2006 – Transition Towns sets trend for radical local responses to global crises
In 2006 an idea was born: what would a community-led response to the big challenges the world faces look like? A group in a small town examining the challenges of climate change and ‘peak oil’ started playing around with a set of principles, tools and values drawn from past social and cultural change movements and adapted them to the present day. They called it ‘transition’ – an experiment that needed people to try things out where they were, and to share their successes and failures.
The first formal transition town was Totnes, followed by other places in the UK and very rapidly further afield – first in small towns, then in urban neighbourhoods, universities, islands – all kinds of unexpected places. A small charity called transition network was created to encourage, connect, support and nurture this rapidly growing network and to share the learning from each experience.
Inspired by the approach, people started growing food in unexpected places, creating new cooperative businesses, community energy companies, local currencies and much more.
The idea began spreading internationally, from Bologna to Brazil, from Japan to Pasadena. In Brazil, for example transition took root in favelas – slum areas on the margins of major cities, setting up community gardens, barter markets and up-cycling businesses making bags out of old advertising banners.
The movement has won awards, run inspiring international conferences, and prompted national hub organizations to form to support the now 800 transition towns in 30 countries. The movement has appeared on television, radio and film, and even inspired novels and a musical. Its power is as a dynamic tool for bottom-up, community-led action and it has intersected with other radical, municipal activities elsewhere that have democratized utilities, set up new local industries, and trialled new forms of participatory democracy.
The movement prioritizes learning and experimentation, cheerfully noting that “We truly don’t know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale” while clearly stating their belief that waiting on central governments or individual actions will not be sufficient.
The movement also prioritizes ‘inner transition’ – encouraging citizens to consider changes they may need to make within themselves in order to transition to the more caring, equitable, beautiful, sustainable and resilient world we all need and to help develop a healthy culture for communities to deal with change and challenges gracefully.