Interview with Chris Carlsson author of “Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today!” recorded June 22, 2008 on Mind Over Matters KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle.
Transition Towns: Learning to build a good life together
by Carl Etnier
At a workshop in Grafton on Monday on how to finance local food systems, at least three of us sat ready to promote the Transition Town model. To the others in the room, it may have looked like a coordinated effort among the three of us. It wasn’t; we were simply enthusiastic about the same thing.
Will Rapp, founder of Gardener’s Supply and Intervale Composting, struck first. He held up his copy of The Transition Handbook, by Rob Hopkins, and told the assembled activists, policymakers and financiers that the Transition model is crucial to building sustainable local food systems.
He passed his copy around. That prompted Margo Baldwin, co-owner of the book’s U.S. distributor, Chelsea Green, to pull out her copy and send it around the room, too.
The Transition Town model is a very different way to address peak oil and climate change than most of those now getting headlines. We hear a lot about getting other people to do something: Build electric cars, erect wind turbines, re-build passenger rail or sign the Kyoto Protocol. In Transition Towns, people get together themselves to weatherize each others’ homes, repair bicycles, create community gardens, and plant nut and fruit trees in parks and along streets.
Without the sort of vision that the Transition Town model presents, change is difficult. Many proposals to address peak oil and climate change make little sense. Proposed responses to oil shortages, for example, include massive investments in corn ethanol, offshore drilling, oil shale and tar sands – investments that worsen the climate crisis while merely slowing the decline in liquid fuel availability. And proposed responses to climate change include dumping loads of iron filings in the southern oceans and hoping they stimulate algae blooms which take carbon dioxide out of circulation. Ideas like these spring from hopes that some form of business-as-usual responses can meaningfully address the biggest challenges of the 21st century.
Kinsale’s Energy Descent Action Plan targeted sweeping increases in self-reliance by 2021. For example, it calls for Kinsale to move from importing 90 percent of its food to being largely self-reliant. By 2021, according to the plan, “All landscaping in the town (is) edible plants, fruit trees line the streets, all parks and greens have become food forests and community gardens, and every back garden contains a food garden.” Practical steps for 2008 include starting a community food garden at the town hall and an “EasyGarden” program for distributing vegetable seedlings to citizens who don’t grow their own.
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