Over 90 people gathered Monday night for a presentation by Ruah Swennerfelt, co-founder of Transition Charlotte and a national leader of the Transition Town initiative.
Ms. Swennerfelt provided an overview of Transition Town, a movement that has arisen to deal with the societal changes necessary in an age of climate change and peak oil. Its focus, in broad outline, is the building of community and local economic resilience in moving to a carbon-neutral, sustainable society.
In her talk, Ms. Swennerfelt talked about the philosophy and practice of Transition Town initiatives, numbering in the thousands in 34 different countries. These initiatives focus on building social resilience in communities, taking from the genius of the collective community to build strong economies in equilibrium. Transition groups have worked on teaching practical skills – reskilling – so that the strength of the economy is in its people and not with powerful elites currently leading the world’s economies to ruin.
Some projects of Transition Town, among many mentioned by Ms. Swennerfelt, are buying local, producing food locally, backyard farming, composting initiatives, home energy conservation campaigns, public transportation projects, free markets, local currencies, seed swaps, and sustainable jobs.
Ms. Swennerfelt’s talk in Bloomington-Normal highlights the many green initiatives taking place in the community. A local organization, Vision 2020 Bloomington-Normal – the group that brought Ruah Swennerfelt to BloNo – has grown in the last few months to support and builds upon these efforts. Vision 2020 was started among individuals in the community interested in collectively preparing for resource shortages and economic instability.
Already, Bloomington-Normal has one of the best-organized farmer’s markets in central Illinois, and a number of environmental organizations, such as the Ecology Action Center, provide important information and skills for the community. Friends of the Constitution Trail maintains the trail running through the center of the community and promotes bike interests in town. In the last few years, with tireless work centering around sustainability, the town of Normal has been recognized nationally for its work in sustainable city development.
Most recently, a number of individuals and organizations have begun work in town to promote local social resilience and have been attracted to the Transition Town organization. Two organizations – Feed the Need and the Freegans – have built free markets in westside Bloomington, promoting a culture of sharing based on need and not profit. Feed the Need, among its many projects, collects unsold food from the downtown Bloomington Farmer’s Market and gives it away for free. Freegans reclaim food and products from the dumpsters of businesses for use by people. Common Action Free School hosts classes where people can learn skills from others in their community.
After Ms. Swennerfelt’s Monday night presentation, interested people walked to the Ecology Action Center to talk more about building a Transition Town culture in Bloomignton-Normal. Vision 2020’s next event, a panel discussion of individuals presenting on different aspects of the Transition Town movement, will be November 1st, 7 pm, at the Bloomington Public Library.