Resilience from the Ground Up!

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak at Transition Mill Valley's debut event "Resilience from the Ground Up! A community's positive response to peak oil and climate change". It was held in the historic downtown Throckmorton Theater, a lovely atmospheric building, with intimate seats around small tables, and a warm inviting stage.

The organizers opened with a sumptuous spread of homemade veggie soup and freshly baked bread from Green Gulch Farm, a nearby Zen center. I arrived early to find that the venue was buzzing with people, milling around with steaming cups of soup, many engaged in deep and meaningful conversation, while others were absorbed in the Transition clips playing in the background.

The program kicked off with a booming performance by local musician, Jon Fromer. He had the audience stomping and clapping to the beat, fully charged for the line up of speakers. The venue was packed, with people standing in the back, and spilling out into the hallways.

Deborah Koons Garcia, acclaimed filmmaker of "The Future of Food" fame, presented a short and inspiring documentary of Rob Hopkins, taken on a recent trip to England to study the Transition Town phenomena. The film excerpt was a special screening from a forthcoming multi-film project that Deborah is working on, called "Symphony of the Soil".

The next speaker was Wendy Johnson, long time Zen practitioner and master gardener from nearby Green Gulch Farm. Wendy came on stage with her dharma sister, the current head gardener at the farm. Both of them spoke from their hearts with a passionate presence, about soil resiliency, and the inner and outer transition that takes place through the practice of gardening.

Wendy is the author of a wonderful book called "Gardening at the Dragon's Gate". As Joanna Macy says: "If Earth took a human voice, it would be Wendy's: wry, fierce, passionately attentive to detail, and so startling in its wild freedom it's almost scary. . . . This book is a tonic to the soul. I dare anyone to read it and not be shaken into a fuller, gladder life.”
As the final speaker, I brought all the pieces together, to talk about how the Transition Movement weaves a new story of hope, and how we urgently need to come together to design our energy descent, and build an abundant and resilient future for everyone. I shared stories of how other Transition Communities are beginning this process, and I then posed this key question: How can we build more resilience into Mill Valley?

photo by Emily Hagopian

See full photo set by Emily Hagopian here.

People were invited to form small discussion groups of 2 or 3 people. There was a visible buzz to the air, as the theater was filled with the unleashing of brilliant ideas and the unlocking of the creative genius of the audience. Ideas were collected onto index cards, and a facilitated discussion was held to give people an opportunity to voice their vision of a robust and resilient Mill Valley.

Looking around the theater, I was filled with an optimistic joy that yes, we could do this together. There were so many amazing people in the audience, each with a unique set of skills, wisdom and experience. There's something about the Transition process that draws remarkable people to the forefront of their community, and fires them up to do something positive, and to do it now.

Transition Mill Valley is building resilience from the ground up, and I am very much looking forward to seeing their work unfold over the coming months. The great enthusiasm of the evening has already unleashed creative ideas and potential projects. I am proud to be part of the soil from which this seed is growing into a great, fruiting tree.

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