The Transition Towns Network Goes to the Daíl

I first became aware of transition towns almost 5 years ago when concern about climate change and my children’s future led me to investigate what I could do. Somehow I felt recycling just wasn’t enough and reading an article on Transition Towns in the Sunday paper prompted me to make enquiries. I joined FADA Newbridge which was one of a handful of Irish Transition initiatives. While I knew climate change had to be addressed I had never heard of peak oil and in all honesty I didn’t think it bore any relevance to my life – I didn’t drive and had gas fired heating.I soon discovered that oil is much more than transport and heating. It underpins practically everything in our society today. We are completely dependent on it for pretty much everything. If it is not an ingredient in something, plastic and chemicals for example, it is used to produce and supply us with the rest. Economic growth, healthcare, infrastructure and transport all depend on oil. It’s role in our food chain is phenomenal. From the moment the seed is delivered, the land prepared, sown, fertilised, pesticides, harvesting, cleaning, packing and distributed it has consumed up to ten times as much energy as is in the food itself. Life without oil is a whole different world and with the rising cost it has a knock on affect on the price of everything it provides us with – food in particular, which is also affected directly by the changing climate.

Originating in Kinsale, Co Cork, the Transition Network helps communities deal with climate change and peak oil in as positive a way as possible. The key is creating a shared vision of a thriving community without oil. It represents the “transition” to a lower carbon community. There are now Transition Initiatives all over the globe – something we Irish should be very proud of. Each one is unique to the community that creates it but all are part of a network of communities supporting and sharing sustainable ideas and resources.

The biggest hurdle is lack of awareness and understanding. It is widespread but it also exists among our political figures and policy makers. Just as I had dismissed peak oil as irrelevant so too do a lot of people – our level of dependence upon it is completely overlooked. I make a point of calling into TDs and asking them what it means to them. They are usually oblivious to the impacts – which are now playing out as “Morticia” eloquently points out here.
I approached a local TDs last year and he invited us into Leinster House to brief members on it. While it does pass by their desks occasionally it really takes the personal touch to explain how urgent moving to life without fossil fuel is. It is a whole new war of independence.

So, why “transition”?
Not only is the situation we find ourselves in exposing our dependencies and lack of foresight, it highlights our need to make the move from fossil fuel as soon as possible. Expecting that to happen overnight is delusional but visioning a future without it and planning that journey leads us on an energy descent as we slowly wean ourselves off something that has played such a massive role in our lives. This is the transition, a more gentle move away from oil than cutting off supply in one go – one I fear an IMF/ECB default would bring about as talk of the financial situation goes on. To plunge ourselves into a situation that cuts us off from oil overnight would be a lot harder than many people imagine.

We now have a date for Leinster House – Wednesday May 25th.  I have realised that the personal approach is more powerful than any email or telephone call so I am hoping that we can reach all members in person. As well as promoting understanding we will be asking that national government advises local government and policy makers that peak oil and climate change can be dealt with together by supporting communities transition to a lower carbon dependency. Strong, resilient local economies will make for a strong resilient country.

Theresa  24.5.2011

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Invites and info – http://transitiontownsireland.ning.com/profiles/blogs/dail-date-may-25th
Here is a link to the chief economist of the International Energy Agency declaring Crude Oil peaked in 2006 – http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/oilcrunch/
Here is the Times piece on it – http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0429/1224295673147.html
This is a brief film/documentary – In Transition, explains a lot about the process –  http://vimeo.com/8029815
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