Podcast

Rob Hopkins: Making the Red Pill Taste Good

Thursday, September 22, 2011, 11:58 AM

Rob Hopkins is a true pioneer of the movement to intelligently prepare and adapt society for entering a post-Peak-Oil future. His brainchild, Transition Towns, has been one of the most successful initiatives to date in inspiring hundreds of cities, towns, and communities around the globe towards using local cooperation and interdependence to shrink their ecological footprints.  

Many readers on our site lament the inertia or hostility we all frequently encounter when trying to 'wake up' family, friends, and neighbors to the warning bells we see on the economic, energy, and environmental fronts. Chris and I often get asked for advice on how to make the red pill 'tasty' for the uninitiated. So we look at the success Rob's model is having at spurring individuals and communities to action, and ask him: What's your secret?

In short, it's about making Transition feel "more like a party than a protest march." Make it personal to the participants. Focus on celebrating the local benefits and empowerment it produces. As Rob says, the core Transition principles are "not about taking people back to something worse than today; they are a step forward. They are about building resilience, bringing people together, giving them the sense that anything is possible in such a way that everybody benefits."

The stories that we tell ourselves determine the decisions we make. Transition is all about providing new stories that help people come to terms with pressing issues from a positive angle. "When we started Transition," Rob reflects, "I imagined it was an environmental process. But increasingly I think of it as a cultural process. It starts to become this story that the town tells about itself."

Participating in Transition does not mean that you have to already ascribe to Peak Oil or climate change or the end of growth. It can simply be a source of projects that yield positive ROI on the resources you have to invest. Rob mentions an example in his hometown of Totnes, UK where the community is funding on-site wind turbines: "You would rather have your money in a local energy company where you know the people who run it. You're excited about its progress. You know other people that are a part of it, rather than just having your money off in distant shares of something that you have no control over." Localized economic development is an extremely powerful new trend Rob sees society just beginning to scratch the surface of. 

"We very much took [building local resilience] as our focus because it felt like it was the part that was being neglected. It is the part that people are passionate about, that they care about. My sense is that people will get this at different points. And if we imagine that everybody needs to get this before we can actually do anything meaningful, we are not going to do anything meaningful in time. So the idea with Transition is that if we can get things in place which just make sense, which don’t ram Peak Oil and climate change and economic models down people’s throats, but which become the things that are creating work for people, they become the things that people are proudest of because they are celebratory of the place and of the culture."

And having this growing set of Transition Town 'success story' templates in place is yielding value as more and more communities increasingly find themselves looking for solutions the harsh economic and resource realities of today. In times of crisis, the solutions that get adopted are the ones that are already on the table. The more tested, operational and sustainable models we have ready and available for local resiliency, the better prepared we'll be to meet the future.

In this interview, Chris and Rob discuss what we can learn from the growing number of Transition Town case studies and where the movement is headed next.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Rob Hopkins (runtime 47m:17s):

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Or click here to read the full transcript. 


Rob Hopkins is the co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and of the Transition Network. This grew out of many years experience in education, teaching permaculture and natural building, and setting up the first 2 year full-time permaculture course in the world at Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland, as well as coordinating the first eco-village development in Ireland to be granted planning permission.

He is author of The Transition Handbook: from oil dependence to local resilience, which has been published in a number of other languages and was voted the 5th most popular book taken on holiday by MPs during the summer of 2008, and of The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times, published in October 2011.  He publishes the blog www.transitionculture.org.


Our series of podcast interviews with notable minds includes:

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5 Comments

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Transition Towns In Your Area

Find like-minded people in your area, who are aware of peak oil and want to organize locally. :-)

United States:
http://transitionus.org/transition-towns

Internationally:
http://www.transitionnetwork.org/initiatives/map

Poet

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
This TT is fast asleep....

The Transition Initiative we started here in our small Australian Town has all but collapsed....  I think there hasn't been enough signs of "the collapse" becoming evident here yet to make people realise they should all be prepping for what we here know is coming.  This might end soon, there's every sign that TSWHTF in Australia too soon.....

Half the town has seen the Crash Course, but they all go on their merry ways commuting to their still available jobs (our unemployment rate is still under 5%), they still visit their local supermarkets, and they still all watch the crap their idiot boxes is telling them, ie, it will all be sorted soon, by the very same people who caused the mess of course!!!

The other 5% of the town is either already "ready", or they don't care.... to be fair some of the early Transitioners have left the area, and I just can't be bothered shouldering all the work.  I've got things to do around here.  They'll all come a knockin' as soon as they realise I was right all along!

fogettaboutit's picture
fogettaboutit
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 9 2011
Posts: 12
Not enough signs.. and maybe never will be

Sorry to hear about the TT that "all but collapsed" but honestly, I think that is the norm. Maybe we are going to get through this ...whatever...  without the scary scenarios and those who relax watching the boob tube, akathe "idiot box" (no longer have tubes)  have it figured out. After all, we only have about 80 or so years each on this planet and history has a much longer life.  I am kind of thinking.... let it go; my remaining lifetime (30 or so years) will be okay. 

 

Claudia_UK's picture
Claudia_UK
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 27 2011
Posts: 1
Feedback on the transcript

Hi. A great interview. Very inspiring, as always, Rob. Thanks!

Looking forward to reading the new book.

Just wanted to give a bit of feedback on the transcrpit. Most useful to have the transcript available, especially for non-native speakers of English, who follow Transition (of which i know there are many!)

Sadly there were a few errors in it i noticed (such as the name of one of the UK Transition towns with a local currency).

I'd be happy to feed these errors back to you Chris, so they can be corrected.

Thanks for all the great work and inspiration guys!

Claudia.

1stVillager's picture
1stVillager
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 15 2010
Posts: 2
Stay the course as you build a strong community

Kudos to the Transition movement for taking the high road during the bumpy, long emergency.  I like the bumpy plateau analogy with its platform of multiple motivations.  As the comments above attest, change is difficult to sustain.  People are understandably in shock and confusion as we bounce from paranoia to anger to inspiration to despair and back.  From Alex Jones, to Chris Martenson to FOX to CNN, the Real News Network or Huffington Post, it's a schizophrenic, A,D,D, world we live in.  One of the inherent challenges of the transition movement is staying the course within the established world of insanity, transitioning in place.

Almost six years ago,  in early 2006, I began building a community of like-minded, preparation-oriented people.   When we started, I wasn't even aware of Peak Oil, the Transition movement, or even the term Intentional Communities.  I just had an intuitive sense that it was time to get ready.  I bought a large tract of land on Tennessee's rural Cumberland Plateau and began offering lots to like-minded people.  Maybe that's why the plateau metaphor resonates with me.

It's been an interesting journey that I have recorded in my blog.  From the outset, we focused on the positive aspects of getting in tune with a more natural setting and being in harmony with people in the community.  We adopted the motto, "in harmony with nature and people" to describe what the Village was all about, but my philosophy has always been grounded in self-sufficiency and conservative, frugal libertarianism. 

In the early days, that made us pretty unusual. Along the way, someone told me that I was building an "intentional community", but having little in common with hippie communal values, we are an odd fit in that mold.  I believe in capitalism, just not crony capitalism.  I believe personal property is the foundation of personal freedom.  I think we have lost many of the old skills that helped my agrarian grandparents weather the great depression.  But, I also believe the way forward will be through healthy innovation and technology.  I was excited when the transition movement came along, but the global warming narrative put them too far into the progressive camp for me.  

I used to be a senior executive with a major food service company.  At a stressful time when the team was working on a turnaround, one of the other executives said something like, "for this journey to end in the right place we have to start with the right people on the bus".  That notion stuck with me. 

I just wanted an old fashioned neighborhood with good values and supportive people like the neighborhood my folks grew up in.  But it would have to cope with new realities.  So, I set out to discretely gather the best neighbors I could.  They would be people who:

  • like work and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.
  • have been successful in their careers
  • have diverse technical skills that would make our community more resilient, more self-reliant
  • fiercely value independence and freedom,
  • but socially comfortable and understand the need for strong, cooperative relationships in a cohesive community, 
  • are well educated (whether formally or through experience) and appreciate culture
  • have a strong creative streak and are solutions oriented.  Whether through art, music, or technology, they are driven to create.
  • have a deep reverence for the beauty of nature and its creator and a desire to be responsible, pragmatic stewards of the land, but not followers of the latest "green" fad or extreme tree huggers
  • The governing principle would be the Golden Rule, so they would tend to be people of deep faith.  I believe that when people deeply care about each other and truly desire to act that way, most other problems take care of themselves.

As the economy fell off the plateau in 2008, our focus shifted to more hard-core physical preparations and my blog reflected a sense that I needed to warn people.  We have come a long way with preps for the long haul.  But gradually, over the past six months or so, I have reached the conclusion that most people now get it.  Things aren't going to get better any time soon, whether they are ready to acknowledge it publicly or not.  There is a general gnawing sense of continuous if not cataclysmic decline.  Meanwhile, the voices of fear are rising all around us from every corner and every political persuasion.   As that understanding slowly sinks in, there is a tendency for people to slnk into resignation and despondency.  Change is not easy.  There are many disappointments along the way.

I concluded the time for warning is over.  What people need most now on the bumpy plateau, is support and encouragement to get through to a better place.  Fortunately, our Village is slowly maturing.  The bus is gradually filling  with people of strong character, strong values and outstanding achievement.  During the period when I was focused on physical preps, I found that even with a strong sense of purpose, the constant prepping for a bad, uncertain future was just depressing.  Thankfully, it's good to be surrounded with positive, strong people on the bus headed for the same destination I am and who see the same things I do,.

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