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Communities plan for a low-energy future

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The movement began, improbably, three years ago with a student project. Mr. Hopkins, a teacher of permaculture – a holistic, ecologically based approach to agriculture, energy usage, and building design – was working with students at the Kinsale (Ireland) Further Education College. They were trying to devise a plan to wean the town off fossil fuels by applying ecological principles on a large scale.
Hopkins brought the model to his home town of Totnes, in southwest England, in 2006, and the idea quickly caught on and spread. Ben Brangwyn was inspired by “Transition Totnes” to leave his job in information technology and devote himself to organizing Transition’s online communication and resources. His hope, he says, is “to encourage every community to proactively prepare for reducing carbon [output] and increasing resilience.”

Rooted in England, sprouting in US

The Transition model still hovers below the radar in the United States. In late July, Ketchum, Idaho, became the third US Transition Town, joining Boulder County, Colo., and Sandpoint, Idaho. (Boulder is holding the first-ever Transition training in the US on Sept. 13 and 14, in fact.) In the UK, where it began, the Transition movement is a cultural phenomenon, with more than 70 Transition Towns in place and many more mulling it over. There’s even a Transition story line on “The Archers,” Britain’s long-running radio soap opera. In all, worldwide, some 100 communities from Fujino, Japan, to Waiheke Island in New Zealand have met the criteria to claim the Transition mantle.

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