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transition comes to town

March 30, 2011

Monday night Jude and I joined 100 or so other island residents to consider a

transition strategy.  This is a world-wide movement, started in Ireland, to help

communities prepare for the current and looming problems associated with

food security , Peak Oil,  and climate change.  It’s based on the principles of

permaculture, the designing of human activities and agricultural systems

around natural ecological models.

One of the key reasons Jude and I moved to Canada was to find some acreage on

which we could do this.  We had read a bit about permaculture, but hadn’t heard

yet about the transition movement.  It didn’t matter because one of the ideals of

permaculture is to observe and learn your immediate environment before making

any changes.

Since we couldn’t think long-term anyway until we got our permanent residency,

we used that 3+ years to renovate the house in case we had to sell it and move back

to the states.  We did install the micro-hydro/solar system during that time, but

only because we needed electricity to watch Stewart/Colbert.

The essential pillars of a transition strategy are energy self-sufficiency, food

security, financial stability and social rebalance.  A different person spoke about

each pillar.  Our very own Em spoke about food security.  If you check the link on

her name, you’ll see a fellow named Derek in the photo below the one of her, Sonia

and Jane.  Derek spoke about energy self-sufficiency.

Although the transition movement originated with towns in mind, we’ll approach

it here island-wide.  There are about 2700 hardy souls spread throughout the

island.  We have three villages and a few isolated pockets of individuals like our

neighbourhood of 50 or so.

The meeting was started by Phil, who helms a biweekly publication that ably

chronicles island happenings and provides a forum for public opinions on our

most pressing issues.  Phil asked the group some provocative questions: What

would happen to us if the ferry stopped sailing?  How would we survive?

The island residents are a creative, free-thinking lot.  I believe that comes with the

territory, especially when that territory is a small area with very distinctive boun-

daries.  Jude and I were immediately drawn to the independent spirit of the folks

here.  The meeting tapped into an immense community interest in self-reliance

and an immense frustration with the failure of government to address the urgent,

daunting problems the province/nation/world faces.

Derek has an engineering background.  He spoke about sustainable transportation.

As we were breaking into smaller groups, I told him I was particularly interested

in bio-fuels and had some resources that could help set up something.

Many other ideas filled the air, and I felt a strong organic energy in the room.  If we

can tap into that, we’re on our way.  Jude and I are very excited about all this, and I

plan on keeping you right in the middle of it.

  1. March 31, 2011 1:16 am

    Check out Anthony at
    He has quite a bit about permaculture and harvesting from the surrounding area…it’s almost pine pollen time here in my neck of the woods!

    • March 31, 2011 8:27 am

      Thanks for the link, Rosie. Anthony has an admirable life and I plan to read more about his permaculture practices. His geodesic dome looks like one from Growing Spaces, a Colorado company. Jude and I have talked about getting a kit from there.

  2. Charlotte Wales permalink
    March 31, 2011 6:07 pm

    I read this post with a wistful smile on my face; most of my friends who live in the mountains are like-minded – we all gardened big-time, swapping and sharing; traded skills, bartered, lived thehappy life of the back-to-landers. Though most (though not all) have electricity, etc., we all tend to be very self-sufficient – – – not the type to run off to the malls (100+ miles away!) or eat out at restaurants much. We tended to have potlucks, tables bursting with wonderful foods and desserts, games of volleyball, baseball, or a trip to the nearest creek or the Buffalo River to camp for a few days – big groups, big fun! Actually, one of the reasons I moved to the Arkansas mountains 31 years ago was because I had the nagging feeling that our country was headed for trouble, and in the mountains we had a chance to survice – raising your own food, cooking/heating with wood, having a great source of clean water – – having independent, like-minded friends who would definitely band together should the worst happen. I’m stuck in a small town for now, but if things do get worse, I’ll head for the mountains where my oldest son Dallas lives, as will Cody and his family, too. It seems surreal to talk that way, but I’m way past having illusions of America suddenly becoming “fair and just” for all its’ citizens. I know how to make soap, cook on a woodstove, haul water if needed, etc. – – I even had a wonderful 2-holer outhouse at our wonderful stone schoolhouse we owned in the mountains, and a composting toilet inside. I’ve always loved the outdoors, and loved living in the mountains. I may well end up in the mountains again – somewhere, sometime. It sounds like you have a wonderful community, friends who will pull together, come what may. That, my friend, is a real blessing, and something few places have in the U.S. or Canada.

  3. Charlotte Wales permalink
    March 31, 2011 6:13 pm

    Oh, and by the way – alternative energy is one of the topics my community development group is working on – I’ll keep you posted as things progress. One thing that really is interesting is algae energy – – check it out! I’m so happy that your whole group is working together on the permaculture thing – that’s life as it’s meant to be lived, I do believe. By the way, most of my friends in the mountains were craftspeople, with a wide variety of media. My house is filled with lovely things, all traded for ironwork!

    • March 31, 2011 6:35 pm

      I’m glad you know the satisfaction of self-reliance. As rewarding as I find it, I know that it’s not a large-scale solution. I don’t know what folks in the cities are going to do as resources dwindle. Places like Detroit, which has been
      devastated by the economic downturn, may have to redefine what urban living is. I know there are some attempts to reclaim empty blocks for farmland there. And, yes, algae looks extremely promising. It grows so well on the bayous, maybe Louisiana will become the new Saudi Arabia.


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