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Ahhh the wide-ranging highs and woes of waking to our world. Just two days before the 350 Garden Challenge, I sat in a Climate Congress with accomplished civic and non-profit leaders, some of whom are responsible for helping Sonoma County set national-precedent with our innovative and inspiring climate goals and work. While there is much to celebrate, the harsh reality of the climate report card is that we are getting an F. Collectively we are failing at the most obvious choice we have to make, which will impact life on this planet for the next thousand years.

We're videotaping shows in the Pacific Northwest this August-September 2010.
We'd love your help as we plan our trip.

In her Commentary and her Critique of the Transition Initiative/Network, Lorna Salzman questions the role of government and Transition.  Ms. Salzman asserts that the Transition approach omits government.  As I will attempt to explain below, our approach is far from that.

Rather, the difference between our approaches is one of whether we believe that government is the answer.  Do we trust that government will solve peak oil + climate change + economic contraction?  Do we believe that government will prepare the citizenry in time?  In a word: No. 

Ms. Salzman, on the other hand, seems to trust quite solidly in our government's ability to handle these issues.  Her belief in government -- and its power to create change -- goes so far that at two points in the past she personally ran for major public offices.

Within the Transition movement we assert that, at a minimum, preparing for the effects of peak oil + climate change + economic contraction will be a top-down-plus-bottom-up process.  Taking that a step further, we aren't planning to sit around and wait for government to do it for us.  We don't believe that they will take the lead in this matter (for a variety of reasons, some of which Ms. Salzman has already named).  In fact, we operate with the understanding that in most cases, our government will likely be a latecomer to the action.  It's up to concerned citizens to get the ball rolling.

A bit of backstory here:  In the May 3 issue of The Nation magazine, Lorna Salzman ran a full-page advertisement critiquing Bill McKibben and 350.org for not telling us HOW to reduce CO2 concentrations to 350ppm.  (read the letter here)  I wrote a reply, "How to get to 350ppm," in which I pointed out that McKibben and 350, like Al Gore, are all in the business of awareness-raising, and that it is other organizations -- namely Transition Initiatives -- which are shouldering the burden of How To.  Below is Ms. Salzman's second piece, "A Critique of the Transition Initiative/Network," posted with her permission. My reply is here.

A Critique of the Transition Initiative/Network

   Like me, most of you probably never heard of The Transition Initiative or Transition Network or Transition Towns, founded in the UK by Rob Hopkins, a permaculture advocate and decentralist. The TI has indisputably important aims: guiding communities through the soon-to-end fossil fuel era into an era of self-reliant sustainability in which the means of survival devolve onto small communities.

A bit of backstory here:  In the May 3 issue of The Nation magazine, Lorna Salzman ran a full-page advertisement critiquing Bill McKibben and 350.org for not telling us HOW to reduce CO2 concentrations to 350ppm.  (read the letter here)  I wrote a reply, "How to get to 350ppm," in which I pointed out that McKibben and 350, like Al Gore, are all in the business of awareness-raising, and that it is other organizations -- namely Transition Initiatives -- which are shouldering the burden of How To.  Below is Ms. Salzman's first piece, a commentary on my "How to get to 350ppm." (Ms. Salzman's text is posted with her permission.)  My reply is here.

Ms. Poyourow's response to my Open Letter to Bill McKibben is well taken inasmuch as there is nothing in it that I would take issue with,  per se. Nonetheless, my experience as an environmental organizer and activist has brought me into this issue from an entirely different direction. Furthermore, I suspect that McKibben's own areas of expertise, mainly writing and lecturing, brought him in from a different direction.

Building resilience is the cornerstone of the Transition Movement. By “resilience,” we mean our ability to flex and adapt through the changes ahead. Specifically, this means the ability to adapt to peak oil and climate change, simultaneously, combined with economic circumstances that will render large-scale capital investment unrealistic.

When considered separately, peak oil and climate change each have a set of possible solutions. Yet many of the possible solutions to peak oil – switching to coal, for example – are unthinkable for global warming. And many of the proposed solutions to global warming – switching to electric cars, or the “hydrogen economy” – are severely constrained by how much cheap oil we will have on hand to put the infrastructure in place and whether we will have sufficient economic support for the massive conversion.

Taken together, the “triple header” crisis dictates a very small pool of potential solutions. Realistic solutions are not likely to include continued globalization; we simply will not have the fuel to maintain it. The most resilient solutions tend to be simple, local, and small scale and demand few resources and little in the way of energy inputs. This set of solutions has been variously described as “energy descent”  or “powerdown.”  In any event, the crises we face have already determined that our future will inevitably be one of less energy consumption overall.

I am astounded by how this community shows up. In 13 weeks from a slightly crazy idea to help address big problems by planting and revitalizing hundreds of gardens in a single weekend, here we are with 3 days to go, 430 gardens registered and our community lit and aligned, from the water agency to cities, businesses, non-profits, churches, schools and the media...

I don't often tell people to go out and buy something.  I've long been an advocate of Transition initiatives (TI) managing their activities on next-to-no funds.  But on the list of drop-dead essential equipment for your TI to own, next to Rob Hopkins' Transition Handbook, I would place The Oil Age poster.

I bought one about a year or so ago out of curiosity.  Since then I have put it on a tripod at garden classes, "intro to Transition" sessions, and at street fairs.  Even without explanation, this thing does its work.

Okay, I don't usually read Time Magazine.  In fact I can't remember the last time I picked one up.  But a friend handed me a copy of an article from their March 22 issue.  I was astounded to read a vision of the future which is not altogether different from the visions we hear through the Transition network.

It's part 4 of a "10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years" section:  "The Dropout Economy: The Future of Work Looks a Lot Like Unemployment."

Sure it contains a few snide political digs and some name calling.  And I don't totally agree with all of it.  But try this on for size:

Good day my friends,

I trust you are surfing spring's surge with grace and inspired action or at least treading water with compassion and a smile. It's a funny and humbling thing trying to tune into nature's rhythms, catching bee swarms, grafting fruit trees, sowing seeds and reviving our sense of place between meetings and deadlines. But each time we catch that glimpse of wonder and feed our connection it sticks a bit more.

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