(LATEST from transitionculture.org )
95% of our food is dependent on oil through energy"Few if any communities - including those that have initiated worthwhile projects - will be prepared for the shocks of high fuel prices and fuel shortages.."
"Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this: (a) if we wait for the government, it'll be too little, too late; (b) if we act as individuals, it'll be too little; but (c) if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time"
Resilience: The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy; the ability to absorb shocks. "It appears that the time available for adaptation is probably far too short to enable needed work to be accomplished. Meanwhile, the financial solvency crisis initiated by the US subprime mortgage fiasco threatens to obliterate trillions of dollars of investment capital, impeding whatever efforts might be undertaken toward energy conversion. Thus few if any communities - including those that have initiated worthwhile projects - will be prepared for the shocks of high fuel prices and fuel shortages that will inevitably follow in the coming years. What to do? ....crisis equals opportunity - for those who are prepared to seize the day. Unless sensible plans to manage disaster are formulated and put forward now, the opportunity afforded by crisis will be hijacked by a familiar cast of characters. " Richard Heinberg (More)
Link to the Positive Energy Conference Reports. Extract from report on day 6 . "Rob Hopkins said
... that when he first watched the film, End of Suburbia, he thought, 'who would design suburbia anyway?' and then realised he lives in suburbia, it just doesn't look like suburbia, but he has to drive his children to school, drive to the shops, drive to visit his friends.... Even if he didn't drive a car, he thought, 'Is this small, conservative area that I live in what I would want to be my main source of cultural stimulus? And if I'm sitting here with my fuel forests and my garden and my zero carbon house, while in the village up the road they're all freezing and starving, what are my options? Am I going to sit at my gate with a gun to protect my interests? Is that an attractive option?' His initial response was of me, mine, then he realised it's about coming together not running away.TRANSITION CULTURE Rob Hopkins own website for up to date news
Transition Initiative - recent postings (Latest from Rob Hopkins' blog)(Link to Transition Town Totnes - new website) and Rob Hopkins' own Blog
The Transition film 'In Transition' has its online premiere on Saturday May 23rd at 1.45pm (GMT). http://transitionculture.org/in-transition/
"Transition as Cookery" Rob Hopkins talk with slides, given in June.
November 2011 ~ Latest Transition Newsletter
Transition Network Newsletter - November 2011
November 2011 ~ New book: ‘The Transition Companion’
"...a radical shift in how Transition is understood and communicated.
- The online directory: The Transition Ingredients and Tools - which you can explore here
- The beautiful set of Ingredients and Tools Cards: to be used to better understand all this
- ‘The Transition Companion replaces the Transition Handbook’ can be ordered from Amazon http://www.transitionnetwork.org/news/2011-10-27/transition-model-leaps-ahead-book-and-ingredients
April 15th 2010 ~ "For now, to simply agree that the post-peak future needs a plan is an achievement." .
That the American military is well aware of the imminent end of cheap oil is evident in this year's Joint Operating Environment report. It warns of major oil shortages:
"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD."(page 31) (The sections on food, agriculture and water also make for uncomfortable reading.)The publicly upbeat stance of the International Energy Agency (IEA) is that there is no short-term risk, but the the Guardian says:
"...privately some senior officials have admitted there is considerable disagreement internally about this..."Unless there is adequate preparation for the end of cheap oil the social consequences are likely to be grave. While the political manifestos have a distinctly 'lifeboat rearranging' feel to them, the high security equipment and trained personnel of new, private, very quiet and very lucrative UK security "industries" such SERCO and G4S seem to be confidently preparing for the suppression of social unrest. (Dr John Reid, still an MP, has been taking £50,000 a year from G4S.)
At the other end of the ethical scale is the "Transition Towns" movement, led and inspired by Rob Hopkins. Groups of people are preparing for an enthusiastic local resilience; self-sufficient food production, alternative transport systems and stewardship of the land. After Lord Hunt's 'behind locked doors' meeting mentioned below Rob Hopkins said, "For now, to simply agree that the post-peak future needs a plan is an achievement."
(Warmwell's updating peak oil page began in 2004)
April 1st 2010 ~ Food security - anything but a joke
In the new (pdf) report 'Tipping Point' from the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (FEASTA) about peak oil and resilience one notes with uncomfortable fascination how governments seem to be sleepwalking into a global catastrophe even as prescient grass roots groups such as the Transition Initiative try to engage in waking us up.
Our "critical reliance upon complex just-in-time supply-chain networks" is examined calmly and in depth. Extract:
"....The assumption that science and technology will automatically respond to meet the challenges we face has become an article of faith...often invoked as the deus ex machina... a collective charm wielded to chase away the anxiety induced by glimpses of our civilisation's precariousness....The 56 page report is written clearly and without polemic.
6.5 Global food production is already straining against a rising demand and the stresses of soil degradation, water constraints, over-fishing, and the burgeoning effects of climate change. It is estimated that between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy go into every one calorie of food energy we consume. ... It is not just the more direct energy using inputs that would be affected such as fertilisers, pesticides, seeds, and diesel spares for machinery, and transport. The failing operational fabric may mean there is no electricity for refrigeration.... a major financial collapse could not just cut actual food production, but could result in food left rotting in the fields, an inability to link surplus production with those in need, and an inability to enact monetised food transactions.... without any planning, it is likely that unrelieved hunger could spread rapidly..."
March 25/26 2010 ~ "Hopkins saw that the government officials and business leaders present were not thinking outside of what he deems "the techno-fix" mindset..."
An article at www.heatingoil.com reports on the 'behind locked doors' meeting we mention below at which Lord Hunt and "energy-policy civil servants" held talks at the Energy Institute. Rob Hopkins, the inspiration behind the Transition Initiative, was there.
"...These leaders could and should initiate a true paradigm shift, he hints, if they promoted "the idea that part of a response might include the intentional refocusing of the scale of economic activity." In other words, a partial withdrawal from the sprawling transportation network on which inter-province trade and globalization depend is a consequence to prepare for. That's a lot for anyone swallow, much less the government of one of the most powerful countries in the world.Read in full.
For now, to simply agree that the post-peak future needs a plan is an achievement."
March 25th 2010 ~"The key is getting the alpha males to calm down and it's possible."
An article at "The Oil Drum looks at what it calls the"fantasy of the solo hero"
"... there is no way to thrive under a peak-everything scenario without building communities and real neighborhoods. There is no escape to the hills, no thriving without mutuality.... It's our nature to soothe and to cooperate. But even baboon culture, which was thought to be permanently hierarchical, alpha male dominated and warlike has been shown to develop new communal behaviors which profit and protect all in the band."In Britain, the Transition Initiative is being astonishingly successful in its aims to rebuild the resilience lost as a result of the complacency of cheap oil. The idea is to engage groups to look at how they can take mutual responsibility for key areas of community life (food, energy, transport, health and so on) while also building bridges from the bottom up to local government.
In a society on the brink and one where public service in politics is thought to have largely lost its way, this must surely be a very positive way forward. (See the new Transition Initiative website with its cheerful disclaimer: "Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact. We truly don't know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:
- if we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late
- if we act as individuals, it'll be too little
- but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time..")
March 22nd 2010 ~ Peak Oil. "Government has gone from the BP position - '40 years of supply left, the price mechanism works, no need to worry' - to "Crikey" Jeremy Leggett
Jeremy Leggett s reported as saying (Observer) that he is convinced that Britain must prepare as quickly as possible for a situation when oil becomes so expensive that international trade is hampered and globalisation breaks down. The newspaper is wrong to suggest that Peak Oil has been an issue only for a few months. Warmwell.com and others have considered its importance since 2004 (peak oil pages) at the time when responsible governments should have been beginning preparations for the inevitable decline in cheap energy. (The impressive Transition Initiative has been inspiring and working from the grass roots up. ) Yesterday's Observer says,
" ....In a significant policy shift, the government has agreed to undertake more work on whether the UK needs to take action to avoid the massive dislocation that could be caused by the early onset of "peak oil" ... Jeremy Leggett...said the meeting, to be held at the Energy Institute, showed a welcome new sense of urgency..... We do not know who to believe. Let's do a proper risk assessment with industry.".... The government had previously played down the risks arising from peak oil after the Wicks review in the summer in effect dismissed the idea that global demand for oil could soon outstrip supply..." Read in fullLord Hunt and "energy-policy civil servants" will be holding their "private and behind-doors" talks at the Energy Institute.
December 14 2009 ~ "It is the disconnection we have with what we consume that is the primary cause of the wasteful and destructive culture we live in.."
One element of the many heartwarming and inspiring items covered in the latest Transition Town Totnes Bulletin (37) was Rob Hopkins' report of the evening talk in the methodist Church, Totnes by Mark Boyle. Mr Boyle spent last year living entirely without without money. He said:
".. If we all had to grow your own food again we wouldn't waste one third of it as we do here in the UK today. If we had to make our own tables and chairs, we wouldn't throw them out the moment we changed the interior décor. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we sure as hell wouldn't foul it. We've absolutely no respect or real appreciation for the embodied energy, destruction and suffering that goes into the things we consume and buy today, and hence the symptoms of this separation of the consumer from the consumed (sweatshops, environmental destruction, wars over resources, factory farms) relentlessly persists. Money is the tool that has increasingly enabled humanity to exaggerate this disconnection with what they consume and therefore has a huge role to play in climate change and the destruction of our natural environment."As an emailer wrote yesterday: "...why cannot those in positions of power send a simple message to the humankind? Stop being so profligate if you care for the future of the planet and the wonderful complexity and biodiversity that we so take for granted and enjoy."
September 24 2009 ~ "Suddenly, the confidence was there among us, the right courses of action were obvious, and everything else seemed irrelevant, distant, archaic."
Australia's Online Opinion on the subject of "Peak oil in transition":
"....there are already hundreds of Transition groups all over the world, and each community is tackling the problems a little differently. It might start as modestly as a car pool or a sewing circle, or it could be as ambitious as a local currency or an activist group to fight against imposing businesses that, one way or another, do not act in the community's interest. Neighbourhoods become more productive and more closely knit, favouring local businesses and activities seeing their own well-being as prosperity in itself.Read in full.
As much as I find a lot of the environmental debate quite tiring, I found the Transition Towns weekend very uplifting. The difference was that the people who attended this workshop seemed more like the sorts of people who might actually do something to make their lives better. Naturally, such a weekend involves a lot of talk, but it's positive and enthusiastic talk..."
September 18 2009 ~ "not just some generic government white paper.."
In yesterday's Huffington Post (the most linked-to blog on the internet, it recorded 8.9 million unique visitors in February) we read,
"....No matter how cynical you are, you can't ignore one of the fastest growing grassroots movements in the UK -- The Transition Network."The author, Cameron Sinclair (Co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network) researched the Transition movement for his piece but in the end felt that the very best way to get people to understand and make up their own minds was to encourage them to watch the interview between Rob Hopkins and "an English poet with a wry sense of humor to explain this fascinating phenomenon," Matt Harvey. (If Matt Harvey on this video doesn't make you laugh aloud and rejoice in the Transition Movement, you are cynical indeed)
August 9 2009 ~Avoiding Green Concrete
Professor Tim Lang, quoted today in the The Independent on Sunday:
"We are facing a mounting crisis in securing global food supplies, with climate change, rocketing oil prices and growing demand all placing a strain on traditional supply chains."The UK government seems at last to be waking up to the fact that food is going to be scarce and we need to be far more self sufficient. This is already being carried out with great enthusiasm across the country in the grass roots Transition Town movement. As Rob Hopkins recently remarked
" if we wait for the government, it'll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it'll be too little; but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time"Hilary Benn is in search of a new Green Revolution but one hopes that such a top-down revolution will not realise the fears expressed by the CPRE, Soil Association and others expressed today in The Independent on Sundaythat Britain will opt for massive single-crop farms, turning many areas of the country into monocultures dubbed "green concrete" for their impact on wildlife."
August 3 2009 ~ "Peak oil is conspicious by its absence, as a result of which the Plan misses many opportunities"
Rob Hopkins' recent comments on the Government's White Paper on Energy:
(Extract) ".... this Plan is based on the assumption that economic growth is still feasible and that the cheap energy exists to make it possible, and that a gentle descent of the UK's oil dependency is possible. In this context, peak oil is a bit like the drunken ex-partner who turns up at the wedding, who everyone tries to ignore, but their being ignored doesn't mean that they aren't there, or that they aren't going to do something mortifying at some unspecified moment...."Read in full at www.energybulletin.net and see warmwell postings on cheap oil depletion since 2004 here).
July 2009 ~ 'In Transition', the 50 minute film about Transition now completed.
Rob Hopkins says, "The final cut is all done, and rather good it is too. ... the film will be released in different stages, ending up with a 2 disc DVD set available in December. The first stage is for Transition initiatives to screen the film, and we are keen to get as many initiatives as possible to show it on September 9th... " (read in full)
June 22 2009 ~ "grass-fed cattle can help to reduce carbon emissions"
The always cheering and readable Transition Bulletin by Rob Hopkins begins "... I've been enjoying the ripening of our own strawberries and the sight of contented cows munching in the fields after a long cold spring. Graham Harvey's wonderful book The Carbon Fields explains why they hold the key to climate change. I bought it at a wonderful evening organised by the Green Party in Totnes called the Future of Farming. Many local farmers came together with other locals to hear the news that grass-fed cattle can help to reduce carbon emissions. which we were very glad to support. .." Read in full
May 25 2009 ~ 75% rise in the price of oil since February
The Economist's article on the present price of oil is worrying to those who consider the loss of cheap energy to be far more of a real threat than climate change. Oil prices have been rising steadily in recent weeks. The coloured chart in the article shows this starkly. The Economist says:
" ... The explanation is simple. Oilmen are worried because they believe that many of the factors behind the record-breaking ascent last year remain in place. Much of the world's "easy" oil has already been extracted, or is in the hands of nationalist governments that will not allow foreigners to exploit it. That leaves firms to hunt for new reserves in ever more inhospitable and inaccessible places...Worse, new discoveries tend to be smaller than in the past and to run dry faster."In other words, the Economist is saying what peak-oilers and this website have been warning since 2004. (oil page) Meanwhile we see - as Christopher Booker put it in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday - "mind-boggling sums cited by governments all over the world" to be spent on "measures they wish to see taken to 'stop climate change'... In the US, the latest costing of President Obama's "cap and trade" Bill is $1.9 trillion, a yearly cost to each US family of $4,500.... "
Whatever the future may hold in terms of pandemics, social unrest and terrorism, hunger and meteorological acts of god, the truly prescient - despairing of common sense from above - are getting on fast with preparing for "Transition" As John Papworth has just said to Rob Hopkins "The Transition Network with its focus on local currency, food etc. is the only voice of sanity on the political scene"
May 25 2009 ~ "John Papworth gave me his reflections in pen and ink..."
Rob Hopkins on the message from the prescient John Papworth - who wrote with a certain amount of concern: (Extract):
"The Transition Network [as opposed to the movement] is in itself in transition. It is in part of the unreality of current politics that in the print and TV media where al focus is on misdoings of MPs while there is scarcely a word about the two decisive political movements now underway:Read in full
There is a danger that in its very success may lead to its undoing. Already it embraces a wide range of concerns that do not much address the central issue of how power lies in a few boardrooms of organisations that operate on such a giant scale as to be beyond control. Progress today depends on power being reduced to local scale. The Transition Network with its focus on local curreny, food etc. is the only voice of sanity on the political scene. It holds the promise of a viable future and I hope young people will realise that the power to act lies in their hands...."
- 1. The persistent move to transfer British Sovereignty to a bogus legislature in Brussels
- 2. The Transition movement is sweeping across nations, and towns all around the world and this year over 400 people are at the third annual conference. Significantly 60% of those people are women. Significant too is most people attending between the age of 20 and 40
May 11 2009 ~ Transition, resilience - and a day at Cirencester in June on "Transition Farms"
The Transition Farms Seminar will look at the options for local agriculture and food production after fossil fuels have run out
"....95% of our food is dependent on oil through energy-intensive agriculture and food supply chains, from fertiliser and fuel to distribution and retailing - resulting in food prices and availability being directly affected by oil prices..."More detail from www.nationalrural.org - and recent posts on Food Security
April 19 2009 ~Why we forgot how to grow food
Sunday Times article by John-Paul Flintoff
"As a food shortage looms, people are digging for Britain - and their dinner table. Not long before Christmas, a man walked into the care home next door to his house and asked the manager if it would be possible for a group of neighbours to grow food in the vast gardens. The manager said he would be delighted. In the days that followed, the man casually asked various neighbours whether they would like to get involved. They all said yes. So he popped over to the care home with them, and each remarked how large the garden was, and what a lot of food could be grown there. As well as beds for vegetables, there could be fruit trees trained to grow up the south-facing walls, a bed of herbs for the kitchens, and flowers to take inside. The group could perhaps even keep chickens, once the fruit and veg were up and running. The man went home after each trip feeling tremendously pleased with himself. I know this, because the man was me...." Read in full
April 10 2009 ~ " It's going to be really critical in this next phase of human existence that we value the land, the soil, and the people that look after and grow our food"
In a speech reported on the Canadian website www.straight.com, Vancouver mayor, Gregor Robertson, speaks out in support of the University of British Columbia's threatened on-campus farm:
"In a world with peak oil and accelerating climate change, the importance of local food security has never been greater. We've seen entire civilizations wiped out because of a lack of food security, and it's going to be really critical in this next phase of human existence that we value the land, the soil, and the people that look after and grow our food. And we've got to ensure, particularly in an urban setting, that we're focused on a good solid locally-based food system."Such words echo Vandana Shiva's Soil Not Oil, in which she champions small, independent farms. She calls for a return to local economies and small-scale food production and suggests there is a stark choice to be made: we either choose a 'business as usual' market-centred short-term escape for the privileged or urgently prepare for a people-centred fossil-fuel-free future offering a decent living for all - which is, of course, exactly what the much admired Transition Town Movement is aiming to do.
March 31 2009 ~ "Never let a crisis go to waste. ... a chance for business to transition from an anonymous, complex system to one that is direct and transparent."
Invigorating article at Ode magazine about change from within rather than top down:
"People are tired of business as usual. The exasperation is palpable, but so is the hope that this time, we can and will do things differently..."Rob Hopkins (Transition Culture) has just been made a Fellow of Ashoka. Its founder, Bill Drayton is quoted in the Ode article. "Social entrepreneurs are the role models, the mass disrupters and the mass recruiters of local change-makers. They are the ones who get thousands of people and thousands of communities to stand up and say together, 'Oh, that's a pretty good idea. I'm going to make that work here.' That's the spirit we need to infuse throughout society."
March 24 2009 ~ "various local landowners, producers, and people with an interest in local food attended to discuss the implications"
From the Transition Town Totnes bulletin ".... TTT has been awarded a grant of £5,000 by Landshare in order to be able to work with Geofutures in Bath, a GIS mapping consultancy, on the food section of the plan. This will be based on analysing the potential of Totnes as a 'foodshed', how much of the town and surrounding parishes' diets could be grown in the area. It is modelled on Simon Fairlie's seminal Can Britain Feed Itself? paper and on various other ideas we are exploring at the moment. We were lucky enough to have Simon in Totnes a few weeks ago, together with Mark Thurstain Goodwin of Geofutures, to look at 'Can Totnes Feed Itself?' ..."
March 18 2009 ~ "There isn't Them and Us, there's only Us."
Rob Hopkins speaks engagingly on the new Transition podcast, produced by Carl Munson after a helpful meeting with Devon County Council.
"Given the severity of what we have to do and the miniscule timeframe in which we have to do it....there's a lot that can be done from grass roots level but then you relatively quickly run into the things you can't do unless you have your local Town Council, District Council, County Council on board as well....The role of various layers of government is to enable what the tier underneath it is saying it wants to happen."He speaks of the fascinating work being done looking at land use and how far food can be produced locally -
"but the question that keeps coming back to me isHe talks about the practical questions that need to be addressed, the nuts and bolts of the food system, "growing vegetables for everybody is easy..growing cereals for everybody gets harder, and meat is very very difficult."
'Why are we the ones doing this? Why isn't DEFRA doing this? This is vital stuff. People ask, 'Can Britain feed itself?' but then say, 'I don't know' - and move on."
Rob Hopkins talks of the world tour for training those interested as a catalyst- a microrhyzal fungus - in the speed of the spread of enthusiasm for the ideas of Transition. There are now already 160 formal Transition initiatives in the UK and hundreds of what he calls "mullers". The sense of optimism and humanity from all those featured on the podcast, including Patrick Holden, is almost palpable and although the podcast lasts for 40 minutes, the beginning is unmissable.
13 Feb 2009 ~Nine Tools for a Happier Society
From transitionculture.org "I attended a great event yesterday at the Royal Agricultural College near Cirencester, organised by South West Rural Update looking at rural responses to peak oil and climate change. One of the first speakers was Nigel Curry (Director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute), who was asked, in 5 minutes, to respond to the question
"Can we live better and consume less?"His response was that consuming less is in fact the only way to live better, and to illustrate his point, he set out 9 tips for societal and individual happiness. Given that part of the purpose of Transition is "building resiIience and happiness", I thought they were really useful, so I scrawled them down and offer them to you here this morning (I hope I've got them right, he did speak very fast)...."
- Economics should be about more than just pursuing GDP
- The focus needs to move from maximising wealth to redistributing it
- We need to move from the wealth and satisfaction of individuals to the wealth and satisfaction of communities
- Don't promote the search for status
- Limit dysfunctional advertising
- Give mental health a higher priority in public health
- Remember that sometimes not getting what you want can be a blessing
- Judge success by what you gave up in order to get it
- Approach love and cooking with a reckless abandon.
January 2009 ~ " the Transition Town movement utilizes a number of effective strategies for assisting people who are stuck in abject pessimism by helping them envision the possibility of change and the certainty that it can be made. "
A review of the Transition Handbook by Caroline Baker, "......An entire chapter is devoted to how to start a Transition initiative, and although not directly related to the addiction to a fossil fuel lifestyle, Twelve Steps of Transition are offered. The most impressive of these for me is the first one: "Set up a steering group and design its demise from the outset." What a relief! No chance of this group becoming an entrenched, hierarchical, power-driven monster; no chance of success unless the entire community is engaged and becomes more effective in bringing about transition than is the steering group; no need for one or two individuals alone to try to save the world." Read in full
November 2 2008 ~ Transition Cities Conference 2008
The event will be held at the Nottingham Arena, Bolero Square, The Lace Market, Nottingham, NG1 1LA. The conference will run from 10:00 am on Thursday 27-November through to 14:00 on Friday 28 November. Details at transitiontowns.org
October 2008 ~ Transition Towns Brixton's involvement with Lambeth Council
/www.forumforthefuture.org".... It was their input into a long-term development plan for the borough which pushed the council to commit to implementing zero-carbon technologies wherever possible, according to volunteer Duncan Law. "Before we got involved, adapting to a low-energy future didn't figure anywhere in the plan," he says. "But after we sat down with the council, we helped them see that the coming energy crisis could be an opportunity for them to lead on low-energy solutions....."
October 8 ~Dawn of realisation?
The Telegraph reports on the "First council since Second World War set up to look at food security "
"The production, supply and consumption of food in Britain is to be investigated by a dedicated Government council. The Council of Food Policy Advisors will sit alongside the National Economic Council set up last week to address the financial crisis.Read in full
...... Hilary Benn... said "With rising prices and increasing demand across the globe, we can't take our food supply for granted. Our food supply needs to be reliable and resilient and able to withstand shocks and crises. Our food supplies must remain secure, and we must have a strong, thriving, environmentally sustainable farming industry in this country that continues to produce a significant proportion of our food...."
.... Professor Tim Lang, said recently that Britons should be growing more of their own food in order to counter the impending food crisis. His comments were compared to the Dig For Britain campaign encouraging more people to grow their own vegetables during the war years."
September 11 2008 ~ "people are seeing that the future prosperity of where they live relies on them not being oil vulnerable"
Lewes - like Totnes - has now produced its own currency. At a time of economic downturn, said Polly Toynbee at the opening, what could be more appropriate than that Lewes, a town with a long history of radicalism and contrariness, should choose that moment to start printing its own money?
Yesterday's Guardian: "the Transition Town movement... an idea gaining rapid ground. Last week saw the second anniversary of the setting up of the first transition town, in Totnes, Devon, and also the arrival of the 100th, Fujino in Japan. Communities in each have committed to break free from oil addiction and move, over a period of 10 to 20 years, from a high-carbon economy to a low one...
The Lewes initiative started when five people got together and rallied hundreds more for a year of talks and films on peak oil and climate change. They now run "reskilling" days, teaching clothes' mending, foraging and gardening - skills we have lost but may well need again in a leaner future. Some 20 working groups meet regularly to work out how they want things to change. Regular liaison with the town council makes sure their ideas will leave the paper and get put into action....
The movement is rapidly spreading beyond its grassroots. ... Ultimately, it is the movement's optimism that gives it its momentum...
"The way we are doing things at the moment isn't working," Hopkins says. "During the oil age, success and wellbeing were measured in how much oil you used. But now people are seeing that the future prosperity of where they live relies on them not being oil vulnerable. The imagination that kicks in when people realise that is extraordinary, and to see that in communities up and down the country is humbling. That is what gives me hope for the future."Read in full
September 7 2008 ~ Transition Network is increasingly finding itself invited to work with Local Authorities, large organisations and businesses,
"Somerset County Council's decision to become a Transition Council recognises that their role as a Council is to support..."
In an article, "Responding to various critiques of Transition" Rob Hopkins writes:
"... I don't believe for a moment that we will navigate a way through peak oil, climate change and the end of economic growth without both the positive solutions and proactive responses which engage people ..... a sense that they are making history... non-violent direct action when it comes to stopping the more insane responses it generates from government, i.e. coal, nuclear and airport expansion.
I also don't believe that Government and other institutions will vanish overnight; we need proactive responses wherever we can get them from... At the same time, there is a great deal that can only be done at the local level in terms of the redesign of neighbourhoods, the creation of community gardens, the spectrum of activities we can already see Transition groups engaged in. .... The Transition Handbook was the 10th most popular book MPs took on holiday with them this summer ..... We have so much to do, and so very little time, that to me it feels more skilful to engage at all levels...
.... we gently nudge people towards working out for themselves, rather than being told this is how it is. That's why Transition, to me at least, appears to work, because it strives to be powerful and inclusive at the same time ..... I agree very much with Mason when he writes;
"Working with Transition Aberystwyth is tough, tougher in a way than standing one's ground against a giant oncoming member of the Caterpillar family or escaping a police kettle. Transition calls for a different set of virtues: patience, tolerance, perseverance… Above all perseverance. Transition isn't glamorous or romantic, it's a slog - more Sisyphus than Achilles: (re)forming community, building capacity to engage with lack of awareness, apathy, complacency, fear, hostility, bureaucracy, inertia…"I would also add that it also requires compassion, humility and an absence of expectation what we are going to be welcomed as heroes, or even welcomed at all. We have to go to people where they are at, rather than expecting them to come to us ..... I think it is entirely sensible that Transition initiatives focus on the positive, in a sea of doom and gloom that is one of the key things that seems to attract people..... ." Read article in full at Energy Bulletin
June 7 2008 ~ "The urgency of this blows away this sort of vague worry about global warming..."
As Matthew Simmons says, "...If energy weren't very important then it wouldn't matter that you have a need for 100 and a supply of 70. But since energy is the one thing that makes our entire global economy work ... when you start having that sort of mismatch, the bullies get to the front of the line and take it first. The urgency of this blows away this sort of vague worry about global warming: I don't know anybody who thinks that's an issue that will affect our lives in the next 15 or 20 years. If we don't solve this in 10 years, it's too late."
An article in the Spectator looks at a new book by Lawrence Soloman entitled The Deniers, "in which he shows that not only is the fabled climate change 'consensus' itself a sham but the so-called MMGW 'deniers' are by far the more accomplished and distinguished scientists than those pushing the theory as a settled and incontrovertible truth..."
One comment beneath it notes:
".... governments are about to spend hundreds of billions on the basis of this unproved hypothesis. Already vast carbon trading schemes are in operation,selling...nothing. We are about to have vastly expensive wind power farms planted all over the country......one hell of an unproved hypothesis ...."Read Spectator article
June 6 2008 ~ Seize the day - not perpetuate the insanity of yesterday
WMN article on Wednesday:
"considerations about the environment, animal welfare and traceability may no longer take precedence, as consumers will shop with their wallets rather than following their emotions..."Hardly "emotional", surely, to be concerned by emerging zoonoses and by the soil erosion caused by the stresses of agribusiness. That we have, like the Red Queen in Alice, been running insanely after more and more growth in order even to stand still, is threatening the planet with starvation.
" What are the alternatives to imports from environmentally damaging, industrialised farm systems? Are there possibilities for large-scale domestic food production?" asks the WMN article. Its answer, alas, mainly consists of this: "The biotech companies are using the same argument as the pro-nuclear lobby, that if we wish to continue our present lifestyle, there are no other alternatives, either for feeding ourselves or supplying energy."
June 5/6 2008 ~ "if creating energy security means taking land from poor farmers it just causes more problems"
The Independent today reports on the growing worry about biofuels at the Rome conference - even the "wonder plant" Jatropha. Defenders of biofuels made from non-edible crops have cited Jatropha as a way for poor farmers to produce fuel for themselves, and as a cash crop, by planting it on waste land. "But," says the article, "what's happening is quite different from that. A handful of big corporations are growing jatropha in huge plantations, in optimum soil conditions and using a lot of water, to maximise the yield. Poor farmers who grow it on impoverished soil find they can't get into the market."
June 5/6 2008 ~ Others see progress differently ...
Rob Hopkins is surely right when he says of the highly successful Transition movement, "...people are hungry for positive solutions which engage their creativity." And as Richard Heinberg says,
"crisis equals opportunity - for those who are prepared to seize the day. Unless sensible plans to manage disaster are formulated and put forward now, the opportunity afforded by crisis will be hijacked by a familiar cast of characters.."It is a timely warning. (Is it only the Green Party who dare to talk about population control, the localisation of food and genuinely weaning ourselves off oil? Portugal's economics Minister (see Guardian) is adamant: "Energy and environment are the biggest challenge of our generation. ..The present situation is dangerous." )
June 1 2008 ~ Become a rabble
Monty Don, happily recovered from the stroke that led to his retiring from the BBC's Gardeners' World, is on "fighting form as his new role as president of the Soil Association" as Charlotte Higgins put it in the Guardian last week. He pulls no punches on the subject of food security, national self-sufficiency and sustainability. He is calling for those of us who are concerned "to become a rabble" who, faced with the uselessness of most politicians, are thus able to "scare them and pressure them, and subvert the system from the ground up."
He said the movement should mobilise Britain's 11 million gardeners, involving everyone from large-scale farmers to those growing a single basil plant on a windowsill. See also our page on transition initiatives. Patrick Holden and Monty Don - like Rob Hopkins - are advising that it is now time to turn private gardens, public parks and the landscaped open spaces surrounding offices over to vegetable growing. Refreshing good sense, particularly at a time when Richard Heinberg is saying cheerfully, " If the effort is framed properly, officials should view it as a gift - an aid in solving potential problems that may actually be looming much closer than many politicians and business leaders currently realize is the case."
May 1 2008 ~ "...people are hungry for positive solutions which engage their creativity." Rob Hopkins
The Independent today looks at Totnes: ".... In addition to the pound, the transition town organisation offers people advice at "oil vulnerability auditing workshops" on how their businesses can wean themselves off the black stuff; and the group is in talks with the council over "edible landscapes" - herb gardens instead of ornamental verges and bushes. They have recently secured some allotments for the green-fingered, and are promoting the use of energy-saving light bulbs. Similar ideas are in the pipeline....
...change is partly the result of work done by "auditors" from the transition town organisation. " Rob Hopkins is quoted:
"...The viral nature of the growth of the transition movement has taken us all by surprise. We have gone from one transition project to there being 50 formal ones and more than 700 at the earlier stages just by word of mouth and the internet... people are hungry for positive solutions which engage their creativity. The transition movement has been described as being 'more like a party than a protest march', and that feeling of being part of something playful and solutions-focused has undoubtedly been a part of its success."
May 1 2008 ~ "a world where we come to terms with inevitable fuel shortages and work towards a less energy-dependent lifestyle..." CNN
CNN yesterday: "...Hopkins, who lives with his family in Totnes, says people have seized upon the 'transition initiative' because it offers an "empowering, inspiring" vision of the post-oil age. "It has grown into a vacuum -- there is nothing else that looks at ways to respond to peak oil and climate change that feels good," ....
Since governments and big business seem unable, or else unwilling, to deal with these problems head-on, Hopkins believes the change must come in the first instance from the grassroots. "We have to be looking to break our oil dependence and get to being a zero carbon society within 20 years. We don't have any choice in this if we want our children to have any kind of lives. "Of course, much of this needs to come from government level, but to make cuts of that nature will need a lot of things that don't tend to make governments very popular, such as carbon rationing. "The idea with 'transition' is to engage communities in pushing for these things, so as to take the fear out of making these decisions for politicians." .... Although Hopkins acknowledges drawing inspiration from the past -- part of the transition process involves consulting with older members of the community to find out what life was like when people were more self-reliant -- he insists he's not being regressive, only realistic.
"The 'transition' approach is not about convincing anyone to give up anything. It is about saying that many of the things we increasingly take for granted will become steadily more expensive and less and less dependable...."
Wednesday 23 April 2008 ~ "... enthusiasm for growing your own is stronger than ever."
Peterborough Today: ".... Holding an allotment may have gone out of fashion for a while, once we had recovered from the austere war years and popping to the shops seemed an easier alternative, but today it's very much back in vogue. Celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver extol the virtues of growing your own and more and more young people are taking up the spade. In Peterborough, the people renting the 1,300 allotment plots from the city council range in age from 20 to 90. Three years ago the occupancy rate was 50 per cent, but today it is 78 per cent, and at least nine of the council's 24 sites have waiting lists...."
Wednesday 23 April 2008 ~ Shakespeare's birthday today - and the words of one of his wisest creations:
"Sir, I am a true labourer:
I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck." As You Like It Act 3
Smallholding is becoming ever more popular. A modern day Corin is Alan Beat who, with his equally talented wife, Rosie, runs a sixteen acre smallholding in the upper Tamar valley. Highly recommended is his "A Start in Smallholding." See also the Transition Initiative page
Tuesday 22 April 2008 ~ "food and oil prices "risk becoming a destabilising force in the global economy".
The FT today reported that record global food prices will be on the agenda of the Group of Eight heads of state summit in July for the first time in almost 30 years.
".....John Lipsky, the IMF's deputy managing director, said in a speech in Rome to an energy forum that the rise in commodities prices required a "globally coherent response", as prices for food and oil had reached a level that could destabilise the global economy. His warning contrasts with the institution's much milder comments at its recent spring meeting, when it said: "Inflationary risks - notably from higher food, energy and other commodity prices - have risen."The UN secretary-general has warned that the crisis in food and fuel prices "could trigger a cascade of other multiple crises . . . affecting economic growth, social progress, and even political security around the world."
April 17 2008 ~ "... some great old photos of Clapham Common dug up for allotments, and people growing food on the rooftops of London during World War Two."
Middlesbrough Council commissioned a map from designers Andre Viljoen and Katrina Bohn - authors of Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes - which identifies existing and prospective foodgrowing sites in Middlesbrough. It details existing allotments in the town, maps surplus land and highlights connections between the town and local food producers. This is a plan for the local authority and others to consider as a new context for strategies towards a more local and sustainable food economy. (see Designs of the Time and see below on Middlesborough)
Rob Hopkins' review of Andre Viljoen's book on continuous productive urban landscape says "it is a hugely readable, passionate and visionary book. It aims to put productive land use at the centre of urban design. ... He advocates creating networks of green spaces throughout the city (he takes London as his case study), which are connected by cycle paths and walkways, which combine urban agriculture, recreation and a wealth of other uses. ...a book of the most profound importance at this point in history...We should view our cities as much in terms of being productive spaces as we view our rural areas...." See review.
April 16 2008 ~ Professor Bob Watson "Can we change our priorities in the agricultural sector?"
850 million in developing countries do not have access to the food they need. Energy 'experts' promoting biofuels in the EU have not sought the views of agriculture specialists or soil scientists on biofuels and Professor Watson's thoughts as chief environment scientist on the sustainability of biofuels have never been asked for - but he warns that the policies have run ahead of the science.
Yesterday, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science & Technology for Development (IAASTD) under Prof Watson published a report stating that failing to take action on food shortages and "continuing to focus on production alone will undermine our agricultural capital and leave us with an increasingly degraded and divided planet." (See video report) Ironically, it was the very day that the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) made 2.5% biofuels a compulsory ingredient at the pumps. CNN reports that "Many people on both sides of the debate are pushing for a second generation of renewables from sources like wood waste, non-edible crops and crops that grow much faster."
April 16 2008 ~ The British Government failed to sign the IAASTD accord.
Prof Watson's deeply-held view that "Business as Usual will not solve the problems of poverty and hunger" appear to cut little ice with the UK, USA, Canada and Australia who have all failed to sign the final report after disagreement over its conclusions about trade. The IAASTD report's key questions include how to enhance production of more nutritious food in a way that has
"no adverse consequences for the environment - indeed positive consequences and in a way that really helps the poorest of the poor. We believe we can build on the successes of the past and make the system more participatory ...making sure we understand the needs of women, who play an absolutely key role in agriculture in developing countries, and we need to combine local and indigenous knowledge with the knowledge that we have in the more formal part of society - in the universities and think tanks and governments...Some trade policies of today certainly help some people but don't help the poorest of the poor.."See also Farmers Guardian d You can hear Professor Watson on YouTube talking with great seriousness about social exclusion and environmental degradation.
April 16 2008 ~ There is emphasis in the report on proven traditional agricultural methods from around the world as much as on the new technologies.
The controversial questions surrounding GM were not dodged by the IAASTD report. The fact that we still don't know how GMOs will alter biodiversity, eco-system function or affect human health is seen as important. "We do know," says the video report, "that corporate control over seeds can undermine the livelihoods of small scale farmers." As for the combined expertise of the smaller farmers across the world, the four year study took pains to collect information. We learn, for example, that after Hurrican Mitch in 1998, farmers in one small area of Honduras using "zero tillage" (which helps prevent mud slides) managed to feed the rest of the country.
April 15 2008 ~ It has exacerbated a global food crisis - yet our petrol tanks must now contain at least 2.5 per cent biofuel...
The Independent: "Amid growing evidence that massive investment in biofuels by developed countries is helping to cause a food crisis for the world's poor, the ecological cost of the push to produce billions of litres of petrol and diesel from plant sources will be highlighted today with protests across the country..... Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said: "Thanks to flaws in the Government's system, companies selling these fuels will even be allowed to get away with saying that they don't know whether they've been sourced sustainably or not. This makes a mockery of the entire idea of sustainability standards."
April 15 2008 ~ "the period of intense oil production [growth] is over".
Even today's story of a possible big oil discovery in Brazil may not delay the ending of cheap oil by very much. The Carioca field ( BM-S-9) is located beneath a layer of salt in water more than 2,000 meters deep. No official information is available yet to confirm the guess that there might be 33 billion barrels of oil there - and the cost of extracting it will be very much higher than in conventional oil wells. Extracting and turning the oil into usable form will also be extremely energy-intensive. Only recently has the physical technology even existed to drill in water that deep. It will be a difficult and expensive enterprise. However, it may perhaps alter the policies of the country most desperate to secure supplies.
Russia, until recently considered the most promising oil region outside the Middle East is now admitting stagnation and that the period of intense oil production is over. The FT today reports that the vice-president of Lukoil has compared Russia with the North Sea and Mexico, where oil production is declining dramatically - and even the Russian government has admitted that production growth has stagnated.
The thirst of governments for cheap energy and the mad dash for bio-fuel is, of course, what ultimately lies behind the food riots now spreading across the planet. There are now only 8 to 12 weeks of cereal stocks left in the world.
April 15 ~ "It is hard to understand how two such different food economies could occupy the same planet, until you realise that they feed off each other"
"the grain required to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle with ethanol ... could feed one person for a year" George Monbiot today tells us in the Guardian that this year, global stockpiles of cereals will decline by around 53 million tonnes - while the production of biofuels will consume almost 100 million tonnes. He reminds us that Ruth Kelly promised that "if we need to adjust policy in the light of new evidence, we will" - and wonders what new evidence she requires.
"...In the midst of a global humanitarian crisis, we have just become legally obliged to use food as fuel. It is a crime against humanity, in which every driver in this country has been forced to participate... While 100m tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760 million tonnes will ... feed animals - which could cover the global food deficit 14 times. ..."Having looked askance at a purely vegan diet, and noted that although pigs and chickens feed more efficiently than grain-fed beef - unless they are free range, "the monstrous conditions in which they are kept" becomes an issue, he encourages us to consider a freshwater fish that can be raised entirely on vegetable matter. He then draws attention to the surreal nature of our awareness of the global crisis: "While half the world wonders whether it will eat at all, I am pondering which of our endless choices we should take...." A salutary article - but it does rather suggest that George Monbiot thinks that there is no immediate worry for the UK. Of course the prosperous West must do what it can to give practical help to the worst affected - but unless we quickly revamp our whole thinking about energy and local food supply - and consign bio-fuel targets to the scrap heap - food riots could be a reality here too.
April 14 2008 ~ "we aren't boycotting supermarkets entirely but we are gradually weaning people off them"
Good news from a self-sufficient village in Hampshire. The VAT registered village cooperative in the village of Martin has been successfully operating for nearly four years now. There are 164 families there and 101 of them signed up to work the "Future Farms" rota. The Mail reports:
"Every year more produce is added and the scheme - likened to a community allotment - has breathed new life into a village that has only a church and a working men's club. .... the farm sells 45 types of vegetables, 100 chickens a week, 20 pigs a year, 32 lambs a year and is now starting to sell beef.The strengths of such a scheme are many; not least that so many people are working together for a common purpose.
Members of the committee include a consultant radiologist, a horticulturalist, a computer programmer, a former probation officer, a secretary and a council worker."
April 14 2008 ~ We need "intelligent growth"
Suicidal "Growth" is leading to famine. "How can we persuade economists and governments to see ‘growth' in another light?" asks Stephan Harding in this month's Resurgence "...we in the affluent North must grow our abilities for living simply - we need to learn to do well with less. Intelligent growth also involves the growth and recovery of the soil. We need to allow soil to thicken wherever it has been depleted by the depredations of the agribusiness farmers and their corporate overlords..."
Things are looking ever bleaker this week and food riots are being reported across the globe.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is providing "short-term measures" such as providing subsidised fertiliser in three African countries affected by food riots (see All Africa.com)
April 11/12 2008 ~ "The backyard organic garden is sounding less and less like an elite affectation, every single day."
In an article at Salon, "Peak Weed Killer?", we read that industrial monoculture will soon be in trouble because of the "relentless ascent of synthetic fertilizer prices" - this includes price hikes for glyphosate -- a.k.a. Monsanto's RoundUp --because of the increasing scarcity of a key ingredient: phosphorus:
"...rock phosphate, the source of nearly all industrially-used phosphorus, is a non-renewable resource....synthetic fertilizer and industrial herbicide prices are rising because of growing demand, resource scarcity, and energy costs. That backyard organic garden, presumably recycling every nutrient possible, is sounding less and less like an elite affectation, every single day."Read article
April 11 2008 ~ role for gardening and urban agriculture
Professor Lang's talk sets out several relevant questions in a Powerpoint Presentation that effectively communicates a sense of urgency. One slide asks:
There is, of course, no official food security policy yet. Gundula Azeez (Soil Association) also gave an audio & Powerpoint presentation at the meeting and the All-Party Parliamentary Group now has their own website where several interesting links can be found.
- If 95% food is oil-dependent, what would a post or ‘less oil' food economy look like?
- Which sectors need to change most?
- Cost: prices need to rise but how much would they? SDC $100 showed +5-10%
- Skills on farm - role for gardening / urban agriculture?
April 11 2008 ~ Family farms and urban gardens
Roger Doiron is Founding Director of Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit network of 5200 gardeners from 90 countries
source "My job as a sustainable foods advocate is to convince people that family farms and gardens not only can feed the world, they're the only thing that can in the long run. Big, industrial agriculture ....would not have been possible were it not for the cheap and easily-obtained inputs on which industrial foods depend, the most important of which is oil. It has been estimated that our highly-industrialized food system in the US requires 5-10 calories of fossil fuel energy to create 1 calorie of food energy.The Kitchen Gardeners International website carries a wonderful photo of urban food growing.
In recognition of planting season and the intersecting geopolitical crises now upon us, I am proposing that home growers finally catch a break. Not from bugs, weather, or clunky garden shoes, but from taxes.....why not offer incentives for solar-powered, healthy food production in their backyard?... "
April 11 2008 ~ "people want to make it a mainstream activity"
A recent Guardian article suggests very seriously that the growing of fruit and vegetables in town-centre planters and parks could be a blueprint for the future
"....Groundwork South Tees advised schools, mental health hospitals, residential care homes and retailers on planting and growing many varieties of herbs, vegetables and fruit. Containers of different sizes were used so people could cultivate whatever space they had.Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, knows as well as anyone that the era of cheap food in the UK is over, and that the nation is "sleepwalking into a crisis". With rising oil and food prices the idea of urban farming in the UK is of vital importance - but the fundamental problem is that so much land has ended up in the hands of private developers.
Middlesbrough borough council turned over parkland, town-centre planters and other landholdings for fruit and vegetable growing. The eight-month project culminated in a town meal outside the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, where up to 8,000 people shared meals from the food that had been grown.
This year, Middlesbrough plans to supply seeds and containers to anyone interested, and already has 2,000 individuals and groups lined up, including 31 out of 51 schools, with 280 growing sites."
Monday April 7 2008 ~ Briefing day for everyone interested in setting up a Community Supported Agriculture project.
One example of how things are taking off locally (food feet rather than food miles) is a briefing day for everyone interested in setting up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.
The Soil Association has funded 3 experts; Jade Bashford, Mark Harrison and Nick Weir, to run the day for people interested in Community Supported Agriculture or "CSA" in Gloucestershire. It will be held on Wednesday April 30th at Stroud Community Agriculture, Hawkwood College, Stroud, in Gloucestershire (Painswick Old Road Stroud, GL6 7 - 01453 759 034 . Please see link to information and booking form (new window) The event is FREE and lunch and refreshments will be provided. Places are limited so booking is essential. For more information on the Soil Association's new Community Supported Agriculture project, contact Amanda Daniel on email@example.com
Monday April 7 2008 ~ The crisis is global
Anyone who still thinks that the turmoil in financial markets isn't going to affect world growth should read today's Financial Times in which the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and former French Finance Minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, rubbishes the notion that the credit crisis is largely a US problem. Developing countries such as China and India would be affected.
"The crisis is global," he said. "... . use of public money can be examined....The forecasts we are going to release in a few days are not very optimistic. The downside risks we underlined in the last world economic outlook have materialised."The myth of economic growth continues and will take some dispelling. The UK continues, with apparent complacency, to watch its ability to feed itself decline. A serious question is to ask for how much longer the UK can import cheap food from countries which are themselves getting more and more concerned about the rise in prices. (see also the Transition Initiative page)
Sunday April 6 2008 ~ Staring down the barrel of a crisis
"It's time to abandon the cruise ship of empire in exchange for a lifeboat... to trust in ourselves, our neighbors and the Earth that sustains us all." Guy R. McPherson is a professor of conservation biology at the University of Arizona. His article today in the Arizona Republic pulls no punches about what he feels will be the inevitable result of the end of Cheap Oil.
"You can kiss goodbye groceries at the local big-box grocery store: Our entire system of food production and delivery depends on cheap oil. .... We have come to depend on cheap oil for the delivery of food, water, shelter and medicine. Most of us are incapable of supplying these four key elements of personal survival.... On the other hand, the forthcoming cessation of economic growth is truly good news for the world's species and cultures.... Our individual survival, and our common future, depends on our ability to quickly make other arrangements. ..a personal challenge..."See also warmwell Transition Town page.
April 6 2008 ~ EU's Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX) includes UK wind turbine
While human scale windmills for local small-scale use are of value, Warmwell's page on windfarms carries the caption, "Beware missionary Zeal over wind farms..." Many of the references deplore the fact that the highly subsidized devastation of vast areas of our most beautiful landscape by windfarms is mere political green window-dressing - what is now called "greenwashing". While the Government no longer pays direct subsidies to the operators they demand that the electricity utilities take a growing percentage of their supply from wind power - the cost goes straight to customers. Wind turbines currently occupy a total of five square miles of Cumbria.
Now - along with the faulty toys and defective electrical appliances that pose a danger on the EU RAPEX page, we see a wind turbine in the UK described as posing
"a risk of injuries because of insufficient tightening or movement of the connecting bolts. This results in fatigue leading to overload which causes the heads of the bolts to pop off."As one emailer laconically puts it, " I knew these things are spoiling the landscape, will never produce enough power to pay for themselves but to use them as weapons of (mass) destruction..."
April 4 2008 ~ Food prices... effects are being felt globally.
The FT is taking the subject very seriously indeed. Their InDepth page on food prices covers many aspects - all of which are challenging. They talk of a long-term, structural change.
April 3 2008 ~ The National Conference for Transition Towns is to be held in Cirencester next weekend
We're grateful for the information that this will take place at the Agricultural College (just outside Cirencester on the Tetbury road) The energetic Green MEP,Caroline Lucas, is in the area and will be addressing the Conference on Friday. Then she will going on to talk in Stroud about the future of food production- and will be conveyed round the area in one of the Stroud Valley Car Club motors. The Transition Network conference takes place in Cirencester from 11-13 April 2008. It will run from lunchtime on Friday 11 April to midday on Sunday 13 April. The conference ".. is designed for people involved in a transition initiative in their locale or who are "mulling over" whether to start one up. There will be workshops, Open Spaces, World Cafés, presentations, discussions, dancing and maybe even a soccer match. The aim is to help people learn how to broaden, deepen and accelerate their initiative, and connect with people to share ideas, inspiration and experiences." The conference programme and content are almost complete.
April 3 2008 ~ Top-down does not work
The success of the Transition Town lies in its evolutionary process - starting with the enthusiasm of communities taking matters into their own hands and watching in awe at what so quickly starts to take shape because of all the various local skills and talents available. The "Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins is an antidote to the way top-down government works.
"It's a question of unleashing the collective genius around you.. ...unless we can create this sense of anticipation, elation and a collective call to adventure on a wider scale, any government responses will be doomed to failure, or will need to battle protractedly against the will of the people..... ."So it is with a sigh that we read in today's Telegraph:
"Ministers have drawn up plans to force through the development of 10 eco-towns despite widespread local opposition..."The eco-towns proposed - and what "eco" means in this context is rather hard to fathom - include poor Throckmorton, in Worcestershire. (recent posts on the Transition movement) See also update in Guardian And as Charles Clover says in the Telegraph, "The fact remains that it would be more eco-friendly not to build these eco-towns at all."
April 2 2008 ~ "alternative ways of handling any future outbreak, with minimum disruption to the industry.."
From the website of www.meatinfo.co.uk we learn of the existence of a report, written by the Chief Veterinary Officer, Jim Scudamore, who was in post during the 2001 FMD disaster. John McIntosh, the Chairman of the Aberdeen & Northern Marts group is quoted:
"During his address McIntosh spoke about the unfortunate phase of foot-and-mouth which struck during August and September 2007. Empathising with livestock producers, he said he too felt the same financial pain and anger as a result of FMD but hoped the Scudamore report - which details the government's retired chief veterinarian's findings - would suggest alternative ways of handling any future outbreak, with minimum disruption to the industry."We should very much appreciate any further information about this report. UPDATE More about the review (Many thanks to Anne Lambourn)
April 3 2008 ~ The National Conference for Transition Towns is to be held in Cirencester next weekend
We're grateful for the information that this will take place at the Agricultural College (just outside Cirencester on the Tetbury road) The energetic Green MEP,Caroline Lucas, is in the area and will be addressing the Conference on Friday. Then she will be going on to talk in Stroud about the future of food production. The Transition Network conference takes place in Cirencester from 11-13 April 2008. It will run from lunchtime on Friday 11 April to midday on Sunday 13 April. The conference ".. is designed for people involved in a transition initiative in their locale or who are "mulling over" whether to start one up. There will be workshops, Open Spaces, World Cafés, presentations, discussions, dancing and maybe even a soccer match. The aim is to help people learn how to broaden, deepen and accelerate their initiative, and connect with people to share ideas, inspiration and experiences." The conference programme and content are almost complete.
April 3 2008 ~ Top-down does not work
The success of the Transition Town movement (there are now over 35 formal Transition Initiatives in the UK - including towns, cities, islands, peninsulas, with over 500 globally at the earlier stages of launching the process. And evolutionary process it is - starting with the enthusiasm of communities taking matters into their own hands and watching in awe at what so quickly starts to take shape. The "Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins is an antidote to the way top-down government works. Official policy has its own agendas and is determined to keep control in the centre. The Transition Initiative begins with the skills and talents of local people - and their willingness to build upwards to create something for all to share in the challenge of a very different future. Rob Hopkins writes,
"...unless we can create this sense of anticipation, elation and a collective call to adventure on a wider scale, any government responses will be doomed to failure, or will need to battle protractedly against the will of the people."So it is with a sigh that we read in today's Telegraph:
"Ministers have drawn up plans to force through the development of 10 eco-towns despite widespread local opposition..."The eco-towns proposed - and what "eco" means in this context is rather hard to fathom - includes , Throckmorton, in Worcestershire, pushed around by government decree for many years,particularly during the foot ande mouth tragedy, in spite of well organised and intelligent protest from its inhabitants.
April 2 2008 ~ "a real grass roots movement that is inspiring people to get involved.."
/icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/ today on the spread of Transition towns, in which communities "focus on sustainability through renewable energy, allotments and farming but also aim to explore possibilities of water supply, waste recycling" - and "new economics" in the form of localisation of currency. Transition Town Llandeilo is following in the footsteps of Totnes. "Local currency puts money back into local businesses whereas ordinary money takes it out."
The US organisation, BerkShares, Inc., a non-profit organisation in the Southern Berkshire region of Massachusetts, say on their website,
"....people who choose to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy local first. They are taking personal responsibility for the health and well-being of their community by laying the foundation of a truly vibrant, thriving local economy."
March 31 2008 ~ Back to the backyard - not simply because it's fun but for our economic survival
Peak Oil is a turning point for society - and denial is getting harder for politicians (especially when even the Archers are discussing "going Transition"with such conviction). Transporting food over vast distances is simply not going to be possible for much longer.
An Australian permaculture advocate, David Holmgren, echoes some of the convictions of the Transition Town movement in this interesting and optimistic podcast clip about backyard production. "A modern fusion that also involves water re-use, solar design, more use of trees and integrating animals into that too.....Chickens forage in a healthy system based on organic methods of soil building and waste recycling.... in this world of less energy, we have to redesign everything we do."
March 31 2008 ~ Small scale biofuel production - another matter.
Another BBC article explains how a retired teacher makes his own backyard biofuel from chip fat. He says he likes
"the idea of using a waste product to make oil, and I like the idea of being energy independent... it also saves a lot of money"It costs him some £21 for a tank of home-made bio-diesel, compared with £80 at the garage.
March 27/28 2008 ~ Peak oil' meeting in Taunton
www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk There will be a talk on Peak Oil, Climate Change and Transition Towns:"...Transition Towns aims to work with Somerset communities to make positive moves to increase resilience to falling oil levels. Victoria Watson and Mike McGuffie are holding the meeting at Silver Street Baptist Church at 7.30pm on Monday, March 31. The problem, the solution and the way forward'. Ms Watson said: "We are looking to reach out to all those people who are concerned by these issues and want to contribute in some way to working towards a better future for all of us."...."
March 27 2008 ~ Ninety-five per cent of the UK's fresh fruit is imported
Guardian yesterday ".....Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, says the era of cheap food in the UK is over, and that the nation is "sleepwalking into a crisis". He points out that the UK has an especially poor record on producing its own fruit and vegetables. "Ninety-five per cent of fresh fruit is imported. This is ludicrous in a country with 2,000 varieties of apples..
...disused urban spaces turned into fertile corners bursting with freshly grown fruit and vegetables ...more than 1,000 residents of Middlesborough took part..."
March 27 2008 ~ Transition Towns: " We've got to reduce our dependence on oil.....And you're expecting the whole of Ambridge to get involved?"
Listen again to The Archers last Monday - and UPDATE we now hear from an amazed listener (March 28) that " the whole of Ambridge is going Transition..."
Pat Archer: Definitely the whole of Ambridge and other villages. Most of the places doing it are Transition Towns. There are a few villages. .... In Stroud they're setting up a community bike scheme …."Tony thinks it's a good idea" and it's good to see that the writers of the Archers think so too.
Kathy Perks : It sounds amazing - still think you'll have a job selling it to the whole village.
Pat Archer: Well I'm going to carry on and see how far I can get.
March 27 2008 ~ Green MEP Caroline Lucas, will be visiting Stroud on Friday, April 11th.
In the evening she will be speaking alongside Stroud Parliamentary candidate Martin Whiteside and Nick Weir from Transition Stroud at the Subscription Rooms. The theme of the evening will be 'The Future of Food' The evening begins at 7.30. There is no charge for entrance, but a small donation towards the hire of the room would be appreciated.
March 27 2008 ~ "Economic contraction may be bitter medicine, but it's part of the cure for what ails our planetary home."
We are now at the end of an unprecedented period of abundance that has been dependent upon temporary sources of cheap energy. Are we finally waking up to the need for a wholly different mindset? Richard Heinberg in his article "Making the most of a global depression" takes a long cool look at the reality of the present situation - but finishes with upbeat good sense:
: "....we can manage this contraction either foolishly or intelligently.Read in full. Richard Heinberg is the author of "The Party's Over" and "Peak Everything." He is a Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute .
A foolish management of economic contraction would entail burning the biosphere for alternative fuels; propping up the banks and other financial institutions that created the mortgage mess....
Intelligent management would start with an explicit commitment to redesign the global economy to run with less... assess ecosphere resources and identify a humane, equitable path toward gradual reduction in population and total consumption levels. ... re-acquaint ourselves with the values and virtues of community, self-sufficiency, and modesty....educating a new generation of ecological farmers...."
March 25/26 2008 ~ "The Great Turning" - the Ecological or Sustainability Revolution
A "positive energy" conference is taking place this week at the Findhorn Foundation (recently found to have the lowest ecological footprint ever measured in the industrialised world) For those who have not been able to attend the full week, the last two days of the conference, this Thursday and Friday, can be attended as a mini-event: From Crisis to Opportunity at which the speakers include Richard Heinberg, one of the world's foremost peak oil educators:
"Let us accept the current challenge - the next great energy transition - as an opportunity to re-imagine human culture from the ground up, using our intelligence and our passion for the welfare of coming generations and for the integrity of nature's web as our primary guides ."and Rob Hopkins, founder of Transition Town Totnes (see below), the first transition town project in the UK.
March 24 2008 ~ "It's about creating alternatives, realistic ways of living that can inspire everyone in the whole of society..."
"Back to the Land" is back - as Farming Today This Week (Listen Again R4 22 March) explained. The programme was largely concerned with "savvy" smallholders who use modern technology and networking. The message is "Don't wait." An allotment plot is the first place to start - the best fertiliser is your own footprint. Be there! And take each step at a time - and one to one training is important.
Martin Hawarth of the NFU repeated the intensive sector's worry that it is difficult to trace smallholders and that smaller farmers may present a disease risk - but the Countess of Mar was on hand to refute the suggestion that smallholders are not inspected
"...most of us care a great deal about our animals and it's perhaps a fact that there are good and bad in both smallholders and huge farmers. If you are going to keep animals you've got to be responsible and this applies to large or small. It doesn't matter which. I know a number of large farmers who are not well trained in caring for their livestock."Dr Larch Maxey (Swansea University), who is examining ‘back-to-the-land experiments' showed how different now from the sometimes unrealistic idealism of the 60s and 70s is the present acceptance of the sheer hard work and learning involved in getting back to the land.
March 24 2008 ~ "Moving to New York City," she said, "was what first got me interested in food and farming."
The New York Times quotes a 32 year old former second-grade teacher, who moved from her Harlem apartment to a farm in Tivoli, NY where, she says,"we are committed to farming practices that care for our animals and for the land. We are currently selling grass-fed lamb and pastured chicken on a pre-order basis."
The NYT article explains: " .... young urbanites are starting to put their muscles where their pro-environment, antiglobalization mouths are. They are creating small-scale farms near urban areas hungry for quality produce and willing to pay a premium.....the demand from consumers for food produced on a small scale, bought directly from farmers, has allowed a younger generation to enter farming, even as global markets drive many conventional farmers off the land.."
The NYT also mentions "The Greenhorns" a film that is "not a political attack; nor is it meant to make you feel bad about what you eat. This film documents those who are establishing solutions to our contemporary crises. The stakes are high, but so are our chances of preserving our farmland, our food supply, and the practice of family farming...."
Meanwhile, back in the world of agribusiness, the Italian government is planning to import live calves from Brazil next year (www.agireora.org in Italian)"The project is to initially import 50 thousand calves per year, and gradually increase the number of animals imported up to a maximum of 150 thousand per year."
March 24 2008 ~ Wealth and security now lie in productive land
Staffordshire County Council had, last year, proposed to sell all or most of its nearly 9,000 acres of farmland to generate funds. Options drawn up included a plan to reduce the number of starter farms by a half. But it has now changed its mind. A review undertaken last summer involving consultation with tenant farmers, the Staffordshire branch of the NFU, the farming community itself and the general public has, according to the Farmers Guardian, resulted in the Council's "pledging not only to keep its farms, but to reinvigorate them". While this is good news in itself, the talk, Justice, Farms and Victory Gardens (see below) takes things further and is both prophetic and optimistic about the low energy future that is on its way.
March 24 2008 ~ "... How did we forget something so basic?..."
Justice, Farms and Victory Gardens Extract:
"....I can think of no more certain way to ensure we will go hungry than to be as ignorant as we are of the role of food and agriculture in our lives...this is just growing food! Every one of us is more privileged, better educated, more powerful and in every way better prepared to change the world than thousands of people who already did it. How can we possibly do less than they, when the stakes are so high? So please go home and plant your gardens."The present crisis has been on the way for some time. It has been caused partly by chasing the wrong challenges, depending on false assurances and the blandishments of those who want to make money by lending it - but what seems inescapable is that wealth now lies in local productive land, not the insubstantial dreams of politics and finance.
March 20 2008 ~David Cameron "Britain risks food shortages and rocketing prices unless we begin to grow more of our own produce."
In a speech at the centenary conference of the National Farmers' Union in London, Mr Cameron said that the increase in the consumption of meat means that farmers now feed 250m more tonnes of grain to their animals than they did 20 years ago. The nation's "food security" must be guarded as jealously as that of our independent fuel supply.
"We face the potential prospect that the abundance of food that we all take for granted will come to a crashing end. Yet just as we are relying, indeed we are depending more and more on foreign farmers to fill our shopping bags, cupboards and fridges, so the days of abundant food from around the world may well be coming to an end"One wonders what a Conservative Minister would do in government and whether there would again be a Ministry that watched over the needs of farming, food and rural affairs. All the same, the Transition Towns movement (see below) shows convincingly that a consideration of urban food growing may now be almost as urgently needed as concern for sustainable rural farms.
March 18 2008 ~"It's a question of unleashing the collective genius around you..."
Changing our assumptions and values about what a truly sustainable society looks like seems well overdue - and the efforts of the Transition Towns movement gives more hope than much of the hot air emanating from Westminster or Brussels. (Watch Rob Hopkins on You Tube on the subject of the end of cheap energy, Peak Oil and the UK. He is impressive.) There can be no doubt that we are in trouble. The FAO's food price index has rocketed up by almost 40 per cent this year. International wheat prices are up 50 per cent on last year's. As for the end of cheap energy, the Press Association reports
"...Crude oil prices rose to new highs near to 112 US dollars a barrel yesterday, forcing the cost of petrol at the forecourts up to 106.7p a litre, with diesel at 113.9p, according to latest figures from the AA. ....."Meanwhile, economic growth continues to be the myth that prevails and the UK watches its ability to feed itself decline with apparent complacency, continuing to import cheap food from countries that are themselves getting more and more concerned about the rise in prices.
March 18 2008 ~ " As Richard Heinberg put it, people are instinctively more interested in what is going into their car than in what is coming out of the exhaust pipe...".
It is well worth putting aside 52 minutes to listen to the quiet eloquence, (without any notes), of Rob Hopkins on the subject of our future and how there are better ways of presenting to people the crisis that's coming than dire warnings about Global Warming. (Best to download the You Tube video to your own computer)
".... It's a fuel-in problem rather than an emissions-out problem. And Peak Oil is very important because it's like putting a mirror up to a community and saying, "Where's the resilience gone in this community? Where is this community's ability to withstand shocks?" And particularly when we go back to the 30's and 40's we see that then we had that resilience. We had a vibrant local economy. We had local food. We had local agriculture..."His conclusion to the complex question, Can we support the people that we have? is "Yes we can - but we need to rediscover what was good about the world before cheap oil and rethink our basic assumptions.." Nor does he shirk the population problem.
March 17/18 2008 ~ Cheap food culture has led to dangerous lack of disease surveillance and lowering of welfare standards
Livestock farmers, having to contend with rocketing fuel prices, huge increases in feed costs and all the depressed profits caused by the UK policies on such animal illnesses as foot and mouth and bluetongue, are thinking twice before calling out a vet. And because there are now far fewer farm animal vets, those left have to travel further and are charging more.
EDP24 quotes Peter Stevenson, chief policy advisor with Compassion in World Farming, on the ever more serious shortage of farm vets.
"Regular visits from the vet mean it is more likely a disease will be spotted in its early stages, be they seriously dangerous diseases such as foot and mouth or less severe illnesses....I don't think there is any doubt that some farmers are simply not calling vets in like they used to...."Veterinary bodies too have a responsibility to encourage students to take up farm vet practice. The lack of surveillance provided by regular vet visits are ever more dangerous in these days of fast-spreading zoonoses.
March 16/17 2008 ~ "The evening felt celebratory, positive and inspiring. Transition Handbooks sold like hot cakes..."
Droughts, soaring oil prices, global population increase, the distancing of commodity markets from genuine supply and demand signals - and the conversion of food crops into biofuel as a result - a global food crisis is already with us. What we need is a precise, detailed, what-to-do manual. And Rob Hopkins, described in a review of his startling new book, the "Transition Handbook", as "... a superb communicator, visionary and one of the most important thinkers in our chaotic 21st century world" has provided just that.
The Transition Handbook must become required reading for anyone who thinks personal action is better than waiting hopefully for a benighted political system to emerge into the light.
March 16/17 2008 ~ Let them eat biofuel...?
It is good to see Christopher Booker squaring up to the departed Chief Scientific Adviser in Beware the politician posing as a scientist in the current week's Spectator. Climate change was proclaimed by Sir David King to be "a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism" - but the UN World Food Program (WFP) is now saying,
"the increasing scarcity of food is the biggest crisis looming in the world"and yet more and more agricultural land is being turned over to the production of crops used to manufacture biofuels, such as ethanol. Last week, the new CSA, Professor Beddington, commented (Guardian), that the food crisis was more urgent and serious than climate change - yet as Caroline Lucas says, the policymakers in neither Brussels nor Westminster have any workable or acceptable plans in place. They continue to seem in denial of what is apparent to so many of us. And even though David Cameron too was reported (last Sunday's Herald) to have said, "You could feed a person for a whole year from the grain that produces just one tank of fuel for a sports utility vehicle"- none of the major parties in traditional politics seems able to galvanise people towards practical solutions. In contrast, the highly interesting Treehugger website, another enthusastic supporter of the Transition Town Movement, offer what they term, "some humble suggestions of potential solutions":
"... high-tech solutions like vertical farming or underground agriculture and aquaponics may be useful in reducing pressures on land, and distances from farm to plate. Meanwhile low tech DIY approaches like permaculture, food not lawns, DIY hydroponics and community gardens are ways that we can all make a difference.... hats off to Professor Beddington for setting this on his agenda."
March 16/17 2008 ~ In glorious contrast to our politicians and ever more chaotic Ministries..
...the launch of the latest Transition Town, Forest Row in Sussex, demonstrates anything but complacent inaction. Green MEP Caroline Lucas (see You Tube), in her message of enthusiastic support for the Transition Town movement, had this to say about rebuilding the infrastructure to revitalise local food economies:
"....Over half the food imported in 2002 was indigenous produce...it could have been sourced in this country, could have been grown in the UK's temperate climate...it would be much easier if we had changes to the rules of the EU Single Market and the World Trade Organisation, but it is also true that there is much that we as individuals and communities can do ourselves..to begin to power down, to become less dependent on fossil fuels and more dependent on each other"