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My apologies for taking so long to write this article. I hope you'll find it worth the wait!

November 19, 2009 – I’m learning more about Transition Towns (see my Oct. 20 blog). Read on to learn more about the concept and its current status. First, though, let’s get started with some transition vocabulary. Two ideas that are central to understanding this grassroots movement are relocalizing and permaculture.
Relocalization is, in fact, the United States’ own version of transitioning. While transition takes its name from the need for communities to make the transition from being carbon-based to post-carbon, relocalization focuses on the need for communities to make basic goods and services available locally. This, in turn, necessitates re-skilling. More vocabulary! Let’s go back over this paragraph and make some sense of it.
What is meant by saying that a community is carbon-based? Simply this: communities throughout the world derive their energy from fuels containing lots of carbon: natural gas, oil, gasoline and coal. When ignited, these fuels leave behind tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide in our air and our water – so much, in fact, that our environment has become badly polluted with them. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and contributes quite significantly to global warming. For these reasons, we can no longer power our wasteful way of living with these carbon-based fuels.
So if we move to a “post-carbon” way of life, what will we use for fuel? Renewable sources of energy make the most sense, because they can never be depleted. Wind is a renewable source of energy. So is the sun. We’ll never run out of geothermal energy, and we’ll never run out of hydropower. Wood actually falls somewhere in the middle: while it is certainly possible for us to burn too much wood, as we are doing in the Amazon, wood is a valuable resource when husbanded properly. Since it is not as concentrated a form of carbon as the other carbon fuels listed, it can be used responsibly,
especially in an EPA-approved wood stove.
Relocalization has to do with the fuels we use, too, only in this context we’re talking about the fuels we use for transportation. Specifically we mean decreasing the amount of fuel we burn in order to transport our food and the products we buy. By relocalizing, we can eliminate a lot of the pollution created when our food comes from far away. There are three ways of going about this (maybe more): you can buy your food from farmers’ markets that sell locally-grown produce, you can buy food from a CSA (community-supported agriculture), and/or you can grow your own food. CSA’s require membership, and those often sell out fast, but they’re definitely an option worth exploring. The internet is a good place to start.
As for goods and services, find out what your neighbors like to do, i.e., what skills they may have learned in the way of a hobby or avocation. You may find someone quite adept at carpentry right around the corner. In the future, he may turn out to be the guy who builds you a new kitchen table! The list of forgotten and abandoned skills is long. Now would be a good time for all of us to re-acquaint ourselves with the satisfactions to be derived from growing our own food, composting, canning, sewing, weaving, knitting, mending, repairing small appliances, bicycle repair, and home handyperson projects.
Finally, there will be lifestyle changes that need to be made. Clotheslines will begin springing up like spindly mushrooms. Wearing worn or stained clothing may become unavoidable, and neighbors will share children’s clothing. Rainwater catchment systems could prove to be invaluable, as could gray-water recycling. Raking leaves will once again provide us with exercise. Using mass transit will become far more common, as will carpooling. So will non-motorized lawn mowers. Teenagers will be able to barter their snow-shoveling services. In short, neighbors will have to go back to relying upon one another.
All of this segues beautifully into the subject of permaculture, also known as “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture.” Today we would say not permanent, but sustainable. The thing itself, whatever it may be, is done in such a way that it is repeatable indefinitely. Our predecessors of not so long ago would have considered it utter folly to allow people hundreds of miles away to grow their food for them. Entrusting strangers with one’s food security runs counter to all people’s basic instincts.
They would likewise have been astonished at our predilection for disposing of possessions that break. Something well made deserves to be repaired so that it can continue its useful life. Sharing is also a very important aspect of permaculture.
As for transition’s current status, it’s my understanding that there are roughly 150 transition towns in England, and 265 in the United States, with many, many more in varying stages of decision making. If you care to learn more about this grassroots movement, here are some current sources of information:

Books

Future Scenarios: How Communities can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change,
By David Holmgren.
The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, by John Michael
Greer.
The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies, by Richard Heinberg.
Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, by
Carolyn Baker.
The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, by Rob Hopkins.
The Transition Timeline: For a Local, Resilient Future, by Shaun Chamberlin.

Websites

http://www.globalpublicmedia.org/
www.group.google.com/group/relocalize.com
www.localag.wordpress.com/
http://www.postcarbon.org/
www.relocalizemassachusetts.org/
http://www.transitionculture.org/

Audio/Podcasts

http://www.transitionradio.ning.com/
http://www.earthbeatradio.org/
www.ecoshock.org/podcast.html
www.beyondzeroemissions.org/media/radio

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