The Transition Handbook
Rob Hopkins and Richard Heinberg
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Buy *The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience* by Rob Hopkins and Richard Heinberg online

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience
Rob Hopkins and Richard Heinberg
Chelsea Green Books
240 pages
August 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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"...People perceive themselves as being inherently more affected by rises in the price of a key commodity such as liquid fuels than by changes in the climate." This is a central theme of The Transition Handbook, an English crossover that will make waves here in the U.S. as more green-leaning folks have a chance to read it. Rob Hopkins is founder of the Transition movement, a method that creeps small town by small town seeking to convince ordinary people that it is in their best interest to scale down their addiction to oil.

Using the addiction model is a powerful tool of the Transition movement. We are addicted to oil, a product that may have reached or passed its peak of availability, according to which sources you consult. Hopkins believes that people are more motivated by thinking about reducing addiction than by the vague, discomfiting, but easily ignorable over-hanging cloud of climate change. "Allowing people to mentally explore what their lifestyles would be like if the inflow of cheap oil were the cease is a powerful way to get people to think about the vulnerability of their oil-dependent state." Hopkins proposes a sort of 12-step program to reduce individual oil dependency. We must divest from our gas-guzzling, not just in our driving habits, but by what we eat, how we spend.

The book highlights several town initiatives in the UK. Both included the production of an ersatz "pound" (read "dollar") that could be spent freely in participating businesses and purchased for 95% of its value. Remarkably, this "Monopoly money" scheme took hold in the two towns cited (Lewes and Totnes), with local citizens avidly and lavishly spending the currency on items of worth. Another idea in the book is a food directory people involved in the Transition scheme created a directory of every sort of food product available for sale in the town, from the most humble veggie salesman to the pricey organic dealer in a shop but did not, specifically did not, include the big box grocers. These directories were widely used. These relatively small ideas are illustrations of how the Transition movement operates, ensuring that people who invest their energy in the process will have some immediate return, a pragmatic way to proceed. Hopkins admits "It is easy to come up with ideas but harder to get practical things happening on the ground." The book is full of suggestions on energizing the populace, including reminders of how good things were during the war (!) when most English people produced up to 60% of their own food in small urban garden plots called "allotments" and everyone had to rely on neighbors for help with transportation and other resources.

The only proviso I would offer about this excellent, well-illustrated and thought-provoking collection of ideas is that the U.S. is different from the UK. I have lived in both. The UK is about the size of Texas, and England the size of the state of Virginia. England is full of rather like-minded people who are accustomed to working things out cooperatively (or, we could say, per town there are more such people than per town in the U.S.). Such schemes as the internal currency might work in a liberal bastion such as Portland or Berkeley but would probably not in Roanoke, Houston, or even my little hometown of Mt Airy, NC. So realistically, The Transition Handbook will be read by those who would already be predisposed to read it. Around here, we call it "preaching to the choir." Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Barbara Bamberger Scott, 2008

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