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21 Dec 2009

What if they held a Climate Summit, and nobody came?

homeSo Copenhagen has been and gone, with no meaningful agreement being reached, and now the politicians and lobbyists have headed home having failed to do anything meaningful to address this staggeringly pressing challenge.  Hugo Chavez came up with the quote of the fortnight when he observed “if the climate was a bank, they would already have saved it”.  The gathering of the environmental/climate change movement in the Klimaforum with its dedicated bringing together of green luminaries and activists failed to have any meaningful impact on the proceedings, as did the mass street protests, designed to shame delegates into meaningful action and to draw a line in the sand.  In short, the responses that the alternative movement/protest culture/social justice movement usually rolls into action when such events take place, didn’t work.  So, might we do things differently next time?

copenhagen mc donaldsIt is, after all, what is expected.  Activists and experts all head to the venue, with huge carbon implications, in the hope that this is “the one”, new police powers get passed, activists are subject to harassment and intimidating policing (George Marshall’s piece on his Copenhagen experience is well worth a read, especially for his despair at the amount of polar bear costumes on display), the media can run its “climate change demonstrations turned ugly today” stories to divert interest away from the lack of progress, in the fringe event people inspire and challenge each other, and in the main talks, most representatives arrive, as one does at any auction, with their preferred bids and the extra they will offer if pushed already worked out long in advance.

It had also been made clear in advance that Obama would be arriving without the support of Congress, so that anything he promised there would struggle to become a reality. In the end he promised $100bn from no-one yet knows where, the Chinese were blamed by everyone for the failure, the world was condemned to at least a 3.5 degree rise, and the focus was on lowest common denominator compromises… It was, as Ed Miliband writes in today’s Guardian, “a chaotic process dogged by procedural games”.  In the end, what had been trailed as’ the last change to save the planet’ was turned into “something we can build upon”.  A failure, in other words.  The statements from politicians that the protests were useful and that NGOs were playing an important role in the process began to sound increasingly patronising.

Miliband praised the efforts of NGOs and the many campaigns run in support of meaningful outcomes from the talks.  “The challenge for all of us is not to lose heart and momentum. The truth is that the global campaign, co-ordinated by green NGOs, backed by business and supported by a wider cross section of the public, has achieved a lot. We would never have had targets from so many countries, the engagement of leaders, and the agreement on finance without this sort of mobilisation”.  I am left wondering though if perhaps that campaign, and that mobilisation, which of course we need, could take a markedly different form next time.

How would it be if we all took a very different tack, if the approach of activists was one of ‘practically modelling the world we want to see’?  Clearly, one of the challenges among those sent to negotiate is that they have no vision of a post carbon world. This was driven home to me last week on a more local scale, when I interviewed a senior planner in my local council about climate change, Transition and so on as part of this PhD research I am still limping along with.  I asked him, as my final question, what his vision was for our area of Devon in a scenario where it had successfully reduced its emissions by 90%.  It was clear he had never thought about it. When pushed, all he could come up with was akin to 1950s Britain, rather like a Hovis advert, and when I asked him if it was something that would appeal to him personally, he replied that at his age, the idea had some appeal, but to younger people he thought they would see it as rather dull.

Similarly, for the negotiators at Copenhagen, a world emitting 90% less carbon than it does today is not an attractive proposition.  Their mental picture is of denial, austerity, misery, giving up things, losing things, certainly not a future they bounce out of bed each day determined to bring about.  It is not a problem exclusive to them.  The same is true for many of us.  We expect the negotiators to come up with a deal that ‘saves the planet’, but hope that we don’t have to make many actual changes to our own lives.  This is what, nationally and internationally, makes it so difficult for politicians to offer any meaningful response, the fact that they are, in effect, trying to make unelectable policies electable.

eden salads 3So how about this, as a co-ordinated approach for the next time there is such a gathering, which will again, no doubt, be trailed as ‘the last chance to save the planet’?  We (that is, those who care passionately about climate change and the need for a proportionate response), confound expectations, and stay at home.  Using the web-based technologies we now have at our disposal, we co-ordinate an international festival of meaningful change.  We stay home and insulate whole streets, create community gardens, work meaningfully with our local authorities to do projects with them, eat local food diets for the duration of the conference, live without cars, insulate our schools, set up an area of the settlement in question as a model for what it would look like transitioned.  We start bringing the future that we can imagine but which is still beyond the comprehension of so many, into focus.  We would have enough lead-in to the conference to be able to do something meaningful and which tells a powerful story.  We could even chip in what we would have paid to get there towards helping to resource it.

This would only be capable of being more effective than all going there if it was brilliantly organised and brilliantly co-ordinated by an exceptional web presence and an exceptional media team.  After all, if a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound (or something).  If we can co-ordinate things like Avaaz, 350’s day of action, and other similar online events, surely we could do this?  It could be like an online Live Aid type thing, people around the world telling stories of what they are doing and why, celebrating their projects, and making the point that this is improving their quality of life rather than diminishing it.

This approach would save a great deal of carbon, would give greater permission and leadership to world leaders and negotiators, would completely confound what is actually expected of us, would shift the focus away from people concerned about climate change being equated with people who attack policemen, save a fortune in policing bills that could instead be spent on loft insulation, and would be far more likely to bring about meaningful behaviour change at a community level than the current approach.

As usual, I’m sure I will be accused of being naive, of misunderstanding oppositional politics.  Of course we have to hold politicians and negotiators to account, and to show our displeasure, concern and anger at their actions.  Yes, the bringing together of activists from the Global North and South is a vital and visceral reminder of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, as Ben Brangwyn’s recent post set out, creating powerful and vital networks.  But might we not be more creative and playful about this?  Might it not be us that actually shows the leadership next time, rather than expecting these negotiators to do so?  Might we not look at Copenhagen as not just a huge failure of the political process, but also a huge failure of protest culture to have any meaningful impact on that process?

I didn’t go to Copenhagen.  Other people from Transition Network did (you can catch a short view of Naresh and Sophy running a workshop there in the 4th ‘Stupid Show’, see here), and their input was well recieved and I’m sure was useful and impactful to those who attended.  I’m sure that some dynamic networking took place that will prove to have been very useful.  However, how about next time we take the lead; we show not just from our Powerpoints and placards that another world is possible, but also that by staying home and working with those around us to start practically building a low carbon economy, loft by loft and street by street, that a leaner, lower carbon future could be, and will be, fantastic.  Just that once, just for that one conference.  The conference that they ran, and no-one came.

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


Mike Grenville
21 Dec 4:20pm

yeah a cool idea.

Robert H. Hopkins
21 Dec 4:34pm

No, I’m not the same Rob Hopkins as the author of the above suggestion. I’m another Rob Hopkins in Gainesville, FL, USA. (Disclaimer completed) I agree entirely. I have been involved in various progressive endeavors beginning with the civil rights movement in 1962 and continuing through the opposition to the Vietnam war and the development of the environmental movement. The governments of the world have long since realized that control of the visual media, i.e. television news made public protests almost useless. We need to move on to making national governments irrelevant by creating the alternative culture that can provide resilience on an expanding local level. The national governments of the world are not going to stop obeying the will of the wealty corporate elites; the local development of an alternative economic, social, and environmental reality is the only sensible response.

21 Dec 5:02pm

Father! Where have you been?!

Stephen Watson
21 Dec 5:05pm

At the end of the London Climate March this month a woman atop a bus was shouting from a megaphone “You’re brilliant. 50,000 marchers today – they can’t ignore us!”. I turned to my mate and said “She obviously wasn’t one of the 2 million marching through London before the Iraq invasion.”

Another way is definitely required. So, if there is another ‘Last chance to save the planet conference” then Rob, I think your idea is inspired and would be great to put into action.

Brad K.
21 Dec 5:32pm

To get a different result, you need a different game.

The players that went to Copenhagen, and the power base each represented, have to change before a different conclusion will ever happen.

Currently, internationally produced food, transported across continents and oceans, pays a lot of companies and a lot of taxes. Localization of food sources only benefits the people living near secure sources of food, and maybe a few local producers. Same with textiles and energy.

The engineering hasn’t been done, yet, on carbon reduction. The science is there, but someone seems to want to skip the step where inventors and engineers bolt together the apparatus that shows more value than the existing system.

As long as fossil fuels continue to meet the demands developed to use fossil fuels, and the people that make money from the process keep making money and power, then it is unlikely the power bases that politicians respect will be enthused about changing.

Mike Grenville
21 Dec 5:45pm

“But it’s no use just blaming pusillanimous politicians. They should frighten their countries witless with the inconvenient truth – but there is a limit to how far ahead of their people any leader can go, elected or not. NGO protesters make much-needed noise, but they wouldn’t have to if most people were already with them.”

Danny Hilton, Transition Ely
21 Dec 6:16pm

At this point I wonder what alternative we have anyway, but I like it – it reminds me of the idea that if you don’t like a behaviour you just don’t pay it any attention, so there’s no reward in it for the person displaying it. I wonder how all those ‘leaders’ so used to feeding off and manipulating the energy of populations would find having no attention paid to them whatsoever? And, if, as you suggest, we all stay at home and create the alternative we want to see. Congrats on the funding too!

Klaus Harvey
21 Dec 7:01pm

Brilliant idea. Let’s do it.

Susan Cerezo
21 Dec 7:26pm

Yes, a brilliant idea ! I agree utterly !

21 Dec 9:14pm

I agree a great way to go. Civil protest is not the only way to be an active citizen and expecting politicians to have all the answers and make the changes is foolish. I love the idea for its simplicity, and yet rich in its application.

Marcin Gerwin
21 Dec 9:28pm

Yeah, it seems to me that it would be even a good idea to submit our actions on a website. had a good idea with submiting local events to build a global movement, so now we could submit concrete actions. Something like: ” Greg from Utah – insulating a loft before Mexico 2010″ or “Susan from Berlin – starting a food co-op before COP16″.

Adrian Hepworth (Fez)
21 Dec 9:29pm

Hip-hip-hooray! Brilliant! We’ve all got to do it. Its down to all of us actually doing something practical. Count us in whenever you’re ready.

Shane Hughes
21 Dec 9:58pm

i love the idea of the conference that no one came. it speaks volumes and i also love the idea of the events.

But, even though we’d have fun at the events, i’m not sure how this idea address your point about the Hovis add sacrifice vision of the future. I’m not critisicing – its a question that i struggle with.

That aside the local “doing” and “being the change” events resonates a lot with me and a “Building Man” idea me and Joseph mused on years ago. A twist on the Burning Man festival, instead of burning everything at the end of the event, or even instead of a normal festival where you put in masses of effort and then take everything back down at the end Building Man (or woman) is a constructive festival where masses of people could blitz and transform an area. an orgy of workshops and training sessions that left something beautiful in its wake.

21 Dec 11:20pm

Shane (one comment above) that’s a lovely idea.

21 Dec 11:21pm

Wasn’t there an Earth-Shattering protest in Seattle several years ago? Does anyone remember? Turtles love Teamsters? Teamsters love Turtles? Sigh.

Julian Dobson
21 Dec 11:32pm

I really like this idea. Constructing from the ground up is real leadership. The important thing, though, is to build up from there – I posted a few thoughts on this earlier today at

uberVU - social comments
21 Dec 11:36pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by GreenFeed: #Transition What if they held a Climate Summit, and nobody came?: So Copenhagen has been and gone, with no meaningf…

Craig Ambrose
22 Dec 12:35am

Well put Rob.

There has been a huge amount of time and energy spent by people in our Transition group on activism in preparation for copenhagen, and while I imagine things would be even worse if it wasn’t for climate activism, I think setting an example is probably a more powerful tool. We’re not trying to reach the politicians, they’re doing exactly what their electorates want them to do. We’re trying to show regular people that there is a different possible world.

I do think, however, that one thing we can incorporate into our process from the global climate talks is the notion of setting targets. The world leaders failed to get together and agree on scientifically necessary carbon emissions targets, but that doesn’t mean we can’t. There are certainly individuals doing this already, but Transition Initiatives provide an opportunity for this to be done with community level support.

My vision would be for the entire transition network (globally) to agree on a target CO2 concentration and date, a method for dividing that up globally, a method of backcasting that year by year, and a way of updating it if the science changes. Then, we could start opting in to it as individuals and communities. Transition works well as a shared “brand” of people who are out there building the transition, rather than arguing for it, and I think that could carry across to a system of adopting personal targets (with community support) which is perhaps applicable to all groups interested in climate change.

I’m mentioning this because you’re talk of turning our backs on the climate talks (to some degree) and running our own ones on the internet could be used to get all disparate climate groups to agree on one target system that we can use internally (ie, allows trading of carbon rations) would surely show that groups with very different ideas really can come to an agreement when it’s this important.

Ian Longfield
22 Dec 12:36am

An idea whose time is, quite frankly, long overdue. I despair at seeing climate activists pile into cars, buses and planes to go and be part of a protest in some big city, waving plastic placards and shouting catchy chants. We need to stop doing that and start changing our habits on a personal level. Like riding your bike to your next local climate change meeting, writing a letter to your local politician and planting a garden. Of course those things require personal effort and may not have the same dopamine reward as being part of a large rowdy protest march, but ultimatley these are the changes we need to make.

Håkan Karlsson
22 Dec 8:51am

You are right, we need a different approach. The much needed solutions will most likely only be adopted if we see a shift in values, and we will only see a shift in values if people learn what the alternatives are.

22 Dec 1:28pm

The title of this blog post is taken from the famous saying “What if there was a war, and nobody came?” Can we associate protesters and klimaforum summitteers with soldiers, and dismiss the alternative movement/protest culture/social justice movement as a whole? Only then we might interpret the Copenhagen protests as a failure. This however doesn’t do justice to the positive aspects of a get-together of South American farmers, Indian human rights activists, civil rights campaigners… you name it, all demanding climate justice.

While some of the criticism in this blog post is doubtlessly justified, how strongly existing power imbalances between economically poor communities, countries and organisations on the one hand, and powerful institutions on the other hand harm the climate negotiations was exemplified crystal clear in Copenhagen – again. “The protest movement” addresses this, even if perhaps the methods are sometimes worth debating. Such power imbalances, and resulting injustices, must become also part of the talk about relocalisation.

In the UK, we cannot assume that everything will be fine once we have localised, without at the same time making sure that some harm is undone in our historically painful relationships with the Global South and poor communities here right on our doorsteps. We can’t simply “pull the rug” under the feet of export economies, and such organisations as coal workers unions. Yes let’s all transition, and a co-ordinated transition action at the next summit would be great, but please let’s emphasise the need for social justice as part of it – if we don’t, it won’t just magically happen! The transition approach and groups from the “alterglobalisation movements”, people’s/ indigenous rights etc have a lot to offer to each other, and I’m happy about meeting more and more people who also think this and are involved in both.

[…] not support them, will no fossil fuels to alleviate their situation. There is of course a way out. A way proposed by Rob Hopkins and others in the Transition movement. Just because the politicians failed it does not mean that we […]

Steve Hinton
22 Dec 2:31pm

We are after all the ones who put the politicians in office and encourage the financial system by paying our part in it. I know it’s tough, but we have to both say we don’t want any part of it, and we also need to act to not encourage it. We need to give one message: mainstream the resilient low carbon society now.

Brad K.
22 Dec 3:21pm

@Craig Ambrose,

“(ie, allows trading of carbon rations)” – if this kind of approach is imposed from the outside, and not by the company affect – how does that differ from the pirate, the despot, or the wanton conqueror that steals and kills without recourse? Governments may, at time, impose such a system, but it treads a fine line. To the company and it’s customers there is an economic impact for the monetary benefit of someone else – a practice that cries for corruption and graft. Like the UN does on a customary basis.

Unless the practice was seen to work within the community, and among participating communities, raising the practice to national and international levels is mere money trading hands, creation of an arbitrary despotic control and power.

The idea stinks, except to those eager to “redistribute the wealth” in the manner of pirates and thugs.

In regions that have acted to reduce soot and other forms of air pollution, even application of limits has arguably made progress. (I personally think congested cities need to vigorously enforce traffic laws forbidding following too close – maintain 100′ [30.5 m] spacing even when stopped for obstruction or traffic control would do immeasurably to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, reduce congestion of source emitters – and reduce waste of fuel, electric or otherwise, wasted in gridlock and stop and go traffic. I also think Obama’s “cash for clunkers
” was vastly corrupt, meant to benefit labor unions and not air quality or climate. What was done was to diminish the quality of vehicle available to the used car market – where arguably most fuel is wasted. What should have been targeted, to benefit the climate, was to target the cars traded for the last time, by those unable to buy better – that waste the most fuel. Instead Cadillac and Hummer dealers rejoiced. Why has no one introduced a government program to rehabilitate cars in their decrepit years – improved motors, or restored mechanical efficiency? Where are the fuel efficient Cushman three-wheel utility vehicles, the pathways save for heavy duty bicycles or even horse and oxen drawn transport? What about mule or human powered rail transport for trade goods between communities?)

If you are going to ration fossil fuels, the point is that the rationing has to be seen as needful, and fairly – that is, uniformly – applied. And rigidly enforce. And keep in mind, that every system of rationing breeds it’s own forms of black market.

Ed Straker
22 Dec 6:37pm

The assumption behind Transition is that a grass-roots approach can sidestep paralysis at the top and make things happen. That may be effective from an energy descent perspective, which was clearly the motive of the Transition movement, but climate impacts all of us. Some areas more than others, of course, but we’ll all feel it. If only a handful of towns powerdown in order to reduce CO2 emissions, it will hardly impact climate inertia, and if we wait long enough, the whole world reducing CO2 won’t matter either! So a Transition-only approach rests on the odds of Transition rapidly gathering steam and reaching critical mass.

Transition has grown rapidly but I don’t feel it has a chance of catching on fast enough and getting things done fast enough to be an effective GW mitigator.

Remember what we’re fighting for. It’s not about preventing warming. It’s about preventing warming above 2′. And the data coming in about what 2′ will mean to the planet is frightening enough to contemplate, and only getting worse.

So either we have to continue to look for top-down measures, or concede that we are past the point of no return on runaway GW, and effectively “write off” large portions of the globe for long-term habitation, with all the attendant turmoil that will cause.

It just seems to me that as the years quickly fly by, as more data streams in about melting poles, mass extinctions, methane release, etc… that it will be harder and harder to cling to the idea that any amount of powerdown from that point forward will have a measurable mitigation effect. The dialogue will shift to erecting seawalls and geoengineering (as in Earth 2100). It will get very messy.

So I think Rob should not be so quick to trot out Transition as a white horse to save the day. It is really very late in the game for us to slow this train wreck. That’s not to say Transition is useless, but it may be that, in the end, events on the ground will overtake our best efforts at a constructive response.

22 Dec 9:09pm

Having travelled to Copenhagen with Campaign Against Climate Change on the Climate Express with 800 others activists I found the whole affair, including the weekend that I was there to be worthwhile in terms of making personal contacts with others and seeing the numbers that were prepared to make a mark in the sand to state that climate change is an issue requiring action.

So what would the medias response be if no one marched? The response would simply be that the issue was not important and so could be ignored.

Seeing that there were representatives of the Transition movement at the Klimaforum showed that some in the Transition movement saw value in attending.

My view is that attending marches and action locally can be complementary. Promoting change can take many forms and what is right for one person may not be right for another. Criticizing those that don’t agree with your analysis simply creates division and the green movement should be about inclusion of different views and actions not creating sectarian views as to which vehicle should be used to create change.

Criticizing those who travel abroad to attend marches that you may not agree with is fine but didn’t you recently travel by train to Austria? I’m sure it was a worthwhile trip for you and I personally wouldn’t criticize you for doing it.

Personally I didn’t see Cop15 as being “The One’ and I didn’t meet anyone else who had that view. However I found that going to Copenhagen showed that there was an international community of individuals who were all working for a better world.

As an aside and as a town planner, next time you interview a planner you may wish to incorporate the Royal Town Planning Institutes 7 commitments on climate change,

Planners like any group incorporates individuals who all have different outlooks and viewpoints and whilst these commitments can be criticised they do show that there is an increasing understanding of the issues.

22 Dec 9:48pm

Guy, thanks for the comment. Just to clarify. I am not saying that we should give up protest. Like Joanna Macy, I think we need holding actions, i.e. protest and direct action, we need the building of practical solutions and parallel infrastrucutre, and we need culture change, and we need all three.

My point is that perhaps, just once, we might try a different tack. Of course, if no-one came, it might be that “the response would simply be that the issue was not important and so could be ignored”, but I don’t think that if the approach I have suggested here were taken it would be possible to ignore it. It could possibly have a greater impact due to not being what is expected of us… far more newsworthy.

Of course there will be protest, I have done a fair bit of it myself, and it is vital. What I am suggesting is that in Copenhagen it seems to have failed, in spite of the connections and networking that took place which you point out, and we still have nothing even vaguely resembling an international deal which was, after all, the whole point.

My piece, which was deliberately provocative, and written with the deepest respect for those who go on such actions, was written out of feeling exasperated with the failure of Copenhagen, a feeling shared by so many, and the suggestion that perhaps we try something different, both by way of trying to trigger a different response, and also for ourselves to try something different, to keep things fresh and innovative.

I wasn’t criticising the fact that people travelled per se, rather wondering whether those who travelled might have been more effective had they stayed at home and done something else (even if your answer is a firm no, it is a valid question to ask). Protest culture is vital, and I have the utmost respect for it, but maybe we just keep doing it because it’s what we do, and don’t stop often enough to evaluate its success or otherwise? This post was really about playfully asking what a different approach might look like.

In terms of planners, absolutely. There is a growing awareness of climate change among planners… it just seems to be taking longer to percolate through to some places than others! My point was not to single out planners, or that one in particular, rather to show that we are all human, and need to be able to imagine a post carbon world in order to really want to bring it into being. If those in charge of negotiating our future can’t visualise it, perhaps we need to devise playful ways of helping them to…

Thanks for the provocative questions.
Best wishes

Helen Dew
22 Dec 11:46pm

Ed Straker wrote:
“Transition has grown rapidly but I don’t feel it has a chance of catching on fast enough and getting things done fast enough to be an effective GW mitigator.
….. It is really very late in the game for us to slow this train wreck. That’s not to say Transition is useless, but it may be that, in the end, events on the ground will overtake our best efforts at a constructive response.”

We could speed up the process and multiply the effectiveness of Robs proposed action plan by widespread adoption of complementary currency systems.

I agree with Deirdre Kent’s recent comment:

“Of course Copenhagen failed. No-one is asking the right questions yet. It’s the money system which forces rich countries to put economic growth ahead of the environment that supports us… See for my blog.”

Kent is the author of Healthy Money, Healthy Planet.

The book is divided into two parts. The opening chapters explain – in language accessible to all – the mechanisms by which the present money system demands exponential economic growth, with consequent exponential demand on natural resources, not to mention the destructive pressures caused by unlimited growth on the entire ecology, including human society.

The second part of the book is a fabulous resource for grass-roots initiatives for the implementation of a range of complementary currency models.

Given the importance Kent assigns to the money issue she offers copies of Healthy Money, Healthy Planet at hugely reduced prices: $15 including postage. ($25 for two or $30 for three)

“The word needs to get that you can’t begin to tackle climate change without understanding that it is the money system itself (that’s at the heart of the problem).
As Michael Ruppert says “Until you change the money system you change nothing”. “

The video The Essence of Money, a Medieval Tale explains in less than eight minutes how simple and effective a community-created currency can be.

The video is highly recommend by Thomas H Greco Jnr., keynote speaker at the New Zealand Community Currencies national conference (April ’09), and author of The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

Both books are available from LIVING ECONOMIES Educational Trust

T. B.
23 Dec 2:21am


The George Marshall link is messed up right now.

(Feel free to delete this comment.)


Shaun Chamberlin
23 Dec 3:42am

@ Stephen Watson: Yeah, the latest climate march in London was hilariously full of scepticism.

All around me chants of “What do we want? CLIMATE JUSTICE, when do we want it? NOW” were met with comments like “what on Earth does that mean? What are the policies they’re actually asking for?”, and speculation as to how “Pull your finger out Obama, we don’t want no climate drama” translates into American…

I did consider getting some of my depressed friends from the Liverpool FC Kop ‘choir’ to come up with something a bit more inspiring, but if even the marchers can’t take themselves seriously, it must be time for a change of approach. I feel a blog post coming on myself..

ps Rob, the latest Throbgoblins cartoon contained a similar perspective, including a mention for Transition Culture :)

Shane Hughes
23 Dec 1:48pm

Essential to the success of a plan like this is that its not driven by apathety to the COP’s and the international climate agreements, in fact we choose to do it during COP 16, because we hope our actions will influence the outcomes and can plan mechanisms to try to achieve that. There’s also a defiant element of “with of without you, we’re getting on with solving the problem”.
This is very different from there simply being no protesters at the event and the media thinking there is no interest because we are extremely and passionately engaged.

What if nobody voted at the next general election? Nobody!!! i’m sure that would drive fundamental systemic changes. Whereas the current idea of changing the political system is to write letters to your MP and vote. As such we just keep tweaking around the edges and shifting from one similar party to the next.

Another imperative to the success of this “tact” would be that it was done en mass. There has to be enough people doing it for it to cross a threshold of relevance. A critical mass. COP 16 is expected to be held in Mexico from 29 November 2010 to 10 December 2010 – we have 11 and half months and counting. lets get going now to get the momentum going. Lets speak to Franny of Age of Stupid and others start the ball rolling.
What’s the worst that can happen – masses of constructive community solutions building – not too bad then.

To those who found going to Copenhagen worth while. I have no doubt there were amazing connections made. I wish i had gone. but what is being suggested here is not a rejection of that nor “protest as usual”. it is simply to try something different. mix it up. change it around.

We’d also get the gain of being authentic to our low carbon values. Train or plane – getting to these talks will take a vast percentage of my annual co2. hats off to those who cycled.

Mike Grenville
23 Dec 1:48pm

The video The Essence of Money, a Medieval Tale explains in less than eight minutes how simple and effective a community-created currency can be.

24 Dec 6:07pm

Great stuff, this is just a comment to mention that I’ve posted a long comment with lots of useful links but I guess it is stuck in moderation.

24 Dec 7:53pm

Just read the latest comments that mention money.

For LOADS of good reading complementary currencies (including a draft version of Dierdre Kents book Healthy Money, Healthy Planet, plus lots of stuff from Tom Greco, Bernard Lietaer, Margrit Kennedy etc etc) see:

Paul Mackay
26 Dec 10:20am

I agree with Craig Ambrose’s comment about setting targets. The politicians spend a lot of time talking about targets, typically not ones informed by science. I’m fairly new to Transition so it may be that I need to participate in more visioning exercises, but the idea of having understood and agreed targets directly informed by science, accounting for both peak oil (how fast to adapt to energy descent) and climate change (how fast do emissions need to be reduced) would be helpful.

This could be kept relatively lightweight, it would be a shame to introduce more discussion and writing that takes away from meaningful action. But one question that has occurred to me when working on Transition events planning is how do we know what is enough, when we are done? Of course now there is much to do, but having targets to work towards in the groups of a Transition Initiative gives some grounding to planning activities. It may be that these targets are something that emerges from creating an EDAP in parallel with other work.

Padhraic Moneley
26 Dec 1:39pm

Julian Rose
26 Dec 5:14pm

Hello Rob – and fellow bloggers,

I hope enthusiasts of this eminently sensible approach might like to read my book “Changing Course for Life – Local Solutions to Global Problems” (Rob-you have a copy) ( which expands upon this theme and draws into it education, agriculture, law, spirit, energy, economics, money, art.. and more.
We, the people, do need to take responsibility in all these realms … and to get excited about the creative possibilities that are open to us to turn the tables on centralised, distant power bases.
People led initiatives are trully the future – and that future starts now!

Happy New Year!

Fe Day
29 Dec 10:36am

I agree – the leaders can’t go way ahead of their electors, so our main communication, while we might peg it to the international meetings, must be with our communities/
I can see a “Council of All Beings” made with puppets, banners, music, dance,
– meeting in EVERY town village city suburb
– EVERY week – for people to give out info, talk, hear local concerns, network in a vivid and life-giving way. In this way, little by little, things can start to change. I think people have psychic numbing and this can only be cut through by group solidarity and creativity. If we do this regularly and dependably, we will build our own relationships as well as be starting to LIVE the life we talk about –
THese Councils could be a major part to show new technologies, talk about alternatives to carbon,
They need to be in the town square on Friday night or Saturday morning – when the most people are there.
Hearing the new information by word of mouth and seeing new technologies with their own eyes, will cut through information overload and classism (so much stuff is written in complex language)
Let’s do it!

Brad K.
30 Dec 11:42pm

@ Paul Mackay,

“how do we know what is enough, when we are done?”

I think that is a question to be put off for a century or so. If the Warmer position is valid, then everyone is responsible, until the event window closes, for not making things worse. Some – or many – may overcompensate, do negligible harm or even a net benefit, for the metrics you focus on. Should that happen, then you know and I know that over-doing by some merely compensates for abuses that won’t be brought under control.

When relative metrics show the approach of global warming is past, then the emphasis should be on conservation of resources, ameliorating any problems that can be fixed, and get on with the usual – put down wars, feed hungry people and animals, and raise children to respect and honor the culture that nurtures them. Maybe get on with exploring the universe, with finding inner peace, and making sure that every earth-bound soul is favored with a responsible task and shelter and community. And like that.

@ Fe Day,

I fear your weekly meetings face two immense obstacles. First is attention span of the masses – most are embroiled in toil under the sun and under an uncaring government, where repeated diversions of time would be an intolerable hardship. Second is that peaceful protests are an artifact of a decadent and affluent society. That is, when the poor gather, they have already been denied the opportunity to earn daily bread – and passions will be ugly. And there aren’t that many affluent that care about the world and their community to gather with mere proletariat on a regular basis.

Your proposed council of all peoples sounds an awful lot like the Hippie communes of the 1960s. Some still exist, some few are still adhering to the founding expectations. But most failed, and as a whole have had minimum impact on the world or even surrounding communities.

Community dances, they have a shot at regular activities that persist for years. Religious services, also. There are other groups that gather for a common purpose, but few affect their communities in a realistic fashion.


1 Jan 7:44pm

You are on the right track. I’m not very surprised. :-)

1 Jan 8:55pm

Brilliant idea. Let’s get proactive and do it. So an opportunity was missed at the conference at Copenhagan so let’s get on with it ourselves and have our own Transition Conference and do it at home.
Please let us all know which week The Transition Climate Change Confernece will be in 2010.
Happy New Year :o)

Josef Davies-Coates
1 Jan 9:00pm

COP 16 is expected to be held in Mexico from 29 November 2010 to 10 December 2010

Mike Grenville
1 Jan 11:25pm

Seems that Bolivia is to organize a climate change conference from April 19th to April 22nd.

The summit, organized as a world conference of social movements, will operate as a response to the failure of Copenhagen.

Fe Day
3 Jan 4:05am

Just to clarify
– when I talked about a “Council of all BEINGS” I meant, let’s find some ways to bring the trees, birds, polar bears etc. into the town square every week and have them speak (through puppets, masks, banners etc.) I know not everyone could come but if it is graphic enough, (and pushes boundaries maybe – stop the traffic) at least the exhausted ones at home might see it on TV, in the local free giveaway paper etc.

Unless communities demonstrate regularly in their own back yards, how can they expect planetary change to come? That’s why we need to make it as easy as possible for people to participate – AVAAZ does it one way, I suggest another, you suggest another… we need a smorgasbord, a constellation of activities and approaches. No one way is going to crack this. Everyone’s talents and predilections can contribute.

Adrian Hepworth (Fez)
3 Jan 12:53pm

I think the way we all have to combat climate change is for each of us to do our own thing. While protests and activities will have their place in informing the authorities about feelings of the protesters, protesters will always be a very small part of the population. If we all spread the word amongst family and friends, that will do more than any protest that gets 10 seconds on the news or few lines in the paper. I haven’t been able to convert all my friend or family, even though I keep banging on about small things like over filling the kettle or wasting car journeys etc. Can you honestly say that ALL your friend and ALL your family do as much as you do. Having a ‘show’ will alienate more people so is counter productive and will be lots of people preaching to the converted. Have a fun show by all means but only those that want to or already have changed their views will come. Not meant as a downer. Keep up the good work!

3 Jan 2:39pm

Dear Adrian
I have not seen folks doing the same as me, a lot of people around me probably use less energy than me but that has something to do with living in Latvia and neighbours don’t have much money while I take visits to family who live in the UK. I have noticed though that blogging about the thought processes of my decisions like how much energy I use compared to my neighbours does have an effect on others, it maybe small but it is worth banging on about it. Before you get too upset at me we can only use a maximum of 4.5KW of electric at any one time without blowing a fuse – makes you careful about using heavy appliances.

Brad K.
3 Jan 3:46pm


“blow a fuse” – I wonder. In the US most everything has gone to circuit breakers. I wonder what the difference is in energy consumption, between fuses and circuit breakers. Both steal a bit of the amperage flowing through the circuit, so that if too much goes, they interrupt things.

A fuse would be a simple resistor, always converting a percentage of electricity used to heat. I wonder what the proportion of current is for a circuit breaker, comparatively. I also wonder what age does to the energy impact of a fuse or circuit breaker, or accumulated energy flow.

As many fuses and circuit breakers are used, I wonder if they contribute as much “loss” as a turned off but plugged in stereo or TV.

@ Adrian Hepworth,

“I think the way we all have to combat climate change is for each of us to do our own thing. ”

I think there are three levels of concern. Certainly at the community and local level, changing your lifestyle and publishing your thoughts is a very effective way to introduce change.

At the national level, though, you are effectively hidden in the dust. Without swinging 1/10th of the voters, or the money and power leaders, you will not be seen or heard. There are tipping points, concerned leaders that will recognize and respect a reasoned letter, a request, a relevant suggestion. There are activities that get noticed, that bring issues of concern to public awareness. Protests and demonstrations serve to share passions among participants – energizing them as they for a temporary “community”, as well as informing others of their concern. Just as no nation on earth wants an event like Bush (either one) staged in Iraq, no community really wants a brick-throwing, looting “demonstration” or riot. So community leaders do pay attention to protests and rallies, at least as far as avoiding violence.

One proposed project I read about would have global impact, and seemed probable. The Scandinavian Fjords, during spring runoff, channel fresh water into the North Sea, diluting the salt. Also feeding into the North Sea, normally, is the Gulf Stream, wending it’s way from the Gulf of Mexico to moderate the climate in Europe. As it approaches the North Sea, the Gulf Stream water becomes denser due to evaporation along the way. By the time it mingles with the North Sea, the density has increased – and it sinks. And settles to the bottom of the Atlantic, creating a pool that feeds a bottom-stream toward the Gulf of Mexico. Where the cold waters are warmed, rise, are enlarged by fresher water, and again wend their way back toward the North Sea. Normally.

The proposed project was to dam the fjords, to diffuse the spring runoff in time, so that they don’t reach the North Sea area where the Gulf Stream cycle should be progressing – but the fresh water of Scandinavia dilute the waters of the Gulf Stream enough that they no longer sink, interrupting the centuries-long circulation of warmer and colder waters we call the Gulf Stream.

A project to dam several or many of the Fjords to manage spring runoff could be double-billed, as a hydroelectric project. Dam the waters in spring, act as tide engines the rest of the year.

The faltering of the Gulf Stream has been cited as the reason for atrocious weather in Europe over the last decade. Are fjord waters the sole cause for the interruption? Hard to tell. Will such a dam project guarantee restoring the Gulf Stream? Dunno. Have to try it first.

Building fjord-dams would also serve as practice levees for the cities in danger of flooding as global warming raises ocean levels.

That project won’t happen because I set my thermostat to 58 degrees and tell my neighbors. Or because I raise vegetables in my garden that I no longer need trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Or even if I write my Senator.

3 Jan 4:14pm

Sorry Brad I was using the colloquial expression, we have a 20A circuit breaker that trips if we draw too much energy to the apartment, 35A total for 6 apartments. If we use our full 20A that leaves only 15A for our other 5 neighbours. Anyway I have no idea of how much electric loss there is through the circuit breakers, sorry!

Julian Rose
4 Jan 11:29am

A glaring omission from the entire global warming/climate change debate (not least at Copenhagen) is the role that ‘weather warfare’ or environmental modification techniques are, and have been, playing in disrupting global climate for at least the past decade.
This subject appears to be ‘taboo’in all circles, even so called ‘deep green’. Why is this?
It is best to know the truth,not hide from it. Otherwise one can waste a lot of energy chasing the wrong villains.

For anyone not familiar with deliberate climate change for military advantage (USA at the fore-front) could make a start by reading Professor Chossudovsky’s “Owning the Weather” (internet)
See ‘Global Research’ archived material.

I think you will be surprised by just how much has been going on – covertly – in this arena since 1945.

Ed Straker
4 Jan 5:17pm

“This subject appears to be ‘taboo’in all circles, even so called ‘deep green’. Why is this?”

Because it’s tinfoil.

Ian Clotworthy
24 Jan 6:42pm

“What if they held a Climate Summit, and nobody came?”

Isn’t that exactly what the politicians would want? Remodelling our own communities in a more sustainable way is what we are doing for the rest of the year!