As a yoga devotee and Libran, I understand the importance of balance. These days, it is especially challenging to find mine. On Saturday, I gathered with a diverse group of artists, scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and community organizers in what I hope is the first of meetings that will breathe new life into the Transition movement in our area. Flip the coin. Today, I started a free, 4-week online course called Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C World Must Be Avoided, designed by The World Bank and with a multi-national enrollment of over 15,000.
Week 1 has begun with a series of videos and texts taken from a report for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. That this report by such an organization exists at all should be enough to stop the insanity of climate change denial. But I live in Florida where fundamentalism infects politics and business-as-usual is everywhere evident in rampant coastal development, so I’m not holding my breath.
I’ve been reading extensively about climate change for the last two years, and watching it move from bad to much worse in the same time frame. Turn Down the Heat has not yielded any big surprises so far. It has just provided more statistics – presented in the level tones of academia – to better understand the catastrophe that is coming if we continue to live (eat, transport ourselves, consume) as we have been. And if that ‘we’ gets bigger as more of the developing world enters the home- and car-owning status we consider our birthright in the wealthy world.
As I told the group of eight on Saturday (during our go-around), being introduced to the Transition movement by a friend pulled me out of a tailspin of despair that began with the Deep-Water Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It drew me toward activism in a way that all the reading (Limits to Growth, 1972 and its sequels, George Monbiot’s Heat, 2006) and films like Food, Inc., and Gasland, Part II, had not. So I beg to disagree with the course presenters that knowledge alone can bring about a transformation in society. It will take a village, small town, and city — everyone in: one conversation, vegetable plot, eye-opening documentary, potluck, book group, vote, policy changed — in short, a movement. Our grandchildren deserve a revised standard of prosperity, a slower, kinder, more mindful way of life, even if the future at 4°C were not so horrifyingly unthinkable. The truth is, we all do, and many of us long for it.
Transition appeals to so many people because becoming more resilient as a community – supporting local businesses, growing our own food, sharing our tools and skills more widely – is just that kind of revision, a welcome remedy to hyper-consumerism and outsourcing jobs and wealth, even if climate change were not a growing threat. That was, I sense, what made our newly-forming group feel so exciting and full of promise. We have so much to offer each other and our communities. Gaining traction may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort. May we be able to move ahead with a shared sense of urgency. May we attract more people into the process itself, the fun of making new friends and learning new things, the power of just doing stuff.
Want to know more about Transition? Start here:
Free pdf of The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins, http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~sme/CSC2600/transition-handbook.pdf
Rob Hopkins’ The Power of Just Doing Stuff, widely available and a book group possibility.