Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Transition Cities

I was at the first Transition Cities conference in Nottingham last week with a bunch of people from Sheffield's new Transition Initiative. We were sharing ideas with groups from all over the country on how to build city-wide movements which can help us navigate the transition to a low-carbon, relocalised, sustainable, resilient and life-sustaining future. Check out the short film about it; miraculously filmed, edited and published in just 4 days.
You can also read more about it here and here.


Gordon Ferguson said...

So what are the possible responses of Quakers in general and Sheffield Quakers in particular? From what I can tell, most of us, including myself, are in denial. We have read all about running out of oil and climate change. We have the information, but are just tinkering around the edges with recycling and organic food and using the car less and so on. However, basically we are living as though we expect the current city environment to be more or less the same in twenty years time as it is now.

A lot less cars perhaps, but that can be seen as a good thing in any possible future.

What I like about the Transition Towns (and now Cities) movement is that it is about change. I suppose the name gives it away really….

Most of us know we need to change, and change pretty damn quick, but we are stuck, We are like the smoker who reads the huge advert on the packet: ‘SMOKING KILLS’, but, even though they know that their health is failing, just cannot make that first step. Recycling and using the car less and buying organic is like cutting down to ten-a-day – it is still going to kill you in the end……

This is where we are with the changes necessary to see us through ‘Peak Oil’ and climate change. And this is where Transition Cities steps in. I have just read chapter six of the ‘Transition Handbook’, called ‘Understanding the Psychology of Change’. (http://www.appropedia.org/TTH_Chapter_6:_Understanding_the_Psychology_of_Change). There is also lots of stuff on envisioning, essential if we are to break out of what I like to call the ‘recycling’ mentality that limits our responses to within the current unsustainable paradigm.

So how to take another step from where we are? To try, step by small step, as alcoholics and ex drug addicts know only too well, to break the addiction. An obvious possibility is to join local groups as the Transition movement gather pace. There are three groups in Sheffield so far – in Nether Edge, Meersbrook and Burngreave/Pitsmoor, and quite a few Quakers live in these neighbourhoods.

But can Quakers as a distinct community in Sheffield join in? For starters, it would be good if those who start being active in the new local groups would be positively supported, and those of us who do not live in these areas are encouraged to get their local communities going. The Transition movement is powerfully spiritual and firmly community orientated, so what spiritual input can we offer from our tradition? Or will we wait until they are providing us with spiritual input – rather like the American Quaker slave owners who blithely went their way until John Woolman showed them the light that they had been avoiding.

There is though, one place where us Sheffield Quakers can have a focus and something to contribute. This is our Meeting House. Through lettings it is already a focus for communities from all over Sheffield who value the convenient city centre location as well as the hospitality. And we are heavily used by the city council. BUT, the building was constructed just before the environmental impact of buildings began to become important. Basically the building is an environmental nightmare, and a first step towards change is to realise this, and our responsibility for it. We can then start to look at what we can do about it – it will cost a small fortune, but we are blessed with a lot of money.

The current building was essentially a gift to us on the back of failed property speculation in Hartshead in the late 1980’s. It’s time we stopped burying our talent in the field, and starting investing in the future (Matthew 25:14-30).

Robert Kirchner said...

Thanks for posting this, Craig.

chrissie h said...

Great little film. Good to hear people having space to share their ideas, not just getting talked at.