Last Thursday we made our way across to the Green Britain Centre at Swaffham to an event organized by East Anglian transition groups, in particular Downham & Villages in Transition and West Norfolk Permaculture – this was part of the Transition Thursday series of talks being given by Rob Hopkins, co founder of the Transition Network.
The evening was well attended , with some 70 or so transitioners from groups around Norfolk and interested members of the public (including organic gardening celebrity Bob Flowerdew) and the Transition Free Press. The Green Britain Centre kindly laid on some scrummy organic snacks and drinks.
The event kicked off with introductions from Ben Margolis of West Norfolk Permaculture in familiar transition style, followed by some brief upates from some of the local transition groups including Kings Lynn and Downham & Villages. Most of the Norfolk groups have been running for a couple of years longer than us at PiNT, but as with Peterborough’s Green Back Yard many groups were similarly based around local community growing projects of various types. These have gone from strength to strength, particularly in the case of Transition Norwich which has a particularly vibrant scene in the surrounding area. Due to the large mostly rural area of Norfolk, attendees came from quite a wide area, from us in the west to the North Norfolk coast , east to Norwich and further south. The organizers had printed out a massive map of the area to put our names on to see where we were all from, which made interesting viewing by the end of the event! Our neighbours at Transition Kings Lynn have spent most of their time and energy recently in fighting the massive Cory Energy From Waste Incinerator that was due to have been built at Saddlebrow, near the large Palm Paper Factory. However due to some hard campaigning work engaging successfully with the local community, this scheme has now been overturned, the council have seen sense (and several councillors replaced at the last election) and a new recycling scheme and waste disposal program is to be introduced that will see the majority of waste being properly recycled in a rather more environmentally friendly way (they are hoping for something like a 90% recycling rate that puts most other schemes to shame!) Of course that just leaves the similar PREL site nearby at Sutton Bridge to contend with but shows what can be achieved.
Rob Hopkins then gave his talk on the Power of Just Doing Stuff – how local action can change the world, which followed the theme of his new book. This was an interesting and empowering couple of hours about how it is possible to create a new kind of resilient, economic future , creating employment and wealth and wellbeing in local communities. It was about the positive changes that the transition movement has begun to achieve around the world through communities who decide to take a different approach to how they live and work instead of the current “business as usual” model.
The transition movement has spread rapidly around the world, from the UK to North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia – with many different initiatives in response to the particular local situations. Interestingly, transition in those countries of the global south is evolving in a somewhat different way to that we are familiar with in the UK. It is based on the same principles, but with more emphasis on social justice , education and food security for local communities, challenging the status quo and development by growth strategies pushed NGO’s and big government – alternative development if you like.
For the UK, Rob covered the trials and tribulations of various transition related projects from its Totnes roots to Transition Tooting’s ultimately successful struggles with the local council bureaucrats and excellent community energy projects in Brixton, along with the various local currency schemes (complete with examples of both Bristol and Brixton pound notes – now highly sought after by international coin collectors!) . He went on to look at initiatives in various countries around the world including Portugal, Brazill and Australia.
One of the main thrusts in the UK is the REconomy project – which basically means getting the cash back into the local economy creating more resilient communities, local business and jobs to the benefit of the local community. Whereas the situation at the moment in most places is that the majority of the money spent locally is just siphoned off to swell the profits of some anonymous corporation elsewhere with little real wealth retained locally.
For example, the majority of money spent in the UK on groceries – an astounding 97% – is split between just 8 large suppliers (ie Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Morrison etc) . A growing number of small projects are starting to counteract this, from local food co-operatives, bakers and greengrocers to small brewers and community energy companies. These are all individually small projects, locally owned and run, but taken together, they are empowering communities and starting to make a real difference,
Rob ended the evening with a brief Q&A session followed by him signing copies of his new book. I now have a copy of this but can certainly recommend it to anyone interested in where transition is going today. It is a relatively small paperback (compared to the Transition Companion), some 160 pages and is now available to buy online from www.greenbooks.co.uk and elsewhere – or if you can get over to one, one of the Transition Thurday events ( the next one “locally” is on 18 July , organized by Transition Horncastle, Lincolnshire.)
You can see a short video of the Swaffham event on youtube that Rob has just posted!