PUBLISHED: 10:55 26 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013
Steve Atkins of Transition Town Dorchester and Linda Screen from the Transition Network report how local communities are moving from oil dependency to local resilience
The world is changing. Every day we hear news of either another world crisis or a local problem. From wildly fluctuating petrol prices, gas security scares, and the ups and downs of the stock market to local issues such as flash flooding, drive-to-school traffic jams, decline of local shops and the cattle-market experience of the supermarkets - never before has modern life been so fraught.
However, in the middle of this negativity, there is a growing bunch of ordinary people who are questioning whether all the current and expected changes need necessarily be bad and what people and communities can do to tip the doomsday scales in the opposite direction.
In the last three years more than half-a-million people all over the world have decided to become part of the Transition Movement. These Transition Towns originate from an idea germinated in Totnes in Devon on how to create more positive routes into a sustainable and happier future. The Transition Network realised that people want a future where they can celebrate and be proud of their local distinctiveness, embrace the true character and spirit of local communities, and find local and alternatively fuelled energy solutions that wean us off our current oil dependency.
Avoiding the usual pitfalls of environmental smugness and by involving ordinary people and not just those in open-toed sandals, the Transition Movement really does seem to be heralding a change. Where people have grown tired of doom-and-gloom politics and convenience foods they are suddenly beginning to remember the wonderful and simple pleasures of things such as sandcastles, local-food picnics, watermill technology and cycling. As communities realise the opportunities for a locally active and altogether happier future, Dorset's seemingly quiet towns and villages, along with the Radio 4 village of Ambridge and hundreds of other towns in England, have stepped into the middle of Transition.
Transition Towns - what they are
and what they do
Linda Screen, a landscape architect and local-government consultant from Martinstown, works with the Transition Network and is a member of Transition Town Dorchester: "It's all about just getting on with things in a low-carbon, community-spirited, but self-directed way. We don't need to wait for permission to reduce our dependency on oil or to alter our emphasis towards achieving happier lives. Treading lightly on the Earth to leave a better future for our children - I like that. It helps you to be creative, more ethically responsible and to focus on finding better ways of doing things. By having a more positive outlook, more people want to be part of the change. It's refreshing to work together and find local solutions rather than waste time hunting for someone to blame.
"In Dorset, initiatives have been happening for just over a year and already we've 13 communities getting involved. One of the Dorchester projects is a local-food co-operative. This takes regular orders to help people disentangle from relying wholly on the supermarkets and to begin increasing the local food element of our consuming. Knowing that there's only enough food in the supermarket system for about nine meals at any given time means we need to diversify our food supply - but local produce also gives us back genuine food that's not been messed around with. By connecting with organic growers and farmers locally we can improve food quality, choice, affordability and taste: being less dependent on oil-based fertilisers or reducing food miles is a bonus, and who can argue with that?
"Other activities include: food and gardening groups looking at allotments, garden sharing and helping more people to grow at home; energy-saving events; an earth-oven workshop; a local car-share scheme; farm walks, biomass boiler tour and permaculture events. It's just a start, but already it feels good and there's something for everyone.
"Transition seems to inspire people in small ways and this builds confidence so we feel able to realise our own opportunities. We don't know what might happen next. There are lots of people hoping for some technological magic bullet to solve all our energy problems, but even the Government is steering us towards more local food, micro-generation and local renewables. It makes sense to find our own local answers.
"One thing we can be certain of is that we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy upslope and there's no reason for us not to do the same on the downslope."
Transition for Dorset
Steve Atkins is a landscape photographer based in Dorset and a member of Transition Town Dorchester. For more than 12 years he's been photographing the breathtaking beauty of Dorset's countryside and the negative impact that people are having on it. Seeing what's happening on the ground has inspired him to search out more of the positive images and stories of hope within Dorset's Transition Towns.
"It's incredible how Transition is spreading all over the county. More people are getting interested in finding out the facts about peak oil and climate change and want to begin positive projects or start new Transition Initiatives. Dorset's sustainability group, DA21, has been helping us get people together, increase awareness and provide Transition Network Training locally. This has helped towns to understand the principles behind Transition and work towards being part of the biggest social movement of our time."
Steve continues: "A significant difference I've seen is that it's not really about running eco-campaigns or evangelising to people. If you watch the news for even a week you'll see images and reports of the energy and climate problems we're facing, but it's much harder to find out what the answers are.
"Transition Towns just give people the unequivocal facts, we try to work out the unknowns between us and let people make their own decisions about what they want to do.
"For me, using my photography to convey the fragility and preciousness of our world and to minimise my own carbon footprint is really important. If I can also help people visualise a more hopeful future then maybe that's part of my contribution. Realising that everyone has something to offer is vital. With a willingness to think a little differently or to try something new, amazing things can happen - that's what Transition is really all about."
For more information on Transition Towns visit:
Transition Town Dorchester: www.transitiontowndorchester.org
The Transition Network: www.transitiontowns.org
Dorset Agenda 21: www.da21.org.uk
Steve Atkins Photography: www.steveatkinsphotography.co.uk
Transition initiatives in Dorset include:
Transition BH Bournemouth and Poole: www.transitionbh.org
Transition Town Bridport: www.transitiontownbridport.co.uk
Transition Town Christchurch: www.newforesttransition.org
Transition Town Dorchester: www.transitiontowndorchester.org
Transition Lyme Regis: www.dorsetagenda21.org.uk/
Transition Purbeck - Purbeck Environmental Action Team:
Transition Town Sherborne: www.dorsetagenda21.org.uk/
Transition Town Shaftesbury: www.transitiontownshaftesbury.org.uk
Transition Blandford: www.dorsetagenda21.org.uk
Transition Weymouth and Portland: www.transitiontown-news.org
Transition Town Wimborne:www.transitiontownwimborne.org