Grow Your Own Community

March 30, 2012
Paul E. McGinniss


Ari Moore's photograph of her notes from a presentation in Ithica about the Transition Towns model of transition to a post-oil future.
Ari Moore’s photograph of her notes from a presentation in Ithica about the Transition Towns model of transition to a post-oil future.
The Walking Dead,” AMC’s series about surviving among the undead, is a cult hit, announcing the arrival of the zombie apocalypse as a pop culture phenomena. It’s not difficult to read between the lines for the metaphor about society’s collective fears for the future.

The growing “prepper” movement takes those TV fears to the bunker. Preppers are serious about survival (weapons and ammo are de rigueur) and strive for self-sufficiency, going off the electric grid, hoarding precious metals, and storing food against a possible apocalypse, currency collapse, or post–peak oil societal breakdown. Die-hard survivalists make it clear: If desperate, unprepared neighbors knock on their fortified doors, these unfortunate souls might as well be flesh-eating zombies. Because they’re not getting any of the stored grain, water supply, or stockpiled medical supplies.

Beyond the Bunker
Enter the Transition movement. Spawned by worries about peak oil and fears of economic collapse, it’s an “anti-zombie apocalypse” response to concerns about uncertainty. Transitioners prefer to build more resilient communities rather than domestics bunkers. With over 100 US initiatives and hundreds more in 34 countries, Transition has grown rapidly since its birth in Totnes, England.

Transition educates and organizes communities to be more resilient and self-sustaining, and less dependent on outside sources of food, fuel, and other necessities. "Transition initiatives have spawned community gardens, farmers markets, and even winter farmers markets," says Carolyne Stayton, executive director of Transition US. "Some have created some schemes around seed saving and seed sharing as well." Groups have also focused on home weatherization and clothes swapping. In Los Angeles, the Transition community  swaps clothing and other goods and they coin their efforts “Recession Relief.” Stayton says, "Other community benefits are bicycle repair coops, reskilling workshops of all kinds, plus a number of efforts focused on aging such as Aging in Place and Elder Salons that provide both community and resources."

The Marbletown Transition Initiative grew out of a series of community awareness film screenings organized by Deena Wade. At a recent meeting, Michelle Hughes, director of the High Meadow School in Stone Ridge, said her biggest concern was “giving children a positive vision of the future.”

Transition is also percolating in New Paltz, Woodstock, Kingston, and Saugerties. Woodstock’s Kevin Kraft reports: “Our initiating group has been in touch with over 200 residents. Groups are forming which are concerned with permaculture, food supply, water, and energy.” The Hudson valley is poised to become a Transition hub and a model for regional resiliency planning.

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