“Awakened at midnight
by the sound of the water jar
cracking from the ice”
~ Matsuo Bashō
What is Transition? What are we transitioning from and what are we transitioning to?
“First understand and then be understood” are Naresh Giagrande’s words that resonate with me after finishing today’s transition online training. “Find out where people are, what moves them and then meet them there”
I have more than 10 years of experience both designing/delivering and participating in online learning but I have never experienced what I experienced today at my second week of transition training…
Energized, emotional, inspired…again, a group of wonderful people from Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, UK, France, Senegal, Netherlands, US, Spain, Brazil, New Zealand and Canada demonstrated that around the world there are people who care.
The session was about awareness and how we communicate difficult topics to people who are not yet in transition: how do we speak about the four “E’s”: realities of Energy and Climate Change (that we are heading to 4 C0 and may end up with more and all the biodiversity, infrastructure and livelihoods destruction this will mean. Howe we are using up all the cheap energy causing waste and not living enough for future generations); Environmental concerns (how we are destroying biodiversity and ecosystems and causing massive extinction and how this impacts in our livelihood and food security); Equity and wealth distribution (and how this is causing bigger gaps and exploitation of many for the benefit of a few) and Economy (and how we solve the questions of a growing population that needs jobs, shelter, food and stuff without creating a bigger hole)
However, at least that is how I perceived it, the session was in reality about our own feelings about the above topics and inner transition: the need for us to review the stories we tell ourselves about the world and life and which have put us in this hole we currently are as a society.
The Four E’s:
We were introduced to the four “E’s” (why are we in transition? What from?):
- Energy and its impacts (unsustainable energy extraction, use and waste and the impact these all have in Climate Change)
- Environment (unsustainable use of “resources”, exploitation and destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity)
- Equity (unfair wealth distribution, social inequity)
- Economy and its impact in our lives: what type of jobs would we have and where with this change coming upon us?
We voted responding to the question: which one of these “E’s” is your community most likely to respond to, be concern about?
The overwhelming response was appalling but understandable: Economy and jobs. (People don’t respond to what is more important and seems far away or too difficult, they respond to what impacts them every day and engage with things they feel they can achieve. They also respond to things they can understand)
As in the first week, we were put into “private rooms” where I have the opportunity to talk to Yukiko, a Japanese girl volunteering at a transition group in London where they are growing local food and doing crafts and re-skilling.
Then we shared the outcomes of our group discussions about the question: “How we communicate these things to people? How do we approach them and what do we say? Who do we approach?”
The main points I got where:
- Main challenges were time an commitment (even people who are aware don’t seem to have time to meet and talk about these important topics, the four E’s, much less to engage in practical projects)
- Another challenge was how to proceed: even family and friends run away when you talk to them about these issues. Nobody wants to hear bad news and many don’t see the point.
- People may pay more attention if you avoid academic and big terms and start with story-telling and small projects and concerns that touch their everyday realities, such as lack of work, lack of nutritious and healthy food, small budget, high energy costs, etc.
- Some shared they approached local politicians and organizations and others have a booth where they invited people to talk about these topics, other shared they approached people with movie-nights (that was us, at VS) and forums, newsletters and a website.
Now we (at VS) have the “homework” of deepening in these topics: as people in transition we have the responsibility to fully understand them and what they mean.
“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin
But it was the closure what brought this closeness I now feel: Naresh asked us to share our own feelings about these issues. And this is what I got from 20+ fellow transitioners around the world (including some of the organizers) and how we feel about the four “E’s”:
- Isolation, fear, pain and hopelessness for the world
- Overwhelmed, frustration that we can do so little
- Anger at the ignorance and unwillingness of the greedy ones who are destroying everything
- Urge to do more and bigger, more impactful things
- Constant suffering, driving herself sick “because I love world, I love life”
How do we cope? How do we live this double life: knowing all this we continue going to work and smiling from one side, while stretching our hours and failing to chores and family responsibilities to create this new thing we still don’t know how it will look like or if we would be successful at all?
Some of us cope by joining Permaculture and Transition groups, some by building community awareness and being proactive (as opposed to reactive) about what is happening around us.
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
~ David Foster Wallace, This Is Water
I have never cared more for people, other species and the world than today. In this Canadian “Thanksgiving week” I feel truly grateful that I found Transition and Permaculture. I couldn’t cope without them.
“There is another world, but it is in this one.”
~ W.B. Yeats