Introducing Transition Howard County, Maryland

By Ernest Hilsenrath and Elisabeth Hoffman, Transition Howard County.

Transition Howard County (THC) is pleased to become a member of the Transition US movement.  We are the 144th recognized Transition initiative in the United States and the first in Maryland.  Two years ago, an environmentally conscientious group of people decided that Howard County would be an ideal place to advance the principles of the Transition movement at the grassroots level. Since its inception, THC has encouraged community resilience by raising awareness of climate change; encouraging adaption to declining resources; focusing on sustainable development and use of local resources; promoting ecosystem biodiversity; and collaborating with community and other environmental organizations, local businesses, and government. 

We know that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.  We do not have a blueprint, but believe in multiple paths, ideas, and possibilities.  We think questions are as important as answers.  It is fine to make mistakes and to learn from them.  We continue to educate ourselves on the challenges of sustainability and how they might be overcome.  We also make our Transition activities fun and enjoy regular social gatherings.

Our Constitution declares our vision and guiding principles.  Much of our work is through THC’s committees, which are described on our website.  With the local college, our committees organized and promoted community and student forums about the effect of climate change on energy and health, bringing together scientists, practitioners, and teachers to discuss these topics. Our Energy Committee arranged local green-home tours in collaboration with regional tours for the past two years.  Along with other volunteer groups, THC supported advocacy activities for state and county green legislation, such as promoting off-shore wind energy and preventing fracking.  

One particular event where THC played a role in advocating for protecting the environment was the coordination of the Cove Point Town Hall to alert citizens of a menace to the environment by a massive industrial development.  A Virginia energy company is applying for permits to convert Cove Point, a reserve situated on the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland, into a massive gas liquefaction complex.  The complex would require a network of pipelines from various “fracking” depots from surrounding states transport natural gas, which would be processed and shipped to India and China as liquid natural gas.  There are ongoing efforts to stop this development in the courts and appeals to state and federal regulatory agencies.  THC is teaming up with other advocacy groups to stop this development because of the complex’s threat to the land, the Chesapeake Bay, and health threats to local community.

One of our community services was installing rain barrels for residents for water storage and storm water control. Several THC members have built rain gardens for their own homes, which have become models for the community.  Rain gardens are important for flood control and preventing run off into nearby streams from impervious surfaces. Most backyards are suitable for a rain garden and can be enhanced by native plantings that will attract local fauna.  THC members can be seen digging and pushing soil to adjust the grade in order to manage excess water.  The final product can be the pride of a homeowner.






We also collaborated with StreetBank and the Columbia Community Exchange, Howard County’s TimeBank, to share personal skills and services.  Installing a rain garden is one example sharing our skills. Time Banking values everyone's contributions equally, encourages social harmony, and helps build a stronger community.

We are planning several activities that we hope will further encourage our community to adapt more sustainable practices.  Our Ecosystem Landscaping Committee, for example, is planning a BioBlitz this spring that will conduct an ecological survey at a local heritage farm museum.  The Food Committee will explore ways to encourage the community to buy more local food and will work with the county government to develop a list of healthy restaurants.  We are planning our fourth public forum which will deal with observations of land use from space in cooperation with NASA.  The focus will be on food production in Maryland.

THC teams up with several local and statewide organizations, such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Maryland Sierra Club and  HoCo Climate Change. We keep our community informed about activities through our monthly newsletter, which goes to more than 400 members.  We look forward to working with Transition US and exchanging ideas and projects that demonstrate our principles.

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