Transitioning to a life less dependent on oil begins at home
When Reinette Senum decided to build a canoe in an Athabascan village in the mid-1990s, the locals had a word for her: fruitcake. But as the canoe began to take shape, and the villagers saw it was actually going to happen, they dropped the moniker and began to help her, wishing her well as she paddled away in it.
Senum, a councilwoman, former mayor of Nevada City and founder of APPLE (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy), used this build-it-and-they-will-come story while addressing the roughly 100 people who attended Transition Reno’s “Great Unleashing” this past weekend. It was meant to encourage the group—the 50th “Transition Town” in the United States—in its quest to help Reno become less dependent on fossil fuels and more resilient to the shocks of peak oil, climate change and economic instability. It’s a tall order. Some of their methods for tackling that menacing trident include “re-skilling,” or relearning things like growing and canning our own foods, sewing, butchering, building—skills cheap and ever-flowing oil enabled people to nearly forget.
“Because oil did so much for us, we didn’t have to know some of what we need to know in a powered-down world,” said Barbara Greene, one of Transition Reno’s initiators.
However, enacting policy changes for renewable energy, improving education and creating local jobs is also on the table for the Transition movement. And bringing those ideas to local government is a big part of the Transition process.
“We’re taking the best of our grandparents and great grandparents and the best technology, and we’re going to combine them and go back to the future,” said Senum. But until people see these visions begin to take shape, she warns, they might get a few “fruitcakes” thrown at them.
The Transition movement, which began in Kinsale, Ireland, in 2005 with permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins and his students, has received some criticism for the seemingly quainter parts of its game plan. This was evidenced by one participant at the local event.
“Can you explain why I need to grow my own cheese?” he asked Senum. “I want my daughter to learn how to fly to Mars, [not make cheese].”
“If you’re not eating well, if you’re not living well, your capacity to shoot for the moon won’t be available to you,” she responded.
The Unleashing event coincided with 350.org’s international “Global Work Party” day on Oct. 10. That organization is based on the idea that carbon dioxide levels above 350 parts per million present serious risks to the planet and those living on it—we’re at 390 ppm now. So this was a day to identify common themes, like food or energy, and form action groups around those themes. The action groups are expected to continue to meet and develop further solutions. Their ideas will become part of an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) to be presented to local government and carried out over several years.
No elected officials or political candidates appeared to be present at this event. However, future candidates may have been created, as some voiced a desire to run for office to confront the problems discussed.