Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock interviews MICHAEL BROWNLEE on February 18, 2011. Transcript.


Alex Smith: The Transition movement has spread from the United Kingdom to North America. Michael Brownlee is a gateway for many people discovering this new vision of living and community building. Brownlee co-founded Transition Colorado.

Michael, welcome to Radio Ecoshock.

Michael Brownlee: Thanks Alex, glad to be here.

AS: Michael, just to let the listeners know what to expect, I’d like to suggest a game plan. Let’s start with a brief explanation of what Transition is – that can take hours, but let’s try for a few minutes. Then, we’d like to hear from your seminal article in Transition Times, “The Evolution of Transition in the U.S.” A little history first, before we dive into the new proposals for “Deep Transition”. If we have time, I’d like to end up with stories from Transition Colorado, a few on-the-ground examples of what people are doing.

So – for the many listeners who already know about climate change and Peak Oil, what is the Transition movement?

MB: The transition movement is about preparing our communities for the local impacts of these global crisis, like climate change and fossil fuel depletion or Peak Oil, and economic decline as well.

Because what’s happened, over the last 60 or 70 years especially, is as the economy has becoming increasingly globalized, our communities have lost their capacities to meet their own essential needs, locally. So the Transition movement is about relocalization – finding ways to make it possible for our communities to regain those capacities again.

The movement started in the UK just over 4 years ago in Totnes England, where Rob Hopkins, a long-time permaculture teacher, decided to see if he could create a community-wide process in that little town, for relocalization. He mapped out a process in his experience there, which other communities have begun to pick up around the world.

The movement has, much to his surprise, grown quite rapidly in 15, maybe 16 different countries now. So it spread.

One of the reasons that it’s important is that it is the first thing that any of us have seen that gives us a sense that there is a process, that there is a pathway that we can bring to our communities to move toward relocalization, to make the transition off of fossil fuel dependence, and become much more resilient and self reliant. That, in a nutshell, is what the transition movement is about.

AS: How did this British initiative appear in the U.S. and what existing institutions did it build on?

MB: It began in the United States because there were several of us, in many communities, in this country and others, that were attempting relocalization. Although we were quite clear that we didn’t know how to do it. Many of us had been inspired by the Post Carbon Institute, founded by Julain Darley, who had begun this idea of a relocalization network.

But by the time Rob Hopkins and this transition process came along, we were all pretty hungry for a methodology, a pathway toward relocalization. So we’d been watching what he was doing over there.

I finally went over in early 2008 I guess it was, to see for myself if all the good rumors about transition were true. I went through a 2 day transition training in Scotland, and made my pilgrimage down to Totnes, England to meet with Rob Hopkins and some of the other leaders there. I saw what was happening in the UK, and was very excited and insprired by it. I felt that ‘this had to come to the United States.’

So I and several other people in the U.S., began organizing, reshaping our relocalization work around transtion. Our organization here in Boulder, Colorodo actually became the very first officially recognized Transition Initiative in North America.

It has spread. Since that time I think there are now 79 officially recognized Transition Initiatives in the U.S. And we don’t know how many, but probably another couple of hundred that are what the movement likes to call “mullers” – those who are considering utlizing the transition process in their communities.

AS: Could you just name some of the larger or more advanced places in the U.S., that are taking on this transition challenge?

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