New Years in Transition

For Winter Solstice, I attended a warm and wonderful fireside ceremony lead by a Native American healer at the site of one of our Los Angeles local Transition pods. As part of this ceremony, we were invited to release the year passing, and to presence dreams for the year ahead.

I thought back over the whirlwind year of setting up Transition initiatives here in Los Angeles. In Dec. 2008, we were hosting Los Angeles' first Transition training; in Jan 2009 we held the first core team meetings of the group that became the Transition Los Angeles City Hub.  We had yet to meet many of the people who are vital and active today.

A year later, we have four local Transition groups ('pods') which meet with regularity, offering awareness-raising movie nights, reskilling classes, and more. One of those groups (as well as the City Hub) is an official Transition Initiative (TI). Four other local areas meet sporadically, or are coming together as a team.

In four years of existence our initiating group, the Environmental Change-Makers, had gained some name-recognition around town. But the switch to using the Transition affiliation, coupled with articles about the Transition movement in the green press, has increased public interest: we have more speaking invitations, other organizations contacting us to network, and people seeking us out than ever before.

At that fireside Solstice ceremony last week, my thoughts drifted through memories of the busy year past, and grappled with the residual exhaustion.  I eventually came around to the new year ahead.  Share my fireside journey (presented in terms of a few of the Permaculture Principles, which are a foundation block of the Transition approach):


Take a moment to step back and view your TI from a big picture view.  In a big picture, general sense, where have you been successful?  Where do you have more work to do?  With regards to the 12 Steps of Transition, which is your next step?

Here in Los Angeles, the past year has been very successful in getting local pods of Transition action up and running.  We have a rudimentary City Hub organization and a regular core team.  Locally, I have more work to do in my home neighborhood.  And area-wide, our next step is Networking -- what the Transition Network calls "Lay the foundations."  (I'll write more about Networking in a future post.)  Another aspect for our area is reaching out into other areas of our city and letting them know about Transition. 


In your local experience, what specific events or activities have "borne the most fruit"?  Which class topics, workshops, physical projects, etc have resulted in highest attendance? ... in greatest impact towards building local resilience? ... greatest number of "aha" moments?  Which activities have touched your community members and brought them closer to a sense of solidarity?  Take note of these successes.  Even though you'll bring new Transition events to your hometown this year, also repeat those successful events or create sequels.

Here in LA our most successful events have been hands-on reskilling workshops:  bread baking, rainwater harvesting, solar cooker building, organic vegetable gardening classes.  Tangible, practical, specfic.  Despite our (TI leaders') growing sense of urgency about driving bigger, broader changes and mobilizing other of the 12 Steps of Transition, we cannot drop out that which works, we have to give it priority and presence in our calendar plans.


Compost happens.  Undoubtedly your local TI has had some events this year which have been less than you had hoped for.  Maybe nobody showed up.  Maybe equipment failed.  Maybe a permit was denied.  What did you learn from it?  Perhaps the no-show event taught you to pay better attention to newspaper press deadlines or to get invitation emails out sooner.  With the equipment failure you learned that you are able to improvise low-tech without Powerpoint.  Rather than "waste," turn those experiences into rich, nourishing compost for your TI's next venture.

Here in LA we had some no-show events.  Ah yes, even as four-year veterans, we still stumble sometimes on publicity!  Even when we're caught up in a busy calendar of appearances, getting the word out about future events has to remain a priority.  A community garden plan turned on its ear because we hadn't properly discovered how much (how little) land we really had permission to use.  But the doomed plans ignited excitement in people, and their elements will probably be "recycled" in some yet-to-be-discovered project.  Plus the garden project carries forward on the remaining land.


Perhaps the "solidarity" topic raised via Copenhagen will become my theme song for 2010.  At our LA solstice fire, the Native American healer sang a song about trees.  We were invited to approach the big tree that stretched high above our circle, to touch its rough bark and feel its presence.  I thought of agricultural reading I'd recently done, which described a discovery that trees in a forest actually pass nutrients to young saplings via the underground network of mycorrhizae and soil life.  Trees in a forest to our human eyes can appear so separate, but we're now learning how they are deeply connected.  As TIs it is our job to regrow that delicate mycorrhizal network -- both literally in our soils and figuratively between people.  Rather than fighting to distinguish our movement from other movements, it is our job to integrate, to find the commonalities. 

This year our LA core team has already been discussing how to get our EDAP process started, what it might look like in this vast LA basin, and what we as a TI need to do to make it happen.  Will we need to create EDAP events?  What will they look like?  How can we pull in the myriad of other organizations -- the forest -- of this massive area?  And meanwhile, that solidarity word.  As people panic (see next point), they will probably isolate further; it is up to us to keep creating new and innovative ways to help people reconnect.


Forecasts are that 2010 will likely be a year of great change.  The economic forecasts are far from rosy, and forecasts in other areas (example: food) are downright grim.  As a public speaker, as a Transition leader, use these changes in your events and presentations.  Tell the facts, keep it brief, then linger long on the positive solutions. 

As the economic contraction becomes more evident, invite a time bank speaker to your TI, and set up a local economy.  As spring approaches, offer a seed swap, and install edible gardens (100 Gardens of Gratitude project in Santa Monica, CA) to help alleviate local food crisis.  As gas prices skyrocket again, hold a neighborhood bike ride and picnic. Make it fun and joyful.

Our LA core team coincidentally includes many gardeners, so food and edible gardens have always been a mainstay of our Transition activities.  We already have two new community gardens in the approval process or the grant-writing process, not to mention the multiple new individual gardens we've encouraged.  But still, it feels like we can't do enough, fast enough!  Thus the Solstice lesson is: breathe.  Don't let panic throw you.  Stay the course, take one step at a time, do what you can, and trust that it will inspire more ... even beyond your wildest dreams.

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