Citizen Action Monitor

Canada’s Transition Communities

No 67 Posted September 23, 2010

IMPORTANT UPDATE, Jan. 7, 2011: Ten *NEW* communities added to the List of Canadian Transition Communities (below).

What is a Transition Community?

The following text is excerpted and adapted from Ball’s research paper, Transition Towns: Local Networking for Global Sustainability?

The Transition Movement, promoting an action-based approach to (local) sustainability, has in the past four years grown to incorporate a large network of individual Transition Initiatives. Informed by ideas and values within environmental organizations, yet, in its practical organisation it is distinct from past models of sustainability by incorporating broad grassroots support in a diverse range of places within the framework of a coherent networking model.

Sustainability challenges the dominant, market-based capitalism of industrial society, on economic, social, environmental and ecological grounds, citing devastating ecological and environmental exploitation. Sustainability, in contrast, calls for production and consumption within long-term ecological limits.

While local sustainability has become a politically important goal, in practice neither top-down government nor grassroots community models have gained widespread uptake or success: the former have failed to connect with or involve a grassroots public; the latter generally have few resources and limited capacity.

The Transition Model, a non-governmental community-led model, advances an action-based approach. With its fast-growing network of Initiatives, the Transition Movement is akin to a non-profit franchise operation, combining the advantage of a centralized support base with the capacity and resources of a decentralized networking organization.

The Transition concept, co-founded by Rob Hopkins, who has a background in permaculture, builds upon a core thesis: that the modern industrial capitalist economic and social system, based upon cheap oil and resources, is unsustainable, making a major restructuring of economy and society imperative, and inevitable. Transition contends that citizens and communities need to act proactively and positively at the local scale, in a process of ‘Transition’ and ‘Powerdown’ to build localized and resilient communities in terms of food, energy, work and waste. The vision holds that decarbonized local communities will be resilient in their capacity to “hold together and maintain their ability to function in the face of change and shock from the outside.” Transition is modelled to be a self-organizing community-led model, for people to “act now and act collectively.”

Following the pioneering of the Transition Model in Totnes, England in 2006, the Transition Network was established “to inspire, inform, support, network and train communities in Transition.” The network supports global Initiatives in places ranging from small villages to urban centres, providing resources, information and training courses. Initiatives can be established in any place when a group of people, locally embedded and self-organizing around the principles of Transition, establish an Initiative. From this initial core, subgroups are formed to focus on specific elements of the Transition process, from farming or recycling to renewables or the psychology of change.

At the outset, becoming embedded within the local community and establishing awareness and participation is the central goal for each Initiative. In this process, a 12 steps to transition plan lays out a model framework for Initiatives to follow, which culminates in the creation of an ‘energy descent action plan’ (EDAP). The EDAP lays out a future vision of a localized community in twenty years. It then creates a plan and strategy, involving practical measures and milestones, to reach this vision, covering fields ranging from food and transport to waste and energy.

Since the establishment of the Transition Network the movement has mushroomed, with over 500 participating Initiatives around the world . As a model of sustainability, involving the networking of spatially dispersed, local-self-organizing groups within the framework of a single model, the Transition Model is without precedent in the environmental field.

List of Canadian Transition Communities

As of January 7, 2011, Canada has 44 Transition Communities — 18 qualified as ‘official’ and 26 as ‘mulling’, that is, communities that are exploring the level of local interest in joining the ranks of the Transition Movement. Peterborough was the first Canadian city to qualify as an ‘official” Transition Community. Guelph was second. The Transition Network website maintains a list of communities worldwide that are either ‘official’ or ‘mulling’ Transition Communities.

Alberta (2 mulling)

British Columbia (9 official 4 mulling)

New Brunswick (2 official)

Nova Scotia (3 mulling)

Ontario (7 official 14 mulling)

Quebec (3 mulling)

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This entry was posted on September 23, 2010 by in community building, sustainability, Transition Network and tagged , .
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