There’s a profound irony in all the rhetoric from Paris about balancing concerns about the climate with the supposed need for perpetual economic growth. Imagine for a moment just how the coming global meltwater pulse will impact the world economy. Countless trillions of dollars in coastal infrastructure around the world will become “sunk costs” in more than a metaphorical sense; millions of people in low-lying areas such as southern Florida will have to relocate as their homes become uninhabitable, and trillions of dollars of real estate will have its value drop to zero.
It reminds me of a core truth of the Transition Towns movement: higher levels of government, industry, mainstream acedemia and media, and the panopoly of global institutions are not going to address humanity’s challenges of environment, economy and energy.
I’ve come to see this as structural. The people who rise to levels of leadership and to whom big responsiibilities are entrusted are people with a track record of working within the existing order of things; people who will not upend the apple cart; people who are “safe”.
With each monster hurricane or 70 degree winter day, with each economic stumble and desperate countermeasure, with each additional risk and expense taken to keep the fossil fuels flowing, it becomes harder to ignore the plain truth:
- that the existing order of things is inextricably linked with our developing global predicament;
- that the safety inherent in collectively choosing to work within the system is a short term benefit that pales in comparison to the insecurity of the longer term consequences of that choice;
- that changing “the system” is, or should be, the order of the day.
And so with each passing year a few more people realize that deferring to safe people leading safe institutions down the safe path is anything but safe. The calvary is not coming to our rescue. It falls to people like us to bring about change from the ground up, here where we live, making do with whatever skills and tools we can bring to the task, and in the face of whatever obstacles are left in our path by cultural inertia.
Transition Troy is justified in taking some pride in it’s three most tangible initiatives — composting, solarize, and vehicle sharing – along with whatever intangibles that might be to our credit. But I think we have to acknowledge that, to the extent that we have made an impact, it is only on the periphery. The central challenge of culture change remains before us, Our most potent role remains that of helping clear the way for people in our community to live happy and fulfilling lives while consuming much less.
With few execptions, Transition Troy does not seek money. Instead we thrive on the motivation and initiative of engaged community members. I hope you will lend your time and talents in 2016 to help build a culture through which we collaboratvely meet our basic needs from local resources. In so doing we can lead the way to a viable future for ourselves and our bioregion and set an example for others to follow. It’s not easy. But if you’ve read this far, (Thanks!) you probably have already accepted that there are no easy options now.
I invite you to read the piece I mentioned at the outset. The opening metaphor is superb.