Peter Lipman on including inequality in the Transition Network purpose statement
By Catrina Pickering 22nd September 2011
Proposed purpose statement: “Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.”
Who proposed this and why
By Peter Lipman, Transition Bristol, Chair of Transition Network
Should Transition Network include explicit reference to inequality in our purpose statement? If we are to use inequality, we need to be very clear about why we think that it fits so centrally into the Transition process.
For me the answer is yes, as community based responses to resource issues are at Transition’s core – as Justin Kenrick put it recently, we’re “seeking to establish community-wide ways of meeting our needs”. After all, the way in which resources are viewed, as abundant or as scarce, as available to all or as rationed (usually by price), is culturally determined, as is who gets to access those resources. Is the cultural story we’re seeking to embody one which doesn’t explore whether people can only meet their needs if they have sufficient access (to money, to land, to power …)?
Transition has sought to make sure that it is not party political. Will including inequality as an express part of what we’re responding to change that (and even if it did, should that stop us)? Certainly here in the UK, I can’t see why this change need in any way make Transition more party political, as responding to inequality in society is part of all the parties’ policies. Even if we knew that becoming more explicit about inequality would result in a major party perceiving Transition as hostile, should that stop us? Not for me – after all, the mainstream parties put continuing economic growth, apparently whatever the cost, right at the heart of their strategies, but we haven’t let that stop us from disagreeing with them on this.
Economic growth links to another reason why I’d like to see inequality brought into our purpose statement – the role of money and financial policy in the world in which we’re working. While in some parts of the world climate change and resource scarcity are already having immense impacts, throughout the world the way our financial systems works is affecting everyone right now and the major concern for many. If Transition is to remain relevant to people’s primary concerns, we have to be as fluent in analysing and responding to financial matters as we are energy ones. The current successful attempts by financial institutions to pass the liability for their debts onto everyone and enforced sale of public assets sets a crucial context for our work, and clarity about the core role of equality in what we’re seeking to create helps ground our response.
Peter Lipman, Transition Bristol, Chair Transition Network