In 2004, the UK imported 10.2 million kilos of milk and cream by weight from France and exported 9.9 million to France. Germany sent us 1.5 million kilos of potatoes and we sent them exactly the same amount of potatoes in exchange. That year, the UK imported £310 million worth of beer and exported £313 million worth. Of course the UK is not the only country that does this, economic globalisation demands that the highways of the world are filled with goods passing each other that could just as easily have been grown in the place they are heading to. The Transition movement is an international, bottom-up movement which asks, as the economist Herman Daly once put it, “why don’t we just email each other the recipes?”
This is an important question at a time when oil prices are becoming increasingly volatile, when the head of the International Energy Agency is warning that “we must leave oil before oil leaves us”, when the challenge of climate change is so acute, and when the very notion of economic growth is increasingly constrained. Yet we still think that it makes sense to waste huge amounts of energy transporting things around that we could have produced ourselves. The Transition movement argues that many converging challenges will mean that our economies will inevitably become inherently more local, that peak oil will mean that globalisation goes into reverse, but that we need to see this as an opportunity for creativity, enterprise and community, rather than as a huge disaster.
Transition groups come together to work at the local level to build resilience and to strengthen the local economy, based around the concept of ‘localisation as economic development’. They are creating new local currencies, setting up community-owned shops, starting new farms, market gardens and community gardens to grow produce for local consumption, creating community energy companies funded through local shares, planting productive trees in local parks, engaging people in reducing their carbon emissions and their energy bills by getting them together with their neighbours, and even looking to become developers, creating new developments based on the principles of community ownership, local economic regeneration and the revival of local building materials.
There are now over 700 Transition initiatives internationally, in 37 countries. Transition emerged late in France, but is starting to gain momentum. It is something that looks different everywhere it emerges. Based on a simple set of principles, some tools and ‘ingredients’, anyone can start this process and make it their own. It is a huge experiment, as people try things out on a range of scales and share their learning through the Transition Network. It has been a thrilling thing to watch its emergence over the past 5 years.
In terms of consumption, clearly we all need to consume. However, at the moment, the way in which we do that often runs counter to our desire to live in a community with a strong and vibrant economy. Think of where you live as being like a leaky bucket. Into that bucket goes wages, pensions, money from government and so on. Yet at the moment, every time we shop in a supermarket, pay our energy bills, support chain shops in place of local shops, money pours out through holes in our bucket. Yet every place where money is leaking is a potential new livelihood, new local business or new training opportunity. As central governments begin to reduce the flow of money into the bucket, this becomes all the more important.
The concept of ‘localisation as economic development’ offers potential to start ‘plugging the leaks’ of the local economy, creating new food production and processing, supporting local farmers, creating new businesses producing building materials, designing new trainings for young people, the installation of renewable energy systems owned and managed by the community. In fact, when you start thinking about it, the possibilities are endless. Rather than consumption being the problem, it could be the key to making the places that we live more resilient in uncertain times.
Tribune rédigée par Rob Hopkins et extrait du livre « Vivre ensemble 7 milliards d’humains » rédigé par la rédaction de GoodPlanet et disponible aux éditions de la Martinière. Soutenez-nous en achetant cet ouvrage.
by Rob Hopkins
Text – courtesy of the author