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Communities plan for a low-energy future

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Each Transition “initiative,” as it’s called, begins with a core group willing to serve as a steering committee. In Sandpoint, Idaho, for instance, Richard Kuhnel assembled a group through small discussions at his home. Next comes an action plan and lots of old-fashioned unpaid legwork.

While the concerns – climate change and peak oil (the idea that the world will soon pass its maximum petroleum production and start to decline) – are somber, the approach is upbeat. As the movement’s founder, Rob Hopkins, is fond of saying, “It’s more like a party than a protest march.”

Such ebullience is not typical of ecological realism. According to Michael Brownlee, who was active in the Boulder County, Colo., Transition launch, “the gloom many people feel stems in part from a sense of powerlessness.” The Transition movement advocates no-nonsense routes to local preparedness, rather than waiting for government to step in. “People come in very concerned about climate change, the economy,” Mr. Brownlee says, “but as they become involved in projects … they rediscover community. Once they feel reconnected to those around them, it changes their whole outlook. The anxiety and depression fall away.”

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