Save the Date: Lansing Online News will host its first community conversation on Transition Lansing: Rebuilding Community Resilience and Self-Reliance on Tuesday, July 27 at the Gone Wired Cafe in downtown Lansing at 7 p.m..
The never-ending Gulf oil spill reminds us why we must free ourselves from fossil fuels, foreign and domestic. It’s as if we are holding our collective breath as a nation, waiting for our Daddy/President Obama to tell us that it’s OK, that he has spectacular new plan to produce homegrown green energy that will save us all – and create millions of new jobs as well. All gain, no pain.
Or will we find that we are waiting for Godot?
We are reminded every day that oil is a gooey toxin, and each additional barrel will cost us more and more, in both dollars and environmental damage. The theory of peak oil warns us that we will face dramatic price hikes as oil supplies dwindle, and the instability in the Middle East risks making oil price shocks even worse.
Burning coal fouls the air, and disposing of the residue created by making electricity poses challenges almost as daunting as dealing with the by-products of nuclear power plants. Natural gas burns a bit cleaner, but transporting and storing it is risky. And as anyone with a gas furnace can attest, prices keep rising.
Even if we began construction on a raft of new nuclear power plants today, we would not see any new (and expensive) kilowatts for a decade or more. And all that talk about “trust us” on safety issues rings even more hollow whenever we think of BP.
Planning based on hope, not fear
Perhaps the only good news about the Gulf oil spill is that many of us who have worried about these issues for decades may find more people willing to explore “Small Is Beautiful” local alternatives. Ready or not, as The Story of Stuff warns us, we must do things differently because the confluence of climate change and peak oil means that the status quo is unsustainable.
Rob Hopkins launched the Transition movement in England as a way to help communities prepare for the end of oil by becoming more self-reliant and resilient. Boulder, Colorado, became the first city in the United States to embrace a similar model. Ypsilanti’s Monica King has been the driving force behind Transition Michigan. (“Even the New York Times recently discovered the Transition movement, which must mean it’s for real.)
The premise behind Transition Culture is that we can work together to transition to a new post-fossil fuel future that offers a better alternative to the mindless consumerist society that poisons our bodies and our souls.
We already see promising examples of this kind of thinking in our community. The Garden Project’s Urbandale farm, as well as the emergence of farmers’ markets and Community-Supported Agriculture (CSAs). The Peace Education Cente’s the example of non-violent, collaborative change. Walk and Bike Lansing’s efforts to make us less dependent on our cars. Local artists and artisans in Old Town building a local economy. Gone Wired Cafe serving as a hub for community groups to share ideas. (Please share your favorite initiatives in the Comments section below.)
One of the many upsides of positive planning for the transition to an oil-free world is that such efforts add dramatically to the quality of life in the community. So even if some miraculous new power source emerges (cold fusion?) to save us from ourselves, these are changes designed to bring us together as neighbors, and this will hold us in good stead no matter what problem we face – tornado, power outage or ice storm.
The time to map our neighborhood’s assets and challenges is before the disaster hits. (Sally on the corner is a nurse, so we can rely on her to set a broken arm. Fred has a generator that could help keep the newborn down the street warm until the power comes back on.)
The first session of Transition Lansing will be held at Gone Wired Cafe on Tuesday, July 27, 7 p.m. Lansing Online News co-publisher Bonnie Bucqueroux facilitate the conversation, using the S.A.R.A. (Scanning-Analysis-Response-Assessment) model to prompt discussion about where we can go from here. Bucqueroux was one of 1,000 people personally trained by former Vice President Al Gore and The Climate Project. She also serves as executive director of Sustainable Farmer.