First things first


Saturday, 28 March 2009

Westcombe's first Transition event - part 1

Thanks to everyone who came along to our first public event on Wednesday – a screening of the documentary, ‘The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil’. Just under 50 people turned out, and there was plenty of milling and mingling, and a great atmosphere.

A big thank you to St George’s in Glenluce Road, who made the church available to us for the evening, and gave us lots of practical help we couldn’t have done without. It’s a great example of a church as a living, breathing hub of the community.

The film shows how Cuba was crippled when its oil imports were cut off by the collapse of its main supplier, the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s – but also how the Cuban people responded creatively and resourcefully to survive such an unimaginable crisis, turning to urban, organic and permaculture agriculture, revolutionising public transport, importing bicycles, investing in renewable energy, reforming town planning to help people work closer to home and – underpinning all this – embracing a spirit of co-operation.

The film got a round of applause, and after we explained who and what Transition Westcombe is, and what the wider Transition Towns movement is all about, we had a discussion afterwards about how we could respond here to the problem of peak oil. For Cuba, peak oil was imposed on them by geopolitics. For the rest of the world, we face a more irreversible geological peak oil. You can’t negotiate with geology…

After some animated discussions in small groups, everyone put their thinking caps on to answer two posers:

- What can I as an individual do to prepare for and lessen my vulnerability to the end of cheap, abundant oil?
- What can we as a community do?

Then all these ideas were written onto post-it notes and stuck up so we could browse each other’s thoughts. And a third set of post-its were used for people to make any other comments or ask questions.

So here are the results.

What can I do as an individual?

There was plenty of emphasis on food growing – this came up time and time again:

“I could grow more vegetables in my garden”. “Find out about green manure.” “Learn something about growing veg from my dad.” “Grow more compost.” “Grow potatoes on patio.” “Grow tomatoes in grow bag.” “Get an allotment – some free at Mid Park.” “Utilise makeshift containers.” “Use of gardens for food production.” “Learn beekeeping and get a beehive.” “Get a veg box, learn about agriculture.” “Join Charlton Horticultural Society.” “Grow food on balcony.” “Growing food instead of flowers.” “Plant some cabbages and herbs in my urban garden patio / take away ornamental.” “Look at ways of becoming self-sufficient.”

Transport was another theme:

“Avoid car.” “Take up cycling.” “Use car less.” “Walk, take bus more.” “Use public transport.” “Share journeys.” “Ditch the car – use it less / bike.” “Only use car when necessary.” “Use donkey man to help with new forms of transport.”

There were some great comments about reviving community spirit:

“Start a dialogue with neighbours.” “Offer my time.” “Network resources.” “Give more time to others; neighbours, colleagues, other communities.” “Get to know the neighbours.” “Intergenerational projects.” “Galvanise groups I belong to, as sooner or later we will need to join together – be more friendly.” “Know your neighbours.”

There was also plenty on conserving energy and resources, and making the most of what we have:

“Insulate house /re-use / Oxfam clothes /solar, , make do and mend, use the librarian instead of buying books.” “Turn off lights / shop locally, buy local produce.” “Listen to radio instead of TV.” “Turn off the lights /take care with consumption of water /less time in the shower.” “Waste even less.” “Reduce consumption of energy, packaging /buy local /re-use, recyle /shower less /use to destruction rather than replace when bored.” “Clothes recycling.” “Switch off lights /use solar panels for power.” “Insulate the house re air tightness.” “Heating controls /wood burner /solar hot water /conserve electricity /use less of everything.” “Re-use more / be mindful of energy use in the house / insulate house/ solar thermal panels.” “Use solar panels for power.” “Buy in local shops / buy less.” “Learn new skills.”

There was also a welcome comment offering to share skills:

“Offer some limited technical knowledge about renewable energy or at least direct people to the source of information.”

And someone suggested “Workshops on eco-psychology” – perhaps an offer, or perhaps a suggestion for a group that might help some people to process, on a personal level, the big changes we have to come to terms with?

We pointed out after the film, that taking action as an individual can be quite an overwhelming prospect – so it was great to see people tackle this and make suggestions with gusto.

Part 2, coming soon: What you suggested that we could do as a community. And after that, we'll try to answer the questions you put. Some of you have also been emailing useful or interesting links and information, which we'll also post here.

And please feel free to make use of the comments facility immediately below if you want to say what you thought of the film, the discussion or transition issues in generally.

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