Saturday, January 30, 2010

Transition Town Initiative - Victoria style

I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. If you don't want to get depressed, just skip to the good news. For the rest of you, just read on. First comes the bad news.

Our society is based on an assumption of perpetual economic growth. Economic growth is based on cheap and readily available energy. Most of this energy comes from oil and gas which are finite and non-renewable resources. In the very near future, our concept of infinite economic growth will savagely collide with the reality of finite natural resources and Reality will win.

In other words, we are facing some interesting years ahead. Declining oil production and increasing demand will drive energy prices higher. This will undoubtedly lead to further economic instability as governments attempt to ward off or at least disguise the inevitable inflation that this will bring. Unless we seriously change course, the recession of 2009 will simply be the first in a repeating pattern of oil price climb, economic collapse, oil price fall, slow economic recovery, oil price climb, bigger economic collapse, etc. Each spike in oil price will be larger than the last and each recession worse than the previous one.

If this isn't depressing enough, what about climate change? While many people choose to believe that a few emails and mis-stated dates prove that global warming doesn't exist, I'm seriously concerned that the vast majority of climate scientists might actually be right. And if this is true, the effects won't happen quite so fast or be quite as obvious as the oil price/economy cycle but they could be truly devastating. If you don't believe me, take it from Gwynn Dyer .

Now for some good news!

I just spent the day with a fascinating group of energized and enthusiastic people at St. John's church in Victoria, BC. About 150 people came together to spend their Saturday afternoon discussing peak oil, economic collapse and climate change. And rather than being depressed or frightened, they had a good time doing it!

This is the fascinating paradox of the Transition Town movement . Transition Town started in the UK as a response to the overwhelming problems that are appearing just over the next horizon. It is a conscious response that suggests that it is better to get together and do something positive, rather than live in a state of denial or be paralyzed by fear.

Working groups were defined in a self-organizing, open space environment. Teams came together to come up with concrete actions that can realistically be taken in areas housing, land use, food security, community renewal, alternate economies, renewable energy, education/skill development and spirituality. This all encompassing movement has potential because it recognizes that the big 3 problems; declining oil supply, economic instability and climate change are all connected and have common solutions. The tools for change are likewise connected to each other.

For me, one of the most important aspects is a recognition that the problems are fundamentally spiritual. Our out-of-control materialistic and militaristic culture is nothing more than the outward manifestation of our combined inner worlds. If we can change our inner worlds the outward world will certainly change. In the words of Jesus, "Repent (Completely change your way of thinking), the Kingdom of Heaven is near."

Remember that this meeting was held in a church? At the back of the meeting room stood a bulleting board with its back to the crowd. Facing away from the busy room was a sign which read "GOD IS WORKING HERE". I read the sign and watched the energized, enthusiastic and excited crowd.

Somehow I felt the sign was no accident.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Welcome 2010

2009 was quite a year. On December 19, 2008 we left our friends and our trailer at Koinonia Farm and drove our 4X4 truck from Southern Georgia to my parent’s place in Taber, Alberta - barely dodging blizzards on the way. It was wonderful spending Christmas with my parents, and with Trevor, who we hadn’t seen since leaving for Koinonia in late August. After spending Christmas with my parents, we spent time in Calgary with various friends until New Years. January 1st, 2009 we pointed the truck West and made our trek to the Pacific coast. There had been a large and unexpected snow fall over most of BC, leaving unstable snow conditions in the mountains. Traffic stopped while highway crews fired artillery shells to force avalanches so the snow could be cleared before traffic proceeded. It took a couple of hours, and it gave us a chance to appreciate the beauty of a calm winter night that we would have otherwise missed.

On January 2nd we arrived in Vancouver. The city was almost paralyzed with deep snow and we truly needed the 4X4 truck just to get Trevor back to his apartment near UBC. Later that evening we took the last ferry across to Vancouver Island, drove from the ferry terminal and across the Malahat pass. We arrive at our long-time friend’s house about midnight. The next morning we pulled into our driveway at our new house in Cobble Hill. Our pond was frozen over and about a meter of snow covered the ground. All our possessions were packed in boxes in the back of our truck, in sheds behind the house or piled ceiling high in two bedrooms at the back of the house. We unloaded the truck, lit a fire in the wood stove and began the process of re-assembling our lives.

The rest of 2009 was full of transitions. Krista had to get back into high school. Kailee started volunteering at OUR (One United Resource) ecovillage in February, then moved into a tent on-site from April to August while she completed an internship in sustainable food production. In September she moved into residence at UBC in Vancouver. Trevor spent over 6 months in Peru doing research for his master's project.

As for me and Jan, we have been spending a major part of our time trying to figure out the details of this new phase of our lives. Our garden was very successful, providing more than 100 meals over the course of the year. Our fruit trees also did very well, but we have lots to learn about managing the harvest. Our first solar pv panels went up in the Summer and we are still experimenting with renewable energy/energy conservation at home. Jan completed a natural-building workshop at the ecovillage and has returned to her university studies. I've completed courses on energy efficiency, solar thermal and communication/conflict management. Looks like I will be accepting some responsibilities at OUR ecovillage and with the BC Sustainable Energy Association in 2010.

2009 was clearly a year of transitions - It will certainly be interesting to see what 2010 brings.

PS. The photos show our house in January 2009 and January 2010 - what a difference a year makes!