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27 May 2009

To Plan for Emergency, or Not? Heinberg and Hopkins debate

robrichardAt the Transition Network conference, Richard Heinberg gave an online presentation looking at the concept of Emergency Planning for Communities, something he initially unveiled at Findhorn last year.  You can see his presentation here.  For a while now, Richard and I have been discussing the tension between longer term planning for resilience and the more immediate and pressing responses demanded by sudden and rapid change.  It is still an ongoing discussion, but we thought now, with Richard’s presentation, it would be a good time to open up the conversation for your thoughts.  What follows is the series of email exchanges we have had since late last year.

One of the fascinating discussion points at the conference between those in the US and those in the UK, revolves around the degree of vulnerability people feel.  When Naresh and Sophy returned from delivering Transition Training in the US, one of their observations was that, as a country with no free healthcare and little in the way of social services and benefits, life feels much more fragile there, and the sense that things could all fall apart tomorrow much more palpable.  Translating Transition to the US context can be, some of those present were saying, a bigger challenge because of that.  Is the US being overdramatic, or the UK lulled into a false sense of security?  Does putting emergency planning at the forefront of Transition risk losing more people than it engages?  Is it possible to build resilience in the middle of a crisis?  There are just some of the questions that arise from these exchanges.  Anyway, we throw this open, and welcome your thoughts based on the discussions below. …

December 10th 2008.

Dear Rob,

Let me start by saying that I am not proposing any specific change in the public Transition written materials or trainings, merely a private strategic discussion among those at a high level within the movement.

My reasoning is simple: Transition has a very positive and optimistic face, which is extremely attractive and the main reason for its success. As you know, better than anyone, its goal is to envision a desirable post-fossil fuel future and then backcast incremental local steps for the achievement of that future.

Now: the reason we all see it necessary to transition away from fossil fuels is that if we don’t, dire things will happen. But what if it’s actually too late to prevent some of those dire things from happening, and they occur during our Transition period and process?

Obviously this is not an academic question. We are seeing a truly frightening financial collapse—partly resulting from this year’s high oil prices—unfolding before us. The world has changed very significantly in the past few months, so much so that the shift is difficult to overstate, even though its direction and implications are still revealing themselves. My question is: should the Transition movement ignore this new fact-on-the-ground, address it as just a bump or pothole along the way, or take it very seriously as (1) a potential challenge to the Transition program if people feel that their optimistic efforts are being overwhelmed by catastrophic economic conditions including closure of local businesses and loss of jobs and funding by key organizers; (2) a potential opportunity both to grow the movement and to offer tangible help to people in genuine need; or (3) both of the latter?

If it is to be seen as (2), an opportunity, what might that mean in terms of public messaging, trainings, etc.?

My own view is that organizations like ours can help by providing inspiration (as Transition certainly does, probably to a much greater extent than PCI), as well as by helping to solve real problems. I would guess that in the near future solving problems will become more of a priority than it has been up to this point, simply because the number and scale of problems that individuals and communities will be confronting will snowball. Whether we like it or not, those of us who have put ourselves forward in the public eye as having answers will be looked to for practical solutions to very basic problems like homelessness, unemployment, hunger, decaying infrastructure, lack of heating fuel, lack of capital, and bank failures.

Obviously, what Transition and PCI have been advocating (community gardens, local currencies, etc.) are in fact at least partial solutions to these very problems, but so far we have discussed them in terms of proactive efforts to keep the problems from happening, or to build a better world in the future. Should the growing presence of these problems affect how our solutions are described (to the general public, to policy makers, or among ourselves) and/or how they are implemented?

Again, this is only meant to be a conversation opener. We’re all figuring this out as we go along—at least I am!

With all best wishes,
Richard.

January 9th 2009.

Dear Richard,

Happy New Year to you. I have been giving your email some thought over the last couple of weeks and wanted to respond with some feedback. I agree with you that some element of Emergency Planning (which feels like a more appropriate term to me) is vital, but I wonder whether it is something that either falls completely outside of the work of Transition groups or, while connected, has somehow to be kept clearly distinct for the reasons below.

To begin with, that kind of emergency response work is usually done by local authorities, or in the US by groups like FEMA. It is hard to figure out how one would come up with a community response plan that would be more effective, or able to mobilise what they are able to mobilise, than what they could do. I haven’t tried to find out who is responsible for that in Totnes, but I suspect that whoever it is would not be entirely welcoming of well-meaning approaches from us offering to input some Transition flavouring.

At the root of it is the old bottom up/top down question. Is it possible to design a bottom up emergency response plan that is effective? At present, in the event of an emergency, in theory at least, the government agencies swing into action, organising water, energy, food and so on (although of course Katrina is an example of exactly the opposite happening, but what would a pre-planned community response in New Orleans have looked like?). Of course this raises fascinating questions, as I suppose in a few years a community fully engaged upon energy descent would be far better at dealing with emergencies than “the authorities” – and in the past bottom up emergency planning worked superbly in the anarchist led communities during the Spanish Civil War. Having said that, those were communities which were already, and explicitly, united around a common vision; ie more like communities already meaningfully engaged in energy descent than the current early adopting transition initiatives.

I think about this in terms of the principles of Transition. Does Emergency Planning lead to increased resilience? Maybe yes, but maybe not. Tends to be peoples’ last consideration in times of panic. The priority turns to short term survival. We are already seeing in the Ukraine people felling trees left, right and centre in order to keep warm, and Ireland during the Famine had barely a single tree. Short term emergencies tend to move people away from resilience, something that, it seems to me, can only really be created in a longer term, intentionally designed way. On the other hand, does that mean that principles of resilience should be put to one side in an emergency? While the answer to that must be no, I’m struggling to see what one does with the resulting tension.

In terms of ‘Inner and Outer Transition’, I think this creates a huge challenge. There are very few people who can really delve into the nitty gritty of emergency planning without feeling deeply despondent.. there are a few grizzled doomers who would thrive on it, but how to create a meaningful community process of planning emergency responses without breeding powerlessness on an unprecedented scale is hard to imagine. There may be a need for working out how to do trauma counselling on a huge scale, training a team of people to support the freakouts that would happen, but again, on that scale it needs the Health teams and the NHS.

In terms of subsidiarity, emergency planning is something that has almost always come from the top down. I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on what an effective bottom-up response might look like. Wouldn’t bottom up responses to emergencies, almost by definition, be actions which emerge rather than follow a pre-determined plan? The piqueteros in Argentina appeared as a result of dire need/emergency, but not because of a previous plan. It may well be that within a TI a few people who are so inclined might write such a thing, but I can’t see it being something many people would choose to engage with.

I feel that absolutely key to all of this is the fact that, in terms of visioning, there isn’t a positive potential outcome to use to inspire and engage people. Transition is very deliberately designed to be non-threatening, to be inviting and engaging. It could be argued that emergency planning is the opposite. The danger is that if the vision becomes collapse next week, that the Transition group becomes seen as a survivalist cult, and loses people. It is hard enough for us to engage and work with our local authority here, and we are presenting ourselves to them as rational, positive thinking people with ideas they need, answers to questions they aren’t asking yet, although no doubt we are still seen as fringe players. If we were to take a very doomy position, and invite them to prepare for meltdown next week, I suspect we would find it far harder to find a way into them.

I think the question for me is more around how does one ‘speed up’ an EDAP. Most of the work in one tends to focus on their first few years, and if it is written properly it should really engage that kind of input. For example, if we want to have food gardens in place in time for an emergency, the same obstacles still exist to their creation now that exist in an EDAP. It is about designing things that are viable in one economic context that will also be viable in another entirely different one. It is a big job, but those gardens aren’t going to appear by magic, they need to be planned, created and maintained. Same with woodfuel, local markets and so on.

I find it hard to see how the things that would actually lead to increased resilience could be done any faster, short of actually being in that emergency scenario by which time, in some ways, it is too late to do that effectively. Say the UK’s gas is shut off tomorrow, leading to a speeding up of the current economic troubles… not too much in the way of meaningful gardening to be done in Totnes in January.. Would be at least June before much is produced. An EDAP would be looking for triggers for rapidly speeding up the numbers of people growing food, other institutions that could help, identifying potential growing land and so on. It is hard to see how it might be done any faster.

Finally, there are lots of other organisations, community groups and so on, who don’t engage at the moment, but who would in an emergency. I think the EDAP creates a template for how they might be invited to direct their energy. So, my feeling is that the creation of Emergency Plans is something that could either happen in parallel with the EDAP process, or could be the work of a separate group. I think it would shift public perception of the work of that initiative away from it being seen as a positive, forward looking and inclusive thing, to being a doomer cult, the embodiment of what everyone always suspected environmentalists were all about in the first place. It certainly has an important role, but perhaps it is something that just happens discretely…

Finally, turning to your explicit question:
“My question is: should the Transition movement ignore this new fact-on-the-ground, address it as just a bump or pothole along the way, or take it very seriously as (1) a potential challenge to the Transition program if people feel that their optimistic efforts are being overwhelmed by catastrophic economic conditions including closure of local businesses and loss of jobs and funding by key organizers; (2) a potential opportunity both to grow the movement and to offer tangible help to people in genuine need; or (3) both of the latter?”

I think we clearly can’t ignore it or view it as a bump or pothole – and my gut feeling is that it is (3), the combination of challenge and opportunity. It may be though that the truth is that the opportunity is that the emergencies coming towards us will serve to demonstrate the need for transition more than anything else.

Thank you for having raised this issue, which is absolutely vitally important. On re-reading the above, I’m not sure that we’ll get to a completely clear answer, but I look forward to your further thoughts with great interest. It might be worth looking at the idea of publishing this exchange of emails on Transition Culture, and/or elsewhere, as I know it is a subject of conversation elsewhere. There is, for example, an interesting thread on the Transition Network forum exploring this.

Rob

February 2nd 2009.

Dear Rob,

Many thanks for your thoughtful reply to my earlier letter about Transition and emergency planning. I think the best way for me to continue the conversation would be to respond to specific points you made.

“Is it possible to design a bottom-up emergency response plan that is effective?”

If not, then I think that we (that is, those of us who desire to see an orderly, decentralized transition process) may be in danger of being written off as irrelevant at some point—perhaps in just a few months’ time. As you point out: during an emergency, people are much less interested in long-range plans and much more focused on satisfying immediate needs. The emergency is unfolding, and it is not going to be transitory. So as people deal with survival issues, how can their collective efforts trend toward sustainability?

“In the past bottom-up emergency planning worked superbly in the anarchist-led communities during the Spanish Civil War.”

This is an encouraging example to think about, even if—as you note—circumstances are very different now. In fact, I think communities are going to be left mostly to their own devices, once the efforts of national governments begin to fail—and fail they will. So how will communities get by? Who will help them organize their response to an almost complete economic shut-down, so that families still have food, water, shelter, sanitation facilities, work, and health care? I think anyone who can offer tangible help will be regarded with some respect.

“Does Emergency Planning lead to increased resilience?”

As you say, emergency planning doesn’t necessarily lead to greater resilience, but on the other hand I don’t see how a society can be resilient without it, especially when there are so many crises looming.

“I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on what an effective bottom-up response might look like. Wouldn’t bottom-up responses to emergencies, almost by definition, be actions which emerge rather than follow a pre-determined plan?”

Yes, but such responses are likely to emerge more quickly and effectively if a few folks within the community begin running scenario exercises ahead of time, identifying community resources and thinking about how those might be mobilized. Such efforts could in fact be crucial to preserving societal coherence.

And this is what I fear most, frankly: the loss of societal coherence. If that goes—if we are each on our own, competing for food and drinkable water—then we have lost the game. This is what Orlov is talking about in his five stages of collapse (www.energybulletin.net/node/40919): it is social and cultural collapse that we must avoid if at all possible. We are seeing financial and commercial collapse now, and the beginnings of political collapse in many nations. How far down the chain are we going to go? Can we interrupt the process at some point by creating more cultural coherence? Transition is in fact creating more local cultural coherence—we’re on the right track!—but is it enough, and of the right sort?

“I find it hard to see how the things that would actually lead to increased resilience could be done any faster, short of actually being in that emergency scenario by which time, in some ways, it is too late to do that effectively. Say the UK’s gas is shut off tomorrow, leading to a speeding up of the current economic troubles… not too much in the way of meaningful gardening to be done in Totnes in January. Would be at least June before much is produced. An EDAP would be looking for triggers for rapidly speeding up the numbers of people growing food, other institutions that could help, identifying potential growing land and so on. It is hard to see how it might be done any faster.”

Fair enough—we’re all working as hard as we can, going as fast as we can go. But maybe there are unseen opportunities here.

In the beginning of your letter you point out that, “that kind of emergency response work is usually done by local authorities, or in the US by groups like FEMA. It is hard to figure out how one would come up with a community response plan that would be more effective, or able to mobilise what they are able to mobilise, than what they could do. I haven’t tried to find out who is responsible for that in Totnes, but I suspect that whoever it is would not be entirely welcoming of well-meaning approaches from us offering to input some Transition flavouring.”

I think you might be surprised. The few emergency response folks I’ve talked with are frankly very worried. A lot would depend on the manner in which they were approached. If they sense that we are merely pushing an agenda, they are likely to be quite hostile. If we appeal to a shared interest in addressing real looming problems, there is likely to be at least some openness to collaboration. These are the “adults” in the community, people who are taking responsibility in ways that aren’t always fun or rewarding, but are doing things that need to be done for everyone’s sake. I’d like to think that we are in the same category (though I wouldn’t rule out the “fun” part).

Moreover, emergency response officials aren’t the only ones who are worried: my guess is that Community Resilience campaigns undertaken right about now (with cheerful smiles, holding garden implements, but acknowledging that the economy is falling apart and that we have to act fast) might garner even wider support and interest than Transition is already doing.

“Finally, there are lots of other organisations, community groups and so on, who don’t engage at the moment, but who would in an emergency. I think the EDAP creates a template for how they might be invited to direct their energy. So, my feeling is that the creation of Emergency Plans is something that could either happen in parallel with the EDAP process, or could be the work of a separate group. I think it would shift public perception of the work of that initiative away from it being seen as a positive, forward looking and inclusive thing, to being a doomer cult, the embodiment of what everyone always suspected environmentalists were all about in the first place. It certainly has an important role, but perhaps it is something that just happens discretely…”

If there is no looming emergency and you are planning for one, people may call you a doomer. When the emergency is palpable and undeniable and everyone is filled with a sense of urgency, then people may call you a realist—if you can describe what is happening accurately and point to solutions in a helpful way. Much depends on one’s tone of voice. This is the source of much of Obama’s attraction: he has earned the nickname “no-drama Obama” because he’s so unflappable. At this point, no one is going to call us doomers for engaging in disaster planning unless we have shrill voices and are buying up all the ammunition in town. A calm voice with a realistic yet helpful message will get you a long way these days.

Maybe, as you suggest, aspects of the disaster-planning/EDAP process need to be discrete, but at this stage I think the existence of such a process is more likely to be a drawing-point than a put-off. I agree that the EDAP is already a helpful template in guiding existing groups to pitch in to address crises, though perhaps that could be more explicit.

“I think we clearly can’t ignore [the economic crisis] or view it as a bump or pothole—and my gut feeling is that it is (3), the combination of challenge and opportunity. It may be though that the truth is that the opportunity is that the emergencies coming towards us will serve to demonstrate the need for transition more than anything else.”

Yes, I agree completely. Yet somehow I still think there is more we could be doing. I understand: in the past two years Transition has taken off like a rocket; if it’s working, why screw with it? Perfectly sensible. At the same time, I have to underscore my sense that what we are seeing unfolding in the world right now will change just about everything. And everyone will have to adapt to survive—Transition (and Post Carbon Institute) included. I’m looking for both a plan to save the community, and a plan to help our efforts remain relevant and perhaps become much more so.

It’s worth asking: What is Transition actually capable of doing to respond to an unprecedented economic crisis? In the most cynical assessment, it consists essentially of a lot of well-meaning local activists wanting to envision a better future. These are not the sorts of people to engage in serious emergency response work, nor do they have the support mechanisms to enable them to do it.

But who does have the ability to do that work in the context of a vision of what needs to be done also to solve the longer-term crises of climate change and resource depletion? For whatever reason, Transition is appearing on the world scene at the right time, it is viral, and it has a positive, hopeful face that people respond to. It needs to keep that positive, hopeful visage, but perhaps it also needs to be perceived as being responsive to changing circumstances. If what we are proposing to do can only succeed if we have a decade or so of “normal” economic conditions during which to grow our base, train more trainers, and deploy our methods, then . . . it may indeed be too late. But if we can adapt quickly and thereby strategically help our communities adapt, the result may be beneficial both to communities and to those who are organizing Transition efforts.

Obama is telling Americans that the economy is going to get much worse before it gets better. He was elected on a platform of hope, but he’s dishing out some pretty grim forecasts these days. I want him to succeed, but I fear that circumstances will overpower his ability to respond.

You’re likewise a hopeful, unflappable public figure, Rob, and people love you for it (as well as for other qualities—your ability as a writer, your humor, and more). I suspect that there are a lot of folks out there waiting to see how the Transition message will evolve in response to changed circumstances. But I shouldn’t presume to speak for them; I am really just stating my own thoughts here.

The emphasis of my own work will change from here on. I know I gained whatever notoriety I have on the basis of my gloomy writings about Peak Oil, but that may be a near-dead issue for the time being. I won’t leave it entirely behind (energy is ultimately where it’s at and I still have a book and some other publications on energy issues coming out in the next few months), but this year I intend to focus primarily on identifying efforts taking place in communities around the world that (1) address basic human needs in the context of economic collapse (2) are replicable and/or scalable, and (3) set us on the path toward sustainability. In fact this will also be the main focus for Post Carbon Institute for the foreseeable future, as we expand our Fellows program. I hope that what we come up with as a think tank will be immediately useful to Transition initiatives everywhere.

I’m confident that in our partnership we will be able to do some really useful work. I realize that my suggestions are vague. Maybe overt disaster planning is just not practical at this stage (it may well be too late, and we may well not have the capacity), and maybe all that can come from this is a some new messaging that acknowledges the dire circumstances and that promises that useful ideas for responding to communities’ burgeoning problems will be forthcoming.

In any case, I’m delighted to be working in collaboration. I have nothing but admiration for what the Transition Network has accomplished so far. May those accomplishments grow!

Best wishes always,

February 4th 2009.

Dear Richard

Thanks so much for your considered and fascinating response. I’m delighted you feel happy for this exchange to be made public, as I think it will be of great interest to people. As you say, things are moving so very fast, it is fascinating to observe. I was very interested to hear you say that you feel that peak oil is in danger of becoming a non-issue… would it be fair to say that some of the peak oil community, in an understandable effort to communicate the implications of peaking, didn’t communicate clearly the possible implications of peak demand being reached before peak supply? I still find it a very useful lens to help people view things through, but as you say, we have to stay nimble and on our toes, as the economic situation is what is most clearly in peoples’ faces.

I feel that your last email actually gave me a certain ‘Eureka’ moment. As you state, Transition “is working, so why screw with it?”, but at the same time, as you put it, “in the most cynical assessment, it consists essentially of a lot of well-meaning local activists wanting to envision a better future. These are not the sorts of people to engage in serious emergency response work, nor do they have the support mechanisms to enable them to do it”.

Yet what Transition groups have done most powerfully in my experience is at least start to weave into their communities a powerful web of connections and links that weren’t there before. It has developed a language and an approach that is as accessible to Councils and businesses as it is to teachers, activists and estate managers. This, I think, has been one of the things that is most powerful about it. In Totnes for example, were the shit to hit the fan tomorrow, TTT now knows the best gardeners, the best people at teaching it, who are the main landowners, who are the local funders, and so on, so the drawing together of those pieces is far easier than it would have been before. This is highly valuable, and is perhaps one of the key contributions, alongside the awareness raising work..

My Eureka moment comes from thinking about how to best combine the need to build resilience as well as the need to build the ability to better respond in emergencies. As you know, the Transition idea emerges from a background in permaculture and bioregionalism, although permaculture training (and I write this as a teacher of many years) tends to assume a gentle transition in its perspective. While it offers an invaluable set of thinking tools, its longer term focus on ‘permanence’ perhaps doesn’t lead to a sufficiently appropriate set of tools. For example, teaching sheet mulching with vast amounts of cardboard and compost may not be the best approach for people faced with turning a football pitch into allotments.

Were a training, presented in the Transition way, i.e. positive, empowering, visionary, yet intensely practical, to be developed and rolled out though Transition groups, this could be a very useful tool. It could pull together the best from bushcraft training (but without the excessively survivalist flavour), the best from bioregional studies (i.e. how to read where you are, what is home, what is the nature of where you live), the best of appropriate technology (how to build simple yet effective tools and then how to use them), biointensive horticulture (most amount of food from smallest amount of land), traditional allotment gardeners (growing food with what you’ve got), and also emergency response organisations (how to organise amid chaos, how to prioritise based on situations).

Indeed, it could also create a very dynamic interface between emergency response organisations, green groups, Transition, education providers, probation/youth offenders services, and a range of training providers, among others. Perhaps even the Army (now there’s a sacreligious thought!!). What would be important would be that it would move beyond the usual crowd that go to such courses. It would draw as much from the work of activists such as Catherine Sneed, engaging young men who have been in trouble, as it would the usual permaculture course-going public.

Such a programme, which could become core in schools and colleges, would start to create a team of people who would be ‘on call’ for this, and who could undergo regular additional training. My friend who is a fireman did his core training but then has to do regular top-up trainings. Perhaps then a key part of the EDAP is looking at how that training could be developed and then rolled out, as well as how it might be funded. The key aspect of it, as with all of this, is tone. If it is presented as an emergency response force training, I don’t think it would be as effective as if it was Transition Teams or something. It would be great to get some marketing/advertising bods on board with it, to really focus the presentation and the language. I think Chris Martenson’s Crash Course was designed with some of this in mind. There is also a fascinating area of overlap in terms of working with young men, and menswork, which is a vital thing to look at too in all this.

I think that such a training, if properly designed, could run alongside the regular work of Transition initiatives, and run alongside the EDAP process, while at the same time generating useful insights for that. It builds on the positive slant of this. I do wonder though, thinking of my family and neighbours, just how much this kind of approach would engage people, given that many people will respond to the developing economic situation by thinking “how can I remortgage the house so as to reduce my payments”, “how can I reduce my overheads by switching to a different home phone provider” and “how secure is my job”, rather than “how am I going to store rainwater”, “how am I going to dig up my garden” and so on. In that regards, the Transition awarness raising stuff it clearly vital alongside this.

In that sense, one could still have a Transition emergency preparedness group, if there were people keen to do such a thing, but Transition Network could design and pilot such a training that could then be rolled out through the network. The EDAP would be doing the longer term resilience building, while at the same time training and mobilising a group who would be of use in both scenarios. This would, as you say, create more “adults” in the community, but in a sense of maturity rather than paranoid survivalists. Key, as you say, in maintaining ‘societal coherence’.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. The field we are exploring here is so vast and wide, it is hard to pin it down to particular things, but for me I feel that the above maybe offers one way of building on what is best about Transition while at the same time developing a practical and relevant side to accompany the awareness raising work and the networking that combines to create the EDAP.

If you’re interested in looking in more detail at how to develop this line of thinking, perhaps we could fix a time to have a telephone or skype conference, with me and Peter and Ben over here? If it seems to be fruitful, perhaps we could look at running a workshop on it at our conference on 24/5/6 April, with you attending electronically?

With very best wishes

Rob

February 4th 2009

Rob,

I love your idea. At New College (R.I.P.) we always offered experiences in backpacking, camping, and primitive/appropriate technology alongside our heady course work in anthropology and social critique. It’s what many of the students came away remembering best. It gave them a sense of basic mammalian competence that took the edge off of the grim information we were imparting. The key will be to offer skill-building experiences that are both inviting/fun and relevant to the kinds of practical challenges people will be facing.

As you say, many people will be focused on questions like

“how can I remortgage the house so as to reduce my payments”, “how can I reduce my overheads by switching to a different home phone provider” and “how secure is my job”, rather than “how am I going to store rainwater”, “how am I going to dig up my garden” and so on.”

If we can address people’s very real economic concerns, we will be offering tangible benefit. What are some strategies for saving money? Get family and friends to move in with you. Find ways to cook with less fuel (solar cookers are only one of many strategies there), use less water (gray-water recycling with or without re-plumbing your house), ditch your car, share stuff, repair stuff, make stuff. How to live happily without x, y, and z. How to live more happily and healthily than ever on a fraction of the income.

The big question on everyone’s mind is: How can I get by once I’ve lost my job (or now that I’ve lost it)? Learning how to raise capital and form cooperative ventures that benefit the community (and are therefore worthy of community support) could be a life-saver. Also: how to set up barter networks, how to make community currencies work for you.

The design of such a course will be easiest if we get together three or four people who have complementary skill-sets and who are already teaching many of these things. The Voluntary Simplicity people have some of this down; also the appropriate technology folks; the primitive tech folks; the co-op venture folks. Now that I think of it, it might take more than three or four “experts.” But maybe there are those like Chris Martensen who are already aggregating these skills. It would not be so good to initiate a course design process that requires months and months of work and lots of investment, given that time and money are in short supply. The key is to synergize existing resources. As you know from the success of Transition itself, if it’s the right idea at the right time, circumstances will conspire to help.

Richard

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

61 Comments

inez
27 May 10:12am

Dear Rob, Richard and all,

I have a lot of thoughts about what I just read and could fill a few pages but will just try and communicate what I am missing most in this discussion.
Yes, when the shit hits the fan we will all be grateful for adequate supplies of shelter, food, drinking water. At this moment in time I would support something along the lines of this training module Rob describes and, as always in Transition, I am sure the right people will be drawn to it and be the best ones to take this on as it will not be everyone’s forte to lead on this.
However I can’t help wondering why we are not investing as much energy in how people are going to cope emotionally with such events. Transition claims to be about inner work as well as outer work, which is one of its appeals, and yet when the shit hits the fan that principle is laid aside, or perhaps the lack of it goes unnoticed, and we fall into the usual doom-laden scenarios. And still I agree I will want the food, water, shelter, but that is not going to be enough to stop me being frightened. Neither is a so-called ‘good’ leader who makes promises and encourages me to be hopeful – I am a political cynic. What will help me is my own inner resilience, which I am working on at the rate of knots, I assure you.
Why are we not having discussions about how it will feel if all our efforts to transition fail? Not to be doom mongers but to examine what we would consider success. Can we be passionate about transition, put our hearts and souls, heads and hearts into it and still accept that we will not survive as a species into the 21st century? How would our emergency responses be if we could act with clear hearts and minds aware of the danger, but without panicking? Would that not be the best case scenario?
If we believe that it would be I think we need to start seriously addressing the resilience of our own hearts and not treat the heart and soul work of Transition as some less loved step child.
I think that even if Transition does not openly address the emergency scenario, enough people are picking up on the urgency of the situation. In the year or so that I have been involved I have noticed a change in mood from jubilant optimism to some reluctant voices wondering whether it is all worth it. And I would say: of course it is! Every day we live and every day we love is worth it. We can both act and accept, and I would like to see this inner learning added to our emergency-or-not planning.

Hugs,
Inez

Twitted by biohabit
27 May 10:24am

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inez
27 May 10:52am

Dear Rob, Richard and all,

I have a lot of thoughts about what I just read and could fill a few pages but will just try and communicate what I am missing most in this discussion.
Yes, when the shit hits the fan we will all be grateful for adequate supplies of shelter, food, drinking water. At this moment in time I would support something along the lines of this training module Rob describes and, as always in Transition, I am sure the right people will be drawn to it and be the best ones to take this on as it will not be everyone’s forte to lead on this.
However I can’t help wondering why we are not investing as much energy in how people are going to cope emotionally with such events. Transition claims to be about inner work as well as outer work, which is one of its appeals, and yet when the shit hits the fan that principle is laid aside, or perhaps the lack of it goes unnoticed, and we fall into the usual doom-laden scenarios. And still I agree I will want the food, water, shelter, but that is not going to be enough to stop me being frightened. Neither is a so-called ‘good’ leader who makes promises and encourages me to be hopeful – I am a political cynic. What will help me is my own inner resilience, which I am working on at the rate of knots, I assure you.
Why are we not having discussions about how it will feel if all our efforts to transition fail? Not to be doom mongers but to examine what we would consider success. Can we be passionate about transition, put our hearts and souls, heads and hearts into it and still accept that we will not survive as a species into the 21st century? How would our emergency responses be if we could act with clear hearts and minds aware of the danger, but without panicking? Would that not be the best case scenario?
If we believe that it would be I think we need to start seriously addressing the resilience of our own hearts and not treat the heart and soul work of Transition as some less loved step child.
I think that even if Transition does not openly address the emergency scenario, enough people are picking up on the urgency of the situation. In the year or so that I have been involved I have noticed a change in mood from jubilant optimism to some reluctant voices wondering whether it is all worth it. And I would say: of course it is! Every day we live and every day we love is worth it. We can both act and accept, and I would like to see this inner learning added to our emergency-or-not planning.

Hugs,
Inez
OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

Shane Hughes
27 May 1:36pm

I think you’d be suprised at how receptive local authorities are to the idea of risk assessing, lets face they’ve been doing it internally for the last decade. It may well be that the climate change officer is more interested in far of future risks than the emergency planners.

I was really suprised when my local climate change officer emailed me to say (she’s asked me not to post her actual email here but here general words were);

…….she’d put together a risk reduction process for the council to sign up to. The first two steps on this process is for her to complete a hazard assessment (just an assessment of possible environmental changes) and then to do a generic human impact assessment looking at infrastructure, social systems, economic systems, Livelihoods etc, how those environmental hazards could have a negative and positive impact on a local level.
For the council she wanted to cross reference this with departments and service provision and then get them to expand and analysis this and then go through a risk reduction process. She said developed a risk analysis methodology which is simple but also take the uncertainty with climate change into account.
 
she wanted to release the hazard and impact assessment to our transition group, for us to look at things on a very local level as a pilot.
What i would need to do is:
Do a community profile (I can give you a tool), Infrastructure, topography, green space, utility and transport lines, ground condition and water ways, Housing type, demographics, Type of employment in the area, people who commute, social structures, vulnerable groups (i.e. a school or nursing home) and organisations, industry etc
(Good idea is to do a narrative with things marked on maps of the area)
 
We can then cross reference that against the impact assessment to see how our ward might be both positively and negatively impacted.
 
Then if i wish i can look at doing a vulnerability and capacity assessment for the area to look at risk, but she thought this might be a bit complicated on a local level as there are so many other factors associated with identifying vulnerabilities on a district and regional level in terms of service provision and emergency response stuff……..

In my mind the race is not can we transition to our wonderful vision or will we be hit by emergencies, disaster and failure? The more likely question is in the middle ground. Can we get our new resilient systems strong enough in time, so that when the shit starts to hit the fan and the first shocks to the old system hit, can our new found transitioned resilient systems take the impact?.

If we’ve not incorporated the potential emergencies into our EDAP, we won’t know what added stress and demands might be applied to our new systems.
We should be at least engaging in risk assessments and identifying potential emergencies and tying these emergencies to specific threads in the EDAP. What state in its development does our energy, transport or food security need to be if X,Y or Z happens. Can it take a massive influx of demand or rapid change to the environment that it’s operating in.

Shane

Shane Hughes
27 May 1:52pm

just a quick point. i was lucky enough to be at Richard’s live link up and although i think there’s a place for it, i’d much rather leave emergency planning to the other mature “adults” in the group. long live the positive vision!!!
shane

Mike Grenville
27 May 2:17pm

We all carry within us partly worked out future scenarios and this influences the decisons we make about what to do today (will it rain), next month (can I afford to eat out/have a holiday), next year (will I have a job) or a few years (will everything be sorted out/be a complete mess) etc.

Local authority emergency planning is mostly for known localised, isolated emergencies such as flooding, and some national and health planning for epidemics. What they do not have a plan that is for society wide disruption wish sustained interuption to power and food supplies. Hopefully that is starting to change but that needs to become a lot more centre stage soon. With denial that Climate Change and Peak Oil rife many areas wil have some way to go.

As disruption situations arise, those of us who have stood up in their communities and offer solutions are likely to be looked to for answers that the existing authorities have not planned for and do not have the resources to cope with. Everyone will need to be engaged in the response – just as we say they do with transition.

As Rob says above, a key thing that Transition groups have done is to build connections between different groups and skills in the communities.

Of course as inez says above, there is an inner aspect that needs to be attended to as well. The newly formed Transition Heart website would be a good place to have that discussion:
http://transitionheart.ning.com/

The idea of a training programme that would develop a response package of skills for an agreed scenario seems to be an excellent idea and now would be a goiod time to start.

Ben Brangwyn
27 May 5:45pm

Just in case Mike’s comments were making you feel a little more hopeful about the national level planning for this… here’s a little story of how the emergency planning work at the national level may not address our real needs.

Recently I spoke to someone who had been involved in a 24hr “disaster scenario” program here in the UK. His expertise was in economic development of the UK’s south west regions. He had to be on duty for the whole 24 hours.

At hour 19 of 24, he was called up and told “the disaster is a dirty bomb on the M5 near Taunton, so we’ve closed the M5 and the mainline railway. Can you give us an assessment of the longer term impacts on the economic status of the south west?”

He replied, “Well, we could talk about economics, but it might be better if we talked about food. Have you got a plan, now that the arteries that channel the vast proportion of the south west’s food, for how we’re going to feed Cornwall, Devon and Somerset?”

There was a long silence on the phone. Then more silence. Finally he came back and said that no one had been looking at that matter and he’d get back to him for further discussions.

The efforts we spend on ridiculous terrorist fictions while ignoring real situations would be laughable were it not so tragic.

ceridwen
27 May 6:35pm

“The loss of societal coherence” is one way to put an “every man for himself” scenario developing if the worst came to the worst (and its one I fear myself). I really see the point re “many people will respond to the developing economic situation by thinking “how can I remortgage my house/reduce overheads/etc” – rather than “how can I store rainwater/dig up garden etc”. BUT BUT BUT – these are NOT two mutually exclusive scenarios by any means – there are many many people “following both routes”. We absolutely must NOT come over as denigrating the “personal – how can I deal with my own finances in a conventional cut the costs sorta way?”. Its not “either/or” scenario – it can be “both/and”. I certainly work on the “both/and” scenario and have actually found a decent size group of like minds over in a very conventional website (ie the http://www.moneysavingexpert.com website). Some of them – to my knowledge – have now also joined T.T. groups – so dont ever think its a choice between the two approaches – I have been out “looking” for people with a “both/and” approach – and I have found certainly quite a few women anyway can understand/appreciate that approach. The two things that have seemed to resonate most have been “grow everything possible everywhere possible RIGHT NOW foodwise” and the idea of bartering. Both those ideas have very readily been taken on board – MANY people see the sense of those two points.

We dont want to alienate people by talking in sociological terms that many people wont understand – everyday language will reach a much wider audience.

Killian O'Brien
27 May 7:08pm

Gentlemen,

I developed an idea about a year ago that is a practical solution for home energy consumption. I believe it is something that fits with both the ideals of the Post Carbon Institute and Transition Towns.

The focus is based on the US and is centered on redistributing some of the bailout-type funds, but need not be. It would just be easier and faster.

Essentially, a one-time $5k grant to every household to be used solely for getting the household as close to energy self-sufficient as possible. The key is that the amount is small enough that going out and buying off-the-shelf solutions won’t work for the vast majority, so will involve a lot of DIY solutions. Hopefully, communities would come together to pool resources and make some real changes.

Details, sketchy as they are, here:
http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2008/03/build-out-grid-vs-household-towards.html

Cheers

Anne Taylor
27 May 8:28pm

Just taking the question of food, and vegetables in particular, there is so much to consider in emergency planning if we assume that there is a reasonable probability that normal business to business transactions may break down as a result of the economic crash. As a veg grower providing food for approx 350 people per week via a box scheme, at this ‘hungry gap’ time of the year most of what we supply has to be imported, mostly from Europe, so at this time of year we’re particularly vulnerable. From July to April we can grow a substantial percentage of the veg we supply to those 350 people.

But, if the main food distribution networks fell apart, we could have the whole population of our area turning to the handful of veg growers in this region looking for food – say 300,000 people looking to local growers with a total capacity of perhaps 2,000 people. Result? Instant chaos.

Let’s assume that somehow we got around that problem, currently we rely completely on buying in seed to grow the veg from a variety of UK-based companies, and so far as I know this is absolutely standard amongst UK veg growers. Several of those seed companies buy in their seed from elsewhere in the world where it’s cheaper/quicker to grow plants for seeds. Once again, if we believe that seed may no longer be available in a crisis, we’ve got to prepare for this now – to learn how to grow plants for seed, to hold back a percentage of the plants we’d normally harvest before seeding, so we can collect and safely store the seed in preparation for the following growing season.

Just to complicate things a little more, the veg seed companies are rapidly being bought out by the multinationals such as Monsanto (now the largest owner of veg seed I believe) who are producing more and more F1 seeds, and quickly reducing the number of ‘open-pollinated’ varieties in their catalogues. Great for building profits for the seed companies. Terrible if we suddenly need to ‘save our seed’ since the F1 seed will produce plants that won’t come true.

So we need to rapidly build local capacity to get some resilience – but how to gently alert the population to the fact that they can’t rely on the just-in-time Tesco model if there’s an emergency? I took a good look at the ‘crash course’ questionnaire while at the conference, and it quickly focussed my mind on how vulnerable modern living has made us in so many different ways. So I think we do need to find a way to expose the vulnerabilities of our current way of life to motivate people to rapidly “be the change” while at the same time avoiding panicking the population. The trick will be to find the words and the tone that fits the bill.

Jennifer Lauruol
27 May 10:26pm

Thank you Rob, Richard and others.
I suggest we all include medicinal herbs in our food gardens, begin reading and learning, and that TT groups start a thread regarding medical training.

ceridwen
28 May 6:54am

A good suggestion by Jennifer. I admit to being surprised at not having noticed any signs of Health Groups – maybe I havent been looking. To me – I DO see the point of Heart and Soul Groups for instance – but I’m basically a pragmatist and look to seeing the “everyday survival” matters dealt with first – and Health is obviously one of them – so I know I’m certainly wondering about medicinal herbs – how to recognize them/grow them/use them. I know mine is just my personal viewpoint on this – but it basically sums up as “Its irrelevant to me what my feelings are – what matters to me personally in order of priority is: 1. food 2. fuel 3. health care 4. transport 5. other necessities, eg clothing/cosmetics/cleaning materials/etc and then I’ll get onto 6. my feelings”. Dont mean to sound like Dr Spock – I DO have feelings – but I’m working along Maslovs (?) Hierarchy of Needs personally….

Jennifer Lauruol
28 May 10:27am

Having already had a somewhat challenging biography I find that working in the garden, tending the plants and communing with nature, is practical, healing and grounding in times of distress. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, for me it’s both the base and the summit. Creating gardens with others provides the middle layers (human contact, teamwork, recognition etc).
I turned to garden design and gardening as a livelihood in order to heal from past trauma and to keep sane and happy facing our common future. It’s worked for me–may it do for others.

Linda Hull
28 May 1:30pm

I live on an island in a drained wetland next to the second highest tidal range in the world. It’s focused my mind! Together with one other town councillor, we started an emergency planning working group about a year ago after realising it was only by the grace of God that we didn’t get the Gloucestershire floods. Suggest everyone in the UK reads the Pitt Review and all its recommendations. Our little committee has brought together a diverse range of people from across the divides in my community – real locals who know how to do all the crowd control that goes with managing the influx of 150,000 visitors to see the annual Carnival, retired army majors experienced in managing operations in harsh territory, people who support the homeless, experts in communications that don;t rely on the phone network, dreadlocked welfare experts from the festival scene, people who did emergency planning in the 80′s when nuclear explosions were the issue, links to the county’s civil contingencies unit, the local internal drainage board etc etc
There are template plans designed by the Environment Agency. Councils should be very keen to engage with us around emergency planning because for sure, the services who “are supposed to do this stuff” will be overwhelmed. Communities will have to fend for themselves. The more we do now to build links across the divides the better we will be in the event of crisis. Finally, at our last meeting a local trader said: “why are there not more Transition Towns people here?” Maybe coz it ain’t sexy? Or we’re all too busy?

Mike Grenville
28 May 1:57pm

Linda’s last comment about expecting “more Transition Towns people” at the meeting highlights a rising expectation that ‘we’ have this all figured out and will know what to do.

Kamil Pachalko
28 May 3:44pm

This sounds very on time with this discussion.

The New Emergency Conference
Managing Risk and Building Resilience in a Resource-Constrained World

Feasta’s New Emergency Conference is pleased to announce an international line-up of speakers from the U.S., Germany, the UK and Ireland.

Please go to http://www.thenewemergency.org for the detailed programme, speakers’ bios, and to register!

REMINDER – To book your place at Dmitry Orlov’s public lecture ‘Seizing the Mid-Collapse Moment’, 7.30pm June 9th at the Davenport Hotel, please email conference@feasta.org. For more information on this lecture please go to http://www.thenewemergency.org/programme.htm .

DID YOU KNOW… We have an extended number of scholarships available. For more information and to apply please email conference@feasta.org stating your organisation and/or qualifications/professional experience within the area of sustainability.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The New Emergency Conference, June 9-12th, All Hallows, Dublin, Ireland.

For directions to the Davenport Hotel please click here: http://tinyurl.com/pdbw3w
For directions to All Hallows College please click here: http://tinyurl.com/pdhelq

Steve Marquis
28 May 3:45pm

There are a number of issues facing Transition projects that are blockers at the moment but may not be when certain disasters hit, for example, availability of land, the planning process (putting up wind/solar, etc) and so on.

What I believe that is needed is some analysis to access the value and responsiveness (how quick to put in place or be productive) of some projects/tasks on an EDAP (or in EDAP planning/development) verses the type of blockers in place. We’re after some quick wins here.

There will be many things on the critical path that require things to be in place that need time (e.g. growing / maturing time, building / designing time) but some might be easy things to fix during a disaster as they are more likely to be administrative / legal that can be overridden or even compulsorily purchased / commandeered.

I think a workshop would be useful to access the type of disasters we could address, see what kind of transition things would apply and how solutions may be planned for. One could then develop some training and guidance from this. The results of using this information could sit alongside an EDAP and I suspect copies would be welcomed by planning authorities – the grown-ups.

At the end of the day, disasters require on-the-spot decisions that will be made with the best of intentions. If there is some up-front shared guidance and planning with an eye on future needs such as those identified in an EDAP we’ll be living in a better place and will have hopefully got ourselves out of that disaster with something to take forward.

Just for interest – I’ve read both Transition books and I am devouring the Earth Care Manual along with as much else I can lay my hands on. I’m coming at this from a the perspective of a project & programme manager/director come management consultant with some experience in sales & marketing, outsourcing, transition management, facilitation and disaster management mostly all of it in an IT/communications environment.

Steve Marquis
28 May 4:36pm

I think the short answer to the title “To Plan for Emergency, or Not?” is yes plan for emergency, but I don’t think it the job of an EDAP.

I believe it should be a separate piece of work that could be driven out of a Transition project to feed an emergency planning group with information and data.

Understanding what kind of emergencies to plan for and the possible solutions could come out of a Transition project but they should (ideally) be passed on to and better still workshopped with the emergency planning authorities for them to handle, assess and implement prior to a disaster. There should also be a feedback and review mechanism in place.

A Transition group could do it but them understanding the priorities and assumptions from an emergency planners perspective is needed along with the hard experience from on the ground of what does and does not work. Perhaps some discussion from the likes of Red Cross & Oxfam might not be inappropriate.

There probably should be some other discussion about the politics of it all in setting agendas goals and priorities with the authorities. In an ideal world we should be all singing from the same hymn sheet but things aren’t like that.

D. ROBERTSON
28 May 5:09pm

This chatter is mostly useless, because there is NO VISION contained therein, about what we must do, to exist as a Civilized Society, 1000 or more years into the future.

Just debating and guessing what we should do in a post – fossil fuels future, i.e. focussing on the next few decades, and letting the people, regardless of their knowledge, face an unprepared future by themselves, is truly a farce.

There are only two paths to the future,

1. Collapse and muddle through, …

OR

2. Grab LIFE by the Boot Straps, and Re-Design the Communities we will live in, a thousand years from now, TODAY.

Either way, … the Crap we have NOW is useless. The adult toys and material well-being we ( Think ? ) we have, will just be so much useless STUFF.

Why does it seem our New President and his Energy Secretary are making the wrong CHOICES, … to attempt to retain the UNSUSTAINABLE.

I ( could ) explain the details of what Communities must become, that will allow them to be here 1000 ( or more ) years into the future, … but there must be a focussed effort at more than a negative rebuttal, to my comments.

i.e. If you really care about Humanity, and the Earth, and the millions of other Species, … there is the necessity of a well thought out SERIOUS PLAN, that works everywhere.

inez
28 May 8:32pm

I wasn’t for a moment suggesting that we sit around staring at our navels while the walls crumble around us. What I am questioning is whether any response – emergency or otherwise – can ever be separate from our thoughts and feelings about the situation we are facing. And the likelihood is that we will soon be encountering situations most of us in the west have not had to deal with in our lifetime. (Unless you are old enough to remember ww2 which I am not) So how do we prepare ourselves for a world changed beyond recognition? Surely not by focusing solely on the practical.

Corinne in Paris
29 May 2:02am

Very interesting post, also all the contributions.

This subject was actually at the heart of an open space session I ran at the TT conference last weekend. I called it:
“What measures could Transition put forward in the case of accelerated crises?”
There were quite a few peole that came to the session, with great input. I’ve got the notes and have been intending to type them up and send them in, but I got home in time to do my own Emergency responses – to flu in the house, then the French tax forms due just hours from now (and I’ve mislaid one of the crucial documents to turn in – I guess we can call this crisis management on a personal scale!?).

In brief, I do think Transition should address this issue. I think there are ways to approach and interact with many groups already out there, government or others, and Transition can take a leadership role in helping people figure out what to do, as well as how to cope (thanks, Inez, for your comments – I often find myself trying to stave off a sense of panic).

If you think about all the Transitioners who have spent lots of time thinking and working at how to connect with people, transmit skills, build community, prepare for a low-carbon future, well, I should think we would have a few ideas of how to cope, especially for people who haven’t seen, or wanted to see, any changes looming up in the future.

Just getting people around me to stockpile some food and water will make me feel better!

Cheers, Corinne

Emergency planning for a power blackout is wise.

According to Railton Frith

http://sandersresearch.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1257

and Paul H. Gilbert (U.S. National Research Council scientist testifying before the U.S. Congress),

http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ocga/testimony/Blackouts_America_Cyber_Networks.asp

power failures CURRENTLY could paralyzing a nation for weeks or months. The same is true for Europe.

In an era of multiple crises and resource constraints, power failures will last longer and then become permanent. When power failures occur in winter, millions of people in the U.S., Canada, and Europe will die of exposure. There are not enough shelters for entire populations, and shelters will lack heat, adequate food and water, and sanitation. (5) Water purification and water distribution systems will fail, leaving millions of metropolitan residents without water. (6) Waste water treatment systems will fail, resulting in untreated sewage that will contaminate the drinking water for millions of residents who consume river water downstream. (7) Transportation and communications failures will cripple federal, state and local governments — leaving and residents without emergency services, emergency shelters, police and fire protection, water supplies, and sanitation etc. (8) Mechanized farming will cease, and harvested crops won’t be transported more than a few miles. (9) Food won’t be transported. (10) Fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides won’t be produced. (11) Due to limited farm acreage near cities (much of it destroyed by suburbanization), most cities and towns will be unable to support their populations with sufficient food from local farming (google Paul Chefurka). (12) Homes across the U.S. will lack heating and air conditioning. Even if homes are retrofitted with wood stoves, local biomass is insufficient to provide for home heating, and it will not be possible to cut, split, and move wood in sufficient quantities.

Stefan Pasti
29 May 4:08am

I think the above post “To Plan for Emergency, or Not?” is a most valuable exchange between Richard Heinberg and Rob Hopkins. It is most helpful to have insight from informal discussions as well as prepared articles and publications, and I hope they—and other people doing critical work (in other fields of activity as well)—might consider this form of information sharing more often. One element of these kind of informal discussions is that they are more likely to touch on some sides of a topic but not others. An upside of this format is that it may encourage other voices to “chime in” with what they believe are other aspects of the topic that weren’t touched on—in the context of a “conversation” between two people widely recognized as leaders inspiring others towards critically important goals.

For my part, I felt the most noticeable absence in this discussion was an apparent lack of recognition for the contributions which are being made (and which can be expanded as a sense of urgency touches more people) by other “world view” narratives not represented in the Post Carbon Institute approach or the Transition approach. One way of appreciating this in the context of “emergency planning” is to recall the remarkable international response to the loss of lives and damage caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004. Yes, there was a significant amount of experience and planning already in place before this terrible tragedy, but there was also much which happened out of sheer sympathy and compassion—and a willingness on the part of many individuals who were doing something entirely different at the time… but who “changed their mind” when this unprecedented event occurred, and turned their focus to helping people who really needed help.

On a similar note, one more example of “world view” narratives which seemed noticeably absent in a discussion about the very real possibility that there may be unprecedented challenges ahead—is the lack of reference to that which does inspire human beings to learn how to be compassionate and caring human beings. I realize that there is a reluctance to touch on this “non quantitative” field of activity—but, for my part, I would feel that much more resilience would be possible if there many people in same community (or world) as myself who were “pulling for each other” to find spiritual strength by way of deepening their faith and belief that there is a more advanced and more benevolent spiritual entity than ourselves—and that such an entity does actually count for something in overcoming the difficult challenges ahead. Here is another way of touching on this point: I believe—and I hope many other people share this belief—that if we are to overcome the challenges of our times we will need not only the resources which innovators can prove the existence of by scientific method; we will also need the resources which people of faith believe exist as a result of inner experience.

To stay just a little longer with this piece of responding to the challenges of our times, I would like to add that yes, I do understand that many people have—unfortunately—learned to mistakenly equate flaws in human nature with the practical wisdom associated with religious and spiritual traditions… but let us be very careful about what we are doing along these lines… for this kind of misguided thinking may be one of the great tragedies of our time. Consider the following [excerpted from “The Ten Most Difficult Challenges of Our Times” (link on the homepage of the IPCR Initiative or (http://ipcri.net/images/7-Ten-Point-Assessment-excerpt.pdf )]:

“…such treasured wisdom contains teachings which inspire and encourage people to

a) appreciate truth, virtue, love, and peace—and live disciplined lives for the purpose of adhering
to truth, cultivating virtue and love, and maintaining the pathways to enduring peace
b) sacrifice personal desires for the greater good of the whole
c) find contentment and quality of life while consuming less material goods and ecological
services
d) prefer peacebuilding which supports and actualizes mutually beneficial understandings,
forgiveness, and reconciliation—and which abstains from violent conflict resolution—as a way
of bringing cycles of violence to an end
e) use resources carefully, so that there is surplus available for emergency assistance
f) support community life and cultural traditions which ‘… bring to the fore what is often
hidden: how many good people there are, how many ways there are to do good, and how much
happiness comes to those who extend help, as well as to those who receive it.’”

I believe there are still many people in the world who appreciate that the above testimony can be true about the best teachings of religious and spiritual traditions. And surely, surely, the above outcomes are relevant to overcoming the challenges of our times. It is almost certain, in my mind at least, that an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings will need to become an essential and critical element of a truly comprehensive response to the challenges of our times. In such circumstances, we cannot afford to exclude from our “tool box” the time-tested sources which have helped people learn compassion over many centuries. Instead, we need to learn how to cultivate the time-tested sources so that the sources yield the treasured wisdom. Those who have had a garden can “picture to themselves” what I mean.

These thoughts come as a result of work I have done in recent years to build The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (at http://www.ipcri.net).

We live in very complex world. There are very difficult challenges ahead. These challenges include, but are not limited to: the economic crises; global warming; peak oil; widespread resource depletion; an ever increasing world population; global inequities; cultures of greed, corruption, and overindulgence; a marginalization of the wisdom associated with religious, spiritual, and moral traditions; and insufficient understandings of which basic elements of community life and cultural traditions lead to enduring peace and which do not. More and more people are coming to the realization that resolving these challenges will require problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before.

Somehow or other, we need to sort through all this, and we need to do so in a way that helps us to realize how much we need to be learning so that we can be part of the solutions… and how much we really need to be on the same side, helping each other.

One suggestion which could assist in bringing many solutions to light at the local community level is a 161 page proposal by this writer titled “1000Communities2”. “1000Communities2” (“1000CommunitiesSquared”) advocates for Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” with ongoing workshops, and “sister community” relationships, as a way of generating an exponential increase in our collective capacity to overcome the challenges of our times.

I would like to encourage readers of this message to consider exploring the resources of The IPCR Initiative, in the larger context of “how do we get to the other side of the above challenges from here”. In particular, I would like to recommend that readers have a look at the 161 page IPCR document titled “1000Communities2”. I would also like to recommend some of the more than 5 different introductions to the “1000Communities2” proposal which I have written. Three of these “introductions” are included in the Fall, 2008 issue of The IPCR Journal/Newsletter (http://ipcri.net/images/The-IPCR-Journal-Newsletter-Fall-2008- B.pdf ). One of those introductions is titled “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing” (http://ipcri.net/images/A-Greater-Force-than-the-Challenges-We-Are-Now-Fac.pdf ). Another one of those three “introductions” is titled “The ‘1000Communities2’ Proposal: Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature”. This “introduction” is also part of an “Educational Materials Outreach Package”, which is accessible for free, and which is located at the bottom of the homepage of The IPCR Initiative (at http://www.ipcri.net ). The most comprehensive introduction to the “1000Communities2” proposal was written in December, 2008 and is titled “Transitioning from Less Solution-Oriented Employment to More Solution-Oriented Employment”(http://ipcri.net/images/Transitioning-from-Less-Solution-Oriented-Employment.pdf ).

We are in need of innovative and imaginative solutions.

In 1984, the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture [Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)] organized a
Community Visioning Initiative (“Vision 2000”) that attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. (for source references, see p. 9 of the “1000Communities2” proposal, at http://ipcri.net/images/1000Communities2.pdf )

If even a few of the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives described in the “1000Communities2” proposal generated results similar to those achieved by the Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA) Visioning Initiative, people in all parts of the world—keenly attuned when it comes to resolving challenges which require urgent solutions at all levels of society— could be inspired to carry out similar Community Visioning Initiatives. And if many communities carried out similar initiatives, and also achieved significant results, our collective capacity to resolve the challenges of our times would surely begin to accumulate at an accelerating rate.

[Note: In light of the urgent need to increase collaboration between diverse communities of people, anyone may access all IPCR documents (including the above mentioned 161 page “1000Communities2” proposal) for free, at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (at http://www.ipcri.net )].

With Kind Regards,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative

ROG
29 May 5:46am

This is an important discussion. I am concerned about the impact of existing emergency legislation (for example Australia’s Liquid Fuel Emergency Act). This is usually based on a whole set of assumptions about human behaviour that from a transition perspective may end up making things worse rather than better. But once an emergency is declared and this legislation is enacted it’s to late to do much about it. For example: in the event of a significant and comprehensive national shortage of petrol, what powers will Governments have to act in ways normally considered draconian? How will these powers obstruct or hinder the solutions people devise for themselves (eg cycling to work)? The legislative framework for emergency powers already exists, but on the whole people aren’t aware of the implications because the emergency hasn’t happened yet.
I think existing legislation should be looked at with a view to updating it in the light of new and emerging understandings of the nature of the emergency.

ceridwen
29 May 7:34am

Me again….I’ve had that phrase surface and re-surface a few times in my mind over last coupla days – ie Richard Heinberg’s phrase from his initial memo about holding “private strategic discussion among those at a high level within the movement”. Maybe that phrase is the reason Rob has put their email exchange on line – so that WE can express comments about this that Rob is perhaps too kind/tactful to express himself?? Tact never was my strong point – so shall I phrase it as tactfully as I myself can manage – ie “I’m not quite sure Richard Heinberg has quite noticed the Transition concept of ‘from the bottom up’ – that DOES rather preclude any exclusivist/elitist discussions at the ‘top’ “. So – I’ll just make the point that I dont see us as the sort of movement that goes in for that sort of approach….sorry Richard…

Errr….that wasnt very tactful – was it…oh well….

Holger Hieronimi
29 May 2:39pm

Hello all

saludos de Mexico

coming from Mexico, the country with the – for the moment- most dramatic energy descent panorama in the world, I´m following the transition movement in Britain (the country with probably the second most dramatic oil depletion)with a lot of interest.

This current discussion highlights the differences between the European/ US-American “planning” mentality, and the latin “take life as it comes” style…being European myself (I was born and raised in Germany), but living in Mexico as a Permaculture Activist for more than 15 years, this ambivalence goes straight through my own personality….

Having had the opportunity to live (personal and family) Transition “a la mexicana” for the last two years, its quite interesting, that at least in this point, we do not have such a problem: Transition WILL HAVE TO INCLUDE emergency response in Mexico, because “preparing” as you might perceive it in Europe or the US, is not so much part of the latin culture, apart from the fact, that the mexican decline is so fast and dramatic, that it will lead almost certainly to some very dramatic changes on the macro level within the next month.

In febuary, i posted a review (in spanish) of the Transision Handbook on our website http://www.tierramor.org/ , stating that the first two chapters of the book (“The head”, and “The heart”) offered to me some of the most valuable insights regarding PO and Climate change, and the psycho-social aspects of it, but the third chapter “The hands” needs adaption to Latin American contexts to be useful.

There are quite some cultural, economic, social ecological differences, not all of them have to be disadvantages-

Of course, here in Mexico, the depletion is so fast, and the situation is changing so rapidly, that its difficult to keep yourself “up to date” – the recent “swine flu” episode was just the last of some really strong and possibly “transformative” events, that for the moment keep most of the people from seeing a wider picture. Also thanks to the top-down-controlled and manipulated media, there is very little information on oil depletion around, and most of the people aware of the issue tend to shift directly towards the survivalist extreme…

Nevertheless, the “cultural memory of a sustainable pre-industrial society”, reality in most of rural Mexico until quite recently (30 years ago in my bioregion), as well as the more intact social networks, plus the “spontaneity” and even capacity of Mexican civil society during catastrophic events (remember the immense popular response to the earthquake in mexico city in 1985) suggest a higher level of resilience than in most of the so called “first world” countries.

It will be badly needed here.

Although most of the Transition Debate is centered to the “developed” countries (England, US, Japan, Holand, Germany, …), this is just to remind you, that transition will have to happen everywhere, planned or not, so keep an eye on Mexico, if you are interest how fast energy decline may plays out in the so called “emerging” countries… we are observing closely what is happening in England….

For the moment, I thing that transision without emergency planning will be without effect here, we have to include it due to the dramatic changes happening here at the moment

regards

Holger Hieronimi

Jane Buttigieg
29 May 4:08pm

I don’t think it’s really possible to contribute to this discussion without an idea of the sort of ‘emergency planning’ Richard is considering, and at least a vague idea of how certain crises might suddenly unfold and the sort of plans which might be practically implemented.
The two things that come to my mind are an unexpected interruption to our oil or gas supplies meaning that we are out of food in a matter of days or have no home heating in the middle of winter, and the possibility of a changing climate rapidly affecting food or water availability in some way.
In both these scenarios, I don’t know what Transition could offer.
This is a long emergency and we need to develop solutions over time. We know that time is running out and that we need to develop a sense of unpanicked urgency to bring about new ways of doing things and see what works and what doesn’t, and I don’t see how emergency planning can be part of what we are all doing.
It would be interesting to hear more detail though, and like Ceridwen, I agree that this can’t possibly be thrashed out in private strategic discussions at high level. If there is any contribution Transition groups can practically make to emergency planning, we all need to be hearing about what they are and making our own minds up at local level.

Steve Marquis
29 May 4:24pm

I think a frame-work of emergency planning responses could be pulled together through a workshop. The emergency planning folks could provide input on their priorities and focus, we could add ours and then it could be shaped up in a format that Transition groups could work with and Emergency Planning Groups could use.

Shane Hughes
29 May 6:25pm

I’m not sure what Richard means by private strategic discussions, but i do think that what is the crux of some of this discussion is where to position an emergency plan within an the current transition process and potential EDAP. I know that we’re moving away from “councils as usual” but perhaps there’s some worth in a comparison. Nowerdays many councils have a town or parish plan, they’ll also have emergency plans but the two aren’t developed in the same way. Often the town plan will involve loads of consultation where the emergency plan is developed by “experts” in a much less public manner. I’d say that they should be two interdependent processes but very very separate..
Shane

ceridwen
29 May 6:39pm

With you on that one Jane – ie “we all need to be hearing about what they are (ie emergency plans) and making our own minds up at local level”.

There ARE two possible ways of viewing this – either the phrase “a camel is a horse designed by a committee” OR “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Personally – I think…and very much so in our case…that I go with the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. To me – I have found over the years (err..decades) in which I have played leading roles in a variety of groups (yep…I know “old paradigm thinking”…)that throwing a project “open to the floor” does produce ideas/contacts/etc even though those groups werent deliberately following Transition ways of working. You never know what or who you already know – until you realise that others dont know it too. We all have ideas/contacts/etc that maybe feel to us like “just the way things are” – until we start “sharing” and realise that maybe just maybe we do know something worth “sharing” and that wouldnt have made it onto the groups agenda otherwise.

I see us as having to make a wide range of contacts/working together with groups that many of us havent even thought of as possible allies and we may well find we have some very “strange bedfellows” at times – this has been my experience in other groups before now and doubtless will be also in the Transition Movement. The thought of working together with groups like faith groups/the W.I./etc in an emergency – okay I can cope with that. The thought of maybe even having to work together with military personnel even perhaps – say helping to distribute supplies of goods to people – yikes!!! I personally will have to swallow hard and “tape my blunt mouth shut” – but they do tend to be more organised than a lot of people – and they too could be a group that some of us have to work together with sometimes (ohmegawd – note to self it may not be politic to turn up in my CND earrings at that point…..).

The Transition concept of doing an inventory of (local) food resources is a very positive one and I think a good way to go in many other respects as well. Could be that we need inventories of all sorts of resources – be they material goods/peoples skills or whatever.

Leanna
29 May 7:35pm

An answer to “Keep Calm and Carry On” that made me think of transition and responses to crisis – http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackbeltjones/3365682994/

Jon Barrett
30 May 1:04am

I don’t think that the notion of a Resilient Communities Action Plan and an EDAP need be mutually exclusive. As Rob and others have pointed out above, an important part of community resilience and emergency planning is the knowledge of, and the relationships built up between, the different community institutions, organisations and people of influence that local Transitions initiatives engage with as they evolve.

As someone recently returned to the UK who has been impressed at a distance by the ethos (and the rapid growth) of the Transitions movement, I am conscious that over the last year the mood has changed and a sense of urgency has crept in for some that is at odds with the ‘slow and sure’ Permaculture origins of Transitions. This seems to parallel the increasingly urgent tones of climate scientists, Peak Oil theorists, grassroots campaigners, etc., in the lead up to Copenhagen in December.

It actually seems to me to set a new tone of realism that we may very well be facing abrupt change – not just in climate, which we know will first affect/is already affecting people who live far away from our communities – but from a range of other converging stresses that seem increasingly likely to impact on our own otherwise still relatively protected society – perhaps rather earlier than we had thought.

I don’t think of myself as one of the ‘few grizzled doomers’ to whom Rob refers who would thrive on emergency planning – even though I have a military background, which is I hope not too ‘sacrilegious’ and will not see me banished from my local facilitating group! And in the same way that I don’t see any conflict between my military experience and my long involvement with social and environmental issues (and indeed with Permaculture), nor do I see a dichotomy between emergency planning and the more long-term community resilience building activities of Transitions. In fact I can’t see how we can avoid trying to anticipate and prepare for various ‘future scenarios’ if we are seeking to build meaningful resilience.

But I don’t think that the answer lies in ‘Transition Trainings’ in bush-craft skills -although these might well interest working groups within local Transition initiatives and may attract new and more diverse membership. One of my reservations here is that for many years I worked with young offenders using outdoor living skills as a vehicle for personal and group counselling and I am aware that these activities have an individualistic ‘Rambo’ appeal that has to be overcome before constructive group co-operation can emerge. Also that if quasi-military disciplined organisations are involved in this type of training then a militaristic ethos pervades.

Neither do I see any potential in creating emergency response ‘Transition Teams’, with or without regular top-up training. Civil emergency response tends to be disciplined, trained, and operate under hierarchical command – and directed at emergencies that are expected to come to a conclusion reasonably quickly. If emergencies are protracted then the authority of martial law is applied. In the event of major societal collapse then neither of these official responses could be maintained for very long and Transitions leadership would quickly be challenged along with every other well-intentioned response to be replaced by more opportunistic usurpers.

The key to building community resilience to sudden shocks, it seems to me, lies in the strength and diversity of the local relationships that Transitions Initiatives can succeed in forming. Quite often the resilience activities that Transitions promotes are already going on within communities, be these Carbon Reduction Action Groups, Women’s Institute eco-clubs, Venture Scouts or Army Cadets practising camp-craft skills, voluntary RNLI crews, the Territorial Army, St John’s first aiders, or Local Authority Emergency Planning Committees. If Transition Initiatives are to endeavour to build resilience to all possible future scenarios, then surely working to develop constructive relationships with what already exists in the community is a crucial part of this process.

A problem seems to be that the Transitions movement is based upon the voluntary participation of those of us who tend, by accident rather than intent, to be ‘people like us’ and we do not necessarily appeal to large other sections of our populations whom we would like to welcome but whom we unintentionally exclude. And whilst our local groups of ‘people like us’ have spread across the country very rapidly but we are not all necessarily very representative of our overall communities and our influence does seem unlikely to extend to the vast unengaged majority of the population any time soon.

If we still had the benefit of time, we would be able to build our grassroots influence slowly and organically. But if we are to build community resilience not only to long-term energy depletion but also to increasingly foreseeable possibility of sudden shocks, we have an immense additional challenge. I feel that we need to evolve a much clearer and more coherent message, still optimistic but nevertheless explicit beyond light-bulbs, flying and plastic bags – and even climate change if the impacts of global warming are not readily perceived by people. We need to develop a message that conveys community resilience as the only sensible option to any one of a range of converging threats which could impact on people in the UK in the foreseeable future; peak oil, abrupt climate change, viral pandemic, economic collapse, infrastructure collapse, societal collapse, etc., etc. – in other words, the whole Long Emergency made more immediately imminent. A message that is powerful enough to overcome the contrary messages of ‘business as normal’ and the way in which we are ‘locked in’ to our habitual societal norms and that will make sense to as wide and diverse a cross-section of our local populations as possible. A seemingly impossible challenge!

But here again I believe that we could make effective use of the networks that already exist in our communities. If, alongside our wider resilience building activities, we also work to identify and engage the key people within different sections of our communities who are most influential and credible amongst their peers, we may be able to outreach and extend our efforts in less time. By this I don’t just mean engaging with the influential people in local government, local business, local landowners or even local emergency planning committees that we are already targeting – although of course they are very important. But we need also to locate and engage with the influential people from different grassroots populations – including those who communicate readily with disaffected youth, with vulnerable and low-income groups, long term unemployed, imams, rabbis, various ethnic groups, and so on. Research shows that people take most heed of those whom they respect and trust in their own peer-groups and communities rather than remote experts or people they do not know.

In communicating the resilience concepts of Transitions, be this to emergency planning committees or to less obvious ‘grassroots leaders’, I agree with Richard Heinberg that calm, clear, and well-reasoned ‘adult’ conversations are likely to achieve better responses than ‘green’ idealism. In my experience the same applies to my not infrequent conversations with ‘dissenters’. Unrealistic idealism – or, worse, strident accusations of ‘stupidity’ and ‘denial’- seem to me to result in increasingly antagonistic and polarised views and to impede constructive engagement and resilience. It is the reasoned, rational integrity of the Transitions Initiatives that drew me to the movement in the first place and if, as some of us can begin to envisage, there are more immediately imminent societal impacts than perhaps we could foresee only a year ago, then I think we need to ‘up the ante’ and consider planning for resilience to sudden emergency openly and publicly.

Ultimately Transitions is about self-interest. Self-interest for the common good, but self-interest for our own and our own community’s welfare nevertheless. In my case it is a heightened sense of threat to my own and my family’s well-being that causes me to accept that our overall situation in the UK has become much more urgent and requires a more robust effort towards enhancing resilience. But I have not lost the sense of constructive optimism that people like Rob and Richard and belonging to a Transition group has provided me – and I don’t believe that we have to lose it by being willing to plan for the possible consequences of emergency scenarios. I still feel very fortunate to be able to do so, when for many people in the world right now, the choice is not theirs to make.

ceridwen
30 May 8:12am

Jon Barrett

If you have the skills needed by Transition groups – then you are on exactly the same basis as other Transitioners – ie welcome on board. There is a lot of work to be done – and, yes, it does feel like there may not be that much time in which to do it – at least “get this show on the road”. I both understand why things have been going a bit slowly/organically for the liking of some of us (including myself) on the one hand – but, yes, there is an increasing sense of urgency and I personally do feel strongly the need to “get a move on” pronto.

ceridwen
30 May 8:28am

Now read to the end of Jon’s comment – appealing to self-interest coming up. Well – many years ago I read a book on “enlightened self-interest” and I’ve been a great advocate of just that since then – ie as I recall: doing the right thing, because it suits our own personal interest so to do – in this case, for instance, helping to increase the foodgrowing opportunities because that way theres more food around that we ourselves can get a share of as required. I think that a mood of “constructive optimism” is a good thing and like the general concept of “more like a carnival” – I see no reason why we shouldnt have fun whilst we adapt (lets face it – its the only way some people will get involved – but, hey, does it matter why? I think not. I remember taking the view – one which was commonly shared – back in my CND organising days that some people were in it “for the long haul”/thoroughly committed and others were involved because it was fun/fashionable/etc – but “the more the merrier” and it wasnt unduly important at the end of the day as to just WHY they were involved – the important thing was that they WERE involved). I can still remember it being quite a learning experience and with some distinctly amusing moments that one could go from committed pacifists to punks to landed aristocrats to Welsh miners and it was all in the “course of a days work”…

We do need the calm/clear/well-reasoned conversations mentioned – just obviously bearing in mind that this is Transition groups – so the “bottom-up” idea still applies. We arent all going to agree – my own personal bete noire is when someone mentions the idea of digging up the parks to grow food – NO WAY! – my view is that we have to remember “other values” – eg peoples need for leisure as such/greenspaces even if (particularly if) they dont live in the countryside.

Obviously couldnt agree more about reaching out to groups/etc that already exist – after all we’re hardly in a position that we could “know it all”. Knowledge is also something that is a “shared resource”.

Greenpa
30 May 3:49pm

” that kind of emergency response work is usually done by local authorities, or in the US by groups like FEMA. It is hard to figure out how one would come up with a community response plan that would be more effective, or able to mobilise what they are able to mobilise, than what they could do.”

You DO realize, I hope, that in the USA that line will get you a huge laugh. FEMA, for the last decade, has been a joke- totally incompetent.

And I speak from personal experience- my home county has been designated a Federal Disaster Area in 2007 and 2008 – flooding, both times.

I WAS indeed affected- we lost a bunch of critical machinery. I went to FEMA, in person- and was very kindly shuffled from one desk to another until I gave up. Like most of my neighbors. They did spend about $6 million on something locally- but nobody I know got any, or knows where it went.

I think it’s likely that the UK IS different- but my guess is, you may well be the rare exception in the world.

One of the aspects of the FEMA response- no local individuals, or expertise, were involved. Everyone under their tent came from hundreds of miles away.

I’d have to vote for some kind of local community awareness/planning; and it would be most useful to have it under the TT umbrella. Somehow.

Think of it as backup. Everything should be backed up, we know. :-)

Susan Butler
30 May 7:17pm

Here in California, it seems Transition type on-the-ground, whole-community initiatives won’t really get going until necessity becomes the mother of invention. Hopefully then, our wonderful organizational resources, now rather fragmented, will find a way to coalesce.
Where I see bottom-up, emerging emergency-preparedness happening now is in the intentional community movement. These groups have already been experimenting for many decades on how to work together to be self-reliant in water/food/fuel/shelter/et al. Just one unusual but suggestive example: some communities have banded together to form their own $10/month/person health insurance pool, which has paid all claims and now has a surplus fund to make small loans. Some of these groups were more effective than FEMA at providing aid after Katrina, sending teams in buses to cook meals for refugees.
A very positive phenomena in the US is how rapidly the “mood of the country” can change. I was amazed to see an article in the “Washington Post,” that bastion of upper-middle-class respectability, about keeping chickens in your back yard! Even in places where it’s not quite legal yet(!); and giving examples of cooperating with neighbors to share care chores. Chickens are the new family pets! Another example is that growing vegs in one’s former lawn is becoming popular –foodnotlawns.org in Santa Barbara will put in a nice vegetable garden on your place for free in exchange for taking surpus produce to sell at the local Farmers’ Market –a fascinating new route to a kind of land reform! (Young people getting access to land for food production.)
Some of us are busy putting together small fuel-alchohol production operations, using veg or fruit waste streams (abundant right now) and learning to grow feedstocks on marginal lands, (to not compete with food-growing)such as reeds in wetlands, or cactus and mesquite in drylands. Even a small supply of liquid fuel would really advantage a locale in a petroleum fuel scarcity scenario. Very helpful to continue to have useable farm equipment and emergency vehicles.
A hotbed of creativity in Berkeley has invented a small gasification stove, the GEK, (gasification experimenters’ kit)which can make natural gas out of trash, pine cones, walnut shells –anything burnable –in such a hot “reduction zone” that very little pollution escapes. Similar to a rocket stove in that regard. See http://www.whatiamupto.com. We can use this to cook the fuel-producing mash using only local waste resources as fuel. This way the EROEI on the liquid fuel produced looks good, everything locally sourced.
Here it seems the lifeline is in small groups developing expertise in the knowledge-intensive productive skills –natural building using local resources, sustainable fuel sourcing, water sequestration in the landscape or in cisterns, “victory” gardens, food-animal-keeping, fermentation and other food preserving techniques. Groups doing this stuff are seedbeds for the “support mechanisms” needed for post-industrial life, whether that comes suddenly or gradually.
It tickles me that the values supportive of such things are all of a sudden becoming part of popular culture here: college grads thinking in terms of community service instead of Wall Street jobs; homeless tent camps, filling up with the formerly middle-class, evolving into communities of 10′ by 12′ wooden huts (replacing the formerly popular McMansion). Change is coming fast already.

Dean Robertson
30 May 8:24pm

Transition Culture, & Participants

I see that my first effort did not pass muster.

Why are the people with the REAL SOLUTIONS always IGNORED ?

I want honesty, … If the useless Chatter and efforts discussed here resolve the Issues in the REAL WORLD, in time to prevent the Ecological Collapse, I will be amazed.

Not one of you has defined what must occur to eliminate Fossil Fuels, … or, expressed what will be required to replace them, and what the Homes and Transport of the Future will be.

IS THIS JUST A GAME ?

That is, .. what has always bothered me about people who write books, give conference speeches … what is the PURPOSE ?

You are not even taking advantage of the current slow down in activity, to change direction, or the new President, .. who also seems to want more of the same, with different flavored coatings.

SO What will we do, there must be an EXPERT OUT THERE ? Spell it out, … SAVE US.

Nick Towle
31 May 3:23am

Thank you Rob and Richard for opening your conversation. I am aware that in Australia similar conversations of how to respond to a global sustainability emergency have been occurring discretely for a few years (and possibly longer).

My perspective on this issue comes through working part-time in emergency medicine. Prior to doing the Transition Training with Sophy and Naresh we were asked to look at a newspaper article or news item and ask ‘what assumptions are being made?’. Now working with many who have read the Transition Handbook and realising that many come away with the assumption that the relatively stable social and environmental conditions that currently exist in our affluent society will continue as we endeavour to foster a transition in our communities.

Ever since Richard published his thoughts on Resilient Communities- Guide to Disaster Management I have been distributing this with copies of the Transition Handbook. I usually attach a brief note with words to the effect ‘Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst’.
To date I have received responses that I would broadly group into two, the majority say ‘Do you really think that things are or could get that bad?’ and I then apply my best efforts in breaking bad news. A small number state ‘These ideas from Richard are like a missing chapter from the Handbook and should be included in future revisions.’ which I note was not Richard’s initial intention.

From this feedback my feeling is that Resilience building and disaster preparedness need to occur in parallel. However, I wouldn’t assume that many people will want to volunteer, or feel comfortable about engaging in some form of disaster planning process (as ‘fun’ as it could be made to be).

At a local level I am very aware of a survivalist element, where shotgun diplomacy is as powerful as local law enforcement and Transition Towns is considered a concept of well-to-do idealists. In this instance the emphasis for disaster preparedness would be on how to maintain a basic level of social cohesion. I believe the Transition process would be much more robust with an element of disaster preparedness, though I reiterate my sense that many may find it too confronting if it were introduced as a core element of a Transition Initiative (regardless of how superbly it could be presented or marketed).

Even though the conversation has been thrown open at this point I do feel Richard’s initial intention of having a ‘private strategic discussion among those at a high level within the movement’ is still quite valid and insightful. It’s not about fostering some sort of hierarchy but ensuring that such ideas are sufficiently considered before being incorporated into the broader approach to achieving a transition in our communities.

Thanks to all who have contributed time to this important issue.

Neil Chadborn
31 May 3:49pm

I’d like to add a few comments from the Health and Wellbeing perspective. First, Ceridwen mentioned there’s not much going on with this in transition world – I’d like to say we, in Totnes, are doing loads – see our webpage:
http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/healthandwellbeing/home

We’ve just had a tour around our community medicinal herb garden and are planning on creating a community garden growing medicinal herbs (as well as vegetables) in the middle of town – Totnes Healthy Futures Project.
http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/wellbeinggarden/home

I have the feeling that Health and Wellbeing is different in key ways from other transition working groups. A widely held belief is that health is the concern of big organisations and professionals (doctors and NHS in UK). Although we’re working to change this, at the moment it’s difficult to get the personal engagement with health issues, on a similar level to growing your own veg, or putting a solar panel on your roof. What I’m getting to is that (for the moment at least) it seems to me that Health and Wellbeing needs some ‘good ideas’ that can then be implemented at a local level. I think to generate these good ideas we need discussion on a global scale between self-appointed experts (i.e. people with experience and enthusiasm) I think this is the way to go rather than trying to involve everyone in a particular locality (as mentioned discussion of abstract points can be disempowering and generate apathy). We have some excellent national discussions going on in public health:
http://www.theclimateconnection.org/connections

In fact Sir Muir Gray, at the Climate Connection, recently wrote an excellent article in The Times, (severely criticised online by the climate change sceptics).
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6355257.ece

Obviously many of the emergency situations we are discussing overlap with public health. In a way, when discussing transition and health I find it difficult not to bring in emergency situations. Talking about using less disposable plastic in hospital doesn’t seem very inspiring or urgent, whereas talking about pandemics and floods does! Is this scaremongering or just raising impact? Maybe talking about the NHS fuel bill seems like economics which people feel should be left to the beancounters, whereas pandemics have that personal self-preservation flavour!
I feel that this Emergency Planning discussion has many parallels with Health and Wellbeing. So I would advocate global discussion forum (within TN) to discuss these issues and share ideas which can then be implemented locally (I like the Transition Heart and Soul Ning site – I may set up Health and Wellbeing – or could these be integrated within TN site?).
It may be worth thinking of a couple of emergency responses we have had recently and think how transition principles could/would apply. Swine flu – I remember one radio public health announcement encouraging people to find a ‘flu-buddy’ a neighbour who could bring food/medicine while you stayed at home in isolation – this made me think of the community response – maybe this could be developed further by transition movement. The recent floods and subsequent water contamination with sewerage brings to mind the relevance of composting loos and rainwater collection. These are already transition projects that could be added to an emergency plan.
Finally heart and soul should be a core part of the emergency plan – of course this isn’t the ‘first or second day’ priority after an emergency but should be key to preparation and should be part of response and recovery. I don’t really need to discuss the issues eg depression after flood damage, post-traumatic stress disorder after tsunami.
So I would go for a separate transition emergency plan that would parallel the EDAP.

Neil Chadborn
31 May 4:56pm

I’d like to add a few comments from the Health and Wellbeing perspective. First, Ceridwen mentioned there’s not much going on with this in transition world – I’d like to say we, in Totnes, are doing loads – see our webpage:
http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/healthandwellbeing/home

We’ve just had a tour around our community medicinal herb garden and are planning on creating a community garden growing medicinal herbs (as well as vegetables) in the middle of town – Totnes Healthy Futures Project.
http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/wellbeinggarden/home

However I have the feeling that Health and Wellbeing is different in key ways from other transition working groups. A widely held belief is that health is the concern of big organisations and professionals (doctors and NHS in UK). Although we’re working to change this, at the moment it’s difficult to get the personal engagement with health issues, on a similar level to growing your own veg, or putting a solar panel on your roof. What I’m getting to is that (for the moment at least) it seems to me that Health and Wellbeing needs some ‘good ideas’ that can then be implemented at a local level. I think to generate these good ideas we need discussion on a global scale between self-appointed experts (i.e. people with experience and enthusiasm) I think this is the way to go rather than trying to involve everyone in a particular locality (as mentioned discussion of abstract points can be disempowering and generate apathy). We have some excellent national discussions going on in public health:
http://www.theclimateconnection.org/connections

In fact Sir Muir Gray, at the Climate Connection, recently wrote an excellent article in The Times, (severely criticised online by the climate change sceptics).
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6355257.ece

Obviously many of the emergency situations we are discussing overlap with public health. In a way, when discussing transition and health I find it difficult not to bring in emergency situations. Talking about using less disposable plastic in hospital doesn’t seem very inspiring or urgent, whereas talking about pandemics and floods does! Is this scaremongering or just raising impact? Maybe talking about the NHS fuel bill seems like economics which people feel should be left to the beancounters, whereas pandemics have that personal self-preservation flavour!

I feel that this Emergency Planning discussion has many parallels with Health and Wellbeing. So I would advocate global discussion forum (within TN) to discuss these issues and share ideas which can then be implemented locally (I like the Transition Heart and Soul Ning site – I may set up Health and Wellbeing – or could these be integrated within TN site?).

It may be worth thinking of a couple of emergency responses we have had recently and think how transition principles could/would apply. Swine flu – I remember one radio public health announcement encouraging people to find a ‘flu-buddy’ a neighbour who could bring food/medicine while you stayed at home in isolation – this made me think of the community response – maybe this could be developed further by transition movement. The recent floods and subsequent water contamination with sewerage brings to mind the relevance of composting loos and rainwater collection. These are already transition projects that could be added to an emergency plan.
Finally heart and soul should be a core part of the emergency plan – of course this isn’t the ‘first or second day’ priority after an emergency but should be key to preparation and should be part of response and recovery. I don’t really need to discuss the issues eg depression after flood damage, post-traumatic stress disorder after tsunami.

So I would go for a separate transition emergency plan that would parallel the EDAP.

A comment from Theoildrum.com shows that this emergency planning is important:

“I recently experienced one of the most educational periods of my life, as well as one of the more traumatic.

About 5 months ago in the U.S., in the state of Kentucky, we experienced the worst ice storm in our history. It was almost mythic in its destruction, destroying trees, power lines and even structures in an hour after hour ice pile-up which moved over the state like a glacier descending from the sky.

I was made homeless, with the power to my home destroyed, the electric meter sheared from the wiring of the house, and the water frozen and bursted on the north side of the home. The house still sits dark and cold. I was forced to relocate to an apartment some 22 miles away. I left the house at 2AM, using a garbage bag and a flashlight to round up some emergency supplies. When I left the house was 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 Celsius) inside with water frozen in the kitchen sink and water pipes bursted under the home.

The most important lesson I learned was this: If you are not prepared before the event, you cannot prepare for it during the event. The damage of cold and ice occurs very fast. By the time I realized I could not endure in the extreme cold, saving the house from damage was hopeless. I had stayed under mountains of blankets and wearing a parka and ski sweater and jackets, going to my car every 6 hours or so in an attempt to warm up, but I could not cook food, had no heat and no light, so could not bath or even shave (except for “dry shaving” with a disposable razor, with no way to wash my face afterward) By the time I left the home I was dehydrated, hungry, grungy and cold to the point of it being dangerous.

I know one man who stayed with his wife in his home until his feet began to turn black. He almost lost the feet, and the doctor told him once he made it to the emergency room that he had almost lost his life.

The U.K., like the U.S. has an aging demographic, many with health issues such as high blood pressure, bad circulation, diabetes and heart conditions. A collapse in natural gas/electric production that destroys the ability to heat homes scares me FAR more than any gasoline shortage ever could. The great Kentucky ice storm only proved to me what I had already known, but had not prepared for.

The fact is, the U.S. and U.K. would see great suffering and causalities in an emergency involving major loss of home heating and it would occur VERY quickly, almost before the emergency contingency plans could even be put into play.

If we do not prepare now, we cannot prepare when it happens, it will simply be too late.”

http://campfire.theoildrum.com/node/5325#comment-499604

ROG
1 Jun 3:13am

In reply to Dean Robertson’s (possibly ironic) plea for a SERIOUS PLAN and the need for an EXPERT who can SAVE US:

Emergency planning is worth talking about because it’s very complex. There isn’t one simple answer that will solve all problems. There are,/em> experts, but they often disagree. Short-term risk management of fossil fuel supply has become what’s sometimes known as a ‘wicked’ problem. In other words, there isn’t an obvious solution, because the variables are highly complex. To get a sense of the complexities of the situation, you could do worse than to have a look at the studies referenced at Energy Bulletin recently. More than a thousand pages of reports examining options for emergency planning, and more EXPERTS than you can shake a stick at.

I think there are a couple of choices to make with information like this.

1) We can throw up our hands and say ‘it’s all just talk! What can’t these people do something? Then opt out of participating in the discussion, thus joining the 99.99% of the population who never think about these things. That’s fine, but it lets the 0.01% carry on as usual.

2) Alternatively, we can become acquainted with some of the issues and use whatever skills and connections you have to promote a sensible approach to whatever emergency we think you can see coming.

3) Further, we can recognise that emergency planning can operate meaningfully at different scales and in different sectors, and choose to work at the scale, and in the sector, that suits our circumstances. Some people are comfortable thinking about national and international legal frameworks, for instance; others are comfortable thinking about their neighbourhood. One isn’t ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other. Also, some people are good at working the connections between scales. And of course, different people can usefully focus on health, education, transport, food supply etc.

My concern in all this is that because most people don’t have any idea about emergency planning legislation in their nation or state, they won’t be very happy about it when it gets enacted in a future emergency. But by then it will be too late. The remedy is to look at it now and seek to amend it as necessary. So, Richard Heinberg’s ideas have the potential to be very useful.

DaveDann
1 Jun 9:00am

Transition has this happy-clappy, ‘good news’, ‘more like a party than a protest movement’ angle to it. I don’t think that fits in well with the idea of emergency (what emergency?) planning. It might also attract the wrong sort of people, who haven’t been to the Heart and Soul group and are noisy and sweaty. I think you also can see this effect when applied to other areas such as agriculture where you get a preference for no-dig, little work except harvesting, solutions such as picking nuts and wildflowers from the hedgerow.

Dean Robertson
1 Jun 2:36pm

Emergency Planning ?

Sounds like an Idea ?, we should discuss, if we ( Plan ) to stay where we are, with the ‘ stuff ‘ we have.

I do not get it, Richard Heinberg & Company, are of ” Powerdown ” Fame, … All anyone has to do, in this ‘ thinking ‘ process, is, in your minds eye, eliminate ALL FOSSIL FUELS, … where then, do we start ? Surely not with Emergency Planning.

The obvious discussion should be, … about a Future where we do not NEED or use fossil fuels.

A Home that does not use FOSSIL FUELS.

A Transport System that does not use FOSSIL FUELS.

A Food Supply System that does not use FOSSIL FUELS.

Do you get it yet ? And I do not mean a Future, that is a replica of Year 1700 AD, North American Continent, living.

That means, Homes that produce all of the Energy they use.

That means, the ability to move things using Natural ( none pollutive ) Forces, that have been used by Nature since it’s creation.

That means, an ‘ In Community Food System ‘, where most people are involved in some aspect of the processes, and food is minimally processed. Where we have a Real ECONOMY, as the word was originally defined.

I believe it is Time to discuss the Overall Plan, that can then be implemented locally across the United States and the World.

Are we any more intelligent now, than in previous generations of the past, we must be, our communication and travel has linked the entire world, … so why don’t we ACT LIKE IT, and make a different FUTURE, one that will be around 1000 or more years in the future, that advances human endeavors, and eliminates, the Energy and Climate Issues, and prevents anymore WARS for or over NATURAL RESOURCES.

Steve Marquis
1 Jun 3:05pm

I agree with your sentiments Dean but you don’t seem to have caught the question ‘To Plan for Emergency, or Not? Heinberg and Hopkins debate.’

If we haven’t got all those things (Home, Transport & Food Supply system and other stuff) in place yet or if we have, they may be threatened by circumstances that could disrupt their ability to operate as we would wish.

Planning to defend those systems from natural (or unnatural) disasters will get them up and running again if they are in place or help prioritise those things that give best return soonest so we can get up and running as soon as possible.

Greenpa
1 Jun 9:18pm

Dean- may I speak frankly? My firm guess is that you are less than 25 years old.

Your urgency is understandable, indeed reasonable.

What you have not yet grasped is- you/we must all work in the realm of “the possible”.

That is something Rob excels at- he’s quite extraordinary.

Nothing is more painful- and more a waste of energy- than blindly attacking an immovable mountain. You’ll burn out, I guarantee.

Take a look here, at my approach, if you like. I’m 60. And still working on it all as hard as I can.

http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/2007/06/pushing-on-icebergs.html

Stefan Pasti
2 Jun 5:20am

I would like to add some additional comments about the central question of how much emphasis to give to emergency planning, and how to carry out that emphasis.

First, it seems to me that there are two educational processes which need to be carefully balanced:

1) arriving at a full appreciation of the difficulty of our current circumstances
2) arriving at the belief that a positive outcome is possible

Here are two ways of looking at the above processes:

1) Arriving at a full appreciation of the difficulty of our current circumstances is both difficult and risky, as arriving at such a point without also having sufficient faith and wisdom—and access to appropriate resources—could be overwhelming, and could lead to many people losing hope and becoming desperate.

2) Arriving at the belief that a positive outcome is possible is an important step towards actually achieving a positive outcome, and a step which needs to be attended to with much care, to encourage practical and constructive public discourse. One way of attending to this step is to increase our collective awareness of the significant numbers of people who are currently accumulating valuable experience and establishing constructive understandings relevant to overcoming the challenges of our times.

My commentary on the above balancing process can be expressed with a statement and a question. The statement: I an inclined to believe that the more solid the foundation is regarding the second educational process— arriving at the belief that a positive outcome is possible—the more likely it will be constructive to arrive at a full appreciation of the difficulties. And yet how can communities of people arrive at the belief that a positive outcome is possible, unless they have sufficient understanding about the challenges ahead?

Understanding that the balancing process associated with the above educational processes is as delicate as that is helpful. There can be no doubt that activity along the lines of community resilience, relocalization, permaculture, energy descent, local currencies, etc. – along the lines of practical adjustments to how we live our personal lives… and along the lines of living more in accordance with solution-oriented approaches—is critical… . And yet… there are larger questions about the implications of all this; for example, how such changes will affect people in already marginal circumstances, in communities around the world. The unwinding of the complex entities associated with global interdependencies cannot be left out of our considerations. And yet the complexity of such an unwinding is such that I think I may speak for many when I say it seems like diminishing returns are setting in on trying to assimilate and synthesize the many complex analyses necessary to say anything coherent about such considerations. (Do you know what I mean?)

Which is why I have been arriving at a greater and greater appreciation of the value of Community Visioning Initiatives.

Here, again, consider—there are many serious challenges ahead, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

a) global warming and reducing carbon emissions
b) peak oil and reducing dependence on petroleum based products
c) global inequities and the tragic cycles of malnutrition, disease, and death
d) an increasing world population requiring more resources when many resources are becoming more scarce (with a special emphasis on the increasing number of people who are consuming resources and ecological services indiscriminately)
e) cultures of greed, corruption, and overindulgence have caused a crises of confidence in financial markets, and are in many ways slowing the restructuring of investment priorities needed to respond to the challenges listed here (and other challenges)
f) there still seems to be a majority of people on the planet who do not have a clear understanding, well-grounded in personal experience, of which basic elements of community life and cultural traditions lead to mutually beneficial understandings, which lead to cycles of violence—and why it is so important for people to achieve clarity on this subject.

Now, consider this: As a result of the unprecedented opportunities created by the expansion of the Internet, we have now arrived at a very auspicious moment in time… for at no other time in the course of history has so many people had access to so much in the way of time-tested guidelines, inspiring role models, and service-oriented initiatives relevant to overcoming the challenges of our times.

We have the resources necessary to overcome the challenges of our times.

Since I believe this, the question which is foremost in my mind (as someone most interested in peacebuilding and community revitalization) is:

What can we do—at this particular point in time—in the everyday circumstances of our lives—to bring the best ideas from the storehouses of accumulated wisdom now accessible to us and “through the mist”, so that our community building processes will be most effective in helping us overcome the challenges of our times?

The answer I have arrived at is Community Visioning Initiatives. One outcome which has followed from continuing to arrive at an appreciation of Community Visioning Initiatives is that I created a 161 page proposal describing in detail a form of Community Visioning Initiatives which I thought would be equal to the challenges ahead (see http://ipcri.net/images/1000Communities2.pdf )—and which (thus) provides evidence encouraging a full appreciation of the difficulties of our times. Though my own rendering of the potential of Community Visioning Initiatives may not be very convincing for many readers, it is sufficiently convincing for me; and this is why I continue my efforts to describe this potential, even though my skills are not near being equal to the magnitude of the task. I simply feel it is part of my work to help other people arrive at a greater appreciation of this potential.

And so, here is another try.

The kind of Community Visioning Initiatives described in the “1000Communities2” proposal mentioned above are structured brainstorming and prioritizing meetings which are carried out in a number of central locations in a particular community. There would be a series of meetings which focus on five particular areas: challenges, prioritizing challenges, solutions, prioritizing solutions, and creating action plans. Combined with ongoing workshops and much formal and informal educational activity, these meetings, though only a part of the visioning initiative, may last more 4-6 months.

One of the main goals of these kind of Community Visioning Initiatives is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges, and in solution-oriented activity.

Many cities and towns in the United States have carried out visioning initiatives or strategic planning exercises, but I do not know of any particular examples which are meant to be responses to most of the multiple challenges mentioned above. I also believe that for community visioning initiatives to be most effective, much more attention needs to be given to preliminary surveys (see Section 9 in the above mentioned proposal for my contributions on that subject).

The “1000Communities2” proposal advocates organizing and implementing Community Visioning Initiatives which are time-intensive, lasting even as much as 1½ years (18 months), so as to give as much importance to developing a close-knit community as it does to

a) accumulating and integrating the knowledge and skill sets necessary for the highest percentage of people to act wisely in response to challenges identified as priority challenges
b) helping people to deliberately channel their time, energy, and money into the creation of “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to resolving high priority challenges
c) assisting with outreach, partnership formation, and development of service capacity for a significant number of already existing (or forming) organizations, businesses, institutions, and government agencies
d) helping to build a high level of consensus for specific action plans, which will help inspire additional support from people, businesses, organizations, institutions, and government agencies with significant resources

Another element of the “1000Communities2” proposal is the concept of “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” (a concept created by “Teachers Without Borders”). In the “1000Communities2” proposal, this concept is expanded so that such local community points of entry function as

1) information centers, resource centers, and clearinghouses (on how residents can deliberately channel
their time, energy, and money into the creation of “ways of earning a living” which are directly related
to resolving high priority challenges)
2) locations for workshops on topics suggested by the “Preliminary Survey” [see Step 3 of the 15 Step
Outline (Section 6)], and as determined by the CTLC Coordinator
3) practice sites for the development of “teacher-leaders”
4) community centers for meetings, both planned and informal
5) locations for “Community Journals” (which are collections of formal and informal input which may be
contributed to or accessed at all times)
6) central locations for listings of employment opportunities
7) as a special form of community education, which can respond quickly (by changing the emphasis of workshop content) to new urgencies as they arise

The “1000Communities2” proposal also suggests—as a way of emphasizing the need for an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings—that communities (with the resources to do so) enter into “sister community” relationships with communities in other countries where there has been well documented calls for assistance with basic human needs.

These kind of Community Initiatives recognize the complexity of the transition ahead, and could provide enough of both kinds of the above mentioned educational processes (appreciation of the difficulties ahead, and evidence in support of a positive outcome) to be equal to assisting with the challenges of unwinding the above mentioned complex global interdependencies. These kind of Community Visioning Initiatives also provide an educational process which can be used again and again to increase and accumulate the communities capacity to integrate knowledge, resources, and compassion into the everyday circumstances of community life.

The Transition Movement recognizes the value of visioning as a way of building consensus, and as a way of increasing citizen participation in creating practical action plans and implementing doable steps. What I am suggesting is a greater appreciation for the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives which might require a years time (or more) to carry out. I do recommend the “1000Communities2” proposal I have written; but I only understand that proposal as a starting point, which I hope can be helpful to those people who have the skills and experience necessary to really bring the concept alive. And as to the way all this relates to emergency planning: I believe that any community visioning initiatives which can be carried out with a full measure of both the educational processes mentioned above (both a high degree of belief that a positive outcome is possible, and a full appreciation of the difficulties ahead) will be an exercise in emergency planning, no matter what name is given to it.

Here are my concluding comments: even if there is a longer “grace” period for the transition “from where we are to the other side of our current challenges”, community visioning initiatives represent a very comprehensive and practical form of peacebuilding and community revitalization, which can help provide a sure foundation for responding to any variety of difficult challenges, whether they be challenges we have already anticipated or others we have not even begun to understand. In the best of times, even the most profound challenges can be overcome; for in the best of times, ____________________ is/are nurtured, supported, and sustained by family, friends, teachers, mentors, elders, and the everyday influences of community life and cultural traditions. We can discover how we would fill in the blank in the above statement. If the concept of Community Visioning Initiatives can be sufficiently refined, it can provide a systematic, practical, and doable process by which the people which make up the everyday influences of community life and cultural traditions can realize the wisdom of deliberately focusing the way they spend their time, energy, and money.

There is much which leaders could be asking from the people who respect their leadership, both as a matter of civic duty, and as a matter of necessity; and there are many people who will be very appreciative when they find that they have an important role to play in the work ahead. Leaders should guide citizens so that they can discover how they can do their part to contribute to the greater good of the whole.

With Kind Regards,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative

Shane Hughes
2 Jun 1:59pm

Responding to the title question “To Plan for Emergency, or Not? Heinberg and Hopkins debate”

Rob if you’re looking for answers within this discussion, i’d say the answer is “yes plan” as most respondents have moved on from this question and have focused on “how to plan?”

Dean, I’ve read your early comments and i think people have ignored them becuase they demonstrate firstly a total lack of knowledge of what the transition network is doing, i.e. you said;

“I ( could ) explain the details of what Communities must become, that will allow them to be here 1000 ( or more ) years into the future…… If you really care about Humanity, and the Earth, and the millions of other Species, … there is the necessity of a well thought out SERIOUS PLAN, that works everywhere.”

Do your research. Through Energy Descent Planning in possibly hundreds of transition groups throughout the world, there is the single larges “SERIOUS PLAN, that works everywhere” forming. This is more than just planning too. Transition groups are the first time i’ve seen environmentalists having any real penetration in terms of action in our communities.

Secondly your comments have demonstrated an arrogance. i.e.
“I ( could ) explain the details of what Communities must become…”

any one person who thinks they can can explain what 6 billion people need to do, needs to rethink. You may have something to offer the debate but kicking off with ignorance and arrogance together is a pretty poor start.
Shane

Shane Hughes
2 Jun 2:01pm

oh yeah! no one knows if the plan is going to work!!! but it looks like it’s our best chance.

Josef
5 Jun 6:35pm

Wow, people have written some VERY long responses to this! Have just skim read them all.

A few quick thoughts/ comments
* I like the idea of the trainings in appropriate tech etc.
* Mapping the community (in terms of skills, resources, land, etc.) is key to both short and long term plans so should defo be done as an early step in transition
* Official UK Resilience plans (see http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ukresilience.aspx ) assume that no crisis will last more than 3 days. Personally I find that a bit worrying.
* There is also the Real Help Now site that has been set-up http://www.realhelpnow.gov.uk/
* It is obvious that in any serious crisis those that are “supposed” to be doing the work will be overwhelmed.
* Yes, you can’t grow food in an emergency, especially out of season. The key to food resilience is FOOD STORAGE (and seed storage too so that you CAN plant stuff straight away too)
* Demos had an interesting conference on this stuff recently to launch their book Resilient Nation http://www.demos.co.uk/projects/resilientnation
* In Camden in London they put adds on bus stops with this link http://www.camden.gov.uk/recession/
* The Red Cross has a lot to teach us with the ERU – Emergency Response Unit. These are teams of people (a bit like the Transition Team Rob outlined) who have both expertise in a particular field AND experience of working together. The Red Cross gets one of these teams out to disasters within 48 hours which is pretty impressive. Details of UK stuff are here http://www.redcross.org.uk/standard.asp?id=53033 (BTW, it include “Psychosocial” support too)
* Searching for Red Cross ERU stuff I note there are online games related to it http://www.games.co.uk/game/Red-Cross-Emergency-Response-Unit.html not checked them out yet though.
* Check out http://collapsonomics.org/
* Vinay Gupta, one of the Collapsonmics team, has a useful “Six ways to die” model: Hunger, Thirst, Hot, Cold, Injury, Ill. We need to think about local versions of the infrastructure that stops us from dies from these things.

Its now raining and I’m outside a (currently) bar in a small village in Spain using free wireless so I’m off to find shelter…

Josef.

Susan Butler
11 Jun 4:46am

I was recruited to advise a group of high schoolers in a small Southern California city in the L.A. area about how to feed 10,000 people for three days –and details on how to prepare well in advance of need.
Here is our exchange so far:
—– Original Message —–
From: emerlyn tseng
To: daisychain@netidea.com
Sent: Sunday, June 07, 2009 9:06 PM
Subject: interview please?

Dear Ms. Butler,

Hello! My name is Emerlyn Tseng and I am a student at Arcadia high school. We have a project in our environmental science class where we will be preparing a disaster plan for the city of Arcadia. I was wondering if I might be able to ask you some questions about this project. Of course, I do not know your specialty, but our teacher Ms. Stevens has recommended you as an interviewee, so whichever questions you may be able to answer would be greatly appreciated.

Here are some of the questions we are interested in, they do not require intense research or anything like that- to be honest, we just want a point of view from a professional adult.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Interview questions:
-Title of job:
-responsibilities:
Our project requires that we prepare enough food for up to 10,000 people, for a minimum of 3 days. How would you try to accomplish this?
-For a long-term plan, would you recommend planting certain edible plants in the city, to be used in emergencies?
-if so, which types of food would grow in abundant supply and be filling?
-Or, what types of plants require low maintenance but high yield?
-Do you think these plants might be suitable to be used as a fuel source?
-What kinds of food do you think might be suitable for longterm storage, without spoiling?
-What kind of long-term plan would you recommend? Something we can begin NOW to prepare for future disaster?
-Do you have any advice regarding our disaster plan?

Thank you very much,

Emerlyn Tseng

How to prepare food for 10,000 people for three days?

There are different kinds and severity of disasters, with different scenarios afterwards, so I will discuss different levels of response, depending on how much existing infrastructure remains intact. An earthquake could cause either local or statewide disruption, either mild or severe. A fire is usually a regional problem. A sudden fuel shortage could cause the grocery stores run out of food (within 3 days) before people realize what is happening. I am assuming that many peoples’ homes will no longer be functional, either from earthquake damage, fire, or lack of fuel for heat, refrigeration, and cooking.

Resources needed:
1. COOKING FACILITIES: It would be best to have as many feeding centers as possible, spread around the downtown area, and near other densely populated areas, such as neighborhoods or suburbs. Assume transportation might be difficult, so it’s best if people can walk to the centers. 50 – 100 cooking centers would be more feasible than one or two big ones. It’s hard to seat 10,000 people for a meal; but 100 or 200 would be quite doable.
a.) Outdoor facilities could be quickly set up, similar to large outdoor barbecues, using 55 gallon drums, or large culverts (those pipes that direct water under roadways) cut in half, or just any metal scraps that can be formed into a 20′ long cooking grill, perhaps several for each center. In winter, roofs for outdoor kitchens could be quickly erected using scraps from ruined buildings, or tarps. If you have parks, these would be good locations for this, especially if they have bathrooms. Otherwise parking lots are everywhere.
For fuel, what first comes to mind is wood –scraps from ruined buildings, cut firewood, or charcoal –if caches of that can be found in your city in stores or homes. I don’t know your area well enough to know if the houses are made of wood, or if there are many trees there. If normal sources of fuel for cooking are available in this disaster, such as propane or natural gas, that should be used wherever available. With proper expertise, intact existing gas lines might be tapped into. Failing other sources for cooking fuel, trash and tires are everywhere and can be burned, but the smoke is toxic. Erecting very high smokestacks on the barbecues would help, as would constructing the fire-containers with battery-powered blowers and dampers to control a very hot flame, which pollutes less. For longer-term preparations, small gasification units are available which make clean natural gas out of anything –-tires (cut up) plastic trash, scraps of wood, pine cones –without pollution. See http://www.gekgasifier.com.
The hard part in a crisis would be organization to get these centers set up quickly, so planning in advance is essential so as to have people skilled in construction, welding, cooking and fire safety on call.
b.) Take over institutional facilities such as those found at churches, schools, grange halls, fire stations, jails, clinics, day care centers, restaurants and the like. Planning in advance for permission for this would be a good idea. Some of these resources would probably still be at least partially intact. Also consider using the parking lots of large retailers, which often have good bathroom facilities, some of which may still be partially functional. If not, more on sanitation later.
c.) Private homes, parks, museums, golf courses, sports stadiums, etc. might also be assigned as feeding centers. Outdoor facilities could be set up in these places, or any intact homes, or other buildings could be utilized. Again, best to get permission in advance for this.

2. COOKING & EATING TOOLS
a.) Grilling can be done on makeshift barbecues without pots or pans. Otherwise, these cooking tools would have to be scrounged from restaurants, institutional facilities or private homes. It might be good to arrange to have commercial cooking equipment on call for emergencies from the places that normally use it.
b.) Most people have knives, forks and plates they could bring with them to a facility. (more on communication later.) Or, there might be paper plates, etc, still available in ruined stores; or these things could be stockpiled in advance. Worst case, shingles, large leaves, and fingers would have to do. The same applies for tables and chairs for feeding. These might be available in parks or institutional settings. Otherwise, sitting on the ground, or on tarps would do.

3. FOOD SUPPLIES
a.) EMERGENCY STOCKPILES: This depends on the particular disaster scenario. Are there public stockpiles of flour, beans, canned goods, dried food? If not, a plan for this getting this in place should be made and carried out. Is the government going to drop-ship emergency supplies? I wouldn’t count on this unless the disaster is limited to only your local area.
b.) FOOD ON HAND: If no stockpiles are available, then scrounging is in order. To avoid looting, and other forms of social disorder, a plan is a wonderful thing. Even in fire or earthquake, there will be some food still available in the less hard-hit areas –in stores, in institutions, in peoples’ homes, on privately owned fruit and nut trees, if in season; and in community gardens, if you have them. Plans should be in place for permission to take these supplies to feeding centers in emergency.
There may already be laws in place to cover “eminent domain” in emergencies, that is, the authorities’ right to commandeer supplies, facilities, and land. This legal aspect would be an important research topic for you. (more on emergency-authorities later) There are about three days worth of groceries available in stores at any one time. That’s all. If stores, schools, restaurants, etc. have not burnt down or collapsed, there should be enough in place to supply feeding centers for three days. Look to assemble a total number of meals available from in-stock grocery store shelves, and other sources, at any one time in your city. We are talking about 60,000 meals, at two meals per day, for 10,000 people, for three days.
d.) FORAGING: This is another good research topic: What wild foods are plentiful in your area, and at what times of year? I’m no expert on this, but what comes to mind are fruits and nuts from wild trees or local orchards, if in season; reed beds, acorns, bay tree nuts, edible wild roots and greens. Some able-bodied people will have time on their hands, so this area of supply could be well researched and planned for in advance.
e.) SECURITY: We must assume that police will be overwhelmed, as they were in Katrina. Security is a great job towards which to divert the energies of those in your area who may be naturally aggressive and are often well equipped with firearms. A plan should be in place for using such people as security forces for keeping order. Planned protocols should be in place with specific job descriptions to be assigned in a hierarchical structure. Safe gun practices, and strict rules of engagement should be a part of your plan. This part of the plan should be well publicized in advance, so that otherwise unmanageable armed persons know there is a place for them to be useful. The plan should include treating these folks with special priority in feeding lines, sleeping facilities and the like, so they feel valued and respected. This is an important part of a plan to prevent disorder.

COMMUNICATION
a.) Once your class gets your plan done, it should be well-publicized. Articles should be placed in local papers, perhaps your high school drama department could stage a play, local authorities could be sought out to coordinate with their plans. Practice run-throughs could then be organized, involving as many people as possible, twice a year to cover summer and winter conditions. This will make sure that everyone knows that a plan is in place, and that they will be taken care of. Panic will not set in, and people will know where to go and what to do.
b.) Phone and internet may not be available, so a tree or web of foot-carried messages should be planned for, using neighborhood ‘hubs’ -–usual gathering points where people can go to get information. A low-tech, solar-and-battery-powered radio capability could be planned for. Hand-cranked radios are available to receive such communications. Perhaps each designated neighborhood ‘hub’ could have a person assigned to keep such a receiver on hand.

EMERGENCY AUTHORITIES
a.) Every community has local government officials, first responders (police and firemen), and emergency teams such as EMT (emergency medical technicians), Red Cross chapters, and the like. You should know who these people are, where they work, and what their plans and capabilities are. Depending on the suddenness, severity, and duration of a disaster, these human resources and organizational structures may or may not remain intact. So an emergency plan should be in place both to work with them, and to replace them, if necessary. Volunteer leaders with skills and expertise should be sought to be on call, just in case. The important thing is that authorized, capable and respected leaders remain in place at all times. Disasters are no times for anarchy, experimentation, or strong-arm tactics. It’s well-known that competent leaders often emerge from unlikely sources in a crisis, so flexible accommodation for this phenomena should be planned for. One idea is to plan to pass out colored arm bands for people responsible for different tasks, as is done at big demonstrations and other large outdoor events, for example, blue for authorities, red for security forces, orange for foragers, yellow for medical, and the like.

TRANSPORTATION
a.) Transporting people and supplies is a critical issue. Are there secure (earthquake and fireproof) stockpiles of liquid fuel for emergency vehicles in your area? If not, that should be planned for. Even just enough fuel for a few trucks and buses, for a few days, would be critical. Arcadia is a small city, so in-town transport is possible on foot. However, people tend to be very widely spread out in Southern California, so a means for getting people and supplies to feeding centers is important. For longer-term planning, a small-scale program to make alcohol fuel from normal urban waste streams of spoiled foods, or from reed beds in constructed wetlands (which are also good for flood control and “green” wastewater treatment) could be put in place to secure ongoing, independent, and local liquid fuel sources for emergency vehicles.

SANITATION & WATER
a.) What goes in must come out, so emergency sanitation is a critical part of any feeding scheme, where large numbers of people will gather. If normal facilities are intact, those should be utilized wherever found, whether normally public or private, such as at schools, stadiums, restaurants, retail stores, or gas stations. Otherwise, the quickest and lowest-tech solution would be to dig privies. Calculate, as part of your planning, how many privies of how much capacity each, would be needed for each feeding station. A longer-term solution to this aspect of things would be to construct public composting toilets in every park, and beside every frequently utilized area, such as shopping centers and the like. These facilities are common in our state and national parks, and can be designed to be simple, private, clean and odorless.
b.) Facilities for washing up after meals, and just as importantly, hand-washing facilities for everyone must be provided, to forestall disease. Another important item to stockpile: chlorine bleach for sterilization. This is adequate for cooking and eating ware. Plain soap is important for hands.
This brings up the issue of water. Does your community have emergency stockpiles of water, or the capability for obtaining it, such as pumps, pipes, filters, and storage tanks? This equipment should be planned for. Otherwise, find out where water is normally stored –tanks, trucks, water mains, hot water heaters, reservoirs, ponds, year round streams, and the like. Clean water is even more important than food. Every planned feeding station must have a planned water source. Normal water supplies would be disrupted by earthquake or fuel shortages. Longer term planning should emphasize a program of rainwater harvesting off buildings with water storage tanks becoming a commonplace feature of your urban landscape.

MEDICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL
a.) We have to assume that conventional medical resources will be overwhelmed in a disaster, if intact at all. Anyone with first aide skills should be identified in advance and sought as volunteers on call. Tents and basic equipment for makeshift hospitals would be wise to have stockpiled.
b.) Therapists are plentiful in California. On call volunteers for trauma counseling, for group therapy sessions, and for conflict resolution duties should be planned for and recruited as an essential resource.

LONG TERM PREPARATIONS

URBAN LANDSCAPING:
There are edible urban tree-planting schemes being developed in some areas. This involves not just planting the right kind of trees, but having an ongoing program in place for harvesting and storing the resulting produce. This part is critical. The reason cities have normally avoided planting food-bearing trees is because they leave a mess on the sidewalks, and attract rodents. Oaks for acorns, coconut palms, date palms, almond trees, olives, walnuts, all kinds of fruit trees, kiwi vines, blueberry and current shrubs, prickly pear cactus, are only a few of the many types of edible trees, vines and shrubs that can feed an urban population. Most of this produce can be dried, or made into preserves or oils, and be stockpiled safely for long periods. Vacant lots with irrigation capability (former parks or golf courses come to mind) can be planted with edible meadows. In California’s year-round growing season, it is quite possible to sow broccoli, kale, mustard greens, etc. and let them naturalize in a meadow area which has been sheet-mulched first with cardboard, then 4-5″ of manure and compost applied before planting the edible meadow. With little or no competition from weeds, after they are planted and get started, many of these non-perennial food plants will self-sow each year, providing winter and summer vegetable matter full of lifesaving nutrition. Other meadow-type edible things should be mixed in for maximum variety –wild onion, oxalis, artichoke, and many other plants could be researched as to what does best in your chosen site’s microclimate. This is just for urban landscaping. Community gardens, with plots allotted to individual gardeners should be a strong feature in places interested in local food security and resilience.
In semi-arid conditions such as in Southern California, mesquite trees, long considered weeds, could become a great resource. They require no irrigation. The wood makes excellent fuel, and the pods are starchy enough to make alcohol fuel. There is a species of desert gourd which can be planted under mesquite trees which also requires no irrigation. Prickly pear cactus is attractive and edible and will also grow, once established, without care or water.
Certain trees are good for coppicing, which is the best way to grow wood fuel sustainably. To coppice, one cuts the tree down but leaves the root system. Then certain species of trees will throw up many new shoots to replace the single stem that was cut. One root system thus can produce useful wood for many decades. This is another good research topic: find out which trees in your area would grow well and work for this purpose. They could be planted in parks and along streets.

CONCLUSION:
Individual stockpiling of water and food, such as MREs (military meals-ready-to-eat) or canned goods and other non-perishables at home is becoming popular. In my opinion, publicly organized stockpiling, along with a well-thought-out and well-understood plan, such as the one you are working on, is a much better arrangement. Otherwise individuals have the worry of how to protect their stockpile from people who don’t have anything. This is a recipe for problems. We are all far better off working together. That’s why your plan is so important. And your wish to start now and put in place the things that will make your city more self-sufficient long-term, is a really great idea.

Please feel free to send me further questions and comments. Also please keep me informed about how your plan progresses. I would love to see your final result.

–Susan Butler

Josef
11 Jun 9:09pm

Thanks for sharing that Susan :)

Ian Graham
12 Jun 3:37am

We’re here in Dundas ON Canada, with a barely functioning TTI (www.lets-doit.ca). I am 55, learning to homestead on the edge of a valley town of 25,000 people, part of a 500,000 metropolis, dying steel town of Hamilton.
Emergency planning? No one wants to think of it, let alone do it.
I’ve been absorbing the PO/PCI literature in print and online for 3 years, and I’m an ‘early adopter’ type, so I don’t wonder that the public is far from being aware, let alone interested in the ‘warm fuzzy’ TTI approach, or even less, the Emergency Planning tactics being discussed in this thread. Susan Butler’s piece was particularly helpful because of it’s very gritty level of detail.
My two cents: get a TTI up and running, and at the Great Unleashing event, or equivalent, have a node available for the EP types, encourage them to work away at the E plan while the rest of us do the EDAP. This is the both/and point of view, expressed by others here too.
Canada still has a fairly intact social safety net, unlike the US, the Empire to which we are umbilically attached, by virtue of geography, oil and water. I think we Canadians are supremely complacent that all the bad news is going to happen to people elsewhere, and some even look to the US to help us out in a disaster. My view: they will help themselves out of our backyards, without a moment’s hesitation. But I digress.

In one of Richard H’s many interviews, he talks about preparation for energy descent as equivalent to a spiritual crisis: we need to rise above dispair and work faithfully for a better future, even while it appears futile.
http://www.sustainablelifestyles.ca

Dan Dashnaw
13 Jun 8:09pm

It seems that Rob can’t seem to refrain from dissing “Survivalists” He has been engaged around this issue for several years now, and it is abundantly clear that he needs “Survivalists” as an antagonist. Well, I’ve had it. If we are facing collapse in the next 20 years, we need to build bridges, and check our prejudice at the door. But TT has not relented. And neither will I. Goodbye TT. I will block you on the ground around me wherever I can- until you find common ground with American Survivalists. It isn’t hard, Rob, you just have to surrender your arrogance. You have a smarmy unxious way of responding to criticism that suggests that you are hearing what your critic is saying. I have watched this technique very closely. It is obvious to any thinking person that you are impervious to any influence. Your arrogance is massive. And that is why TT, at least in the USA, will be a marginal and irrelevant movement.

Helen Loughrey
14 Jun 8:39am

Yes there is a bit of selective separation there.

Unfortunately the arrogance is also on the survivalist side. US survivalist websites poo-poo any community approaches, favoring use of firearms [murder] to protect personal stashes from those who did not plan ahead. Frankly they underestimate the futility of that approach. Their shoot-out scenario would become a war of attrition that they and their families ultimately lose to the looted armory -equipped local warlords.

I tend to agree with Richard Heinberg. [How refreshing to sidestep the false choice between the lone gun-toting survivalist and the naive hemp-toting hippy stereotypes.] We do need a synthesis of both TI community-based skilling up and of survivalist emergency preparedness in light of the accelerating arrival of the three storms of macro-economic collapse, natural resource depletion, and climate change – in that order.

Living in America may make it easier to see this. Our families and communities having been more fractured by job mobility and by the rugged individualism paradigm and resulting lack of a social safety net; our climate already being more life threatening in our summer and winter extremes: literal survival is definitely the immediate issue here especially on the US east coast than in more moderate climates such as on the US west coast and in more cohesive communities in the UK.

The government is hopelessly corrupted and bankrupting itself before our very eyes. As we saw in Katrina, it cannot be relied upon in an emergency – just as it could not be relied upon to mitigate the worldwide environmental damage, the peak oil damage and the capitalist greed damage that its federalist deregulation policies helped wrought.

If TI is going to thrive beyond California in the US, it must factor in the emergency planning as a grassroots skilling up function. TI could start by outreaching to existing grassroots networks such as the ‘neighborhood watch’ movement. Since towns and cities will soon no longer be able to sell municipal bonds [or tax the increasingly unemployed] to fund basic services, I think that the local neighborhood associations will become the defacto local governments of the future. Think smaller scale, less funding. You won’t even be able to drive across [or as is more likely in the US out of town] to your TI meetings, you’ll have to skill up with your immediate neighborhood. Are they prepared for a lengthy power outage, sudden grocery store empty shelves, or a water main break? Start there first… and then later you can teach them all knitting.
:^)

Vinay Gupta
15 Jun 11:14am

I want to throw two resources into the ring.

The first is the “Beyond Resilience” concept, which basically says that using resilience to simply keep going through crises often isn’t enough – you need to adapt to the new conditions. I think Transition Towns has this part down cold.

http://files.howtolivewiki.com/Visionary%20Adaptation%20v1.pdf

http://vinay.howtolivewiki.com/blog/global/beyond-resilience-visionary-adaptation-1374

The second tool I’d like to add to the mix is SCIM mapping – http://bit.ly/scim2 – which provides a common framework for discussing both long term systemic risks like Peak Everything, and short term acute risks caused by disasters, violence, sudden unfolding scenarios.

I think it’s important to be clear that a substantial subset of the actions required to handle systemic risks are also very useful in dealing with acute ones.

Vinay

John Croft in Germany
18 Jun 10:05pm

Dear Richard, Rob and all the other contributers.

Thank you all for a very interesting discussion with much food for thought.

I have been pondering these questions, as you know Rob, for a considerable length of time. Any culture that destroys its life support system in the name of progress is insane and has not got a great deal of time to live. In such a culture, what we see as “normality” is only contributing to the insanity, and “sustainability” in such a culture is extremely abnormal. It is only a matter of time.

As regards emergency planning, the issues of top down versus bottom up I feel are irrelevant, we need to do both, just as we do with the EDAP process. I am reminded of the fact that a number of years ago, the Cyclone that flattened Exmouth in Western Australia was twice as big as Katrina, and yet there was zero loss of life and the town was rebuilt relatively painlessly. The reason why was that the town created an excellent Emergency plan, and rehearsed it 6 weeks before the cyclone struck. As a result, in the emergency, everyone knew what to do and various glitches had been identified and dealt with.

Physical emergency planning of this kind can be fun and productive. It also increases the feeling of security in an emergency.

Some time ago, when looking at the closure of major local employers, in the Western Australian Department of Local Government and Regional Development we looked at the issue of “Economic shockproofing for local communities”. For example, in such a scenario, what should be done immediately and who should do it, what could be done in the medium term and what long term actions need to start immediately. It was a very productive exercise, and with role playing scenario planning could help enormously.

But I don’t think we should fool ourselves into thinking that we are going to be all beer and skittles. Various people have suggested 4 scenarios are possible.

1. The market solution of Business as Usual
2. The Militaristic solution of seize the resources you need, devil take the hindermost
3. The Failed State neo-Feudal solution (Look at Somalia)
4. The clean Green, Transition type solution.

Various options and alternatives to these have been repeatedly put out.

But I don’t think these *are* alternatives. In fact I feel we will see all four solutions being tried at different times and different places, as things slowly get tighter and tighter as we proceed towards the overshoot collapse.

In such circumstances, I have been conducting a comparative study of Dark Ages to see what lessons we can learn from these.

In order to minimise the Darkness of a Dark Age, and to shorten its tength, there are, I feel, 6 courses of action which we should start looking at now, when there is still time. Much of these relate to the Tranition movement, which I think (Semi fortuitously, semi by design) has hit upon some of these things spontaneously.

If you want to limit and enlighten a Dark Age here is what you do.

1. Build community as if your life depended upon it. It does. Those people who live in a supportive and caring community will sirvive better than those who try to do it alone, or maintain their home as their castle, on the belief that good fences make good neighbours.

2. Simplify your life. Prior to the peak, increases in complexity, increase the standards of life. After the threshold, increased complexity reduces standards. So in such circumstances reduced complexity increases resilience, especially by preventing people from being time poor.

3. Maximise creativity. Technological creativity is linked to social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and artistic and spiritual creativity. The creative individuals and communities are those that find the way through first.

4. Cultivate nonviolent resolution of all conflicts. In a Dark Age, inter and intra community violence increases, and in such circumstances one cannot “fight violence with violence” it just escalates the downward spiral. Nonviolence at every level is urgently needed.

5. Preserve knowledge. In a Dark Age people not only forget what they once knew in a great deskilling to reverse Rob’s terminology, they also forget that they have forgotten very quickly. We currently lose a language every two weeks and are becoming ecologically ignorant as a result at an alarming rate. Wisdom is degraded to knowledge, which is degraded to understanding, which is degraded to data, which disappears in a sea of noise, as new superstitions arise to fill the vacuum. Preserve knowledge.

6. Cultivate ecologically based interfaith dialogues. In a Dark Age we see the rise of militant fundamentalisms, and it would be hard to find a better definition of “evil” than that. Interfaith Earthbased spiritualities are urgently needed.

If we can do these six things, then the coming Dark Age will possibly be short and not too Dark. But fail and we are in for a rough ride to the bottom.

As Joanna Macy says, Apathy is another word for no feeling. When we learn to engage with and acknowledge our despair we can come through to the other side into “the Great Turning”. Then action can follow.

Hope this helps

Regards

John

gas safety london
19 Jun 10:22am

I think a frame-work of emergency planning responses could be pulled together through a workshop. The emergency planning folks could provide input on their priorities and focus, we could add ours and then it could be shaped up in a format that Transition groups could work with and Emergency Planning Groups could use.

Ed Straker
4 Aug 2:44pm

First off, let me say that I have gone to the two day transition training course so I am fairly well versed on it.

My sense is that Rob has an all-or-nothing attitude towards mitigating collapse. Either transition saves the day, or we capitulate to dystopia.

My feeling is that setting the bar so high for Transition is unrealistic. What that means is at the first hint of violence, the whole transition model breaks down.

What I see in this debate is a growing realiziation that as we face the real probability of Argeninian-style hyperinflation and the chaos that is likely to cause, that Transition will indeed be rendered irrelevant by its avoidance of anything that could be construed as “survivalism”.

Likewise, if Rob’s calculations on carrying capacity are wrong, or Transition is only adopted in pockets here and there, once the music stops on the game of musical chairs with respect to energy descent and ecological collapse, you will have this patchwork quilt of towns that are more or less resilient. Lifeboats must be defended otherwise they are useless.

In Rob’s world, the second conflict of this sort rears its head, Transition’s mission is to be deemed a failure. Just curl up in a ball and die.

Considering that the end goal of anyone who takes the red pill is survival, how is that defeatist attitude attractive?

Survivalists have to adopt more community responsibility and drop some of the misanthropy, and TT needs to stop alienating them as well, since they are already the most advanced at doing at the individual level what the rest of the town should be doing as far as the homesteading piece is concerned. Those skills should be leveraged.

[...] this weekend I am reminded of a recent debate in the transition blogosphere about the need for emergency planning for communities within the Transition Town [...]