Transition Network anual conference – Report back

The photos in this blog post are courtesy of Carl Munson and you can see a lot more images and podcasts.

This three day event, held in the centre of London, at the Battersea Arts Centre. Attended by 350 people from across the

The great hall at BAC

The great hall at BAC

globe, of course the international nature was both ironic and inspiring, but there was something subtle but very different about this event. I’ll return to that later but firstly to the event itself. I arrived before the official start of the conference for an extra session on Community Supported Agriculture. Not knowing what this meant, during the session i went from not sure what to expect to thinking shit “what am i doing here” to a complete YAHOO moment, leaving totally inspired thinking i have to take this back with me to my group in Bedford.

My transition group will also be benefiting from all the little practical information that i picked up about EDAP planning and writing. A couple of other realisations about my group that i’ll take from the conference include, just how little we’ve needed conflict resolution and relationship management. Also, in my opinion, we’ve done well starting with a small geographical area, rather than the whole town of Bedford. We were unsure about this in the beginning but now i think we’ve got it right, keeping it personal and on a neighbour to neighbour level.

Then to the opening of the conference, particularly interesting was the mapping. People were asked to stand in different areas of the great hall based their age and the age and geographical location of the transition group. WOW what an eye opener, it was great to put our transition group in context and has certainly strengthened my perception of our group. I’ve always believed that ZCC is slow of the mark but we were one of the few groups that had been going for a couple of years or more.

Me sitting next to Ed Miliband with my back to the camera

Me sitting next to Ed Miliband with my back to the camera

I then bumbled my way rather distracted through the next couple of activities until Ed Miliband, the secretary for Energy and Climate Change, sat down in the chair next to me in an open space session on “Creating a transition culture”, with his views on economic growth sparking the fire within me and a few others. A few things he said worried me about his knowledge of environmental solutions e.g. he’d never heard of permaculture. My mind now 100% in the present and on economic, i finally ended by asked him; “if not now, can you ever imagine a time in the future without economic growth” to which he answered “NO!”

I also went to Richard Heidberg’s live linkup, where he talked and answered questions based around transition groups getting emergency plans in place, which seemed rather pertinent given Ed Milibands’s responses. Normally, i’d be much happier in discussions about our positive visions for the future, but for sure there’s a place for this discussion and i hope there’s enough “mature people”, as Richard called them, to take on the role of bringing emergency plans together. In fact i ended my conference on an open space discussion called “future scenarios”, where i got to bath myself in that wonderful vision, that we’re already seeing real life glimpses of. A great way to end and as i left the building, i lingered, not quite ready to come out of the bubble.

The reason this event was different was because It was like many others i’d been to, where attending one great workshop or talk meant missing another and where there was a real buzzy feeling that we were the tip of an iceberg that was changing the world. But it’s this iceberg that was different. Like me many of the attendees carried stories of 10, 30, 50 or 150 other individuals back in our communities, who were grouping together to improve their communities and confront climate change and peak oil.

We are totally responsible for our future!!! These are just words and the conference demonstrated a vast difference between talking these words and living them.
Given that our society has been disempowered for so long, stripped of the major community-wide decision making, we really don’t know what it feels like to be empowered, in power or living as collectively responsible people.
However, being emersed in so many people taking control, taking responsibility, standing up and confronting the challenges caused a shift in my perception.
The only way that i can describe the shift is to liken it to a similar feeling. Every now and then i’ll get this wave of awareness and mild anxiety as it dawns on me that i’m totally responsible for my children, the buck stops with me, Yes ME!, this pang normally comes accompanied with me feeling about 12 years old and completely ill equipped for the job. It soon dies away and i get on with it. Before i had the kids of course i knew that i as parent would be responsible. But there’s a stark difference to living it and talking it.

These were motivating yet sobering flashes. If it wasn’t for the fact that all of us, including the government, are so dammed dependent upon our communities rising to the environmental challenges, i think we’d be deemed as the most subversive uprising of our times and rapidly quashed.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by sadoldhippy on June 1, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Shane
    It is sobering to really think about the future that we are all facing, I think that our need to “get the economy back to growth” will lead us to disaster unless strong grassroots movement from Transition/Environmental conscious people is able to bring a different paradigm about. I think that the task facing us is huge, to change our paradigm from the present “who dies with the best toys wins” to a more eco-conscious community based decentralised one. Writers like Murray Bookchin and many others have been telling us of the necessity of this for years, now it begins to seem possible.


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