Awareness Raising on Economy, Climate, and Energy

by David MacLeod, Transition Whatcom

After having held numerous small scale events, Transition Whatcom held it's first larger scale Awareness Raising on October 1st with an event entitled “Economic Instability, Climate Change, and The End of Cheap Oil: The Gathering Storm?” 

We partnered with the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship to host three local speakers who are experts in the fields of economics, climate change science, and energy resource depletion.

  • Dan Warner, who addressed the current economic situation, teaches business courses at Western Washington University’s School of Business and Economics.
  • Juliet Crider, the second speaker, holds a Ph.D. in Geology and Environmental Science from Stanford University, and is also on the faculty at WWU. She spoke on climate change and its likely impacts in the Pacific Northwest.
  • The final speaker was John Rawlins, who until this spring taught astronomy, physics, and energy courses at Whatcom Community College. Rawlins has a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and worked for many years in the nuclear energy industry. Rawlins gave an overview of Peak Oil, and shared how he is personally preparing for energy descent.

The event attracted an excellent turnout - a full house of 220 people in attendance! Linda Fels, of Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship shared that they usually only see that many people on Christmas and Easter. The event was organized by Transition Whatcom Initiating Group members Tom Anderson and Rick Dubrow. Attracting co-sponsors for the event was key for getting the word out and for building good bridges in the community.  We had support not only from the Green Sanctuary Program of the Unitarian Fellowship, but also from two well-established sustainability organizations in the community and numerous local businesses.

After the presentations, a Q&A session ensued, with topics ranging from local rail transportation to concerns about raising children in a world experiencing energy descent and increasing climate destabilization.

Tom Anderson closed the meeting by sharing the enthusiasm he felt from such an engaged crowd of people who were either already doing Transition work or ready to begin. Based on feedback received after the event, the goals of rasing awareness and promoting conversations about possible responses to economic instability, climate change, and energy depletion were achieved. One attendee sent in the following email:

"What I hoped for happened: my father attended. Afterward we had an hour-plus long conversation about how our family can adapt, with very specific discussions about how we can adapt the family home for warmth in the winter and into a place that generates food. 

"The presenters, the Transition Whatcom Initiating Group hosts, the attendees, the live aspect of it (in contrast to the virtual),the palpable emotions in the room, the notion that this was a beginning (not a one-off event), that this Transition Whatcom Initiative is designed to connect neighbors with people in walking distance...all of it, all at once, opened up new space between me and my father. I am sure that we are not alone in that experience.

"Since the talk I've had conversations with people who were also there (and folks who were not there) about the gathering, the initiative(s) and the themes of the evening. Again, I am confident I am not alone in finding my self in such conversations...I now feel that I am part of a local movement, and I look forward to participating and contributing to Transition Whatcom.

"I am happy to be much less alone with my concerns about Peak Oil, Climate Change and life on the economic roller coaster..."

Two days after the event, Transition Whatcom Initiating Group Members Cindi Landreth and Chris Wolf hosted a follow-up called "OK, I Get It...Now What?" and two weeks later "How to Start a Transition Initiative in Your Neighborhood/Community."

In addition to the above, we hosted a more lighthearted event, a showing of the movie "Mad City Chickens," which also had a full house at the local independent cinema, The Pickford.

The work (and play) goes on...


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