Transition Reno attacks oil addiction with self-sufficiency
Barbara Greene stands in a room of the Unitarian Universalist church on an early winter morning and holds up a bottle of GTX Diesel oil. She’s illustrating a point. This is the stuff we’re addicted to, but what kind of withdrawal would we face if we were to find ourselves without it? Could we survive?
Greene is making a presentation about Transition Reno, a new local chapter of the international Transition movement. She and about a dozen other local residents started the group to see if Reno is prepared for global climate change and peak oil, and if not, how to make that transition.
“According to many scientists, we are probably done with harvesting the low-hanging fruit from that tree,” says Greene of cheap, easy-to-recover fossil fuels.
To build more awareness of this topic and of the group, Transition Reno is holding a free film series called “Involved 2 Evolve” from Feb. 3 to April 29 at Truckee Meadows Community College. The first event focuses on consumption, with the 20-minute short The Story of Stuff, and Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home, a documentary about a family who saves its garbage for three months. Other films scheduled include Kilowatt Hours, The Future of Food, Who Killed the Electric Car?, and more. Each event will be followed by a panel discussion with community members.
The Transition movement began in Kinsale, Ireland, where Rob Hopkins, a permaculture teacher at the time, created with his students an “energy descent action plan,” which looked how to create a sustainable community in the face of peak oil. That became the model for the more than 150 Transition Towns that have popped up worldwide.
Hopkins told the New York Times last April that Transition goes beyond environmentalism and sustainability—although it encompasses those concepts—to resiliency. The idea is to help a community become as self-sufficient as possible in order to cope if and when oil prices rise, supplies of oil become depleted, climate change accelerates, and society as we know it grows weak or collapses. This at a time when we’ve spent the past half century forgetting how to build, fix and grow things that are now easily bought at the store or are shipped to us.
“Only a culture awash with cheap oil could become deskilled on the monumental scale we have,” Hopkins wrote in the Transition Handbook.
Like other groups weaning people off addictions, the Transition plan is a 12-step process. It involves setting up a group, then raising awareness through things like a film series. Next is to partner with existing organizations, then organizing a “Great Unleashing,” sort of like a grand opening, which Transition Reno hopes will happen in September. Then comes forming subgroups to address things like transportation, water, energy, food and housing. A “Great Reskilling” would follow, with workshops on things like food growing and preservation, bicycle maintenance, and basic building techniques. Other steps include engaging the local government, consulting with elders who lived during times less dependent on oil, and, finally, creating an energy descent action plan to be carried out over years.
“It’s with the idea that transition is inevitable,” says Greene. “We can do it proactively when we have some time, or wait” until we’re in crisis.