The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroot community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. The Transition Network, founded in 2006, inspired the creation of many of the projects. A number of the groups are officially registered with the Transition Network. The first initiative to use the name was Transition Town Totnes, located in the United Kingdom. Transition initiatives have been started in locations around the world, with many located in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and Australia.
The term, "transition town" was coined by Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne.
The transition model can be applied to different types of places where people live, such as villages, regions, islands and towns. The generic term is "transition initiative", which includes transition neighborhoods, communities, and cities, although "transition town" is in common usage.
In 2004, permaculture designer Rob Hopkins set his students at Kinsale Further Education College the task of applying permaculture principles to the concept of peak oil. The output of this student project was the ‘Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan'.
This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture as a "road map" to a sustainable future for the town. Two of his students, Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne, developed the Transition towns concept. They then presented their ideas to Kinsale Town Council. The councilors decided to adopt the plan and work towards energy independence.
Hopkins moved to his hometown of Totnes, England, where he and Naresh Giangrande developed these concepts into the transition model. In 2006 Transition Town Totnes become the first Transition initiative.
Between late 2006 and early 2007 the Transition Network UK charity was co-founded by permaculture educator Rob Hopkins, Peter Lipman and Ben Brangwyn. Totnes based, it was initiated to support the Transition initiatives emerging around the world. It trains and supports people involved with the initiatives. It also disseminates the concepts of transition towns.
In 2008, the number of communities involved in the project had increased with many localities in the process of becoming "official" Transition towns.
The initiative spread and by May 2010 there were over 400 community initiatives recognized as official Transition towns in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile. The term transition initiatives become common to reflect the range and type of communities involved - e.g. villages (Kinsale), neighbourhoods of cities (Portobello, Edinburgh), through council districts (Penwith) to cities and city boroughs (Brixton).
By September 2013, there were 1130 initiatives registered (462 Official, 654 Muller) in 43 countries.
Influences include permaculture concepts as described in Bill Mollison’s Permaculture, a Designers Manual (1988) and David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2003), as well as David Fleming's work on community, culture and resilience.
Each transition town or initiative has a high level of autonomy. However, to be called an official initiative certain criteria must be met. Additionally, there is nothing to stop an 'unofficial' initiative using ideas inspired by Transition towns. Further, there are various 'hubs' to co-ordinate work at a regional level.
The Transition Network (TN) is a UK charity set up to support Transition initiatives. It has published books and films, trained people and facilitated networking. The TN's website contains a listing of the initiatives that have registered, some are officially recognised.
TN has run seven conferences, Nailsworth (2007), Royal Agriculture College, Cirencester (2008), Battersea Arts Centre (2009), Dame Hannah's at Seale Hayne (2010), Hope University, Liverpool (2011), Battersea Arts Centre (2012) and Dame Hannah's at Seale Hayne (2015).
In the United States, transition initiatives have been started in many communities. Transition US is the national hub. Its stated vision "that every community in the United States will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present".
Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States that are able to withstand severe energy, climate, or economic shocks while creating a better quality of life in the process. They are accomplishing this mission by inspiring, encouraging, supporting, networking and training individuals and their communities as they consider, adopt, adapt, and implement the transition approach to community empowerment and change.
A large number of state sites have also been set up using the Ning social networking platform. These state sites, under the umbrella of a national Ning site, were set up to help facilitate, network, inform, monitor, and house regional and organizational transition initiatives. Thus, furthering the spread of the transition movement while networking related organizations, projects, ideas and activities. In addition, many transition initiatives can be found on the WiserEarth community.
The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resiliency by Rob Hopkins provides much of the framework behind the Transition Initiative and outlines ways for local Transition Towns to get involved.
Communities are encouraged to seek out methods for reducing energy usage as well as reducing their reliance on long supply chains that are totally dependent on fossil fuels for essential items (see environmental calculator).
Food is a key area for transition, sometimes the slogan "Food feet, not food miles" is used. Initiatives so far have included creating community gardens or replacing ornamental tree plantings with fruit or nut trees, to grow food.
Business waste exchange seeks to match the waste of one industry with another industry that uses that waste material, sometimes referred to as industrial symbiosis. This process can help companies increase profitability by reducing raw material and waste disposal cost, reducing carbon emission, making their byproducts a source of revenue to be bought by other business.[additional citation(s) needed] Repairing old items rather than throwing them away is looked at.
The Transition Network proposes an alternative from business as usual, or from 'shocked/doomladen' reactions to peak oil and an end to unlimited economic growth. According to Southend-on-Sea in Transition, "...by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design the future low carbon age to be thriving, resilient and abundant — somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth."
An important aim for Transition towns is to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. One way to further this goal is for the community to develop an EDAP. The term "community" in this context includes local people, local institutions, local agencies and the local council. The first comprehensive plan was created for Totnes in 2010, entitled Transition in Action: Totnes & District 2030.
As of 2010, the Transition Network (TN) includes the 2008 global financial crisis as further threat to local communities, alongside peak oil and climate change. To counter economic instability, the TN promotes fiscal localism. To help further these aims TN setup up the REconomy Project circa 2012.
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While the focus and aims remain the same, the methods used to achieve these vary. For example, Totnes has introduced its own local currency, the Totnes pound, which is redeemable in local shops and businesses, helping to reduce "food miles" while also supporting local firms. This idea is also planned[who?] to be introduced in three Welsh transition towns and in Maleny Australia, the Baroon Dollar as a part of a regional transition towns project.
Transition towns have been featured in the plot line of the long-running BBC Radio 4 series The Archers. This is an example of mainstream media attention the movement received a few years after being founded.
A number of books have been published on specific topics, including: how communities can develop their Transition town initiative. Unless stated, the following books were published as a collaboration between Green Books and the Transition Network (under the label Transition Books):
In 2008, the Transition Handbook was the joint 5th most popular book taken on holiday during the summer recess by the UK parliamentary MPs.
Two films have been created by the movement about the movement. They document the progress of various initiatives:
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