Transition town

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Totnes, Devon, England: a transition town

A transition town is a grassroot community project that seeks to build resilience in response to peak oil,[1] climate destruction, and economic instability by creating a local group that uphold the values of the transition network. Local projects are usually based on the model's initial '12 ingredients' and later 'revised ingredients'.[2][3] The first initiative to use the name was Transition Town Totnes, founded in 2006. The socioeconomic movement is an example of fiscal localism.[4][5] Since then, many transition groups have started around the UK and, in recent years, the world.



The term, "transition town", was coined by Louise Rooney[6] and Catherine Dunne.

The transition model can be applied to different types of place where people live, such as villages, regions, islands and towns. The generic term is "transition initiative", which includes transition neighborhoods, communities, and cities, although transition town is in common usage.[2]


Influences include permaculture concepts as described in Bill Mollison’s Permaculture, a Designers Manual (1988) and David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2003),[7] as well as David Fleming's work on community, culture and resilience.[8]

Totnes, England[edit]

Permaculture designer Rob Hopkins in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about Transition Towns.

In 2004, permaculture designer Rob Hopkins set his students at Kinsale Further Education College the task of applying permaculture principles to the concept of peak oil. The output of this student project was the ‘Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan'.[9]

This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture as a "road map" to a sustainable future for the town. Two of his students, Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne, developed the Transition towns concept. They then presented their ideas to Kinsale Town Council. The councilors decided to adopt the plan and work towards energy independence.[citation needed]

Hopkins moved to his hometown of Totnes, England, where he and Naresh Giangrande developed these concepts into the transition model. In 2006 Transition Town Totnes become the first Transition initiative.[10]

Transition Network[edit]

Between late 2006 and early 2007 the Transition Network was founded as a UK charity by British permaculture educator Rob Hopkins. It trains and supports people involved with Transition initiatives. It disseminates the concepts of the transition model. Also, the organisation assists the grassroots initiatives to network with one another.[11]

The Transition Network website contains a listing of the initiatives that have registered there.[12]

Some of the material has been translated and adapted to other languages/cultures, including Portuguese, Danish, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese and Irish.[13]

2008 to present day[edit]

In 2008 the number of communities involved in the project had increased with many localities in the process of becoming "official" transition towns.[14]

The initiative spread and by May 2010 there were over 400 community initiatives recognized as official Transition Towns in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile. The term transition initiatives become common to reflect the range and type of communities involved - e.g. villages (Kinsale), neighbourhoods of cities (Portobello, Edinburgh), through council districts (Penwith) to cities and city boroughs (Brixton).[15][16]

By September 2013, there were 1130 initiatives registered (462 Official, 654 Muller) in 43 countries.[17]


The main aim of the international project, echoed by local initiatives, is to raise awareness of sustainable living and build local ecological resilience in the near future.

Peak oil and local resilience[edit]

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resiliency by Rob Hopkins provides much of the framework behind the Transition Initiative and outlines ways for local Transition Towns to get involved.[18]


Communities are encouraged to seek out methods for reducing energy usage as well as reducing their reliance on long supply chains that are totally dependent on fossil fuels for essential items.

Food production[edit]

Food is a key area for transition, sometimes the slogan "Food feet, not food miles" is used. Initiatives so far have included creating community gardens or replacing ornamental tree plantings with fruit or nut trees, to grow food.

Waste and recycling[edit]

Business waste exchange is considered. This seeks to match the waste of one industry with another industry that uses that waste material, sometimes referred to as industrial symbiosis. Repairing old items rather than throwing them away is looked at.


Central to the transition town movement is the idea that a life without oil could in fact be far more enjoyable and fulfilling than the present: "by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design the future low carbon age to be thriving, resilient and abundant — somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth."[19][20]

An essential aspect of transition in many places, is that the outer work of transition needs to be matched by inner transition. That is in order to move down the energy descent pathways effectively we need to rebuild our relations with our selves, with each other and with the "natural world". That requires focusing on the heart and soul of transition.[21][22]

Energy descent action plans[edit]

A key concept within transition is the idea of a community designed plan to create less dependency on fossil fuels. The term "community" in this context includes all the key players - local people, local institutions, local agencies and the local council. With a website devoted to the plan and the publication of Totnes' Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP), the definition of the concept of transition towns has recently seen a significant development.[23]

In France, the association négaWatt provides a theoretical support to the transition movement.[24]


As of 2010, transition initiatives are generally including the global financial crisis as a third aspect beside peak oil and climate change. Two themes of the transition model are local communities being resilient and sustainable. This can be applied to economics as well as the environment.

One path that is being perused by people using the model is the creation of local complementary currencies. Currencies existing or under development include:


While the focus and aims remain the same, the methods used to achieve these vary. For example, Totnes has introduced its own local currency, the Totnes pound, which is redeemable in local shops and businesses, helping to reduce "food miles" while also supporting local firms.[25] This idea is also planned[who?] to be introduced in three Welsh transition towns[26] and in Maleny Australia, the Baroon Dollar as a part of a regional transition towns project.[27]

Transition US[edit]

In the United States, transition initiatives have been started in many communities. Transition US is the national hub. Its stated vision "that every community in the United States will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present".[28]

Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States that are able to withstand severe energy, climate or economic shocks while creating a better quality of life in the process. They are accomplishing this mission by inspiring, encouraging, supporting, networking and training individuals and their communities as they consider, adopt, adapt, and implement the transition approach to community empowerment and change.[29]

A large number of state sites have also been set up using the Ning social networking platform. These state sites, under the umbrella of a national Ning site,[30] were set up to help facilitate, network, inform, monitor, and house regional and organizational Transition initiatives. Thus, furthering the spread of the Transition Movement while networking related organizations, projects, ideas and activities. In addition, many Transition initiatives can be found on the WiserEarth community.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

Transition towns has featured in the plot line of the long-running BBC Radio 4 series The Archers. This is an example of mainstream media attention the movement got after a couple of years of being founded.[32]


Transition Network, the charity based in the UK whose mission is to "inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they adopt/adapt the transition model in response to climate change, peak oil and economic contraction" has released a number of publications. These are designed to help communities through the varying stages of their initiative, and were all published by Green Books (as of 2013). In 2008, the Transition Handbook was the joint 5th most popular book taken on holiday during the summer recess by the UK parliamentary MPs.[33]

The books listed on the Transition Network books page include:[34]

  • The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience (2008) - by Rob Hopkins[18]
  • The Transition Timeline: for a local, resilient future (2009) - by Shaun Chamberlin[35]
  • Local Food: how to make it happen in your community (2009) - by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins[4]
  • Local Money: how to make it happen in your community (2010) - by Peter North[5]
  • Local Sustainable Homes: how to make them happen in your community (2010) - by Chris Bird
  • Communities, Councils and a Low Carbon Future What We Can Do If Governments Won't (2010) - by Alexis Rowell[36]
  • The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times (2011) - by Rob Hopkins
  • The Power of Just Doing Stuff (2013) - by Rob Hopkins

See also[edit]




  1. ^ "Pioneering Welsh town begins the transition to a life without oil". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "12 Ingredients". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ingredients". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Local Food: how to make it happen in your community". Green Books. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Local Money How to Make it Happen in Your Community". Green Books. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Permaculture". Transition Town Ashland. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  8. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  9. ^ "Kinsale 2021 An Energy Descent Action Plan – Version.1. 2005". Kinsale Further Education College. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "The Transition movement: Today Totnes... tomorrow the world". The Independent. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  11. ^ "About Transition Network". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Transition Initiatives Directory". Transition Network. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Translations". Transition Network. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Money for climate project". The Nelson Mail. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  15. ^ Transition Initiatives Directory
  16. ^ "About PEDAL". Portobello Transition Town. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  17. ^ "Transition Initiatives Directory". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "The Transition Handbook". Green Books. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Transition Town Westcliff website
  20. ^ Who we are and what we do by Rob Hopkins and Peter Lipman. Transition Network. February 2009.
  21. ^ Inner Transition
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Transition in Action". Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  24. ^ negaWatt-concept in Strasbourg for instance (French).
  25. ^ Morris, Jonathan (4 June 2007). "Town poised for its own currency". BBC News. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "Towns banking their own currency". BBC News. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  27. ^ "Money worries: town prints its own". ABC News. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  28. ^ "Our Story". Transition US. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  29. ^ "About us". Transition US. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Transition Initiative Groups on
  32. ^ The Archers website - Transition Ambridge
  33. ^ 'Beyond Westminster's bankrupted practices, a new idealism is emerging', Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, 31 May 2009
  34. ^ Transition Network website Books page
  35. ^ Information on The Transition Timeline, from the author's Dark Optimism website
  36. ^ "Communities, Councils and a Low Carbon Future What We Can Do If Governments Won't". Retrieved 3 May 2014. 

External links[edit]