Creating Transition Bedford

What does it all mean?

In this blog post the following questions are discussed but not answered;

1. What is a Transition Town.

2. What’s the difference between Transition Bedford (TB) and Zero Carbon Castle (ZCC)?

3. How can ZCC support the creation of a TB?

4. Once a TB is up and flourishing how can it support ZCC and other community groups?

These questions have been discussed but not answered because it’s up to “us” i.e. Bedford as whole to answer these questions fully. You can join in the TB discussions here and please spread the word about the TB open meeting on Monday 22nd of June. Not only is it important, it could be said its essential, that the TB meeting brings together a divers group of community members and organisations that are interested or affected by the joint challenges of climate change and peak oil. So get your email address book out and start inviting!!!!

What is a Transition Town?

Transition Towns are  explained here on the official Transition website and the Tansition Handbook can be read for free here.

In short Transition Towns are “community level responses to the challenges and opportunities of peak oil and climate change”.  One  of my favorite quotes of the moment is;

“it’s all about what we can do as communities to confront the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change. The basic premise is that government action is always too little and too late, while acting as individuals is too daunting, but if we act as communities – towns, villages, islands etc – we have a chance of really changing things”. Patrick Whitefield

Notably the transition model is a non prescriptive framework that is spreading like wildfire across the globe. It gives your 12 steps that you can usefully use, ignore and adapt but it doesn’t tell you what to do. It’s perhaps early days for Bedford to engage in all 12 steps. It is suggested that our current objective should be to “seed” a TB rather than launch a fully-fledged Transition Initiative, with a kind of Transition light or Entry Level Transitioning. This is because more community groups, like ZCC, are needed, within Bedford Borough, for the full TB to be both workable and beneficial. Example; If we could imagine TB as a table, the ZCC like groups are the legs. A perfect world scenario would be to start with 4 or 5 groups, each with a diversity of environmental projects and community actions. Groups have formed and are forming across the borough in Flitton, Oakley, Queenspark and Putnoe etc. The planned meeting on June 22nd will infom us if we are jointly ready for a fully-fledged TB with most or all of the 12 Transition steps. That’s not to say that transitioning isn’t already underway in Bedford, ZCC is an official Transition Initiative in its own right.The difference is that a TB Bedford is more of an umbrella regional network of group that is dependent on ward sized communities to deliver actual change.

What is the difference between TB and ZCC?

There’s the obvious geographical differences. TB is currently defined by the Bedford Borough political boundaries. Some comments on boundaries have been made here.

North Bedford Borough

South Bedford Borough

While Bedford Borough is a useful geographical boundary for funding bids and sending out initial invites to join TB, In fairness, however, it’s an over simplification as the true boundary should be resource driven (i.e by the “foodshed“) and we’re still relearning what that means. In terms of resources a better boundary is Bedford town and all tributary agriculture and villages. It’s a geographical boundary that would have traditionally been defined by the town’s dependencies, i.e. its localised sourcing of food, water, energy, crafts and materials and visa versa the tributary villages dependencies, i.e. on the town’s sources of services, security, culture, markets and trade. Although this may currently sound like an outdated and somewhat quaint boundary, have no doubt that, this will, in the not too distance future, be a very real consideration.

7.5 mile radius as a possible boundry

Even this kind of boundary is an oversimplification. Our foodshed would overlap with St Neots etc and even London’s for that matter. It’s likely that only 50% of our food will ever come from within a 100 mile radius.

Aside from geographical differences there are the practical differences between ZCC and TB. ZCC and similar community groups deliver a wider range of projects in response to climate change, peak oil, resource depletion etc such as the community herb garden, the light bulb and energy monitor library, the carbon footprint survey and green fayre etc. Without groups like ZCC, the proposed TB would be without substance and without any capacity for action because in the main TB doesn’t deliver projects.

How can ZZC support TB?

ZCC has been planting the seeds of a TB for some time during our 2-year existence and even more now as an official TT initiative. When setting up TB we have to be careful to build on this work rather than duplicate it.

The ZCC website provides a good virtual example of how ZCC is already providing the foundations for a TB. Although the ZCC site is not fully launched, it already has about 20 members and 150 email list subscribers, of which many are from the wider Bedford Borough. Quite simply we can build on this with more members coming in from the wider community. Suggestions include;

1. Have a dedicated webpage on ZCC site for TB until resources are available for a TB dedicated site.

2. TB could use the wordpress platform used by ZCC to create our site.

3. ZCC’s networking platform called buddypress, has been set up so that if agreed it could become TB’s networking platform of which the ZCC groups are 1 in many, i.e. people from Oakley and Putnoe etc all have their own discussion groups.

4. The 150 ZCC email list subscribers can be offered an easy subscription to TB newsletter, they wouldn’t have to do anything.

These types of overlaps are coherent throughout ZCC work and we should look at each of our physical projects, to see if it is appropriate to build upon and support the TB goals.

How can TB support ZZC and other community groups?

In part the answer to this question has been touched upon here. TB Bedford provides a regional context to local activities, i.e. town wide initiatives, policy changes, visions and planning. It also provides a collaborative and networking capacity with a larger pool of human, financial and physical resources. TB should aim to support the setting up of ZCC like groups in each of the 40+ wards/parishes/villages and conversely members of the ZCC like groups should feed into and support the ogoing work of TB.

However, answering this question in more detail will help to shape what TB should look like, so it would be good to get your feedback early. Please comment.


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