It’s time to talk about We
By Sarah McAdam 22nd October 2018 Culture & Society
Naresh Giangrande, a co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and Transition Network and, until recently, our Training Coordinator, shares some personal reflections about the Transition movement’s impact and potential. We know that many people around our movement are currently asking similar questions in these turbulent times. Naresh offers one perspective and we are keen to create space for other experiences and views to be shared as part of a broad and deep conversation about where next for the Transition movement. We encourage you to post comments to help get this conversation started!
The scale and pace of destruction caused by the world economy is accelerating despite the efforts of grass roots movements to create change and new directions. Right now, I see no realistic scenario for altering our frightening inability to catalyse meaningful change; it’s time we had one!
Transition proposes that by creating better ways of living today we can, through that process, create a better tomorrow. Millions of bottom up, grass roots organisations and initiatives worldwide are creating the world they want, in their place, in diverse ways. Transition is part of an ecosystem of change. While this ecosystem of change has undoubtedly changed many places for the better, many decades of intense and impressive grass roots work (over twelve years of Transition) have not altered the trajectory of the Industrial Growth Society towards a regenerative culture [https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/sustainability-is-not-enough-we-need-regenerative-cultures-4abb3c78e68b ]. This post asks why, whether it is even realistic to think that it might have, and what might have to happen to create change on the scale needed.
The Transition process and practice can be summed up in Sophy Bank’s three questions that Transitioners ask:
- If we look fearlessly at the issues facing us what do we see?
- ‘What is the best my town/village/ city can be?’ What would that look like?
- What concrete, practical things can we do right now to make that vision a reality?
The Transition model and process delivers what it is fundamentally designed to do:
- It engages people in an inspirational way using each of our creative abilities.
- It allows large numbers of people to exercise their ability to take action in ways that make a difference.
- It works at a scale at which we can make a difference, ie. locally.
- We can start to create the world we want now.
- It rekindles community wellbeing.
- Transition manifests, in tangible ways, our love for the world.
While change at a local level has created practical pieces of a regenerative culture; what an initiative that has emerged from the Stockholm Resilience Centre called seeds of a Good Anthropocene. [https://goodanthropocenes.net/], we have failed to significantly and measurably move the big picture. We, the big We, are failing. I see grass roots movements as part of our collective cultural global system-wide process of movement towards a regenerative culture. We cannot do this alone. We need more We.
What is Failing?
By any yardstick we have failed to:
- Lower Carbon emissions
- Create an economic system that respects earth limits
- Create a society that generates economic equality and social justice.
- Increase biodiversity
- Reduce pollution
After over ten years of working at the heart of the Transition movement I feel we need to ask why and, ‘What can be done to have more impact?’
I am not diminishing or disrespecting the tremendous efforts and extraordinary achievements which have been demonstrated daily by Transition (and other grass root initiatives) groups around the world. It is indeed impressive and inspiring. [https://transitionnetwork.org/stories/]. Our lack of impact is not for want of effort, imagination, or creativity. Transitioners embody those qualities in bucket loads.
I am writing this as a reflection and an enquiry. I hope that by questioning our assumptions and beliefs, we can find the next steps to creating change to a regenerative culture. It is my hunch that we are still in the early stages of co-creating a movement that can truly disrupt our current unsustainable pathways, and create systemic change. In the early days of Transition we often talked about how we maybe knew the A-C of Transition. Twelve years on have we gone beyond D or E? I believe many more steps and processes, presently unthinkable alliances and initiatives are needed to enable the next steps in an effective movement to a regenerative culture.
Grass roots movements for change on their own are clearly not going to be enough to create the system warping, seismic shifts necessary to create the change we need. But could some new form of cooperation between citizens, governments, and business be effective? If so, how might that happen? This post will look at the problems and issues facing the Transition movement (and most grass roots initiatives), of which there is little discussion. I am hoping that reflecting on our problems will enable us to be clearer and more focussed on ways to create the conditions for an emergent regenerative culture.
The issues we face as grass roots Movements for Change
From my time working with Transition groups all around the world, I have seen these issues present in just about every Transition group. They lead me to ask whether we are working in the right way, or whether we are asking the right questions, or working in a way that will ultimately produce change, or whether the structure of the Industrial Growth System somehow prevents fundamental systemic change. Here are some of the main stumbling blocks.
1) Grass roots movements are starved of resources
Time and money are the most important. We rely on volunteers, in many parts of the world these are disproportionately older volunteers, because they have the time due often to the lightening of responsibility for pursuing a career, raising a family, and making money. The young people we most need are often time and money poor. I have lost track of the number of young people who have asked me how to be involved and still make enough money to pay the rent.
Most Transition groups struggle to fund basic enabling structures such as web sites, an office, meeting space, admin support. You can do a lot without money, but without significant resources most Transition groups hit a limit to their effectiveness. Key people burn out due to the scale and sheer work needed to build alternative structures like cooperatives, raise significant investment capital, or just maintain a transparent, democratic organisation. To get the scale of change that will shift the current system we need organisations, power, and clout – and that takes money in the current paradigm.
Enabling structures are important. Transition hubs like Transition US [ http://transitionus.org/] or Transition Brazil [ https://transitionbrasil.ning.com/ ] help connect and support Transition groups operating in particular territories. However, Transition Hubs, with rare exceptions, can’t find funding, and the international organisation is also under funded. There are no clear pathways to adequate funding. Government funding is being squeezed and in most places is unavailable, which leaves either charitable trusts or creating a trading arm. Neither of these will provide the funding necessary to catalyse and support scalable change.
The main theoretical underpinning of grass roots change, Strategic Niche Management (SNM) and Transitions Management proposes that change often emerges through small scale experiments which can develop and adapt in ‘protected niches’ and then, as the dominant system starts to collapse, can seed and inform what comes next. This is a perfect description of a social change technology like Transition. However, for a whole lot of reasons, social change is one of the most difficult dimensions of change to influence. Cultural, social, and economic constraints and assumptions prevent change happening in this sphere. And given the change we need is technical, social, political, cultural, and psychological, it becomes a very hard gig.
Grass roots change makers are creating the soil from which the future survival of our culture, species, and life on earth will emerge. Business leaders, politicians, and big philanthropic organisations who know the trouble we are in and the scale of change needed should be stepping up. They should be providing us with the skills, support, finance, and knowhow to quickly and reliably explore and scale up viable alternative ways of living and working. They are not. Why Not? Most philanthropy is targeted at ameliorating the worst effects of current systems, rather than change to the system. We work in conditions where we are hampered and lack what we need to succeed. After over ten years my question for change makers is, Why do we put up with this lack of support and recognition? And the question I have for main stream society and business (who have the resources), is Why are so few willing or able to make those resources available?
2) System change – who wants that?
Regulatory, political, and power structures are captured by the elites and multinationals who act to maintain and enhance their power, profits, and privilege. Why wouldn’t they? It’s the game, and, from my perspective, they appear to have no choice but to play the game. This leaves very little space for the systemic change needed – change we need on every level (personal, local, national, and international) and in the social, political, economic, and ecological spheres.
Transition and other grass roots initiatives lie outside the Overton window [link: http://thefutureprimaeval.net/the-overton-bubble/ ] which is where the change we need is going to come from. But there are costs, as well as freedoms, to operating in the wilderness. You have lots of freedom to challenge the unchallengeable and say the unsayable. And one of the costs is that it is hugely difficult to be heard. So the deal is, if you are operating outside of the Overton window, you have to do it without adequate resource using your wits, ingenuity, creativity, and passion. You can move fast and fail quickly. Success, if achieved, will be a rudimentary proof of concept. Scaling up, popularisation, mass uptake, and all the cultural shifting that go with it needs more than a proof of concept. It needs resources and organisations.
If we take, for instance, the change needed to our economic systems, business, even innovative business, it will not get us to where we need to go. Systemic change of the economic system is outside the scope of any business or even business sector. To survive in business you have to play by the fundamental, foundational rules of business. Sure, technical change is part and parcel of the economic system, but only within a narrow, market friendly range of possibilities. Unfortunately, many progressive business leaders see the solutions we need emerging from business, which is unrealistic. It cannot and will not support the sort of systemic change we need. Capitalism is not, has not, and never will prioritise the health of people, eco systems, or life before profits. It can’t. But business – corporations – have all the resources, and change is not possible without those resources. Where are the partnerships between business, government, and radical grass root change organisations? Where are the radical businesses challenging the capitalist model?
Business people are usually very pragmatic. So where and how can the scale of change to our macro economic system emerge? Can you point to any examples? No! The profit motive will not get us to where we need to go. What will? It is time for business to set up well funded paradigm shifting divisions to explore what a paradigm shift that isn’t market driven, isn’t state run, and isn’t socialist, looks like, and design pathways to get there. We need you and you need us. Small scale innovations (created by the grass roots) won’t scale or outcompete the existing economic system, and it’s hard to see how they will emerge and challenge the macro economic system. Which leads me to the next point.
3) There isn’t yet a comprehensive, tried and tested alternative to the capitalist, growth dependent economic system
There are many ways to buy food, energy, or other things. Innovation in local economics abounds. Yet, there isn’t an alternative to the market capitalism. By this I mean the big thing that sits atop the economic processes. That which demands constant growth. No country, since the end of communism, has tried out a different overarching economic system. There are proposals and ideas. However there are a few very big difficulties:
- Those in power won’t give it up easily. It will take a sustained, global political campaign.
- It is a huge system and even if something, some kind of steady state or gradual consumption reducing mechanism were introduced, it would have to be done at a scale that will be very difficult to implement without crashing the existing system. And the complexity of that is beyond my capacity for thought (think Brexit times an order of magnitude)
- It is hard to sell getting less, without getting more of something. This more of something might be consciousness, community, connection, wisdom, or love. I am not sure human kind is ready for the shift of consciousness which some advocate. Can you imagine most people opting for a less tangible set of aspirations?
- There may not be a way out of the continued growth civilisation project. We may have created a trap for ourselves, from which we can’t escape.
4) We have not placed the importance of Inner Change as centrally as outer change
I have learned in my time in the Transition movement, that one of our most unique and important contributions to the process of change is the alignment of inner and outer change. It might seem self evident, but the system is us. It is in us and unless those internal parts that keep the current system in place are actively and systematically challenged in us, they will run the same system, creating the same poor choices, and in effect making any change irrelevant. And that ‘new’ system will be just as oppressive and unable to confront the current realities as was the old system. What makes it pernicious is that it doesn’t seem like that at the beginning, or we think we have grown out of patriarchy or hierarchies, when we haven’t. The seeds of our venial nature are there and they will grow and mature unless we actively change.
Sophy Banks said to me one morning that she saw that one of the jobs of leaders in this movement of systemic change was to repeatedly chop off the head of our ego, day after day. In doing so, endure and model the shame and humiliation of exposing our shadows. This is the meaning of service.
One of the persistent challenges we face in is burn out and its handmaiden, despair resulting from unprocessed feelings. As the planet is burning, activists and those working outside of the system are burning out. We are unable to maintain our levels of activity. Within the system things are not much better, within the UK (population 60 million) there were 57 million prescriptions issued for psychological drugs in 2014 and rising each year [link: http://cepuk.org/2015/04/10/latest-prescription-data-shows-consumption-psychiatric-drugs-continues-soar/] .
Outer change must be accompanied by inner change. This simple fact is not acknowledged enough in Transition or other movements for change. Without inner change any positive change is coopted by the old system in ways that corrupt otherwise positive changes and uses those changes to further the aims of the old regime. Some examples that spring to mind are green growth, the happiness and well being movement being used by corporations to get more out of their employees, and renewable energy being used to promote more growth in the system. Maybe the connection between these examples and inner change may not seem obvious. Our lack of personal integrity and inability to self reflect and thereby examine ourselves lies at the centre of these betrayals.
5) We don’t operate at a scale that can create the scale of change needed
In 2014 Peter Haff introduced the term ‘technosphere’ [link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161130085021.htm] to describe the technical apparatus that we are totally dependent on to stay alive. These systems are marvels of human cooperation which are unrivalled in human experience. They are in many ways the crowning achievement of our industrial society. These worldwide systems are at several levels of scale removed from our often local lives, where we have the agency to create change. Even the powerful players in each system are constrained. This is because no one is in change. There is no democratic oversight. These systems are effectively self organising, which is itself a miracle of cooperation. We are all utterly and completely dependent on these systems and are unable, so far, to create alternatives. We are not even in relationship with those systems except as passive consumers. Hence the difficulty in changing them. No relationship = no possibility of change.
Some of the systems I am referring to are:
- The global logistics and transport system
- The interconnected industrial manufacturing system
- The telecommunications and information system
- The electricity grids
- The financial system
- The mining and resource extraction system
- The media
- Criminals and outlaws including terrorists and off shore tax havens, and their flip side the criminal justice and international law enforcement agencies.
Interestingly we have managed to hack food systems, and energy to a lesser extent. And some building, fibre, and clothing, and literature and arts often are more open to change. Although most these are also often dominated by large global players. For instance 2-3 companies dominate the global food commodities system, although most of the world’s population is not fed by agribiz but by small local farms. [https://permaculturenews.org/2014/09/26/un-small-farmers-agroecology-can-feed-world/]
The technosphere has become more powerful than governments and is seen as too big to fail. Being self organising, we cannot locate them, interrogate or hold their leadership to account, because there is no leadership. The farce of the latest ‘data breaches’ involving Facebook, and the charade of US government officials ‘questioning’ Mark Zuckerberg is one instance of this ‘dance of power’. Once the size, scale, and hegemony of the systems the technosphere is made up of is illuminated, virtually all politics and economics can be seen as interactions and tensions between the different systems as they jockey for more power and influence. Most of what is reported in mainstream news is the tensions and power struggles between these systems. This is why (in my opinion) grass roots efforts are invisible. We are outside of these power struggles and deemed irrelevant, or at most ‘quaint’ or a throw back. I fear that we are trapped in multiple, technosphere bear hugs that make relocalisation an empty gesture. That is, of course, unless the failure of complex systems causes collapse. [link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0R09YzyuCI ] In a collapse scenario local alternatives will come into their own and act as lifeboats amid the ruptures and chaos that would ensue. Some authoritative voices [ http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf ] are now arguing that near term collapse – within ten years – of our societies (in wealthy ‘developed’ countries) is now inevitable.
6) Our story isn’t yet clear.
Transition Network has done some great work defining the narrative of Transition:
A movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.
A movement is building
Here are the things all the different people are doing in their communities
It’s rooted in caring for ourselves, each other and the living world
This shows a different future is possible when we come together
(Optional: This is why it’s needed)
Here’s how you can be part of it
It was a great start. I even had some T shirts printed up with these words.
A great story inspires and moves us. It begins with purpose and then how you will achieve that purpose. It’s simple, direct, easy to understand, and speaks to the fundamentals of life; love, peace, equality, connection, and fraternity. I have had great hopes of a good powerful story that many grass roots groups could use and even other players and power centres could buy into. All those protecting life rather than those protecting the patriarchal, empire based cultures need to be able to tell that story and inspire with that story, otherwise the old story, the one that got us here, will prevail. It’s that simple. But it will take some amount of work and testing to make this happen. NEON’s Framing the Economy [ http://neweconomyorganisers.org/our-work/framing-the-economy ] work is a good start, along with the work of George Lakoff and Jon Alexander’s New Citizenship Project. Telling a story full of hope and optimism, which the Transition movement has done, can help build momentum for the scale of change needed. A new story, tested and retested, may be an important lever for massing a scalable movement for change.
We are failing to create the change needed to maintain life on earth as we know it.
Individual grass roots organisations alone are too small, and even a gathered together and fully coordinated bottom up movement for change (which as yet doesn’t exist) is probably still too weak and out of relationship with the technosphere and large economic structures to instigate systemic change.
It is hard to see how change will come from within the technosphere.
Any realistic hope of change to a life supporting culture will emerge from a dauntingly difficult and harrowingly unconceivable synergy between outer (physical, tangible) and inner (psychological and psychic) shifts; in a mosaic of alignment between hitherto often unrelated or antagonistic cultural elements- business, government, civil society, academia, faith groups, spiritual and personal development movements, and others.
While there are intriguing fragments of working models, we are not yet even close to knowing what this might look like. The Atmos project [ atmostotnes.org ] here in Totnes is an intriguing collaboration between business, civil society, and local government.
Ungersheim, France [ https://transitionnetwork.org/stories/ungersheim-village-transition-france/] is a creative partnership between local government and Transition to create systemic change. The Ctrl Shift platform [ http://www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk/] I have been working on has brought together grassroots organisations who had never talked before. Ecolise, Smart CSOs, and the Covenant of Mayors are European examples of weaving together networks of networks, as are BALLE [ /bealocalist.org/ ], and Smart Cities. The Municipalities in Transition project [http://municipalitiesintransition.org/] is another such network of municipalities who are working with grass roots organisations to create new forms of political and economic engagement. However all of these are not yet sufficiently developed to really challenge the dominant paradigm.
We created the technosphere. Our cultural stories, and our values and beliefs are human constructs. Just as they have been created they can be recreated, differently. Like I said at the beginning, we are currently failing to create the scale of change needed. I believe we have the power to. Where and how that power will emerge, I don’t know. But maybe a bigger We does?
We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice.
This blog is in equal parts an expression of my fears for the future, a cry for help, a public confession of my personal feelings of failure, and a sharing of my learning and insights from years in the Transition movement. It is also a call to a tantalisingly close but still elusive way of living that is peaceful, just, harmonious, and accords all beings their full potential for life.
This blog asks many questions, and answers few, for that I apologise. I wish I had more answers, more hope, more optimism. Instead, all I can offer are more questions, an unvarnished assessment of movements for positive change, fears for the future, and large dollops of uncertainty. I still dream that some day before I die I can say with certainty to my grand children, ‘You have every chance of living full lives of peace, health, and happiness.’
Naresh Giangrande, Summer 2018
Naresh, thank you for this.
In early 2009 as the financial crash was going down, friends and I hit the Internet amazed at how fragile the system was. We found Transition information, for which we are eternally grateful. You have helped us to lead fuller, more peaceful, healthier, happy lives, and I am grateful to everyone’s efforts at Transition Network. So this has already happened in some of us.
I am not pollyanna about our future, but I was reminded of a quote from the Koran, Chap 46, verse 9 , Muhammad speaking about himself, inspired by God: “I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner.” In other words, as I’ve been told by the Sages I have met, and as We must never forget, you cannot change people, We have to change ourselves.
It was disturbing for me to read this. In essence, one of Transition co-founders is sharing with the world that Transition is a dead end street.
That’s heartbreaking and it only adds to my own heartbreak these days, while I’m observing what’s going on on this planet. Just one example is Prevent Year Zero campaign, watch 3-minute video here: https://www.preventyearzero.org. Projected year when wild animals are gone is 2026!
Obviously, ‘we’ need global permaculture and global movement of movements. But who is that ‘we’ Naresh is referring to above, and I’m referring to here? It is probably hard to see opportunities from within “Transition movement” bubble. I consider myself to be part of it, but I put quotation marks here deliberately. I don’t think we’re movement, really. I think we’re a bubble. What stops us from popping our bubble(s) and actually co-creating something like this? http://newstoryhub.com/2018/09/the-biggest-movement-in-the-world-that-no-one-saw-coming-paul-hawken/
And this? https://www.collaborationforimpact.com/collective-impact/
I wrote this recently, in the context of my translocal and transnational work in Transition (and that’s mostly volunteer work): https://medium.com/virtual-teams-for-systemic-change/popping-bubbles-550d02a6f7ac
Nenad – you’ve chosen to interpret this as Naresh saying “dead end street”. I chose to interpret it in other ways.
To me, Naresh is saying “knowing what we know now, having travelled this street, here are the next challenges and it’s not clear how we’re going to meet them”.
I’m also hearing him say that the changes we’ve catalysed so far aren’t impactful enough, given the inertia in the dominant systems.
He implies we’re on the right track by citing some examples where engagement with broader systems appear to be producing interesting results (Municipalities in Transition, Ungersheim, ATMOS).
I agree with all of these points of his. And I’m struggling to see where Naresh is actually saying “dead end street”.
So while I agree with most of what Naresh writes, I’m not sure I’d agree with his assertion that, “By any yardstick we have failed to: Lower Carbon emissions, Create an economic system that respects earth limits, Create a society that generates economic equality and social justice, Increase biodiversity, Reduce pollution”.
If I chose a yardstick that operates at a personal scale, I can see improvements to those indices in many places by many people in many projects. Sure, they’re not at the scale we need, but they are positive changes all the same. And alongside them, there are many reported shifts in people in the Inner realms as well. I’d say that these are all *significant* at the personal/community level, but not *meaningful* at the global level. It all depends on the yardstick you select.
Some of Naresh’s post refers to collapse. The latest IPCC report has highlighted critical aspects of climate change and some of the responses needed. I’ve always thought they paid insufficient attention to feedback systems (and the Pottsdam Institute feels similarly – https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2018-08-06-planet-at-risk-of-heading-towards-hothouse-earth-state.html), so I admit that at the back of my mind – and sometimes the fore – is the possibility of collapse.
Indeed, collapse is happening in the earth systems in many places already (species extinction, glacier loss, habitat loss), it’s just not been widely experienced by the humanoid part of the system.
However, if such things do come to pass, then isn’t this Transition experiment all the more vital? Aren’t the tracks we’ve been creating really crucial and in the right direction? It really matters how things break down, it matters how we behave as things break down. I feel much better equipped thanks to my involvement in Transition (connections locally, NVC training, systems thinking, inner work, group collaboration, to name a few). And I know of fellow transitioners who feel similarly.
So I think Transition has been on ONE OF the right tracks (or streets) all along. And so have loads of other grassroots activities. I don’t profess to knowing how we’ll all scale up together, or partner with regenerative elements in the technosphere, or whether we’ll do it soon enough. Right now, these things are unknowable.
However, being on this Transition track has enabled Naresh to be able to point out where he sees us needing to focus our attention next. And I’m very grateful for that.
I was really inspired by Naresh’s words and surprised by the comment that suggested the blog thought we had run down a dead end. I agree with Ben – it is not how I read it at all.
Rather Naresh has pinpointed our journey on the map – not a bad decision for a long journey to a new and as yet undiscovered place. In particular I appreciate section 4 – the role of the inner journey, both from personal place and as a Master’s in Ecology and Spirituality student embarking on a dissertation. From where I stand the other factors that need to be addressed for our journey to continue well cannot be dealt with until we have succeeded in recognising and adopting an inner approach. The demons on the inside are where we need to be focussing our attention, particularly in these times when many fear that in the political arena there isn’t the movement forward needed. Matt Dunwell said recently that the men and women who work for large corporations are just as eager for positive change as we are. What is different in each case is perspective and without acknowledging our challenge from all perspectives we will go nowhere fast or without strife. Once we can recognise our own blind spots and see where they come from we may be more able to communicate with those who we perceive to be on the wrong page. We won’t make this journey alone but together and once we realise that the change can happen as if over night. Our biggest challenge is having the courage to look inside at our own beliefs and prejudices so that we can move forwards together. Bravo Naresh for identifying where we are and for the transparency to acknowledge we don’t know the next step. That in itself is the next step – from doubt comes the leap of faith that all the scientific and rational thinking in the world cannot take us to. We need to adopt an inclusive attitude and self responsibility , not only for our actions, but for our beliefs, especially those that are hidden. We are on a global hero’s and heroine’s journey together, can we actually work together and stop polarising?
Thanks for sharing your perspective Ben Brangwyn (another Transition Network co-founder), I find it helpful for my own understanding 🙂
I also logged in to this website now to include link to conversation that’s taking place on Transition Network page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/transitionnetwork/posts/10156725863758622
(I could not find how to edit my previous comment, so I’ll add another one).
I guess my main point is not so much that Transition is dead end street. Ben Brangwyn is right, it is a street well worth taking. My main point is that Transition is one of many bubbles I see around in the field of work I call “regenerative cultures movement”. And I believe Tranistion (we?) are uniquely positioned to start popping those bubbles… in this particular way: https://medium.com/virtual-teams-for-systemic-change/network-ing-does-not-equal-network-weaving-abf1978e79c
“In essence, one of Transition co-founders is sharing with the world that Transition is a dead end street.” Hi Nenad, i am certainly not saying this. I think Transition was and is very relevant and important. I am still involved, and now perhaps more than ever in creating and enhancing resilience both at the personal and community levels of scale. I return again and again to Sharon Astyk’s Theory of Anyway: “And if you told me that globalization was over, and that we were going to create a just economic system, and we’d fixed all the other problems, and that I didn’t have to worry anymore, would I then stop gardening?
No. Because the nurture of my piece of land would still be the right thing to do. Doing things with no more waste than is absolutely necessary would still be the right thing to do. The creation of a fertile, sustainable, lasting place of beauty would still be my right work in the world.” That is why i do what i do and will continue to do what i do, regardless of the outcome, for as long as i live.
My primary reason for this post is to share what i have reflecting on since i formally left the Transition Movement (but as those checked into the Hotel California know : “You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!” and to sat we need something bigger, and more multifaceted, than Transition to make the kind of differences I believe we can make.
Thanks for clarification Naresh 🙂 It may be that my interpretation was influenced by my own despair.
Based on what you wrote above, and on my own experience so far, I’m don’t think there is such thing a “formally leaving Transition Movement”. We certainly leave groups, teams or organisations, but if Transition is really a movement (which a have doubts about, as I explained above) then there is no formal on-boarding and off-boarding… being part of a movement or not is entirely personal and intrinsic… choice, I guess 🙂
Hi Naresh and all, thanks for some stimulating questions and comments.
I’ve put a response at
I hope you’ll take a look,
Best wishes, Phil Green
I share your frustration that our movement hasn’t yet reached a stage where it is affecting the big indicators: carbon emissions, an economy driven by environmental and human wellbeing, etc. and I don’t think it is knowable at this stage whether that will change. We may not succeed. But I am very much more optimistic than what I read into your words and tone.
Our movement is broad and diverse and is growing rapidly in many ways, but I don’t think it is ready yet to become mainstream, and so it may be better if it remains somewhat under the radar until it is. But the vision of what a collaborative, sustainable society would be like is becoming clearer all the time, with Transition as one of its leaders. We are getting quite clear about many practical areas, such as energy technology, food and agriculture, sustainable transport and buildings.
We are less clear about social structure, but know it will be decentralised, with decisions taken by those concerned. (commons, P2P, sociocracy, viable systems, etc.) That is real taking back control of our lives, and will be hugely popular. Dealing with people you trust, who share your values, is what people want. People are getting so dissilusioned with our current economic and governance structures that the ‘Overton bubble’ will burst.
That is an important part of the inner change that is needed. The deeper parts of inner change will come as people find themselves in social contexts where mutual support, empathy, caring are part of their local culture.
Once it reaches a critical point, change can happen very rapidly. People don’t need to understand system change to recognise that there is something new that works for their friends and themselves.
The internet went from nowhere to ubiquitous in 20 years, and our vision can do that too. And the internet, with its primitive reputation, and its huge increase in connection are now reaching the stage where we are becoming preadapted to a functioning global collaborative society. We don’t have it now, but developments in the decentralised internet are nearly ready for release and will start to make a big difference within the next year or two.
The crucial time now is one where the various strands of our movement are coming together. That is what CTRL-shift is about, among others. As we come together, especially economically, we will become vastly more resilient and significant. We will not shift power by taking it away from where it now resides, but by building a new economy within the old, driven by the wellbeing of people and planet. Very many businesses already share our values and will join with great relief. We will have the resources we need.
I hope this resonates with some of you. What do you think?
Thanks Naresh for sharing your concerns and hope with us. And Gary”s answer resonate with me, i think that many people see the news and newspapers via the media , who are heavilly influenced by big companies who are using marketing tricks to influence the consumers. And greenwashing is one of the tricks. But i see at the other part of the spectrum lots of groups of “aware ” persons, culture creatives, and citizen movements ,discovered already by big industries. In many countries consumers become conproducers in the renewable energy projects, co-constronstructed housing, cooperations in many forms etc; The adaptation in western countries is already different per country. I know a lot of people who did get a burn out, or by too much work or by setting the expectations to high.I think that transition is doing a great job in the last years and is an example for also other movements, Connecting with companies, municipalties, ngo’s , other movements, goverenments , businesses who share the same values will be great, but requires some more formal structuren but please on a human scale!
As volonteer i’m glad that i discovered in 2008 this movement, transitionnellement, Kitty
thank you for sharing your reflections and feelings so honestly. I take heart from your post in the sense that I feel many of us, guests at Hotel California involved in the Great Turning in some way or other, are dealing with the same thoughts and feelings now that climate and ecology developments have clearly reached the next level. To openly questions ourselves and our movements is a sign of readiness to ‘chop off our ego’ as you write, which I see as one of the most daunting tasks of the Great Turning. Paradoxically, I feel that the idea that the Transition movement and the work we do can change the current system by itself is also a sign of ego at work, and one that is a trap for many of us, including myself. Strangely, I felt relief at reading your description of the immensity and complexity of the task at hand, it takes some of the pressure off; we cannot do this by ourselves. As for creating more ‘we’, I feel that one of the biggest obstacles to reaching the next level of change, of working more inclusively with other sectors of society, is fear and lack of trust, which is present even in our own circles. Building trust, building connections, authentic speaking and listening, and connecting to our hearts and guts as well as our heads, are key in this, and a real challenge in today’s polarised political and cultural debates. This brings us back to inner transition. Elevating consciousness on such a massive scale, what a daunting task – thank you for playing your part.
Hi Naresh, and other responders.
Thank you to whoever it was I was reading or speaking to recently, for pointing me here to have a look at Naresh’s post and for stimulating my thinking in reading it and the responses. I have noted a flurry of similar kinds of posts primarily from older male folk in our communities of earth aligned people.
I too have been involved in Transition and Permaculture and related movements but over on our Island on the very western edge of Europe- (Ireland). (One a side note …at the EUPC we hosted this summer it was noted how many more young people we’ve managed to attact as active participants in the permaculture network in Ireland an this is at a time when rent is at an all time high here)
In my lifetime I have had to come to terms with life in the margins and the task of continuing to make choices and take actions regardlesss of the scale of their impacts and possible wider influence. That my impacts might only be small and local has always been likely in the current paradigm due to being female, a mother, an artist, a dyslexic, a nature lover, an art therapist, a permaculturist, a facilator, a natural builder, an organic grower, a minority, and economically challenged. I have been deliberately or almost worse casually excluded, critised, shot down, laughed at underpaid, and hinted at or told to keep myself out of other peoples way, or just be quiet. There are few places to manage to have a voice and so even if I have something to say very few will truly listen.
So how do I keep going in life, keep showing up, keep looking for niches to be busy in, bringing and regularly offering what gifts I have? Especially when there is no way of knowing the outcomes nor perhaps even having the energy to be lusting after them…
One thing is humour
A certain kind of rye humour that reminds me of my tiny tiny life because it is certainly good to laugh- at ourselves. You see even with all my so called earlier listed exclusions, I’m still a western white woman.
Another is keeping my ego, baggage or other interferences in check
My ego has always needed to take a back seat which is helpful in dealing with its own fears of its demise despite any notions it might harbour of our specialness. Our collective specialness is definately being challenged- we may be being anilated one day soon?
My circumstances, my teens, my economics, my parter, give me plenty of reminders to just move off any possible ego stage and live the life I have without the need for assured success. At the same time, I can be deeply inspired by many in my tribe of values aligned or creative, eco systems people.
Together these things make for a good transition life.
There is more to say, but its going to be challenging to fully articulate my thoughts in written words alone because what I really “think” about inside my odd brain might be more accurately described as visual complex systemic pattern tracking. I’ve been honing and using my brain, (left and right), heart, hands, and gut intelligence. Reclaiming my female intuition, plant wisdom, medicines, stories of my ancestors, natual rhythms for many many years. These, more that my words are my on-going guides as to where to spend my energies each celtic year cycle.
This is a kind of old and frequently associated with female wisdom.
In my current reading this kind of wisdom is making a come back.
Creatives can be born or environments created in which they can be nurtured. The same is true of eco-system or systems intellegence. Tranistion is one such environment. Permaculture transition’s orginal parent another. Permaculture businesses are thinking in terms of “8 forms of capital” or “holistic management,” not dimisssing ethics as outside of the bottom line.
Ecolise, and the Permaculture CoLab unbrella’s are experimenting with new ways of working fast and agile but values aligned and more Globally and using Sococracy and flat structures. I’ve recently moved into education for social entreprise interested folk in rural and disadvanged communities because I see a new and very fertile edge between business and community and environment.
I see women, many of whom are indigenous, or of colour or gay, or trans, stepping up in a miriade of stories, or rising rooted in new ways I’ve never seen in my lifetime -(myself included). I see men especially young men supporting them an cheering them on.
I see my once marginal skills and values sought out and supported and I can support others better as a result.
Yes there is a very strong power structures, patriarcal matrixes, and the whole polarised wealth capturing miliarty industrial complex or as I shorten these things to the patrix and forces but there are other systemic changes happening too.
And although I too have no surety to any knowledge of what future is going to bring, I can find plenty of reasons to continue to align with humans on the side of life while we are still here.
We have chose between dispare or hope and so why would we choose dispare. There are already desperate times on earth for many humans, there have been for centuries, but many many things have improved over several centuries. Maintaining hope at times of destruction is always possible. There is a story about the huge Russian agricultural research department in what was Leningrad during its be-seigement in WW2 and its scientists. They managed a huge seed bank and during the seige when the population were starving they barracaded themselves inside the store defending it from peope trying to eat the sack of grains and potato varieties etc. When the city was liberated and the store broken into they found their dead emmiaciate bodies beside these foods. They had clearly understood that after war without these seed crops the famine would be farther reaching.
I have a notion that is a bit Avataresque that life is aligning with those humans who are on its side who want to hope and preserve all life in its wonderous diversity, or another notion to quote a permaculture friend when I asked him how does he keep going- because he said “I believe there is a little green frodo on the way to the gates of Mordor.”
And in the end to paraphrase another author- on this rock in the universe it would have been a miracle if only one erridesent dragonfly lived here in all its wonderous beauty for just one day but in fact there has been so much more and so perhaps we can live in the shadow of fear through gratitude that we live another day to be doing something in deep compassion for ourselves, each other, and all life.
And sure you never know some deeply positive paradigm shifting tipping points may be just around the corner.. sometimes I think I can sense them on the winds of change in my pattern eye.
Hi, thought it might be useful to include these two links here:
How can we shape the future together? Nov 18, 2018: https://civilsocietyfutures.org/pact/ Civil Society Futures;
https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/civilsocietyfutures/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/11/Civil-Society-Futures__PACT__Putting-it-into-practice.pdf Civil Society Futures, PACT, putting it into practice
The second has sections for both individuals and “Organisations, groups, networks and movements”