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Think a New Economy Is Possible? Meet the Man Already Making It Happen

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

Standing in front of a crowd of hundreds at Oakland, California's Grand Lake Theater, Rob Hopkins shows a picture of a butcher shop in a small town in Northern Ireland. A row of hams hang in the window, the door is cracked open, welcoming, a passerby walks his dog. Just another example of a successful small town business, vital for the local economy. Right? Except, Hopkins explains what you can't immediately see when you glance at the image. The store is real, but the window display is a fake-it's simply photoshopped posters plastered over the glass. The local business has gone under, the shop is gutted, but those organizing the last G8 meeting of the world's most powerful countries that met in Northern Ireland don't want to be reminded of this and they sure don't want the media to see it. So the truth has been glossed over, obscured.

These are the times we live in. We can pretend everything is OK on Main Street, or we can actually try to fix it. Hopkins is already hard at work on the fixing. In late 2006, Hopkins, who taught permaculture, came up with the seed of an idea that has grown into something wild and beautiful: the Transition Network. It started as one Transition Town in Totnes, England and the concept has replicated across 44 countries and thousands of towns and neighborhoods. The initial idea is simple: "To support community-led responses to peak oil and climate change, building resilience and happiness."     

The organization now helps communities connect with each other, learn how to reduce CO2 emissions and decarbonize, and implement plans for a whole new kind of economic development. That's where the idea of resilience comes in. According to the Transition Network: 

'Resilience' has been defined as "the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks." In Transition, the concept is applied to settlements and their need to be able to withstand shock.      


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