Over 25 Transition Initatives and groups come together in Northern California

Thanks to Judith Katz and Michael Levy for sharing their experience with us!

How did the regional gathering come together?

Judith: The first I remember hearing about a Northern California regional Transition gathering was last March during an informal gathering of a couple dozen Transitioners at a potluck in Silicon Valley. Out of that came a series of regular conference calls, during which the conference idea gained further momentum. Out of those conference calls emerged a core group of about a half dozen people who carried the flag through to the eventual conference day of October 6, 2012.

What was the scope of the gathering?

Judith: One of the most interesting questions that the conference committee discussed during the planning process was how to define the scope of Transition activism. Did we want our event to cater to the interests of the larger small-t transition movement that included all the types of resonant community organizing done in the service of a more sustainable, cooperative world? This could include groups from bike activists, environmentalists, and NVC practitioners, all the way to Occupiers and direct actionistas. Or did we want to limit our scope to the tighter definition of Transition understood within the description of the more traditional 12-step model Rob Hopkins outlined in his original masterwork? Ultimately the committee tended towards the latter, however the final invitation to the conference reached out to anyone who’s “helped to organize or has participated in your community's Transition initiative, or is simply interested in learning more about this thriving international movement.”

Judith: The barriers for participating were also kept low with the top ticket price of $25 combined with the promise of no one being turned away for lack of funds. As the person responsible for online registrations, I was pleased to be able to update the committee with the surprisingly high number of registrations coming in as the date of the conference drew closer. Ultimately, over a hundred people came from places as far flung as Monterrey to Mendocino to convene at the old Ford plant by the water in Richmond.

What were some highlights from the gathering?

Michael: Those of us organizing it were blown away by the sold-out attendance of over 100 people, representing over 25 Transition and allied groups including from Monterey, Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Berkely, Humboldt County, Nevada City, Sebastopol, and more.

Judith: The program consisted of a keynote address by Pam Harwell Herrero, the Mayor of Fairfax, and the Past Director of Sustainable Fairfax, supplemented by panel discussions by Transition US Director Carolyne Staynton, Board member Trathen Heckman, and many other notable Transition activists. Richmond Rivets co-founder Trish Clifford arranged for a $10/per person vegetarian lunch catered by a local co-operative enterprise. It all culminated in a lively Open Space session in the late afternoon. After a celebratory wine reception, committee members diligently cleaned up the space and counted the funds taken in. We were happy and surprised that the total excess revenues exceeded $1,000, which is being held in safe keeping by Transition US for the time being. Already there is discussion about next year’s conference, and a sense of optimism about the growth of regional Transition community, during a period of de-growth overall.  

Michael: A highlight was the keynote talk by Pam Hartwell, the mayor of Fairfax (in Marin County). With great enthusiasm, she described how her group, Sustainable Fairfax, had built support for Transition-type activities in Fairfax, and how that had led to her joining the City Council and becoming Mayor of the first majority-Green Party City Council in the country. You can see her talking about it at the Green Party convention on YouTube.

What was something that has stuck with you since?

Michael: The Transition movement is having an impact on lives, programs and policies, from Brasilia, Brazil, where a group started in a favela, to Fujino, Japan, where a Transition group was galvanized after the nuclear disaster, to Fairfax, where Pam's group helped launch Marin Clean Energy. Some of these efforts are not called "Transition," but they are a part of the same movement for creative, participatory relocalization.

Photos from break out sessions (thanks to Scott McKeown):



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