Inner and Outer Transition

It takes a community to really make a huge impact on the challenges facing us but individual action and reflection are also important because it supports community-wide action. How can we remain productive, constructive and empowered while taking on such daunting challenges?



How do I make these changes? There are so many and it is all so overwhelming.
Start with one thing thing like composting. Work with others who are composting themselves to get support for when things take an unexpected turn. Take your time, get really comfortable with it. After awhile, it becomes second nature. -You find it is actually harder to not compost. At this point you might want to take on something else. Keep doing this process of taking on one challenge (with support), becoming so comfortable with it that it becomes a way of life, and then find another challenge to take on. Before you know it, you have taken it all on (comfortably) and, in the process, have become aware of other ways you can be lighter on the planet and more resilient to the unexpected. Most importantly, don’t try to do it all and don’t try to do it alone. Instead, have fun with it! We are all in different points in a process of learning to live within the constraints of the planet.

I see all the changes I need to make myself but it is all so much and I fear I don’t have time to get it all done, even if I do take them on one at a time.
Personal changes are an important part of the Transition process, however, you don’t have to do them on your own.

For instance, perhaps you are really concerned about the plight of honey bees. You see the dramatic yearly declines and you fear the worst. You know that backyard beekeeping is part of the solution and you are particularly excited about the top bar method. But, you don’t see how you can learn this method on your own. Your personal lifestyle, schedule, money, time, etc. make it almost impossible to learn something like this when you have so much else that needs to be done. The local bee clubs are too far away and don’t practice this method of beekeeping. What to do? Don’t do it alone! Request that the Library’s Documentary Film and Discussion Series show a film or two about the plight of the honey bee. If you are up to it, offer to lead the discussion. Promote the film screening within your social network, post it on our calendar and newsletter and see who shows up. After everyone learns of the severity of the problem, many will want to talk about solutions. Perhaps you will find a motivated group who want to learn this method of beekeeping with you. Together, you can read about the top bar method, have discussions, organize the buying of equipment (perhaps some of the equipment could be communal). When you are ready to actually begin beekeeping, all of you can be present to start each person’s hive and lend support. The same for when you harvest the honey, winterize the hive, etc. Suddenly, this daunting task becomes a fun social undertaking that does not feel at all like work. When one of you needs someone to babysit your hive, you have a trusted group of friends you can count on. When a hive has an issue, you have friends to help you overcome the challenge. If your group is so inclined, you can teach workshops to the greater community and share what you have learned, making what started out as a personal project have the impact of a community project.

Learning how to can vegetables, prune fruit trees, knit, bicycle repair, etc. can all be done this way, eliminating a lot of redundancy, broadening the impact, and making connections throughout the community.

I have already made some changes but I don’t have the money to do anything else. What should I do?
A lot of us don’t realize it but we are following the status quo. Often, that means we are devoting a lot of time and energy into things that do not improve our quality of life. What is something you do, all the time that if you were to stop, you believe people would think you are weird, fringe, etc.? The chances are that this is an area that is not yielding any lasting value for you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it make you happy?
  • Does it have a lasting effect on your mental well-being?
  • Are you a consumer in this activity, or a creator?
  • How much does it cost you?
  • How much time does it take?
  • What resources do you use/depend upon in order to do it?
  • What would life look like if you were not doing it?
  • What could you do instead with the resources, time, money, etc. that you use for this activity?
  • What would change in your family or social circle if you stopped or seriously curtailed this activity?

For instance, if you spent four hours a day on watching television, how much does it cost you to have cable to watch tv? If your tv broke, what would it cost to fix it? What would you do instead if you could not fix it? Would you go to a friend’s or a neighbor’s house? Would you find something else you could do?

By asking yourself these questions, you might find that the activity you do automatically might not be giving you the value that pay for it (money, time, etc.) and may be taking you away from something important to you that think you don’t have time for.

I have done so much but am feeling burned out.
Part of the Transition Town model is celebrating. Celebrating what we have accomplished, celebrating what we are embarking on, celebrating what we have. It is so easy to start one huge project only to leap into another project as soon as the other one is completed. There is so much work to be done it might feel like we have no time to have a party but celebrating gives us a chance to reflect, value and enjoy what we have and to connect with one another.

Burnout is a real occupational hazard of volunteering! One way to counteract it is to turn your attention to helping others be successful in a vision you share. Lending support while not taking on the project completely can be a way to fuel something you value while maintaining balance in your life. Another way is to partner with other groups. Transition is not about competing with other organizations or groups (what a waste of time and resources!) -it is about working together, each bringing their talents, resources and ideas to make a project a success. Partnering could help ease the burden of a group or individuals and bring a sense of community and energy to the project.

I am feeling bummed out. How can everyone be having so much fun preparing for the end of our modern way of life?
Many feel powerless. We see the colossal problems and the economic forces that perpetuate them and it feels impossible and our efforts seem futile. But Alex Steffen says it best:

“Powerful people doing bad things like cynical, despairing citizens. The fossil fuel companies and other interests trying to block progress began with a massive campaign of denialism, but have now begun promoting the notion that, if the climate crisis is real, it’s too big and daunting to tackle anyway, so we should just do nothing, or pin our hopes on geoengineering or something
And those opponents of change—what we might think of as the Carbon Lobby— have been really effective. They’ve gained decades of massive profits through our inaction.
You can’t fight that with despair and cynicism. You fight that with creativity and optimism. You fight that by showing we can do better and demanding it.”

If you are feeling disempowered, try finding others who feel the same way and meet as a group to support one another in exploring these feelings and ways to not let the feelings keep you from engaging with the very people who are there to help you. Transition Towns that have been doing this a long time have recognized the need to have a support group for just these reasons. Our modern world has brought us many wonderful things and upon realizing that some of these niceties we take for granted will someday be rarities or luxuries, people often grieve. As we progress more and more into a future with less fossil fuels, great masses of people will be going through the despair you might be feeling right now -many not even understanding what is happening to our society. Helping people through this on an emotional or psychological level will be very important in the coming age. You may be in a place to help those people in the future by exploring your fears, despair, and/or disillusionment right now. Use the Transition community to help.

Why is personal transformation even a topic of concern? Let’s get to work! We have a lot to do without getting distracted by this touchy-feely stuff.
For many, talking about feelings is uncomfortable or they do not see the value in it. If you count yourself among those people, please recognize and respect that there are people who do need this. We want everyone to be successful in making our town sustainable and resilient. If that means a group of people who have a need to process their feelings with others in order to be the most happy and productive they can be, then we should all support their need by not getting in the way or by criticizing them. This does not mean we have to participate in activities that make us uncomfortable or where we don’t feel productive. Recognizing we have different needs and that we are all at different points in the process will help us lay a foundation of mutual respect and support of one another.

I am really concerned that some people in the movement don’t recognize we have to do ____insert challenge____ in order to do ____insert goal_____.  or  I totally agree with ___insert person's name___ but I don’t agree with her solution. So, for philosophical reasons, I cannot work with her.

Transition does not mean everyone sees things the same way. Many times people agree that something needs to be done but don’t agree with some aspect of the problem. What follows is an unproductive debate between two or more people who essentially agree enough to work on the problem together but have gotten distracted by details that are not germain to action. If you feel passionately that the solution to our water problem is a building code change to ban lawn irrigation on new construction but someone else is more passionate about greywater recycling, find a way to see that both of your visions are considered in the process and recognize that although you see things differently, you are both working on making our water system more resilient. Differing views lead people to think in ways they are unaccustomed, leading to a more informed, cohesive and comprehensive solution.

I really cannot stand working with ____insert person's name____.
The Transition Network has literature to help run meetings and deal with difficult people while building consensus and cooperation. Try their strategies to help yourself or your group work with this person. Often, problem behavior comes from a person feeling unheard or disrespected.

Try seeing this person as an opportunity to learn what drives you crazy, pushes your buttons or disempowers you. Doing this can help you identify your triggers and make you resilient to someone who really does want to see you or the movement fail.

Sometimes it is better, for your sake, to remove yourself from a situation where you don’t feel you are at your most productive. However, that does not mean it is good for the rest of the group so consider this option thoughtfully.

All this energy spent on cooperation is taking away from the work that needs to be done.
Cooperation is not only a means to an end, it is a goal in and of itself. We have been living in an age where we could get away with not cooperating with others. If we did not like something, we could just move on to something or someone else. In our coming age, that is no longer an option. We have to learn how to cooperate, how to work with one another. We are our own best resource.

Why do we have to do any of this at all? Our modern way of life may still triumph. If it doesn't, then we can make the changes we need when the time comes.

No one knows what the future holds but looking at exponential growth charts, looking at past economic collapses, and looking at current events paint an unpleasant future. To questions like this one, the Transition Movement often cites their Cheerful Disclaimer:

Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact.

We truly don't know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.

What we are convinced of is this:

If we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late
If we act as individuals, it'll be too little
But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
Everything that you read on this site is the result of real work undertaken in the real world with community engagement at its heart. This site, just like the transition model, is brought to you by people who are actively engaged in transition in a community. People who are learning by doing - and learning all the time. People who understand that we can't sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. People like you.