depressed urban environment, fuel poverty and others. Our very modest community efforts are primarily aimed at regeneration (ie reducing inequalities) through the medium of environmental action. Without connecting transition to these prevailing realities, you may as well remain in the frankly alien, outer fringes of the green movement, operating within a self-satisfied bubble. It may depend on how willing your constituency is to venture beyond its comfort zone.
Community-Led Environmental Action for Regeneration
Tom Black, Transition PEDAL, Portobello, Scotland
Yes I think equality is the bit missing element from transition thinking and practice. If we are going to tackle the big resource and environmental issues then we need to cap and share use of/access to all resources more equitably.
And it would make transition more relevant to all groups, not as is commonly the accusation, those who currently have the quality of life that makes it possible for them to choose what/how to buy.
Eva Schonveld, Transition Scotland Support
It’s a good question. I think we do need the word in there. We are currently failing to engage with a whole range of communities which could really use this model, because we don’t overtly address their most pressing issue. I don’t think we will be able to properly engage with low income communities until we start speaking about poverty and inequality and showing that we understand that this is part of the picture that needs changing along with everything else.
Equality is inherent in Transition, but until we start being much more up front about our commitment to it, plenty of people will continue to write us off. Of course we need to express this in a positive, upbeat, Transition way: focussing on solutions and people power, rather than on pointing the finger and getting angry. Though its a very understandable response, I don’t believe that it is the best way to make real change happen and if we can persuade others that the answer is to step up and start doing what needs to be done – even if someone else aught to be doing it, we will continue to be very effective.
I do hope that this can come into better focus and be positioned more centrally in how we present Transition to the world.
Jeff Mowatt, South West, UK
Human rights and Transition Enterprise
It’s something which could be described as being a key issue for me at this moment. First let me introduce what we’d said about the risk of uprisings with the proposal for a social enterprise initiative when we began as a UK based organisation in 2004.
The primary reasons for including the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, was firstly that it’s congruent with our own advocacy and perhaps more importantly, that in 2003 it was the reason our founder fasted from a tent in Chapel Hill NC, where in 2005, the Center on Poverty Work and Opportunity was opened, as a consequence.
In the work done later, for Economics in Transition, the author painted the background to the economic collapse and his treatise for an alternate economic paradigm which says:
“Economics, and indeed human civilization, can only be measured and calibrated in terms of human beings. Everything in economics has to be adjusted for people, first, and abandoning the illusory numerical analyses that inevitably put numbers ahead of people, capitalism ahead of democracy, and degradation ahead of compassion.”
it was therefore congruent to become partners in the Charter for Compassion
In work focussing on leveraging support for the disenfranchised, he wrote:
“This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether”
“Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way.”
Last week, he died in his the attempts to leverage action on Death Camps for Children.
Perhaps the Transition Enterprise could be built around similar principles?
Alejandro Fernadez, Transition Barcelona, Spain
I was lucky to experience first hand the protest camps that started surging here in Barcelona a few months ago, and the huge coming together of different issues people had finally had enough of – mostly centring on inequality – corruption, greed, avoidable social deprivation, huge salaries for bank managers and politicians, internment camps for migrants, health and education services in the first line for cuts, and so on. These were new people, a whole new generation suddenly coming together and becoming aware of crises not crisis, and inequalities rather than single issue protests or general feeling of gloom that had come before.
A few days into the main camp – in Plaza Catalunya with it’s posh little turf and flower areas – someone had the idea that we needed to make a garden. Immediately, in the spontaneous atmosphere of those first days, lots of people started working to make this idea take root, and as more people heard about it, lots of us transition Barcelona people joined in, as did radical squats or co-ops involved in gardening or permaculture. It was a beautiful thing, and it was obviously a strong part of this inequality, until then overlooked: the ongoing destruction of the environment, and the garden was a symbol of a more positive attitude towards this. For a lot of people I think this was a first introduction to gardening as a form of protest or awareness raising, and of permaculture, and I remember speaking to the girl in the Environmental issues tent/kiosk area to see if we could hold a talk on transition there, and she told me she had no idea what transition was, and no idea about anything to do with the environment really (although she was a fast learner): she was a student, who had just come to the protest on the first day, and had some kind of ecological awakening which made her want to run the environment tent, and camp in the square from then on.
So yes, I think the environment, the abuse of fossil fuels – for political and economic reasons – that led to our current dependence on it, the opposition to research or common sense on climate change and people’s consumerist actions keeping damaging practises going… These are all to do with inequality, and it is fitting with the idea that we also don’t do single issue green awareness raising like we would have in the 80s, but are much more holistic and wide ranging, both in what we try to learn about and put into practice, as what we try to avoid. I think the awareness that there are many problems around us reinforces a more and more realistic response. As different kinds of people, across the world, realise how broken, distorted, and fragile the current system is, different kinds of responses will start to emerge, but you will still be able to look at them and call them transition.
I think one thing to emerge from the 15m/Indignados protest camps is an ecological awareness, which is not seen as different from an awareness of immigration issues, political, gender, health, or educational issues – all these contribute to a cultural revolution which has already happened here, during those first days camping in squares, and has now come to the “barrios” – where I’m planning a talk on transition in early September. The truth is that you don’t have to look far to see problems in the world, and they don’t really need to be seen as separate from each other.
Then there’s the question of whether it should be on a mission statement. I think these never really can express everything in a sentence, especially when talking about world wide movements. Maybe it shouldn’t mention inequality as much as inclusiveness – that in doing ecological activities to transition to less carbon use and more resilience, you don’t leave anyone out.
Dick Watson, Transition Totnes
‘UK income inequality increased by 32% between 1960 and 2005. During the same period, it increased by 23% in the USA, and in Sweden decreased by 12%.’
‘Since the 1980s income inequality in the United States and the UK has increased substantially and has returned to levels not seen since the 1920s.’
‘The quality of social relations is worse in less equal societies. Evidence on inequality in relation to trust, community life and violence all tell the same story. Inequality divides people by increasing the social distances between us and widening differences in living standards and lifestyles… People trust each other most in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands; just within the rich market democracies there are at least five-fold differences in levels of trust, and researchers have shown repeatedly that high levels of trust are linked to low levels of inequality…’
‘The most important obstacle to achieving sustainability is consumerism and the opposition to any policy which appears to be an obstacle to the maximisation of personal incomes and consumption. A very important part of what fuels consumption however is status competition – keeping up with others, maintaining appearances, having the right clothes, car, housing, education etc, to compare favourably with others. All these pressures are intensified by greater inequality.’
‘Greater inequality makes people more self-serving and individualistic. That is why it is divisive and socially corrosive… A sign of the more public spirited attitudes which go with greater equality is the tendency shown for more equal societies to recycle a higher proportion of their waste’
– see the graph on the Equality Trust’s website.
‘Not only is greater equality essential if we are to cease squandering the earth’s resources in wasteful status competition, but it is also necessary that policies to reduce global warming are seen to be fair if they are to gain widespread public support. People are unlikely to change their way of life and make cuts if the rich are allowed to produce 10 times the carbon emissions of the poor by continuing to drive bigger cars, heat bigger houses, take holidays by air, and consume more of everything.’
So for me, tackling inequality is an essential part of building a community’s resilience to achieve Transition. Although this may sound a greater challenge, by specifically including the ambition of a more equal, just and sustainable society in your purpose statement, you would be opening your doors to potential supporters who think that tackling the divisiveness of huge and increasing inequality in the UK should be a crucial part of any activism.
With best wishes,
Ale Fernandez, Transition Barcelona
I once read a book called “Sustainable Communities” which had a chapter on community security, gated communities vs open/outward looking communities, and how a mazlow pyramid of community can accompany the stages each locality faces in becoming close knit and able to care for each other. This feeling of closeness based on security affects all aspects of how that community works- and I think there’s a lot to learn from turk, sikh and muslim communities who stood up to looters.
I’m sure there’s lots of literature on this kind of thing: At the bottom of the pyramid are primal needs and fear of being robbed, or generic mistrust of neighbours. You have to deal with these before you can go further, I think. At the top is the feeling of shared responsibility and care for an area, leading to activism or an ability to unite to protect it against damage from percieved threats (multinationals, looters etc), but also an ability to branch out and instill these feelings in the wider environment – so that surrounding communities can also go towards this safety, rather than feel excluded. This could be the case for example in a community with active transition groups, with a socially deprived community next to it.
Tim Gorringe, Transition Exeter
I think social justice is core to Transition because (1) the poor will suffer most from both peak oil and climate change and (2) what happens to future generations is a justice issue. My experience is that most Transitioners come from a background which is passionate about social justice.
In the proposed formulation I would oppose the use of the word ‘happiness’. In our society it is much too weak a word, evoking Disney and the ‘aw shucks’ US cartoon. I understand what is intended by it – to replace economic ‘efficiency’ as the be all and end all, but happiness is stomach churning.
Something like ‘life fulfilling’ needs to go in instead, or ‘life affirming and life fulfilling’.
Sylvia Rose, Totnes
I think this is a really important question, and I’m very glad that it’s being asked now. My impression (though I’m open to being corrected) is that although Transition is doing excellent work in many many places, it is by and large mostly reaching only a certain section of its populations. For us to grow and become more relevant to everyday people’s lives, I think we need to broaden our remit to include what touches our local people most, and these days that includes issues of social justice, community breakdown and building social as well as economic resilience.
In permaxulture terms, the principles of earth care, people care and fair shares. Not that we can necessarily address all of these all at once, but I would like to see these principles adopted as basic to Transition philosophy, not only because they are, in my opinion, right, but because I don’t think you can separate them out. I don’t see that you can feasibly hope to acheive true environmental justice unless you also have social justice.
As for terminology, although equity is a more precise term than equality, many people don’t understand it, or they associate it with financial markets. It’s important that we use terms that are easily understandable to everyone. Personally I would go for “social justice” because I think it resonates better for people – and with less left-wing-political associations than “equality”.