Ruah Swennerfelt’s Transition Vision

I had exchanged a few emails with her, and even met her once, but it wasn’t until the 2011 Annual Sessions of New England Yearly Meeting that I got a chance to get to know this remarkable woman.

Don’t know her? Well, here is a brief introduction–in her own words from a Transition US website blog post on her recent research trip around the world:

Hi, my name is Ruah Swennerfelt and I’m part of Transition Charlotte, Vermont in the U.S.A. My town is quite rural, with working farms, but many residents commute to work in Burlington. My husband and I live in an off-grid house, making our electricity from solar. We also have solar hot water and grow much of our own food. We try to live with reduced ecological and carbon footprints.

I’m on a search for answers to the question of how our civilization will survive the current “perfect storm” of peak oil, climate disruption, and economic contraction. We live in a world economic system that requires perpetual growth to survive. This is not sustainable since Earth’s resources are limited.

My search most recently took me to Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Europe, and North America. Like a quilt, each piece (each Transition initiative I visited) was unique and beautiful on its own, but the finished quilt is something greater than the parts. I hope that my research will reflect this whole as a blueprint for our necessary transition.

Although the transition network website reports various activities of the different initiatives, an overall, global vision hasn’t yet been articulated. I understand that the work needs to be done locally, but how do all those local efforts relate to one another? I hope to reflect these varied successes, struggles, actions, and joys into that vision.

I will be asking each person I interview three questions:

Why are you involved in this work?
What is your vision for your town?
Do you see a connecting global vision?

If there is time, I’ll also ask: How can we learn from the hundreds of initiatives instead of always trying to start our own from scratch? How do we live into a new world if we don’t have the vision of what that world might be? I hope my blog will share such a vision, with practical tools for action.

I probably would not have undertaken this effort if it were not for my belief that we are living in a time of planetary crisis at many levels, all of which are reflections of a spiritual crisis. While we must understand the spiritual basis of the crisis and act from the heart, we must also learn the practical tools to try to avoid the potentially great suffering when cheap fossil fuels are no longer available for agriculture, transportation, healthcare, and manufacturing. I hear a call to awaken to my complicity in this crisis and to undertake the necessary radical changes in my own life to leave a healthy, peaceful, and just planet for future generations.

Although I do not make a regular practice of flying, due to the environmental impacts, I believe that the potential outcome of my research is worthy enough to justify the plane travel. You can check out my travel musings at at

What Ruah didn’t mention in her post is that she has raised a prophetic concern among Friends about the issues of sustainability and earthcare for over twenty year as a staff member of Quaker Earthcare Witness, a national Quaker organization that has probably done more than any other organization to make these concerns come alive for more and more Friends. She ran an interest group on her Transition travels at NEYM sessions and co-planned and co-led with me the afternoon discussion of the Transition Movement and the role that Quakers might play in it. She and I are also working together to develop this Quakers in Transition website.


One Comment on “Ruah Swennerfelt’s Transition Vision”

  1. Susan Christian says:

    Hello Steve! Hello Ruah! So nice to be with you in Rhode Island! I hope to stay in touch.

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