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Transition Culture: Beyond the Gloom & Doom of Peak Oil, Permanent War, and Climate Chaos

We live at a fascinating point in history. The convergence of challenges, most particularly global warming and peak oil, have brought us to a point where we are profoundly challenged to act. We are surrounded by what poet Gary Snyder, in his classic poem "For the Children", called "The rising hills, the slopes, of statistics" and by individuals telling us that this means the end, that we have gone too far, that it is inevitable that life as we know it will collapse catastrophically and very soon.

Yet, at the same time, something very powerful is stirring and is taking root the world over. People are choosing life and are manifesting that in their lives and their communities. People are starting to see peak oil as the Great Opportunity, the chance to build the world they always dreamt of. As one man said during a group discussion at the end of a screening of The End of Suburbia that I organised in Clonakilty [Ireland], "we've just seen that the end of the Oil Age will bring about the collapse of industrial society . bring it on!". The scale of the challenge is huge, and the obstacles are plenty, but there is an emerging energy to succeed, a sense of quickening and an exhilaration in talking and listening to each other once again, to visioning what we want and then rolling up our sleeves and starting to co-create it. This is not a denial of the scale of the challenges we face, rather a practical and instinctual response to it. In towns and cities all over the world people are asking each other "what can we do about this?".

What fascinates me, and what I plan to explore in this website, is the emerging culture that underpins this work. We are communities, a society, a world in transition, and to do that we need a culture of transition, but also the tools for manifesting it. The term 'transition culture' originated with Louise Rooney who formulated the term 'Transition Design' to best describe the work she and Catherine Dunne have undertaken in trying to drive the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan forward. I love the term, and see the work I am doing as looking into a slightly different aspect of transitions, that of how one really roots it in a culture and creates a 'culture of transition'. So, credit where credit's due, collectively we see our various works as moving beyond 'environmental', 'sustainable', 'eco' this or that. This is about transition to where we want to get to, how do we do it and what might it look like.

My background is in the teaching of permaculture for many years, giving people the tools to create more sustainable ways of living in their own gardens and families. Since I found out about peak oil, I have become fascinated by how we apply these principles to whole towns, whole settlements, and in particular, to how we design this transition in such a way that people will embrace it as a common journey, as a collective adventure, as something positive. So much peak oil and other environmental literature is doom-laden and information heavy, and most peoples' reaction is to switch off. How can we design descent pathways which make people feel alive, positive and included in this process of societal transformation?

My own thoughts led me to develop an approach I call 'Energy Descent Action Planning (EDAP)', which works with a community to vision how they see their town 20 years in the future, in a positive way, and then backcast from then to now. It was developed in Kinsale, and continues to grow in other, safe, hands. I am now looking at the wider question of how the EDAP process can evolve and be refined, as well as drawing on the experience of other communities doing similar things. It is work I feel to be of the utmost importance. That is what I am exploring in my work, and it is that which I will strive to share with you on

Rob Hopkins is the author of The Transition Handbook