Rob Hopkins “Transition Handbook”

ISBN 978 1 900322 18 8. “The Transition Handbook – From oil dependency to local resilience” by Rob Hopkins. Published in 2008 by Green Books Ltd. THE book for the Transition movement. That handbook! At our local Transition Town meetings our membership have been known to turn up clutching this to their chests like the Gospels. On the front cover Richard Heinberg implores the readership to follow its guidance. So, is it that good? Well, yes, and no, maybe, a little bit. You get 240 pages including Appendices, References, Resources and index. Rob breaks the content down into “The Head”, “The Heart” and “The Hands”. The first 77 pages covering the ‘head’ is actually the best bit as it is a well explained, rational and logical view of our situation and the solutions to it. This is inspirational. We get a clear insight into peak oil, climate change and cutting carbon emissions through relocalisation. In the ‘heart’ Rob moves onto his positive vision of transition He introduces the concept of a future of abundance rather than rationing. We examine his experience in Kinsale before moving onto the ‘hands’ where practical examples are supplied. Anyone used to reading and re-reading the ‘primer’ document on the Transition Network web site will see much here that is familiar. While this is all great one does get a sinking feeling glancing through the ‘tools for transition’ as they remind you of excruciating team building exercises you may have had to endure at work. Indeed, just like other books by permaculture experts it all looks like the re-invention of management consultancy techniques. I am sure there will be a long running set of Dilbert Cartoons aimed at Transition Towns in the near future. I sure hope Rob doesn’t take this too seriously. Thankfully he does not and there is plenty of humour in the book too. He often admits that he doesn’t have all the answers and that each Transition will be unique. The author obviously hankers after a golden wartime era with some medieval cob building thrown in for good measure – but then he admits this is only for inspiration, only an example. He is realistic enough to know that there is no turning back the clock with this vision. We do get a good year-long look at Transition Town Totnes experience. The background to the Totnes experience is very illuminating as it does confirm that there is something very special about the TT pioneers. Totnes, like Lewis, is an ‘alternative’ town. In 1926 a wealthy American heiress turned up in the town to conduct an experiment in combining arts, music & theatre. The establishment of a college of arts and a range of rural enterprises attracted lots of ‘cultural creatives’ to the area. Rob describes it as a ‘hot bed’ of environmentalism. Of course Transition would work there. Try that on a London Council Estate. It was a nice experiment but the program needs to be rolled out to “normal” people too. How to do that? No answers here really. The book is also suspiciously silent on the source of funding for this pursuit. In just one month Totnes managed to get both Aubrey Meyer and Tony Juniper to speak. This is the tip of the iceberg, they seemed to line up the brightest and the best of the environmental community’s celebrities. That must have been expensive. Most Towns will struggle to get anyone through their doors let alone to dig in their pockets to pay for it. These communities must already have enormous human capital & some cash. They are already programmed to survive. What about the rest of us? This handbook provides inspiration but much of the practical advice seems doubtful. Most people would run screaming from the room if asked to perform some of the exercises suggested here. We must all find our own path to transition. It is a book that must be rewritten for every town. And that is exactly what is happening. Think of it as a work in progress. Let it inspire you, then throw it away and roll up your sleeves….. Recommended.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

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