Rob Hopkins in the film Voices of Transition (2013).
|Known for||Environmental activist|
Rob Hopkins is an independent activist and writer on environmental issues, based in Totnes, England. He is best known as the founder and figurehead of the Transition movement, which he initiated in 2005, and has written four books in support of Transition: The Transition Handbook (2008), The Transition Companion (2011),The Power of Just Doing Stuff (2013) and 21 Stories of Transition (2015). According to Bill McKibben, "there’s no one on earth who’s just done more stuff – and inspired more doing – than Rob Hopkins".
Early family life and background (1968-1996)
Born in Chiswick, London, Rob grew up in London until the age of 12, when he moved to Wiltshire, attending St John's School, before then moving to Bristol where he went to the Bristol Waldorf School for 2 years, followed by Henbury School to do A'Levels. This was followed by an Art Foundation course at Bower Ashton Art College, also in Bristol.
From 1988, he spent two and a half years living at Istituto Lama Tsong Khapa, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Tuscany, Italy, working as the House Manager. From here he then spent a year travelling in India, Pakistan (including a visit to the Hunza Valley), China, Tibet, Hong Kong and then back to India where he met Emma, who has been his partner since then. They settled in Bristol, where Rob did a degree in 'Environmental Quality & Resource Management' at the University of the West of England, and also undertook his Permaculture Design Course.
He has been married to Emma since 2007 (although they have been together since 1991), and they have four sons, Rowan, Finn, Cian and Arlo.
In 1996, Rob and his young family moved to south west Ireland, to West Cork. He initially worked with An Taisce West Cork, writing and illustrating a booklet called 'Woodlands for West Cork!'. He began teaching permaculture, initially as short courses, and building up to running full design courses, initially as an evening class. Together with another family, he and Emma set up Baile Dulra Teoranta, a charity, with the intention of creating an ecovillage project. In 1999, with another family, they bought The Hollies, a farm near Castletown, Enniskeane. After a few years, they were granted the first planning permission for an ecovillage development.
In 2001, he started and taught the Practical Sustainability course at Kinsale Further Education College, initially as a one-year course, and later as the first 2-year Permaculture course in the world. Between 2003 and 2005, the students built the 'Wooden O Theatre', an amphitheatre using local materials. The Hollies ran a series of courses in natural building and built two new cob houses, using local and natural materials. In October 2004, Rob and Emma's house was destroyed in a fire.
In 2004, he became aware of the concept of peak oil, and set his students the task of applying permaculture principles to addressing this challenge. The output of this student project was the ‘Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan’, which was uploaded to the college website. Much to the surprise of the authors, it was downloaded by interested parties around the world. In July 2005, Kinsale FEC hosted Fuelling the Future, a conference on peak oil and solutions to it.
Transition Town Totnes (2005-present)
In 2005, Rob and his family moved to Totnes, England, and there co-founded, with Naresh Giangrande, Transition Town Totnes, the first official Transition Town. The project held its 'Unleashing' event in September 2006. Many projects then began. These include Keeping Totnes Warm, Open Eco Homes and the Eco Homes Fair, Transition Homes, Transition Streets (which won the 2011 Ashden Award for Behaviour Change), the Totnes & District Energy Descent Action Plan (which he co-authored), Food in Community, Grown in Totnes, Incredible Edible Totnes, Nut Tree Planting, Seedy Sisters, Skillshares, Mentoring & Wellbeing Support, the REconomy Centre, the Totnes Local Economic Blueprint, the Local Entrepreneur Forum, the Totnes Pound, Totnes Transition Film Festival, TTT Film Club, Dr Bike, Caring Town Totnes, and Transition Tours.
TV presenter Nicholas Crane, in an episode of his series 'Town', visited Totnes and declared "This is the biggest urban brainwave of the century. A visionary, practical blueprint that took root in a town and is circling the globe". Michael Portillo, in Great British Railway Journeys, visited Totnes and spent a Totnes Pound. Westlife once appeared on The One Show, showing each other Totnes Pounds.
Transition Network (2007-present)
In 2007, with Peter Lipman and Ben Brangwyn, he co-founded the Transition Network, a charity designed to support the many Transition initiatives emerging around the world, inspired by the processes begun in Kinsale and Totnes. Transition Network is based in Totnes, but there are now Transition initiatives in over 50 countries round the world, in around 1,400 communities. Transition Network has run 7 conference, Nailsworth (2007), Royal Agriculture College, Cirencester (2008), Battersea Arts Centre (2009), Dame Hannah's at Seale Hayne (2010), Hope University, Liverpool (2011), Battersea Arts Centre (2012), Dame Hannah's at Seale Hayne (2015).
Much of Rob's work is writing and speaking widely about the theory and practice of Transition.
Rob Hopkins holds a first class Honours degree in environmental quality and resource management from the University of the West of England (1993-1996), a Master of Science in social research (2007) and a doctorate at Plymouth University (2011) on the subject of transition (Localisation and Resilience at the Local Level: The Case of Transition Town Totnes). He is a visiting fellow at Plymouth University, and in July 2013 was awarded a honorary doctorate by the University of the West of England. The 4 October 2016, he was awarded a honorary doctorate by the University of Namur.
New Lion Brewery
Rob Hopkins is a founder and a director of New Lion Brewery, a social enterprise craft brewery in Totnes. New Lion Brewery sees itself as being built on foundations of sustainability, profitability, community and innovation, and in 2015 its 'Pandit IPA' was voted 'Britain's 17th Hottest Beer'.
He is one of the Directors of Atmos Totnes, a groundbreaking community-led development project being initiated by Totnes Community Development Society. Atmos is the redevelopment of the former Dairy Crest site in Totnes as a mixed use development in community ownership. It will be one of the first, and most ambitious, uses of a Community Right to Build Order, through a referendum due to take place in June 2016.
Awards and recognition
- His Transition Culture blog voted 4th best green blog in the UK (2007)
- Winner, 2008 Schumacher Award
- One of the UK's top 100 environmentalists, according to The Independent (2008)
- Winner, 2009 Observer Ethical Award, Grassroots Campaigner category
- Winner, 2009 Energy Saving Trust/Guardian ‘Green Community Hero’ Award
- Ashoka Fellow, since 2009
- Winner of the 2009 Curry Stone Design Prize.
- Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute
- Visiting Fellow, Plymouth University
- His @robintransition Twitter account rated 11th in the PeerIndex-driven Sustainability Drivers List (2011)
- One of NESTA/The Observer's list of "Britain's 50 New Radicals" (2012)
- He accepted first prize in the European Economic and Social Committee's Civil Society Prize, on behalf of the Transition Towns movement (2012)
- In July 2012 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West of England.
- In December 2014 he was awarded a People Environment and Achievement (PEA) Award for 'Campaigner of the Year'.
- The 4 October 2016 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Namur
- Transition Network website – About
- Transition Culture website – About
- Transition Network website – staff and key contributors
- Announcement of 'Top 20 Green Blogs' list, The Daily Maybe, 16 October 2007
- Schumacher Society website
- Transition Culture website – About
- The Observer Ethical Awards website
- The Guardian Green Community Heroes Awards website
- "Becoming a 2009 Ashoka Fellow", Transition Culture, 29 March 2009
- Post Carbon Institute website
- Atmos Totnes – Who We Are
- "Twitter keeps building industry informed on sustainability", The Guardian, 9 November 2011
- NESTA - "43. Rob Hopkins: Transition Town Movement"
- "European Union award for Transitioners", Transition Network website, 3 December 2012
- "Transition Network scoop a 2014 PEA Award!".
- Transition Culture – Rob Hopkins' blog
- Rob Hopkins on Twitter
- Transition Town Totnes – The first official Transition initiative, co-founded by Rob Hopkins
- Transition Network – the charity co-founded by Rob Hopkins to support the Transition Towns movement
- "A Historic Shift in Conversation" interview with Robkins in Digital Development Debates, 2016.
- Rob Hopkins at TED