Onwards, together!

Here's a story from Katrien Vander Straeten, following the start of Transition Wayland in Massachussetts, on how it all began...

I decided in November of last year that I would try to get Transition going in my hometown. Usually a Transition Initiative starts with a group of friends and neighbors, but as I knew no one in Wayland interested in peak oil, climate change, etc. (yet), I cut the knot and decided to start it by myself. My first step was to call the library and book the meeting room there. I left the date of the "launch" up to the librarian. Turned out that the soonest month when I could have the room three times was April.

April has come and gone.


I went all out publicizing these events. I wrote to all the newspapers in town, the student press, the enewsletter, the library newsletter. Some were very welcoming. The Wayland Patch published a Q&A with me the day before the first event, and Wayland-e-news too did a great job spreading the word. I also sent out a notice via the Wayland Freecycle Network. I put up posters all over my town. I set up a website. Via via, I connected with several groups already doing the good work: a group trying to get the town to buy land for a Community Farm, a group redesigning a popular park and playground (more on that later), and of course I spoke of Transition to my own Green Team.

It was very strange for a while there, speaking in the royal plural. "We, Transition Wayland". It wasn't disingenuous, just a reflection of my hope for the future and also a way for me to project more confidence. Someone, seeing all that was happening, commented what a vibrant group I had.



Event 1. The first public event was a talk by Transition Trainer Tina Clarke, who introduced the Transition model. We had nine people (including Tina, a Transition and gardening friend, and myself). Someone commiserated on the low turnout (a combination of first beautiful Spring day, Civics Bee and Town Meeting). But there's this saying in Transition:

Whoever comes are the right people.

Yeah, right!

But wow, is it ever true!

We had a fantastic discussion after the talk, and it turned out that one of the nine works internationally with climate refugees, and so does her husband, to whom she introduced me later. These two charismatic and passionate experts both unreservedly joined the initiating group. Present was also a chaplain in a large hospital, who is most interested in the Hearts part of Transition. Again I couldn't  believe our luck. The Hearts part, which deals with fear and despair and hope, is often the trickiest to navigate, and here we had another expert. Then there were also a gardener and homesteader, and another community organizer, both of whom will be weaving in and out.

Event 2. The second event was a booth at the Wayland Earth Day event. I don't know how many people I reached through that, but it was great fun, and the first time it wasn't just me.

Event 3. Then came what some might call the low point so far: the discussion of Bill McKibben'sEaarth. Again, it was a beautiful Spring evening, and again Town Meeting interfered. Two people showed up.


But again it happened.

Transition Wayland

One of them is a successful journalist who has interviewed Bill McKibben on many occasions and who just started writing a book about his own awakening to these issues. Listening to him talk about what a coincidence it was that I was starting Transition right around the same time that he is embarking on his own project, was a marvel. This incredibly well-spoken and informed writer is now a fellow initiator.

Event 4. The next event was a meeting of that group. The writer brought his wife (also a weaver - I do love the weavers, they make the fabric of the group so much more resilient and refresh it constantly). I had invited a fellow Green Team member who is passionate about healthy schools and  the environment and who is now fully engaged. That made eight of us, spending a wonderful evening getting to know each other, discussing what we expect from Transition, from our Town.

At the end of the evening I walked out as on a cloud.


Event 5. Next, and last, was a talk by Donna Kramer Merritt (trained by Al Gore and a fellow community organizer in nearby Framingham) on Climate Change. This time there were eleven of us. Of the newcomers, I think two are sure to become engaged. After Donna's presentation we talked, deeply, passionately, about Climate Change, about Al Gore, and (believe it or not) Martha Stewart, and about Transition Wayland.

The librarian had to kick us out because the building was closing.

That was the last event I had organized as part of the big April push. But we had the group and the momentum. We met again shortly after, at the showing of the movie Climate Refugees in Concord, where we made more connections.


I am now part of a Together that is Transition Wayland, the beginning of hope for me.  At first it was just me and my terrible seesaw of joy (when I had just seen someone's eyes light up as I spoke of Transition) and futility (what was that, anyway, just one person among 13,500 in my town, and billions in the world). Now I look around me and see all these incredibly engaged people who hold the same hope as I do.

And it is all balanced out.

This is how I sign off on Transition related emails nowadays:

Onwards, together!



Wayland, MA (source)

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