EDITION: December - February 2011


Text: Cat Weisweiller

Just as many of us slump deeper into our cloud of apathy fuelled by a cocktail of hopelessness, fear or scepticism at the immensity of the global warming and peak oil crises – along has come “Transition”, stepping in where governments have previously fallen short, to gently nudge us out of our apparent conscience paralysis and into self-empowering action.
Global warming, predominantly caused by growing CO2 emissions, probably needs no further explanation. Something even more pressing, however, is that the mining of crude oil is increasing at such a rate that it is, probably in our lifetime, going to peak, diminish and become unaffordable to the majority of us. This state of affairs is called the “peak oil crisis”.
One would be forgiven for thinking that oil is used only to help power our cars, ships and aeroplanes and will no doubt be substituted by forward thinking engine manufacturers. Sadly, I have discovered that this is far from the reality. Oil is presently required to produce practically everything we rely on in modern society. The list includes detergents, plastics, paints, petrol, diesel, DVDs, tyres, electricity, gas, food additives, asphalt, clothes, shoes, carpets, ink, pesticides, fertilisers and medicines. Regrettably, the inevitable flip side of a generously overpackaged and fast consumerist society is that we are running out of easily (affordably) accessible oil. The only good news is that the global warming and peak oil crises are intrinsically linked – i.e. curbing our oil consumption will automatically reduce our CO2 emissions.

“Transition”, an initiative developed to tackle these very issues, was launched in England in 2005, by a teacher called Rob Hopkins. Soon after, “Transition Towns” started popping up all across the U.K. Their resounding success resulted in what is now an internationally applied template, recently adopted here in Ibiza. It tackles the global warming and peak oil crises in a refreshingly realistic way that empowers communities to make personal changes that, if nothing else, result in a healthier and more fulfilling life for themselves. It cultivates a system called “Permaculture”. Permaculture capitalises on local resources, which, when coupled with a fervent community spirit, allows for a self-sustaining society that is non reliant on international support. As ‘Transition’ put it themselves: “We could dither about, waiting for technology or governments to solve the problem for us. However, general consensus now appears to be that this is a rather high risk option.”
As someone that is moderately ecologically minded, I personally do not need to be sold on the merit of a world that does not involve a military manoeuvre to extract one solitary morsel of food from user unfriendly packaging. Nor will I miss the absurdity of being offered a gigantic plastic bag to transport a near on microscopic purchase home. In these cases, adopting the “Transition” strategy would gently encourage us to refuse the plastic bag and more likely choose the cheaper, less packaged, versions of merchandise. By their own admission, it remains to be seen if “Transition” can save the planet, but they are determined to forge ahead with what seems to be a rather sensible and increasingly embraced assumption: That to initiate a minor change of consciousness at a base level, will undoubtedly fuel a self-perpetuating growth in consciousness as a whole. An invaluable approach, reinforced by Albert Einstein who wrote: “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

Just as I am feeling a refreshing sense of genuine desire to reduce my carbon footprint – admittedly in a slightly selfish bid to ward off any further threat of my international travel being denied me – Chris Dews, 25 years resident of Ibiza and one of the main coordinators of the newly formed “Transition Island Ibiza”, presents me with a typically digestible “Transition” suggestion: “For instance, how about keeping up to date with what is in season and buying only locally grown fruit and veg wherever possible?”: Ibiza, despite being renowned for its bounteous supply of fruit and veg (around 3,000 tons per year) has a staggering level of imported goods. With what we now know of nutrition, illness and obesity, I consider myself lucky to have grown up at a time when locally reared meat and home grown fruit and veg were simply all that was available anyway. Further contemplation leads me to suspect that there may be much tradition that we have unnecessarily shunned whilst being unconsciously washed away on the wave of modernity. Weren’t many of the old ways, quite apart from being better for the environment, not simply better anyway? Transition gently guides us to pause and ponder this theme.
So, armed with a calendar of local seasonal fruit and veg (there is one at the end of this article), I am off to shop just a little more consciously. Buying local fruit and veg not only supports local traders, but, it is healthier and often cheaper. And, lo and behold, with extra pennies in our pockets and a healthier dinner ahead, we have also inadvertently (what I call “subliminal altruism”) done a little bit to reduce unnecessary CO2 emissions. This, proudly achieved by warding off the unnecessary transport of foreign goods to the island – the majority of which are laden with extra additives to survive an extended shelf life.

Can it really be that easy? Yes. This is how “Transition” works. Their welcoming message reads: “Whether you’re here to just take a peek, dip your toe in the water or throw yourself wholeheartedly into the world of Transition – welcome.” It avoids preaching and scaremongering and, instead, suggests genuinely life-enhancing changes to lifestyle that might, in turn, just avert the global crisis before it’s too late. And if not, it will certainly help us, collabor-atively, to positively embrace a simpler and more resilient way of life in readiness for an inevitable depletion of resources.
No surprise that politicians are starting to sit up and take notice of something that, albeit humble in approach, is proving much more effective then anything they have come up with at government level. I am sure that we would all welcome more suggestions to save pennies and protect our health and, if in so doing, we help safeguard our future on this planet – all the better.