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Towns in transition

TransitionsTowns

"It's really about giving people their power back; about getting hands-on," says Eudlo TT member Anne Gibson.

Credit: iStockphoto

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Australia's first Transition Town on show at the Transition Sunshine Coast Fair Day.

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Anne and Bryan Gibson collect fresh produce from their kitchen garden.

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The Eudlo TT Seed Savers group busy at work processing seeds.

Seeds

Herb seed packets from the Eudlo TT Seed Savers group.

Solar cook

A solar cooking demonstration for Eudlo residents.

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Wallace grows her own organic herbs, salad greens, vegetables, flowers, nuts and even coffee. She’s also a beekeeper, seed saver, cob oven builder, local food advocate and soap maker.

Before becoming involved in permaculture she worked full-time for the Queensland Government in emergency services. It’s only since 2006 that she’s acquired all the skills she currently practises. She has also switched to working part-time, made possible in part by the fact that her home and garden help sustain her. “At this stage I’m self-reliant, not self-sufficient,” she says.

Like many other Eudlo residents, Wallace also belongs to a LETS (Local Energy Trading Scheme) group where she barters goods and services with neighbours. “It’s all about an alternative, positive solution,” she says.

Eudlo TT member Anne Gibson produces a community newsletter that updates greenies in the wider area on permaculture and TT news. “I have my finger in a few different pies,” she laughs. She met Wallace in 2009, after she had moved from Brisbane, where she says she and her family lived a life very disconnected from community.

“Now we have a stack of ducks, a kitchen garden and we’re reconnecting to our source of food and to our neighbours.” Gibson is involved in workshops on planting, food preserving and storage techniques and skill sharing. “It’s really about giving people their power back; about getting hands-on.” She’s also the head of the Eudlo TT Seed Savers group. “To cover costs, we sell the seeds at local markets and events like the Qld Home & Garden Show,” she says.

Retirees John and Maria Parry are also part of the Eudlo TT community. They moved from Melbourne about four years ago and planted an orchard that includes feijoas, bananas and pawpaws, and an organic vegetable garden. “We eat what we can and give the excess to friends,” says John. “We only have one acre but we have lots of tanks for our own water and the garden and solar hot water. We just decided that, with peak oil and the way the world was going, we wanted to be more self-sufficient.” The Parrys have experienced a complete transformation of their lifestyle but John has no doubts the change has been for the better.

Communities who become involved usually begin by raising awareness about peak oil, climate change and the need to undertake a community-led process to rebuild resilience and form groups to look at all the key areas of life (food, energy, transport, health, heart and soul, economics and livelihoods). Organic gardening courses, local food cooperatives, healthy cooking classes, garden kitchens at local schools, community worm farms and composting centres, and bulk fruit tree sales are all activities that may follow.

But, as with the core principles of the movement, the process is very organic and can vary from place to place (there’s no right or wrong model), with the focus on communities working together to increase the sustainability of their town and, ultimately, their lives.

The 12 steps for a transition town

Hopkins and Brangwyn have laid out twelve key steps for communities to follow in their transition journey.

Step 1: Set up a core team to drive the project forward initially.

Step 2: Raise awareness. Build networks and raise community awareness through film screenings, public forums, presentations to existing groups and letters and articles in the local papers.

Step 3: Lay the foundations. Network with existing groups.

Step 4: Organise a great unveiling. This creates a memorable milestone and enjoyable event to build momentum and involve the wider community.

Step 5: Form subgroups. Tap into the collective genius of the community and create a number of smaller groups to tackle strategies for specific areas, eg, food, waste, education, housing, transport, etc.

Step 6: Use open space technology. This means running working sessions around related issues. Sessions have no set agenda and are driven by open discussion.

Step 7: Develop visible practical manifestations of the project. For example, tree planting events, a community garden, a farmers market, carpooling or car sharing scheme, trading scheme, a slow food festival, etc.

Step 8: Facilitate the great reskilling. Connect with community members to learn and implement training in skills that were essential in a lower energy society, for example, building, machine and clothing repair, cycle maintenance, practical food growing, etc.

Step 9: Build a bridge to local government. Gaining interest and support from the local municipality is essential.

Step 10: Honour the elders. Community members who directly experienced the transition to cheap oil, especially the period between 1930 and 1960, can provide invaluable knowledge about the invisible connections between the different elements of society and how they supported daily life.

Step 11: Let the project go where it wants to. The role of the transition initiative is to act as a catalyst, not to come up with all the answers.

Step 12: Create an energy descent action plan. The practical actions identified by each subgroup to increase community resilience and reduce the carbon footprint eventually form this plan.

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