Take a look at the Transition Network’s jargon buster for definitions of the following frequently used terms and phrases:

Transition

Energy descent

Transition Initiative

Resilience

Transition Network

Peak oil

Climate change

EDAP – Energy descent action plan

Relocalisation

 

Transition

This is the process – some say “journey” – we have to embark on to shift our communities away from our current high CO2 emitting and fossil fuel addicted ways of living and being. It starts with a small initial group within a community, then builds into a broad coalition of people, existing and new groups within that locale. Together, they unleash the genius of the local community to design their pathways through the energy descent that we’re facing, looking at all our key systems – food, energy, economics, education, transport, textiles, health etc. And they do it in ways that are practical, playful, cooperative, engaging and mindful of the wider questions of biodiversity, social justice and economic equity.

 


 

Energy descent

Any rational analysis of fossil fuel supplies – including all the geologically, infrastructural, geopolitical and economic factors – will conclude that weaning ourselves of fossil fuels is a very urgent task. Any rational analysis of the science of climate change will conclude that our CO2 emissions are out of control, and that we have to start taking steps on what will probably become a very radical journey of decarbonising all our key systems. And any eco-aware analysis of the relationship of our energy use and resource depletion will conclude that in order to give our world a chance to replenish its stocks of fish, soil, forests and general biodiversity, we’re going to have to reduce energy use dramatically, shifting away from polluting sources to renewables.

And lastly, regarding energy descent, it looks like: 

  • Climate change makes it essential and urgent
  • Peak oil makes it inevitable
  • Transition Initiatives make it feasible, viable and attractive (as far we can tell so far…)

 


 

Transition Initiative

This is the name given to a community-led initiative that is adopting and adapting the transition model to answer this massive question:

“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil and global economic downturn) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

And as they’re working with a few key recognitions:

  • that we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy upslope, and that there’s no reason for us not to do the same on the downslope
  • if we collectively plan and act early enough there’s every likelihood that we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on today.
  • if we wait for the politicians, it’ll be too little too late
  • if we do it on our own individually, it’ll be too little
  • but if we do it together in our communities, it might just be enough, just in time
     

 


 

Resilience

Resilience describes a system’s ability to withstand shocks from the outside and still maintain reasonable levels of equilibrium. The system could be an ecosystem, an individual, a business or a community. In Transition terms, this typically refers to all the people, connections, institutions, landbase and knowledgebase that makes up a community and that gave it resilience in the past. This resilience has seeped away as the age of cheap and abundant energy has allowed us to disconnect from our community and our landbase. Consequently, we’ve become collectively unmindful of how our consumptive behaviours are depleting resources and causing environmental damage in distant lands that we have no connection to.

Transition involves rebuilding our links to our neighbours, our landbase, our local resources and staying mindful of how each action we take affects the people, the landbase and biodiversity around us.

United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) created specific terminology to provide broad common understanding.

“Resilience / resilient: The capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase its capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures.”

 


 

Transition Network

This is the charity set up to support the growth of transition worldwide. It’s mission is to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they self-organise around the challenge of rebuilding resilience. www.transitionnetwork.org

 


 

Peak oil

There are a thousand pages on this subject across the internet, ranging from the wildly optimistic “We’ll get to 120 million barrels a day easily before we see a drop off in supply” and the abysmally pessimistic “We hit peak in 2005 and we’ll be descending into complete social chaos in the next couple of months”.

One of the most important things to remember is that this should not be a discussion about when the oil will run out. That’s the wrong conversation, and it’s pretty much irrelevant. What’s important is recognising the inevitability and imminence of the time when the endlessly increasing amounts of fossil fuels that have powered our food, energy, transport, economic and industrial systems will reach a peak, fluctuate their way along a bumpy plateau and then inexorably decline. What’s important is to analyse these systems and their dependency on fossil fuels and figure out what they might look like if we redesigned them to be dramatically less reliant on these dwindling resources. In many cases the inevitable redesign looks like relocalisation.

An excellent place to start learning more about peak oil is the Energy Bulletin Primer.

 


 

Climate change

Transition operates from an understanding of the science of climate change, and a recognition that in general, the IPCC has underestimated the impacts of climate change. Our planet is currently at 387ppm of CO2, up from 280ppm at pre-industrial times, and the foremost scientists are suggesting that in order keep us from going into runaway climate scenarios we have to be figuring how to get back down to 350ppm. Not an easy task, and one that’ll need us to cooperate at global, national, regional, community and individual levels. That’s unprecedented.

Two first rate places to go for this are RealClimate’s “Start Here” page and the Copenhagen Diagnosis that uses the latest scientific findings to update the most recent IPCC reports

Transition’s premise is that we have to start on this carbon reducing journey now, learning as we go, sharing knowledge and inspiration. And that’s what Transition Network is trying its hardest to facilitate.

 


 

EDAP – Energy descent action plan

Transition Initiatives are working towards co-creating an EDAP in broad consultation with the rest of the community. It’s a part of the transition process that requires the initiative to have been going for a good while, with theme groups in all the key areas (food, energy, transport, heart & soul, education, economics & livelihoods) having gained a lot of experience in running projects within the initiative that reduce CO2 and increase resilience.

The EDAP involves the community coming together to create a vision of what, in 15 or 20 years, that locale might look like, feel like, sound like, smell like if it had successfully navigated its way through the imperatives to reduce CO2 emissions, increase resilience and rebuild its economic fabric. That visioning covers all the key areas noted above.

Once the vision for 20 years hence has been drawn up, the initiative then “backcasts” – that is, works backwards from that time to figure out what must be in place, for example, in years 19, 15, 10 and earlier. For example, if the community wants to source 50% of its home heating from managed woodlands in 2030, then it’ll need to have planted up all the necessary areas by 2020. That means it’ll need to have completed land deals by 2018. That means an audit of existing capacity has to carried out by 2013 so that land acquisition plans can be put in place early enough. And who do you have skilled up to do that audit in just a couple of years’ time? Better get someone on a training course for next academic year.

This pattern of needing to act now to start on creating the vision of 2030 covers all the theme areas – food, energy etc.

 


 

Relocalisation

This one is relatively simple. Without vast amounts of energy, we all lived a much more local life. As we go through the energy descent, that’ll happen again.

We’ll grow our food closer to home, we’ll source our building materials closer to home, we’ll deal with our waste closer to home. And we’ll be more mindful of the effects of our consumption and “waste” as a direct result.

And this isn’t about returning to the old days – human society is a complex system and complex systems never return to prior states. If we’re smart and proactive, we’ll be taking the best of what we have today, mixing it up with what we know worked in the past and, taking account of CO2 emission constraints, we’ll create something that will be substantially different from, and potentially a huge improvement upon, what’s gone before.