By Tracy Kugler

Imagine a world that doesn’t run on fossil fuels. What would that world look like? How would we get to school and to work? How would we grow our food? How would we heat our homes in the winter? How would we spend our leisure time? What opportunities would be available in such a world? How could our communities and our land thrive?

It might seem daunting to imagine all the changes that need to happen to make fossil fuel-free lives a reality on a global scale. But what if you and your neighbors started to imagine what your community might look like and how you might relate to each other and to your local landscape in new ways? That is exactly the invitation made by the Transition Movement. And it complements the work of MN350 in powerful ways.

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The Transition Movement takes the idea of being a grassroots movement quite literally, sometimes starting with actual roots in the soil. Beyond bringing communities together to advocate for good policies, Transition Initiatives empower communities to enact new ways of living that make sense in their particular place. That might mean growing food in yards, community gardens, or urban food forests. 

For example, Transition Longfellow in Minneapolis runs a “Chard your Yard” project that helps residents install raised garden beds to grow vegetables in their yards. It might mean providing walking and biking paths to connect cul-de-sacs to existing parks or trails. It might mean sharing skills for repairing clothing, tools, and household items, or investing in local businesses that insulate homes or install solar panels. Such on-the-ground projects provide glimpses of a thriving post-carbon future. Seeing concrete changes in our neighborhoods makes it easier to imagine what a more complete transformation might look like.

Transition also emphasizes relationships, between people, and between people and places. Strong relationships are key to understanding the natural rhythms of a place and working together to live within those rhythms. Relationships twining through communities build understanding and the trust required to respond to challenges. Strengthening our connections to our home places and to each other also helps us see ourselves no longer as just consumers, but as active participants in creating a community and as citizens engaged in shaping our larger society. Transition Initiatives nurture relationships through activities such as community picnics, discussion circles, and guided walks connecting with local trees and wildlife. Transition Town All Saint Anthony Park in St. Paul is hosting regular “Transition Tap” gatherings for informal conversation at local breweries.

My kids have a story book called “Pooh’s Scavenger Hunt,” in which Christopher Robin sends Pooh and his friends off to find a small honey pot, a red leaf, a purple flower, and, “the greatest thing in the world.” With a bit of work and a few mix-ups, they find the first three items, then wander around until dark searching for the “greatest thing.” When they return, somewhat disappointed, to Christopher Robin, he tells them they did, in fact, find everything because “friends working together is the greatest thing in the world.” 

The Transition Movement has taken this lesson to heart. In fact, it teaches this lesson up front and intentionally taps into the deep joy that can be found in working together. The joy of Transition flows from having meaningful connections with your neighbors, both human and more-than-human, and working with them to make your neighborhood a better place for everyone to live. It is a profoundly different type of joy than the superficial thrill of buying a new pair of shoes or seeing the latest blockbuster movie.

Transition works to change the cultural story, to make unelectable policies electable, to lead by example and action.

That difference between relationship-based joy and consumer-driven desires also underlies the idea of Inner Transition. Inner Transition recognizes the need for a fundamental shift in cultural worldview. It is when we collectively begin to see ourselves as members of interconnected communities that real transformation happens. When we can envision a post-carbon future that is rich and full of joy, we are energized to continue working toward that future.

By painting a clear picture of that enticing vision and making it visible on the ground in a broad range of communities, Transition lays a strong foundation for the broad policies MN350 is working toward, like 100% renewable energy and dependable clean transportation that works for everyone. As authors Timothy Gorringe and Rosie Beckham put it,

“Transition works to change the cultural story, to make unelectable policies electable, to lead by example and action.”*

To take the first steps toward your own inner transition, we invite you to reflect on what truly brings you joy. What activities do you enjoy doing with family, friends, and neighbors? Where are the places to which you feel deeply connected? How do you get to know and appreciate those places? Do you find gratification in creating something and sharing it with friends, or sharing skills with your community?

Now imagine a way of life with more consistent opportunities for your true joy. Let your imagination run wild for a while, setting aside as many constraints of our current society as you can. Paint as clear and complete a picture for yourself as possible of what a joy-filled life would look like. After you have a clear idea of that ideal future, consider how you might take the first steps toward getting there. How can you begin to open up more space to do the things that bring you joy?

Chances are, at least some of your joys involve connecting with others in your life. Invite them to imagine along with you! Ask what brings them joy. Explore the places where your joy and their joy meet. How might you work together to bring more authentic joy to your corner of the world?

* Gorringe, Timothy, and Rosie Beckham, 2013. The Transition Movement for Churches: A Prophetic Imperative for Today. Norwich, UK: Canterbury Press.