Our Opportunity

Rob Hopkins on our historic opportunity to create a positive future:

Many people are attracted to the Transition movement because of its unflinching analysis that our local communities, our nations, and the larger global community are facing severe threats from the “perfect storm” of peak oil, climate change, and an increasingly dysfunctional global economy. These are shocks that will inevitably change how we live, work, and play in the future–and could lead to some doomsday scenarios. This troubling view of our future is becoming increasingly convincing to a growing number of people. As Paul Hawken notes in his book Blessed Unrest, “If you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data.”

Yet, the greatest appeal of the Transition movement is its palpable sense that we also have a historic opportunity to rise to these challenges and create a more sustainable, just, and fulfilling way of life at the end of the Age of Cheap and Abundant Oil. A core tenet of the movement, says Rob Hopkins, is that a “future with less oil could be better than the present,” but only if we “engage in designing this transition with sufficient creativity and imagination.” The movement’s visionary approach is based on finding creative and effective ways for communities to unleash positive, solutions-oriented, grassroots citizens’ initiatives to (1) significantly lower community energy use; (2) convert to more local, safe, and renewable energy sources; (3) foster a more localized, green-collar economy that can meet the basic needs of all its citizens; and (4) strengthen the very heart and soul of local community life in ways that offer deeper connection and life satisfaction than mass consumer culture.

This vision appeals to many people when they hear about it. As Hopkins explains in The Transition Handbook, “I have delivered this message many times, in talks, courses and blog posts, and have yet to encounter anyone who thinks that stronger local economies, increased local democracy, strengthened local food culture and more local energy production are a bad idea.” While Hopkins may be exaggerating a bit, it is still a good point.

The Transition movement’s vision does seem to appeal to an increasing number of people, including people all across the conventional political spectrum. While the Transition movement’s politics of relocalization can be viewed as very radical because it seeks to foster a transition towards sustainability, social justice, and participatory democracy, there is also a principled conservative element to the Transition movement’s vision for the future. As Transition-oriented author Pat Murphy notes, modernist “values of novelty, comfort, convenience, ease, fashion, indulgence, luxury and competition along with other indolent values associated with declining empires must give way to different values such as cooperation, temperance, prudence, moderation, conviviality, and charity.”

While Transition movement participants claim that a state of crisis can lead to doomsday scenarios if not creatively addressed, they also point out that a state of crisis can also wake people up, mobilize them to seek alternatives, encourage creativity, and add momentum for meaningful change. The opportunity is to recognize that major change is inevitable, but the contour and direction of this change is still open-ended. Our goal is to put our shoulders to the wheel to avoid the worst possible scenarios for the future and promote the best.


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