Rob Hopkins

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Rob Hopkins
Voices of Transition Rob Hopkins (cropped).png
Rob Hopkins in the film Voices of Transition (2013).
Known forEnvironmental activist

Rob Hopkins is an 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. Hopkins has written four books on environmentalism and activism.


Early family life and background (1968–1996)[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Ireland (1996–2005)[edit]

With students at Kinsale FEC, July 2005.

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)[edit]

TTT graphic by Wordsmith One.

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.

Rob Hopkins also presented the Totnes Pound in the documentary film Demain (2015).

Transition Network (2007–present)[edit]

Transition Network International Conference, 2015.

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. There are Transition initiatives in over 50 countries round the world, in around 1,400 communities. Transition Network has run seven conferences, 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)[1] and Dame Hannah's at Seale Hayne (2015).[2]


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 an honorary doctorate by the University of the West of England. The 4 October 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Namur.


Hopkins has five books in support of the Transition movement.

  • The Transition Handbook (2008)
  • The Transition Companion (2011)
  • The Power of Just Doing Stuff (2013)
  • 21 Stories of Transition (2015).[3][4]
  • The transition starts here, now and together, with Lionel Astruc (2017)
  • From What Is to What IF. Unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want. Chelsea Green publishing (2020)[5]


New Lion Brewery[edit]

Hopkins is a founder and a director of New Lion Brewery, a social enterprise craft brewery in Totnes.[6] New Lion Brewerys aims to be built on foundations of sustainability, profitability, community and innovation. In 2015, its Pandit IPA was voted Britain's 17th Hottest Beer.[7]

Atmos Totnes[edit]

Hopkins is one of the directors of Atmos Totnes, a community-led development initiated by Totnes Community Development Society].[8][9] Atmos Totnes 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[edit]

According to Bill McKibben, "there’s no one on earth who’s just done more stuff – and inspired more doing – than Rob Hopkins".[10]

  • His Transition Culture blog voted 4th best green blog in the UK (2007)[11][12]
  • Winner, 2008 Schumacher Award[13]
  • One of the UK's top 100 environmentalists, according to The Independent (2008)[4]
  • Winner, 2009 Observer Ethical Award, Grassroots Campaigner category[14]
  • Winner, 2009 Energy Saving Trust/Guardian ‘Green Community Hero’ Award[15]
  • Ashoka Fellow, since 2009[16]
  • Winner of the 2009 Curry Stone Design Prize.
  • Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute[17]
  • Visiting Fellow, Plymouth University[18]
  • His Twitter account rated 11th in the PeerIndex-driven Sustainability Drivers List (2011)[19]
  • One of NESTA/The Observer's list of "Britain's 50 New Radicals" (2012)[20]
  • He accepted first prize in the European Economic and Social Committee's Civil Society Prize, on behalf of the Transition Towns movement (2012)[21]
  • In July 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West of England.[22]
  • In December 2014 he was awarded a People Environment and Achievement (PEA) Award for 'Campaigner of the Year'.[23]
  • The 4 October 2016 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Namur

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A write-up of the 2012 Transition Network conference. The best yet. - Transition Network". 5 March 2016. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Transition Network Conference 2015 - Write up". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Transition Network website – About". Archived from the original on 4 April 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b Hopkins, Rob. "About this site and me » Transition Culture".
  5. ^ "From What Is to What If by Rob Hopkins | Chelsea Green Publishing". Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  6. ^ "New Lion Brewery".
  7. ^ "Totnes brewery recognised for having 17th 'Hottest Beer' in the UK".
  8. ^ "Atmos Totnes - Atmos Totnes".
  9. ^ "Totnes Community Development Society - TCDS is not for profit company based in Totnes, Devon". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  10. ^ The Power of Just Doing Stuff review,, 18 June 2013
  11. ^ Announcement of 'Top 20 Green Blogs' list, The Daily Maybe, 16 October 2007
  12. ^ Hopkins, Rob. "Transition Culture".
  13. ^ Schumacher Society website
  14. ^ (4 June 2009). "Video: The Observer ethical awards 2009 - Rob Hopkins" – via
  15. ^ MacErlean, Neasa (2 December 2009). "A green trail others must now follow". the Guardian.
  16. ^ "Becoming a 2009 Ashoka Fellow", Transition Culture, 29 March 2009
  17. ^ "Rob Hopkins".
  18. ^ "Atmos Totnes – Who We Are".
  19. ^ "Twitter keeps building industry informed on sustainability", The Guardian, 9 November 2011
  20. ^ "NESTA - "43. Rob Hopkins: Transition Town Movement"".
  21. ^ ""European Union award for Transitioners", Transition Network website, 3 December 2012".
  22. ^ "UWE Bristol: News".
  23. ^ "Transition Network scoop a 2014 PEA Award!".

External links[edit]