Monday, July 08, 2013

GUEST POST Transition Town Market Harborough

Darren Woodiwiss outlines the ambitious plans of Transition Town Market Harborough.

What is ‘Transition’?  According to the Oxford dictionary it is ‘The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another’.  Well to define what a Transition initiative is, such as Transition Town Market Harborough, we need to understand where we as communities are and where we would dream of getting to.

The Transition Network was established in Totnes in 2006 by a small group of people one of whom was Rob Hopkins who previously had been a lecturer in Kinsale, Ireland, in the design practice of permaculture. Most people perceive permaculture as a holistic way of land management for food growing purposes, but its main premise of closed loop systems, working with nature and observation are equally applicable to the design of towns and cities through its promotion of zoning ie., keep the things you use the most or that need the most attention closest.

So why Transition? While teaching on this course the concept of ‘Peak Oil’ and what could be done about it was raised and an interesting debate ensued, there was a realisation that ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Peak Oil (resource depletion in general)’ could not be treated in isolation as the mitigation of one could be at odds with the other.

'Peak oil' is a term first coined by Marion King Hubbert who was an eminent geologist in the USA during the oil boom of the 50s. In 1956 he shocked his peers of the time by announcing that US oil production would peak and inexorably decline somewhere around 1965 to 1971. This at a time when the general view was that oil would never run out.. it will, it’s a geological certainty!

Hubbert’s peak (curve) is a representation of the life-cycle of any resource deposit representing discovery, extraction, peak production and decline. These reserves rarely run out rather they are extracted until it is economically unviable to continue.
 The easiest to reach and process resources are developed first and then other resources are developed as time goes on. This is a pattern shared by many of the commodities we take for granted today. Indeed the US Oil production reached its peak in 1970 after which it transitioned from the world’s largest producer to its largest importer.

The Transition view is that in light of resource depletion a new way of thinking is required, one that re-empowers communities to plan their own destinies. At a time when globalisation has marched its course there is now a definite need and want for goods and services to be returned back to communities, returning quality jobs and wealth into local economies.

Transition is a bottom up approach that aims to use the collective genius of communities to self organise and agree what is best for them; this model of self-empowerment has made the Transition network the fastest growing grass roots organisation since the CND with nearly 1000 official initiatives worldwide.

Transition Town Market Harborough was founded in 2007 and is the 21st group in the network and has been busy trying to establish projects over the intervening period. We have shown films, had a series of speaker events, run two successful Apple days, purchased a community apple press for people to buy a share in and have a successful wholefood buying group running.

For the last year we have been working on a lottery bid for the ‘Big Lotteries – Communities living sustainably’ fund. We successfully transited the expression of interest stage (30 communities selected to bid from nearly 300) and with the help of the Rural Community council (Leicestershire & Rutland) became one of 12 communities to be awarded £1m.

This money will be used to run a sustainability project over the next 5 years with a remit to initiate projects that improve the sustainability (Economy, Social, Environment) of our community and share the learning’s with other interested groups. This project Is provisionally named the “Sustainable Harborough Challenge” and it is hoped that it will be formally launched in August this year.

This project has approximately 15 main project strands which include the following :

  • Foundation of a community energy services cooperative to install community owned renewable energy infrastructure
  • Energy clubs, self help DIY insulation
  • Foundation of a local food hub to provide easy access to local food producers for customers at a reasonable price.
  • Various food growing initiatives
  • A local currency (Harborough pound) to positively promote local businesses and lock wealth into the local economy
  • Community champions, a network of volunteers trained to advise on subjects such as water and energy conservation, food growing, composting and waste reduction.
  • Managing tracts of land to increase local biodiversity
  • Planting of managed woodland to increase biodiversity, local amenity, Green burial sites and to provide local sustainable, seasoned wood fuel. 
  • A state of the town report that builds a reporting framework against which we can measure economic, social and environmental performance.

To bring this project to life we will need volunteers of all backgrounds to help so please register your interest by following us on Twitter or Facebook or visiting our website.

Darren Woodiwiss is co-founder, treasurer and steering group member of Transition Town Market Harborough and a partnership board member of the Sustainable Harborough Challenge.

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