The portion of humanity perceiving the potential enormous challenges ahead is a relatively small yet potent community. For this reason, attendees to the first Transition US Gathering at Macalester College this past weekend were excited to be in the company of so many like-minded folk. I don’t mean to insinuate that everyone agreed on all issues as presented and discussed, but there were ample opportunities to find reinforcement for any preferred cause - also to learn more about other topical issues, and how they interrelate.
As anticipated, sustainability-futurist expert Richard Heinberg delivered a highly-informative, stimulating keynote address, presenting a review of essential information, but with new insights and projections. As a principal peak-oil exponent, he expressed regrets for having made peak-oil projections prematurely, which he claims, was postponed by the unanticipated advent of hydro-fracturing technology. Still, he stands firm in believing the long-term effects of EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested) will play out in coming months, or at most, years. Heinberg is very concerned about the overall world situation - economically, socially, politically - and fears an unexpected catastrophic event could create could another recession, possibly worse than the 2008 debacle.
Another highlight of the conference was international transition leader Rob Hopkins’ “Welcome” video, which he made especially for the conference. Because air travel raises one’s carbon footprint, Rob “walks the talk” by avoiding it. In this video, he delivers an entertaining, inspiring talk that’s sprinkled with humor and positive stories of actions taken by people worldwide to create resilient, sustainable, and meaningful lives. Early in the video, an intentional interruption by a commercial featuring Amazon-com's latest high-tech personal assistant device is used to illustrate the power of high-tech to supplant interactions with others - and with nature. Rob’s message is that we are social beings who thrive best within supportive communities, where people relate to one another in real time, rather than impersonal digital devices.
At least 40 workshops and classes provided plenty of opportunities for conferees to learn and participate in a variety of discussion topics. Most events began with self-introductions and ended with Q&A sessions, providing everyone a chance to speak. Transition folk evidence a strong commitment to such core principals as equality, frugality, authenticity, and devotion in the process of creating resilient, sustainable communities. Undoubtedly, this was the most sustainable event we recall ever attending. Macalester College provides an exemplary institutional model for reducing, reusing, and recycling, which is the main reason the conference was held on this beautiful campus.
It was obvious that conferees greatly enjoyed participating in this unique gathering of several hundred kindred folk. Everyone received the requisite information, skills, and inspiration to share with their communities in ongoing efforts to create greater resilience and sustainability. Convincing more citizens to join in the movement is a chief goal and strategy. For certain, if the movement is to grow and make a genuine long-term difference, it will need the combined strength of many people, especially our youth, who have the most to lose - and gain.