The latest South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition seminar was held on February 14th in Totnes. The topic was Learning in Transition. Appropriately, we met in the Totnes Transition Network meeting room.
Ben Brangwyn opened the seminar with some background to the Transition movement, and he then talked about the idea and practice of Transition, which morphed into a focus on Transition as learning. Ben’s input focused on Transition as a means of our coming to terms with the very different socio-economic issues we shall be facing as resources and energy become scarcer and more expensive. His point was that we are running out of technological fixes – something not everyone there agreed with, at least for the short-to-medium term. For Ben, Transition answers the question of how to reduce atmospheric CO2, whilst increasing social resilience and human happiness. It represents a model of working and coming together, increasing connectivity around local business and enterprise, with much of this invisible to the casual observer, which was, I thought, a well-made point. All this was engaging for the audience and it stimulated much discussion; around, for example, the value base of ‘resilience’ as viewed from the Transition viewpoint.
The afternoon saw Isabel Carlisle talk about Schools in Transition and issues around evaluating effectiveness. Isabel talked about her work with three schools, two of which, the Crispin Academy, in Street, and KEviCC, in Totnes, are in the region. The third, Wellington College, is in farthest Berkshire. The emphasis in all this, it seems, is that “a school in Transition is on a journey to resilience.” Maybe. It also has to be on a journey to greater sustainability across campus, curriculum and community, and I was struck (again) by the challenge of evaluating all this. It’s a bigger problem than this, of course: setting appropriate(ly challenging) goals and targets is much more demanding than mere measurement.
Of course, schools cannot, in and of themselves, be resilient, just as a family cannot. Unless, of course, resilience implies mutual interdependence, as I think it must. If this is so, a town cannot be resilient either, which seems to me to be the fault line running though the idea of a Transition Town. If it were up to me, I’d drop the “Town” – not to mention the local money side-show.
All told, it was a very enjoyable day: a stimulating meeting, good conversation, excellent non-chain coffee, a horse-free Devon Pasty, and easy train travel through Glorious Devon, and Flooded Somerset. I also came away from the meeting with a list of books that other people clearly thought I needed to read. That’s never a bad outcome.