No 17 Guest post by teachers Betsy Burrows and Terri Munn of the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, June 7, 2010
Betsy Burrows, Terri Munn and I attended the same Transition Training workshop held in Guelph on May 15-16, 2010. Although our paths never did cross at the workshop, we subsequently exchanged emails. When I asked Betsy to consider doing a post about the Transition Peninsula Initiative (TPI) for this blog, she graciously accepted. And, as a co-founder of TPI, Terri kindly contributed her thoughts. We agreed on a Q&A format as a time-saver.
Here are Betsy’s and Terri’s answers to my questions, which admittedly focused narrowly on the origins and start-up phase of their Transition Initiative.
Q 1: When and how did you first learn of the Transition movement?
BB: A year or so ago, Terri was teaching an energy unit to her grade 7s, and was researching energy issues online. She kept bumping into the notion of Peak Oil, started investigating that term (which was news to her) and eventually ended up hearing about Transition Communities. She bought the book last fall [The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience by Rob Hopkins]. And then she came to me and some others.
Q 2: What prompted you to start the Transition Peninsula Initiative?
BB: Terri approached me and several others to see if any of us were interested, and did we think such an initiative was feasible. I think everyone was supportive, and she and I seemed to be the ones that were compelled to start holding meetings. We are good friends anyway, and teach together. This seemed to be a natural extension of our day jobs.
Q 3: How many are you/were you on the steering team?
BB: Ummm, we are 4, but we have some people right alongside. In terms of strategy etc, it seems to be Terri and I. We have an intern through our grant from Bruce Community Futures, and there is another teacher who is very interested and supportive.
Q 4: What were your team’s main getting-started steps?
BB: Terri took her idea to the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group, which is very well established and busy with related issues, and thought she would put the idea of Peak Oil and Transition out to them, and see what kind of response we would get. At the end they sat quietly, which we were concerned about, but it ended up the notions behind Transition had shocked them (Peak Oil mainly) They have been very involved and supportive since. That was early December . Since Christmas, we have had regular meetings. Our first had 60, and since then we average from 20 to 40.
Q 5: What challenges have you (or the team) faced in growing your TI? And what getting-started strategies worked well/not so well?
BB: Challenges? We have felt we were working in a vacuum: flipping through the handbook and trying to feel our way in the dark. But we feel we are on the right track after being at the training. We probably need more people on the steering committee, but slowly we are bringing people in. We look forward to the day when the working groups take over the steering committee and we are redundant as the initiating group! It’s a very big commitment and has been pretty intense. We have amazing people in our community, and many of them have been thinking long and hard about these issues. We feel like we are the pebble in their shoe trying to provide a framework for their amazing ideas.
Q 6: Looking back, what major milestones have you achieved?
BB: Well, we have been consistent in our efforts, we have not waned. I think a few people have waited to see where it goes, and we have proven ourselves to be pretty focused and consistent in terms of meetings and initiatives. (No small feat if you know Terri and I AT ALL!). There has been a steady supply of ideas and conversation between meetings, newspaper articles, and our blog at http://nbptc.wordpress.com/ . People are talking about it, and we are now being invited to speak with other community groups. I guess we are pleased that knowledge of Peak Oil, and ideas for action are taking hold in our community.
TM: We are also very pleased that we accessed a $5,000 grant that has given us both some community legitimacy and also the ability to get projects off the ground immediately, which I think has helped to inspire some community members.
We were able to hire an “intern” for 90 hours of work, buy heritage seeds to distribute to our community with the hopes that they do some “seed-saving” and return to us twice as many seeds at a potluck in the Fall of 2010, we started a Transition library of recommended DVDs and books from The Transition Handbook, and we got a school/community garden started with raised beds, a garden shed, gardening tools etc. I think these “actions” have really added to our momentum. Many people are ready for a “little less conversation, a little more action” to quote Elvis . . .
Q7: Looking ahead over the next 6 months to a year, what do you see as your next major steps? And what challenges do you foresee, if any?
BB: Maintaining the consistency, bringing our municipal council to a place of partnership, making this an issue in the upcoming municipal election.
I also hope that we build our community presence by acting as the catalyst that brings groups together. I like the idea that we are the “glue”. We have seen evidence of that already. Our local environmental group is very strong but we are drawing others to the table that might not have engaged with the already established group. There’s some really good interfacing that is happening as a result of Transition meetings.
Q 8: How many “active” members does your TI currently have?
BB: In the broadest sense people come and go. I think we’ve had some kind of interest (attend a meeting, action, help) from 100. Meeting size varies. We have asked someone to be a librarian, we are trying to get someone to take care of the music.
Q 9: What has been the community response to your team’s initiative so far?
BB: Varies. From “good, we’re finally talking about this” to “we’ve talked about this before” to “I’ll wait and see where this goes before I get involved.” Overall, Terri and I are thrilled with the reception and the progress made.
Q 10: Do you have a photo of yourself or your core team that you would like to share – or perhaps just a favourite photo that captures the spirit of your TI?
BB: Photos attached. Thanks for your interest in this, Frank. We are all on an interesting ride and it’s giving me great hope for the future!