Thursday, November 12, 2009

Transition Neighborhoods

The Transition Town movement was founded on "towns" as a scale of community where people know each other, see each contribution as important, and can hold each other accountable for their actions. The TT premise is that a community of this size can re-design their own localized and low-energy economy and agriculture into a more healthy and fulfilling way of life. As people take up the concepts of peak oil and climate change, and establish a proactive and positive response to energy descent, they can spread these ideas virally to their neighbors, families, churches, and schools in their community.

Oklahoma City, as a city of more than half a million people, does not exist at that scale. So how do we translate the model?

One approach that Transition Town OKC is trying is the "Transition Neighborhood." Neighborhoods in our area are frequently sized about 5,000 people, approximately the same size as a town and obviously composed of people living in the same geographical area. Unlike towns, neighborhoods are not set up as autonomous operating units with control over laws, and with their own set of businesses and utilities. However, neighborhoods often have associations or HOAs that do have influence over some aspects of neighborhood life.

We believe that a lot can be accomplished at a neighborhood scale, such as:

  • Encouraging and coordinating the building of gardens and orchards

  • Encouraging energy efficiency by giving tours of energy efficient or "sustainable" homes

  • Encouraging energy efficient home improvements by promoting financial support programs to residents (such as via federal and community stimulus grants)

  • Facilitating re-skilling groups and workshops for gardening, biking, sun oven cooking, knitting, poultry, bees, etc.

  • Spreading information about energy descent, transition towns, "going local," sustainability and resiliency through neighborhood newsletters and blogs

  • Establishing emergency and communication plans

  • Creating bartering or service networks and tool cooperatives

  • Encouraging emergency preparedness, including food and water storage

  • Planting fruit and nut trees in public areas; establishing a community garden or CSA

  • Facilitating "Transition Together" groups of people who support each other as they prepare for the energy descent

  • Mobilizing and lobbying for pro-resiliency and pro-sustainability changes such as bike and walking paths/sidewalks, crosswalks, bus shelters and bus stops, and appropriate zoning laws
  • Facilitating more carpooling, sharing, bartering, and using local materials by encouraging networking within the neighborhood, so people know each other and what they need/have
We are in the very early stages of this approach. We just completed the first round of strategizing and brainstorming and we held our first event to share the idea of the Transition Neighborhood with neighborhood and sustainability leaders. We hope that neighborhood leaders will take up the idea and pursue the Transition 12-step model of sustainability and resiliency - starting with at least one "model" Transition Neighborhood.

We don't know if this approach will work, but we are planting seeds to see if they sprout. At the very least, we hope to inform core groups of people in neighborhoods throughout the city who will be able to respond intelligently and appropriately as we progress through energy descent and possible energy shocks. In a more hopeful scenario, Transition Neighborhoods will grow and flourish in response to increasing energy prices and economic problems, helping their residents adapt to changing circumstances in sustainable and resilient ways, eventually forming Energy Descent Action Plans and pressuring the City to do the same.

I hope my neighborhood will be one of the first in OKC to start on this journey!

1 comment:

Monica said...

I just joined up with the local Transition Town movement about a year ago. Right now, we're being sponsored by the local non-profit environmental education center where I volunteer. Our group is still working on getting our footing into the community. One thing that has been successful is holding a monthly movie night followed by a discussion. I look forward to seeing how things go in your town. :)