18 Jan 2007
10 First Steps for a Transition Town Initiative #7. Facilitate The Great Reskilling.
In my experience, peak oil is a better motivating issue than climate change, because it holds a mirror up to an individual community/individual/society and asks *where is the resilience? Where is its ability to withstand shocks?* Beyond the realisation that very little resilience actually remains, comes the realisation that very few people still have the skills a more resilient society needs. This is where your Transition Town initiative comes in.
I have [written before](http://transitionculture.org/2006/12/04/is-peak-oil-pessimism-a-generation-of-men-coming-to-realise-how-useless-they-are/”Useless”) at **Transition Culture** that I believe one of the main factors contributing to the sense of panic that often sets in immediately after an awareness of peak oil is due to the realisation that we no longer have many of the basic skills our grandparents took for granted. I still stand by that, and I think that one of the most useful things a Transition Town project can do is to offer training in a range of some of these skills.
What skills ought we teach? I have found that we need to enlarge our ideas of what these might be. Some research is useful, in terms of what skills people used to have that might still be appropriate, as well as looking at the skills people have now. Speaking to older people in the area around Totnes, it turns out that, for example, they all knew how to darn their socks. I know very few people my age who know how to do that, and it is a skill that once we get beyond the throwaway society we may well need again, hence the Sock Darning workshop we are running in March. These Reskilling events fulfil a few different functions;
* They bring people together, relaxing and learning new skills
* They build networks
* They build a fundamental sense of “can do”
* They can create a link between old and young as skills are passed on
* They can be practical events which actually put something in place, like a natural building day that produces a cob bus stop or something, thereby offering an opportunity for creating Practical Manifestations (**see #6**)
We have collectively become so deskilled over the last 40 years, and we urgently need to start the relearning of core life skills such as gardening, repairing and cooking. In Totnes we run a very popular 10 week evening class called ‘Skilling Up for Powerdown’, which covers peak oil, climate change, food growing, energy, trees, water and waste, economics and so on, from the perspective of enhancing resilience. A wealth of smaller courses can also be run, on all aspects of practical training in useful everyday skills.
These workshops could include – cycle maintenance, natural building, loft insulation, cooking, dyeing, herbal walks, basic home energy efficiency, making sour doughs, practical food growing and so on (the list is endless). What is important is that the workshops are well promoted and made to look as enticing as possible.
Work with existing groups, local sustainability centres, colleges and so on. Draw on local skills wherever you can. It is great if you can design these events in such a way that students from the first time a course runs can help teach the students the second time it runs.
To begin with, your Great Reskilling will largely consist of one to two day courses, or even in longer evening classes like Skilling Up for Powerdown. In time your town might become host to something like the 2 year full-time Practical Sustainability course at Kinsale FEC in Ireland. On that scale there is a lot you can do in terms of outreach and engagement.
A Transition Town project invites a community to undertake a journey, a collective adventure. Very often in modern society people feel disempowered, that even changing an incandescent light bulb for a low energy one is a taxing operation. Your Great Reskilling should give people a sense of the power of solving problems, of practically doing things rather than just talking about them, and of the sense of belonging that comes from working alongside other people. Above all it should be fun…