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Transition Towns

by Jay Walljasper - February 28, 2008

The dark and very ominous cloud of global warming offers at least one silver lining: Local communities are stepping forward to help remedy the problem.

In years past when national governments, especially the U.S. and Australia, were slow in addressing--or even acknowledging--the climate crisis, a coalition of 200 American mayors led by Seattle's Greg Nickels introduced measures to reduce CO2 emissions in their own cities.

And a growing number of towns are now going even farther to create a post-carbon future. Citizens in twenty-eight communities in the British Isles and one in Australia, ranging from remote villages to the industrial city of Nottingham and the inner city London district of Brixton, are undertaking bold measures to slash their carbon footprint by reducing energy needs. And groups in more than 50 communities across North America from Whidbey Island, Washington, to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to St. John, New Brunswick, are exploring the idea.

Calling themselves "transition towns," these places are home to spirited local citizens making preparations for a future where climate change and a sharp decline in the oil supply bring dramatic changes to our lives. But that doesn't necessarily mean hard times, according to the transitiontowns.org website: "If we collectively plan and act early enough there's every likelihood that we can create a way of living that's significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment."

Totnes, a city in southwest England where even the local government has embraced the transition idea, has numerous committees dedicated to studying topics that range from economics and healthcare to the arts. Already in place is a plan to gain more self-sufficiency in food production by creating a directory of local growers. Stroud, a city of 12,000 in England's scenic Cotswold district, has launched a car sharing program.