Introduction to transition

Transition wordle

If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late

If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little

But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.

(Transitions network)

What is the Transition Movement?

The central theme of the Transition’s movement concerns moving away from fossil fuel dependency to a more sustainable way of living. This is not just because of the issues of climate change, but also because the world’s resources are depleting rapidly, with oil discovery past its peak ‘peak oil’ and many other resources becoming less available as they become ever more difficult to find. Therefore, it is now paramount that we reconsider our future way of living and consider how we make the transition from fossil fuels to a sustainable energy future.

The Transition Initiative outlines the following principles, on their website as the drivers of the transition movement:

Climate change and peak oil require urgent action.
Life with less energy is inevitable. It is better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.
Industrial society has lost the resilience to be able to cope with energy shocks.
We have to act together, now.
Infinite growth within a finite system (such as planet Earth) is impossible.
We demonstrated great ingenuity and intelligence as we raced up the energy curve over the last 150 years. There’s no reason why we can’t use those qualities, and more, as we negotiate our way up from the depths back towards the sun and air.
If we plan and act early enough, and use our creativity and cooperation to unleash the genius within our local communities, we can build a future far more fulfilling and enriching, more connected to and more gentle on the Earth, than the life we have today.

These issues have inspired a Transitions Movement that has its origins in the UK, but is now spreading around the world to the US, France and many other countries. The Transitions Movement was originally developed by Permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins in Kinsale in Ireland. It came into being when he and Naresh Giangrande developed the original ideas of transition into a practical movement or network as it is sometimes referred to.

The first UK Transition Town began in Totnes in Devon; since then the movement has spread far and wide and has become a global phenomenon.

What are Transition Towns?

Transition towns can be simply stated thus: towns, cities and villages that are:

Moving away from fossil fuels towards long-lasting and ecologically sustainable alternatives situated within a local community setting.

It is crucial to develop localised solutions to meeting a community’s needs, because the less you have to rely on external provision the more resilient your community becomes. Transition Communities seek to develop new ideas and implement existing methods for reducing energy usage and their current reliance on long supply chains that are totally dependent on fossil fuels for the creation, production and distribution of essential items.

“These communities have started up projects in areas of food, transport, energy, education, housing, waste, and arts etc., as small-scale local responses to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship and shrinking supplies of cheap energy. Together, these small-scale responses make up something much bigger, and help show the way forward for governments, business and the rest of us.” (Transition network)

These movements are part of a network that shares ideas and initiatives in order to develop the transition movement further and to help create resilience in the coming post-oil world. It is about looking at problems pragmatically and producing workable solutions that are easy to implement. Transition projects also seek to be inclusive, respect diversity and accept differences of opinion so that the movements reflect the voices of the people involved. At present (2011) there are over 40 Transition Towns in the UK, with more signing-up on a weekly basis as the movement gathers momentum against a background of peak oil and the decline in other precious resources.

The following highlights how the transitions movement is attempting to address some of the issues. The development of these schemes and projects adhere to the essence of permaculture principles:

“Firstly to preserve what is best, secondly to enhance existing systems, and lastly to introduce new elements” (Whitefield, p.4)

Food Production

Food is an important area of provision with the Transition Movement as it crucial to be able to feed communities. Some of the ways the movement has sought to address this is through establishing local food growing projects, urban orchards, back yard permaculture, seed swap events, community allotments and other such initiatives that focus on community supported agriculture as key methods of developing and maintaining local food supplies. These are practical, local solutions to food supply.

The Food of the future has to be grown locally and sustainably when at present fossil fuels are involved in every aspect of how our food is grown from fertilizers to the diesel the powers the trucks to deliver to supermarkets.


Transport is also another area where the ingenuity and creativity of Transitionists has led to a plethora of local solutions such as lift share, cycling cooperatives, and bio fuel production which is made from the discarded vegetable oil from restaurants and cafes within the town or city which the Transition movement is operating. If we have localised economies and actually work within the community that we live in, we can have a huge impact on the need to travel long distances.


How we keep ourselves warm is another area in which fossil fuel alternatives are constantly being developed and revisited. There are now many ways in which we can keep ourselves warm and cook on in a low carbon and sustainable manner, rocket stove mass heaters, masonry stoves, and ground source heat pumps, to name but a few.

Why is the Transition Important to us in Creating a Permanent Culture?

Permanent Culture Now feels a strong affinity with the Transitions Movement as it mirrors many of our focal concerns. We feel that Transition initiatives are vitally important in moving towards a Permanent Culture because they are geared towards the sustainable use of resources within community settings.

We believe that Transition Towns are also a great way of developing both community cohesion and creating communities that have stronger bonds and greater levels of resilience through their mutual cooperation. Transition Towns are an incredibly empowering movement that not only leads us away from fossil fuel dependency, but helps to build communities provides people with the skills that they need to create the replacements to fossil fuels.

We hope to help build the transitions movement and we offer support and solidarity to all transitions projects. We feel that the transitions movements’ community emphasis is a direct challenge to the politics and philosophy of the self and individualism that has contributed to the harmful monocultures that underpin the neoliberal agenda.

For those embarking on the path towards a Permanent Culture, your first stop should really be to find a local transition town group and get involved.


What transition initiative – Transition Network

Permaculture in a Nutshell – Patrick Whitefield

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