In the Shadow of the Volcano: Transition in Pucón and Villarrica
By rob hopkins 13th December 2016 Knowledge & learning
These ersatz alpine themed towns are at opposite ends of Lake Pucón, and in the shadow of America Latina’s most active volcano, Rukapillañ. One, a California-ized vacation playground, the other a prosperous university town: both occupy some of the most sacred land of the Mapuche people. Here is one of Chile’s longest established Transition group in Pucón, and another just starting in Villarrica. I had the privilege of facilitating a one day Transition Launch training with them.
Pucón en Transición has been healing some old dynamics to enable them to move forward and is re discovering it’s mojo and it’s purpose. New people along with some of the founders are finding ways to honour the past and re vision their future direction. Jerry Laker, a legendary Brit, brought Transition to Pucón very early on 2009 I have been told.
Villarrica en Transicion on the other hand is just beginning. I haven’t yet understood why such similar towns, next door have had such diverse Transition experiences. University towns, especially one that has a university focused on interdisciplinary sustainability, one would have thought were fertile Transition territory. Different people, different priorities, different mind sets?
It makes a difference working with a good proportion of the core groups in both towns. We could focus the training on very practical questions, in essence designing their Transition process going forward. I based the training on these three questions:
- What are the issues facing our town, and what’s going well?
- What is our vision for our place?
- What can we do right now to take a step towards that vision?
We started with a contest. The question was ‘What are the five most important, unaddressed problems or issues that are facing our town?’ People listed them 1-5 and we graded their answers based on the most cited, and award the ‘ear to the ground’ prize for the person who got closest to the ones most cited.
It was difficult to get people to think outside of the environmental box (I tried!). The crisis we are all feeling, global North and Global South alike, shows up in many different ways. Gone are the days when we talk about peak oil along with climate change driving many of the changes we are seeing. It is still there, in the shadows. However, the ‘real’ issues, how the interlocking global crisis shows up for most, are things like property prices, obesity, deteriorating mental health, deteriorating or non existent public services, and poor air quality.
This is what people see, and want something done about. One of the first task for Transitioners is to understand their community – not what they themselves think is the problem, but what the people you are facilitating see as important. Meet people where they are in other words.
After a short vision exercise, we returned to the ‘top community problems’ extracted from the context section, and began a process of how to engage people in these issues. Is it a talk? Or an Open Space? Or starting a community-owned enterprise? What are the resources necessary? How many people might you reach? How much time would it take? Who needs to be involved? This was a design exercise of the community engagement or involvement piece of the Transition model.
Later in the day we touched on creating effective groups. Both taking care to create and maintain good relationships. As a bonus I included my top tip for maintaining a positive group, family, or relationship. This is making sure there is a ratio of 5 positive interactions to one negative. Research has shown this is a characteristic of good groups and good relationships.
We also explored on the other side of good group process, what are the structures for creating good groups? Things like clear agendas, good decision making, effective facilitation, agreed action points, and what we can do when conflict arises. We didn’t have time to look at personal resilience and only touched on Networking and partnering with other civil society group – 2 hours lunch breaks take their toll on the clock!
The day ended with me and some folks from the training visiting the lake to clean our energy, and then climbing the volcano. We held a ceremony connecting the spirits of Rukapillañ (the home of the most high gods and goddesses of the Mapuche people) with the spirits of Albion. We prayed that they speak to each other, and find paths of peace together. Rukapillañ promptly started erupting. I am not down enough with volcano speak to know if this is a good sign or not, but my friends gave me the thumbs up.
As I sit on the bus travelling back to Santiago (I have not seen one train in my time here) my time in Chile coming to an end, with distant Andean mountains to the East, I am reflecting on what I have seen of Transition here. There seems to be a strong connection to indigenous culture (for me still mysterious). There are deep wounds from our mutual pasts, conquest, colonisation, unwanted (and ongoing) resource extraction, the neoliberal genocides, slavery, and endless ecological crimes. What a list!
How does Transition work with other cultural repair networks to heal these ancient wounds? There is, unsurprisingly, a healthy suspicion of things from Europe. These are all big questions which remain unanswered, but alive in the ‘field’ of Transition. I feel hope in how alive these questions are.
Something is moving as the people of America Latina stand with the people of other lands re-awakening to our care for our common home. As always there is no map, except the truth of what it mean to be human, and the very real but often mysterious web of relationships we are inextricably woven into. Our love of the beauty of our world and our love for each other unites and connects us in these troubled, dark, yet hopeful times.
if you want to see what a real eruption of Rukapillian looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1knKavWG98