Transition Exits Ann Arbor
A little more than two years after Transition (a worldwide movement) introduced itself to Ann Arbor, the local group has announced (via its email listserv) that it is disbanding.
After much deliberation and collective soul searching, we are writing to let you know that the initiating team of Transition Ann Arbor is officially disbanding. We believe it is important to announce this widely so that we can release the effort into the hands of others, should there be a future groundswell of committed individuals.
Some challenges we faced were the usual ones, such as personal time constraints and life circumstances. But there were other challenges that we didn’t anticipate, such as the fact that the Transition model has proven difficult to implement in a city the size of Ann Arbor without staff or a strong ties to an existing 501c3 nonprofit.
We are excited to see the growth of Transition-related efforts in the Ann Arbor community and region. We continue to believe that there is a role for an umbrella organization that strengthens these efforts and develops cohesive plans, action groups, programs, and messages that help our community prepare for the long emergency–the impacts of peak oil, climate change, and economic instability. Unfortunately, we don’t have the necessary resources (or person-power) to make this happen. We have a wealth of accumulated knowledge and lessons learned from our efforts over the last 2 years, including the beginnings of an energy descent action plan. To improve future organizing, we would be happy to share our insights and resources with anyone interested in picking up similar work.
As might be understood from this statement, Transition was founded to support the worldview of those, such as former Environmental Commission chair and mayoral candidate Steve Bean, that we in Ann Arbor (the country, the world) are facing a future singularity in which conditions of life will change drastically. (The reference to the “long emergency” is a direct reference to the dystopian classic, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler.) Transition Ann Arbor has been especially notable for its “reskilling festivals” in which such skills as sock darning, keeping bees, and other domestic crafts are taught. According to the announcement, these will continue under the guidance of their organizer, Laura Smith (email@example.com).
A core concept that Transition and similar efforts are based on is “peak oil”, a belief that the world economy and our very way of life will shift dramatically once the cost of energy increases because of dwindling oil supplies. The data for peak oil are fairly unambiguous and (discounting the possible effect of shale oil) it appear that the point at which oil supplies begin to dwindle is in the next decade (by 2020). Lester Brown and the Earth Policy Institute have been promulgating news of this and related impending disasters (most having to do with resource depletion of various kinds) for years. Yet there are doubters and deniers like Michael Lynch (though these arguments are rebuttable). Problem is, a worldview in which a collapse is imminent definitely undercuts the current growth paradigm and interferes with business as usual. We’d really rather not be bothered as long as it looks as though things will go along much as they have since most of us can remember.
We all got a bit of a wake-up call with the economic cataclysms of 2008 and 2009. Though Kunstler has not changed his views or his predictions, what seemed so imminent during the few months following the crash of 2008 now seems to have retreated a bit over the horizon. It’s a little hard to get excited over darning your own socks when socks made in East Asia are still available at discount stores at pretty decent prices. Admittedly, lots of people are out of a job, but gas prices seem to have stabilized. And though food prices have gone up a little, we can still get most of everything we want and the expensive restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor seem to be doing a booming business. This means that choosing “local food” and making your own still appears to be just that—a choice.
Since one of my own interests and concerns is community food security, I was glad to see that Transition Ann Arbor is passing along its modest treasury to Growing Hope. But otherwise we are left with pale washed-out “sustainability” efforts like the Ecology Center’s 350.0rg and the UM’s “M Planet Blue“, which basically tinker around the edges with time-honored environmental fixes (all good). It’ll perhaps be a little while longer before we have a group in Ann Arbor that really sounds a singular alarm. If that is going to be you, you are invited to contact Jeannine Palms (firstname.lastname@example.org), one of the organizers and a longtime community activist.Explore posts in the same categories: Basis, Sustainability, Trends