Learning to transition from the norm


By Robert and Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

There is a well established concern that the dominant global industrialized pattern of economic development is not sustainable. The condition has been labeled as being in overshoot, i.e. consuming resources and releasing wastes at a rate that exceeds the earth’s capacity to meet the ever-increasing demands being placed on it.

Environmental damages from industrialization are diverse and widespread and likely to accelerate given the world’s growing population and the global expansion of industrialization.

Growing recognition of the environmental and economic problems associated with current forms of economic development have led to efforts by individuals, communities, businesses and governments to encourage and support efforts to develop more sustainable patterns of living.

A recent interview of a San Diego couple on National Public Radio’s Here and Now highlighted their efforts to adopt more sustainable living patterns and drew attention to a movement known as Transition Streets. The couple has upgraded the energy efficiency of their home by adding insulation, installing solar power, capturing rainwater from their rooftop to supply water for their organic gardens and raising chickens.

While many people have done similar things what makes them somewhat unique is that they have planted fruit trees in their front yard and developed a shaded site with a bench and Wi-Fi service to allow people walking through the neighborhood to sit down to rest, read an informational pamphlet or connect with others via their mobile phones while consuming a piece of fruit to add to their comfort. They have also established a children’s play area in the back yard.

They have joined the Transition Street movement to share ideas with others on how to live more sustainably, and provide periodic discussion sessions in the community helping others to learn how to make similar sustainable practices in their own homes.

They and others are preparing to live comfortably now and in the future as our growing list of environmental and economic problems force an increasing number of us to be more self-sufficient and live less energy intensive lifestyles while reducing our involvement in the consumer society.

While not survivalists of the stored food and weaponized household mentality, they see themselves as learning to live less resource intensive lives in the expectation that global ecological trends are likely to force many more of us to adopt similar lifestyles.

The Transition Streets movement is an offshoot of the Transition Town movement founded by Ted Trainer. It focuses on developing community level resilience based on four key assumptions: It sees as inevitable a dramatically lower level of energy consumption and encourages people to make such adjustment now rather than being faced with a sudden emergency; our existing towns and cities are seen as lacking the resilience to withstand the resource shortages inherent when confronted with peak oil and climate changes; it calls for cooperative action now to prepare for such a future; relying on the collective genius of a community a plan can be designed and implemented while building a way of life that is connected to others and enriching.

Diverse individual efforts are underway to live more sustainable lives throughout the world. In a sense the effort is like old wine in new bottles. What is appealing about this effort is that is focuses people on their local communities and encourages cooperative endeavors with fellow citizens.

Reach the Vogls at sonia@essex1.com.

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