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11 Mar 2011

Somerset Transition reversal raises questions over localism agenda

You win some, you lose some.  In July 2008, Somerset County Council, then a Liberal Democrat-controlled council, passed a resolution supporting its local Transition initiatives.  It was much lauded as a visionary piece of policy-making, a council noting the vibrant activity of Transition groups within the county and deciding to honour that and to begin seriously to explore with them the potential overlaps and interfaces between those two ‘tiers’ in the community.  However, it has become clear that what started so boldly and with such great promise has since fallen away.  In the spirit of learning from such reversals, this piece explores what we can learn from recent developments in Somerset, and also what we might draw from them in relation to the government’s current ‘localism’ agenda.

So let’s start this story by first looking at the resolution itself.  While the Somerset resolution did not commit the Council to any financial support of initiatives, it stated that the Council:

  1. Acknowledges the work done by communities in Somerset on Transition Towns and that the independence of the Transition Movement is key to its grass roots appeal.
  2. As demonstrated in its Climate Change Strategy, fully endorses the Transition Town Movement and subscribes to the principles and ethos of the organisation’s goals to reduce dependence on fuel oil and create more sustainable communities.
  3. Commits to providing support and assistance to all towns in Somerset that wish to join this initiative to help them achieve the goals they set for themselves as local communities, as demonstrated under the ‘Community Initiatives’ section of the Climate Change Strategy.
  4. Therefore, requests the Scrutiny and Executive Committees to consider through the council’s strategic planning process; allocating funds to assist in achieving the outcomes of the Transition Towns Movement in Somerset and requiring all directorates to engage with and provide support for Transition Initiatives in Somerset
  5. Through the work outlined above, seeks to become the first Transition Authority in the UK.
  6. Agrees to undertake a review of its budgets and services to achieve a reduction in dependence on fuel oil and produce an energy descent action plan in line with the principles of the Transition Initiative.

It took everyone by surprise.  It was drafted and passed with no consultation with either the Transition initiatives on the ground in Somerset, or with Transition Network.  We were all amazed and delighted.  While clearly an exciting and ground-breaking development, it resulted in a lot of head-scratching (an excellent MSc dissertation by Niamh McDonald about the resolution can be read here).  Subsequently, as a way of exploring how the resolution might work in practice, a document, ‘A Transition Audit of Somerset County Council’ was written by Dan Hurring for the Council in 2009, which audited existing activities and how they overlapped with Transition (unfortunately this document doesn’t appear to be online anywhere). 

However, soon after it was published, there was an election, and the administration changed, becoming a Conservative-led Council.  This brought with it a considerable change of attitude and organisational priorities.  Over the past few months, the Council has moved from having a commitment on climate change, as stated in its 2008 Climate Change Strategy, to providing:

“leadership to prepare the county for the effects of climate change and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as engaging local communities, key stakeholders, government agencies and the business community to deal with the challenges presented by climate change”

… to their ‘Medium Term Financial Plan’ (published in February) which states that “some services will be stopped completely e.g. climate change work, work on renewable energy, natural environment policy and delivery”.  Their Climate Change officer has been made redundant as of April 1st, and the Sustainable Development team will be abolished from the same date.  In a remarkably restrained email announcing the ending of her post, the Climate Change officer wrote:

“I have enjoyed working with you over the past couple of years and it is a pity we could not have achieved more together.  I hope local priorities will once more be realigned with national priorities so that organisations in Somerset are able to work together to tackle the causes and effects of climate change”.

SCC is still doing work around reducing its own footprint, but not that of the wider county.  Given that emissions produced directly by the activities of the Council are around 1% of those of the county as a whole, this is pretty insignificant (although worthwhile).  At the same time, the likelihood in Somerset of flooding is increasing (large parts of the county are, after all, very close to sea level) but the Financial Plan, at the same time, is cutting spending on flooding risk management by 27% over the next 4 years.

The network of Transition initiatives in Somerset has now written to SCC to express their assertion that in erasing climate change and renewable energy from the work of the Council it has forefitted any claim to being a Transition local authority.  They write:

“This situation underscores the reckless short-sightedness of an authority which has in a short time moved from a potentially leading position in preparing for a low-carbon or zero-carbon world, to one where our county is sleepwalking towards the shocks and disruptions that will follow, as sure as night follows day”.

Transition Network will be following suit, and has written to SCC to state, with sadness, that we consider the July 2008 resolution to now be void.  I do not mean for this post to be in any sense party political.  The current swathing spending cuts are impacting councils of every political hue and are clearly forcing councils to think hard about what their priorities actually are.  What we are seeing in Somerset though, tells a story that directly challenges what is happening in the wider political landscape, and the government’s assertion that it will be the ‘greenest government ever’.  It also challenges the concept of localism, one of the cornerstones of current government thinking.

Localism, as has been discussed here in the past, is the idea that central government should be made smaller for ideological reasons, and that power is dispersed to local councils and communities instead.  While in some areas of life this is really important, and key for a successful Transition, in terms of climate change, it is a disaster.  I wrote a while ago about my experience at last year’s Development Trust Association conference where David Prout of the Department for Communities and Local Government talked about the Big Society and about localism.  I challenged him on how a local carbon economy could possibly ever be delivered when the power over whether and how it happens is devolved to Councils for whom it often isn’t a priority or, in some cases, who are actively opposed to climate change even being a concern.  In my review of the day I wrote:

“…he said that at the moment what happens is that windfarms are often routinely refused planning due to the ideological stance of the Councillors, and that they are, as he put it, “playing to the gallery”, keeping their political allies happy, but safe in the knowledge that their decision will be called in and reviewed by the Secretary of State.  They make decisions in this irresponsible way, but, he argued, the best way to deal with this is to devolve decision making to them so that they have to learn to take responsibility for their actions.  It needs a long term process of increasing maturity which will force them to think about the long term issues.  Government can either, he said, regulate, or it can change the way in which government works.

Transition Training with Somerset County Council, April 2009 (before the election).

Recent developments in Somerset are another substantial blow to the idea of the Big Society and localism, especially in the context of a co-ordinated national response to climate change.  If central government is to be contracted, and responsibility for the installation of a renewable energy infrastructure is to become that of local councils, the Somerset story strongly suggests that this is a strategy guaranteed to fail.  National government can set climate change targets, emissions reduction strategies and targets for how much renewable energy it wants to see installed, as it has done in this week’s Carbon Plan published by DECC, yet all of it will struggle to actually happen when faced with councils that have downgraded climate change to the extent of being a non-issue, as Somerset have just done. It means that rather than, as was the original idea, Councils being empowered and enabled to be bolder and more pro-active, ideological constraints are coming to the fore and making a nonsense of the whole idea.

From a Transition perspective, there is a huge amount that local authorities can do if they take an engaged and pro-active role in the process of building resilience in their area.  There are some great examples of councils working with their local Transition groups.  Woking and Kirklees spring to mind as councils that are doing bold and visionary work on climate change.  Yet recent developments in Somerset indicate that these great steps forward can just as easily turn around and go backwards.

It is worth just pausing here to remind ourselves of the scale of the climate change challenge.  If we are to reduce our carbon emissions in order to avoid runaway climate change, what scale of cuts are we looking at?  One of the most detailed studies of this[1] concluded that the world’s emissions will need to have peaked by 2020 and that a 72% cut by 2050 will give us an 84% chance of avoiding runaway climate change.  In practical terms this means that where we are heading in terms of personal emissions is somewhere between an 86 and 92% reduction on 1990 levels by 2050.  It is worth stopping to read that twice.

To put that in perspective, that is roughly the per capita emissions produced by Mozambique today.  On top of this, there are those who argue that our current emissions are deceptively low because they don’t take into account all the goods we import, and the emissions caused by their manufacture and transportation.  Creating a low carbon economy is, after all, much easier if you no longer manufacture anything.  It is estimated that around a quarter of China’s emissions come from producing goods for export.  With the average UK carbon footprint being 9.7 tonnes, our imports of goods add another 4.7 tonnes per person, nearly 50%.  It is clear that the challenge of climate change is about far more than low energy bulbs, solar panels and driving slower.   It is a profound shift in what we do and how we do it.  It is a complete adjustment of what we imagine to be lying in front of us, what our expectations are of the future.  It is not a shift that will come about by accident.

At the same time, the UK is rapidly approaching a major oil crunch, with oil at $114 a barrel today, but having passed $120 last week.  George Monbiot wrote yesterday about the scale of the challenge that presents and the level of resistance to even the smallest changes.  On Sunday Chris Huhne announced the need for an emergency plan in relation to rising oil prices, having just days before announced that when oil passes $100 a barrel his department’s low carbon plan for the UK makes better financial sense than the current high carbon one.  Hmmm.

Recent events in Somerset are saddening. Transition initiatives in Somerset continue their work, but a huge opportunity has now been taken away from them.  The world was looking to the leadership and the imagination that was being shown in Somerset.   These times need boldness and vision and we had a taste of that.  Peak oil, climate change and the unravelling of the UK’s economy represent huge challenges, but also great opportunities.  When climate change is seen as a stand-alone, distinct issue, rather than something that cuts across all aspects of a council’s work, it can be simply crossed off the list to save a few quid.  Yet at the same time, the county spends hundreds of millions of pounds a year on imported energy, much the same on imported food and building materials.  Money is pouring out of Somerset, and with some imagination, Somerset County Council could see making Somerset more resilient as an extraordinary opportunity.  Somerset County Council moved these discussions forward significantly, and we owe them our thanks.  Now that they have dropped the baton, it is over to other more enlightened authorities to pick up where Somerset left off.


[1] Meinshausen, M. Meinshausen, N. Hare, W. Raper, S. C. B. Frieler, K. Knutti, R. Frame, D. J. Allen, M. R. (2009) Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees C. Nature 458, 1158-1162

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

18 Comments

Dan Olner
11 Mar 11:33am

I don’t know the area, but some quick googling seems to reveal that council leader Ken Maddock has generally supported climate-related activities (or has been seen to e.g.

http://www.movingsomersetforward.co.uk/latest-news/council-leader-switches-cleaner-fuel

… but others have denied the science of climate change e.g. an older council memo:

http://bit.ly/hJHhQw

Has some transition folk talking, but Cllr Edward James: “he explained that he welcomed the economics but for him global warming had not been proved.”

So I wonder what the general understanding/acceptance of the science is? We already know that among rank-and-file conservatives, there’s much less acceptance of the basic science.

It may be that basic groundwork on getting across the basics of the science is a tiresome but necessary first step. Without that, any action on climate change is going to appear to these councillors as frivolous spending. They’re massively wrong, but they won’t learn that without some help, I suspect!

Dan Olner
11 Mar 11:37am

Sorry, second thought: does anything like a nice pamphlet exist for targetting people like cllr James? I could help put one together if not: there’s a whole set of memes coming out of the Mail / Telegraph etc that can be put neatly next to the actual truth. These could then be sent, and someone follow up afterwards to talk to them.

Dan Olner
11 Mar 11:49am

Gah: hopefully last one, very sorry for the multiple posts! I’d argue every transition group could do with at least one person who’s following the key climate science blogs, so they can quickly rebut skeptical or full-on denier talking points. There are good reasons why not everyone follows this stuff, but it can often mean that when faced with even the most easily refuted of denier talking points, people are left stumped.

Councillors and others may have, in good faith, bought into the ‘science isn’t settled’ meme, and they just need a gentle steer in the right direction! But that requires having people willing and able to do so. The big lesson of the past eighteen months: we can only rely on the media to make that job harder for us.

Pete North
11 Mar 12:17pm

Dan suggested a pamphlet for local councllors who were unconvinced about climate change. Low Cabon Liverpool have produced a brief on this, which you can do0wnload here:

http://www.lowcarbonliverpool.com/userimages/uploads/05_%20Findings%20and%20Reccs%20-%20The%20Science%20Base.pdf

Cara Naden
11 Mar 12:46pm

Actulally Ken Maddock clearly doesn’t support the climate change adgenda. In his previous role as leader of Mendip District council he sacked all the climate change related officer posts when he got in power. He also tried to stop a local Straw bale self build home and when he took over leadership of SCC he and his cabinate began taking out the environmental sector – even before this issue of a deficit came up. The LPG was a green wash publicity stunt.
Good luck Dan – the best you can do is become a councillor yourself and make the changes from within. As clearly these councillors say things they don’t understand or care about and then brake their promises. It is time we actually got involved and made a change to all this!

Chrissie Godfrey
11 Mar 3:30pm

I am a member of Taunton Transition Town group (Taunton is in Somerset) and have been involved with the cross county group of Transitioners working to get the message across to the County. I am bitterly disappointed at their desperate short sightedness – but also wanted to say that all is not lost in Somerset. We are a two tier county, and Taunton Deane Borough Council, my own lot, are quite a different kettle of fish. In 2001, they let me and my partner Paul loose on all of their employees and over half of their Members to deliver a series of workshops that got the science across extremely well, then moved into visioning what a resilient Borough might be like. That has contributed to making resilience a whole organisation issue for them. We have a Climate Change Officer; one of the Council’s three Directors meets with us regularly to share planning and ideas; the workshops we ran spawned an internal Green Champions team who led staff in achieving their 10:10 target; and they helped us get funding from our Local Strategic Partnership to run the same workshops out in parishes around the Borough which we have now done. We have elections in May, and already have a date to give the resulting Full Council a briefing on the key issues of energy descent in September. We have only scratched the surface of what we need and must do in Taunton Deane, but at least the dialogue and commitment is totally there.

Paul Birch
11 Mar 4:25pm

Another thing worth mentioning here is that, although SCC are a real problem right now, some of the District and Borough Councils are still working hard on this agenda. Specifically Taunton Deane Borough Council (who have also had a switch from a Liberal Democrat to a Conservative administration) are doing fabulous work with the Taunton Transition Town group. More power to them I say.

Michael Townsend
11 Mar 6:53pm

I am saddened to hear of this reversal in priorities. This clearly undermines the local transition to a low carbon world and all this entails for the environment. It is also staggeringly short-sighted economically. As you point out the high-level business case, driven by rising oil prices, is already there. And it does feel like we are going back 20 years or so, with the lack of joined-up thinking in government.
Then there is the local economic impact. thinking of a not-too-distant future scenario of scarce and expensive resources, including fossil fuels, local businesses need to get started on their transition plans now, or face serious threats to their survival. The whole of the local and national economies need to start building the necessary resilience. What message does Somerset council send out to local businesses with this move? As you say, where is the leadership?
By making the post and the issue redundant, what has been saved? A relatively minor cost, I should imagine. As our research in this field has shown, the business case at micro level is also already there (www.globalsustainablebusiness.org). Sustainability initiatives focused on all aspects, not only carbon, can save up to 40% of operational budgets, with significant returns on investments, let alone the benefit of reduced dependency on fossil fuels and improved sustainability impacts. Would it be beyond reason for Somerset to make wise investments today, to yield greater benefits in the short and long-term? These benefits can multiply, from initiatives within, which can then cascade throughout all other organisations and businesses working with the Council.
In short, we all need to be working for a common cause at national and local levels, towards rebuilding our economy, in a balanced, low carbon and sustainable way. Whether or not we have a lean central government, I don’t really care too much, but for an issue as important as this, we do need a strong central agenda, based on a sound rationale, consistently applied across all regions. I wish you well in Somerset and wish for good common and business sense to return.

Doug Atkins
11 Mar 7:13pm

This only demonstrates the totally unnecessary short-sightedness of the Transition Movement attaching itself to and basing itself on CO2-grounded “global warming,” which will remain unconfirmed and controversial science. Meanwhile, “peak oil” and therefore “peak everything,” which is far better grounded and far less controversial, is sufficient in itself to justify the entire movement and all its programs. And oil continues to rise to a peak. No other justification is necessary than this. A gradual easinf away from “global warming” to a total focus on resource-shortage descent and transitional alternatives will strengthen the movement with Conservatives. Since it suffices in itself, and since conservation of resources is a genuinely conservative position (as opposed to those who use “conservatism” as a cover for unmitigated exploitation and greed–and they will always be with us anyway), then why not simplify the focus of Transition to resource scarcity and its concomitant long transitional descent. Win-win.

[...] a couple of articles to bring us back down to earth.  The first from Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement, and the sad story on how Somerset [...]

Geoff Trowbridge
12 Mar 4:24am

Good, thought-provoking post, Rob, thanks for writing it. First of all, I should begin my comment by saying I’m an American, from a state in the southeastern part of the country called Tennessee. My sense is that this has mostly been a “British-only” conversation, so I wanted to be clear about that first.

I think its one of the great questions of the Transition movement, as well as all kinds of ecology-centered activism, of how much should we involved the government? And when should we involve the government? When is it useful and productive, and when is it not? These are all crucial areas for any person doing this kind of work to explore right now.

Coming from the United States, I am used to living in a country where a majority (if a small one) of the population has major doubts as to the very existence of climate change. We only have two nationally viable political parties, and one of them has pretty much a blanket policy of disbelieving in any kind of man-made ‘climate chaos’ (I like that term), and regardless never does anything to mitigate it. The other political party does mostly believe it exists, but any legislation it’s able to eke through is almost always seriously compromised and woefully insufficient.

And as for my local political scene, its even more extreme: the entire Tennessee state government is controlled by conservative Republicans (with the sort of exception of the moderate Republican Governor), and trust me there will be not energy related legislation designed to mitigate climate change (which they all think is a liberal myth) passing through that government anytime soon. A growing number of local governments are taking action that will encourage a viable climate, but its very patchwork.

So I recognize a lot of this is coming from my own perspective, as an American who firmly believes (and has tangibly witnessed) the reality of climate change, but is used to most of my fellow Americans dismissing this as a serious issue, or an issue at all.

When I first read Rob’s post here, my reaction was: Well, so what? Just because the Somerset Council decides to not endorse or provide any support to the local Transition initiative, is this supposed to be some huge defeat to the work of the initiative? And is the only possible answer to re-centralize the decision making for climate change policy (in the states we’d be lucky to even have a government using the phrase “climate change policy”) to the national British government?

In my opinion- and I realize I’m somewhat arguing with Rob Hopkins himself here!- this is rather undermining a basic precept of the Transition towns concept, and the ethos behind it. To me, what I originally found so inspiring about TT was the basic idea that “We, the people, can radically transform our lives, our economy, and our community for an ecologically harmonious future- AND have a blast doing it!” Who wouldn’t want to join a movement like that, right? It was positive, genuinely grassroots, and very practical and hands on- gardens and cob houses instead of protests and lobbying sessions.

Over the past seven months, I’ve spent most of my time on a long island in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., called Whidbey Island, interning for a Transition town group called Transition Whidbey. Its been around for a little over three full years now, and was one of the first groups in the U.S. to form. We are doing some useful and important work, but I’ve been really bothered during a lot of my time here by a pervasive attitude that all we have to do as an organization is get “the system”, whether that be the local, state, or federal government, to go along with our rather ambitious agenda, and then we can create an Energy Descent Plan, and after that dissolve the group. We’ve created a fully sustainable community, yay! We’re done!

Well, wait a minute- really? That’s it? Compared to the vision of the Transition movement that was starting to become apparent to me, that seems so narrow and uninspiring and honestly rather dull. To me those words “positive, practical, and grassroots” really mean something, something that is at the heart of what I’d like to see this movement cultivate in the world. To me they inspire us to create a long-term ecological consciousness, and a society willing to live, work and play in a way which reflects that consciousness. That idea seems far deeper and more substantial than the movements of mere governmental administrations, and far more Resilient too- think about social resiliency, or political resiliency here.

If we don’t actually have a society that has a basic ecological ethic (We are all important living beings connected to each other by living, breathing systems that give us life), then is it really possible to have a political body that produces, in a specific piece of legislation, an ecological ethic that the society its designed to serve doesn’t even have? I’m not so sure.

To me, we MUST cultivate an ecological consciousness- one that involves the head, hands, and heart- in all aspects of our daily lives, in OUR communities, on our streets, in our apartment buildings, in every nook and cranny of wherever we are. This consciousness must be such a permanent and essential part of our identity and culture that no oppressive government, corporation, or gang of armed militants (or perhaps oppressive religious institution) could ever, ever take it away from us.

If that kind of society existed in parts of the industrialized world, it wouldn’t matter whether the government was receptive to that consciousness or not. My guess is, any place where the social identity is at that place already is going to naturally produce political leaders who reflect the society they come from. This is already apparent to me in places like Totnes itself, or here in the U.S. in a place like say, Burlington, Vermont or Berkeley, California.

But if the government doesn’t agree with the society its supposed to represent? Or even if it actively opposes and tries to crush it, as we’re seeing tragically right now in Libya? Ultimately, the base society and culture will win out, because its stronger than all the pressure, guns, and military might of the oppressing government. A couple thousand bureacrats, and a handful of armed legions of soldiers too scared or too brainwashed to put their guns down, is still only a minority of the society: it is the majority we must sway, not David Cameron or Barack Obama or Hu Jintao, or even the UNFCCC.

We must sway our friends and neighbors, our family who lives close by, and especially those in our local community who we have radical disagreements with- we must come to an agreement for a basic valuing of ecology. The fact that we live close to someone, and breathe the same air and drink the same water, and walk the same streets and roads as them, provides a fundamental degree of interconnectedness that should break down all the walls of political, social, economic, and religious conflict. That’s the whole idea, right? Connectedness.

If we have that faith, we must change the metaphorical “Somerset” of the world, not far-away centralized nation-states. And the government of “Somerset” (fill in your own town here) changing is not the point either- it must be the root culture and social values of it, that will inoculate itself into any government that comes to exist.

Does this mean we should forgot about engaging governments all together? Of course not. Be strategic. If a national or provincial or local political body WANTS to give you real money for a project as bold and radical as what Transition is proposing, my God man don’t be a purist and take it! There are many compassionate, decent, and caring people who work all over the world in different governments, and many of those people “get” ecology. They get that we as a species and as communities need to make some big changes, and often they are already trying to implement those changes through the government that employs them.

BUT, but, but again I say, the root of the tree must heal and transform if the branches are to heal as well. And the root is us…. you and me….right here….right now. THAT is the great empowering idea that I have gotten from Transition. If somehow that seems so alien to the purpose of this movement that I’ve devoted much of my energy to, then maybe I’m in the wrong movement! I hope not, though.

Just my two cents. This is an important conversation, I’m glad we’re having it. I’d be especially interested in hearing Rob Hopkins’s response (I actually talked to you Rob a couple years back, via Andy Langford, on the internet, but your probably don’t remember it), but any continuation of this thread would be welcome and useful.

namaste all, Geoff

Dan Olner
12 Mar 10:54am

Doug: you’re completely wrong. I’ve done my best to follow up every ‘science isn’t settled’ story and they’re nonsense, every last one. Please, for pity’s sake, go and spend some time at:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/
http://tamino.wordpress.com/

Or any of the other fantastic resources available on the web and read them. Almost all ‘evidence’ that questions climate change doesn’t even pass basic tests of logic. Ones that do (Svenmark maybe, cosmoclimatology) may just about have found some small, interesting factor, but are then taken by the denialosphere and lauded as “final nails in the coffin of global warming”. They fail to practice even the most basic of decent scientific standards: weighing the importance of factors.

The media has managed to help in portraying this notion that there are two sides to the climate change argument. No, there aren’t. I’ll quote from one of the best recent syntheses of the situation we’re in, the Copenhagen Diagnosis:

http://www.ccrc.unsw.edu.au/Copenhagen/Copenhagen_Diagnosis_LOW.pdf

- Global mean air-temperature is projected to warm 2°C – 7°C above pre-industrial by 2100. The wide range is mainly due to uncertainty in future emissions.
- There is a very high probability of the warming exceeding 2°C unless global emissions peak and start to decline rapidly by 2020.
- Warming rates will accelerate if positive carbon feedbacks significantly diminish the efficiency of the land and ocean to absorb our CO2 emissions.
- Many indicators are currently tracking near or above the worst case projections from the IPCC AR4 set of model simulations.

That uncertainty should be a comfort to no-one: if you’re driving towards a cliff in the dark, you slam on the brakes. You don’t debate the probability of how far the cliff edge is. Co2 will stay in the atmosphere from between 50-200 years. The knock-on effects will take millennia to play out in full: we simply can’t afford to get this wrong.

And arguing that peak oil is a bigger problem is also massively dangerous: what if we manage to go over to coal-to-liquids? Do you know how much carbon is in the ground, and how much of it we need to leave there to avoid the most serious effects of climate change? I’ll leave that one to you to find out.

Read the above. Investigate. Find out more. Then tell everyone: this ‘science isn’t settled’ stuff is bullshit, plain and simple. We have to act and we have to do it now.

Trish Knox
13 Mar 5:26pm

Many humans remain polarized in the paradigm “me vs you” and “us vs them.” Others have evolved out of that conscious lens and behavior. We cannot change the consciousness of others. We can attract those with like minds and hearts and create a dynamic and intelligent community. That in itself is a worthwhile accomplishment. We will need one another and a resilient core as Mother Earth continues to go through her own evolutionary changes. Let’s keep our lens on the Transition connections we have built and continue to build. We do that through the Transition Tone that is being broadcast: positive solutions, the creative genius of community and hope.

Love to all in these times of transition.

ian leadbeater
13 Mar 9:05pm

The problem is that there is not even a political party that understands the problems we face or has a viable solution. Global warming is happening this will result in sea level rises, and extream weather events irrespective of the cause. Peak oil whilst may prove a problem is a minor issue in comparison

Trugs
14 Mar 11:04am

With climate change sceptics I’ve taken to avoiding the argument using the points below, and turning to a discussion about the immediacy and urgency of energy security issues, which most have still not heard of, let alone “thought” about.

I make two suggestions when confronted by people who think climate change is not man made/not happening: 1. I suggest that they publish their research and evidence immediately because if it proves something different from the prevailing scientific evidence, it is likely to win them a Nobel prize. 2. I suggest they consider the precautionary principle – if we don’t know whether there’s a risk, why not err on the side of minimum potential risk rather than behave as if there could not possibly be any consequences for human actions ?

A third suggestion which has to be used very gently, is that they look within to their own motives. Are they sure that it isn’t just wishful thinking which drives a no man-made climate change position ?

Clare Ewins
15 Mar 12:30pm

Geoff: very much agree with your post – while we all want local and national governments to get behind transition initiatives, I also hope that the heart of the movement is coming bottom-up from transformed individuals joining together in creative ways. I’m devoting my energy to trying to help people first with personal transition and then in forming mutually beneficial networks. Very small scale but I share your feeling that change needs to come from root to tip.

Cara Naden
24 Mar 5:36pm

Lets not get to distracted – climate change is happening whether influenced by humans or not and we will need to adapt to these changes in order to survive. Somerset is vulnerable to severe flooding being so close to sea level. We can either wait for shit to hit the fan or we can try and do something about it to reduce the impact now and for future generations (in fact I believe it will affect us all sooner rather than later).
Resources are depleting rapidly as population continues to rise. We are a conveyor belt society – easy come, easy go with out thinking about the impacts and consequences of our actions. For these reasons we need to work with nature rather than against it for it will bite us on the bum in a big way!
But back to the Government issue – we pay taxes & they spend our money on all our infrastructures, development, energy, business, well being etc…if they continue to invest our money in the things that are not supporting the Transitional ethos then we are going to have work against the tide and our efforts in making these changes are a waste of time. This county has gone from one working towards a model of a Transitional authority to one that has thrown it all out – out of spite! and is jeopardising all the hard work gone on from council officers and grass root communities. We are running out of time to repair the damage done by the Conservative take over at SCC. I agree that there are other local authorities in the district who do work with the Transition movement but SCC are the ones holding the purse strings and the environmental agenda is one hit heavily by this. Here’s an example – the SCC have pulled their support of environmental education – myself and my colleagues were the environmental education team based at an environmental centre – I am looking at possibly joining the millions of unemployed seeking JSA in a few weeks when we were promised the Green Deal – a new wave of green jobs for all – what a load of bollox! Plus with all this brainwashing about recession and deficit no one is spending money on environmental issues yet we can raise over £74,000,000 for Comic relief! Maybe we should apply for funding?!

Alexis Rowell
29 Mar 11:41am

Glad that Chrissie and Paul mentioned Taunton Deane District Council which I always cite as the phoenix which rose from the ashes of Somerset County Council.

The executive summary of “A Transition Audit of Somerset County Council” by Dan Hurring is an appendix in my book “Communities, councils and carbon – what we can do if governments won’t”. I think that’s the only place it’s actually been published. The new Conservative administration at Somerset didn’t want it to see the light of day.

Alexis