The end of suburbia: Transition Asheville’s planning for the future

Ever ponder what life would be like without your car, a large grocery store with countless food items from around the globe, and dozens of box stores providing every gizmo you might need at any moment — much of it shipped from China?

The group Transition Asheville does, and they have a plan.

First, the stage: In a global age, numerous crises including climate change, global economic instability, overpopulation, declining biodiversity, and resource wars have arguably stemmed from the availability of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Global oil, gas and coal production are predicted to decline sharply in the next 10 to 20 years, and the effects of climate change are being felt around the world.

With this all in mind, on Thursday, July 15, Transition Asheville met at local establishment Tressa’s for the weekly Green Drinks gathering. Transition members offered a look at how things are going to be — sometime soon, they assert.

“Within our lifetime, we will see the end of cheap oil, and the collapse of our current way of life, which has depended on it,” said presenter Stan Corwin, a Transition Asheville leader. “We’ll have to create a ‘new normal,’” he said, because right now, “Normal is consuming vast amounts of energy. Normal is living in suburbs.”

“We’re at the point of peak oil production now — the brief plateau before the decline. The Gulf oil spill is an outcome of our pursuit of deeper and deeper oil,” said Corwin. “We’re going to have to downscale everything we do. The days of the 3,000-mile Ceasar salad are over.”

The Transition Asheville group has grown to more than 150 Western North Carolinians who wish to raise awareness of and create alternatives to our current dependency on fossil fuels. They’re part of a network of similar groups in the U.S. and in Europe. Boulder, Colo., was the first American city to become a Transition Town. Certification is provided by the umbrella organization, Transition U.S., a nonprofit based in Sebastopol, Calif.

The Transition movement, first developed in Europe and now taking root in many communities in the U.S., presents an attempt to engage people and communities in taking actions to mitigate the effects of declining fossil fuels, climate change and economic crisis. It is an attempt to “re-localize” production and commerce, and produce societies that naturally reduce carbon emissions and build community resilience. The Transition model argues that is up to citizens in individual communities to step into leadership positions to address the current situation.

Corwin’s message found an intrigued audience at the Green Drinks social gathering, which, each week, addresses various sustainability issues — from renewable energy to green building. “I abandoned my car, and lost 35 pounds in the process,” proclaimed Daryl Rantis, an Asheville architect in private practice.

Another anonymous attendee offered a perhaps unintentionally comic perspective: with the end of fossil fuels, “We won’t have to go to work anymore!”

Mike Figura of Transition Asheville said that Asheville is in a good position to move forward. “We have a lot of local food production, and thus a lot of local resiliency already,” he said.

“If we can create a plan to do what’s necessary — such as creating networks of people who can provide local services that we now find outside — we’ll be better prepared as oil declines in the coming years.”

Corwin said the group will organize into working groups to cover the key areas of local food, local energy, transportation, and other critical functions. Transition Asheville is awaiting a key moment to launch their working groups — a moment they refer to as “The Great Unleashing” — when awareness has reached a certain level. “It’s when we can walk up to someone on the street and say ‘peak oil’ — or the end of cheap oil — and they instantly know what we’re talking about.”

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4 thoughts on “The end of suburbia: Transition Asheville’s planning for the future

  1. Richarad

    this peaceful transition process is predicated on people agreeing with the supposition that we can convert today’s society to the model they advocate cooperatively and without violence. History argues that as resources, once perceived as plentiful, are limited, people will take measures to control access to them, including war. The new humanity might just center around the 21st century warrior, and not a world government ruling our lives.

  2. Susan Andrew

    Richarad may be right, at least to some degree. As my neighbor told me this morning, he’s already planning on installing gun turrets around his house. He was grinning as he said it, but his point was, it only takes a few desperate/criminal actors to mess up the cooperation that others are seeking to create.

  3. Richarad

    and sometimes the opposition is not criminal, just of a different political persuasion, or philosophical position, and willing to go to great lengths to favor his position rather than being forced to comply with the wishes of the others.

  4. debby blankenburg

    THANKYOU! I want to volunteer in some capacity….I would love to be a participant in transition asheville..how do I get on board????

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