The spread of Transition Towns in Sweden got a big push forward recently from the Swedish Minister for the Environment, Lena Ek.
Speaking at a meeting with Hela Sverige Skall Leva, the Swedish folk movement that hosts Transition in Sweden, she said:
(Our translation from Swedish) “It was so great to get back to Stockholm after the UN climate negotiations to discover all these Transition initiatives. This is exactly what I hoped would start in Sweden, as transition must begin locally.
We will cooperate to connect the local and global”
Visibly pleased, she continued:
” That is why I am so happy to be attending the Rural Parliament in September, to present the Swedish Government’s work with our plan to take us to 2050. “
She especially expressed her support for the work of Transition intitatives in the County of Östergötland who are now cooperating with the County Board.
“That’s a good initiative that I hope spreads further”.
It may sound impossible to you as you have probably heard that environmental destruction is the price we pay for economic growth. However, it is just as clear that environmental destruction is the price future generations pay for environmental destruction. If you get what I mean.
Many economists I have met have looked at me with a look of “why don’t you get it? If you put a price on the environment then market forces will take care of the rest”.
And putting a price on the environment is just what has NOT happened. I am always fascinated to think of the sound inside a car: the wind noise, the ticking of the clock, the purr of the engine. Contrast that to the noise you hear standing by the roadside. Traffic noise is ugly. I have to hear it – even if I am not the one making it. Why is it so that the driver does not hear it but the pedestrian does?
Well it’s because somewhere deep in our modern value system we think it’s OK that I get the quiet and you get the noise even though I am making the noise. That is externalisation. You pay for my emissions. I carry on for free. You get the pollution and no compensation.
Now suppose we decided to phase out traffic noise. We could put a heavy fee on noise and every month raise the fee to drive noise abatement technology until users complied. As the fee was increased, people would follow their wallets and invest in quiet cars or decide to put up with the fee. Either way you have suddenly demonstrated the first Axiom of TSSEF”s (The Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation) flexible fee mechanism: the price of pollution is the price you pay to not do it.
All this money going into government coffers demonstrates the second Axiom: flexible fees do not affect economic growth (they are merely a cost on the balance sheet). Nor do they drive inflation. This might sound strange at first, but consider that all the money flowing into the coffers is actually an income. So the cost of living is the same, rather the emissions part is made more expensive, making the other parts relatively cheaper.
And that is the key to making flexible emission fees work: increasing fees and redistributing them via for example a tax break. People spend the tax break and this drives up employment.
All of this in turn drives the demand for sustainable, non-polluting service up and the demand for polluting services down. In short, carefully applied, felxible fees can help transition a whole country,
The experience of presenting and being part of the sustainability conference 17-18th July at Mundekulla was quite amazing. So amazing that I’m putting together a longer reflection. For now, a video from the speakers.
2nd Sustainability Conference 17-18 July in Mundekulla, near Emmaboda, Sweden.
This year’s theme: “Man and Nature”
“Think seven generations forward in every important decision”
Native American proverb
Scientists, business leaders, politicians and ordinary people are increasingly beginning to question our lifestyle.
How has it become the way it is and what can we do about it? How can we create a sustainable future?
These questions are vitally important and affect us all. The change begins with each of us and together we can make a difference if we take these issues seriously ….
The conference takes place in conjunction with the annual Circle Way Camp
Inspiring lectures, meetings and talks!
Welcome to experiential events where you get inspiration to take steps towards your vision of how to live, work and live. Over the weekend, involved representatives from different parts of the world will give their perspective on the human attitude towards nature. After each lecture small groups will gather where everyone can express their own thoughts and attitudes. The weekend concludes with an “Open Space Forum” in which all participants are invited to share their thoughts. On Saturday night, we offer film shows, slide shows, dance, movement and mingling. Lectures are held in simple English and translated on request.
From the programme: -The Original Instructions
Has the man lost his original relationship with nature? Is there a way back?
Listen to a fascinating lecture based on the original Indian wisdom
Indian Medicine Story, 81 years (USA) & Ellika Linden -Transition Towns / Transition Sweden
A unique worldwide initiative to meet the challenges of peak oil and climate change. It starts with you and me and local initiatives!
Stephen Hinton (England), author of the book “Inventing for the Sustainable Planet”
From mechanical to ekocentrisk worldview! What do the ancient and modern philosophers (Aristotle, Descartes, James Lovelock and Peter Singer on our relationship with nature.
Tania Rebel (Holland) MD in Ethics, Religion, Society
-Permaculture and The Cuban Way
A fascinating lecture on Sustainable Development in South Africa and Cuba! Be inspired by the basics of Permaculture – an approach that includes everything from farming to urban planning.
Ezio Gori (SA) Sustainable Development Consultant -Auroville – A Sustainable Example
Auroville is a unique eco-village in India where people from all over the world live and have created a common vision and a sustainable example
Saturday at 09:30, 17 July – Sunday at 17:00, July 18 (Arrive Friday evening)
Stay in tents (for free), mobile home, dormitory, single electricity. doubles.
All meals are included such as lunch, dinner on Saturday and breakfast, lunch and refreshments on Sunday.
Price including food
1600: – in your own tent
Reduced rates for children and adolescents and the possibility to rent rooms
We offer the opportunity to arrive a day before according to the pricing below.
100: – in your own tent
150: – on the mattress in the dormitory
250: – in double room with shared shower & toilet
350: – in double room with private shower & toilet
500: – single room with private shower & toilet
Read more about our rental rules and how the notification works. Click here
Registration is done online as below link or by phone: 0471-50450 alt firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transition Conference Day Three Day three was rather diminished as I had to get to London to catch the last flight back to Sweden the same day. I did manage however to attend the Web meeting with Ed Mitchell.
What Transition are doing is truly revolutionary, While most charities would aim to set up websites that mirror the look and feel of the central organization, Transition in the UK are taking a strictly “hands off” approach. Countries, continents, cities, districts and neighbourhoods may set up their webs as best they will. On the other hand, every transitioner in the world is welcome to sign up on their site, (and post links to their own) as is every initiative and project. This way, the central site will connect people, initiatives and projects without having to host them.
The same applies for International subject groups and discussions, which the new site will host. I love the open, hands-off, yet coordinating and networking role Ed and Transition have been able to create. I wish them luck with getting funding for the next project, which will pill all these things together real time via a giant RSS aggregator. In the meantime, I will be carrying on with the Transition Sweden site on the NING platform, hoping to take some inspiration from the UK site and linking in where I can.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning at the Transition Conference and time for Pattern Language. This is what I came here for. The new Transition Handbook will be based around pattern language, and as a member of the steering group in Sweden I feel it is imperative I get a handle on it.
Although I must admit it got off to a strange start. Sitting in a circle, we were all asked to express our feelings about how it feels to be a man/woman and how in my case, being a man can contribute positively to Transition. I get overwhelmed by my experience of living in Sweden where you get the feeling from many a woman that your manly attitudes, ways of thinking, predilection to follow your hormones rather than feelings and inability to put the toilet lid down are the root cause of all of Sweden’s troubles today and that if we would just get out of the way and let women show us how to do it all would be well.
I open my mouth to blurt out my inferiority complex and realise I have come to the wrong meeting. I am in the one about gender issues. I mumble something apologetic and start to leave, being followed by a couple of others. So I am relieved at least I am not the only one. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
The end of the oil age is nigh, and politicians are working on their austerity measures and speeches about crisis. Everyone seems to have a good idea about how things should be done, but the illusion that it is working is fading as oil leaks decimate three US states, politicians are caught with their fingers in the till and the effects of global warming surprise even the most updated weathermen.
Enter the Transition Towns Conference. A huge undertaking, and mostly self organising. Three hundred and fifty people in one room organising themselves into 30 groups, follow up groups, expert groups etc. And then organising field trips and lectures and even an evening of impromptu entertainment. You just don’t do this, get people to travel thousands of miles to talk about that which they need to talk about without any prepared agenda. Or do you? Maybe this is a taste where we need to go. We know we have a problem, we know we want to solve it. We have some ideas maybe, but we need to get together. I guess it’s rather like the way doctors treat a patient lying like a lifeless package in intensive care. The surgeon, the internal medicine specialist, the anaesthetist, the neurologist, the oncologist all have to decide on the way forward in conference.
Most of us have never met before, but with some clever warming up exercises and formation of “buddy groups” we are all raring to go. The power of the open space technique never fails to amaze and astound me as before my eyes people rush up from their seats to start topics for discussion.
Later, in a theme session on national hubs I meet people from six countries who are going through the same process we are in Sweden, forming a national organisation to support local transition groups. Each shares their experiences succinctly, and the discussion moves effectively around the topics of our interest: the hub’s roles and way of working.
(I’ll be posting more on the national hub work from subsequent system.)
My open space group was to discuss local food supply systems. Again, we managed to produces a pretty good overview of the various options and group members were able to provide examples of most of them. (I’ll post on this group later.)
Follow up activities fell out of the group work, and the Transition network website will provide the discussion and information sharing platform after the conference is over.
And that is just day one. It really is a wonderfully positive experience to be a conference like this, with a bunch of diverse but very switched on and sincere people. And to be under the care of the Transition Network people, who have been meticulously developing the techniques behind the deceptively simple and smooth workshop methodology. Just like the doctors, they want the patient to live and want to do their bit. In this case the patient is the life support system we rely on and the social infrastructure placed on it. And getting the patient off intensive care is prizing society off the addiction to the oil that is flowing through every vein of the precarious set up that comprises up out living arrangements.
The conference was given its own stark reminder that facing climate change increasingly means dealing with extreme weather. As the rain continued to flood rivers, twelve were reported dead in the north of Poland. The floods blocked attendance of several delegates. Sustainable development may have been seen earlier as a green “nice to have” or a moral obligation to “tread lightly on the Earth”. At this conference however, there was a seriousness I have seldom encountered before: the growing understanding that we must begin to move rapidly to a sustainable way of life or face dire consequences.
The conference attendees, including rural development groups, European MPs, and two representatives of the Transition movement, worked in world café form (simply described – dialogue in small groups) to identify sustainability challenges in food supply, energy supply and social equity and demographics.
The ultimate aim was to produce a statement to urge the EU, businesses and citizens to rise to the challenge of climate change, energy depletion, social disparities, globalization and demographics.
I could discern that rural groups throughout Europe have several concerns about trends that run counter to sustainability: rural areas are losing their vitality and cohesion as services are reduced and centralized. The availability of cars since the end of WW2 has meant that people travel from their local area to their place of work, to shop, for recreation, and for essential services. Industrial scale agriculture and commerce now out-competes local food production and people close down shops and move to the towns. Services like post offices and local shops close down too.
From a resilience point of view, this gives cause for concern. Traditional methods, despite being regarded as too burdensome for us today, carry with them a vast body of knowledge of how to create food and shelter on far less fossil fuel. As we face the inevitable change to a lower carbon economy, these skills and knowledge will be invaluable. The Transition Towns approach of honoring our elders and reviving old practices is a good example of how this can be tackled.
There is also the loss of the cohesion that comes from people in a town or village just simply not getting to know each other. Facing sustainability challenges at local level is far easier with people you know and have built up trust with.
There seems as well to be a good-intentioned but misguided idea that cities provide an answer to sustainable development. Focusing attention on making cities sustainable (most efforts seem to be to remove fossil-based heating and electricity supply) takes energy away from rural development, which has the ability to provide low carbon food and fuel supply as well as offering a vast pool of knowledge and skills.
There are initiatives going on that offer hope. A field trip later in the conference presented the KOLPING society that works to promote Catholic Christian values and crafts and handicraft. Kolping in Poland are looking forward and raising capabilities around small scale solar installations and promoting knowledge of traditional handicrafts as a pool of competence for the sustainable future.
We were also privileged to hear about the Crown of Northern Krakow association, which has engaged some 36 of the 42 local associations in activates to drive social cohesion, starting with a citizen’s survey asking what they would like to happen in their area. They have developed a local logotype, now on some 20 of the region’s products, and they set up historical cycle routes and walking trails. They are proud to show off a local agro-tourism farm.
Connect to Transition, Cheltenham, UK, is an initiative founded by Wendy Ellyatt, working to revive the spirit of community in the town. Currently, some 1000 members are engaged in groups based around the themes of “go green”, “buy local”, “develop skillsspace” and “build community spirit”. The connect initiative bears most of the hallmarks of a transition initiative, but has grown out of the need to create community cohesion rather than an awareness of the challenges of Peak Oil and climate change.
We heard as well from several initiatives to provide local areas with electricity and heating from wind and solar power. And they are working. As one delegate put it “we remind our customers that the sun does not send us bills”.
As the conference progressed, I realized the scale of the challenge the group was undertaking: taking the voice of their respective organizations, from 14 countries, to craft a clear, concise message to citizens, EU, businesses and civil society to start the transition to resilient sustainability. It is a massive undertaking yet badly needed. The current story of austerity, based on rather abstract financial notions does not reflect the situation most ordinary citizens see today: we have fossil fuel supplies, well-educated and skilled citizens, with a legacy of well thought-out infrastructure from previous generations. We in Europe HAVE the capability to feed and house all citizens with dignity, even if our supplies of fossil fuel are restricted and the climate throws all kinds of challenges at us.
The final session brought all texts together to be hammered out into a final draft. In a long plenary session, words were weighed, calls for action added, thoughts were formulated. We are now waiting for the final linguistic editing before signing and presenting to the European Parliament.
The Transition movement is about local action, and one could wonder what I was doing at that conference, but in a way the Krakow declaration IS local action. It is action from all the rural networks, the transition towns, the local action groups etc., in sending their voice to Brussels and throughout Europe to call for us to come to our senses, and abandon Business as Usual before it abandons us. The result may just be a more human, equitable, pleasant place to live not just for us, but for future generations.
It is my hope that the declaration is translated and made available throughout Europe in a way that citizens, local action groups, business associations and others can sign and present to their networks and authorities. I will be keeping you updated on progress.
Acting in gratitude, appreciation and using all our gifts - intelligence, innovation, hope and determination - I believe we can create settlements for ourselves that are truly very beautiful places - reflecting the Very Beautiful Place inside.