I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about transition towns, so I wanted to follow up on the coverage of Transition here in Copenhagen. Transition initiatives are indeed being discussed in this grand city, however, not in the Bella Center, but at the Klimaforum. I met several people who are beginning or are already involved in transition movements here, both within the city of Copenhagen and beyond.

Cover of The Rocky Road to Real Transition

Trapese logo

On Monday, although I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, I attended an event hosted by Trapese Popular Education Collective called Climate Change and the Politics of Transition. The premise of this session was based on a Trapese Collective publication called ‘The Rocky Road to transition: The Transition Towns Movement and what it means for social change,’ which offers an analysis and critique of the Transition Movement.  Although they support the movement, one of their strongest criticisms or concerns with the movement is that it avoids confronting the “enemy.” In other words, the authors feel that in order to create real social change we need to clearly identify what is not working, what we want to move away from and confront it. Say no to it. Fight it. They believe that because the Transition Movement does not emphasis this sort of activism, it tries to disconnected from politics.

This line of thinking was fascinating to me because this was never something that ever crossed my mind. To me, the strength of the transitions movement is that it appeals to everyone. Its strength is that it is an inclusive movement. It focuses on we, not us and them. At this juncture of time, it’s absolutely necessary that we focus on our commonalities and our mutual involvement in this global problem, not who is wrong or right. The activism for which Transition advocates is that of synergy; connecting, building and creating. This type of activism inherently diverges from those systems that currently disserve us, but does not require pointing finger and blame. Personally I feel that much energy is wasted on activism that focuses on fighting instead of building. It was really interesting to be in a room full of people who did not feel the same way. Maybe they could see beyond the excitement I feel about the Transition Movement, or maybe they don’t truly understand Transition; it’s still not clear to me. I thought about peacing out, but I decided to stay. I’m glad I did, because the event was run in a very unique and helpful way. I’d like to share some of the uniqueness that I connected most deeply with.

We were about 30 people strong and began the session by brainstorming the five questions as they relate to transition- what, why, who, where, and how. Here are the lists we came up with:

What: progress, resilience, consensus, transformation, awareness, sustainability, participation, vision, social network, choice, moving beyond oil, redefining, adaptation, community, DIY, process, design, permaculture, leadership, unclear, unknown, overlap, new pushing out old

Why: survival, happiness, consciousness, social justice, peak oil, solidarity, climate change, science, global problems locally, build connections, government won’t do it for us, building, prevent hard, live sustainably, new values, new philosophy, richness of nature, harmony with nature, interdependence, real democracy

Who: everyone, me, you, incomers, effective ones, people with resources, growers, farmers, indigenous people, youth, local communities, workers, media, business (not), citizens

Where: here, locally, in our heads, educational establishments, economy, networks, globally, everywhere

How: identify problems, positive, critical, collectively, communication, speaking from the heart when fearful, diversity, cooperation, experimentation, citizen power, wisdom, open source ideas, open space, live our values, solve problems locally, reskilling practical manifestations, connections, solidarity, debate, challenging norms, media, deep listening, observation

Within ten minutes we had a list much longer than the space and time that had been alloted to the task. It was very exciting.

World Cafe in action

We spent our remaining time discussing potential points of contention between transition and key issues through the conversational process called World Cafe.  We had six tables each focused on one of the following: transition and capitalism, transition and political struggles, transition and direct democracy or horizontality, transition and the far right, transition and solidarity, and transition and cooptation. Around each table were 6-8 people from all over the world sharing their thoughts, respectfully debating with each other, learning from each other. Every ten minutes each group together, moved to a different table and began a new discussion.

To wrap up, we came together as room and shared what we had learned. Almost everyone commented on how nice it was to be at an event that involved us. It was nice to be able to speak and be heard and change the direction of the conversation when it needed to be changed. It seemed like people were inspired when they left this event, and to me, this is Transition.

Sorry this is so long. I haven’t had time to read the whole The Rocky Road to transition: The Transition Towns Movement and what it means for social change publication, or Rob Hopkins response but I think it’s a great point these guys have raised I am excited to explore this further.

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