Changing the world without too much worthiness

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, has just published a book on perhaps the most serious long-term global threats we face: climate change and the end of the age of cheap energy. There’s a powerful little promotional video too.

Even if you are doubtful about the scale of the threats, in the face of some pretty strong evidence, the core message and ideas in the book are appealing. The Power of Just Doing Stuff is about how individual and group action can help develop local communities that can be resilient in the face of change … and doing stuff can be fun too. The book features community bakeries, breweries, currencies and power stations, community arts projects, and lots about food. As Rob Hopkins explains in a Guardian article, Transition needs to have wide appeal.

When the Transition movement started, it was driven by green politics, and its biggest critics have tended to be deep greens. One, the writer Ted Trainer, threw the movement into mild existential crisis in 2009, when he accused Transition of being merely reformist, and too “easily accommodated within consumer-capitalist society without threatening it”.

Hopkins’s response was, essentially, to plead guilty. “For years, in the green movement, we have held that we are right, that we have the answers … [But] many of the answers we need are to be found in people who we might, in a more judgmental moment, see as being part of the ‘system’, including business people, lawyers, church groups, local history groups, and thousands of ordinary people with busy lives, bills to pay and children to raise.”

Today, Hopkins says he will only know that his new book has succeeded if his ideas are taken up by those kinds of people. Indeed, he wrote the book with his own sister in mind. “I hope she won’t mind me saying that! She’s raising kids, she’s very busy. She is somebody for whom all this stuff would pass her by. Not interesting at all. But if Transition is going to get anywhere, it needs to reach people like her.”

As Rob says, Transition tries to avoid being worthy, and on that front I think another video does a lot to promote the unpretentious spirit of Transition. Rob invited Totnes Mayor Pruw Boswell to assist him in a launch of the book on the local river. Good metaphor, and Totnes is a Transition pioneer place. However, it didn’t go according to plan … and unless I’m deeply cynical and reckon they knew that a book in a pumpkin was never going to sail well, credit to Rob for putting it up. Hilarious.

Slightly more seriously, I like Transition for the way they have managed to create a “brand” while developing a decentralised network, as I discovered when reporting from a  Transition conference a couple of years ago. They have bound this together in part through a team of social reporters telling stories, with their own basecamp of guides.

And finally, I love the new Transition infographic, by Trucie Mitchell, that carries the Transition story so fully in just a few poster pages. It is too big to feature entirely, but here is a taster.

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