Transition Café – Transition Town Questions

We had an energetic, vibrant film night, last Friday, which generated lively, engaged conversation well into the night. The film was on the life of David Fleming, author of Lean Logic, a highly influential pattern-language book. When the credits began to roll, nobody left. When the conversation started, nobody left. I had intended the small group conversations to run for 10 minutes or so, but the energy was still climbing at that point, so we went until the energy started to drop a bit, then joined back together in the larger group, then folks stuck around and talked for some time after the big group ended. What fun! Although we all seemed to enjoy the film, we didn’t necessarily agree with everything in it. Some questions which struck me, that y’all asked:

The folks in the film, and the demographic in the room, were primarily, but not entirely, White folks. Given that the Transition Town ideals appeal to a much more diverse audience than just upper-middle-class White folks, and there are lots of folks who are doing Transition Town work, whether they call it that or not, who are from widely diverse backgrounds–ethnic, cultural, economic, religious, generational…how do our meetings come to more represent that? Transition US is taking this question seriously, as we want our decision-makers and gatherings to resemble America in the most comprehensive ways possible. While we do hold that whoever shows up are the right people, we also hold the question: “Who is not here, who needs to be?” I have heard many responses to this question, what are yours?

Transition Towns, at their outset, took an approach of addressing peak oil and climate change through energy descent and relocalization. Peak oil was seen as an easier gateway, as it was certain to hit folks in their wallets, and inspire action sooner than climate change, which is likely to be a big, vague boogeyman until it is much too late to take action.

So far, we have been wrong about this. Peak oil has turned out to be more nebulous than we thought, oil companies did decide that tar sands and fracking were worth the costs, etc. In our area, we have found that local food systems have been a better gateway, but other regions have found things like urban gardens, social justice, disaster preparedness, community building, relocalizing, local money systems, etc, to be better conversation starters. What do you think? What speaks to you about Transition Towns?

Another question was, paraphrased: are there other local Transition Town initiatives, and where are they? Transition Palo Alto is a hub, in that it doesn’t just serve Palo Alto, but has representatives of other cities, as well: Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Saratoga, Casa de Fruita. Most of us lived in Palo Alto, at some point, but not all, but the name Transition Palo Alto stuck, Transition Silicon Valley did not. Do you want to start a Transition Town initiative in your area? What would it take to get that started? What would your initial focus be?

Lastly, energy descent is a big aspect of Transition Towns. This is the practice of decreasing your energy needs, not just by shifting them over to “clean tech” but actually decreasing the total amount of energy you use. So far, this has been a tough sell in technology-heavy and technology-aspiring cultures, but will need to be adopted, worldwide, if our life is going to continue on this planet, in any form we might recognize. How have you been incorporating this into your own life?

There were others, and we’ll probably visit each of those questions as individual topics in future Cafés, but those will do, for now.

I will likely miss next week’s conversation, on 8 March, but feel free to self-organize. I may send a prompt, anyway.

Transition Town Questions, this Friday, 1 March, at Red Rock. Sometimes we go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.

The Guidelines are below. Read ’em, learn ’em, bring a copy if you think yer gonna forget ’em!

Venue Information is below the Guidelines, and check out the Random and Useful Other Stuff below the notes section. Feel free to forward this widely!

Transition Café Guidelines
-Whoever shows up are the right people
-Whenever it starts is the right time
-Speak when you are moved to speak
-The conversation gets to go where it wants to go
-Pauses in conversation are good, they allow information to sink in, thoughts to happen, and quieter people to have a chance to speak
-Silent listening is fine, you do not need to speak if you do not wish to
-The “Law of Mobility”: if you feel like you are neither learning nor contributing, you may use your mobility to find a place in which you are doing so
-Bring friends! If we overpopulate the venue, we’ll figure something else out
-If you are able, please buy stuff from the venues. We’re trying to support local businesses!
Anyone can host a Café! All you need is an hour or two, an independent café you like, this list of guidelines, and a starting subject. Bring something to read while you wait for folks to show up (see the first guideline).

Please note venue changes:

This week, we will be meeting on Friday, 1 March, from ~6:15-7:45pm, at Red Rock Coffee, in Mountain View.

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting the venues by buying stuff while we’re there!

See you at the Café,



Notes: Consequences

Got too involved in the conversation, sorry!

Please join us on tpa_cafe, or tpa_chat, you can join at

Random and Useful Other Stuff:
Toby Hemenway’s (author of Gaia’s Garden and The Permaculture City) website:
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, by Gary Paul Nabhan
Thinking in Systems, a primer, by Donella H. Meadows
Masterminds and Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman
Queen Bees and Wannabees, Rosalind Wiseman

I’ll post other links and readings in this space, as they occur to me.


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