Until I was asked to teach a Backyard Chicken class for a Reskilling Festival co-hosted by Transition Ann Arbor, I did not know either. Nor had I heard the phrases “peak oil” or “energy descent.” But in my humble opinion, the Transition movement is awesome.
Awesome in the sense I am in awe. Committed people walking the walk – building communities through reducing local energy use, reusing materials for building, reducing reliance on new items, educating a new generation in such practices, creating local currency, and (of course) focusing on the role of food (they LOVE local food).
And why? Peak Oil and Energy Descent!
Peak Oil is the term used to describe the point at which “the maximal rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline.” The exact tip of the bell curve is debated, but most experts seem to agree that the oil that is remaining to us will cost more and more energy to extract (ie it has peaked, but no one is committing to that position). (Offshore drilling or shale oil extraction compared to the bygone days of black gold striking Clampetts for those of you who like visual comparisons.)
Three years ago a member of the Transition Ann Arbor group shared with me what distinguishes the Transition Towns Movement from the other groups involved in local and self-sufficient food, transportation, and reducing energy paradigms. “It is the assumption of energy descent. It is a notion that, to move forward we actually need to ramp down our energy use substantially. Nothing that we have out there, in terms of the green technologies is actually going to replace the oil infrastructure that we have right now…What we want to do is creatively descend in our energy use, not ramp up to try to replace the technologies that oil has given us.”
As I type at my computer, surrounded by my digital camera, cell phone, camera, television, and looking out at the streetlights glowing in the rain, I think I know of what she speaks.
This is the month to get involved. There is a national transition challenge happening throughout May focussing on five great areas:
Take food, for example. You can start a garden, get backyard chickens, plant a fruit tree to trade with your neighbor who gets chickens, plant a row for a local food bank (and check out AmpleHarvest to find your local bank!), start a worm bin, make your own bread, preserve (kombucha is delicious!), save seeds, etc etc…
The Transition Challenge in 2012 logged over 4000 actions. Register your Action, check out their Action Map to see what is happening around you. This year they partnered with HomeGrown.org to offer tutorials entitled HomeGrown 101 where you can learn about container gardening, backyard chickens, how to make a rain barrel, or even your own laundry detergent (among many more!).
Though I may not be the best at riding my bicycle in the rain, or always taking the extra 10 minutes to hang my clothing on the clothes line – it is nice to know there is a community of people committed to safeguard our beautiful earth and its resources by thinking outside of the paradigm of abundant oil – and dare I say, their calf muscles are all the stronger for it.
For those of you who are still curious to learn more, here is a TED talk given by the co-founder of the Transition Network, Rob Hopkins.