Sunday, June 5, 2011

How the Transition movement can make NYC more sustainable

New York City is certainly among the greenest of US cities.  In 2008, SustainLane ranked NYC fifth, after Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago. In September 2006, Mayor Bloomberg established an Office of Long-Term Sustainability.   The PlaNYC 2030 report it released - with an updated version released in spring 2011 - is truly a remarkable planning document.  There are so many sustainability initiatives enumerated in the PlaNYC report that it would be tedious to list more than a few of them.  There is no doubt that the City has made great strides. 

Still, much more must be done.  It is neither ungrateful, nitpicky, or petty to point this out.   On the contrary, we commend the actions of the Bloomberg Administration and the NYC Council.  After thanking them, we must resume inspiring them, and ourselves, to further effort.

It is a simple fact that despite the progress toward sustainability, much more must be done in NYC.  This is based on the science surrounding accelerating climate disruption and many other issues, and how it conflicts with the state of our politics and sociology, which slow or prevent the evolutionary changes which must take place.  
The sustainability discussion in NYC must be expanded. 

Toward that end, consider
the Transition movement - a system of community organizing which enables decentralized, grassroots responses to climate change and peak oil.


It was developed by British community activists in 2005.  There are now over 300 Transition initiatives in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Italy and Europe. There are over 90 official US initiatives registered with Transition United States.  Activists in many other communities - including NYC - are exploring how Transition methods can step us sustainability efforts.

In an upcoming post, we'll look at Transition's twelve steps or ingredients for community organizing, and suggest effective starting points for NYC organizers.

Here's excerpts from the Transition US website:

Transition 101

The Transition Movement is comprised of vibrant, grassroots community initiatives that seek to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. Transition Initiatives differentiate themselves from other sustainability and "environmental" groups by seeking to mitigate these converging global crises by engaging their communities in home-grown, citizen-led education, action, and multi-stakeholder planning to increase local self reliance and more here...

Why Transition?
We are living in an age of unprecedented change, with a number of crises converging. Climate change, global economic instability, overpopulation, erosion of community, declining biodiversity, and resource wars, have all stemmed from the availability of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Global oil, gas and coal production is predicted to irreversibly decline in the next 10 to 20 years, and severe climate changes are already taking effect around the world. The coming shocks are likely to be catastrophic if we do not prepare.

As Richard Heinberg states:

"Our central survival task for the decades ahead, as individuals and as a species, must be to make a transition away from the use of fossil fuels – and to do this as peacefully, equitably, and intelligently as possible”.

The Transition movement represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities to take the far-reaching actions that are required to mitigate the effects of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. Furthermore, these relocalization efforts are designed to result in a life that is more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable than the one we have today.

The Transition model is based on a loose set of real world principles and practices that have been built up over time through experimentation and observation of communities as they drive forward to reduce carbon emissions and build community resilience. Underpinning the model is a recognition of the following:

  • Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Economic Crisis require urgent action
  • Adaptation to a world with less oil is inevitable
  • It is better to plan and be prepared, than be taken by surprise
  • Industrial society has lost the resilience to be able to cope with shocks to its systems
  • We have to act together and we have to act now
  • We must negotiate our way down from the “peak” using all our skill, ingenuity and intelligence
  • Using our creativity and cooperation to unleash the collective genius within our local communities will lead to a more abundant, connected and healthier future for all.

The Transition Movement believes that is up to us in our local communities to step into a leadership position on this situation. We need to start working now to mitigate the interrelated effects of peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis, before it is too late. Together we can make a difference. more here...

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