The Transition Movement: Building Resilience in Uncertain Times

Louis D. Alemayehu and Jonathan S. Bucki

For generations, people have recognized that the industrial growth economy is destructive and ultimately will engage in its own catabolic demise. Long before the 1972 seminal work Limits to Growth modeled the consequences of finite resources supplies and increasing world population, our indigenous brothers and sisters understood the implications of a culture and a lifestyle disconnected from the fundamental rules of nature: “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”

The need to adapt to emerging conditions is gaining hold of our collective consciousness. Peak oil, climate instability and economic collapse have all increased our awareness of the need to transition our communities and our enterprises to the concrete limits and emergent uncertainties we face.

If permaculture is a reconnection with our species’ indigenous wisdom about living on the earth, the Transition Movement is a reconnection with traditional wisdom about living with each other. The Transition Movement is about empowering, involving mutual help at the most local levels. Rob Hopkins, a permaculturist who wrote the Transition Handbook, initiated the Transition Movement from his work on an Energy Descent Action Plan for a small town in the UK. He drew from the work and wisdom of many to come to the understanding of the need to make conscious choices about how we adapt.

The international Transition Movement is comprised of loosely allied grassroots community initiatives. Transition Initiatives seek to engage their communities in homegrown products, education, and action to increase local self-reliance and resilience. We succeed by using local assets and capacities, and respecting the deep patterns of nature and diverse cultures in their place.

Locally, we have a long legacy of many cultural groups working to heal and rebuild our communities after the oil-fueled trauma of the last several hundred years. In addition, new initiatives are taking hold focusing on building resilience, raising awareness, re-skilling for the emergent economy and planning for uncertain times with much less cheap energy. There is opportunity in change, and in transitioning, there is much potential for reconnection to the things we really care about.

Profoundly aware of the cultural nature of our predicament, Transition Initiatives works to create a fulfilling and inspiring local way of life that can withstand the shocks of rapidly shifting global systems and heal the trauma of these times. Many warned us of the dangers of the path we were on. Many have felt left outside of the larger environmental and sustainability movements. An effective transition will mean making authentic community with our neighbors, who reflect the human diversity of this planet. The Transition Movement seeks to be wildly inclusive, not an exclusive path with the answers, but rather a locally rooted, complex adaptation to a series of complex predicaments.

Read Up

Transition Handbook, by Rob Hopkins (blog:

Land & Power: Sustainable Agriculture and African Americans, by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Muddling to Frugality, by Warren Johnson.

Long Descent, by John Michael Greer (blog)

Depletion Abundance, by Sharon Astyk (blog)

Reinventing Collapse, by Dmitry Orlov (blog)

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