Transition Comes to Ann Arbor

Tonight I attended the organizational meeting of Transition Ann Arbor.  Actually, a group has been working on it for some time.  This “initiating team” (consisting of Nate Ayers, Lisa Dugdale, Jeannine LaPrad, Jeanne Mackey, and Jeannine Palms) was part of a training conducted earlier at Rudolf Steiner School, and has been tasked to take on the first step – called the “first ingredient” – at bringing Ann Arbor into the ranks of Transition Towns.  About 20 of us heard an introductory talk and exchanged thoughts about current and future efforts.  If we succeed in meeting certain criteria, then our city can be inducted into a world-wide network of these communities.

Transition is a global phenomenon initiated by Rob Hopkins of the UK.  A video of him and some other explanations are visible on the Transition US website.  Basically, Transition sees three crises building that will affect our lives forever: global warming, energy depletion, and economic collapse.  These will lead to what is called The Long Emergency, a time when life may change drastically.  Transition’s idea is that it is better to prepare for these abrupt changes by becoming more resilient, more interdependent, and more localized.  Although it is closely allied to a number of other dystopian concepts (I’m a long-time peak oiler myself), it is a joyful movement calling on using our “collective genius” as a community to resolve future problems in the supply of food, energy, transportation, health care, and housing.

There were some of the “usual suspects” at the meeting, but not many I recognized.  (I loved Steve Bean’s Think Local First T-shirt, that proclaimed, “Keep Ann Arbor Funky”.)  The group will be focusing in early days on getting the word out with films and talks, including some book club meetings at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in June.  (Events are listed on the TAA website.)  Another focus is “reskilling”, relearning old survival skills like preserving food and repairing clothing.  They’ll be getting people educated with such tools as the Transition Handbook (a wiki version is available free online).

As a very long-time environmentalist (I was teaching biology in a junior college on the first Earth Day, and decked the bulletin board with special tidbits for it), I recognized a lot of familiar themes and questions.  For example, there is talk of “indicators”, a familiar usage from the sustainability canon. But what is so intriguing about Transition is that it focuses on the social and communal aspects of how we might live in reduced circumstances. It is truly a social phenomenon, and one worth watching, whether you are convinced that it will be needed or not.

UPDATE: There is a new “introductory meeting” scheduled for Thursday, June 11, 7-8:30 (the meeting I attended ended promptly on time).  It is at

TAPPAN MEDIA CENTER
Tappan Middle School
2251 E. STADIUM BLVD
ANN ARBOR, MI 48104

The organizers ask for people to rideshare or use alternative transportation because of another event at Tappan that night.

Second Update: The Ann Arbor Chronicle recently published an account of a reskilling workshop put on by TAA.

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