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High Wycombe is in Great Britain half-way between Oxford & London:
We aim to move our communities off an addiction to dirty, old-fashioned, fossil fuels and on to...
Local energy, energy security, home insulation, energy efficiency, energy saving, renewables for home heating, microgeneration for power - fossil fuels are the problem, not a solution, lets ditch them
Local food production for food security, health and well-being, allotments and gardens for all, creating an edible landscape, promoting permaculture, organic, seasonal & sustainable food - free of fossil fuels
Local money, local jobs, local business, local shops - for local people - free of our energy & economic legacy
Community cohesion, durability, adaptability &wellbeing, the "better way", community resilience-building, ie, combating fuel poverty, improving food security, ending economic insecurity & vulnerability
Education on the local impacts of climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels - education on economics & financial sustainability, promoting local abundance over global insecurity
Energy-transition action planning, consultations with Wycombe District Council, the Strategic Partnership, the Local Community Partnership and local Business on future local economic prosperity. Overcoming obstacles, bureaucracy and resistance to change. Adapting to change in advance. Supporting local businesses & networking within local civic society.
We are not a political or environmental group nor do we campaign against anything. We promote a brighter future through original thinking. Forewarned is forearmed.
We are on the Wycombe Strategic Partnership's Community Carbon Taskforce and you will regularly see us at consultation events in the area. We are a regular fixture now at local community events such as the Pann Mill open days. We are hoping to work with our partners on the following potential future projects:
Community Allotments, Vegetable Gardens or Orchards
Transition Network was set up in 2007 to inspire, support, network and train Transition initiatives around the world. Its stated objective is "to catalyse and support community responses to peak oil and climate change, building resilience and happiness". There are now 320 formal Transition initiatives around the world, and many more "mullers", those mulling whether to become formal or not. It is motivated by the twin issues of peak oil and climate change, and argues that these two issues mean that the world will be inherently more localised, and that at present our communities exist with a perilous absence of resilience. Transition initiatives around the world are busy creating local food projects, looking at street-by-street behaviour change, working with their councils, and much more.
The 21st Century: a century of declining resources
In 2005, Chevron's CEO announced to the world that the era of easy oil was over and went on a major advertising campaign to announce its solutions. In 2007, Total's CEO stated "we have all been too optimistic about the geology..." and went on to state that he couldn't see world supply ever going any higher than 100 million barrels per day. Also in 2007, the former CEO of Talisman stated "I think it's fair to say that the era of cheap energy is over." Then in early 2008, Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer issued a public email that stated "Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand." Everyone from the President of the United States down to the humble Times Newspaper agree: there are troubled times ahead:
"...what we must do now, for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time... If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they are either fooling themselves, or they're trying to fool you."
US President Barack Obama (in 2008)
These troubled times are dictated by a fact: we use four times more oil than we find. We are living on borrowed time.
Oil Discovery Versus Oil Consumption
Note: we consume three times more oil than we discover
Its is NOT that we are running out of oil, gas or coal - it is simply that supply cannot keep up with demand. Bang goes your cheap energy and our whole way of life. Where did it all go? Before the industrial revolution there were 580 billion tons of carbon in the atmosphere. Today there is 750 billion tons. The evidence (that our Government uses) suggests that fossil fuel use should be curtailed for reasons of energy security, foreign policy and the risk of man-made climate change. Hence Governments will do what Governments do - they will tax, price and ration fossil fuels. Then they will hope that the markets get the message in time - and that we can all adapt. The market will be the least of our problems: removing fossil fuels from our society is like weaning a junkie off drugs. This will hurt and will take between 20 to 40 years. However this is a prize worth fighting for. There isn't an alternative. A decarbonised society really will be a better one. There is a better way. Read about it here.
So forget about filling your car and think about how you will keep warm. Think about what you will eat when the factory food system turns ten calories of oil into just one calorie of food. The end of cheap oil & gas is the end of cheap food. Resilience, decarbonisation and localisation are the new keys to our security... Getting there is going to be the greatest adventure in human experience. Join us and be witness to an economic and cultural renaissance the likes-of-which we have never seen.
The Challenge of Climate Change
Climate Change is a genuine phenomenon, and there is a non-trivial risk of major consequences. However there is no 100% consensus on how high the risk is, or how soon it is likely to materialise. We just know it is possible & probable. We mitigate risk. It really doesn't matter if the Climate Change is caused by humans or not. It doesn't matter if it is warming or cooling. We are vulnerable in all circumstances. A community that is unable to cope with global food shortages or extreme weather is at risk in this changing world. It is not the role of a Transition Town to endlessly (and pointlessly) debate Climate science with sceptics. This is a fruitless exercise because the debate has little to do with the scientific evidence (which is mostly overwhelming). Instead it is a discussion about the things we fear. Transitin aims to move the debate on to fear-removal and the assurance of a better post-carbon future for all our communities. Irrational debate is driven by idealogy not by reality. Our fears are real but largely groundless. It is time to embrace a better way.
"Transition" = (literally) 'change' or adaptation. A positive vision of a future and the building of the roadmap to get there. A change engineered at a grassroots level by volunteers (but implemented in partnership with others, ie, local Government). Emphasis on the pre-emptive adaptation to a future world with less conventional sources of energy & food. A philosophy & a new way of thinking. Encompasses localisation, resilience & decarbonisation.
"Localisation" = the building of community resilience, spirit & cohesion. The shortening of supply chains for food, work and energy to break the reliance upon fossil fuels. Exploitation of local abundance and the avoidance of vulnerability to global scarcity. Not the rejection of globalisation but rather a rebalancing so we have diversity and choice based upon long term security requirements.
"Resilience" = the ability to withstand shock from the outside. For example, the ability to maintain a working local economy in the face of prolonged severe weather, fuel blockades, natural disaster, civil disturbance, disruption to energy supplies, economic problems and loss of global food sources. Building a permanent culture.
"Decarbonisation" = reduction in carbon footprints. Movement towards a low & post-carbon society. Achievable via a mix of technology, economic and cultural changes.
So what will Transition Initiatives do that cannot be achieved by National and Local Government action?
Empowerment of individuals who would otherwise feel despair and lack of influence over world events. YOU can take part in Transition and get involved. YOU can make a difference. Think Global. Act Local.
Positive thinking. Original thinking. Tomorrow can be better than today but only if we avoid dead-end paths of development. Create something inspiring. Reject negativity.
Re-imagining the future. Future thinking - the modelling of a High Wycombe that we would wish to live in in 2050 or even sooner! Awareness of the challenge.
Local decision making. The needs of High Wycombe decided by the people of the town.
Peer-to-peer communication with other members of the public. Your neighbour will respect your view more than that of the Council. We get people talking. We are a forum.
Shining examples, within communities and neighbourhoods, of positive action.
Promoting Local over Global rather than simply what is the cheapest. Bring a new mix with diversity & security. 'Supply chains in depth'. Mixing food sources so 70% is local, 20% national & 10% international rather than reverse. Or energy that is 50% from your roof, 30% from your county, 10% from your country and 10% from abroad.
Garnering public support for relocalised food and energy sources such as fruit tree planting in public places, wind-turbines, solar panels, and so on... that might otherwise be rejected by communities.
Changing society group-think: rational personal spending habits & investment decisions. Let's get everyone insulating their homes, buying local food and investing in micro-generation. These investments pay-back!
Building cultural change: offering better alternatives to short term unsustainable lifestyles. Promotion of metrics for well-being that go beyond money in the bank. Rejection of sustainable living as a "lifestyle choice" but acceptance of it as the inevitable future. Build a permanent culture through permaculture thinking.
Things can only get better when we get rid of fossil fuels. Relax. You DO have a choice. An easy choice. You could work over-time to afford car maintenance & petrol. You could eat a tonne of fast-food then pay a gym so you can work it off. You could work a long way from your family just to have enough money to take a foreign holiday - where you can spend your time at an airport or shoe-horned into economy class. Is this the better way? Is that even a holiday? Sure? It is a lifestyle and it can't last. It is now so 'normal' that to challenge it is to question people's deeply held beliefs. It has a religious quality. But it is irrational. During the fuel blockade in the year 2000 our shops came within days of running out of bread. We have forgotten what it is like to have a life without endless cheap energy and food trucked in from the other side of the planet. Our security has gone. It makes us ill-at-ease. We are vulnerable. We no longer eat properly or get the right amount of exercise.
"...get a life not a lifestyle..."
Instead, let's clean up. Get a life not a lifestyle. Don't follow the herd. Be an individual. Set new trends. Spend more time with your family. Save your money and pay off debts. Keep fit by working in the garden, cycling or walking. Grow your own food, cook it and eat it......
...save money now...
.....Recycle more and insulate your home to the max. Heat your house and hot water with a mix of wood, solar energy and a ground/air-source heat pumps. Add value to your home & save money now. Get energy security and insulate yourself from energy price instability. Set yourself free of the system by generating your own electricity with solar power & wind. Benefit financially from lower food & energy bills. Gain even more from Government incentives such as 'feed-in tariffs' for getting your power from your own renewables. You stand to be rewarded handsomely and you'll have something just a bit special. Your neighbours will envy you. Be at the leading edge of new trends.
...get back in control...
We know you have no time to listen to the lecturing of people trying to convince you of your guilt for the "environment" or "CO2 emissions". This isn't about the environment at all. It's about YOUR life and your future. This is an investment. Give it a go. Call it enlightened self-interest. Consume less, live more. Be happier. Stop wasting your time. Dirty high polluting lifestyles are daft and unfashionable. Cutting out your fossil fuel addiction is desirable and gets you back in control. Early adopters will be those best rewarded. Who wants to be a fossil? The "better way" is a local life. It embraces your local community as a treasure we have simply forgotten....but why "Transition"?
"...the best possible of all times..."
"Green lifestyles" and traditional "eco" messages make us only think about "cutting back". We feel bad for a while but then move on.. Afterall, who really wants to have less? There is always somebody else to free-ride on our sacrifice. We need to stop thinking about 'sacrifice' and think more about 'substitution' and change. What we forget is that we live in the best possible of all times and we would like to preserve a decent standard of living. This preservation of human well-being is core to Transition. "Transition" is a bright and vibrant vision of a fossil-fuel free society. A vision of healthy, localised, decarbonised and resilient communities. We can ALL contribute to that better future. We know the challenge. Our domestic Oil & Gas supplies are in decline. We now buy it in from remotest Russia or the troubled middle east. These are not secure supplies. Scarcity makes the price of fossil fuels rise leading to fuel poverty. We respond by ripping off mountain tops for their coal or digging up beautiful areas of Canada for their tar sands. These are dirty and inefficient responses. We are smarter than that.
"...a buried bounty..."
The exploitation of fossil fuels around the world has bought untold misery to millions, not only through war and terrorism, but through human-rights violations. Fossil fuels were a one-off buried bounty of chemical energy. A gift that gave us plastics, cars, air transport, technology, medicine & all modernity. But when the cheap oil, gas & coal are gone - what then? We need to recognise the benefits and preserve them. Then we must recognise the terrible costs and eliminate them. High Wycombe can do this. We have all the know-how, technology and expertise. We only lack the will because we think this is an 'environmental problem' rather than a socio-economic opportunity. A local future is not sacrifice, it is a substitution. It's a change. A change for the better. We'll forsake the insecurity and scarcity out THERE with the security and abundance we have in HERE. It will be fun. An adventure. A better life not a lifestyle.
From 'not bothered' to 'empowered'
"...the sky is falling..."
It is tempting to dismiss Transition as just another modern eco-fad. Just another bunch of liberal, white, middle-class, doom-mongers telling you the sky is falling. You may even feel that the transition is a curtailment of your freedoms... The trouble with that is that we aren't asking anyone to undergo some weird religious experience or have some strange "faith" in something we cannot demonstrate. We are not dogmatically-eco-anything. 'Freedom' comes with responsibility. We should be pragmatic. We only ask that you watch the TV news, read the papers and take note of Government reports. Make your own objective assessment. If we do not engage in the decarbonisation of our society then we will fall a victim of it. It will simply be imposed upon us by some big government. The change will be easier if you accept a slightly different future from the one you have been sold up until now.
"...what will happen tomorrow?"
We didn't move out of the stone age for lack of stones. We stopped using whale oil to light our homes when kerosene was found to be cheaper. The 'coal age' arrived in Europe because wood became scarce. At first people hated coal because it was so polluting. But then came the industrial revolution and our world turned upside down. In the 1980's onwards we started to phase out coal in favour of gas. Change is always occurring around us and we need only open a history book to learn about it. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Your Transition Town High Wycombe team have had a glimpse over that mountain. We have an idea as to what will transpire.
"...substitute something better..."
So, do you like a hot shower in the morning? Do you like TV & gadgets? Do you like crisps? It would bother you if you had to start sacrificing these things. BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. That is the point of transition. We'll change, We'll substitute something BETTER. It needs a team effort. Change is very rewarding for those who are up for it. The Government is putting in place various schemes to reward people for adopting renewable energy. We can be the community that wins. We can come out on top. The quicker the community embraces this change the better it is for everyone. We must all give our leaders the mandate they need to make change happen... But we can also do so much ourselves. We are now empowered.
Transition Town High Wycombe ("TTHW") is an unincorporated Not-For-Profit (non-Charity) Association. You can read our Constitution here. From this our Aims are:
".....to promote a permanent, resilient and sustainable culture in High Wycombe within the “Transition Initiatives” framework. This includes (but not solely limited to):
a) Raising awareness of the challenges & opportunities arising from declining resources, ie, peak oil, the subsequent limits to growth and the implications of such limits in a time of changing climate. Educating, involving and part-leading our community towards a low carbon, resilient, relocalised and sustainable future culture through community action.
b) To provide the membership, other groups, and individuals with the encouragement, skills and support necessary to make the transition to that future culture.
c) Creation, co-creation & implementation of an Energy Descent Action Plan, Carbon Reduction Framework or other, similar, multiple roadmaps to that future culture.
d) Supporting and working with the Transition Network, other local Civil Societies, local Government, statutory bodies, voluntary organisations, Businesses and Community-led initiatives.
e) Working with other Communities.
f) The facilitation of sub-groups working on this Transition.
g) Promoting a positive vision of a low carbon, sustainable, resilient, re-localised future culture via local food, local energy, local economics and other practical tools as may develop in the future. Letting Transition evolve naturally not as a prescription but more as a problem-solving initiative addressing genuine physical limits."
Transition is about building a better future. It is a positive vision. A better way. People should choose this path because it will build a happier & healthier community that is more resilient. How well High Wycombe endures climate change, credit crunches, spending cuts and future energy shocks will be the measure of our success. If we continue to do nothing then we will remain vulnerable and get weaker. If we transition we will become stronger, tackle climate change, cope with peak oil, prevent fuel poverty and offer hope. Doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing is irrational. We plan to thrive! There should be no crisis for a community in transition.
Frequently Asked Questions & Myths
1) You are demanding sacrifices of us!
No, we are not. We have been asked if we will stop people from flying. We have been accused of hypocrisy and of wanting our pensioners to freeze in winter. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one need sacrifice anything they need, but they must be ready for the transition. The simple truth is that it will soon be too expensive to fly. The price of oil will see to that. Our pensioners will suffer from fuel poverty unless we adapt to a low energy future. We wish to prevent fuel poverty and hunger. The challenge will come all by itself. Transition is about an action plan and a vision to combat these inevitable changes.
2) So, this is an "environmental", "green" or "eco" thing?
No - absolutely not. In fact our views about sustainability could even lead us into conflict with traditinal green groups. We have links to environmental groups and some individuals are members of both. We raise awareness of the effects of Climate Change not only because it is an "environmental" matter but because it will detrimentally effect our community's well-being. Climate Change is a socio-economic opportunity. In order to move forward we must transition to a post-carbon society no longer reliant upon fossil fuels for our food, energy and wealth. This change is inevitable (regardless of climate change) as the depletion of finite fossil fuels will force this change upon our communities. So we must be ready. Instead of working on specific environmental projects, such as the elimination of plastic bags or the revitalisation of the Wye, we work on a broad spectrum of civil society projects with the community. As such the Transition Network almost defies traditional categorisation. We don't fit inside any old comfortable pigeon hole. More a "cultural team" than a "green campaign" group. We are new and without precedent. More a social movement than anything else. This makes what we do incredibly exciting. It is groundbreaking.
3) But, what will you actually do?
'Transition' is not prescriptive. It is more a journey than a destination. A means not an ends. First we will raise awareness of the need to change. Then, once enough people come to accept the need to change, we will work on our Transition Plan. We will then gather into sub-groups to create a 'road-map' to where we need to be. This map takes into account the unique features of the local community and local resources. This plan will be different in High Wycombe from that for the Wirral. No two plans should be the same but they will have common features.
4) Just a plan? Is that all?
Plans need to be promoted and implemented. Examples will be implemented. Anyone who has been to the Wycombe Town Centre Library will see the Energy Saving Kits that we put there for loan. Anyone who has had their home surveyed by Thermal imaging Camera will have met our team. Anyone who has picked up and looked at the Local Food Guide is reading one of our publications. You will see a physical manifestation of elements of the plan. Indeed, there is not an option. The core of the plan will be the 'relocalisation' of our community's economy, ie, local food and local energy. As a social movement we also need to educate and change expectations. We will challenge misconceptions and prepare people for the new path. This can involve a whole host of initiatives that steer us clear of the old dying paradigms of infinite growth, the consumer society and junk culture. We need to refocus on that which matters the most. To do this we will build a coalition of like-minded local organisations, societies, charities, businesses, local government and community groups. We will also seek help and advice from members of society that we do not normally expect to get asked about the future - our parents and grand-parents.
5) But what have you actually done?
Have you ever borrowed an Energy Saving Kit from the Library? TTHW did that. Have you ever read the Local Food Guide ("Food On Our Doorstep")? We did that. Looking for a discount on Solar Panels? We provide that. Thermal imaging survey of your home? We do that? Been to the Wycombe Harvest? We did that. Need advice? We can help. You can see us at community events through the Summer season and we are a regular fixture now at Pann Mill open days. We have a seat on the Wycombe Strategic Partnership Environmental Sub-Group which takes us into the heart of Council policy making. In 2008 we made a significant contribution to the Sustainable Prosperity consultation (later launched in January 2010). In 2010 we provided written & oral evidence for the WDC Carbon Reduction Framework. In August 2010 our first futuristic demo home ("Superhome 59") opened in Totteridge offering a practical example of a retrofitted, state-of-the art, home with solar panels, biomass boiler and uprated insulation. Our second Superhome (113) opened at The Brackens in 2011. This is the tip of the iceberg. Wait to see what we will do next....
6) Aren't you living in the past?
No, we are the new futurists. Although we can learn from the past we will not wallow in nostalgia or sentiment for bygone days. This is not about returning to the stone age. We cannot turn High Wycombe into a museum. It is a living community full of diverse hopes and dreams for the future. Some of these aspirations have a future. Some, sadly, do not. Our vision is for a diverse, prosperous and vibrant community that is self-reliant in all its essential needs. The past represents a fragile society propped up with vast quantities of cheap fossil fuel energy. The past represents unlimited consumption where little or nothing is built to last. The past is disposable. The idea of a future local community that can feed itself, keep itself warm in winter, light its homes and sustain prosperity, without shipping vast quantities of energy & 'stuff' from a thousand miles away, is truly revolutionary. That is futuristic. And it isn't a dream - it is a necessity. We will not thrive without a transition.
7) But, you're against technology - right?
No. There can and will always be a place for appropriate technology. However technology will only sustain if it too can be sustained. A car won't go without petrol. Likewise, if we can't build a wind turbine without oil then this too has a questionable future. So we will witness a sea change in our relationship to technology. Today we see it as a way of producing non-essential, disposable, consumer products, made in a factory on the other side of the planet. Tomorrow its role will be to supply the essentials locally. Fifty years from now it may be that we could have mobile telephones. However, each phone will be very expensive & very simple. It will come from a small factory maybe 100 miles away. All its components will have been recycled or are biodegradable. If it breaks you could have someone locally mend it for you. You may have the one phone for twenty years before returning it to the factory for recycling. The factory is powered by hydro-electricity. Last, but not least, we will only have mobile phones after we have fed ourselves, clothed ourselves, kept warm and had financial security. Let's say that a mobile phone may not be high in your list of priorities. You'll probably be spending your money on solar panels, fuel, insulation and so on.... There will also be renewed interest in what might be thought of as 'traditional' skills, ie, making things with your hands. We'll see things differently and will need to 'reskill' for this future.
8) Sounds like a vision of hell to me...
Technology without community is miserable. We should start to focus on quality of life as well. Your well-being does not increase with the more stuff you have. Imagine that your house catches fire. What do you do? Rush your plasma-screen TV & DVD player outside as top priority? Or do you rescue your family and take them to a neighbour's house? You are nothing without your family & community. Community is the solution.
9) It's woolly-thinking liberal nonsense.....
Have you noticed how the "Big Society" was a Tory idea not a Liberal-Democratic one? Wake up. Localism is the newest paradigm to sweep Whitehall and these ideas, that stemmed from right-wing think-tanks, have broad endorsement across the political spectrum. Our time has come. The Transition Network is a broad slice of society which includes many accountants, Company Directors, economists, Business men & women and so on. Few would describe themselves as being particularly liberal. Preparing a plan for how your local Community and local Business will adapt to climate change and expensive fuel and food is hardly the mark of "woolly thinking". It sounds coldly rational. A little like fastening your seat-belt when you get in your car. The "business-as-usual" view is the last resort for the woolly-thinker. Ignoring the obvious is not rational. Preparing for it is.
We seek a way of rolling sustainable living out to our communities so they can become more durable. Not because it is nice but because we no longer have a choice. Ironically the critics of the Transition-ideal are often those who feel uncomfortable with a truly inclusive social movement that may appeal as much to members of the Rotarians as attendees of climate camps. We welcome everyone. Your local Transition movement looks forward to seeing you at our next public event so you can contribute your ideas... We don't know better and don't seek to lecture. How about coming along? Tell us why it will never happen so we can work on the problem. Not transitioning is not an option. We need your solutions.