Berkhamsted look out, here we come

I’ve just woken myself up from a nap, embarrassingly finding myself lying on the carpet in the living room.  Bubs is sitting nearby, avoiding frustration while trying a jigsaw for a much older child.  The weather outside is intermittent, so I’m taking a few moments to get my thoughts down on how my third and final year as “leader”* of Transition Town Berkhamsted (TTB) might develop.

We have a good platform now that a number of people have stepped forward to take on the official roles, responding to my challenge of a few weeks ago.  It was great to see such a turnout at the AGM a week and a half ago, representing the decent number of projects and initiatives that are getting up and running at the moment.  I think we rivalled the attendance of the town council’s annual meeting, and without offering free tea and biscuits.

The TTB strategy remains intact after 20 months, and so ought to be the main thrust of this year.  That would mean formalising how the numerous groups, clubs, businesses and organisations in the town communicating with one another regularly, and using that to help develop a longer term plan for the town, incorporating principles of community, ethics and sustainability.

My thoughts on that approach haven’t changed wildly, but have changed a little.  If we want to see a rapid change to energy efficiency, renewable energy and fuels, local food and a less car-centric transport system, then town plan, or Neighbourhood Plan, is the way to go.  Season that with our get-up-and-go local food growing and energy co-operatives, and we’ll be laughing.

What is different now is that I have realised that whatever development track we take, the marginalised will continue to be in the margins and the excluded will continue to not be included.  Unless we pay attention to community at a personal level.  Hence the idea of having a getting our streets to know and help one another a little more.  We’ll have fun with street parties, getting the kids out and forcing the parents to chat with Street Play, and then having those conversations about the opportunities of Transition Streets.

I just caught myself writing “it will be a hard slog” then, by which I meant we won’t get instant results.  But there is something Freudian in my subconscious choice of phrase.  Now I’m pondering why I think it will be “hard” and “work” – it needs to be fun; something that people choose to get involved with rather than doing so through guilt or a sense of duty.  I’m concluding that it’s not so much the street parties that will be hard, it’s the dreaded taboo conversations about climate change (wibbly font needed).  I’ll need to do a little more research and thinking as to how to have a conversation about carbon footprints with a UKIP or Conservative voter that doesn’t fall in the bracket of boring or confrontational.

Other priorities for the year will be continuing where we’ve left off with the Ashlyns Conversations, with three talks held last year and one already so far this.  And the Steering Groups need to be re-scheduled, with an important decision over the year as to whether we become a charity.  Maybe part way through the year we will do away with the current constitution, and be led by an elected board of trustees with a regularly revolving chairman, following the blueprint of Totnes, Lewes and Stroud?

Before any of that can be started, though, I will follow through on my announcement at the AGM that my first priority will be to fill the gaps not so far filled for the new TTB roles.  The communications role is the glaring hole, and we also need to find some help for Claire and Bex in the membership and publicity positions.  I’ll also try to organise the attendance of the monthly Green Drinks socials with Emma, while changing the format so people want to attend.  Similarly with the online forum, I’ll do a little investigation as to what it is that gets in the way of it being taken up more widely.  Just as importantly, I’ll give my support to the people who have taken on roles, so they know what is expected of them and can get on with it without interference.

So, roughly, that would mean June spent on roles, July to the end of 2014 on street stuff and setting up the communication network with local groups, and then build towards town plan, expand the streets initiative and become a charity to May 2015.

Let’s see how long that lasts.  I’d like to talk it through with the team at the next Green Drinks, which at the moment is unfortunately scheduled to start as England kick off against Uruguay in Brazil, which might scupper things.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

* You may remember that I wanted to change the official title from Leader.  That hasn’t quite happened, because we couldn’t think of an appropriate alternative.  I’d suggested Chair, similar to neighbouring Tring, but it has associations for corporate types.  I’d been thinking of maybe something a little whacky, like naming the position after part of a tree.  Bark maybe?  Root might be better?  Then it came to me.  How about Sap?


The geek shall inherit the Earth

After the third Ashlyns Conversation on Wednesday night, I can’t help but wonder whether there was some mis-translation early on when the Bible was being compiled.  “The meek shall inherit the Earth” has been an eye-catching and thought provoking phrase for me.  I’m wondering whether the “m” was a mistake and it should have been a “g”.

I’ve read Mark Stevenson’s book, and while feeling out of place in a hip pub in London Mark he did take me through his go-to slide presentation.  While there were adaptations in the talk he gave last night to what I’d read and heard before, it was largely similar.  It didn’t stop me letting out involuntary gasps of astonishment as I sat in Berkhamsted Town Hall while he rattled through his bewildering torrent slides, taking the 70 attendees through already existing technologies such as Star-Wars-like thought controlled robotic hands with sensitive touch, to reversing the aging process using telomerase; from successful competitions to find businesses that can make money by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (without government incentives), to the meteoric rise of renewable energy and algae creating petrol from carbon dioxide and water.

Optimist's Tour of the Future

After the talk I gave a lift to Jean to get her home and save her knees, and worked into the evening to prepare for a client meeting today.  A short night’s sleep later and I’m on a train to Derby, thinking.  What I heard last night changes everything for me.  And at the same time it changes nothing.

It changes everything in that I have to admit that I’m much more optimistic about the potential for us defeating climate change.  Technologies are on the way, and they will come sooner or later whether governments get on board or not.  It changes nothing in that the steps I need to take now are to orient myself in moral philosophy, and help to build and inclusive, collaborative and fair community, starting within myself and working out to my family, friends, neighbours, street and town.

I now have renewed insight and belief that the work of the Transition movement is all the more fundamentally important and pressing.  Climate change will knock us to the floor unless we reduce our individual, local, national and global carbon footprint – we need to give ourselves another decade or two to allow these technologies to come through and help repair our battered planet.  Our humanity, our understanding of our place in the universe and our moral outlook need to keep pace with the onset of the world-shifting technologies.  That can only happen if we get to know the Blaneys next door and the Yarkers across the road, talk about the important things in life and yes, dare I say it, love one another.

The world just around the corner (ooh, I like that phrase) isn’t going to wait for our lumbering political systems and unresponsive behemoths of corporations.  Either through Mother Nature showing her hand or through Fred building a self-replicating 3D nano-printer in his bedroom, government and big business are going to get caught napping.  So we need to be there to help smooth the transition and ride the wave of change rather than get swept aside.

The new insights Mark gave change everything in that the destination I now imagine looks very different from the one I had in mind, with just as much nature and collaboration, but a few more gizmos and a lot more algae.

It changes nothing in that we are still at a crossroads in the history of the human race.  Will we race unthinking into that future, use a shiny new monofilament graphite saw too cut off the branch upon which we are sitting.  Or will we allow our humanity to transcend our animal instincts for competition, to move with self-aware assuredness into a collaborative and equitable paradise.

I’ll probably aim for the paradise option, hope that most of us go the same way, and build a bolt-hole in case those that go for the fast lane try to wipe me out.

A massive thank you to Bex in particular, plus Emma, Phillipa and Ivan for organising the talk, and to Mark for delivering such a profound message to us all.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

A year of Transition

Last year we did quite a bit actually, with the Transition Town here in currently wet and windy Berkhamsted.  The bits I will remember fondly aren’t necessarily those that would grab the headlines.  OK, the headlines I am talking about are in the local rag the Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.

It won’t be the steering groups and updating strategies that will stick in the mind, even though they have given us the foundations and direction to transition the town as a whole rather than just our own back gardens.  It won’t be the Fresh Local Accessible local food initiative, with the extensive survey of the opportunities, opinion and barriers to local food, mainly because I’ve not personally been involved in that.  I’ll remember singing along while we broke our backs digging up and reclaiming rough ground at the allotment to plant a community orchard with the other allotment holders.  My little bubs running with an excited shout through the runner bean bamboo wigwam thing, and it not collapsing, will stick in the mind.

The work with Safer Routes to Schools, making a difference to plans for traffic so kids can walk around more freely, is great, but I haven’t been involved in that either so it’ll slip the mind.  I will remember finally getting into the habit of cycling everywhere, zipping past Trevor or Kate shouting “hello!” while not being able to wave as I held on for dear life.  It’s great to have got over that initial wobbly stage.

I probably won’t even remember the B-Hive town consultation and all the invention, creativity and scribbling of the townspeople as they designed their ideal town centre.  I’ll not forget how I felt, mouth-agape, as Anna Perry silenced the bustling Civic Centre hall with her breath-taking a cappella rendition of ..?  No wait, I seem to have forgotten that.  I remember the tears in people’s eyes though.  Beat endless meetings with councillors.

I’ll probably forget all of the meetings to organise not one, not two but three big talks – the Positive Money talk with Fran Boait and the first two Ashlyns Lectures, with Ian Roberts and Polly Higgins.  I won’t forget chatting with Ian and finding out we went to the same primary school and that our retired parents are working together on the leisure centre in Beaumaris, or eating Parul’s wonderful vegan curry before being awed by Polly Higgins warmth, wisdom and knowledge.

It won’t be the emails and phone calls organising the first two gatherings of the Transition Towns of Beds, Bucks and Herts that will stick in the mind.  It might be the shared meal with Berkhamsted Transition Towners at Danny and Jo’s understated mansion.

I do like to eat.

I may remember the start of an energy co-operative in Berkhamsted, with the cricket club and potentially one or two of the local schools being lined up by Seb, Tracy, Peter, Tom and John.

The point of this?  I’d like to see Transition Town Berkhamsted grow, not just food, but in numbers and the time we want to put into it, so we can really make the practical steps to live the life we expect to see after the town has transitioned into the future of local energy and food, with less reliance on cars, lorries, planes and fossil fuel and more biking.  Oh, yes, I’d obviously forgotten the Bikefest (but not my 7-year-old Tall cycling out of the Canal Fields car-park without me, onto the main roads and making it up the Bridgewater Road hill without gears during the guided ride – Go Tall).

So my aim for the coming year will be to make the work that we do be include socialising, eating, family, friendship and be attractive for us all to want to spend more time doing it rather than seeing it as a drag .  We can then bring in more members and a lot more will be achieved.

Come to the AGM tonight (Thursday 15 May) at HERE Berkhamsted from 8pm and we can plot a fun year ahead.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Power Shift UK 2014 – How it happened

It took three hours to get through to London via circuitous route on Saturday, with the trains up the swanny. It was worth every minute to get to Power Shift UK, which after all these months of planning, copious use of skype and the waxing and waning of the team, has now happened.  I feel very privileged to have been part of organising such a historical event.

After buzzing backwards and forwards to London to deliver painting materials for the conference banner and then working late into the night on Friday to make sure we knew the plan for the two days and had some idea of how our introduction would hang together, Saturday morning was about getting the posters, programmes, tea urns and accoutrements to UCL before the delegates started to arrive.

The introduction was due to start at 11am, and I have to admit that as the time drew near and I felt as though the attendance was going to be well down on the 150 people who had booked their places, as I was seeing the same few faces wondering around the building trying to find their bearings that.  I need not have worried, as 130 people of all ages and backgrounds rolled into Lecture Theatre 1 in the Cruciform building to kick off the event.  The other 20 would make an appearance at different times over the weekend.

We had a few inspiring videos lined up to get everyone in the mood for sharing stories and skills and hatching plans to shift the power from those who seem hell bent on destroying our natural world.  We pressed play, and watched some interesting looking pictures of flooding and wild fires, but not a decibel of sound accompanied them.  Veiled panic ensued – all rather annoying given it had all been working beautifully just an hour previously.  Eventually Tom found that someone had sat on the mute button on the remote and the audience were treated to this:

Our carefully planned intro had to be curtailed, which meant my idea was dropped, which would have involved me frantically pointing around while people shouted out a word to describe what they wanted from the weekend.  I’ll have to keep that one up my sleeve for another day.  It’ll be great.

The plenary speakers performed verbal miracles on stage, eruditely communicating on complicated topics, bringing interest and emotion, all without notes.  I have to say that for me personally, it was Fiona Brookes who stole the show, with a speech from the heart about being challenged to accept the innate differences and similarities between each of us.

Power Shift UK - Stretching after Day 1

Only when we are together can we bring about the change in society that is needed for social and environmental equality and justice.  Over the weekend we found out how many different takes there are on how to go about that, and we also recognised how we need to incorporate all of those viewpoints into our thinking.  Once we recognise that we are all part of the same movement, we can move to critical mass.  As George Barda said in one of the opening plenaries, historically it has only taken between 1-7% of the population to be actively following a cause for it to become mainstream.

If the social and environmental movement in the UK can join together effectively, we would have that 4 million activists necessary to change our world for the better.

I was part of Power Shift UK 2014.  Will it be seen by history as one of the steps on that road?  Next – Power Shift UK 2, if the students from Warwick Uni keep their enthusiasm, plus potentially Power Shift Scotland.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Determined to make a difference

You may remember me talking about a conference for local Transition Towns.  It’s taken me a while to write up what happened.  I got the perfect shove up the proverbial when none other the Rob Hopkins, the founder of the global Transition movement, got in touch to ask me to write about the conference.  The below is what I have come up with so far – it is a sneak preview, and will probably change with comments and editing before it is published anywhere else:

I’m very proud to say that on 24 March we held the first Transition Beds, Bucks, Herts conference.  Wow, sounds good.  A dozen local Transition Towns came together to celebrate our successes, inspire the next project and see how the sum of the parts can be greater than the whole.  It was surprisingly easy to organise, and has certainly inspired me to get going with a Transition Streets initiative in Berkhamsted.

We had a previous gathering in October last year, and the idea for the conference emerged.  Organising was simple – the door was open, it just needed a gentle shove.  For the initial gathering last year, all that was needed was to choose a date, book the venue and then send an email to a few addresses found on the web or in my address book, and word spread.  I asked for a small contribution to cover costs and for people to bring food to share, and the job was done.

The conference itself took slightly more organising, as it was open for anyone to attend, so we put together a booking system as well, and organised an agenda.  We used a survey to find out the level of interest and what people wanted to talk about.  I have to thank John Ingleby of Transition in Kings for his efforts in finalising the day.

Abbots in Transition, Change4Chalfont, Haddenham in Transition, Hemel in Transition,Low Carbon Chilterns, Transition in Kings, Transition St Albans, Transition Town Letchworth, Tring in Transition, Winslow Transition and Milton Keynes attended, although Abbots and Winslow were unable to come along this March.

We organised it a bit like Open Space, with pre-defined topics.  We all split up in the morning to talk about community energy, food security and Transition Streets.  I went to the latter, and listened to the great work from St Albans and how that could be combined with Street Play to get people out of their boxes and build that sense of community.  There are now Transition Streets starting up in Tring, Abbots Langley and by me in Berkhamsted.

There was a similar success story with community energy, with Grand Union Community Energy (GUCE, pronounced Juice) of Kings Langley inspiring Letchworth, Berkhamsted (GUCE-B) and Tring (TRICE).  John Ingleby led the workshop, based on the experience of GUCE in raising £72,000 to install solar panels at a local school during 2013.

The project involved a steep learning curve, and GUCE were awarded some additional funds by the Herts and Dacorum councils, which they used to document all the steps they took in the form of an online “Toolkit” rather like an Advent Calendar, where you should only “open” a box after all the preceding steps have been tackled.

We then enjoyed our food and each other’s company, before moving into the afternoon.  The plan had been to split up to talk about personal resilience (aka avoiding burn-out); scaling up the movement; and energy measuring gadgets.  As it turned out, almost everyone wanted to scale up the movement, but felt too time-pressured and exhausted by the prospect, so there was a general decision to hold a plenary on personal resilience followed by the same on scaling up.

I have to say that I think this was a mistake in hindsight, as there were a small number of people who hadn’t the slightest interest in either topic and wanted to see the thermal imaging camera.  I don’t think we had enough time to devote to what really needed to be a more intimate discussion on the stresses and strains of this work.

I think the afternoon was actually a microcosm of the whole movement as I experience it.  We all feel that there is so much to so, and we feel as though we need to do it all, rather than taking our time and doing one thing right.  So my learning from the afternoon was just that – don’t try to take on more than you can cope with, and do a loving, beautiful job on what you do commit to.

Then we moved on to Scaling Up, and a few peeled off to have a look at the camera.  John Ingleby spoke about his experience of campaigning with The Hunger Project (HP) in the 1980s, when people were invited to “sign a card to end world hunger”. In 1984, HP volunteers achieved 58,000 cards signed in three months – 0.1% of UK population at that time. Participation in HP increased substantially through these campaigns. While not suggesting Transition should turn to signing cards, there are several valuable lessons for scaling up:

1.    A clear message

2.    A defined end date

3.    Frequent publicised progress reports

Campaigns with these features are almost always successful (for example, community energy share offers). As when a large group of people light candles from each other in a darkened room, the time to light the last 100 can be less than it takes the first two.

John proposed we should promote the goal of “Zero Carbon by 2030”, and the following discussion explored how this may (or may not) be appropriate for Transition.

Over the two events we have made between us a host of very important connections, between each other, ideas and learning insights.  Christine Hopkins said of the event “Great to be in a roomful of people determined to make a difference, and not just in a small way! Getting together with people from around our region, exchanging ideas and spreading the network, is inspiring and motivating.”

Here’s to the next one, when it is the right time.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Get a Shift on

It’s very gratifying to see Power Shift UK taking shape.  Months of discussion and work are finally paying off.  It’s all been from an ever changing team of volunteers, spending their spare time moving the Shift forward (or shifting the movement forward, possibly).

For me, it started before I left my job to help the climate effort in February last year.  I unsuccessfully applied to join the Global Power Shift in Istanbul.  Thankfully that wasn’t the end of the road, as I bumped into Nico Wojewoda of at a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline.  That got me on to the UK team.Tour

Skype has been our friend, and we’ve made good use of shared documents and email to help new people get on board as quickly as they might.  There have been highs where the team looked unstoppable, such the London Fossil Free tour.  I was brought to tears at a flash mob, singing about the melting arctic.  And there have been lows when the team withered away and was reduced to one or two.

The direction of the Power Shift in the UK took a while to emerge, and I’m glad that it did. Susan, Claire, KMT, Tara, Ben, Phoebe, Asad, Tom, Suzanne and David – the team that did go to Istanbul – lead the way to the theme of increasing the diversity of the climate movement.  The UK is already doing very well, thank you very much, with many groups dealing with fracking, fossil fuel divestment, local food solutions and the like. What is missing a platform which links it all together so that connections are strengthened across all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds – this is the aim of Power Shift UK; to connect us in a movement, together.

This theme and the idea of the Power Shift UK conference that is now happening on the 3rd and 4th May was fleshed out one blustery weekend at the May Project Gardens in Morden in south London.  The team at the time was KMT, Jenny, Tom, Susan, Ben, Claire, Izzy, Tara, David and myself.  Bernadette facilitated as the plans for the conference were put down on paper.  Amanda, Suzanne and Louise have all played their part.

It wasn’t until much later that the date and venue were set in stone, as team commitment and energy went through a lull, which was finally ended with the addition of the marvellous Emily, who was able to dedicate some meaningful time to the task in hand.  She then brought in the Campaign against Climate Change, and in particular the fantastic Fiona, and now we have the remarkable Lindsay as well.  This is the group, with the help of Claire, Susan and myself, who are bringing the plans into fruition.

It was great to hear at the recent gathering of the Climate Coalition (formerly Stop Climate Chaos Coalition) just how well our plans fit into the wider UK climate movement.  We’re on the right track.  The Power Shift will help lead through to the “For the love campaign” and an escalating series of events leading towards the crucial talks in Paris next year, where the governments around the world will put pen to paper with a deal on climate change.  We’re going to make sure that deal is up to the task, while building the solution from the bottom up should the politicians fail.

It all starts on 3/4 May – come and be part of history.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

My part in the UK climate movement

Over the past year or so, I have met with a number of the leading lights in the UK grassroots climate movement.  We’re all part of it, we just don’t always know that we are or realise that there is a movement at all.  The Power Shift UK is aimed at bringing us all together, as part of wider strategies from other UK and international climate change organisations.

I see the movement as providing so much that it is hard not to agree that it is a hugely positive influence on life in the UK.  Thousands of groups and people around the country are working in their own way to bring community back into their neighbourhoods, where at the moment we are getting used to an insulated lifestyle that revolves around a digital display.  They are finding ways to generate electricity from the sources of energy provided to us by nature.  They are finding ways to reduce our outgoings so we can have a better standard of living.  They are preserving their local natural habitats from an increasing human population and its consequent demands on our natural world.

I am not alone in finding the work a huge drain on my time and energy, as I spend countless evening and days away from the family in meetings.  It can and does feel depressing and feed exhaustion in the face of seemingly overwhelming apathy, wilful ignorance and destructive behaviour from what seems like the majority.  The political class follow what they feel is the vote-winning majority view, and fail to see the opportunities of a change in direction or the dire consequences of our current path.

That is why I am part of Power Shift UK (3/4 May – book your place now, it’s free, and we might even pay to get you there) which is working with the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) to unite the UK climate movement at all levels.  The strategy aligns with that of the other UK climate organisations, represented by the Climate Coalition.  It is Power Shift “UK” because there are Power Shifts happening all over the planet, from the places most affected by climate change in Africa and the island nations, to the lead culprits in Australia, the US and Canada.

Power Shift UK - 3/4 MayI have been working with Fiona and Laeti at CCC on a funding application to help support the work.  This is where we are at in describing our aims:

  • To provide concerned citizens and groups with a platform for discussion and learning around climate change issues; to build a strong foundation and diversified movement to ensure a just transition towards climate justice and action
  • To give communities and their projects the spotlight and opportunities to demonstrate that alternatives and solutions to climate change are possible; To learn from these community solutions; To invite communities to share their skills in and outside the climate movement.
  • To influence policy and key decision makers in the UK in order to provide a mandate for them to implement the example solutions and alternatives put forward by our British communities; To create space for change to protect citizens who already suffer the consequences of climate change in the UK.

Knowing we are part of a much bigger movement breeds togetherness and a positive, re-enforcing energy that helps to conquer the exhaustion.  It brings inspiration, ideas, skills and experience that strengthen what we do.  It allows people who are partially involved, or are merely at the moment observers, to give themselves permission to join the movement, be that making changes in their own lives, taking part in an event or helping with an initiative.

This groundswell will give the politicians the mandate to enact legislation and bring in policies to turn the tide and bring the rest of us along.  Critical mass will be reached and apathy and ignorance will be swept up in the river of change and what might at the moment seem like inconsequent activity will be justified.  It is that vision that keeps me going.

Will it happen?  I can only hope.

Global power shift flyer 2

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

The significance of Transition

May 2014 will mark the second anniversary of my first being elected Leader of Transition Town Berkhamsted.  It was and is a huge honour to be chosen for the post.  If I am elected again this year, it will be my final year in the post, as I have said that three years is the longest anyone should be Leader.  With that in mind, I want to ensure that the organisation is in as good a shape as I can before I make way for the next person, and so there are some conditions to my accepting any nomination this time around.

I believe that the work of Transition Towns over the planet is vital.

Not only does it allow us to break away from the malaise or frustration brought on from watching politicians convening to fritter away our future: it also means taking the necessary steps at home and in our towns to address the issues of climate change, resource depletion and inequality.

On a more pessimistic note, it means preparing for and safe-guarding against the potential collapse in society and our wellbeing that could result from these global issues, as we build local energy and food sources.

But the challenge is huge.  The number of people actively taking steps towards a positive future is small compared with the number who are carrying on, hedonistically but unknowingly doing everything they can to hasten the worst outcomes.

Over the past two years we have achieved an awful lot, with huge and important contributions from a number of different people.  With first the Positive Money talk with Fran Boait, and then the Ashlyns Lectures, we have established a method of putting on talks and attracting internationally renowned speakers that has allowed us to fund other activity.  The B-Hive has led to us raising our profile in the town, talking individually to over a thousand different people and garnering close links with local government and other groups, organisations and businesses.  There have been some gigantic steps on transport as well, from the edges of Transition, with the Safer Routes to Schools work.

This all feeds into our strategy of building community, linking groups in the town and pushing towards a widely adopted town plan that contains sustainability and resilience at its heart.

But, if we are to have any meaningful impact, we need to scale up towards critical mass.  The only way we can be successful is if we work together as a strong team, community and group of friends.  And that doesn’t mean one Leader upon which everyone can rely.

So, if I am to be Leader for 2014/15, I’m listing here what will need to be in place for me to accept any nomination.  Please discuss amongst yourselves to make sure it is all covered – you have under 8 weeks until the AGM (on 15 May).  Otherwise, I would be happy if someone else would like to put themselves forward as Leader.  Failing that, we will see how the organisation functions without a Leader in post.

On its own, this won’t be anywhere near enough to make the seismic changes we need.  But it is the minimum.

What I need:

  •          The Leader position will be renamed Chair, or some other piece of furniture that doesn’t imply being sat on comfortably.  It needs to be a consensus team effort and Leader goes against that in my view.
  •          At least one person needs to say that they would be happy to be Chair from May 2016, barring changes in circumstances.  This will allow us to transition.
  •          We need to share out the jobs.  That means the following roles need to be filled, with committed, enthusiastic people.  Details of the roles are available by following the links.  Most of this is covered at the moment already, but there are some gaps.  Above all, common sense will need to be applied.

o   Membership (currently Claire Mistry), Website / Facebook Administrator (currently shared between Marion Baker and Claire Mistry), Newsletter / Digest (new), Communications / Forum (new), Finance & Funding (currently Emma Norrington), Publicity (currently Bex Plenderleith), Ashlyns Lectures Co-ordinator (new) and Planning Socials / Inner Transition (new) plus points of contact for Energy, Food and Transport.

It might be preferable that a group of people pick up each role, so don’t be put off by one aspect.  Having said that, one person could do an entire role, or one person could even do more than one of them.  We can of course discuss if you would like to change anything – just get in touch.

I don’t intend on bashing people over the head with the role descriptions: I’m just looking to share the leadership responsibilities.  I do reserve the right to have what might become known as the “dreaded quiet word” now and again, though.

  •          We need to show that we are a buoyant organisation with dedicated members.  8 people need to commit to putting the dates of the Green Drinks in their diaries for the year of June 2014 to May 2015, and to prioritise holding the date, barring disaster.
  •          The Forum concept is the right one for communication, as it allows inclusivity; being selective as to what you read; and for structured conversation.  10 people need to commit to using the forum for all communication on Transition Town Berkhamsted, other than confidential discussion, but including information relating to activity tangentially related to TTB.  Note that the Communications role includes training people on the use of the forum and improving its usability.  Please reply to this topic on the forum if you are happy to be one of those 10 people.

I’ve added a new page to my website to keep track of these criteria being met.  I will not be chasing around to make sure that they are – that is up to you.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke


The World as I would like to see it

In my last post, I said that Transition was moving to a more insular society.  I was wrong.  Transition is moving towards a society where communities are more self-reliant, that is true.  But not insular.  The realisation has lead me to muse about what the world would look like if Transition succeeded, at least my interpretation of it.  Read on MacDuff, and let me know what the world would look like if you had your way.

I’m dumping my brain here, so there are bound to be flaws.  I would welcome your feedback and recommendations to reading material.

The Transition movement and the like are often characterised by visions of sandal-wearing tree-huggers who would rather see everyone living in tepees than cosy indoors.  There is a grain of truth in that.  But it is very much a caricature to which most involved in Transition Towns would not aspire.

The world I would like to see remains connected, where the easy life is the norm.  It is possibly more inter-connected than we are now, but with less travel.  World society would be characterised by helpfulness between people around the globe and with nature rather than competition and exploitation.  There would inevitably be some people with more means than others, but all would help the needy in times of distress, such as when crops fail, disease or illness strikes.

Yes, communities would be more self-reliant for food, warmth and medicine.  There would also be a global sharing culture of ideas and expertise to improve everyone’s lives, rather than competing in the “Global Race”.

So, how would this be co-ordinated?  How would it be governed?  The way I see it, central governance is only needed to manage those activities and resources that are simply not possible at a community level.  We need more of that at the moment because our society is fine-tuned to live at the edges of our capabilities.  The population is as big as it can be for the amount of energy we can create and the food we can grow or rear.  We are utterly reliant on economies of scale to support the global population.  So, while we are building up the capability, skills, will and technology at the local level to support ourselves, we need government to provide that which we are unable.

At the moment, that central supply of services is not provided by government alone, it is provided by corporations as well, possibly to a larger extent.

But, once we have the ability to support ourselves locally, and with the connectedness of the internet to share ideas and ask for help, central governance from whatever angle would be less necessary.

I fully realise that is a bit of an idealised picture.  What if the internet broke down? What lazy good-for-nothings, leaching of the rest of us?  What if a group or person got ambitious and decided ethnic cleansing would be a good idea?

My vision does rely on us having adopted practices of food and energy production that require little effort to maintain, either through new technologies or through working with and alongside nature rather than against, such as edible forests or the farming practices described in the sample chapter of “An Optimists Tour of the Future”.

That would mean less time needed for the basics and the social constructs such as financial markets, and more for a flourishing culture, for art and innovation.  It would also allow us to turn to supporting others in times of need when evil set in and to maintain the internet.

So, where does that leave you?  Like it, loathe it, see the obvious flaws?

(A strange thing just happened.  Just after I wrote this piece I read the follow-up to the article I cited in my last post.  It reads as a more in-depth version of my own post, uncannily similar).

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke