Tasmania’s transition communities

by Margaret Steadman

I was moving a large pile of garden soil recently and disturbed a large nest of ants in it. The inhabitants went into a panic, rushing hither and yon moving eggs. I thought I’d leave them to rescue eggs while I made a cup of tea.

Of course when I came back they were over their panic and had forgotten the disturbance. Each time I shovelled near them, the ants went into frenzied activity for a while and then quickly settled back into ‘as you were’ mode, until the nest finally disintegrated.

Disturbingly like human behaviour really.

We face a future with drastically reduced oil supplies and increasingly erratic extreme weather events (the double whammy of peak oil and climate change). One of the things that most worries me is that we will not learn in time how to really work together to support fundamental change and build communities that are cohesive and viable in the unpredictable conditions of the future.

The Transition Movement is one hopeful sign that we can pull it off. In the absence of real and serious leadership and planning for peak oil (and climate change) at any level of government, communities are beginning to develop their own responses to reduce their dependence on oil.

The Transition Movement started in the UK and is built around two key concepts – resilience and re-localisation. It sees local community groups working together to help one another learn old skills, grow more of their own food – or buy locally, make their homes energy efficient, create local jobs, tackle transport issues and most importantly be courageous enough to keep peak oil and climate change in the forefront of community and personal planning.

There is now a world-wide network of community groups and over 25 groups in Tasmania that are pursuing local and householder sustainability. Involvement in this work requires persistence and vision as well as the joys of sharing community connection.

The Transition Towns model includes the development of an ‘Energy Descent Action Plan’ for the local community, that looks well into the future. But to date none of us in Tasmania has gone very far beyond the building of community networks and the offering of re-skilling workshops. The challenge is to build on these beginnings and really chart a path to a sustainable future.

References & resources:
See: The Transition Network
See: 12 ingredients for making the transition
Local communities wishing to pursue the transition pathway can obtain plenty of resource materials at Sustainable Living Tasmania, including ‘The Transition Handbook –from oil dependence to local resilience’

(Margaret Steadman has spearheaded many sustainable living initiatives in Tasmania and is a member of West Hobart sustainable community network. She is an active member of the Peak Oil Tasmania working group.)