Following the conference, Alan and Claire made the following short reports.
I have just attended the above Conference as a supporter of the Transitional Project within Liverpool ; however I am also a member of Friends of the Earth, which is looking at Low Carbon Communities as well as NEF,and the United Kingdom Public Health Association National Working Party on Public Health and Sustainability.
Full details of the Conference proceedings will be posted on the Transition Towns web site. The summary of the Conference, which was provided by attendees is available separately and an extract is given below. This shows that a range of national forums will be established on specialist subjects such as Food, Cities, Energy, International, Health, Inner World.
The most important Workshop I attended dealt with the issue of food availability and scarcity. The Workshop illustrated a GIS study of the ability of Britain to feed itself not using external sources. The study was based on estimated food production locally using all possible land and intense food production methods. The study suggested that even in this situation England could produce only 80% of its own food, whereas Scotland and Wales could be more than self sufficient. Equally seriously it is clear that there are a series of food blackspots, where there would be particular problems with food supply in the event of international scarcity. Merseyside as a conurbation is one of the top five of these.
The other best workshop that I attended was on International Initiatives linked to Transition. There were a number of International Delegates present. It seems that work is proceeding to establish an International Forum. I would recommend that Liverpool monitor this.
I spoke to a representative of South Lakeland Transitional Area, who asked to be kept in touch with developments in Liverpool . It might be worth considering a meeting with them.
I was particularly impressed by a presentation by Diss in Norfolk (DissConnected) This project was using an internationally validated organizational model and was supported by academics from the Open University. This project might repay monitoring.
Report by Claire Connolly:
At the conference, I saw that there are some really important roles that TTs play. While at the first Liverpool TT meeting, there was a sense amongst some already established groups that ‘we’re already doing that,' I feel that TTs are very different in some key ways from anything else that has been happening. I witnessed the incredible range of ideas and issues that were being discussed at the conference and I came to realise that TTs are not about doing everything from scratch, but are about uniting groups across the community – enabling all of the local knowledge around such themes as composting, renewable energy, growing local food etc to be made much better use of. It can be difficult to find information about which groups in a locality are involved in what type of work, and there are so many groups which are ostensibly unrelated. But in fact, when we consider the fact that climate change and peak oil are going to bring about changes to every facet of life as we know it today, these groups make up different aspects of the necessary response to climate change.
Some of the key roles TTs play:
- Uniting already established groups across a community, adding weight to their projects in recognising the vital contribution they make to the community’s response to climate change and peak oil.
- Enabling existing local knowledge to be made much more widely available and allowing for greater networking opportunities
- Providing a visible space in the community where information and help can be obtained on all aspects of the battle against climate change and peak oil. United, local groups on diverse subjects carry more weight and can be more easily contacted and approached
- Transforming visions of a future after climate change and peak oil from the apocalyptic scenes we are familiar with, to a more positive one – giving credence to the idea that ‘WE CAN’ bring about change.
- Appealing to members of the public who might not ordinarily get involved in community groups (which can be seen as ‘only for hippies’ etc).
If TTs are to be seen as genuine representations of the united knowledge of a community, they must be careful to ensure all members of the community feel their knowledge is valuable. TT members from several locations acknowledged that there were moments when some individuals were made to feel their ideas were of less worth than the others. TTs must be inclusive if they are to rise above any one individual or class of individuals.
The issue of working with local councils has been raised again and again, with many people reluctant to be involved with them, on the basis that councils have previously been seen to push movements in directions that ultimately rendered them useless. It is also felt by some that connections with the council may deter individuals and groups across the community from getting involved. These issues are complex, however, some of the more successful TTs have already established links with councils, to their advantage. The reality seems to be that local councils have the resources and, increasingly, the political will to assist TTs in their projects. Connections with local councils are also powerful ways of demonstrating to members of the business community and the public that climate change and peak oil are important issues, encouraging their participation. It is important to remain vigilant in working with councils to ensure that the aims of TTs are not being sidetracked or turned around, but it does seem to be crucial to have their support on board.